Repair work puts Elwha dam removal on hold

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SEATTLE — Removal of the last of two dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula has been put on temporary hold while officials try to fix problems at new water-treatment facilities built as part of the $325 million river restoration project.

Sediment is clogging up the facilities built in 2011 to help remove massive amounts of dirt, silt and woody debris released downstream as the dams come down.

The National Park Service, which is leading the dam-removal project, said work to take down the last chunk of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam will resume on July 1, The Seattle Times reported Sunday.

The last remnants of Elwha Dam were removed last year. Park officials had expected to remove the Glines Canyon Dam, located 8 miles upriver, by this summer — ahead of schedule.

The agency now says work will be complete before the contract to remove the dams ends in September 2014, The Times reported.

"As much as we're extremely eager to see dam removal complete and the rest of the restoration begin, right now our primary focus is on making sure that the downstream water users have the water that they need," Barb Maynes, a park spokesman, told KUOW Public Radio.

The park service said $1.4 million in repairs need to be completed.

The $79 million Elwha Water Facilities include a water treatment plant and a surface water intake facility. The sites treat drinking water for the nearby city of Port Angeles and clarify water for two fish hatcheries and a local paper mill.

Port Angeles Public Works director Glenn Cutler told the Peninsula Daily News the city continues to have clean water and has been relying on the city's well.

Problems with the water treatment plants began last fall when sediment and debris flowing downstream began to overwhelm the water intake system.

Department of Interior officials were eyeing a possible legal action involving the design of the facilities, according to an email by the federal agency's Office of the Solicitor that was obtained last week by the Peninsula Daily News.