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Essential Salmonid Habitat and Removal-Fill Permitting

A permit is often required to remove or fill materials in Oregon streams, side channels, and adjacent wetlands that have been mapped as essential salmonid habitat (ESH).

The ESH designation protects the streams where salmonid species lay eggs and where young fish grow before traveling to the ocean. Chum, sockeye, Chinook and Coho salmon and steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout are all sensitive, threatened, or endangered salmonid species whose habitat may be designated as essential.

The Department of State Lands (DSL) maintains Oregon's official essential salmonid habitat map. The map uses scientific data from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to identify areas that are critical for salmonids to thrive and require a permit to remove or fill any material. View the current ESH map.

Permit Requirements for ESH Areas

Under Oregon state law, a DSL removal-fill permit is required for projects that remove or place any amount of material into the beds or banks of ESH waterways and some wetlands. Types of projects that likely require a permit include building a dock, adding riprap, and other activities that may seriously affect important ESH habitat.

Some activities are exempt and do not require a removal-fill permit, including non-motorized activities involving less than one cubic yard, many fish passage and fish screening structures, some agricultural projects, and several others. A full list of exempt activities is in chapter three of A Guide to the Removal-Fill Permit Process.

Check the current ESH map to see if your project is in an ESH area. If it is, contact the removal-fill permit coordinator for your county.

Request Review of an ESH Designation

Individuals can propose map edits using the ESH Review Request Form. Proposed edits should correct map inaccuracies – for example, if the mapping does not reflect current on-the-ground conditions, or if there is a new barrier that prevents fish from reaching an area.

DSL and the Oregon Department of Agriculture accept requests to review ESH map designations throughout the year. Responses to requests received during the rulemaking comment period (February 1 – March 4, 201) may be delayed.

Comment Now on Proposed Updates to the ESH Map

DSL is currently proposing an update to the ESH map, last updated in 2015, to reflect current ODFW data. The 2021 update designates approximately 1,700 additional stream miles as ESH areas.

A new process is also being proposed to update the map regularly to reflect current ODFW data. The update process would include a public review and comment period. Ongoing engagement with Tribes, as well as increased outreach on ESH, are also being proposed.

These changes are being proposed through the state's rulemaking process. DSL is currently seeking comment on the proposed updates. Visit the rulemaking page to review the draft rule, fiscal impact statement, and other rulemaking documents. The comment period is open until March 4, 2021 at 5 p.m.


Peter Ryan, Aquatic Resource Specialist

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