Rollingbay Works

Deconstructing Dams

Added on by Dan Kowalski.

On a chilly afternoon, with promising high-pressure sun breaks, I had a plan to "bust out" and snowshoe in the Olympics.   Unfortunately,  a hapless driver went into the ditch on the road to Hurricane Ridge creating mountain gridlock.  Turning around, I made my way up the Elwha River. 

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In 1910, entrepreneurs dammed the river for hydro-electric power, sure that money could be made. Their bet was that industry would follow and create prosperity for Port Angeles.  To a large extent, this is what happened.  What wasn't built was a required fish passage for the salmon.  So for a century, regal runs of King, Sockeye, Keta, Silver, Pink salmon and Steelhead were blocked from their ancestral spawning grounds.  

But a remarkable thing happened.  A broad coalition of interest groups worked long and hard within the system, and the dams came down.  The mighty Elwha is once again a free-flowing river.  As an ecosystem phenomenon, dam removal on the Elwha is being studied from countless angles.  King salmon have been observed above the dams in broad reaches of the river draining fresh water from Pacific clouds. The facts themselves kindle the imagination.   Human nature runs with wild nature on the waters of the Elwha as deconstruction crews finish their work.