OLYMPIA - The White Salmon River will close to fishing until further notice Tuesday, Oct. 25 - one day before the 125-foot Condit Hydroelectric Dam is scheduled for demolition.
The closure, announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), includes Northwestern Lake, which has been lowered in recent weeks in preparation for breaching the dam with explosives.
"The fishing closure is designed to protect public safety," said Pat Frazier, WDFW regional fish manager. "No one should be on that river when the dam is breached and a wall of water comes rushing down the river."
Frazier noted that the release of water is expected to destabilize the river banks, and deposit large amounts of sediment and dangerous debris in the river channel. For those reasons, the fishing closure will remain in effect until WDFW can assess the conditions and ensure public safety.
"There are a lot of unknowns about the river after the dam is breached, and we want to make sure conditions are safe before we reopen fisheries for steelhead and other species," Frazier said.
Additional safety measures planned by other law enforcement agencies include:
- Prohibiting boats of any type on the White Salmon River from Condit Dam upstream to the Northwestern Lake Road bridge until fall of 2012.
- Patrolling the Columbia River to keep boaters away from the mouth of the river on Oct. 26.
- Also on Oct. 26, law enforcement officials will be at the mouth of the White Salmon, which will be off limits to any parking along Highway 14. Additional patrols will also be along the river bank and in adjacent areas that could provide access to the canyon.
- Closing the Highway 141 Alternative Route from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26.
Condit Dam, 98-year-old structure owned by PacifiCorp, is located on the White Salmon River about three miles from its confluence with the Columbia River. Breaching the dam is expected to open up 14 miles of habitat for chinook salmon and 33 miles of habitat for steelhead.
Actual demolition of the dam, using concrete cutters, is scheduled to begin next April or May.