After a few years of playing legal tug-a-war by Klickitat County and local interest groups (Friends of the White Salmon and Friends of the Gorge), the Clark County Superior Court ruled in 2013 that Klickitat County violated Washington State constitution protections for private property and state environmental laws. The violations are associated with a broad-scale rezoning that allowed residential sprawl on over 1,000 acres of land along the Wild & Scenic White Salmon River. This sprawl would have likely added hundreds of homes on small two-acre lots.

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Click here to see maps and photographs of the affected area, roughly from Husum (north) to the former Condit Dam site:

Congress designated the Lower White Salmon Wild and Scenic River in 1986 as part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. The White Salmon is one of only three Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state of Washington.

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The dam removal restored salmon to historic spawning grounds and brought this river back to its natural free-flowing state. The Court’s decision helps protect salmon and their astonishing recovery process. The decision protects the source waters that flow in the tributaries and sub-surface in this “gaining” river, which is a river that is fed by surrounding shallow aquifers, seeps, springs and tributaries in what is a highly leaky hydro-geologic system. These are the very values for which this Wild & Scenic river was designated.

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Wet Planet and 9 other rafting outfitters have been offering rafting trips on the White Salmon River since the eighties. Thousands of boaters flock to this river each month, and the economic impact of the rafting and kayaking tourism is needed and appreciated in the surrounding towns of White Salmon, Bingen, and Hood River. In 2013, New York Times mentioned rafting this river in a list of 40 must do things to do worldwide, following the Condit Dam removal. This river is known worldwide for its outstanding rafting and kayaking opportunities. Aside from protecting the natural and authentic beauty of this valley, we would like the river to be protected for its recreational values. A river corridor flanked by 1 acre lots and housing overlooking the river, will be impactful in so many ways, in addition to permanently destroying its current unique natural beauty.

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Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson ruled that the County had violated state law and the Washington constitution in a variety of different ways when it ignored impacts on water supplies, failed to consider the impact of sprawling development on threatened and endangered fish and illegally increased the density on land within and adjacent to the Wild & Scenic River corridor.

The County then appealed the decision to the Washington Court of Appeals, and the future of the White Salmon River Valley is now in the hands of a 3 judge panel.

Attend the Hearing!

When:  10 AM – Monday, March 30th (plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early!)

Where: Upper Gym – Hudson Bay High School, 1601 E McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver, Washington