September 29th Homecoming Celebration went off without a hitch! A huge Thank You to all those who helped make the event such a success. Were you unable to attend the festivities?
Pat Arnold, President of Friends of the White Salmon delivered these remarks:
“We’ll start with a big thank you to all of you for being here, to River Drifters for saving our
bacon at the last minute, to Jaco Klinkenberg, Margaret Neuman, Jeanette Burkhardt, and
Susan Hollingsworth for their awe-inspiring competence, intelligence and good humor. This
event had to happen, but it took these amazing women and the organizations and people
that support them to make it happen.
I also want to offer a shout-out to Todd Olson and Russ Howison of PacifiCorp who have
worked hard and effectively on the dam removal process. Todd in particular has been great
to watch as he threaded his way through or around or over numerous barriers in the road,
with unflappable good humor and straight talk. Don’t be strangers, guys.
There are a few individuals with us today who participated from the beginning on Condit
removal. Phyllis Clausen, Dan Dancer, Jay Letto, Dawn Stover, Katherine Ransel and if there
are others, please stand up. Let’s give them a hand for 38 years of work. There are many
more here today who have invested time and effort, and there are representatives of many
of the organizations – American Rivers, American Whitewater, Yakama Nation, CRTFIC,
and agencies – so many people it took to get this done. You have been comrades on a long
journey, and I surely hope you are enjoying a deep sense of satisfaction today.
This is an event for looking forward, but it’s also a time to reflect a bit on what brings us here.
I got to looking through the Friends of the White Salmon notebooks and files, and as always,
am boggled by the highways and byways, or maybe I should say streams, meanders, rivulets,
and floods that brought us here.
There are some transcripts in the FWSR files, probably obtained from one of the local
historical museums, of interviews with Native Americans old enough to remember pre-Condit
days. One woman, 84 years old, would have been born in 1890. These interviews are so
poignant, and they are dated 1974.
1974 (how many of you were alive then?) was also the year in which the Bureau of
Reclamation conducted a study on the White Salmon which concluded that “the fishery
enhancement potential of the White Salmon River is excellent and that an economically
feasible plan for such a program can be realized.” This was actually preceded by a similar
study a few years earlier by the Bureau.
Our files contain such a variety of testimony, letters, articles from the 1970’s and 1980’s
about Condit and anadromous fish. American Rivers declared the White Salmon the third
most endangered river in the US in 1979, a designation repeated more than 20 years later as
we sweated through the regulatory and legal swamp that mired removal for such a long time.
It’s tempting to just read passage after passage, (so many of them written on that archaic
technology a typewriter) but I’ve put some of our archives on our table and you can look
at them for yourselves. I will content myself with one passage from a 1983 letter from
Vancouver Wildlife to the Power Planning Council. Vancouver Wildlife directors included
a rep from NMFS, WA fisheries (now WDFW), WA Game, and Phyllis Clausen. Their letter
said “Please be advised that our organization is most gratified to learn the White Salmon
River is slated for early review to restore the anadromous fishery resource. Surely the 60-
plus years of total blockage have been a blight on our resource management programs and an
affront to the citizens of our region.”
There were still years to go. The late 1970’s brought the FWSR fight against the PUD plans to
build dams on the Upper White salmon, plans driven by interest from Seattle Power in power
generation on the White Salmon. This was a big fight, a hard fight all the way to FERC, the
agency that issued the Condit decommissioning order. At one point more than 95% of the
adult residents of Trout Lake signed a petition against this plan, and we won that fight. I bet
FERC staff hope they are finished with the White Salmon.
In 1986 the Lower White Salmon was designated as a National Scenic River. Discussions
began to include the entire 38.4 miles, but by 2001 it appeared that this was not feasible. The
Upper was, however, designated in 2005, by an act of Congress. A management plan was
written and adopted in November 1991, and much of it remains to be implemented.
Relicensing for Condit began in December 1991. There followed circuitous processes before
FERC, which involved calls from FWSR and other groups, call after call for public testimony
and participation, for interventions and comments and filings. By this time the letters
said “For 79 years the White Salmon has been deprived of its original ocean-going fish runs. “
Is your head spinning yet?
In 1999 the settlement agreement for removal was signed. Interestingly the settlement
agreement says “The parties acknowledge that PacifiCorp disputes the Commissions’
authority is issue a decommissioning order as such….”, indicating the extent to which
PacifiCorp was brought protesting to the table for settlement talks in the first place. Still, in
2011, 13 years later, the dam is out. Hallelujah!
So we can congratulate ourselves for our successful intervention in the course of human
affairs. But we have work to do, both physical restoration of shorelines and vegetation,
and community restoration. And we have a lot of work to do to protect the watershed into
the future, and to welcome and work with tribal fishermen as the traditional fisheries are
The settlement agreement specifically identified two benefits of dam removal.
“Dam removal would provide significant traditional cultural resource benefits by restoring the
Yakama Indian Nation access to and fishing from anadromous fish-bearing areas.” AND
“Dam removal would allow for continued whitewater recreation . . and would also provide
long-term recreational opportunities from a natural free-flowing river.”
At the same time, there are those in our community who were frightened, upset, or offended
by the removal of Condit Dam. We need to reach out to those people as well as we move
How are we to realize the benefits of a free-flowing river and how are we proceed without
rents in the fabric of community? Well, the same way that we got to dam removal, by a lot
of determined and preserving people doing the necessary work. By bringing people to the
table to talk, by using all the tools at our disposal, by acting as a community to rejoice in the
opportunity and solve the problems. This work needs every one of you and more.
So as we look forward today, peering into the future from the perspective of an at least 38
year fight for dam removal, let us keep our eyes fixed on the long term. Let us believe in
restoration, in the ability of the river to right itself, to restore balance, and let us stay out of
the way. We have a stunning, mind-blowing opportunity to watch the healing of a 100-year
old wound and to help that healing by doing no harm. We must not allow the shorelines,
the ground water, the springs and seeps, the forests and wetlands to be mis-used and
damaged just at the point when they are most needed for healthy functioning of the river.
We understand that we are not going back in time. We understand that now, as through
human history, people’s need for shelter and food will affect the natural environment, as well
it should since we are part of and depend upon the natural world.
But let us marvel at the return of the native fish, let us learn from them and with them, let
us not treat them as a commodity, and let us not think, as the dam builders did, that we are
smart enough to manage the environment. Let us, instead, understand that we are part of an
interconnected web that sustains life. We as people are a part of this web. We may attempt
to understand it and even influence it, but we did not create nor can we control it. We did
not create this web of life and we cannot control it. Let us rejoice to be given this opportunity
to watch the White Salmon repair itself, and let us walk humbly and try hard to be on the side
of the salmon and all they represent. Let us pass on the legacy of a healthy free-flowing river
to those who are coming after us.
The groups that came together to put on this event – the Yakama Nation, Wet Planet
Whitewater, Mid-Columbia Fisheries and FWSR represent interests that have been in the
thick of things since the beginning. Join up with whichever of these groups (or any other
group) touches your heart, but join up and join in the coming work. Thank you for being part
of this day, enjoy our shared meal. Let’s move forward together.”