The excitement of restoring Washington’s free-flowing White Salmon River is reaching fever pitch. On October 26, a hole will be blasted in the base of the 95-year-old, 125-foot Condit Dam, and Northwestern Reservoir will drain in a matter of hours. The explosion will mark the beginning of a regionally and nationally significant river restoration effort.
Here, Portland, Ore., paddler/filmmaker Andy Maser releases the second installment of his Year of the River series, featuring local voices like Heather Herbeck, a Wet Planet whitewater guide and kayak instructor, and local river conservationist Phyllis Clausen, who’s lived on the river for 30 years and led conservation efforts volunteering with Friends of the White Salmon.
The Year of the River series is spearheaded by American Rivers, the nation’s leading voice fighting for clean water and healthy rivers, as well as American Whitewater, the primary advocate for the preservation and restoration of whitewater resources throughout the U.S., with support from the Hydropower Reform Coalition. The series’ first video, released in September, explored the dam removal and river restoration effort on Washington’s Elwha River. Click HERE to read more about the Elwha project.
Dam removal—something the conservation community and the Yakama Indian Nation have worked for more than 20 years to do—will restore access to 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and 14 miles of habitat for chinook salmon in the White Salmon River, which flows from the slopes of southwest Washington’s Mt. Adams to the Columbia River. The White Salmon is recognized as a premier whitewater destination, with 10 outfitters running commercial trips on the river, and at least 40,000 boaters who use the river each year.
Plus, check out Maser’s Condit Dam removal time-lapse project HERE and read his anticipation of the project below.
New Whitewater on the White Salmon?
In two weeks, Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington will be packed with enough explosives to blow a huge hole in the base of the concrete wall. Moments after the climactic explosion, 10,000 cfs will gush from the tunnel and drain Northwestern Lake completely in six hours. That’s the moment paddlers have been waiting for since dam removal talk begin 10 years ago—that’s when we get to see, for the first time, whitewater that’s been hidden under the lake for the last 100 years.
The White Salmon system—made up of the White Salmon itself and its sister river, the Little White Salmon—is, hands down, the best Class V backyard playground in the country. And the White Salmon also supports a thriving rafting industry and paddling for all other skill levels—all in the spectacular scenery of the Columbia River Gorge.
For as long as people have kayaked the White Salmon, the 125-foot-tall Condit Dam has created a three-mile-long lake that separated two popular whitewater sections of the river. In two weeks, the lake will be drained and these two sections re-linked. To say that the local paddling community is on the edge of its seat with anticipation is a huge understatement, though the river doesn’t officially reopen until fall 2012 when the dam has been fully removed.
The only other creatures that may be more excited about the removal of Condit Dam are the threatened salmon and steelhead that will once again be able to access the upper parts of the White Salmon to spawn. A test program is showing how quickly the salmon will bounce back—they just need to be able to get home.
Stay tuned to my time-lapse project site: Details of the live webcast of the blast will be announced shortly.
Viva la White Salmon! — Andy Maser