By MARK FREEMAN
Marine officials hope by next week they will be able to remove a large cottonwood tree that has fallen into the Rogue River near Gold Hill, hampering boat traffic and posing a safety hazard.
The tree, estimated at up to 120 feet long, fell last week into the Rogue about a quarter-mile upstream of the Rock Point Bridge, initially blocking about three-fourths of the river there, according to the Jackson County Marine Patrol.
The tree’s size and location not only poses a threat to boaters, but also marine deputies should they attempt to remove it.
“It’s a large tree and we don’t have the capability of moving something that large,” Sgt. Shawn Richards said Thursday. “We’ve had people out there all week working on it. We cut off some branches so people could get around it easier. We’ve mitigated it the best we could.”
Marine officers will be collecting bids from timber companies and excavators today in hopes of having it commercially removed as soon as early next week, Richards said. Up to eight contractors have surveyed the site this week, he said.
The Oregon State Marine Board has a small fund to help pay for removal of serious hazard trees from Oregon waters and this particular removal will be paid for with money from that fund, Richards said.
Signs upstream and downstream of the tree warn boaters of the obstruction, which so far has caused no known problems, Richards said. This past week has had cooler and windier days that have reduced traffic on the Rogue.
Also, most of the trunk is underwater now, and inflatable kayaks or rafts likely would scoot over most of the trunk at this week’s water levels, he said.
“Our concern is when the water goes down more,” Richards said. “It could be exposed and someone could get trapped under it.”
The tree fell from private property and the landowner is working with the marine patrol to remove it, Richards said.
Trees or branches sticking horizontally across riffles or rapids are known as “strainers” because a boater hitting one can be trapped and even killed. New strainers pop up regularly on rivers such as the Rogue after a winter’s worth of high water changes its profile.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at email@example.com.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.