Lower Granite Reopens
by Eric Barker
Limited crossing allowed at dam
Security is easing a bit at Lower Granite Lock and Dam.
Starting Wednesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will allow some passenger vehicles to cross the dam that spans the lower Snake River 35 miles west of Clarkston.
Lower Granite and all other corps dams in the region were closed to vehicle traffic following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Thus far, Lower Granite Dam is the only one that is re-opening to vehicle traffic. Corps officials will allow traffic to cross the dam on a six-month trial basis, according to Walla Walla District spokeswomen Nola Conway at Walla Walla.
The corps will allow passenger cars, motorcycles, open trucks, recreational vehicles, small vans and farm equipment to cross the dam from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Fuel trucks, large commercial vehicles and trucks, vehicles hauling flammable or explosive cargo and vehicles that cannot be easily searched will not be allowed to cross.
Conway said officials will not hesitate to close the dam if they believe security is compromised.
"If the (terrorist) threat level goes up at all there is a good possibility it will be closed," she said.
Before the 9-11 attacks, corps dams were open to vehicle traffic and in many cases were used essentially as bridges over the rivers they span. Conway said the agency would like to restore some of the transportation routes the dams once provided.
"Lower Granite is a very important crossing point for people."
When open, the dam will be the only driveable span across the river between Red Wolf Crossing at Clarkston and Central Ferry on State Route 127.
Closing corps dams to traffic was one of a number of security measures the agency took following 9-11. Seeing the dams as potential targets that if attacked could cost lives and disrupt power supplies and transportation routes, the corps also scrubbed its Web site of schematics and other drawings of its projects.
However, Conway said information about the dams and their construction and operation is still "out there" in other venues.
The dams have been a focal point of the effort to recover threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Some of that effort has focused on structural fixes at the dams to aid fish passage.
Many private companies and academic institutions were given schematics to the dams to aid in engineering associated with fish passage as well as energy production.
"Some of those still do exist out there," said Conway. "We realize that work still needs to be done."
For those who cross Lower Granite Dam, these rules have been established:
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