A river runs through it. Well, most of it does.

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A river runs through it. Well, most of it does.

About 80 percent of the Elwha River is flowing though a man-made pilot channel at the southern end of Lake Mills where the river meanders through a delta and pours into the broad lake.

Crews finished digging the pilot channel on Tuesday and relocated a log jam near the head of the delta on Wednesday to direct the flow into the new channel, Olympic National Park Spokeswoman Barb Maynes confirmed.

“The goal was to get most of the river flow going through that new pilot channel,” Maynes said.

The ultimate goal is to give the river a head start in eroding at least 13 million cubic yards of delta sediment before the $351 million removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams.

The channel is expected to encourage erosion and carry sediment downstream to replenish habitat in an area of the Elwha River that has been blocked to spawning salmon for decades.

Lake Mills, created by the 210-foot high Glines Canyon Dam in 1927, was lowered five feet earlier this month to expose the delta where the river empties into the lake.

Crews removed a grove of alder trees that had sprouted on the delta and used a big-bucket excavator and a crane to dig the channel through the sediment.

Cherokee Construction of Vancouver, Wash., conducted the work under a $743,708 contract.

Northwestern Territories, Inc. of Port Angeles is handling the surveying on the project.

Actual tear-down of the Glines Canyon and its 97-year-old counterpart will begin in September 2011.

Lake Mills, which was closed Aug. 30 for the channel construction, is expected to be reopened on Monday.

The water level on Lake Mills will never rise again, lowering gradually again beginning next summer as the reservoir is drained and the Glines Canyon Dam torn down.

Lake Aldwell, behind the Elwha Dam, also will be lowered as the 108-foot-tall edifice is dismantled.

The massive project to dismantle the two dams, the largest such undertaking to date in the nation, is expected to be completed in March 2014.

Information from: Peninsula Daily News, http://www.peninsuladailynews.com