Saturday, July 31, 2010

Environmental Milestone

Glines Canyon Dam, Elwha River

In June of 2011, work will begin on the largest dam removal and river restoration project in US history on Washington's Elwha River. The goal: to remove two obsolete but ecologically catastrophic dams and return this 72 km long river to something approximating its natural state. Ultimately the goal will be to restore what were once huge salmon runs, destroyed when the dams were built in the early 20th century. The majority of the Elwha watershed lies within Olympic National Park, making it possible to protect the river, and the salmon, forever.
Federal authorization for this project, which we actively supported, was passed in 1992, so it has taken nearly two decades just for the work to begin. The removal is expected to take 3 years. How long the river will require to heal itself - and to flush out the vast amounts of impounded sediment - is anyone's guess.  
This project may seem small and local, but it is anything but insignificant; it represents a major re-thinking of our relationship with rivers... and quite possibly the planet. It will certainly help guide future dam removals all over the world.
I hope to devote considerable time to documenting the river and its restoration over the next few years. Stay tuned.

For more information on this story, go to Elwha

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