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Elwha River Restoration Closer to Reality as EPA Issues Key Permit


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a key Clean Water Act permit which will aid in the restoration of the Elwha River on the Northern Olympic Peninsula. The permit will ensure a clean water supply for domestic and industrial uses from the Elwha during future dam removal efforts and while the river is recovering.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit will allow the Elwha Water Treatment Plant (EWTP) to treat the water and discharge removed sediment to the river. Construction of the EWTP is scheduled to begin later this year.

The EWTP and the NPDES permit are important parts of a major habitat restoration project - which has been years in the making - to restore the Elwha River to its natural state. The restoration project involves the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams. The removal of the dams will occur after the water treatment plant is completed.

According to Mike Gearheard, EPA’s Director of the Office of Water & Watersheds in Seattle, the Elwha dam removal project will free the river and allow salmon to return to the entire pristine watershed.

“EPA is proud to do our part to keep this landmark habitat restoration project on track,” said Gearheard.

During the dam removal process (expected to last five years), an estimated 18 million cubic yards of sediment currently trapped behind the two dams will be released into the water column.

EPA issued this permit with the cooperation of the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and many other partners working together to help restore salmon habitat in the Elwha River.


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