In the Rogue Basin, WaterWatch has been and continues to be a leader in one of the most substantial dam removal and river restoration efforts undertaken in the United States. Much work still remains to protect this incredible resource.
Free the Rogue
The Rogue River is one of the nation's most beloved waterways. One of the twelve original Wild and Scenic Rivers recognized by congress in 1968, people travel from all over the world to experience this amazing place.
The Rogue Basin historically produced the most wild salmon and steelhead in Oregon outside the Columbia Basin. However, coho salmon are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and spring chinook and steelhead are declining.
To reverse this trend, WaterWatch has worked for decades to remove significant fish barriers and improve flows to benefit the Rogue's fish populations while enhancing fishing and recreational opportunities. Our staff were instrumental to agreements behind the recent removal of seven Rogue Basin dams and the largest instream water transfer in the Rogue's history. Combined, these achievements represent one of the most substantial dam removal and river restoration efforts undertaken in the United States. Even so, much work remaind to protect this incredible resource, and WaterWatch remains a leader in continuing Rogue River restoration efforts.
Slate and Welter Dam Removals – Done!
Before and after dam demolition on Slate Creek
In autumn 2021, crews wrapped up demolition on three obsolete concrete dams as part of a WaterWatch-led collaborative project to restore access to habitat for native salmon and steelhead in Slate Creek, a key spawning tributary of the Rogue Basin’s Applegate River. Santilla Dam, listed on the 2019 Statewide Fish Passage Barrier Priority List by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, came out, along with two other fish-blocking dams on Slate tributary Welter Creek. The multi-faceted project significantly improved access to approximately 15 miles of spawning and rearing habitat, replaced the dams’ water diversion function with a fish-friendly, solar powered, screened, and metered pump, replaced 1,000 feet of leaky concrete canal with new pipe, removed a relic road abutment from Slate Creek, and decommissioned a section of logging road along Welter Creek.
Fielder and Wimer Dam Removals – Done!
The former Fielder Dam on Evans Creek
In a major development for the Rogue Basin's prized salmon and steelhead runs, WaterWatch secured removal agreements for Fielder and Wimer dams on Evans Creek, then worked with partners to raise the significant funds necessary to remove these dams in the summer of 2015. An important spawning tributary of the Rogue River, Evans Creek supports fall chinook salmon, coho salmon, summer and winter steelhead, cutthroat trout, suckers, and lamprey. Removal of the dams improved access upstream to approximately 19 miles of habitat for fall chinook production, 60 miles for coho salmon production, and 70 miles for steelhead production.
Gold Hill Irrigation District Fish Passage Improvement Project - Done!
WaterWatch and others worked with the Gold Hill Irrigation District (GHID) to improve fish passage at its irrigation diversion system on the mainstem of the Rogue River. Following the removal of Savage Rapids Dam, City of Gold Hill Dam, and Gold Ray Dam, as well as the notching od Elk Creek Dam, GHID's diversion dam was the highest-ranking fish passage priority on the Rogue Basin Fish Access Technical Team's priority list on the mainstem of the Rogue River. This project benefits spring and fall chinook salmon, summer and winter steelhead, coho salmon, cutthroat trout, and lamprey. The changes in the diversion system, which were completed in autumn 2016, also increased flows in a 1/4-mile stretch of the Rogue river, improved navigation through Nugget Falls, and allowed for safer public access to the river.
Improvement of GHID’s diversion on the Rogue River underway
To learn more about how WaterWatch achieved its goal of freeing the lower 157 miles of the Rogue River and restoring streamflows, watch our Free the Rogue campaign video:
The Rogue dam removals are expected to provide a boost to the river's coho salmon, and augment runs of spring and fall chinook salmon, summer and winter steelhead, resident cutthroat trout, and Pacific lamprey. For more details on how dams were removed and the benefits to the basin and the region, check out our pages on:
Gold Hill Diversion Dam Removal