A Vision for the Future of the Lower White Salmon River (WA)
By Thomas O’Keefe
The Lower White Salmon Coalition, formed in 2016, is releasing its Vision Plan for the approximately five hundred acres of land owned by PacifiCorp along the lower White Salmon River representing the former project lands for the Condit Hydroelectric Project. For whitewater boaters this includes the Lower Gorge from Buck Creek to the Columbia River.
The removal of Condit dam in 2011 – 2012 restored a free-flowing river, which quickly returned to its historic channel, a major change for fish, wildlife, vegetation, and human use. In addition, removal raised the possibility that PacifiCorp would eventually divest their land holdings in Skamania and Klickitat Counties related to Condit Dam.
“As a signatory to the settlement agreement for removal of Condit Dam, American Whitewater has long supported the restoration and conservation of the White Salmon River that provides critical coldwater habitat and a long paddling season that attracts paddlers from around the world,” said Thomas O’Keefe, the Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. “We are pleased to join the broader community in presenting a vision that can guide future opportunities to meet community interests and protect the ecological integrity of the river.”
The Vision reflects consensus among Coalition participants around a long-range strategy to transfer these lands to new ownership and wisely, sustainably manage them in perpetuity. The Coalition hopes this document will be useful for PacifiCorp as they make decisions about the future of the land, and to future owners and managers of the land. The Coalition believes the strong consensus around conservation values will help this land and the river thrive as the restoration of the river continues.
While PacifiCorp must protect the interests of their stakeholders and ratepayers in any decision to sell, this Vision will help guide and inform future planning, access, ownership, and development of the lower White Salmon River corridor in a manner that aligns with local community interests and values.
The Lower White Salmon Coalition, with American Whitewater among the founding organizations, is a diverse group of non-profit organizations with environmental and recreational interests, private businesses, the Cabin Owners of Northwestern Lake Association (CONLA), boating interests, non-profits, and agencies. Coalition members believe that the community and local values should determine the future of this critically important stretch of the lower White Salmon River.
The Coalition received community outreach and planning assistance through a grant of technical assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. With that support, the Coalition actively reached out to people who use, live nearby, or are otherwise invested in this land’s future, including local governments, to develop consensus, where possible, about the future of the PacifiCorp land.
The Coalition’s outreach effort was two-fold. First, member organizations and businesses kept their members and clients informed. Second, the Coalition developed a “Report on Existing Recreation Conditions” and a report on “Opportunities for Recreation and Conservation.” These documents were posted on LWSC website, with an online public survey. Nearly 450 people responded to the survey and about 150 also participated in focus group meetings held in 2022.
Now, based on this important input, the Coalition is pleased to release the Vision Plan to the public.
This post originally appeared at americanwhitewater.org.