It begins! It finally begins — Elwha dams' removal starts Thursday
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
The removal of Glines Canyon Dam, shown here, and that of the Elwha Dam farther downstream will forever change the maps as Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell disappear, leaving behind a newly freed Elwha River.

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — The Elwha River will begin to be freed this week when workers start to take "a little off the top" of the Glines Canyon Dam, the second of the two Elwha dams west of Port Angeles.

It will be the beginning of the largest dam removal project in the United States.

Once the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams are brought down, the river will flow freely for the first time in nearly 100 years. It also will open more than 70 miles of river and stream habitat to five species of Pacific salmon and steelhead.

The $26.9 million removal project is expected to take about three years.

The total cost of river restoration is about $324.7 million. That includes purchase of the two dams and hydroelectric plants from their previous owner, construction of two water treatment plants and other facilities to protect water users, construction of flood protection facilities, a fish hatchery and a greenhouse to propagate native plants for revegetation.

On Thursday, Barnard Construction will use a 200-foot crane and an excavator stationed on a barge to begin chiseling away at the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam.

“We expect production to be fairly slow at the start since the concrete we are removing is up to 28 feet above the water surface,” said Brian Krohmer, Barnard project manager, in an email.

(Barnard of Bozeman, Mont., awarded the $27 million contract to remove the dams, is limiting media comments to email.)

Krohmer previously said he expects about 30 feet of the dam to be removed by November.

The material will be allowed to fall behind the dam.

It will be removed once the dam is lowered to the debris pile, he said.

Eight miles downstream, Barnard has built a new cofferdam at the Elwha Dam, located downstream below Glines, to allow crews to begin demolition of that 108-foot structure.

The cofferdam has rerouted the river away from the right spillways and exposed a large amount of fill and sediment.

A “ceremonial scoop” of the sediment will be removed during the dam removal celebrations set for 11 a.m. Saturday, said Barb Maynes, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.

The first part of the Elwha Dam to be removed will be the right spillway gates and piers, Krohmer said.

That work will begin late this month or early October, he said.

Then the left spillway gates, piers and penstock intake structures will be removed, Krohmer said.

By November, demolition of the powerhouse and penstocks will begin, he said.

Olympic National Park and a number of partners are holding dam-removal celebrations this week in Port Angeles and Sequim, with several events beginning Tuesday and culminating in the official ceremonies with dignitaries — including actor Tom Skerritt, Congressman Norm Dicks and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — at the official dam removal ceremony at Elwha Dam on September 17.at the Elwha Dam on Saturday.

Because of space limitations, Saturday's event is by invitation only. A broadcast of the event will be held at "Elwha Central" at the Port Angeles City Pier.

For a full schedule of events, click on http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/section/pdntabs#elwha.

Last modified: September 11. 2011 2:40AM
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