Elwah river between the dams

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by wbugger, May 2, 2003.

  1. wbugger

    wbugger Member

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    I am thinking of hitting this section of the Elwah right after the opener. Was wondering if anyone had fished it this early and what it was like.

    I know the Elwah above the dams (hike in portion) isn't really fishable until July (sometimes later depending on snowpack), but I was hoping that between the dams may be a viable option.

    I had good success on this portion of the river last year during august. Also, imho, this is a beautiful river.

    Thanks for the info.

    Todd
     
  2. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

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    I have to agree with you. The good news is that the trout in the Elwha river are now fully protected from harvest and you may not kill them.The regs will not take effect in lake Mills, the uppermost impoundment on the Elwha, until spring of 2004. So maybe that fishery will begin to repair it's self after years of abuse. It does depend on flows, runoff etc. But this year is a mild one, so maybe spring fishing will be great. I like the mouth of Lake Mills, at the top end where the river comes in. Hiking in on the west side is best, from the boat launch parking area there on the west side of Lake Mills. The trail is fair but often very wet this time of year. You can take a boat up there too, anchor adjacent to the flow and work the currents that way. I don't think a pontoon would be practical, nor a belly boat, because of the wind trends there. Though if you don't mind hiking it that would be a good combination: hiking in and floating a light craft at the mouth.Big Bull Trout there this time of year add something to the mix. And the Bows can be bodacious!
     
  3. wbugger

    wbugger Member

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    I either read or heard, a while back that they were going to start the process of taking both dams down on the river.

    The way I understood it was that the first step was going to be cutting a section out of the bottom of both dams while widening the river to allow for the extra water that will result from this. After the lakes had both been drained down enough, the deconstruction of the dams was to begin. I don't remember a time table except for the starting of this process (2005).

    I've heard that over 90% of the Elwah drainage is considered still "pure" or "unspoiled". The hopes are that with the removal of the dams, we'll see a return of the monster anadromous fish runs that occurred prior to the dams.

    Just imagine catching steelhead, chinook, or silvers at humes ranch!!!

    Todd
     
  4. D3Smartie

    D3Smartie Active Member

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    That lower section is just not enough to support the big runs of salmon that it used to have. It would be so cool to have those dams taken out but the whole lower section would change completely unless they did something about the silt and water flow.
    I can't wait to see the new river if they ever get the dams out.
     
  5. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

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    As far as I understand it the dams will come out in the next five to ten years. it will be a long process. There has been much to hinder it along the way. The big recent delay was related to water use and protection of the aquifer and wells along the lower river. There are several parties interested in continued use of the wells and the concern was the sediment that will be released from behind the dams- 100 years worth and some millions of cubic yards. There was some strong political resistence to the dam removals, spearheaded by Slade Gorton,(of the "Gorton's Seafood" family from Boston). As far as I know that has subsided. A newer problem is that all of the delays may have caused the seed stock, for replanting and revegetation, to become non viable. So another big effort will now have to go onto re collecting all the indigenous plants and seeds for that. If anyone has more info it would be welcome.
     
  6. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    The biggest reason, among many, why Mr. Gorton is a moron and one that is thankfully not serving us anymore. He sure didn't do anything for the salmon/steelhead of the Pacific NW. Ironic that his family is associated with seafood when he seems indignant to all the concerns that make a seafood self sustaining resource
     
  7. BOBLAWLESS

    BOBLAWLESS New Member

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    One of the best things to happen to flyfishng was the defeat of Slade. Clinton gave him the money for the damn removals but he sat on it. The cost is just pocket change when it comes to the federal level.
    Many folks (the dam gangsters) are afraid if the Elwah dams come down, the virgin spawning habitat that lies upstream will become so filled with fish that there will be a cry for more dams to come down.
    IMO all the Snake dams should come down as well as some from the Columbia itself.
    The Snake, because of the dams making the water so hot in the fall, becomes lethal to the fish.
    A fine kettle of fish indeed!.
    Bob:beathead
     
  8. Mike Etgen

    Mike Etgen Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

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    RiverFishing

    Thanks to those of you who have taken this post beyond the question of fishing prospects - not that fishing prospects aren't worth discussing!
    I'm an eastsider and also relatively new to the PacNW and the west, and all this controversy about water rights is fascinating. If I say so myself, some of the trends that are established out west are likely to set the tone for the rest of the country, because it's just a matter of time IMHO before the special interests go to war over water rights everywhere.
    What drew me to this particular post is that my wife and I took a long weekend trip to the OP last fall and while staying at a bed and breakfast near Port Angeles, I sat down and read a local history of the Elwah, the dams, etc.
    It sure is an interesting read. I wish I could recall the name of the book or the author, but it's a great study of how the rich and powerful can capture and exploit a natural resource, using the justification that it's good for the economy, and then pretty much do whatever they want. It's well documented in this book that the gentleman who pulled this off (name begins with an A and one of the lakes in named for him) flatly disregarded the requirement that he make provision for fish migration, the end result being that the anandromous fishery was pretty much destroyed.
    I mentioned to our hosts the following morning that I'd read and been fascinated by history, and was told pretty bluntly that the whole dam-removal decision process was a "Clinton administration conspiracy" that none of the locals favored.
    I'm not making a judgement about my hosts or the history; just wanted to share a perspective, and perhaps kick off some conversation about this complex issue.
    And if any of you are really interested, there have been numerous articles about the Klamath watershed in recent months. Regardless of your perspective, there are a lot of lessons in the making down there that bear watching up here.
    My .02 worth...

