a Second Look: Communities and Dam Removal
than 500 dams have been removed in the United States, but thousands
more remain to wreak havoc with fish, clean water, and the communities
where they are located. A coalition of national and regional conservation
organizations including Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, and the
National Park Service had been working to promote the concept of
dam removal around the country, and decided a video program would
be the best way to significantly expand their efforts. Green Fire,
on the basis of its ability to craft short, compelling documentaries
that use facts and real-life experiences, was chosen from among
three finalists. Green Fire was also selected because, rather than
rely on rhetoric, it encourages viewers to consider and undertake
innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues.
decision makers learn that their dam is having problems, they often
decide between whether to fix it, or replace it. But when presented
with the potential benefits of a third choice, dam removal, they
often take that information into serious consideration. Therefore,
Green Fire decided that skeptics of dam removal should be the target
audience for this video, and could most reliably be persuaded by
their peers. The video features interviews with key decision makers
including mayors, city council members, and CEOs, along with
engineers and concerned community members, some of whom initially
opposed the dam removal but are now impressed by the results.
Fire produced a 20-minute video program that profiles three towns
in Maine, Wisconsin, and California where dams have been removed
and their citizens have experienced benefits to their river, community
and economy. The video shows what happens when people dare to consider
whether or not a dam makes sense for their community. The video
was presented to, among many others, a town council in Pennsylvania
that was considering what to do with their problem dam. After watching
the video, the council voted unanimously in favor of dam removal.
Nearly 4,000 tapes are now being used regularly by natural resource
agencies, local governments, communities, city councils, and citizens
considering the fate of problem dams. Wisconsins Department
of Natural Resources has ordered 250 copies of the video for all
of its offices to use in training and community outreach. Even dam
owners and engineers that both build and dismantle dams are using
the tape. Recently a Canadian engineering firm purchased 50 copies
of the tape to share with their colleagues at the 2001Canadian Dam
Association annual meeting to use as an effective public outreach
tool to quell opposition to specific dam removal projects.
was a clear change of mind after viewing Taking a Second Look.
Our town council was divided on the very contentious decision of
whether to repair or remove the Collegeville dam. Only after watching
the video did everyone wholeheartedly support removing the publicly
owned dam, and we voted 5-0 in favor of dam removal."
Terrie Stagliano, Town Councilwoman of Collegeville Borough, Pennsylvania
owners themselves are using this tape to show that dam removal has
very positive benefits." - Richard Donnelly, engineer, Acres