Crooked River Watershed Council and American Rivers Partner to Remove Stearns Dam

October 18th, 2013

Crooked River Watershed Council, Chris Gannon, Coordinator, or Garry Sanders, Project Manager,(541) 447-8567

American Rivers: Denise Hoffert-Hay, (541-619-5896)

NOAA: Jim Milbury, Public Affairs Specialist, (562) 980-4006

PRINEVILLE, Ore., –  With funding from American Rivers and NOAA Restoration Center Rivergrants partnership, the six-foot tall, 150-foot wide Stearns Dam is being removed from the Crooked River. Media are invited for the initial notch opening in the dam on the morning of October 24th. Media interested in attending the first day removal event should contact Chris Gannon or Garry Sanders at the Crooked River Watershed council (information above).

Stearns Dam will join a list of other note-worthy Pacific Northwest dams: Elwha, Condit, Marmot and Savage Rapids when it is removed from the Crooked River. By removing this dam, 12 miles of the Crooked River will be opened up for Chinook salmon and Middle Columbia steelhead, both anadromous species that historically utilized the Crooked River. The section of the river upstream from this dam is some of the river’s best habitat for these two species. The section of river opened upstream of the dam includes the beginning stretch of the Wild and Scenic portion of Crooked River. The federal Wild and Scenic designation preserves high quality rivers for future generations to enjoy much like National Park and Wilderness designations protect our nation’s special lands.

Stearns Dam removal assists the fish reintroduction program underway in the larger Deschutes Basin. The Crooked River is the Deschutes River’s largest tributary. This project to restore fish passage and river processes to the Crooked River has been in development for 10 years. The project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), American Rivers, and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The Crooked River Watershed Council, funding partners, as well as the site landowner, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the current owners of the structure, Quail Valley Ranch, are collaborating on this project.

Stearns Dam is a rock- and log-filled structure covered with concrete. A pioneering family led by patriarch Sidney Stearns constructed the dam in 1911. The family used the structure to divert water from the Crooked River onto their ranch lands for irrigation. During these early years and prior to the construction of Bowman Dam upstream, raging floodwaters would sweep through the narrow river canyon above the ranch and wash out portions of the dam requiring repairs the following season. In 1934, the damage sustained from the winter season was beyond repair and the dam was rebuilt with a concrete shell placed over the top.

Expected completion for removal of the structure is November 15th. Robinson & Owen Heavy Construction of Sisters, Ore., will remove the dam.

Photos of the site are available upon request. For interviews, site access, or photos, please contact the partners listed above. Additional project information is available at


About Crooked River Watershed Council

The Crooked River Watershed Council works to promote stewardship of the Crooked River Watershed and its resources and to ensure sustainable watershed health, functions and uses for optimal conservation and economic benefits. The Crooked River Watershed Council, their partners, employees, and volunteer board members promote stream health, education and upland awareness.  Recent projects have focused on riparian restoration, juniper removal, and improving fish passage with the expressed goal to improve watershed health. Landowners partner with the Crooked River Watershed Council to receive grant funding, resource knowledge, and technical support.


About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

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