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Author discusses book on Elwha River dam removal

  • Fri Oct 20th, 2017 9:31am
  • Life

Submitted Griffin Bay Bookstore

Those of you who have followed the removal of the dam on the Elwha River or who have volunteered your time planting trees and helping to restore the surrounding ecosystem, will surely want to attend a book talk by Seattle Times writer,Lynda Mapes at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the San Juan Island Library. You’ll have the chance to hear about on-going restoration efforts, learn about the Elwha’s resurgence with new life, find out how the watershed is changing.

In “Elwha: A River Reborn,” Lynda Mapes has written a compelling exploration of one of the largest dam removal projects in the world — and the efforts to save a stunning Northwest ecosystem. Dam removal started in September 2011 and The Seattle Times, was on hand when a Montana contractor removed the first pieces from two concrete dams on the Elwha River which cuts through the Olympic range. It was the beginning of the largest dam removal project ever undertaken in North America — one dam was 200 feet tall — and the start of an unprecedented attempt to restore an entire ecosystem. More than 70 miles of the Elwha and its tributaries course from the mountain headwaters to clamming beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Through interviews, field work, archival and historical research, and photojournalism, The Seattle Times has explored and reported on the dam removal, the Elwha ecosystem, its industrialization, and now its renewal. “Elwha: A River Reborn” is based on these feature articles.

Richly illustrated with stunning photographs by Steve Ringman, as well as historic images, graphics, and a map, Elwha tells the interwoven stories of this region. Meet the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, who anxiously await the return of renowned salmon runs savored over the generations in the stories of their elders. Discover the biologists and engineers who are bringing the dams down and laying the plan for renewal, including an unprecedented revegetation effort that will eventually cover more than 700 acres of mudflats.

When the dam started to come down in Fall 2011 — anticipated for more than 20 years since Congress passed the Elwha Restoration Act — it was the beginning of a $350 million project observed around the world. “Elwha: A River Reborn” is inspiring and instructive, a triumphant story of place, people and environment striving to come together.

Mapes will also talk about her latest book “Witness Tree: Seasons of Change With a Century-Old Oak,” what The New York Times called an “intriguing and more intimate” account that portrays trees as “scribes, diarists, historians.” They are “among our oldest journalists,” she writes. As the Times put it, “Mapes sets out to tell the story of climate change through one tree. But that is, marvelously, the least of it.”

Mapes is a journalist, author, and close observer of the natural world. She has been a reporter at The Seattle Times since 1997 specializing in the coverage of Indian tribes, nature, and the environment. Her writing connects ordinary people and nature. In 1997, while working at the Spokesman Review in Spokane, Washington, she was awarded the Gerald Loeb award for a series on salmon recovery efforts in the Columbia Basin. In addition to her newspaper career, she is the author of two books, “Washington: The Spirit of the Land” and “Breaking Ground.” She lives in Seattle with her husband Douglas MacDonald.