Wednesday, July 25, 2007

With a Boom! Marmot Dam Removal Begins

Yesterday was a great day for rivers--we witnessed the beginning of the end for Marmot Dam on the Sandy River just 40 miles from downtown Portland. While the dam and powerplant originally provided electricity for the trolley system in Portland, it had lived its useful life. Later this year fish and paddlers will have access to a restored river.

While the river runs at low summer flows it is diverted around the dam site. This is the view just before demolition began. Photo by Thomas O'Keefe.

I came down from Seattle for the show and brought along Rebecca Sherman, former coordinator for the Hydropower Reform Coalition; Rich Bowers, former Executive Director of American Whitewater and our new coordinator for the Hydropower Reform Coalition; Sam Drevo from eNRG Kayaking, and Matty Moreland, a local American Whitewater volunteer who lives near the Sandy River. A few more paddlers found their way to the show including Nick Jacobs from Alder Creek, Ben Liotta from eNRG kayaking, Dave Hoffman from eNRG kayaking, and Ferdinand Steinvorth, manufacturer of Blue Pool Paddles, from Costa Rica. It was great to see all the paddlers out who managed to pull the appropriate strings for a seat at the invitation-only event. All our friends from the Hydropower Reform Coalition who worked on this project were out too including folks from American Rivers, Oregon Trout, Trout Unlimited, and WateWatch of Oregon. It seemed every other group who does river advocacy work was there too along with many of our agency partners.

As we arrived, PGE staff led tours of the dam site. One of the most striking images of the day was the Chinook salmon leaping into the air at the base of the dam. It was clear that paddlers weren't the only ones waiting in anticipation for a dam-free river.

Photo by Steven Nehl/The Oregonian. A salmon jumps at the falls where the Sandy River was diverted around Marmot Dam.

After short remarks by Portland General Electric CEO Peggy Fowler, she waited for the "all clear" and then pushed the plunger to detonate the charge that blasted off the top few feet of the dam.

From 1000' away Peggy Fowler pushes the plunger that sets off the explosive charge. Photo by Deston Nokes (see the video)

With a loud boom, dam removal was officially underway. Photo by Deston Nokes.

Cheers went up and the champagne came out--enough for a quick round before security confiscated the bottle--and then we all hustled up to witness the carnage. Within a few moments a line of trackhoes moved into position and began scooping up the rubble and loading it into a truck.

The heavy equipment moved into position and began scooping up the rubble. Over the next few weeks the material will be removed and by fall we will have a chance to experience a free-flowing river. Photo by Thomas O'Keefe.

Paddlers owe a debt of gratitude to Keith Jensen who as former owner of Alder Creek and American Whitewater Regional Coordinator, represented paddling interest throughout the negotiations on this project. We also need to thank PGE, a utility that understands that rivers are a public resource and came to a decision that balances our need for power with the values that free-flowing rivers provide.

Our next project will be to work with the Bureau of Land Management on developing a vision for the future of the Sandy River that preserves the resource value of lands along the river while providing opportunities for river-based recreation.

For more information, links to web pages for all the stakeholders, and to follow the progress of Marmot Dam removal check out

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