Coal Export Backers Appeal Permit Denial For Columbia River Project

By Cassandra Profita, OPB

The developer of the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project, as well as two project supporters, have appealed the state of Oregon’s decision to deny a permit for a dock on the Columbia River.

The state of Wyoming, the Port of Morrow and project developer Ambre Energy have all challenged the state’s permit denial by requesting a contested case hearing before an administrative law judge, according to Julie Curtis, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of State Lands. The deadline to request a hearing is Monday.

Leaders at the Port of Morrow and the governor of Wyoming have expressed support for the project in the past because of the economic benefits and jobs it would create.

The Morrow Pacific coal export project needs a permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands to build a dock for coal barges on the Columbia River. The project would ship nearly 9 million tons of coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. It would transfer coal shipments from trains to barges at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon, and load the coal onto ships at a dock downriver in Clatskanie, Oregon.

Last month, the state denied the company’s coal dock permit application, saying that the project conflicts with the state’s policy of protecting its water resources and fisheries on the Columbia River.

Everett King, president and CEO of Ambre Energy North America, explained his company’s decision to appeal the state’s permit denial in a news release.

“The permitting process for a rail-to-barge facility should be project-specific and not influenced by the commodities involved,” he said. “It’s pretty clear the politics of coal overshadowed this process from the beginning.”

In its appeal, Ambre Energy argues that the state did not fairly evaluate the company’s permit application and improperly elevated “special interests” above “long-standing” port industrial uses. It also argues that the state went beyond the scope of review it has done in the past for similar permits.

“DSL exceeded its lawful authority while ignoring its legal obligations,” the company wrote in its appeal. “The decision must be reversed.”

Gary Neal, general manager of the Port of Morrow, said the state’s permit denial could have negative implications for his port that extend beyond the Morrow Pacific project.

“Not only does this permit denial create a road block for the well-designed Morrow Pacific project – it sets new regulatory precedent that has the risk of shutting down future development opportunities at the Port of Morrow,” he said. “We are appealing so that this political decision does not limit economic opportunity in rural Oregon.”

Opponents of the Morrow Pacific project criticized the company’s decision to appeal.

“The State of Oregon and the people of Oregon overwhelmingly rejected coal export because we are choosing a better future,” Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said in a news release. “Ambre’s appeal is a last-minute and desperate attempt to just keep hanging on. Coal is too dirty and would degrade our salmon economy.”

The Oregon Department of State Lands allows anyone who participated in the public comment process and who would be adversely affected by the permitting decision to appeal. The Oregon Department of State Lands director will decide whether the appeals have legal merit before setting a hearing date before an administrative law judge.

The permit denial followed a dispute between Columbia River tribes and project developer Ambre Energy over tribal fishing at the proposed dock site. Members of four Columbia River tribes told the state they fish at the proposed dock site, and asked the state to deny the permit to ensure their treaty fishing rights are upheld. Ambre Energy disputed those claims and argued that the dock wouldn’t interfere with tribal fisheries.

The Morrow Pacific project is one of three coal export proposals in the Northwest. The two others would transfer coal from trains to ships in Longview, Washington, on the Columbia River and near Bellingham, Washington, on Puget Sound.

Conservation Groups Concerned Oil Spill Would Harm Wildlife

An oil train moves through Skagit County in Western Washington, headed to refineries in the Northwestern part of the state. | credit: Katie Campbell
An oil train moves through Skagit County in Western Washington, headed to refineries in the Northwestern part of the state. | credit: Katie Campbell


Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio


As more oil trains travel along the Columbia River and Puget Sound, conservation groups worry that cleanup plans could harm sensitive wildlife, like endangered salmon and shorebirds.

That concern is prompting legal action. The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Columbia Gorge Thursday filed a 60-day notice to sue the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency. The conservation groups say the oil spill response plan needs to be updated to account for endangered species.

Jared Margolis, an attorney for the center, said the response plan hasn’t been updated in 10 years. That means the plan doesn’t include new wildlife habitat and new species on the Endangered Species List, like smelt, also known as eulachon.

“If those spill response plans aren’t up-to-date, they could boom the oil right into critical habitat for endangered species, which can really impact the salmon and sturgeon.” Margolis said.

