New York Times - A soaking El Niño weather system is in the forecast, promising to pummel California with torrents of rain by the end of the year. That would seem like Champagne-popping news as this state suffers through its worst drought in a millennium. But in the latest sign of the meteorological, behavioral and political challenges that California leaders face in managing this crisis, the prospect of months of heavy rain has become a cause for concern as well as celebration - a cloud on the horizon that could bring this state more than just moisture. It is forcing state emergency officials to turn from trying to manage water rationing and forest fires to preparing for floods, mudslides and debris flows that follow extended dry periods, made worse by the fact that forests have been denuded by drought-fueled blazes. And after months of success at persuading Californians to conserve water - the most recent figures show that residents pared back their water use 31 percent in July, compared with July 2013 - the prospect of the El Niño-as-savior threatens to lull Californians back to long showers and daily dousings of lawns.
Washington Post - The storied Northwest Passage is open - its so-called "southerly route," anyway. Such is the latest assessment from the National Snow and Ice Date Center, which suggests that the passage famously discovered by the explorer Roald Amundsen in the early 1990s, connecting Baffin Bay to Beaufort Sea via straits within the Canadian Arctic archipelago, may be navigable at the moment (though the center also urges contacting authorities before reaching this conclusion). The Passage - which is really a collection of multiple possible sea routes through the icy islands - has been drawing more and more attention lately. President Obama's trip to the Alaskan Arctic, and his call for the U.S. to beef up its tiny fleet of icebreakers has focused attention on predictions that the region will see much more shipping and tourism as sea ice steadily declines. And if you want to boost shipping, being able to get from the U.S. west coast to its east coast (or vice versa) without having to sail down to the Panama Canal would certainly be a boon.
New York Times - Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric utility, agreed on Thursday to pay nearly $5.4 million to settle a 15-year legal battle with federal regulators over whether its power plants skirted Clean Air Act regulations in the 1990s. The settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department requires Duke to pay a $975,000 fine and to spend $4.4 million more on environmental programs in North Carolina, where the company is based. Duke also agreed to shut down three units of a five-unit coal-burning power plant in Belmont, NC, just west of Charlotte, by the end of 2024, three and a half years ahead of schedule. The case had been set to go to trial next month. In a statement, the company insisted that it had not violated the law and said it had agreed to a settlement because it was less expensive than continuing a court battle. The E.P.A. said that when the settlement was fully in force, emissions of sulfur dioxide an nitrogen oxide from the power plants at issue - 51,000 tons in 2000 - will have been reduced to zero.
Wunderground - In the waters of the Eastern Pacific, strong westerly winds have pushed a massive amount of warm water against the coasts of the Americas, resulting in one of the strongest El Niño events ever observed. Not only does El Niño impact atmospheric patterns, changing storm tracks and suppressing Atlantic hurricane frequency, it also typically resulting in an increase in coastal "nuisance" flooding at high tide along the U.S. West Coast and mid-Atlantic coasts. Nuisance flooding is expensive, causing frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm water systems, and damage to infrastructure. According to a September 9 press release from NOAA, some cities along the mid-Atlantic coast can expect record amounts of "nuisance" flooding at high tide during the coming winter - at Sandy Hook, Lewes DE, Washington D.C. and Norfolk, VA.
Coloradoan - The Environmental Protection Agency has qualms about the review process for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, detailed in 20 pages of comments made public Thursday. The EPA gave a rating of "Environmental Objections Engineers' supplemental draft environmental impact statement, which was subject to public comments until Sept. 3. The "environmental objections" rating means the EPA has identified significant environmental impacts that the project must avoid. The "insufficient information" rating means the EPA found that the SDEIS doesn't contain enough information to fully analyze the project's environmental impacts. The EPA's comments aren't necessarily binding, but the agency has veto power over the permitting process. Both ratings are one step away from the worst the EPA can dole out. The EPA could have rated the project "environmentally unsatisfactory," meaning it shouldn't proceed as proposed, and "inadequate," which would have required the Army Corps to release another supplemental draft.
The Villager - Almost three years after Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a $3 million study of the region. The study will also analyze possible protective measures, including a storm surge barrier spanning the five miles between the Rockaways in New York and Sandy Hook in New Jersey. For Robert Trentlyon, a longtime Chelsea resident, former community newspaper publisher and waterfront and park advocate, this is welcome news.
Lagniappe Weekly - Despite the positive response to the first collection of projects proposed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (GCERC), director Justin Ehrenwerth said the group's biggest challenge going forward could be prioritizing the interests of the five states and six federal agencies the council comprises. In 2012, Congress passed the RESTORE Act, which for the first time gave the coastal states more control over the financial penalties assessed to the companies responsible for a man-made disaster - in this case, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The GCERC, or federal council, oversees one of five funding streams established by the legislation and is responsible for addressing the recovery and sustained health of the Gulf Coast.
The Outer Banks Voice - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopper dredge Currituck has resumed operations in Oregon Inlet trying to stay ahead of shoaling east of the Bonner Bridge that continues to fill in the main channel of the troublesome waterway. An Aug. 31 survey of the inlet shows the channel dug earlier this spring across the shoal formed by the Bodie Island Spit has all but filled back in, and boats are again making a hard turn just east of the protective fenders undre the bridge to stay in deeper water. The hopper dredge Currituck began working 12 hours a day in on Monday, and is scheduled to stay until at least Sept. 20, according to the Corps' Outer Banks Field Office team leader Steven S. Shriver. Shriver added that another survey of the inlet was conducted Tuesday, and those results would be available in a couple of days.
CT Post - Though there seems to be general agreement that the health of Long Island Sound, arguably Connecticut's greatest natural resource, has improved over the last 30 years, disturbing new information shows that there's still a crisis. Some of the statistics uncovered in a Hearst Connecticut Media investigation of federal Environmental Protection Agency documents are staggering; from sources public and private, tons of marine life-threatening pollutants like phosphorus, ammonia, nitrogen and ominously nebulous so-called "solids" find their way into the sound regularly. Despite the millions of dollars and the governmental and individual effort that have gone into cleaning up the sound over the last few decades, specifically to reduce nitrogen, beaches in Connecticut and New York failed bacteria tests more frequently between 2010 and 2015 than they did between 2004 and 2010, the records show.
Bangor Daily News - Opponents of a controversial $12 million dredging project for the local harbor hailed news Wednesday that state and federal officials had withdrawn their permit application from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. But an official with the Maine Department of Transportation, which is co-sponsoring the project said the withdrawal was likely temporary and that a revised application would probably be resubmitted. A letter indicating that the application for a water quality certification was being withdrawn was sent Tuesday, Sept. 8, to the Maine DEP from Barbara Blumeris of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and from John Henshaw, director of ports and marine transportation for the Maine DOT.
ClimateWire - Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and a failed federal levee system killed more than a thousand and devastated the Gulf Coast, this city is littered with constant reminders of the risks locals face each storm season. Seventeen "evacuspots" around the city, marked by metal sculptures of 14-foot waving stick figures, cue memories of the government evacuation plan that fell apart in 2005. Katrina floodwaters trapped more than 100,000 residents left behind, many of them in harrowing conditions in "shelters of last resort" at the Superdome and the city's convention center. The statues are official meeting places for anyone who needs a ride out of town during the next mandatory evacuation. One stands north of the French Quarter, just in front of the historic Congo Square, where slaves in colonial times gathered on Sundays to set up markets, dance and play music.