Turbines to shut down for good at doomed Elwha dams

Jun 1, 2011

Nearly 100 years of hydropower production comes to a close today (Wednesday) on the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The turbines at the two dams on the river are going off line for good in preparation for the biggest dam removal in North American history.

Elwha operations supervisor Kevin Yancy says it's a "sad day" for him, even though he understands the bigger context -- restoration of one of the region's legendary salmon rivers.

"It's really the end of an era of hydroelectric generation on the Elwha River. That's it in a nutshell."

Yancy expects the era to pass in the span of several hours worth of throwing switches and turning valves with brute force. The Bureau of Reclamation supervisor says the dams may be tall, but the region isn't losing all that much generating capacity.

"We've got an abundance of power on the power grid. So I think from the big, big picture these little plants, they won't really be missed that much."

Physical dismantling of the two dams themselves starts in mid-September and will take about three years. Glines Canyon Dam is 210 feet tall and Elwha Dam is 108 feet tall.