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In fall 2014, wild coho salmon were spawning in southeast Portland’s Crystal Springs Creek for the first time in decades. Salmon can find their way farther upstream because of recent projects to remove culverts that prohibited fish passage. Since 2008, Environmental Services has worked with several partners to remove seven Crystal Springs Creek culverts.
In October 2014, Environmental Services fish biologist Melissa Brown used an underwater camera (photo on right) to capture video of a pair of salmon spawning just upstream from one of the culvert removal projects.
When the federal government listed Portland salmon and steelhead as threatened species in 1998, the Portland City Council directed Environmental Services to lead salmon recovery efforts. Environmental Services restoration projects not only improve water quality and manage high stream flows to protect public health and safety, but they also create inviting habitat that native salmon require.
Crystal Springs is an important tributary to Johnson Creek, which flows to the Willamette River. Its naturally cool and steady year-round flow provides ideal salmon and steelhead habitat. Native salmon have also been found in Johnson Creek as far upstream as Gresham.
Steelhead trout, coho and Chinook salmon spend part of their life cycle in the creek. They migrate to the Pacific Ocean then return to their original spawning grounds where they lay and fertilize eggs, then die.
It’s critical that observers keep their distance from spawning areas, keep dogs out of the creek, and do not disturb fish carcasses which provide nutrients essential to aquatic life.
Environmental Services worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on four Crystal Springs Creek culvert removal projects. Partners on the other projects were Metro, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Parks & Recreation, NOAA-Fisheries, the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, Reed College and TriMet. Projects to remove the last two culverts on the creek are scheduled in 2015.
Wild coho spawning in October 2014
Wild coho spawning in Crystal Springs Creek (captioned version)