One of my favorite fisheries in this world sits at the bottom of canyon in northeastern Utah in the Ashley National Forest. The unique thing about this fishery is that it would not be anything like it was today if it wasn’t for the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam was authorized on April 11, 1956 and the 502 foot dam would change the landscape and the future for Dagget County Utah and surrounding areas forever.
At this point you may be asking yourself “Why is this important?” It is important to know that the Flaming Gorge Dam makes sense for the area in which it is located. However there are countless dams in this country that do not. Dam removal and management is a hot button issue for many people and is the subject of a great documentary film titled DamNation.
DamNation is an in-depth investigation into the financial viability and environmental impacts that dams have as well as how this engineering feat has pontentially been overused in a majority of cases in this country. The filmmakers examine some of the largest waterways this nation has to offer including the Snake, Glen Canyon and Columbia just to name a few. A vast majority of these cases that are examined within the film are truly heartbreaking.
One example examined in the film is the case of Celilo Falls of the Columbia river.This natural wonder served as the fishing grounds for a number of local native tribes. Yearly these people would harvest salmon from the river as a source of food and economic trade. Sadly this natural wonder was doomed to a preverbial death sentence in 1952 when the Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the Dulles Dam. The dam was completed in 1957 and the Celilo falls were quickly consumed by the rising waters of the Columbia, a natural wonder and a cultural identity was quickly submerged in the name of “progress”, The situation is best summed up by Ted Strong of the Yakama Nation “Celilo still reverberates in the heart of every Native American who ever fished or lived by it. They can still see all the characteristics of the waterfall. If they listen, they can still hear its roar. If they inhale, the fragrances of mist and fish and water come back again. ”
The United States Bureau of Reclamation in accordance with the 1902 reclamation act constructed 30 thousand dams from 1950-1970. Some of these dams were and still are highly controversial. The sad part is that a common theme with lot of these dams is that they are “just a sign of progress”. However that “progress” is extremely detrimental to salmon and steelhead populations throughout the country. In some cases entire populations have been eradicated.
A growing movement within the United States is encompassed within this film. Dam removal is a HUGE issue within some parts of the country and for good reason. I for one do not believe that every dam in this country should be removed. David Mongomery a geology professor from the University of Washington put it best. “We don’t need to remove all dams now, but we should rethink all dams. If some no longer make sense, we should get rid of them”. In the words of the influential environmental activist John Muir “Free The Rivers”.
DamNation Serves as a catalyst to present a case for environmental and social change to the masses in a very informative and breathtaking documentary film. The filmmakers at Stoeckler Ecological & Felt Sole Media deserve all the recognition they have received and continue to receive with this film because it is truly breathtaking. It can be seen on Netflix or it is available on Itunes. I would urge any angler, boater, kayaker, or outdoor enthusiast to check this film out.