Join us on October 5th for a slow-paced trip through the old lake bed and dam site to the Columbia. With luck, we’ll see salmon and steelhead swimming in some shallow portions of the river, and spawning beds (redds) for the Fall Chinook. Knowledgeable guides from Zoller’s will fill us in on the natural history.
“It’s like having our very own science project in our front yard,” said Mark Zoller, 29 year White Salmon River guide. “We have such a special opportunity to watch nature re-claim and heal itself over the next several years. I’m amazed, as is everyone at how quickly the river hastaken control and is proceeding to repair 100 years of blockage.“
We will experience breath-taking scenery, some fun rapids (Class III), float past the site of Condit Dam, and pass through the Narrows.
There is an approximately 200-yard portage around one impassable ‘keeper’ pool. If you are concerned about how strenuous this portage is, please contact Zollers.
To reserve your seat, call Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys directly at 509-493-2641.
Join us for our annual membership meeting on April 9th. Friends will be giving a short update on the state of the organization followed by a presentation from Bill Sharp on the status of fish recovery on the White Salmon River. As an extra incentive, we will also have homemade pie by Patty Gray for refreshment!
We will be holding a short Board meeting at 5:45, then commence with presentations around 6:00. Pat Arnold will give a brief update on the organization and then Bill Sharp from Yakama Nation Fisheries will provide an update on salmon and steelhead recovery and habitat restoration efforts. Stay tuned for more details in next month’s newsletter.
If you are interested in getting involved with Friends of the White Salmon River, this will be a great chance to meet our board and learn about volunteer opportunities!
Get to Know FWSR and Hear Updates on Salmon Recovery from the Yakama Nation – 6:30pm, Wed. Nov. 14th at the White Salmon Public Library
You are invited to get to know FWSR and hear an update on salmon and steelhead recovery on the White Salmon River. Join us to learn more about the White Salmon River, FWSR’s work, and salmon recovery efforts.
Bill Sharp, Fisheries Biologist for the Yakama Nation Fisheries will be giving a presentation on salmon and steelhead recovery efforts. Bill will provide an update on salmon and steelhead returns and the plans for restoring fish populations moving forward. Join us for a fun and informative presentation.
Friends of the White Salmon River’s Board of Directors will also be on hand to discuss the organization’s plans, projects, and activities. We will provide an update on ongoing litigation to protect the watershed, efforts to support local residents, and plans for supporting salmon recovery.
We look forward to meeting you and building enthusiasm and support for the opportunities ahead!
What: Get to Know FWSR and Updates on Fish Recovery
When: 6:30pm, Wednesday, November 14th
Where: White Salmon Public Library
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
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.”