Elwha Comes to Life

June 13, 2012 By: Benjamin Clary

Recently, scientists observed a 35-inch male steelhead in Washington’s Little River.  The occasion—which is normally not out of the ordinary for the rich fisheries of the area—is being celebrated as a victory for one reason:  this particular tributary of the Elwha River is above where the Elwha River Dam once stood.

Less than a year after the September removal of the Elwha River Dam, anglers, interest groups and government officials have kept a close eye on the river.  The mood surrounding the fishery has been tense due to the large price tag that dam removal carries coupled with the numerous unknowns surrounding a typical removal.  For instance, one large question mark is management of sediment that accumulates behind the dam.  Without firsthand experience, it is hard to know for sure whether the sediment will dissipate or remain.  Lucky for those pulling for the fishery, the body of water has handled the sediment well, posing a compelling argument for further removal of contentious dams.