Now could the 4 dams clogging the lower Snake River be removed?

The 105 feet high Elwha Dam and the 210 foot high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River will soon come down. There was a big celebration at Port Angeles, Washington. I can’t wait to see the return of salmon to this coastal river. The celebration leads Idaho Statesman Rocky Barker to write of the potential restoraton of the Snake River, plugged by 4 navigation dams between the Columbia River and the state of Idaho.

Even the Bureau of Reclamation celebrates removal of two Washington dams.  By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman..

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Update. There are quite a few more stories on removing these dams. The story is big in Google News. You can find more with a simple search. Here is one. “Dam removal begins, and soon the fish will flow The destruction of Washington state’s Elwha Dam gets underway. The removal of the dam and a companion will allow salmon to swim upriver for the first time in a century.” By Kim Murphy. LA Times. This particular article describes how the return of salmon should spark the rejuvination of other fish and wildlfe.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

20 Responses to Nearly everyone celebrates dam removal on Elwha River Olympic National Park

  1. avatar Savebears says:

    There is also another damn starting the removal process in the state of Washington this fall, The Conduit Damn in SW Washington, which has been place for 98 years on the White Salmon River will be removed, which will restore historical salmon runs again as well.

    http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/condit.html

    http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/sep/17/salmon-moved-to-native-waters-before-condit-dam-br/

    • avatar WM says:

      SB,

      If I recall correctly, you are familiar with the old CCC concrete arch Hemlock/Trout Creek Dam on Trout Creek, a tributary of the Wind River (next drainage to the White Salmon River) in the Gifford Pinchot NF, and its subsequent removal.

      Do you know if wild steelhead have returned in any numbers above the old dam site and the reclaimed and previously sedimented stream channel?

      Seems I recall the removal would have been two or three years ago. Historically no salmon made it upstream of Shipherd falls on the lower Wind River, but with the fish ladder and upstream hatchery built years ago, hatchery salmon can go back to where they originated, but the wild steelhead make the left turn to go up Trout Creek (where no other migratory hatchery fish would tend to go because there is no homing instinct there).

      • avatar Savebears says:

        WM,

        I have not be privy to allot of information about that removal, I do know there has been less returning fish than the studies showed, I will be spending quite a bit of time in that area come next spring, so I should have more information on how the restoring is going.

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          This wasn’t addressed to me, but I was under the impression that the deconstruction was about to begin, not that it was finished.

          Help me out!

          • avatar Savebears says:

            If your talking about the White Salmon Conduit dam, they will be blasting a hole in the bottom of it very soon

          • avatar WM says:

            Ralph,

            My mind is a bit fuzzy on the timing, but I know the dam was knocked down a couple of years ago (2009, according the the link below). In the process of removing the concrete arch dam built in the 1930’s. Remnants of a “splash dam,” a feature of early logging practices was revealed in the mud. The historians and archeologists were ecstatic at the discovery.

            Of course, a splash dam was the vehicle to move logs down a drainage by use of a stream channel. The old dam was built of cedar logs, in an assembly that allowed a reservoir to be filled with water quickly. Recently cut and limbed trees were floated on the reservoir and when enough water volume was accumulated the dam gate was dropped and the logs shot out the reservoir and down the channel with the flood surge. This was VERY destructive, as you can immagine, taking out any riparian vegetation, soil and even large rocks as the water and heavy timber roared down the channel. Of course, any life form that existed in the channel was killed or disrupted.

            This incredibly destructive log transport method was fairly wide spread in parts of WA and OR in the late 1800’s to the 1920’s, or so. No roads existed, but high grade logs were there available for harvest, so they just used the stream channel, or alternatively built flumes of large cedar planks adjacent to the channel, diverted water from the stream/river to the artificial channel, and shot the logs down the flumes.

            In the case of some tributaries of the Columbia, where logs were floated down the stream channels, this was a fairly widely used practice. Research shows that a number of these stream channels have not completely recovered even after nearly 100 years, from what I have recall.

