2 southern Oregon dams that impede wild fish are on track to be removed this summer

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ROGUE RIVER, Oregon — Two of Oregon's worst wild fish impediments are on track to be removed this summer.

Project managers this month received a key permit for removing the abandoned Fielder and Wimer dams from Evans Creek in the southern part of the state.

Demolition crews are limited to working in streams such as Evans Creek between June 15 and Aug. 31 under Oregon law to ensure minimal impacts on current fish runs.

"Everything's moving forward well to be able to do the removal this summer," Bob Hunter of WaterWatch of Oregon told the Mail Tribune (http://is.gd/TaWplE ).

WaterWatch has teamed with the Geos Institute and American Rivers to oversee the removal with the help of local conservation groups, angling clubs and state and federal agencies.

Hunter said a key issue is money, and whether the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board approves a $462,845 grant request to round out the estimated $671,000 needed to remove both dams.

Watershed Enhancement Board staff recommended to the full board that it approve the grant at its April 28 meeting in Salem.

Wimer and Fielder dams are more than a century old. They have such poorly functioning fish ladders that they rank among the state wildlife agency's Top 10 for worst wild fish impediments in Oregon.

Fielder Dam's location and design keep wild salmon from venturing past its base, which is 3 miles from Evans Creek's confluence with the Rogue. Wild fish that get above Fielder Dam then must confront Wimer Dam 6 miles farther upstream, biologists say.

Removing the dams would create regular access to 16 miles of spawning habitat for wild fall chinook, 60 miles of spawning habitat for wild coho and more than 70 miles of wild steelhead spawning grounds, according to feasibility studies.

The two irrigation diversion dams were abandoned in the 1970s, and no active water rights are associated with them or the small reservoirs they impound. WaterWatch has secured agreements with private landowners to allow removal.

WaterWatch hired River Design Group to oversee the studies and permitting. That group shepherded the 2009 removal of Savage Rapids Dam and the 2010 removal of Gold Ray Dam, both from the Rogue.


Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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