Chinook Salmon Restoration Approach

Historically, Chinook salmon were legendary in the Elwha River. The remaining Elwha River Chinook are believed to be a single population consisting of natural spawning and hatchery enhancement components.

A summary of Elwha River Chinook salmon restoration strategies includes:

  • Clean water "windows" during dam removal, including a halt in dam removal activities during migratory times of both spring and fall-run Chinook.
  • Transfer and release of hatchery smolts into nearby Morse Creek
  • Natural spawning of adults
  • Distribution of eggs and fish at many stages of their life cycle to upstream locations
  • Keeping the Elwha Chinook rearing channel open during dam removal with a clean water supply
  • Monitoring and good management practices to minimize the impacts of flood control and water quality mitigation

Restoration Strategies:
Pre-dam removal
During dam removal
Post-dam removal


Pre-dam removal:
The emphasis for Chinook salmon is on maintaining the existing hatchery and natural-origin population. Hatchery facilities will be modified, with construction of water treatment facilities and delivery systems to meet production goals. Necessary adjustments will be made in an effort to maintain annual Chinook production at recent levels. No intentional harvest of Chinook will occur.


During dam removal:
Enhancement strategies during this period will emphasize maintaining the hatchery based populations. While the dams are being deconstructed, large quantities of sediment will be released and conditions in the lower river may become temporarily unsuitable for spawning. Water limitations will reduce the production capabilities of hatcheries. Necessary action will be taken depending on adult return levels and monitoring results.


Post-dam removal:
At this time, dam removal will be complete and turbidity levels in the river will have declined. Hatchery-based restoration strategies will maximize fish production during this time. As the population of returning Chinook adults increases, restoration activities will expand to include increased upriver distribution of fish at various stages in their life cycle throughout the basin. Monitoring will be critical to the management of these restoration programs. As returns increase to secure levels, enhancement programs will be phased out. Intentional harvest of Chinook salmon will not occur until after population numbers return to secure levels.

Complete Restoration Plan (200-page PDF):
Ward, L., P. Crain, B. Freymond, M. McHenry, D. Morrill, G. Pess, R. Peters, J.A. Shaffer, B. Winter, and B. Wunderlich. 2008. Elwha River Fish Restoration Plan – Developed pursuant to the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, Public Law 102-495. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-90, 168 p.


This webpage was made possible in part by a grant from Washington’s National Park Fund.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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