Elwha River restoration

NOAA Fisheries West Coast

Tiny forage fish don’t have the iconic status of Northwest species such as salmon or orcas, but the marine creatures at the bottom of the food chain play a critical role. So scientists are excited to see signs they’re spawning in new habitat created by the Elwha dam removals. 

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Rainier Beach High School senior Puja Niroula hopes to study science in college. But she's still a bit squeamish when it comes to netting tiny bugs from a creek bed in Olympic National Forest.

"I wonder if this is poisonous. Do you think so?" Niroula, 18, asked another student with more than a hint of trepidation as she picked larval mayflies from the net.

Niroula and 25 other biology students from the south Seattle school are spending this week conducting experiments on a fast-changing ecosystem at the heart of one of the century's most significant environmental projects: the Elwha River.

Bellamy Pailthorp

Washington state has banned hatchery-raised steelhead from three tributaries of the Upper Columbia River basin. The aim of these so-called "gene banks" is to maintain strongholds for wild fish, and the state plans to designate additional gene banks in the future.

So why were the state and federal governments back in court this week, defending the decision to place a new hatchery on the Elwha River as part of the dam removal process?

Courtesy of John Gussman

The slow-motion demolition of two hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River is radically changing the landscape near Port Angeles, but it’s not a scene you can witness on your own. 

Just a handful of dedicated photographers and filmmakers have been given permission to place their cameras at key posts near the Glines Canyon Dam to capture the changes as crews of skilled technicians carefully notch into the concrete walls and place dynamite in just the right places.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s been called the most significant environmental story of this century: the removal of hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River, near Port Angeles.

The project is only partly done; Elwha Dam, one of two structures holding back salmon and steelhead runs, has been fully removed, and the other, Glines Canyon Dam, will be out next fall. But the landscape is already changing dramatically.

SEATTLE — Wild-fish advocates say they plan to sue federal and Washington state agencies over a fish hatchery built as part of the Elwha River restoration project.

National Park Service

Six webcams will snap pictures throughout the day during the three-year removal process the Elwha River dams.