Miles Lost Miles Gained

Art and science combine to virtually restore lost rivers through digital maps, sculpture and intersecting tales of ecosystem destruction and restoration.

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View from site of Denny Hill in Seattle, 1882, showing undeveloped Elliot Bay, Duwamish river mouth and tidelands in background. River delta marsh islands and mouth are just in front of forested area in center-right near horizon (what is now Georgetown).
View from site of Denny Hill in Seattle, 1882, showing undeveloped Elliot Bay, Duwamish river mouth and tidelands in background. River delta marsh islands and mouth are just in front of forested area in center-right near horizon (what is now Georgetown).

Photo: UW Theodore E. Peiser Photographs collection

Detail of A. Koch 1891 birds eye view of Seattle, showing mouth of Duwamish River, and early industry.
Detail of A. Koch 1891 birds eye view of Seattle, showing mouth of Duwamish River, and early industry.

Source: University of Washington

Historic and current wetland area and type for river estuaries of Puget Sound basin.
Historic and current wetland area and type for river estuaries of Puget Sound basin.

Source: Collins and Sheik, 2005. PSRHP

Map showing extend and scale of regrades in Seattle, between 1896 and 1930. The preferred method was hydraulic sluicing of sediment from high ground to low ground. Much of the SODO and Interbay areas are founded on former tidelands.
Map showing extend and scale of regrades in Seattle, between 1896 and 1930. The preferred method was hydraulic sluicing of sediment from high ground to low ground. Much of the SODO and Interbay areas are founded on former tidelands.

Source: Seattle Municipal Archives

Farmers attempting to divert the Cedar River out of the Black River, into Lake Washington, in Renton, c.a. 1900.
Farmers attempting to divert the Cedar River out of the Black River, into Lake Washington, in Renton, c.a. 1900.

Photo: University of Washington Libraries

Boeing plant 1, in southwest Seattle,  shortly after construction of the lower Duwamish waterway. This is the currently the site of a cold storage warehouse and fish processing plant, near the First Ave. South  bridge. C.a. 1920-1930s.
Boeing plant 1, in southwest Seattle, shortly after construction of the lower Duwamish waterway. This is the currently the site of a cold storage warehouse and fish processing plant, near the First Ave. South bridge. C.a. 1920-1930s.

Photo: City of Seattle

Engineering methods used to “solve” flood problems on the White and Stuck Rivers in King and Pierce Counties, 1919.
Engineering methods used to “solve” flood problems on the White and Stuck Rivers in King and Pierce Counties, 1919.

Photo: ICRI report, 1920

Proposed canal and lock system replacing the Duwamish, Green, White, Stuck, and Puyallup rivers, connecting Seattle and Tacoma, 1968. Origin and intent of this map are dubious (was this a prank?).
Proposed canal and lock system replacing the Duwamish, Green, White, Stuck, and Puyallup rivers, connecting Seattle and Tacoma, 1968. Origin and intent of this map are dubious (was this a prank?).

Source: USACE Seattle District

Example of recent Federal and County restoration efforts, near historic river mile marker 11 on the Duwamish River in Tukwila. Efforts like this have been underway throughout the Pacific Northwest for the last two decades.
Example of recent Federal and County restoration efforts, near historic river mile marker 11 on the Duwamish River in Tukwila. Efforts like this have been underway throughout the Pacific Northwest for the last two decades.

Photo: ML/MG

S’Klallam camp between Port Angeles and Elwha River, n.d. The sandy beach in this photo has been eroding for decades due to the presence of the dams on the Elwha, providing a supply of sand and gravel, which washed east, forming Ediz hook.
S’Klallam camp between Port Angeles and Elwha River, n.d. The sandy beach in this photo has been eroding for decades due to the presence of the dams on the Elwha, providing a supply of sand and gravel, which washed east, forming Ediz hook.

