dam removal

3 Dams to Be Removed in American West to Restore Rivers
A new $50 million fund will help communities remove “deadbeat dams,” starting in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Within a decade, the Yakama people of south-central Washington State should be able to harvest salmon once again with spears, nets, and other traditional methods along tributaries of the Yakima River.

“We want to return to serving as stewards of the land,” says Philip Rigdon, the deputy director of natural resources for the Yakama Nation.

To make that possible, the Nelson Dam needs to come down first. The eight-foot high irrigation diversion dam on the Naches River sits just upstream of the City of Yakima on the largest tributary of the Yakima River, which flows into the Columbia River. Built in the 1920s, the now unneeded dam blocks the movement of salmon through the area, choking off the ecosystem’s lifeline…


One year ago the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams started to be removed as part of the watershed restoration on Washington’s Olympic peninsula. It is the largest dam removal in the history of the USA.
The dam removal will restores ecosystems in the long term, it will open up the river to migrating fish for the first time in 100 years and allow the river to transport sediment throughout its reach, helping to rebuild the natural bed structure and flow of the Elwha all the way to the sea by rebuilding beaches that today are starved for sand and other fine material.
In the short term, excess turbidity remains the biggest concern during the next 3–10 years. About 600 dams have been taken down in the U.S. over the past 50 years, but none involved so much sediment (24 million cubic yards).

In the case of the Elwha, Congress authorized the dam removal 20 years ago, but it took two decades to get the money and logistical details in place.

Source 1, 2, 3

San Clemente Dam Removal

The San Clemente Dam on California’s Carmel River was removed between 2013 and 2015. The 106 foot tall dam was originally built in 1921 with the primary purpose of supplying water to the surrounding area. But after 90 years of service the dam no longer served a purpose and was potentially vulnerable to earthquakes. The impounded lake originally held 1425 acre-feet of water (one acre of water one foot deep) but as of 2008 only held 70 acre-feet because about 2.5 million cubic yards of sediment built up behind the dam.

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OR's Jeff Merkley introduces bill to authorize restoration and dam removal on the Klamath River

Today, Senator Merkley began making the case for removing dams on the Klamath River. This would be the largest dam removal in the region. The Senate bill, along with the companion House bill, introduced by CA’s Mike Thompson, face some serious challenges given the current focus on spending cuts and congressional members who oppose dam removal.

Here’s the nitty gritty on Merkley’s bill, excerpted from Amelia Templeton’s EarthFix story.

According to Merkley, the bill he has introduced will:

  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Interior to approve, sign, and implement the KBRA and KHSA.

  • Authorize the tribes involved and the U.S., in its capacity as their trustee, to make commitments and meet the obligations planned in the KBRA, as well as to relinquish their water rights claims in return for the commitments being made by other stakeholders.

  • Change the management of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Reclamation Project to align with the new management plan developed by local stakeholders.

  • Establish a process to plan for and implement dam removal, including the assessment that leads to a final decision on whether to proceed with dam removal; and clarify how removal of some dams and retention of others will be managed with respect to the FERC relicensing process.

  • Authorize the President to request appropriate funds as reflected in the KBRA budget documents and as necessary.

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Rivers Recover Rapidly Once Dams Are Gone, Study Finds

by Cassandra Profita

A new study sums up what scientists now know about the environmental effects of removing dams from rivers. It concludes that rivers and fish respond quickly after a dam is removed, and the results are mostly positive.

“Heraclitus has said you can’t step in the same river twice,” said study co-author Gordon Grant. “Well, you don’t get exactly the same river back after you take a dam off it that you had before, but you can come pretty close. In some cases, it can even be difficult to identify in just a few years where the dam was.”

The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, compiles the findings of more than a hundred studies on individual dam removals. Grant, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said the number of dams removed has shot up in the past decade. In the U.S. 548 dams were removed from 2006-2014 compared with 298 dams removed from 1996-2005.

Study co-author Jeff Duda, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is studying the effects of dam removals on the Elwha River in Washington – the largest dam removal in history.

Duda said scientists are still tracking the long-term effects on fish in the Elwha, but it didn’t take the fish long to reoccupy the habitat above the dams. “We saw fish here just upstream of Glines Canyon Dam within days of the final blast,” he said. “If you give the fish a chance, if they’re migratory, they will recolonize the streams above dams.”

