“If you want to protect the river, you need to protect the land around the river,” Bloemers said.
It’s unclear if the county will appeal or continue to pursue the rezone. The Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which helped argue the case, declined to comment Monday.
The White Salmon River, a tributary of the Columbia River, has come under the microscope in recent years as a remarkable evolution process continues. It was on the White Salmon that Condit Dam was breached in 2011, then removed in 2012, opening up miles of new fish habitat for the first time in nearly a century. The dam’s removal also dramatically altered the landscape immediately upstream by draining Northwestern Lake.
Most of the proposed rezone affected land upstream of the former dam site.
Allowing hundreds of new homes would have threatened returning salmon and steelhead, advocates argued. New wells and septic systems would have adversely affected the natural seeps and shallow aquifers that feed much of the river’s volume, Bloemers said.