Stimulus money to fund possible Gold Ray Dam removal
GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Jackson County officials announced Tuesday that they’ve received $5 million to complete studies on the pros and cons of removing the Rogue River’s Gold Ray Dam, a defunct hydroelectric dam built in 1905 outside Gold Hill, and then, possibly taking the dam out.
The money is part of $167 million going to 50 habitat restoration projects around the country from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The dam has been a Middle Rogue landmark, and for some, a barrier to salmon and steelhead passage on the river. Calls for removal have increased in recent years.
“We have to do the environmental studies first to find out if it’s feasible, and what the costs will be for mitigation. And if it turns out that it’s feasible, the costs balance out, they’ll take the dam out,” Jackson County Commissioner Dave Gilmour said.
There are concerns about the slough and backwater behind the dam, and what would become of the wildlife that have made that their home. However, even fish and wildlife biologists think it might be time to consider removal.
“We just wanna make it clear that the fish counting station, we don’t consider a part of the decision-making process. And I think there’s no question it would be a net benefit for native species if removal is chosen,” Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Dan VanDyke said.
Gold Ray would be the third dam removed from the Rogue in recent years, leaving only Lost Creek Dam on one of Oregon’s best-known salmon and steelhead rivers. The removal of Savage Rapids Dam, which is underway, is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The removal of Gold Ray Dam would make the Rogue free-flowing from the coast to Lost Creek Dam, a distance of about 150 miles.
Van Dyke says the pros outweigh the cons in favor of removal. There is still a lot of questions about wildlife habitat behind the dam, but that will be studied as part of the $5 million grant.
VanDyke also addressed concerns about how the removal of the dams would effect the spread of the Umpqua pike minnow, also called ‘squaw fish’. He says the pike minnow are already in the river, especially below Grants Pass, but seem to resist going too far into cold water stretches of the Upper Rogue.