NEAR PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- When two large dams are removed after spending most of the last century altering flows on the Elwha River, the ecosystem will change.
Salmon will be able to use 30 miles of prime spawning grounds that were blocked by the dams. And the sea life living at the mouth of the river will get a big dose of silt that has been held back by the dams.
Scientists are spending these last few weeks before the removal of the dams begins, to study the delta where the river flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Divers from The U.S. Geological Survey and The Environmental Protection Agency and must fight strong currents and unpredictable ocean and weather conditions to map the delta and take inventory of its many plants and creatures.
"Just yesterday we were diving on a beautiful kelp forest with a variety of fish and plant life," said EPA Dive Unit Officer Sean Sheldrake, "and the hope is through this reconnection of the Elwha to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it will not only continue but thrive."
After several delays, the removal of the dams begins next month. Scientists will use information gathered from this historic event to plan for other dam removals and manage silt runoff from urban developments.