Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

“Living Shorelines” Can Fortify Our Coastlines … A Solution at Work in New Jersey’s Raritan Bay

November 29, 2016

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A “living wall” of oysters in the South Atlantic. Photo: Alison M. Jones for No Water No Life

By Meredith Comi, Restoration Program Director of the NY/NJ Baykeeper 

After Hurricane Sandy, it was clear that coastal resiliency had become an immediate priority. Thus, Baykeeper began an innovative project to determine if a “Living Shoreline” of oysters could stabilize eroding shorelines of the urban New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Perhaps they would simultaneously protect the surrounding environment, improve water quality, and create healthy aquatic habitats.

Oysters are powerful. They can filter and clean water, a much-needed service today. They can provide reef habitat for other sea creatures and improve resiliency to storm surge and erosion. Oysters once thrived in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary — so much so that Ellis Island was previously called Little Oyster Island.  However, over-harvesting, pollution and the sedimentation of reefs resulted in a sharp population decline. Today there is no longer a sustainable oyster population in the NY-NJ Harbor area; but NY/NJ Baykeeper is working to restore them. As a bi-state restoration leader, NY/NJ Baykeeper has had restoration projects in both NJ and NY waters.

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“Oyster-keepers” in the Raritan Bay. Photo: NJ/NY Baykeeper

In mid-August, 2016, NY/NJ Baykeeper and its partners installed a first-of-its-kind urban “Living Shoreline” in northern New Jersey waters.  Located in the Raritan Bay at the Naval Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County, a new 0.91 acre Living Shoreline consists of an artificial reef, using live oysters. Known as “oyster castles,” these new concrete structures are meant to provide the needed hard surface on which oysters can attach and grow. These 137 castles with about 10,000 oyster larvae can thus begin to fortify and protect the Raritan Bayshore.

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Oyster stabilization in the Mississippi River Delta.  Photo: Alison M. Jones for No Water No Life 

In 2010 the NJ Department of Environmental Protection banned all shellfish research, restoration and education activities in waters (1) deemed too contaminated or (2) “Restricted” or “Prohibited” for shellfish harvest.  Thus earlier oyster reef projects in nearby Navesink River and Keyport Harbor had to be moved. At that point, the U.S. Navy and NY/NJ Baykeeper became “Living Shoreline” partners. The U.S. Navy at Naval Weapons Station Earle, with its non-accessible stretch of shoreline, provides protected property, guidance and valuable support for Baykeeper’s oyster restoration activities.

Additional restoration activities at Naval Weapons Station Earle include setting oysters at NY/NJ Baykeeper’s aquaculture facility near the mouth of Ware Creek, and monitoring the oysters and structures in the ¼-acre experimental restoration plot to assess survival and growth.

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Deposition of “oyster castles” into the Raritan Bay at NWS Earle.

NY/NJ Baykeeper has monitored this Living Shoreline twice since its August installation, finding that the oysters grew 22mm in just 2 months!  Other organisms like sponges and algae are attached to the castles as well, further contributing to the Living Shoreline habitat.  All the castles have stayed in place, even during the rough seas when Hurricane Hermine was off shore. This is a good sign of how the castles will hold up in the dynamic Raritan Bay.

This winter, oyster growth will become slower as the water becomes cooler. Since all the oysters are far enough under the water’s surface, they will be protected should the Bay freeze over. Come spring, this Living Shoreline will be expanded, adding more castles and oysters to the system.  Meanwhile, NY/NJ Baykeeper continues its study of biodiversity  and its collection of water quality data.

For further information, please contact Meredith Comi at meredith@nynjbaykeeper.org

Will the movie “DamNation” lead to the removal of the lower four Snake River Dams?

February 24, 2015
USA: WA, Columbia Snake River Basin, Garfield Co., Lower Granite Dam

USA: WA, Columbia Snake River Basin, Garfield Co., Lower Granite Dam

Since the release of the movie “DamNation” over a year ago, over 72 dams have been removed and over 730 miles of rivers were restored across the United States according to the non-profit conservation organization American Rivers. In January of this year, the producers of the movie met with members of Congress and White House officials regarding the removal of the lower four Snake River dams. Lower Granite is one.

