Third Dam Removal Completed in Nine Years in Rogue River’s Evans Creek Subbasin

June 26, 2024


For information please contact:
Jim McCarthy, WaterWatch of Oregon, (541) 941-9450,
Brian Barr, Rogue River Watershed Council, (541) 621-7226,

Williams-Whalen Dam before and after removal images are available here:
Credit photos to Rogue River Watershed Council/Crystal Nichols

Third Dam Removal Completed in Nine Years in Rogue’s Evans Creek Subbasin
Collaborative effort benefits salmon and steelhead, increases resiliency to climate change.

Wimer, Oregon  —  This week, work crews finished demolition of an abandoned concrete former diversion dam as part of a larger collaborative effort to restore access to habitat for native salmon and steelhead in Evans Creek, a key spawning tributary of the Rogue River. Williams-Whalen Dam, listed in Group 3 on the 2019 Statewide Fish Passage Barrier Priority List by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), becomes the third fish-impeding dam to be removed from Evans Creek in the last nine years. The Williams-Whalen project significantly improved access to approximately 37 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead while also replacing invasive streamside blackberry on the cooperating landowners’ properties with native vegetation and riparian fencing.

Evans Creek is now entirely free-flowing at the former dam site for the first time in 128 years. Prior to drawdown of the Williams-Whalen Dam reservoir and the commencement of structural demolition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) led fish salvage operations at the site, assisted by staff from ODFW and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as well as local volunteers.

“This is great news for salmon and steelhead, and the many people who love the Rogue River,” said Jim McCarthy, Southern Oregon Program Director for WaterWatch. “The accelerated pace of river restoration in the Rogue is a great credit to the many partners who came together to get the work done, and demonstrates the need to maintain the federal and state programs that make these projects possible.”

State and federal agencies have identified Evans Creek, and improving access to quality fish habitat in its upper reaches, as important to the recovery of Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho salmon, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In addition to Coho salmon, Evans Creek provides spawning and rearing habitat for fall Chinook salmon, summer and winter steelhead, cutthroat trout, Klamath smallscale suckers, and Pacific lamprey.

“This project is a strong collaboration between two private landowners, public agencies, and non-profit organizations working towards the goal of improving fish passage,” said John Speece, project manager for the Rogue River Watershed Council. “This project demonstrates the kind of watershed health and landowner benefits that we hope to create more of in the Rogue Basin, and represents a shift in restoration focus to smaller streams now that many of the larger fish passage barriers on the mainstem Rogue River have been addressed.”

“There are just a handful of streams in the Rogue Basin that provide quality spawning and rearing opportunities for Coho salmon and Evans Creek is in that handful,” said Brian Barr, executive director for the Rogue River Watershed Council. “Removing this obsolete dam which had no fish ladder makes it much easier for these protected Coho to reach 37 miles of prime spawning and nursery habitat, and increases our watershed’s overall resiliency against the harms of climate change.”

WaterWatch previously secured dam removal agreements from the two private landowners, which ensured removal at no cost to them. Since then, the group partnered with ODFW, USFWS, and Rogue Basin Partnership to secure funding for the project. ODFW provided $472,000 in grant funding, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program provided $25,000 in grant funding, Rogue Basin Partnership provided $6,144 in grant funding from Resources Legacy Fund, and PacifiCorp provided $4,000. Additional project partners include Rogue River Watershed Council, River Design Group, Staton Companies, M&M Services, and BLM. Rogue River Watershed Council oversaw the contracting for removing the dam, blackberry removal, and riparian fencing, with engineering firm River Design Group providing field studies, design, and construction oversight services. River Design Group, USFWS, and Rogue River Watershed Council provided permitting services for this project. Eugene-based construction-demolition contractor Staton Companies performed the dam demolition and stream restoration. Medford-based stream restoration contractor M&M Services provided blackberry removal and riparian fencing.

Williams-Whalen Dam Removal Aims to Restore Habitat for Native Salmon, Steelhead (KDRV-TV, June 27, 2024)

Third Fish-Impeding Dam Removal in Nine Years at Rogue’s Evans Creek (KOBI-TV, June 27, 2024)