Photo: UW North Olympic Library Collection

Timber mill in Port Angeles, fed by water and power generated from Elwha river dams, 1914. The dam and the Glines Canyon dam that followed in the 1920s supplied power to the industry of Port Angeles and as far away as the US Navy Shipyards in Bremerton.
Timber mill in Port Angeles, fed by water and power generated from Elwha river dams, 1914. The dam and the Glines Canyon dam that followed in the 1920s supplied power to the industry of Port Angeles and as far away as the US Navy Shipyards in Bremerton.

Photo: UW Asahel Curtis collection

Elwha dam and Lake Aldwell, July 2011, just before decommissioning.
Elwha dam and Lake Aldwell, July 2011, just before decommissioning.

Photo: ML/MG

The Glines Canyon dam is being removed downstream which has caused the reservoir to lower. The lakebed's 24 million cubic yards of sediment will be released in a controlled fashion, restoring the natural processes that create valuable habitat downstream.
The Glines Canyon dam is being removed downstream which has caused the reservoir to lower. The lakebed's 24 million cubic yards of sediment will be released in a controlled fashion, restoring the natural processes that create valuable habitat downstream.

Photo: National Parks Service

Artistic rendering showing Glines Canyon before (above) and after (below) dam removal. This dam will be removed in 2013, allowing for fish to swim unimpeded to the upper watershed for the first time in a century.
Artistic rendering showing Glines Canyon before (above) and after (below) dam removal. This dam will be removed in 2013, allowing for fish to swim unimpeded to the upper watershed for the first time in a century.

Source: NPS, Olympic National Park

History

MORE HISTORICAL INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT MORE INFO.

Preface

As an engineer who works exclusively on estuaries and rivers, I usually try to construct a narrative of how what I see in front of me came to be, and how it might change. This means I end up relying on the work of geologists, cartographers, and historians to piece my story together.  I have learned that identifying the natural and human forces that have shaped the land and water I can better assess what engineering treatments will be effective at achieving some end. I have been applying this technique for at least a decade and couldn’t stop it from influencing my art making process. The sculptural mile markers are the heart of this project and a Trojan horse for conveyance of a remarkable story of transformation of the people and lands of the Salish Sea.

For the last two years I have been researching extensively to help me construct a clearer picture of “how we got here”.  It was quite a journey. What follows is my lay-historian synopsis. Caution to the reader: it is not exhaustive or authoritative and it includes opinions. I have tried to remain as objective as I could and have included references to key articles and reports that underpin my research. The reader is strongly encouraged to go to the sources to learn more about our fascinating, intertwined, and from many perspectives tragic, regional history.

Natural and Early History

As anyone flying overhead looking down at the Puget Sound would suspect, the recent geologic record of the region basin is undoubtedly dynamic. Following the recession of the glaciers some 16000 years ago1, the lands and waters of the Puget Sound basin continued to be transformed by natural and anthropogenic forces. Major earthquakes separated and displaced the land up and down by meters at a time2, while steady rains slowly washed the mountains to the sea. Recession of the glaciers relieved pressure on the earth surface, which is still causing some areas to rebound slowly. The geologic record shows repeated volcanic events that unleashed torrents of mud and debris that filled entire valleys and extended into the fjords of what we today call Puget Sound3,4. Great floods reworked the river valleys and deltas where much of the future settlement would occur, and the daily tides nourished the deltas to create expansive marshesv6, teaming with natural bounty7.

Rivers and bays of the Salish Sea formed the basis for the native peoples’ economy, sustenance, and transportation network9. The largely hunter-gatherer societies depended primarily on the most reliable source for food – the estuaries and rivers near their villages. Salmon runs occurred at predictable times throughout the year on many rivers, providing a stable and abundant food source9. Native peoples developed technologies and methodologies to efficiently harvest and sustainably manage available food resources7,9.  Weirs and aerial nets were constructed across rivers to harvest salmon and waterfowl, but some fish were always allowed to pass to ensure their progeny would return7,9. Prairies were maintained through fire to provide forage for wildlife and camas bulbs9. Lacking the technology to confront natural forces like floods head-on, the tribes adapted to them, largely living around coastlines where water fluctuations were more predictable, relying on boats for transportation, and managing resources to ensure they persisted despite the dynamic climate of the Pacific Northwest.

