Many people say the Eel River is arguably the best opportunity for wild salmon recovery on the entire west coast. The river and salmon have weathered decades of overfishing, abusive logging, catastrophic floods and droughts, and a hydro-power project that diverts water out of the Eel River basin and into the Russian River. In 2014, the river ran dry for the first time in recorded history. Today, the Eel River’s recovering wild salmon compete for water with the region’s wine and cannabis industries. A River’s Last Chance is a film that explores the often troubling history of the Eel River Watershed and the movements to save the river and its fish. The river’s future will likely be determined in the coming years by California’s legalization of marijuana and by the relicensing process of the Potter Valley Project.
Filmmaker Shane Anderson, who now lives in the Pacific Northwest, spent 15 years in California, and focuses on forests, fish and environmental issues in his work and films. Hope McKenney spoke with him about his most recent film, A River’s Last Chance, a story that explores the salmon, timber, weed and wine along California’s mighty Eel River.