PA council OKs step in dam removal
By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES – The City Council has given its approval to another aspect of the preparation for the removal of two Elwha River dams.
In an unanimous vote Tuesday, with Deputy Mayor Betsy Wharton absent, the Port Angeles City Council approved providing the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe with an easement on city-owned property for the construction of a water pipeline.
The pipeline will service a fish hatchery that is scheduled to be built this fall to replace the present facility.
Once the dams are removed, sometime after 2012, and the Elwha River rises, the current hatchery won’t be able to receive gravity-fed water, said Robert Elofson, Lower Elwha Klallam natural resources director.
"Modifying the old hatchery so it would work would cost just as much as building new a hatchery,” he said.
The Elwha and Glines Canyon dams — built in 1913 and 1926 to provide hydroelectric power to Port Angeles —but without fish ladders – are to be removed to return the river to its original state so that salmon can migrate upstream to spawn.
The estimated $318 million Elwha River Restoration Project is a National Park Service project that is one of the largest such efforts in the United States, second only to the Everglades National Park restoration in Florida.
Before the dams are removed, several preparations, including two water treatments plant, were needed.
The pipeline for the hatchery is to travel along-side the city’s industrial water pipe from one of those water treatment plants, which is under construction near the river, to the hatchery.
The treatment plant will sift out sediment for the city’s industrial waterline that serves the Nippon paper mill in Port Angeles and the state Department~of Fish. and Wildlife fish hatchery.
A surface water intake also is under construction there.
A treatment plant for the city’s drinking water supply is under construction south of the city landfill, located on West 18th Street.
Elofson said construction of the new hatchery is funded by the National Park Service and will take about 15 months.
He said construction of the pipeline should begin about the same time as the hatchery construction.
As part of a memorandum of understanding signed by the city, the park service and the tribe in 2004, the city agreed to provide the tribe with the easement.
Elofson said the new hatchery will raise four kinds of salmon: chum, pink, coho and steelhead.
It will also raise three times as many salmon as the current hatchery.
Elofson said salmon eggs and fries will be released above the first dam, the Elwha Dam, located 4.9 miles up the river, to introduce the salmon to the parts of the river they haven’t been able to access since the dams were constructed.
"We wil] get them to return upstream, hopefully,” he said.
Also on Tuesday the City Council voted 4-1, with City Council member Dan Di Guilio abstaining, to approve a 2009 contract with Olympic Community Action Programs for use of the city’s senior citizen center to prepare meals for its Senior Nutrition Program.
OlyCap’s 2009 contract with the city would be for $556.50 monthly, a 6 per- cent increase over last year.
Di Guilio abstained because he is an OlyCap employee.
Mayor Gary Braun notified the council before he voted that Di Guilio is an OlyCap board member.
City Council member Cherie Kidd said the increase was why she voted against renewing the contract.
"It appears to be a food tax on our seniors when they can least afford it,” she said.
Richard Bonine, deputy parks director, said that all of the park facilities’ use fees have increased 6 percent this year.
Glenn Cutler, public works director, said there wasn’t a cost increase in the contract for years, partly due to an oversight.
"We feel it is a reasonable contract to bring to the City Council for consideration tonight,” he said.
City Council member Karen Rogers voiced sup- port for the fee increase, citing budgeting issues.
"We just cut $1.8 million in our general fund budget,” she said. "On a case-by-case basis, we can’t decide when we waive fees?’
The council also: • Voted 6-0 to renew a contract for a marketing and development director for the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center for $26,400, a 40 percent pay cut over last year. • Discussed scheduling a council retreat with the new city manager, Kent Myers.
The City Council did not set a date for a retreat, but talked about holding it at Peninsula College.
Myers said after the meeting that the retreat will be open to the public.