(Seattle, WA) – Removal of two dams on Washington’s Elwha River will begin no later than 2011, thanks to $54 million in federal economic recovery funds that American Rivers advocated for. The dam removal, which will be the largest in the nation’s history, was scheduled to begin in 2012. The funds will go toward preliminary activities necessary to prepare for dam removal.
“Using economic recovery dollars to restore a free-flowing Elwha River is a win-win for the river, salmon, and local communities,” said Brett Swift, Northwest regional director of American Rivers. “The project will create jobs, restore salmon and steelhead to some of the best habitat anywhere, and create an unprecedented opportunity to study the science of river restoration.”
Removing the dams will give salmon and steelhead access to 70 miles of pristine habitat in Olympic National Park for the first time in nearly 100 years. Eighty-three percent of the Elwha River lies within the park boundary. By 2030, hundreds of thousands of salmon and steelhead are expected to return to the river each year, giving a significant boost to sport and commercial fishing industries and providing a key food source for endangered Puget Sound orcas.
American Rivers has advocated for the restoration of the Elwha River for years and pushed at both the state and national level for including the removal of the Elwha dams in the recovery package. American Rivers also helped secure over $6 billion in economic recovery funds for clean water, green infrastructure, and river restoration nationwide.
American Rivers thanked federal, state, and local leaders for their role in advocating for dam removal and securing the funding to speed up the removal date after years of delay. Dam removal was first authorized by Congress in 1992.
“We would not be where we are today without the vision and leadership of Representative Dicks, Governor Gregoire, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the National Park Service, the Department of Ecology, the Puget Sound Partnership, and many others,” said Swift.
The new timeline for removal of the 210 foot high Glines Canyon Dam and 108 foot high Elwha dam will provide momentum for the effort to restore Puget Sound by 2020.
“This announcement literally starts off the effort to restore Puget Sound with a bang,” said Swift. “It’s hard to overstate the benefits for salmon and orcas from restoring the Elwha River.”
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.