National Geographic News
In this photo taken June 3, 2014, the Elwha River flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Port Angeles, Wash.

The Elwha River flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, carrying sediment once trapped behind dams. The gradual release has rebuilt riverbanks and created estuary habitat for Dungeness crabs, clams, and other species.

Photograph by Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

Michelle Nijhuis

for National Geographic

Published August 26, 2014

Today, on a remote stretch of the Elwha River in northwestern Washington state, a demolition crew hired by the National Park Service plans to detonate a battery of explosives within the remaining section of the Glines Canyon Dam. If all goes well, the blasts will destroy the last 30 feet of the 210-foot-high dam and will signal the culmination of the largest dam-removal project in the world.

In Asia, Africa, and South America, large hydroelectric dams are still being built, as they once were in the United States, to power economic development, with the added argument now that the electricity they provide is free of greenhouse gas emissions. But while the U.S. still benefits from the large dams it built in the 20th century, there's a growing recognition that in some cases, at least, dambuilding went too far—and the Elwha River is a symbol of that.

The removal of the Glines Canyon Dam and the Elwha Dam, a smaller downstream dam, began in late 2011. Three years later, salmon are migrating past the former dam sites, trees and shrubs are sprouting in the drained reservoir beds, and sediment once trapped behind the dams is rebuilding beaches at the Elwha's outlet to the sea. For many, the recovery is the realization of what once seemed a far-fetched fantasy.

"Thirty years ago, when I was in law school in the Pacific Northwest, removing the dams from the Elwha River was seen as a crazy, wild-eyed idea," says Bob Irvin, president and CEO of the conservation group American Rivers. "Now dam removal is an accepted way to restore a river. It's become a mainstream idea."

(Related: "Spectacular Time-Lapse Video of Historic Dam Removal.")

Before the Park There Was the River

The Elwha runs for 45 miles, from the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and all but its final five miles lies within what is now Olympic National Park. Long before the park was established in 1938, the river was regionally famous as the richest salmon river on the Olympic Peninsula. For generations, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose members live at the mouth of the Elwha, depended on the river's fish and shellfish for survival. But the peninsula was also famous for its massive trees, and in the early 1900s, the local timber industry needed power for its mills and its growing ranks of workers.

Fish were no match for finance, and the 108-foot-high Elwha Dam, located five miles upstream from the river's outlet, started generating power in 1914. "There is no question but that the Elwha is harnessed at last and forever," a local newspaper reporter crowed at the time. The larger Glines Canyon Dam, eight miles further upstream and inside what is now Olympic National Park, began operations in 1927.

News map of the Elwha river and its former dams.
NG MAPS. SOURCES: Washington State Department of Ecology; Washington State Department of Natural Resources

For almost half a century, the two dams were widely applauded for powering the growth of the peninsula and its primary industry. But the dams blocked salmon migration up the Elwha, devastating its fish and shellfish—and the livelihood of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. As the tribe slowly gained political power—it won federal recognition in 1968—it and other tribes began to protest the loss of the fishing rights promised to them by federal treaty in the mid-1800s. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Washington tribes, including the Elwha Klallam, were entitled to half the salmon catch in the state.

With this court victory behind them, the tribes began to fight for the protection and restoration of salmon runs. In the mid-1980s, the Elwha Klallam and environmental groups started to push for dam removal in earnest, arguing that their environmental costs and safety risks outweighed their benefits—especially because the Olympic Peninsula had long since been connected to the regional power grid, and the dams now provided only a small fraction of the power used by its residents and mills. In 1992 Congress authorized federal purchase of the two dams on the Elwha from the timber companies that owned them and ordered a study of the idea of removing them.

A Slow Demolition

It would take nearly two decades more for dam demolition to begin—much longer than it took to build the dams in the first place. The timber industry and some local communities opposed the idea, and U.S. Senator Slade Gorton of Washington blocked federal funding until he was voted out of office in 2000.

