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Exposed Shoreline Behind Damaged Wanapum Dam Closed To Public

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Grant County engineers have lowered water behind the Wanapum Dam to ease pressure on the crack in part of its spillway.

Officials in Grant County, Wash., are asking the public to stay away from the shoreline behind the damaged Wanapum Dam.

They drew down the level of the reservoir to take pressure off a cracked portion of the spillway. But the freshly exposed shoreline creates its own safety hazards.

A lot of people were showing up to get a look at a swath of the Columbia River bank that hadn't been seen in decades. But the long-submerged shoreline turned out to be unstable. On Wednesday night, firefighters had to rescue a woman who had been sucked into the wet sand up to her waist.

Tom Stredwick, a spokesman for the Grand County Public Utility District, says they've posted signs about the closure and are actively patrolling the area.

“I think the last thing we want is for a bad situation to be made worse by members of the public being endangered while out there along the shoreline,” he says.

The utility this week downgraded the damage on the Wanapum Dam to “non-failure emergency” -- that means stable. Stredwick says they’re sending down divers and a remote control underwater camera to get a better idea of the extent of the fracture on the upriver side of the dam.

Meanwhile, the county coroner determined some human bones that were discovered on the newly exposed shore are Native American and had been there at least 75 years.