(Editor’s note: Seth Zuckerman is a former publisher of Tidepool, and a longtime Northwest writer.)
What does it take to go beyond intention and scientific analysis to actually repair the damage that has been done to Cascadia’s natural systems? A new DVD attempts to answer one small part of that question as it pertains to salmon.
Our species has made numerous unthinking gestures toward Cascadia’s flagship fish, but one of the worst was to build roads across their streams without apparent regard for the effects on our aquatic neighbors. All manner of stream crossings, especially those metal pipes known as culverts, have put roadblocks in the way of salmon’s journey to their spawning grounds. Sometimes culverts are set too high above the stream for the fish to jump in. Sometimes there’s no pool in the creek where the salmon can gather the momentum for their leaps. Sometimes … well, you get the idea.
Now comes northern California videographer and geologist Thomas B. Dunklin to chronicle what has been done at the southern tip of Cascadia to make amends for these trespasses. His new DVD, Fish Passage Success Stories, demonstrates how effective it can be to simply allow fish back into areas where clumsy road engineering has excluded them. The 55-minute disc includes a tour of different styles of stream crossing that are all better for fish than the standard round corrugated metal pipe; a speeded-up time-lapse sequence of a crew replacing an old culvert with a new one; and a narrative explaining how the most challenging local species – homo sapiens – was recruited to this effort.
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Fishheads will appreciate the cuts of salmon porn, including some terrific underwater shots. Dunklin documents an amazing sight: not only do adult salmon try to leap into the culverts at high flows, but so do juveniles, attempting to take refuge upstream from swift currents. He also portrays the heroics of a handful of salmonistas who netted salmon below an impassable culvert and ran them upstream to redeposit them above the obstacle.
These are the brass tacks with which we cobble together a new relationship with the natural world: half-pipe arches and concrete fishway baffles beneath bridges, excavators and straw bales.
Neither road design nor salmon are unique in this way. In each arena of human activity, Cascadians can apply what we discover about the other species of our region, and learn how to share this terrain with them in ways that ultimately will benefit us as well.
For a copy of the DVD, contact Dunklin: [email protected].