PacifiCorp says use restrictions will remain on White Salmon River

Post Condit Dam removal, access is limited for two more weeks

The Sept. 19 edition of The White Salmon Enterprise reported that PacifiCorp would likely be lifting restrictions on the White Salmon River in a matter of days, following the recent completion of Condit Dam’s demolition.

PacifiCorp has since revised its forecast and Tom Gauntt, a spokesperson for the utility company, said it’s likely the section of river downstream from Northwestern Lake Park will remain closed to the public for another few weeks.

The delay is caused by hazards both above and below the White Salmon River. For one, work on removing a trestle that once carried Condit’s woodstave pipelines over a ravine has yet to be completed.

Originally, PacifiCorp didn’t anticipate the work would be a danger to potential boaters, but the company has since changed its tune.

“It all boils down to safety,” explained Gauntt. “As (contractors) started to remove the trestle, the folks on the ground saw there was more hazard than initially thought. Rather than just going forward, they stopped work to bring in geotechnical consultants to make sure they were taking the best, most safe course possible.”

Contractors were worried that pieces of the trestle, which lies on the east bank of the White Salmon River, could tumble into the water and possibly injure potential boaters.

That’s not the only hazard boaters would face. A logjam that has bottlenecked a section of river appropriately referred to as “The Narrows” remains and has been deemed unsafe. Originally, the stretch was deemed navigable after 25 “logs of significance” were removed, but PacifiCorp also revised that assessment upon further consultation with contractors and local raft guides.

“Falling out of your boat would be very bad news in the midst of all that debris,” said Gauntt, “and unless we were going to have some sort of Class V ID check upriver, it was not prudent to lift restrictions at that time — despite previous plans to.”

While demolition work continues, removal of the logjam and other woody debris has been halted due to the current fall chinook salmon run. Work is expected to reconvene in early October once state and federal fishery agencies give the all-clear signal.

In addition to the river, the portion of Powerhouse Road near the demolition site will also remain closed. Gauntt said work demolishing the dam’s surge tank, placement of concrete debris, slope restoration and planting mandates that Powerhouse Road be closed until the end of 2012.

As for when the lower White Salmon River will be open, Gauntt did not have an exact date, but expected it would happen in a few weeks.

“Mid-October is a good guess,” he said, “but so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, we will do what has to be done and then do a thorough evaluation, consult with contractors and guides and then and only then, lift restrictions.”

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