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Return To The Salish Sea: Nearshore Biologist Anne Shaffer

Bellamy Pailthorp
Dr Anne Shaffer, Executive Director of the Coastal Watershed Institute in Port Angeles.

Squid eggs and harlequin ducks are the latest signs of renewed life on the beach at the mouth of the Elwha River. They have only recently returned, some three years after the completion of the largest dam removal in the world, here on the shores of the Salish Sea.

The Elwha is now free-flowing through Olympic National Park into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And it has been quickly returning the sediment that had been held back by two dams for nearly a century.

The transformation of the beach is striking. It’s gone from an inhospitable, hard and cobbled shore where you could easily sprain your ankle to a much wider, soft and sandy expanse where all kinds of creatures love to spend time.

“It’s such a beautiful place, you know, this beach, this nearshore," said marine biologist Anne Shaffer. "It’s so captivating, and with just a few images you really can give people a powerful sense of what all has happened here." 

Shaffer runs the Coastal Watershed Institute in Port Angeles and regularly sends out a newsletter with pictures that illustrate the dramatic transformation that has happened on the Elwha nearshore.

To see more pictures and read about the transformation of the Elwha nearshore and how it relates to the Salish Sea, visit our "Return To The Salish Sea" website.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to