            American Rivers has a short piece on the Hemlock Dam removal. There are a number of good pictures, if you enlarge the

            http://www.americanrivers.org/our-work/restoring-rivers/dams/projects/hemlock-dam-trout-creek-or.html

          • avatar bret says:

            A good book to read on the subject of early logging in the PNW is “They tried to cut it all”

          • avatar SEAK Mossback says:

            WM —
            Splash-dam logging did indeed have a profound effect on Pacific NW rivers. I recently saw a presentation of efforts to catalog all the splash-dams and their effects, including lots of photos of old dams in operation and the timber-choked channels as well as what remains. After many years, people have gotten used to the rivers, which are still beautiful, as they are now and can’t visualize what was there before. I remember reading one paper where it was estimated the coho smolt production potential of one Oregon river (Siuslaw) is 2% of what it was 150 years ago. Coho got the worst of it because they need a high pool-riffle ratio, lots of habitat structure and off-channel backwater habitat, whereas many of the rivers are still good producers of steelhead which do well with lots of riffle habitat. Years ago, we were visited by a friend of my wife’s who had mapped fish habitat in rivers all over Oregon for ODF&W. She fly fished one evening in a stream out the road and absolutely raved about the habitat, ideal in all categories — probably like Pacific Northwest rivers once were — and it has lots of both coho and steelhead.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Thanks Savebears and WM!

      I know there are remnants of an old splash dam in a very unusual place — Wyoming. I have seen them. They are in the DuNoir Creek area, way back in.

  2. avatar Savebears says:

    Opps, that should have been “Dam” those damn dams!

  3. avatar Savebears says:

    Ralph,

    I think I have posted this before, but it is a great resource for information on Dam removal around the country.

    http://library.ucr.edu/wrca/collections/cdri/

  4. avatar JC says:

    Here’s a couple of vids showing animations of how they are going to deconstruct the dams. I found them at Dana Lyons’ site, along with a great song “Drop of Water” to accompany them. Great stuff!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKGlt00PVzE

    • avatar Daniel Berg says:

      Great video. I’m hoping to get over there and take a peak at the process. It’s not everyday you get to see a dam being taken down.

      • avatar WM says:

        Daniel,

        You might want to check with the ONP visitor center. I think access to the upper dam is limited. The Elwha Road is closed above Altair CG. Whiskey Bend Road is washed out for vehicle traffic, but you might be able to walk up there and drop down into the Mills reservoir pool at some point and walk back to the dam. I suppose there is even the possibility of a trail down to the east side of the dam now. One would hope NPS would provide some viewing of some sort.

        As for the lower dam, you can see Aldwell Lake has been drained from hiway 101 in a couple spots, and I think you can get to the dam site on the lower road.

        Let us know what you find out.

        • avatar Daniel Berg says:

          WM,

          Thanks for the information. I talked to the visitor center and there is currently no established access to the dam. It sounds like there is talk about creating access of some sort for viewing, but I’m sure that wouldn’t be availabe for some time.

          The gal I spoke to on the phone said the closest trail was Griff Creek, which supposedly provides views of the upper resevoir at a couple of points. I’m going to look into what the best approach would be to get over by the dam.

          I’m hoping the access isn’t too difficult. My dad also wants to see the dam, but probably wouldn’t appreciate anything overly strenuous. He is not very accepting of my higher endurance level and can be prone to over-exertion.

  5. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    Thanks for this video, JC. And folks will be interested in the related videos this link leads to.

  6. avatar jdubya says:

    The other shoe is also going to drop over this dam regarding the hatcheries that they want to put in:

    http://wildfishconservancy.org/about/press-room/press-releases/agencies-warned-over-elwha-river-fish-hatchery

    I am glad to say that some organizations I support are going to sue to keep the Fed’s from blasting the “new” river with hatchery fish instead of simply letting the river heal itself. If they put catch and release, barbless hooks reg’s on that river (or even just close the river to all fishing to the time being), then the native fish will be able to repopulate the upper stretches in the absence of competition from the pellet heads.

    • avatar Daniel Berg says:

      Isn’t it the tribe that’s the main driver behind the hatchery?

      • avatar WM says:

        The Lower Elwha S’klallam tribe has at least three interests here. They lost their old hatchery near the mouth. So, the new one was to replace it, as well as the jobs for tribal members. Then there are the treaty obligations for fish entitlement that pre-date the dam construction by many, many decades.

        I do not know whether to be surprised by this late date pre suit notice of an ESA challenge that is apparently designed to get the parties to negotiate some sort of deal. Surely, this issue has been out there and discussed many times. Whatever it is, it will likely suppress fish biomass production for sometime, and that is not likely to sit well with the tribe, as they want the hatchery jobs as well as subsistence/ceremonial fish, and fish to sell for profit. Probably not much difference to them whether they are native or hatchery fish (except the jobs part).

        Whether the non-Indian, purists advocating native fish runs get their way will be interesting to watch.

        Bottom line: ESA clashes with treaty rights and salmon biomass recovery on the Elwha. This is likely one more arrow in the quiver of the anti-ESA crowd.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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