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I recall reading a couple years ago the dam was being removed from the Elwa river. I beleive they said the river would be closed to fishing for the years while the dam is removed. Does anyone know what current status is? I've never fished the river and would like to this Fall.

Jeff Regan
Bainbridge Island, WA
 

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river is open to fishing this summer, and will be closed next year and beyond. was up there this past weekend and plan on another 4 days up there later this month. get up there while you can.

chris
 

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lake mills road is closing, maybe this week, maybe already. the plan is to drawn down the lake by 8' right now so a 'channel' through the sediment at the river delta can be dug to help with starting the run off going in the right direction. the contract for removal is to be let some time in september with actual work starting in 2011. this total removal could be done in as little as 2 years or less depending on what they run into.

of course the speculation is that the fish will take decades to return, i really doubt that sort of projection, think of the touttle here and just how fast the anadramous fish found the river again, way before WDFW could screw it up with more hatchery plants.

this is going to be very interesting to watch as right now this is the largest removal project ever attempted in this country. once the klamath dam removal starts that will have the 'biggest' adjective nailed.

would be amazing to see the hundred pound springers return at some point but only time will tell.
 

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There is a big difference between this project and what happened after Mt. St. Helens. When the mountain blew, there were thousands of Toutle fish in the salt at the time. These fish were imprinted on the Toutle, its tribs and their habitats. Some of these fish were in the salt up to 3 or 4 years (3 salt steelies and 4 to 5 year old Chinook) after the mountain blew, allowing the habitats to recover from the ash and mudflows. The fish returning to the Elwah won't be imprinted on habitats upstream of the dam after their exclusion for a century or more, and recolonization will have to rely on straying, which will definitely take longer than what happened on the Toutle. Perhaps not many decades, but long enough that you and I probably won't be fishing the upper Elwah for anadromous fish in our life times.

The large bodied springers in the Elwah are extinct. Populations of fish don't just reappear because the habitat becomes accessible again:beathead:. Those fish adapted to grow large bodies to get through the gorge. Those genetics are gone so don't count on catching 80-100 Lb springers in the Elwah anytime soon.
 

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Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
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You are right Jerry; they are still hand trapping and spawning returning indigenous Elwah fish (steelhead and salmon) in the lower river every year. The egss get hatchery brooding, then they "rear" in the lower river on release as juveniles and outmigrate naturally. The last of the best. And some doozies too!
 

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The remaining hatchery Chinook on the Elwah are fall Chinook and I'm sure they will not be homing to areas above the dams when the dams are gone, they will have to stray up there. After decades of hatchery production and artificial selection, they will be miles away genetically from the original native fall Chinook in that system but better than nothing at all.
 

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The large bodied springers in the Elwah are extinct. Populations of fish don't just reappear because the habitat becomes accessible again
Actually, that is exactly what does happen; (populations of fish reappear when the habitat becomes accessible). It will take about 6-10 years - not long - the main uncontrollable factor (at least recently) will be ocean conditions. Planting isn't necessarily required nor recommended. Fish will stray in there from elsewhere and build a population (more quickly if the ocean conditions are favorable). It doesn't have to be the endemic stock and you can get a decent return from a small escapement if there is alot of habitat to go around - as there will be.
 

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Got it. Thanks Bob... that wll be really exciting to see those big fish come back... I also support a closure for an extended period so that the Bios can really collect good, long term recovery data. We should remember the whole world will be watching this recovery effort because if it does what we think it will, it will provide a powerful model for other rivers (Read: Lower Snake River recovery:thumb:).

As for it taking decades, I know that the rivers in Chile are being overrun with chinook salmon that are pioneering them for the 1st time. No history of salmon at all and escapee chinook are storming these systems within a very short time (1989-90 and the pace is accelerating). It anecdotally seems to point to the idea that if given a healthy river, salmon are extremely tenacious and quick to exploit brand new, do-able spawning habitat.

http://www.currentresults.com/Invasive-Species/Invasive-Water/chinook-709271.php

This isn't so great for Chile or Argentina, but it bodes well for rivers we have screwed in the 20 century, like the Elwah. Go Chinook!
 

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I have seen small creeks along the Skagit that were all but completely blocked to fish passage for decades be reopened and in as little as a single year fish were seen spawning. Within a couple of years dozens of fish were found spawning in streams small enough to jump across. I think what will happen on the Elwha (Preston approved I hope) once the dams are removed will be a surprise to everyone and the pessimists among us will be silenced.
 