Most recent landforms were built through a gradual process of erosion or deposition but cataclysmic changes were occasionally witnessed by the Lushootseed (Puget Sound Salish)8 peoples who have a recorded presence in this region that dates back to at least 10,000 years agoix.  Many of their origin stories talk of violent earth shaking events and floods. Some have speculated that some of these stories may have been inspired by geologic events such as the AD 900 Seattle fault earthquake, and the AD 1700 cascade subduction zone earthquake2.

River Transformation from Settlement to Modern Era

Upon reflection of the scale and pace of changes that have occurred in the last 200 years it can be argued that the events of the 19th and 20th centuries would unleash forces upon the landscape and native peoples that matched or exceeded many of the tectonic and hydrologic events experienced by their ancestors.

From the late 18th century until 1846, the United States vied with European nations for claims to settle to the Pacific Northwestx. By the 1850s most native tribes in what is now Washington State signed treaties with US Government, ceding their territories in exchange for permanent reservations and rights to hunt and fish on their usual and accustomed lands. Others resisted and were forcibly removed from and resettled8,5. The treaties allowed Government land surveyors to establish legal boundaries of Reservations and the US Government territories, and created the land parcel boundaries that would eventually be subdivided into the plats underlie many of our homes today8. Because these maps inform the conditions of the land prior to widespread settlement4 they underpin much of the MLMG project.

In the mid 19th century settlers were met with an imposing landscape of glacially carved hills intersected frequently by large river valleys carpeted with old growth timber that extended from the mountains to the tideflats4. The lack of modern machinery to clear lands and build roads focused development on the few flat areas available, namely the river valleys and tidelands8. Until the arrival of the railroads in the 1890s, around the time of statehood, nearly all commerce was tied to the water. The timber and fish of these valleys that fed the Tribes for millennia were processed and exported to feed the growing cities of the West Coast4.   Unfortunately by the early 1900s the fisheries were in steep decline5, and few remnants of the old growth forests remained4.

From the 1880s to the early 20th century, a confluence of immigration, industrialization, economic busts, booms, and two world wars would indelibly transform the rivers and lands adjoining the Salish Sea. The need to feed the growing cities and export markets resulted in speculative filling of tidelands7,10.Entire hillsides were sluiced into the tideflats, forming “sanitary fills” to reclaim these “wastelands”7,10. The winding rivers were straightened into waterways, their meanders filled to create new lands for a factories and a burgeoning defense industry that would be vital to prove vital to US success in two world wars and the regional economy6.

By 1916, portions of four rivers (White, Black, Cedar, Sammamish) had been diverted out of their historic basins7,10, thousands of acres of tidelands and wetlands were drained and filled8, and countless miles of river were “improved” by armoring, diking, dredging, and filling9,10.  Dozens of dams were constructed for water supply and hydropower throughout the Pacific Northwest, and continue to provide for the region.  These dams, technical marvels of their day, often bisected watersheds in ways that significantly disrupted the natural flows of sediment, water, wood, and organisms15.

The combination of over-fishing and rapid habitat loss from explosive growth of the region led to severe declines in salmon populations by the 1930s9,16. While the terra-forming and replumbing of western Washington rivers were largely complete by the 1930s, flood control dams completed in subsequent decades, coupled with dramatic population growth proved to be the coup de grace for transformation of the valleys to their final form, a sprawling spider web of roads, factories, warehouses, and apartments, and shopping centers17.

