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District considering dam removal

Water sprays from a wheel line in the Modoc Point Irrigation District Tuesday. Members of the 5,300-acre district voted Friday to continue talks with the federal government about removing its current water source, the Chiloquin Dam on the Sprague River, and instead get water using an electric pump

MODOC POINT - Federal and Modoc Point Irrigation District officials will keep talking about removing Chiloquin Dam.

"We are continuing to negotiate," said Barney Allen, district vice-president.

The district's board ratified Tuesday night a vote by its landowners to continue discussions with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The vote was held Friday and the resolution passed by nine votes.

Federal officials, scientists and lawmakers have supported removal of the 91-year-old dam that sits on the Sprague River near Chiloquin, but the district owns it and controls its fate.

Of the 86 landowners in the 5,300-acre district, 47 voted. In the district, the more land someone has, the more pull they had in the election.

The breakdown is like this: Owners of less than an acre to 40 acres got one vote; more than 40 acres to 160 acres got two votes and more than 160 acres got three.

Of the 119 eligible ballots, 79 were cast Friday - 44 "yes" and 35 "no."

Although the ballots have been counted, the issue of whether the district should have the dam removed isn't settled.

Pete Bourdet, who has been representing the district in negotiations with the government, said once agreements are in place to put in a pumping station to supply water to the district and remove the dam there will be another vote of the landowners to see if the majority support the plans.

"It won't happen until all the agreements are in place," Bourdet said. "They'll vote up or down, whatever the case may be."

Currently, the district gets all of its water from the dam's diversion ditch.

While Bourdet, who was voted into the district board's vacant fifth seat Tuesday night, will continue talks with the government, district members who oppose the dam's removal will continue to ask questions.

A number of those who voted "no" and oppose the removal of the dam were among the 16 people at Tuesday night's board meeting at the Crater Lake Realty office on Highway 97 near the Williamson River. Among them was Bill Boyd, who had been on the district board, but resigned a couple of months ago because of differences with other board members.

Boyd questioned why the government wants the dam removed.

"What bothers me is this is just a political scam and the district is taking the brunt," he said.

Melinda Chauvin, a district member who lives half the time in Medford, said she is still concerned about putting in the pump, which would be on the Williamson River and not the Sprague, because she says it would jeopardize the district's water rights claims in the ongoing state adjudication, or the processing of determining who gets how much water.

Bourdet, who is the district's largest landowner with 1,000 acres, said if the district doesn't get its water rights then it won't enter into an agreement with the feds to remove the dam.

Bourdet said he is working on a deal that would have the federal government cover the cost of putting in the dam, its upkeep and a yearly $55,000 power bill.

The pump would be put in before the dam is removed and the district would try it out for three months, before approving the removal of the dam.

"We don't sign, the dam doesn't come out," Bourdet said.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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