THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE GRANT COUNTY PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT AND WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE
GRANT COUNTY PUD
After Grant PUD raised the Wanapum reservoir by 17 feet in December, the utility, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and Washington State Parks have determined that the reservoir can reopen to the public at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 7.
Working in conjunction with other hydroelectric operators on the Columbia River, Grant PUD began raising the reservoir on Nov. 25 and finished on Dec. 1. After a thorough evaluation, the utility will restore public access to most of the shoreline.
CONTRACTORS WORK ON THE FACE OF WANAPUM DAM, WHICH UNEXPECTEDLY DEVELOPED A CRACK LAST WINTER AND REQUIRED A MAJOR LOWERING OF THE RESERVOIR BEHIND IT. (GRANT COUNTY PUD)
Two boat launches are operational at the current river level – Grant PUD’s Wanapum Upper Boat Launch and the watercraft launch at Wanapum State Park just south of Vantage. With the reopening of the reservoir, Washington State Parks will open the Wanapum State Park launch for daily access from 8 a.m. to dusk. Camping at the park remains on its regular winter schedule, open for camping only on weekends and holidays until March 1. The park will resume a daily operating schedule for campground and day use facilities after March 1, for the 2015 season.
The following recreation-site locations on the reservoir remain closed because of inoperable boat launches, unstable shorelines or ongoing recreation site improvements:
- Sand Hollow Recreation Area
- Vantage Boat Launch and Day-Use Area
- Frenchman Coulee Boat Launch
- Sunland Boat Launch
- Yo Yo Rock Boat Launch and Recreation Area
- Quilomene Dune and Bay
- West Bar
- Crescent Bar Boat Launch and portions of Crescent Bar Island
- Grant PUD property in the Tarpiscan Creek area
- Grant PUD property off Columbia Siding Road
Closed shoreline areas are marked with no trespassing signs. To ensure public safety, Grant PUD personnel and law enforcement officials will continue to patrol and enforce trespassing laws in these locations.
Those visiting the shoreline and reservoir are cautioned to be aware that sections of the shoreline may still be unstable. Boaters should be mindful of shallow-water hazards and heed all warning signs and barriers near the dam. Grant PUD continues to monitor and evaluate conditions on the shoreline and will notify the public if the situation changes.
The entire shoreline and access points were closed to the public last March after Grant PUD had to draw down the reservoir by 26 feet in response to a fracture discovered on the Wanapum Dam Spillway. After completing enough work to stabilize and re-enforce the spillway, the utility received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to raise the reservoir.
Work continues on the Wanapum Dam spillway, and Grant PUD expects to have enough repairs finished to return the reservoir to normal operations by the start of the 2015 recreation season.
For additional information on the Wanapum Dam issue, visit: http://www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/wanapum-dam-spillway-response.
While most of the Wanapum reservoir on the Columbia River will reopen for public use today, two boat launches and some shorelines owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in the upper basin will remain closed until spring.
Most areas of the 37-mile reservoir have been closed to the public since last March, when Grant County Public Utility District greatly lowered water levels to repair a fractured spillway at Wanapum Dam, near Vantage.
Since stabilizing the dam, the utility has raised water levels behind the dam to a point where access can be reopened to the southern end of the reservoir. But water levels farther north in the West Bar and Quilomene areas remain too low to open to the public, said Jim Brown, WDFW regional director for northcentral Washington.
“We’re pleased that work on the dam has proceeded to this point, but we still need higher water levels to reopen some areas of the upper shoreline for public use,” Brown said.
WDFW-owned lands scheduled to remain closed at least until March 31 include:
The Sunland Estates and Yo Yo boat ramps, north of Vantage.
Portions of the shoreline upriver from Sunland Estates, marked by closure signs.
In addition, all off-road vehicles are currently prohibited on all exposed WDFW shorelines and beaches along the Wanapum reservoir, whether or not they are posted as closed.
Brown noted that WDFW made major improvements to the Sunland Estates and Yo Yo boat launches while water levels were low, installing armor matting at the end of those ramps to prevent boat trailers from “bottoming out.” Using those ramps under current low-water conditions could damage the new matting as well as boats and trailers.
The department has also posted signs prohibiting access to portions of the northern reservoir to protect recovering vegetation, riparian habitat, and cultural sites exposed by the low-water conditions.
Brown said WDFW expects to remove all restrictions on public access in time for the 2015 summer recreation season, when Grant County PUD plans to raise water levels in the Wanapum reservoir to normal levels.
For more information about developments at Wanapum reservoir, see Grant County PUD’s website at http://www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/wanapum-dam-spillway-response .