Because the last of the major flood control dams was completed several decades ago, the changes that followed were gradual, and the conditions that preceded them have largely been forgotten. The MLMG project seeks to virtually and physically reveal these lost river segments, and the history behind the transformation, to help the public appreciate the pace and scale of the changes, as well as the sacrifices made by the native peoples and the ecosystems that sustained them. Because heavily transformed rivers like the Duwamish and Puyallup have a shared history with their neighbors draining to the Salish Sea, part of the project purpose is to highlight successful large-scale efforts to reverse the damage to rivers.  The pinnacle for restoration in the Pacific Northwest to date is represented by the Elwha River on the Olympic peninsula, just 60 miles from Seattle.

Abbreviated Elwha Story

Beginning in the 1940s, growing public alarm over the degradation of the land and waters of the United States ushered in a series of important environmental laws that began to halt and reverse these impacts17. By this time the potential impact of dams on salmon habitat and survival was well known10,15.  In fact, in 1890, concerns over the effects of dams resulted in the Washington State legislature passing a law requiring fishways at dams if migratory populations of salmon and trout were present17. The Elwha Dam, completed in 1914, and located 5 miles upstream from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, was a notable exception to State law at the time.8

The Elwha dam was built to provide power to a burgeoning timber industry near Port Angeles, WA, and the US Navy shipyard in Bremerton.19 The builder, Thomas Aldwell, never included a fish ladder in the design, despite the presence of 10 strong fish runs and a State law requiring one. It was clearly evident before the dam was completed that it would block all access for migratory fish.18,19

Prior to dam construction, the river was heavily used by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for subsistence fishing19 and was widely known by anglers for its steelhead and 100 plus pound Chinook (“June hogs”).20  Because the pristine watershed provided over 117 miles of mainstem, side channel, and tributary spawning and rearing habitat21, the dam’s location near the river mouth, and its lack of a fish ladder, had an exceptionally detrimental impact on the river and estuarine ecosystem.19 By 1926 a second hydropower dam (Glines Canyon) was constructed at river mile 13.5, also without fish passage, on land that became part of Olympic National Park in 1940.

Efforts to sustain the native Chinook fishery with a hatchery below the dam, a result of a new State law passed in 1914 to favorably affect the interests of Thomas Aldwell, failed by 1922.19 By the 1970s, fish declines were well documented and the State of Washington constructed the Chinook rearing channel and the Tribe built a hatchery for Coho and Steelhead.19 By the mid 1990’s 7 of the 10 native stocks were at critically low levels.21 The famed 100 pound “June hog” Chinook stock may be have gone extinct by the 1950s.22

In the 1970s the private pulp and paper company that owned the dams was applying to obtain a federal license to operate them for the next 50 years.  In 1986, Due to concerns over safety of the Elwha dam, and the impact on salmon, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and several environmental groups successfully challenged the US Government’s pending license19. Several studies were conducted that weighed the impact of the dams on the environment against the limited power benefits provided, and demonstrated that removal of the dams was feasible and beneficial19. In 1990 the G.A.O. issued a report that concluded the FERC did not have authority to relicense the Glines Canyon dam19. The combined efforts ultimately resulted in Congress passing what is now known as the Elwha Restoration Act, (P.L. 102-495) signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in October 24, 1992. The Act directed the Government to purchase the dams from the private owner, operate the dams, and study ways to fully restore the river, including removal of both dams. The subsequent Elwha Environmental Impact Statements in the mid 1990s demonstrated that removal of the dams was the only way to restore the fish runs and ecosystem. At around the same time the pulp and paper company that owned the dams agreed that removal was in its best interest, provided affordable power and clean water could be assured by the Government19. In 2004 the dams were sold to the Government who operated them until September 2011.

Initially controversial and locally unpopular at the time, the order to remove the dams took almost 15 years before the first pieces of concrete were removed. The investment by the US Government in restoration is expected to reach $325 million by the time the dams are fully removed in 2013. Surprisingly dam removal is less than 10% of the total costxxiii. Significant investments in infrastructure upgrades below the dams were needed to ensure that people and industry in the Port Angeles area are not adversely impacted by the project24.

