RE:Winter Steelhead Tactics
Kerry - I agree with your concern about the 4.5 miles from the dam to the straits of Juan De Fuca shore, but if I am not mistaken there are something in the order of 100 (linear) miles of habitat above the manmade lakes. This habitat is the same gravel that produced 100 pound native chinook before the dam was built, made extinct by the dam. It would be naive for one to deny that some damage will occur in the lower 4.5 miles... but I look to the Toutle as an example of what our wise steelies can do to deal with the hand they are dealt; and the Elwha steelhead have a wild card in their short run to get above the affected area.
The eruption of St.Helens produced more silt than anything imaginable above Aldwell and affected the whole Toutle river as opposed to the last section. Still, the steelhead knew to turn to the Toutle trib that came from a different mountain (Rainier's other Green River) to sustain their race. I believe they also adopted suitable habitat on the Cowlitz and it's tribs for reproduction because of the appearance of some of the fish we were catching around the mouth of the Toutle and other tribs between I-5 and the hatchery. The Toutle and Green supports a strong population today. In the case of the Elwha, it's only 4.5 miles from salt to the silt-free Elwha Valley. I can't see this little sprint stopping the iron-willed peninsula steelhead from finding prime spawning habitat above the soon-to-be former site of the illegally built dam. I certainly hope so anyway.
On a related note, evidence of steelhead bound for a particular waterway entering other waterways dozens, even hundreds of miles from their actual homewater until favorable conditions appear is common on the Columbia system. This might mean that some of the existing remnant population of Elwha steelhead along with the hatchery plants may go to the Pyscht, Hoko, Sekiu, or other rivers in the area - but it is far more likely that they will make an easy 5 mile swim past the old dam site.
It's an exciting time for the Elwha. Given a few generations to settle into the crisp glacier-fed, oxygenated and expansive new "digs" above the old dam site, I think not just the steelhead but all the species in the Elwha could be thriving in our lifetime.
God I hope so.
<font color="ff0000">Very best holiday wishes to all!</font><!--color-->