Back on the Road!

The Changing Currents team is back on the road for their Pacific Northwest Tour!

Changing Currents team leaving for Portland

Changing Currents team leaving for Portland

By the end of September, we will have traveled to and learned about the Green River in Washington, Willamette River in Oregon, and Fraser River in British Columbia. 

Stay tuned for blog posts of our adventures.

The Team is Back in Town

Two weeks on the road. Check. 

One week to rest and recover. Check.

One week of intensive planning and storyboarding. Check.

We are back and officially started editing!

Stay tuned for the release of our first trailer.

Changing Currents BTS #3

Over the last two and a half weeks, our team has travelled through 9 states and 1 province, making stops in New York, Washington D.C., Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio and Ontario to learn more about water pollution and river restoration efforts. We have had many interesting and eye-opening conversations with people from a variety of associations, including organizations, native tribes, and local residents on the streets. 

We are excited to take what we have learned from this trip to start work on editing our documentary, and continue filming in the Pacific Northwest.

We would like to take a moment to thank all of the generous people we have talked to along the way for providing us with plentiful information for our film. We would also like to thank all of those that have followed our journey for the ongoing support that has been shown.

As always, stay tuned for more documentary developments! 

Check out the third installment of our behind the scenes videos:

Cincinnati, Ohio part 2

For 981 miles, the Ohio River winds its way from Pittsburgh through parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

Like many other rivers, the Ohio, a primary tributary to the Mississippi at their confluence in Cairo, Ill., was and still is a major source of drinking water, transportation, commerce, fishing, and recreation, among other uses.

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In Greater Cincinnati, the Ohio River serves as the natural boundary between Kentucky and Ohio.

Richard Harrison, Executive Director of the Cincinnati-based Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (commonly referred to in these parts as ORSANCO) acknowledges that the river faces many challenges.

But Harrison notes that much progress has been made in the nearly 70 years since ORSANCO was first established under the mandate of working to improve water quality for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and the five million humans who now live in the watershed.

For instance, prior to 1948, Harrison said that less than one percent of water discharged into the Ohio by communities along the river was treated.  At the same time, the river was also being used for transportation , commerce, and heavy industry. To say the river was polluted would be an understatement.

“Before we were formed,” Harrison said, “the contents of the Ohio River was very challenged. That was the backdrop to ORSANCO’s formation.”

ORSANCO’s member states now include the six referenced earlier, as well as Virginia and New York, both of which have tributaries that flow into the Ohio River.

As a result the early practices on the Ohio, some sediments still contain Polychlorinated biphenyls (or PCBs), man-made chemicals commonly used on industrial machinery as lubricants and coolants. Use of PCBs ended in the late 1970s when it was determined that they had negative effects on fish and wildlife, and were linked to serious health problems in humans, including neurological issues for children,  reproductive problems for women, and some forms of cancer.

These days, ORSANCO aggressively assesses and analyzes water quality along the Ohio and coordinates with each of the member states to keep the river clean and safe.  Other stakeholders, including the EPA, environmental groups, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to name just a few, are also advised and consulted for input and feedback.  

Such active oversight and communication has allowed the Ohio to enjoy a resurgence in recreational activities such as kayaking, paddling, water skiing, pleasure boating and fishing. For instance, more than 130 species of fish and aquatic life are now present and active again in the Ohio.

But Harrison said the fight is not over, and many challenges remain, chief among them finding ways to persuade governments and the voting public to reinvest in public infrastructure projects such as water pipes, sewer lines, and wastewater treatment plants.

Across the U.S., such public infrastructure is 50, 75 or even 100 years old, Harrison explained, pointing out that as a nation, we have been quite fortunate that for the most part, these systems have lasted so long.

But increasing populations, larger volumes of wastewater from homes and businesses, as well as storm water run-off when it rains, all combine to further stress our aging infrastructure, which could eventually lead to serious system failures. Conservative estimates place the nation’s infrastructure replacement needs at well north of $1 trillion.

“I think the public should be engaged,” said Harrison. “They should be aware of the great investment it’s going to take.”

Apathy, or simple failure to act, could lead to serious and avoidable problems, warned Harrison. Step one is education and awareness.

