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Article published Apr 1, 2012
Slow growing: Native plants get a start on barren land that once hosted Elwha River dams' lakes [ *** PHOTO GALLERY *** ]
By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — The first plants are now rooted in the barren ground exposed by the lowering of Lake Mills as Glines Canyon Dam is torn down.

The first seedlings have been spread on the silt and clay that once lay at the bottom of Lake Aldwell behind the now-demolished Elwha Dam.

Now monitors will see how well the plants grow.

In the second week of March, about a dozen Washington Conservation Corps members, along with park staff and volunteers — a total of about 20 people — finished the initial work of revegetating with native plants areas of land that had been underwater for nearly a century.

(See related story on the area's revegetation, Page A1 today.)

“They planted during the dormant time of year, between November and early March,” said Barb Maynes, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.

“They will begin again in the fall.”

In the meantime, the plants will be studied to see what grows best where — and to help determine if adjustments to revegetation plans are needed, Maynes said.

Graduate students from the University of Washington and Evergreen State College placed metal tags on plants “so they can go back and monitor their growth,” Maynes said.

Their first such foray probably will be in June, she added.

“They designed this revegetation plan and are now implementing it, but they will be watching and learning as they go,” Maynes said.

Weeding crew

A four-person crew formed by the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe will help ensure that the native plants aren't crowded out by non-native invaders.

The crew will begin pulling weeds and spraying herbicide on such unwelcome plants as Scotch broom, Herb Robert, Japanese knotweed and non-native blackberries beginning the third week of April, said Mike McHenry, fisheries habitat manager for the tribe.

Crews will continue work at the former Lake Adlwell, Lake Mills and points in between through October, said McHenry, co-author of the revegetation project.

“There are a lot of nasty weeds we're trying to keep under control,” he said.

The tribe is a co-manager of the project with the park, sharing resources and crews, and serves as the lead on the area of the former Lake Aldwell, McHenry said.

Preparations

Plants and seed for revegetation are from the Matt Albright Native Plant Nursery at Clallam County's Robin Hill Farm County Park between Port Angeles and Sequim, where park restoration botanist Joshua Cheno­weth has overseen preparations for the greening of the banks of the Elwha since 2006.

Removal of the two dams that blocked fish passage on the Elwha River began in mid-September as part of a $325 million river restoration project.

Demolition is finished at Elwha Dam, completed in 1913, which blocked the river just 5 miles from where the waterway pours into the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation.

Glines Canyon Dam, built in 1927 9 miles upriver, is expected to be completely torn down by 2013.

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Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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