Living Downstream

1024px John C Boyle Dam Gates OpenThis is the story of a 15-year conflict over what would be the biggest dam removal ever, a modern cowboys and Indians tale that shows how victories for Native American rights still come with fits of racism and armed conflict, and how rural folks learned to make peace (and collaborate on an 1800-page Congressional bill).
It’s a complex story about a fight over shared (and limited) water, with both sides fearing the disappearance of traditional lifestyles.
Language alert: some salty language courtesy of real folks who lived this story.
(Image: John C. Boyle Dam on the Klamath River in southern Oregon. This is one of the dams scheduled for demolition within the next few years. Credit: Wikipedia/Bobjgalindo)
Editor's Note: This story was completed in 2018, before Gavin Newson took over as governor from Jerry Brown. The timeline for removal of the Klamath River dams is evolving. The most recent estimates are that the California dams may start being "deconstructed" in 2021.Comments are now open (until Feb. 26, 2019) on the California Environmental Impact Report.
The Notice of Availability and Draft EIR are available at: https://bit.ly/2TcxefF. Additional information related to the Lower Klamath Project water quality certification and California Environmental Quality Act process can be found at: https://bit.ly/2jwgIcL.

Comments on the draft EIR are due by noon, Feb. 26, and can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Ms. Michelle Siebal, State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights — Water Quality Certification Program, P.O. Box 2000, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

Klamath05 resizeA mural in Happy Camp, a small indian town in the Klamath National Forest.

Klamath01 resizeThe Iron Gate Dam is the biggest and only earthen dam on the Klamath River.

Klamath02 resizeEmrys Eller on Copco 1, one of four dams slated for removal along the California-Oregon border.

Klamath03 resizeIron Gate Dam.

Klamath04 resizeEmrys Eller interviews Klamath Tribal leader Don Gentry near an elementary school in Chiloquin, Oregon. In 2003, two men shot up the signage of this native school amid tensions over whether to remove dams on the Klamath River.

 Klamath06 resizeEmrys Eller speaks with Karuk tribal leader Leaf Hillman on the banks of the Klamath River.

Klamath07 resizeEmrys Eller speaks with Karuk tribal leader Leaf Hillman on the banks of the Klamath River.

TOMS indonesia smog lrgThe peat swamp forests of Borneo are the site of a failed agricultural experiment. Planners believed that rice should grow in the swamps, but it couldn't. Even today, experiments with growing oil palms and other trees are changing the forests, with little positive to show for these efforts.

As indigenous people lost their livelihood, carbon poured into the atmosphere from uncontrolled fires. 

Daniel Grossman reports:

Learn more about peat fires in Indonesia. 

Read an article by The New York Times on the same region of Indonesia. 

(Image: Smog and smoke over Borneo and Indonesia, 1997. Credit: NASA)


Mac Shaffer PCB Story Photos 0146This story comes from Warren County, North Carolina.  In the early 1980s, Warren County became a flash point in the fight for something that didn’t have a commonly used name at the time: environmental justice. 

These days, members of this small, “majority-minority” community are taking new approaches to raising environmental consciousness. 

Jereann King Johnson and Joe O’Connell have teamed up to tell the story of local environmentalism in the present day. 

Jereann has been involved in social justice work in the county since the 1970s.  She knows Warren County intimately. Joe, on the other hand, was drawn to this story through his work as a folklorist.  He lives in Durham, about an hours drive to the south of where our story takes place.

Learn more about PCBs and global environmental justice conflicts. 

(Image: Anti-PCB demonstration 1982. Credit: Mac Shaffer)

Slideshow of protests against PCB site in Warren County, photographer Mac Shaffer:

PCB March September 15, 1982, photos by Matt Cooper, Jr.

carrot pullers from texas oklahoma missouri arkansas and mexico coachella valley 1 1024You may be familiar with Coachella from hearing about the annual music festival there. But for 10 years, journalist Ruxandra Guidi has been visiting farmworkers in the area, learning about the deplorable conditions in which they live.

There’s now some hope that community health workers are making a significant difference in the lives of workers. Here’s Ruxandra with the story – and stay tuned afterwards for a conversation with her detailing how she gains the trust of folks whose lives she’s documenting.
(In this historic photo by Dorothea Lange, migrant farmworkers pull carrots in the Coachella Valley. Credit: Library of Congress)

Ruxandra Guidi reported and produced this episode of Living Downstream, The Trailer Park Activists of Eastern Coachella Valley

Thanks to Anthony Garcia for mastering the show.

The Living Downstream theme music was written by David Schulman.

Steve Mencher is the host and senior producer. Darren LaShelle in the executive producer, and the president and CEO of Northern California Public Media is Nancy Dobbs.

Subscribe to Living Downstream wherever you get your podcasts. If you see environmental injustice in your community, write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

LIVING DOWNSTREAM thanks our sponsors who make this podcast possible. A list is available at norcalpublicmedia.org

smoking dump resizeActivist Eduardo Guevara takes a picture inside Lawson Dump as smoke rises from a fire smoldering belowground. Although it was ordered closed in 2006, underground fires continued to burn for years afterward, and residents of nearby mobile home parks continued to complain about noxious odors and possible contamination. (Credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra, 2010)

stay out waste resizeA hand-written sign warns Duroville mobile home park residents in Thermal, California, to stay away from a waste pond on the neighboring property. On the far side of the pond is Lawson Dump, now closed by the EPA because it contained dangerous amounts of arsenic, PCBs, asbestos, dioxin and other toxic materials. (Credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra, 2010)

Environmental News

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.