Sat May 28, 5:55 pm ET
By PHUONG LE,
PORT ANGELES, Wash. – The Elwha River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula once teemed with legendary salmon runs before two towering concrete dams built nearly a century ago cut off fish access to upstream habitat, diminished their runs and altered the ecosystem.
On June 1, nearly two decades after Congress called for full restoration of the river and its fish runs, federal workers will turn off the generators at the 1913 dam powerhouse and set in motion the largest dam removal project in U.S. history.
Contractors will begin dismantling the dams this fall, a $324.7 million project that will take about three years and eventually will allow the 45-mile Elwha River to run free as it courses from the Olympic Mountains through old-growth forests into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.