WHITE SALMON — The numbers are impressive: 500 cubic yards of concrete hauled out each day. Six days per week. Workers at it 12 hours a day.
As the dismantling of Condit Dam continues, piece by piece, crews have picked up speed since the removal process began in earnest earlier this year. They’ll have to keep it up if they hope to have it gone by an Aug. 31 target that’s looming ever closer. PacifiCorp project coordinator Todd Olson estimated workers still have more than halfway to go with the structure itself.
“It’s going to be tight,” Olson said.
It’s been more than eight months since a blast of dynamite breached Condit Dam in October, releasing the White Salmon River to flow freely for the first time in nearly a century. Northwestern Lake drained in barely an hour, and a deep canyon of mud emerged as the river carved its new course. That’s now given way to steep, rocky river banks in places near the dam. But it’s clear the landscape isn’t done evolving.
PacifiCorp, which owns the dam and the area surrounding it, now has its eye toward helping the area find its new natural state. The Portland-based utility has graded much of the land that used to be inundated by Northwestern Lake, hoping to stabilize it and reduce unwanted erosion. Tree stumps dot otherwise bare slopes, offering a glimpse of what was. Crews will replant the area with natural vegetation later this year, Olson said. Then, they’ll get out of the way.
“Our hope is that Mother Nature just does its thing,”
Olson said. “No one really knows how long that’s going to take.”
Once the dam is gone for good, rafters could ride the White Salmon River all the way down to its mouth at the Columbia River as soon as this fall. Many are already using a rebuilt take-out ramp at Northwestern Lake Park, a few miles upstream of Condit Dam. On Wednesday afternoon, a group of six large rafts with nearby white-water outfitter Wet Planet came off the water.