Film by Truckee local to be featured at Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City
KNOW & GO
Who: South Yuba River Citizens League
What: 18th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival
When: Thursday, Jan. 16, through Monday, Jan. 20
Where: Various locations in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley
More info: http://www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org
Starting its path in Northern California’s Klamath Mountains, the Sacramento River flows nearly 400 miles to the Delta, serving as a water supply for agriculture and a life source for wildlife and major cities across the state.
The river, however, is more complex than its gentle current, said Mitch Dion, a Truckee resident who spent 13 days floating from Redding to the Sacramento Delta.
“It’s the main line of moving water from the north part of the state to the south part of the state,” said Dion. “There’s so much going on politically, economically and infrastructure-wise.”
What started as a plan for a fun trip down the river turned into a storytelling mission for Dion and his friend Tom Bartels, who set out to interview farmers, politicians and others who were impacted by the river.
“I thought maybe I’d take some pictures and write an article,” said Dion. But Bartels had another idea, and suggested they make a movie instead, Dion recalled.
Their film — “The Sacramento River: At Current Speed” — will be showcased at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City on Jan. 18-19 (See http://www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org for a full schedule of films and activities).
On June 6, 2018, Dion and Bartels packed their film gear and supplies onto a wooden dory boat and began their 300-mile journey.
“At the time we weren’t sure if it was even possible,” said Dion. “It doesn’t seem like a thing that people do.”
Over the next two weeks the pair made stops along the way to conduct over 20 interviews and attempt to lay out major issues facing the river. A main talking point in the film is how the river has been managed to support the agriculture industry and how it has affected the landscape and surrounding wildlife.
“We have promised more water from the Sacramento than actually exists,” said Dion. This would create a tug of war over the next few years over how to allocate it, which he said they were able to capture in the film.
“It’s mind-boggling what we’ve done, turned a river into a plumbing system, but it’s still a river. In my mind the environment, the fish, the recreation should be a critical component of dividing up the water,” he said, noting that many other people feel differently.
“They think there’s only one use of water and that’s the agriculture industry and drinking water for cities,” Dion added.
He said he hopes the film will help others know that “the water belongs to all of us” and instill a sense of responsibility to take care of it.
Dion grew up in a rafting community, where he said he had the privilege of running whitewater dories in Idaho and the Grand Canyon for 10 years.
“I just fell in love with the boats and the way they interact with the river,” he said. “And that’s really what drew me to the Sacramento is trying to figure out a place to float my boat without having to drive halfway across the country.”
What makes floating the Sacramento River unique, Dion said, is feeling a disconnect from the rest of the world while still being a phone call away from a pizza delivery to the nearest boat ramp.
“It’s a really interesting part of the world,” he said. “We were still camping on nice beaches and had a sense of privacy as the Southwest jets were circling to land at the Sacramento Airport.”
Though the journey was long, it was far from treacherous, as Dion said anyone with class II boating skills could do it safely.
“You don’t have to be a whitewater boat guide to figure out how to get down this river,” he said. “And the camping is exceptional.”
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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According to the National Weather Service, the gradually increasing temperatures of Nevada County’s spring 2021 may palliate this weekend.