The Cleanest Line

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    DamNation – Free-Flowing Again

    by Katie Klingsporn

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    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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    Wild Salmon Get a Champion in Gov. Kitzhaber, but are Under Attack in Congress

    by Bobby Hayden, Save Our Wild Salmon

    If you’re excited by the progress being made to restore healthy free-flowing rivers and recover wild salmon across the country (think the Elwha, White Salmon, Kennebec, Penobscot, Sandy, and Rogue Rivers) – and you want to see more – please read on.

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    First, the good news: salmon get a political champion.

    Every so often – even in our currently highly polarized political climate – elected-leaders work to rise above the fray and seek new, collaborative solutions to tough challenges.

    [Above: Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. Photo courtesy of the State of Oregon.]

    Continue reading "Wild Salmon Get a Champion in Gov. Kitzhaber, but are Under Attack in Congress" »

    The Whole Altar

    by Nate Grey

    Alaska_2004_264The early morning stillness is broken by a whining sound. I can barely detect it over the sound of the river whispering past. I re-set to cast and send the big black leech cross current to the far bank. I mend the line and settle in for the short drift. The light is too low to see the fish. I know they are there, though. The previous evening I had scouted. The far bank showed several rainbows two feet long or longer. Big fish. Healthy fish. Hungry fish. I’m actually a little chilled. It’s worth it, though. Later in the day other folks will arrive. I’ll be long gone by then, asleep in my tent. Getting up at 3AM is definitely worth it for the solitude and the chance to fish these big fish without worry of getting stepped on by other folks looking to do what I’m doing. So far I’ve hooked and lost four fish. In my mind, each fish larger than the last. The fish are athletic jumpers and managed to spit the big barbless black leech each time. And each time I’d curse my slow reaction time.

    Again, I hear the whining noise. The early morning fog seems to attenuate the noise for a moment and then it’s gone again. I wade downstream to set up for a pocket against the far bank that showed several larger fish the previous day. These fish are large for a reason. They’re well fed. Extremely well fed. The bigger rainbows feed on the corpses and eggs of the dead sockeye salmon that are soon to accumulate here. The larger rainbows know that the smorgasbord is soon to start.

    The sockeye are the reason these rainbows are here, the reason I’m here. Without the sockeye there would be rainbows but not nearly as large nor as abundant. The sockeye are what makes this whole river teem with rainbows. It’s not just the adult salmon the rainbows feed on but the young fry and smolt of the salmon as well. Spring, summer and fall there is a steady stream of food provided by the salmon and the rainbows take every advantage.

    [Photo: Mark Emery]

    Continue reading "The Whole Altar" »

    Save Our wild Salmon

    by Pat Ford

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    2012 marks the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition’s 20th birthday – and the 14th year we have worked with Patagonia. Apart from commercial and sport fishing industry associations within SOS itself, Patagonia is the longest-running business partner in our work. Our work is to help Columbia-Snake wild salmon restore themselves – the fish will do the restoring, if we provide some basic conditions and get out of their way – by, for example, restoring a working Snake River in eastern Washington by removing its four outdated dams.

    With help from Patagonia and other allies, we have forced the federal government to honor its obligations to wild fish and as a result tens of thousands more salmon and steelhead are now alive. This has bought time against extinction for these most imperiled wild fish. And we have built a lot of support for the largest river restoration ever done on earth, 140 miles of the lower Snake River. The American Fisheries Society’s western division calls this the surest way to restore the Snake’s salmon and steelhead.

    [Above: Sockeye Salmon in Little Redfish Lake Creek. Oncorhynchus nerka
    Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), Idaho, USA. Photo: Neil Ever Osborne, ILCP]

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    American Rivers Announces America’s Most Endangered River for 2012

    by Emily Nuchols

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    Sometimes destruction is a good thing. Last year, we watched bulldozers and jackhammers break apart and remove massive chunks of concrete from the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River in Washington, and we cheered as the first flows of water broke through the cracks. We had been waiting for this moment for more than 20 years. The Elwha and its wild salmon and steelhead had been waiting for more than a century.

