Watching the Condit Dam precision explosion today on the White Salmon River was an emotional experience. (In case you missed it, watch it HERE online.) The crowd was excited and jumpy in the final minutes leading up to the blast. Loud horns sounded the countdown. There were some tears of relief and joy, but mostly smiles and laughter. A strong sense of camaraderie was felt; everyone who was present cares about proper river restoration. Cares about wild fish recovering. Cares about the jobs to be created and the businesses to benefit. And everyone present knows just how hard it was to get to this day.
Like the two dams coming out on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, Condit Dam took more than a decade of negotiation, collaboration and review before breaching became a tangible possibility. Many heated debates, political and legal battles were waged to reach agreement. As a result, today is a day of celebration.
For other campaigns in river restoration, the Elwha and Condit dams represent renewed enthusiasm. They are extremely powerful reminders of what is possible. We CAN achieve a better future. We CAN save rivers, and save fish. And we WILL continue to do so.
There are many differences between Elwha dam removal, the breaching of Condit dam, and the four dams on the lower Snake River. But there are similar fundamentals. One is that when it costs more to leave dams in operation than it does to remove them, the dams are likely to go.
As the Elwha and White Salmon Rivers are reborn, and we see the communities around them benefit, jobs increase, and salmon return, we also step closer to success in restoring the lower Snake River, and the highest- and longest-migrating salmon assemblage in the world.
We won’t give up. While we’ve always known that we must, today we are reminded that we can, and will, succeed.
Many thanks to partners that have worked hard to make a free-flowing White Salmon a reality: American Rivers, American Whitewater, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the White Salmon, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Mountaineers, Trout Unlimited.