The Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT) is a Washington based organization that has been fighting to remove the 5th Avenue Dam. Founded in 2008, DERT has been working to restore the Deschutes estuary in order to right the ethical wrongs posed by the destruction of the ecosystem. During the fall of 2018, first-year students in Prof. Jenny James' writing seminar "Water, Politics, Place" composed a series of ethical position papers to support the work of DERT, focusing in on important questions that should be addressed on the collaborative path towards a successful restoration of the Deschutes estuary. This website features their research and unique points of view on the topic of ethics and estuary restoration.
To view student essays related to the Deschutes and the 5th Avenue Dam, click here.
To learn more about the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team click here.
Background Information on the Deschutes Estuary and Dam
Starting in the foothills of Mount Rainier and flowing all the way to the city Olympia, Washington is the Deschutes river. For thousands of years the Deschutes has flowed through Washington, carrying sediment and nutrients as well as being in of itself a passage for salmon and a water source for people and animals alike. The Deschutes river naturally creates an estuary, a watershed ecosystem that hosts massive amounts of plant life that take in excess CO2, gives a place for animals to thrive, provides a zone salmon use to adjust from freshwater to salt water, and much more.
Built in 1951, the 5th Avenue Dam has had a massive negative effect on the estuarine ecosystem. Capitol Lake, created by the damming of the estuary, has an average depth of only 10 feet and since the water is so shallow, it has a higher temperature than natural bodies of water in the area. This suits some invasive species better than it suits native species (i.e. plant life and salmon) and our native salmon are especially hurt by the dam. The Deschutes estuary once served as a place for salmon to adjust from freshwater to saltwater on their journey into the Puget Sound, which is a part of their normal life cycle. Disrupting the normal salmon lifecycle and restricting their area to swim and grow has severely damaged their populations and will continue to as long as water quality stays the way it is and as long as the dam is in place. Over time, reduced salmon populations will be reflected in more fishing restrictions and reduced orca populations, as chinook salmon are a large part of orca diets.
The Deschutes river and estuary are vital to the ecosystem, yet over the past few hundred years, humans have seriously harmed the Deschutes estuary and continue to cause damage to what's left of this ecosystem. If change is not made, the estuarine ecosystem will be further damaged, negatively affecting the humans and non-humans who rely on the Deschutes.