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OR&R Staff Visit with Elwha Tribe in Washington

OCTOBER 19, 2018 —Dr. Amy Merten and Rob Neely, of OR&R’s Assessment and Restoration Division, traveled to Port Angeles, Washington, on October 9-10 to conduct site visits and meet with Elwha tribal staff.

A riverbank.
Elwha River in Washington. Image credit: NOAA.

The Assessment and Restoration Division is involved in a Natural Resource Damage Assessment at Port Angeles Harbor, where years of industrial activity have resulted in the release of hazardous substances, including dioxins, into the harbor. NOAA shares a seat on the Port Angeles Trustee Council with the State of Washington, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and three Native American tribes, including the Elwha.

While in Port Angeles, they visited the Rayonier Mill Site, location of a former pulp mill operated by Rayonier for about 60 years. The company is seeking to resolve its natural resource damages liability by offering up its property for habitat restoration, along with cleanup. The 75-acre waterfront parcel offers opportunities to restore shoreline and nearshore habitat as well as the lower reaches of Innis Creek, a cold-water anadromous fish stream with pristine headwaters in Olympic National Park.

Elwha tribal staff also hosted Amy and Rob for visits to restoration sites along the Elwha River, located about five miles west of Port Angeles Harbor.

The largest-ever project of its kind in U.S. history, this massive, multi-stakeholder project has reconnected the river to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Check out this video from National Geographic, which includes some amazing time-lapse footage of the dam removals, subsequent sediment transport, and delta reformation:

In addition to the site visits, Amy and Rob had the opportunity to meet with Elwha Tribal Council chairwoman Frances Charles, Councilman Steve Robideau, Matt Beirne, the tribe's Director of Natural Resources, and lead Tribal Attorney Steve Suagee. The meeting served as a great opportunity to reinforce our ongoing collaborative and productive relationship with the Elwha Tribe.

For further information, contact Robert.Neely@noaa.gov.

Return to OR&R Weekly Report.