Puget Sound Action Agenda Includes River Protection; Elwha Dam Removal

The Partnership heeds some of American Rivers' key suggestions

December 1st, 2008

Darcy Nonemacher, 206-213-0330
Caitlin Jennings, 202-347-7550 

Seattle, Wa— American Rivers, a leader in river conservation and salmon recovery in Washington, applauded the Puget Sound Partnership today on the release of their Action Agenda for recovering Puget Sound to health.

The Partnership included support for important restoration projects like removal of the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams on the Elwha River. In addition to providing important economic opportunities and jobs for local communities like Port Angeles, removal of the Elwha dams is the premier salmon and steelhead restoration project in the region.  Dam removal will open up over 70 miles of prime spawning habitat in Olympic National Park. Removing these dams and restoring the Elwha’s salmon runs will also help reverse the decline of Puget Sound orcas, which are thought to have been declining due in large part to a lack of chinook salmon to eat; seven orcas that disappeared earlier this year may have died due to malnourishment.  With current funding, the dams would be removed by 2012.  American Rivers is working to move the removal date up to 2010.

“We’re happy to see Elwha dam removal included in this plan,” said Darcy Nonemacher, Associate Director of Washington Water Policy for American Rivers.  “In its forthcoming funding plan, the Partnership should call for a federal, state, and private effort to get the dams out by 2010 removing these dams sooner rather than later would be a great way to show that this region means business when it comes to restoring the Puget Sound and its salmon.”

The Agenda also includes a number of critical actions to protect high quality waters through Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) designation, Wild and Scenic designation, instream flow rules, and implementation of the recovery plan for Puget Sound chinook salmon.

“The Partnership’s final plan represents some real improvements over their initial draft,” said Nonemacher.  “We know that protecting the rivers and streams that feed and sustain the Sound is a critical step toward its recovery by 2020. In addition to providing water and nutrients to the Sound, improving the health of our rivers will provide resilience to our region in the face of climate change.”

American Rivers strongly supported the inclusion of Wild and Scenic and ORW designations in the final plan because, in some cases, ORW designation may prove to be a more immediate way for the state to ensure the protection of high quality rivers and other waters. ORW designations permanently protect high quality waters that are ecologically significant, provide cold water refuges for fish, and/or support important recreational values.  Many rivers in the Puget Sound region are eligible for ORW designation.

“We will continue to work with the Partnership to implement responsible and science-based policies that promote healthy rivers and a healthy Puget Sound,” Nonemacher said.

Puget Sound and the communities and rivers surrounding it are facing many challenges including population growth, unsustainable development in floodplains, reduced snowpack and altered precipitation patterns from climate change, and pollution from stormwater runoff and other sources.  In response, Governor Gregoire and the Washington State Legislature created the Puget Sound Partnership with the directive to recover Puget Sound by 2020.   


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.