Elwha generators wind down for last timeJune 2nd, 2011 by cdunagan
UPDATE, June 2, 2011, 3:30 p.m.
I just learned from Greg Bedinger of a new video released yesterday by the National Park Service.
The five-minute “webisode,” called “Elwha River Restoration,” packs in a lot of information about Native American connections to the river, the history of the dams, anticipation of dam removal and future river restoration. Bedinger, of Wings over Watersheds, was involved in the production.
I was impressed by John Gussman’s sensitivity while photographing human aspects of the two dams on the Elwha River yesterday, as their power plants were turned off for the last time. (See photos at bottom.)
The powerful generators and massive dams are enormous when one stands beside them. But, in the end, it is good to remember that the controls are built for operation by human hands.
Gussman, who runs Doubleclick Productions, is documenting the story of the Elwha dams — their history, removal and restoration. Check out his website, Return of the River, which includes some great videos.
Here’s what he wrote to me this morning in an e-mail:
“As far as being there yesterday, it was exciting to see the switches thrown for the last time, with big yellow sparks, and to listen to the big generators slowly wind down and become silent forever.
“The dam crew, I am sure, was very melancholy about it all; they were putting their ‘baby’ to sleep for the final time. End of an era.”
In a piece for the Seattle Times, reporter Linda Mapes quotes Kevin Yancy, manager of the Elwha hydroelectric project for the Bureau of Reclamation:
“We are cutting the heart out of these old girls… It really is the end of an era. Old plants like these, there is an art to making electricity in these manually run plants, keeping it on. Today, they are all automated and no one is building any more hydropower.”
Linda’s story is filled with historical references as well as hints about the future. Even in the dam’s final days, she wrote, “the brass and glass and all of their gauges were polished, the floors swept clean and the paint new and fresh and the equipment, some nearly 100 years old, running perfectly.”
“I wanted everything running smoothly…. I didn’t want an apathetic response or a bitterness and ‘It’s coming out, who cares anyway.’ We had a job to do here, and we wanted to do it with dignity and pride.”