Today in WaterWise News:
Scientists confirm the risk to global warming posed by wildfires - Electricity innovation before the Supreme Court - Borrowing capacity and resiliency - Justin Trudeau and Keystone XL - Interior Inspector General under scrutiny - Decision on EPA water rule looms nearer - On the Snake River Salmon - Braddock Locks and Dam Hydropower Plant moving slowly - Uncertainty surrounding the McKinley Channel - Seagrass Mitigation for Miami Harbor dredging - Underhill cleaning the Bayou Chico - Building construction continuing close to eroding beaches - Grand Strand officials in a scramble for funding - Californians on Water Policy - and New Haven eyeing millions for Super Storm resilience.
Washington Post - In not much more than a month, leaders from around the world will assembly in Paris in order to - hopefully - find a way to cap the world's greenhouse gas emissions and bring them down to safe levels. But there's a problem. There are some greenhouse gas sources that these leaders can't fully control - and in some cases, reasons to think that these sources may sources may grow in the future. The point is being driven home this year by raging peat fires in Indonesia, which have already contributed over a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions to the atmosphere - as much as Japan produces in a year from fossil fuels. And the blazes still appear to be on the rise, meaning that the net contribution this year could ultimately be considerably higher than that. Indonesia isn't the only part of the world where fires - which in many areas are expected to be worsened by climate change - could provide a new net source of emissions to the atmosphere. Read more.
Washington Post - FERC. Demand response. Wholesale retail electricity markets. If names and phrases like these have already made you want to stop reading, then chances are news last week about the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association was not at the top of your list. That response is totally understandable. This stuff is beyond wonky. It pains even us electricity nerds. Nevertheless, what's at stake in the case goes to the heart of the gigantic changes that are happening n the ways we get electricity - and pay for it. So while this might not sound like it directly affects you, the truth is that we're all ultimately parties to the transition the grid is undergoing right now. Indeed, in the long run, our electricity bills are likely to be affected by these transformations - changes so disruptive that they have now landed before the Supreme Court. Read more.
Wall Street Journal - Income and wealth can tell us a lot about a community's ability to bounce back from a disaster - be it a financial crisis, hurricane or destructive protests. But there's another metric that's often overlooked: the ability of a community to access credit. In the years since the financial crisis, experts have analyzed the income and assets of the U.S. households to help explain why some communities were hit so much harder by the downturn, and have taken longer to recover. High unemployment, stagnant wages and the massive hit to household wealth caused by plunging home prices held back the recovery in pockets of the country. But researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had a different idea in the wake of superstorm Sandy, which caused tens of billions of dollars in damage to businesses and homes in New York and New Jersey. The ability to borrow, they argue, is just as critical to explaining discrepancies in the pace of recovery. The more people in the community who are able to access credit, the greater the ability to help the entire community move forward when times are tough - say, by redeveloping a dilapidated storefront, opening or expanding a business or buying a new home. Read more.
Washington Post - King tides. Nuisance flooding. Coastal flood advisory. Road closed. These are phrases that are commonly heard and seen this time of year in the Miami area, especially in low-lying Miami Beach. The highest astronomical tides of the year are coming up in the next couple of weeks, and if these past few are any indication of what’s to come, the Miami area could see some of the highest flood levels that have been observed in decades — even on a perfectly sunny day. The official water level gauge for the Miami area is located on Virginia Key, a small island east of downtown Miami and south of Miami Beach. Specifically, the gauge is on the end of a dock on the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School campus. It’s been the official gauge since 1996. Read more.
Washington Post - The Canadian election Monday ousted a strong supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline. And it brought into office another strong supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline. The new Canadian prime minister, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, has supported the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as well as TransCanada's proposed $12 billion Energy East pipeline, both of which would carry bitumen from Alberta's vast oil sands to ports and world markets. Trudeau has said that the pipelines should be important parts of a national infrastructure program he supports. But at the same time, he advocates the adoption of a national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental groups say the two positions are incompatible. Read more.
