Dammed from the start: Many U.S. Reservoirs Could Be Rendered Useless—And That Was Part of the Plan — H2O Radio @H2OTracker

Here’s an in-depth look at sedimentation and U.S. reservoirs from H2O Radio. Click through and listen to the whole show. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

Sedimentation occurs when all the sand, silt, rocks, and soils that would naturally travel down rivers to the sea get trapped behind dams. Sediment itself is a good thing. It creates habitat, fertile farm fields, and forms deltas at the river’s mouth that are natural buffers against storms in places like Louisiana. But when dams were built along the Missouri River, that natural process came to an end and the troubles began.

Perhaps nowhere is sedimentation more evident than at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers, where the water snakes its way through lumps of grass-covered islands. The sand has piled up there ever since the completion of the Gavins Point Dam just downstream. When the sediment-laden river hits the deep standing water of its reservoir, called Lewis and Clark Lake, the water loses its energy and the load it’s carrying drops out.

Over time, the sediment mounds up to form a delta and the river is forced to go over, around, or even under it. That happens rain or shine, but during a major flood disaster, like the recent bomb cyclone, levels are pushed up proportionately, if not higher—a point the catastrophic flooding from the Spencer Dam failure made all too clear, says Nicholas Pinter, professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Davis. He says that sedimentation caused by Gavins Point Dam made the destruction of the Janak’s property more likely—“absolutely, unquestionably—and no honest person in the Corps or otherwise would say not.”

The “Corps” he’s referring to is the Army Corps of Engineers. They built Gavins Point Dam in 1955, but in the 1970s they had to move the town of Niobrara because sedimentation resulting from the dam’s reservoir was raising the water table, causing flooded basements and ruined crops.

Actually, the town of Niobrara had to be physically moved—twice. The first time was in 1881 when an ice jam on the Missouri flooded the village with nearly six feet of water. The townsfolk pulled its buildings by oxen and mule a mile-and-a-half to higher ground where they thought they would be safe. But that was before Gavins Point Dam was built.

No one disputes that the reservoir was responsible for the high groundwater in Niobrara in the 1970s. In fact, the engineers who built the dams in the 1940s and ’50s along the Missouri River knew sedimentation would be a consequence. But, says Pinter, Gavins Point Dam was “designed as almost every large dam on Earth, which is not to say that it was well designed or poorly designed, but it was well known at the time that it would not pass the sediment that it would need to, to avoid this problem.”

[…]

The fact that the dams would not pass sediment—and that eventually sedimentation would make them inoperable—was not only fully acknowledged by the engineers who designed them, but they even had a name for it—the “Sediment Design Life.” As Tim Randle, Manager of the Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group at the Bureau of Reclamation explains, “Virtually all reservoirs in the U.S. and much the world were designed with a sediment design life, meaning after so much time the reservoir’s not going to function very well, the outlet will be plugged.” For Reclamation and Army Corps dams, he says, that lifespan was somewhere around 100 years.

Graphic credit: Gregory Morris/National Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Team via H20 Radio

@GretaThunberg: Full speech from September 27, 2019 march with 500,000 people in Montreal, Canada #ClimateStrike #ActOnClimate

Greta Thunberg, Montreal, September 27, 2019 via Facebook.

From Greta Thunberg’s Facebook account:

Bonjour Montréal! Je suis très heureuse d’être ici au Canada au Québec! Ca me rappelle la maison. Merci!

It’s great to be in Canada. It’s a bit like coming home. I mean, you are so similar to Sweden, where I’m from.

You have moose and we have moose. You have cold winters and lots of snow and pine trees. And we have cold winters and lots of snow and pine trees.
You have the caribou and we have reindeer. You play ice hockey and we play ice hockey.

You have maple syrup and we have… well… forget about that one.

You are a nation that eligibly is a climate leader. And Sweden is also a nation that is eligibly a climate leader. And in both cases it sadly means absolutely nothing. Because in both cases it’s just empty words. And the politics needed is still nowhere in sight. So we are basically the same!
Last week well over 4 million people in over 170 countries striked for the climate.

We marched for a living planet and a safe future for everyone. We spoke the science and demanded that the people in power would listen to, and act on the science.

But our political leaders didn’t listen.

This week world leaders gathered in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit. They disappointed us once again with empty words and insufficient action. We told them to unite behind the science. But they didn’t listen.

So today we are millions around the world striking and marching again. And we will keep on doing it until they listen. If the people in power won’t take their responsibility, then we will. It shouldn’t be up to us, but somebody needs to do it.

They say we shouldn’t worry, that we should look forward to a bright future. But they forget that if they would have done their job, we wouldn’t need to worry. If they had started in time then this crisis would not be the crisis it is today. And we promise – once they start to do their job and take their responsibility, we will stop worrying and go back to school, go back to work.

