Movement to remove dams moves westward

In September, river advocates will be holding a celebration like none seen since 1999.

That was the year the Edwards Dam was removed, allowing the Kennebec River in Maine to flow free for the first time since Nathaniel Hawthorne walked its banks 160 years before. The celebration will note the removal of the Elwha and Glines dams in Washington’s Olympic peninsula.

The Elwha dams are bigger and have been authorized for removal for far longer. Their removal in many ways marks the maturation of the river restoration movement that got its start when a bipartisan coalition sought to set the Kennebec River free.

More than 400 dams have been removed since the Swan Falls-sized Edwards Dam came down, restoring the health of 17 miles of river. The 210-foot-high Glines Dam in Washington state will be the largest to come down and that contributes to the symbolic power of the act.

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