Archive for the 'lakes' Category

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This Sinkhole Sucked Down 11 Barges Like They Were Rubber Duckies

Photo retrieved from: www.motherjones.com

“Lake Peigneur, the site of one of the state’s most spectacular industrial disasters in 1980, kept coming up in my conversations with residents of Bayou Corne, the Cajun community in south Louisiana that has been evacuated for more than a year due to a massive, mining-induced sinkhole that now spans 24 acres—and is still growing. Last week, the state filed suit against Texas Brine and Occidental Chemical Company for damages relating to the disaster. (Read my story on Bayou Corne, which appears in the September/October issue of Mother Joneshere.) So on a sticky Sunday morning in June, I crossed over the Atchafalaya spillway to see the place for myself.

In November of 1980, in the process of generating revenue for (of all things) an environmental cleanup fund, a Texaco oil rig accidentally punctured the top of a salt mine situated beneath the lake. The water above emptied into the mine, creating a whirlpool that sucked 11 barges into the caverns below, turned the lake from freshwater to saline, and caused the Delcambre Canal to flow backwards. Three days later, nine of the 11 barges “popped up like iron corks,” the Associated Press reported; the other two were never found. Miraculously, all 55 workers who were inside the mine at the time of the accident managed to escape.

The disaster caused drilling in Lake Peigneur to cease—at least for a time. The lake showed signs of recovering from its industrial past after that, although it was several hundred feet deeper and stocked with a new species of fish that could live in the saltwater ecosystem. But industry slowly began to creep back.”

Read more: Mother Jones

Water Works

Photo retrieved from: www.constructiondigital.com

“The project, called Growing Vine Street, began as a small, grassroots effort among residents and property owners to turn their stretch of a former industrial neighborhood into an urban watershed. Twenty years later, it is a big part of the answer to the largest single source of pollution fouling Puget Sound and most of the major bays and freshwater ecosystems of the United States—stormwater.

The gray shellac of a city repels more than the imagination. When rain flows along streets, parking lots, and rooftops rather than percolating into the ground, it soaks up toxic metals, oil and grease, pesticides and herbicides, feces, and every other scourge that can make its way to a gutter. This runoff impairs virtually every urban creek, stream, and river in Washington. It makes Pacific killer whales some of the most PCB-contaminated mammals on the planet. It’s driving two species of salmon extinct, and kills a high percentage of healthy coho within hours of swimming into Seattle’s creeks, before they’ve had a chance to spawn.”

Read more: Orion Magazine

 

What Is Farm Runoff Doing To The Water? Scientists Wade In

Photo retrieved from: www.npr.org

“America’s hugely productive food system is one of its success stories. The nation will export a projected $139.5 billion in agricultural products this fiscal year alone. It’s an industry that supports “more than 1 million jobs,” according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

But all that productivity has taken a toll on the environment, especially rivers and lakes: Agriculture is the nation’s leading cause of impaired water quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Scientists want to get a better sense of how all that agricultural runoff is affecting water quality. So this summer, three dozen scientists from the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey are wading into some 100 streams, from Ohio to Nebraska. Their mission: Test for hundreds of pesticides and nutrients used in farming, and check for possible effects on what’s living in the streams.

This is the first time scientists have tested for so many chemicals in a whole region’s waters or considered the impact of agricultural runoff on fish, frogs, bugs and algae at this scale. The study is costing the USGS $6 million and the EPA $570,000.”

Read more: NPR

 

