The Removal Of A Dam And A Tragedy

Gold Ray Dam had been a fixture for about one hundred years.  But, under pressure from the Oregon Fish and Game Commission, a decision was made to remove it.  The reason being that it provided a major obstacle for salmon swimming upstream and impeded their growth.  The dam itself was not really doing anything.  Above it, a slough had formed, creating a water sanctuary for hundreds of riparian creatures.  These life forms had thrived for over a century, but disaster was about to overtake them…

A long battle for the removal of Savage Rapids Dam ended several years ago when it was finally taken out.  The people involved in the job were cautious as to how much water they would let out at any given time and no major incidents occurred.  Above it, a placid lake had formed, but there was nothing like the teeming slough in back of Gold Ray.  The river at first created a mean rapid, then settled into a more mild Class 2 with just a few rocks to dodge.  The river cut a wide swathe where there had once been a more narrow and treacherous drop.  It reminded folks of the effects of the 1964 flood, which did precisely the same thing.

When the removal of the Gold Ray Dam went from paper to action, the dam removers felt a surge of confidence based on the successful removal of Savage Rapids.  But, alas! Hubris and carelessness overtook them.  Instead of moving cautiously with measured steps of removal(as had been the case with Savage Rapids), they took large chunks out of the dam, while underestimating the power of the river in back of it.  The result was an ecological catastrophe.  Suddenly, the river burst through with a violent roar and moved away from the habitat that had depended on it for sustenance.  Thousands and thousands of water creatures perished.  Photos published showed fishes faces in shock.  These pictures brought a truly affecting quality to creatures that were caught and eaten at will.  And, irony of ironies, the removal of Gold Ray, which was intended to preserve the salmon and other species,  ultimately contributed towards their destruction.

It must be said that many people from the Fish and Game tried to save as many species as they could.  But their efforts caused only a mild dent in the tragedy that had occurred.  Let us hope that in the future, dam removers will show the same consideration for habitat as dam builders.

A video showing Class 2 Gold Ray Rapid today: