The second quarter of 2011 saw extraordinary gains for Gorge air quality, restoration of the White Salmon River, and recreation projects throughout the Gorge, as well as outdoor education for Gorge middle-school students. These gains are all the more powerful as they occurred in this 25th Anniversary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act.
Between May-July 2011, Friends of the Columbia Gorge:
- Secured the 2020 shutdown of the PGE Boardman coal-fired power plant. PGE's coal-fired power plant in Boardman, OR has been operating since its inception without pollution controls. It is the #1 source of haze-causing pollutants in Oregon, the state's biggest contributor to global warming, and is responsible for up to 50% of the air pollution in the Columbia Gorge when Gorge air quality is at its worst.
In July 2011, a settlement was reached between Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a coalition of five other environmental groups, and PGE. The agreement cuts the amount of sulfur dioxide PGE can emit by at least 3,000 tons below the requirements of state rules passed in December 2010, and it requires the plant to cease burning coal by the end of 2020. The agreement also requires PGE to pay $2.5 million into a fund for environmental restoration and job-creating clean energy projects in Oregon.
This settlement is a huge victory for Gorge air quality and for the health of those who live and recreate in the region.
- Helped secure the removal of Condit Dam, restoring the White Salmon River. For several years, Friends has worked with allies Friends of the White Salmon and others to secure removal of Condit Dam, which has blocked fish passage on the White Salmon River since 1913. The dam is now scheduled to be breached and removed on October 26, 2011.
Removal of the dam will restore a free-flowing river and reopen areas for fishing and whitewater recreation. The National Marine Fisheries Service reports that dam removal will reopen 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and 14 miles for salmon. The dam will be the second-highest dam removed to date in the United States.
- Provided outdoor education to over 200 middle-school students living in the Gorge. Through the Clausen Youth Education Program, Friends provided environmental education to the sixth-grade students of Jemtegaard and Canyon Creek Middle Schools in Clark County, WA. Many of these students live in the Columbia Gorge, and many expressed little knowledge of the wonders "right in their backyard" before the program. Friends and volunteers led the students in a restoration project planting trees, in learning about plant ecology, on a hike and scavenger hunt, and in a presentation on Lewis & Clark history (complete with hatchet-throwing and salmon jerky). Teachers and students alike gave rave reviews for the outdoor experience and the education they gained. Friends looks forward to conducting the program for a fifth year in 2012, and expanding the program to other school systems in the future.
- Helped create new recreation opportunities through the National Scenic Area. Friends has worked for over 25 years to establish a park and trail at Cape Horn, a bluff near Washougal, WA. In August, Friends will oversee the dedication of the Cape Horn Overlook, a new viewpoint on the Cape Horn Trail providing breathtaking views of the Gorge. The viewpoint stands on the site of what was once a 5,000-square-foot home; Friends' Land Trust purchased the home in 2006, removed it, recycled 70% of the materials, and conveyed the property to the U.S. Forest Service. Now it and its scenic beauty are public for all to enjoy.
Moreover, Friends is working to complete the Mosier Plateau Trail, the first project in our Gorge Towns to Trails Campaign. The Mosier Plateau Trail will connect from the Mosier Plateau, a bluff owned by Friends Land Trust above the city of Mosier, OR, to the Mosier City Park, site of Mosier Creek Falls and a beautiful swimming hole. Visitors will be able to access the trail directly from the urban area of Mosier. The project will provide nearly two miles of new trail and scenic views previously unavailable to the public.
Friends looks forward to even greater successes in this 25th Anniversary year of Gorge protection -- as well as to the November 2011 birthday bash for the National Scenic Area!
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