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Hills Creek Dam one of two on Willamette getting federal infrastructure funding

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Hills Creek Dam aerial photo showing both arms of reservoir
Completed in 1961, Hills Creek Dam sits 4 miles southwest of Oakridge at the confluence of Hills Creek and the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

By KAREN RICHARDS/KLCC News — Oregon’s Army Corps of Engineers has 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.

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