The Rogue River in Southern Oregon is one of the nation’s most beloved waterways. The Rogue was one of the twelve original Wild and Scenic Rivers recognized by Congress in 1968. People travel from all over the world to float the wild Rogue’s wilderness whitewater reaches, to hike a popular wilderness trail along the river, and to fish for salmon, trout and other sport fish.
The Rogue has historically been a very productive river for salmon and steelhead, producing the largest wild populations in Oregon outside the Columbia River system. WaterWatch's Free the Rogue Campaign has successfully removed four major dams in the basin - three on the mainstem of the river.
Now, we are addressing other dams in the basin that impair fish passage on the Rogue. One such dam is the Gold Hill Irrigation District (GHID) diversion dam. This dam 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. There are many design flaws and shortcomings with the system that harm and kill migrating fish in the Rogue.
WaterWatch is now working collaboratively with the irrigation district to modify this dam and diversion to help fish and to return water to the Rogue. We have a design and are looking for funding to complete construction. The cost of the project is estimated at $249,000. We are seeking funding to build this project.
The benefits of the project will be substantial, eliminating adverse impacts to migrating salmon and steelhead and other native fish caused by the existing system and leaving more water in the Rogue River. We are close to a solution for this dam. We need your help to make the project real.
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.
WaterWatch continues to advocate for Oregon Rivers through a variety of means, including advocacy, education, monitoring (esp. related to water rights), and, river restoration and efficiency projects.
With the Oregon Legislature in session WaterWatch is devoting considerable energy advocating for sensible, balanced water policies and fighting to defeat the most damaging bills. WaterWatch staff also participate in several legislative workgroups, including:
Oregon Solutions Project for Columbia River - this group has developed consensus options that should lead to additional water for Umatilla farmers that rely soleley on winter water; WaterWatch successfully staved off proposals to open up the Columbia for for withdrawls during low water seasons and secured the group's commitment that no legislation that undermines Columbia River Fisheries Laws will be introduced.
State Bonding Task Force - this group was convened by the Governor to create a new fund for water development and management projects using lottery backed funds and general obligation bonds for loans. WaterWatch is negotiating to secure requirements that projects developed through this fund would protect streamflows and rivers.
Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) - WaterWatch is a participating member and worked to get two bills adopted as priorities for the group - SB 659, a water right administration fee bill; and SB 401, a bill to designate additional scenic waterways across Oregon. The extensive expansion of proposed State Scenic Waterway designation emerged as a response to the proliferation of suction dredge mining on rivers, primarily in SW Oregon.
In Conduit Hydropower - WaterWatch is attending meetings of this workgroup advocating to keep fish passage requirements on in conduit hydropower (i.e., not on a dam).
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