By Paige Dickerson Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Olympic National Park is gearing up for the “Last Dam Summer,” and park officials have begun distributing 5,000 buttons with the message commemorating next year’s dismantling of the Elwha River dams.
The buttons tout a slogan focusing that summer 2010 will be the last before the dam removal project starts in the summer of 2011, Superintendent Karen Gustin told about 75 people attending a recent Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting.
The buttons were created and paid for by the nonprofit organization Discover Your Northwest, formerly the Northwest Interpretive Association, which stocks the park’s bookstore and also provides funding for informational and promotional items — such as the buttons, Gustin said.
“The purpose of those is to have a way to involve and prepare the community and highlight the next 18 months as a preparatory time,” Gustin said.
The buttons are an inexpensive way to do that.
“I’m anticipating that there will be other things, such as informational cards that we will have available to either pass out or to refer to as we get closer to dam removal.”
The organization generates income from book sales at national parks and through donations, according to its Web site, www.discovernw.org.
According to its most recent annual report available on the Web site, the group earned about $1.5 million through sales. Private grants contributed $12,000, individual contributions totaled $67,594 and in-kind goods and services contributed totaled $72,130.
The park also is considering hiring a contractor to develop a marketing plan for documentaries, stories in such publications as National Geographic and local education in connection with the dam removal project, Gustin said.
The contract will fall under the “small contracts” category of less than about $3,000.
The 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam, which forms Lake Mills in Olympic National Park 13 miles upstream from the river’s mouth, and the 105-foot Elwha Dam, which creates Lake Aldwell outside the park’s boundaries, will be removed in the $308 million National Park Service project that starts in 2011.
The request for proposals for the dam removal will go out “any day now,” Gustin told the chamber audience.
Contractors who wish to bid will have between 45 and 60 days to respond, and by September the bid will be awarded, she said.
“This is a huge milestone in the process,” she said.
The bid solicitation process will be handled out of the National Park Service’s Lakewood, Colo., office, Gustin said.
Brian Winter, Elwha project manager, told the chamber that milestones include the completion of a water treatment plant for Port Angeles — which draws its water from the Elwha River — and working with the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe on a sewer system.
The levees below the dams are also being improved so they will provide the same level of protection as they currently do, Winter said.
The first major change North Olympic Peninsula residents will start noticing in summer 2011 will be the draining of Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell behind the dams, Gustin said.
“That will be when things really start to happen and it will be very noticeable because those areas with the lakes will look very different,” she said.