The destruction of Washington state's Elwha Dam gets underway. The removal of the dam and a companion will allow salmon to swim upriver for the first time in a century.
In a deep turquoise pool in a gorge of steep granite and thick Douglas fir, dozens of salmon swam fitfully. Swirling and slow, they made their way up one side of the riverbed, only to run into the steep concrete face of Elwha Dam — the formidable barrier that for nearly 100 years has cut off most of the Elwha River from the salmon that traditionally populated it.
Some primordial genetic imprint makes these fish keep trying. Nurtured in hatcheries for years, supplemented by the few wild fish that managed to spawn in the limited five-mile stretch of river left below the dam, these 20-pound chinook still fling themselves up the river.
Or try to. Soon, they'll be able to continue on the journey that nature compels them to make.
On Saturday, in what is being billed as one of the biggest environmental achievements of a generation, a bulldozer began to etch large chunks of concrete out of the barrier. The removal is the first step toward bringing down two hydropower dams that for a century have straddled the pristine river traversing the northern reaches of Olympic National Park.
The effort is the largest dam removal project ever undertaken in the United States. It comes at a time when the nation's 80,000 dams, many of them aging and backed up with choking silt, are increasingly suspected of having outlived their usefulness...
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