    Mike :dunno
     
  9. Jim Wallace

    Jim Wallace Smells like low tide

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    Mike, I also read an interesting discussion of the Elwha dams situation in Fly Fishing the Olympic Peninsula, by Doug Rose. (1996, Frank Amato Publications). He devoted an entire chapter to it, Ch. 10, "The Crook That Stole the Brook" and ends the chapter remembering a quatrain he "had read in the Washington Department of Fisheries' publication a few years earlier:

    "The law locks up that man that
    takes the salmon from the brook;
    but lets loose the larger crook that
    from the salmon steals the brook."

    AMEN! (Sometimes that larger crook even gets elected to the highest political office in this country!)

    The real threat is coming from the fear mongers who are attempting to distract us with wars and terrorism alerts while they set about dismantling and/or defying progressive environmental legislation. (IMHO, of course!)

    My Plug Nickle:professor Jimbo
     
  10. D3Smartie

    D3Smartie Active Member

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    great quote Jimbo... thank you for that, and how true it is.
     
  11. Jim Wallace

    Jim Wallace Smells like low tide

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    Thanks, but don't thank me, thank Doug Rose! Great book he wrote, by the way.
    Jimbo:thumb
     
  12. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

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    Todd and others, Another great view of the Elwha history is a video called "Unconqering The Last Frontier". It may be available at Port Angeles library. It is a video movie history of the Elwha and the people and much of what has happened over the past 100 years.
     
  13. troutman101

    troutman101 Member

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    What is even more exciting is all of the great steelheading to be had in 20 years when all other rivers have been destroyed by hatchery programs. My hope is that the tributaries in the upper Elwah will contribute to the recovery of the greatest steelhead and salmon run this state ever saw. Imagine having the oppertunity to hike 15 miles and catch a newly recovered fish only to return it back to the river so it can regenerate it's species. It would be almost too good to be true.

    I suspect that the rainbows that were caught in the upper river could start descending to saltwater again as steelhead. I wonder if the Game department plans on monitering the trout to see if any native trout resort back to sea run salmonids. We would then have again native steelhead which will open up a whole can of worms.


    I fish therefore I lie.
     
  14. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

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    I used to know it all---but now I forgot it all.

    It should be a good thing,getting rid of the dams but I don't think it will happen in my life time. I'm getting on in years and right now I'm getting ready to slip on a banana peel.

    Jim
     
  15. D3Smartie

    D3Smartie Active Member

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    have you ever caught one of those rainbows in the hike in section? there are some very big trout up there. I wouldnt be surprised if they were steelhead.
     
  16. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

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    You're the man, Bob. The Snake River dams, which generate around 3% of our region's electricity and are not designed to offer flood protection, give us nothing we couldn't have without the dams other than an inland "seaport", which benefits no one other than the barging trade, and indirectly, the agricultural interests who rely on it. Meanwhile, these dams are wiping out wild salmonid stocks - some coho stocks are gone forever, sockeye are on the brink of extinction, and reliable estimates are that there will be no wild salmon or steelhead left on the Snake within the next 15 - 20 years. We (i.e., U.S. taxpayers) spend billions trying to stave off that eventuality on asinine things like trucking smolts around dams - a near complete waste of money - just so the barging industry, which probably employs a couple hundred people at most, can keep plying these waters. Without the dams, farmers could still pull water from the Snake to irrigate their crops and ship their crops by rail and truck, our region could absorb the nominal loss of power generation, we'd create an environment where wild salmon and steelhead could not only survive but thrive, we'd avoid the billions in salmon-related expenditures we currently incur to subsidize the barging industry, and we'd lay the groundwork for a sportfishing and tourism-based industry that would more than make up for the loss of the barging industry.
     
