As most folks know, this August marks the last month of Condit Dam’s existence. That really hit home this morning, as I rounded the final rock outcrop on the precipitous trail leading to the west-side Station 1. The demolition contractors were within about 10 vertical feet of intercepting the drain tunnel, and were well below the elevation of the old Cameron Bridge. In a later conversation with Garth Wilson of Kleinfelder, he explained that only 3,000 of the original 30,000 cubic yards of concrete remains to be removed. While a positive figure (i.e., 90% of the material has been removed), work space is becoming more limited as the dam recedes, and there are challenges relating to how the remaining material can be removed from the deepest part of the canyon. To do the job, it sounds like the company will be using carefully controlled explosives to fracture the lowest portion of the dam into large chunks that can be lifted out with a clam-shell bucket mounted to a large crane stationed on the original Cameron Bridge terrace.
Also today, I attempted with some success to use a Canon T2i camera for shooting some video of the ongoing work. It’s not pretty (I am not a video man by any stretch), but if nothing else, it will give folks some understanding of the current work. Of some interest is the third clip from the start, which shows the toppling and breaking of the final section of spillway apron wall. If interested, check out the Vimeo link below…
Before hydropower, irrigation diversions and commercial rafting, the main commercial use of the White Salmon (and surrounding rivers of the Columbia River Gorge) was for transporting logs harvested along the river corridor. Several “splash dams” were constructed, as far north as the Trout Lake valley. When collapsed, these dams would create surges of water large enough to carry logs downriver to mill off-load sites. Logging and farming were mainstays of the pioneer White Salmon valley economy, as they are to a large degree today.
The scene shifted in 1910 with publication of a US Geological Survey professional paper, which reported on the department’s field assessment of the hydroelectric generating potential of the White Salmon, Little White Salmon, Klickitat and Lewis river basins. That study by John C. Stevens (Water Supply Paper 253) concluded that the basins with the highest production potentials were the Klickitat, followed by the White Salmon and Lewis. Concurrently, Herbert and Mortimer Fleishhacker of San Francisco were seeking ways to power their Crown Willamette Paper Mill in Camas, WA. Harnessing the White Salmon via another of their financial interests, the Northwestern Electric Company, became a possible mode.
When looking back over the human history that surrounds the White Salmon River and Condit Dam, it is easy to forget that the lower river had been used for thousands of years by Klickitat people (and their predecessors) for harvesting salmon, steelhead and perhaps Pacific lamprey. Some historians have estimated the native American population at Nakipanic (the village site at Husum Falls, now Husum) was several hundred. Given that, there were more people living in the Husum town center before 1855 (date of the Yakima Treaty) than there are today. This concentration of people lends strong support to the presence of a large and vibrant community before homesteading… perhaps more vibrant than today’s. While construction of Condit Dam in 1913 spelled the certain end of the fishery above river mile 3.2 (i.e., Condit Dam), it’s likely that the 1855 treaty that resulted in translocation of people north to the Yakama reservation, spelled the real end of the fishery and an early way of life on the White Salmon. The photo at left (taken from Williams “Guardians of the Columbia”, 1912), shows Jacob Hunt, who was born and lived his life in Nakipanic.