Quantifying Channel Morphology Changes in Response to the Removal of the Glines Canyon Dam, Elwha River, Washington
Abstract:The removal of two dams on the Elwha River, Washington, is the largest dam-removal project in history. Our research documents the sediment deposition, erosion, and channel changes between the dams following the initial sediment release from the removal of the upstream Glines Canyon Dam. Within the first year following the dam removal, the pulse of coarse sediment and large woody debris propagated downstream well over 6 km below the dam. The sediment deposition and altered channel hydraulics caused lateral channel migration where anabranching channels merge around new mid-channel bars and at large bends in the river channel. Documenting the river channel response to this exceptional sediment pulse could improve models of the impacts of future dam removals on similar gravel-bed rivers.
We quantified the sediment flux and channel changes at four field sites 2-6 km downstream of Glines Canyon Dam. Topographic changes were surveyed with a terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) on an annual basis from August 2012 – August 2014 and the surface sediment distribution was quantified with bimonthly sediment counts. Differencing the annual TLS data yielded an overall increase in sediment throughout the study reach, with a minimum of 20,000 m3 of deposition on bars and banks exposed above the water surface in each 700-m-long TLS survey reach. The surface sediment distribution decreased from ~18 cm to