Elwha Generators Power Down, River Powers Up!

Elwha River by Scott Church

Today is June 1, the first day of National Rivers Month — and we have some especially fitting news to share.

After a decades-long effort to restore a healthy, free-flowing Elwha River, the hydropower generators at the river’s two dams are being turned off in preparation for dam removal this September.

The Elwha River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula has been dammed for nearly 100 years. Removing the dams will revive the river’s legendary salmon runs, restore vital aspects of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s culture, and revitalize the ecosystem in Olympic National Park, from mountains to sea.

This is a symbolic day. The generators may be powering down, but the river is about to power up. 

While we won’t produce hydropower on the Elwha anymore, the healthy river will produce a host of other benefits.

The power of the river that was once directed into the hydropower turbines will now be directed into a healing process for the salmon runs and the entire web of life, from black bears to mayflies to ravens to orca whales. And people.

American Rivers has been working with partners including the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for over a decade to remove the two dams on the Elwha River. We intervened in the dam relicensing process and supported the 1992 legislation that gave dam removal an official ‘green light’. We named the Elwha to the America’s Most Endangered Rivers list in 1992 and 1995. And we helped secure more than $50 million in federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the Elwha River, to ensure dam removal can begin this year.

There’s nothing more powerful than a wild river. And on the Elwha we’re going to witness an amazing rebirth. Come September, we’re going to watch this river come back to life.