After years of planning for the largest project of its kind, the Department of the Interior will begin removal of two dams on the Elwha River, Washington, in September 2011. For nearly 100 years, the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams have disrupted natural processes, trapping sediment in the reservoirs and blocking fish migrations, which changed the ecology of the river downstream of the dams. All five Pacific salmon species and steelhead-historically present in large numbers-are locally extirpated or persist in critically low numbers. Upstream of the dams, more than 145 kilometers of pristine habitat, protected inside Olympic National Park, awaits the return of salmon populations. As the dams are removed during a 2-3 year project, some of the 19 million cubic meters of entrapped sediment will be carried downstream by the river in the largest controlled release of sediment into a river and marine waters in history. Understanding the changes to the river and coastal habitats, the fate of sediments, and the salmon recolonization of the Elwha River wilderness will provide useful information for society as future dam removals are considered.
- Digital Object Identifier: 10.3133/fs20113097
- Source: USGS Publications Warehouse (indexId: fs20113097)