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Mar 11 2013

A Few Good Reads (3/11/13): Proposed Dam in Alaska, Realities of Managing the Delta

This week: The economic and environmental challenges of a proposed dam in Alaska, some realities of managing the San Joaquin/Sacramento Delta, restoring the Muddy River in Boston, and pondering lost urban rivers.

Proposed Dam Presents Economic and Environmental Challenges in Alaska (NY Times)

But in Alaska, where natural energy resources and wildlife are both foundations of the economy, the proposed dam presents twin conundrums.

One is economic: which is better, creating a reliable source of hydroelectricity and weaning some of the state off natural gas, or building a spur off a proposed pipeline to bring gas from the North Slope to the populated region from Fairbanks to the Kenai Peninsula? Or both? The other is environmental: what serves the environment best, replacing natural gas-fired electricity with hydroelectricity, which is free of greenhouse gas emissions, or keeping the Susitna watershed untrammeled and avoiding the risks involved in changing the dynamics of a major salmon stream?

Levee break on Upper Jones Track, June 3, 2004. State Department of Water Resources.

Ten realities for managing the Delta (California WaterBlog)

In my gloomier days, I think “co-equal goals” really means just slowing the native fishes’ slide towards extinction, so we can say, “Well, we tried.” But fundamentally I am an optimist. I like to think of a rosier future for the Delta ecosystem under the rubric of “reconciliation ecology” (Rosenzweig 2002).

This means we accept the fact that all species live in human-dominated ecosystems, and that we must make those systems as welcoming as possible for the desirable (mostly native) species. This means greater integration of natural processes into the management of all areas, whether cities, farms, wildlands or waterways.

This will not be easy. But I love to think of the Delta as the first place in California where reconciliation ecology is applied on a large scale.

Muddy River Restoration Work Under Way (ENR)

Major components of the $30.9-million phase-one work include removal of undersized culverts to install two 24-ft by 10-ft precast- concrete arch culverts supported by 3-ft-dia and approximately 50-ft-long drilled shafts under existing roadways; construction of concrete headwalls and wing walls also supported by caissons and excavation to return the waterway to a natural state.

The town of Brookline and Commonwealth of Massachusetts have charged the Corps with finding solutions to both flooding and degraded aquatic habitat. “High sediment in the river has resulted in a low oxygen level in the river, causing many fish to die,” Keegan says.

Larimer farmers warned scorched forests may shut off irrigation water (Denver Post)

The scorching of Colorado forests by super-intense wildfires is worsening the water woes for Eldon Ackerman and other Larimer County farmers, jeopardizing thousands of irrigated acres that normally produce millions of dollars in crops.

The problem: soot, sediment and debris washing from burned forests have made the Cache la Poudre River less reliable as Fort Collins’ main water supply for urban households. Particles clog treatment facilities.

So, city officials say, they must heavily tap their secondary supply — water piped under mountains from the Western Slope. That water typically has been leased to farmers.

Fort Collins officials recently notified 80 farmers not to expect any leased water this spring.

And suddenly, Ackerman — instead of ordering seeds and fertilizer — is talking with insurers and preparing to lay off hired hands.

Megatron culvert storm drain. Image by dsankt, SleepyCity.

Lost urban rivers beneath our feet (River Management Blog)

Sheffield is a water city. The city sleeps, but the springs and streams still flow beneath us. This is the same story in many towns and cities around the world. London, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Paris, Zurich and more are all beginning to rekindle an interest in lost urban rivers. Lost urban rivers might be physically hidden in culverts beneath our feet, or they might be just psychologically hidden from view and forgotten about.

So now you know. Keep a look out for a lost urban river near you.

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