The largest dam-removal project in U.S. history is set to begin on September 17, 2011. Two dams located near the mouth of the Elwha River will be systematically dismantled in order to re-open the river to its once thriving salmon runs.
Amy Kober of American Rivers states that nearly 1,000 dams have been removed across the U.S., yet the dismantling of these particular dams mark “one of the most significant restoration efforts we have ever seen.”
The dams were originally built in the early 1900′s in order to supply electricity to local paper mills. Now that the area is connected to Portland, Oregon’s electric grid, the dams are both obsolete and an impassable obstacle for our salmon friends.
The battle to remove these dams was started in the 1970′s and a congressional act passed in 1992 helped to move us closer to their removal. The past decade has been spent analyzing, justifying, and collecting the 351 million dollars required to complete the project. September 17, 2011 marks the beginning of the end for the dams, and the beginning of a bright new future for the Elwha’s ecosystem.
National Geographic reports that we can expect the salmon population within the Elwha River to boom from its current 3,000 members to possibly 400,000 salmon. Further, over 70 miles of open river will be accessible to numerous salmon species; sparking a benefit to over 130 more species of plants and animals including black bears, insects, orca whales and even cedar trees.
Read more at National Geographic.