Films Focusing on Local Water

“Two water-wise documentaries by two different filmmakers are in the works in the Owens Valley.
Jenna Cavelle’s short documentary, “Paya – The Untold Story of the L.A.-Owens Valley Water War,” has met itsKickstarter funding goal and filming is under way with a projected August or early September completion date.
A new project headed up by the Owens Valley Committee and Bristlecone Media, with Cavelle serving as a coproducer,“Slake: Water and Power in the Eastern Sierra,” is in the fundraising stage.
Cavelle said “Paya,” which  is about two years in the making, aims to tell the story of Owens Valley Paiutes and theirrelationship and use of water before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began exporting water in the early1900s.
“The year 2013 marks both the centennial anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and America’s longest-lived waterwar,” Cavelle says on her Kickstarter.com page. “From critically-acclaimed films like ‘Chinatown’ to best-sellingbooks like ‘Cadillac Desert,’ for the past 100 years, the ‘LA-Owens Valley Water War’ narrative has centered around theviewpoint that L.A. went out and ‘stole’ Owens Valley’s water. But there is a greater story, an untold story that is rich inhistory and human achievement, a story that is as much a part of American memory as the creation of our great cities.
“This film documents the history of Paiute Native Americans who constructed and managed 60 miles of intricate irrigationsystems in Owens Valley for millennia long before L.A. secured its largest source of water through modern engineering acentury ago.”
Cavelle said she has been working closely with Harry Williams of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and other members of the NativeAmerican community to tell the story that she says has been overlooked since the LADWP began purchasing land in theEastern Sierra.
“We’ve been in production since March and we have several hundred hours of footage, and we’re still filming,” Cavellesaid.
When completed, the film will be a short, 20-minute documentary that will be eligible for submission in the short filmfestival circuit.
With so much information, and such a story to tell, Cavelle said she can easily create a full-length documentary about theOwens Valley Paiutes and their history and relationship with water, but her immediate goal is to create the short,accessible documentary and get the information out to the public.
“I just like the format of short documentary films – you can tell the story without making it too much and losing theaudience,” Cavelle said. “Some people from Hollywood have approached me about a full-length documentary film” but anyserious conversations about pursuing that will be held after “Paya” is complete.
Cavelle said the film will be distributed to a number of individuals who invested in the project, raising the $40,000necessary to complete the film. She is also hoping to hold a local premier and have screenings at various venues in InyoCounty. Ultimately, the film will be shown at the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center on West Line Street along withan exhibit she is creating to accompany the documentary.
“This film was born out of a community service project that included (museum exhibits), mapping the Owens ValleyPaiute’s irrigation systems and literacy programs around water,” Cavelle said, adding that she is also working on amuseum exhibit for the Bancroft Library in Berkeley.
Through her project, Cavelle said she has developed a relationship with the OVC, which approached her earlier this year tosee if she would be willing to work on its documentary, “Slake.”
Cavelle said that initially, she refused because she was “so entrenched in ‘Paya,’” that she didn’t think she would have thetime or energy to begin work on yet another project.
But as “Slake” began to take shape, Cavelle said that she saw a need, namely in fundraising efforts, that she could fillthrough her media and social networking contacts.
Thus Cavelle joined the project as a coproducer, and began a campaign to help the OVC generate money and interest to getthe project off the ground.
Cavelle said she has helped raise between $4,000 and $5,000 for the ‘Slake’ project.
According to the OVC, the ‘Slake’ film series aims to document ongoing environmental struggles in the Eastern Sierra dueto continued water extraction by the LADWP.
“This project is timely as the 100-year anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is being celebrated,” Cavelle said in a pressrelease. “Once complete, ‘Slake’ will be available freely on the web and to media outlets. In addition it will be screened togroups in Los Angeles, Owens Valley and greater California.”
The OVC has initiated an online fundraising campaign and is seeking tax-deductible donations to fund ‘Slake.’ To viewthe film project trailer and to donate to the campaign residents can visit www.indigogo.com/projects/slake-water-power-in-the-eastern-sierra.
OVC President Alan Bacock said that the group is hoping to raise about $30,000 for the film series, which will beginwhere Cavelle’s leaves off. “We will be looking at the original inhabitants of the Owens Valley and what happened withthat when the occupation of LADWP began,” Bacock said. “If the two films were tied together, (‘Paya’) would be like aprequel, and we’re moving more into the modern era.”
To date, the OVC has raised about $10,000, one-third of the amount it needs.
“We cannot make this important educational project happen without public support. Concerned citizens must join in oureffort. ‘Slake’ has the power to hold DWP accountable,” said Nina Weisman, communications director of OVC.
The documentary will be filmed by Bristlecone Media. Jonah Matthewson of Bristlecone Media said the project is still inthe fundraising stages, but, when complete, will include a number of different short films covering a variety of topics.”
“The story is part of Southern California’s origin myth, Los Angeles’ Original Sin: the Department of Water and Powertook water from the Owens Valley to fuel the city’s growth, dooming not only the desert landscape but its own,” the OVCsays on its website. “That story’s usually told in the past tense, but it still unfolds today, a century later. And a forthcomingvideo series from the OVC and Bristlecone Media intends to bring us all up to speed.”

