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    DamNation: America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014, Updated Tour Schedule & Recent Awards

    San_francisquito_searsville_stoecker_1

    It’s been a month since DamNation made its world premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas. First and foremost, we would like to thank all of the people who’ve come out to see our film. Your support is greatly appreciated. Moving forward, we have a bunch of news and some important action alerts to share, so let's get to it.

    America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014

    When, as a young man, DamNation co-producer Matt Stoecker witnessed migrating steelhead jump at, and bounce off, Stanford University’s Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek, he recognized the destructive power a single dam can have on an entire watershed and beyond. Matt is now a fish biologist, who has since spearheaded the removal of more than a dozen such barriers to migration and is actively involved in efforts to dismantle several others. When he and Patagonia founder/owner Yvon Chouinard, a long-time “dam buster” who for years has supported groups working to tear down dams, decided to capture such efforts and their healing effects on film, and share them with the world, they teamed up with Felt Soul Media’s Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, and DamNation was born.

    Today, American Rivers announced their annual list of America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers and we’re happy to see San Francisquito Creek and Searsville Dam coming in at number five. San Francisquito Creek is the only nominee with a problem dam to be recognized by American Rivers this year. Making the list of most endangered rivers certainly isn’t a cause for celebration, but it’s a big deal in the river community and should bring national and local attention to the efforts that are underway to remove Searsville Dam.

    [Above: Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek, California. Stanford releases no flows downstream for fish and wildlife and the stagnant creek dries out and becomes lethal to the threatened steelhead that are blocked at the base of the concrete wall. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

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    DamNation to Premiere at SXSW Film 2014 [Updated]

    By Travis, Matt, Ben and Beda

    DamnationPoster-FINAL-small


    10, 9, 8… the DamNation premiere countdown has begun! After three years of planning, researching, shooting and editing, the film is finally complete. And we’re thrilled to announce the world premiere of DamNation will be at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

    Update 2/12/14: The world premiere is happening on Monday, March 10, 4:30pm at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center. There will be additional screnings on March 11, 13 and 14 in Austin. See SXSW Film for details

    For those unfamiliar with the project:

    This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move us through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.

    [Above: Official film poster for DamNation. Click for larger image.]

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    DamNation – Susitna: Alaska’s Mega Dam(n) Proposal

    By Matt Stoecker and Travis Rummel

    SusitnaKosinaCk-Stoecker_2

    The Susitna is a huge glacial river that drains the indomitable Alaska Range. Denali looms on the horizon. One of America’s last great, wild, undammed rivers, it is home to large numbers of king, sockeye, pink, coho and chum salmon, which push through its heavy currents to spawn in its clear-water tributaries. The “Su” sees the fourth largest king salmon run in Alaska, producing hundreds of thousands of them each year.

    The state of Alaska wants to build a 735-foot-high dam on the Susitna to generate electricity. It would be the nation’s second tallest. It’s not the first time the Su has been looked to as a potential source of hydropower. Studies done in the 1950s and ‘80s both explored the feasibility of damming the river. Both agreed that it didn’t make financial sense.

    [Above: Old growth forests and the confluence of Kosina Creek and the Susitna River would be submerged under the reservoir created by the proposed dam. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

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    DamNation – 80,000 Dams, 51 Interviews and One Film

    By Katie Klingsporn

    Trav_copco

    In July of 2011, Felt Soul Media filmmakers, Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, packed camera gear, computers and a few changes of clothing into a borrowed Sportsmobile van, braced themselves for a whole lot of time together and hit the road.
     
    It was the beginning of a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S. and beyond to research, chronicle and wrap their heads around a growing movement to tear down obsolete dams.

    [Above: Co-director Travis Rummel in the field during the filming of DamNation. All photos courtesy of DamNation]

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    DamNation – The Grand Dame of Dam Busting

    By Katie Klingsporn

    Katie_lee_sing-copy

    Folk-singer, desert goddess, rabble-rouser and all-out spitfire Katie Lee has been raging against Glen Canyon Dam and its reservoir, Lake Powell, for more than 50 years.

    And she’s not slowing down.

