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Restoration of the Elwha River Ecosystem

Abstract
Historically, the Elwha River in western Washington was renowned for an abundance and diversity of anadromous salmonids. Most of the river system lies within Olympic National Park and remains in pristine condition, but two dams in the lower river have blocked all anadromous fish for more than 80 years. To restore the Elwha's historic fishery resources and resolve an impasse about federal licensing of the dams, the U.S. Congress passed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act in 1992. The act required an analysis of alternatives (dam retention with fish passage facilities v dam removal) to achieve full ecosystem and fishery restoration. Analysis indicates that removal of both dams is the only option that will achieve full restoration, but dam removal and fish restoration efforts could span 20 years and cost from US$147 million to US$203 million. Although fish restoration poses problems because of limited native runs, sediment management presents the most significant environmental challenge and cost. Nevertheless, a unique opportunity to fully restore the ecosystem of a major anadromous-salmonid-producing river is at hand
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Date
1994
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