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ODFW seeks comment on fish passage exemption for proposed Union County culvert repair

June 22, 2015

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is seeking public comment on a request to exempt from fish passage requirements a proposed culvert repair project on Gekeler Slough/Mill Creek near La Grande. Comments are due by July 13, 2015.

The culverts, which are owned and managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), are structurally failing and will be fixed by slip-lining and replacing both ends of the existing culverts. ODOT has proposed repairing the culverts, located south of La Grande on US 30 at mile point 4.59 this summer. Slip-lining existing culverts triggers Oregon’s fish passage rules and regulations, which require the owner-operator to address fish passage.

Gekeler Slough/Mill Creek is designated critical habitat for Snake River Basin steelhead. Despite this designation, adult steelhead are not known to spawn in Gekeler Slough/Mill Creek due to multiple fish passage barriers, lack of spawning habitat, and poor water quality conditions. Speckled dace and juvenile redband trout and/or steelhead are known to occur in Gekeler Slough, although use by juvenile trout or steelhead is considered to be very limited due to existing barriers and the degraded habitat conditions.

According to Dave Stewart, ODFW-ODOT Fish Passage Liaison, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission may grant the exemption if there are no appreciable benefits to fish from providing passage. In Gekeler Slough/Mill Creek, a series of artificial barriers exist both below and above this culvert location.

Therefore, unless the Commission receives public comment that would affect its determination, the exemption request may be approved. If in the future, conditions in Gekeler Slough Creek change to the extent that providing passage at this site would benefit native migratory fish, this exemption may be revoked. 

In the meantime, members of the public will have until July 13, 2015 to submit written comments on the proposed exemption. The fish passage exemption application, the Department’s benefit analysis, and the draft exemption agreement are available at on the ODFW website at This fish passage exemption request will be presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for their consideration at the August 7, 2015 meeting in Salem.

Members of the public can send written comments to or request additional information from Dave Stewart, ODFW-ODOT Fish Passage Liaison, 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. SE Salem, OR 97302, e-mail, or phone (503) 947-6234.




Dave Stewart (503) 947-6234
Jessica Sall (503) 947-6023

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