Columbia River boater: ‘Not quite to panic mode’ but nervous abo - KPTV - FOX 12

Columbia River boater: ‘Not quite to panic mode’ but nervous about more water

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Boaters have heard all week about the dangers on the Columbia River as the water is above flood stage, and still expected to rise.

Flood stage is 16 feet, but the water is already around 16.5 feet, and it should reach 17 feet in the next several days.

Alec Nielsen with the Northwest Boat Center spends much of his life on the water, but these days navigating the Columbia River is no easy task.

“The current in the summer is usually 3 or 4 knots, and this is like 9 or 10,” he explained. “As soon as I get the bow out here it’s just going to swing.”

The water in the river is moving so quickly because it’s the highest it’s been in six years.

With the river half a foot above flood stage and still rising, debris and pilings that would normally be above the surface are now well under water.

“You’ll see everything from full-size trees just floating down the river to lots of small sticks, and the ones that are the most dangerous are the ones barely above the water level and you can’t see them,” Nielsen said.

At the Island Cove Floating Marina, a big metal walkway is the only way to reach 54 floating homes. While it usually is high above the surface, it’s now only a few feet above the water.

“Typically you can drive under that with a boat,” Nielsen noted. “Even last spring, we could have driven through there. But this year, it’s very, very low.”

He is hoping to steer clear of any other problems that may arise if the water gets deeper.

“We’re not quite to panic mode, but we still have that whole mountain that needs to defrost, which is going to be a lot of water,” he said.

Nielsen lives in a floating home community and said they had an HOA meeting about the river level Tuesday night.

The neighbors are talking about rigging up a boat to take people to and from shore if their walkway goes underwater, though they are hoping the water starts to recede before it gets to that.

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