In the midst of the many destructive forest fires now occurring in the Northwest, one local forest is being actively re-grown to approximate forest conditions that existed back in 1923, at the site where PacifiCorp’s Powerdale Dam was built.
The Powerdale hydroelectric project was removed in the summer and fall of 2010, largely to allow free passage of ocean-going fish to and from the basin.
The removal has resulted in improved access to 100-plus miles of upstream fish habitat. So far, lamprey eels have been observed several miles above the dam for the first time in 80 some years (article, Sept. 22 Hood River News).
To restore the land and river subsequent to demolition, PacifiCorp was required to restore the denuded land by recreating the original hillsides, river channel and shorelines, soil mantles and vegetation communities that once existed, according to Steve Stampfli, Hood River Watershed Group coordinator.
That process is coming to a close in October 2012 when PacifiCorp’s official restoration commitment expires, and final restoration actions will be taken.
Soon after that, the land around and between the dam and powerhouse will switch ownership to Hood River County and Columbia Land Trust, under the terms of the 2003 Powerdale settlement agreement.
The company’s original revegetation effort occurred in fall 2010, when a total of 3,600 conifer and hardwoods were planted by professional contractors across the 3 1/3 acres of affected lands. Owing to the rocky nature of the reconstituted soil, however, many of the plants failed to survive.
The following fall, PacifiCorp made a second attempt, this time planting 800 additional ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.
These species performed better in the rocky conditions and, according to Stampfli, will be particularly beneficial to the river once they grow into mature, tall trees.
Stampfli has been continuing to assist PacifiCorp with restoration prescriptions, and notes that PacifiCorp is now doing a final site survey of plant survival, in conjunction with weed control.
The company will enter the site one final time this fall, to install “fill-in” plantings and meet restoration objectives.
Stampfli also noted that the Powerdale Lands Stakeholders group (sponsored by the Hood River Watershed Group) is very close to completing the land transfer process in conjunction with PacifiCorp, Hood River County, Columbia Land Trust, and the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District.
Once the land exchange takes place, a series of new conservation measures will be initiated under a stewardship plan being enacted by the land trust and county in partnership with the HRWG, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the parks district, surrounding landowners, and the greater Hood River community.
For more information on the Powerdale project, people can contact the Watershed Group at 541-386-6063.