Irrigation district controls dam's
July 24, 2005 By DYLAN
DARLING, Herald and News
The removal of Chiloquin dam
might be blocked.
Tearing out the 91-year-old concrete structure on
the Sprague River near Chiloquin has passed through
federal hurdles and has the support of legislators,
environmental groups and the Klamath Tribes, but now
this issue rests with the 86 landowners of the Modoc
Point Irrigation District.Our
Klamath Basin Water Crisis Upholding rural Americans
The district owns the dam
and holds its fate.
"The board is seeking the membership's approval to
go ahead," said Doug Tedrick, manager of the dam's
fish passage project for the U.S. Bureau of Indian
Affairs. "If the district doesn't want us to take it
out, then we are not going to take it out."
Friday the members will vote on whether the board
should keep discussing the possible removal with the
federal government. Polls at the Crater Lake Real
Estate office near the intersection of Highway 97
and the Crater Lake Highway will be open from 8 a.m.
to 5 p.m.
"It's a vote of the land owners," said Berniece
Etchevers, district secretary.
In all there are 5,300 acres in the district, 4,261
of which are being irrigated this year, she said.
The district's five-member board has been in favor
of removing the dam, but is checking to see if it
has the support of the district's membership.
Officials have called for removal of the dam because
it blocks movement of endangered sucker fishes to
spawning beds up river. Improving the dam's fish
ladder was also weighed, but officials opted for dam
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden said
he supports removing the dam if the members of the
irrigation district do.
"The Chiloquin dam's lack of
passage is listed as one of the reasons the suckers
were listed in the first place," Walden said in a
telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
Lost River and shortnose suckers were listed as
endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1988.
The diversion dam provides for the district's lone
source of irrigation water, a ditch leading from the
dam out to the fields on Modoc Point.
Before the dam would be
taken out, a new pumping station would be put in at
the government's expense to keep water flowing to
the district, Tedrick said. He would not comment on
how much the station might cost because he said it
is going to up for bid from construction companies.
Etchevers said she is one of those in favor of
putting in a pumping station and taking out the dam
removal because it would bring more consistent water
than the dam feed ditch that is in place now.
"A lot of times we have half
as much in the ditch in July as we did in June," she
said. "With the pumping station we would have water
all (growing) season."
But some district members are questioning the
process the board and the government are going
through to decide the dam should go and wondering if
it should stay.
Melinda Chauvin, a district
member, said she's not specifically opposed to the
removal of the dam, just the government just hasn't
made its case that in the best interest of the
suckers and it won't harm the district.
"The dam itself is a very small part of the issue,"
Chauvin, who lives half the
time in Medford, has 500 acres on Modoc Point, half
of which are irrigated by the district.
Among those who plan to vote no Friday are Bill
Boyd, a district member and former board member. He
said he plans to do so because the government is
forcing the dam removal on the district without
completely studying its impacts, physical and
Taking out the dam could harm endangered sucker
habitat more than it could help, Boyd said. And the
government hasn't properly set up a way of
offsetting the cost of pumping for the district.
"They are making a lot of claims that they can't
back up," he said. "They just haven't got their
Chauvin and Boyd, who has owned 80 acres in the
district for two and-a-half years, both also are
concerned about how moving where the district gets
its water would affect its water rights. The
district currently draws from the Sprague and has a
1864 priority date. The pumping station would be
downstream, on the Williamson River after the
Sprague has merged into it.
Both said the water priority date could be moved to
But Tedrick said the date wouldn't be changed
because of the move and federal officials have been
assured of this by the Oregon Water Resources
Tedrick is in town this weekend, meeting with
members of the board and land owners about the dam.
If the district approves the removal of the dam and
federal funding is available in the next budget it
would begin this year and be done by January 2007.
Because of federal restrictions concerning suckers,
construction that could affect the fishes can only
be done between July 1 and January 1.