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Chiloquin mayor opposes removal of dam

March 24, 2006  By STEVE KADEL   H&N Staff Writer

CHILOQUIN - The mayor of Chiloquin has withdrawn support for removing a dam on the Sprague River, citing possible harm to city streets during demolition and lost recreational opportunities for residents.

Mayor Mark Cobb expressed his opposition in a March 14 letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the lead government agency pushing to take out the dam. Doug Tedrick of the BIA has said removal will help enhance the population of endangered suckers.

Cobb said the dam, built in 1914, has created a popular swimming hole for local residents and its loss should be compensated.

“The Chiloquin City Council feels that to offset this impact, a swimming pool should be provided to our community and endowed to ensure its perpetuation,” Cobb wrote to Tedrick.

The mayor said the city council was led to believe in 2003 that a swimming pool would be part of the government's mitigation plan.

But potential damage to city streets along with sewer and water pipes underneath pose a bigger problem than loss of a swimming hole, Cobb said during an interview.

Trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds would rumble through Chiloquin as materials are removed from the dam site, creating a hazard as they pass schools, he said. It's possible that pipes under the streets would break due to the weight, Cobb said.

Cobb told Tedrick that Chiloquin's city engineer agreed with the council about potential street damage.

“It is his opinion that the route which the trucks will need to take through our residential streets will not be allowed anything larger than a five-yard dump,” Cobb wrote. “This restriction will be in effect due to the fact that no agreement is in place to address the impact on our streets.”

Besides the weight factor, Cobb said Thursday, residential streets are not designed for truck commerce.

Tedrick could not be reached for comment Thursday. A phone message seeking comment from the BIA's regional office in Portland was not returned.

Chiloquin city officials are not alone in questioning the wisdom of removing the dam. Melinda Cauvin, an attorney and Modoc Point irrigator, says several issues need to be addressed before proceeding with removal.

“We need to take it more slowly, do better studies,” she said.

Cauvin believes there are other ways to improve fish passage, including building a new fish ladder. She noted that the suckers' main spawning grounds have moved below the Chiloquin dam.

Cauvin added that the dam provides a barrier to the movement of government-planted large mouthed bass from the Sprague River into the Williamson River and eventually into Upper Klamath Lake.

“The bass have the ability to decimate sucker populations as they are a voracious predator of the sucker fry and fingerlings,” she said. “Allowing the bass access into Upper Klamath Lake could prove disastrous.”

Cauvin also is concerned about increased sedimentation in the water as a result of dam removal.




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