Steelhead Summit Alliance March 12 Elwha river native fisheries


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Steelhead Summit Alliance Plans March 12th Conference on the Future of Native Fisheries on the Elwha River

The planning and preparations for the removal of the two dams on the Elwha River have been going on for years, but the actual removal of the dams is now scheduled to begin in September 2011 and it is estimated that it will take a period of about three years to complete. In particular, the removal of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam is the largest dam removal project in North America to date. The contract for the dams removal portion of the project was awarded last fall and totals just under $27 million.

The removal of the dams is a very exciting event for all of us who are working hard on many fronts to try to restore traditional runs of salmon and steelhead to the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. And with the more than 70 miles of river and tributaries that will become accessible to native fish runs with the removal of these dams is certainly a step in the right direction. (To learn more about the details of the project, please visit the Olympic National Park (ONP) website at

However, planning for the future of the Elwha River, especially as it pertains to the future of our native fisheries has been less than transparent, and activities are underway that are already starting to shape the future. In particular, as noted on the ONP website, “a fish hatchery on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s Reservation is now under construction to replace the tribe’s existing hatchery.” The construction contract for these hatchery facilities, funded through the United States Department of the Interior as part of the 2009 Recover Act is $16.6 million, almost as much as is being spent on actual dam removal.

The principal document that has been released pertaining to future fisheries planning was issued in April 2008 under a rather mundane name: “NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NWFSC-90, otherwise know as the “Elwha River Fish Restoration Plan.” The authors of this document include fisheries biologists from NOAA/NMFS, ONP and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife(WDFW). It is not apparent upon reading the document that a diverse source of opinions on the matter was desired nor solicited. This 191 page tome can be found on the NW Region NOAA website ( It may look somewhat intimidating at first to the layperson, but it is very instructive reading.

At this crucial juncture the Steelhead Summit Alliance, and in particular the Wild Steelhead Coalition, Wild Fish Conservancy and the Steelhead Committee of the Federation of Fly Fishers, is hosting a conference of distinguished scientists and writers who will present diverse points of view on the subject of Elwha River fish restoration. Participants include some of the authors of the NOAA report, as well as others with extensive experience on the subject of managing fisheries for native fish restoration and enhancement.

Speakers include Jeff Duda (United States Geological Services), George Pess, Gary Winans and Barry Berjikian (NOAA/NMFS), Pat Crain (ONP) and James Lichatowich, scientist and author of the 1999 book “Salmon Without Rivers: A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis.” We are also very proud to have Bruce Brown, author of the seminal 1982 environmental classic, “Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon,” as our luncheon speaker. Tribal members and biologists were invited to participate in this Steelhead Summit, but declined the invitation.

We will again be holding our Summit in the conference room at the Western Fisheries Research Center at 6505 NE 65th St. at the junction of Sandpoint Way near the UW on March 12th from 9:30 – 3:00. There is no charge to attend and we welcome all who are interested. However, for planning purposes, please RSVP to me at [email protected].

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