OLYMPIA - The lower portion of the White Salmon River will be closed to fishing for 12 hours Sept. 17 to allow an interagency clean-up team to remove derelict boats, camping gear and other debris before Condit Dam is breached in late October.
The fishing closure, announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17. The affected area extends 3.3 miles from the Highway 14 Bridge to the powerhouse at the dam.
The river mouth downstream of the Highway 14 Bridge will remain open.
John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, said the clean-up effort is designed to prevent abandoned boats and debris from being swept into the Columbia River when the 125-foot dam is breached to improve passage for wild steelhead, salmon and bull trout.
"Large debris could impair fish habitat in the lower White Salmon River and present a challenge to navigation in the Columbia," Weinheimer said. "We’re pleased to be a partner in this clean-up effort."
Other partners include the Underwood Conservation District, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, Friends of the White Salmon River, Yakama Nation Fisheries, SOLV, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Klickitat County Solid Waste, USGS Columbia River Research Laboratory, Allied Waste, the Washington Department of Transportation, Klickitat County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Skamania County Sheriff’s Dept. dive team.
Volunteers interested in assisting with the cleanup can contact the Underwood Conservation District at 509-493-1936, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrianne Zuckerman, Watershed Resource Technician at the Conservation District, said approximately 15 boats - some submerged or partially submerged - have been identified for removal. All have been marked with a tag notifying owners of their options.
"Dive teams are helping remove the derelict boats from underwater," she said. "But we also need volunteers to help move boats out of the water and onto shore and clean up debris at popular fishing areas."
Condit Dam, a 97-year-old structure owned by PacifiCorp, is scheduled to be breached Oct. 26, emptying the 92-acre reservoir behind it in six hours. That is expected to open up 14 miles of habitat for chinook salmon and 33 miles of habitat for steelhead. The free-flowing river also is expected to protect critical bull trout habitat and benefit bears and other wildlife that feed on salmon.
WDFW is currently working with PacifiCorp, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Yakama Tribe to collect returning salmon in large seine nets and truck them up above the dam, where they will be released into the upper river to spawn.