Tag Archives: geezer beach

Geezers (And Others) Will Now Have To Walk Down To Grand Coulee Fishing Beach

Despite a reported 33 of 34 commenters being opposed to banning parking at Geezer Beach, parking will no longer be allowed at the popular lower Lake Roosevelt bank fishery.

A FISHERMAN TENDS THEIR LINE AT GEEZER BEACH ON JAN. 8, 2019. (HANK WIEBE)

Local anglers and the town of Coulee Dam had fought the Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal this past winter, but citing “safety concerns” the federal agency will now block off vehicle entry to the fishy spot on the reservoir’s north bank just above Grand Coulee Dam.

Trouters and others will still be able to fish there, but will now have to walk in from a parking area at roughly the 1,300-foot-elevation mark down to the water, the level of which can fluctuate as low as the 1,220-foot mark over the course of a year. This year it went as low as 1,258 feet.

“It’s just bullsh*t,” reacted Northwest Sportsman reader Hank Weibe, who earlier this year said that due to his disabilities, the beach was “one of the few places I can access.”

For fellow angler Bob Minato, who reported that he suffers from heart disease, diabetes and poor circulation, Geezer is perfect for fishing out of his vehicle.

“Before I became disabled, I used to spend all six weeks of my vacation in Grand Coulee. Now I spend even more time in Grand Coulee and Eastern Washington,” he wrote to BOR.

With the lake near full pool now, the change won’t realistically go into effect until some time in early 2020 when water levels will drop to make room for spring runoff, per BOR spokeswoman Lynne Brougher.

REMINGTON WIEBE SHOWS OFF A NICE RAINBOW CAUGHT OFF GEEZER BEACH WHILE FISHING WITH HER GRANDPA, HANK, WHO HOPED TO KEEP THE ACCESS SITE OPEN TO DRIVE-DOWN ANGLING. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The feds essentially went along with a request from the Colville Tribes.

“We support the use of suitable areas for fishing or other appropriate recreational activities. However, driving on the drawdown is not an acceptable practice,” stated Chairman Rodney Cawston in comments citing public safety, protecting archeological resources and a ban on driving on the lakebed everywhere else on the reservoir.

However, in comments to BOR, Coulee Dam officials said that over the past four decades they’d never heard of any vehicle ever going into the water at Geezer Beach.

A former worker at the dam told The Star of Grand Coulee, which followed the story closely since last December, that the area had been “reworked and completely modified through the construction of the Dam’s history” while being used for staging, though a BOR assessment says that three places at or near there do have tribal names.

Banning parking on the beach but continuing to allow fishing was one of three alternatives federal managers evaluated.

Another was completely barring access, while the third was no change.

“… Cars, trucks, all-terrain vehicles and recreational vehicles will be required to park in designated parking areas and will not be allowed to drive or park on the shoreline or drawdown,” BOR said in a press release announcing the change.

The new rules for what’s known as BOR’s Reclamation Zone will be enforced by the Colville Tribes, the feds say.

Mobility-impaired Angler Trying To Save Access To Popular Lake Roosevelt Beach

A disabled Lake Roosevelt angler and local officials are concerned that access to a good fishing hole just above Grand Coulee Dam might be reduced, or even lost entirely.

That’s because the Bureau of Reclamation is mulling the future management of Geezer Beach, a top spot to plunk for chunky rainbow trout during the winter and early spring.

A FISHERMAN TENDS THEIR LINE AT GEEZER BEACH ON JAN. 8, 2019. (HANK WIEBE)

Hank Wiebe, a Northwest Sportsman reader who fishes there more days than not from January through June, is leading the charge to keep the area open to all.

He’s been working hard to get the word out, circulating a petition at area businesses, writing letters to the local paper and his federal lawmakers, and more.

“Due to my disabilities, this beach provides one of the few places I can access … fish,” Wiebe explained in comments sent to BOR last month during a “pre-scoping period” identifying issues to address ahead of an environmental assessment that is expected later this winter. “There is a strong group of fishermen, with varying degrees of limited mobility, who often fish alongside me.”

The Town of Grand Coulee resident describes himself as a heart attack survivor who has suffered an aortic aneurysm, and has COPD and other medical issues that combine to make walking very far “tough.”

“Not to mention a fall on the rocks would exacerbate all of the above issues, so being able to drive to this location is about my only choice for fishing from shore,” Wiebe says.

Over the years he and his family have sent us numerous pictures of themselves, including Wiebe’s granddaughter Remington, enjoying success at Geezer Beach during Lake Roosevelt’s annual winter drawdown, when anglers drive down the lakebed from a parking area and cast their lines out.

REMINGTON WIEBE SHOWS OFF A NICE RAINBOW CAUGHT OFF GEEZER BEACH IN WINTER 2015 WHILE FISHING WITH HER GRANDPA, HANK, WHO HOPES TO KEEP THE DRIVE-DOWN ACCESS SITE OPEN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Indeed, it’s an opportunity that draws anglers from “as far away as Seattle,” Robert Poch, Coulee Dam’s mayor pro tem, wrote in his city’s official comments to BOR.

