Thursday, February 8, 2018

Restoring the Elwha River

From Wikipedia: The Elwha River is a 45-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula in the U.S. state of Washington. From its source in the Olympic Mountains of Olympic National Park, it flows generally north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Most of the river is in Olympic National Park.

The river is one of the few in the Pacific Northwest with all five species of native Pacific salmon (chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, and pink salmon), plus four anadromous trout species.  From 1911 to 2014, dams blocked fish passage on the lower Elwha River. Before the dams, 400,000 adult salmon returned yearly to spawn in 70 miles of river habitat. Prior to dam removal, fewer than 4,000 salmon returned each year in only 4.9 miles of habitat below the lower dam. The National Park Service removed the two dams as part of the $325 million Elwha Ecosystem Restoration Project. Dam removal work began in September 2011 and was completed in August 2014. The river has already carried sediment to its mouth, creating 70 acres of estuary habitat at the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This map, via Olympic National Park, shows the location of the Elwha River in northwestern Washington. The river flows north through Olympic National Park to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the map, you can locate the two dams that were removed as part of the restoration project.

From Olympic National Park: Elwha River Restoration - "This five-minute 'webisode' offers an introduction to the Elwha River, its people, its once-prolific salmon runs, the century of hydropower the river produced and the eventual decision to remove Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams."

Restoration of the Elwha Begins - "The second webisode in the Restoration of the Elwha River series chronicles the final days of energy production by the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams and the beginning of the deconstruction of the dams and restoration of the ecosystem."

Stepping Down the Dams - "This third webisode in the series goes behind the scenes of dam removal and restoration efforts during the first year of the project."

The River Emerges - "The fourth webisode in the Restoring the Elwha series takes you behind the scenes of dam demolition and sediment management on the Elwha River. As the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams come down, Elwha River emerges."

Wonders Unveiled - "The fifth webisode in the Restoring the Elwha series contiues to document the progress of dam removal and explores the rapidly evolving landscapes and habitats that have been unveiled as the Lake Aldwell and Lake Mills reservoirs drain and the river returns."

Undammed - "The sixth webisode in the Restoring the Elwha series takes you behind the scenes of the last blast at Glines Canyon Dam and explores the impacts of dam removal on the Elwha River ecosystem and Lower Elwha Klallam people."

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