Monday, May 26, 2014

Damnation, and the Reclaiming of Northwestern Rivers

When I was in elementary school, at least once a year the teacher would haul out the movie projector and show us "It Couldn't be Done," a 1970 TV special featuring a hippie-ish Lee Marvin and the band the Fifth Dimension presenting inspiring stories of American achievement. (Trippy excerpt here.) One of the achievements celebrated was the Hoover Dam. Who could doubt that the dam was one of the greatest efforts in the history of mankind?

Lately we have been reconsidering. One of the most interesting developments in the western environment in the reevaluation of the many dam projects which remade our rivers in the mid-20th century. Many aging dams don't produce all that much electricity or other economic benefits, yet continue to have enormous environmental impacts. Why not take them out and restore the natural rivers that we have lost? In 2011 the removal of the Elwha Dam on the Olympic peninsula began what is shaping up as a national movement. A new film, Damnation, reviews the history of damming western rivers and the possibilities and benefits of removing some of them:

I am going to see if we cannot get a local screening of this film. Are you listening, Bart Milhailovich?

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