And once again, we are not communicating our opinions or any political views. The climate and ecological crisis is beyond party politics. We are communicating the current best available science.

To some people – particularly those who in many ways have created this crisis – that science is far too uncomfortable to address. But we who will have to live with the consequences – and indeed those who are living with the climate and ecological crisis already – don’t have a choice. To stay below 1,5 degrees – and give us a chance to avoid of the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control – we must speak the truth and tell it like it is.

In the IPCCs SR1,5 report that came out last year it says on page 108 in chapter 2 that to have a 67% chance of staying below a 1,5 degrees of global temperature rise – the best odds given by the IPCC – the world had 420Gt of CO2 left to emit back on January 1st 2018.

Today that figure is already down to less than 350 Gt.

With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 and a half years.

And please note that these calculations do not include already locked in warming hidden by toxic air pollution, non linear tipping points, most feed back loops, or the aspect of equity, climate justice.

They are also relying on my generation sucking 100s of billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
And not once, not one single time, have I heard any politician, journalist or business leader even mention these numbers.
They say let children be children. We agree, let us be children. Do your part, communicate these kinds of numbers instead of leaving that responsibility to us. Then we can go back to ”being children”.

We are not in school today. We are not at work today. Because this is an emergency. And we will not be bystanders.

Some would say we are wasting lesson time, we say we are changing the world. So that when we are older we will be able to say we did everything we could. And we will never stop doing that. We will never stop fighting for the living planet and for our future.

We will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse. Even if that means skipping school or work. Because this is more important.

We have been told so many times that there’s no point in doing this, that we won’t have an impact anyway, that we can’t make a difference. I think we have proven that to be wrong by now.

Through history, the most important changes in society have come from the bottom up, from grassroots. The numbers are still coming in – but it looks like well over 6,6 million people have joined the weekforfuture, the strikes on this and last Friday. That is one of the biggest demonstrations in history. The people have spoken and we will continue to speak until our leaders listen. We are the change and change is coming.

Le changement arrive – si vous l’aimez ou non!

Here’s a link to the video:

Robert Redford: Don’t let @POTUS pollute our lakes and streams — The Washington Post #WOTUS

A wetland along Castle Creek. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s a guest column by Robert Redford that’s running in The Washington Post:

Robert Redford is an actor, director and trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The real star of my 1992 movie, “A River Runs Through It,” was not supposed to be Brad Pitt. It was supposed to be Montana’s iconic Big Blackfoot River, which starts as a watery thread up near the Continental Divide and runs down to its confluence with the Clark Fork near Missoula, about 75 miles west. The Blackfoot was so badly degraded by decades of gold mining and logging waste, though, we shot the film instead mostly on the Gallatin River 200 miles away.

Today, the Blackfoot is on the mend, thanks to state and local action grounded in common-sense federal protections for clean water in our rivers, lakes, estuaries and bays.

If there’s one thing, in fact, we should all be able to agree on as Americans, it’s that clean water is life itself. Any threat to that imperils us all.

That’s why we need to stand up to President Trump’s attempt to replace the clean water rule with a flimsy substitute that would leave half the nation’s wetlands and millions of miles of streams without the protection they need. That’s what Trump plans to do by December, unless enough of us speak out before then.

On Sept. 12, the administration announced plans to formally repeal the regulation, also called the Waters of the United States rule, the most important measure we’ve taken in decades to protect water quality across the country. The rule clarified protections, under the Clean Water Act, for the wetlands, ponds and small streams that feed the drinking water sources for 117 million Americans while also providing flood protection, valuable recreational opportunities and vital habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife.

That’s worth protecting. Trump, though, is putting it all at risk by repealing the rule. The substitute rule he expects to finalize in December would lack the protections we need to prevent oil and gas companies, shopping-center developers, factories, coal companies and others from contaminating our waters, sending the pollution downstream and leaving our families and communities to pay the price.

In fact, when Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, announced the formal repeal of the clean water rule this month, he did so, not at EPA headquarters or near a treasured body of water as we might expect, but at the National Association of Manufacturers, which fought the clean water rule tooth, nail and hair. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, decried the clean water rule as “an egregious power grab” by Washington, claiming it creates uncertainty for farmers and other property owners.

And yet, in the roughly half of the country where its implementation hadn’t been halted by court challenges, the clean water rule set fair and consistent rules of the road for everyone. And the rule wouldn’t affect normal farming and ranching operations.

Americans of both parties began working on clean water nearly 50 years ago. We have come a long way. You don’t see worrisome debris and disgusting suds in our rivers the way we did when I was younger. It’s been slow and steady work to clean these watersheds, and we still have a long way to go. Even today 8 in 10 Americans worry about pollution to our rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

Trump wants to leave it largely up to states to protect fresh water. Nothing in the clean water rule, though, stops states from doing so; it simply provides a minimum standard of protection nationwide. That’s important for many reasons, including keeping one state’s pollution from flowing downstream to another.

