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Residents Upstream Of Wanapum Dam Make Do With Low Columbia River

Anna King
Docks are high and dry for the long weekend near Eugene and Karen Penix's home at Sunland Estates near Vantage, Washington.

The dramatic drawdown of the water behind the damaged Wanapum Dam in eastern Washington means boaters are out of luck on that stretch of the Columbia River.

Those who own vacation homes upstream from Wanapum at Sunland Estates say they are getting creative for the long weekend.

The drop in the Columbia River has produced a moonscape of vast sandy islands and miles of mudflats. It’s all clearly visible from Eugene Penix’s second-story deck, and all that sand has been blowing into their yard.

Penix and his neighbors have been fighting back that silt with troops of leaf blowers. For the long weekend, Penix and his family have stocked up on “lot of chips, lot of burgers, lot of hot dogs” as well as patience, he said.

“You know, Americans — they just won’t give up. People are buying these kind of almost portable swimming pools made of vinyl,” he said, laughing. “And that’s kind of a new thing.”

Plus, Penix says wineries, the Gorge concerts and the eastern Washington sun are all good distractions.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.