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The Gold Hill Irrigation District (GHID) diversion dam is now the highest ranked fish passage priority in the Rogue River Basin based on the Rogue Basin Fish Access Team's list. This diversion system constricts and delays fish passage and harms and kills salmon and steelhead on the Rogue. This low dam that spans most of the length of the river. At times, the diversion takes more than ten times the water allowed by the district’s water rights. The dam diverts water all year (despite a seasonal water right) into a canal on the south side of the river. At times, the diversion reroutes a significant portion of the river’s flow through the canal. Some fish die in the canal and related diversion structures. Those that survive the canal are dumped out onto a hardpan surface in a thicket of brush and downed trees and expected to find their way back to the river. There are many design flaws and shortcomings with the system that harm and kill migrating fish in the Rogue.
In 2011, WaterWatch began to address the GHID diversion. WaterWatch first entered into a collaborative agreement with GHID to locate funding to prepare design alternatives to upgrade the diversion to meet modern fish passage standards and to conform operations to the district’s water rights. In 2011, WaterWatch prepared a grant proposal to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) for the funding to retain an engineer and prepare design alternatives to the current headworks. WaterWatch secured that grant and entered into a contract with River Design Group to move forward with the engineering work. River Design Group completed three draft engineering alternatives in early 2013. GHID and WaterWatch reviewed those alternatives.
In spring 2013, WaterWatch and GHID agreed upon a single alternative to modify the existing structure. This alternative will improve screening and fish passage while reducing the overall volume of water diverted and give the District the ability to control diversions into the canal. We then entered into another collaborative agreement for the implementation phase of the project. Now, WaterWatch is seeking funding for the preferred alternative. The cost of the project is estimated at $249,000. Now. we are seeking funding to build the project.
The benefits of the project will be substantial. Once built, the project will eliminate or reduce the adverse impacts to migrating salmon and steelhead and other native fish caused by the existing system and leave more water in the Rogue River.
This spring, WaterWatch and the Gold Hill Irrigation District agreed upon a single alternative to modify the existing structure to improve screening and passage while reducing the overall volume of water diverted by the dam.
We entered into another collaborative agreement for the implementation phase. This agreement basically requires us to look for funding to build the preferred alternative. This decision has been supported by both ODFW and NMFS. We recently submitted an application to OWEB to fund the project, and continue to search for matching funds from other sources. ODFW has committed to directly fund some of the improvements in fish passage outlined in the agreement.