Part of the fishing area below Grand Coulee Dam is now open for fishing after nearly 13 years of closure.
The area had been closed for the past 13 years due to security issues connected to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and officially re-opened April 15.
To get to the fishing site, people must take the Lone Pine exit from highway 155 to the Downriver Trail Road and park in the designated parking area.
Now open is about a quarter-mile of the pedestrian access trail that will eventually take fishermen to within a stone's throw of the Third Powerhouse.
The newly opened access stops about 150 yards short of a retaining wall near the powerhouse, stated Bureau of Reclamation Public Affairs Officer Lynne Brougher. Eventually, after some added security measures are taken, access will get to within 150 feet of that wall. The opening follows a late 2013 USBR security analysis.
Fishermen were already active this week, walking the trail, and climbing over huge granite boulders, making their way down to the water.
One fisherman took a day off work just so he could claim to be the first one to resume fishing in waters below the dam.
Non-tribal fishermen must have a Tribal Fishing Permit in order to fish in this location. Colville Tribes members must possess a tribal identification card to fish there.
"For safety reasons, we would like the public to be aware that water flows will be picking up during the spring runoff season, so please be careful," Broughers said. "Also, people should keep a look out for signs, and make sure they do not block access areas or well pipes."
The Grand Coulee Dam fishing area on the tribal side will be patrolled by tribal law enforcement and will be open during daylight hours only. Boats are not allowed past the SR-155 Bridge in Coulee Dam. All fishing in this area is in accordance to the Colville Confederated Tribes' fishing regulations for Lake Rufus Woods.
Fishing access was also opened last week by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on the west side of the Columbia River from the gate (near landscapers shed) north below the access road downriver. Fishing and access are not allowed closer to the dam.
"The Colville Tribes and the State of Washington have entered into a second Lake Rufus Woods agreement this past year," said Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Director Randall Friedlander. "One of the goals of this agreement was to provide better access for fishermen as well as provide intergovernmental reciprocity in licensing," Friedlander added.
Colville fishing permits may be purchased in this general area at Coulee Playland, Jackson's Service Station in Nespelem, and at the Trading Post at the agency grounds, as well as numerous other locations.