Removing Dams, Returning Salmon

Ecologist Jeff Duda

Ecologist Jeff Duda

This and next week Snowchange is hosting, together with other partners such as the Finnish-Swedish Transboundary River Commission, a U.S. ecologist Jeff Duda from Seattle, Washington. Mr. Duda will visit North Karelia, Lapland and Swedish Lapland on his tour of Finland. He will see the work of Snowchange Co-op on the award-winning Jukajoki restoration project, investigate the situation on the river Pielisjoki which is the homestream of the land-locked Atlantic Salmon as well as see the situation in Kemijoki and Tornionjoki river catchments in Lapland. Additionally he will make several public speeches, meet the press and participate in regional Workshops during his visit.

Jeff Duda is a research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, Washington. At USGS for 19 years, he has conducted research to determine the ecological effects of human activities and natural disturbance regimes on a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial organisms and ecosystems throughout the United States. Since 2004, Jeff has developed research programs in freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems during and following the largest dam decommissioning in U.S. history on the Elwha River in the state of Washington. He is the team leader of the multidisciplinary USGS Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound Elwha team and a Principal Investigator on a recent project synthesizing the physical and ecological effects of dam removal at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. He has published over 50 scientific articles and reports.

Elhwa river after dam removal (upper dam).

Elhwa river after dam removal (upper dam).

After decades of debate, planning, and environmental impact studies, the largest planned dam removal project in history was conducted on the Elwha River in Washington State, USA, from 2011 to 2014. The story of this river, with rugged headwaters, protected wilderness, legendary and culturally important salmon runs, and two hydroelectric dams whose placement marshaled wholesale socioeconomic and ecological changes, has become an iconic saga of change, perseverance and renewal. The two dams blocked fish migrations and disrupted sediment transport for a century, disrupting the structure and function of the Elwha River. Removal of the 64-m and 32-m tall dams and the release of a large portion of the 21 million cubic meters of stored reservoir sediment, has provided a living laboratory to study the patterns, processes and outcomes of dam removal from multiple scientific perspectives. Mr. Duda will provide a tour of what has been called a “Science Disneyland”, share progress on the rebirth of a river ecosystem, and place this project into a larger perspective of dam removals and river restoration in the 21st century. In particular, an update of the status of salmon recolonization into waters that they had not seen in a century will be provided.

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