E&E Daily - Mary Kendall yesterday faced a barrage of tough questions from Republican senators. The Department of the Interior deputy inspector general - who has held the department's top watchdog job on an acting basis since 2009 - appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee along with a slate of Obama administration nominees for senior Interior and Department of Energy positions. Nominations by the White House for the permanent job, Kendall's tenure as acting IG was picked over by GOP lawmakers, hinting at the opposition to her confirmation from some on and off Capitol Hill. The Interior watchdog defended her record before the senators. Kendall said that she has stuck to her beliefs during her more than six years in the IG position. Read more.
The Hill - If ever a rule deserved killings, it's the new water rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A classic example of "regulators gone wild," the rule seeks ot regulate almost every "body" of water in these United States. For example, man-made ditches and ephemeral streams (typically dry water beds that carry water only after major storms) could be regulated. Such regulatory overreach would have been anathema to the authors of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which lays out a cooperative relationship between the federal government and states. Yet this overreaching regulation has prompted attorneys general and regulatory agencies from 31 different states to sue the federal government. Read more.
Union-Bulletin - Declines of Snake River salmon started in the 1800s from habitat destruction in tributaries as logs were dragged down spawning streams. Debris from logging clogged streams, impassable culverts blocked access to spawning areas, and siltation from logging roads clogged stream beds. Marcus Whitman began diverting Walla Walla River water at his mission starting in 1837. Following his example, settlers diverted multitudes of small streams and rivers throughout the Snake River Basin with temporary and permanent dams and canals. Miners swarmed over Oregon, Washington and Idaho streams from the 1860s into the 1950s, tearing up streams and even river valleys, leaving behind silted and polluted streams that no longer produced salmon. Read more.
Trib Live - A Dallas-based startup is moving ahead with a plant o become the first company to operate a hydropower plant in Allegheny County, but don't expect a heavy flow of followers just yet. Despite a federal push to generate more electricity from water, especially at existing structures such as the Braddock Locks and Dam on the Monongahela River, expansion has been slow. "It is more economically feasible right now to build generators that burn off natural gas...than to build hyrdo," said Penn State University mechanical engineering professor John M. Cimbala, who was the principal investigator on a $3 million project between the school and the Department of Energy to train graduate students in hyrdopower research and development. Read more.
Alamogordo Daily News - An Oct. 9 letter from the Army Corps of Engineers informed Alamogordo Mayor Susie Galea that the future of Alamagordo's $79 million flood mitigation project, which includes the south and McKinley diversion channels, is uncertain. While the south channel has been completed the McKinley is far from finished. The Corps expects to inform the city in March 2016 if the final phase of McKinley channel construction, which has been carried out in a piece-meal fashion at the request of the city, has been appropriated the necessary funds for completion. Because the city is required to contribute 25 percent of the cost of the project, Alamogordo will be required to provide $4.8 million by August 2016 should the project get the green light. Read more.
Hydro International - CSA Ocean Sciences In. (CSA) has successfully completed the transplantation of over 115,000 seagrass plants into a newly filled dredge hole north of Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami, Florida as part of the overall environmental mitigation requirements for the deepening and widening of Miami Harbor. CSA was part of the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC (GLDD) team that was awarded the prime contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The "deep dredge" project took two years to complete and is the first federal navigation project in the southeast built to accommodate post-Panamax vessels. During August and September 2015, CSA staff systematically planted 14.3 acres of the 17-acre mitigation site using donor manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme) harvested from a nearby healthy seagrass community in Biscayne Bay. Read more.
Pensacola News Journal - Industrial plants along the shoreline, murky spots and debris in the water, derelict boats tied to docks, and litter washed up on the land area all associated with Bayou Chico. County Commissioner Doug Underhill (District-2) minced no words last week at a Bayou Chico Association meeting when he said, "It's always been that centerpiece on the wall of shame." At that same meeting, Underhill told the association cleaning the bayou is his "No. 1 priority" and that ultimately means dredging the waterway. The Northwest Florida Management District estimated the cost to be $8 million for a proposed dredging project submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection RESTORE portal. Keith Wilkins, county community and environment director, admits $8 million will only put a dent in dredging the Bayou Chico. Read more.
