Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Who gets the land?

When the reservoir known as Lake Aldwell is drained following the removal of the 112-foot Elwha Dam, who will own the new riverside land?

Today's story in the Peninsula Daily News explores the options, and notes that the public will certainly get a say in the decision.

Read the story

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

New book of Elwha River photos

"Away out over everything: the Olympic Peninsula and the Elwha River" will be available in October. The book's photographs are by Mary Peck. Charles Wilkinson contributes an essay.

"Images and text afford us glimpses of the primeval power that still lingers in this wild place. Peck’s meditations on the roadless ocean beaches, the emerald river valleys with their old growth temperate rain forests, and the denuded hillsides urge the reader to acknowledge the less tangible values we must consider in managing our natural resources."

-- From the book's description by Stanford University Press (PDF)


Get the latest on dam removal in the United States -- "60 dams in 15 states to be removed in 2004" (7-21-04 press release from American Rivers)

Read "Damning the Dams" from the July/August 2000 issue of E Magazine.

Read "Salvation for the Dammed" from the March 2000 issue of Sierra Magazine.

Two good quotes about dams...

"When I visit a dam, I often find a plaque honoring by name the engineer, government leader, contracting firm and the height, size, date, volume of water held or diverted, power generated, flood capacity measurements. And that's fine. But I don't find a plaque with the names of any species hurt, the names of any people displaced, the cost to taxpayers, the price of maintenance or decommissioning, or why this option was chosen over, say, windmills, solar panels, natural gas, groundwater pumping, demand management or some decentralized tools."

-- A member of the World Commission on Dams

"The public must retain control of the great waterways. It is essential that any permit to obstruct them for reasons and on conditions that seem good at the moment should be subject to revision when changed conditions demand."

-- President Teddy Roosevelt, 1908

Bringing back the salmon

Before Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam blocked the river coho, pink, chum, sockeye, spring and summer/fall chinook salmon returned by the hundreds of thousands. Individual chinook sometimes weighed over 100 pounds. I've read that the salmon were so big that people could wear their skins as ceremonial robes.

Since the early 1900's the dams have prevented salmon from reaching roughly 70 miles of upstream habitat in the Elwha River and its tributaries. The dams have also inundated 684 acres of riverside habitat -- important for wildlife like deer and Roosevelt elk -- beneath the reservoirs of Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell.

Today, only about 4,000 salmon spawn in the five miles of available river below the dams. Other wildlife, like the bald eagle, black bear, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, weasel, mink and river otter are suffering from the lack of nutrient-rich salmon carcasses.

Removing the two dams on the Elwha will be about salmon, and much more than salmon -- it will be restoration of an ecosystem on a grand scale.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Elwha dam removal gets final go-ahead

Today the Seattle Times is running a front page story with great color photos, announcing the signing of the agreement to allow the $182 million dam removal project to move forward.

Read the story

Removal of the two dams will begin in 2008 -- between now and then, work must be completed on a water treatment plant for the town of Port Angeles, and a sewer system, flood protection levee, and fish hatchery for the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation.

When the dams are finally out, salmon will be able to return to their upstream spawning grounds in Olympic National Park for the first time in 100 years.