Greens Drop Suit Over Salmon-Blocking Dams

     MEDFORD, Ore. (CN) – Environmentalists dropped a lawsuit against private landowners in the wake of a collaborative effort to demolish two defunct dams and clear a path for salmon in southern Oregon.
     Both the Fielder Dam and the Wimer Dam on Evans Creek, a tributary of the Rogue River, made the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s top-ten list of the worst salmon barriers in Oregon.
     Wimer Dam sits about eight miles upstream of where Evans Creek flows into the Rogue. Landowners on both sides of the Wimer quickly agreed to work with Watchwater of Oregon to remove Wimer.
     The process to get rid of Fielder Dam was bumpy at first.
     Watchwater sued The Jeannette D. Crume Trust, Sharon Keeton, Steve Keeton, Rodney Crume and Ronald L. Crume in Federal Court in April 2013, claiming the Fielder Dam blocked salmon migration, preventing adult fish from reaching spawning grounds and killing juveniles by dumping them over the concrete edge of the dam.
     The parties smoothed a wrinkle over ownership of the land on the east side of the dam when Ronald and Rodney Crume and the Jeannette D. Crume Trust transferred ownership to Sharon and Steve Keeton.
     Watchwater then dismissed the Crume defendants.
     The Keetons agreed to work with Watchwater to secure funding to remove Fielder Dam and restore the habitat of Evans Creek.
     Demolition began in early August, aided by the creek’s historically low water levels.
     All concrete remnants of Wimer Dam are gone. Demolition of Fielder is scheduled to begin shortly.
     Watchwater plans to replicate natural creek flow and install native plants so that the stream is once again good salmon habitat.
     The group filed to voluntarily dismiss the case on Friday.
     Watchwater is represented by Janette K. Brimmer with Earthjustice in Seattle.
     The litigation had a great outcome, but there is still more work to do, Brimmer said.
     “There’s no shortage of salmon barriers in the northwest,” she said. “But not all are defunct where nobody’s using them for any purpose.”
     “This one was also unique in that it opened up so much great habitat,” Brimmer added. “So a lot of bang for the buck there.”

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