takes a lot of looking before you bust a dam
By DYLAN DARLING Freelance Writer
Two biologists deep in the fish ladder at
Chiloquin Dam, last week sample migrating
sucker fish. The federal government is
pressing to get studies done this year leading
up to removal of the aging dam built decades
ago by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
CHILOQUIN, Ore. — There’s money in the budget to
do some dam busting, but the federal government
figures it needs a year’s worth of studies first.
Target of the attention is Chiloquin Dam, built by
the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and owned by
Modoc Point Irrigation District. A U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation study last year recommended removing
the aging dam to open about 70 miles of the
Sprague River to spawning habitat for two sucker
fish that spend much of their adult life in Upper
Doug Tedrick of the BIA came to Chiloquin last
week to tell a group of stakeholders an
environmental and engineering study is needed
first. The administration earmarked $2.1 million
for dam removal in the budget request for the
fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
Tedrick said before any demolition can begin, the
government will look at whether the dam should be
removed, get an improved fish ladder or be left
alone. Oregon’s congressional delegation put dam
removal on the fast track after national interest
focused on the Klamath Basin’s federal irrigation
water cutoff of 2001. Managing lake levels for
sucker fish habitat was a key part of the
drought-year juggling act that led to the water
Tedrick, who works in the BIA Washington, D.C.,
office, 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.
Topping the list of stakeholder concerns is a
replacement diversion point for Modoc Point’s
irrigation system. There’s already a federally
built pumping station downstream of the dam that’s
never been put into service. Locals hope the
federal government will pay pumping expense.
BIA will wrap the issues into an Environmental
Impact Statement, and add to it engineering data
and biological research.
“We believe we can get all those things done this
year,” Tedrick said.
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
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.
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