Port of Kalama totem poles

The tallest of the totem poles at the Port of Kalama will be taken down out of fear that it might be blown down in heavy winds.

The Port of Kalama announced Friday it will lower its iconic, 140-foot totem pole on Sept. 19, and some recreation areas nearby will be closed for three days during the work.

Port commissioners voted on June 27 to take the pole down because engineers found it so decayed that a 40 mph wind gust could take it down.

Port marketing manager, Liz Newman said two cranes will lower the 19,000-pound pole, and the timing will depend on wind conditions.

The pole will be lowered onto a steel “strong back” and will lay on is flat back side between the south end of McMenamins and the back of the new amphitheater, Newman said. The pole will stay there for the time being, and the public is welcome to visit it, she said.

Longview contractor JH Kelly will build the “strong back,” which will be 12-inches wide and more than 100-feet long, Newman said. Bands will be connected around the totem pole every seven to 10 feet to provide additional support.

Construction equipment will be brought in on Sept. 17 and will block some port pathways. On Sept. 19 the Marine Park, playground and some adjacent parking areas will be closed. Newman said the port is asking people to avoid the area on that day. The port also is working with McMenamins to vacate the south end of the Kalama Harbor Lodge for safety.

The port leases all three of its totem poles from the Wineberg family for $1 per year. Newman said the port will do further evaluations on the pole and continue to work with the owners of the totem to determine what’s next. The port hopes to preserve the pole, she said.

The three remaining, shorter poles will be left to stand.

The 140-foot totem pole is one of the tallest in the world carved from a single tree. It has been a fixture at the port’s Marina Park for more than 40 years and is visible from around the Columbia River, Interstate 5 and all around Kalama.

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