The Elwha Lakes Destruction a Pivotal Event/Decision

Jan. 21, 2011

By Marv Chastain - VP ‘CAPR 13’

In 1992 a group of government backed radical-environmentalists and our non-representative elected government officials using the pretext of restoring fish, freeing the river, and turning back the clock successfully steamrolled the agenda of removing the Elwha Lake/dams. The Left’s success (using our tax dollars) in ramming this insane plan down our throats gave them the ‘green light’ for taking by regulation and mandate of all manner of private property and private property rights. The more clearly the defenders of private property rights understand this pivotal event, the more forearmed we will be in defense of our remaining rights.
Karl Spees - Pres. ‘CAPR 13’

The Elwha Destruction

What it's about 
More than three decades ago, some folks connected to major "environmental" organizations came up with the idea that the two power dams in the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, one of them inside the Olympic National Park, should be destroyed since they were man-made structures and environmental purism demands that such infrastructure does not belong in a national park. [It should be noted that the dams were there before it was a park and they were originally built in the early 20th century without fish ladders (which could have been added at any time since, except for the opposition of those same groupspromoting dam destruction]
Who is behind it

This crazy idea, in addition to a cabal of the major "environmental" organizations, is touted by all three of our (needing removal) federal congressional representatives, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and Congressman Norm Dicks. The idea is the darling of most of the liberal print press, including the Peninsula daily news (Port Angeles) and the two Seattle dailies. It has also been promoted by all three Seattle TV stations - - in other words those who claim to "know best" for the Olympic Peninsula.

Why do it?

The reason given is the Illogical, unsupported claim that removing those dams would created a huge run of salmon in the Elwha river. This idea absolutely ignores the fact that none of the several other peninsula rivers without dams have good salmon runs, and specifically ignores the tremendous over fishing (Human and animal) in the Pacific Ocean which is clearly the major reason for the overall shortage of salmon. The facts clearly contradict this notion - - but "facts" are of no interest to the dam busters. Their prediction of huge numbers of salmon to come to the Elwha is carefully couched in time - - 30 years hence - - after the dam busters are comfortably ensconced in their retirement and not available to answer any questions about why the huge runs failed to materialize. So, they have sold a great "pie in the sky" story.

Why not do it?

The enormous load of silt and other solids (nearly a century's accumulation) that will be released by destruction of the dams and lakes will almost certainly have a huge NEGATIVE impact on salmon runs, as well as trout in the river. Destruction of the dams means destruction of the lakes they have created, which will mean destruction of a great deal of excellent waterfowl and fresh water mammal habitat. (About 48,000 acre feet of fresh water storage) [The lakes are winter habitat to trumpeter swans, along with about 20 waterfowl species - many of them nesting around the lakes] There is a high probability (unable to be assessed) that these lakes are contributing to some of the aquifers that many folks wells depend on. (fault line runs right across the upper lake, (bottom pressure in excess of 9000lbs per sq ft ) The dams produce clean, constantly naturally renewed electrical energy which will have to be provided from other sources - probably combustion of carbon compounds. The Port Angeles paper mill is proposing a hi-temp boiler to produce power from wood waste - the enviros are suing to stop idea too.

The Cost

Nobody really has much of an idea as to the cost. The initial cost estimate was $329 Million. This figure included clean-up. After a while, the park service decided that if they eliminated clean-up they could come up with a much smaller estimate. But, nobody can be quite sure what damage all that solid material will do in the way of flooding so the change to quoting a small figure just ads to already huge uncertainties. The deal is actually being carried out, these costs will no doubt have to be paid - - but, under a different appropriation. So, we will never actually know what the costs were. No doubt at least half to 3/4 billion $. Since no such project has ever been done before, we can only await the completion to evaluate costs (which will be difficult, since the whole job was and will be done under different appropriations)

What is going on

Eighteen years after congress passed the law specifying the dams should be purchased and destroyed, a group headed up by Dr. Brian Winter continues (at taxpayer expense) to "study" how to accomplish the destruction, but little has been done for salmon. Each year for six or seven, they announced a one-year delay. Then, they announced a five-year delay to 2011. It appears that either the park service still can't figure out how to do the job - - or they are too much in love with the millions they get for the power, now that they own the dams (My inside info says the company netted nine million dollars profit off the electricity the last year they owned the dams). The job is just a little tricky. They claim they are going to "rework the river bottom" to take care of a 75 foot waterfall at the lower and something similar at the upper dam. (Salmon can jump, but they can't fly) You can't "rework" a river bottom without first diverting the river.

How to get out of the mess

A simple solution to helping out the salmon would be to build fish ladders at both dams. This could be done for about $12 million - a pittance compared to what they have already spent and are spending. This could bring some almost immediate improvement to the salmon population.


Clearly, "Salmon" is not the object or focus of the project. It is a word that resonates with the public, so it is being used. These "environmentalists" clearly care not for fish - or waterfowl - or clean fresh water - or "alternative energy". For over three decades they have opposed and blocked all efforts to build fish ladders at the dams. Those fish ladders would have been an immediate assist to the salmon population, but would have taken away their claim to be doing the project "for salmon". The project seems to be a child of "The Wildlands Project" (authored by Dave (Earth First) Forman and Reed Noss.