Seattle Times: Last of the Elwha River dams to come down

The Seattle Times’ Lynda Mapes posted a wrap up of the latest efforts to complete the Elwha River Restoration project. The remains of the formerly 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam are expected to be removed in September, three years after the removal process began for both the Glines and Elwha dams. The Elwha Dam, formerly at 108 feet tall, was completely removed by 2013. Aside from salmon making their way deep into the watershed and the river mouth restoring itself with sediment, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s wildlife staff also has seen critters taking advantage of the new habitat. From the story:

Dam removal also is kick-starting broader effects in the ecological systems of the watershed, from its food chain to the home ranges of animals.

Kim Sager-Fradkin, wildlife biologist for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, already has tracked fish-eating otters to parts of the Elwha that salmon have recolonized since dam removal, and documented an increase in the otters’ nutrient levels derived from fish.

John McMillan, a biologist with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries walking the tributaries since dam removal began, said that in the first year he saw salmon carcasses on the riverbank. But now he doesn’t because the otters, bears, cougars, bobcats and mink have learned to take advantage of food where for so many years there was none.

“The ecological relationships between the animals are coming back,” McMillan said. To me, that is such a great feeling.”