Elwha, be free.

In 1909, 100 pound chinook salmon spawned here amidst the lush ferns and old growth log jams of Glines canyon—13 miles from the ocean in Olympic National Park’s Elwha river. Salmon runs 400,000 strong were not uncommon here. In 1910 the first dam was completed downstream, and the Elwha’s fate was sealed along with many other rivers in the Pacific northwest. Electricity was in high demand, and it was delivered at the expense of many thriving river ecosystems. 

99 years later, the sound of an excavator-mounted jack hammer reverberates off the 210 foot Glines Canyon Dam as crews begin the painstaking process of chipping away at its towering, aging facade. The high pitched metallic sound of the steel hammer against the concrete replaced what would typically be a low rumble from antique turbines in the powerhouse just across the river. 20 years in the making—this historic moment marks the beginning of the largest dam removal project in history.

As the machine nibbled away the first bites of Glines Canyon Dam—a complicated, invitation-only, overly secured celebration began downstream. Various politicians including Washington’s Governor and the Secretary of the Interior gathered to kiss each other’s asses and congratulate the Lower Klallum Tribe for winning a battle to help regain their identity.

The most poignant and stirring moment of the gathering wasn’t delivered by a thoughtful speech or a native american song. As the crowd found their seats, a stunning sight was quietly revealed below the Elwha dam in the spillway. 73 Chinook salmon were circling a rocky, emerald green pool—making regular curious and confused passes by the face of the dam. It’s been 99 years since these fish lost 70 miles of habitat, yet they are still trying to go home. I don’t think anyone could gaze down into that pool Saturday and not be moved by what they saw. That image was infinitely more profound than any word spoken that day.  [bk]

 

 

Klamath

The dam tour continues as Travis and I plow through the Pacific Northwest leaving no one safe from an interview and certainly no concrete wall un-filmed. The Copco 1, [pictured above] is one of four dams that choke California’s Klamath river. In 2010, tree huggers, Native Americans, lip rippers and farmers managed to reach a historic compromise to share water between fish habitat and farms across Oregon and California and remove all four dams as early as 2020. It’s not a sealed deal—but the momentum is certainly building. If the Klamath is set free, it would just so happen to be largest river restoration effort in American history—kind of a big deal.

Huge thanks to the ranch owners who let us use their land to access Copco. [bk]

Meet Dennis…

Slowly but surely, the faces and stories of this dam removal movement are starting to reveal themselves. Dennis Brower has tended to the Condit Dam on Washington’s White Salmon River for thirty years. His house, a stone’s throw away from the powerhouse is where he raised his children. When asked what this day will mean to him, [the day he powers down the generators, forever] he paused for a while and looked up into the old trees that surround the company house he pays $20 a month for. “It’s really sad” said Brower.

The destruction of PacifiCorp’s aging and somewhat inefficient Condit Dam will hopefully revitalize miles of cold water spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead, and open up a stunning stretch of water for river nerds to float. The original design actually had fish ladders which were twice destroyed by floods shortly after the dam’s completion. The cost to build a new fish passage was considerably more than the cost of removing the dam.

The 98 year old Condit is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an engineering and architecture landmark—it will be decommissioned and systematically taken down this fall.

Interesting sh*t: The Condit powerhouse supposedly [on average] generates a comparable amount of power to 5-10 big-ass windmills. [bk]

 

a month and a day


Ben shoots the Lower Elwha River from the Power House | tr photo

Ben and I must be getting old.  There was a fair amount of complaining about knots in our backs and soreness this last month.   Maybe we are just getting softer.  Living out of a van with Ben has had its highpoints as well as its challenges.

We drove over 4,000 miles and traveled from Colorado to Northern BC, down the Pacific coast from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to the Lost Coast of California and finally back to Colorado.  We checked out a lot of dams and spent time with some amazing characters.  There was a lot of silence in the van as we took in the enormity of the story we are attempting to tell and as we wrapped our heads around the subjects from which the story will come.

A month and a day and we are back where we started.  Amend is beginning to take shape.  We are regrouping and gaining perspective on the story—heading out again in early September for another month long go of it.

Stories to come from the last month on the road.  Thank you for staying tuned.