Margolis said the Gulf Coast’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill taught conservation groups that cleanup efforts, like burning oil and mixing oil with the dispersants, could harm endangered species.

An EPA spokeswoman said she could not comment on pending litigation. She said cleanup plans in the Northwest include monitoring for endangered species.

Scientists Discuss Long-Awaited Scientific Volume On ‘Kennewick Man’ Skeleton

By: Anna King, NW News Network


A skeleton that’s about 9,000 years old is giving up a few of his secrets today. Monday, scientists who have a new book about the ancient remains found near Kennewick 18 years ago spoke to the press.

A new book about Kennewick Man is due to hit bookstands in mid-September.
Credit Texas A&M University Press


The volume titled, “Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton,” is due to hit bookstands in mid-September.

Kennewick Man was found resting in the shallow water of the Columbia River 18 years ago. His early story was that of some strife. A rock-point is buried in the bone of his hip.

The Northwest tribes that want to rebury the ancient remains, and the scientists that want to study him fought for years in court. This new book reveals the studies that were ultimately allowed by federal court.

The book explains that Kennewick Man was likely a coastal sea hunter from the far north. And he hadn’t been in Washington’s desert too long.

“He lived most of his life in coastal locations, north of the state of Washington,” said Doug Owsley, the book’s co-editor. “And in keeping with these findings you know if you look at Kennewick Man’s dental wear its reminiscent of working hides, and similar to really wear that we see in early Eskimo skeletons.”

Owsley says there’s still one question he’s dying to answer: What kind of rock is the stone point made from that’s buried in K-man’s hip? That would give clues to his routes across the North American landscape.

Big Coal’s Plans For The Pacific Northwest Take A Major Hit

In this photo taken on July 6, 2014, a coal train is seen passing by Bellingham Bay in Bellingham, Wash. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
In this photo taken on July 6, 2014, a coal train is seen passing by Bellingham Bay in Bellingham, Wash. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

By: Lynne Peeples, Huffington Post


Doctors, tribal leaders, business owners and concerned parents are among those cheering a potentially major blow to Big Coal.

On Monday, an Oregon state agency announced its rejection of a permit for a coal export facility on the Columbia River. The proposed Coyote Island Terminal is one of three remaining projects being pushed by the fossil fuel industry to create a coal export superhighway through the Pacific Northwest. Three previous proposals have already been dropped.

The Oregon Department of State Lands cited disruption to waterways and harm to tribal fisheries among its reasons for the refusal, which makes future approval of the port unlikely but still possible if the company pursuing the project files a convincing appeal.

Tom Wood, owner of the Rivertap Restaurant and Pub in The Dalles, Oregon, called the news a “landmark victory for our community, as well as communities across the nation.”

About three years ago, Wood and his son, Aiden, then 9, were salmon fishing on the Columbia River. As they returned to their car, Aiden spotted small clumps of coal near some railroad tracks.

“We brought a pile home and lit them on fire,” Wood recalled. “You know, the fun things you do with coal.”

He soon realized that the coal likely came from the open rail cars that shuttle along the Columbia River to Canadian ports. That recognition helped push him to join with thousands of others across state, economic and political lines who have tried to thwart the proposed increase in the number of these coal trains rolling through the region. The mile-plus-long trains originate at mines in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana and head west to meet up with Asia-bound ships. Opponents, who have been protesting and signing petitions for a few years now, worry that more coal trains could ultimately lead to problems ranging from local traffic delays and health harms due to air pollution, to faster climate change as a result of more coal-burning overseas.

Proponents of the coal ports, meanwhile, contend that greater exports mean needed jobs and tax revenues for struggling Western towns and Native American reservations.

“We do have to balance the health of our community with the need for commerce,” said Wood. But he argued that the former is more critical in the long term, including for his son’s future. Referring to the permit rejection, he said, “The win is a testament to the power and dedication of countless Northwest families to assure that these dirty, dangerous projects don’t take root for short-term gains.”

