“If you are against a dam, you are for a river.” – David Brower
Disrupting ecological cycles is (very broadly) what dams do. That is the undeniable reason we erect the blockages. In fact, our intention in building four dams along the Snake River was exactly that: to disrupt ecological cycles thereby improving accessibility via transportation in a concentrated effort to increase the economic output of a region, specifically the Pacific Northwest. And while that intention might have seen the expected positive financial returns in previous eras, that is not the case today. As of 2015, these aforementioned four dams are no longer viable. Contrarily, in operation/subsidy costs alone, we are losing at least $150 MILLION EACH YEAR… and that’s taxpayer money, mind you.
But even worse is the devastating effects this disruption has had on the salmon runs, wiping out immense populations along as it tore apart the habitat and its throughways. If you are not one to see how that might be bad, then let me quantify that for you: local paper The Oregonian estimates that the PNW spends upwards of $1 BILLION EACH YEAR on salmon recovery, a recovery that would be otherwise completely unnecessary had we not effectively cut the fish off from their life-source.
Fortunately, organizations like Patagonia and the filmmakers behind DamNation see the devastation and know we all need to see it as well. Therefore, they have put together this short, ‘Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River,’ as something of an education.
The most important takeaway for me was when engineer Jim Waddell said: “Look at this as a means, not an end.”
These dams are not in-states; they are not “set in stone” for our future, however set in stone they structurally are.
It is up to us to stand up and protect our lands. It might seem a tall task, but it is possible. Though revered environmentalist David Brower forever regretted not putting up a big enough fight against the Glen Canyon Dam, he and his contemporaries are largely the reason why there are no dams in the Grand Canyon.
We must be resilient in our demands to return the country to its vibrant state, and by bringing down these four dams — which would be the biggest watershed restoration in North America — we will start forth a ripple effect of restoration.
I, for one, see the country as worth it. Where do you stand?
For more information on Free the Snake and its dam-centric initiative, head on over to Patagonia’s website.