Notably, meadows west of Saddle Dam that are frequented by hundreds of Roosevelt elk year-round to forage will be used as a staging area for construction. Gauntt said there will be restoration projects to maintain these habitats following the dam’s retrofit.
Grounds for construction downstream of the dam will require the removal of roughly 140 trees, including Douglas fir, bigleaf maple and red alder. Chestnut trees are also scattered through the western forests. Gauntt said that for every tree removed, PacifiCorp will plant three to restore disrupted wildlife habitats, which complies with the Lewis River Wildlife Habitat Management Plan.
Fifteen acres of upland herbaceous habitats, which mostly consist of non-native grass and forbs, will be disturbed during the project; PacifiCorp will cover that area with a seed mix after construction is completed. Downstream, 6 acres of vegetation will also be disrupted.
Small bodies of water and four streams sit within the project area, but construction limits will be established to avoid work within 200 feet of the wetlands, streams and ponds.
Cowlitz County, the State Environmental Policy Act lead agency, deemed that the project will not have severe impacts on the environment.
Pending all the necessary state and federal permits, including a license amendment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PacifiCorp will open the bidding process. It anticipates kicking off construction in the fall. The utility will also lower Yale Lake to 465 feet to allow for construction access, about 25 feet below “full pool” levels.
Saddle Dam Park — often visited by picnickers, water sport enthusiasts and horseback riders — will be closed during the project, which is expected to continue through June 2024, according to project documents. The boat launch at Saddle Dam Park at the southern end of the dam will also be closed. An equestrian trail that leads northwest of the lake will remain partially open.
To accommodate recreational users during these closures, parking lots and restrooms will be relocated. PacifiCorp will move its boat launch north to Yale Park, and supplementary parking will be added to Cresap Bay and Speelyai Bay.
PacifiCorp will release exact dates for park closures closer to its expected time frame in September.
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