Reclamation Starts Savage Rapids Dam Removal

Media Contact: David Walsh, (208) 378-5026
Robert Hamilton, (208) 378-5087

For Release: April 01, 2009

The Bureau of Reclamation will oversee construction of two coffer dams by Slayden Construction Group as part of the beginning stages of removing a major portion of Savage Rapids Dam. This work will help restore natural passage for fish migrating past the damsite on Oregon's Rogue River.

Construction of the coffer dams is expected to start around April 7, making it possible for crews to begin the task of safely removing six bays of the 88-year-old dam. Coffer dams are temporary structures designed to isolate the work area from the river to create a dry environment for demolition to occur.

Some turbidity may be visible in the river for a short period of time when the radial gates are opened to drain the reservoir in order to construct the coffer dams. This will be similar to the turbidity generally seen when the Grants Pass Irrigation District opens the radial gates to install stoplogs on the dam crest. Property owners along the reservoir with floating docks or boats in the water are advised to take precautions since they could be affected by the drawdown.

Motorists are also advised to be aware of an increase in heavy equipment entering and exiting Foothills Boulevard in the area adjacent to the construction site.

While the coffer dams are in place, the reservoir level will be maintained at normal winter time elevations to accommodate fish passage over the left side of Savage Rapids Dam. Plans call for removing the coffer dams and diverting the river through the breached section of the dam by October. Removal of two additional bays and other remaining construction should be completed by mid December 2009.

The total estimated project cost is $39.3 million, with $3 million for dam removal provided by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

The Grants Pass Irrigation District constructed Savage Rapids Dam in 1921, to divert water for irrigation. An amended 2001 Federal Court Consent Decree required the irrigation district to cease using the dam for water diversions by the end of the 2008 irrigation season. Congress authorized Reclamation to construct the Savage Rapids Pumping Plant to supply water to the district, which will deliver water starting with the 2009 irrigation season.

Additional information on project construction can be found by selecting the Savage Rapids Dam Removal Update link in the center of the web page at

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

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