COOK — Winds blasting through the Columbia River Gorge in November damaged several of the tribal netting scaffolds built along the shore at Drano Lake, a popular sport-fishing spot.
Among the platforms damaged partially is one of two built this spring at “Social Security Beach,” a bank-fishing location on the west side of Drano where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to build an access ramp for disabled sportsmen.
Tribal platforms started appearing in Drano Lake, a large backwater of the Columbia River at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River in Skamania County, on Memorial Day weekend.
The Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement Committee of the Yakama Tribal Council on May 31 authorized platform and hook-and-line gear in Drano Lake, one of several tributaries fished by the Yakama tribe.
While fishing in the Columbia River is managed by the tribes and non-Indians through the Columbia River Compact process, tribal authorities solely manage Indian fisheries in the tributaries.
On Friday, there were more than a dozen scaffolds, overturned structures, partial or damaged platforms and piles of lumber along Drano Lake.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has filed a project review application with the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area office to build a wheelchair accessible fishing ramp at Social Security Beach.
The ramp is envisioned to be about 250 feet long and four feet wide, said Speros Doulos, manager of the four federal hatcheries in the Gorge.
The ramp will be near the water’s edge with a curb stop to prevent wheelchairs from entering the lake. A 120-square-foot paved landing area at the water’s edge would provide a spot to net fish.
Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery is on the back side of Drano Lake.
Doulos said the agency has the funding for the wheelchair-accessible fishing area and hopes to do the work this winter.
In late August, the Yakama Fish, Wildlife and Law and Order committee voted 3-2 to prohibit tribal scaffolds at Social Security Beach.
Stapled to the structures at Social Security Beach is the committee’s official order stating, “In respect for the ability of elders and disabled to have an opportunity to fish, the Yakama Nation hereby prohibits the presence of fishing scaffolds within 50 feet of “Social Security Beach” on Drano Lake.”
The official order was attached to the platforms prior to late October. The only action to remove the two platforms, so far, has been by the wind.
Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the state and tribe discussed the situation earlier this year.
“We definitely appreciate the cooperative action,” Norman said regarding the committee vote to prohibit scaffolds at Social Security Beach.
The state expects the Yakamas will fish the new platforms at Drano this spring much more intensely than last fall, Norman added.
State and tribal leaders will discuss spring chinook management at Drano Lake prior to the arrival of the 2012 run, he added.
Calls to Virgil Lewis, chairman of the Yakama Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement Committee, have not been returned.