The Susitna River Coalition is bringing Stoecker Ecological and Felt Soul Media’s new award-winning documentary, DamNation, to communities across Alaska this spring and summer. The film will premiere in Juneau at 7 p.m. on May 29 and 30 at the Goldtown Nickelodeon.
Presented by Patagonia, DamNation, tells the story of the 20th century dam building boom in the Lower 48 and explores the growing effort to remove dams that have negative impacts on fish, and the growing awareness that America’s future is bound to the life and health of free-flowing rivers. The film is receiving acclaim across the country, including the Audience Choice Award at this year’s SXSW Festival.
In the Lower 48 more than 75,000 dams have eliminated many wild salmon populations and pushed most runs to the brink of extinction. After more than two centuries of hydropower operations in the Lower 48, and despite all attempts to mitigate the salmon losses they caused, not a single threatened or endangered salmon stock has fully recovered.
In 2011, the State of Alaska resurrected plans to dam the Susitna River with the Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project, the first mega-scale hydroelectric project proposed in the United States in more than 40 years. The Susitna River is a major producer of five species of Pacific salmon including one of the Alaska’s largest Chinook salmon runs. The construction of a mega-dam in the heart of the Susitna watershed is in direct conflict with Alaska’s Sustainable Salmon Policy. DamNation shows how dams have led to the decline of wild salmon throughout the Western United States. Alaska wild salmon support jobs and communities locally, and across the Pacific Coast. While the proposed 735-foot tall Susitna-Watana dam would be the second tallest in the US, it would produce only 280 to 350 megawatts of power-just 10 percent of the power generated at Grand Coulee in Washington State. Additionally, recent studies are dismissing the notion of “clean” hydropower by showing that dams and their reservoirs are actual major greenhouse gas emitters worldwide.
The Susitna River Coalition supports reduced electricity needs through efficiency and conservation measures and the development of less harmful sources of electricity without catastrophic risks, like those posed by the Susitna dam. The film tour comes on the heels of the closing of the Alaska State Legislature, where the Susitna-Watana project received $20 million in funding on top of last year’s $170 million. The tour kicked-off in Talkeetna on April 27 and will continue to show at cities across Alaska throughout the summer.