Out! Out, Damned Dam! Elwha River Restoration

It’s a bad time for dams in the Pacific Northwest. We’re tearing quite a few of the bastards down.

Last year, my intrepid companion and I found ourselves up in the Olympic Mountains just in time for the Last Dam Summer. The dams on the Elwha River were no longer needed nor wanted, and they were about to come down. So we made a point of going up while the dams still stood and got some nice before shots:

Lake Mills, behind Glines Canyon Dam
Glines Canyon Dam

So that was August 2010. What a difference a year and some heavy construction (in this case, I suppose it’s deconstruction) equipment makes!


The Elwha River Restoration project is removing two dams, letting the river flow free for the first time in 100 years. The other dam coming down is the Elwha. Love watching a dam get busted!

For you folks who like squidgy things, here’s a nice video talking about the fishies.

Might have to see if my intrepid companion wants to head up there next summer. Nice, lovely nekkid reservoir, slight chance of seeing some geology before all the damned biology overruns it. That’s what I’m talking about!

Out! Out, Damned Dam! Elwha River Restoration
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14 thoughts on “Out! Out, Damned Dam! Elwha River Restoration

  1. 4

    My feelings are mixed on such a project.
    Did this dam produce hydroelectric power?
    If so what is going to replace that power?
    If it is burning fossil fuels then taking down the dam is a net negative environmentally.

    Only if we had enough nukes to replace all fossil fuel electric generation would I think tearing down the dams was a net benefit.

  2. D

    I just recently watched a live webcam setup of a dam being destroyed; I’m not sure if it was the Elwha project or another (and I can’t watch your videos to compare, DAMMIT WORK INTERNET FIREWALL!), but it was really impressive. In this case, it was only supplying hydroelectric energy to like, 200 homes and it was hurting the salmon population (or something along those lines, I forget…). Interesting stuff!

  3. 6

    I found the environmental impact statement for the dam demolition project once upon a time. It said that the electricity produced by the dam (a few megawatts, IIRC) could be easily replaced by conservation and alternate sources of power.

    Up here, we generally have a surplus of power, even in winter, which is our time of greatest use. We can afford to let the fish have this one.

  4. 9

    @ #1, Nele: Canada? Canada??!! Not hardly. Only 40 miles away, however.

    I saw this also on PZ’s blog. Those equipment operators have bigger stones than I’ll ever have. Somehow sitting in an excavator, on a barge, taking chunks out of the dam holding back the water that’s keeping you afloat gives me the heebeejeebies. (How the heck do you spell that?)

  5. 12

    Jim Baerg: the history of dams in the west is a mixed one. Woody Guthrie sang about them, and they’ve often seemed to have environmental advantages. However, read Dammed Indians to see the impact of the Pick Sloan dams on the Dakota, or Cadillac Desert or even The Monkey Wrench Gang, and you’ll start to doubt the wisdom of “clean” hydroelectric power. In the northwest, it comes at the expense of salmon. In other places, it supports questionable farming, residential and mining practices. Dakota should have been Lakota (although the Missouri dams affected the Lakota and Mandan/Hdista/Arikaree as well)

  6. 13

    I’m the community engagement manager for EarthFix, a regional environmental news partnership. Thanks for including the EarthFix video about the science behind the Elwha removals. Our journalists have been covering dam removals and hydropower in the Pacific Northwest.

    Indeed, it is a big season for dam removal this fall. The Elwha and Condit dams are all on their way out. And today, a new bill was introduced into the Senate for a big Klamath River restoration and dam removal project. That project faces some big challenges in Congress.

    As these older dams are removed, new small hydropower projects are going in around the region. Can’t write off dams yet!

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