After a $3.2 million restoration, Salem’s Pringle Creek eases fish passage

Salem completed a large restoration project on Pringle Creek, which flows into the Willamette River. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

For more than 30 years, Salem has periodically removed debris trapped in Pringle Creek to prevent floodwaters from backing up into properties along the stream’s path.

Columns from an old paper mill were constricting the waterway, making fish passage difficult in the Willamette River tributary.  

But last summer, the city started a large restoration project on a portion of the creek visible from the southern tip of Riverfront Park.

The project is now complete after crews chipped and peeled away the concrete remnants of the former Boise Cascade Mill. They removed old pilings and replaced a fish ladder with pools and shallow parts of a stream called riffles.

“It’s been a huge change from what that whole area looked like prior to the removal,” said Heather Dimke, a spokeswoman for the city’s public works department.

The total cost of the project was $3.2 million, with $1.9 million from the stormwater utility fund and $1.3 million from urban renewal dollars.

Dimke said the creek is considered essential salmon habitat.

Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, redside shiner, peamouth, lamprey, sculpin, sucker, coho salmon, speckled dace and chiselmouth use Pringle Creek, she said.

By removing concrete slabs and pilings, the city was able to add boulders, resting pools and tree structures to provide fish refuge when the water is rushing.

Dimke said crews deepened the stream, so it’s easier for fish to swim in the summer.

The city is also planting native plants to filter stormwater runoff, prevent erosion and improve wildlife habitat.

“It’s just more of a natural system than it previously was,” Dimke said. 

A piece concrete lays beside Pringle Creek adjacent to Riverfront Park. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.