Though a few smaller dams had been removed from U.S. rivers, no one one had attempted a dam removal as large as the one proposed for the Elwha. The unknowns were daunting: What would happen to the estimated 27 million cubic yards of sediment (21 million cubic meters)—enough to fill the Seahawks' CenturyLink Field nine times over—trapped behind the dams? How would salmon and other wildlife respond to a free-flowing river? How would tribal members and other nearby residents be affected?

In 2004, the tribe, the National Park Service, and the city of Port Angeles reached an agreement on dam removal. The dams would be taken down in several stages, allowing for a relatively gradual release of sediment. Two water-treatment facilities would be built to protect local water supplies, and the tribe would receive federal funds for a new, larger fish hatchery.

Finally, on September 15, 2011, a barge-mounted excavator began chipping concrete off the upstream face of Glines Canyon Dam. Removal of the Elwha Dam began later that week. At a ceremony by the river, former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey praised the demolition of the dams in terms that wouldn't have sounded out of place at their inauguration. "The reflection you see in Elwha is an image of what our country is capable of," he told the crowd.

Six months later, the Elwha Dam was gone, and the river flowed in its original channel for the first time in more than a century. Steelhead and coho salmon transplanted above the dam site spawned in the river's tributaries, and juvenile coho were spotted. In the summer of 2012, Chinook salmon began migrating up the river, and by the following fall, they too had spawned in tributaries and in the Elwha mainstem.

"We had heard there would be all these positive changes," says Robert Elofson, river restoration director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and an early advocate of dam removal. "But to actually watch it in action—well, it's very, very impressive."

In this June 3, 2014 aerial photo, the Elwha River flows freely through what was Lake Mills and past the old Glines Canyon Dam, bottom, in the Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, Wash.
In the world's largest dam removal project, the Elwha River now flows past the old Glines Canyon Dam (at bottom) in Olympic National Park.
Photograph by Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

The River Returns

Over the past three years, the sediment trapped behind the dams has washed downstream, rebuilding riverbanks and gravel bars and, in and around the river's mouth, creating some 70 acres of new beach and riverside estuary habitat for Dungeness crabs, sand lance, surf smelt, clams, and other species. On the ocean bottom just offshore, what used to be a kelp-covered expanse of cobbles is now blanketed with mud and sand, also good habitat for crabs and sand lance. "We're seeing all sorts of different creatures. It's fantastic," says U.S. Geological Survey researcher Jonathan Warrick. The Elwha Klallam tribe hopes that eventually, its members will once again be able to harvest shellfish near the mouth of the Elwha.

As salmon populations recover, researchers expect the whole food web—from invertebrates to birds to otters and bears—to benefit. Smithsonian research fellow Christopher Tonra, who is studying American dippers on the Elwha, says that almost as soon as salmon returned to the river, the birds began to follow the fish and to eat salmon eggs and fry. "To see these birds that had never been exposed to spawning salmon before immediately respond to the resource—that's been really exciting," he says. Analysis of nitrogen isotopes in dipper blood, feathers, and toenail clippings suggests that the birds are indeed benefiting from the nutrients salmon provide.

Other animals have been slower to adapt to the changes on the Elwha. The reservoirs behind the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams have been drained and revegetated, and the young trees and shrubs are attractive food for deer, elk and other species. But the area's Roosevelt elk, known to be creatures of habit, have yet to discover the tasty vegetation growing behind the Elwha dam site.

"The buffet table has been set, and the elk are sometimes just a couple of hundred yards away," says Elwha Klallam tribe wildlife biologist Kim Sager-Fradkin. "But the elk haven't crossed the highway and discovered that the reservoir is gone. Once they find out, I don't know if they're ever going to leave."

The Elwha's recovery is not without controversy. The tribal fish hatchery has been criticized by some environmental groups for initially stocking a population of steelhead trout that's not native to the river. And though the river and its denizens appear to be thriving, both the dams and their removal have wrought great and lasting changes that won't readily be undone.

Rebecca Brown, a professor at Eastern Washington University who is studying the effects of the dam removal on riverside vegetation, says that the release of so much sediment in such a short time has created an ecosystem that's distinctive and likely to stay that way. "A thousand years from now, we're still going to be able to see the effects of this sediment dump," she says.

