A $150,000 grant to help repair the leaking Little Hyatt Lake dam has been obtained by the Friends of the Greensprings.
However, the funding from a private foundation is contingent on matching public funds and it can be used only for the dam's repair, according to Suzi Given, a board member of the community-based group.
"The BLM encouraged us to look for money &
they said it would helpful for the community to pitch in," she said. "We've stepped up and hope they will now step up.
"We hope the BLM and our (state and congressional) representatives can find the rest," she added.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Sept. 7 began draining the 11-acre reservoir on Keene Creek behind the 18-foot high dam to relieve pressure on the old concrete structure. Recent increased leaking has raised concerns about the structural integrity of the dam, which was built in 1923.
The BLM is considering whether to buttress the crumbling concrete with boulders or tear out the dam. The agency has asked engineers from OTAK, an independent engineering firm whose late 1990s study estimated the cost of repairs to be about $430,000, to re-examine the structure.
Those engineers are expected to inspect the dam this week.
A local group called Save Little Hyatt Lake has now gathered more than 1,600 signatures from those wanting to keep the dam in place, said group spokeswoman Deb Evans.
Noting that the BLM has budgeted about $144,000 to remove the dam, FOG hopes the agency will use the money instead to repair it, Given said.
"This timely grant illustrates the strong commitment this community has in saving Little Hyatt Lake," she said. "It's FOG's intent that between state, federal and the BLM, additional funds will be made available to make this repair possible."
Members of both FOG and the Save Little Hyatt Lake group met recently with state Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, as well as representatives of U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Gordon Smith, R-Ore. and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River.
"The fact that so many people have stated their support for the lake," Buckley said, "and the fact that there are a number of people involved working hard on finding a workable path forward should, I hope, prompt BLM to pledge to develop a short-term solution to any possible safety hazard so that a long-term solution, partially funded by this contribution by a private foundation, can be found."
Meanwhile, the agency can't make any decision on the future of the dam until the OTAK engineers have completed their inspection, said John Gerritsma, the BLM's field manager for the Ashland Resource Area.
"Until OTAK comes back with its report, we don't know what the cost will be," he said. "We'll figure it out at that point."
In an earlier interview, Gerritsma also noted that engineers must determine whether the dam can be repaired.
As of Tuesday, the reservoir was four feet deep at the dam, he said.
"We're draining the lake as far as we can get it to go so when OTAK comes this week they will have best possible look at the dam," he said.
Since the reservoir level is now below the point where it can be siphoned, the agency is using only pumps to keep the water level down, he said.
However, they hope to employ an existing 12-14 inch diameter pipe running under the dam to keep the reservoir drained, providing they can open it, Gerritsma said.
Although the reservoir continues to drain, about five cubic feet of water per second continues to flow into the reservoir from Keene Creek. While BLM works on the dam, the agency must keep water in the stream, which also feeds the Keene Creek Reservoir three miles downstream. The water in that reservoir is used for irrigation and power generation.
More than 10,000 fish, including a dozen trout some two feet long, have been captured in live fish traps since the draining began, Gerritsma said. Most of them were small fish, he said.
Invasive species such as bullhead catfish that were caught in the traps have been disposed of, but the trout are being transported to Hyatt Lake, about a mile upstream.
Friends of Little Hyatt Lake secure matching grant