Artifacts from Elwha River dams becoming museum pieces
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Kathy Monds, Clallam County Historical Society executive director, holds an enormous metal wrench that was used at the Elwha Dam. -- Photo by Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News
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Groves Crane Co. LLC
Groves Crane lifts the “spill-gate donkey” off the Elwha Dam and places it on a trailer for transport to Olympic Timber Town.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Pieces of history are slowly making their way from the soon-to-be dismantled Elwha and Glines Canyon dams to Peninsula museums.

Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Reclamation will officially turn over the dams to Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Mont., next week.

A four-wheel trolley called a “spill-gate donkey” — it opened and shut the 11-story Elwha Dam’s spill gates — has been delivered to the Olympic Timber Town and Heritage Center site since the trolley’s removal last week, Kevin Yancy, the dam’s power plant supervisor, said Monday.

In addition, giant wrenches from Glines that take two men to lift were gently dropped off at the Clallam County Historical Society Museum in Port Angeles.

“I don’t know how people picked them up to use them,” Kathy Monds, the Historical Society’s executive director, said as she lifted the giant end wrenches Monday.

The trolley is “great to have,” said Bob Harbick, president of Olympic Timber Town.

The museum is being established off U.S. Highway 101 just west of Port Angeles.

It will help illustrate the history of the Elwha River, Harbick added.

Some items also will go to the Joyce Museum on state Highway 112 next to the general store in Joyce, on the other side of the Elwha River from Port Angeles.

“I’m really excited,” museum curator Margaret Owens said Monday. “If I get one little wrench, I’ll be thrilled.”

Other artifacts are destined for the National Park Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Yancy said.

The National Park Service is overseeing the $27 million dam tear-down project, which begins in mid-September.

The Bureau of Reclamation now operates the onetime private dams on the Elwha River. Power generators were silenced June 1.

Barnard Construction Co., which won the tear-down contract, next week will begin removing asbestos materials and testing and classifying contaminated soil, Project Manager Brian Krohmer said Monday in an email.

“That work must be done prior to any demolition,” he said.

“I believe the bureau will be completing some final cleanup items early next week, so it will be turned over to us then.”

Yancy said Reclamation and the Park Service also will receive historical items from the dams.

“We and the park are trying to fairly and equitably distribute a piece of history so everyone can have a piece to tell the story,” Yancy said.

Yancy said the Jefferson County Historical Society did not request any items.

Groves Crane Co. of Port Angeles removed the trolley Thursday under a Bureau of Reclamation contract, company owner Jason Groves said.

Some of the wrenches are 4 feet long and about 100 years old, and a welder appeared to date back more than 70 years, before World War II.

At Glines, “the original blueprints were hanging on the wall right behind the generator” Groves said, adding that the blueprints are staying put for now.

“It was really neat seeing that stuff because everything in there is generally from 100 years ago.”

The dams will be torn down in a three-year project that is itself historic in scope as the largest dam removal ever attempted in the nation’s history.

It’s a signature event but monetarily a small part of a $325 million overall Elwha River Restoration Project to restore the Elwha River’s once-plentiful salmon run.

Yancy and the other lone remaining dam employee from a staff of eight will move Friday to the restoration project’s office at 826 E. Front St., Port Angeles.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 11. 2011 10:50PM
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