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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

In Largest Dam Removal In US History, Which Fish Get To Recolonize?

Earthfix / Ashley Ahearn

From where Mike McHenry stands he can see several gray, torpedo-shaped bodies moving slowly through the brown water of this side channel of the Elwha River, not too far from the site of the largest dam removal project in US history.

These fish are some of the last wild steelhead in the Elwha. Biologists estimate that there are between 200 and 300 left, and they’re here to spawn. But, despite the fact that tearing down two dams has opened nearly 70 miles of pristine habitat on the upper Elwha River and its tributaries in the Olympic National Park, flowing debri and sediment have made the lower stretch of river a bad place for fish to spawn. So a team of field biologists and technicians are capturing, tagging and relocating these ready-to-spawn steelhead into a clear tributary of the Elwha, above the former site of the lower dam.

This is the second in a two-part series. Read the whole story on KUOW’s Earthfix.