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March 8, 2014 at 7:05 PM

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Drawdown reveals a stark landscape not seen in decades


The drawdown of 26 feet of water behind Wanapum Dam in Grant County -- to relieve pressure after a crack was discovered in one of the spillways Feb. 24 -- has exposed riverbanks and mud flats not seen since the reservoir was filled in 1964.

The detritus includes a circa-1990s Jet Ski, untold numbers of plastic bottles and cups, plastic chairs, a tent, tree stumps and human remains.

The lower water has left a sailboat and the docks in Vantage high and dry, hundreds of yards from the Columbia River.

The dam continues to generate electricity but at a reduced level.

Exposed mudflats have brought the curious to 36 miles of river between Wanapum Dam and Rock Island Dam upstream.

That's led officials to close shoreline areas exposed below the high-water mark.

The Wanapum Dam Overlook high above the Columbia River remains open.

It's not known when the dam will be fixed.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A sailboat sits high and dry, hundreds of yards from the river.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A fresh boot print and a desiccated crayfish are seen on the mud flat at Vantage. The mud flats and riverbanks are unstable, so Grant County has closed all shoreline upstream to Rock Island Dam, about 36 miles. Downstream, boat launches on the Wanapum and Priest Rapids dam reservoirs are also closed.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A marina dock at Vantage, Kittitas County, is now well away from the Columbia River. The group of people went exploring before officials closed the shoreline.

For more photos, visit the gallery.

Most Popular Comments
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"The detritus includes a circa-1990s Jet Ski, untold numbers of plastic bottles... MORE
Yeah, when the mud stabilizes how about cleaning up some of that garbage? I'd volunteer... MORE
So, are they going to clean up the mess before refilling the dam? Have they checked... MORE

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