“No matter where we live, we all live in a watershed,” Harrison explained. “The Ohio River and other great rivers in the United States are incredible resources. Don’t take it for granted.”

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Aaron Rourke could not agree more. Growing up in the Southern Ohio town of Chillicothe, Rourke loved to fish and hunt, sparking his lifelong interest in environmental issues.

Today, Rourke is president of Rivers Unlimited, a statewide organization dedicated to protecting and restoring Ohio’s rivers.

The Ohio River, Rourke explains, has some 20 dams, some for power generation, some for agricultural purposes, and some for flood control. As a result, the ecology of the river has changed dramatically over the years.

“It’s not about having no dams at all,” Rourke said, acknowledging the river’s multiple uses for recreation, commerce, agriculture, transportation and more. But “we really have a legacy to guard here.”

Rourke said among his most pressing concerns are incidents of algal blooms, which form when too much phosphorous and too many nutrients, found in human and animal waste, occur in Ohio’s rivers.

Such incidents, if not addressed quickly and effectively, can cause ill effects in animals and people, including compromised immune systems and even death.

One Ohio River algal bloom, originally reported upriver in August 2015 by witnesses as “green paint” in the water, lasted two months and stretched for 700 miles. 

For photos of our time in Ohio, please visit our Ohio River gallery page.

 

Cincinnati, Ohio

After getting some much deserved rest from our long drive the previous day, we had a lazy Monday at our Airbnb in Cincinnati. We spent the morning catching up on various matters, such as editing photos, loading files off SD cards and preparing our summer schedules. 

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In the afternoon, the team walked 20 minutes to Lablond Park, located on the Ohio River. There, we flew our drone, capturing B-roll of passing boats, kayakers and walkers alike. With the 80-90 degree heat, we enjoyed the cool breeze coming off the river.

On the side, Kelly scavenged through large rocks along the river searching for fossils. 

In the evening, we prepared for our final day of filming for the trip, where we will talk with Richard Harrison, executive director of the Cincinnati-based Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and Aaron Rourke, president of Rivers Unlimited. 

Stay tuned.

For photos of our time in Ohio, please visit our Ohio River gallery page.

Brecksville, Ohio

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River, like many other urban waterways, was in bad shape, suffering from years of industrial abuse. That year, an oil slick on the river caught fire, attracting national media attention and public concern.

The ’69 Cuyahoga Fire (which, remarkably, was a rather common occurrence, not an anomaly), is at least partially credited with sparking significant movement towards the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, as well as other federal, state and local laws aimed at making U.S. waterways safe.

We wanted to see this famous river up close, and also do some filming and photography for possible inclusion in “Changing Currents.”

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Little did we know that in addition to seeing the Cuyahoga, we were also in for another treat that even Ohioans had not seen for quite a while. It turns out that 2016 is in the life cycle of 17-year cicadas, insects that spend 17 years underground, then emerge in the billions to mate, spawn, die, and then start the cycle all over again. According to news reports, at the height of their season, there can be as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre in Northeastern Ohio.

Chris and Rachel got up close and personal with some cicadas, which are brown and orange with red eyes and can be more than an inch in length.

The big bugs perch in trees, fly around, and make a deafening sound that Cleveland.com, the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, referred to as “a clamor akin to a chorus of chain saws.”

From the Cleveland area, we headed due South to Cincinnati, the last stop on this leg of production for “Changing Currents.”

 For photos of our time at the Cuyahoga, please visit our Cuyahoga River gallery page.

Buffalo, N.Y. part 2

John, our Director of Photography, flew home early in the morning and then traveled on to California for a delayed and much-deserved vacation.

The rest of us, however, remained in Western New York and had the pleasure of meeting with Buffalo native and community activist Peg Overdorf, a driving force behind local efforts to revitalize the city’s waterfront.

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Overdorf’s “real job” is as Executive Director of the Valley Community Association, a social service organization that provides programs for seniors, youths and others, all aimed at improving the social well-being of local residents.

A native of Buffalo and the Valley Neighborhood she serves, Overdorf has dedicated her life to bringing the riverfront area back from decades of neglect.

