The Elwha Dam below Lake Aldwell. Photo by Jay Cline
Barnard Construction Company of Bozeman, Mont., was selected Aug. 26 as the contractor to remove the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River.
Dam removal begins in September 2011.
“This is a historic moment,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin said. “With award of this contact, we begin the countdown to the largest dam removal and one of the largest restoration projects in U.S. history.”
Park officials say removing the two dams will allow fish to access spawning habitat in more than 70 miles of river and tributary stream, most of which is protected inside Olympic National Park.
“This story is about the fish,” said Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
“The tribe looks forward to the return of the chinook, and the abundance of fish from the stories our ancestors have been telling us about since the dams went up. We used to have salmon and other species out there, and we want them back and revived for our children and our children’s children.”
Norm Dicks, who represents Washington’s 6th District, said, “The award of this contract represents tangible progress toward the completion of what I believe will be one of the most exciting and biologically significant initiatives ever launched by the federal government.
“The removal of the two dams and the restoration of this unique and largely protected habitat will demonstrate how these historically abundant fish runs can recover when we ‘turn back the clock.’”
“Now that we know who the contractor is, we can begin discussions about how much public access can be provided during dam removal,” Gustin said.
“Our primary objective is safe removal of the two dams, but as much as possible, we would like to provide opportunities for people to safely visit the area and see this project for themselves.”
A number of preparatory projects have been completed or are under way now. Facilities to protect the Port Angeles drinking and industrial water supplies were completed early this year. Improvements to flood protection levees are under way and a fish hatchery on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s Reservation is under construction to replace the tribe’s existing hatchery.
The new hatchery will help maintain existing stocks of Elwha River fish during dam removal and produce populations of coho, pink, and chum salmon and steelhead vital to restoration.
“As we have been appropriating funds for this project over many years, I have been encouraged that it received the consistent support of four administrations from both parties,” he said.
“There have been many Klallam people, including previous tribal councils, who have worked hard toward reaching the milestone of removing the Elwha dams,” Charles said. “The tribe’s actions toward dam removal are only following in the footsteps of our ancestors and former tribal leaders requests’ and have included many trips to Washington, D.C. The tribe takes pride in the protection of our environment in honor of our ancestors, elders and future generations.”
The Elwha River Restoration Project is possible through the support and participation of many partners including the Bureau of Reclamation that was the lead agency in designing dam removal and sediment management strategies and currently operates and maintains the dams.