NWNL documented the Snake River on an expedition last May interviewing stakeholders of the river including local farmers, an irrigation association, members of the Nez Perce Tribe, the manager of the Port of Lewiston, Idaho Power spokespersons and conservation organizations. Each group presented what the importance of the Snake River is to them. The only stakeholders we could not interview are the 13 species of salmon, the lamprey, the whales and other ocean-going creatures as well as the riparian vegetation that depend on an abundance of salmon to thrive. They are also voices of the river. Will some or all of the lower four dams be removed?  Check out the facts and myths page on the website of Save Our Wild Salmon. Further information about DamNation and its influence on dam removal is also available.

Blog post and photo by Barbara Briggs Folger.

Our 20th Expedition!

August 26, 2014

Please Help Fund the NWNL
Lower Mississippi River Expedition

September 2 – 30, 2014

Baton Rouge Industry on the Mississippi River

Baton Rouge Industry on the Mississippi River

Expedition Route

NWNL will visit the Lower Mississippi River Basin including: New Orleans, The Delta, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, Clarksdale, Memphis and small river towns en route.

Expedition Focus

• Urban and Rural Resiliency to Climate Change.

• Coastal Erosion and Changes in Sediment Loads.

• The Value of Mississippi River Transportation.

• Pollution from Industrial, Agricultural and Urban Runoff.

• Protection of Migratory Birds and Watershed Biodiversity.

• Loss of Cypress, Hardwood Forests and Wetlands.

• Effectiveness of Levees, Locks and Dams, and Floodways.

• Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Resource Management.

Why support a No Water No Life expedition?

NWNL expeditions help raise global awareness of freshwater availability, quality and usage. For eight years, NWNL has returned with interviews, still photos and video imagery from our six case-study watersheds in North America and Africa. This documentation informs and inspires actions that will help insure…
fresh water, for everyone, forever.

Donations to NWNL

Cotton plantation tractor

Cotton plantation tractor

Donations can be made via Pay Pal,
or checks made out to
“No Water No Life”

(to be sent to:

Alison Jones
No Water No Life
330 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10075)

Your support and contributions would be greatly appreciated!

Our Great Migrators

May 21, 2014

*NWNL thoughts prior to World Fish Migration Day-5/24.*

Many are unaware of the exquisite sarabande of life personified by our migratory species: anadromous fish, birds, monarch butterflies, dragonflies and others.

Most migratory species are threatened in one form or another during their annual passages by manmade impediments. Today, on expedition along the Snake River, NWNL is following the struggle of the Columbia River migratory salmon, steelhead and lamprey to overcome dams, pollution, warmer streams and other challenges as they seek their traditional spawning grounds. Fish passages at dams and fish hatcheries have helped them avoid extinction, but more help is needed to bring back healthy numbers of salmon.

US: Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, bypass for juvenile salmon migrating downstream.

From the Mississippi’s 1993 Flood to Today

April 15, 2014

By Alison M. Jones, Director of No Water No Life®
and Professional Photographer
As published by American Rivers in “The River Blog”-April 10, 2014

Newly planted corn in 2013 Flood

Newly planted corn in 2013 Flood

“But, what about the newly planted corn?
I’ve seen how the Big Muddy can flood a field.”

On a No Water No Life® expedition in the Mississippi Basin last year, I asked that of stewards, US Fish and Wildlife scientists and US Army Corps engineers.  Twenty years earlier I visited the middle Mississippi during the Flood of 1993.  Since then, the world, Mississippi flood management and I have changed.

Engineers used to say, “The equation for inundation is elevation,” as they raised their levees.  Now the USACE promotes “flood risk management” instead of “flood control” because every levee pushes the water onto someone else.  The USACE also promotes healthy ecosystems at its National Great Rivers Museum in St Louis.

Ste. Genevieve's Le Grand Champ levee

Ste. Genevieve’s Le Grand Champ levee

Even so, American Rivers lists the middle Mississippi as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers ® of 2014 because of a new old-school USACE “flood control” project..  As we all focus on upstream-downstream issues in the face of climate disruption, American Rivers is advocating for floodplain connection, not levees.  Perhaps the question isn’t what will happen to young corn in a flood year, but what will happen if we keep building levees?

Why do I, as a New Yorker, care about Missouri’s habitats and communities?  As I describe in the following story, my connection to the Mississippi began twenty years ago.

Driving through flooded backwaters in '93

Driving through flooded backwaters in ’93

“The Flood of 1993:  A Month in Missouri”

I didn’t care about the Midwest Flood of 1993. I knew all about floods.  For three December days, my Connecticut home had been under five feet of icy water.  Hollywood called it “The Perfect Storm.”  I flew to Missouri that steamy July to photograph iconic Midwestern scenes.

