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Two Willamette Valley dams get infrastructure bill funding

Spillway gates at Hills Creek Dam, July 9, 2019.
Ross Hiner
Photo courtesy of Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Spillway gates at Hills Creek Dam, July 9, 2019.

Last week, Oregon’s Army Corps of Engineers learned which projects will be funded from the federal infrastructure bill. Two major dams in the Willamette Valley are among them.

Cougar Dam sits on the McKenzie River upstream of Eugene and Hills Creek Dam is on the Willamette River three miles out of Oakridge. Both were built in the early 1960s, and they’ll receive a total of $9.4 million dollars for spillway gate rehab.

Safety Engineer Ross Hiner said work has been ongoing. He told KLCC, “Back in the 2008 timeframe, some of our climbing inspections found deformations or bending of some of the structural members which was a warning sign to us that there’s a potential problem that needed to be addressed.”

Hiner said the two projects will complete the gate repairs in the Willamette Valley. Spillway gates contain water when reservoirs are full, and release it for fish passage, temperature control and floods. Without the work to upgrade them, gates could fail to open, or get stuck in the open position. He said work will likely start in 2023, and they’ll announce any impacts to recreation as contracts are finalized.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.