The U.S. has seen a steady decline in domestic coal use in recent years thanks to tighter federal regulations and the expanded viability of natural gas and renewable energy. But the rise of coal-hungry economies in China, India and other fast-developing nations offers a promising alternative market for coal companies. If government agencies eventually grant approval to all three export terminals proposed for Oregon and Washington, up to 100 million metric tons of the combustible rock per year could soon pass through the Pacific Northwest. The Coyote Island Terminal on the Port of Morrow at Boardman, Oregon, would account for less than 10 million metric tons of that total.

Ambre Energy, the Australian-based company pursuing the project, told The Huffington Post in a statement that it disagrees with Oregon’s “political decision.”

“We are evaluating our next steps and considering the full range of legal and permitting options,” added Liz Fuller, an Ambre Energy spokeswoman.

With the door still open for the Coyote Island Terminal to be approved, as well as for the other two port proposals in Washington state, opponents are voicing somewhat restrained optimism.

“This is a relatively small amount of coal compared to the other proposals,” said KC Golden, senior policy adviser for the nonprofit Climate Solutions. But he added that the formal permit denial is still a “very big deal.”

“It’s a terrific affirmation of what, in some ways, ought to be obvious,” said Golden. “This is a profoundly bad idea for the Northwest and for the world.”

Among the most vocal opponents have been Native American tribes whose reservations lie in the coal trains’ path.

“Yakama Nation will not rest until the entire regional threat posed by the coal industry to our ancestral lands and waters is eradicated,” JoDe Goudy, the Yakama tribal council chairman, said in a statement Monday night.

On Sunday, the Lummi Nation, whose reservation neighbors one of the proposed ports in Washington state, launched a totem pole journey — a road trip with totem pole in tow — that they hope will consolidate tribal opposition to Big Coal and Big Oil.

“Such decisions are few and far between,” the tribe stated in response to Monday’s announcement. “This is important not just for the Yakama and Umatilla but all Indian fishing tribes. Together we can, and will, protect our way of life.”

Meanwhile, there are other tribes that could benefit from coal exports. As HuffPost reported in January after the Lummi Nation’s first totem pole journey, the Crow Nation of rural Montana argues that it desperately needs to develop its coal reserves to lift its people out of poverty.

Dr. Robert Merchant, a pulmonologist in Billings, Montana, who deals with the health problems related to coal mining near his city, acknowledged the dilemma.

“There are a lot of people that would stand to have substantial gain from the extraction industry,” he said. But he also sees the high public costs associated with the industry.

Montana, Oregon and Washington are among Western states battling forest fires this summer and suffering the resulting poor air quality. Scientists warn that such blazes are becoming more frequent and intense with the changing climate and that coal plays a significant role in this shift.

Then there’s the blowback of toxic pollution from Asia’s coal-fired power plants. “Plumes come right across the Pacific,” Merchant said, noting that they can further contaminate the West’s air and water with toxins such as mercury.

Perhaps of most immediate concern to many opposed are the trains, barges and ships themselves, which block roadways for emergency vehicles, belch diesel fumes and blow coal dust. Diesel exhaust is known to worsen conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and may even raise the risk of certain cancers. The extent of the threat from heavy-metal-laden coal dust is less clear, although evidence is building.

The public health implications spurred more than 3,000 medical professionals and public health advocates to sign on to letters requesting denial of the Coyote Island Terminal permit. In Oregon alone, 165 physicians voiced their concerns to the governor.

“We are particularly concerned with the health of our most vulnerable populations: prenatal, early childhood, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions,” they wrote.

Wood and his family live within a half mile of coal train tracks. Trains pass within 300 yards of his restaurant and within 50 feet of a winery he helps operate.

“It’s been a challenging fight,” Wood said, “and it’s far from done.”

Tribes hold vigils for Columbia River salmon

By: Associated Press, August 4, 2014

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) — Native American tribes in the U.S. and Canada are holding vigils along the Columbia River to pray for the return of salmon migration as the two countries prepare to renegotiate a treaty concerning the river.

The treaty, signed in 1964, governs operations of dams and reservoirs that have caused salmon run declines.

Tribes are pushing to include salmon restoration to the upper Columbia, above Grand Coulee Dam in northern Washington State, in the treaty.

In recommendations for potential negotiations, the U.S. says the two countries should study the possibility of restoring fish passage over that dam. But Canada says restoring fish migration and habitat is not a treaty issue.

