And the Oscar goes to…the effort to remove Matilija Dam!

Imagine my surprise watching the Oscars last night when, during a break from the glitz and the gowns, there was Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, in a commercial talking about dam removal!

The ad was for the Members Project, a social action campaign by American Express.

The 200 foot tall dam featured in the ad was Matilija Dam on California’s Ventura River. We named the Ventura River one of the nation’s Most Endangered Rivers in 2000 because of the threat the dam poses to the river’s health. The dam blocks native steelhead and prevents sediment from replenishing the beach just 15 miles downstream, which impacts the surf break.

The dam was built for water storage and flood control in the 1940’s. But today, the reservoir is full of sediment (its capacity has been reduced by 90 percent) and the concrete is crumbling. The dam no longer serves any useful purpose.

You can find background information and updates at the Matilija Coalition web site (American Rivers is a member).

Patagonia has a great history of supporting the removal of outdated dams and is a champion of many other important environmental causes. Kudos to Patagonia and American Express for putting dam removal on the national stage last night!