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Chiloquin Dam removed
Structure on Sprague River gone 69 days ahead of schedule
CHILOQUIN — The Chiloquin Dam is gone.
It was located along the Sprague River near the city of Chiloquin, and was slated for removal for some time.
Dave Arter, construction engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the aging structure was so deteriorated that it came down easier than expected.
“It wasn’t quite the challenge we anticipated,” Arter said. “The quality of concrete in 1914 was not the quality of concrete we have today.”
Dam removal work on the 190-foot wide, 11-foot tall structure began in late July and was completed Aug. 20--69 days ahead of schedule.
Biologists said it blocked the passage of 95 percent of the endangered Lost River and shortnosed suckers from Upper Klamath Lake to upstream spawning habitat. They believe the removal will provide access to 80 miles of habitat. The two suckers are a traditional food for Klamath Indians, who annually hold ceremonies to welcome the spawning run of the fish.
“We’re way ahead of schedule,” Arter said. “We hope that by Oct. 15 we will have completed everything.”
Crews from Slayden Construction of Stayton, the project contractor, are realigning the shore near the former dam and backfilling and covering a former irrigation canal. Cost of the project was previously estimated at more than $9 million.
Arter said the backfilling is more than 80 percent complete and work is progressing on building an irrigation system for the Glenn Kircher family, which used the canal.
Arter said most of the 1,500 cubic yards of concrete and other materials from the dam (“over the years a lot of it eroded and washed away”) was used to fill the old canal, which is being covered with two feet of topsoil for future planting. Seeding of the former canal and disturbed areas with certified weed-free seed will begin next week.
“By the time a year goes by, it’s going to be hard to know there was a dam there,” Arter said, noting crews used 1914 river surveys to return the area by the old dam to its natural contours.
“ We’re trying to restore it to approximately what it was in 1914. We’re almost there.”
Unknown is what will be done with sinker logs littering sections of the river near the former dam, which is less than a mile from the Sprague’s confluence with the Williamson River.
Officials believe the logs are remnants from early logging days.
Arter said officials from the Bureau, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Forest Service, Oregon Water Resources Department and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are reviewing data and will decide on a course of action.
On the Web
Time-lapse photographs showing the removal of the Chiloquin Dam are available on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Web site at www.usbr.gov/mp/ kbao/. The photographs can be found at Chiloquin Dam Removal under Highlights at the bottom right of the page.
About the Chiloquin Dam
The Chiloquin Dam was built by the Bureau of Indian Service, now the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the Klamath Tribe in 1914.
Ownership was transferred to the Modoc Point Irrigation District in 1973 when the tribe was terminated. The sole purpose of the dam was providing water to irrigation district water users, who are now served by pumps.
The dam had a fish ladder designed to allow suckers to swim over it, but biologists said it was outdated and almost completely nonfunctional.
Fish making their way upstream after removal
If seeing is believing, Dave Arter believes that fisheries biologists who said removal of the Chiloquin Dam would benefit fish were right.
“The fish are in fact going upstream,” said Arter, the construction engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Arter said he recently saw a young bald eagle dive, catch a fish and eventually work his way out of the river to some rocks, where it dried its wings before flying off — with the fish still in its talons.
“This proves the point that all the biologists were right,” Arter said, referring to beliefs that the dam had blocked the upstream passage of fish, including endangered Lost River and shortnosed suckers, from Upper Klamath Lake. “The eagle caught the fish right where the old dam was.”
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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