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Dam may be in final year


Published June 17, 2004


CHILOQUIN - Removal of Chiloquin Dam from the Sprague River could begin as early as July 2005 under a plan being considered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The agency outlined the proposal during a public hearing Wednesday evening in Chiloquin. About 25 people attended, including state and federal officials and other stakeholders who have been part of a group formed to help determine the fate of the 90-year-old dam.

Few offered any comments.

"I think a lot of people know what is going on, and are on board with what is going on," said Doug Tedrick, manager of the dam's fish passage project for the BIA.

The BIA is drafting an environmental assessment of the project. If no significant impacts that need to be remedied are found, the removal project could begin as early as July 2005.

"We realize that this is an aggressive schedule, but we think we can make it," Tedrick said.

If complications arise, a more rigorous environmental impact statement may be required.

Removal of the dam was recommended last year by a stakeholder group, which included officials from the Klamath Water Users Association, the Modoc Irrigation District and the Klamath Tribes.

The Tribes said they will support the removal only if studies show it would help the restoration of endangered sucker fish spawning habitat upriver from the dam.

Federal officials have also said they will only go along with the removal if it is proved to be beneficial for the suckers.

President Bush proposed setting aside $2.1 for for the removal project in his fiscal 2005 budget.

Tedrick said the relatively light turnout for Wednesday's meeting is a result of work by the stakeholder group, which has been discussing the issue since July 2002. The group was formed after Congress asked the Interior Department, BIA's parent agency, to look into the potential for dam removal.

Half of Wednesday's meeting was reserved for a review of the history of the dam and the removal evaluation process. Half was set aside for the public to make oral comments. Three people offered comments.

Emmitt Hicks, a member of the Klamath Tribes, said the dam shouldn't be removed, in part because of the recreational value it has by creating a popular local fishing hole.

"I learned how to fish there," he said.

He also said the dam shouldn't be blamed for the Klamath Tribes' loss of a sucker fishery, and that other factors need to be taken into account.

In its evaluation, the BIA is charged with sorting through relevant issues, possible alternatives and the probable results of removing the dam.

Located on the Sprague about a mile upstream from the Williamson River, the 21-foot-high, 220-foot-long concrete dam was built in 1914.

Gerald Skelton, cultural director for the Klamath Tribes, said the dam was put in by the federal government to create an irrigation district and to encourage tribal members living on the Klamath Reservation to get into agriculture.

As part of the termination of the Tribes in 1954, ownership of the dam was transferred over from the BIA to the Modoc Point Irrigation District.

The Tribes were reestablished in 1986, but the irrigation district has maintained control of the dam.

Copies of the comments submitted Wednesday will be available at the BIA office in Portland, at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Falls office and, possibly, the Chiloquin Public Library.

Written comments are due by July 16 and should be sent to June Boyton, BIA regional environmental protection specialist, Northwest Regional Office, 911 N.E. 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97232 or faxed to (503) 231-6701. For more information, call Boyton at (503) 231-6749.

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