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Wimer Dam fish salvage yields nada natives

I have been following the removal of Wimer Dam from Evans Creek, and I remember a recent story in the Mail Tribune that said they were going to do a fish salvage at the site before they started knocking down the dam. Did they do the fish salvage and, if so, what did they find?

— M-M. M., Medford

The plan by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Jay Doino was to salvage fish out of a portion of Evans Creek before it dried up and crews began knocking down one-half of Wimer Dam near the town of Wimer.

But it turns out there was nothing to salvage, Doino says.

"There were no native fish there, so there was nothing to salvage," Doino says.

Doino was on the lookout for young wild salmon, steelhead or even cutthroat trout, which would have been shocked, netted and transported downstream to safer environs.

Instead, he found hundreds of non-native red-side shiners, one non-native bullfrog tadpole and hundreds of non-native ringed crayfish — none of which got transported out of there because none of them belonged there in the first place, he says.

So the fish salvage turned into a fish survey.

"It was, basically, a survey to ensure that no native species were going to get dry-docked," Doino says.

In dam-removal work like this, construction crews build temporary coffer dams to dry out a section immediately upstream and downstream of one part of the dam to create a dry area for equipment to operate. Once that section is taken out, the upstream coffer dam is removed and the creek is funneled into the new channel.

A new set of temporary dams then de-water the remaining chunk of the dam to prepare it for removal.

The fish salvages are a common way to make sure the construction work doesn't harm native fish such as salmon, steelhead and even suckers.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.