1863 Indian Massacre Site Uncovered in California

Photo retrieved from: www.newser.com

“Archaeologists say they’ve stumbled upon a grim page in American history: the site of the 1863 Owens Lake massacre. The Los Angeles Times provides a history lesson: The Paiute Indians occupied land some 200 miles north of LA that proved desirable to an influx of ranchers in the mid 1800s. The Owens Valley Indian War broke out in 1861, but a seminal moment occurred on March 19, 1863: Settlers and soldiers battled with the Paiutes, who tried to flee their attackers by swimming into the lake, but were thwarted by a strong wind; nearly three dozen of them drowned or were shot. The tale of that day remains, but the exact location was lost.

That’s in part because officials diverted the Owens River in 1913 in order to feed LA’s water needs, reports Grist; by the middle of the next decade, Owens Lake was no more. But heavy winds and rains in 2009 may have helped return bullets, buttons, and Native American artifacts to the surface; Los Angeles Department of Water and Power archaeologists found them during a survey last year. But the discovery is spurring a small controversy: The dry lake bed fuels toxic dust storms, and DWP has been charged with mitigating that with shallow flooding—at what is now thought to be the massacre site.”

Read more: Newser

 

Suffocating The Desert: L.A.’s Need for Water Hurts Others

Photo retrieved from: www.kcet.org

“The skin of the desert has been peeled away. It is aloft, and it chokes those of us who breathe here. Each scrape from each stray plow or dozer, each square foot of exposed lakebed with the water siphoned off, each section of desert deemed to be more useful as a blank square mile ends up as dust in the air. It hangs in our skies. It collects in our lungs. It kills us by increment, and someone else benefits.

My life has been shortened by living here. I have been sick. For the past eight months I have mostly woken in coughing fits. My abdominal muscles ache from it. My body heals itself as best it can, but the slightest cold, the slightest cloud of vapor from a gas pump that would cause a short moment of choking before I moved here, and I’m off again for weeks. It doesn’t take much dust. One day in a month, perhaps, of the blue sky replaced by khaki and that sick metallic, greasy smell is all it takes.

You might come visit for a weekend at a time and never see the dust. You might never get the feeling in running your fingers through your hair that they come away coated in talcum and static electricity. You might never find yourself wondering if that trip to the grocery store might cost you a day’s work in lung spasms.

Stay here for more than a couple weeks and you will know the feeling.

Dust was in court last week, or at least dust’s advocates at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) were in court, hearing their lawsuit against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District get thrown out on a technicality. LADWP is concerned that taking action to keep alkaline dust from blowing off the Owens Lake bed, which it dried out by stages over the last century, would be — in words LADWP uses over and over again — ” “a waste of water.”

Read more: KCET

 

Nuclear Dump in Washington Leaking Radioactive Waste

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“On Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy said liquid levels are decreasing in one of 177 underground tanks at the site. Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels, but Inslee said the leak could be in the range of 150 gallons to 300 gallons over the course of a year and poses a potential long-term threat to groundwater and rivers.

The Northwest News Network, in an interview with Tom Carpenter, head of the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge, found that Friday’s news highlights the fact that problems have been endemic to the site for years and there’s not even a place to transfer the contained waste or a place to return any that may be recovered from spills or leaks.

“If you have another leak, what do you do?,” ask Carpenter.  “You don’t have any strategy for that. And the Hanford Advisory Board and the state of Washington and Hanford Challenge and others have been calling upon the Department of Energy to build new tanks. That call has been met with silence.”

