GPID flips switch on new pumps
For the first time in 89 years, the Grants Pass Irrigation District has begun delivering water from something other than Savage Rapids Dam.
Switches were flipped on six pumps Monday, pushing water into the Gravity, South Highline and Tokay canals, another milestone in removing the dam to protect fish runs on the Rogue River.
Demolition of the north side of the dam is expected to begin around the first of June, according to Slayden Construction, the contractor on the roughly $40 million project. The dam should be completely gone by December.
“Everything went like clockwork,” said Dan Shepard, the GPID manager who supervised the pump startup.
Only six of 12 pumps were needed, as only about half the flow will supply the canals for a few days while debris washes out of the system.
GPID urges patrons to wait until the weekend or later to irrigate.
Shepard fielded a radio call about a plugged culvert, one of many expected during the early days of irrigation, just as in any year.
“Even though we have a brand-new shiny pump station here, we still have 150 miles of the old canal system,” said GPID’s Tom Habgood, peering at a computer monitor showing flow in the Tokay Canal. “I’m just trying to calibrate the old stuff with the new stuff.”
The readout showed 15.6 cubic feet per second, less than full strength. One large pump and one small pump were feeding the canal.
Shepard indicated that, even during hot weather, all 12 pumps shouldn’t be needed at one time.
Where the massive intake structure meets the edge of the river, there was no evidence on the surface of the pumping below.
Upstream, the river still roared over and through the dam, but had dropped to half of what it was a week ago, when a section of a temporary cofferdam collapsed. The cofferdam was built to keep the Rogue south of demolition work on the north side.
Slayden reinforced the bottom of the section with more large rock and expected no delays in demolition in the coming weeks.