Currently, “there are an estimated seventy-five thousand dams in the United States. We have been building, on average, one large dam a day, every day, since the Declaration of Independence.” Trout on the Wind, The Hemlock Dam Removal Story offers us a helpful case study of the growing trend of dam removal and watershed restoration.
Trout Creek, in Washington’s Columbia River Gorge, is habitat to about forty percent of the Lower Columbia steelhead in the Hood River drainage. When the fish was placed on the endangered species list in 1998, the community began looking closely at removing the dam.
The Hemlock Dam was constructed in the 1930s by the newly created California Conservation Corps, and was built mostly by hand. The Corps thought to install a fish ladder, revolutionary in the region at that time.
Featuring a balance of interviews and historical footage, Trout on the Wind shows us step by step how Hemlock Dam was built, and then three quarters of a century later removed. Finally, we see first hand the Trout Creek drainage restored.
The dam created a lovely little reservoir that became a favorite swimming hole for the locals. As one grandfather watches his reservoir disappear, he laments that now “fish are more important that people”. He has not, as so many now have, reframed the relationship between human and fish.
The trend cannot be denied: according to Elizabeth Grossman, for the first time in U.S. history, more dams are being removed than constructed. Trout on the Wind provides a fascinating glimpse at the moment the pendulum has stopped. It is just beginning to swing back. Hope for the fish and for all of us.
Trout on the Wind: The Hemlock Dam Removal Story screens Friday evening at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City. Ralph Bloemers and Sam Drevo created the film and will be there in person. This film is a must see for those who want to better understand why our nation is starting to remove its dams.