Slide Show

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dam party? No so fast

“Do you want to go to a party?” my fancy friend asked.
Of course, I want to rock ‘n‘ roll all night and party every day.
That's a job description for a wilderness gossip columnist.
Then I found out it was the dam removal party put on by the National Park Service.
In the course of my work I have been kicked out of Olympic National Park so many times I have a permanent stain on my trousers.
It's a bum rap.
In my own defense I can only say that no Olympic marmots have ever been harmed, electro-shocked or molested in the writing of this column. I’ve never transported Canadian fishers equipped with radio collars across county lines just to mess with the biologists tracking them. 
I have never been charged or convicted of impersonating an endangered species. 
I am a sensitive woodland creature trying to share my love of nature and the knowledge gained from 50 years of fishing. That is a blink of an eye in the life of a river but in that short amount of time, our rivers have been subjected to an environmental genocide that makes it seem unlikely the fish will survive another 50 years.
The Elwha dam removal project may be the biggest thing to hit Port Angeles since the coming of the railroad. Those were the good old days, when Port Angeles had a salmon fishing industry and a yearly salmon derby.
These days the salmon fishing industry has been replaced by the salmon restoration industry.
The dam removal celebrations will bring together celebrities, politicians and the best scientists money can buy in an attempt to restore the most pristine ecosystem in the continental United States. This is a risky undertaking where to quote another great American, former Vice President Dan Quayle, “If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.”
We are told that taking the dams out of the Elwha is a grand experiment since no one really knows what is going to happen to the sediments behind the dams or if the fish can still make it up the river.
The lower Elwha dam had a blowout shortly after it was built in 1913. They blasted 40,000 cubic yards of rock into the channel to plug the hole. It's still there. 
In the early '70s there was a landslide that blocked the Elwha up in Convolution Canyon. This is also called the Grand Canyon of the Elwha, located upstream from Hume's Ranch. The slide blocked the river and formed a small lake that was fantastic fishing until it was washed out by a flood.  Unfortunately this slide occurred deep within the National Park so there were no loggers to blame and it can happen again at any time.
The Elwha dam removal project is an experiment, like one of those old black and white horror movies where the scientists are out to lunch while the monster they created slowly comes back to life. 
It is a double blind study that will measure the unintended consequences of the placebo effect. It will test a theory that contends taking the dams out of the Elwha will bring the salmon back when rivers without dams don't have salmon either. I hope so.
We sincerely hope that the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe can do what no others have accomplished on the Olympic Peninsula, restore an historic run of fish on just one of our rivers.
We hope that despite the best efforts of scientists and politicians, salmon will be able to return to the Elwha anyway.
Until that happens it's too soon to party.

No comments:

Post a Comment