Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: Source-to-sink sediment budget and synthesis

Document Details:

Title: Large-scale dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington, USA: Source-to-sink sediment budget and synthesis
Category: Technical Report
File: Warrick-et-al_2015_0306_Large-scale-dam-removal-on-the-Elwha-River-Washington.pdf
Updated Date: 18.05.2017
Author(s)/Source(s): Jonathan A. Warrick, Jennifer A. Bountry, Amy E. East, Christopher S. Magirl, Timothy J. Randle, Guy Gelfenbaum, Andrew C. Ritchie, George R. Pess Vivian Leung, Jeffrey J. Duda
Publication Date: 2015-Jan-23
Focal Topic: Dam Removal
Location: United States

Understanding landscape responses to sediment supply changes constitutes a fundamental part of many problems in geomorphology, but opportunities to study such processes at field scales are rare. The phased removal of two large dams on the Elwha River, Washington, exposed 21 ± 3 million m3, or ~30 million tonnes (t), of sediment that had been deposited in the two former reservoirs, allowing a comprehensive investigation of watershed and coastal responses to a substantial increase in sediment supply. Here we provide a source-to-sink sediment budget of this sediment release during the first two years of the project (September 2011–September 2013) and synthesize the geomorphic changes that occurred to downstream fluvial and coastal landforms. Owing to the phased removal of each dam, the release of sediment to the river was a function of the amount of dam structure removed, the progradation of reservoir delta sediments, exposure of more cohesive lakebed sediment, and the hydrologic conditions of the river. The greatest downstream geomorphic effects were observed after water bodies of both reservoirs were fully drained and fine (silt and clay) and coarse (sand and gravel) sediments were spilling past the former dam sites. After both dams were spilling fine and coarse sediments, river suspended-sediment concentrations were commonly several thousand mg/L with ~50% sand during moderate and high river flow. At the same time, a sand and gravel sediment wave dispersed down the river channel, filling channel pools and floodplain channels, aggrading much of the river channel by ~1 m, reducing river channel sediment grain sizes by ~16-fold, and depositing ~2.2million m3 of sand and gravel on the seafloor offshore of the rivermouth.

Keyword Tags:
Dam removal, Sediment budget, River restoration, Elwha River, Sediment wave