By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — With the simple act of sliding a control board switch, a circuit breaker will be opened in the Elwha Dam's powerhouse control room this morning, muting nearly a century of hydroelectric power generation.
The Glines Canyon and Elwha dams' power plants are being unplugged as a prelude to tearing the dams down over three years.
Dismantling will begin Sept. 17, by which time eight workers who run the dams and provide administrative support for their operation will lose their jobs.
For several years, Elwha Dam power plant supervisor Kevin Yancy and his crew have worked at the Elwha Dam knowing it and its sister edifice were coming down, so today's shutdown “is part of our mission,” he said Tuesday.
“We celebrate that part of it,” he added.
“We are just public servants doing our job.”
The dismantling of the dams by Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Mont., for $26.9 million is the signature event in the $327 million Elwha River Restoration Project.
The project, authorized by Congress in 1992, is intended to restore the waterway's sorely depleted salmon run, once 400,000 spawners annually, now 3,000.
The 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam and 108-foot-tall Elwha Dam, constructed in the early 1900s, were built without fish ladders, leading to their eventual demise.
They produce an average annual output of 19 megawatts — enough to light up 11,000 to 12,000 homes — for the Bonneville Power Administration electrical grid.
They can produce up to 25 megawatts.
After the dams stop generating power, the dams' Bureau of Reclamation workers will spend approximately 30 to 45 days decommissioning the dams.
A few of the workers wanted to take part in various parts of the shutdown to be part of today's history-making event, Yancy said.
At the outset, the Elwha Dam supplied electricity to the burgeoning cities of Port Angeles and Port Townsend.
Today's event also will be bittersweet for power plant employees.
The power plant workers can appreciate being part of history, Yancy said.
“On the other hand, who wants to lose their job not knowing what future lies in front of them?”
Yancy, in his mid-50s, said he and his family will try to stay in the area.
Five years ago, Yancy succeeded Rick Parker, who retired.
“We understand the timing of this thing and our responsibilities,” Yancy said.
“We are trying to keep as upbeat as we can.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at email@example.com.