Access has been restored to White Salmon River after PacifiCorp’s
safe, successful Condit Dam removal
Whitewater experts stress safety; remind river users to avoid sensitive plant areas,
respect local cabin owners
WHITE SALMON, Wash. – A year after a dynamite blast punched a hole in the Condit Dam, the
last remnants of the structure are gone and access restrictions on the White Salmon River are
now lifted downstream of Northwestern Park. Caution is still advised as the rapids on the lower
river are significant.
“This has been a long journey for PacifiCorp and the partners in the settlement agreement
that led to the Condit Dam removal,” said Todd Olson, program manager for PacifiCorp. “Work
still remains in restoring area vegetation and demobilizing equipment from the work area, but
this has been a very successful project. No one from the public has been hurt, and there have
been no lost-time injuries among our contractors during more than 64,000 hours worked on the
project. We want to especially thank the local community for understanding that access
restrictions have been necessary to assure safety, and for abiding by them.”
The last pieces of the dam came out in September. Just last week, PacifiCorp’s
Vancouver, Wash.-based contractor, J.R. Merit, completed removal of a large logjam that would
have significantly blocked boats drifting the river. Experienced guides from the local rafting
community have inspected the river from the Northwestern Lake Road Bridge to the White
Salmon’s confluence with the Columbia River and confirmed that major obstacles are gone,
though some rapids in the area are for experts only.
“The restoration of a free-flowing river is an exciting event for the whitewater boating
community,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American
Whitewater. “Paddling the restored reach will be a treasured, yet challenging, experience for
many. Downstream from the stretch of river near Northwestern Park, the river enters the White
Salmon Narrows, a dramatic canyon guarded by a rapid with powerful hydraulics that only
expert paddlers should attempt to navigate.”
Some access restrictions will remain along the river banks, where signs will identify areas
recently planted with native vegetation. Also, O’Keefe reminded water enthusiasts to respect the
privacy and property of cabin owners in the area. Do not park on cabin access roads or traverse
through cabin areas. River access should be only at the public access point at Northwestern Park.
Settlement parties to the Condit Dam removal agreement originally signed in 1999
include: American Rivers, American Whitewater, Columbia Gorge Audubon Society, Columbia
Gorge Coalition, Columbia River United, Federation of Fly Fishers, Friends of the Columbia
Gorge, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the White Salmon, The Mountaineers, Rivers Council of
Washington, The Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Washington Trout, Washington Wilderness
Coalition, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Yakama Nation, the U.S.
Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the
Washington Department of Ecology, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and
Facts about the Condit Dam removal
The project was located approximately 3.3 miles upstream from the confluence of the White
Salmon and Columbia rivers. The dam was a 125-foot high, 471-foot long concrete gravity
diversion dam, with an intake structure that directed water into a 13.5-foot diameter by
5,100-foot long wood stave flow line. Approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material were
removed in the decommissioning work.
Removal opened approximately 33 miles of new spawning and rearing grounds for
steelhead and 14 miles for salmon in the White Salmon River basin. In the summer of
2011, fish biologists moved more than 500 salmon upstream of the dam, which spawned in
their new habitat that fall and then descended the White Salmon River unimpeded by the
PacifiCorp is one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States, serving more than 1.7
million customers in the West. PacifiCorp operates as Pacific Power in Oregon, Washington and
California, and as Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. With a generating capability of
more than 10,620 megawatts from coal, hydro, gas-fired combustion turbines and renewable wind and
geothermal power, the company works to meet growing energy demand while protecting and enhancing
Coming this Sunday, October 21st!
Virginia Butler, professor of Anthropology at Portland State will present a special program entitled “13,000 Years of Northwest Fisheries, on Sunday, October 21, at 1 p.m. at the Bradford Island Visitor Center on the Oregon shore of Bonneville Dam.
Dr. Butler will display fish faunal records from over 75 Columbia Basin archaeological sites to show fish abundance and distribution in the River system. This 13,000 year record of the geochemistry analysis of the small ear stones of fish from these sites is a basis for determining Native American fish use throughout the centuries
Virginia Butler earned her BA in Anthropology from the University of Georgia and her PhD in an interdisciplinary program, Paleoichthyology, from the University of Washington. Her primary interest is zooarchaeology, the study of animal remains from archaeological sites. Her work shows ways that ancient animal records contribute to conservation biology, which often operates with limited knowledge of long-term biotic history.
This program, hosted by the Gorge chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute, is free and open to the public.
The public is invited to the White Salmon River Homecoming, a community celebration of the river on September 29th. The event includes an opportunity to experience the river on a raft trip, share a traditional salmon bake meal prepared by Yakama tribal cooks and local gardeners, and hear updates on the removal of Condit Dam and subsequent restoration of the river. This celebration marks the return of the salmon and the beginning of the restoration process.
After decades of debate, deliberations, and disagreements over the fate of Condit Dam, this event is hoped to be a small step for the community toward healing these divisions. In the morning, the celebration begins with low-cost river floats for community members sponsored by Wet Planet Rafting and the outfitters of the White Salmon River. The event continues in the afternoon when community members will the be offered a seat at the table during a community salmon meal, sponsored by Yakama Nation Fisheries at Northwestern Park beginning at 3 pm. Tribal cooks will prepare salmon and fry bread for the community and donations from Trout Lake gardeners and a local orchard. Events at the park start at 2 p.m. and will include an invocation, information booths, a free dinner, and an opportunity to celebrate with other community members.
The White Salmon River Homecoming is sponsored by Friends of the White Salmon River, Wet Planet Rafting, Yakama Nation and Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group. For information or to register for the community float or salmon bake, please visit: whitesalmonriverhomecoming.
Our monthly board meeting has come and gone and plans are under way for the official opening of the White Salmon River in September! As the August 31st Condit Dam removal date approaches, the Friends of the White Salmon are gearing up to celebrate the river running freely. More to come as plans solidify!
Also wanted to share something from The Friends’ beginnings: an original button from 1976!
The buttons were given to new members when they made their donation and we’re hoping to revive the tradition. We’re working to re-create these buttons and have them available for our members. A big Thank You to Leslie for sharing the button with us!
Dam-olition under way at Condit: Five months after it was breached, crews aim for August 31, 2012 removal deadline.
Sediment Report: A February 2012 report on reservoir related sediments.
Condit Decommissioning: A February 2012 decommissioning progress report.