Saturday, May 5, 2012/lk
In response to seasonal high water on the Columbia River, the Port of Hood River Board of Directors voted this week to give Michael McElwee, port executive director, the authority to extend the April 30 deadline for kiteboard landing and launching from the Hood River Event Site.
The move, requested by the Columbia Gorge Kiteboarding Association and supported by the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association, gives McElwee the flexibility through May to make a judgment call as to how long to allow mixed-use access at the event site.
“We’re basically implementing the same plan as last spring,” McElwee said. “Based on the way things went last year, the commission was comfortable with this as a reasonable and necessary response to high water.”
The high water contingency plan divides the Event Site roughly in half, with windsurfing allowed from the west side, kiteboard landing and launching from the east and a safety corridor directly offshore for coming and going only.
At issue for kiteboarding during high water is limited access to the river around the Hood River Waterfront. When the sandbar is underwater, kiteboarders are left without a reasonable, beginner-friendly place get on and off of the water. With steadily increasing numbers of both residents and visitors participating in the sport, and choosing Hood River’s doorstep to do it, the need for safe and organized kiteboarding access at the waterfront is higher now than ever.
McElwee noted that, based on snowpack data and river forecasts, the typical spring runoff that causes high water is not expected to linger nearly as long as it did last year. It could, however, be well into May before the Hood River Sandbar is above water for the remainder of the summer.
“It’s important to accommodate the continued growth of users in the sport,” said Pepi Gerald, CGKA president and downtown business owner. “Even this early in the season, many people are coming from out of town to kiteboard here, and it is of great benefit to Hood River businesses and the community to ensure access to the river is kept as close to town as possible.”
McElwee said he will keep an eye on the situation and on forecasts. He will make the call to close the Event Site when it appears the sandbar will be above water for the remainder of the summer. Signage at the Event Site will indicate usage areas and will be updated when kiteboarding is restricted.