Environmental Restoration Creates Jobs: Dams Coming Down

SustainableBusiness.com News

Jobs in environmental restoration are among those with the greatest potential in the Pacific Northwest - we're seeing them in action as two big dams in Olympic National Park are destroyed to bring back one of the world's most prolific salmon runs.

In March, workers finished removing the 108-foot tall Elwha Dam, built in 1913. The river is now flowing freely for the first time in almost a century. 

Now, workers have turned to largest dam-removal project in U.S. history - the 210-foot tall Glines Canyon Dam. It was built in 1927 and will be gone in about a year.

Former President HW Bush signed the dam removal law in 1992 to restore habitat for 400,000 salmon. The project has been held up all this time to analyze the economic impacts of eliminating the aging power plants versus restoring the environment.

The $325 million restoration project has its work cut out - only about 3000 salmon are in the Elwha now, after releasing 600 fish into the river last fall. Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout all face extinction.

The project includes restoring native plants, which has also begun.

Other similar dam removal projects are moving forward, such as two big dams in the Penobscot River in Maine, which will restore 11 fish species, including the endangered Atlantic Salmon.

In related news, restoring coastal habitats is important for mitigating climate change as well as adapting to it, according to a Restore America's Estuaries study.

Coastal tidal wetlands, such as salt marshes and mangroves, are efficient carbon sinks for greenhouse gases. Research finds that coastal wetlands sequester carbon at 3-5 times the rate of temperate forests.

Many of the expected effects from climate change - sea level rise, coastal erosion, and increasing frequency and intensity of major storms can be mitigated by restoration.

Another study shows the job benefits of restoration: 30 jobs are created for every $1 million invested - more than twice as many jobs as the oil and gas and road industries combined.

Read the studies:

Website: www.estuaries.org/reports/