An essential piece in restoring ecosystems

Restoration of the Elwa River is a project of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a scientific body in the United States that provides scientific analysis of the water, energy, and minerals that humans depend on, as well as ecosystems and the environment. The goal is to develop new methods and tools to allow timely and useful information about the Earth and its processes, so that we are prepared to face the impacts of climate change and land use.

On its digital platform, the USGS describes that the purpose of this project was to understand and quantify the physical and environmental impacts of dam removal and restoration of this river system.

Scientific monitoring of this research is being conducted strategically with the many ecosystem actors who have become project partners, including Olympic National Park, the Lower Elwa Clalam Tribe, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Washington Department of the Environment, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Preventive Environmental Protection Agency. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office.

In order to monitor, obtain and analyze data, the USGS, through the Pacific Coast and Marine Science Center, mapped the estuary and sea floor before and after the dam was removed, and collected water and sediment samples for nutrient and other measurements. Ecosystem health indicators.

Devices placed on the sea floor near the mouth of the river measure current velocity, salinity, temperature, light levels, and the amount of sediment suspended in the water.

Underwater cameras periodically took pictures to document the changing environment of the sea floor, probed using Lidar technology to record changes in the landscape caused by new sediment deposited along the river and coast.

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Restoration benefits

Before the dam was removed, the river and coast downstream lacked the sand and gravel essential to the ecosystem that, according to oral tribal history, previously supported abundant oysters.

After the dam was removed, sand began to accumulate again along these coastal habitats, helping to reverse long-term erosion.

In addition, salmon has begun to recolonize the newly available river habitat upstream from the two former dam sites.

As for the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, whose construction site has been flooded since the construction of the dams, they achieved their goal and reclaimed the ancestral site of cultural significance.

One of the most important sources of scientific information relevant to this project is that a system has been developed that transmits the concentration and average particle size of the sediment suspended in the river continuously and in real time, allowing the creation of spatial patterns of the sediments, that is, it is possible to predict, if necessary, to what extent Sediment pollution will pass, because sediment is one of the main causes of water quality deterioration in the United States and other countries.

By creating a real-time monitoring system, a new technical capacity with national applications that was not available to the country has been developed, allowing to obtain information for river restoration and to make water management decisions related to dam operations. and water and water quality treatment, as well as management of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) of sediment in rivers and tributaries.

Another relevant outcome is the return of salmon and with it the restoration of one of the most important sources of nutrients in the ecosystem of the Elwa River, which has radically changed the ecological situation of the river.

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Through scientific measurements of the Elwa River during the process of restoration and appraisal, its environmental condition is analyzed, and through the baselines of its condition at the beginning of the restoration project, an environmental framework has been developed within which to characterize current conditions and future changes; The latter is made by comparing the state of other basins, in this case, the adjacent Dungeness River Basin which is a free-flowing system with the remaining salmonid currents and serves as a reference basin for comparison with the Elwha River.

The results are just a few of those reached in this restoration project, which undoubtedly affected the lives of Washington residents and visitors.

What are the characteristics and characteristics of the watershed of Panama that must be restored?

Within the urban area of ​​Panama City, there are many rivers that cross its urban footprint. Among them are the Matasnillo River, Matias Hernandez River, Juan Diaz River, Tapia River, Bacora River and Tocumen. The Juan Diaz River is the most flood-prone river in the country, and it is precisely because of this condition that the Municipality of Panama (MOPA), together with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), have designed the Urban Resilient Basin Program, a program that seeks to restore the watershed in the ecosystem as a measure for urban flood control and mitigation.

This urban watershed program is formulated with the actions of the World Bank’s Conceptual Plan for the Flexible Revitalization of the Panama City Waterfront.

Although they are different multilateral initiatives, both enhance the vision of ecosystem restoration in the urban area of ​​Panama City, because through these actions the value of the mangrove ecosystem, gallery forests, biological corridors and river corridors using nature-based solutions.

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In the case of the Juan Diaz River, the IDB project proposes to use the existing lakes in the vicinity of the Los Pueblos shopping center to restore the natural retention function during river floods, thus reducing the speed of the river. For flux delivery dose during flood. This area, when restored, will provide the community with recreational spaces in the summer.

As for the upper basin, the Mupa area layout scheme defines areas for the green and blue lanes, so that the works and activities in the upper basin are controlled so as not to affect the middle and lower basin of the river.

Cases such as the Juan Diaz River, which have conducted various studies over decades, can promote innovative and replicable projects in other basins of the country, which will further advance the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Restoring ecosystems, such as the Juan Diaz River, is a challenge that can be implemented with the participation of all stakeholders in the basin.

The author is a scientific researcher in water resources and a civil engineer. She also holds a PhD in Agronomy with a specialization in Water Resources in Agriculture (Chile).

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