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Elwha River Dam Removal and River Restoration: Progress Report Five Years After the Completion of Dam Removal

  • Whatcom Museum Old City Hall (map)

Elwha River Dam Removal and River Restoration: Progress Report Five Years After the Completion of Dam Removal

After decades of debate, planning, and environmental impact studies, the largest planned dam removal project in history was conducted on the Elwha River in Washington from 2011 to 2014.  The story of this river, with rugged headwaters, protected wilderness, legendary and culturally important salmon runs, and two hydroelectric dams whose placement marshaled wholesale socioeconomic and ecological changes, has become an iconic saga of change, perseverance and renewal. The two dams blocked fish migrations and disrupted sediment transport for a century, disrupting the structure and function of the Elwha River. Removal of the 64 and 32-meter tall dams and the release of a large portion of the 21 million cubic meters of stored reservoir sediment, has provided a living laboratory to study the patterns, processes and outcomes of dam removal from multiple scientific perspectives. This presentation will provide a tour of what has been called a “Science Disneyland”, share progress on the rebirth of a river ecosystem, and place this project into a larger perspective of dam removals and river restoration in the 21st century. In particular, an update of the status of salmon recolonization into waters that they had not seen in a century will be provided.

Jeff Duda is a research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) stationed at the Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle. At USGS for 20 years, he has conducted research to determine the ecological effects of human activities and natural disturbance regimes on a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial organisms and ecosystems throughout the United States. Since 2004, Jeff has developed research programs in freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems during and following the dam decommissioning on the Elwha River. For eight years he was the team leader of the multidisciplinary USGS Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound Elwha team. He was a Principal Investigator on a recent project synthesizing the physical and ecological effects of dam removal at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. He has published over 60 scientific journal articles and reports, which can be found online at

May 28, 2019, 7:00 pm NCAS Membership Meeting Presentation

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room