Dept of Ecology: Removal of Condit Dam necessary to restore White Salmon Rivers health

Critical hurdles remain in path to restore river (Portland) -- Removing Condit Dam and restoring a free-flowing White Salmon River will have significant benefits to salmon and steelhead and overall river health, according to the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released today by the Washington Department of Ecology. The final EIS follows other technical reviews from government agencies (NOAA Fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) that highlight the benefits of dam removal. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has yet to issue a critical order that would keep the dam removal schedule on track for 2008. The document is available at Benefits of dam removal include “increasing the run size and long-term viability by anadromous salmonid populations in the White Salmon River.” In particular, chum salmon would have the ability to develop a viable population in the White Salmon River, Chinook and steelhead would have greatly expanded access to high quality habitat, and Columbia River salmon would have better access to cool-water refuge. The EIS further points out that, “Following the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, many fishery managers predicted that recovery of aquatic organisms and salmonid populations would take decades because riverine habitats had been so extensively damaged.” However, after initial impacts, “a rapid post-eruption rebound in primary productivity, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate populations, and rearing salmonid populations occurred. Within 2-3 years, productivity and the abundance of invertebrates and rearing fish reached pre-eruption levels and by 5 years productivity and abundances exceeded pre-eruption levels.” “Not only does removing Condit Dam make environmental sense, it also makes economic sense. Restoring a free-flowing White Salmon River is the right thing to do for the river, the salmon and steelhead, and future generations,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater. “Rivers are remarkably resilient,” said Amy Kober, Northwest communications director for American Rivers. “More than 700 dams have been removed on rivers across the country, with significant benefits to fish and wildlife, clean water and recreation. The long-term benefits of removing Condit Dam far outweigh any short-term impacts.” “This is an extraordinary restoration opportunity we simply cannot afford to miss,” said Kelley Beamer with Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Removing Condit Dam will give salmon access to 15.3 miles and steelhead access to 32.4 miles of cold, clean, high-quality habitat in the White Salmon. Fish will have access to this upstream habitat within a year of dam removal and the lower three miles of spawning habitat is anticipated to be functional within two years following dam removal. Salmon will once-again become a nutrient-rich food source for wildlife like osprey and bald eagle. The recreation and tourism industries will also benefit from a restored river. Dam removal will open up an additional five miles of river for rafting and kayaking. Built in 1913, the 125-foot tall Condit Dam has no fish passage, limiting salmon and steelhead to the lower three miles of river. Condit Dam produces little electricity (an average of less than 10 megawatts, which is only 0.001% of PacifiCorp’s total power production) and a 2002 study conducted for the local public utility district concluded that the dam is not an economically viable source of energy. # Founded in 1973, American Rivers is a national non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring healthy natural rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature. American Rivers has more than 65,000 supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.