NEW VIDEO - Breaching Condit Dam

By Mark Bowder , Kathie Durbin , Eric Florip and Al Thomas

Published:

 
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Columbian staffers converged on Condit Dam on Wednesday for the breaching of Condit Dam.

The actual breach is planned for noon, when 700 pounds of TNT will be detonated deep inside the dam, blowing out the last section of a tunnel that had been blasted through the base of the dam in recent weeks.


See a compilation of our coverage on this Storify page.


photoMuddy water flowing down the White Salmon River following the breaching of Condit Dam mixes with water from the Columbia River early Wednesday afternoon.

(/The Columbian)

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photoThe view of Northwestern Lake from from Condit Dam shows water levels shortly before the breach Wednesday.

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photoThe view upstream from Condit Dam about 90 minutes after it was breached shows that Northwestern Lake has been transformed into a muddy river valley.

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1:45 p.m. - A view upstream from Condit Dam on a remote video camera shows that Northwestern Lake has dwindled into a muddy, narrow river valley.

The reservoir drained in less than an hour, surprising planners. They had expected the reservoir to drain over six hours.

-Eric Florip and Mark Bowder


1:25 p.m. - Surging waves of brown water carrying mats of logs and debris flowed down to the mouth of the White Salmon River and began building up under the Highway 14 bridge.

But at about 1:10 p.m., clear, green Columbia River water began flowing back into the mouth of the White Salmon, carrying debris back upstream and diluting the muddy, gray-brown flow coming from the base of Condit Dam.

-Kathie Durbin and Allen Thomas


photoWater boils downstream from the base of Condit Dam moments after it was breached Wednesday. The wave reached the Highway 14 bridge at the mouth of the White Salmon River at 12:30 p.m.

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photoA view downstream from Condit Dam shows a torrent of muddy water flowing downstream. Flow lowered significantly after the initial rush.

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1:08 p.m. - A remote video camera on the base of Condit Dam shows a heavy stream of muddy water moving downstream in the White Salmon River. The flow is significantly lower than the initial torrent.

-Mark Bowder


12:37 p.m. - At about 12:26 p.m., low surge of water from the breaching of Condit Dam could be seen about a half mile upstream from the Highway 14 bridge over the White Salmon River.

Muddy water spread to the sides of the river channel, with clear water in the middle. The first wave of muddy water reached the Highway 14 bridge at 12:30 p.m.

Wood debris, matted material and floating logs passed under the bridge at 12:35 p.m.

WSDOT had stopped traffic over the Highway 14 bridge as a precaution.

BNSF Railway stopped a freight train before the breach, but restarted it after it seemed clear the railway crossing was not threatened.

-Allen Thomas


photoA torrent of water issues from the breached Condit Dam moments after the initial blast.

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12:31 p.m. - Tribal leaders from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and its four member tribes (Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Spring and Nez Perce) release a statement celebrating the breaching of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River.

"Visibly moved while watching the live webcast of the breach event, tribal leaders gathered with approximately 150 representatives from the settlement parties, contractor, and local leadership at the dam site to witness the historic event," the statement said.

“The White Salmon is sacred to the tribes because it flows from Pahto or Mt. Adams,” said Gerald Lewis, a member of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council and the chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “This river system has always provided for our people. Now the White Salmon River can begin to heal and when that happens, those that depend on the river will also heal. The salmon and lamprey will return and our tribal members will be here to meet them.”

-Mark Bowder


photoThe first dust and smoke emerges from the base of Condit Dam as a 700-pound charge of TNT detonates, clearing the final section of tunnel underneath the dam.

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photoWater rushes out of Condit Dam seconds after crews blasted out the last section of a tunnel through the base of the dam.

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12:07 - A huge roar of amazement erupted from the crowd gathered under a tent to watch the live stream video as water, dirt and concrete dust boiled into the canyon of the White Salmon River.

Sunlight illuminated the tall waves that tumbled down toward the Columbia River three miles away.

"I don't know what to say," said Heather Herbeck. "I work here at Wet Planet" the Husum-baesd rafting outfitter where the celebration was held.

"The river is my front yard. I don't have any words to express," she said.

Along the road below the dam, several local residents were perched on a railing watching the river flow to its banks.

"You could see the river bottom, then a wall of water came down," said Ben Seagraves, who lives just above the east bank of the river.

Traffic was stopped along Highway 14 east of the river due to a bridge closure.

-Kathie Durbin


12:07 p.m. - Blast starts with a cloud of gray dust, followed by heavy black smoke, then a huge torrent of water as the breaching of Condit Dam begins.

Water courses down the White Salmon River toward the Columbia River.


11:48 a.m. - At Northwestern Lake, an hour before the scheduled dam breach, Jerry Bryan took a nostalgic walk down to the bridge and recalled growing up on the river and paddling on the reservoir with his brother.

"It's been really tough to get used to the idea of it all going away," he said.

A couple of miles north at Husum, 300 conservationists gathered outdoors to eat pizza and celebrate the dam's demise, which they plan to watch on live streaming video.

"We're celebrating but this is just the beginning," said Amy Kober of American Rivers.

-Kathie Durbin


11:30 a.m. Only a few onlookers have gathered at the mouth of the White Salmon River. A few patrol boats are on scene, as are emergency management personnel.

-Allen Thomas


11:25 a.m. - A live feed has gone live. At the moment, the site is scrolling information about road closures. It is expected to host video as the detonation time nears.


10:30 a.m.: A Washington State Patrol car, lights flashing, stood by as a trooper locked up Highway 141 at the mouth of the White Salmon River, where a road closure was scheduled to remain in place until 2 p.m.

Members of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission patrolled the river's mouth, and a PacifiCorp helicopter swept up and down the lower canyon searching for trespassers.

-Kathie Durbin


Read The Columbian's Aug. 17 story about the events leading up to today's breach.