FELT SOUL MEDIA IS DEAD

Not really—we just forgot to update the blog for two years because we’ve been a tad self conscious about making marketing documentaries. There’s really NOTHING wrong with marketing documentaries, we just prefer long term projects.

Just a quick catch up on what happened in the last two years: Eastern Rises, despite my forecast of total suckage, didn’t suck I guess. It’s been one of the best reviewed fly fishing films that we’re aware of—and it did surprisingly well on the film festival scene. I think winning “Best Mountain Sport Film” at the Banff Film Festival was kind of a big deal, considering that category had traditionally been dominated by healthy budgeted skiing, climbing and biking films. It was pretty dang exciting to break down that barrier for the sport of fly fishing.

Travis married this lovely chick Melissa, and I was his best man. I’m still surprised he picked me, but I was honored. We went back to Baja to chase roosters for Travis’s bachelor party. Frank proved that he is the best rental car rally racer of all time, and I caught my first rooster on the last day after Travis accused me of “not trying hard enough.” Instead of using my anger to beat him with an empty tequila bottle—I channeled it into my fly rod. I had actually given up that day, and was taking my clothes off to go swimming… and of course here comes my fish. I was half naked in the photos, but at least I got it done, and Frank [Smethurst] looked like a proud father when he helped me land it.

Despite our total lack of social media skills, we’ve still been fairly busy. Well, to be honest… Travis has been busy. I personally like to work in “spurts.” If that big-ass geyser in Yellowstone only went off once a day, and occasionally only once a month—that would be equivalent to my productivity in the last two years. We’ve worked on short films for The Rainforest Alliance, The Telluride Tourism Board, Nextel, Hawaii Airlines, Scott Fly Rod Company. I’ve also been filming for Suzan Beraza’s new flick “Uranium Drive In.” Suzan and her crew is best known for their film “Bag It” which has been creating massive change in people’s thinking about plastic bag use all over the world.

Currently we’re in northern British Columbia working on our new film, “Amend.” Travis hasn’t embraced the working title yet… but I figured I’d just put it out there to see what people thought.

Amend: [1] to change for the better; improve: to amend one’s ways [2] to remove or correct faults; rectify

The film is about what appears to be nation-wide movement behind the removal of dams and the push to restore spawning grounds for native sea run fish. Yup, fish again. More fish. That’s what we do. Some guy named Yvon who makes fancy clothes and his son-in-law Matt have asked us to make the film, and we’re going to do our best to tell another story that needs to be told. [bk]


Commercial + Documentary = Scott Fly Rod Behind the Scenes

Link

Jim Bartschi and Ian Crabtree at the Scott Fly Rod Co. asked us to make them a little video so folks could get a feel for where their favorite fishing tools come from. We’re calling this a “marketing documentary.” If a commercial and a documentary had a sultry, drunken one night stand—and the documentary slapped the commercial around a little bit and said dirty things like: “You’ve never had it like this before have you?” this is what you’d get, nine months later. [bk]

Eastern Rises is done — well, sort of…

We’ve been getting a lot of e-mails like this one due to Ben being the slowest editor EVER:

Dear Felt Soul Media,
When the hell is Eastern Rises going to be available for purchase? 
Thanks for the time, 

Josh

Well Josh, Eastern Rises is finally done – almost.  It has taken us a bit longer than planned, but the final film is our best to date and hopefully will be judged to be worth the wait. ER will premier at the 2010 Telluride Mountainfilm Festival (mountainfilm.org) at the end of May. The DVD will be released soon after the premier.  We thank you for your patience and continued interest.

In the meantime we started a mini-site for ER at www.easternrises.com, there’s not much to see there at the moment besides some Russian mosquitos doing pull ups and the ER trailer, but as we get closer to dropping the DVD we will get it fully dialed and worth a visit.  Stay tuned.

Smethurst Successfully Spawns

frank_spawn

It’s a proud day at Felt Soul headquarters as we welcome Mallory Dolores Smethurst [the little girl at the bottom left who isn't crying] to the team. She’s 5 days old now and according to Frank “she’s already double hauling in her crib and scanning the horizon for fish.” It seems like yesterday when Frank was pale as a ghost and scared shitless when he found out what he’d done, but we all knew he’d make an incredible father. Frank, Carol, we love you and we’re so happy for you.

