Rogue irrigation dams

Freeing tributaries leverages mainstem dam removals

About the Project

Three large dams were removed on the Rogue River between 2008 and 2010, but hundreds of small dams and diversions obstruct streams that feed the mighty 215-mile Rogue River. These tributaries serve as spawning grounds and fish nurseries, help cool the Rogue, and boost the aquatic food chain for the entire watershed. Though removal of the mainstem dams opened 150 miles of the Rogue and improved fish runs, there is still much work to do to restore the river’s abundance.

Small obstructions on Rogue tributaries have outsized impacts to the 3.3-million-acre watershed. These barriers block sediment movement and inhibit fish passage for native spring and fall Chinook salmon, threatened coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead, sturgeon, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, Pacific lamprey, and other species.

As a coalition of conservation organizations, Tribes, and water districts, the Rogue Basin Partnership has been working with landowners and government agencies to build understanding and support for removal of these small barriers. Rooted in thoughtful collaboration, these individual projects are modeling win-win-win outcomes that restore fish passage, benefit landowners, improve water efficiency, enhance water quality, and restore Tribal fishing rights.

Owner: Private landowners
Size: Mix of small push-up diversions and irrigation diversion dams up to 5 feet tall and 115 feet wide
Project Cost: TBD
ORF Investment: Partnership support; project planning and implementation
Miles Opened: 150 miles
Fish: Spring and fall Chinook salmon, ESA-listed coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead, green and white sturgeon, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and Pacific lamprey
Status: 18 small dams and diversions replaced, opening 157 miles of habitat; 9 projects in planning stages (as of spring 2023)

  • Open at least 150 river miles for fish passage
  • Improve gravel, debris, and sediment flow to restore more natural conditions
  • Upgrade irrigation infrastructure to meet the needs of irrigators and native fish
  • Build support among landowners and irrigators for dam removal and alternative river water diversion approaches
  • Streamline permitting process to save time and money
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Project Partners

Rogue Basin Partnership

Rogue River Watershed Council

Applegate Partnership and Watershed Council

Bonneville Environmental Foundation

Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians

Laird Norton Family Foundation

Meyer Memorial Trust

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

WaterWatch of Oregon

City of Ashland

Ashland Fly Shop

Fly Water Travel