Corps complete notching of Elk Creek Dam

Downstream view of the now notched Elk Creek Dam.

Downstream view of the now notched Elk Creek Dam.

The long-awaited disposition of the state of Elk Creek Dam has finally been completed.  U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has nearly completed work on the project, with just minor clean-up work remaining by the two major contractors.

Elk Creek Dam has been controversial since construction began more than 20 years ago.  A court injunction halted progress on the structure when it has been completed to approximately 80 feet of the proposed 240 feet height.  USACE, who normally build projects, have been prepared to tear down the dam for the past several years.  Efforts by local parties and by Congressman Greg Walden have until now prevented the notching.

Without further opposition, the Corps proceeded to notch and move the streambed back to its original position prior to the start of construction.  Site work began in May and blasting of the structure began in July.  By the middle of August, some 75,000 cubic yards of roller-compacted concrete were removed from the spillway and left abutment.  The materials were removed to the 1500-ft level, approximately 63-ft. below the dam’s incomplete height. 

Contractors blasted the dam in several sections, carefully placing charges to make certain that materials removed would be small enough to handle.  They blasted on nine separate occasions, commencing on August 17. 

Once the blasting was complete, materials were removed and re-deposited in another area needing fill, where native rock cover any traces of the concrete.  The channel was diverted through a pipeline during this phase.

The original channel was then restored, and finally the pipeline removed and water flowed through the old channel bed.  The USACE believes that the stream flows more slowly in this original stream bed, offering an aid to migrating salmon. 

The fish “trap and haul” facility once located about ¼ mile below the dam has also been removed.  USACE officials said the original facility was designed to last only for the first five years following construction of the dam.  That window of time was to relocate fish to Cole Rivers Hatchers, thereby changing the pattern of migrating salmon to return to Cole Rivers and not to
Elk Creek. 
Following the restoration project, the creek appears to be flowing normally, and time will heal the remaining scars on the landscape.  If all goes well, salmon will return to the stream and once again complete their life cycle in these waters.
By Ralph McKechnie
For the Independent

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