Elwha River restoration under way in Washington

Sept. 19, 2011 at 10:12 AM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Biologists say they expect wildlife restoration once two giant dams are removed from the Elwha River in Washington state, the U.S. Interior Department said.

The Interior Department said it's expected to take around three years for engineers to remove the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam. Both dam removals are included in the second largest ecosystem restoration projects after the Florida Everglades.

The Interior Department said it expects the local salmon population to increase from 3,000 to more than 300,000 with the anticipated return of five species of the fish. This, in turn, will lead to the recovery of bears, eagles and other predator species that depend on the Elway River for food.

"America's rivers are the lifeblood of America's economy -- from the water for farms that produce our food to the fish and wildlife that sustain our heritage," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

Salazar added the river restoration would support the culture of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which had sites it considered sacred buried when the dams were constructed. The Elwha Dam was built in 1913 and the Glines Canyon Dam was erected 14 years later.

The restoration project aims to restore the Elwha River to its natural free-flowing state.

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