Tribal hatchery transports first fish of fall to Elwha tributaries

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

Webcams repositioned

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — National park crews have repositioned two webcams to help monitor the sediment flowing down the Elwha River during dam removal.

The changes provide improved vantage points of the shifting delta that used to be Lake Mills, which has been completely drained, and the Elwha River pouring over the 60 feet that remain of Glines Canyon Dam upstream, said Rainey McKenna, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.

The camera previously trained on the Elwha Dam was moved to view former Lake Mills, McKenna said, while the webcam at Glines Canyon Dam was shifted to provide another view.

To see all the webcams monitoring the Elwha River restoration project, visit http://bit.ly/qrR2O3.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A number of salmon are getting a helping hand to two of the larger tributaries of the Elwha River from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Fish Hatchery, where fish are taking refuge from increased sediment loads coursing down the river in the wake of dam removal.

Some 300 coho and a handful of chum already have made their way to the tribal hatchery and the state rearing channel — enough to preserve this year’s run, according to the park’s blog at http://tinyurl.com/8st2klp.

Larry Ward, tribal fish hatchery manager, said Saturday that hatchery crews last week took between 60 and 70 salmon to Indian Creek above the former Elwha Dam and Lake Aldwell and Little River, which is just below the Glines Canyon Dam.

The tribal hatchery is keeping safe steelhead trout and coho, chum, pink and chinook salmon while the pulses of sediment caused by the removals of the Elwha River and Glines Canyon dams die down, Ward said.

“We’re providing a refuge for those stocks of fish,” Ward said.

Once the hatchery reaches its required number of a given species, fish can be transported by truck-mounted water tank to predetermined locations in Indian Creek and Little River upstream, Ward explained.

“We’re moving adults upstream so they can spawn naturally, hopefully out of harm’s way of those areas of high sediment transport and deposit,” Ward said.

Olympic National Park officials estimate that between 5,000 coho and 200 chum salmon will return to the Elwha during the November/December spawning season.

Removal of the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams were the cornerstones of a $325 million federal project to restore the Elwha River and its legendary salmon runs.

Lake Mills, the man-made reservoir formed by the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam when it was built in 1927, now is gone, with the river flowing over the top of the remaining 60 feet of the edifice.

Some 20 million cubic yards of sediment remains behind what’s left of Glines Canyon Dam.

The river’s turbidity has spiked seven-fold since summer, and experts expect sediment to remain high in the river west of Port Angeles for a couple of years, Robert Elofson, river restoration director for the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, has said.

Last week, the river’s turbidity — the measure of water cloudiness caused by suspended particles and measured in formazin nephelometric units — topped out at 1,500 fnu, or roughly 2,000 fnu [Formazin Nephelometric Units] down from a peak of 3,500 fnu the previous week, said Rainey McKenna, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.

The lower levels of turbidity from the past week are not surprising, McKenna said, since the previous week saw the fall and winter seasons’ first big rain falls and a corresponding spike in sediment loads.

The Elwha Dam, which was built without fish ladders 5 miles from the river mouth, was dismantled in fewer than six months from September 2011 to early March.

Plants are sprouting in what used to be Lake Aldwell, the reservoir formed by the Elwha Dam when it was completed in 1913.

Nine miles upstream, removal of Glines Canyon Dam is more than a year ahead of schedule.

Barnard Construction of Bozeman, Mont., expects to be finished by summer, at which time 70 miles of pristine habitat within the national park will be available for migrating salmon.

Right now, crews are working only on taking down the remains of the intake tower, McKenna said.

They halted blasting work on the once-210-foot Glines Canyon dam last week to comply with a two-month “fish window” to keep even more sediment from cascading down the Elwha and protecting migrating and spawning fish.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 11. 2012 6:12PM
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