With all the action here on the White Salmon River with the removal of Condit Dam, we almost forgot to propose a toast to the other major river restoration project here in the Pacific Northwest. Tomorrow, Saturday, September 17, 2011, ground will be broken to remove two dams on the Elwha River in Washington’s spectacular Olympic National Park.
The Glines Canyon Dam, at 210 ft tall and 84 years old, stands just below the Elwha Dam, at 108 ft. tall and 98 years old. For the next three years, construction crews will work to remove all evidence of hydropower from both sites, restoring the river to its once free-flowing nature.
The parallels to our own hydropower removal project appear in multiple areas.
1. Both Condit Dam and the Elwha River Dams do not provide adequate fish passage for the vital salmon population teetering on the Endangered Species List. The neglected fish will soon find up to 33 miles of pristine spawning grounds open up on the White Salmon River and over 70 miles on the Elwha, helping populations to return to historical levels.
2. Regional tribes, the Yakima Nation on the White Salmon River and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe on the Elwha, will be able to fish once again on the rivers of their ancestors, returning rights that they were unable to exercise with the presence of hydropower.
3. People are excited. American Rivers, American Whitewater, and many other common stakeholders have been working together to help both projects benefit everyone involved, from those with economic interests to those with cultural and recreational interests.
These rivers are setting a precedent for better preservation, conservation, and restoration of vital freshwater resources on which our country depends. While hydropower facilities provide essential services, it is important that we continue to evaluate the costs and benefits as they age and become more difficult to maintain.
For more information on the removal of the Glines Canyon Dam and the Elwha Dam visit American Rivers website.
Take a look at a video made by the conservation filmmaker Andy Maser about the event.