PacifiCorp asks for extension on Condit Dam removal

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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The Portland-based utility overseeing the removal of Condit Dam has asked federal regulators to push back its planned completion date by two weeks.

PacifiCorp had hoped to completely remove the century-old dam by Aug. 31. Now the utility has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend that deadline to Sept. 15, said PacifiCorp spokesman Tom Gauntt. FERC has not formally responded to that request, he said.

The request came after demolition crews under lead contractor JR Merit found progress moving more slowly as they worked through the dam’s base, Gauntt said. The lowest section of Condit Dam sits within a narrow channel on the White Salmon River, complicating access for the large equipment at the site. PacifiCorp did, however, recently receive approval from FERC to conduct additional blasting to speed the removal process. An initial -- and successful -- test blast was detonated Tuesday, Gauntt said.

PacifiCorp decided to remove Condit Dam instead of installing costly fish passage upgrades required to keep the hydroelectric facility running. The dam was breached with a dynamite blast in October, draining Northwestern Lake and releasing a free-flowing White Salmon River about three miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River.

Crews are close to finishing the dam removal. As of Monday, about 2,000 cubic yards of concrete remained, Gauntt said — that’s less than 10 percent of the structure’s original mass.