High water can stop mill from grinding

It’s not something that we think of a lot here in southern Oregon, but high water and floods do occur. The three dams on the Rogue River system, were built following flood events that wreaked havoc on the area in both 1955 and 1964. During those events, bridges were washed out, roads destroyed and homes were flooded. That was the reason for the Lost Creek and Applegate dams, and the uncompleted Elk Creek dam.

At times, the water gets so high people can be cut off from their homes by a driveway crossing through lower terrain and that is certainly an inconvenience. Almost as much of an inconvenience as not enough water, like some of the summer events we have had recently.

Though many may not think of it, but that water, much as we like to see it, can cause problems with at least one local business. The Butte Creek Mill is designed to operate at certain flow rates along Little Butte Creek. If the water gets too low, there is not enough water to turn the turbine that spins the stones to grind grains into flour. If the water is too high, there is plenty flow to assure the needed power, but the fall is not enough, and the wheels will not turn.

The rainstorm of Nov. 29, a sheet of raindrops that did not end during the entire day, provided too much run-off and nearly shut down the turbine at the mill. With more rain in the forecast, there is a distinct possibility that production would have to stop entirely. In that case, the only solution is to wait until the water drops before the stones can again be turned. Owner Bob Russell said that despite the lack of production in the mill itself, the store would remain open for retail sales.


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