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Future Of Fishing On Ws River Sans Dam Open For Discussion

Meeting in Underwood

With removal of Condit Dam set to begin next fall, representatives of state and federal fish and wildlife agencies will hold a public meeting next Tuesday, Aug. 31, in Underwood to discuss the future of sport fisheries on the White Salmon River.

The informational meeting, hosted by the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will take place from 6-8 p.m. at the Underwood Community Center in eastern Skamania County, off the Cook-Underwood Road.

John Weinheimer, a state fish biologist, said anglers will see significant changes in fishing opportunities on the White Salmon River with the removal of the 97-year-old hydroelectric dam that now stands 3.3 miles from the mouth of the river.

Removing Condit Dam will eliminate a major barrier to salmon and steelhead migration, creating new opportunities to restore wild salmon and steelhead stocks listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, he said.

But removing the 125-foot dam will also drain Northwestern Lake, and end the trout-stocking program in the reservoir, Weinheimer said. In addition, stocking of hatchery steelhead in the White Salmon River would be discontinued under a federal draft recovery plan that calls for restoring wild fish runs through "natural colonization."

"Recovery actions now being proposed would eliminate stocking summer and winter hatchery steelhead and rainbow trout in the river," Weinheimer said. "We want anglers to be aware of those proposed changes, and share their ideas about what kind of fishing opportunities they would like to see in future years."

In past years, WDFW has stocked the White Salmon River annually with approximately 20,000 summer steelhead and 20,000 winter steelhead. In addition, the department has stocked Northwestern Lake with approximately 20,000 fingerling rainbows, 4,000 catchable-size rainbows and some larger broodstock and triploid trout each year.

Rich Turner, a senior fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, will attend the upcoming meeting in Underwood with Weinheimer to discuss the goals and development of the draft Lower Columbia River Recovery Plan and what it will mean for sport fishing on the White Salmon River. A draft of that plan will be available for public review next spring, Turner said.

For more information about plans to remove Condit Dam, see the Web site for PacifiCorp, the dam's owner, at pacificorp.com.

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