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City may get grant to relocate water pump

GOLD HILL -

A $750,000 state grant to help the city relocate its water intake pump may be forthcoming, but it would be contingent on federal sources picking up the rest of the tab.

The city met earlier this month with representatives from the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department and Rogue Valley Council of Governments as well as Rep. Cherryl Walker, R-Murphy.

Chris Claflin of the OECDD said it was possible his agency could grant a waiver that would make the city eligible for the $750,000 block grant as long as federal sources paid the remaining half.

The city had received a similar grant in 1999 to improve its water system and was ineligible for another for five years.

Walker said obtaining the remaining funding was one of her top priorities.

The city must move its intake pump from a canal created by a diversion dam considered the second biggest barrier to fish passage on the Rogue River. The city has been told to remove the dam or face $1,000-per-day fines from the state.

The project is expected to cost $1.5 million.

Claflin said the dam cannot be removed until the city has a source for its water. "Basically, it cannot be done unless both halves are committed," he said.

Without help from state and federal agencies, Gold Hill may be forced to raise its water rates by $4 a month. Though the city has the lowest income base in Jackson County, it pays one of the highest water rates already.

"A few dollars may not seem like a lot, but there are residents in our community that would be affected greatly by that," said Royal Gasso, city public works superintendent.

He said he is hopeful after the recent meeting with state officials.

"It looks like we now finally do have an actual plan," he said. "We're really hoping it will all work out so there will be no water increase for our residents."

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at