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Fish use more dam water than humans

From the dams releasing water into the Rogue River through Jackson County, a lot of water is used to keep the water temperatures to protect fish and a lot is for human consumption (drinking, water, agriculture, industrial). Which uses more dam water, fish or people?

— Dennis D.

That's a little like asking how much air do humans need to live, Dennis.

If you're just talking about the Applegate and Lost Creek dams, the answer is generally "fish" — with a caveat.

In the 1960s, the U.S. Congress authorized creation of the dams in recognition of the economic engine that salmon and steelhead pump into the local economy, according to Russ Stauff, Rogue Watershed Manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

ODFW and Travel Oregon contracted with Dean Runyon and Associates in 2008 to estimate fishing-related expenditures in Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties, and the final number was $28,373,624.

Of course, the dams' ultimate purpose is to control flooding in winter months, Stauff said

But to maintain temperatures in rivers that are beneficial to fish, water officials release cooler water from dams as needed during summer months.

Local cities have the ability to tap into a portion of the water in the dams. Stauff said the cities currently don't take the maximum amount of water they're entitled to from the dams, however.

So, Dennis, those dams provide a big boost to fish and to the local fishing industry. And there still seems to be plenty of water for humans.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.