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USGS Science to Support the Elwha River Restoration Project

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USGS science supporting the Elwha River Restoration Project

The Elwha River Restoration Project...

... has reconnected the water, salmon, and sediment of a pristine river and coast of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Coordinated by the National Park Service, restoration of the Elwha River included the removal of two large dams that had blocked salmon and sediment passage for almost 100 years. The largest dam removal in U.S. history began in September 2011 and concluded in the summer of 2014. Salmon will be able to spawn in pristine river habitats of the Olympic National Park, and sediment is once again flowing down the river and to the eroding shoreline.

The role of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)...

... in this restoration project is to provide scientific monitoring and analyses of the fish, waters, and sediment, before, during, and after this historic event. This work is coordinated with the Olympic National Park, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Bureau of Reclamation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other local and state entities.

Aerial photograph of the former Lake Mills which was behind Glines Canyon Dam, now removed. Aerial photograph of the Elwha River mouth during dam removal, showing the expansion of the river mouth delta by sediment deposition; photo by Neal and Linda Chism, volunteers with LightHawk. Photograph of USGS scientists Amy Draut and Josh Logan conducting a lidar survey of the Elwha River. Photograph of the portion of the east estuary at the mouth of the Elwha River that had high rates of sediment deposition during dam removal. Photo by M. Foley Aerial photograph of the mouth of the Elwha River taken in March 2014. Aerial photograph of the mouth of the Elwha River taken in June 2014.

Aerial view of former Lake Mills, looking downstream toward Glines Canyon

Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

The effects of dam removal are better known as a result of several new studies released by government, tribal, and university researchers.

Undamming Washington’s Elwha River—Public Lecture on Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

Learn what happened as the gradual removal of two dams released massive amounts of sediment downstream.

Documenting Changes to Elwha River Estuary during Dam Removal

Journal article describes dramatic changes to water quality and hydrology of the Elwha River estuary during dam removal.

USGS scientist Jonathan Warrick quoted in New York Times article about coastal effects of Elwha River dam removal

Describes how massive amounts of sediment released during dam removal have altered the coast at the Elwha’s mouth.

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Page Last Modified: 28 October 2016 (lzt)