After my mom agreed to let me go, I was on my way to my first multi-day rafting trip at six on the Salmon River in Idaho. For the next few years my dad took me on a number of different rivers but my favorite was the Magpie in Quebec. At 9 I began paddling the Magpie in an inflatable kayak and shot videos to sell to the guests. My favorite part of the trip was starting the fires, my least favorite, editing.
Growing up I knew my dad had been involved in fighting dams in Quebec and Chile but was really too young to understand what was at stake. That perception changed in 2003 when I was eleven and my day told me that a private company, Hydro-Mega, proposed a series of dams on the Magpie which would flood the spectacular lower part of the river, destroying the most beautiful camps and best rapid. I remember when he told me I didn't have much of a reaction. He said, "Cade don't you care?". I mean what could I do? As a kid you feel helpless. My dad told me I could write a letter to the government commission studying the dam's feasibility and testify against the dams at a government hearing being held in a tiny town up near the river.
After traveling for a whole day we arrived at a packed town hall where the hearings were taking place. I remember thinking how strange it was being up there in this tiny village on the St. Lawrence River instead of being in middle school. The power company's engineers testified that the first dam would only be 35 feet high, impacting only a small fraction of the river. They showed slides on a giant screen of the rapid and falls to be flooded and claimed the rapid had never been rafted and never would be because it was too dangerous. After they were done, it was my time to speak. I read my statement which mentioned that I had been running the river since I was 8. That it was my favorite river and that the best rapid was the one they were planning to destroy. I went on to say that my dad would not let me run the rapid until I was 13 and that if they built the dam I would never get to run it. They had set up my video camera to play on the big screen. For the next five minutes I showed raft after raft successfully running the supposedly unrunnable rapid. The video concluded with an interview with some of the guests at the bottom of the rapid saying it was the highlight of their trip. The power company engineers looked pretty embarrassed and the judge running the hearings said "Thank you, Mr. Hertz, for such an informative testimonial."
That next summer Earth River ran a conservation trip on the Magpie to raise awareness to the threats from the dams and I shot video of the trip. Bobby Kennedy along with representatives from environmental groups such as the Canadian Sierra Club and Green Peace came to see and then fight for the protection of the River. After the trip there was a press conference in Montreal. There was a long line of television news cameras set up in the back of a packed room so I set my handheld camcorder next to theirs on the top of a giant tri-pod I had borrowed from my dad's friend Steve Mahan. I climbed up on a chair in order to reach the camera and get a clear view of Mr. Kennedy, my father and the members of the environmental groups sitting at a table in the front. I remember my dad saying that the Magpie was the best multi-day whitewater rafting river east of the Mississippi and that it was was one of the top three or four multi-day whitewater rivers in North America. Mr. Kennedy said that, he had rafted all over the globe and between the scenery, rapids and fishing he considered the Magpie to be among the best. He said "damming the Magpie was like finding the Mona Lisa in your attic and selling it at a garage sale." When they were finished speaking the camera guy to my left asked if by chance I had any footage of the actual trip? I said yes and suddenly I was swarmed by news people asking to borrow the footage. They got together and agreed to take me and my footage back to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) studio to interview me and make copies for the other stations for the evening news. That night the interview and the trip footage was aired across Canada on all the major stations.
Driving back toward the border the next day we stopped for ice cream and gas near the New York border and someone came up to the Earth River truck and asked my dad if we were the ones they had seen running the Magpie River on television last night.
In the end, they built the first dam and I never did get to run that final rapid but the other two dams were stopped and although it's hard to float over the buried falls and rapid now, I learned everyone has a voice, if you use it.
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