Former Marine Juan Orozco used to lead combat missions in Iraq — including during the notorious Battle of Fallujah in 2004. Now he’s fighting a quieter battle, helping restore fish runs in Central Oregon.
Orozco, who lives in Madras, conducts “creel surveys” at Lake Billy Chinook for PGE. He talks to people fishing on the lake about what they’re catching, what they’re keeping and what they’re noticing about fish populations in the area. He also helps monitor catching quotas, especially for the area’s endangered bull trout.
It’s all part of the effort by PGE and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to restore fish populations near Round Butte Dam.
First of its kind
For the first time since 1968, native species like chinook, steelhead and sockeye salmon will migrate above the dam, thanks to a unique underwater fish tower completed in Dec. 2009.
The award-winning fish-intake and bypass project was constructed by PGE and the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs, co-owners of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project. By modifying the water temperature and currents to mimic pre-dam conditions, it helps juvenile fish find their way out of this huge reservoir. With the new collection station, the fish can be efficiently transported downstream so they can continue on to the Columbia River and out to the ocean. A few years later, they’ll return upstream again to their spawning grounds.
“A great thing”
As a fisherman himself, Orozco is excited to see fish return to the upper reaches of the three rivers. “It’s a great thing for the area, because eventually when the upper reaches are open to sportfishing for salmon and steelhead, people will come back to fish, too, like they used to.”
For now, Orozco’s happy to do his part. Given the stress of his former career, the peace of the lake and the people who fish it are a pleasant change. And fishing itself? Says Orozco: “It’s my therapy.”