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Return to Us: Restoring Alaska’s Eklutna River

The video above is the trailer for the short film: “Return to Us: Restoring Alaska’s Eklutna River.”

This powerful documentary film describes the effort to restore the Eklutna River. Produced by Ryan Peterson, award-winning filmmaker of Super Salmon, this 8-minute film reveals the intertwined histories of the Eklutna Dena’ina Native people and Pacific salmon. The beauty and tragedy of the Eklutna River, the dreams of the Eklutna people, and the tenacity of salmon are revealed in this film.

The Eklutna River near Anchorage, Alaska, is the scene of the most ambitious river restoration project ever attempted in the state. First dammed for hydropower production in the 1920s, the Eklutna is now the subject of a major recovery effort to establish a free-flowing river to benefit salmon and the Eklutna Dena’ina tribe. Beginning in 2015, The Conservation Fund launched a $7.5 million project to remove the Lower Eklutna River dam. As described in the film “Return to Us” the project was completed in 2018 to open the river to salmon once again after 90 years.

According to The Conservation Fund’s Brad Meiklejohn: “Removing the Eklutna River dam was easily the highwater mark of my 30-year conservation career. We have done a lot of good here in Alaska since 1994, but nothing else has generated anything close to the excitement, attention, and eagerness to help that we found on this dam project. This project united people across all boundaries and persuasions to the task of fixing a broken river. People love fixing things, and especially now there is a thirst for helping Nature in real, tangible ways. At the Eklutna we are putting Humpty Dumpty back together after 90 years of being broken.”

You can read more about the Eklunta dam removal project in Meiklejohn’s profile on the project that was published before its completion: “Facing the Challenges of Dam Removal in Alaska.” See also: “Demolishing a Deadbeat Dam in Alaska.”

Photos of the Eklunta River with the dam and after its removal. Please click to enlarge.
(Photos by Brad Meiklejohn)

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