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Lewis County PUD Continues to Stall on Providing Access to the Cispus River, WA

Posted: 07/01/2002
By: John Gangemi

In 1994, Lewis County Public Utilities District completed construction of Cowlitz Falls Dam. The Cowlitz Falls hydro project wreaked sustained and irreparable havoc on recreational (not to mention other) values on the Lower Cispus River, including the actual destruction (by TNT!) of the Cowlitz Falls rapid, the flooding of 2 or so miles of Class II whitewater and the flooding of the existing boater take-out on the Lower Cispus. The whitewater community was unable to prevent construction of the dam but the FERC required Lewis County PUD to constuct a river access point on the Cispus upstream of the reservoir as mitigation. The requirement was spelled out in detail in Article 42 of the Cowlitz Falls license.

Here it is 2002 and Lewis County PUD still has not secured a river access point for boaters. Lewis County PUD claims they are unable to secure a road access easement from the timber company. American Whitewater staff conducted a site visit with Lewis County PUD to find a solution. Lewis County PUD would like boaters to use the reservoir day use site but this requires a 2.5 mile reservoir paddle. This is unacceptable. American Whitewater feels Lewis County PUD is obligated to secure a river take-out as mititgation for the lost whitewater opportunities.

Cowlitz Falls Description

Historically known as the Cowlitz Falls run and enjoyed as one of the best bigwater runs in the state, this section is now burried beneath the waters of Scanwea Reservoir. Construction of the Cowlitz Falls project was completed in 1994 resulting in a 610 acre reservoir.

In the first edition of his guidebook published in 1991, Bennett described Cowlitz Falls as follows, "The Falls begins w ith an exciting ride over rollercoaster waves, then through smaller waves b efore hurling boaters around a left bend and into more powerful hydraulics.. . at higher flows, the big waves that dominate Cowlitz Falls become minat ure versions of rapids like Grainte on Hell's Canyon of the Lower Snake. Th is drop was dynamited and a 140 foot high dam now stands in its place ."

American Whitewater is looking for a local paddler with interest in the Cispus to assist in resolving this issue. Contact John Gangemi, email:

Associated Projects

Cispus River Access (WA)

AW has been working to enforce requirements for public access to the Cispus River.

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