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Bureau of Reclamation Rescues Bear Creek Irrigation Crisis

Three irrigation districts in Southern Oregon first realized in the 1930s that their infrastructure was deteriorating.  Founded years earlier as private companies, they also realized they couldn’t afford the expense of preserving the orchards and fields of the Rogue Basin.

The Federal Bureau of Reclamation stepped in to authorize formation of the Rogue Basin Project. Congress first authorized the bureau in 1952 to study and solve the problems of getting water to nearly 30,000 acres of agricultural land in the Bear Creek Valley. The building of the Agate Dam in 1965-66 on Dry Creek about 10 miles northeast of Medford completed the project. The reservoir behind the nearly 90-foot-high, earthen-fill dam stores about 4,700 acre feet of water.
While Agate Dam was being constructed, an engineer from Jordan, Yousef Khoury, observed the project and said he felt privileged to help turn barren land at home into the Garden of Eden, just as the Bureau of Reclamation was doing in the Rogue Valley.
Agate Dam continues to support irrigation for the agriculture of the Bear Creek Valley.

Sources: Linenberger, Toni Rae. "Rogue River Basin Project." Bureau of Reclamation. Bureau of Reclamation, 1999. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
"Jordanian Observing Construction of Agate Dam Project." Medford Mail Tribune 5 Sept. 1965: D1. Print; Linenberger, Toni R. Rogue River Basin Project. Bureau of Land Reclamation. 12-20. 1999. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.