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"Fly" up the Elwha Valley

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Published on Nov 17, 2006

Debates over restoration of river ecosystems can become contentious and polarizing: residents in an area faced with river management decisions may have a deep-rooted concern about large-scale landscape change, and fear of the unknown.

People are often unsure what the impacts of restoration might look like, and what the consequences could be for their communities. Helping citizens and elected officials visualize the future is critical to the success of such significant projects.

Using powerful GIS software, we have generated a 3-dimensional photo-realistic digital model of the Elwha River valley that depicts the landscape before, during, and after dam removal. Aerial photography and satellite imagery is draped over terrain models and enhanced with photographic features of local significance such as natural landmarks, buildings, and riparian terrain. Further detail is provided by survey records, historical photographs, reservoir bathymetry, and engineering drawings.

The model allows users to view not only dam deconstruction, but also the restoration of local vegetation and the related stabilization of reservoir sediments that will lead to ecosystem and salmon recovery.

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