Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Excellent Ocean Acidification Documentary (20 minutes)

There's more to explore online at the NRDC website:


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

August/September 2009

Beach Watchers Hours

Chris Brown from the Skagit County Beach Watchers has been doing a lot of great work with us up here in Whatcom County and apparently has been burning the candle at both ends. He recently confided to me that he’s the first member of his class to reach the 100 hours mark. Wow! A big round of applause for Chris everyone!

I was inspired to check out our online hours database so that I could report on this class and I’m happy to say that Shelley Halle and Rose Lavoie are tied for the lead in hours for this class with about 35 hours logged apeice. Nicely done ladies!

However, for the year no one is coming close to Heather Mackay from the class of 2007 who has contributed 121 hours thus far. Way to go Heather!!

Second place for all classes is another tie with Gene Hoerauf and Jane Lewinski neck in neck at about 59 hours.

Thanks everyone for all you do (and for logging your hours)!

This is a great time to log your hours if you haven’t done so already. Let me know if you need help, or if you have actually reached 100 hours for the year but you were keeping it a secret. As always, using the database to log your hours is the most helpful to the program but I will happily accept information from you in the form of emails, letters, and back-of-the-envelope notes (really!), if that’s what works for you. The hours help me to tell the story about our great Whatcom County Beach Watchers.

Creosote Resurvey

Big thanks to Joe Ssebbanakitta, Jane Lewinski, Claudia Olejniczak, Sue Brown, Margo and John Ferdon, Chris Brown, Marie Hitchman, Gene Hoerauf, and Jeanne Bogert for helping to resurvey the reach at Cherry Point in preparation for the upcoming removal effort.

Joe shows how successful our beach clean-up efforts were on that day, too. The most interesting thing we found (I think) was the whale skin which was still on the beach from the recent stranding on Cherry Point.

The Department of Natural Resources is planning to do the removal at Cherry Point during the week of October 5. They have a WCC crew scheduled for Monday through Thursday of that week.

If Beach Watchers are interested in helping, Lisa Kaufman with the Deparment of Natural Resources would love the help. Monday and Tuesday you could assist the WCC crew with finding and gathering the debris, and Wednesday (and possibly) you could assist with choking the materials and continuing to collect smaller debris and trash for placement onto the boat. Full disclosure: I’m not exactly sure what “choking the materials” means but I’ve asked Lisa for some clarification which I’ll be happy to pass on to you if you are interested. If you know feel free to share your insights with us! ;-)

Kayayking Eelgrass Project

Thanks go to Corrine Hughes (and her friend), Kristine Penrod, and Lisa Balton for helping Chris Fairbanks out with his neat eelgrass restoration research project. They had lovely weather to be on the bay and together with other community volunteers, successfully collected a lot of eelgrass seeds.

Rain Garden DVD

Our rain garden DVD was finished this summer and we celebrated in style with a release party at Pastazza. You can view the finished product right here:

The Conservation District has supplied us with 2 big boxes full of Rain Garden manuals that we can provide to interested members of the public. This spring they will be selling rain garden planting kits in addition to their usual selection of great plants.

Our next step is to bring it around to community groups. Do you belong to a community group that might be interested in learning more about rain gardens? Would you like to help spread the word by answering rain garden questions, coordinating presentations, or in other ways? You are welcome to get involved!

Chuckanut Bay Days part 1

Thanks to Corrine Hughes, Shelley Halle, Lisa Balton, Chris Brown, and Marie Hitchman for helping to make our first Chuckanut Bay event a great success. The evaluations I received were very positive and everyone seemed quite interested and appreciative of your efforts. Thanks also to Doug Stark and the great Beach Naturalists team who helped make this such a fun event.

Did you miss it? Never fear, we’re doing it all again this Saturday so come on down and join us between 9 and noon at the end of Fairhaven Avenue at Chuckanut Bay.

