Biggest in U.S. -- a dam victory for environmentalists!

Biggest in U.S. -- a dam victory for environmentalists!

Port Angeles : WA : USA | Sep 18, 2011 at 12:41 PM PDT
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Environmentalists around the nation are looking to Washington state with a sigh of relief--finally there is hope for other dams to be removed that have blocked the natural flow of salmon from doing what they were created to do as the Elwha and Edward's dam demolition projects were finally approved.

The largest dam removal project ever undertaken in the United States began with an emotional ceremony Saturday by a Lower Elwha Klallam tribal blessing, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.

It was quite an event as performers sang and danced, politicians spoke and groups who had worked for years on what had once seemed an impossible dream laughed and cried together at the celebration of the dam removals.

For over 100 years, chinook, up to 20-pounds, have had to fight back their primordial genetic drive to swim up river---even after being stopped by the dam, they continue relentlessly pursuing their impossible journey set out for them.

But alas, Saturday, history was made as a bulldozer began using its monstrous front end to dig, break and etch out large chunks from the man-made barrier that stopped nature from taking its course.

"It's sort of inherent in their systems — incredible, really. There's some innate homing behavior in these fish; they're responding to some kind of ancient cue to their natural spawning area, upriver," said Lyman Thorsteinson, director of the USGS fisheries center.

"It's as if they know," said Will Hall, deputy mayor of the city of Shoreline, north of Seattle. "'Take down that dam. Let us go through.' This is what it's all about."

Now that the dam war has been won in Washington state, the U.S. may be able to free other rivers from the 80,000 concrete structures, backed up with aging silt, that have long dammed up the rivers who have fought for their freedom, until now, with no hope in sight.

"This is just breathtaking for me. This is not only an historic moment, but it's going to lead to historic moments elsewhere across the country," said Michael Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Connor's comments were made in front of an audience of politicians, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Washington Gov.Chris Gregoire, actor Tom Skerritt, U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and leaders of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe who finally claimed victory over the structure that was once considered an advancement in engineering and economic development.

"Twenty-five years ago, the idea of removing this dam or any dam was really seen as a crazy idea by a bunch of wild-eyed environmental extremists," said Bob Irvin, president of the nonprofit group American Rivers. "Now it is a mainstream idea, because people recognize the benefits of restoring healthy rivers — benefits not only to the environment, but to communities."

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Elwha Dam
Aerial view of Elwha River Dam, Washington StateSource: Elwha Watershed Information Resource
Stephanie Ealy is based in Tacoma, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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News Stories

  • Dam removal begins, and soon the fish will flow

      Los Angeles Times
    In a deep turquoise pool in a gorge of steep granite and thick Douglas fir, dozens of salmon swam fitfully. Swirling and slow, they made their way up one side of the riverbed, only to run into the steep concrete face of Elwha Dam the formidable...
  • Even Bureau of Reclamation celebrates removal of two Washington dams

      The Idaho Statesman
    Wash — The celebration of the removal of two dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park Saturday had all of the elements of similar ceremonies since the Edwards Dam was bulldozed on Maine’s Kennebec River 12 years ago...People who had worked...
  • Green Blog: Removal of Elwha River Dams Begins

      The New York Times
    45 am A symbolic turn for salmon habitat restoration in Washington State was marked over the weekend as government officials, tribal members, scientists and engineers gathered for the beginning of the largest dam removal ever in the United States.
  • Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History Underway

      Epoch Times
    Sep 21, 2011 The Elwha River in Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington will soon flow freely again. Demolition of the two Elwha River dams, Elwha and Glines Canyon dams began on Sept. 17. The Lower Elwha Kallam tribe and...
  • Emotional ceremony marks start of Elwha Dam removal project

      The News Tribune
    A few hundred people and several dozen Chinook salmon gathered near the Elwha Dam on Saturday to witness the beginning of the process to set the Elwha River free and restore five species of Pacific salmon to more than 70 miles of river and stream. An...
  • Group plans $5B to meet Yakima River Basin needs

      Tri-City Herald
    Phrases such as "historic meeting" and "it's time" got tossed around a lot Sunday, almost as much as the word "water."...Sen. Maria Cantwell, and federal Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Conner in Yakima together to talk about meeting...


  • Aerial view of Elwha River Dam, Washington StateSource: Elwha Watershed Information Resource

    Elwha Dam

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