The Costs and Benefits of Dam Removal on the Elwha River

by Paula M. Engel,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: North American Water and Environment Congress & Destructive Water


The Elwha River is located on the Olympic Peninsula in the State of Washington. In the early 1900s two hydroelectric dams were built on the Elwha River. Construction of Glines Canyon and Elwha dams blocked the spawning migration of salmon and steelhead. As a result of this and other factors, fish stocks have fallen to critical levels. The economy, culture, and religious practices of the Lower Elwha S'Klallam Tribe are dependent on the river and the fish stock. The tribe's well being has diminished along with the resource. Commercial fishing is no longer viable and recreational fishing has been halted. Removal of these two dams to re-establish the fish stock is being investigated. Sediment deposits stored behind the dam and downstream water quality dependent uses complicate the removal process and are a significant project cost. The economic benefits to commercial and recreational anglers along with the existence value of restoring the salmon runs have been quantified. These benefits appear to far outweigh the cost of dam removal.

Subject Headings: Dams | Rivers and streams | Benefit cost ratios | Fish and fishery management | Water-based recreation | Hydro power | Steel construction | Recreation | Washington | United States

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