Updated, 12:16 p.m. Construction crews are back in the Rogue River preparing Gold Ray Dam for demolition after a federal judge this morning denied a request to halt all work on the project while a lawsuit filed by dam supporters winds through federal court.

Updated, 12:16 p.m.

Construction crews are back in the Rogue River preparing Gold Ray Dam for demolition after a federal judge this morning denied a request to halt all work on the project while a lawsuit filed by dam supporters winds through federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner lifted the nine-day shutdown of work on the 106-year-old dam, saying dam supporters are unlikely to win their civil rights suit against Jackson County, the dam’s owner.

Panner also denied a request for a preliminary injunction, meaning the county can move forward with the $5.6 million project that was funded largely by a $5 million federal stimulus grant that sunsets in October.

The dam’s removal would open 157 miles of free-flowing Rogue for migrating salmon and boat traffic and remove what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife rates as the worst dam impeding fish migration left in Oregon.

Panner’s ruling represents the third time county attorneys’ arguments have shot down dam-supporters claims that pre-demolition work has been done either without necessary permits, against county land-use rules or based on a biased hearings-officer ruling.

“We’ve been told time and time again that we were in violation of law and doing things improperly,” said John Vial, the county’s roads and parks director spearheading the project. “Now, on local, state and federal levels, those parties have agreed with us.”

Grants Pass attorney Jack Swift, who represented dam-supporters’ interest in those three cases, said this morning that he had yet to see Panner’s ruling.

Swift said he likely will file a request in federal court for a permanent injunction. Dam supporters would have to all but win their suit against the county for the permanent injunction to be ordered.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said county attorneys will seek to recoup any costs associated with the suit in court “to the extent available by law.”

No financial estimates were available today, Jordan said.

— Mark Freeman




Construction crews as early as today can resume their work in the Rogue River preparing Gold Ray Dam for demolition after a federal judge this morning denied a request to halt all work on project while a lawsuit winds through federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner today lifted the nine-day shutdown of work on the 106-year-old dam, saying dam supporters are unlikely to win their civil rights suit against Jackson County, the dam's owners.

Denying the preliminary injunction means the county can move forward with the $5.6 million project, which is funded largely by a $5 million federal stimulus grant. Once done, it will open 157 miles of free-flowing Rogue for migrating salmon and boat traffic.

— Mark Freeman