    A month later, we stood motionless with hundreds of people, until we heard the first pop of dynamite exploding at the base of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington. With that dramatic eruption, the White Salmon broke free — reclaiming its wild course for the first time in 100 years.

    Continue reading "American Rivers Announces America’s Most Endangered River for 2012" »

    Putting Water Back

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    Patagonia’s Our Common Waters campaign isn’t only about demolishing dams. The impact of a dam on rivers and ecosystems lingers well past their expiration date, so removing them is still necessary in many cases. But that’s the work of remedying our past mistakes. The future requires that we find new ways to reduce our water and energy footprints so fewer dams are built in the first place.


    That’s what this essay, "Putting Water Back," is about ­ finding creative new ways to alter consumption patterns, and in areas where we haven’t yet found a way to do that, helping others who have.

    Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, sometimes quotes environmentalist David Brower, who was once asked why conservationists are always against things. Brower’s reply: “If you are against something, you are always for something. If you are against a dam, you are for a river.”

    "Putting Water Back" is also about keeping an eye on what we are for. Doing so opens us up to the wide range of solutions needed to mend the environment ­ and to keep up the momentum on the road ahead.

    [Above: An adult steelhead – one of only two seen in 2011 during an afternoon spent looking for steelies on the Ventura River. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

    Continue reading "Putting Water Back" »

    The Penobscot River Restoration Project

    by Topher Browne

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    In September, 2011, The Cleanest Line reported the demise of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. Currently the largest dam removal project on the continent, the demolition of the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam will allow five species of Pacific salmon – including a super strain of Chinook salmon topping 100 pounds – to access more than 70 miles of previously unavailable waterways. Salmon currently spawn in five miles of river below the Elwha Dam, which provides no fish passage.

    Dam busting is a hot commodity on both the left and right coasts of North America. On December 17, 2010, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust – a joint venture between American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and Trout Unlimited – purchased the Veazie, Howland and Great Works Dams on the Penobscot River in Maine at a cost of 25 million dollars. Phase Two of the Penobscot River Restoration Project begins with the removal of the Great Works Dam in 2012 and the removal of the Veazie Dam over a two-year period beginning in 2013. Construction of a fish bypass at Howland Dam runs concurrently with dam removal. The estimated cost to implement this phase of the project is 30 million dollars.

    [Above: Great Works Dam, the first dam to be removed during the project. Photo: Bridget Besaw]

    Continue reading "The Penobscot River Restoration Project " »

    Elwha Eloquence - Yvon Chouinard & Dylan Tomine Speeches from the 2011 River Science Symposium

    Yvon Chouinard speaks at the 2011 Elwha River Science Symposium about the value of selectively harvesting salmon by species, a technique Patagonia Provisions is employing for our upcoming Wild Salmon Jerky. The Symposium was held in conjunction with the historic Elwha River dam removal ceremony.


    [Elwha River: Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia]

    Patagonia fly fishing ambassador Dylan Tomine also spoke at the event about the importance of letting the Elwha heal naturally instead of restocking the river with nonnative hatchery-raised fish.

    Hit the jump to see Dylan's speech.

    Continue reading "Elwha Eloquence - Yvon Chouinard & Dylan Tomine Speeches from the 2011 River Science Symposium" »

    A World of Rivers

    by Jason Rainey

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    Water is life. Our bodies are about 60% water. Over two thirds of the surface of the Earth is covered by water, but only 0.006% of the Earth’s freshwater reserves is stored in rivers. As Patagonia's Our Common Waters campaign points out, the rivers of today’s world are broken. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s rivers have been dammed and diverted, and many major rivers of the world are tapped out before they reach the sea. Fifteen percent of the annual rainfall around the globe is now sequestered in reservoirs instead of replenishing floodplains and carrying nutrients to the sea.

    The Colorado, the Indus, the Nile and the Yellow are just a few of the rivers that have had their perennial connection to the ocean broken. And nations that are rapidly industrializing threaten the remaining great rivers of the world with new dam-building schemes.

    Continue reading "A World of Rivers" »

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