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Evaluating the future of Chiloquin dam
Published March 18, 2004
Project focuses on improving fish passage, restoring spawning habitat
By DYLAN DARLING
CHILOQUIN - The federal government wants Chiloquin dam's future figured out this year.
Many in and out of the Klamath Basin have called for the removal of the dam on the Sprague River, saying it would open up 70 miles of spawning habitat to endangered sucker fish. And President Bush has notched $2.1 million in his fiscal year 2005 budget for its removal.
But before any demolition can begin, the government has to further evaluate whether the dam should be removed, get an improved fish ladder or be left alone. The government will also need to determine what should be done to dull the impact of whichever option is chosen.
Doug Tedrick, chief range conservationist for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, was in Chiloquin Wednesday to meet with more than a dozen federal officials and stakeholders who have been meeting monthly about the dam for a year and a half.
Last year, most of the group recommended that the dam be removed after a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study.
Tedrick, who works in the Indian Affairs Washington, D.C., office, said the issues surrounding the possible removal of the dam are ones that the government can address. He said the government's focus is figuring out what will be best for the fish.
"This project is about improving fish passage - restoring suckers," Tedrick said.
At the meeting he heard just some of the concerns that float around the dam's potential removal. For example:
n How would the Modoc Point Irrigation District, which owns the dam, irrigate its 5,000 acres without the dam's diversion
n What would be done upstream to improve sucker habitat
n How the city of Chiloquin might replace its most popular swimming hole
Tedrick said studies under the government's National Environmental Policy Act will flesh out what action to take for the dam and what impacts would need to be mitigated. The studies include engineering probes and biological research.
"We believe we can get all those things done this year," he said.
Until then the government is not making any commitments on what possible impact would need to be compensated for other than taking care of Modoc Point Irrigation District.
Right now the government is just learning about the dam and the effects of the possible courses of action.
Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said the government's attention to the dam is an opportunity to bring many projects in the Chiloquin community together.
"All of the ideas out there could be combined into one," he said.
But those ideas will have to be brought up quickly.
Because of the hyper schedule - government's goal is to get the needed studies done this calendar year - the groups involved need to make sure they get all the issues identified, said Tom Burns of the Modoc Point Irrigation District.
"If parties have things they want to bring up, they need to bring them up now," he said.
Reporter Dylan Darling covers natural resources. He can be reached at 885-4471, (800) 275-0982, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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