Seventeen vigils will be held along the length of the river, in Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia.

A Debate On The Proposed Killing Of Cormorants To Save Salmon

Three cormorants on East Sand Island | credit: Vince Patton
Three cormorants on East Sand Island | credit: Vince Patton


By Devan Schwartz, Oregon Public Broadcasting


PORTLAND — The public got its first chance to weigh in on the government’s plan to kill nearly 16,000 cormorants nesting on an island near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the lethal approach as the best way to reduce the number of birds that congregate at East Sand Island and feast on young salmon and steelhead making their way beyond the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.

Supporters and critics spoke out Thursday at the Matt Dishman Community Center in Northeast Portland.

State and federal officials discussed the proposed action with around 40 attendees, many representing bird and wildlife advocacy groups or sportfishermen.

Norman Ritchie is with the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. He said the cormorants are severely harming the fish runs on the Columbia.

“Right now the situation’s pretty bad,” Ritchie said. “We’re talking millions upon millions of smolts being killed by the cormorants each year and we need to deal with that.”

Columbia River tribal representatives have also voiced support for killing cormorants to protect salmon and steelhead, although none spoke out at Thursday’s hearing.

Scientists estimate cormorants on East Sand Island ate 18 million protected salmon and steelhead last year and are regularly consuming 10 to 15 percent of the populations swimming through the Columbia River estuary.

Joyce Casey is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She said her agency is following the National Marine Fisheries Service’s call for a reduction in cormorants.

The service’s biological opinion for the Columbia River hydropower system gives until 2018 to reduce 14,900 breeding pairs of cormorants down to less than 5,900 breeding pairs. The goal is protect salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act. The fish also die by the thousands as they try to get past dams operated by the corps.

The cormorant-killing strategy would be in place from 2015 to 2018. Shotguns would be used to shoot the cormorants in the air first and, if necessary, on the colony during nesting season.

Kahler Martinson is an Audubon Society volunteer and former regional director with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Martinson argued that the corps is blaming the birds rather than the dams on the Columbia.

“There’s got to be a better way to do it than killing these birds,” Martinson said. “If you manage the river for fish instead of for power and navigation you can certainly handle the problem.”

The corps says the reduction in cormorant population would be localized and would not jeopardize the larger population.

A second public meeting will be held July 24 in Astoria, Oregon.

The final environmental impact statement will be published this fall. The final decision is expected by the end of the year.

Federal Salmon Plan Heads Back To The Courtroom


By Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radion

It’s back to court for the federal government and salmon advocates. Conservationists Tuesday once again challenged the government’s plan to manage dams on the Columbia River to protect endangered salmon and steelhead.

In January, officials released a finalized plan, known as a biological opinion or BiOp, that guides dam operations. It’s been subject to more than 20 years of legal conflict between people who want to protect salmon and people who want to produce hydroelectricity and maintain shipping channels.

“Welcome to Groundhog Day,” said Todd True, lead attorney for the challengers and Earthjustice.

True said the latest plan is far too similar to previous plans already struck down by the courts.

“We will not let the government slow-walk our wild salmon into extinction and trample our environmental laws, just because they don’t want to change the way they run the Columbia River hydro system,” True said.

Fish advocates said the most recent plan also lessens the amount of water spilled over dams to help juvenile salmon migrate out to sea.

The groups are asking the court to require an environmental impact statement, which would require public comments for a new biological opinion.

“The best way to pursue a real solution for salmon would be to have a collaborative process,” said Sara Patton, executive director for NW Energy Coalition, a clean energy advocacy group.

In 2011, U.S. District Judge James A. Redden rejected the plan and asked the Obama administration to consider more ways to recover the endangered fish.

Redden’s suggestions included spilling more water over the dams to help juvenile salmon safely make it downriver to the ocean, changing reservoirs to help fish passage, and removing the lower Snake River dams altogether.

The case has been transferred to Judge Michael H. Simon. This most recent challenge is a continuation of a lawsuit filed in 2001.

Supporters of the 2014 plan called it the most comprehensive restoration plan in the country. Terry Flores’ group Northwest RiverPartners represents commerce and industry groups that defend dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers. For her part, Flores said the challenge is more of the same from conservation groups.

