Less than a month ago, Washington saw one of the largest dam breaches in history. The Condit Dam was located on the White Salmon River, which is a tributary that eventually flows into the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. It generated enough power to supply 7,000 homes. The impediment held back around 27 million gallons of water. When it was breached, it released 1.8 million cubic yards of sediment down the river.
The dam’s removal will restore the White Salmon River watershed back to its free flowing state. For nearly 100 years the dam has blocked the waterway and prevented the seasonal runs of many native fish. The runs have declined to the point that the Tule fall Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout are now protected under the Endangered Species Act.
In 1996, NOAA Fisheries directed the owner, PacifiCore, to allow adequate passage for the threatened species. The utility couldn’t find a more cost effective alternative to allow the fish passage, so they chose to blow up the dam.
By next fall the dam will be completely removed. The salmon should begin to rebound now that they have access to the cold water spawning grounds further upstream. NOAA plans to monitor the progress. As an added benefit, the breach opens up five more miles to kayaking and white water rafting enthusiasts. The river currently supports an estimated 40,000 boaters each year.
You can find great footage here:
There is no audio of the blast because it sent out a shock wave that would make listeners “bleed from their ears.”
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