Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com
“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
Retrieved from: Seattle times
“The sediment loads in the Elwha River are spiking because the reservoir behind former Elwha Dam is now completely gone. That means the settling of fines that used to occur in the lake is no longer happening so all that material is pouring into the river, and heading on down to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s a dramatic sight.
“The distinct line is caused by the difference in density between the fresh water of the Elwha and the salt water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The heavy sediment loading is coming primarily from the area that used to be Elwha Dam. In this photo the Elwha River, right, meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The plume is flowing east with the tide — up, in this photograph, as Roorda flies north.
“And while the amount of sediment is large — about 50 times normal levels for the Elwha — don’t call it mud. Sediment is a single word for a whole range of material that the river has been depositing behind the two dams for the past 100 years: rocks, gravel, cobble, sand, silt, and clay. About 40 percent of that material is expected to eventually make its way out to sea.
“Restarting the river’s natural transport capacity is one of the most important aspects of Elwha River recovery. Big mountain rivers like the Elwha eat a steady diet of wood and rocks and sand and gravel, moving the material with the energy of their perpetual flow down gradient to the sea. Wood and sediment rebuild the natural structure and complexity of the riverbed: meanders, side channels, gravel bars, pools and riffles. A big mountain river like the Elwha naturally transports a fantastic amount of material — but it’s all been stuck up behind the dams, some 24 million cubic yards worth. Well now with the dams coming out — and Elwha Dam already completely gone — that material is on the move.”
Read more: Seattle times
Photo retrieved from: www.reuters.com
“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
Elwha Dam. Retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com
“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