November 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
A year ago, my Thanksgiving post was a tribute of sorts to an endangered species, the Vaquita marina, and a reflection on our consumption of water – an important cause of distress for this brackish-water dwelling, small porpoise:
I can tell you now, I thought that the tribute was an elegy to a dying species, the pitch for water conservation quite possibly a lost cause. But I needed to learn more, to see this in person – even if that meant dragging out the melancholy. And so, I teamed with Josh Link on a series, Explorations of the Lower Colorado River – a humbling and amazing trip in which we saw how a people’s love for a land, commitment to all species, and creativity and capability was being rewarded, poco a poco, with adjustments and agreements and funding and projects that kept some habitat on life support. But what was really needed was water for the river, for the delta.
This week, the hard work of these environmentalists in the Mexico and US border region has been rewarded: a landmark pact between the two nations recognizing the delta’s need for water, and other measures. It is a five-year treaty, so the flows are not secure. But it is an incredible beginning.
Today’s Thanksgiving celebrates an newfound abundance for a long-withered waterway, a lifeline and hope.
Congratulations, to all involved.
In the news:
National Geographic: A historic binational agreement gives new life to the Colorado River Delta
Huffington Post: An historic step towards saving the Colorado River and Delta
You can also see photos and news about the delta at the Save the Colorado River Delta Facebook page. They’ve also posted video of Mexico’s Director General of the National Water Commission talking about the pact.
June 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
It is likely that many folks living in Los Angeles County are either entirely unfamiliar with hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short) or are under the impression it occurs only in distant places such as the Appalachian Basin (Marcellus Shale). This resource extraction process utilizes the high-pressure injection of thousands (and in some cases, millions) of gallons of water, sand and a proprietary blend of up to 600 chemicals (potentially including known carcinogens such as lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid and/or formaldehyde) into deep wells to open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. While the practice is primarily associated with the natural gas industry, fracking is also a method used by the petroleum industry as a means of squeezing more production out of what were previously thought to be exhausted wells.
For the vast majority of Angelenos, it might come as a surprise to find out that there are two local petroleum wells, VIC-1-330 (Baldwin Hills, Plains Exploration & Production Company) and DOM-1 (Dominguez Hills, Occidental Oil and Gas), that have been fracked as recently as January of this year (SOURCE: FracFocus) and according to a recent report by Christine Shearer of Truthout, fracking has occurred in the L.A. basin for some time: « Read the rest of this entry »
May 15, 2012 § 6 Comments
On the heels of a critical piece of writing by Emily Green on the state of sediment management in Los Angeles (published in the May 14th edition of High Country News), the L.A. County Department of Public Works has completed (as of April) its draft 20-year Sediment Management Strategic Plan for 2012-2032 and is currently soliciting public comments until Wednesday, May 30th. The enormous document (524 pages) is available for download at www.LASedimentManagement.com (the downloadable document entitled “Community Meeting Boards” is a conveniently concise summary of the larger plan). « Read the rest of this entry »
May 8, 2012 § 12 Comments
Upon crossing the border threshold on foot at Los Algodones, we were met by the smiling faces of Osvel, Juliana and Isobet, the dedicated staff of Pronatura Noroeste. Our guides would prove to be among the most generous, hospitable people we have encountered in our travels. While absorbing the unfolding story of a lost river waiting to be found once again, we were simultaneously pulled headfirst into the ramifications of what we heard. Revelatory moments are scarce in an age of excessive information and we took care in absorbing a dose of pure, unadulterated perspective. At the end of the day, every blade of turf, every kidney-shaped swimming pool, every rinsed-off sidewalk, every broken sprinkler head, every drop of discarded greywater would forever hold new significance… « Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2012 § 14 Comments
Standing there, on the banks near a defunct stream gage, the dissonance between the earthtones of the desert, the hard greys and greens of asphalt and concrete and cars and lawn and monocultured lettuce fields, of industrial development’s footprint on the land and on this withered anemic river, whose water seemed almost still, made me a little dizzy.
