POMEROY, Wash. – The Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making progress on cleanup of Illia Dunes recreation area on the Snake River. The area was closed to public use on Monday due to health and safety concerns after heavy visitation and trash accumulation occurring this past weekend. More than 3,000 people visited the popular recreation area Aug. 25 and 26. Many broken bottles and beer cans were left in the water, garbage was strewn about the parking lots, and litter was discarded along the roadway.
Corps staff and a grounds maintenance contractor have cleaned most of the trash from the beach area at Illia Dunes. About 3,000 pounds of trash have been removed as of today including hundreds of Styrofoam coolers. Trash still needs to be removed from the in-water area of the dunes, plus three miles of ditch between Illia Dunes and Lower Granite Dam.
The large crowd was not expected. Typical summer weekend visitation at Illia Dunes is 100 to 300 visitors, with up to 2,000 visitors on long holiday weekends or just before school begins. The Corps did not receive any specific advance requests for group events to be held Aug. 25-26.
The Corps initially received many offers of volunteer cleanup assistance this week from nearby university fraternities and sororities, plus individuals. The Corps initially was not using volunteers to assist with cleanup due to operational and safety concerns. To maintain safety and efficiently manage cleanup, the Corps plans to use a limited number of volunteers this weekend but work only with selected organized groups of volunteers including fraternities and sororities.
Corps officials have not yet decided when to reopen the popular area. Reopening is contingent upon completion of trash cleanup and analysis of water quality. The Corps collected water quality samples to test for water contamination. The beach cannot be reopened until water quality samples are returned and waters are considered safe for public access, and the underwater portion of the beach is cleared of bottles and other debris.
The Corps is also reviewing the incident and policies with an eye toward preventing future similar problems.
Visitors can help keep the area open and clean. Illia Dunes visitors should take their trash with them when they leave, and the Corps provides free bags for that purpose. Designated restrooms are provided.
Alcohol is allowed to be consumed by visitors in a responsible manner, but can be prohibited by the District commander. Glass containers are prohibited on Illia Dunes beach.
More information about Walla Walla District recreation opportunities is available on the District website at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation.aspx.