The removal of two dams on the Elwha River will introduce massive volumes of sediment to the river, and this increase in sediment supply in the river will likely modify the shapes and forms of the river and coastal landscape downstream of the dams. This chapter provides the geologic and geomorphologic background of the Olympic Peninsula and the Elwha River with emphasis on the present river and shoreline. The Elwha River watershed was formed through the uplift of the Olympic Mountains, erosion and movement of sediment throughout the watershed from glaciers, and downslope movement of sediment from gravitational and hydrologic forces. Recent alterations to the river morphology and sediment movement through the river include the two large dams slated to be removed in 2011, but also include repeated bulldozing of channel boundaries, construction and maintenance of flood plain levees, a weir and diversion channel for water supply purposes, and engineered log jams to help enhance river habitat for salmon. The shoreline of the Elwha River delta has changed in location by several kilometers during the past 14,000 years, in response to variations in the local sea-level of approximately 150 meters. Erosion of the shoreline has accelerated during the past 80 years, resulting in landward movement of the beach by more than 200 meters near the river mouth, net reduction in the area of coastal wetlands, and the development of an armored low-tide terrace of the beach consisting primarily of cobble. Changes to the river and coastal morphology during and following dam removal may be substantial, and consistent, long-term monitoring of these systems will be needed to characterize the effects of the dam removal project.
|Title||Geomorphology of the Elwha River and its Delta: Chapter 3 in Coastal habitats of the Elwha River, Washington--biological and physical patterns and processes prior to dam removal|
|Authors||Jonathan A. Warrick, Amy E. Draut, Michael L. McHenry, Ian M. Miller, Christopher S. Magirl, Matthew M. Beirne, Andrew W. Stevens, Joshua B. Logan|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Scientific Investigations Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Western Fisheries Research Center|