Archive for the 'dam removal' Category

The Ambitious Restoration of An Undammed Western River

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“The remains of the Glines Canyon Dam are located 13 river miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the passage from the Pacific Ocean to Puget Sound. Eight miles downstream, the Elwha dam — built a century ago without accommodation for fish passage and long reviled by Native Americans and fishermen — is already gone, demolished in 2011 and 2012.

With the river now flowing freely, the legendary salmon runs — blocked for a century — have begun a tentative return to the Elwha’s 70 miles of salmon habitat, much of it in Olympic National Park. It is the dream of restorationists to bring back these extraordinary fish to the Elwha, most of which remains pristine, shaded by the gargantuan old-growth firs and cedars and primeval ferns for which the Olympic Mountains are famous.

The demolition of these two dams has become an evolving scientific experiment, one that entails the restoration of an entire watershed, from salmon to alders to otters. The two dams had starved the lower reaches of the watershed of sediment, and the lakes that formed behind them were filled with unnaturally warm water. Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell also elevated water temperatures downstream, and marine nutrients failed to cycle into the ecosystem, affecting species throughout the food chain, from black bear, eagles, and osprey at the top, to frogs and flies.”

Read more: Yale Environment 360

Fish, Frogs, and People to Benefit from Biggest Dam-Removal Project in California History

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“Over the next 28 months, the beautiful Carmel River will be set free to flow more naturally for 70 percent of its length as the 106-foot (32.3 meter) San Clemente Dam is dismantled.

Downstream of the dam, threatened fish and frogs will get a new lease on life as critical habitats open up. And some 1,500 households will enjoy greater safety as the dam’s risk of failure during a major earthquake or flood event disappears.

Built in 1921 to store drinking water for the burgeoning population of Monterey County, the San Clemente Dam is a concrete arch structure located 18.5 miles (29.8 kilometers) upstream from the Pacific Ocean.

While built for a good cause, the dam’s reservoir has lost 95 percent of its original water storage capacity due to the build-up of silt and sediment carried in by the Carmel River.  Historically, the river carried that sediment load downstream, keeping its channel functioning well and replenishing coastal beaches.  But the dam trapped the sediment in the reservoir, causing it to fill – a common problem with dams worldwide.

The Monterey Peninsula now relies primarily on groundwater for its drinking water supply.

Meanwhile, the dam became a safety hazard as its risk of failure increased.  After the state of California’s division on dam safety declared San Clemente “seismically unsafe,” California American Water, the public utility that owns the dam, assessed its options for reducing the dam’s threats.  Taking into account cost, environmental benefits and other factors, the idea of tearing the dam down rose to the top of the list.”

Read more: National Geographic


NYT: Laos Presses Ahead With Mekong Dam Project

Retrieved From: International Rivers

BANGKOK — Ignoring criticism that a huge hydroelectric dam could irreparably damage the ecology of the Mekong River, the government of Laos said on Tuesday that it was pushing ahead with the multibillion-dollar project, the first dam to be built on the lower portion of the iconic river.

“I would say I’m 100 percent sure it’s going ahead,” Daovong Phonekeo, deputy director general of the Laotian Department of Electricity, said by telephone on Tuesday.

Laotian government officials and executives of a Thai construction company that is to build the dam are to officially inaugurate the project at a ceremony on Wednesday in Xayaburi, the remote province in northwestern Laos where the dam is to be situated.

The electricity from the project will be sold to Thailand and will provide billions of dollars of revenue to Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia. But the project has been criticized by scientists who are concerned that the dam may disturb spawning patterns and lead to the extinction of many species of fish that have for centuries been the main source of protein for millions of people along the river’s banks.

Read More: New York Times


Salmon Re-enter Olympic National Park River Thanks to Elwha Dam Removal

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“The National Park Service reported this week that adult Chinook (king) salmon have been seen in the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, less than five months after removal began on the Elwha Dam. According to the Park Service, the fish are the first of their kind known to enter the park through that river, since Olympic was established twenty-five years after the dam went up in 1913. (See a map of the region.)

The dam had blocked off more than 70 miles of formerly prime Elwha River habitat for the fish, which had been an important part of the local ecosystem and a key food source for local indigenous people.

As National Geographic previously reported, the Klallam Tribe still say that the Elwha River had been so full of salmon that a person could cross from one bank to the other by walking atop the thrashing bodies of fish struggling to move upstream to spawn.

According to the Park Service, Chinook were seen this week about two miles upstream from the park border by Phil Kennedy, the park’s lead fisheries technician.

Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are the largest of the Pacific salmon, and historically entered rivers from California to Alaska, as well as in parts of Asia. Adult fish tend to range in length from 33 to 36 inches (840 to 910 mm) but may be up to 58 inches (1,500 mm). They average 10 to 50 pounds (4.5 to 23 kg), but may reach 130 pounds (59 kg). Their numbers have dropped due to loss of spawning grounds, and nine local populations are listed as threatened or endangered in the U.S.”

Read more: National Geographic


Salmon revival in sight as Elwha River dams fall in U.S. Northwest

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“The two dams, about 80 miles northwest of Seattle, blocked migratory routes of salmon and steelhead trout to some 70 miles of tributary habitat, in the process robbing Native Americans of income by halting a treaty-guaranteed reservation fishery.

