Federal bucks help GPID keep Rogue River gravel out of its water intake

The Grants Pass Irrigation District now has two new tools to keep Rogue River gravel from clogging its water intake system that replaced Savage Rapids Dam — a going-away present from the government for GPID to just go away.

A $95,000 excavator and $21,000 high-pressure water pump were purchased as part of a $300,000 federal grant to help the district iron out its gravel issues at the intake plagued by moving rock during last year's inaugural irrigation season.

The pump will be used to sluice away gravel that tends to flow down from the former upstream reservoir area and in front of the intakes during even mild freshets like one last year that deposited about 3,500 cubic yards of gravel at the intake gates, GPID Manager Dan Shepard said.

The tool for bigger jobs arrived Wednesday when crews off-loaded the excavator, equipped with a 50-foot boom that's long and strong enough to dig out any future gravel bars that form at the pumping system along the river's south bank near the Jackson/Josephine county line.

"It's a good solution and it's going to make things work," Shepard said. "I think we're there."

And they'd better be, because it's likely the last time GPID puts a hand out to the federal Bureau of Reclamation without getting it slapped.

"I haven't read the fine print, but it's pretty much like, 'This is it, fellas,' " Shepard said.

That more than sums up the bureau's attitude toward the grant, which puts an end to the bureau's involvement with GPID involving anything containing the words "Savage Rapids."

"Yes," said Bob Hamilton, the bureau's project manager for the dam's removal. "We're done."

Signed in September, the grant takes $300,000 in federal funds unspent during the $39.3 million project to remove and replace the 87-year-old dam. Biologists considered Savage Rapids to be the Rogue's single largest fish-killer.

The money sits in a bureau account and is available to reimburse GPID on its gravel-removal work. Any money left over after five years reverts to the government, Hamilton said.

So far, just $116,000 has been spent, Shepard said.

"I doubt very seriously that we'll spend all of it," he said.

The Rogue continued to flow over the top of the intakes Wednesday and it was unclear whether there's any problematic gravel deposits in front of the intakes, Shepard said.

The district's irrigation season will begin in mid-May.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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