Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tell me a story

Sometimes, in the CRM-biz, the proposed “undertaking” is, for whatever reason, determined to be “Adverse.” This can be a necessary change that still results in the loss of historic fabric or character.  More seriously, it can mean the complete removal of a historic resource. One of the projects I am working on, the Gold Ray Hydroelectric Project, is in that latter category. A 1904-era power project, the Gold Ray Dam has not had any functional use since 1974, when PacifiCorp stopped generating power in the plant and deeded the dam, the powerhouse, and most of the site around it to Jackson County. The County hoped to develop it into a park and museum, but budget woes killed that and so the dam has just been in the way for the last four decades.

In a few weeks Slayden Construction will begin the process to remove the Dam, the Powerhouse, the old fish ladder and every other “in-stream” aspect of the project with funding from the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS funding and participation make this, obviously, a Federal undertaking and, since Gold Ray was determined to be historically significant, and since removal is pretty obviously “Adverse” to its historic character, NMFS and Jackson County will have to mitigate that loss.

Mitigation here will include, in addition to HAER documentation and photography for the record, a fairly cool interpretive plan. We are going to salvage major components from the Power House (a generator, a turbine, the marble-backed switchboard, maybe even the roof monitor, if we can figure out how to get it off in one piece) and use them to help illustrate the scale and function of the facility on the site. I will research and write the text and graphics for two rather substantial interpretative panels to be located on-site and help explain the history and significance of Gold Ray to southern Oregon; what it was, why it was built there, and the impact that it had in bringing electricity to the region. Should be an interesting story, and hopefully will give visitors to the Gold Ray site a better understanding of what once stood where they stand. That’s interpretation.

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