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Rebar for a pad on which 12 electric pumps will sit is swung into place last week at Savage Rapids, on the Rogue River five miles upstream from Grants Pass, Ore. When pumps are working in 2009, the aging irrigation diversion dam will come out.
Slayden Construction of Stayton, Ore., this month got the near $9 million federal contract to remove Chiloquin Dam from the Sprague River in the Klamath Basin.
Contractor to bust another dam
Slayden to remove Chiloquin Dam on Klamath tributary

by Tam Moore, Capital Press 2/23/07

GRANTS PASS, Ore. - Slayden Construction Group is on its way to becoming the West's dam buster.

Already at work - and months ahead of the contract - preparing to take out a controversial Rogue River irrigation diversion dam, Slayden this month got the federal contract to remove Chiloquin Dam on a Klamath River tributary.

Slayden is an experienced contractor for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which administers both dam removal projects.

The $28.3 million replacement of Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River should be complete late in 2009. The Chiloquin job, a near $9 million contract, calls for dam removal during summer 2008.

Bob Hamilton, Reclamation's Savage Rapids project engineer, said by phone from his office in Boise that Slayden has its own ideas on getting the project done. Reclamation's timetable called for April construction of a coffer dam that would allow construction of a massive pumping station.

When the Rogue flows remained low after last fall's irrigation season, Slayden asked for, and received, a 30-day waiver to a state ban on fall in-water work and put up the coffer dam.

This week, with the pumphouse pit excavated almost 25 feet below water level, Superintendent Rick Blankenship said at the job site that concrete pours for the slab would start Feb. 20.

Savage Rapids, five miles east of Grants Pass, is owned by Grants Pass Irrigation District. There has been controversy over fish passage at the diversion dam for two decades. A federal court suit, with the state of Oregon as a party, resulted in the agreement to substitute pumping water from the river for the impoundment that rises 39 feet above the river bed.

Hamilton said Oregon is paying $3 million of the dam removal cost. Reclamation picks up remaining costs. The Bush administration budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 includes $15 million to all but complete work on the contract.

Chiloquin Dam was built by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1914 to provide irrigation water to farmland, then part of the Klamath Indian Reservation. Ownership was transferred to Modoc Point Irrigation District in 1973. The controversy at Chiloquin is fish passage for two varieties of sucker fish listed under the Endangered Species Act.

In a news release, Steve Thompson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional manager, said dam removal will speed recovery of both fish.

"This is a significant step in helping to restore the traditional fishery for the Klamath Indian Tribes," he said.

Reclamation said Slayden will move onto the Chiloquin site in May. It will build a downstream pumping plant for irrigators this summer and fall, then take out the 220-foot-wide concrete diversion structure starting in July 2008.

As in the Rogue job, the Sprague River dam removal timetable is designed to carry out instream work at times when migrating fish are elsewhere.

It's 465 feet from bank to bank at Savage Rapids. Hamilton said dam removal in 2009 will be in two phases, with two separate coffer dams to separate the river from workers carrying out demolition.
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