(read more) || photo credit: NOAA || [paper]


After Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History, This River Is Thriving   

June 2, 2016 - Conservationists can now point to the largest dam removal project in the U.S. as a success story. The ecosystem of Washington’s Elwha River has been thriving since the removal of its hydroelectric dam system. Recent surveys show dramatic recovery, especially in the near shore at the river’s mouth, where the flow of sediment has created favorable habitat for the salmon population.

A new generation of salmon species, some of which are endangered, are now present in the river. Some hope that the restoration of the Elwha River will become a shining example for the removal of dams across the U.S.

Read “River Revives After Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History.”

National Geographic


destruction of the White Salmon dam. we need more of this.


Removal of the dams on the Elwha has paused for fish migration. Katie Campbell has been reporting on the Elwha dam removal for EarthFix.


Free the Snake

It’s time we #FreeTheSnake. Snake River Salmon have been trucked, put on barges, diverted up fish ladders – all in the hope that enough would get by four dams to reach their historic habitat. But, It’s not working. Four deadbeat dams on the lower Snake River have put the local salmon on the brink of extinction.

Free the Snake is the latest example of Patagonia’s heightened focus on rallying global support around critical backyard conservation initiatives. We’re drawing on two main sources of inspiration: the sports we love, which allow us to spend time in nature, and the grassroots activists working in their own communities to protect their piece of the planet, which Patagonia has supported for years through the grants program.

A case in point is the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, where two hydroelectric dams built early in the last century exacted huge environmental costs but were no longer important as power generators. Salmon runs that once reached about 400,000 fish a year dropped to fewer than 3,000. A year after the Elwha Dam was removed, Chinook salmon returned to the river in numbers not seen in decades, with three-quarters of them observed spawning upstream of the former dam site. Today, the river runs free from its headwaters in Olympic National Park to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a terrible wrong imposed on the salmon-dependent Lower Elwha Klallam tribe has been righted.

BIRDNOTE:  Dippers on the Elwha River

Salmon are bringing new vitality to the ecosystem

In 2014, the dams on the Elwha River in Washington State were removed. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years, dramatically improving conditions for American Dippers.

Recent research has demonstrated that birds with access to salmon have higher survival rates. And they are 20 times more likely to attempt to raise two broods in a season, the most important contributor to population growth.

Today’s show brought to you by Forterra — creating great communities and conserving great lands in Washington State. 


photograph by dominic sherony


Hundreds of dams across the US are candidates for removal. Dam removal restores river health, ecosystems, and habitat - all of which have economic benefits, such as increased property value and recreation opportunities.


The latest on removal of the dams on the Elwha River. From Ashley Ahearn and Katie Campbell. Full story on EarthFix: http://earthfix.kuow.org.


Our Common Waters:

Patagonia’s environmental campaign, Our Common Waters, spotlights the need to balance human water needs with those of animals and plants


Removing Dams to Help Wildlife

Protecting Communities, Helping Fish and Wildlife  

Service Fisheries biologist, Phil Herzig, explains why Connecticut dam removals are important for fish, wildlife and neighboring communities.

(via: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Post dam removal, endangered sturgeon find new habitat

Endangered shortnose sturgeon have rediscovered habitat in the Penobscot River that had been inaccessible to the species for more than 100 years prior to the removal of the Veazie Dam in 2013.

University of Maine researchers confirmed evidence that three female shortnose sturgeon were in the area between Veazie and Orono in mid-October. Researchers had previously implanted the sturgeon with small sound-emitting devices known as acoustic tags to see if they would use the newly accessible parts of the river.

Historically, shortnose sturgeon had spawning populations in the Penobscot River as far upstream as the site of the current Milford dam. Overharvest and loss of suitable habitat due to dams and pollution led to declines in shortnose sturgeon populations and a listing as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967.

According to Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor at UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, the three individual fish observed were females. The fish have since been tracked joining other individuals in an area identified as wintering habitat near Brewer. Wintering habitat in other rivers is known to be staging habitat for spawning the following spring.

(read more) Phys.org || photo credit: Gayle Zydlewski