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Baseline hydrologic studies in the lower Elwha River prior to dam removal

January 1, 2012

After the removal of two large, long‑standing dams on the Elwha River, Washington, the additional load of sediment and wood is expected to affect the hydrology of the lower river, its estuary, and the alluvial aquifer underlying the surrounding flood plain. To better understand the surface-water and groundwater characteristics of the river and estuary before dam removal, several hydrologic data sets were collected and analyzed. An experiment using a dye tracer characterized transient storage, and it was determined that the low‑flow channel of the lower Elwha River was relatively simple; 1–6 percent of the median travel time of dye was attributed to transient‑storage processes. Water data from monitoring wells adjacent to the main‑stem river indicated a strong hydraulic connectivity between stage in the river and groundwater levels in the flood plain. Analysis of temperature data from the monitoring wells showed that changes in the groundwater temperature responded weeks or months after water temperature changed in the river. A seepage investigation indicated that water from the river was moving into the aquifer (losing
reach) between 1.7 and 2.8 kilometers from the river mouth. Surface‑water measurements and temperature and salinity data collected throughout the estuary helped to characterize the magnitude and nature of water movement in and out of the estuary. Salinity and stage sensors positioned in the estuarine network showed a strong surface‑water connection between the river and estuary waters east of the river. In contrast, there was a weaker connection between the river and estuarine water bodies west of the river.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Baseline hydrologic studies in the lower Elwha River prior to dam removal
DOI 10.3133/sir201151204
Authors Christopher S. Magirl, Christopher A. Curran, Rich W. Sheibley, Jonathan A. Warrick, Jonathan A. Czuba, Christiana R. Czuba, Andrew S. Gendaszek, Patrick B. Shafroth, Jeffrey J. Duda, James R. Foreman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2011-5120-4
Index ID sir201151204
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center