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Elwha River bridge could need replacement after dam removal

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — Officials say the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River could need replacement or retrofitting now that two dams have been removed.

The Peninsula Daily News reports that the now-wild river is eroding the riverbed under the bridge. When state Department of Transportation crews drilled bore samples earlier this month, they learned that the bridge’s two piers sit atop gravel — not bedrock, as they had hoped.

The bridge was built in 1926, after the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams were constructed. With the dams removed as part of a $325 million National Park Service project to restore the Elwha River to its wild state, the state has placed boulders at the base of the piers to stem erosion. But that’s just a short term fix.

The DOT says the bridge remains safe to drive on. Experts are monitoring it closely to detect any movement.