By JESSE BURKHARDT
With Condit Dam tentatively scheduled to be decommissioned in the fall of 2011, one of the key projects that has to happen first is relocating the water pipeline that serves White Salmon.
The 1913-era Condit Dam, located on the White Salmon River 3.3 miles upstream from the Columbia River, is scheduled to be removed next year by the dam's owner, Portland-based PacifiCorp.
PacifiCorp signed a "settlement agreement" with a number of parties in 1999 that called for the aging hydro-electric dam to be removed.
However, the city's water line runs across the bottom of Northwestern Lake -- a reservoir that will be drained if and when the dam comes out. If the pipeline is not relocated, it would be exposed and likely to break. With that reality in mind, as part of the overall requirements of removal, PacifiCorp must ensure that the city's water supply system will not be interrupted.
"The first stage of the project is getting PacifiCorp to relocate the pipeline coming down from Buck Creek," explained White Salmon Mayor David Poucher. "We've been negotiating with PacifiCorp. They are required to protect our pipeline. Currently it's embedded in mud, and when they take the dam out, there will be nothing there to support the pipe."
On June 2, members of the White Salmon City Council approved a "phase one" water-line relocation design agreement between the city and PacifiCorp.
Poucher noted that phase one of the project will cost $12,000, with PacifiCorp covering all the costs.
"PacifiCorp is picking up the tab for this," Poucher explained, "and PacifiCorp will pay to relocate the pipe."
The White Salmon City Council members voted 5-0 to approve the phase one agreement.
Tom Gauntt, spokesman for PacifiCorp, said the process was going one step at a time.
"We've agreed to pay for the engineering study," Gauntt said, adding that what would happen from there would be based on the results of the study.
The pipeline relocation project is expected to be handled in three phases. Phase one is determining the preliminary estimates of what it will take to do the job, including figuring out the right of way and any needed easements for the line.
Phase two is the design and engineering work for the pipeline relocation, while phase three will be the actual construction of the rerouted pipeline.
Poucher pointed out that the target is to have everything done on the water pipeline relocation project by the summer of 2011.
"PacifiCorp is very interested in having this first phase done before the next rainy season," explained Ken Woodrich, attorney for the city of White Salmon.
Gauntt explained that PacifiCorp is working toward taking the dam out in 2011, but is still awaiting necessary permits from various governmental agencies.
"Nothing is certain until we have the permits we need," Gauntt said. "We don't have the power to grant ourselves the permits. It's a process, and each step depends on the earlier steps. We don't have the permits until we have them."
The projected date to decommission Condit Dam has been pushed back several times. The original deal called for PacifiCorp to remove the dam in 2006, but permits, protests, and process have worked to defer the date of decommissioning.
Gauntt pointed out that the time needed to prepare for removal of the dam in the narrow window when work is allowed in the river -- September and October -- requires PacifiCorp to have everything in place no later than early spring in the year the dam would be removed.
"It all has to be in order by March or April to give enough time where you can actually prepare to do the work," Gauntt said. "These things haven't changed, but the calendar keeps moving on us."
Poucher said the dam cannot be removed unless and until the city's water supply pipeline is protected.
"There are some right of way issues. But this will all be done by next summer," Poucher said. "They can't take the dam out until it's done. They have to provide water to the city of White Salmon."