Sometimes a simple question leads one down old roads. Old roads aren’t so bad. They give a glimpse into the past and an appreciation for local places. Going down old roads also lead to discovering how local life circles around many things to enclose a greater area than expected.
Take the far north corner of the beachers’ world… the Wynooche Dam, to be exact. It gets forgotten in the winter. Yet there it is — the snap on the purse that holds the entire lower county. In that purse are cities, farmlands, fishing streams, timberlands, roads, highways and great big pipes.
Pipeline to prosperity
It is the pipes that prompted Doug Zimmer’s simple question, “That big pipe along Morrison Riverfront Park, does it run along the old highway?”
The short answer is yes. But the big question is why is the pipe there in the first place and what does Morrison Riverfront Park have to do with the North Beach?
Well, it all has to do with the dream of the Wynooche Dam that began in 1925 when a common working guy, a mechanic, Joe Malinowski, who held the first water rights on the Wynooche River, gave the rights to the city — not to get rich — but to make a way for the future of the county.
He had received the water rights from his uncle, George Weatherwax, who had homesteaded the Wynooche Valley. Of course, long before the first homesteader, the valley was home to the Wynooche band of Indians, a sub-tribe of the present day Quinaults.
In May, 1927, Aberdeen voters authorized a $1.6 million bond issue to build a diversions works from the Wynooche River and an 8.1 mile, 60-inch tunnel from the river to the Van Winkle Creek Reservoir — now called Aberdeen Lake — to store 5,200 acre-feet of water. And, it was probably the old miners who were scattered from the Lake Quinault area throughout the river system that had the dirt-knowledge to get the tunnel dug.
This freed the Wishkah River for domestic water supply and gave the burgeoning mill population a supply of water. Ten years later, the Grays Harbor Paper Company changed from the Hoquiam river supply to Wynooche water, as well.
Mike Lentz and Steve Warnken, the go-to-guys at the Aberdeen Public Works Department, dug out old maps to show just how the water got to all those mills at Junction City, those lining the Chehalis River, and those along the Harbor waterfront to Hoquiam.
The massive, 60-inch original wooden stave piping crossed over the old Olympic Highway and through the Lewis Dale Tracts, dropped down to a 54-inch size to go through Elliot Slough to Junction City past the A.J. West Lumber Co. and the old Bishop Mill, then swing back up east of Argent Boulevard to the Standard Oil Company, which is now Lakeside Industries, to run alongside the Olympic Highway.
During the 1960s, the oil stave line weakened, blew apart, and a government grant upgraded the trade-out to a steel line. So, today’s walkers at Morrison Riverfront Park can look toward today’s Highway 101 and see the waterline that brought industry to the Harbor.
And what did the creation of Wynooche Lake above the dam give the beachers’ besides a place to go in the summer? Bragging rights, that’s what. Without this North County $22 million project, the core area might be in a world of hurt.
corps study starts construction
As demand grew, Aberdeen began studies to increase the municipal water supply, which forced Congress to seek a 1964 review from the Army Corps of Engineers.
As a result, not only would the Aberdeen industrial water supply source be settled, but also flood control and reduction of pollution for the Chehalis River. Studies of the 5100-acre flood plain found that 3,980 acres would be suitable for farming with 575 acres suitable for forestry. An additional 545 acres was virtually useless for development.
The Harbor extending to the North Beach area would benefit from effects of less pollution and shoaling. The study indicated that harbor pollution was largely created by biochemical oxygen demand equal to a population of a half million people.
The ability to provide flood control for the Chehalis Valley would cut down the sediment load into the harbor by one-third and reduce shoaling by 10 percent.
Dam benefits flow
After the location for the Wynooche Dam was selected 37 miles north of Montesano on the eastern edge of the north county, work began in earnest and the dam was completed in October 1972. It was dedicated in August of 1973 with Representatives Julia Butler Hanson, Henry M. Jackson and Senator Warren G. Magnuson in attendance. By then, the basin behind the damn had filled in to a normal lake depth of 164-feet for a distance of 4.4 miles in length.
The Beachers gained 1,034 acres of four wildlife management areas in their backyard. Along with the usual bear, elk, deer and blue grouse, the new habitat created sported Goldeneye, wood ducks and hooded mergansers.
The spawning tributaries near the mouth of the Wynooche River carry native coho, steelhead, Dolly Varden and other migrating species 62 miles to the falls into the beachers’ territory. Such a deal.
Yeah, simple questions sometimes lead to old roads and new appreciation.
Gene Woodwick can be reached at (360) 289-2805 or via email at email@example.com.