Decommissioning of the hydroelectric project is now moving forward after receipt of an essential sediment management permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the final major regulatory step to dam removal. In December, PacifiCorp received a Surrender Order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) providing for dam decommissioning, which was modified in April. Together with the Corps permit, PacifiCorp now has the regulatory certainty needed to proceed with dam removal.

“We have notified our contractors to move forward,” said Todd Olson, program manager for PacifiCorp. “The project has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. These recent regulatory approvals enable us to now move forward with the commitment we made to the settlement parties to remove the dam as soon as feasible.”

Dam removal was determined to be less costly to PacifiCorp customers than the fish passage that would be required for operation as part of the federal dam relicensing process. The cost of decommissioning Condit is currently estimated at about $32M, including funds already spent during the planning process.

“The decommissioning of Condit Dam represents a momentous and long-awaited day,” said Virgil Lewis, of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council, one of the parties to the 1999 settlement. “This is an essential step in restoring the ecosystem’s resources and rebuilding the natural balance that supported the Yakama people and a significant tribal fishery for millennia. We are excited to welcome home the salmon, steelhead and lamprey that have been absent from the White Salmon River over the last century.”

American Rivers, a national conservation organization advocating for clean water and healthy rivers, pointed to the cooperation behind the decommissioning.

“After years of hard work, we will soon celebrate one of the nation’s biggest and most exciting river restoration projects,” said Brett Swift, Northwest regional director of American Rivers. “Condit Dam served a useful purpose, but now the time has come to remove it and restore a healthy, free-flowing White Salmon River. We applaud PacifiCorp for its leadership. It isn’t every day that we get to witness a river coming back to life.”

Meticulous preparation will be carried out before a carefully planned breach in October releases Northwestern Lake through a 13ft hole to be blasted out near the base of the dam. Steps to be completed before the breach include the initial excavation of the 90ft long drain tunnel, dredging the upstream side of the dam at the drain tunnel, work to strengthen a bridge that crosses Northwestern Lake, and also relocating a water pipeline that crosses the reservoir.

After the initial breach and draining of the reservoir in October, demolition of the remaining portion of the dam is scheduled to begin in spring 2012 and be completed by 31 August 2012. Restoration work throughout the former reservoir area is planned to be completed by the end of 2012.

The construction contractor for the decommissioning project is JR Merit Industrial Contractors with engineering and construction monitoring services being provided by Kleinfelder.

On 16 December 2010, PacifiCorp received a Surrender Order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) providing for dam decommissioning. FERC modified the Surrender Order on 21 April, which, with the Corps permit, provides the regulatory certainty PacifiCorp needed to proceed to remove the 125ft high dam. On 8 June 2011, FERC completed review and approval of requisite project removal design and resource management plans.

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