Slide Show

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Elwha River Water, So thick you’ll want to drink it with a fork but you may need a shovel.


I feel kind of bad about missing the birthday party of an old family friend. Some of my earliest memories were of all the fun we had hanging out at her place. She was a grand old dame who defined the term, “land poor', that is she had a lot of land but not a lot of money. It didn't matter because she had a lot of things that money couldn't buy like the absolute quiet of a forest of world record sized trees, a star filled sky with no streetlights and crystal pure water that you could drink right out of the stream.  She had herds of almost tame elk that didn't seem to be bothered much by humans and runs of salmon that were so thick you could almost walk across the river on their backs.  We used to swim in her ice-cold lakes and fish in her crystal clear rivers. You could hike for days along her hidden trails and stay in a series of rustic shelters that had been built by the pioneers. Or you could hike off the trails and discover places you could figure no human had ever been. Her place was a little slice of heaven that formed some of my earliest childhood memories. It was good, too good to last.

You know how some people tend to get a little cranky as they get older.  Life is change after all but the day she started charging money to get on her land I knew our relationship was in danger. Of course she needed the money to keep the campgrounds open. We're talking about Olympic National Park here. Parks have always been a low priority in this country where it seems like our politicians would rather give money to foreign countries that hate us, than spend it here at home. Unfortunately it seemed like the more money we gave the park the crazier she got with spending it. She seemed to forget the park was for the people who paid with their tax dollars to support her and started treating it as a private domain where scientists could conduct experiments of questionable value.

The scientists started forest fires just to study them. They electro-shocked the bull trout just to study them. They took the dams out of the Elwha so they could study that too.

It was an experiment we were told, to see if taking the dams out would bring fish back to the river. This ignored the sad fact that the fish were endangered in rivers with no dams. Nobody seemed to care much about the fish. All that mattered was the 325 million dollars in Federal funds coming to our community.   Of this 150 million was spent on a new water system for Port Angeles. Unfortunately this has turned into another National Park Experiment.

The exact amount of sediment coming down the Elwha after the dam removal was an unknown variable. No one could predict just how fast the sediment could clog up the new water filtration plant. No one knows if the current well that the city depends on for its' water supply will be affected by the close proximity of the silt-choked Elwha.

No one knows who is at fault for the silt clogging the water system but there should be plenty of blame to go around. The Solicitors Office, which is the legal branch of the U.S. Department of Interior, is “anticipating legal action”. This should be another great experiment to see if lawyers can make pure drinking water out of a monstrous pile of court documents.


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