Portland – One of the nation’s largest river restoration efforts got the official green light today when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency that regulates hydropower dams, ordered the decommissioning of the White Salmon River’s hundred-year-old Condit Dam. The dam removal, scheduled to begin in the fall of next year, will restore habitat for salmon and steelhead, boost recreation opportunities, and revitalize the health of this important Columbia River tributary.
American Rivers and partners including Friends of the White Salmon, the Yakama Indian Nation, Trout Unlimited, American Whitewater, and others have worked for nearly 20 years to remove the outdated Condit Dam to restore the health of Washington's White Salmon River. American Rivers named the White Salmon one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers in 1996 and in 2007 because of the harm caused by Condit Dam.
“Just in time for the holidays, the people of the Pacific Northwest are getting an amazing gift – the promise of a healthy, free-flowing White Salmon River,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Condit Dam served its purpose but today it does more harm than good. A healthy White Salmon River has far more value for the local community and region as a whole than this outdated dam.”
“We applaud PacifiCorp for its commitment to removing this obsolete dam,” said Wodder. “Dam removal is not only the right thing to do for the river and community, it is the smart decision that will protect PacifiCorp ratepayers and investors.”
At 125 feet tall, Condit Dam will be one of the biggest dams ever removed. American Rivers is calling 2011 “The Year of the River” because a number of high-profile river restoration efforts will begin around the country. In addition to the removal of Condit Dam, the Pacific Northwest will see the removal of two dams on Washington’s Elwha River. In Maine, two dams on the Penobscot River will be torn down.
More than 600 dams have been removed in our country over the past 50 years. A growing number of dam owners are choosing to remove dams whose costs - including environmental, safety, and socio-cultural impacts - outweigh their benefits. There are many benefits to removing obsolete dams: restoring habitat for fish and wildlife, eliminating safety risks, restoring opportunities for whitewater recreation, and saving taxpayer dollars.
The White Salmon, flowing from its origin on the slopes of Mt. Adams to its confluence with the Columbia River, is nationally recognized as a premier whitewater destination. Ten outfitters run commercial trips on the river, and at least 25,000 boaters use the river each year. Dam removal will create additional recreation opportunities on the river by opening up five miles for rafting and kayaking.
By removing Condit Dam, access to 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and 14 miles of habitat for chinook salmon will be restored. This project is particularly important because scientists have determined that rivers such as the White Salmon with late-summer flows fed by cool groundwater will become even more important for native salmon and steelhead as temperatures rise with climate change.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.