Dredging opens up riverway

This summer the Port of Hood River lost more than $21,000 of income when large cruise ships sailed past the local docking channel.

Dave Harlan, port director, said two of the larger tour vessels, Queen of the West and the Columbia Queen, were unable to drop anchor in Hood River because sediment had clogged the navigation lanes.

However, after months of planning, the correct "window" arrived this week for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the material without adversely affecting endangered fish runs in the Columbia River. The Corps expects to complete the dredging this week.

The soil deposit at the Event Site dock is from flooding in September of 2000 that is estimated to have washed more than 600,000 cubic yards of glacial material off the slopes of Mt. Hood. A large quantity of the dirt and rocks from that event found its way into the Hood River and was carried into the deeper channel at its mouth.

Hydrologists are concerned that a large amount of loose glacial sediment still on the mountain may wash down into area waterways again if heavy rainfall cause more flooding. Both Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service officials are keeping a close eye on the mountain to monitor the situation.

"We hope this solves our problem for next season but we do have concerns that if additional materials come down from the mountain we may be facing this same situation again," said Dave Harlan, port director.

He said the loss of income to the port also trickled down into the local economy because cruise ship passengers were prevented from visiting Hood River retail outlets, restaurants and museums.

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