Explosion breaches dam on White Salmon River - KPTV - FOX 12

Explosion breaches dam on White Salmon River

Posted: Updated: Oct 27, 2011 06:20 AM

A dynamite blast tore a hole in the Condit Dam and sent water and debris surging into the Columbia River.

Explosives experts touched off the TNT just after noon Wednesday, beginning the process of taking out the dam that has stood in Washington's South Cascades for nearly a century.

Pacific Power says it has already replaced the hydroelectricity its dam generates.

Nearby tribes and others applauded the decision to restore the natural flow of the river.

A crowd gathered on both sides of the bridge that supports Highway 14 as it passes over the White Salmon River on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge, across from Hood River.

Bridge engineers from WSDOT recommended the temporary closing of the highway to see what the debris flow would do to the span.

"We were looking for big piles of debris to be coming down," said Mike London, WSDOT bridge supervisor. "We wanted to make sure it wasn't going to get caught on the bridge when traffic was on it."

Explosives burrowed a hole in the base of the concrete structure, about as big as a single-lane highway tunnel. Crews from Pacific Power and contractors then began drilling blasting holes and preparing the way in August.

The 125-foot tall dam has controlled the waters of the White Salmon since 1913.

People from the Yakama Tribe began fishing here long before that.

"I think it's a big story," said Bernie Robertson, a Yakama member. "The Native Americans have been waiting for years and now our salmon can go back up. So, I think that's great."

Restoring natural flow will take time.

The hole punched in the dam Wednesday will allow Northwestern Lake to drain. Sediment will be carried downstream over the winter.

The rest of the dam will be removed next year.

Traffic flow resumed a few minutes after the debris began passing safely beneath the Highway 14 bridge into the Columbia River.

Work boats herded the biggest logs toward the shore of the river and away from the shipping channel.

Neighbors, travelers and anglers came to see the spectacle and to look toward the future of the White Salmon River.

"The big question is how much the sediment fills in and how long it takes," said John Iremonger, a fisherman from Hood River. "How deep the water is becomes important because they used to fish with bobbers and shrimp and boats out here."

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