July 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM
Divers took the plunge last week to investigate the effects on the nearshore environment of dam removal on the Elwha River. Here is a video published by USGS of the dive.
For some amazing photos of what divers are seeing, check out this link.
The divers were returning to permanent transects they established before dam removal in and around the Elwha, in order to be able to survey and monitor how the sea floor is changing as dam removal progresses, notes Jeff Duda research ecologist with the US Geological Survey Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle.
“We are identifying species and counting abundance of kelp, macroinverts and fish. Not salmon, they are higher in the water column.” Duda said. “But fish closer to the sea floor, such as gunnel.”
USGS Scientific diver Steve Rubin begins video recording of a permanent seafloor transect that will be monitored before, during and after dam removal on the Elwha River.
Photo by Sean Sheldrake, EPA
“The idea is to see the sediment as it is coming out of the river and eventually the return of a more natural sediment regime in the future,” Duda said.”You see these dramatic photos of sediment plumes in the Elwha, but that is just what is happening on the surface. It is just the first ten feet or so. By and large the plume is buoyant.”
The real story is under the suface.
The Elwha River seafloor on July 26, 2012, with an anemone and a field of tube worms and other aquatic life.
Photo by Sean Sheldrake, EPA
“Not as much deposition has happened as you would expect just looking at the plume. We were a little surprised. Glines Canyon has not come out yet and we will see a lot more then,” Duda said.
July 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Scientists at work tagging and tracking fish recolonizing the Elwha are featured in a new short film released by NOAA Fisheries.
George Pess and other fisheries experts from NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe are filmed in their work monitoring the recovery of the Elwha River, and tracking the first returning fish.
A wild steelhead returns to the Little River, a tributary of the Elwha. To see how the fish are captured and tagged, see a new film documenting scientists at work in the Elwha just released by NOAA Fisheries.
John McMillan, photo
To read more about those first recruits and see photos of the pioneering steelhead in the Elwha, see my earlier post in Field Notes.
To learn more about the Elwha restoration, see our special report in The Seattle Times.
July 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Washington tribes convened in Washington, D.C., this month for a first-of-its-kind gathering to discuss the effects of climate change told stories of loss, change and concern. Here is some video of the presentation by the Quinault Tribe, courtesy of the Spokesman-Review.
With treaty rights and a way of life particular to a single place on Earth, tribes feel the effects of climate change uniquely, tribal leaders said.
Micah McCarty, chairman of the Makah Nation, helped launch First Stewards, a native work group on Climate Change
For more on the gathering, see our story in The Seattle Times.
July 25, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Sand lance emerge from the gravel
Photo courtesy the Sea Doc Society
The maps reveal the variety of habitat beneath the water’s surface. Kelp forests and eel grass meadows … those are familiar enough. But how about huge “sand waves” that shelter schools of sand lance, and provide foraging grounds for birds such as tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets. And topography, such as glacial moraines and rock piles heaped up by earthquakes. vertical rock walls cut by the glaciers and mud-filled bays that each support suites of life?
The many habitats of the Salish Sea floor are more varied than you might have imagined.
The goal of the seafloor mapping lab is to address conservation needs by pinpointing the Salish Sea’s many habitats. Whatever the goal, the society likes to say, you can’t get there without a map.
July 23, 2012 at 7:36 AM
Curious to see the changes under way in the Elwha as the dams come down in the world’s largest ever dam removal project? You are in luck.
Olympic National Park rangers are leading guided interpretive walks along the Elwha River where Lake Aldwell used to be. The walks, offered through Sept. 2, are a chance to see the new landscape emerging, with its shifting sediments, giant stumps logged a century ago, plants getting a foothold, and the river re-establishing itself.
Giant stumps from trees logged off before Lake Aldwell, the reservoir behind Elwha Dam, was filled, loom in the sediment left behind after the lake drained. Elwha Dam, 108 feet high and built beginning in 1910, was removed by contractors last March. Glines Canyon dam, 210 feet high and completed in 1927 a little more than 8 miles upriver, will be gone by May of next year.
Lynda Mapes photo
The walks are free and begin at the former boat launch located at the end of Lake Aldwell Road. To get there, take Highway 101 past Port Angeles, toward Forks. Turn north — sharp right– off 101 immediately after the Elwha River bridge. Wear sturdy walking shoes or boots and be prepared for wind and sun — there is no shade at all. The guided walks last about one hour, and leave the boat ramp at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Feel free to keep on walking after the tour ends.
For more information, call the Elwha Ranger Station at 360-452-9191.
For more tips on exploring the Elwha, and see photos of some of what is in store for you, see my eariler post in Field Notes. For more background on the restoration, and to watch a video on the $325 million restoration, take a look at our Seattle Times Special Report.
July 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM
The Yakama Indian Nation and USGS confirmed this week that salmon are back in the upstream reaches of the White Salmon River for the first time in nearly a century.
An adult steelhead jumps at BZ Falls on the White Salmon River, nine miles upstream of the former Condit Dam.
Photo by Jeanette Burkhardt, Yakama Nation Fisheries
Condit is The Other Dam Removal. Were it not for the monster Elwha project, this dam removal on the White Salmon would have received much more attention, as well it should. Taking out the Condit Dam on the White Salmon is the third largest dam removal project anywhere — after Elwha and Glines Canyon Dam.
Contractors for PacifiCorp blew up Condit with a load of dynamite last October.
Penned up since the 125-foot tall dam was completed in 1913, the White Salmon quickly found its natural channel. Detonating the dam was possible because of the vastly smaller amount of sediment behind Condit — about 2.4 million cubic yards, or 1/10 the volume stuck behind Glines and Elwha dams.
