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DAMnation- Pulling the Plug on Hydropower in the North West

Filmed over the last three years, “Damnation” documents both sides of dam conservation and removal pushes in the United States and heavily focuses on the North West, specifically dams in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It was shown at the Flicks on Sunday as part of Treefort’s Film Festival.

“The conversation has changed,” David Montgomery argued in the film.

The era of dam building was heaviest from World War I to World War II when most of the nation’s energy came from hydropower.

“Now in 2014 solar power is cheaper,” said Reed Burkholder as he pointed to the ceiling lights and explains that they are lit by solar panels on the roof of the Flicks.

The United States has more options for sustainable energy production; the conversation has shifted to whether or not dams in the United States are still worth the detriment they cause to the fish population.

“The snake river once produced 50 percent of all the spring summer chinook and steel head in the entire Columbia basin, which was the biggest salmon runs on the planet,” said Tom Stewart.

The project Idaho Rivers United is currently working on removing four dams in lower Idaho which produce between 2 and 4 percent of the energy for the region depending on the season. By removing this 1 percent of dams in the Columbia basin, an estimated 70 percent of the Colombia basin fish populations will be able to spring back.

In the Q&A Ben Knight, the director of “Damnation,” explained that there has been a generation shift in values.

“Our generation is starting not to look at dams as part of the landscape,” Knight said.

He notes that millennial need to starting to question the impact that dams have on our watershed.

“Everything that was happening 50, 80, 100 years ago was a really short-sighted way of thinking,” Knight said.

According to Idaho Rivers United’s Greg Stall the point is not to remove all dams, but simply to reevaluate them to see if they make economic sense or not.

“In Washington, Oregon and Idaho there are 7,000 megawatts of wind turbines; the lower snake river has a capacity of 3,000 megawatts. We’ve already replaced those dams,” Stall said.

“Damnation” is scheduled to premiere at several different film festivals over the next month and then is rumored to be going up on Netflix for mass viewership.

About Patricia Bowen (227 Articles)
Patricia Bowen is a creative writing student extraordinaire at Boise State University. Her unpaid internship experience is immense and includes a summer internship with Semilla Nueva, The Cabin, Boise Weekly and a semester internship with The Ahsahta Press. Currently Patricia works as Managing Editor for the Arbiter. While she continues into her junior year of college she plans to write more poetry about the spider infestation in her room and drink too much coffee.