Columbia River’s level may drop slightly Monday

Controls at dam may ease waters now above flood stage

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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At least one Vancouver landmark was out of view Sunday, submerged as the mighty Columbia River continued to swell.

The river’s level was at 16.9 feet on Sunday evening. It could drop slightly today because of controls at Bonneville Dam, said Dave Elson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland.

“They (Bonneville officials) have to weigh how much water is coming their way. … I don’t think they have too much capacity for holding water at this point,” Elson said.

On Sunday afternoon, Bonneville officials were releasing 500,000 cubic feet of water per second, which was a reduction of 10,000 cfs from earlier in the day, Elson said. The dam is about 40 miles east of Vancouver.

Factors in the river’s level include snowmelt in the far interior of the Northwest and rain that is in the forecast, Elson added.

Showers are expected through Friday in Clark County.

For the next few days the river level is expected to be 16.5 feet to 17.0, Elson said.

“I’ve never seen it this high,” said Hazel Dell’s Luke Lupas, 30, as he gazed at the river at Marine Park. He was on a bike ride with his wife, Andrea Lupas, 32, and they decided to get a close view of the river.

“We saw how high it was so we decided to change our route,” Andrea said. “And we said, wow, that is high.”

There was a good 30 feet of water between the boat ramp and the start of the downriver dock at the park.

Steve Johnson, 41, of Vancouver was having fun in the river on his Yamaha Superjet 701cc personal water craft. But he said he was being cautious and staying close to the dock.

“It’s moving so fast,” Johnson said of the Columbia. “It makes it more difficult and you really don’t want to get stranded. The current is so fast. Something goes wrong and who knows where you’ll end up before you can get to the bank.”

Johnson was in a wet suit with shoes and helmet.

Looking at the downriver dock, he said, “That piece of dock should be high and dry.”

Jaydon LaV alla, 14, of Vancouver, would have been happy to get to the viewing point at Tidewater Cove. But he couldn’t. The point was submerged and the river had covered perhaps 40 feet of trail.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s the highest I’ve seen it, ever.”

He snapped photos: “Just to show my family and put them on Facebook.”

In 1996, the basement flooded at the Red Lion Inn at the Quay. But no flooding so far, said restaurant supervisor Jeremy Best.

The high river “has been good for business,” Best said.

“A lot of people are coming just to see how high it is,” he said, glancing at customers at tables with a river view. “They watch the bridge come up, and just watch how fast it (the river) is going,” he said.

By the way, the Columbia reached 27.2 feet when the Quay’s basement flooded in February 1996.