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Corps advances plan to restore fish passage at stalled Elk Creek Dam

Backed by initial funding from Congress, the Corps of Engineers plans to seek bids to remove a section of the partially built Elk Creek Dam to restore fish passage in Elk Creek northeast of Medford, Ore.

Legal challenges halted construction of the dam in the 1970s, although Congress eventually appropriated funds to resume construction in fiscal year 1985. However, dam completion subsequently was halted by an injunction that the Corps chose not to contest further.

Dam construction was terminated with the project built to about one-third of its design height. The Corps has operated a temporary �trap and haul� operation for fish at Elk Creek Dam for many years.

By building a fish passage corridor, or notch, through the roller-compacted-concrete dam, the Corps plans to return Elk Creek to its original alignment and gradient. The action also should reduce jeopardy to coho salmon, listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act, and other native fish, the Corps said.

�This plan solves the fish passage issue with a biologically sound, long-term plan,� Portland District Engineer Col. Thomas O'Donovan said Oct. 5. �Reliance on the temporary fish trap and haul facility is no longer an option since its continued use presents a risk to coho salmon in Elk Creek.�

The Corps originally proposed the plan to notch the dam in 1997, calling for removal of a portion of the dam and spillway, and realignment of about 5,000 feet of Elk Creek. However, due to local resident concerns, the plan was put on hold, and congressional appropriations for several years specifically prohibited use of project funding for notching the dam.

However, in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Corps budgeted for, and received, funds to work on design of the notch. In the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the Corps has budgeted for final design and construction of the notch. However, Congress has not completed work on FY 2008 appropriations.

While the Corps has no plans to complete construction of Elk Creek Dam, it said the fish passage work would not prevent future completion of the dam.

�Our fish passage work here will be designed to preserve the majority of the federal investment should future generations decide on the final disposition of the project,� O'Donovan said.

In early October, the Corps issued a draft supplemental environmental assessment that addresses the environmental effects of the plan. The document supplements and updates the previous EA completed in 1998.

The supplemental EA is available on the Corps Internet site, www.nwp.usace.army.mil/pm/e/en_plan_assess.asp, for public review and comment through Nov. 5. The Corps plans an open house Oct. 25 in Medford to provide more information and accept comments.

Corps prepares solicitation for fish passage work

The Corps expects to issue a solicitation Oct. 31, seeking bids for design and construction of the fish passage corridor through the Elk Creek project. Proposals would be due 45 days later, the Corps' Portland District said in a pre-solicitation notice.

The plan would require demolition of about 50,000 cubic yards of RCC concrete and about 15,000 cubic yards of conventional concrete. The work is expected to cost from $5 million to $10 million.

A notice and link to obtain the solicitation, No. W9127N-07-R-0047, from the Federal Technical Data Solutions website, www.fedteds.gov, will be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, www.fbo.gov. For information, contact Kenneth Piper, (1) 503-808-4619; E-mail: kenneth.g.piper@nwp01.usace.army.mil.

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