In the last few years, we’ve been a part of two major dam removal projects in the Northwest. And now we’re seeing major results: fish swimming, and spawning, in the restored habitat. On the Rogue River in Oregon, we worked with partners to remove several dams, including the Gold Ray dam and the Savage Rapids dam, which had both been used for hydropower. They blocked Chinook salmon, steelhead, and threatened Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho salmon from reaching their spawning grounds. In fact, more than 20 percent of Coho salmon on the river perished trying to navigate over the Savage Rapids dam each year. Now, three years later, the former dam sites are teeming with fish. The fish are also digging “redds”-spawning nests built by salmon and steelhead in underwater gravel beds. Monitoring shows that the fish are spawning by the hundreds, and the number of redds has more than doubled since the dams were first removal.
We were also involved in the watershed restoration and dam removals on the Elwha River in Washington, the largest dam removal project in the United States to date. The Elwha dam was removed in 2011, and the upstream Glines Canyon dam will be removed by next year. In September, we surveyed nearly 800 redds and more than 1,700 adult Chinook in the river-the largest run in decades! And 75 percent of the fish were seen upstream of the former dam site, proving that the dam removals are working to increase access to critical habitat.
We will continue to monitor the rivers as more fish return, accessing hundreds of miles of habitat for the first time.