A Bozeman, Mont., company has been given the $26.9 million contract to remove the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River.
The National Park Service’s Denver Service Center just announced Barnard Construction Co. has been awarded the $26,939,800 contract.
Dam removal will begin approximately 13 months from now, in September 2011.
“This is a historic moment,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin said in a news release. “With award of this contact, we begin the countdown to the largest dam removal and one of the largest restoration projects in U.S. history.”
The contract includes removal of the 108-foot high Elwha Dam, completed in 1913, and the 210-foot high Glines Canyon Dam, completed in 1927.
Officials expect the removal of the two dams will allow fish to access spawning habitat in more than 70 miles of river and tributary stream, most of which is protected inside Olympic National Park.
The 45-mile long Elwha River has been the historic home of all five species of Pacific salmon and has been legendary as one of the Northwest’s most productive salmon streams. Because neither dam has a passage for migratory fish, salmon and other fish have been restricted to the lower five miles of river since dam construction.
“This story is about the fish,” Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, said in the release. “The tribe looks forward to the return of the chinook, and the abundance of fish from the stories our ancestors have been telling us about since the dams went up. We used to have salmon and other species out there, and we want them back and revived for our children, and our children’s children.”
Once it starts, the dame removal process is expected take up to three years. The removal will release large amounts of sediment now impounded in reservoirs behind both dams, so stoppages will be built into the work schedule to limit the amount of sediment released at any given time, particularly when adult fish are in the river.
“Now that we know who the contractor is, we can begin discussions about how much public access can be provided during dam removal,” Gustin said in the release. “Our primary objective is safe removal of the two dams, but as much as possible, we would like to provide opportunities for people to safely visit the area and see this project for themselves.”