Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One Hundred Years

Work party to eliminate exotic weeds in the Elwha River canyon.
The Elwha, above Elwha Dam, below Glines Canyon Dam.

We were after this critter called 'herb-robert', also known as 'stinky bob'. Too bad they're considered noxious--a small soft green geranium plant with hairy stems and sweet pink flowers, and we slaughtered them. We were working across the road from the campground, between there and the river, on the theory that it would be good if all those people weren't carrying seeds upriver, where beyond a certain point herb-robert isn't found yet. Oooh there was just about unlimited amounts under the trees, mostly little tiny fresh plants that must have just germinated. I myself picked half a garbage bag full. Coulda been a lot harder. One of the people who was weeding--which you call 'doing restoration work'--had worked before in projects to try to eliminate Japanese knotweed from parks. Those you have to inject with herbicide, under carefully controlled conditions. Herb-robert just cheerfully uproots.

The trees. Unimaginably tall bigleaf maples. As tall as the conifers, which were really tall. After we'd put in our hours on the floor of the forest, we went upstream and looked at the Glines Canyon dam, and then down to the lower Elwha to look at the Elwha Dam. I learned a fair lot about the Elwha project. The Park now owns the dams. The contract for construction of the Port Angeles water purification plant, which has to precede removing the two dams, was awarded just last week, after certain amount of worrisome uncertainty because all the really big competent contractors are out competing for work in the preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Another contract involving various works to protect the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe at the mouth of the river will be awarded soon. Three years from now at minimum, they start removing the dams. (A continually postponed moment; local people barely believe it will manage to happen at last.) Greenhouses are growing tens of thousands of native plants to plant out in the naked lands. The surviving wild fish runs which come into the bottom five miles of the river below the lower dam will have to be temporarily relocated (how?) to the Dungeness until the stupendous silt loads have flushed out of the new river bed in the old reservoir beds, as the fish would suffocate.

Restoration of the whole river canyon (Elwha watershed map) to fully forested and fully restocked with wild anadromous fish runs: one hundred years at least. How much recovery will I get to see between now and when I'm as old as my mom? Hard to say. It's gonna be ugly for a long time, the naked stump-y lake beds. But if it works, if we succeed in giving the river back to the mountains...

Spillway at Glines Canyon Dam
Elwha Dam

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cheerful bodhisattva
weed-puller bodhisattva
weed-bagger bodhisattva
worker-for-the-common-good- bodhisattva
explorer bodhisattva
bodhisattva of inspiration-for-others
remember us kindly