Beginning today, history is being made, the biggest dam removal ever begins on Washington’s Elwha River.
It’s a major river restoration effort, and the world is watching. We’ll get to witness a river coming back to life before our eyes.
It’s about restoring the soul of this river and to a culture of Indian people.
The Elwha River is in the northwest corner of Washington state. The river flows from the heart of Olympic National Park to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Puget Sound.
Eighty percent of the river is protected within the park, so most of it is wild and pristine. The river was once home to all five species of Pacific salmon and has been home to the Klallam people for millennia.
How have the dams harmed the river?
There are two dams on the river, Elwha Dam (108 feet tall, built in 1913 just five miles from the river’s mouth) and Glines Canyon Dam (210 feet tall, built in 1927, several miles upstream of Elwha Dam). Both dams were built without fish passage, and completely blocked salmon from historic habitat.
Why is the Elwha dam removal significant?
This is the world’s biggest dam removal, and one of biggest and most significant river restoration efforts. We will see a river coming back to life, with great benefits for salmon runs, the tribe and community. The lessons we learn on the Elwha can inspire other river restoration efforts around the country.
The dams will be removed gradually, over the course of 2.5 to 3 years.
What are the benefits of removing these two dams?
Dam removal will restore the river, fromthe mountains tothe sea, opening access to more than 70 miles of salmon habitat. Salmon runs will grow from 3,000 to more than 300,000 a year. The entire web of life will benefit, from black bears to tiny insects to orca whales, 137 different species depend on salmon.
The lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose reservation is at the mouth of the river and who depends on the salmon runs, will have a significant piece of its culture restored.