The Stayton construction firm that ripped Savage Rapids Dam from the Rogue River and replaced it with electrical pumps to deliver irrigation water has earned an industrial award for one of the most significant construction projects of 2010.

The Stayton construction firm that ripped Savage Rapids Dam from the Rogue River and replaced it with electrical pumps to deliver irrigation water has earned an industrial award for one of the most significant construction projects of 2010.

Slayden Construction Group earned the Associated General Contractors of America's top award for environmental renovation for removing the 88-year-old dam owned by the Grants Pass Irrigation District in the Rogue near the Jackson/Josephine county line.

The $39.3 million project removed the Rogue's single largest fish-killer at that time, opening new spawning habitat for wild chinook salmon and affording easier passage than antiquated fish ladders that federal biologists said harmed wild salmon and steelhead migration, including wild coho salmon listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

AGC spokesman Brian Turmail said judges were impressed with the how complex the project was to build and to manage, considering the tight work windows and limitations caused by the Rogue.

"When you're operating around water systems, it's always more complicated than building an Office Depot on vacant land," Turmail said.

Last summer, Slayden also removed Gold Ray Dam 19 river miles upstream of the Savage site, opening 157 miles of free-flowing Rogue for the first time since the turn of the 20th century.

The award, which was one of 20 nationally, was announced Thursday during the association's annual convention in Las Vegas.

"I think it did go smooth and that they did a good job," GPID Manager Dan Shepard said.

"Since they hadn't done a lot of that stuff, it looked like a bit of a challenge but they made it look simple."

Judges also lauded Slayden for finishing the work on time and within its budget.

"That never hurts," said Bob Hamilton, project manager for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which paid for the work.

Slayden's project manager, Darren Funk, did not return telephone calls Thursday seeking comment.

Two other Oregon projects won AGC Aon Build America awards.

Barnard Construction Co. Inc., of Bozeman, Mont., won an award for best new environmental construction for its Round Butte Dam Selective Water Withdrawal project in Central Oregon.

Advanced American Construction Inc. of Portland won an award for best new municipal and utility project for its Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.