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Snartac, actually read the quote you posted from my response! The population I was referring to was the large bodied springers (from the first sentence you quoted). Certainly, there will be salmon spawning in the Elwha above the locations of the dams after barrier removal as I stated in my previous response. It will just take a while for there to be enough of them to start a fishery even if PS Chinook are delisted. The new population will contain hatchery fish from the hatcheries on the Elwha and stray hatchery and wild fish from other systems. As far as I'm aware, there are not any true wild Chinook or steelhead in the Elwha system. Although there are naturally spawning fish in the tiny amount of available habitat below the lower dam, these will be hatchery fish or wild spawned fish from hatchery parents. However, there will be no large bodied spring run Chinook like there was historicallly because those genetics don't exist anymore and there are no large bodied springers in the proximal systems to "seed" the habitat. Local wild and hatchery fall Chinook salmon will not just automatically convert to large bodied springers just because they stray into historical habitat for large bodied springers after the migration corridor is restored. Those Elwha spring fish were naturally selected over hundreds if not thousands of years for that phenotype. The recovery of a wild Chinook population in the system will likely be hindered by the influx of hatchery fish but I'm sure the population will grow over time even with heavy hatchery introgression because that has been seen in other systems after barrier removal. Even fish with hatchery parents can survive when there is hardly any competition for spawning and rearing habitat. The uppper Cedar River above Landsburg Dam for example, had fish ladder access completed in 2003 after over 100 years of blockage for resident and anadromous fish. Originally, most of the Chinook "colonizers" were hatchery fish but, after enough years for fish to return to natal habitats above the dam, the upstream of dam subpopulation is now dominated by wild fish, some of which were spawned above the dam. Chinook typically return as 3, 4 and 5 year olds in the Cedar, and so, 5 years after passage construction, there were probably 3 year classes returning to their natal habitats above the dam. This is supported by the fact that the percentage of the total Chinook population in the Cedar Basin (based on redds) spawning above the dam almost doubled 4-7 years after fish passage compared to the first three years after access was restored. And yet, 7 years on, there are only tens to low hundreds spawning above the dam and this year, we will be lucky if it is 100 (most of which will be males, just like in previous years). There has not been a Chinook fishery in the Cedar River for decades and there won't be one in decades, because the population won't bounce back that fast and if it does, the Muckleshoots will be fishing again before the rec fisher because the rec fisher gets his half of the fish in the salt. Oh, and lets not forget that Puget Sound wild Chinook are listed as threatened under the ESA. Do you think you are going to fish a wild stock that is listed, c'mon people. You will need the whole Puget Sound ESU to be healthy and delisted before any fishery for "wild" Elwha Chinook happens. Of course, I realize that the scale of the experiment will be much bigger in the Elwha than the Cedar and the habitat is certainly more pristine but where are all the wild genes going to come from, never mind wild spring salmon genes? At least the Cedar had/has some residual wild fish although admittedly they are somewhat introgressed with hatchery strays, mostly from the Issaquah and Portage Bay hatcheries. But the wild produced fish always dominate in the Cedar as a whole and the habitat/disturbance regime is always working on that population via natural selection which likely reduces hatchery genetic influences. Not so for the remaining Elwha fish which are nearly all used as broodstock for the hatchery. We will see what happens and I hope the optomists are right and the new population really takes off and establishes itself robustly. That would be great, but it doesn't mean there will be a fishery and I would not support one on wild fish in my lifetime.

In the case of steelhead, it would be nice if they just relied on the wild rainbows in the upper system to re-establish an anadromous life history to produce wild steelhead in the system. I'm sure the populations of rainbow have been producing smolts over time but those smolts are not able to return to their natal habitats because of the dams and are forced to spawn with hatchery fish in the river or captured for hatchery broodstock. The best thing for steelhead would be a weir to keep the hatchery fish out of the upper river and let a wild stock re-establish itself from the wild genetics in the resident rainbows that still exist. Those fish are locally adapted and have the best chance of producing a sustainable, wild Elwha river steelhead stock.
 

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Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
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Wilken,
You might find this article interesting, since you mentioned hatcheries.
http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20100205/news/302059993
This is by far the most disappointing aspect of the dam removal for me. I don't want to see the river get seeded with a bunch of hatchery fish, either from the new Elwha hatchery or the Morse Creek crib facility.
We have an unique opportunity with the removal to see what the fish can do on their own. I think the ability of the fish to adapt and recover on their own is being under estimated. Looks like we'll likely never get the chance see if they can......
SF
 
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