While the cost may seem high on the surface it is less than the cost of a single modern fighter aircraft25. Because more than 80% of the watershed is in the National Park removal of the dams will have benefits that last for the foreseeable future. It will reconnect the pristine upper watershed to the lower river and Strait of Juan de Fuca, and begin the sustainable process of watershed-scale restoration21. The natural restoration process will take decades and provide a bounty of valuable scientific data21,26. It is not known if the “June hogs” will return, but the project is expected to significantly increase the populations of the salmon species that remain, which will likely have benefits to the marine mammals of Puget Sound (including people who like to fish from boats)26.

The form of the MLMG mile markers are intended to represent the intersection point of the diverging trajectories or rivers that flow to the Puget Sound and Salish Sea. For the MLMG project to have impact, it will have to effectively elucidate what has been lost, while highlighting successful large-scale efforts that demonstrate what can be gained. I believe few better examples exist than the Elwha. I am confident that the recent history and future of the Elwha will prove inspirational and will be celebrated, as much for its environmental benefits as for what it means about our societal values and our willingness to invest in the future.  If we are to continue these efforts we need to build on the success of the Elwha, and its miles gained.

MORE HISTORICAL INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT MORE INFO.

REFERENCES

  1. R. Haugerud et al. High Resolution Lidar Topography of the Puget Lowland, WA, a Bonanza for Earth Science. GSA Today. 2003.
  2. Ludwin et al. Serpent Spirit Stories along the Seattle Fault. Seismological Research Letters, volume 76, number 4, 2005, pp426-431,
  3. Hobblitt et al. 1998. Volcanic hazards from Rainier, WA. Revised 1998. USGS Open File report 98-428.
  4. Zehfuss, P.H., Atwater, B.F., Vallance, J.W., and Brenniman, H., 2003, Holocene lahars and their by-products along the historical path of the White River between Mount Rainier and Seattle, in Swanson, T.W., ed., Western Cordillera and adjacent areas: Boulder, Colorado, Geological Society of America Field Guide 4.
  5. Collins, B.D. 2008. Source descriptions for features in a geodatabase of Puget Sound’s pre-settlement river valley, estuary and nearshore habitats (Sept 14 2008 version). Puget Sound River History Project, Quaternary Research Center and Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington. Accessed from riverhistory.ess.washington.edu.
  6. Collins, B. D., D. R. Montgomery, and A. J. Sheikh. 2003. Reconstructing the historical riverine landscape of the Puget Lowland. In: D. R. Montgomery, S. M. Bolton, D. B. Booth, and L. Wall, eds. Restoration of Puget Sound Rivers, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA. pp. 79-128.
  7. Klingle, 2005, Fluid Dynamics : Water Power and the engineering of Seattle’s Duwamish river, JOW 2005, vol. 44 no 3 pp 22-29.
  8. C. Thrush, The Lushootseed Peoples of Puget Sound Country, part of the Essays for the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection, University of Washington, accessed from content.lib.washington.edu/aipnw/thrush.html.
  9. W. Willingham, 1992. Northwest Passages, A History of the Seattle District of the USACE, Vol. 1, 1896-1920, pp 2-92.
  10. W. Willingham, 1996. Northwest Passages, A History of the Seattle District of the USACE,  Vol. 2, 1920-1970, pp 24-90.
  11. Chrzasttowski, M., 1981, Historical Changes to Lake Washington and route of the lake Washington Ship Canal, King County WA, USGS Water Resources Investigations Open File report 81-1182.
  12. Collins, B.D, A. Sheik. Collins, B. D., and A. J. Sheikh. 2005. Historical reconstruction, classification, and change analysis of Puget Sound tidal marshes. Washington Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Resources Division, Olympia, WA Olympia, WA 98504-7027. University of Washington, Puget Sound River History Project, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Seattle, WA 98195. June 30, 2005. Accessed from riverhistory.ess.washington.edu/research/tidal_marshes.php.