Built Green Creative Team

I’ve heard from a few of you about getting involved in the Built Green Conference. So far our ideas for presentations include:

rain gardens,
rain barrels,
a wholistic approach to Low-Impact Landscaping
low carbon cooking,
adapting to global warming,
septic maintenance,
creative reuse station for kids,
hands-on how-to replace your faucet or put in a programmable thermostat.

Do you have more ideas for this? Would you like to be involved in making this a super-cool event? Let me know and you’ll be part of the built green creative team!
The BIA’s Built Green program has offered WSU Extension a full track for the conference – this means we have an opportunity to present educational material from 10 am to 5 pm. The conference date is October 17 and we would be sharing the planning for this with the Master Composters, the Carbon Masters, and Sue Blake our Water Resources Educator.

Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force
San Francisco Public Listening Session
September 17, 2009
2:30 – 6:00 PM

Provide Comments
These meetings are taking place in Anchorage, San Francisco, and Providence. If you're plans don't take you to Alaska, California, or Rhode Island this week, you are invited to:

submit comments on the Council For Environmental Quality website http://www.whitehouse.gov/oceans,

View the live webcast at: http://www.cal-span.org/

Or listen to the meeting on the conference call (not interactive, listen only):
(888) 769-8760 (up to 100 lines)
Participant Pass code: 67311

Great Stuff from Heather Mackay

Heather, Watershed Master/Beach Watcher from the class of 2007 is a treasure trove of information which, happily, she shares with us. Here are some of her most recent contributions

Attached you’ll find what she describes as a useful, fairly non-technical overview of climate change adaptation issues for coastal systems.

Water management is like a bubble market

Below you can listen to Margaret Catley-Carlson, Patron Global Water Partnership (GWP), Sweden on the 'breakthrough idea' of the Global Agenda Council on Water Security at the Summit on the Global Agenda held in Dubai 7-9 November 2008.

Finally for those of you who have yet to be introduced to Holub’s classic analysis:
10 Water Laws of the West
By Hugh Holub (1998) http://hughholub.com/

Introduction: It does not take a law degree to understand water law and policy in the western United States. Ten basic legal and historical principles govern the rights to and uses of water in the West. By understanding these ten Water Laws of the West anyone can then understand the current issues of water and its relationship to the future of the West.

I. The Law of Gravity: The First Water Law of the West is the Law of Gravity. Water runs down hill. The initial uses of water in the West involved the use of gravity to tap rivers and divert their flows into canals for delivery to farms and mines. This is also known as Newton's Law.

II. The Law of Los Angeles: The Second Water Law of the West is the original law of Los Angeles. This L.A. Law states that "water runs uphill to money". The development of energy technologies to lift water against the pull of gravity is the basis for modern Western civilization. Los Angeles pioneered the effort to defy gravity with money in the early 1900's with its Owens Valley Aqueduct. Southern California is now served with a network of pipelines and canals such as the Metropolitan Water District's Colorado River Aqueduct. Phoenix, San Francisco and Denver also utilize massive pumping and diversion systems to transport water from great distances in defiance of gravity to serve their growing urban populations.

III. The Law of Supply Creating Demand: The Third Water Law of the West, also invented by Los Angeles, is that "if you don't have the water, you won't need it." This is sometimes stated as "he who brings the water brings the people". Both are attributed to William Mulholland, a pioneer director of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP). Los Angeles and other Western cities operate on the premise that in order to assure growth of their cities, water supplies for the future must be developed well in advance of that growth. This is in contrast to the general approach in Western cities of developing freeways and other public infrastructure long after the growth has actually happened.

IV. The Law of I Got It First: The Fourth Water Law of the West, embodied in the West's surface water laws, is the doctrine of "prior appropriation" translated into "first in time is first in right". First in time for most water uses in the West were farms and mines. Instead of "first in time is first in right", we have seen the evolution of "we've got more votes than you in the state legislature" to decide who gets water.

