A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The mud flows in the Willamette, too

Written November 9th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Reflecting the western sky on the afternoon of Nov. 9, 2023, the Willamette River looked almost normal as seen from Bowman Park.

It’s not just the South Santiam River and the Albany-Santiam Canal that are running dirty brown these days. The Willamette River water is almost as muddy as the canal.

I wonder how all this mud in the river can possibly be helpful to migrating fish. That was the goal, after all. In 2021, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez ordered the Corps of Engineers to empty Green Peter and Lookout Point reservoirs in 2023, lowering the lakes to levels deeper than had ever been done before.

The point was to help juvenile salmon and steelhead on their trip through the dams and down the river.

On Thursday I took the bike to Bowman Park to take a look at the Willamette. It looked unusually dirty to me. The river is always muddy during the winter when the volume of flow is high, but not usually in the fall.

It seems odd, at least to me, that this would be the result of a lawsuit by environmentalists against the Corps, a suit supposedly pursued in order to help winter steelhead and spring chinook survive in the Willamette basin.

Albany and other towns have regulations to prevent mud and sediment from construction sites from reaching the river. Every place a road or structure is built, you see those ridiculous plastic sheets on stakes, plus absorbent cushions around storm drains.

Cities including Albany also have taxes or fees on properties based on the volume of runoff they yield when it rains. On top of that, the Albany council has just approved another construction fee, averaging $330 per typical house being built, in order to fund stormwater projects to keep runoff pollution from reaching the Willamette.

And yet the federal government adds tons of sediment and mud to the river in order to comply with what a federal judge decreed.

Maybe this makes sense somewhere — perhaps in one of the countless other universes that theoretical physicists tell us exist. But it makes no sense here. (hh)

Take a closer look at the river water and you see how brown and opaque it is.

11 responses to “The mud flows in the Willamette, too”

  1. Cap B. says:

    It doesn’t make sense. But, nothing does anymore regarding the state of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, or the state of the rest of the world. All the dams put in in the last century were not a good idea, but taking them out is going to upset things, too.

  2. KinderParkNeighbor says:

    You know, every time I hear a homeless person defecating in the stream next to my place, I think “Gosh, I wish someone would do something about all the mud in the water!” Then I turn to ask the ducks what they think about all this and I realize they don’t stop by here anymore. They must not appreciate the artificial reef of shopping carts and garbage that our city spends so many fractions of a cent per year to maintain.

  3. Lyle Hammond says:

    When I used to log if we made a muddy mess like that .the outfit I worked for got shut down. Too much mud in the stream.Makes no Sense to me.

  4. TLH-ALB1 says:

    All this silt (this early) could possibly cover any eggs that were laid, by fall spawners; thereby reducing/killing future runs. Let’s hope there was a lot of smaller tributary mating taking place.

  5. Hartman says:

    This disastrous situation falls at the feet of Representative Chavez-Deremer. Instead of focusing on the problem of our muddied rivers, she has been actively supporting the equally disastrous, pointless and expensive “impeachment inquiry” of President Joe Biden. And, she voted to elect Mike Johnsonto Speaker. Johnson is a January 6th Coup Supporter.

    Chavez-Deremer promised to “clean-up” DC with her new “get tough on the Swamp” campaign. But, in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of fish are running the Willamette River death gauntlet, barely able to see through a black, muddy river. In Novemer, 2024, vote for whoever is running against Chavez-Deremer. Save our fish!

    • Al Nyma says:

      You are an absolute genius. The courts have been running the salmon problem for 50 years or so with some judge acting as judge and jury and you blame some new rep. Your knowledge is absolutely infallible.

  6. RICH KELLUM says:

    And there was a massive kiill of Kokanee going thru the dam, These are Salmon as well but evidently not important to the environmental community. It makes you wonder whether or not the Judge got all the information on this fiasco he made before he did it..

  7. Tim Floro says:

    Only salutation would be to dismantle Green Peter dam and replant the scars. Hopefully there’s enough good soil left to stabilize the endless miles of exposed soil to fall and winter rains. Steelhead and salmon are the losers as sediment fills the valleys rivers with spawning beds high above the river system. Obviously nobody did the research needed to know what the effects would be in the long run. Corp of Engineers didn’t do their job with no research to possible impact.

  8. Larry Nelson says:

    Has anyone had to fork out close too 30,000.00 like i have because of the Draw down at lookout Reservoir,,,Normal winter low is 850ft in elevation,The Corp has dropped it too 750ft and Sucked my Well dry 6 wks Go…Yep,I guess im being Penalized for living next to the Reservoir, Suck my Savings dry too.Damn….3 of my Neighbors are in the same Boat….

  9. Bob Bush says:

    Ya, just keep doing stupid stuff; drain the lakes behind the dams; next step take out the dams Anybody tell mother nature? I grew up here. I’m 74 and I can remember the floods before the dams were built. A lot of people will not like leaving their homes during the flooding season or having to pay for flood insurance on their mortgages. What a mess…..


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