The Elwha River Restoration

Authors: Laura Stroup*, St. Michael's College
Topics: Environment, Geomorphology, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: Environmental Restoration, Dam Removal, Best Practices
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This is and remains the largest dam removal in the world: it has been seven years since removal of the Glines and Elwha Dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, Washington. Beginning in the 1990s, stakeholders in the Elwha River basin advocated successfully for the removal of the two dams that operated, within what became Olympic National Park, for 100 years. I interviewed professionals and stakeholders involved in the restoration as well as community members affected by the outcome of this project. Through qualitative methodology, I interviewed 14 individuals who worked on the removal of the dams in 2011 and 2014, and subsequent restoration program to present. The information gleaned from these interviews informs the primary content of this study. The methodology allowed for access to information that otherwise would not have resulted. For example: interviews with environmental professionals and stakeholders indicates that despite 20 years of planning and study, there were cases of surprise (positive and negative) in terms of how the geomorphology and ecology of the Elwha River changed in notable ways post-restoration, as well as in envisioning impacts that this project would have for years to come in terms of the local, national, and international community. Additionally, the project revealed the importance of the restoration of wild anadromous fisheries to the perceived success of the restoration. Through this important case, I aim to determine some best practices for large scale ecosystem restoration to inform larger practice.

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