And the Chicago Tribune adds:

Though more than a third of the 149 old single-shell tanks at the site are suspected to have leaked up to 1 million gallons of nuclear waste over the years, this is the first confirmed leak since federal authorities completed a so-called stabilization program in 2005 that was supposed to have removed most liquids from the vulnerable single-shell tanks.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Traces Of Anxiety Drugs May Make Fish Act Funny

Photo retrieved from: www.npr.org

“The water is likely to be considerably cleaner upstream and downstream from the sewage plant where the Swedish perch were captured.

Adding more uncertainty in this case: Benzodiazepines have been used for decades in Sweden, so they have no doubt been in this aquatic ecosystem for many years.

“These fish may have adapted to that,” Schlenk says.

Scientists now realize that low levels of pharmaceuticals have spread through the environment. For instance, Schlenk has found a Valium-like drug in the hornyhead turbot, a fish that lives on the seafloor off the California coast. Other lab studies have shown that human drugs can affect the behavior of striped bass and other species.

These drug traces don’t pose an obvious threat to people, who might drink water from streams or eat the fish that live in them.

“The presence of pharmaceuticals in surface waters — or even the residues that accumulate in edible in fish and shellfish — are much lower than what you might need to gain a therapeutic dose,” says Bryan Brooks of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

But, he cautions, that isn’t necessarily the case in the developing world.”

“Some of the observations in India, for example, downstream of manufacturing facilities, are among the highest concentrations of pharmaceuticals reported in the environment,” he says. “So the developing world really deserves some additional attention.”

Read more: NPR

In California, Reading the Snow to Tell the Future for the Water Supply

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“In California’s water system, one of the world’s most sophisticated and complex, the snowpack plays a leading role by supplying water to more than 25 million people and almost one million acres of farmland. Snow that accumulates on the Sierra Nevada’s 400-mile range starts to melt in the spring, draining into rivers that feed reservoirs below.

As Mr. Gehrke and his team gauge the depth and water content of the snowpack, other department officials begin forecasting how much water the snowpack will be able to deliver this year.

Those who depend on the snowpack for water adjust their plans accordingly. Water districts may start looking for water elsewhere or carry out conservation measures. Farmers consider the forecasts in deciding what crops to plant or whether to take bank loans to buy more seed and equipment for the year.

Ryan Jacobsen, who is executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau and also sits on the board of the Fresno Irrigation District, said that the snow surveys are the” “bible for what decisions irrigation districts are going to make for the rest of the year.”

“Fresno County is the No. 1 agricultural county in the nation, but we also happen to be situated climatically in the middle of a desert,” he said. “It really is the Sierra Nevada snowpack that makes this desert bloom.”

Read more: The New York Times

DWP seeks truce in water wars as L.A. Aqueduct nears 100

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“The region’s economy and wildlife have struggled in a stunning landscape of snowcapped peaks, cascading streams and sage plains dotted with alfalfa fields and cattle ranches, and flanked by lava flows and dormant volcanoes. At dry Owens Lake, the focus of an agonizingly complex and expensive effort to control dust storms, dust pollution frequently exceeds federal health standards. Some locals have expressed their feelings toward the DWP by urinating in the aqueduct while reciting, “L.A. needs the water.”

These days, many Owens Valley residents are happy about the DWP’s newly conciliatory attitude, even if they wonder why it is coming now instead of much earlier. “The obvious question to ask is, ‘Why couldn’t it have been resolved years ago?’ ” said Geoff Pope, chairman of the board of the 40 Acres Homeowners Water Assn.

The DWP insists publicly that the three settlements have nothing to do with the anniversary festivities. “It’s serendipity,” DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said. “The important thing is to show that the DWP will work with reasonable people to find solutions that work for both sides.”

The standoff at 40 Acres, where the DWP and residents own property and water rights, began in 2001, when the utility constructed the diversion gate controlled with a wheel the size of a dinner plate.

The structure gave DWP control of the water, replacing a wooden diversion gate that locals had installed at a fork in the creek in the mid-1970s. It diverted water into a latticework of ditches, which disperses it through their little patch of cottonwoods, modest homes and pastures.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times