Condit Dam was destroyed on Wednesday. That means salmon should be returning soon to the base of Husum Falls, upstream from where Condit recently blocked the White Salmon River.
Yakama tribal fishermen are excited about fishing the falls again. But some recreational river runners are worried the tribe might soon erect fishing platforms and scaffolding across Husum Falls. That could prevent boaters from running a waterfall that's meant big business for private and commercial rafting companies.
The mood was raucous at the Wet Planet rafting company in Husum, Washington, on Wednesday, as 300 people gathered to watch a live video feed of the destruction of Condit Dam.
"The explosion in this tent was just as big as what we are seeing on screen here," said Wet Planet co-owner Jaco Klinkenberg.
Many people are excited not just because the dam came down, but because salmon are expected to return to a White Salmon River that hasn't seen its namesake fish for nearly 100 years. But the return of salmon might also mean the end of the party for rafters once fish again reach Husum Falls, located about 10 miles upstream from the mouth of the now free-flowing White Salmon River.
Most summer days, cheers are what you hear at Husum Falls as boaters take the 15-foot plunge over the largest commercially run waterfall in the United States.
As salmon return, they'll probably pool up at the base of Husum Falls. And fishermen from the Yakama Nation plan to be there to greet the salmon.
The Yakama have their own ideas about the significance, and future, of Husum Falls.
"Basically, when I think of Husum Falls area I think (of the Yakama name), which means "this land is a part of us," said Emily Washines, the restoration coordinator for Yakama fisheries.
Yakama leaders said they hope to fish at Husum as they did before Condit Dam kept salmon from moving upstream. Their fishing rights are guaranteed by a treaty signed in 1855.
The part that concerns rafters is that, traditionally, the Yakama used wooden platforms and large scaffolding that extended out over fishing areas near waterfalls. But any obstructions at Husum could be potentially dangerous to the thousands of rafters who like to run the falls.
Washines said the tribe hasn't made any definitive plans yet.
"There's a multitude of viewpoints to what Husum Falls might look like and that, it varies anywhere from 'we should fish from the rocks' to 'we should use scaffolding,'" she said. "So where we're at right now is we're presenting that in a plan, presenting it to the tribal council."
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Klinkenberg said she understands the tribal importance of Husum Falls, but hopes the tribe also understand the current economic importance of the falls to rafting business today.
"Husum Falls is the highlight of the trip for people that come rafting on the White Salmon River," she said. "We run thousands of people -- it might be close to 8,000 to 10,000 people a year, (and) that's just Wet Planet."
Add eight other rafting outfitters, as well as private boaters, and Klinkenberg estimates close to 25,000 people rafting the White Salmon River each year.
Washines said the tribe understands the current economic importance of Husum to rafters, but that doesn't mean the two groups meet on this issue as equals.
"From the tribe’s standpoint, we would be a sovereign nation that is coming together with a recreational group," Washines said. "Our interests might be the same, but our rights are different."
Klinkenberg said she knows that rafters are the newcomers on the water. She hopes that simple communication will result in an agreement that can keep all sides happy.
"I spoke with someone at Yakama fisheries, and he said, 'You know, the time that the Condit was built until now is just a blink in time for the tribes.' It's their river, the salmon belong here, they belong here, and, yeah it's not good for our business, but I kind of respect that," Klinkenberg said. "We'll make it work; we have to make it work."
Washines said the tribe is working on a fisheries plan right now, and could present a plan to the community within a few months.