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August 2, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Start of Elwha dam removal

Posted by Letters editor

Allowing recovery

In her recent essay on the Elwha Dams removal, Lynda Mapes highlighted many of the benefits to the Elwha watershed in the Elwha River Restoration Project [“A river reborn,” page one, July 25].

As the dam removals proceed, visitors will be coming to visit, study, witness and explore the phenomenon of the largest dam removal and river restoration project in the country. Who wouldn’t want to see the legendary giant Elwha salmon come home?

The truth is that the Elwha project may be one of the most significant, long-term efforts for our economic survival.

In all of this, I have always given my wholehearted support and encouragement. My life is heavily invested in our rivers and wild fish; I work as a fly-fishing guide. If anyone wants to see rivers run free and full of wild fish, it is me.

The only problem I have with the Elwha project is the implementation of a hatchery that will not just support wild fish spawning, but will also include the use of Chambers Creek Hatchery steelhead stock, in an effort to “boost” the number of wild steelhead spawning in the Elwha. Never has any run of hatchery fish resulted in a recovery or improvement in the number or overall mass of wild steelhead in that river.

In fact, the opposite has happened as all over the region, river by river. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has managed the runs of hatchery steelhead on top of wild steelhead, and the result has been an overall loss of wild steelhead, and a resultant loss of a resource for anglers statewide.

Here is an opportunity to allow wild fish to recover on their own, in a virtually untouched watershed. Yet, the experts cannot seem to trust that nature will find a way. Hundreds of millions of years of evolution don’t seem to impress them much.

If we want to have recovery, we have to allow recovery, too.

— Bob Triggs, Little Stone Flyfisher, Port Townsend

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