  13. King and Pierce Counties, 1920. Inter-County River Improvement Report on Flood Control of the White-Stuck and Puyallup Rivers. accessed from content.lib.washington.edu/u?/ww-text,13334.
  14. The Elwha Report: Restoration of the Elwha River Ecosystem and Native Anadromous Fisheries. A Report Submitted Pursuant to Public Law 102-495, January 1994. Accessed from elwhainfo.org/research-and-science/elwha-research-consortium/erc-publications.
  15. J.E. Taylor. Making Salmon: an environmental history of the Northwest fisheries crisis. University of Washington Press. 1999. Pp 201-202.
  16. M. Sato. The Price of Taming a River: The Decline of Puget Sound’s Duwamish/Green Waterway. Mountaineers Books,  1997.
  17. Environmental Policy of the United States. Accessed online at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_policy_of_the_United_States#Origins_of_the_environmental_movement.
  18. John Kendall, The Elwha Dams, Part 3 (historical series) — “Fisheries, dams linked in 1980s” Peninsula Daily News, 13-Sept 2011. accessed online at peninsuladailynews.com/article/20110913/NEWS/309139992/the-elwha-dams-part-3-historical-series-8212-fisheries-dams.
  19. P. Sadin, D. Vogel. An Interpretive History of the Elwha River Valley and the Legacy of Hydropower on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Report for the NPS, Olympic National Park. January 2011. pp 45-79.
  20. Paul Gottleib, “Will the 100-pound salmon return to the Elwha?” Peninsula Daily News, 24-May 2010, accessed from seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011941781_apwaelwahsalmon1stldwritethru.html.
  21. Pess et al. Biological Impacts of the Elwha River Dams and Potential Salmonid Responses to Dam Removal. Northwest Science Vol. 82, Special Issue, 2008: 72-90.
  22. D. Goin, personal communication at 2011 Elwha Science Symposium.
  23. NPS, Olympic National Park. nps.gov/olym/naturescience/elwha-faq.htm.
  24. NPS. Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Elwha Ecosystem Restoration Implementation. November 2005.
  25. W. Wheeler. “What does an F-22 cost?” Editorial on Militaty.com website, 28-March 2009. Accessed at military.com/opinion/0,15202,187737,00.html.
  26. B.D. Winter, and P. Crain. 2008. Making the Case for Ecosystem Restoration by Dam Removal in the Elwha River, Washington.
View from site of Denny Hill in Seattle, 1882, showing undeveloped Elliot Bay, Duwamish river mouth and tidelands in background. River delta marsh islands and mouth are just in front of forested area in center-right near horizon (what is now Georgetown).
View from site of Denny Hill in Seattle, 1882, showing undeveloped Elliot Bay, Duwamish river mouth and tidelands in background. River delta marsh islands and mouth are just in front of forested area in center-right near horizon (what is now Georgetown).

Photo: UW Theodore E. Peiser Photographs collection

Detail of A. Koch 1891 birds eye view of Seattle, showing mouth of Duwamish River, and early industry.
Detail of A. Koch 1891 birds eye view of Seattle, showing mouth of Duwamish River, and early industry.

Source: University of Washington

Historic and current wetland area and type for river estuaries of Puget Sound basin.
Historic and current wetland area and type for river estuaries of Puget Sound basin.

Source: Collins and Sheik, 2005. PSRHP

Map showing extend and scale of regrades in Seattle, between 1896 and 1930. The preferred method was hydraulic sluicing of sediment from high ground to low ground. Much of the SODO and Interbay areas are founded on former tidelands.
Map showing extend and scale of regrades in Seattle, between 1896 and 1930. The preferred method was hydraulic sluicing of sediment from high ground to low ground. Much of the SODO and Interbay areas are founded on former tidelands.

