Plan to remove Bateman Island causeway discussed

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldApril 11, 2014 

Bateman Causeway Aerial

April 5, 2014 - Officials say the Bateman Island causeway will have to be breached to cool down the waters of the Yakima River delta to help increase sockeye and summer Chinook migration. It's uncertain how much of the causeway would be taken out.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

KENNEWICK -- A Kennewick fisherman pointed to an aerial photo showing brown water on the west side of the Bateman Island causeway and clear blue water on the east.

Walt Nelson worried about what would happen if the causeway were removed.

"All the silt in here, it's going to come and fill up that cove," said Nelson, who has fished around the island for 45 years.

Nelson was one of 13 people to attend a Friday meeting about the causeway connecting Bateman Island to the riverfront trail in Richland and its effect on salmon migration.

Another 26 people attended a meeting Tuesday. Both meetings were at Mid-Columbia Libraries' Union Street branch in Kennewick.

Dredging silt is one of the options being considered should all or part of the causeway be removed, said Rebecca Wassell, Yakima Basin program manager for Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group.

The group is looking at putting holes in the 74-year-old causeway because of concerns that it keeps superheated Yakima River water -- which can be 10 degrees warmer than salmon can survive at -- separate from cooler Columbia River water.

"As recreationalists, we enjoy that for a little while, until it gets kind of gross, but for salmon it creates a barrier," she said.

But some were concerned about potential unintended consequences of removing the land bridge.

Darrell Puls of Kennewick, who keeps his 37-foot cabin cruiser at Columbia Park Marina, said removing the causeway could create a current.

"If there's any current in the water, you're going to have boats hitting other boats," he said. "I know this guy who paid $130,000 for his boat. If you have them bumping into each other, it gets to be very expensive."

Nelson also wonders if other problems could be hurting fish migration. He said underwater plants growing in the area could be having an impact.

"That's killing fish because they can't get through that stuff," he said.

Computer models have shown that removing a large part of the causeway would cool water that is now west of the land bridge, Wassell said. But cost estimates have yet to be done on removing the causeway, building a bridge to replace it or dredging the area.

That research is expected to be part of the next phase of the project in 2015, Wassell said.

Those at the meeting were asked to fill out comment cards. Copies of maps showing the water between Bateman Island and the shore with the causeway removed so attendees could draw what they would like to see.

Comments can still be submitted via email at yakima@midcolumbiarfeg.com or by calling 509-281-1311.

People also can get information at www.facebook.com/BatemanIslandCommunity.

Wassell was pleased with how this week's meetings went.

"I was consistently impressed at how open people were talking with each other, and hearing what other people think," she said.

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