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Action Alert: Comments Needed on Elk Creek Dam Notching

Posted: 10/31/2007
By: Thomas O'Keefe
The Army Corps began building Elk Creek Dam in 1986, and if completed the dam would have flooded the entire run on Elk Creek. However, in 1988 when the dam was only a third finished, construction was stopped by litigation and additional studies that demonstrated the dam did not make economic sense and would significantly impact salmon. At present salmon are trucked around the dam site, but this expensive method has had limited success, leading the Army Corps to propose notching the dam in 2008 to provide unhindered fish passage.

In addition to impeding salmon headed upstream, the dam blocks boaters headed down, forcing them to take out a half mile above the dam site. If the dam were notched, paddlers could continue an additional 2.5 miles to the Rogue River confluence. Currently the paved spur road that descends to the take-out above the dam is blocked by a gate that is locked seasonally from Nov 15 to April 30. This closure is part of an agreement between the Corps and ODFW to help protect the valley from vehicle damage during the wet season. Unfortunately, this means that for almost the entire boatable season, boaters have to carry their boats almost ¾ of a mile up the spur road from the creek to the locked gate.

The Army Corps of Engineers has opened a public comment period on the proposal to notch the dam and restore the natural river channel through the dam site. Doing so would restore passage for fish and boaters. The comment deadline is November 5th and we need comments from the boating community to support this project. While the preferred alternative is to restore the river channel, others have proposed alternative fish passage measures that would not provide passage for boaters.

We encourage the paddling community to write the Army Corps of Engineers and make the following the points:
  • Notching Elk Creek dam and restoring the natural channel is the only means of restoring safe navigational passage to Elk Creek.
  • Notching is the most economically and biologically sound method of providing fish passage at the partially completed structure.
  • Elk Creek Dam is not needed to store water.  There is surplus water available behind Lost Creek and Applegate Reservoirs.
  • Elk Creek Dam was not designed to generate power and it has not been shown that it is economically feasible to do so.
  • Elk Creek Dam would provide minimal flood control benefits. Flood control is already achieved by Lost Creek Dam.
  • Completion of Elk Creek Dam would inundate the whitewater run on Elk Creek and block 25 miles of spawning habitat for ESA-listed coho salmon and for winter and summer steehead.
  • Completion of Elk Creek Dam would flood critical overwintering habitat for deer and elk and block winter migration routes.
You can read AW's comments through the document link to the right. Even brief comments are helpful to demonstrate support.

Please mail your comments to:

Mr. Kim Larson
District Engineer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineer District, Portland
Attn: CENWP-PM-E
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, OR  97208-2946

Note that you are commenting on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Fish Passage Corridor, Elk Creek Project, Jackson County, Oregon, CENWP-PM-07-05.

It would be beneficial to send a copy of your comments to Governor Kulongoski, Congressman Greg Walden, Congressman Peter DeFazio, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Gordon Smith. Please also send a copy to American Whitewater.

For additional information:

We all owe a big debt of thanks to our friends at Water Watch and Oregon Wild who have been working on this project for many years.



Documents

  • Elk Creek Dam Notching Comments 30OCT2007

    Comments of American Whitewater on Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Fish Passage Corridor, Elk Creek Project, Jackson County, Oregon, CENWP-PM-07-05.

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Elk Creek (Rogue) OR
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