Removal of two hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River, Washington, one of the largest river restoration projects in the United States, represents a unique opportunity to assess the recovery of fish populations and aquatic ecosystems at the watershed scale. The current project implementation does not contain sufficient funding to support comprehensive monitoring of restoration effectiveness. As a result, current monitoring efforts are piecemeal and uncoordinated, creating the possibility that project managers
will not be able to answer fundamental questions concerning salmonid and ecosystem response. We present the initial elements of a monitoring framework designed to assess the effectiveness of dam removal on the recovery of Elwha River salmonids, their aquatic habitats, and the food webs of which they are an integral component. The monitoring framework is linked to the Elwha Fisheries Restoration Plan, which outlines the restoration of native stocks of salmon and relies upon a process of adaptive management. The monitoring framework includes two areas of emphasis—salmonid population recovery and ecosystem response. We provide study design considerations and make recommendations for additional monitoring efforts prior to dam removal. Based on a power analysis, we determined that a minimum of 3–11 years and up to 50 years of monitoring will be required to capture potential ecosystem responses following dam removal. The development of a monitoring plan will be a significant step forward in objectively evaluating the success of Elwha River dam removal.