The gift that keeps on giving…

redgold_case_wrap
It was starting to feel like a never-ending awkward moment… 
A situation you walked into carelessly without consideration of how you’d escape. I wanted to design the Red Gold DVD myself, but if there’s anything I’m slower at than editing it’s design. I’m convinced Travis had dreamed of killing me in my sleep with an icicle with one hand while texting a professional designer with the other. “It’s done, you may begin the design” he would text. I made the mistake of telling Travis that I wasn’t positive the play button in the DVD menu would actually function… [Apple's DVD Studio Pro was created by Satan under the label "unintuitive torture device"] I didn’t realize the impact my concern about the play button would make on Travis. I don’t think he slept well for a month, and I’m pretty sure his girlfriend didn’t get any foot rubs during this anxiety ridden time.
dvd_delivery
When the 5,000 DVD’s arrived by semi in Denver, we quietly off-loaded the boxes into Travis’s garage and didn’t speak until a the first DVD was loaded into the player. While the menu loaded, I gritted my teeth and rubbed my forehead almost anticipating a headache. Travis looked pale and prepared for disappointment as he glanced at the remote for the play button. Thank fuck, it played. It took a full two years for us to get to this point… a man-hug happened… Travis said I could be his friend again and we congratulated each other on a job well done. This is where you’d click to order a DVD if you like that sort of thing: www.feltsoulmedia.com/products

What’s up with Pebble? How can I help?

lauren1

—The latest update from Lauren Oakes [Red Gold co-producer]

In addition to all the inquiries we get about where one can acquire the soundtrack, my inbox is flooded every day with emails that go like this: “I saw Red Gold… It made me cry [men, women, children all write this]…What’s going on with Pebble right now and can I help?”  Of course the answer is Yes! Yes! Yes!

On November 14, 2008, Ben and I stood before 500 people at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to show Red Gold [what an honor].  On the very same day, just a block away from the theater in the Bureau of Land Management building, President’s Bush’s staff put out a Record of Decision for the Bristol Bay Area Management Plan.  It opened nearly 2 million acres of federal land surrounding the Pebble Site to mining exploration.  2 million acres.  So while citizens continue to battle development of the Pebble mine on Alaskan State land, we now face the worst – Pebble amidst a mining district in the heart of the world’s largest remaining sockeye salmon fishery.  When the Obama administration comes into office, our leaders of change will have 30 days to reverse this decision.

State Land. Federal Land. To me, the land classifications are borders drawn for management purposes.  But in reality Bristol Bay and its pristine waters, the abundant wild salmon runs, the life this watershed sustains are global resources we cannot replace.  We need more people standing up saying “No – not here, not this place.  Wrong location. A risk not worth taking.”

Support for gaining permanent legislative protection for the Bristol Bay watershed continues to grow.  The Trout Unlimited Alaska program is currently engaged in a number of projects to stop development of the Pebble Mine.  We are placing emphasis on necessary science research so we can understand more of the critical water and habitat issues.  We are also working with state and federal policymakers to support legislative protection, and we are leading a nationwide campaign to educate and engage salmon consumers on the values of wild salmon conservation and cuisine (www.whywild.org).  We continue to raise state, national, and international support for protecting this world-renowned watershed, a mosaic of unconfined rivers supporting nearly a 1/3 of our wild salmon supply.

Yes! You can help.

**** Write members of congress today and express you support for protecting the watershed from mining development.  Ask the new administration to keep BLM lands in Bristol Bay closed to mining.

*** Donate.  I hate this part about asking for money but it’s true;  to do more good work to protect Bristol Bay we need more financial support and that’s the simple reality they taught me here in non-profit world.  www.savebristolbay.org

** Host a Red Gold screening.  Contact Emily Long:  emily@feltsoulmedia.com.

* When you’re at the grocery, or at your favorite restaurant… please request wild salmon. You’ll be supporting sustainable, well-managed fisheries and increasing the demand for what Bristol Bay is famous for. Avoid the farmed stuff unless you have a thing for artificially colored dinner.

And then lastly I’d like just like to thank the people who believed in this project, Ben and Travis for asking questions and listening, and then all those who understand there are still some places left on this planet we must protect.   Please go flood the email boxes of your congressman and tell them they have a chance to save one of our last great salmon runs.    – Lauren (loakes@tu.org)