In the second quarter of 2012, Friends of the Columbia Gorge experienced both successes and challenges in its ongoing mission to protect and preserve the resources of the Columbia River Gorge. We continued to build support and visibility for our campaign to stop coal trains in the Gorge, won key support for our Gorge Towns to Trails comprehensive trail vision, and celebrated the end of a 20-year effort to reclaim a wild river while simultaneously mobilizing to prevent a threat that would undermine the same river.
Here are some of the highlights of the second quarter of 2012:
- Stop Coal Trains in the Gorge. As coal companies stepped up their public-relations campaign to make the Gorge a rail-and-barge conduit for hundreds of millions of tons of Asia-bound coal, Friends and its allies continued to educate the public and build community support against the coal export proposals. Our side won a significant victory when one of the six pending coal terminal proposals (Grays Harbor, WA) was scrapped. One down, five to go!
- Gorge Towns to Trails: Making the Connection. Gorge Towns to Trails is a vision for a comprehensive trail system around the Columbia Gorge, linking communities with tourism, and highlighting and enhancing the beauty and wonder of the Columbia Gorge. Launched in October 2011 at Mosier Plateau, volunteers, funders and the community of Mosier have come together in trail building to connect Pocket Park and Mosier Creek to the Plateau with its Gorge panoramas and Mosier Valley views. We have continued to win community and business support for Gorge Towns to Trails and recently won a crucial endorsement letter from a U.S. Congressional delegation that includes all four senators from Oregon and Washington, plus House Rep. Earl Bluemnauer.
- The White Salmon River is free, but fish face a new threat. For 99 years, Condit Dam blocked the path for salmon trying to swim upstream to their natural spawning waters on Washington's White Salmon. That all changed this past summer. A 20-year effort to remove Condit Dam (it was initially breached in fall 2011) reached a thrilling end when steelhead were observed returning up the newly freed river. Demolition crews recently finished removing the last vestiges of Condit Dam. But unfortunately, the threat of overdevelopment along the White Salmon River could undo this hard-earned victory. Friends is currently taking part in a legal action that seeks to overturn a county decision that would allow higher-density residential development along a crucial stretch of the river. This construction would pose a serious threat to the ecological balance of the river and imperil the returning fish.