Thursday, May 9, 2013

Strengthening Partnerships and Coordination of Elwha Restoration and Monitoring Activities

Projects as large and complex as the Elwha Restoration Project are best accomplished when numerous individuals and agencies work together. These collaborative partnerships don’t occur by chance---they take significant effort by all those involved in the project. Recent staff changes at Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), the Washington State agency tasked with coordinating restoration and protective activities in Puget Sound, provided an opportunity for agency staff to further strengthen interagency partnerships and collaboration. Duane Fagergren recently became the new PSP lead for the Strait of Juan de Fuca region. In an effort to learn about the Elwha Restoration Project and begin to forge relationships, Duane contacted several individuals from the agencies involved with Elwha River restoration and monitoring, including Roger Peters (U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service biologist) and Jeff Duda (U.S. Geological Survey ecologist).

Roger Peters (left) and Jeff Duda on Altaire Bridge
Roger and Jeff took Duane on a field trip to multiple monitoring sites on the Elwha River to provide an on-the-ground perspective of the Elwha restoration progress focusing on science, monitoring, and related issues. They visited sediment monitoring sites at Altaire Bridge (where suspended sediment below the Glines Canyon Dam project is being monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) and the water diversion where USGS is monitoring turbidity in the mainstem of the Elwha River (see webcams). They also visited multiple sites designed to monitor the movements of juvenile fish that are among the first group of recolonizers to portions of the watershed that haven’t seen anadromous salmonids in nearly a century. These sites included a screw trap operated by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe that is used for monitoring outmigrating juvenile salmon on Little River and a PIT tag recording station operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Indian Creek that also monitors recolonizing juveniles. 

Stumps cut during construction of the Elwha Dam are being
uncovered as sediment from Lake Aldwell erodes and is
transported downstream. Based on this picture, the current
floodplain level is likely close to the original floodplain level.
They then visited the former reservoir bottom and delta area of Lake Aldwell where the former lake bed is being transformed into a functioning floodplain river, a salmon-rearing channel created by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and a site where the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has installed a series of engineered large woody debris jams to create fish spawning and rearing habitat. Finally, the group visited the Elwha estuary and beaches east of the river mouth. There numerous groups are studying the physical and biological changes to the ecosystem caused by the removal of the dams. At low tide, the physical changes to the beaches and submarine delta were apparent since sediment released from the former reservoirs has already moved to the coastal areas.

Accumulated small wood that has been deposited
along the Elwha nearshore after being released from
Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell after dam removal
Throughout the day, the three discussed the issues relevant to research and monitoring, particularly those projects that will contribute to a better understanding of how the restoration of the Elwha River and its salmon populations unfolds.  “A strong working relationship between the Puget Sound Partnership and those of us on the ground can only help, as we both are striving to learn as much as we can about the possibilities to recover ecosystem structure and functions that are relevant to Puget Sound,” said Jeff.

According to Duane, “This was one of the most informative and enjoyable days I’ve spent in my career working at the Puget Sound Partnership and its predecessor agencies. Roger and Jeff helped me understand the enormity of the system and the dynamic forces at work in the Elwha. The important work we all do benefits by forging personal relationships like this, and important resources like Chinook salmon in the Elwha will hopefully benefit from our cooperative, collaborative effort". Duane plans to meet with others working on the Elwha restoration effort, including individuals from NOAA, WDFW, Olympic National Park, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in the near future.

Duane Fagergren (left) and Jeff Duda discuss changes in the
Elwha nearshore. This picture was taken at low tide from the
Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation, east of the Elwha River
mouth and facing Freshwater Bay and Observatory Point.


 

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