First Coast News - The weather is kicking up surf and wind along the coast, setting the stage for more erosion in areas that are already critically eroded. Meanwhile, construction of new homes still continues in those areas. In Vilano Beach, one house on the beach has become a house on a cliff. Winds and waves have ripped the sand dune from under the homes' foundation exposing pipes and cables. The sea wall has done little to nothing to stop the high waves. "It's done nothing," Tracy Hannah commented. She lives a couple blocks from the beach. She often walks on the beach with her dog. "If the seawall wasn't there, we would've lost so many more homes," she noted. Walkways are crumbling due to erosion. Roots of plants are hanging in the air. Other homes are near the edge. Read more.
Asbury Park Press - What does a runaway tractor trailer barreling down Interstate 64 near Beckley, West Virginia, have to do with protecting the Jersey Shore from the devastating potential of another major storm event? It turns out that understanding the answer to this question is key to understanding how to protect our Shore, as well as how to dispel the incredible misinformation - much of it deliberate - that has contributed to delaying the Army Corps of Engineers dune project to protect our shoreline. That runaway truck on Interstate 64 had just entered a long, steep descent when its brakes failed - a panic-inducing recipe for disaster. But, fortunately, the driver was familiar with that stretch of highway and knew that just half a mile ahead was a runaway truck ramp, of the gravity design type, running parallel to the roadway. Read more.
The State - Severe weather events this summer pummeled Grand Strand beaches and washed away hundreds of acres of sand, ripped apart walkways and stairs leading over fragile dunes, and caused significant erosion to the natural barriers that protect inland areas from coastal flooding. The historically early arrival of a tropical storm in May took a significant swipe of sand, but it was the rare trifecta in recent weeks of storm surge from Hurricane Joaquin, king tides and nearly 2 feet of record rainfall that contributed to the loss of nearly 80 percent of the sand that replenished North Myrtle Beaches during the last renourishment project in 2008. "This time around, we lost a bunch of sand," said Pat Dowling, spokesman for North Myrtle Beach. "In Cherry Grove, the high tide beach is pretty much gone. The storm surge from Joaquin, as it passed by, did not help either," Dowling said. Read more.
The Daily Signal - If California flew a state flag that truly represented its popular cultlure, it's possible we'd have not the Bear Flag, but a guy shrugging his shoulders and the word "Quicquid" - Latin for the state's unofficial motto, "Whatever." California residents have reacted to the state's increasingly draconian water cutbacks with the well-known "whatever" spirit. They've significantly exceeded Gov. Jerry Brown's water-conservation goals and tolerated rising water prices without taking to the streets in protest. But the state's ongoing water wars did, for a short time, lead to some civil disobedience, even though it was barely mentioned in the media. As local TV news stations focused on browning lawns and Brown's press conferences - the most famous of them beamed from a spot in the Sierra Nevada mountain range that ought to be covered in snow - a group of feisty rural water officials was resisting state and federal orders to deploy water for fish rather than people. Read more.
12News Now - People along the Bolivar Peninsular woke up Tuesday morning to water across Highway 87, much of it near where 87 intersects Highway 124 at High Island. 12News Chief Meteorologist Patrick Vaughn says easterly winds are pushing seawater onshore and causing coastal flooding. By Tuesday afternoon, it had receded, and to help the situation, the Texas Department of Transportation had crew place concrete barriers along the beach near road. The water went down just in time for High Island resident Todd Reily to do his regular 3-and-a-half mile run. Reily told 12News he's only been in the area for about a year, and seen Highway 87 flood three or four times. Read more.
New Haven Independent - Climate change and the threat of more superstorms have put New Haven in position to pull down millions of federal dollars to help it recover from the ongoing impact of Hurricane Sandy and to prepare for future natural disasters. The Board of Alders took a step toward that goal Monday night. The state of Connecticut is a finalist in the National Disaster Resilience Competition, a program established by the federal government to use community block development grants designated for disaster relief specifically to help communities impacted by natural disasters recover and prepare for future disasters. The two-phased program will provide $1 billion in federal funding to applicants that make the cut. Read more.
Coastal Review Online - The N.C. Aquarium's Sea Turtle Assistance Rehabilitation Center recently earned national recognition for its work. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recognized the STAR Center with the 2015 Exhibit Award in the Top Honors category for institutions operating with a $5 million or less annual budget. Aquarium director Maylon White and four staff members accepted the award Sept. 20 during the association's annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, which was attended by an audience of more than 2,000 zoo and aquarium professionals from across the country. Read more.