TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials permanently closed public access to Borgans Island (also known as Chiawana Island) on the Columbia River between Pasco and Kennewick due to repeated unauthorized visitor activities, Corps officials announced, today.
The Corps’ Walla Walla District temporarily closed Borgans Island on Sept. 25, 2014, when land managers observed extensive human waste, scattered trash, broken glass, discarded soiled diapers, carpeting scraps in the water, and evidence of fires, digging and vegetation damage. There are no visitor services nor facilities on the small Island. Corps staff performed extensive cleanup and restoration operations, then reopened the island on Jun 17, 2015. The Corps reassessed the island several times throughout the rest of the 2015 prime recreation season, discovering similar unauthorized activity had occurred, which required additional clean-up efforts. These unauthorized activities have again resulted in environmental damage, and potential public health and safety issues on the island.
After much consideration, District Commander Lt. Col. Tim Vail decided to permanently close the island to visitor access. Corps staff will again perform cleanup operations and install closure signs on the island. Public notices will be posted at nearby boat launches. Monitoring and law enforcement patrols will continue.
“Because of the island’s boat-in-only access, the fact that there are no trash receptacles nor restrooms, and the health risks associated with handling raw human waste and sharp-edged trash, it’s risky for those who have to cleanup others’ waste and it’s costly to the taxpayers.” said Natural Resources Management Chief Joyce Dunning. “Protecting the environmental quality of the island, as well as protecting health and safety of the public and our workers, is in everyone’s best interest. It’s unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of some have resulted in impacting all visitors to Borgans Island. It was a very difficult, but necessary, safety and stewardship decision for our land managers.”
Without public traffic and misuse, Borgans Island’s damaged vegetation should be able to naturally recover over time, noted Corps land managers. Several other federally managed islands on the Columbia River also restrict public access as a means to preserve environmental quality.
“We encourage everyone to be a responsible visitor to public lands and in reality, thankfully, most are. Vandalism and other misuses are important factors which help us determine how to protect and operate the properties we’re entrusted by Congress to manage,” said Dunning.
Natural resource officials encourage reporting any misuse of the public-access shoreline or Corps of Engineers habitat and recreation areas to the Tri-Rivers Natural Resource Management Office, located at Ice Harbor Dam, 509-547-2048, or local law enforcement.
Tri-Rivers Natural Resources Management staff pointed out several nearby shoreline recreation areas that offer more developed visitor services, including boat launches, courtesy docks, trash receptacles and restrooms: Chiawana Park and Columbia Park are located directly adjacent to the island along the Columbia River’s Pasco and Kennewick shorelines. Slightly downstream of Chiawana Park, on the Pasco side of the river, Wade Park (also known as Road 54) also offers visitor and boater facilities.
For information about other Corps of Engineers recreation opportunities in the Tri-Cities area, check out the parks list at www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/McNaryDamandLakeWallula.aspx.