The Tuolumne River Film Festival is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Menlo Atherton Performing Arts Center, 555 Middlefield in Atherton, outside Palo Alto. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, go online to www.tuolumne.org/events/filmfestival. The Tuolumne River Trust is a nonprofit organization with offices in Sonora, Modesto and San Francisco. For more information, go online to www.tuolumne.org online.



Scott Schoettgen works at Dodge Ridge and Pinecrest to help pay the bills for pursuing his passions, which include whitewater expeditions in the Tuolumne River watershed and river conservation.

The Twain Harte resident is a former professional river guide and an avid defender of the Tuolumne watershed and its tributaries. To help, he put together a short film that will premier this weekend at the third annual Tuolumne River Film Festival in the Bay Area, which will benefit the nonprofit Tuolumne River Trust.

Footage in the film Schoettgen worked on includes whitewater rafting in the Cherry Creek watershed below Cherry Lake in the Tuolumne River watershed.

“We’re trying to tell the story of how losing the Stanislaus River years ago helped lead the river community to fight even harder to protect other rivers, including the Tuolumne,” Schoettgen said in a phone interview Monday.

“They wanted to build another dam right below Clavey Falls, which would have flooded part of the Clavey and upper Tuolumne,” Schoettgen said. “But people fought for the Tuolumne, and it got wild and scenic designation in 1984. The Stanislaus was such a monumental loss it helped lead to protections on other rivers around the world, including the Zambezi in Africa.”

Schoettgen said some of the footage in the film he worked on was made on the old Camp Nine stretch of the Stanislaus River during the summer of 2015, when low waters exposed relics as New Melones levels receded. It also exposed the Camp Nine rapids, where former river defenders Mark Dubois, Marty McDonnell and Jennifer Jennings took part in film work with Schoettgen.

The idea behind the Tuolumne River Film Festival is to benefit the Tuolumne River Trust, a separate entity, said festival founder and director Leah Rogers, of Menlo Park. The event this year includes film, live music, art and an ice cream social.

“What we are trying to encourage down here in the Bay Area is more awareness that our precious water is coming all the way from the Sierra, specifically northern Yosemite National Park,” said Rogers, who studied hydrogeology and earned a PhD in groundwater hydrology at Stanford University.

The Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System that impounds Tuolumne River waters in Yosemite serves about 3,500 Groveland Community Services District customers and 2.6 million people in the Bay Area, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

“I’m a hydrologist. I’m a scientist who’s worried about water resources my whole career,” Rogers said.

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, she spent time camping in Yosemite near Tuolumne Meadows, where the headwaters of the Tuolumne River come together, and she rafted the Tuolumne River below Hetch Hetchy.

“The Tuolumne River sustains us,” Rogers said. “When we are conserving our water, it helps us to love and honor that Tuolumne watershed. I want Bay Area people to respect that.”

The event this year will include work from the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Work that focuses on the Tuolumne River itself includes Schoettgen’s work with Shifted Cinema, a 10-minute short, “Riveropolis” by Lessa Bouchard and the documentary “Martha Miller from Yosemite.” The longest film to be aired this year is 11 minutes.

A theme for this year’s festival is “experiencing wild water and nature directly,” and Schoettgen’s work is billed as one of the highlights, Rogers said.

Artist Linda Gass will display artwork. Her work includes a multicolor quilted tapestry called “Gold Rush Black.”

Musicians scheduled to perform include the Tuolumne River Ukulele Orchestra, the Raging Grannies, Chinese Melodrama and Bill and Rick Walker.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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