Elk Creek Dam

Elk Creek DamWhat do you do with a failed dam project that serves no purpose other than to kill salmon?

Logic would dictate that you take it out. But when that boondoggle is the Elk Creek Dam on a tributary of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon, logic and common sense seem to be thrown out the window.

For years, the Bush administration and Oregon Congressman Greg Walden blocked the US Army Corps of Engineers from removing Elk Creek Dam. This, despite the fact that construction was halted in 1987 and thus the project generates no electricity, provides no water for irrigation and serves no legitimate flood-control need.  Rather than tear it out, U.S. taxpayers have been forced to spend millions of dollars each year to trap salmon below the dam, then haul them around it in trucks.

Luckily, in 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers finally got their way and plans were put in motion to "notch" or breach the dam. The decision stemmed from a review of the economic viability of the project and the impacts on endangered salmon. They found that in the long run, notching the dam would be far less expensive.

More than $100 million has been spent so far on Elk Creek Dam and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent annually to collect and truck salmon around the partially completed structure.  By contrast, the price tag for notching the dam? Seven million dollars. That's why Oregon Wild, together with a coalition of other conservation groups, fishermen and taxpayer advocates, worked for so long to remove this failed dam and stop the waste of salmon and tax dollars.

Explore the links below to learn more about our work to remove Elk Creek Dam and restore what was once one of the most productive salmon- and steelhead-spawning streams in the Rogue Basin.

Elk Creek Dam Fact Sheet

Elk Creek Dam Timeline