Boaters and hikers: High waters concealing pile dikes; making trail unsafe

Maps available that show pile dike locations

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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With the Columbia River running at 16.7 feet Friday, a bit higher than the official 16-foot flood level, 911 officials had reported no serious problems in Clark County as of Friday evening.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a warning: Boaters and commercial mariners need to avoid hitting pile dikes that high waters are concealing:

“Pile dikes, also called wing dams, are wooden structures that extend perpendicular from the shore into the river. The structures have a variety of uses ranging from protecting the shore to managing the flow of the navigation channel,” Corps officials said Friday in a bulletin.

“Corps waterway maintenance managers say the tops of most piles are frequently just below the surface during high water events and can cause serious damage to vessels attempting to transit over them.

“Commercial and recreational mariners are advised to check the most current navigation maps closely for pile dike locations; maps are available on the Portland District website at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/navigation/home.asp.

“The Columbia River is running very high due to heavy rains over the past weeks in the Cascade and Rocky mountains in Canada, Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and Western Montana. In order to relieve local flood conditions and reserve storage space in reservoirs upriver for above average snowpack, dams are releasing more water than usual into the lower Columbia River while attempting to minimize flooding downstream.

“The Columbia River at Vancouver is technically about a foot above flood stage right now, although impacts are minor and water levels are receding.”

Other officials also have warned that the river now has faster currents and more debris than usual, and the water remains very cold.

Waterfront Renaissance Trail

Vancouver officials on Friday reminded weekend walkers, joggers and bicyclists that about 400 feet of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail at Tidewater Cove, west of Wintler Park, is still closed indefinitely.

High-water erosion and damage to a retaining wall make that area unsafe, and folks are asked to detour to Southeast Columbia Way.

To view river levels, visit http://bit.ly/kDrZZI.