What does it take to remove a 125-foot tall wall of concrete from a mountain-fed river? Nearly two decades of perseverance and dedication. The Mountaineers celebrated long-awaited news on Thursday, December 16, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the decommissioning of the White Salmon River’s Condit Dam. In the project surrender order, FERC stated,"We conclude, based on the record of this case, that the benefits of dam removal to anadromous fish, wildlife, and whitewater recreation outweigh the costs associated with the loss of Condit dam and Northwestern Lake."They further stated that these benefits of removal "cannot be achieved if the dam is left in place."
The Mountaineers, along with partners such as American Whitewater, Friends of the White Salmon, American Rivers, Yakama Indian Nation, and Trout Unlimited have worked for years alongside dam owner PacifiCorp to pursue one of the region’s most significant dam removal projects. Thomas O’Keefe, Mountaineers Recreation Resources Chair and Stewardship Director of American Whitewater, said "Condit Dam was originally constructed a century ago for hydropower and at the time met a local community need. Now we recognize other values of the river and while the dam itself is big, the hydropower project is relatively small especially in light of its major environmental impacts--its time has passed."
The dam removal, scheduled to begin in October 2011, will restore habitat for salmon and steelhead, boost recreation opportunities, and revitalize the health of this Columbia River tributary. Restoration of this river is important for both fish and recreational users. Fed by the springs draining off Mt. Adams, the river is one of the more important tributaries in this reach of the Columbia River with consistent summer flows of cool water that provide year around boating for paddlers and critical cold water habitat for fish trying to escape the heat of summer.