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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Release: February 8, 1999
Mark D. Munn, Research Biologist
(253) 428-3600, ext. 2686

Bringing Back the Elwha River Salmon

Bringing back the once-famous salmon runs of the Elwha River also restores the river's ecosystem, which in turn assures salmon for the future, according to a report published today by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Removing the two dams on the Elwha would allow more salmon into the upper reaches of the river. After the salmon spawn upstream, they die, releasing nutrients back into the ecosystem as they decompose.

"The Elwha's instream habitat is naturally complex," said Mark Munn, USGS research biologist and lead author of the report. "The river will hold the carcasses long enough for them to break down into nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These nutrients feed the smaller organisms, which will eventually feed other salmon."

Since the two dams were built on the Elwha River early in the century, annual salmon run estimates declined from 380,000 to less than 3,000 in the 1990's. Because of the huge decline, a Federal law was enacted in 1992 that authorized the removal of the dams to help salmon restoration.

The report, "An Assessment of Stream Habitat and Nutrients in the Elwha River Basin: Implications for Restoration," by M.D. Munn, R.W. Black, A.L.Haggland, M.A. Humling, and R.L. Huffman, is published as U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4223. The report is available for reading at the U.S. Geological Survey, WRD, 1201 Pacific Avenue, Suite 600, Tacoma, Washington 98402, telephone (253) 428-3600. The report can be purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver, Colorado 80225, telephone (303) 202-4166.

The report is a product of the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. USGS NAWQA scientists are assessing water quality in more than 50 river basins and aquifers across the Nation.

As the Nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every State by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to sound economic and physical development of the Nation's natural resources, and enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

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