Accord Saves Fish, Water on Rogue Riverby Brad Cain, The Associated Press
Seattle Times - October 13, 2001
SALEM — It seemed like a peace-treaty signing yesterday when Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber brought opponents together to endorse an agreement aimed at ending the long-running battle over the Savage Rapids Dam.
The agreement could lead to the removal of the aging irrigation diversion dam in southern Oregon by 2006 but also provide the Grants Pass Irrigation District with the water it needs.
"It's been a rough and rocky road," the governor said, noting that the parties have been fighting since the 1980s over the dam's effect on Rogue River salmon vs. the water needs of area landowners.
Kitzhaber and the others signed a special declaration recognizing a consent degree that dissolves state and federal lawsuits against the irrigation district over harm the dam has caused threatened coho.
The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene at the end of August, calls for installing pumps to draw water out of the Rogue River by 2005, then removing the dam built in 1921.
Don Greenwood, chairman of the board of the Grants Pass Irrigation District, thanked Kitzhaber for his efforts.
"He's been on board with this wonderful project of getting fish down the river, getting the irrigation district all the water it needs and getting out of this stupid, confrontational situation we've been in for many years," Greenwood said.
Bob Hunter of WaterWatch, an environmental group, also praised all sides for their willingness to put aside differences.
"It's really great for the Rogue River, it's good for the irrigation district, and it's good for the state of Oregon," Hunter said.
The deal depends on Congress approving as much as $22.2 million for the project, and Kitzhaber noted all sides had agreed to "aggressively" work together to secure the funding.
"I'm delighted that the consent decree includes the removal of Savage Rapids Dam, which has been a source of significant fish mortality and also hasn't been particularly efficient in providing irrigation water to the district," the governor said.
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