New Life After Dam Removal: Surf Smelt Spawning in Mouth of Elwha


Tiny forage fish don’t have the iconic status of Northwest species such as salmon or orcas, but the marine creatures at the bottom of the food chain play a critical role. So scientists are excited to see signs they’re spawning in new habitat created by the Elwha dam removals.

At the mouth of the Elwha River, a new stretch of sandy beach has formed over the past two years. Sediment that had been held back by two dams for nearly a century has washed down the river into the nearshore environment.

Anne Shaffer, a marine biologist and executive director of the Coastal Watershed Institute in Port Angeles, has been monitoring the coastline since 2006. She says now, for the first time, researchers have documented surf smelt spawning on the new river delta.

“It’s a literally a watershed moment for us — for the Elwha nearshore restoration associated with the dam removals. It’s an event that’s a hundred years in the making,” Shaffer said. …

Article by: Bellamy Pailthorp

Published by: KPLU

Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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