Now That's a Restoration Project!

As part of our Pacific Northwest trip, Mr. Mouse and I had the great pleasure of learning more about the removal of the Elwah dam and the associated restoration project.

This dam removal project - actually, the removal of two dams - is the largest in the world, and a lot of research is going on in the hopes that other projects might benefit. The project started because the existing dams, put in originally to generate electricity, were starting to deteriorate. Those dams had been put in without fish ladders or proper permits and had destroyed one of the most abundant salmon fisheries in the world. Here are some links - it's a fascinating project at many levels.
Our group had a presentation by a park ranger who showed photos and videos of the dam removal and also had lots of information about the effects of the dam and the dam removal. Then, on the last day of our trip, we went on a trip to see the former location of the first dam, and to then walk the former lakebed, now exposed and part of a very extensive revegetation project.

What struck us first as we started walking on the sands of the former lake were the tree stumps, still notched with the old tools from 100 years ago. Many branches and trunks, caught by stumps, covered the big expanse, offering shelter for the birds and mammals who were surely starting to return, adding much needed fertilizer.

Many of the tree trunks that had been brought in by the river were even starting to sprout!

Close to the former banks of the lake, grasses and flowers were abundant, reseeding and migrating into the new land by themselves.

Closer to the river, on the wide expanse of sand, newly planted tree seedlings and perennials were taking hold.

It was unfortunate that the winter had been so dry and the summer had been so warm - it's hard to know which of the plants will make it. However, the current revegetation is, I believe, still part of the experimental revegetation stage and a precursor to the actual revegetation (2014 - 2017).

But with a little shade, some condensation, and the occasional rainstorm, I'm hoping things will work out.

At times it was hard to know which of the plants had been planted by humans, and which by birds or by the wind - and that is how it should be.

I especially appreciated the efforts to remove exotic invasives such as foxglove, which is spreading aggressively in the Pacific Northwest. The restoration plan has a detailed list of species of concerns, clearly, avoiding revegetation through exotic invasives is as important as planting natives. 

Disclaimer: I'm not even sure whether some of the grasses I'm showing in my photos are the bullies that don't belong.

Our final stop was the ocean, where we could see the river return to the ocean. Because so much sediment was behind the dam, an ever-changing delta is being created and only time will tell how the river, the former lakebeds, and the delta will look after everything has settled. Who knows, maybe in just 5 years I will return to find a forest of little trees along the banks of the Elwah.


Sarah said…
Thank you for sharing this. As a native PNWer, I appreciate bringing this topic to light.