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USGS Scientists Receive Interior Department Award for Elwha River Dam-Removal Study
Nineteen current and former U.S. Geological Survey scientists and their collaborators from other state, federal, and tribal agencies received a U.S. Department of the Interior “Unit Award for Excellence of Service” during a May 15 ceremony at USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia. The award recognizes the Elwha River Science Team for their work to understand and explain the effects of dam removal on the Elwha River in Washington State.
“The 2011–2014 removal of two century-old dams from the Elwha River in Washington State was the world’s largest dam-removal project and the National Park Service’s second largest restoration project,” reads the award citation. “By most metrics, the effort was a stunning success. Removal of the dams opened miles of pristine wilderness river habitat to all seven species of Pacific salmon and other critical fish, and the release of sediment and wood restored the river and coast back to an ecologically healthy state.”
Before, during, and after dam removal, DOI scientists worked tirelessly with collaborators from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Washington State Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, the University of Washington, and Eastern Washington University to measure dam-removal impacts on the river’s aquatic ecosystem, geomorphology, and marine environment at the river mouth.
“From 2011 to the present,” notes the award citation, “the team produced 27 peer-reviewed scientific articles and delivered over 150 scientific presentations at conferences and workshops around the world. This is a remarkably productive compendium of scientific products disseminated into the public realm representing seamless teamwork and coordination across agencies and disciplines…. The legion of scientific insights from the Elwha effort is informing future dam-removal projects around the world and enabling greater understanding of ecologically productive rivers and associated downstream marine and coastal ecosystems.”
Two of the team members—research ecologist Jeff Duda of the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center and hydraulic engineer Rob Hilldale of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group—accepted the award on behalf of the group. Additional USGS participants come from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, the Washington Water Science Center, the Fort Collins Science Center, the Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and the Arizona Water Science Center.
Read a full list of the awardees’ names at https://www2.usgs.gov/humancapital/pc/2018awardcitations.html (click on Unit Awards for Excellence of Service and scroll to second-to-last citation).
Learn more about the Elwha River Dam Removal Project in a recently published USGS Fact Sheet, “Science Partnership Between U.S. Geological Survey and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.”
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