9000 miles

There comes a time when you just have to go home. Since late July, we’ve driven over 9000 miles and put over 20 hours of footage in the can for Amend. People often say “the Pacific Northwest is anywhere a salmon can swim.” Well, the dams in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho have certainly done their part in changing those boundaries in the last century.

The amount of tax payer money being funneled to Salmon recovery efforts is staggering, and mostly spent on hatchery fish. Some dams still crank out an impressive amount of hydro power, but many are in need of prohibitively expensive upgrades to be efficient—or to provide decent fish passage. The majority of dams that are coming out [or slated to] are being removed for purely economic reasons—nevertheless, it still counts as a victory for wild Pacific Salmon, Steelhead, and anyone who has a soft spot for a free flowing river.

Travis and I are headed east next, to interview a politician or two in DC, and then up to Maine to see if there’s still hope for the mighty Atlantic Salmon. We’ve sadly traded the van for some sh*tty airline, but our exploration of this issue is still far from over. We’ll be back in Oregon later this month for the demolition of the “historic” Condit Dam on the White Salmon River.

Huge thanks thus far to Patagonia, everyone who has taken such good care of us on the road, to Sherry for the use of her monster van, to Beda for just being an absolute angel, and to Melissa and Katie for putting up with an absent husband and boyfriend. Oh, and thank you Travis for putting up with me, I don’t know how you do it.

Last, but not remotely least—Thank you to the Telluride Mountainfilm festival for honoring us with their 2011 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant. Amend is one of five winners this year, and three of them happen to be our friends. [Congrats Drew, Suzan and Hal!] Mountainfilm has been a huge part of my life for 14 years, and the sole reason I started tinkering with moving images. It’s a damn good feeling to have them as a partner on Amend. [bk]  

Sunbeam

Thanks to a bit of inspiration from author Steven Hawley, Travis and I paid our respects to Idaho’s Sunbeam Dam on the Salmon River. Constructed in 1910 to provide power to a near-by mining operation, little thought was given to the fact that it blocked fish passage—Most importantly to the Idaho sockeye. Today, about two thirds of the original structure remains—but the details of how it was breached in 1934 are surprisingly foggy. Idaho Fish and Game supposedly had a line item on the budget for demolition of the dam in 1930, but Hawley says it went unpaid. What’s left of the Sunbeam tombstone may be our earliest example of river restoration done right: blow the son-of-a-bitch up, and the river will take care of the rest. [bk]