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Elk Creek Dam notching contract awarded

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that it has awarded a $7.9 million contract to a Tualatin firm to notch Elk Creek Dam so salmon and steelhead can swim unimpeded past the half-built dam.

The firm, McMillen-McDougall, was awarded the contract Thursday over two other unidentified bidders, the Corps announced Friday.

McMillen-McDougall will remove a section of the dam and return Elk Creek to its original alignment before the dam's construction, which was halted by lawsuits in 1988. Elk Creek is a tributary stream that enters the Rogue River about five miles northeast of Shady Cove.

The Corps has asked the firm to leave as much of the existing structure intact so that it could be used for any future construction, should it occur.

On-site work was expected to start in mid-May, with most of the notching done between early June and late July, Corps spokesman Scott Clemans said. The bulk of the channel restoration and removal of a small fish trap at the dam's base was expected to be done by mid-September, Clemans said. In-stream work cannot begin until June 15 on Oregon's salmon streams.

Part of the contract leaves the door open for McMillen-McDougall to return next year to finish landscaping, Clemans said.

If finished on schedule, the notching should be done in time to replace the 15-year-old program of trapping migrating Rogue River salmon and steelhead adults, then trucking them around the dam to spawning grounds of the upper Elk Creek drainage.

The Corps has said that notching the dam was the best and least expensive way to allow hands-off passage of wild salmon and steelhead to waters above the structure. It also complies with federal Endangered Species Act requirements for the Rogue basin's wild coho, which are listed federally as a threatened species.

Clemans said the Corps pared the original three bidding firms to two firms that entered into "extended negotiations" before McMillen-McDougall was eventually chosen.

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