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Next steps for the Elwha nearshore

On Tuesday, 12 August 2014, Jamie Michel, CWI nearshore biologist and Kathryn Neal, City of Port Angeles, updated NOAA, DFW, and DNR management on key priorities for the Elwha nearshore and the City of Port Angeles. The city, after literally a decade of urging by the local citizens, local and regional scientists and managers, has taken the first step to solve the problem of the City of Port Angeles landfill. If done well part of this solution will optimize upcoming sediment delivery from Elwha dam removals, reverse 100 years of sediment starvation, and protect/restore critical nearshore of the feeder bluffs of the Elwha nearshore. CWI continues to lead this dialog and is dedicated to collaboratively realizing solutions that benefit the community and the Elwha nearshore-and the national resources it supports. It’s been a surprisingly challenging effort to get these world class nearshore management issues and restoration opportunities onto the radar of a few of our federal management agencies. Thankfully WDFW, DNR, DoE, the CoE, and EPA are helping. And with leadership from Sissi Bruch, Dan McKeen, and Craig Fulton,  we’re now making headway.

The industrial waterline conveying water from the Elwha river to city of Port Angeles mills was unwisely installed on the Elwha bluffs shoreline in the 1920's. The landfill is burning on the bluff in the background.

Over the next 100 years  sediment starvation due to shoreline armoring associated with the industrial waterline and in river dams transitioned the Elwha  nearshore from a intact beach and bluff system to a severely sediment starved and hostile ecosystem. Surf smelt spawning extent along the Elwha bluffs compared to intact Dungeness bluffs illustrates the impact of this sediment starvation.

In 2006 the City of Port Angeles installed a sea wall in front of the landfill. The seawall has a band-aid. It slowed garbage from falling into the Strait, but also exacerbated  shoreline erosion. The sea wall quickly began to deteriorate, and require costly maintenance, now underway. The sea wall was not permitted federally.

Dam removals offer over 100 years of river sediment, approximately 16 million cubic meters, to the Elwha nearshore. This could reverse sediment starvation in the Elwha nearshore, and reset the Elwha nearshore on a new trajectory.
In 2013, with new city leadership and staff, the City of Port Angeles began efforts to solve the landfill problem. With funding from DoE they are in the first phase of removing landfill from the bluff shoreline.

CWI and the City hosted a meeting with NOAA, WDFW, and DNR management  on 12 August 2014 to update agencies on the status of the landfill project and top priority next steps for Elwha nearshore restoration that have been   identified by the Elwha Nearshore Consortium over the last decade.


We still have a lot to do-we need to do it now.

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