Elwha River Restoration

The biodiversity that prevailed prior to the installation of the dams has been altered because of the absence of salmon to all but the lower 4.9 miles of the river. But restoration work will involve more than salmon and plants. Humans are involved. And humans don’t always agree, because the process affects individuals in different ways, historically, in the present, and in the future.

Unlike pure science, “The Truth” can be a fluctuating concept in human terms, depending on the eye of the beholder. Individuals have beliefs about controversies related to values they hold. In the Elwha River restoration scenario, there are many different beliefs and values in evidence, among the various stakeholders, or “players.” One player, for example, is the National Park Service. The N.P.S. in Olympic National Park is mandated by our federal government to preserve and protect the natural environment for the ongoing use and appreciation by the American public. This restoration effort is right down their alley, so to speak. Some players, who have purchased property and built homes on Lake Aldwell, above the lower dam and outside the park, really wish their view of the serene mountain lake, on which they fish and kayak, could remain. Restoration to them sounds like loss of property values, loss of recreation opportunities, and loss of aesthetic experiences they have come to cherish. The members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, on the other hand, have been around a lot longer and consider the watershed to be their ancestral home, from which they have derived their cultural identity and economic well being. They, like the National Park Service, are in favor of full restoration. A myriad of other players exist, with differing beliefs and values. Whose opinion should prevail? How can the removal of the dams restore both respect for differing views and a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem? http://www.elwharivereducation.org/

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