The Elwha River Restoration project involves removal of the 108ft high Elwha Dam, completed in 1913, and the 210ft high Glines Canyon Dam, completed in 1927. On 17 September, contractors Barnard Construction Company began work to remove the dams, starting with Glines Canyon. A ceremony to mark the start of removal was attended by a number of officials, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and leaders of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Removing the two dams will allow fish to access spawning habitat in more than 70 miles of river and tributary stream, most of which is protected inside Olympic National Park.

The 45 mile long Elwha River is the historic home of all five species of Pacific salmon and is one of the Northwest’s most productive salmon streams. Because neither dam provided passage for migratory fish, salmon and other fish have been restricted to the lower five miles of river since dam construction.

The removal process is expected to take up to three years. Dam removal will release large amounts of sediment now impounded in reservoirs behind both dams, so stoppages will be built into the work schedule to limit the amount of sediment released at any given time, particularly when adult fish are in the river.