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Sediment management strategies associated with dam removal in the State of Washington

June 30, 2010

Different removal strategies are described for dams in three diverse drainage basins (Wind River, White Salmon River, and Elwha River basins) in the State of Washington (USA). The comparisons between the strategies offer the opportunity to track the effects of sediment resulting from dam decommissioning in the Pacific Northwest and to determine possible effects on socio-economically important species of anadromous salmonids. Hemlock Dam, located on Trout Creek and managed by the United States Forest Service, was removed from July to September 2009. To mitigate the effect on fish downstream (specifically, salmonids) and to minimize sediment aggradation downstream in the main-stem Wind River, the Forest Service chose to excavate the approximately 42,000 cubic meters of sediment entrapped behind the dam before removal of the dam. Thus, the reach of Trout Creek downstream of the dam will not be affected by a large, released pulse of accumulated sediment. In contrast, the scheduled removal of Condit Dam, located on the White Salmon River 30 kilometers to the east of Hemlock Dam, involves a different removal strategy. Condit Dam will be breached near its base in order to mobilize the 1.7 million cubic meters of trapped sediment during the reservoir drawdown in an effort to decrease the time needed for the downstream reach to return to normal levels of suspended sediment. Finally, the much-anticipated 2011 removal of two dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington will take place over 2 years with progressive notches cut into the dams from the top down. Although some portion of reservoir sediment will be carried downstream by the river, the specific timing of notching will be adaptively managed to mitigate the effects of raised sediment concentration on fishes and people living downstream. With improved scientific understanding from these studies, future damremoval projects can be planned and executed with approaches that mitigate deleterious effectson salmonids.

  • USGS Source: Publications Warehouse (indexId: 70179291)