Jeanne and I grew up on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. It is there that the Elwha River can be found. The river’s source is the snowpack of the Olympic Mountain Range. The Elwha is 45 miles long, travels north, and empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
About a century ago, two dams were built on the river – the Elwha and the Glines Canyon dams. Some years back, it was determined that they had outlived their usefulness, maintenance costs being one factor.
In 1992, an act of Congress got the ball rolling on their removal. This was not an overnight process. It would take three years for it to be completed (September 2011 to September 2014).
Last summer, part of our vacation was spent exploring the banks of the river.
The Elwha’s new course revealed surprising twists and turns and its luminous teal-green color was quite a sight to behold.
We were both very impressed by how rapidly nature had reclaimed the area.
It took little time for the Chinook salmon to return. Their numbers had grown to impressive levels. More fish meant more eagles. The ecosystem revealed its past glory.
Massive amounts of silt and debris, once held back by the pair of dams, had flowed downstream to give birth to a large delta. It was simply amazing to walk upon this newly-formed beach.
It is difficult to find the right words to adequately describe the feeling of standing in the midst of such a massive recovery.
That day, Jeanne and I shared a depth of awe and reverence – taking in something that we never would have imagined both having grown up in the area.
It is said that change is one of the things you can certainly count on in life.
Some changes may require “blasting away some dams” that are in the way. They need to go because they are impeding potential growth that would lead to recovery.
If this applies to you, I believe that God will help guide in the process of discernment. Pray for this.
Projects like this will also require “an act of Congress;” a community of like-minded support would be required for ultimate success. Don’t go at it alone.
What once was can be reclaimed.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.