WRC Blog

Ten Years After the Dam Came Out

Jul 26th, 2017  |  Written by Western Rivers Conservancy

Ten Years After the Dam Came Out

Ten years ago, Oregon’s Sandy River became wild and free once again!

In 2007, Portland General Electric blew Marmot Dam into a cloud of dust and rubble, dramatically initiating the decommissioning process that would allow the Sandy River to again flow unimpeded, from the glaciers of Mount Hood to the Columbia River. The removal also complemented WRC’s efforts to conserve over 4,500 acres along the Sandy and its tributaries, including 1,500 acres donated by PGE.

For a century, Marmot Dam had impeded access to nearly 100 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat in the upper Sandy River basin. The best-case scenario—everyone’s highest hope—was that the Sandy’s salmon and steelhead would be spawning again in the upper river within two years. Some believed it would take 20.

To everyone’s surprise, the Sandy’s fish proved people wrong.

Within 48 hours of the dam coming out, threatened coho salmon were already swimming upriver from the dam site. Within months, the Sandy flushed out the equivalent of 150 Olympic-size swimming pools full of sediment, a process that was expected to take two to five years.

In conjunction with the dam removal, PGE partnered with Western Rivers Conservancy and a consortium of other nonprofits. WRC, PGE and BLM also set out to create a conservation and recreation corridor along 17 miles of the Sandy and Little Sandy Rivers.

Since the removal of Marmot Dam,

•    WRC has conserved over 4,600 acres of land along the Sandy and its tributaries.
•    Sandy River Basin Partners have conducted major restoration throughout the Sandy basin and along its tributaries.
•    The number of wild steelhead spawning in the Sandy River has increased by 350% since their listing in 1998.
•    The number of coho salmon redds within the Sandy basin has increased threefold.

There is still much to be done to improve the Sandy's runs of salmon and steelhead, and especially for spring Chinook. But the ten-year anniversary of the removal of Marmot Dam is the perfect moment to celebrate just how far we've come, thanks to PGE, its nonprofit partners and you.

Here's to the free-flowing Sandy River!