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Eagles on the Elwha River

Down come the dams and up come the salmon!

Salmon once battled their way up the Elwha River to spawn. And every fall, hundreds of eagles feasted on the spent fish. But a century ago, two dams were built on the river, and they reduced the river's salmon population by more than 90 per cent. After nearly 40 years of negotiation, the largest dam removal project in US history is under way. By the fall of 2011, water had begun flowing freely past the former lower Elwha dam. By 2013, the upper dam will also have come down. The river's salmon runs may grow from 3,000 to 400,000 fish. A Bald Eagle soaring past the former dam site today may not live to enjoy that bonanza. But his progeny will flock to the headwaters each fall, once again.

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Eagles on the Elwha River

Written by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote!
    [Sounds of river water splashing and Bald Eagle calling.]
A Bald Eagle soars above the Elwha River on the northern edge of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. A century ago, two dams were built on the Elwha. Prior to those dams, salmon battled their way up the steeply cascading river to spawn. And every fall, hundreds of eagles feasted on the spent fish. [Calls of Bald Eagles] The dams reduced the river’s salmon population by more than 90%.
But now, after nearly 40 years of negotiation, meetings, and planning, the largest dam removal project in United States history is under way.  Citizens, politicians, electric utilities, biologists, lawyers, and Native Americans, all had a part.
[Sounds of earth-moving equipment]
By the fall of 2011, water had begun flowing freely past the former lower Elwha dam. By 2013, the upper dam will also have come down. The river’s salmon runs may grow from 3,000 to 400,000 fish.**
[More Bald Eagle calls and river sounds]
The Bald Eagle soaring past the former dam site today may not live to enjoy that bonanza. But his progeny will flock to the headwaters each fall, when the dinner bell of spent Elwha salmon resounds across the countryside.
[Return to calls of a pair of Bald Eagles and river flowing]
    There’s more information at BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein.

###
Sounds of Pacific Wren and Song Sparrow provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by
Calls of Bald Eagles in forest recorded by C. Peterson.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org         October 2012       Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#   BAEA-elwha-01-2012-10-02    BAEA-elwha-01

Reference: Elwha River Restoration, brochure published by the Olympic National Park. "What's Next, Summer 2013: Removal of Glines Canyon Dam will be complete and Lake Mills will return to its natural state as the free flowing Elwha River. Next 20-30 years: Salmon populations in the Elwha River will grow from 3,000 to nearly 400,000 fish… "

 

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