15-058 Corps, WSU, Sheriff’s Office team up to encourage safe play at Illia Dunes

Published Sept. 3, 2015
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Chris Lorz (left) and Washington State University Police Officer Matthew Kuhrt patrol Illia Dunes June 20. The Corps, WSU and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office conduct patrols of popular party spots on the Snake River to help keep conditions safe for all visitors to enjoy.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Chris Lorz (left) and Washington State University Police Officer Matthew Kuhrt patrol Illia Dunes June 20. The Corps, WSU and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office conduct patrols of popular party spots on the Snake River to help keep conditions safe for all visitors to enjoy.

POMEROY, Wash. – With autumn’s chill beginning to creep into nighttime temperatures, many people flock to riverside recreation areas to bank-up on some outdoor fun in the sun.

Illia Dunes, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers habitat management area located on the Snake River about 3 miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam, has proven a popular end-of-summer gathering place. In recent past years, thousands of visitors – mostly college-aged – have converged on the dunes during Labor Day weekend.

After an Aug. 25-26, 2012, unexpected weekend bash left more than 3,000 pounds of trash, human waste and broken glass in its wake, Corps staff had no choice but to temporarily close the dunes until cleanup efforts made it safe again for visitors. Although not all of the weekend partiers were their students, an organized group of volunteers from Washington State University provided some clean-up assistance.

When partiers again trashed the dunes Sept. 6, 2014, another closure and cleanup effort was necessary. Two organized groups of WSU volunteers helped with the trash, and the university’s administration offered to help deter future incidents of misuse of the habitat area.

The WSU Police Department joined the Corps and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, under cooperative agreements, to help patrol popular college student party spots on the Snake River – primarily the Corps-managed Illia Dunes near Lower Granite Dam and Granite Point near Wawawai Landing.

“We're used to dealing with large groups of students – patrolling football games and other well-attended campus events have made us very familiar with the college-aged crowds. We’re happy to help keep our students, and others, safe during periods of unexpectedly high numbers of visitors,” said Cpl. Matthew Kuhrt, a WSU policeman. “Ultimately, we want to help keep the dunes open and safe for everyone’s enjoyment.”

And it seems to be working, according to Corps staff at the Lower Granite Natural Resources Management Office

“It’s been nice to have the extra help with the large crowds from WSU and Garfield County law enforcement,” said Corps Walla Walla District Park Ranger Chris Lorz. “Visitors have responded really well to the additional uniformed staff at our popular recreation sites. And, so far, we’ve not experienced any incidents which would require us to shut down an area.”

As another Labor Day weekend approaches, Corps of Engineers natural resources staff remind visitors of the following rules that help everyone have a pleasant experience at Illia Dunes:

~ Illia Dunes parking is restricted to two nearby Corps parking lots only. Due to the size, configuration of available space and limited maneuverability for larger vehicles, no busses are allowed to park in these lots. The two parking lots hold a total of about 120 cars. Although not a new requirement, it should be noted that tour and school buses must contact the dam at 509-843-1493 at least 24 hours in advance for crossing authorization.

~ No public parking is allowed on the adjacent 50-m.p.h. speed limit Almota Ferry Road. “No Parking” signs have been placed along the roadway. Warm-weather visitors parking on the two-lane, road shoulder have often encroached on traffic lanes, making the roadway narrower and preventing cars and emergency vehicles from safely passing. Shoulder parking also creates pedestrian hazards.

~ The Corps has the option of banning alcohol consumption on Corps lands at any time, and such bans are in place at several locations in the region. While alcohol consumption at Illia Dunes is not banned at this time, underage drinking is not allowed. Remember, state laws prohibit driving or boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember that drugs are prohibited on federal lands, even if state law allows it.

~ Conducting special events on Corps property is prohibited without a special-use permit. Permit applications are available at Corps natural resource management offices, and take about 30 days to review and determine if the requested activity will be allowed.

~ The operation or use of any sound-producing equipment in such a manner as to unreasonably annoy other visitors is prohibited.

~ Any act or conduct by any person which interferes with, impedes or disrupts the use of the site or impairs the safety of any person is prohibited. Individuals who are boisterous, rowdy, disorderly or otherwise disturb the peace on Corps lands or waters may be requested to leave.

~ No glass containers are allowed on the dunes, and the Corps provides free trash bags for visitors to use for “pack it in, pack it out” trash removal. Please, use the trash bags and put filled trash bags into on-site garbage receptacles.

The Corps will continue to monitor how well visitors keep glass containers off the beach at all times, consume alcohol responsibly, use provided restrooms, not use fireworks on Corps lands at any time, and enjoy their visit without violating laws or posted notices. In this way, visitors will be helping determine future public use of the area, which is also a wildlife habitat management area.

Corps natural resources staff, in cooperation with WSU police and county law enforcement officials, will be patrolling the dunes and other Corps recreation areas to help keep everyone’s outdoor recreation experience safe and enjoyable. More information about Walla Walla District recreation opportunities is available on the District website at www.nww.usace.army.mil/corpsoutdoors.


Release no. 15-058