“You really couldn’t get near the river,” said Overdorf, explaining that years of junk, trash, and abandoned buildings were barriers to access. “The street was strewn with industrial debris.”

Then, about 10 years ago, Overdorf came up with the idea of creating a park on the Buffalo River where concerts, parties and cultural events could be held.

“Everybody thought I was crazy,” said Overdorf. “Even people who work for me thought I was wasting my time.”

But Overdorf persisted.

Now, 10 years, 17 grants and more than $5 million in funding later, Buffalo River Fest Park is a reality and the city’s riverfront is undergoing resurgence.

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Kayakers splash in the river. Joggers, bikers locals and tourists mingle along the banks. New condominiums, restaurants and bistros are popping up, one of which is the Tewksbury Lodge. The owner? None other than Peg Overdorf.

 “The rewarding aspect,” Overdof said, “has been the revitalization of the old neighborhood.”

Buoyed by Peg’s positivity and community spirit, the team piled into the Suburban and drove Southwest out of Buffalo toward our next stop, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio just outside of Cleveland.

 For photos of our time in Buffalo, please visit our Buffalo River gallery page.

Niagara Falls

Anticipating heavy rain, our team was thrilled to see sunny skies at Niagara Falls. This was a highlighted destination for many on our trip, and it did not disappoint.

Located on the Niagara River, Niagara Falls is a collective name for three waterfalls that border between United States and Canada; most specifically, between the state of New York and the province of Ontario. The falls form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge.

The three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Together, they form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world.

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Our team visited the falls on the Canadian side. We started our visit above the falls, shooting B-roll of the fast-flowing river. We then walked down to join the hundreds of tourists overlooking the falls. After shooting for the documentary, we took the rest of the afternoon off, enjoying the beautiful sights and spending time all together before our director of photography, John Struzenberg, headed home. 

Because of our busy schedule, our team never had a chance to be tourists. Today was a nice change of pace, as we had time to go to the gift shop and buy souvenirs for ourselves and loved ones.

We ended our day reminiscing on our travels over dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and said our goodbyes to John.

To see photos of our time at Niagara Falls, please visit our Niagara River + Falls gallery page.

 

Clayton, N.Y. part 2 and Buffalo, N.Y.

Seeking to divide and conquer, the team split up again today. John, Rachel, and Christopher left our comfortable Buffalo hotel at a bright-and-early 8 a.m. to trek all the way back to scenic Clayton, N.Y.

In the meantime, Kelly and Josh remained in Buffalo to gather B-Roll and conduct person-on-the-street interviews with local residents. For photos of their time in Buffalo, please visit our Buffalo River gallery page.

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The trip back to Clayton came as a result of the team concluding that we wanted to hear more from Jeff Garnsey, a local business owner and seventh-generation resident of that town.

We were glad we made the trip back. During the interview, it was easy to see how much the town – and the St. Lawrence River – means to Garnsey.

 “Any positive lesson I learned,” Garnsey told us, “I learned from the river.”

This deep-seeded respect for the St. Lawrence makes Garnsey’s story all the more compelling. Garnsey invited us onto his boat for a second time, where we discussed his family’s roots in the area and how he has interacted with the river during his lifetime.

“We were farmers, turned caretakers, turned boatman, turned fisherman,” Garnsey said of his ancestors. 

Today, Garnsey keeps the family traditions alive by fishing from classic boats and taking visitors to the area out on tours with his business, Classic Island Cruises.

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One of the best parts of his job, Garnsey says, is getting people out on the river and letting them experience what he gets to see every day.

“The river will speak for itself and capture the attention of the people on the boat,” he says.

The St. Lawrence River is intertwined into the lives of Garnsey and his family.

“At the end of the day it’s about the river,” says Garnsey. “It’s the lifeblood of the community and it’s the lifeblood of my family.”

We had lunch at Bella’s, a local bistro highly recommended by Garnsey, then headed back to Buffalo to rejoin the rest of the gang.

To see more photos of our time with Garnsey, please visit the Clayton photos in the St. Lawrence River gallery.

The forecast is calling for rain. But one way or the other, tomorrow we are determined to go to Niagara Falls.