Sediment clog at Elwha River pump station to be fixed by September, Port Angeles audience told

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A pump station clogged by dam-removal sediment from the Elwha River restoration project will be fully operational by September, paving the way to restart removal of the remaining 50 feet of the Glines Canyon Dam, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Monday.

Maynes gave an update on the $325 million restoration project to an audience of about 60 at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

She was followed at the podium by city of Port Angeles Engineer Mike Puntenny, who spoke of ongoing “deep concerns” about the potential for sediment to affect the city’s water supply.

The Ranney well is in the same area as the pump station and other components of the National Park Service’s Elwha Water Facilities.

Puntenny said Monday was the first day since November that the city has been able to use water from the facilities, blending water from the Elwha plant and the Ranney well at about a half-and-half rate.

“It’s kind of, cautiously, a big day,” Puntenny said Monday in a later interview.

“We are pacing our way through it.

“We are very hopeful they can be consistent in being able to deliver both the quantity and quality of water that we need for the city.”

The 108-foot Elwha Dam was removed in March 2012.

But extraction of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam was halted in October after sediment unexpectedly compromised the Park Service’s surface-water intake and Elwha Water Treatment Plant, known collectively as the Elwha Water Facilities about 3.5 miles from the river mouth.

Operating together, they were expected to reduce sediment in water piped to the Port Angeles water treatment plant, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife rearing channel, the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe’s fish hatchery and Nippon Paper Industries USA.

Sediment was supposed to be removed from the surface water intake before water entered the Elwha Water Treatment Plant, but that has not been happening, Maynes said.

“Sediment ended up in areas it was never intended to occur,” Maynes said, likening the process of repairing the water treatment plant while it is running to “trying to fix a car while driving down a freeway.”

The $1.4 million fix will include replacing the remaining four of six fish screens this fall — two screens have been replaced — with work on replacing the pump station slated to begin in July.

“Once that work is done, and fish screens are installed, we expect to have this operational by September,” Maynes said, adding that the entire river restoration project is on schedule for completion by September 2014.

A “fish window” that protects spawning salmon by prohibiting dam removal will end Sept. 14, allowing that work to resume through Oct. 31, when another fish window opens that will prevent dam removal from Nov. 1-Dec. 31.

“The issues with the intake structure, those will need to be addressed,” Maynes said.

“But first we need to have water flowing into the plant.

“This gets us operational by September through the rest of dam removal.”

There are between 28 million and 40 million cubic yards of sediment — or 36 million cubic yards, plus or minus 6 million, as Maynes said — behind both dams.

Most of it is in Lake Mills, the upstream reservoir created by the Glines Canyon Dam.

“Almost half the sediment we expected to move downstream has moved downstream,” Maynes said.

“Sediment management has long been recognized as the most challenging aspect of the Elwha restoration project.”

The Elwha Water Facilities were built to mitigate that challenge, she said.

But the facilities’ failure to do so has forced the city of Port Angeles to use its Ranney well, which is located near the sediment-inundated water facilities, rather than draw surface water from the national park’s Elwha Water Facilities, which was the plan.

The Ranney well “was never intended” to operate during high sediment periods, Puntenny said during his presentation.

“The city has very deep concerns on this project because the Elwha [River] is where Port Angeles gets its water,” he added.

“It is very important that we maintain the integrity of our water source.”

The costs related to the impacts of sediment on the Ranney well “have yet to be determined,” Maynes said.

“The Park Service will be cost-sharing on that,” she added.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Russ Veenema said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum also was scheduled to speak to the luncheon audience.

Creachbaum was present but did not give a presentation.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 17. 2013 6:47PM
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