Pig farm near Ste. Genevieve

Pig farm near Ste. Genevieve

I visited Daniel Boone’s homestead, pig farms and craftsmen.  But after torrential thunderstorms at a dairy farm and seeing new-mown hay swept off low-lying fields, my adrenaline rose with the river.  Singing “I drove my Chevy to the levee,” I arrived in the Creole river town of Ste. Genevieve.  But the levee wasn’t dry.  Brown water threatened this week’s sandbagged walls, inches from the top; and it seeped out underneath.

This flood was different.  Many levees had been constructed since a 1973 flood, upsetting previous prediction models.  These added restraints just intensified the Mississippi’s fury.  Forecasts were for another week of rain.  As herons flew into the storm clouds, my mood of creative elation disappeared.

Great Blue Heron flying into storm clouds

Great Blue Heron flying into storm clouds

I saw the grit of people resisting nature, the invincibility of humor,
and the camaraderie of strangers fighting together.  Using sandbags and bulldozers, sweating residents and uniformed troops stayed ahead of the river: block by block, inch by inch.  Putting my cameras down, I joined in.
“I can’t be here and not sandbag,“ I wrote.

Sandbagged historic Ste. Genevieve MO

Sandbagged historic Ste. Genevieve MO

Flying home weeks later, I stared at the “inland sea” below.  While photographing levees and Levi’s, cheerleaders and retirees, and the grateful folks of Ste Genevieve, I’d become part of that community.  Using Bryce Courtenay’s words, we worked with “one heart, one plan, one determination.”  Whether it would happen again or not, that was the Spirit of 1993.

Ste. Genevieve intersection in '93 Flood

Ste. Genevieve intersection in ’93 Flood

My thoughts, April 2014:  The Mississippi rolls on, but we still need to better adapt to its swells and floods.  History should have taught us that.  American Rivers is trying to do that.  As Mark Twain predicted,  “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.”

"The Mississippi will have its own way."

“The Mississippi will have its own way.”

View more photos of the Great Flood of 1993

Read Related Story:  Parallels: Mississippi Flood of 1993 and Gulf Oil Spill of 2010

Take Action: Tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abandon the levee project and the Environmental Protection Agency to veto it if the Corps proceeds with this ill-conceived plan.

A New 65′ Crack Found in Wanapum Dam: NWNL Reflects on “Saving the Past for the Future”

March 3, 2014
US:  Washington, Columbia River Basin, Wanapum Dam

Cover of a book on the Wanapum Indians.

Drummers and Dreamers:

Wanapum Indians and the Wanapum Dam

On the Columbia River.

By Alison M. Jones, Director of No Water No Life.
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Downstream side of the Wanapum Dam.

On March 1, a 65-foot-long crack was found in the hydroelectric #Wanapum Dam in Grant County WA.  This dam generates over 4 million megawatt hours annually, providing power to over 45,000 local customers and throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Bonneville Power Administration, now investigating the “risk of failure” presented by this crack, has notified residents downstream of possible evacuation and has closed all nearby boat ramps.  (For updates: http://www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/news)  The dam’s initial 50-year operating license was granted in 1955 and extended by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2008.  However, that approval came with conditions, including modernization of the facility’s power generation capability.

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Columbia River near Vantage WA, upstream of Wanapum Dam.

In 2007 a No Water No Life expedition, following the Columbia River from source to sea, visited Wanapum Dam to add to its documentation of the values and the impacts of hydropower.  The dam is named for the Wanapum Indians whose tule houses along the Columbia River were flooded by the building of the dam.  Respecting the longtime Wanapum residents, the dam also houses the Heritage Center Museum displaying their cultural artifacts and documenting the upstream relocation of the town of Vantage.

The juxtaposition of this large, now-cracked hydrodam and displays of the heritage of Wanapum weavings, moccasins and prayers is a bit ironic.  Perhaps lessons can be gained from the traditional values of these “River People” as we consider the risks presented today by infrastructure, industry, machines and our efforts to control nature.  The words of Rex Buck, today’s Wanapum leader, are shown at the Heritage Center Museum:

Before the arrival of white man, Native Americans believed that all living things were endowed with spirit.  They believed that nature was alive and responsive to their needs for physical and spiritual nourishment.  Wisdom was passed from generation to generation in stories that embraced the spiritual characteristics of coyote, bear and all the animals.  Native Americans were the sensitive guardians of earth and all living things.  The arrival of the fur traders brought a slow and disastrous end to this symbiotic relationship.

