Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Elwha site visit 2016

This summer I had the opportunity to visit the Elwha River, my first time back since the Elwha Science Symposium and the Celebrate Elwha festival back in 2011.
The former Elwha dam site, June 2016
Standing above the former  Elwha dam site, faint clues of the structure are still visible across the river on the left abutment.  Unfortunately some exposed steel remains in the river channel, resulting in the closure of all boating trips through the former dam site.  A sign upstream warns of the danger and indicates a mandatory portage over the ridge.  My hopes of floating the restored river will have to wait...
Upstream of the former Elwha dam site, June 2016
This is just a quarter of a mile above the dam site.  Vegetation has grown in areas previously inundated by the reservoir, clearly delineated by the light green line below the older evergreen trees.  Most notable is the vast amount of sediment that remains on either side of the meandering river channel.  This confirms predictions that not all of the sediment trapped in the reservoirs will be moved downstream.  These new river channels will continue to adapt to future floods and slowly transport sediment out to the coast.

Elwha river delta, after dam removal June 2016

Revisiting the beaches at the mouth of the Elwha was eye opening.  Where piecemeal seawalls once protected property threatened by a receding shoreline, a 300 yard sandy delta now extends out into Puget Sound.  Numerous sea birds gathered along the river and shoreline benefiting from the renewed ecosystem, and small, clean waves hinted of the renewed surf potential.

Port Angeles
One unexpected benefit that was evident to me was the change to the little town of Port Angeles.  In 2011, this seemed like a small town with little to offer other than the port and ferry.  Since then small tourist shops and a variety of  trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and other businesses have popped up.  It seems that dam removal has been good for the local economy too!

 On this blog:

Elwah Science Symposium

Watching the dams come down - Elwha beaches