  17. BOBLAWLESS

    BOBLAWLESS New Member

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    The locals around the dams would undoubtedly vote to keep the dams. They have homes on the reservoirs that are shoreline now but would be high and dry if the river returns. Also, there are a few water skiers who ply the lakes in the summer. The big issue is that many locals who fish know about the rather splendid fishing that can be had in the hike in area. If the dams are breached, these trout, they fear, will return to the sea and be lost just like all the salmonids these days. There are the barge boys, the dam gangsters, and the freeloading
    farmers who want to irrigate at the expense of tourism, the return of the anadromous fish, and free rivers for kayak guys to run wild on. They are out to stop any dam removal, no matter where. They contribute big bucks for the multi-million dollar campaigns needed to get elected these days. The man with the most bribe money wins.
    Damn sorry state of affairs, these damn dams, and like the Old Man, who knows every river and rill, every pond and lake on both sides of the Cascades, I don't see it happening in our lifetime.
    You should visit the dams at the Elwha sometime. Bring a sharp stick to poke around with. Poke the dam and you'll see how rotten it is. Be careful, you might just breach the dams for nuttin'.
     
  18. o mykiss

    o mykiss Active Member

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    Bob, I'm assuming you're joking about locals' fear that breaching of the Elwha dams will ruin the splendid trout fishing in the hike-in area. One need only go to Alaska to see what great trout fishing can be had on a healthy anadromous fish-bearing system. Breaching those dams will if anything make the trout fishing even better. Although the current administration is doing its damnedest to roll back progressive environmental policies and enforcement (including diverting EPA enforcement personnel to drive Christine Todd Whitman to Starbucks and pick up her drycleaning), I am hopeful that not even these clowns will be able to stop the removal of the Elwha dams, and that it will happen soon and certainly in my (and even your) lifetime.

    The Snake River dams are a much bigger longshot, but I am not without hope that if broad enough coalitions can be forged, the few groups (like bargers, electricity producers and the Army Corps of Engineers) whose existence is more directly dependent on the dams isolated, and others reassured that they will be able to maintain their livelihoods despite the breaching of the dams, that it too could happen. If we need to take some of the billions in taxpayer money that we spend on salmon recovery in the Snake system for the sole (true) purpose of subsidizing the barge trade (and keeping a few Army Corps employees employed), and use it to help pay for new irrigation systems and to compensate or relocate to lower ground the people who are left high and dry, that is money well spent in my book. (Remember, there were lots of people displaced, and entire cultures virtually destroyed, by the building of these dams in the first place.)

    The thing that I most fear is that state and federal officials are in a four corner stall, knowing that if they obfuscate long enough and dump enough hatchery zombies into this system, the clock will run out, the wild stocks will become extinct and there will be nothing left to fight about. And believe me, when the government no longer needs to spend billions on hatchery programs, scientific studies, salmon barging, and other cockeyed diversion technologies just to deflect the heat it takes on the decimation of wild stocks, it will not for long feel like it needs to keep those programs alive (and losing money hand over fist) just to keep collecting $30 license fees from a few hundred thousand people in the region. They will spend a lot of money to keep many (most?) sport (and commercial) anglers on the sidelines of the wild fish debate by making hatchery fish available to us while the wild fish go extinct, but not too long after the wild fish are gone, I am sure the government will look upon these hatchery programs and other dam-mitigating schemes as money-losing luxuries that (like a decent public education) we can no longer afford. And then we'll all be stuck fishing for carp and spiny rays in the slackwater behind these dams, eating farm-raised Atlantic salmon, and lamenting the days we sat by and watched our government kill off our Pacific salmon. Or, if we choose to participate in this debate, not.
     
  19. BOBLAWLESS

    BOBLAWLESS New Member

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    I must respond to your thinking that I'm joking about the locals. Absolutely not! My stock broker (I fired him, of course, for wiping out my life savings) was but one of these people. He said he had many friends who felt as he did (he is based in Port Angeles). Signs along the 101 in front of motels exclaim, Save Our Dams." Some people even think that they will be blown out when the dams are dynamited. Others think that Ediz Spit will gather so much sediment that the harbor will be closed and the town will dry up. This is stupid, of course, but then it takes all kinds as they say.
    Myself, I live close enough to the Elwha to consider her my home water. She means a lot to me.
    By the way, your comments are very cogent and well-written. I admire your style. And what you say is definitely word. So many feel as we do, but apparently we are not enough. I thought it was a done deal, and then I found out Slade Gorton (R) was sitting on the money because of some jerkwater committee he was on. Bill Clinton (D) had authorized the money. Then Gorton was defeated and I thought now the dams will come down.
    But now, Pres. Bush (R) is not moving on the issue and I fear for its actuation. Time will tell I guess.
    Bob:reallymad
     
  20. mcronariver

    mcronariver New Member

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    I thought(I could be wrong) that Gorton passed a bill(or ryder)that indicated; no dams on the columbia could be breeched (inculding the snake) if the Elwha dams were taken out? I remember the lower dam on the elwha was ready to go but the upper Glines Canyon dam wsnot part of the deal--does not make sense?

    Maybe somebosy out there "in the know" can turn some light to this.

    great discussion--looking forward to hearing more.

    Mcrona
     

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