Tag Archive for 'elwha river'

The Ambitious Restoration of An Undammed Western River

Photo retrieved from: www.e360.yale.edu

“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

Dams Power Down In The Largest US Dam Removal

Elwha Dam. Photo retrieved from: www.moldychum.com

“The Elwha River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula once teemed with legendary salmon runs before two towering concrete dams built nearly a century ago cut off fish access to upstream habitat, diminished their runs and altered the ecosystem.

On June 1, nearly two decades after Congress called for full restoration of the river and its fish runs, federal workers will turn off the generators at the 1913 dam powerhouse and set in motion the largest dam removal project in U.S. history.

Contractors will begin dismantling the dams this fall, a $324.7 million project that will take about three years and eventually will allow the 45-mile Elwha River to run free as it courses from the Olympic Mountains through old-growth forests into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“We’re going to let this river be wild again,” said Amy Kober, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group American Rivers. “The generators may be powering down, but the river is about to power up.”

The 105-foot Elwha Dam also came on line in 1913, followed 14 years later by the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam eight miles upstream. For years, they provided electricity to a local pulp and paper mill and the growing city of Port Angeles, Wash., about 80 miles west of Seattle. Electricity from the dams – enough to power about 1,700 homes – currently feeds the regional power grid.

A Washington state law required fish passage facilities, but none was built. So all five native species of Pacific salmon and other anadromous fish that mature in the ocean and return to rivers to spawn were confined to the lower five miles of the river. A hatchery was built but lasted only until 1922.

The fish are particularly important to members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose ancestors have occupied the Elwha Valley for generations and whose members recall stories of 100-pound Chinook salmon so plentiful you could walk across the river on their backs.”

Read more: Associated Press