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Awards

International Recognition for Historic Elwha River Restoration



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The collaborative work of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to restore the Elwha River of Washington, USA, was recognized as a world-renowned restoration project during the awarding of the 2016 Thiess International Riverprize.

Riverprize is an annual award given by the International River Foundation to recognize and support premier examples of river restoration management. The 2016 award was presented during an award ceremony at the 19th International River Symposium September 14, 2016, in New Delhi, India.

USGS scientists Jonathan Warrick and Jeff Duda receiving Riverprize recognition in New Delhi, India. Plaque recognizing the Elwha River Restoration Project as one of three finalists for the 2016 Thiess International Riverprize. Photo credit: International River Foundation.
Above: USGS scientists Jonathan Warrick and Jeff Duda receiving Riverprize recognition in New Delhi, India. [larger version]

  Above: Plaque recognizing the Elwha River Restoration Project as one of three finalists for the 2016 Thiess International Riverprize. Photo credit: International River Foundation. [larger version]

The Elwha River was recognized as one of three Riverprize finalists for its unprecedented approach to restoring salmon populations through the largest orchestrated dam removal project in history (visit https://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/nature/elwha-ecosystem-restoration.htm). The USGS has been a major partner in the project, providing scientific monitoring and analyses of the fish, waters, and sediment before, during, and after dam removal (see “USGS science supporting the Elwha River Restoration Project”). The Elwha River Restoration Project encompasses numerous restoration elements, including fisheries management, reseeding and replanting, water management and treatment, sediment management, and educational activities. These coordinated activities came after decades of debate, planning, and collaboration.

Personal watercraft fitted with sonar and GPS were among the tools used by USGS scientists to map the bottom of shallow coastal waters near the mouth of the Elwha River
Above: Personal watercraft fitted with sonar and GPS were among the tools used by USGS scientists to map the bottom of shallow coastal waters near the mouth of the Elwha River. This shot was taken August 25, 2011, during a survey conducted just a few weeks before dam removal began. [larger version]

“The Elwha River Restoration is a shining example of what can happen when diverse groups work together to recognize rivers for their many contributions to our culture, economy, and environment,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “It was powerful to witness the largest dam removal and ecosystem restoration project in history, and to see endangered salmon, trout, and other fish once again regain access to their historic migration and spawning habitat along the Elwha River.”

Webcam photo taken February 7, 2012, during deconstruction of the Glines Canyon Dam by a process called “notching down” Glines Canyon Dam removal showing notching and spillway.  Site of the Elwha River Restoration project
Above: Webcam photo taken February 7, 2012, during deconstruction of the Glines Canyon Dam by a process called “notching down.” The dam was built in 1927 in Olympic National Park. Photo credit: National Park Service. [larger version]

  Above: Glines Canyon Dam removal showing notching and spillway.  Site of the Elwha River Restoration project.  [larger version]

Two large dams on the Elwha River were removed between 2011 and 2014, resulting in the release of millions of cubic meters of sediment downstream and the reopening of fish passage upstream, past former dam sites into protected habitats of Olympic National Park. The project now serves as a living laboratory of cultural and ecosystem restoration as the salmon return to the river.

“Elwha River Restoration is a historic achievement for the Department of the Interior and the Tribe that could not have been accomplished without the help of our many partners, and we are very honored to have been chosen as a finalist for the Thiess International Riverprize,” said Olympic National Park Acting Superintendent Rachel Spector.

Amy East poses with a salmon carcass, found several miles upstream upstream of the former Glines Canyon Dam site on the Elwha River in Washington State. Revegetation in the river valley at the Elwha River restoration site.
Above: Amy East poses with a salmon carcass, found several miles upstream upstream of the former Glines Canyon Dam site on the Elwha River in Washington State. [larger version]

Above: Revegetation in the river valley at the Elwha River restoration site. [larger version]
Revegetation planting day at former Lake Mills reservoir as Glines Canyon Dam is removed. Visitors at Glines Canyon East Abutment in Olympic National Park, the location of the Elwha River Restoration project
Above: Revegetation planting day at former Lake Mills reservoir as Glines Canyon Dam is removed. [larger version] Above: Visitors at Glines Canyon East Abutment in Olympic National Park, the location of the Elwha River Restoration project.  [larger version]

“In completing this project, we are able to give a gift of renewed salmon populations to this great river and to future generations,” stated Robert Elofson, River Restoration Director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. “We are honored to be recognized as world leaders in river restoration.”

The three finalists for the 2016 Riverprize included the Segura River of Spain, and the Niagara and Elwha Rivers of the USA (see “Niagara River team wins 2016 Thiess International Riverprize”). The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper project was awarded the Riverprize.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Undamming Washington’s Elwha River—Public Lecture on Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History
Jan. / Feb. 2015
Elwha Dam Removal Begins—Long-Planned Project Will Restore Ecosystem, Salmon Runs
Nov./Dec. 2011
Final Beach-Erosion Survey of the Elwha River Delta Before Dam Removal
Sept./Oct. 2011
New Video Shows a Virtual Fly-Through Along the Lower Elwha River, Washington, Using Recently Acquired Ground-Based Lidar Data
Mar. / Apr. 2012
Publications Explain Elwha River Restoration to Scientists, General Public
Sept./Oct. 2011
Related Websites
Elwha River Restoration
NPS
USGS science supporting the Elwha River Restoration Project
USGS
Elwha River Dam Removal—Rebirth of a River (USGS Fact Sheet 2011–3097)
USGS
Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: Erosion of reservoir sediment
Geomorphology
Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: Fluvial sediment load
Geomorphology
Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: River channel and floodplain geomorphic change
Geomorphology
Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: Coastal geomorphic change
Geomorphology
Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: Source-to-sink sediment budget and synthesis
Geomorphology

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in this issue:

Cover Story
SE Beach Dunes Lost to Hurricane Matthew

News Briefs
News Briefs

Fieldwork
Indian Ocean Gas Hydrates Drilling

Recent Fieldwork

Research
Measuring Coastal Erosion in California

Solid Footing for Offshore Wind Turbines

Outreach
Woods Hole Science Stroll

Awards
James Hein Wins Moore Medal Award

International Recognition for Historic Elwha River Restoration

Meetings
AGU Fall Meeting

International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals

SACNAS National Conference

Staff
Visiting Scholar Studying Arctic Ocean Ferromanganese Crusts and Nodules

Publications
Structured Decision Making in Barrier Island Restoration

Oct. - Dec. Publications

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