Willamette Falls Legacy Project

Habitat Modeling and Design

Located in Oregon City, just upstream from Portland, is Willamette Falls, the second largest waterfall by volume in North America. This iconic landform serves as a transitional point for migratory species and an important cultural site for Native American harvest of Pacific Lamprey. Beginning in the late 1880s, electrical generating plants were built at the falls to power Portland 15 miles to the north.  The falls also provided energy to power lumber, flour, woolen, and paper mills immediately downstream on the banks of the Willamette. When the last of those mills, the Blue Heron Paper Company, closed in 2011 a consortium of interested parties seized the unique opportunity to bring the Falls back to the people. Project stakeholders developed four core values to guide the restoration and redevelopment of the former Blue Heron Paper Mill:

  • Historic and Cultural Interpretation
  • Public Access
  • Healthy Habitat
  • Economic Redevelopment

In service of the Healthy Habitat core value, Stillwater and CH2M teamed to provide hydraulic modeling and habitat restoration conceptual design to the Willamette Falls Legacy Project. This work addressed the key elements of:

  • Riparian habitat: opportunities to restore riparian and rocky outcrop areas along the Willamette River above and below Willamette Falls
  • Native fish habitat: shoreline and river provide a mixture of habitat elements important to native fish
  • Water quality: springs and seeps, stream day-lighting, clean and cool water, and returning existing water rights to instream use for fish and water quality
  • Floodplain protection: opportunities to maintain or enhance the ability to store flood waters on site during major storm events 

Stillwater spearheaded the Habitat Restoration Schematic Design, with the key underlying concepts of protecting and enhancing habitat for Pacific lamprey and ESA-listed salmon species.

Willamette Falls, Oregon City, Oregon
Metro Regional Government
Jody Lando
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