Largest dam removal in U.S. history nears completion in WA

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SEATTLE, WA, Aug. 25, 2014 -- According to new reports, Washington's Elwha River dam removal project -- the largest in the nation -- is nearly complete, with the final blasts scheduled to remove the remaining 35 feet of Glines Canyon Dam in the coming weeks.

Once crews finish blasting the dam, once towering 210 feet tall, the Elwha River will flow freely from the mountain wilderness of Olympic National Park to the sea. Removing both dams will open up 70 miles of habitat for salmon. The river restoration effort, which began in 2011, is surpassing expectations and showing great progress, from fish returning to native plants reclaiming riverbanks to sand rebuilding the beach at the river's mouth. 

The Elwha River's revival has been underway since Elwha Dam was removed in March 2012. Salmon have returned, swimming up past the old dam site, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has counted 1,600 Elwha fall chinook. Likewise, the salmon runs are strengthening the entire web of life, providing food for a host of wildlife including bear, cougar, bobcat, mink, and otter.

Thanks to dam removal and river restoration, Elwha fish populations are expected to reach 400,000 over the next 20 to 30 years. Volunteers have planted native grasses, shrubs and trees to jumpstart the restoration of land exposed by the drained reservoirs. Sediment blocked in the reservoirs behind the dams has moved downstream, creating habitat and restoring the beach at the river's mouth.

Many people and groups, led by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, as well as American Rivers, have worked for decades to restore the Elwha. "The Elwha is symbolic of our new relationship with rivers," said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers. "We have the knowledge and tools to restore our rivers, to realize all of the economic, social and environmental benefits of healthy, free-flowing rivers. Communities nationwide are coming together to remove outdated, unsafe dams and restore river health."

See also:

"Sixty-five dams in 19 states removed to restore rivers in 2012"

"River ecosystem restoration project breaks ground in WA"


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