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Volume 8, No 1 Olympic Park Associates -- Founded in 1948 Spring, 2000

Elwha Ceremony Marks Beginning of Salmon Restoration

On February 11 near Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River a congratulatory crowd marked the end of a long trail and the beginning of a new one. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt was present to announce the official end of the two Elwha dams. Government officials and representatives of the dam owners, Ft. James Paper Company and Daishowa America, Inc., signed the agreement to convey to the public the ownership of the two Elwha dams for the price of $29.5 million appropriated by Congress in the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992. The actual transfer of ownership occurred on February 29.

The battle to remove the two Elwha dams and restore the Elwha's salmon runs has been long, sometimes contentious, and often seemed to have no end in sight. The signing ceremony came only after years of political maneuvering, public involvement, give and take, and hard work by government and National Park officials, conservation and citizen groups, Indian tribes, pro bono attorneys, and individual volunteers, followed by a final year of tense negotiations.

Ultimately, the ordeal ended in a win-win scenario in which all participants could celebrate.

Of the many individuals and groups who have played key roles in the success of the Elwha effort, here are just a few:

Rick Rutz was first to remind the conservation community that the Federal Power Act of 1921 prohibited hydroelectric dams in national parks. Thus, he argued, the expiration of the 50-year license of Glines Canyon Dam (built illegally inside the park) should be treated as a new license application, and the lower Elwha Dam should not be licensed.

Convinced by Rick's argument, the first four conservation groups to intervene before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were Olympic Park Associates, Seattle Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth. Though not an attorney, Rick wrote the legal intervention.

The original four groups were joined by the Northwest Steelhead and Salmon Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Lower Elwha s'Klallam Tribe. Other organizations that later joined included The Mountaineers, National Parks and Conservation Association, Washington Wilderness Coalition, Northwest Conservation Act Coalition, Northwest Council, Olympic Rivers Council, American Rivers, Friends of the Elwha, National Wildlife Federation, and Long Live the Kings .

Jim Baker and the Northwest Conservation Act Coalition came up with the "Creative Solution" that had Bonneville Power Administration conduct its first model industrial energy conservation audit at the Daishowa America mill and provide replacement power.

Shawn Cantrell of Friends of the Earth later continued Jim Baker's work. Shawn skillfully handled the day-to-day interactions on behalf of the conservation intervenors during negotiations between dam owners and government officials.

The Elwha Citizens' Advisory Committee played a key role as a forum in which Port Angeles citizens could explore the potential impacts of dam removal and assess the effects upon the community. Initially including the full spectrum of opinions from strong opposition to strong support of dam removal, the Committee met diligently nearly weekly for six months, studying all aspects of dam removal. Ultimately they supported acquisition and removal of the dams and restoration of salmon runs. Their grassroots effort was important in winning support from elected officials.

Joe Mentor , a member of OPA's board, should be recognized for originally suggesting the formation of a citizens' advisory committee. He had learned the importance of a local citizens' advisory committee during his experience dealing with Columbia Gorge issues while on the staff of Senator Dan Evans.

Bill Robinson of the Northwest Salmon and Steelhead Council of Trout Unlimited was also influential in garnering local support.

Design and engineering and construction of water quality protection before actual removal of Elwha Dam will require 3 to 4 years.

The Glines Canyon Dam and its 160 acres are within the park boundaries and have now been added to Olympic National Park. However, the timing for removal of the Glines Canyon Dam remains uncertain. Senator Slade Gorton, who has opposed dam removal from the start, still opposes removal of the second dam until he sees the results of removing the first.

In the interim the two dams will be operated for the National Park Service by the Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Department of Interior. The Elwha Act stipulated that Daishowa would guarantee replacement power throught Bonneville Power Administration.

We now begin a hopeful new journey toward full restoration of the legendary Elwha salmon.