For Columbia River windsurfers, a massive new sandbar to contend with

Hood River, Ore., is making adjustments after last winter's storm deposit.
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The confounding sandbar at the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers.

Hood River, Ore., is making adjustments after last winter's storm deposit.

Civic leaders and citizens could learn a thing or two from the folks who live and work along Oregon's Hood River. Back in November, landslides and flooding left miles of new sand and debris where the Hood and Columbia rivers meet, shrinking world-famous windsurfing waters and creating a potential tourism nightmare. Local business people and water-sport maniacs quickly got geologic and waterway studies done, then met to ponder the magnitude of the problem and what can be done. The storm left more than 25 miles of sand and beach where the river once flowed, a change that will squeeze the already busy waterway during prime summer surfing. Dredging is cost-prohibitive, especially since another storm could undo any such work. What's striking about all this is the equanimity of folks whose livelihoods and lifestyles are most threatened by Mother Nature's renewal program. Coverage by the Hood River News and the Port of Hood River Web sites show an intelligent approach to the problem. (With involvement of the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association and the Columbia Gorge Kiteboarding Association, a plan for signs, buoys, and flyers was drawn up.) Chatting up several locals there last weekend, from boutique and coffee shop owners to windsurfers suiting up at the river's edge, one sentiment was heard repeatedly: There's good news and bad news here, so let's focus on the good. The bad news is obvious. Tourism dollars tied to park-use permits, equipment purchases, lodging, dining, and other spending could drop if visiting windsurfers are discouraged by reports of limited elbow room on the river. The good news? A bigger beach will appeal to families and less physically able folks, and this storm-spawned change might mean diversification in the colorful and growing tourist community. Windsurfers who live in Hood River year-round might also be forgiven for quietly hoping that this act of nature means they'll end up with just a little bit more time to themselves on their beloved river.


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