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Tracking sediments' fate in largest-ever dam removal
Date:3/7/2013

difficult for salmon to lay eggs, or block light from reaching algae and other life on the ocean floor. On the other hand, the sediment also has positive impacts. Many people hope that removing the dam will help with erosion along the Olympic Coast. The new sediment could accumulate and restore natural beaches on the bluffs near Port Angeles.

A better understanding of sediment transport could also help determine the timing of future dam removals.

"One of the arguments is that rather than having a river that's unacceptable to salmon for many years, you can accelerate the erosion to flush the system. That way you have two or three really bad years instead of two or three pretty bad decades," Nittrouer said. Future projects might be trickier, he added, if the sediments contain pesticides or other chemicals.

Nobody knows when the Elwha's sediment mother lode will begin to shift. A heavy rainfall combined with spring melt could dislodge the heap; if not, next fall and early winter rains will do the job. Either way, the UW marine geologists will be ready to hop in their van, hitch up a boat, and race out to see what happens.

"This is a very exciting time," Ogston said.


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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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