PORT ANGELES — Between rows of alder trees and lush greenery, the pristine waters of the Elwha River create a habitat with the potential to support many more fish.

Biologists say the river is not how it once was, nor how it will be after 2007 when its two dams have been removed and the river flows freely.

“Big changes are coming,” Mike McHenry, habitat manager for the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, said last week.

Those changes are what biologists have set out to document in the first large-scale census count of salmon living in the river.

On Thursday and Friday, McHenry and 11 other researchers from the tribe, local and federal agencies donned dry suits and snorkeling equipment and combed the lower reaches of the river to count juvenile and adult salmon.

They will continue to document salmon numbers through the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams — which is slated to begin in 2005 and end by 2007 — and assess the impact of the dams on salmon habitat.


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