By Susan Hollingsworth

Last week, FERC came through for Condit Dam on the White Salmon River.Image compliments of

Even with a shortened time period for making a decision, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has evaluated PacifiCorp’s Request for Rehearing and ordered the removal of Condit Dam for fall 2011.

The Commission supports other stakeholders (American Whitewater, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, Washington Department of Ecology) in the call for a timely removal. Pressured to reconsider certain points within December’s Surrender Order, FERC came through by expediting their own decision process to allow PacifiCorp enough time to plan and implement the 2011 Condit Dam removal.

This past winter, many naysayers lost faith in a 2011 removal after PacifiCorp responded with a big “We can’t do it that way,” to FERC’s initial Surrender Order. By failing to acknowledge a key environmental Certification by the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE), FERC made the whole deconstruction process extremely difficult for PacifiCorp.

PacifiCorp’s response:

Please officially accept Washington DOE’s expert assessment of environmental impact so that we can do this right. Oh, and if you can’t do it before April we won’t have enough time for the 2011 date.

Low and behold, FERC got their ducks in a row and made it happen.

Sometimes, optimism does pay off.

Now, the debris has been cleared for PacifiCorp to begin the multi-step process of hydropower removal, with construction beginning as early as June, 2011. FERC agreed in their report that the fish and recreation enthusiasts have waited long enough.

FERC did recognize, however, that PacifiCorp may still need additional time for planning, pushing the removal date back to 2012.

Before losing faith again, remember that optimism carried us through the bureaucratic red tape inherent in timely actions from the federal government, and optimism can carry us through PacifiCorp’s ability to step up to the challenge and keep to the 2011 dates (a significantly smaller hurdle than getting FERC to act on the Rehearings).

For the residence of the White Salmon River area, upcoming events will begin the full restoration of your home river. Local community members unite to discuss restoration plans, ensuring the most beneficial outcome for everyone involved. Access to the lower White Salmon may be hindered at times throughout the summer, but the future looks bright for whitewater enthusiasts in the Columbia River Gorge.  Add a little patience to your optimistic outlook on the project, and together we can help the White Salmon to live up to its full potential.

While the local community works through technicalities and details, the broader river enthusiast community throughout the nation patiently awaits this momentous event. The removal of Condit Dam is unlike any other hydropower decommission project ever seen, both in size and in methods.

The White Salmon River will serve as an invaluable resource for future river restoration projects throughout the world.

Stay tuned to The Eddy Line for more details about the actual removal process, environmental management plans and detailed information along every step of the journey. For more information, take a look at American Whitewater’s leadership with White Salmon River restoration information page.

Susan Hollingsworth, writer and whitewater instructor, looks forward to representing the river recreation community on the White Salmon River during this landmark event.