Balm Grove Dam Removal

On beautiful Gales Creek, at the Balm Grove site, partners are coming together to accomplish a long-held community goal: Removal of a small dam with a big impact to fish in Gales Creek and the larger Tualatin River Watershed. 

Who: 
Tree For All Partners

What: 
A small, obsolete concrete dam at Balm Grove has impeded fish passage for generations. 

Where: 
In the town of Gales Creek, 12 miles upstream from where Gales Creek joins the Tualatin River, near Forest Grove. 

Why: 
Clean Water Services, Tualatin Riverkeepers, Tualatin River Watershed Council, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Metro have all declared the Balm Grove site as a top restoration priority. Removal of this impediment to fish passage at Balm Grove is one of the most important steps that our community can take to directly benefit aquatic life in the Tualatin River Watershed. The obsolete dam is a complete barrier to juvenile and adult mountain whitefish, mountain sucker, largescale sucker and the endangered Pacific lamprey. It is also a major barrier to coho salmon and the endangered winter steelhead, blocking spawning gravel access to all but the strongest individuals. 

What to Expect: 
Removal of the structure will contribute to wider efforts to restore fish populations, benefit other wildlife, and return the creek to its natural state. 

The History: 
Since at least 1936 Balm Grove was a recreational facility, with a popular swimming destination created by the concrete structure. Over time, it ceased to function as a gathering spot—yet the concrete structure remained in place, blocking fish passage and posing a potential safety hazard for people and wildlife. When the Balm Grove property came on the market in 2016, Tree for All partners pooled their resources to purchase the property with the intention of removing the dam and launched into project planning and community outreach. Introduced plant management began immediately, to enhance site access during surveying and to prevent the spread of potentially harmful invasive plant species. A team with dam removal and stream restoration expertise was assembled to study the site and has developed engineering plans to remove the concrete structure and enhance Gales Creek. At a series of community meetings, neighboring landowners shared their perspectives and learned about the project.

The Science: 
The removal of Balm Grove Dam is expected to open up approximately 29 miles of instream habitat to Winter Steelhead; over 25 miles of habitat to Coho Salmon and Pacific Lamprey; over 87 miles to Coastal Cutthroat Trout; and over 5 miles to Mountain Whitefish and Mountain and Largescale Sucker. Additional stream enhancement benefits include facilitated in-stream sediment and wood transport, water quality improvements, reduced bank erosion, native plant community establishment as well as fish and wildlife habitat and connectivity.

Learn more about this project from Tree for All.