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. and , 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."