Restore the White Salmon: keep Condit Dam removal on track for 2011


2011 is the Year of the River, with unprecedented dam removal and river restoration projects happening nationwide. This is one of a series of posts where we’ll be celebrating dam removal successes and updating you on current dam removal efforts.

 

There is tremendous momentum and agreement to remove the 100 year old Condit Dam to restore Washington’s White Salmon River. Dam removal has been scheduled to begin this fall.

But now a clerical error could derail the whole effort, causing more delay for the river, the salmon, and the people who call the river home.

For nearly a decade, American Rivers and its partners have been working to remove PacifiCorp’s Condit Dam to let the White Salmon River, a tributary of the Columbia River, run free for the first time in almost a century and welcome back wild salmon and steelhead runs.  It’s one of our country’s most significant river restoration projects.

But a simple clerical error now stands in the way. In December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its dam removal order with several errors in it.  Failure to address these errors and issue a revised order quickly could delay dam removal for several years. 

The White Salmon River and its salmon and steelhead have waited long enough. 

Tell FERC to fix its dam removal order so the White Salmon can run free this year.  Help American Rivers celebrate 2011 as The Year of the River by removing Condit Dam in 2011!

Take these steps:

  1. Go to:  http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp
  2. Click orange eComment “button” near top.
  3. Fill in contact information.  FERC will email you to verify.
  4. Find FERC email, clink on web link provided.  Takes you to comment page. Your information should be auto-filled in.
  5. Click on “quick entry”.
  6. Enter “P-2342-000” in window under “Enter your docket number…”
  7. Click “Add” button.
  8. In “Comment” window, type or paste in your letter or comments. 
  9. Click send. 

Background:

After more than a decade of work, and agreement among numerous parties — including the dam owner — that removing Condit Dam from Washington’s White Salmon River is the right solution, a simple clerical error now threatens to delay one of our country’s most significant river restoration projects.

American Rivers is working with partners such as the Yakama Indian Nation, Friends of the White Salmon, American Whitewater, and Trout Unlimited in the effort to remove PacifiCorp’s 95-year old, 125-foot high Condit Dam and restore the White Salmon River, which flows into the Columbia River in southwest Washington.  Portions of the river are designated as Wild and Scenic or are protected as part of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.

Removal of the dam, scheduled for the fall of 2011, will allow the White Salmon River to flow freely and to once again support abundant wild salmon and steelhead runs. The river is nationally recognized as a premier whitewater destination — ten outfitters run commercial trips on the river, and at least 25,000 boaters float the river each year — and the dam removal will open up five more miles for rafting and kayaking.

Conservation groups reached an agreement with PacifiCorp in 1999 to decommission the dam and restore the river. Dam removal was originally scheduled to take place in 2006, but was ultimately delayed to 2011 to secure the remaining necessary permits.  To date, key regulatory agencies — including the Washington Department of Ecology, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — have agreed dam removal can go ahead in the fall of 2011.

Here’s where it gets complicated. In December 2010, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has regulatory authority over Condit Dam, issued its approval to PacifiCorp to remove the dam.  However, FERC’s dam removal order mistakenly concluded the Washington Department of Ecology missed its one-year opportunity to exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act to ensure the operation – and removal – of hydropower dams meets water quality standards. 

This seemingly small mistake sets a precedent that could keep Washington and other states from enforcing water quality standards on rivers with hydropower dams, and Washington State will not allow this mistake to stand. 

If FERC does not correct this error, it would likely result in litigation that could result in several years of additional delay. PacifiCorp, the Department of Ecology, American Rivers and others have requested that FERC move quickly to correct this error so that dam removal and river restoration can finally begin.

American Rivers has dubbed 2011 The Year of the River. Multiple dam removal and river restoration projects of unprecedented size and scope are scheduled to take place this year, from Washington to Maine. FERC should not allow a clerical error to hold up the restoration of the White Salmon River.

Let’s make sure the Condit Dam removal stays on schedule so that The Year of the River is all we hoped it would be.