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The Talent Division of the Rogue River Basin Project is in the northeastern part of the Rogue River Basin in southwestern Oregon. Work on the division consisted of construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of the irrigation facilities of three irrigation districts in the vicinity of Medford, Oregon, and the provision for full and supplemental water for these lands. The work on the Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts included rehabilitation and betterment of Fourmile Lake Dam, Fish Lake Dam, and the numerous structures which are a part of the Main and Medford Canals. Rehabilitation work on the Talent Irrigation District included enlargement and extension of the distribution system. An extensive collection, diversion, storage, and conveyance system was constructed to carry excess waters of the Rogue River and Klamath River Basins to the irrigated lands.
The Talent Irrigation District consists of approximately 15,500 irrigable acres. Medford Irrigation District has a water supply for 11,500 acres, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation District has a water supply for 8,300 acres. Additionally, the Talent Division provides electric power from a 16,000-kilowatt hydroelectric Green Springs Powerplant.
Principal features of the Talent Division include Howard Prairie Dam, Howard Prairie Delivery Canal, Keene Creek Dam, Green Springs Powerplant, the enlarged Emigrant Dam and Lake, and Agate Dam and Reservoir.
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Supplemental water for the Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts is diverted through the facilities of the Talent Irrigation District, which adjoins the Medford Irrigation District on the southeast. The Medford Irrigation District diverts its supplemental water at Phoenix Diversion Dam, and the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District diverts its share from a newly reconstructed Jackson Street Diversion Dam at Medford, Oregon.
To supply water to lands in the Talent Irrigation District and supplemental water to the Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts, a collection canal system has been constructed to divert surplus flows of the South Fork of Little Butte Creek through a tunnel beneath the Cascade Divide from the Rogue River Basin to Howard Prairie Lake in the Klamath River Basin. Howard Prairie Dam stores collection canal diversions and Beaver Creek runoff. Howard Prairie delivery canal conveys the water from the storage reservoir to Keene Creek Regulating Reservoir, which also regulates releases from Hyatt Reservoir. Water from Soda and Little Beaver Creeks is diverted into the delivery canal by Soda Creek Diversion Dam and Little Beaver Creek Diversion Dam. From Keene Creek Reservoir, a tunnel and conduit carry the water across the Cascade Divide and down to Green Springs Powerplant on Emigrant Creek. Emigrant Dam reregulates powerplant discharges for irrigation. Storage in Agate Reservoir on Dry Creek is enhanced by diverting water from Antelope Creek and Little Butte Creek
Howard Prairie Dam is a zoned earthfill structure, with a height of 100 feet and a crest length of 1,040 feet, that contains 416,000 cubic yards of material. The reservoir created by the dam has a total capacity of 62,100 acre-feet (active 60,600 acre-feet). The dam is on Beaver Creek, 18 miles east of Ashland, Oregon.
This 78-foot-high, 558-foot-long zoned earthfill embankment dam is 16 miles east of Ashland, Oregon, on Keene Creek. Behind the dam is the Keene Creek Reservoir with a total capacity of 390 acre-feet (active 260 acre-feet), which has sufficient water for the weekly cycle of powerplant operation for peaking power production of Green Springs Powerplant. The purpose of Keene Creek Dam is to reregulate releases from Howard Prairie and Hyatt Reservoirs to provide forebay pondage for Green Springs Powerplant.
The Green Springs Powerplant, placed in operation in 1960, is an outdoor-type plant with a capacity of 16,000 kilowatts and a penstock discharge of 133 cubic feet per second operating under 1,800 feet of rated head. The generator was rewound and the switchyard rehabilitated in 1993.
Fish Lake Dam, located 35 miles northeast of Medford, Oregon, on the North Fork of Little Butte Creek is an earth and rockfill structure with a height of 50 feet and a crest length of 960 feet.
Rehabilitation at Fish Lake Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1955 included constructing a new spillway, riprapping the upstream face of the dam, and placing fine fill and grading work on the dam crest. The total capacity is 7,900 acre-feet (active 7,850 acre-feet).
