Removal of dams sparks economic interest on Rogue

Local groups collaborate with state, feds about tourism, recreation development

Local economic development and tourism officials hope to turn federal and state grants into financial opportunities on the upper Rogue River following the removal of three dams along a 30-mile stretch

Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., the Southern Oregon Visitors Association, Travel Oregon and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are collaborating on the project aimed at developing economic activity along the Upper Rogue.

Alec Miller, senior economist at REMI-Northwest, is examining river-related activity in the communities of Union Creek, Prospect, Shady Cove and Gold Hill.

"The primary focus is on recreational opportunities created by removal of the dams," Miller said. "Now that we can navigate from the Upper to Lower Rogue, rafting and fishing, there are quite a few things that might come up that didn't used to be. There has been a big change and there are economic implications. We don't know all of them yet."

He suggested kayaking competition on Powerhouse Rapid as one possibility.

Miller said the analysis will look at recreational use of the Rogue throughout the year as well as other western rivers and the recreational use of those rivers.

"Is the Rogue normal?" Miller pondered. "Or can there be things done to enhance its use? Powerhouse Rapid is close to a population center and that's unusual for Class IV rapids."

Funding the research phase of the "Upper Rogue Post-Dam Removal Economic Opportunities Plan comes from a $10,300 Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the USDA's Rural Development unit, and a $2,500 grant from Travel Oregon. SOVA is marketing the project.

SOREDI Executive Director Ron Fox said following the removal of Savage Rapids and Gold Ray dams, "We want to take a look at how the return of the mostly wild state could provide investment, development and tourism opportunities."

Whitewater Jets, an operator of jetboat excursions on the Upper Rogue, is providing consulting services to help assess the commercial viability and market potential for recreation activities.

Miller said the initial research will be completed by the end of December.

"We expect this open the door for bigger projects down the road as we find sources of funding to enhance recreation," Miller said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.


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