USGS Washington Water Science Center
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The Issue: The Elwha River Restoration Project is the largest single restoration action planned for the Puget Sound region in the foreseeable future and is a high priority for the Puget Sound Partnership. Beginning in 2011, two large dams on the Elwha River in Clallam County, Washington, will be removed by the National Park Service over about two and a half years. During removal, sediment accumulated behind the dams over the last several decades is expected to mobilize, creating high suspended-sediment levels in the lower river and significant impacts on river, lake, and nearshore ecosystems.
How the USGS will help: The USGS, working in collaboration with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, will monitor and interpret suspended-sediment load data and suspended-sediment transport along the lower Elwha River, the coastal estuary complex, and the nearshore where the Elwha River enters the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The USGS will also monitor the biological response of the nearshore benthic ecosystem to increased sedimentation. The data and information will assist the Puget Sound Partnership, including state, federal, and tribal agencies to monitor key ecosystem indicators before, during, and after the large-scale restoration. This study will provide key data to the National Park Service as they manage the Elwha River Restoration Project, and it will provide a better understanding of the impacts of large-scale dam removal on downstream ecosystems.
For an overview of all USGS science conducted in support of the Elwha River Restoration Project, see https://www.usgs.gov/elwha