If all goes as planned Saturday, this image will be among the last of this dam on the Elwha River in Washington. The removal of two tall dams will begin this weekend.
Across the nation, abandoned or disused or ill-constructed dams act as barriers to the natural flow of rivers and river life. In recent years, there's been a growing movement among conservationists to remove dams where possible in order to improve the ecology of the natural systems. On the Elwha, native tribes and environmentalists have been arguing for the removal of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam (above) and the 105-foot Elwha dam (below) for a quarter century.
On the Elwha River, which flows from Olympic National Park to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Puget Sound, it's hoped that salmon will return to the upper reaches of the river to spawn for the first time in nearly 100 years once the dams are removed. Instead of five miles of spawning habitat, fish will enjoy 70 miles of free-flowing river, which once supported six species of salmon and steelhead.
The Glines Canyon Dam pictured at top will be the tallest dam ever removed, and together the dams represent the largest dam removal project in history, according to American Rivers. The project begins this weekend but will take months.
"This is one of biggest and most significant river restoration efforts the world has ever seen," said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers. "We will witness a river coming back to life, with great benefits for people and the environment. The lessons we learn on the Elwha will inform and inspire other river restoration efforts around the country."
> Related:America's 11 Most Endangered Rivers
Photo: American Rivers
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