Described in some circles as North America’s largest ever dam removal project, the controlled deconstruction of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams has been in the works since Congress agreed in 1992 to full restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries through the removal of the 108-foot-tall Elwha Dam and 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam and the implementation of other necessary restoration measures. The removal of the two dams will increase spawning habitat on the Elwha River from the current 5 miles to over 70 miles available for the five species of salmon to spawn.
An estimated 16 million CY of sediment is impounded by Glines Canyon Dam in Lake Mills, with an estimated 4 million CY impounded by Elwha Dam in Lake Aldwell. A significant portion of this sediment will be eroded naturally by the Elwha River as a result of the dam removals and will restore the riverbed and delta to re-create the natural, gravel-bed spawning habitat. The sediment release rate from the reservoirs will be controlled by controlling the rate of reservoir drawdown and dam removal at both sites simultaneously. Barnard will deconstruct the dams, intake towers, gate houses, and miscellaneous structures and restore the area over four years. Slated for completion in 2014.