For almost a decade now, the mid-Columbia community has voiced its overwhelming support for the restoration of the White Salmon River and the removal of antiquated Condit Dam whose operating license has expired. The staff of the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) concurred with the dam removal vision in their recently released Draft Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement which says:
" . . . staff finds that the Settlement Agreement with modifications dam removal alternative would provide the best and most cost-effective means of removing the project facilities and reservoir sediments while concurrently providing for the protections of environmental resources, and therefore, recommends the Settlement Agreement with modifications dam removal alternative . . ."
State and federal agencies, the Tribes, wildlife and fisheries biologists, conservation, fishing and recreation groups and the owners of the dam (PacifiCorp) are all on board with a dam removal agreement signed two years ago by all parties which allows for decommission of dam facilities in 2006. This is an unprecedented level of cooperation and the public will not be footing the bill as one my suspect. Dam removal will be paid for entirely by the dam operator, PacifiCorp.
While all appears in order, there are some who wish to kill the deal. A handful of opponents have been waging a disinformation campaign for sometime now. Their arguments are woefully transparent, however and have been dealt with in detail in all the reports leading up to the Settlement Agreement. Even the National Hydropower Association, the pro-dam lobbying group, said that removing Condit Dam is a "win-win" solution!
Admittedly, dam removal will be painful to fisherman who have been using the Northwestern Reservoir for a long time and for some of the cabin owners who lease land in the area from PacifiCorp. Our compassion for them can be balanced with the knowledge that Condit Dam is old and will be silted up completely and useless in less than 20 years.
But it's not a done deal yet. A big turnout for the salmon, the river and dam removal tonight at 7 p.m. at the Hood River Inn is absolutely vital to convince FERC commissioners to adopt the findings of their staff.