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Wanapum Moccasins and weaving at the Heritage Center Museum.

In the early 1800’s the Wanapum numbered 2500 to 3000, according to the journals of Lewis and Clark.  Historically, the Wanapum have gathered roots from fields above Ephrata (near Soap Lake) down to the Snake River.  Until 1956 they had permanent winter villages of A-frames made with mats of tule gathered by the riverbanks, that were stowed during summer months.

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Sculpture of salmon at the Wanapum Dam.

In the spring the Wanapum went to Soap Lake to gather fruit.  In the summer they fished salmon with 14’ poles, submerged basket traps and torches at night.  While drying and storing their salmon, they ate eel and fresh-water mussels.  In the fall the women dug for roots which they ate raw, cooked or dried.  Into the winter hunted deer, big horn sheep, elk, rabbit and waterfowl.

According to Lenora Seelatsee, their mother was “Earth Woman,” who provided spiritual and physical sustenance and encouraged them to respect nature, peace and cooperation with others. Around 1700 the horse was introduced to this community; and the first impact of Europeans was the introduction of metal and glass beads.  Because the Wanapum never went to war with the U. S., there was never a treaty. Thus, they’ve received no recognition, land titles or money from the US government.

Editor and author of Drummers and Dreamers, Click Relander is the only white man buried in the Wanapum cemetery – an expression of their appreciation for his letters during the dam-building agreement requesting that the Wanapum got housing, electricity and jobs.  The Public Utility Department (PUD) rebuilt their 10 homes and long house.  The US Military still protects the Wanapum cemetery and their root-digging fields per an agreement with the Depart of Energy, downstream at Hanford Nuclear Site.  Seven years ago there were only 65 Wanapum left, according to Susan Parker, a Heritage Center docent.  That community represented 3 or 4 families on the west side of the Columbia River adjacent to military lands across from Priest Rapids.

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Transmission lines at the Wanapum Dam.

In 2007 NWNL spoke with Rex Buck, today’s Wanapum “prophet and spiritual guide.” (The Wanapum had no need for a “chief” because the tribe never fought.)  NWNL unfortunately didn’t meet Rex in person because his sister Lenora had died just “three sunrises earlier.”  But in a short phone conversation with NWNL, Rex talked of ongoing Wanapum culture and customs, as he explained that the Wanapum honor their deceased by not using their proper name for one year after their death.  At the end of that year observance, there is a “Give Away” memorial service that bequeaths the belongings of the deceased.

Today Rex continues to disseminate the spirit of #Smowhalla, the first Wanapum prophet and shaman who is remembered for interpreting his dreams and stressing the importance of sharing with others. The museum displays Smowhalla’s words to his people:  “Each one must learn for himself the highest wisdom.  It cannot be taught in words.”

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Archival photograph of the Wanapum and their long house, covered with tule mats.

As Smowhalla’s current successor, Rex Buck shared ongoing Wanapum wisdom with NWNL, saying, “We have feeling for all this land and to our past.”  When asked about the cultural resources of his tribe, Rex answered, “They are further and beyond dictionary definition.”  It seems that the Wanapum intertwine cultural resources with natural resources and together both are valued as the Creator’s promise for the future.

Puck Hyah Toot (Johnny Buck) spoke about the Creator’s gifts at the naming of the Wanapum Dam at Public Utilities Department office at Ephrata in May 1955.

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Electric transmission towers at Wanapum Dam

The part of the District where we lived the Creator made.  He made Earth.  He spread upon the Earth things for the Indian people so they could live.  He gave them roots and berries, salmon he put in their streams, and caused wild fowl and wild animals to come upon the land.  These were the foods the Indian has enjoyed, good food the Creator had given.  When I think of losing these things, I think I am losing my life!  I do not feel I should get angry or say anything that a dam is being built.  I feel that somehow I and my people will get by as long as we have friends like are here.  The Creator predicted and directed that the light shall fall upon the earth and give warming light to everything upon it.  The sun will brighten and warm the body of the Indian and will preserve that body.  You and I get this living under that light.  If any person does wrong to another race, the Creator will punish that person.  That we believe.