Dam Bust, Dam Boom

American Rivers reports that in the United States, nearly 850 dams have been removed in the last 20 years, with more than a hundred removed in 2012 and 2013 alone. "We're at the end of the large dam-building era in this country and the beginning of the river restoration era," says Irvin.

The Glines Canyon Dam, however, is the largest dam to be demolished so far and will likely remain so for some time. The Elwha's location in a national park fueled unusually broad support—and federal funding—for its restoration and simplified the logistics of dam removal. With climate change rendering much of the American West increasingly vulnerable to drought, the region cannot easily give up large dams that provide not only electricity but also water storage.

This video by the National Park Service, produced last year as part of a series, shows how the dam removal is restoring the Elwha River.
Video by Wings Over Watersheds

Meanwhile, hundreds of large dams are planned or under construction in developing countries. Demand for electrical power in urban Thailand, for example, is driving the construction of two large dams on the mainstem of the Mekong River, and nine more large dams are proposed—a cascade that threatens the productivity of the largest freshwater fishery in the world. A recent op-ed in the New York Times calls such large dams "brute-force, Industrial Age artifacts,"  arguing that they not only are environmentally and socially costly but also place huge financial burdens on the countries that build them.

Once the final section of the Glines Canyon Dam is removed this week, the remaining sediment behind it will begin to move downstream. Because of several years of low precipitation in the Pacific Northwest, sediment has so far moved more slowly than expected, and researchers hope a hearty flood or two will help move the rest. No matter the weather, however, the demolition means that salmon will regain access to the 75 miles of river habitat blocked by the dams.

Brian Winter, who has worked on Elwha River restoration for the National Park Service since 1993, is looking forward to seeing Chinook salmon swimming above the dam site, within the park's designated wilderness. The season's Chinook run has already started, so chances are slim that any fish will make it that far this year. But whether they return this year or next, he plans to hike in and see them arrive.

"I'll be there," he says. "I just want to sit on the bank and watch that happen."

Correction: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect name for Jonathan Warrick and mischaracterized the steelhead trout from the tribal fish hatchery.

Follow Michelle Nijhuis on Twitter.

59 comments
Robert  Farmer
Robert Farmer

enjoy the fish, forget the irrigation, clean electricity produced, jobs, etc...  some dams should go, not all..  

Eric Mills
Eric Mills

Hallelujah!  One down, thousands to go....

Subramaniam Dharana
Subramaniam Dharana

A great initiative ro restore natural habitat as well as the life of the river for social cause.Let it be an eye opener for all those who talk about development without considering the ramifications these sorts of projects- man made bring about.Generally what is seen in this part of the world is use of science and technology was made and reverted now after casuing irreversible damages.

grog wako
grog wako

Since i live a couple miles from the dam and have seen the river that flows like gray black pancake batter after a good rain.I would like to know how any fish ,small baby fish or large fish could even breath during a good rain.It was so black you could see the particles swirling in the back eddies.Down at the hatchery near the mouth they employed full time people with machinery to unplug the small creek leading out of the hatchery.big piles of gross black silt taken out of the creek just to keep the outflow running.I have a hard time believing that any fish below the upper dam could have lived.Not only the fish that live in the river full time but all the fish that lived in the huge lakes that had to crowd into the small river that was left after the dams were removed.And the fry's that were released into the river to live for a time and then move to the salt water.Which brings up another question.Why are they allowing hatchery fish into this river system when the river should be left alone to let the wild fish repopulate the river?They think they have done this great thing removing this dam.And maybe they have,but isnt it possible that maybe they have killled off any wild fish in the river below the upper dam.Many miles of river.2 huge lakes of fish forced to live in a 30 feet of river.I challenge anyone to come here during the winter or fall after a storm and look at the water and tell me anything could live in that.I think the dams being gone are probably good but not sure if they thought it out enough to protect what fish were left in the river and the returning fish in the fall and winter.Look at the peninsula daily news it has live photos of the dams.Look at the upper former lake mills  and look how high the silt dunes are.Some are 20 to 30 feet high.This silt is gona pollute this river for decades to come.Eventually this river may heal its self but at what cost.All wild fish dead and just hatchery fish returning.That wont be a victory..............

