New fish ladder planned for Bear Creek near Ashland

Construction of an upgraded fish ladder at the Oak Street Diversion Dam in Ashland will start after June 15. The Bureau of Reclamation has contracted with Northbank Civil and Marine of Vancouver, Wash. to modify the diversion gates and replace an existing fish ladder for $1.7 million.

When complete, the fish ladder will be replaced with a new one on the opposite side of the dam. The construction period for the project, located one mile north of Ashland on Bear Creek, is June 15 through Oct. 15.

“The new ladder will make it easier for fish to pass by the diversion. Meanwhile, Talent Irrigation District will have new automated controls for their head gates — meaning more efficient deliveries,” says Douglas DeFlitch, the bureau's Bend field office manager.

Two phases of construction are planned to meet an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife request to maintain fish passage for the project’s duration. During Phase I construction, the existing fish ladder will remain operable then the new fish ladder will be utilized during Phase II construction.

The original diversion dam, constructed by the Talent Irrigation District in 1920, directs irrigation water from Bear Creek to the Talent Lateral Canal. The existing fish ladder was modified in 1998, but does not meet the fish passage criteria established by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2008.

The replacement ladder complies with the Rogue River Basin Project Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2012. The BiOp requires Reclamation to establish fish passage for Southern Oregon and Northern California Coast coho salmon from lower Bear Creek to the upper reaches of Bear Creek and its tributaries.

This project is located within Reclamation’s Rogue River Project area, a mix of Federal and private structures providing up to 144,000 acre-feet of water to cover 35,000 acres of irrigated land. The project has seven reservoirs, 16 diversion dams, one powerplant, and more than 450 miles of canals serving Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts.

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