In September, 2011, The Cleanest Line reported the demise of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. Currently the largest dam removal project on the continent, the demolition of the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam will allow five species of Pacific salmon – including a super strain of Chinook salmon topping 100 pounds – to access more than 70 miles of previously unavailable waterways. Salmon currently spawn in five miles of river below the Elwha Dam, which provides no fish passage.
Dam busting is a hot commodity on both the left and right coasts of North America. On December 17, 2010, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust – a joint venture between American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and Trout Unlimited – purchased the Veazie, Howland and Great Works Dams on the Penobscot River in Maine at a cost of 25 million dollars. Phase Two of the Penobscot River Restoration Project begins with the removal of the Great Works Dam in 2012 and the removal of the Veazie Dam over a two-year period beginning in 2013. Construction of a fish bypass at Howland Dam runs concurrently with dam removal. The estimated cost to implement this phase of the project is 30 million dollars.
[Above: Great Works Dam, the first dam to be removed during the project. Photo: Bridget Besaw]