William Waterway
William Waterway

Thank you Nat Geo for presenting such an intelligent and balanced perspective of the dam removal project.

Yes, when this mega dam system was constructed in the early 1900s - it disrupted thousands of years of ecosystem evolution above and below the dam. The living umbilical cord link of the river from its headwaters to the ocean was severed - thus causing both the ocean and the river to suffer the consequences of our myopic and destructive behavior.
THANK GOD that we are beginning to "awaken" to changing our behavior and doing our best to remedy the unenlightened behavior of our ancestors. 

There is HOPE!

Victor Grunden
Victor Grunden

Dam removal all sounds wonderful except mankind the world around is ceasing to exist as hunter-gatherers that lives a nomadic lifestyle moving with the seasons.   Indian tribes  historically fought each other for fertile fishing and hunting grounds as they polluted individual campsites.   As society became grower-traders building concrete jungles, they increased runoff, erosion and flooding.  From the silt pool behind this dam, I suspect the silt in the river would have affected salmon even if a dam hadn't been built.  In a lot of cases if the proper soil erosion and water conservation measures are put in place upstream, the need for a flood control dam is eliminated.  But it requires societal changes that aren't going to happen.  That's why electricity is still grid supplied.  The technology exists to have reliable individually generated electricity, but while the government finances massive wind, solar and tidal wave projects, next to nothing is being done for individual electricity generation.  Until society starts to tear up their concrete jungles, goes back to living in tepees, yurts and soddies while hunting, fishing and subsistence farming, we will need dams or massive wetlands.    Wetlands and rice fields are the largest source of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide though.  A free flowing river goes where it damn well pleases and if a house, bridge, highway railroad track or trestle  is in it's way, so be it.  If it wants to change course, it will.  Mankind however continues to foolishly build permanent structures on the floodplain thinking there will be no consequences.  Some of the earthen dams shouldn't have been built in the first place because of the failure risk so I suspect some are being removed for safety.

April Olsen
April Olsen

So... are the sediment compound bad for the river ecosystem?  What's the chemical compound in those sediment?


*** With climate change rendering much of the American West increasingly vulnerable to drought, the region cannot easily give up large dams that provide not only electricity but also water storage. ***


What are they doing about this?  Maybe we ought to start making our own backyard reservoir water filter system...?

Leif Leifnephewson
Leif Leifnephewson

Hydropower dams, especially in the tropics, are the environmentally most damaging way there is to generate electricity. The Three Gorges Dam in China extinguished about a dozen species, including a river dolphin, the world's largest sturgeon, and the world's largest terrapin. Belo Monte dam in Brazil currently being built will extinguish about a dozen species. The upcoming dams in the Mekong and the Congo river will extinguish dozens or even hundreds of species. And there's over 800 large to very large dams planned to be built in the tropics, mostly in the Amazon.

For comparison, no other form of electricity production has ever extinguished a single species anywhere the entire world.

From a conservation point of view there is nothing, not global warming, not pollution, not even clearcutting of rainforest, that is as damaging as hydropower.

Sunho Lee
Sunho Lee

The time will come when they will all be removed...there are many up and coming ways to generate clean electricity, as well as to produce clean water through desalination and re-use.  Furthermore, all dams are slowing filling up with sediment and eventually will become  fairly useless, anyways...although this article didn't mention that, i'm sure that was one of the reasons for these removals.  


On top of all that, if necessary, removed dams could be rebuilt in the future.



Atanu Bose
Atanu Bose

why remove a dam, why not just open up the gates? Is it a hidden scam of environmentalists and senators?

Jay Bird
Jay Bird

Huh, well, that was my ELF sleeper cell target. Good choice, America.

Dwayne LaGrou
Dwayne LaGrou

It's so wonderful to see an environment restored to it's former beauty. There are many more positive results than can be imagined and they will show up much sooner. A great restoration project.

Jessica Plumb
Jessica Plumb

Check out "Return of the River" a feature documentary about the Elwha's remarkable story, coming this fall. www.elwhafilm.com, trailer online at https://vimeo.com/86488251


craig hill
craig hill

Great improvement. A harbinger for the Nation of the Dammed?

