'Hydro(power) had no friends'

  • Orville Campbell


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Orville Campbell has worked for the companies that have owned the Elwha dams for almost 30 years. He lives in Port Angeles.

Orville Campbell: "From 1980-1990, the level of the drumbeat for dam removal was increasing over time, and in the early 1990s, that drumbeat had gotten pretty loud.

"As this opposition was building, and ultimately became nationwide, it became obvious that it would be very difficult for a private company to own a hydro project on the Elwha River, and operate it successfully.

"The whole hydro industry had a very bad reputation nationwide, and perhaps through fifty years of arrogance in the operation of hydro, with little regard for fish and other competing uses on the river, insensitivity to the competing uses, it meant that hydro(power) had no friends. Everywhere we turned for help, or assistance, or even just comfort, we were rebuffed and turned away.

"I had never been through anything like this before. It was one of the first projects that was going through relicensing with FERC. It was certainly the first one in which an entire movement developed to oppose dam removal so quickly. And I'll have to confess that in the beginning and through much of the process, I couldn't even imagine that the movement would be successful.

"You have to admire the perseverance and the capacity of these organizations to succeed on the Elwha. Because it is precedent-setting. The concept of dam removal was pretty foreign when they started.

"Damming the river a hundred years ago was critical to the people who were scratching out a living on the Olympic Peninsula. But what was a great idea back then, is a terrible idea in the year 2001."

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