Washington tribe advances fish restoration work at Elwha and Glines Canyon dams

PORT ANGELES, Wash. 12/6/11 (PennWell) — Efforts to restore native wildlife in Washington’s Elwha River took a significant step forward recently as members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe transferred 50 coho salmon into the river.

The salmon were placed into a stretch of river between the 12-MW Elwha and 12-MW Glines Canyon dams. When the dams were completed in 1913 and 1927, respectively, neither included a fish ladder, thus preventing species of native anadromous salmon and trout from advancing past the lower 5 miles of the river.

Congress passed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act in 1992, requiring the Secretary of Interior to restore the Elwha River ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries.

Interior determined that dam removal was the only option that would accomplish full restoration, and Montana-based Barnard Construction Company Inc. began the $350 million dam removal project earlier this year.

To learn about salmon populations before the dam removal, researchers with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife installed a temporary fish weir 5 miles downstream from Elwha Dam in late August 2010. Data collected from captured fish includes species, sex, spawn condition, fork length, presence of a coded-wire tag or passive integrated transponder tag, fin mark, scale samples and DNA samples.

The tribe said it plans to release an additional 600 fish into the river this fall, meaning the first offspring of this generation will head to the ocean in spring 2013. Dam deconstruction should be complete when the fish return to the river as adults in 2014.

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