Powerhouse Rapid fate linked to dam removal

Rafters running a popular stretch of the Rogue River near here could trade one artificial whoop-de-do for a string of natural rapids with the planned removal of Gold Hill's unused diversion dam next summer.

Removal of the concrete diversion that spans the Rogue upstream of Powerhouse Rapid will eliminate the small pool upstream of the dam, where a Bureau of Reclamation survey shows a series of submerged rocks that would be exposed.

Most of the water likely will flow along the river's north bank there, possibly enhancing raft rides through Powerhouse Rapid downstream — one of the main draws for Rogue floaters running downstream from Gold Ray Dam. The net effect, however, is not yet known.

"I think it will be better because it will be a more natural condition," says Craig Harper, water resources coordinator with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which is working with the city of Gold Hill on the $1.2 million project.

"You won't have that little loop-de-loop at the dam, but removing the dam should access some other minor rapids," Harper says. "I don't know exactly what will happen, but that's my guess."

Rafters and others interested in learning more about the diversion removal are invited to a meeting at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Gold Hill City Hall, 420 Sixth Ave., Gold Hill.

Representatives from Slayden Construction and River Design Group — the two firms hired for the project — will be on hand to discuss work at the diversion, which is upstream of Gold Hill.

Many of the commercial rafting companies that frequent that stretch of the Rogue in spring and summer aren't sweating the changes.

Matt Dopp, owner of Kokopelli River Center in Ashland, says he does not anticipate any changes to the best rapids in the stretch — and that's important to his business.

"That's the bread-and-butter rafting run here," Dopp says.

"I don't think it'll create a new rapid," Dopp says. "I don't think it'll create a new feature. But it will remove the pool."

Pete Wallstrom, owner of Momentum River Expeditions in Ashland, says losing the dam will remove one of the most unique features of that run.

"There aren't many diversion dams you can drop over," Wallstrom says.

Wallstrom expects the river to take a while to figure out where and how it will flow there once the concrete is gone.

"Every time rapids have a big change from something like a landslide or this, they usually continue to change for a couple years," Wallstrom says. "It'll be interesting to see how it ends up."

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