The river teemed with thrashing pink salmon before the Elwha Dam was built to generate electricity for the nearby mill town of Port Angeles, with a current population of around 19,000, and later, to a naval shipyard in Bremerton, about 80 miles away.

The Elwha Dam’s removal, completed in late March, was hailed by Governor Christine Gregoire as a significant environmental milestone that “shows what happens, when against many odds, a river is restored to its natural beauty.”

Supporters of the dam’s destruction say the benefits to the environment of tearing it down outweigh the loss of its aging power-generating station.

The destruction of the Glines should be finished in about a year to 18 months, ending the biggest dam demolition in U.S. history.

The removal of the two dams – ordered by a 1992 law signed by then-President George H.W. Bush – is aimed at restoring the natural habitat of more than 300,000 salmon. Economic and environmental impact analyses delayed the project’s start.”

Read more: Reuters

Klamath Dams: Surcharge Rolled Out

Iron Gate Dam. Retrieved from:

“As of Jan. 10, Pacific Power customers in Northern California will begin seeing the company’s new dam removal surcharge on their bills, a press release from the utility company announced.
“The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) notified the company on Jan. 3 that the trust accounts to receive the Klamath dam removal surcharge proceeds from Pacific Power’s approximately 45,000 customers in Northern California have been established,” the release began.
The company said it began applying the surcharge to bills on Jan. 10. The charge will be prorated during the first billing cycle, which means that if a customer’s billing cycle closes on Jan. 15, they will be charged for a five-day portion of the approximately 2-percent increase. The company said the average residential customer will see an increase of about $1.61 monthly.
The surcharge is to cover PacifiCorp’s capped share of the total cost of dam removal under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which the company signed with more than 40 environmental, agricultural and tribal organizations in February 2010.
The agreement would lead to the removal of four of the company’s dams on the upper Klamath River in 2020. Three of the dams are in Siskiyou County (Iron Gate, Copco I and Copco II), where the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the action. One dam – J.C. Boyle – is in Klamath County, Ore.
Under the KHSA, PacifiCorp’s customers will cover the first $200 million of dam removal costs through collection of the surcharge. Any costs over $200 million would be covered by the state of California, up to an additional $250 million. The current estimate of the likely cost, according to the Department of the Interior, is approximately $297 million.”

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Rivers must flow: The case against big dams

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“More than 50,000 large dams now choke about two-thirds of the world’s largest rivers. The consequences of this massive engineering programme have been devastating. Large dams have wiped out species; flooded huge areas of wetlands, forests and farmlands; displaced tens of millions of people, and affected close to half a billion people living downstream.

Large dams hold back not just water, but silt and nutrients that replenish farmlands and build protective wetlands and beaches. Dams change the very riverness of our waterways, in ways we can’t always see, but that the earth can certainly feel.

Of all the complex and interconnected environmental disruptions that dams inflict on the landscape, the most obvious is the permanent inundation of forests, wetlands and wildlife. Reservoirs have flooded vast areas - at last count, the world’s dams had flooded an area bigger than the United Kingdom.

Equally important is the quality of these lost lands: river and floodplain habitats are some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Plants and animals that are closely adapted to valley habitats often cannot survive along the edge of a reservoir.”

Read more: Aljazeera



Historic Dam Removal

Elwha Dam. Retrieved from:

For 98 years, the 125-foot high Condit Dam in southeastern Washington State held back the White Salmon River, creating a serene lake, but choking off the waterway to salmon. Wednesday, in an historic effort, the dam was dramatically breached, and ecologists hope the increased flow of water will restore the waterway to fish and other aquatic organisms, as well as the birds and mammals that rely on them.

The dam removal comes just weeks after dismantling began on the Elwha Dama few hours to the north. Demolition of the Condit occured with a bang, compared to the virtual whimper of the Elwha. At that site, downstream from Olympic National Park, engineers are dismantling the two dams slowly, in a process that’s expected to take three years. They say a quicker removal would endanger the area due to the higher amount of silt in the lake.

Silt is still readily apparent in the dramatic video above, both in the darkly colored water rushing from underneath the conrete and in the fast-emptying lake.”

Read more: National Geographic


Learning from Elwha: Mistakes of the Past are Lessons for the Future

“This weekend was a big milestone for the environment. The Department of the Interior officially began the nation’s largest river restoration project on the Elwha River in Washington’s Olympic National Park with the removal of the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams. When the dams on the Elwha River were created 100 years ago, its builders cut corners by neither building fish passages nor securing the dams to bedrock, which caused significant long term damage to the surrounding ecosystems, from the river to the estuary to the coast.

“The Elwha River Restoration Project is of great interest to active members of the conservation and fishery communities and local residents who have been advocating for the dam’s removal for many years. Not only will the dam removal provide substantial economic benefit, the environmental impact of removing it is profound. Sediment will be redistributed, waterways will be restored, and five salmon species are expected to return to their natural migration route that has been dormant since the dams were erected in 1911. The project also provides a tremendous educational opportunity for the next generation to learn from the past by providing a clear picture of how our actions impact the environment.”

Read more: Huffington Post