One Year Later, Filmmakers Find Dam Removal Has Captured the Public’s Imagination

Beyond the Edge: National Geographic Adventure Blog, February 3, 2015, By Michelle Nijhuis

A year after their award-winning film came out, the DamNation filmmakers share a look at the growing public support for “deadbeat” dam removal in the U.S.

This past summer, a demolition crew used a battery of explosives to destroy the last section of the 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in northwestern Washington state. The blasts completed the largest dam-removal project in history, and they were a milestone for a movement: for 20 years, conservationists have campaigned to remove outdated and ecologically destructive dams from U.S. rivers. Many of the 1,185 dams removed so far are small—some less than 10 feet high—but the successful removal of large dams like Glines Canyon have bolstered the movement’s confidence and increased its ambitions. (Find out about the dams removed or blown up in the U.S. in 2014.)

Filmmakers Travis Rummel and Matt Stoecker, along with their colleague Ben Knight, chronicled this movement in their acclaimed 2014 documentary DamNation (Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia, is the film’s executive producer). Last week, Rummel and Stoecker brought their film to Washington, D.C., for showings on Capitol Hill and at National Geographic. They also met with members of Congress and White House officials to press for the removal of the lower Snake River dams, four large federal dams in eastern Washington state that many scientists and conservationists say are a major obstacle to salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin. They also delivered a petition with 60,000+ signatures in support of removing “deadbeat” dams, or dams that are no longer productive. Rummel and Stoecker say that the seemingly speedy restoration of rivers like the Elwha is an eloquent argument for freeing the Snake.

'A lot of people have never seen [dam removal] happen, and they feel like it’s too complicated, too risky,' says Stoecker. 'It’s super powerful for them to see that restoration after dam removal isn’t a question mark. It’s a given that these systems come back.'"


Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment

"Exquisitely shot and powerfully told."
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post