Boom! The White Salmon is Free

Evan Manvel

The Portland Mercury's Sarah Mirk may have said it best: "Today is a very exciting day to be a fish, or to be a human who likes to watch shit blow up."

Mirk was, of course, referring to yesterday's breaching of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington. As Scott Learn reported at The Oregonian:

"The breaching opens up 33 miles of stream for salmon and steelhead, including two runs on the endangered species list. When the dam is fully dismantled by the end of next summer, kayakers and rafters will have new whitewater to run on a river nationally know for epic whitewater and falls."

American Rivers reports the White Salmon has 10 outfitter businesses and hosts at least 25,000 boaters every year, numbers expected to grow after the dam removal. American Rivers previously named the White Salmon one of America's most endangered rivers in 2007. Removing the dam was more cost-effective than installing effective fish passages, and creates unobstructed river flow from Mt. Adams to the Columbia River. Dam removal was a big victory for the Yakama Nation.

The Condit removal joins the removal of two dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula earlier this year as the three largest dam removals in history. American Rivers estimates America will reach the milestone of 1,000 dam removals nationwide in 2011 (while about 79,000 dams still stand). The progress reminds one of the critical need to remove the four dams on the Lower Snake River if we are serious about our commitment to protecting endangered salmon.

As Friends of the White Salmon's Clausen said in The Oregonian: "[Salmon are] beautiful, wild creatures. I wanted to see them come home."

Read a bunch more damn history with photos here.

Listen to John DeVoe of WaterWatch discuss dam removals here.

Full disclosure: I've done work for American Rivers in the past.

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