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)