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Awards

USGS Scientists Receive Interior Department Award for Elwha River Dam-Removal Study



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Nineteen current and former U.S. Geological Survey scientists and their collaborators from other state, federal, and tribal agencies received a U.S. Department of the Interior “Unit Award for Excellence of Service” during a May 15 ceremony at USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia. The award recognizes the Elwha River Science Team for their work to understand and explain the effects of dam removal on the Elwha River in Washington State.

Photo of members of the Elwha River Science Team posing with their “Unit Award for Excellence of Service” certificate
Above: Several members of the Elwha River Science Team pose with their “Unit Award for Excellence of Service” certificate. Left to right: Mike McHenry (Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe), Jeff Duda (USGS), Melissa Foley (formerly USGS), Amy East (USGS), George Pess (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Pat Shafroth (USGS), and Jennifer Bountry (Bureau of Reclamation). [larger version]

“The 2011–2014 removal of two century-old dams from the Elwha River in Washington State was the world’s largest dam-removal project and the National Park Service’s second largest restoration project,” reads the award citation. “By most metrics, the effort was a stunning success. Removal of the dams opened miles of pristine wilderness river habitat to all seven species of Pacific salmon and other critical fish, and the release of sediment and wood restored the river and coast back to an ecologically healthy state.”

Aerial photo from a webcam showing the decommissioning of Glines Canyon Dam
Above: Photo from a webcam showing the decommissioning of Glines Canyon Dam, built on the Elwha River in 1927 in Olympic National Park. Photo credit: National Park Service. [larger version]

Before, during, and after dam removal, DOI scientists worked tirelessly with collaborators from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Washington State Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, the University of Washington, and Eastern Washington University to measure dam-removal impacts on the river’s aquatic ecosystem, geomorphology, and marine environment at the river mouth.

Photo showing 2 researchers up to their knees in muddy water collecting data while the dam deconstruction is underway
Above: USGS research ecologist Jeff Duda (right) collects discharge data on a side channel of the Elwha River on June 20, 2012, while dam deconstruction is underway. Photo credit: Chris Magirl, USGS. [larger version]

“From 2011 to the present,” notes the award citation, “the team produced 27 peer-reviewed scientific articles and delivered over 150 scientific presentations at conferences and workshops around the world. This is a remarkably productive compendium of scientific products disseminated into the public realm representing seamless teamwork and coordination across agencies and disciplines…. The legion of scientific insights from the Elwha effort is informing future dam-removal projects around the world and enabling greater understanding of ecologically productive rivers and associated downstream marine and coastal ecosystems.”

Aerial photograph of the mouth of the Elwha River on September 26, 2013, when dam removal was underway
Above: Aerial photograph of the mouth of the Elwha River on September 26, 2013, when dam removal was underway. Photo credit: Jeff Duda, USGS. Aerial assistance by LightHawk and plane piloted by Dr. Hunter Handsfield. [larger version]

Two of the team members—research ecologist Jeff Duda of the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center and hydraulic engineer Rob Hilldale of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group—accepted the award on behalf of the group. Additional USGS participants come from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, the Washington Water Science Center, the Fort Collins Science Center, the Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and the Arizona Water Science Center.

Read a full list of the awardees’ names at https://www2.usgs.gov/humancapital/pc/2018awardcitations.html (click on Unit Awards for Excellence of Service and scroll to second-to-last citation).

Learn more about the Elwha River Dam Removal Project in a recently published USGS Fact Sheet, “Science Partnership Between U.S. Geological Survey and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.”

Related Sound Waves Stories
New Report Synthesizes U.S. Dam-Removal Studies
Aug. - Oct. 2017
International Recognition for Historic Elwha River Restoration
Oct. - Dec. 2016
Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History
January - February 2015
New Video Shows a Virtual Fly-Through Along the Lower Elwha River, Washington, Using Recently Acquired Ground-Based Lidar Data
Mar. - Apr. 2012
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
Publications Explain Elwha River Restoration to Scientists, General Public
Sept. - Oct. 2011

Related Websites
Western Fisheries Research Center
USGS
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
USGS
Washington Water Science Center
USGS
Fort Collins Science Center
USGS
Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
USGS
Arizona Water Science Center
USGS
Unit Awards for Excellence of Service
USGS
Science Partnership Between U.S. Geological Survey and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
USGS

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News Brief
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Field Work
WHCMSC Aerial Imaging and Mapping Group Aids with Kīlauea Eruption

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Awards
USGS Scientists Receive DOI Award for Elwha River Dam-Removal Study

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