S'Klallam represented at Elwha Dam removal celebration | Scene & Heard

From left, Port Gamble S
From left, Port Gamble S'Klallam Councilwoman Francine Swift takes a picture of Elwha Klallam elder Adeline Smith, Sept. 17, during the celebration of the beginning of demolition of two dams on the Elwha River. Looking on is Elvira Tinoco-Wheeler.
— image credit: Richard Walker

LOWER ELWHA KLALLAM — Port Gamble S'Klallam was represented at the celebration of the beginning of demolition of two dams on the Elwha River, Sept. 17 at Lower Elwha Klallam.

Port Gamble S'Klallam Councilwoman Francine Swift was among visiting tribal officials from the Northwest. Each were recognized and each were gifted a beaded necklace with copper salmon pendant. Port Gamble S'Klallam's Joe and Laura Price offered songs. Port Gamble S'Klallam Warrior Skyler Fulton and Sr. Princess Miranda Smith were introduced.

At a celebration at the Elwha Dam earlier that afternoon, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the order to begin demolishing the Elwha Dam, one of two on the river that for 100 years have blocked fish passage to 70 miles of upstream habitat. The former hydroelectric dams — the Elwha, built in 1912, and the Glines, built in 1926 — inundated Klallam village sites, resource sites, and fishing and hunting areas.

Other dignitaries at the event were Gov. Chris Gregoire, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Lower Elwha Klallam Chairwoman Frances Charles, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Port Angeles, BIA Director Larry EchoHawk, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and actor Tom Skerritt.

Elwha River salmon populations are dramatically smaller than the estimated historical population and two species of salmon are considered to be extinct in the river, according to the Elwha Research Consortium. Lower Elwha Klallam has long contended that the decline in salmon population is a violation of its treaty with the U.S. government, which preserves Klallam’s “right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations.” Salmon is an important part of the traditional diet of Northwest Coast Native peoples, and is also important in ceremonial and spiritual life.

The removal of the dams is expected to cost about $27 million and take three years. The entire project, including restoration of the river, is expected to cost $350 million.


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