Columbia River levels remain near flood stage

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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The Columbia River will continue to hover around flood levels at Vancouver into next week, the Army Corps of Engineers said Friday, causing flooding in some areas near the river’s banks.

The Army Corps of Engineers measures the harbor’s flood stage at 16 feet above sea level. On Friday afternoon, the river reached 15.7 feet above sea level, the National Weather Service reported.

“At this point in time we do not have an indication the river will exceed flood stage in Vancouver,” said Steve Barton, chief of the Army Corps’ Reservoir Control Center in Portland. Levels are expected to remain around 16 feet above sea level into mid-week, he added.

The Columbia River is experiencing its highest water runoff levels since 1997 because of high precipitation levels this year and late-melting snow, Barton said. The preserved snowpacks making their way into the Columbia River Basin are 180 percent as deep as normal.

“The unique thing about this year’s conditions was it was wet and cold late into April and early May,” Barton said.

In a normal year, the water would have released into the river at a more gradual pace. However, this year the river was forced to accept a gulp of water.

Storage dams such as the John Day Dam, east of The Dalles, Ore., the Grand Coulee Dam and Dworshak Dam, in Idaho, are capturing the majority of the excess water. For instance, John Day is accepting 100,000 cubic feet per second, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Participants in the Portland-Vancouver Rowing Association’s regatta competition have noticed higher-than-usual water levels in Vancouver Lake, said Brian Potter, supervisor of the Vancouver-Clark Parks Department’s parks resources program. But the water has not had any impact on the competition or the safety of its competitors.

The beach near the lake is covered in water, as is a large portion of the Salmon Creek Trail, Potter said.

Flooding has also been observed near Vancouver’s Waterfront Renaissance Trail between the Interstate 5 Bridge and Beaches Restaurant & Bar. Residents of the nearby condominiums are asking people not to try to complete the trail by trespassing into their hillside gardens and trampling the plants.

At Capt. William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach near Washougal, a Columbian reader sent in photos showing the water in the trees, about 100 yards from the usual beach.

With the water closer to roads and paths than normal, some people might feel tempted to take a dip in the river, officials predicted. That is a bad idea, they said.

“The run-off water has a lot of debris … and the currents can be rapid,” Barton said, adding that the water is also chilly.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517, ray.legendre@columbian.com, www.twitter.com/col_smallcities.