Robert Robinson
Robert Robinson

My view is that these environmentalists are only half as bright as they think they are.  They love to spend other peoples money on half vast ideas which time and again turn out to be more destructive than productive. Just look at that terrible wasteland where once was a beautiful mountain lake. You idiots!  Not only that, but the Dams provided clean energy.  Damn you all ! Very Much !


Robby

Luís Chambel
Luís Chambel

In Portugal we're facing a big problem caused by the dams construction. The size of the beaches is decreasing drastically each year because the sediments doesn't arrive in the sea. Now in the Alentejo region we've the Alqueva dam, which is the largest in Europe and a project prior 1974. With this dam now we're producing a enormous quantity of electricity, but will it worth the environmental changes? We're able to produce Energy using the natural resources, as it's the wind and solar. This dam in particular has other usage, for example irrigation for farming, but the quantity of land that is underwater because its construction was too much for such a small country.

J Haskins
J Haskins

No mention of what happened to all the fresh water fish that were happily living in the lakes.

Mike Shifflet
Mike Shifflet

The problem with this article is that it does not tell you how the electricity is now being generated? Is it from gas powered generators which will increase CO2 and water vapor both of which are green house gases. Maybe it is wind or solar we do not know. If the power is now generated by natural gas it may be an overall loss to the environment.

Mats Carnmarker
Mats Carnmarker

@Robert Farmer 
All dams should go. Nothing positive with any of them.
Nature in balance is worth so much more in every way than any narrow viewed short time economic interest.

José Manuel Quintáns Pazos
José Manuel Quintáns Pazos

@grog wako some Amazon river affluents' waters are so dark because of the sediments, though they are full of life. For sure there is a threshold from which fish can't breath, and it also depends on the animal species' requirements. Let's see, anyway the move seems to be good.

Drew Basinger
Drew Basinger

@grog wako Wait until you see the Salmon runs. The river will take care of itself and so will all the wild fish. These two dams blocked fish from traveling upstream. Hence the need for a hatchery. These farm raised fish are taking over wild fish territory... This is the real problem if you're concerned about wild trout and salmon runs.

Louis Lancaster
Louis Lancaster

@Carly Ray Your bandwidth  Thieving Spam has been reported.   I hope they send you a bill  at their current  advertising prices plus three times that as punitive.  


Louis Lancaster
Louis Lancaster

@Victor Grunden  No offense Victor but your rambling, anecdotal dripping diatribe and  suspicions regarding  silt sans damming are all over the place and suggest that you might do some research on the topics you would editorialize on.

Not only that but . . . never mind  just  try  sticking to reality-based facts in evidence in the future.    Because this time you have indeed removed all doubt.   

Jay Gee
Jay Gee

@April Olsen Better yet, let's stop doing that that is causing the climate change.

Louis Lancaster
Louis Lancaster

@Atanu Bose 

Contempt prior to investigation plus a bit of researching on your own prior to asking and suggesting silly and ludicrous questions  saves embarrassment and being labeled as a Fox News/AM Radio  Teaddlepated Patriot.

Google is your friend  Atanu.   Your questions suggest that you are just throwing out disparaging comments suggesting .that  . . let me guess,   Obama's  Liberal Agenda  perhaps??  

How does it feel to be such a stellar example of  manipulative mesmerizing.  ---

"“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

---


Today  one simply needs to replace  "the State"    with  the Bishops and  Barons von ALEC   and  the Koch Bloc's  bottomless money pit. 

grog wako
grog wako

@Robert Robinson 1st of all these dams were made to provide energy to the paper mill in Port Angeles.Thats it.Now the mill gets it power from the city at a greatly reduces price.Now the mill has built a power generator run on quote bio fuels.Basically bark and anything that wont make a paper chip.And guess what?They still get the reduced price from the city and they are going to sell the electricity they make at a premium price to the power companys.
These dams were made  however long ago to provide power to the mill.Back then nothing was known and nobody cared about what was going to happen to fish runs or how the Native Americans felt about the dams.Now everyones on the bandwagon about getting rid of these dams and now they are gone.Now we have 50 years of watching to see how the river recovers.The Park is all excited about seeing a fish above where the dams were.So what.Do you think that all the Hatchery fish are going to stop where the dam was and spawn out?No they are going to go upstream and all look at each other because they dont know how to spawn,and then roll over and die.All the Park wants is to see salmon coming up the river.They dont care if they are hatchery fish or not.They dont care if they are dog salmon or KIngs or Silvers.They just want numbers so they can justify the removal of the unnatural cement walls that our ancestors built.

