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Savage Rapids: clearing a path

Construction crews work to remove gravel blocking irrigation pumps that replaced Savage Rapids Dam
A drift boat navigates through Savage Rapids, at top, while an excavator is used to prepare a path to move 8,500 cubic yards of gravel so that it does not block Grants Pass Irrigation District pumps.Jamie Lusch

Construction crews today plan to begin reconstructing the Rogue River's new Savage Rapids so gravel released from the removal of Savage Rapids Dam won't continue blocking irrigation pumps built to replace the dam.

Bulldozers and excavators will begin pushing about 3,500 cubic yards of gravel away from the Grants Pass Irrigation District water intake and also tear down a gravel island left upstream of the intake when the dam was removed in October.

The island's gravel, estimated at about 5,000 cubic yards, will be stashed upstream of concrete panels left in place on the dam's south side when it was removed.

When done over the next three to five days, the fix is expected to allow the pumping plant to operate during the upcoming irrigation season that starts in June.

"I think what they're doing is a good plan," GPID manager Dan Shepard said Tuesday, as crews were building a gravel berm to provide access for excavators. "This will get us through the summer."

Part of the long-term solution, however, will be to build a rock jetty off the dam's north end to push the river toward the pumping plant on the river's south side. Since the dam's removal, the majority of the flow has hugged the river's north bank.

The jetty, which has yet to be designed, was expected to be built this summer at a cost of $100,000 to $200,000..

The gravel removal will be done by the Slayden Construction Group, which owns the $39.3 million contract from the federal Bureau of Reclamation for the entire dam-removal project.

This newest work was expected to cost between $10,000 and $15,000, with the ultimate cost determined by how much gravel is moved, said Bob Hamilton, the bureau's project engineer.

Hamilton warned that boaters should avoid the dam area while the excavators are at work because the banks will be unstable.

"There are all kinds of reasons why boaters should stay away," Hamilton said. "That's the safest for all concerned."

This extra work was not expected to be needed when crews pulled the plug on a temporary gravel dam Oct. 9 and sent the Rogue surging through its original Savage Rapids channel for the first time since 1921.

Engineers estimated that high winter flows would wash out most of the more than 200,000 cubic yards of gravel trapped for 88 years behind the dam.

No such storm materialized. The only freshet of sorts came on New Year's Eve, but the short peak flow of 10,000 cubic feet per second of water was high enough only to place tons of gravel in front of the plant's water intakes.

Slayden has permits only to move the gravel within the river. Removing the gravel would be considered mining and Slayden has no mining permit as part of the dam-removal project, Hamilton said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Morris Saltikoff
It would be a wise idea to leave Gold Ray Dam alone it faces simular problems. We don't always need to learn from our mistakes .We just don't have to make them! Dave for your information Ernest Hemingway wrote FICTION so did Zane Gray:>
J Stevenson
"Hamilton warned that boaters should avoid the dam area while the excavators are at work because the banks will be unstable." Mark, you're not considering another first float after the gravel is moved are you? (sort of like the second first float)
Mike Merusi
God forbid the rock was removed and SOLD to Copeland to make construction products!! Oops! We don't have the correct forms!
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              Page Updated: Thursday February 18, 2010 02:44 AM  Pacific

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