Source: Seattle Municipal Archives

Farmers attempting to divert the Cedar River out of the Black River, into Lake Washington, in Renton, c.a. 1900.
Farmers attempting to divert the Cedar River out of the Black River, into Lake Washington, in Renton, c.a. 1900.

Photo: University of Washington Libraries

Boeing plant 1, in southwest Seattle,  shortly after construction of the lower Duwamish waterway. This is the currently the site of a cold storage warehouse and fish processing plant, near the First Ave. South  bridge. C.a. 1920-1930s.
Boeing plant 1, in southwest Seattle, shortly after construction of the lower Duwamish waterway. This is the currently the site of a cold storage warehouse and fish processing plant, near the First Ave. South bridge. C.a. 1920-1930s.

Photo: City of Seattle

Engineering methods used to “solve” flood problems on the White and Stuck Rivers in King and Pierce Counties, 1919.
Engineering methods used to “solve” flood problems on the White and Stuck Rivers in King and Pierce Counties, 1919.

Photo: ICRI report, 1920

Proposed canal and lock system replacing the Duwamish, Green, White, Stuck, and Puyallup rivers, connecting Seattle and Tacoma, 1968. Origin and intent of this map are dubious (was this a prank?).
Proposed canal and lock system replacing the Duwamish, Green, White, Stuck, and Puyallup rivers, connecting Seattle and Tacoma, 1968. Origin and intent of this map are dubious (was this a prank?).

Source: USACE Seattle District

Example of recent Federal and County restoration efforts, near historic river mile marker 11 on the Duwamish River in Tukwila. Efforts like this have been underway throughout the Pacific Northwest for the last two decades.
Example of recent Federal and County restoration efforts, near historic river mile marker 11 on the Duwamish River in Tukwila. Efforts like this have been underway throughout the Pacific Northwest for the last two decades.

Photo: ML/MG

S’Klallam camp between Port Angeles and Elwha River, n.d. The sandy beach in this photo has been eroding for decades due to the presence of the dams on the Elwha, providing a supply of sand and gravel, which washed east, forming Ediz hook.
S’Klallam camp between Port Angeles and Elwha River, n.d. The sandy beach in this photo has been eroding for decades due to the presence of the dams on the Elwha, providing a supply of sand and gravel, which washed east, forming Ediz hook.

Photo: UW North Olympic Library Collection

Timber mill in Port Angeles, fed by water and power generated from Elwha river dams, 1914. The dam and the Glines Canyon dam that followed in the 1920s supplied power to the industry of Port Angeles and as far away as the US Navy Shipyards in Bremerton.
Timber mill in Port Angeles, fed by water and power generated from Elwha river dams, 1914. The dam and the Glines Canyon dam that followed in the 1920s supplied power to the industry of Port Angeles and as far away as the US Navy Shipyards in Bremerton.

Photo: UW Asahel Curtis collection

Elwha dam and Lake Aldwell, July 2011, just before decommissioning.
Elwha dam and Lake Aldwell, July 2011, just before decommissioning.

Photo: ML/MG

The Glines Canyon dam is being removed downstream which has caused the reservoir to lower. The lakebed's 24 million cubic yards of sediment will be released in a controlled fashion, restoring the natural processes that create valuable habitat downstream.
The Glines Canyon dam is being removed downstream which has caused the reservoir to lower. The lakebed's 24 million cubic yards of sediment will be released in a controlled fashion, restoring the natural processes that create valuable habitat downstream.

Photo: National Parks Service

Artistic rendering showing Glines Canyon before (above) and after (below) dam removal. This dam will be removed in 2013, allowing for fish to swim unimpeded to the upper watershed for the first time in a century.
Artistic rendering showing Glines Canyon before (above) and after (below) dam removal. This dam will be removed in 2013, allowing for fish to swim unimpeded to the upper watershed for the first time in a century.

Source: NPS, Olympic National Park