But, unbeknownst to me, I was fighting a bacterial blood infection (and then some), so if my impressions seem fevered and lurid, well, it may have just been me – or Proteus OX-19.
But back to the river, and the Quartermaster’s Depot.
This, along with an old jail, are two of the oldest buildings in Yuma, on high ground, looking over the Colorado River. The Quartermaster’s is where mules were kept, hauling goods out of the steamers coming up from the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California).
Is the visual of a steamship coming up this channel playing tricks with your mind? « Read the rest of this entry »
March 16, 2012 § 4 Comments
The Lower Colorado River’s been getting some good attention in the media lately(1, 2). And Creek Freak Josh Link and I have also recently been exploring the river and its issues, and look forward to presenting a series of posts on the topic.
It all started for me with the vaquita porpoise.
In 2005 I was a watershed coordinator tasked with addressing issues of water conservation in the Ballona Creek watershed. As odd as that may sound to people expecting a watershed coordinator to focus, on, say, the watershed itself, that’s how the grant worked. Chalk it up to Bay-Delta politics. That mandate, however, did me an eye-opening favor. For as much as I understood that most of our water was imported, I’d never bothered to consider how those far-away places were impacted by our big straws. A little self-education via Google’s search engine opened up a world of dessicated wildlands, endangered species, and amazement at how completely we lack perspective when we talk about water “demand”(1, 2). « Read the rest of this entry »
February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment
Cadiz, Inc today announced that it has optioned use of a derelict gas line to ship northern Californian water to the Mojave Desert for long-term storage by….
December 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
Speaking of the lower Colorado River, check out this wonderful video giving some historical context, issues and hope:
The rebound of bird species is particularly notable with this restoration project, where the prior, degraded, condition included filled channels, disconnected wetlands, and a lack of natural flooding resulting in the loss of habitat diversity and a thicket of non-native species. Reflecting on some local arguments, I see that a combo of hand labor and big machines were used, dredging for floodplains and re-establishment of channels. Restoring flooding with “industrial style” restoration with adaptive management techniques might not always be so bad after all…
November 24, 2011 § 11 Comments
You know how everyone always says there’s no way Angelenos could live on local water alone?
I had to test this assumption as my warm-up to a standard Thanksgiving exercise, naming something I’m grateful for: freshwater and all the lovelies it supports, in the myriad chain of life descending from the availability of freshwater.
There are obvious lovelies – cottonwood, willow and sycamore trees along riparian corridors.
And the well-known extirpated and endangered freshwater species – steelhead trout, salmon…
Or the less obvious – cuties like the turbid-delta-dwelling vaquita porpoise, who are squeezed to less than 250 individuals in the Gulf of California, thanks initally to habitat loss and now more hazardously, gillnet/trawler entrapment. Of course there’s skepticism regarding the loss-of-habitat angle, after all the Colorado River Delta only shrank when Mexico lost 90-95% of Colorado River flows, or as the Center for Biological Diversity says: ”the (vaquita) also suffers by living in a habitat that is today a shadow of its former self. The Colorado River, once a raging torrent that fed a lush floodplain at the delta, has been reduced to a trickle by dams and water diversions to neighboring southwestern states.” « Read the rest of this entry »
September 29, 2011 § 7 Comments
Last Tuesday (9/20), the Council for Watershed Health (formerly the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council) hosted a creek-freaky event entitled Shifting Soil: Sediment Management Policies in Los Angeles. While I was fortunate enough to be in attendance, it has taken some time to digest all that was discussed and to place in context all of the remarks that were made. The following is my best attempt at a summary including a few thoughts on the topic. For further reading, have a gander at Mademoiselle Gramophone’s in depth coverage (including video and audio snippets) or visit the Council’s event archive for downloadable PDF files of each presentation. A friendly forewarning: this post is a lengthy one… « Read the rest of this entry »