The Elwha River flows freely through the drained bed of Lake Mills near Port Angeles, Washington.

The Elwha River flows freely through the drained bed of Lake Mills near Port Angeles, Washington.

The dam removal should improve the habitat of fish like this steelhead.

The dam removal should improve the habitat of fish like this steelhead.

Sediment creates a beach where the Elwha River meets the ocean.

Sediment creates a beach where the Elwha River meets the ocean.

The Elwha Dam before being torn down

The Elwha Dam before being torn down

One Fish, Two Fish

Posted: January 1, 2015

Fish #167 and fish #200 had a long journey ahead of them. They were going where no fish had gone before! At least, they were going where no fish had gone for many years: the upper Elwha River.

No fish had been that far up the river for a century. The 108-foot Elwha Dam was stopping them. People built the dam in the 1900s. They wanted to use the river’s falling water. It could help power a huge sawmill.

But the dam was no good for the river’s fish. The river’s sediment didn’t flow through the river anymore. It collected behind the dam. Fish needed the sediment for food. Also, many fish were no longer able to migrate. That was especially bad for salmon. Salmon have their babies in rivers then swim out to sea. That’s hard with a huge dam standing in the way!

So how did fish #167 and fish #200 get to the upper river? People decided to get rid of the huge dam. They worked little by little. After three years, the dam is finally gone.

Not everyone agrees that the dam should have been removed. Which is more important—fish, or a sawmill? Do you think fish #167 and fish #200 have an opinion?