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Photo Credit: Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Council

Mailbag: A chance to restore abundant fish runs

By Bill Kremers, Board Member

Bill Kremers is a charter lifetime member of the Association. Since joining the Steelheaders, he has served in a variety of positions at both the chapter and Association level, including four years as the Association president. On July 30, 2020, the Albany Democrat Herald published an opinion piece from Bill Kremers regarding Representative DeFazios' Moving Forward Act. It is copied below for reference.

A s the pandemic rages, Oregonians of all ages and communities are looking for a safe, rewarding and fun activity that we all can enjoy. One such activity is fishing. This summer, the lakes and rivers in Oregon are teeming with trout, salmon, steelhead and a variety of warm-water fisheries.

We are fortunate to live in an area with one of the greatest salmon and steelhead runs in the country. These abundant runs aren’t specific to the Columbia River — the Willamette River and its many tributaries have historically hosted substantial runs as well.

Just a few years ago, the Willamette River had annual runs with more than 100,000 spring salmon, 10,000 winter steelhead and 20,000 summer steelhead. Today, runs are nowhere close to these numbers because fish passage has been substantially impacted by structures and dams on these rivers.

In 2019, ODFW identified 21 priority projects for fish passage improvements in the mid-Willamette Basin. As a community, we would all benefit economically and recreationally if we can restore Willamette River fish returns to these previous numbers.

Rep. Peter DeFazio recently introduced the Moving Forward Act that includes $300 million in grant programs to support projects that improve fish passage and migration: unblocking stream culverts, installing fish screens and improving habitat. This is an opportunity with the leadership of Rep. DeFazio to protect and enhance the rivers in his district and our community.