And those people “stay in our local motels, eat at our restaurants and patron our stores. The Town of Coulee Dam already struggles to maintain with the limited revenue sources it receives today.”

While the municipality fancies itself as the “green oasis at the foot of Grand Coulee Dam,” Poch worries that fewer visitors will lead to reduced sales and hotel tax revenues.

His letter stated that the city council “expressed very strong feelings against” BOR’s proposed changes.

The Star, a weekly newspaper, covered the story in a series of front-page pieces last month, and it reported that the federal agency is responding to the Colville Tribes’ issues with vehicles driving on the beach.

A PAIR OF RIGS PARKED AT GEEZER BEACH ON JAN. 8, 2019. (HANK WIEBE)

“This is a concern for both protection of cultural resources, and protection of water quality,” a tribal official stated in an email quoted for a Dec. 26 Star story, adding that driving on the lakebed is otherwise prohibited on Roosevelt but not enforced at Geezer Beach, which sets a bad example and creates an enforcement headache.

In its press release announcing a call for public comment, BOR said that entering the drawdown area in a vehicle represents a public safety risk “because these vehicles can become stuck, roll into the reservoir, or become abandoned.”

REMINGTON WIEBE TAKES A NAP AT GEEZER BEACH FOLLOWING A SUPER-EARLY WAKE UP TO GO FISHING THERE IN 2015 WITH HER GRANDFATHER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

That’s not something Coulee Dam officials have seen, however.

“For more than 40 years, we cannot recall ever hearing of an incident where a vehicle has been stuck, driven or rolled into the reservoir or been an accident at Geezer Beach. The access roads, which have been in existence since the 1960’s, are well established and have been packed down, providing a firm surface for vehicles to travel on,” Mayor Poch wrote.

Photographs Wiebe took of different parts of the beach on Jan. 8 showed it to be remarkably clean of the type of trash one usually finds, unfortunately, at fishing accesses.

“All my fishing buddies and I strive to keep this area litter free,” he notes.

LOOKING TOWARD GRAND COULEE DAM FROM A PORTION OF GEEZER BEACH ON JAN. 8, 2019. (HANK WIEBE)

This is not to say that locations significant to the Colville Tribes haven’t been impacted by settlement, development, dam building and other activities or shouldn’t be protected, but in that Dec. 26 story, Greg Behrens told The Star that during a three-decade-long career working at Grand Coulee he did geological and geographic studies of the area, and that Geezer Beach was “reworked and completely modified through the construction of the Dam’s history” while being used for staging.

“If the concern for the allowed vehicle access is based on ‘cultural resource preservation’ then the prior construction activities have made this a non-issue. This includes the nearshore environment well below the accessible areas today,” Behrens told reporter Jacob Wagner.

There have been state-tribal tensions this decade over fishing at Geezer Beach and management of Lake Roosevelt.

PLUNKING POWER BAIT IS A GOOD WAY TO LOAD UP A STRINGER WITH LOWER LAKE ROOSEVELT TROUT. THIS NICE BUNCH WAS CAUGHT DURING A LATE JANUARY 2014 OUTING BY TIM AND JO WIEBE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Closing off access to Geezer entirely was one of three alternatives that BOR was gathering public comment on last month for the upcoming environmental assessment, or EA.

Another focuses on restricting parking to designated areas just off an access road from Coulee Dam and that sit at roughly the 1300-foot elevation mark. That would still allow angling but make it much more difficult for mobility-impaired anglers like Wiebe to reach the water when Roosevelt dips to as low as 1,220 feet in midspring.

The third is for maintaining the status quo.

ANGLERS FISH FROM GEEZER BEACH EARLY LAST MONTH. WATER LEVELS VARY FROM 1280 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL DOWN TO 1220 FEET AS LAKE ROOSEVELT IS DRAWN DOWN IN WINTER AND EARLY SPRING TO CONTAIN SNOWPACK RUNOFF FROM THE UPPER COLUMBIA RIVER WATERSHED AND GENERATE ELECTRICITY. (JACOB WAGNER, THE STAR)

“With the information gathered from the input we received, Reclamation will now write a draft EA and it will be available for public comment,” says Lynne Brougher, a BOR spokeswoman at the agency’s Grand Coulee office. “At this time, we anticipate that the draft EA will be available for comment in February and a final decision will be made this spring.”

Lake Roosevelt is so huge that it is part of two different Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regions, and the managers of both — Steve Pozzanghera and Jim Brown in Spokane and Ephrata, respectively — say they will be watching for the EA to come out so the agency can submit comments.

“We would hope they wouldn’t do an outright closure,” says Brown of BOR’s alternatives. “Their problem statement makes that seem a bit extreme, on its face. If it is about vehicles, that is seemingly an excessive step, when nothing in the scoping description goes beyond the stated problem being with vehicles.”

“We should be advocating for continued public access — the issue will be foot traffic versus vehicle entry,” adds Pozzanghera.

For Hank Wiebe, the latter is preferred.

“There’s many of us fishermen who have medical issues and need areas like this to enjoy/teach grandkids all about fishing,” he says.