Ryan Burns / Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 @ 2:31 p.m.

(VIDEO) Short Documentary Explores How Klamath Dams Have Damaged the Health of Local Tribes and the River That Feeds Them


Documentary courtesy American Rivers and Swiftwater Films.

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Documentary filmmaker Shane Anderson, whose previous work includes the award-winning Eel River documentary A River's Last Chance, has embarked on a new film project chronicling the removal of four dams on the upper Klamath River.

This dam removal, which will be the largest in U.S. history, is currently scheduled to commence in 2023 thanks to an agreement reached last month between utility company PacifiCorps and the states of Oregon and California, along with the Yurok and Karuk tribes.

Anderson tells the Outpost via email that he has already begun filming for a feature-length documentary that will follow the dam-removal project from beginning to end. 

"Every year I will release a short piece leading up to the big day, and this past fall I partnered with American Rivers and members of the Yurok tribe to produce a short 15 minute piece that was released," he wrote.

That piece, called Guardians of the River, can be viewed in full at the top of this post. 

Anderson also forwarded a press release, which we've published below. And in case you don't currently have 15 minutes to watch the documentary short posted above, allow this trailer to whet your appetite:

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In a new film by American Rivers and Swiftwater Films, Indigenous leaders share why removing four dams to restore a healthy Klamath River is critical for clean water, food sovereignty and justice.

The film, “Guardians of the River,” features Frankie Joe Myers, Vice Chair of the Yurok Tribe, Sammy Gensaw, director of Ancestral Guard, Barry McCovey, fisheries biologist with the Yurok Tribe, and members of the Ancestral Guard and Klamath Justice Coalition.

“Without these salmon, our way of life is impossible,” Sammy Gensaw, Yurok tribal member and director, Ancestral Guard, says in the film. “We’ve dedicated years of our lives -- our young lives -- to give opportunity for the next generation to live on a healthy, dam-free river.”

“This river is our umbilical cord. What feeds us, what nurtures us,” Annelia Hillman, Yurok tribal member and member of the Klamath Justice Coalition, says in the film. “This reciprocal relationship that we have with it -- I would do anything for this river, just like I would my own children.”

Following an agreement signed in November by the Yurok and Karuk tribes, the states of Oregon and California, Berkshire Hathaway and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, dam removal on the Klamath River is scheduled to begin in 2023.

The four dams – Copco 1, Copco 2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle -- block habitat and have devastated salmon populations. The reservoirs behind the dams encourage growth of algae that is toxic to people, fish and wildlife. Removing the dams will restore salmon access to more than 400 miles of habitat, improve water quality and strengthen local communities that rely on salmon for their food, economy and culture.

“The Klamath River Restoration wouldn’t be where it is today without the leadership of the river’s Indigenous people. They are showing the nation and the world what it means to care for a place, and each other,” said Brian Graber, senior director of river restoration for American Rivers.

"As a filmmaker it was an honor and privilege to spend time with such an inspirational group,” said Shane Anderson with Swiftwater Films. “We look forward to spending the next several years with this community as we document the dam removal for a feature film about the restoration of the Klamath River."


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