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Event marks dam’s demise; Chiloquin Dam removal to begin this month
by DD Bixby, Herald and News 7/3/08

Tribal members talk to a swimmer at the Chiloquin Dam on Wednesday during a ceremony celebrating the structure’s removal.

   CHILOQUIN — For Klamath Tribes Chairman Joseph Kirk, the Chiloquin Dam is a symbol of the past and the future. 

   The dam on the Sprague River served as a playground during his childhood. But its removal will ensure survival of the shortnose and Lost River suckers, a one-time staple food for the tribes. 

   Kirk spoke to about 100 people Wednesday, who gathered on the bank of the Sprague River to celebrate the planned dam removal. 

   Children could be heard as they cooled themselves in the reservoir behind the dam, and Kirk called their voices the sounds of his childhood. 

   “It saddens me to know the dam will be removed, and in a very short time these kids will have a new playground,” Kirk told the crowd. 

   Plans to remove the dam, built in 1914, began after federal studies showed it blocked up to 95 percent of the suckers’ passage to historical spawning habitat in the Upper Klamath Lake. Discussions began in 2002, when Congress ordered the Bureau of Reclamation to study the dam and compare removal to improving existing fish ladders and partial dam removal. Complete removal was recommended. 

   The dam is owned by the Modoc Point Irrigation District and provides water for agriculture purposes. The removal project will not decrease the amount of water to irrigators, Reclamation officials said. 

   How removal will work 

   The first phase of the removal, completed in May, included installing three pumps downstream from the dam to accommodate displaced water. The next and final stage is expected to begin this month and will include the construction of a new pump station and the actual removal of the dam. 

   Many agencies are involved in the project, including Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Modoc Point Irrigation District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Water Resources Department, the Klamath Tribes and Klamath Water Users Association. 

   U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., spoke to the crowd Wednesday along with several representatives of Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, and Fish and Wildlife. It was the congressman’s third visit to the dam. 

   “This dam is the principal reason suckers are on the endangered list,” he said. 

   Overcoming obstacles 

   The removal process was long and fraught with tension, but Walden congratulated all parties who came together and overcame many obstacles since 2001. 

   Members of the tribes along the Klamath River in California — Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley — also attended the event. 

   Klamath Tribes member Jeff Mitchell called the Chiloquin Dam one of five dams that will come down. 

   “One down, four more to go: Bring the salmon home,” was repeated by speakers and written on several signs locals brought to the celebration. 

   Mitchell explained that the river and fish in it were the lifeblood of the local tribes above and below the Upper Klamath Lake. 

   “Our whole culture is tied in with the river, water and marshes,” he said. “ This dam has served its purpose … and now that time has passed.”
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