The Wanapum are disappearing. When the dam was built (1959-1963), there were only 5 full-blooded Wanapum.  Now there are about 60 Wanapum enrolled and assimilated into the Yakima Nation.  But even the family of Rex Buck, today’s Wanapum’s prophet, is not full-blooded. Rex’s mother is from Warm Springs, Oregon, and his wife is a Yakima Indian.

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“Saving the Past for the Future” – Philosophy of the Wanapum Indian Trust Collection.

Despite this assimilation, diabetes, alcoholism and epidemics, the messages of these “River People” will survive.  But will the natural resources given by their Creator survive?  What risks are engendered when dams crack?  The Grant County PUD’s policy is to “care for the preservation and conservation of the Collection” of Wanapum cultural resources in its Heritage Museum.  Are they also caring for “the preservation and conservation” of our natural resources?

Frank Buck, Rex’s uncle, asked us to share and respect our differing approaches to stewarding water, power, and food needed for all living on shared riverbanks.  On June 2, 1962, at the dedication of Priest Dam downstream of Wanapum Dam, Frank Buck shared this perspective:

I have a few words to express about white people.  You are glad that this Priest Rapids Dam is finished.  You are dedicating it today.  We are very glad to be with you here today.  This power is very important to you.  This power is like food to you.  The water that is making this power provides you all the food you need.  Your power and my power are two different things.  The things that I am showing outside of the teepees (in the village built for the dedication of the dam site), that is the food that we Indians was provided with.  That food will take care of us.  That food makes me strong and healthy.  It is our medicine.  Even what law comes against us, we don’t hold it against you.  We Indians are still friends with you.  You White People, We Indians.  It is our thoughts to go together as one on this Earth.  We will be taken care of.

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Maintenance construction at the Wanapum Dam in 2007

NWNL expands its watershed coverage: This blog post discusses the Amazon’s Belo Monte Dam

August 27, 2011

The No Water No Life website will soon expand to include information collected by other conservation photographers and scientists regarding freshwater issues in river basins other than our project’s 6 case-study watersheds. This will allow our website to be a go-to source for fresh-water issues worldwide, not just in our 6 American and African case-study watersheds.

As a disclaimer, NWNL will post such information garnered by other groups in acknowledgement of the universality of our concerns over the management of the freshwater resources. Since NWNL has not researched, visited nor consulted with scientists studying these other ecosystems, NWNL cannot endorse nor guarantee the accuracy of information gathered by the following sources.

Pending this expansion of NWNL coverage on its site, this NWNL blog space will be used for such purposes. The international attention on the effects of building the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil’s Amazon is just one example of extended coverage we are starting to offer. The impacts surrounding the Belo Monte Dam are comparable to those of two NWNL case-study watersheds. Displacement caused by dams was experienced by British Canadians, First Nations and US communities in the Columbia River Basin, and may be forced on the half-million pastoralists in Ethiopia and Kenya hoping to stop construction of the Gibe Dams on the Omo River.

Kayapó Chief Raoni speaking with tribal leaders over the Belo Monte Dam. Photo: Antoine Bonsorte/ Amazon Watch (CC)

As Aug. 22 was the International Day of Action to Defend the Brazilian Amazon, here are a few resources for the issues, actions and activists involved in the Belo Monde Dam project. One of the NGOs focusing on Belo Monte is International Rivers, a colleague of NWNL in its documentation of Ethiopia’s Omo River.

Amazon Watch is also actively behind the international protests against the proposed Belo Monte Dam on Xingu River. These organizations and others, including Conservation International, claim that this dam, recently approved by Brazil’s president, will threaten ecosystem and the extinction of the Kayapó people. Belo Monte Dam, the world’s largest hydro-power project underway, thus represents a defining environmental struggle to protect free-flowing rivers, forests and rights of all indigenous cultures.

Others involved include “Avatar” director James Cameron, who created “Pandora” about the battle to stop this dam on the Xingu River, which he sees as one of the great tributaries of the Amazon River. His involvement stems from the Amazon rainforest parallels to his Avatar film. Sigourney Weaver has visited the Kayapó people also out of concern for the Belo Monte Dam and 60 others intended for the Amazon. Cristina Mittermeier, past President of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), was part of the protests on Aug. 22 in Washington DC at the Brazilian Embassy and commented on this on Facebook. She is also an advisor to No Water No Life.

Conservation International has created a YouTube documentary “The Kayapó Nation: Protectors of the Amazon” (3:03 min) on Kayapó resistance to save their rainforest homeland and culture, and the global importance of the forests endangered by the proposed hydro-electric dams.

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