River and trail users cautioned to stay away from exposed banks; be alert to fluctuating water levels
WENATCHEE – With safety as the top priority, Chelan County PUD continues to respond to rapid changes in river conditions as water levels are lowered in response to conditions downstream at Grant PUD’s Wanapum Dam.
On Sunday, Chelan PUD activated the Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams as a means to alert emergency responders to the much lower water levels and to limited river access in the reservoirs behind its two dams. Chelan PUD’s top priority is protecting public and employee health and safety.
In addition, power generation is being adjusted at both dams to protect the reliability of equipment as river conditions fluctuate and to ensure the safety of PUD employees. Analysis by PUD engineers has determined its dams are safe and stable.
Chelan PUD staff is closely coordinating with counterparts at Douglas and Grant PUDs on response issues arising from lower river levels.
Water levels at Rock Island Dam, about 15 miles south of Wenatchee, could be as much as 10 feet below normal operating levels. The river level behind Rocky Reach Dam, seven miles north of Wenatchee, could be as much as 5 feet lower than normal.
Chelan PUD is taking this action in response to the Columbia River being lowered downstream by Grant County PUD to relieve pressure on the impacted section of Wanapum Dam and to allow Grant PUD to inspect the damage. Wanapum Dam is south of the Interstate 90 bridge that crosses the Columbia River near Vantage.
To ensure public safety, Chelan PUD has closed boat ramps in all its parks on the Rock Island reservoir between Rock Island Dam and Rocky Reach. The PUD is evaluating the need to close boat ramps along the Rocky Reach reservoir.
Chelan PUD also urges people to stay away from riverbanks and mud flats because of concerns about the stability of the exposed areas as the water recedes. There may be impacts to private docks above Rock Island Dam and below Rocky Reach Dam. Property owners should use caution. These historically low conditions leave shoreline areas exposed. All recreationists need to exercise prudence and caution to avoid hazards and rapidly changing river levels.
Chelan PUD Natural Resources staff is analyzing potential environmental impacts associated with adult and juvenile fish passage at the projects due to these unusual river conditions. Staff is coordinating closely with natural resource agencies and with tribes.