V. The Law of Beneficial Use: The Fifth Water law of the West is that to have a right to water it must be "beneficially" or "reasonably" used on that appurtenant land. This is only understood in the context that water left flowing in a river maintaining the survival of fish in that river and vegetation growing along side that river was not originally defined as a "beneficial" use in Western water law, whereas drowning gophers or growing rice in deserts were deemed "beneficial" uses. In recent years, environmentalists have succeeded in gaining recognition of "instream" beneficial uses of water and a new category of water rights is beginning to emerge to preserve flows in rivers. However this process is emerging only after most rivers and streams in the West have been dammed and dried up by diversions of the flows to the previously established beneficial uses. To fully appreciate why this happened, it must be remembered that the fish in these streams only recently were able to obtain the services of water lawyers via various environmental and conservation organizations.

VI. The Law of Worthless Land: The Sixth Water Law of the West is that without a water right or access to water, land is worthless. There is not enough water available to use all available land for all the potential beneficial uses. Thus lands with water rights or access to water have value for use, whereas land without water rights is known as the desert, with zero value except when being subjected to state and local property taxation. It is also a historic fact that farmers, ranchers and miners figured all this out about a hundred years before the average city council or environmental group, thus most Western water laws are heavily weighted in favor of using water for farming, ranching and mining. This law is also known as the "appurtenancy" rule meaning the rights to the use of water are tied to specific parcels of land, which are usually owned by farmers, ranchers or miners.

VII. The Law of Expropriation: The Seventh Water Law of the West focuses on how water (and other natural resources) are obtained for Western civilization. This Law depends on finding some fairly impoverished and unsophisticated water right holder (usually Indians, farmers, or rural communities) on the other side of the mountain a city can steal water rights from. Los Angeles pioneered this approach by buying up the Owens Valley on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada for water rights nearly 90 years ago. What we are now experiencing is not so much a water shortage, but a shortage of people on the other sides of the mountains who are willing to let their water resources be stolen from them by cities.

VIII. The Law of the Price is Right: The Eighth Water Law of the West is that there is no water shortage if the price is right. It is widely believed in city halls that the farmers will sell their water rights if the price is high enough so the farmers can go raise martinis in La Jolla instead of cotton in the Salt River Valley of Arizona, or the Imperial Valley in California. Thus when someone asks "is there enough water for Los Angeles or Phoenix to grow?" the answer is probably yes--if you don't care about how much the water will cost.

IX. The Law of Water Monopoly: The Ninth Water Law of the West is that water management in an arid environment almost always results in the creation of a water monopoly. Thus (along with the discovery of fire and religion) the first steps towards civilization included the construction of irrigation ditches and the immediate creation of some sort of bureaucracy to run the system. Not surprisingly where irrigation water monopoly civilizations rose, they lasted for thousands of years. The Westlands Irrigation District in the Central Valley of California and the Salt River Project in Arizona are merely the modern counterparts of one of humankind's most ancient of institutions--the water monopoly. Many western urban areas figured out the value of water monopoly and created enormously powerful regional agencies such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District in Arizona, to do essentially the same thing--building vast networks of canals to bring water to their constituents.

X. The Law of Vanishing Civilizations: The Tenth (or Last) Water Law of the West should be called the Hohokam Law of Water and Gravity. Under this law, if there is no rain, there is no water to flow down hill. What went up--the buildings and the civilization--may crumble to dust if Mother Nature decides to hold a long drought. Lying beneath the streets of Phoenix are the ruins of the ancient Hohokam Indian metropolis that vanished prior to 1400 AD. Phoenix is the second city to be built on the same site in reliance on the erratic flows of the Salt River. Californians prayed for rain for the last six years (apparently successfully) because they didn't have enough water to flush their toilets. Many Southern Californians had been heard to ask "what do you mean this used to be a desert?"

Conclusion: The principles that govern Western water law and policy have a long and somewhat distinguished history. It should also be noted that similar arid environment ditch-dependent civilizations ultimately collapsed under extreme environmental stresses, internal political conflict, and invasion by barbarian hordes. This is worth contemplating after a six year drought with various water interests fighting over who will get water in times of future shortages while the streets of Santa Monica or Scottsdale are filled with RVs with New Jersey license plates.