She said recent high salmon returns show that the current plan is working.

“Litigation doesn’t do anything for fish on the ground. It just drags time and energy away from those kinds of efforts that actually benefit fish and puts us all back into the courtroom,” Flores said.

First Nations Development Institute Awards $400K to 12 Native Food-System Projects


Kristin ButlerGeorge Toya, farm program manager at the Pueblo of Nambe
Kristin Butler
George Toya, farm program manager at the Pueblo of Nambe


Indian Country Today



First Nations Development Institute announced June 3 that it is divying up $400,000 in grant awards to 12 Native organizations. The grants, made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, were awarded under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.

The NAFSI grant program is intended to help tribes and Native communities build sustainable food systems, increase healthy food access and awareness, and stimulate tribal economic growth and development. The 12 grants range between $20,300 and $37,500 to the following tribes and Native organizations:

Bay Mills Community College, Brimley, Michigan, $37,500

The grant will support the Waishkey Bay Farm 4-H Club and Youth Farm Stand. Waishkey Bay Farm is a sustainable farm and orchard located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The club’s purpose is to recruit tribal youth to help grow, harvest and market fruits and vegetables.

Choctaw Fresh Produce, Choctaw, Mississippi, $37,500

The grant will be used to expand a small community garden. Food from the garden will be sold at the casino restaurant.  Additionally, project organizers plan to sell surplus fruits and vegetables throughout the community via a mobile farmers’ market.  The project aims to increase access to healthy food on the reservation while creating jobs and stimulating economic development.

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Portland, Oregon, $28,125

The grant will assist tribal fishers as they build new relationships with tribes to develop and expand market opportunities for salmon products. The project aims to increase opportunities for the fishers of the Columbia River tribes.

Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, Gallup, New Mexico, $20,300

The funds will be used to help the alliance support the Healthy Diné Nation Act and Junk Food Tax, which was vetoed by the Navajo Nation president in February 2014.  The act seeks to impose a 2 percent sales tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food, and eliminate sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisconsin, $37,500

The grant will be used to build capacity and expand the college’s Sustainable Agriculture Research Station (LSARS). LSARS will increase healthy food access by providing a mobile farmers’ market, online and telephone food-ordering service, and EBT-SNAP purchases.

Lakota Ranch Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, Kyle, South Dakota, $37,500

The grant will be used to establish an active gardening club on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Fruits and vegetables harvested will be sold at a local farmers’ market to promote healthier food choices.

Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Ponca City, Oklahoma, $28,125

The funding will build capacity and expand the local community greenhouse.  The goal is to produce twice as many fruits and vegetables in the expanded greenhouse.  Additionally, the funds will be used to host weekly diabetes health education and cooking classes.

Pueblo of Nambe, Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico, $28,125

The Community Farm Project will focus on expanding to create more traditional meals with locally grown, highly nutritious food items. Nambe Pueblo is a food desert with issues of access and affordability of fresh, local produce. The farm can expand with eventual creation of a marketplace on pueblo land, instituting practices such as composting and seed saving, and working to revitalize Indigenous crops, harvesting wild plants, and raising hormone-free, locally slaughtered meats.

Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Tama, Iowa, $37,500

The grant will build capacity and expand the Meskwaki Grower’s Cooperative. The food co-op launched in 2013 and needs to expand to include a greenhouse, seed-saving program and food-preservation workshops, as well as increasing co-op membership.

Sust’ainable Molokai, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, $37,500

The grant will be used to launch the Molokai Food Hub, which will give the Native Hawaiian farming community better access and control over its local food system. The Food Hub will help accurately manage orders and monitor product quality.

Taos County Economic Development Corporation, Taos, New Mexico, $37, 500

The organization will lead and coordinate the Native Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA), including coordinating board meetings, proactively recruiting and growing the membership base, and moving the organization toward achieving its 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt status. The organization will also coordinate development of a three-year strategic plan and a priority list of policy areas to be addressed.

Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders’ Association, Kamuela, Hawaii, $32,825

The grant will continue to fund the “Farming for the Working class” project and will enable another 10 Native Hawaiian homestead families to start actively farming their fallow land. The program consists of hands-on farm training, paired with classroom-based learning and business training.



