Spillway | Bridgeport, WA | May 2020
Controlling the Columbia River’s flow through 14 dams in two countries seems impossible. Even with computers, the act of balancing natural forces (rain, snowmelt, evaporation, fish migration) with human factors (power, irrigation, recreation, domestic water supplies and, oh yeah, politics) boggles the mind. After all, a gully-washer at the Canadian headwaters could mean boat docks will rise in Kennewick, about 600 river miles away. Upstream becomes midstream becomes downstream in one smooth course. (Always a good metaphor for life.) I mostly trust hydro authorities to get us through these ups and downs. Yet I’ve learned on recent river walks to note incremental changes — water levels, stream speeds, who coughs where — just in case there’s a glitch. In the flow of current events, I’ve come to expect glitches.
[In photo: Spring gush at Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River upstream from Bridgeport.]