Jackson County officials say they will know in four weeks whether Gold Ray Dam can be removed from the Rogue River by the end of 2010.

Jackson County officials say they will know in four weeks whether Gold Ray Dam can be removed from the Rogue River by the end of 2010.

The county this week published its formal request for construction firms to bid on a package of environmental studies and demolition of the 105-year-old dam should it prove to be the best alternative for the county-owned facility decommissioned in 1972.

Bids are due Aug. 21, at which time county officials and others will learn whether a qualified company believes it can complete the environmental studies and physically remove the structure to restore the Rogue to a free-flowing river for 157 miles to the sea.

If the December 2010 deadline cannot be reached, the county risks losing a $5 million grant awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"The biggest issue we have is the timeline," county Administrator Danny Jordan said Thursday. "We should have a lot of answers, though, when we get those bids back."

Already, several firms have inquired about the project, said Craig Harper, natural resources program manager for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which will work with the county and other entities on the project.

Harper declined to discuss which firms have showed interest.

While waiting for the bids, Jordan said, he also is searching for any and all alternate funding sources should bids exceed $5 million.

"But, if the time line doesn't work, then none of that will matter," said Jordan.

The bids were being solicited even as engineers are analyzing whether the estimated 400,000 cubic yards of silt and muck trapped by the dam contain heavy metals or other contaminants that must be addressed before the dam is removed.

Preliminary results on those samples were expected as early as the end of next week.

The county's request for proposals indicates bidders must be able to complete the necessary studies, conduct public involvement, complete the design and, ultimately, remove the dam.

County officials long have expressed concerns over liability for the dam, including possible retrofit requirements for improved fish passage under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Gold Ray Dam project follows the removal of Gold Hill's diversion dam from the Rogue River and the notching of Elk Creek Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the past two years.

The Grants Pass Irrigation District's Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue is currently under demolition and is scheduled to be finished this fall.

The county's call for bids can be viewed and downloaded at the county's Web site at www.co.jackson.or.us/.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.