Wyoming Governor Visits Washington To Promote Coal Exports

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead talks with Millennium Bulk Terminals general manager Bob Steward about the loading dock at the proposed coal export terminal site in Longview, Washington. | credit: Cassandra Profita
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead talks with Millennium Bulk Terminals general manager Bob Steward about the loading dock at the proposed coal export terminal site in Longview, Washington. | credit: Cassandra Profita

By Cassandra Profita, OPB

LONGVIEW, Wash. — A controversial coal export terminal proposed for this Columbia River town has a big supporter from the state of Wyoming.

Its governor was in Longview Tuesday to tour the old aluminum smelter where the The Millennium Bulk coal export terminal would move up to 44 million tons a year of Wyoming coal off trains and onto ships bound for Asia.

It’s a terminal he says is important to coal producers in his state – especially as the industry faces new regulations on coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said he sees coal exports as way to expand the market for the 400 million tons of coal his state produces annually. He’d like to see more terminals like the Millennium project, which would export up to 44 million tons of coal per year.

“That’s a lot of coal, but relative to the amount of coal we produce it’s 10 percent,” Mead said. “So this port and other ports are important to Wyoming in terms of the coal industry.”

Gov. Mead on the bridge of a ship delivering alumina.


But what he calls “unreasonable” new regulations on coal-fired power plants in the U.S. are making it harder to expand coal markets here. Even before those rules came out, coal producers in his state had been looking for Asian buyers for all that Wyoming coal.

“We’ve got to have a continuation in a real way, in an economical way so these companies can keep going, and exports are part of that future,” Mead said.

Companies hoping to be part of that future have proposed a half-dozen coal export terminals around the Northwest. The three proposals still under consideration face a long permitting process and strong local opposition.

In addition to the Longview export project, coal and transportation companies want to build a train-to-ship facility for coal exports on Puget Sound north of Bellingham. The third proposal would involve transporting coal by train to barge to ocean-going vessel with two transport facilities on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

In all they would help transport roughly 100 million tons of coal annually from Wyoming and Montana to Asia.

Mead said expanding the overseas coal trade with export terminals like Millennium will be good for the U.S. and its trading partners. But not everyone sees the benefits he does.

Mead’s visit sparked a protest from opponents of the Millennium project. Outside the terminal site, about 30 people gathered with a bucket of coal.

Protesters put a bow on a bucket of coal for Mead.


Diane Dick of the opponent group Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community spoke at the protest. She said her group has a bucket of coal that came from Wyoming, and she wants to give it back to Gov. Mead while he’s in town.

“We believe his coal should be kept in the ground in Wyoming,” she said. “We don’t want it here. We don’t want it shipped to Asia, where it will be polluting the skies in Asia and will blow back pollution and creating poisonous air for us.”

Mead followed the terminal site tour by meeting with a group of Washington legislators in Longview. He said he wanted to hear their concerns and help answer their questions to build support for the Millennium project.

Residents Upstream Of Wanapum Dam Make Do With Low Columbia River

Eugene and Karen Penix live in the Sunland vacation community near Vantage, Washington, above Wanapum Dam.Credit Anna King / Northwest News Network
Eugene and Karen Penix live in the Sunland vacation community near Vantage, Washington, above Wanapum Dam.
Credit Anna King / Northwest News Network

May 23, 2014 Anna King

Dramatically lowered water behind the damaged Wanapum Dam in eastern Washington means boaters are out of luck this Memorial Day on that stretch of the Columbia River.

But people who own vacation homes upstream from Wanapum, at Sunland Estates, say they are getting creative for the long weekend.

The drop in the Columbia River has produced a moonscape of vast sandy islands and miles of mudflats.

It’s all clearly visible from Eugene and Karen Penix’s second-story deck — and all that sand has been blowing into their yard. Penix said he and his neighbors have been fighting back that silt with troops of leaf blowers.

For the long weekend the Penix family has stocked up on a lot of chips, burgers and hot dogs.

They have also stocked up on patience. “You know Americans, they just won’t give up. People are buying these kind of almost portable swimming pools made of vinyl,” Penix said with a laugh. “And that’s kind of a new thing.”

Plus, Penix said wineries, the Gorge concerts and the eastern Washington sun are all good distractions.