Gold Ray Dam Comes Down
Spanning the mainstem of the Rogue 125 miles from the Pacific Ocean, 38-foot high, 360-foot long Gold Ray Dam was built in 1904 to generate power. By 1972, power generation at the dam ceased permanently because the facility was obsolete and no longer economically viable. At that point, Jackson County took ownership of the dam and adjacent lands with thoughts of developing a recreational park. The dam became a liability burden and a safety concern for the county. The county lacked the funding to address these concerns, until a $5 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and a $1 million grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) were awarded in 2009.
A government study completed in February 2010 documented that the dam was structurally unsound, did not meet federal standards for fish passage and could not legally or economically be retrofitted for power generation. Based on the study, Jackson County elected to remove the dam in May 2010 and dam removal commenced that June. Removal of the concrete and original crib dam was completed in September 2010.
With the removal of Gold Ray, the Rogue River flowed freely from the Lost Creek Project to the Pacific Ocean for the first time in 106 years – a distance of 157 miles.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had identified Gold Ray Dam as the fifth highest priority for removal or fish passage improvement on Oregon’s Statewide Fish Passage Priority List. The dam was a significant barrier to fish and its removal allows better access to 333 miles of salmon and steelhead spawning habitat upstream of the former dam. Gold Ray removal also reclaimed approximately 1.5 miles of salmon spawning habitat that was buried beneath the dam’s impounded waters. Since removal, spawning surveys upstream of the former dam site show that use of this now-viable spawning ground has risen exponentially.
Check out this time-stop video of the Gold Ray Dam removal project: