Today the Rogue River runs free again at former dam site

Today the Rogue River runs free again at former dam site

By Matthew Preusch
October 09, 2009

When crews remove a temporary coffer dam on the Rogue River east of Grants Pass today, the river will flow freely again for the first time in nearly a century.

The coffer dam held back the Rogue this summer while crews knocked down much of 39-foot tall Savage Rapids Dam. The 88-year old dam was used to divert water for irrigation, but pumps installed in the spring now do that work.

Remnant portions of the dam are expected to be removed by December.

The long-planned removal of Savage Rapids is just one of a number of dam removal projects under way or complete on the southwestern Oregon river.

One group of river users — kayakers and rafters — are lining up to run the reborn river as soon as possible.

“I can’t wait to run the new stretch in my drift boat and check out the new fishing spots,” said Bob Hunter, a staff attorney for WaterWatch of Oregon, who fought for years for dam removal.

In 2001, WaterWatch reached an agreement with the dam’s owner, the Grants Pass Irrigation District, that led to the dam’s removal. The cost of the project is estimated at $39.3 million, with $3 million coming from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

A community float through the dam site is planned for Saturday, provided it’s safe at the dam site.

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