Fourmile Lake Dam, located 45 miles northeast of Medford, Oregon on Fourmile Creek, is a rockfill structure with a height of 25 feet and a crest length of 660 feet. Rehabilitation consisted of constructing a parapet wall along the crest of the dam, replacing the old spillway with a new concrete structure, constructing a small dike on the right abutment, replacing existing fish screens with a new concrete structure, and repairing the concrete outlet conduit. The total capacity of Fourmile Lake is 15,600 acre-feet (active 15,600 acre-feet).
Extensive rehabilitation of the Main Canal included replacing three metal flumes with two concrete siphons and a concrete bench flume.
In 1996 and 1997, further work was done on Fish Lake Dam under Reclamation's Safety of Dams Program. This included installing a rockfill berm on the downstream face of the embankment, modification and extension of the outlet conduit, and constructing a new auxiliary spillway on the right abutment of the dam.
Emigrant Dam and Lake, located 7.5 miles southeast of Ashland, Oregon, on Emigrant Creek, was constructed by the Talent Irrigation District for irrigation water supply. The original 110-foot-high thin-arch concrete dam was incorporated into a 204-foot-high earthfill structure with enlargement by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1961. The dam is 204 feet high and has a crest elevation of 750 feet. The reservoir's total capacity is 40,500 acre-feet (active 39,000 acre-feet). The enlarged reservoir reregulates Green Springs Powerplant discharges and provides additional storage for irrigation.
Agate Dam is a zoned earthfill embankment about 13 miles northeast of Medford, Oregon, on Dry Creek. The structure has a height of 86 feet and a crest length of 3,800 feet and contains 421,000 cubic yards of material. The reservoir behind the dam has a total capacity of 4,800 acre-feet (active 4,700 acre-feet).
Hyatt Dam is on Keene Creek, east of the Cascade Divide approximately 27 miles southeast of Talent, Oregon. It is an earth and rockfill structure having a structural height of 53 feet and a crest length of 775 feet. The total capacity of the reservoir is 16,200 acre-feet (active 16,200 acre-feet).
Hyatt Dam was constructed by the Talent Irrigation District in the early 1920's for irrigation storage. In 1960, the Bureau of Reclamation rehabilitated the dam, constructing fish screens and recreation facilities as a part of the Talent Division.
During 1996-1999, the Bureau of Reclamation in conjunction with the irrigation districts upgraded or replaced fish screens and fish ladders at three diversions: Antelope Creek (Rogue River Valley Irrigation District), Oak Creek (Talent Irrigation District), and Phoenix (Medford Irrigation District). In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation provided a portion of the funds necessary to install fish screens and fish ladders at the Jackson Street Diversion Dam as part of the Medford Urban Renewal Project.
Soon after gold was discovered in California, miners came into the project area. Jacksonville, the first town in southern Oregon, was founded in 1851. Agricultural possibilities were recognized and permanent settlers located along the small streams of the valley. These early settlers raised common field crops and livestock, using adjacent hills and mountains for rangeland.
The earliest filing for water was in 1851 from a tributary of Bear Creek, and the first land was actually irrigated in 1852. Numerous other filings were made to utilize unregulated streamflow. The Southern Pacific Line Railroad, which traverses the area, was constructed from Portland to California during 1868-1889. This brought ready access to markets and hastened development of agriculture, lumbering, and mining, all of which increased migration into the region.
Recognition of the paramount importance of the Rogue River Basin water resources has led to a series of investigations and proposals dating back about 40 years. The Federal Government first investigated potential irrigation development in the basin in 1913 under a cooperative contract with the State of Oregon. In 1915, under terms of this contract and under the authority of Chapter 87, `Laws of Oregon for 1913,` the State Engineer withdrew all of the unappropriated direct flow of Rogue River and its tributaries above Raygold for purposes of irrigation, power, domestic use, and storage. Certain tributaries of the Klamath River which could be diverted to the Rogue River Basin also were withdrawn. These withdrawals are still in effect.
