Celebration for WA Elwha River dam removal project

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PORT ANGELES (AP) -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will join Washington's governor and other dignitaries to formally mark the beginning of the end for two dams on the Elwha River.

The $325 million project is expected to last three years and eventually restore the Olympic Peninsula river to its wild state and restore salmon runs.

Before two towering concrete dams were built nearly a century ago, the river teemed with salmon but the structures blocked the fishes' access to upstream habitat, diminished their runs and altered the ecosystem.

An excavator began chipping away at the top of Glines Canyon Dam on Thursday.

Guests expected at Saturday's ceremony at the downstream Elwha Dam include Gov. Chris Gregoire, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congressman Norm Dicks and officials of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, which historically relied on the salmon runs.