Stimulus money pays for Rogue River dam removal

(Updated, 12:40 p.m.) Uncle Sam has earmarked $5 million of federal stimulus package funds to remove the 105-year-old Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue River.

Removing the old defunct hydroelectric facility would open up more that 333 miles of the Rogue and its tributaries to steelhead, Chinook and endangered coho salmon migration.

Jackson County, owner of the facility that closed in 1972, had requested the dam removal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It was one of 50 habitat restoration projects chosen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from a pool of 814 proposals nationwide.

Removal of the 38-foot-high, 360-foot-long dam built in 1904 would employ 54 people at different times throughout the 18-month period provided under the funding program, according to Dave Gilmour, a member of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

“This grant offers an incredible opportunity for Jackson County to bring jobs to our local economy, address long-standing liability and public safety concerns and provide better river access and more recreational opportunities for boating, fishing and hiking,” he said.

If studies demonstrate removal of the dam would both be environmentally sound and in the public’s best interest, the dam could be removed with 18 months, officials said. The funding includes paying for the studies which will look at everything from pollutants in upstream sediment to wetlands created by the dam.

The county had been looking at ways to deal with the dam in recent years, but there has been no funding source for removing it.

Gold Ray Dam is included in $167 million in coastal and marine habitat restoration projects announced today by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The projects will restore damaged wetlands, shellfish beds, coral reefs and reopen fish passages while boosting the health and resiliency of the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes communities, he said.

“These Recovery Act projects will put Americans to work while restoring our coasts and combating climate change,” Locke said in a prepared statement. “They reflect our investment in sound science and commitment to help strengthen local economies.”

— Paul Fattig

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