Elwha River Restoration: Dams Removal Project

elwha dam
The Elwha Dam is a 108-ft (33 m) high dam located in the United States, in the state of Washington, on the Elwha River approximately 4.9 miles (7.9 km) upstream from the mouth of the river on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Photo by Larry Ward, Lower Elwha Fisheries Office (2005).

Elwha River Restoration, Olympic National Park Washington

By The National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, Olympic National Park

This September, removal of two dams on the Elwha River begins, setting in motion one of the largest restoration projects in U.S. history.

Removing Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams
The largest dam removal in U.S. history will free the Elwha River after 100 years. Salmon populations will swell from 3,000 to more than 300,000 as all five species of Pacific salmon return to more than 70 miles of river and stream.

Renewing a Culture
The returning salmon and restored river will renew the culture of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, who have lived along the river since time immemorial. Tribal members will have access to sacred sites now inundated and cultural traditions can be reborn. The NPS and the Tribe are primary partners on this project.

Restoring an Ecosystem
This project creates a living laboratory where people can watch and learn what happens when salmon return after a century to a still wild and protected ecosystem. The return of fish will bring bear, eagles and other animals back to an ecosystem that has been deprived of a vital food source for 100 years.

Economic Benefits
Just as the dams played a vital role in the history and development of the area, removing them will create new opportunities for growth and regional vitality.

Restoring the Coast
Removing the dams will reestablish the natural flow of sediment from the mountains to the coast—rebuilding wetlands, beaches and the estuary at the river’s mouth.

Elwha River Restoration
Olympic National Park Washington

Major mitigation projects have been completed, while preparations continue at the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, the park’s native plant center, and sites throughout the Elwha watershed. Dam removal begins September 17.

June
• Power production ends at the Elwha River hydro- project June 1, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation begins the decommissioning process.
• Water levels in Lake Aldwell and Lake Mills drop by 18 feet and remain at this level through the summer. Boat launches will be unusable.

July
• On July 1, Lower Dam Road closes to public access as the Elwha Dam site transitions to a construction environment.

August
• On August 1, Olympic Hot Springs Road closes to public access just south of Altair Campground and will remain closed through dam removal.

• The second of two levees at the river’s mouth is completed in order to provide continued flood protection to private landowners and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s reservation.

September
• Wayfinding exhibits are installed at six Port Angeles and Elwha Valley locations, and a trail is constructed to an overlook at Elwha Dam. Web- cams go online from both dam sites.
• Elwha researchers and visiting scientists gather to share their findings at a science symposium Sept. 15-16 at Peninsula College.
• Olympic National Park and a diverse team of partners host a multi-venue event Sept. 17-18 featuring Elwha-related art, music, and cultural and educational activities.

For photos, project updates and news, check nps.gov/olym or interact with “Elwha River Restoration” on Facebook.

Elwha River Restoration, The National Park Service, US Department of the Interior

Olympic National Park


Elwha Dam Closed to Public Access : Effective July 5

By The National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, Olympic National Park

Lower Dam Road, which leads from U.S. Highway 112 to the Elwha Dam, will close to all public access on July 5.

Barnard Construction, Inc., the contractor for the $26.9 million removal of Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams, will install a gate just south of Elwha RV Park. This closure will last for the duration of dam removal, expected to take three years.

The closure is necessary to ensure public safety while the contractor takes over the site and begins preparing the site. Over the coming weeks, Barnard employees will begin minor road upgrades, removing approved trees and widening the road.

Additional work taking place this summer includes testing and removal of hazardous materials from the Elwha powerplant, including asbestos and lead-based paint. Major demolition work at the dam will begin in mid-September, with the majority of Barnard employees and equipment mobilizing in late August.

Barnard was the contractor for recently-completed road repairs at Fisherman’s Corner, along Olympic Hot Springs Road approximately one mile south of the park boundary. Those repairs included erosion control and replacing asphalt along a 2000-foot section of road. Work was subcontracted to Bruch and Bruch, Inc. and Lakeside Industries, both of Port Angeles, Wash. and performed as a modification to the dam removal contract.

Elwha Valley Access
Following a four-week closure, the Elwha Valley of Olympic National Park, including the Elwha and Altair campgrounds, reopened to public access June 29. The Elwha campground is open year-round. Altair will remain open through September 6, its normal operating season.

On August 1, Olympic Hot Springs Road will be gated and closed at a point just beyond Altair campground for the duration of dam removal.

Final designs for repairs to the Whiskey Bend Road are still being developed. These repairs will correct extensive damage caused by heavy rains last December. In addition to slide damage, an assessment by road engineers revealed large voids under the road, seriously compromising road safety and stability. The 4.5-mile Whiskey Bend Road remains open at this time to pedestrians, bicyclists and stock users, who should be use extra caution when crossing the damaged areas.

Olympic National Park is pursuing ways to enable members of the public to view dam removal and restoration as they happen, including construction of an overlook trail off of Lower Dam Road and placement of webcams at each dam site.

High-Elevation Park Roads
Olympic National Park road crews continue clearing snowdrifts that have delayed the opening of some of the park’s high-elevation roads. Obstruction Point Road, which was scheduled to open July 1, is blanketed by snow up to six feet high. After the plows reach the area commonly known as Waterhole (Milepost 3.2), the road crew will finish grading and that section of road could be reopened within one week.

Deer Park Road is also still under snow, with drifts several feet high at the top. Weather permitting, the road’s normal operating season runs May 26 – October 2. After the road crews reach the Waterhole area of Obstruction Point Road, their focus will shift to Deer Park Road. Park officials estimate that Deer Park Road may reopen by the end of July.

Road Construction
A 35-day road construction project is planned for Graves Creek Road this summer to repair damage caused by erosion along a 210-foot embankment adjacent to the Graves Creek trailhead and campground. Timing for this roadwork has yet to be finalized, and will be announced as soon as details become available.

Preliminary road repairs on Sol Duc Road will begin July 18. No closures are necessary for this project, but visitors should expect one-lane traffic and minor delays starting August 8 as contractors repair slide damage.