Two fuel spills into North Santiam River bring concerns for juvenile salmon

Statesman Journal –

In the aftermath of two tanker truck accidents that spilled thousands of gallons of fuel into the North Santiam River, most of the conversation has centered on the safety of city drinking water and how long Highway 22 would remain closed.

But the accidents, which took place at the same location east of Detroit in 2017 and Feb. 16 this year, have also taken a toll on the wildlife that call the river home — particularly its fish.

The petroleum-based chemicals that spilled from the two tankers are deadly. After the 2017 accident that dumped 11,000 gallons of gas into the river, a handful of dead fish were observed in the river near the accident site.

In this year’s incident, which spilled 7,800 gallons, one dead fish, a juvenile salmon, has been observed so far.

Those numbers don’t add up to an environmental calamity, but fish biologists are more worried about the impact gas and diesel can have on the baby salmon hatching from redds — nests of eggs — located downstream of the crash site.

Juvenile spring chinook emerge from those redds in late January, February and through  March.

“We’re definitely concerned about the impact any fuel released could have on those redds and for the small fry that have already hatched,” Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Elise Kelley said. “It’s something that we’re keeping a close eye on.”

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