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Elwha River Dams Another Step Forward Toward Removal

Posted: 02/21/2007
by Thomas O'Keefe

Last Friday the Washington Department of Ecology issued the required Water Quality Certification Order for removal of Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River.

The project will restore the Elwha River Ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries by removing two outdated dams that have blocked fish passage for nearly a century. In the process a free-flowing river, one of Olympic National Park's most spectacular rivers, will be reborn. Certification is a key step in the process to begin the work of removal.

The Washington Department of Ecology specifically acknowledged the fact that temporary impacts on water quality can be accommodated in a case such as this where ecosystem restoration is the ultimate goal. In the certification order they state as follows:

The removal of the Glines and Elwha Dams will result in elevated levels of turbidity in the Elwha River. Under WAC 173-201A-110 (1997) and WAC 173-201A-410 (2003), the water quality criteria can be modified when necessary to accommodate essential activities, respond to emergencies, or otherwise protect the public interest, even though such activities may result in temporary reduction of water quality below those criteria. Pursuant to those regulations, Ecology hereby modifies the turbidity water quality standards to the extent necessary to accommodate the in-water activities of the proposed project.

Implications for Other Projects

We are pleased to see this project move forward as we continue working towards removing several outdated dams in the region. The Sandy River's Marmot Dam is scheduled to come out this summer. We are also waiting on the Water Quality Certification for Condit Dam on the White Salmon scheduled for removal in 2008. Powerdale Dam on the Hood River and Savage Rapids on the Rogue are also set to be removed within the next couple years. While project operations have been modified at dozens of dams across the region for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and recreation these specific projects slated for removal provide marginal power capacity relative to environmental impacts. Technical reviews by scientists and resource managers are consistently finding that dam removal is the most cost-effective means of achieving ecosystem recovery goals on these rivers.

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Projects

Elwha Restoration (WA)
The Elwha River will be restored by removing two dams that have blocked salmon and degraded recreational opportunities on one of the Pacific Northwest's most spectacular rivers.

Associated Rivers

Elwha WA