Dam removal work begins: First chip out of taller Glines Canyon Dam this morning
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National Park Service
This barge carrying a hydraulic hammer will be moved in front of the Glines Canyon Dam, background, this morning to begin chipping away at the monolith built in 1927.
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National Park Service
A crane with maximum lifting capacity of 230 tons is poised over Glines Canyon Dam in Olympic National Park in this photo taken earlier this week.

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — History will be made today as the largest dam removal in the nation's history begins on the Elwha River.

An excavator equipped with a large hammer will chisel its way into the top of the 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam, marking the beginn­ing of the end of nearly a century of blocked fish passage.

The dam, located in Olympic National Park, will be the largest ever to be removed.

Demolition of its smaller and older cousin, the 108-foot-tall Elwha Dam, begins later this month.

The National Park Service is heading the $325 million dam removal project.

About 80 percent of the river sits inside the park.

For the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, the start of demolition means the long wait for river restoration will soon be over, said Chairwoman Frances Charles.

“I think things will start really setting in,” she said.

“We're excited and getting overwhelmed with the excitement. It's really here.”

The river has been obstructed since 1913 when the Elwha Dam was constructed. The Glines Canyon Dam was built in 1927.

Congress approved their removal in 1992.

A crew of 11 workers and supervisors with Barnard Construction of Bozeman, Mont., will begin the demolition work at about 7 a.m., said Brian Krohmer, project manager, in an email.

Krohmer said progress will be slow at first to make sure the equipment is in place safely and all of the bugs are worked out.

The machinery mainly includes the excavator situated on a barge and a 200-foot crane that will transport equipment around the site.

“We're not setting any production goals this week,” he said.

Thirty feet will be removed by November, Krohmer has said.

The teardown of the river's two dams — Glines Canyon and Elwha — will take up to three years to complete.

Crews will not be able to work at either dam for more than five months a year because of fish migration.

At the Elwha Dam, a coff­er­dam has been put in place to allow crews to remove sediment and the dam's right spillway gates and piers.

Demolition of the 108-foot dam will begin later this month or in early October, according to Krohmer.

A “ceremonial scoop” of the sediment from behind the Elwha Dam will be removed during a dam removal celebration at the dam, five miles from the river's mouth, at 11 a.m. Saturday.

(Click on dam removal events schedule — http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20110915/NEWS/110919964/elwha-dam-removal-celebration-events-continue-today-through-weekend.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Gov. Chris Gregoire, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, and Rep. Norm Dicks, who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, are among the dignitaries who will attend the invitation-only ceremony.

Also slated to attend are Jon Jarvis, National Park Service director; Frances Charles, Lower Elwha Klall­am tribal chairwoman; Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk; Michael Connor, Bureau of Reclamation commissioner; Karen Gustin, Olympic National Park superintendent; and Tom Skerritt, actor and nonprofit American Rivers board member.

Four-hundred invitations for scientists, dignitaries and tribal members were handed out.

The dam is not large enough to be open to the public, the Park Service has said.

The event will be televised at City Pier and broadcast online. It can be viewed at www.celebrateelwha.com.

Live satellite streaming of the ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. at www.dvidshub.net/webcast/1949.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 15. 2011 12:02PM
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