Brownsville Dam Removal

In April 2008, the State Land Board recognized the Calapooia Watershed Council and its many partners for the Brownsville Dam Removal in an awards ceremony honoring exemplary projects that promote responsible stewardship of Oregon’s natural resources. In presenting the Stream Project Award, Governor Ted Kulongoski, chair of the Land Board, commended the Council for developing a broad partnership to “Protect Oregon’s natural resources for future generations.” This project exemplifies the spirit of cooperation that is so important for a successful outcome.”

View a news clip on the Brownsville Dam Removal (Courtesy KVAL/CBS Eugene).

After years of public discussion, the Brownsville community stakeholders made the unanimous decision on January 11, 2006 to support removal of the Brownsville Dam with the caveat that water be maintained in the small, historic canal that runs through the City of Brownsville (2.5 cfs). The dam provided no commerce, flood control, or community water supply.  The dam’s sole purpose was to divert water into the three-mile long Brownsville Canal. Once Sodom Dam, the last major fish passage barrier 8 miles downstream is removed, the Calapooia River will once again be a free flowing river and complete access to over 60 miles of mainstem habitat and several tributary streams will be restored. The successful dam removal, completed in September 2007, significantly improved access to the mainstem and tributary headwaters habitat on the Calapooia to winter steelhead and spring Chinook, both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and to cutthroat trout and Pacifc lamprey. In November 2008 the Council completed the installation of a pump system at the former dam site to deliver water to the City of Brownsville and Canal Company members. Project partners include the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Canal Company (private landowners), Linn County Parks and Roads Department, Bella Vista Foundation, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Water Resources Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and Cascade Pacific RC&D, as well as project consultants Cascade Earth Sciences in Albany, OR.

The Council’s project grants supported a contracted, part-time Project Manager, Denise Hoffert-Hay, to coordinate the technical team, write grants, report to the council and board members, and manage most project activities. A part-time outreach coordinator was also contracted with project funds to coordinate landowners, design and install educational displays, and create media press releases. Oregon State University students are performing a three year study of the socioeconomic and biophysical impacts of the Brownsville Dam removal.

State Land Board Award for 2007 Stream Project

State Land Board Award for 2007 Stream Project

For more project background information or an update please contact the Council’s Project Manager, Denise Hoffert-Hay at 541-619-5896. You may visit the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board’s 2008 Guide for Small Dam Removal, writen by Denise at http://www.oregon.gov/OWEB/docs/pubs/SmallDamRemovalGuide.pdf.

For biophysical and socioeconomic monitoring results, for the Brownsville Dam Removal Project, lead by Oregon State University, please visit their website at http://rivers.bee.oregonstate.edu/Brownsville_dam_removal. This study has been funded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and NOAA’s Open Rivers Initiative.

OSU Presentation of Monitoring Results, January 2010


Journal articles relevant to the environmental outcomes of dam removal:

  • List of all OSU publications, dissertations, presentations related to the Brownsville Dam Removal monitoring project, 2008-2011
  • Kibler KM, Tullos DD, Kondolf GM. 2010. Learning from dam removal monitoring: challenges to selecting experimental design and establishing significance of outcomes. River Research and Applications. DOI: 10.1002/rra.1415. Link to this article
  • Kibler KM, Tullos DD, Kondolf GM. 2011. Evolving expectations of dam removal outcomes: downstream geomorphic effects following removal of a small, gravel-filled dam. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(2):408-423. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00523.x. Link to this article