When he announced the new proposed rule, Wheeler said the rule was an example of regulatory “overreach. ”

Consider that statement for a minute. Wheeler is supposed to be the nation’s chief environmental steward, our last line of defense against toxic pollution and industrial ruin. Now he says it’s a stretch to expect him to protect clean water?

It shows you how far down the rabbit hole we’ve gone with an administration that’s waging the single worst administrative assault in history against our environment and health. Trump has tried to weaken, delay or repeal more than 80 different safeguards that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our lands, wildlife and habitat.

These are needed rules, each one grounded in sound science, the public interest and the rule of law.

The clean water rule was developed over many years and informed by more than 400 public meetings, more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies, and public comments from more than a million Americans — small business owners, farmers, ranchers, anglers, hunters and others — 87 percent of whom said we need to protect clean water in this country, former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy testified before the Senate in 2015.

That’s definitive. That’s the voice of the American people. That voice needs to be honored, and it’s on us to make sure it is.

U.S. District Senior Judge Marcia Krieger finds that the @USFWS’s denial of the #RioGrande cutthroat trout on the endangered list was arbitrary and unlawful

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

In a federal lawsuit filed by the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, U.S. District Senior Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that the service used one method of counting the fish when it first considered adding it to the endangered list in 2008, but changed that method when it reconsidered its decision in 2014 without explaining why.

“Because the service had offered no explanation for the different methodologies it used in 2008 and 2014 to calculate the number of healthy trout populations, the court must conclude that the change in methodology was, on the instant record, arbitrary and capricious,” Krieger wrote.

“It may very well be that new studies, new sampling methods, or other analytical tools developed since 2008 call into question the service’s 2008 determination that 2,500 trout are required before a population can be declared stable,” she added. “But the service has not pointed the court to evidence in the record that establishes the basis for such a change in methodology.”

As a result, Krieger reversed the service’s 2014 denial of adding the fish to the list, and ordered the federal agency to provide more analysis and explanation for the criteria it used to calculate what constitutes a healthy trout population.

Officials with the center said this doesn’t mean the trout will be added to the list just yet, but the ruling gets it closer to that goal.

“We’ve been fighting to save Rio Grande cutthroat trout for more than 20 years,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate for the center. “It’s a relief to have it one step closer to getting the help it so badly needs. The trout is barely hanging on in a small number of tiny, isolated headwater streams.”

Robinson said the service had found that the trout deserved protection in 2008, but never actually added it to the list. In 2014, it changed its mind about that determination, saying the fish didn’t need protection, but did so after arbitrarily lowering that 2,500-fish population threshold to just 500, he said.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service moved the goal posts in order to get to a politically driven decision that the trout doesn’t warrant protection,” Robinson said. “The livestock industry and states like Colorado and New Mexico oppose trout protections.”

The Rio Grande cutthroat normally is found in high-elevation streams and lakes of the Rio Grande, Canadian and Pecos rivers in Colorado and New Mexico, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which says the fish now only occupies about 12% of its historic habitat on about 800 miles of streams…

Last week, Colorado joined 16 other states in challenging the Interior Department’s changes in how endangered species are put on and taken off the list, including a new rule that allows the financial cost of listing a species to be a determining factor.

The Klamath River now has the legal rights of a person — @HighCountryNews

From The High Country News (Anna V. Smith):

This summer, the Yurok Tribe declared rights of personhood for the Klamath River — likely the first to do so for a river in North America. A concept previously restricted to humans (and corporations), “rights of personhood” means, most simply, that an individual or entity has rights, and they’re now being extended to nonhumans. The Yurok’s resolution, passed by the tribal council in May, comes during another difficult season for the Klamath; over the past few years, low water flows have caused high rates of disease in salmon, and cancelled fishing seasons.

With the declaration, the Yurok Tribe joins other Indigenous communities in a growing Rights of Nature movement aimed at protecting the environment. Last year, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe adopted the Rights of Manoomin to protect wild rice — manoomin — and the freshwater sources it needs to survive in Minnesota. And in 2017, the New Zealand government adopted the Rights of the Whanganui River, stemming from a treaty process with Māori iwis, or tribes, that gives the river its own legal standing in court. “By granting the rights of personhood to the Klamath River, not only does it create laws and legal advocacy routes, but it’s also an expression of Yurok values,” says Geneva Thompson, associate general counsel for the tribe and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who worked on the resolution. “The idea is that the laws of a nation are an expression of the nation’s values.”