Louis Lancaster
Louis Lancaster

@Robert Robinson

Perhaps if you offered informed opinions  they wouldn't give you away by removing all doubts. 

_____ 


"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation”

Leif Leifnephewson
Leif Leifnephewson

@J Haskins 

Hydropower dams are very bad environments for fish, as the water level changes so fast and so often that there are no plants growing along the shores. That's the easiest way to see if a lake is a hydropower dam: hydropower dams always have a completely dead shoreline, a gray band of bare rock and mud running along the entire lake. The complete lack of plantlife means less food for the fish, and fewer places to breed.

If you, like me, like fishing, then you should love dam removal.

Louis Lancaster
Louis Lancaster

@Mike Shifflet 

The Bonneville Power Grid provides the bulk of it here. Solar is becoming more prevalent as supplemental power for homeowners.  This reduces the demands of  power generated by fossil fuels.  

All methods of  producing electricity have their downsides.   The goal is to concentrate select  the least damaging method for the locations and then work on making it less damaging and more efficient as the technology advances.  

Unfortunately  the  Fossil Barons and Koch Bros.  are investing the National Budgets of small nations  trying to keep the  Climate Change controversy alive and convincing the  Teaddled types .   Because as long as the controversy is kept alive  the required steps necessary to slow it down  are put on the back burner.    Thus saving the Barons von ALEC the expense of  refitting their operations to reduce their toxic output.   And their plan is working.  Thanks to their  media buy off investments. 

The sad thing is that the source of CC is like up in the tween of the Strato and Trops spheres.    Whereas  we  live down here on the surface of the planet.   

The air we breathe,  the water we drink and the soil we grow our foods on using the water are still getting  more, rather than less,  polluted.  

Guess what?   The actions suggested to reduce Climate Change are also the  same as what  are   required   to reduce the pollution  we live it, raise our children and grow the foods we eat.  Our health care costs are increasingly  the result of environmental toxins.   I mean really,  the weathermen have included   Air Quality to the daily forecasts??  

But as to your question, up here on the Olympic Peninsula  our power comes thru the Bonneville Power Administration grid. 

Leif Leifnephewson
Leif Leifnephewson

@Mike Shifflet 

I'll take gas power over hydropower any day. There is no form of energy production anywhere near as damaging for the environment as hydropower.

John Fischer
John Fischer

@Mike Shifflet Problem? Not discussing the replacement sources of the lost electrical capacity is not a problem with the article, it is just one aspect of the complexities of such a project  that could not fit into the allotted space. A book couldn't begin to address all of the associated issues, since many of the resulting issues have not even been revealed to us, and probably won't be for years to come. You can probably do some of your own googled research and come up with some decent answers to your own questions.

paul bedichek
paul bedichek

@Mike Shifflet They wrote that it's grid power which is made up of various sources,natural gas is the favored energy source now,which if we want really clean we'll develop advanced nuclear, the important thing is that this is a very positive development and more dams should be removed. The salmon is such a great animal we can measure our success by the extent that it recovers.

grog wako
grog wako

@José Manuel Quintáns Pazos @grog wako I get your point  but those fish have lived all their lives  in murky water.Salmon on the other hand are used to living in somewhat clear or at worst muddy water.This river after a storm you wouldnt even call it muddy.Its like black concrete slurri...........

grog wako
grog wako

@Drew Basinger @grog wako Of course im worried about the wild salmon and trout.The lake trout arent gona make it.I suppose you couldnt call them wild anyway.The way the Park service does things tho you wouldnt think they should let hatchery fish into the river just to get great numbers coming back.Even wild fish grown in a hatchery should not be the fish that repopulate this river.The whole river needs to be shut down for fish and netting and let whatever wild salmon and steelhead survive repopulate the river.It might take 10 ,20 maybe 50 years.But we dont want hatchery fish to own this river.The native americans can fish the straits of juan de fuca and leave the river alone.Im sure they  would be happy to do it this way.Anyone could put dog salmon in anyriver and have huge returns.;And that goes for all the replanting.Why not let nature replant it.Alders will grow first.With the fir trees growing slower,then overtaking the alders after 20 years or so.