    Lee, who is featured in DamNation, a documentary film produced by Patagonia and Stoecker Ecological in conjunction with Felt Soul Media, has penned protest songs and authored books about Glen Canyon, the dam and the Southwest over the years. Just now wrapping up her latest project, “Dandy Crossing,” she tells the story of the handful of people who once lived at Hite, a river crossing that was drowned by Lake Powell, and what happened to them after they were forced from their homes.

    Lee, who is in her 90s, also serves on the advisory board of the Glen Canyon Institute, an environmental group that advocates the draining of Lake Powell and the restoration of the Colorado River. She still performs and speaks for educational and non-profit organizations, as well.

    [Above: The one and only Katie Lee, outside her home in Jerome, Arizona after her interview for DamNation this fall. Photo: Ben Knight]

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    DamNation – Stanford’s Dam Dilemma

    By Katie Klingsporn

    1.-Standford_jasper_Ridge1

    Matt Stoecker spent his childhood tromping around in the creeks of the San Franciquito watershed where he grew up, hunting for frogs, fishing and exploring.

    One day in the mid-90s, he found himself below the 65-foot-tall Searsville Dam on the Corte Madera Creek when he experienced a seminal moment: He saw a 30-inch steelhead jump out of the water and smash itself against the dam.

    He had never seen a fish that size in the creek, and he was struck at the power and futility he witnessed.

    Stoecker soon began volunteering with the San Francisquito Watershed Council, then started a steelhead task force and has been working to remove small dams and other fish barriers in the watershed ever since.

    But all along, he said, “Searsville Dam was the biggest limiting factor.”

    [Hidden behind the fences of Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Searsville Dam creates a stagnant reservoir where algae and non-native species thrive while steelhead and other threatened species are trapped downstream. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

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    DamNation – A River Reestablishes Itself

    By Katie Klingsporn

    Creek

    In September of 2011, machines began chipping away at the Elwha Dam in Washington’s lush Olympic Peninsula, kicking off the largest dam-removal project in United States history.

    The dam has since been completely removed from the section of the Elwha River it had occupied since 1913. Another dam upstream, the Glines Canyon Dam, located in Olympic National Park, is partially dismantled and expected to be a thing of the past by early next summer, freeing the river for the first time in 100 years.

    [Above: The 210 foot Glines Canyon Dam in Olympic National Park has illegally blocked spawning habitat for an extraordinary chinook salmon run since 1927. Photo by Ben Knight/DamNation]

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    DamNation – Free-Flowing Again

    by Katie Klingsporn

    Damnation_condit_2

    A little over a year ago, a 125-foot-tall dam stood in Washington’s White Salmon River, a concrete plug with a serene reservoir at its back and a trickle of river spilling out downstream.

    But it’s hard to tell that today.

    The Condit Hydroelectric Dam, which was built in the early 1900s to harness the energy of the White Salmon for local industry, was blasted into the history books in October 2011 with 700 pounds of carefully placed dynamite.

    The explosion, part of a phased project orchestrated by dam operator Pacificorp as an alternative to building costly fish passages, released the White Salmon River in a torrent of muddy water, debris and sediment, draining Northwestern Lake in less than two hours and freeing the river for the first time in almost a century.

    Since that time, demolition crews have completed the removal of some 35,000 cubic yards of concrete, as well as logjams and other debris in the river.

    And when public-access restrictions were lifted in early November, a group of boaters, river activists, biologists, rafting guides and kayakers converged for a historic float.

    [Above: Washington’s White Salmon river was officially opened to boaters this month after the removal of the Condit Dam, and spawning salmon have already been spotted upstream for the first time in a century. Photos by Ben Knight/DamNation]

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    America: the DamNation

    by Katie Klingsporn

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    Despite their imposing numbers and size, most people never give dams a second thought.

    Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard is not one of those people.

    When he sees dams, he sees broken waterways, an antiquated way of thinking and a means of generating energy that is far from green. He also sees the potential to mend the damage by taking down dams.

    “I’m a fisherman, and I want to see fish come back to these rivers,” Chouinard said. “I want to establish that when you put in a dam or when you dig an open-pit mine or scrape down a mountain, that you have to restore it. There’s a public trust there and you have to restore it.”

    [Above: Executive Producer of DamNation and Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, has long been an advocate of dam busting and protecting free flowing rivers. Photo: Tim Davis.]

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