An Oregon construction firm that already has two Rogue River dam removals under its belt has won the contract to study and possibly remove the 105-year-old Gold Ray Dam, opening 157 miles of free-flowing Rogue from Lost Creek Lake to the sea.

An Oregon construction firm that already has two Rogue River dam removals under its belt has won the contract to study and possibly remove the 105-year-old Gold Ray Dam, opening 157 miles of free-flowing Rogue from Lost Creek Lake to the sea.

Jackson County officials announced Tuesday that they tentatively have awarded the $5.5 million contract to Slayden Construction Group of Stayton, which beat out four other bidders.

Slayden's bid came in second in cost out of three finalists, but its track record in removing the Gold Hill diversion dam in 2008 and its current work wrapping up removal of Savage Rapids Dam from the Rogue helped boost its stock, said John Vial, Jackson County director of roads and parks who is overseeing the project.

Vial said county officials weighed not only cost but also experience, knowledge and "deliverability" before determining the best overall value for the county.

"When you add those things together, the company that we determined could meet those criteria was Slayden," Vial said Tuesday.

"They know the Rogue River and they know the players, who to talk to and how to get things done in this river basin," Vial said. "That's a huge plus."

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners expects to formally award the contract to Slayden within the next two weeks, County Administrator Danny Jordan said.

"We still have to negotiate the finer points of the contract," Jordan said.

Slayden officials already have been "sitting down with regulators and starting that process," Vial said.

The decommissioned hydroelectric dam is owned by the county, which is concerned over liability for the aged structure and a current fish ladder that does not meet federal standards.

The project will be funded mainly through a $5 million federal stimulus grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which requires the project to be done by the end of 2010.

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board officials have said previously they plan to work with the county to fill in any funding gaps for the project.

Though it has chosen to move forward, the county has not decided whether to remove the dam and the commissioners have said they won't do so unless and until the environmental studies and public input point in that direction.

Under terms of the contract, Slayden will oversee a series of studies called an environmental assessment that will look at three alternatives: no action, dam removal and rebuilding the current structure, Jordan said.

Slayden was set to wrap up its $28 million removal of Savage Rapids Dam from the Rogue near the Jackson/Josephine county line this fall.

The firm gets high marks from Manager Dan Shepard of the Grants Pass Irrigation District, which owns the 86-year-old irrigation dam that Slayden replaced with electrical pumps.

"They've met every timeline they were supposed to and any time we had a question they answered it," Shepard said. "I'm really happy they got the (Gold Ray Dam) contract because they deserve it."

Slayden's bid team includes the firms River Design Group, a Corvallis-based company Slayden worked with on the Savage Rapids Dam project. Another partner is HDR Engineering, which the county hired as a consultant on earlier feasibility studies on Gold Ray Dam's removal.

Slayden beat out a $5.9 million bid from Hamilton Construction of Eugene and a $4.7 million bid from Wildish, which has the South Medford Interchange contract from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Vial said Hamilton and Wildish were the other two finalists joining Slayden in interviews Friday in White City.

Other offers included a nearly $5 million bid from McMillen LLC of Boise and a nearly $4.8 million bid from Envirocon's Portland office, Vial said.

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