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Category: Elwha valley

Whetherly

Elwha Bridge, April 2011

 

I’m in the throes of an incontinent drizzle of work, a over muscled sphincter pinching out pictures blot by blot as frustrations pink the temples. Even writing has become bloodless; a clot-less rheum evaporating at the usual orifices.

Maybe ‘throes’ isn’t the proper term; it gives the impression of something endured- an active, dramatic struggle. The truth is I’m just hiding- averting my eyes from photography, writing, and most of my usual vents. Maybe just the plural is wrong…I might be in a throe. A throe trying to get my attention, to see if I’ll ever actively participate. Meanwhile I’ll squeeze out another picture. By no means fresh, but appropriately contracted.

So High Gravity

Beercan, Elwha River, April 2011

 

Being under the bridge always make me think of leaping from it. I’m not suicidal, but am truly enamored of the idea of flailing through space. One way or another the act seems like it could prove to be a palliative for chronic joint problems, and the tendency to be quiet at parties.

What stops me is I know that I’ll be the guy that misses the river by several feet. Maybe I’ll just attempt a half-gainer into this beer can, labelled (poetically enough) High Gravity.

ERERP shuffle


Elwha River, April 2011

The Crown Z Water Rd was reopened to public access after the construction was finished on the bridge, riverside viaduct and water treatment facility, simplifying access somewhat. Especially on days I remember to bring everything but proper shoes; easy to just coast down the the Crown Z hill to the picnic ground under the new bridge and wander around the beginning phases of the Elwha River Ecosystem Restoration Project.

Interesting mix of looming structures and lazy evening light. Difficult to frame the bridge from down here and will require a novel approach- standing with my back to the river with a grotesque wide angle didn’t do it. Will need to remember bring something other than my slippers next time. This is the biggest US dam removal and habitat renewal project in history. I really need to start dressing for the occasion.

http://www.clallam.net/roads/html/elwha_bridge.htm – Bridge demo and rebuild info and pictures

http://freeassociationdesign.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/dam-erasure-and-migrating-infrastructure/ – cool dam removal animations and info

An immovable force

Switchback trail, Lower Elwha, February 2010

The Elwha River Valley has been undergoing some changes. The lower bridge has been demolished and rebuilt, and the lower and upper dams are scheduled for removal.  In the planning stages since 2000 or so, now they’re getting fastracked with the extra $54  million or so of stimulus money for the $308 million (estimated) project.    The reasons for the de-reclamation are myriad, but mainly this:  the salmon runs that once numbered roughly 400,000 adult returns in 70 miles  of available habitat at the turn of the last century now number less than 3,000 adult returns in under 5  miles of available habitat.

The dam was built under the direction of Thomas Aldwell, who had  previously bought up most of the  land around the river. With the help of Canadian financier  George Glines began construction of the Elwha Dam in 1910.  Aldwell build the dam on the cheap, not building fish passages and also deciding not secure it to the bedrock. On Halloween 1912 the foundation of the dam failed. The dam had been bedded on a deep gravel deposit and water pressure overwhelmed the the foundation, the resulting torrent destroying property and displacing yet again an often-imposed-upon settlement of the Elwha (Klallam) tribe. Various methods of repair were attempted but it was finally decided to fill the hole with debris and seal the fill with a poultice made of fir boughs and limbings weighted in place with dirt and rock. Later a layer of gunnite was poured on top of the fill. What resulted, and what still exists today, is a jimmyrigged assembly of trees, rocks, dirt and concrete held in place by gravity and the original concrete structure which bridges the blowout.

Although state law required fish ladders at the time the dam was built,  Aldwell sidestepped  the regulation by building a hatchery instead. The hatchery was short-lived, closing in 1922 after only a few years. (Another hatchery did open up much later, but under the auspices of the WDFW. ) The dam is keeping salmon from a combined 70 miles  of mainstem and tributary habitat.  At its peak, the Elwha once supported spawning runs of Chinook, Coho, Chum, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon as well as Steelhead, Cutthroat, and Bull Trout. Sockeye, Chinook, Chum, and Pink Salmon are all currently thought to be extinct or close to extinction on this run.

Despite the spectacularly disastrous and compunctionless supervision of Aldwell, the lake behind the lower dam was named for him anyway, most likely by himself personally.  But this too will soon pass.