Investigations begun in April 1915 resulted in a report, dated February 1916, by the Reclamation Service (now Bureau of Reclamation) in cooperation with the State of Oregon. This report, in addition to a survey of other areas in the basin, covered the upper portion of Bear Creek Valley. Several features mentioned in the report have been constructed and are in use by the Medford, Rogue River Valley, and Talent Irrigation Districts. Subsequently, more detailed studies were authorized and carried out. In 1938, the Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts made financial contributions to provide for more detailed irrigation studies. In 1939, the State legislature appropriated funds to supplement contributions by Josephine and Jackson Counties for studying the irrigation and multiple-purpose possibilities of the basin. These investigations, which were preliminary in scope, led to the Bureau of Reclamation Project Investigation Report No. 27, April 1940, and also led to investigations of a basin wide nature. A public hearing was held in Medford on June 8 and 9, 1948, to ascertain the wishes of the people of the Rogue River Basin concerning development and use of water in the Rogue River watershed. Further investigation by the Bureau of Reclamation led to authorization of the Talent Division and rehabilitation and betterment of the Rogue River Valley and Medford Irrigation Districts' facilities.
The Talent Division was authorized by the Act of August 20, 1954 (68 Stat. 752, Public Law 83-606). The Secretary of the Interior was also authorized to rehabilitate the irrigation works of the Medford and Rogue River Irrigation Districts pursuant to the provisions of the Rehabilitation and Betterment Act of October 7, 1949 (63 Stat. 724, Public Law 81-335), as amended. The Talent Division was authorized for irrigation, flood control, hydroelectric power, and for other beneficial purposes. Fish and wildlife facilities and minimum basic recreation facilities were also authorized.
The 1954 Act was amended by the Act of October 1, 1962 (76 Stat. 677, Public Law 87-727) to authorize the construction of Agate Dam and Reservoir, a diversion dam, feeder canals, and related facilities for irrigation purposes as a part of the Talent Division. Minimum basic recreation facilities and facilities for the conservation and development of fish and wildlife were also authorized.
Rehabilitation work on structures of the Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts was carried out in 1955-56. Construction of the Talent Division was done in 1957-1961, and Agate Dam in 1965-1966.
With development of the Talent Division, agricultural production has increased, and activity stimulated in other basic industries. Irrigated farms specialize in fruit, principally pears, some specialty crops, hay, pasture, and grain.
Rehabilitation of the Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts made possible their continued operation at full efficiency.
Jackson County Parks has developed Agate Reservoir in conjunction with their nearby Sportsman`s Park. The reservoir provides non-motor boating as well as many recreation facilities that include a swimming beach, picnic areas, a model airplane runway, and eight baseball diamonds, all near the town of Medford.
Emigrant Lake, close to Ashland, is the location of the beautiful and popular Emigrant Lake Park, administered by Jackson County Parks. This park has overnight camping, picnic areas, swimming beaches, and play fields. The lake is popular for water skiing.
Hyatt and Howard Prairie Lakes are surrounded by the pine and fir forests of the Cascade Mountains. Resorts provide groceries, boat rentals, gasoline, and trailer hookups for campers. At Hyatt Lake, the Bureau of Land Management has constructed a campground and day use area that spread out through the trees near the dam. At Howard Prairie Lake, Jackson County Parks has constructed six campgrounds, one each for specifically organized groups, youth groups, and horseback riders, and the other three for the general public. Boating and water skiing are especially good at Howard Prairie Lake.
All the project reservoirs provide habitat for fish. Dry Creek was an intermittent stream that could not support fish before Agate Dam was built. Agate Reservoir is now a favorite fishing lake. Emigrant Lake supports an excellent bass fishery as well as trout in the different arms of the lake. The other reservoirs, with their higher elevations and cooler temperatures, have provided increased trout habitat.
Ducks are raised at each reservoir every year and geese nest at Howard Prairie Lake. Goose production has been increased by the addition of nesting platforms.
Construction and operation of the 16,000-kilowatt hydroelectric powerplant have helped meet expanding power demands in southern Oregon and northern California.
A schedule of joint-use storage at Emigrant Reservoir provides flood control benefits along Bear Creek. Flood control regulation is based upon regulating Bear Creek at Medford to a flow of 3,000 cubic feet per second. When the flow in Bear Creek at Medford exceeds or is forecasted to exceed 3,000 cubic feet per second, the release at Emigrant Reservoir is restricted to 50 cubic feet per second.
The Emigrant Reservoir (http://www.usbr.gov/dataweb/dams/or00581.htm) has 20,000 acre feet of capacity assigned to flood control. The Rogue River Project has provided an accumulated $1,428,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1998.