Doing some math

Just had a chance to do some math for Day 1 of the Elwha River Science Symposium –  66 sessions presented means 66 different projects about the Elwha River happening concurrently. More than 300 scientists are here taking it all in.

Mind. Blowing.

And right now, Dick Goin, a lifelong resident of the Olympic Peninsula, is about to share his experiences about Elwha River.

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Afternoon Session: Nearshore Biology (i.e. What resides in the nearshore now before the sediment comes)

During the afternoon Nearshore Biology session, researchers discussed how the pending sediment flow could impact the nearshore areas at the mouth of the Elwha River.

Highlights from the Nearshore Biology session: Continue reading

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Afternoon Session: Wildlife

Michael Adams of U.S. Geological Survey presented on wildlife studies taking place in the Elwha Valley.

Adams and his team had a simple but broad objective – gathering baseline data on riparian wildlife and their distribution prior to the salmon returning to the river. One role of salmon in the environment is as a food source; more than 30 species of mammals eat salmon.

There was a long list of animals that were sought after including bears, mesocarnivores (such as weasels), otters, small mammals and amphibians.

Bears and mesocarnivores and otters seemed to concentrate primarily in the lower river, but amphibians were found throughout the river valley.

Adams discussed concerns about the sediment affecting these species, especially the amphibians. He believes they are extremely resilient  and he doesn’t think the floodplain habitat is going to be critical to them but it’s hard to say. He’s not sure what will happen with the little pools and gravel bars they use, such as the toad, which uses a confusing array of habitats, but hoping this will be an improvement for them.


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Afternoon Sessions: Honoring Adeline Smith

Since 1991, Jacilee Wray, an archaeologist with Olympic National Park, has been working with one of the tribe’s elders, Adeline Smith, to capture her history as a tribal member in the Elwha River Valley. Wray wanted to honor Smith by sharing some of Smith’s life as a young girl on the Elwha River.

Smith and her niece Bea Charles grew up together on a homestead near the Elwha River bridge. They would go to Agate and Crescent beaches, collecting Agates.

While there were Klallam villages along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there were also villages in the high country. One of the tribal member, Country John, lived at Indian Creek and spent time in the mountains hunting elk. Continue reading

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Afternoon Session: Archaeology of Elwha Valley

Dave Conca, archaeologist and the acting chief of cultural resources at Olympic National Park discussed the archaeology work being done in the valley.

While river restoration started as a fisheries and ecosystem restoration project, it’s allowed for extensive archaeology research as well.

Pre-1995, the river valley didn’t have a lot of archaeology sites. Today, since restoration work started, the amount of sites have increased by 400 percent.

There is a misconception that tribe were not high country valley, but after talking to tribal elders, they describe how mountains and river valleys were very important to the tribe.

From the perspective of whole valley – the tribe resided in the lower river on a larger site, but also moved up river to smaller sites. There is perhaps a coincidence between where people camped 1,000s years ago and where modern day campsites are located.

Soil pit tests dated back to 8,000 years ago, Conca said, showing evidence of life in the valley and that tribal ancestors had a very rich understanding of the valley and mountains. Tools used were often made of stone, and testing found that they came from the same source, Watts Point, an area just north of Vancouver, B.C.

Work as the dams come down will include monitoring erosion, studying the sediment in the reservoirs and develop a proposal to begin ice patch surveys in the upper watershed.

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Morning Session: River Physical Science (i.e. How to deal with 24 million cubic yards of sediment)

Following Karr’s presentation, the rest of the day is being dedicated to researchers doing 20-minute presentations of work in the Elwha Valley prior to dam removal. In a standing-room only lecture hall here at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, the morning sessions on “River Physical Science” largely covered how scientists are dealing with the 24 million cubic yards of sediment that has built up behind both dams.

Highlights: Continue reading

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Morning Speaker: James Karr

James Karr is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington and a Sequim resident. His research specialties are tropical ecology, ornithology, stream ecology, watershed management, and environmental policy. He developed the Index of Bioitic Integrity (IBI) to directly evaluate the effects of human actions on water quality and the health of living systems.

Karr outlined a checklist of how the Elwha Project is moving forward as it should, using adaptive management as a key component of ecosystem-based management.

Plan, Do, Check and Adjust, he said.

“Plan” has been done and the “Do” starts this week.

“Check” and “Adjust” is the ongoing assessment of how the project is progressing. Work has been done to help establish baselines of data and it is important to continue monitoring the progress of the project. As it moves forward, scientists need to check also if what they’re doing is working and keep an open mind to adjust as needed.

Examples to “Check” and “Adjust” include the future of the hatchery and Lake Sutherland sport harvest. Positively, he sees the hatchery operating for a limited time and then close down rather than work forever. There are good reasons and bad reasons to have hatcheries. It can be resolved by checking and adjusting, he said, and this applies to the future of the Lake Sutherland sport harvest as well.

“It’s about the river, watershed and the larger landscape in which the Elwha watershed resides,” he said. “That begins with the things I talked about earlier – from the mountain tops to the coastal environment. It’s also about bureaucracies, institutions and special interest groups – we can fix natural things, but if we can’t fix problems within the institutions and special interest groups, then we won’t be successful in making the Elwha landscape more human and non-human focused.”

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Speaking: Brian Winter

National Park Service Elwha River Restoration project manager Brian Winter spoke this morning with a quick overview of what will be taking place the next few years on the river.

The deconstruction of the Glines Canyon starts today, with Elwha Dam deconstruction starting next week. There are changes already at each location, as the reservoirs have been drained by about 20 feet, exposing land that has been submerged for 80 years.

The large crane that will deconstruct Glines Canyon was delivered a few weeks ago, using 11 flatbed trucks. “As a fisheries biologist, I never thought I’d be excited to see construction equipment like this for a project,” he said. Continue reading

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Speaking: Robert Elofson

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s river restoration director Robert Elofson welcomed more than 300 scientists to the Elwha River Science Symposium this morning.

The restoration of the river has been a priority of the tribe since 1999 when restoration work started. It is the tribe’s largest stream restoration to date, but not the only stream the tribe has been focusing on, as the tribe works on many of the streams in the North Olympic Peninsula.

“I can honestly say the tribe will leave the Olympic National Park in much better shape than when we started our work,” he said. “I don’t know if there are too many organization who can say that.” Continue reading

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Hello from the Elwha

For the next couple of days, you’ll find a live blog at this site of the Elwha River Science Symposium. This is a two day meeting about the research and monitoring activities associated with the Elwha River dam removal and ecosystem restoration project. It is being held at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington.

You can find an agenda and program here.

More infromation on the Elwha Dam removal and river restoration can be found at these links:

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