Outdoors Blog

Utility, state to keep lowered Columbia River reservoir off limits

With weather warming, a holiday coming and salmon running, all public accesses, approaches to the Wanapum Reservoir shoreline on the Columbia River in Central Washington remain closed at least through the Fourth of July.

State and local authorities in cooperation with Grant County Public Utility District barred access to the 37-mile long man-made lake's shoreline after the impoundment's water level was substantially lowered to reduce pressure on Wanapum Dam.

At least 14 PUD, state parks and recreation and state fish and wildlife department facilities were closed shortly after the lake dropped and reports began coming in of visitors getting stuck and stranded on the exposed muddy bottom. The fish and wildlife department has also closed approach roads on the Colockum, L.T. Murray and Columbia Basin wildlife areas in proximity to Wanapum Reservoir.

A structural crack was found in February on a section of the spillway portion of the hydroelectric facility south of Vantage at the Interstate 90 crossing.

State, federal and PUD fisheries specialists also have been scrambling to make sure this year's upstream swimming adult and downstream migrating juvenile salmon and steelhead were able to get by the stricken dam. Irrigators taking water from that section of the Columbia also had to work quickly to reconfigure fish-friendly withdrawal systems before spring crop watering was to begin.

Information and a map on closed Wanapum sites and recreation alternatives above and below the reservoir are listed Grant PUD’s Web site www.grantpud.org.