Gold Ray Dam appears to be near the end after more than a century

Heavy equipment returned to the banks of the Rogue late last week to continue removal of the 104-106 year-old Gold Ray Dam, near Gold Hill.

Work by Slayton Construction had been stopped for nine days while U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner considered a case initiated by “The Friends of Gold Ray Dam.”

Friends contend the removal process has been underway without all the proper permits. These allegations have been denied. Friends may file their case in federal court, asking for a permanent injunction.

Gold Ray Dam’s removal is being funded by a $5 million federal stimulus grant, which says the dam must be removed by October. The county says because the fish ladder no longer meets federal guidelines, if the stimulus funds are not used, the county will have to pay to have the structure removed.

If this dam is removed, there will be smooth sailing from Lost Creek Dam to the coast, a stretch of 157 miles for salmon and those wishing to recreate on the world famous river.

Brothers Dr. Charles and Col. Frank Ray built the dam in 1904-06 to generate hydro power, which it did for 70 years. The original dam was built of logs, using ropes connected to underwater turbines which turned the generators in the powerhouse. California Oregon Power Company (COPCO now Pacific Power) bought the dam in 1921. A concrete dam was built in front of the original log structure in 1939-40 and at the same time the fish ladder was upgraded to include the glass wall, which continues to be in use.  In 1961, rope driven technology became obsolete. It is one of only two rope-driven generation plants in the United States.

Pacific Power decommissioned Gold Ray Dam in 1972. They deeded it and surrounding land to the county for a park and interpretative center on the history of hydo power.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent


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