Keep an eye on the river this fall and winter when the storms come in and the river changes course and cuts a new channel through 30 feet of silt thats piled up on the lake beds.Hello black river again.Choking any fish that are in the system below  where the upper dam was.You cant see it on the river cams.But go down to the hatchery and look.You will be shocked............

Victor Grunden
Victor Grunden

@Louis Lancaster @Victor Grunden For what it's worth, I worked for the U.S. government on watershed projects, so I can get very technical regarding what it takes to build or destroy a dam.    There are plenty of archived flood documentaries.  That is what you are returning to.  Short of a 500 year frequency flood, the silt will be around for a long time affecting all manner of life.  Most people get their food at the supermarket, not the great outdoors.  Therefore that means paving over soil and increasing runoff.  Many cities on the East Coast are now charging companies for excess runoff and requiring runoff mitigation structures because their sewer systems cannot handle the increased runoff.  

Maria Marko
Maria Marko

@Louis Lancaster @Atanu Bose
Louis, you did not answer Atanu's question. You just blabbered some fancy words that had nothing to do with facts what so ever. 
She asked why it was not enough to open it up. Can you answer that? 
And I would like to add, What kind of power will they use for the area now? Nuclear? Is this made "big and beautiful and drastic" so people don't question what comes next?

Jay Bird
Jay Bird

The Elwha dam produced negligible electricity, especially in comparison to the value of natural output restored. Do some research before blindly pontificating on your favorite ideology topics.

Jeff Westend
Jeff Westend

@paul bedichek @Mike Shifflet Isn't natural gas a fossil fuel that is commonly produced by fracking and stored by reintroducing it (by forcing it under high pressure) into spent underground gas fields? Isn't 'advanced nuclear' essentially a fantasy at this point in time? 


The real picture here is dam falling and a cloud of coal dust and diesel fumes taking its place. Hooray, fish.

grog wako
grog wako

@Maria Marko @Louis Lancaster @Atanu Bose opening the gates does nothing.The fish still come up to the dam and look up and say........Dam.thats high.Opening up the gates doesnt mean it opens all the way to the bottom of the dam.You are only talking about 20 feet or so and the river is 200 ft below that.Just an estimate but you get my point.Now they could of built fish ladders or elevators at a great cost.But then you still have the Park looking at that concrete sky scraper on their property.And they dont have the excuse to grab more land by taking over the lower dam that was not in the Olympic National Park.Now they own land just a few miles from the Straits of Juan de Fuca. 

Louis Lancaster
Louis Lancaster

@Seymore Naples @Louis Lancaster 

My reply  to Robert Robinson was spot on Seymore.   His comment regarding  -   "Just look at that terrible wasteland where once was a beautiful mountain lake.".


That lake was man-made and therefore an unnatural disruption of the watershed's  natural ecosystems. By allowing the river to flow naturally the damages resulting from the dams will  be restored. 

His comments  implied that he didn't bother with doing any research on the subject.  Therefore his  opinion was not an informed opinion ,  therefore a willfully ignorant attempt to attack his  boogeymen Liberals, and environmentalists. 

I was born and raised on the Peninsula .  I live not far from the river.  I've yet to encounter any  locals  who have any objections to the project.  The esthetic and economic benefits of the restoration project are huge.    

craig hill
craig hill

@J Haskins @paul bedichek @Mike Shifflet Nonsense. Some nature-hating writer would pounce on it. Problem for them and you is Nature flowing Free never ends in a bad way, especially when precautions have been taken against worst-case scenario flooding.

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