For more than 45 years now, Elk Creek Dam has been in the news.
It made good sense to build the dam back in 1962, when Congressional appropriations paid for the dam. But it no longer made sense when separated from the Lost Creek and Applegate Dams because the cost-to-benefit-ratio was too great. That, and some salmon that according to some mysteriously appear in the stream with no place to go.
Since that time, the dam, completed at only one-third its intended
elevation, has been the source of controversy and much debate. Several
years ago, after investigating alternatives to meet the needs of
everyone involved, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers received a mandate
to create a notch in the dam to allow fish passage. The mandate has
never changed, as residents and concerned citizens found out on Oct.
Plans are to begin blasting the dam in 2008, unless something
or someone stops that action. Corps officials say they can blast the
dam without destroying the integrity of the remaining structure, though
they admitted not having done such a thing before. Some residents
complained about the use of the term notch because 50,000 yards of
roller compacted concrete amounts to major surgery.
drawings, the corps intends to remove half the spillway area, and what
appears to be the entire right side of the dam. They then want to move
the water flow back to the historic channel and place a training wall
downstream of the dam. Corps spokesman George Miller said that
materials removed from the dam would be reclaimed and stockpiles of
other materials would remain on site until proper disposal measures are
Former Shady Cove Mayor Dick Bailey said destruction
of the dam would put the city in jeopardy of being flooded, citing
events in 2005 that caused damage to the city. Bailey asked if the
Corps was putting fish above people in the case of Elk Creek Dam.
Holt, former Jackson County Commissioner questioned the fish passage
issue, citing witnesses who were involved in planting fish in Elk Creek
when it had no historic runs of fish. ODFW officials claim records
going back more than one-half century show Elk Creek to be one of the
most productive salmon rearing streams in the upper Rogue area.
Resident Jack Vaughan told the corps that in 30 years of trapping on
the creek, that the only carcass he had seen was that of a bear, until
ODFW began planting carcasses with the aid of the watershed councils.
of the 50 or so in attendance at the hearing seemed to want to not only
preserve, but to actually finish, Elk Creek Dam. If the lawsuit to send
30,000 acre-feet of water from the lower end of the valley back to the
Klamath Basin becomes a reality, the picture can change rapidly. This
valley will experience a shortage, and residents say water that could
be impounded behind Elk Creek Dam would become what the Corps calls
The environmental assessment calls for one of two
actions, either notching the dam or building a new trap and haul
facility. Folks wishing to make comments on those two alternatives
must address those comments to: District Engineer, USACE, Portland,
Attn: CENWP-PM-E, Box 2946, Portland, Oregon 97208-2946 by no later
than Nov. 5, 2007.
By Ralph McKechnie
Of the Independent