Built with fish ladders, Condit’s fish passage equipment was rudimentary and blew out in floods leaving the dam without any fish passage since 1918.
This week, the first salmon and steelhead were witnessed returning to the White Salmon above where the dam used to be. “We see these salmon as leaders that are creating a path for the other salmon to come back,” said Virgil Lewis, chairman of the Yakama’s fish and wildlife committee.
The fish were seen at Husum Falls and BZ Falls. Both locatiosn are upstream from the former Condit Dam at river mile 3.3.
For more on the Condit Dam removal, see my stories in the Seattle Times
For some very cool documentation of the ongoing restoration project on the White Salmon see this link.
July 17, 2012 at 7:00 AM
While the rest of the country sweats, here in Washington all we have to do to cool off is go higher. Instant spring: just add altitude.
A hike to Olallie Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness brought the reward of not only the picture perfect lake, but a rewind of spring, hiking through trillium, skunk cabbage and twigs just breaking bud.
Skunk cabbage is a harbinger of spring… unless you head up to Snoqualmie Pass, where you can see them in mid-July! I photographed this beauty in the swampy areas along the trail to Olallie Lake.
Just as fresh and beautiful and evocative in their spring-rewind appeal were the trillium. There were several nice stands along the trail to enjoy.
Pink trillium is always something special… but then, so is white.
July 16, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Sometimes the big picture is best. So it is with appreciating the scale of the $325 million Elwha River restoration.
Glines Canyon Dam as of July 9, from remote camera at the dam removal site. Finished in 1927, Glines Canyon Dam used to be 210 feet tall.
Filmmaker John Gussman has been doing a fabulous job recording the before and after miracle of this river restoration effort, in which two of the largest dams ever removed are being taken out of the Elwha River. The lower dam, Elwha, built in 1910, is already history.
Elwha Dam, 108 feet tall and built in 1910, is history. Here is a pairing of Gussman’s before and after imagery, the before of course is the top photo.
Last week John sent me some of his more striking recent aerial photos, paired with before shots taken in the same locations. Have a look, it’s amazing stuff
For more on the science of the dam removal project, see this terrific overview, from the USGS.
July 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Everyone has their favorite bird song. For me it is the haunting, plangent music of the Swainson’s Thrush.
Heading up to the Bullitt Fireplace for a dinner picnic, I was delighted to be serenaded by this bird. Close by, easy to access, this hike is a great solution for those who have to get out of the house.
Come evening, the trail beckons for a dinner picnic on Squak Mountain, Seattle’s quick getaway mountain in Issaquah.
Lynda Mapes photo
Miners dug out seams of coal and sank many tunnels on Squak in the late 1800s and early 1900s and loggers stripped the mountain’s timber in ensuring decades. But Squak is the comeback mountain, living testimony to the power of nature to heal. Never replanted as a timber plantation, Squak has regrown a diverse native forest that draws a bevy of birds. Including that neo-tropical migrant, the Swainson’s thrush. Click on the link to go to Audubon’s BirdWeb where you can hear a recording of its call.
Catharus ustulatus is a plan, grey-brown bird that is seldom seen, but so very gloriously heard. First with its whit-whit call and then its unique, upward-spiraling song.
Breeding pairs return to the same nest year after year, so if you have this bird in your day-to-day world, consider yourself lucky — and don’t change the habitat that is sustaining it. Swainson’s like brushy, messy tangles of salmonberry, thimbleberry and other Puget Sound lowland undergrowth, so if you clean up, you may also clean out this splendid bird.
Swainson’s like a closed canopy, understory cover, and good tree density with some conifers in the mix. Tidy is not their thing.
A long-distance migrant, Swainson’s breed in the western and northern U.S. and Canada and winter from southern Mexico to northern Argentina.
Only the males sing, and theirs is an advertising call, meant to bring the ladies and defend the nest.
Composed of a series of five to seven notes, the song begins with a low-pitched, quiet trill lasting just .15 of a second, so brief it is difficult to discern, according to The Birds of North America, monograph No. 540, by Diane Evans Mack and Wang Young.
Next in the song come successive notes climbing in pitch, each slightly longer and louder than the previous, and ending with one to several notes at the same, highest pitch, but at slightly lower volume.
Males will engage in competitive singing duels that are visibly tiring to the singers, so intense is their exertion.
Primarily an early morning or evening singer, their music is the perfect evening picnic accompaniment.
For more on the natural history of Squak Mountain and the history of its recovery and preservation read Squak Mountain, An Island in the Sky, A history and Trails Guide by Douglas G. Simpson.
For more on hiking and horseback riding on Squak, read my story in the Seattle Times.
To learn more about birds and habitat, read my story in the Seattle Times.
July 12, 2012 at 7:00 AM
On a hike up to Ollalie Lake last weekend I encountered a volunteer trail crew from Washington Trails Association, working on this stretch of this popular trail, which in places is muddy, swampy and very much in need of help.
Volunteer trail crews need your help. This volunteer crew was gathered by Washington Trails Association to work on the Talapus and Olallie Lake trail.
With summer finally here, trail crews are hard at work all over Washington. I’ve done some work on the Iron Goat Trail and intend to do more. It’s fun, good exercise, and a chance to give back.
Some people travel from all over the country to spend their vacation doing trail work in our beautiful wilderness areas, national forests and parks. Getting started is as easy as going online and joining in. There are jobs for all skill and activity levels, and the tools are provided. All you need to bring is your lunch and can-do spirit.
Here are some groups that regularly host work parties on Washington trails:
Selected Northwest animal webcams
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