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Aug. 14, 2020

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PacifiCorp, Yakama Nation OK land deal along White Salmon River

Agreement would allow tribe to buy hundreds of acres

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:

The Yakama Nation has entered an agreement that would allow it to purchase hundreds of acres of land along the White Salmon River downstream from the former site of the Condit Dam.

The tribe agreed to a “right of first offer” agreement with PacifiCorp, which owns the 289 acres of land between the former dam site and the Columbia River, according to a news release Monday from the power company. The agreement comes after months of negotiation and includes the still-standing Condit Powerhouse.

While the company may sell the property in the future, it is not currently for sale, according to PacifiCorp.

“Having been involved in the White Salmon community for more than a century, we know there is a tremendous amount of interest in what happens to the lands on both sides of the river below the former dam site,” said Todd Olson, director of hydro compliance with PacifiCorp. “The agreement with the nation is not a sale agreement, but (it) demonstrates our intention and the values we share with the Yakama and the people who use and love the river.”

The Yakama Nation, which co-manages fisheries around White Salmon, retains fishing rights to the land from the Treaty of 1855 with the federal government. Virgil Lewis Sr., vice chairman of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council, called the agreement “a unique opportunity to preserve in perpetuity critical river and upland habitats that sustain our way of life.”

“The Yakama Nation and PacifiCorp have worked together for decades in the White Salmon Basin and elsewhere in our traditional homelands,” Lewis Sr. said. “We will continue to work with our partners throughout the Yakama Nation’s traditional territories in order to honor, protect and restore our culture and the natural resources on which it depends, and to uphold our promise to the Creator to speak for those resources that cannot speak for themselves.”

PacifiCorp has owned the land around the former dam site since the early 1900s.

The 125-foot hydroelectric dam previously blocked more than 30 miles of potential steelhead habitat, 4 miles of fall chinook salmon habitat and nearly 10 miles of spring chinook habitat, according to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The process of removing the dam began in September 1999, when PacifiCorp signed a settlement with environmental groups, government agencies and tribes to remove it.

Contractors detonated charges in the dam on Oct. 26, 2011, creating a tunnel through its base that drained Northwestern Lake in less than an hour and propelled millions of gallons of water and 2.3 million cubic yards of sediment downriver. The last remaining piece of the dam was removed nearly a year later.

Salmon, steelhead and wild Pacific lamprey were spotted in the area in the years following the breach. Since the dam’s removal, the river has met federal requirements concerning its rehabilitation, according to PacifiCorp.

The agreement announced Monday does not include PacifiCorp property further upriver, which includes leased cabin sites.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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