Diablo Dam incline railway climbing Sourdough Mountain, 1930. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2306.
Children waving to ferry, 1950. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.
Loggers in the Northwest woods. Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.
HistoryLunch is coming!
Thursday, September 23rd, at 11:30 a.m.
Join us in supporting HistoryLink—a treasure trove of Washington state history—as we take a look back at four disasters in Washington's past and the remarkable recoveries that followed, and consider how the past might guide us as we emerge from COVID-19.
Limited seating at the in-person event at the Rainier Club in Seattle. Unlimited space at the virtual event, which will stream on the event page.
Our thanks to Kiku Hughes for the illustration featured above.
This Week Then
Ten years ago this week, on September 17, 2011, a three-year demolition effort began to remove two dormant Elwha River dams in Clallam County, the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history. The undertaking was a major component of one of the most significant river restoration efforts of our times, and would open the Elwha for hundreds of thousands of salmon to run free from mountains to sea.
A century ago, the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams fueled economic growth by providing hydroelectricity for the growing city of Port Angeles and much of the northern Olympic Peninsula, as well as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. But progress came with a price -- the loss of multiple, massive runs of salmon and steelhead. For centuries, the S'Klallam Tribe depended on these runs, as did the region's non-Native settlers who came later.
The choice was made, but once the Glines Canyon Dam's license ran out in the 1980s, several environmental groups and individuals advocated for the river's ecosystem to be restored. By this time, other power sources energized the peninsula, and after years of debate Congress authorized removal of the dams in the 1992 Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act. Since the dams' removal, salmon are once again spawning there, and wildlife has returned to the ecosystem.
Fifty years ago this week, on September 20, 1971, John Singer and Paul Barwick entered the King County Auditor's office and demanded a marriage license. Their request was denied, and although they claimed that their constitutional rights were violated, the courts disagreed. It took decades for same-sex marriage to become an issue again, but in the meantime other civil rights were achieved.
In Seattle, employment rights of sexual minorities were affirmed in 1973, and the city broadened its housing laws in 1975. When these rights came under fire in 1978, Seattle voters decisively rejected their repeal. Soon other municipalities extended the same rights, and the voices of gays and lesbians were being heard in the state capital, beginning with Cal Anderson, Washington's first openly gay legislator.
In 2006 Governor Christine Gregoire signed a law that added "sexual orientation" to existing prohibitions on discrimination in employment, housing, lending, and insurance. The following year, the state recognized same-sex domestic partnerships, and in 2009 voters approved these rights in what many called the "everything but marriage" law, putting the state one step away from same-sex marriage.
That step was taken in 2012, when same-sex marriage was signed into law. Opponents tried to block its implementation by putting it to a vote of the people. It was approved, and Washington made history as one of first three states to enact same-sex marriage at the ballot box.
On September 20, 1888, the Northwest's commercial-halibut fishery began when the schooner Oscar and Hattie arrived at Tacoma with 50,000 pounds of the tasty fish. Thirty-five years later, fish stocks had declined so drastically that the Pacific Halibut Convention was signed, and today the fishery is one of the world's healthiest.
"Men may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening. In time, it will have its way; the dam, like the ancient cliffs, will be carried away piecemeal in the currents."