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Comments sought on Condit Dam removal environmental review

Posted: 06/08/2009
by Thomas O'Keefe

The Washington Department of Ecology has just released an environmental review to address how sediment will be managed during the proposed removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in October 2010.

Ecology undertook this supplemental review to better understand the implications of releasing the sediments behind the dam during dam removal. Elevated levels of naturally occurring mercury were found in some of the sediments. Studies indicate, however, that the release of the material during dam removal would actually reduce risks from the mercury by making it less likely to accumulate in fish. Mercury is ubiquitous in the environment from naturally occurring sources and from atmospheric deposition. In this case, the mercury appears to have leached from nearby lava beds into the White Salmon River. It is not uncommon to find mercury in sediments behind dams and particularly in a river with the geology of the White Salmon.

The environmental reviews are necessary for the Department of Ecology to issue regulatory approvals associated with the project. In particular, before the dam may be removed, PacifiCorp must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from Ecology. The 401 certification under the federal Clean Water Act would certify that water quality standards and other water-protection regulations are met during dam removal and subsequent restoration. The 401 would outline the steps PacifiCorp must take to protect water quality during dam removal.

As a signatory to the settlement agreement for dam removal American Whitewater will be submitting comments in support of the project.

The Draft Second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Condit Dam Removal Project can be viewed on-line at the following link:

Comments on the issues evaluated in the documented can be addressed in writing to Derek Sandison, Department of Ecology, 303 S. Mission St. Suite 200, Wenatchee, WA 98801, or email them to Comments will be accepted until July 20, 2009.

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

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