The Klamath River runs through Redwood National Park, California. The Yurok Tribe passed a resolution protecting the river from harm by granting it the same rights as a person. Photo credit: Don White/Alamy

The Yurok resolution draws inspiration from the Rights of Manoomin, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which enshrines the right of Indigenous people to conserve and protect their lands and resources. Legal personhood provides a different framework for dealing with problems like pollution, drought and climate change, though no case has yet been brought to put the Whanganui, Manoomin or Klamath rights to the test in court. The crucial aspect to establishing these legal frameworks, Indigenous lawyers say, involves shifting relationships and codifying Indigenous knowledge — in other words, recognizing non-human entities not as resources, but as rights-holders.

“From New Zealand to Colombia, the powerful idea that nature has rights is taking root in legal systems,” says David Boyd, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, of the Yurok Tribe’s resolution. “We must no longer view the natural world as a mere warehouse of commodities for humans to exploit, but rather a remarkable community to which we belong and to whom we owe responsibilities.”

In essence, the Yurok resolution means that if the river is harmed, a case can be made in Yurok tribal court to remedy the problem. Currently, says Yurok Tribe General Counsel Amy Cordalis, laws like the Clean Water or Endangered Species acts can be used to protect rivers by addressing symptoms of problems like diseased fish or pollution. But the Yurok resolution seeks to address the river’s problems directly and holistically, including the impacts of climate change. “You’re working towards making the river whole again,” Cordalis says.

In December 2018, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the 1855 Treaty Authority, an organization that upholds treaty rights for Chippewa bands, established legal personhood for wild rice. The resolution draws from the Rights of Nature — an international concept that argues that nature should have the same rights as humans — and is the first law to recognize legal rights of plant species. The rights spell out that within White Earth and other Chippewa ceded territories, wild rice has “inherent rights to restoration, recovery and preservation,” including “the right to pure water and freshwater habitat,” the right to a healthy climate and “a natural environment free from human cause global warming.” Frank Bibeau, executive director of the 1855 Treaty Authority and a White Earth tribal member, says the rights are an extension of Ojibwe treaty rights both on and off the reservation. And they may soon be put to the test — the proposed crude oil Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which requires state approval, would cross into off-reservation areas where manoomin and freshwater sources are.

The resolutions give tribal nations new legal strategies for use in court, especially in regards to climate change: “The idea of having legal avenues to address the harms of climate change is an important next step as legal systems adapt to the climate crisis,” says Thompson at the Yurok Tribe. And they also encourage a change in mindset, says Maia Wikaira, an environmental law attorney who worked with the Yurok Tribe’s legal team, and a member of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi tribes of New Zealand. As tribal nations establish rights for nonhumans, it creates an opportunity for states to follow suit, and incorporate the concept into their own court systems. “It’s another example of where long-held Indigenous perspectives and association with the natural world are not only being embedded within our legal system — they’re being seen in popular environmental movements as an innovative way forward and a necessary step,” Wikaira says. “So, old is new again.”

Rights of nature have already been established in Colombia, Ecuador and India, with varying success, and have also appeared in non-Native communities in the U.S. In Ohio this February, voters passed a law — which is already being challenged — granting Lake Erie personhood rights. An attempt in 2017 by Coloradoans to force the state to grant the Colorado River rights of personhood collapsed after the state threatened possible sanctions against the lawyer behind the case.

Now, Thompson says, the relationship between the Yurok Tribe and the Klamath River is reflected in the tribe’s law. “It shifts the conversation, and it shifts the value system, because you see the environment has a right to be clean and protected for the environments sake.”

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at annasmith@hcn.org.

“We know population will double by 2050, and we know the rivers won’t” — Chris Matkins

Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

The all-American ideal of an expansive, emerald green lawn accounts for almost two-thirds of the average Fort Collins resident’s water bill.

But the two main water providers serving Fort Collins taps — Fort Collins Utilities and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District — want to change that. The two districts are focusing increasingly on outdoor irrigation to meet conservation goals and deal with the water demands of a growing population…

Fort Collins Utilities provides water to most of Fort Collins north of Harmony. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District provides water to most of Fort Collins south of Harmony as well as parts of Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County.

Fort Collins Utilities, whose water use has consistently declined since the ’80s, has a goal of reducing water use another 10% by 2030. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District is headed toward a goal of reducing water use 10% between 2015 and 2024.

“We know population will double by 2050, and we know the rivers won’t,” said Chris Matkins, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District general manager. “So we understand that we’ve got to make some changes.”

Fort Collins Utilities has lowered its overall water use since the ’80s, and the community’s per-capita use reached 143 gallons a day in 2018 (down from 248 in 1989). Fort Collins-Loveland Water District’s per-capita use reached about 177 gallons a day in 2014 and has significantly declined since then, Matkins said.