Take Action: Saving the Colorado and Free-Flowing Free Flowing Rivers

Posted on 02.16.2012 by AAO Staff

The Colorado River from the book "Chasing Water". Photo by Pete McBride

Last year, we watched photojournalist Pete McBride’s film Chasing Water at 5Point Film Festival. We always had an idea of the dire straits on the Colorado River, but the images in the film and accompanying book made it impossible to forget. Our mighty Colorado River that cut the Grand Canyon, that flows powerfully through the western states has been pushed, pulled and sucked dry — so much that it rarely reaches the ocean.

Colorado author Jonathan Waterman, who accompanied Pete McBride on his journey down the Colorado River, wrote in a recent New York Times opinion piece:

Until 1998 the Colorado regularly flowed south along the Arizona-California border into a Mexican delta, irrigating farmlands and enriching a wealth of wildlife and flora before emptying into the Gulf of California.

But decades of population growth, climate change and damming in the American Southwest have now desiccated the river in its lowest reaches, turning a once-lush Mexican delta into a desert…

Officials from Mexico and the United States are now talking about ways to increase the flow into the delta. With luck, someday it may reach the sea again… By strengthening the treaty between the United States and Mexico that governs the Colorado River, we have the opportunity to revive the river and show the world, as it is suggested in Ecclesiastes, that all rivers shall run to the sea.

Please take action to save the Colorado River here.

While we know the fight to restore the Colorado River’s flow will be a tough fight, we only have to look to the Pacific Northwest for encouragement. Last year, historic action began on the Elwha River when crews began demolition of the two massive dams that have blocked the rivers flow for a century — the largest river restoration in history. But it didn’t stop there. One month later, crews packed more than 700 pounds of dynamite into the base of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in southwest Washington. Once detonated, the White Salmon River erupted through the hole, draining the reservoir behind the dam in less than an hour. Together, these dramatic events marked a new momentum in river restoration.

American Rivers, a national organization that works to protect and restore rivers across the United States called 2011 the “Year of the River” — marking these two historic events and the removal of 1,000 dams across the country. American Rivers, American Whitewater and the Hydropower Reform Coalition released a short film today that illustrates the remarkable dam removals on Elwha and White Salmon rivers. The seven-minute film premiered at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in January and is the final installment in the “Year of the River” series by Andy Maser.

“People are hungry for positive news, and these river restoration stories are so inspiring,” said Amy Kober, senior communications director for American Rivers. “Our goal with the video was to share the good news and help people celebrate, and hopefully create some renewed appreciation for healthy, free-flowing rivers.”

The White Salmon and Elwha rivers have begun to recover with dam removal estimated to be complete in one to three years, respectively. Once the dams are completely removed, salmon and steelhead will have access to upstream habitat for the first time in 100 years. But perhaps more importantly, the removal of these dams has built a powerful momentum for free-flowing rivers throughout the West and America.

Please take action to remove 100 dams in 2012 here.