Everyone in the OPB newsroom – including our celebrity guest, NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep – was glued to the computer screen this afternoon to watch PacifiCorp blow a hole in the 125-foot Condit Dam. I captured some screen shots of the dam blast, and collected some interesting facts about the event from stories in The Oregonian and Seattle Times. There are still some really interesting live shots to be seen here as the dam removal project continues. And here are 5 things you should know:
- It’s the second largest dam to be removed for fish passage in the U.S. The dam blocks 30 miles of salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey habitat on Washington’s White Salmon River. Before it was built in 1911, 8,000 adult salmon and steelhead returned to the river to spawn.
- Upgrading the dam to meet today’s standards would have cost three times the $33 million price tag for taking it out. The relicensing process for the dam was a driving force behind the decision to remove the aging structure.
- Today’s blast – using more than 700 pounds of dynamite – didn’t remove the whole dam. The dam should be completely removed by August 2012.
- The Yakama Nation used to fish on the White Salmon River but now they fish on the neighboring Klickitat where there are no dams. Yakama Nation Tribal Council member Gerald Lewis released this statement as soon as the dam was breached today: “The White Salmon is sacred to the tribes because it flows from Pahto or Mt. Adams. This river system has always provided for our people. Now the White Salmon River can begin to heal, and when that happens, those that depend on the river will also heal. The salmon and lamprey will return and our tribal members will be here to meet them.”
- A new crop of salmon will be hatching above the dam soon. Biologists hand-carried 679 adult tule fall chinook above the dam last month to protect them from the sediment that will be released as the dam comes down. Since then, the salmon have laid egg nests in the river bed with such force that neighbors have reported hearing the thrashing and splashing of their spawning activity for the first time.