Exception from state needed on Colorado Avenue Dam passage

If approved, construction on Bend Park & Rec project should be complete next summer

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin

The Bend Park & Recreation District plans to seek an exception from state laws governing in-river construction to ensure the Colorado Avenue Dam safe passage project can be completed by next summer.

Construction on the project, which will replace the footbridge over the Deschutes River and modify the dam to allow floaters and boaters to pass through either a gentle safe passage or a whitewater channel, is scheduled to begin shortly after Labor Day, according to project manager Chelsea Schneider. Right now, boaters have to portage at the dam.

Ordinarily, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife allows construction in rivers and streams only between July 1 and Oct. 15 to minimize conflict with fish breeding and migration. Because the district is looking to avoid closing down the river during warmer months when it’s most heavily used, crews won’t be working in the water until mid-October, Schneider said.

Schneider said the district’s construction schedule estimates it will take close to nine months to complete the in-water work at the Colorado Avenue Dam.

Without an exception from ODFW, the district would be unable to finish the project by summer 2015.

“Instead of coming back three years in a row to complete the work that’s in the water, we’re working with the state to have that be a one-time work in the water; that way we can get in, get out and have all the features in place before the next fish season comes around,” Schneider said.

Rick Hargrave, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said the Bend field office will consider the particular species of fish found near the Colorado Avenue Dam, and make a determination on the exception based on the observed habits of those fish. The July 1 to Oct. 15 window is a broad guideline in practice, Hargrave said, and is often altered when river conditions allow.

“Historically, during those warmer months you don’t see a lot of spawning; you don’t see a lot of activity. That’s why the window’s there,” he said.

Schneider said the district expects to have an answer from Fish and Wildlife within the next two months.

Separately, the safe passage project is set to go before the Bend Planning Commission on Monday. A staff report prepared for commissioners recommends approval of the project.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com