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PBS to Air Made-in-Northwest Documentary

April 29, 2011

SEATTLE - The Columbia River plays a starring role in a PBS documentary set to air this Sunday. "Salmon, Running the Gauntlet" depicts what a fish goes through during its 10,000-mile lifetime migration in Northwest rivers.

The documentary, part of the PBS series "Nature," features aerial shots of the challenging salmon migration route to and from the Pacific Ocean. It also probes the history of the controversial federal salmon-saving policies.

Producer and writer Jim Norton says he found that people on all sides of the controversy want to save the endangered fish - but have completely different ideas about how to do it.

"In a lot of respects, they're really talking past each other - because this fundamental difference in what they're talking about hasn't been addressed. Hopefully, our program will go a long way toward explaining that disconnect, and encouraging people to consider it."

Over the years, Norton says, he's seen more and more efforts to protect wild salmon which seem to run contrary to the fishes' natural life cycle. Those efforts include a sophisticated hatchery and fish transport system, new technology at dams, and even trying to alter the habits of sea lions and birds that prey on the fish.

"Addressing those problems as we've discovered them, as the complexity of the salmon system has revealed itself to us, is requiring us to come up with increasingly creative and increasingly expensive solutions."

The film took about six years to make, says Norton, who isn't a filmmaker by profession. He's a river-rafting guide who says he has a whole new appreciation for the 10,000 miles wild salmon run in their lifetimes.

A preview of "Salmon: Running the Gauntlet" is online at video.pbs.org".

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA