Biologists are elated to find wild steelhead trout on Washington's Olympic Peninsula — a sign of success for one of the largest river-restoration projects ever undertaken.
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
July 15, 2012, 5:00 a.m.
PORT ANGELES, Wash. — When it comes to disappearing species and humanity's harmful imprints on nature, hardly anybody expects anything to go right. People move in, engineers build, wildlife dies: It's an old story.
Perhaps that's why two biologists wading through a tributary of the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula not long ago were chortling and grabbing for their cellphones. The cause for celebration: a gray speckled trout hovering powerfully in the fast-running stream. The 35-inch fish was probably the first wild steelhead to find its way up the middle reaches of the river in 100 years.
As fish stories go, the fleeting sight of a trout in a river wouldn't usually be huge, but this one marks a crucial chapter in the efforts to reclaim the Elwha from the devastating effects of two hydropower dams.
For the better part of a century, the dams cut off salmon and steelhead from 90 miles of pristine river, much of it in Olympic National Park.
In September, as part of the largest river-restoration project ever undertaken, the 108-foot-high Elwha Dam was blasted down. Engineers since then have been chipping away at the even bigger Glines Canyon dam about eight miles upstream. The hope is that the $325-million project will restore the legendary fish runs that once saw 100-pound chinook salmon fighting their way up the majestic river.
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