Top Priority Dam Removal Nears Completion in Rogue River Basin

For Immediate Release

August 10, 2015

Bob Hunter, WaterWatch of Oregon Board Member, 541-778-3310
Brian Barr, Geos Institute Project Manager, 541-621-7226
Denise Hoffert, American Rivers, 541-619-5896
John DeVoe, WaterWatch of Oregon Executive Director, 503-295-4039

Photos and map showing both dams are available here.

Video of Wimer Dam removal available here.

Top Priority Dam Removal Nears Completion in Rogue River Basin
Demolition of Wimer Dam on Evans Creek is Complete, Fielder Dam to Follow

Map of Rogue Basin Dam Removals courtesy River Design Group

Map of Rogue Basin Dam Removals courtesy River Design Group

Rogue River – This week, work crews will start demolition work on Fielder Dam on Evans Creek that will restore access for native fish on a key spawning tributary of the Rogue River. Earlier, workers completed demolition on Wimer Dam, several miles upstream of Fielder Dam. It is anticipated that Evans Creek will soon be entirely free-flowing at both sites and Rogue salmon and steelhead will regain improved access to some 70 miles of quality habitat in the upper reaches of the creek. Prior to drawdown of the dam reservoirs and the commencement of structural demolition, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) led fish salvage operations at both sites.

“This is great news for salmon and steelhead, and the many people who love the Rogue River,” said WaterWatch board member and longtime river advocate Bob Hunter. “The fact that this important river restoration project is successfully underway is a great credit to the many partners who came together to get it done, and demonstrates the need to maintain the federal and state programs that made the project’s funding possible.”

State and federal agencies have identified Evans Creek, and restoring access to high 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. ODFW officials ranked these two dams among the top 10 most significant fish barriers on Oregon’s 2013 Statewide Fish Passage Priority List. Fielder and Wimer are the only fish barriers from the state’s top 10 list to be removed so far.

“There are just a handful of streams in the Rogue Basin that provide quality spawning and rearing opportunities for coho salmon and the upper reaches of Evans Creek are in that handful,” said Brian Barr, project manager for Geos Institute. “Removing these obsolete dams makes it much easier for these protected coho to reach 60 miles of prime nursery habitat.”

An important spawning tributary of the Rogue River, Evans Creek supports fall chinook salmon, coho salmon, summer and winter steelhead, cutthroat trout, suckers, and Pacific lamprey. Above these dams, approximately 19 miles of habitat is available for fall chinook production, 60 miles for coho salmon production, and 70 miles for steelhead production.

“This project continues the great progress we’ve seen over several years to restore fish passage in the Rogue Basin,” said Denise Hoffert of American Rivers. “It’s also a reminder that there are over a thousand barriers to salmon and steelhead still left in the basin. We still have a lot of work to do.”

WaterWatch previously secured the removal agreements for the dams from the relevant private landowners, which ensured removal at no cost to them. Since then, the group partnered with Geos Institute and American Rivers to secure funding for the project. American Rivers secured $213,000 in grants from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that were used for match on a $462,845 restoration grant approved by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board in May. Additional funding partners include ODFW, Ecotrust, The Freshwater Trust, Patagonia, The Conservation Alliance, Laird Norton Family Foundation, International Federation of Fly Fishers, Oregon Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers, Middle Rogue Steelheaders, and Rogue Flyfishers. Geos Institute has overseen the contracting for removing the dams, with veteran dam removal engineering firm River Design Group providing survey, design, permitting, and construction oversight services. Staton Companies, who previously undertook North America’s largest dam demolition on the Elwha River in Washington State, is performing both Evans Creek dam demolitions.