River Restoration Videos – Updates

Long Island Sound.
Reconnected: Restoring the Rivers of Long Island Sound will premiere on May 21st in Windsor, CT.

New River Restoration Videos

If you spend any time browsing this website, you’ll see several river-themed videos that we’ve produced recently. River restoration, particularly through dam removals and culvert and bridge improvements, has been a hot topic in conservation circles for a while now and these sorts of projects are ramping up big time here in the Northeastern U.S. In this post, we wanted to make you aware of our two newest river restoration videos and update you on a couple of past projects.

Premiering soon – Reconnected: Restoring the Rivers of Long Island Sound

We’re excited to share the trailer for our newest film, Reconnected: Restoring the Rivers of Long Island Sound, which we filmed last summer and fall for Save the Sound. We visited many former and current dam sites, crawled around muddy culverts, and talked to an amazing array of experts working on restoring the Long Island Sound watershed. The result is an educational and engaging 20-minute film that will be premiering on May 21st at “World Fish Migration Day: The Migration Celebration” in Windsor, CT. We hope to see you there!

Here’s the trailer:

Watch now – Our Responsibility: Freeing the Ipswich River

In March, the Ipswich River Watershed Association premiered our short film, Our Responsibility: Freeing the Ipswich River, which argues for the removal of the Ipswich Mills Dam in downtown Ipswich, Massachusetts in order to restore fish passage on the river, and to improve climate resiliency for both the river’s ecology and the surrounding built infrastructure. Decisions will be made about this project soon as residents of Ipswich will vote on the issue in May. You can learn more about the project and see the video on our website here: https://reelquestfilms.com/project/our-responsibility-freeing-the-ipswich-river/

The Ipswich River as it flows through downtown Ipswich, Massachusetts. River restoration project.
Our Responsibility: Freeing the Ipswich River, chronicles the efforts to remove the Ipswich Mills Dam.

One Million Fish – Update

In 2022, just as we were launching Reel Quest Films, we produced One Million Fish for Maine Rivers to tell their story of restoring fish passage past six dams on China Lake Outlet Stream in Vassalboro, Maine. One Million Fish has gone on to be screened at five film festivals (so far) including two of my favorites in New England, the New Hampshire Film Festival and Maine Outdoor Film Festival.

The film gets its title from the estimated number of returning river herring experts predicted would return to China Lake within four or five years after fish passage was restored. In 2022, the first year fish could make it to China Lake from the Gulf of Maine since 1783, more than 800,000 fish returned. In 2023, that number reached 1.8 million fish, far exceeding those original predictions! You can watch the film here: https://reelquestfilms.com/project/restoring-alewives-to-china-lake/

River Herring in a Maine stream during spring migration.,
River Herring in a Maine stream during spring migration.

Keystone: Voices for the Little Fish – Update

While the story of restoration in the Chine Lake watershed is having some amazing success, similar restoration efforts on Cobbossee Stream in nearby Gardner, Maine are still facing challenges. In 2021, we filmed Keystone: Voices for the Little Fish, a short film that highlights locals attempt at creating fish passage past three dams within a mile of each other on Cobbossee Stream which could create the potential for a 3 million strong annual run of river herring and American eel.

Like many of the thousands of dams across New England, the first dam that migrating fish encounter on Cobbossee Stream (Gardiner Paperboard Dam) was once used to power a mill next to the dam, and is now obsolete and serving no function. Most of these dams are privately owned and in this case the owner refuses to remove the dam. This river restoration project is currently stalled, though the dedicated restoration advocates featured in the film continue to work towards a solution.

Like One Million Fish, Keystone has been screened at five film festivals including Maine Outdoor Film Festival and the Colorado Environmental Film Festival. It can now be seen on our website here: https://reelquestfilms.com/project/keystone-voices-for-the-little-fish/

Restoration of salmon habitat on Maine's Kennebec River is facing challenges.
Restoration of salmon habitat on Maine’s Kennebec River is facing challenges.

Freeing the Kennebec – Update

Also in 2021, we filmed a series of short videos for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) who are working with Maine Rivers and others to open up fish passage on one of Maine’s biggest potential Atlantic Salmon rivers, the Kennebec. (By the way, Chine Lake and Cobbossee Stream are both in the Kennebec watershed, but below the Kennebec dams.) Upstream of four hydropower dams on the lower Kennebec River are tributary rivers, including the Sandy River, that feature prime traditional spawning habitat for salmon.

In 2021, NRCM and others sued the owner of these dams, claiming that under the endangered species act, the dam operator was not providing sufficient passage for the endangered Atlantic Salmon. That suit has failed, but environmental groups are pursuing other avenues for restoring salmon runs to the Kennebec River. You can see two of the videos we created for this project on our website here: https://reelquestfilms.com/project/freeing-the-kennebec-river/

The Merrimack: River at Risk – Update

If there’s an origin story for Reel Quest Films, a major plot point would be when Jerry and Ryan first collaborated on a film project. That was on the feature-length documentary, The Merrimack: River at Risk, which Jerry directed and Ryan co-wrote (and produced by the Society for the Protection of NH Forests.) Filmed and edited from 2017 through early 2020, the film explored the reasons why the Merrimack River made American Rivers’ 2016 list of the ten most endangered rivers in the U.S. First screened in 2020, the film is proving to be an evergreen story of forest loss due to development, and increased flooding and pollution problems due to climate change.

Due to several unusually large rain events, 2023 set a new record for Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO’s) in the Merrimack. CSO’s happen when a sewage treatment plant is overwhelmed by stormwater and releases raw sewage into the river to avoid having it back up into homes and businesses. In 2023, more than 2 billion gallons of raw sewage were dumped into the Merrimack due to CSO events, more than twice the previous record amount. While cities struggle to afford to upgrade their treatment plants, climate change is resulting in more large rain events that cause CSO’s. Gross!

In 2023, The Merrimack: River at Risk was shown on both Vermont and New Hampshire Public Television, and this week marks the fifth year in a row that the film will be shown on NH Public Television during Earth Week. You can also watch it right here: