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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Amusing Monday: Raise the river or move the ocean?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

A feigned controversy involving Robert Redford and Will Ferrell is bringing some light-hearted attention to a serious effort to restore the Colorado River delta.

In a series of videos released last week, Redford reaches out for public help to restore the delta where the Colorado River once flowed into the Gulf of California. The new campaign, called “Raise the River,” is based on buying up old water rights and putting the water into the river.

“So please,” Redford says, “will you join me at ‘raisetheriver.org’ and find out how you can get involved?”

William Ferrell doesn’t buy idea, and he mocks Redford’s approach:

“We got ol’ Sundance ridin’ around, trying to raise the Colorado River and restore its flow,” Farrell says. “I say, ‘Do we really need more river?’ I mean, hell, we got plenty of ocean. Let’s move it… The way to fix this thing is to send money, so myself and some other scientists can begin the process of moving a small portion of the ocean back toward the wet part of the river.”

As you can see from the video on this page, Redford maintains his serious posture throughout the back-and-forth banter, while Farrell seemingly tries to provoke him.

I believe these videos fully qualify as an “Amusing Monday” post, but I can’t avoid touching on the more complete story, which goes beyond fun and games. As Jill Tidman, executive director of the Redford Center, stated in a news release:

“We saw this idea of a fictitious debate between Mr. Redford and Mr. Ferrell as a novel way to generate greater awareness of the very serious issues facing the Colorado River. Bringing a sense of humor to the effort opens the door for a much greater audience and offers everyone a chance to be part of winning this campaign—and this is one we are going to win.”

The media campaign, developed by the ad firm Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners of Sausalito, Calif., will roll out new videos with Redford and Ferrell through April. A related event is planned for television on March 22 — World Water Day — when “The History of Water” premieres on PIVOT TV. That’s channel 197 on Dish and 267 on Direct TV. PIVOT is not listed for the local cable outlets in Kitsap County.

Campaign supporters are excited about an event starting on March 23, when the United States and Mexico will release about 105,000 acre-feet of water into the Colorado River below the Morelos Dam on the U.S. Mexican border. An initial high flow for several days will be followed by a lower flow for nearly eight weeks.

Francisco Zamora Arroyo, director of the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program at Sonoran Institute, stated in a news release:

“The pulse flow is a vital part of our ongoing restoration efforts. We know that relatively small amounts of water can make a big difference in the health of the delta region.”

In a brochure, “Raise the River” (PDF 1.4 mb), organizers report that this flow, which is less than 1 percent of the river’s annual average flow, will begin to restore the wetland forests and marshes of the delta.

The goal is to raise $10 million to restore 2,300 acres by 2017. To restore an acre of delta, it takes about 8 acre-feet of water flowing in the river, according to the brochure, and it costs about $450 to buy an acre-foot from the holders of existing water rights. By conserving water, residents, farmers and other water users can maintain their activities while contributing to the restoration of this unique ecosystem.

Other sources of information:

Raise the River Facebook page

Save the Colorado

I’m just beginning to learn about this exciting project. Others with personal connections to the Colorado River should feel free to share their thoughts below.


Amusing Monday: Music from drops of water

Monday, January 13th, 2014

It was a highly ambitious project. The idea was to turn the sounds of water — dripping, falling, flowing — into musical notes, and then record a song for everyone to hear.

When I first heard a brief sample of this “Water Rock” on KING-5 News, it was presented as one man — Shinya Kiyokawa — recording the sounds of nature. When I looked into it, I learned that the musical production involved two dozen people under the direction of Morhiro Harano, whose Japanese advertising agency produced the music video for a Sony commercial. Shinya Kiyokawa is given a “music” credit.

Take time to listen to the music in the video above. The classical composition, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, is familiar to most people, I think. But I’ll admit that I struggled at first to hear an actual song in the sounds of water. Then I listened to the first part of this music video on YouTube, and when I went back and played the water music again, every note came to life.

I appreciated this project even more after I watched another video that showed how much work went into gathering the sounds and putting the “water rock” video together. Check out “Making of ‘Water Rock.’”

So what has this got to do with the Sony corporation? Personally, I think Sony was looking for a commercial connection just to see what Morhiro Harano could do with this challenge. (Another musical video project of Morhiro’s is featured at the bottom of this page.) But here’s Sony’s explanation:

“The abundant groundwater in Kumamoto area is used by local residents and businesses alike. Kumamoto Technology Center (Kumamoto TEC) of Sony Semiconductor Corporation uses the groundwater in the fabrication of semiconductors such as high quality image sensors.

“In recent years, the groundwater level has dropped sharply, attributable to a decline in the amount of land used as rice paddies cultivation and an increase in land used for residential purposes. Since 2003, Our Kumamoto TEC has worked with local farmers, an environmental NGO, and agricultural cooperatives on groundwater recharge.

“During May to October, nearby paddy fields are filled with water drawn from a river prior to planting and/or after harvesting, causing the water to penetrate into the soil and ultimately return to the groundwater reserves. In FY 2012, we replenished approximately 2.19 million cubic meters of groundwater, which is equivalent to its water use in the same year.”

“Water Rock” has received attention from professional advertisers, including Ad Week. Reporter Tim Nudd writes “The hills were alive with the sound of music. Now, it’s the rivers.” The article gives full credit to the people working on “Water Rock” and harkens back to a previous music video by the same producer. The earlier video involves a ladderlike xylophone built down the side of a mountain. You’ll just have to see it for yourself (below).


Bremerton tops other cities in water competition

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

UPDATE, Friday, 4-3-2013, 12:55 p.m.
It appears that Bremerton was the only Washington city to make it into the top 10 in any of the population categories, according to the final list. (PDF 127 kb).
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Bremerton residents pushed their city into the top spot among hundreds of cities competing in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

water

Residents from cities across the country were asked to “take the pledge” and do things to save water around their house. Bremerton took first place among cities with populations from 30,000 to 100,000.

I don’t believe any other city in Washington state made it into the top 10 for their populations, although Seattle came close. We may know more later today, when the winners are announced on the website My Water Pledge.

“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource,” said Mayor Patty Lent in a news release (PDF 53 kb). “I appreciate the support of our residents during this contest and encourage everyone to learn more about their water and energy use at home. This contest was a fun opportunity to learn about water-wise habits and create a more sustainable environment.”

By being from one of the five winning cities, Bremerton residents will be eligible for hundreds of prizes to be awarded in the competition, sponsored by the nonprofit Wyland Foundation. Prizes include a Toyota Prius, custom-designed lawn sprinkler systems, low-flow shower heads and Lowe’s gift cards. Anyone who submitted a pledge will be eligible for a separate drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree at Lowe’s.

“The Mayor’s Challenge highlights the impact of each person’s environmental efforts,” said Water Resources Manager Kathleen Cahall in the news release. “The city’s prize for participating in this contest is increased awareness about the importance of our water resources.”

Last year, the first year of competition, Bremerton finished in the top spot among medium-sized cities in Washington and third among cities in the West.


Kitsap’s future involves sharing water resources

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Sharing water resources over a wide region is an idea that goes hand-in-hand with the Growth Management Act’s strategy of concentrating population in urban areas while protecting rural areas.

Of course, the first level of action is water conservation. But the ability to take water from one aquifer with an adequate water supply while protecting an overtaxed aquifer somewhere else makes a lot of sense.

That’s the idea behind building new pipelines to connect numerous water systems across a good portion of Kitsap County, including Silverdale. I described the latest steps in this plan in a story published in Monday’s Kitsap Sun.

Rainfall

Thirty years ago — before the Growth Management Act was passed — I recall talking to folks at the Kitsap Public Utility District, who declared that they were not in the land-use business and had no intention of getting involved in land-use battles. It was the job of the Kitsap County commissioners to decide where to put the growth, they said. The PUD staff and commissioners believed their role was to provide water for the growing population, wherever it goes. Check out this Kitsap Sun story from Feb. 25, 2001.

The state’s Municipal Water Law of 2003 clarified that the KPUD could deliver water from one place to another throughout its service area — which is all of Kitsap County. That allows water to be brought to developed areas in North Kitsap, where annual rainfall is half of what we see in the forested areas of Southwest Kitsap, where the Seabeck aquifer is located. (See annual precipitation map on this page.)

Many environmentalists have objected to certain portions of the Municipal Water Law, especially sections that included developers as municipal water suppliers — a move they say opens the door for abuse by financial interests.

One of the big concerns in water management is that pumping too much from an aquifer — especially a shallow aquifer — could disrupt the subsurface flows and springs that maintain stream levels in the summer and early fall. Adequate streamflows are needed for many species, not the least of which are salmon.

With adequate monitoring, as needed for planning, experts can track groundwater levels and streamflows to avoid such problems. Pipelines allow aquifers to be “rested” when needed. And elected PUD commissioners can be held accountable for their decisions regarding the regional management of water.

Future water supplies and the right to use the water constitute one of the most complicated issues in environmental law. A 2003 paper by the Washington Department of Ecology, called “Mitigation Measures Used in Water Rights Permitting” outlines some of the methods being used to protect natural systems and competing water rights. Mitigation for use of the Seabeck aquifer, which is an important water supply in Kitsap County, is described briefly on pages 19 and 20.


Take the ‘water pledge’ to boost your ‘city’

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

UPDATE, May 4

The “Mayor’s Challenge” is over, and Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent says she is pleased that Bremerton placed first in Washington state and third out of more than 100 medium-sized cities in the West.

Read the news release issued by the mayor.
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From state post, Jay Manning returns to law practice

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Jay Manning, who resigned in June as Gov. Chris Gregoire’s chief of staff, says he is ready to charge back into work as a private lawyer, after spending the summer hiking and mountain biking throughout the Northwest.

Jay Manning

Manning, 53, a native of Manchester in Kitsap County, returned today to his old law firm, an environmental practice that now bears the name Cascadia Law Group. One thing to know about Jay is that environmental issues have always been a central part of his life.

Jay took some time to talk with me today about his reasons for leaving state government and his hopes for the future.

“I had sort of run out of gas,” he confessed. “Although others disagreed, I thought I was not performing as well as I should be, such as my ability to solve problems.”

He said he was beginning to worry about his financial condition, with a son in college and retirement staring him in the face. It was a factor he mentioned in a going-away e-mail to his staff. “There was nothing dire there,” he told me, “but it was a concern.”

Although it may be a cliché, it seems to me that Jay was also thinking a great deal about his family life. His wife, a teacher, had been doing double-duty: keeping the home fires burning while going to work every day. During Jay’s time in state government, his family time was more limited.

“It was time to put myself back as an active member of the family, and it has been so much fun to do that,” he said. “Since July 15, I have really played outside and hung out with family and friends. I have my energy level back.”

As he traveled about the Northwest, Jay said he has come to appreciate the splendor of this region even more. He now lives in Olympia.

Meanwhile, Manning has considered various jobs, including prospects at environmental law firms. He settled on Cascadia Law Group, which he believes takes a rare approach to environmental disputes.

“Unlike most firms, this one does not let themselves get pigeonholed. In one case, they may be representing regulated business. In another case, it can be an Indian tribe, and in another case an environmental group. I like that they represent different viewpoints.”

Manning’s career path has helped him become a skillful negotiator with an ability to see various sides of a problem. Most issues are not black-and-white, he said. People on all sides have viewpoints that deserve respect.

After graduating from the University of Oregon Law School in 1983, Manning joined the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, where he and seven other lawyers represented the Department of Ecology.

When Chris Gregoire became Ecology director in 1987, Manning became chief negotiator during three years of tough talks with the federal government over Hanford cleanup. For a time, he went into private law practice and served on the board of the Washington Environmental Council.

When Gregoire became governor, she quickly named Manning to head up the Department of Ecology, where he served for more than four years before she asked him to become her chief of staff in October 2009.

Manning was grateful. “But for me, it sucked the energy out, in a way the Ecology job didn’t,” he said. “I knew the chief of staff job was hard, but until you’re sitting in that chair, you don’t know how you’ll react to it.”

Manning says his days as a trial lawyer are probably over. He anticipates working on management and public-policy issues, such as controversies over water resources in Eastern Washington. He said he would not be surprised to find himself lobbying for legislation at some point.

He also discusses how he might help environmental groups, either professionally or as a volunteer.

“I’m excited to work on energy efficiency, restoration of Puget Sound and some really exciting water projects on the east side of the state,” he said.

As Ecology chief, Manning headed up the state’s Climate Action Team, and I was surprised that he didn’t mention that specifically as a concern.

“I am concerned,” he told me, “but I don’t talk about it as a climate issue. It’s about making your home and business more efficient. You make a more comfortable place to live and your heating bill goes down. We talk energy efficiency, and climate is smack dab in the middle of it.”

The need to reduce greenhouse gases is clear, he said, but the term “climate change” divides people in ways that “energy efficiency” does not.

I asked him if “energy efficiency” conveys the appropriate sense of urgency about a problem that has our government tied in knots.

“That’s a good point,” he said. “My background would tend to push me toward a strong regulatory response. But I don’t think that is doable now.”

Does he think he’ll ever venture back into politics?

“I would never say ‘never,’ but I am really going to focus on being successful with this firm Cascadia. I saw up close what it takes to be governor. It is hard, and sometimes it is completely unreasonable. There is a big personal sacrifice to be made. Right now my focus is on this new job.”

Cascadia Law Group’s website describes the practice this way:

“Our clients come to us because we solve problems. We set out first to understand each client’s objectives. We then apply our knowledge of the law, persuasive skills, political acumen, and creative thinking to attain those goals. We have successfully helped our clients resolve many of our region’s most difficult environmental issues.”

I’ve talked before about how Jay’s growing up in Kitsap County shaped his concerns for the environment. Check out previous comments on Waterways from Oct. 5, 2009, and Feb. 17, 2008. I wrote a profile about Manning for the Kitsap Sun in February 2008.


Stay connected during demolition of Elwha dams

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I’m looking forward to watching the two dams on the Elwha River being dismantled — and I won’t have to leave home.

In this July 9 photo, water was pouring through the spillway gates of Glines Canyon Dam. Since then, the reservoir has reached a low of -18 feet pending demolition, and the spill has declined.
Photo courtesy of Robert Dashiell

Sure, I’ll try to make a few trips to Port Angeles and up the Elwha valley to see what I can see at various times. But webcams placed in strategic locations may actually be the best view around.

We won’t be able to judge the quality of the view from the webcams until they are installed later this month. At least that’s the proposed timing, according Olympic National Park officials who are doing their best to help people share the experience of dam removal.

I outlined the options for viewing and information gathering in a story in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun. In addition to webcams, park officials are working to find ways for people to stay connected with the project, both in person and on-line, as I describe in my story.

For ongoing information, there is Facebook, a blog and general information about the dams and dam-removal project.

Not to leave out fun, culture and education, a weeklong celebration is being planned about the time the contractor gets the go-ahead to work in the river on Sept. 15. For a calendar of events, go to the Celebrate Elwha! website.

Meanwhile, reporter Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times was able to capture the sites and sounds of the changing environment as the declining water levels reveal conditions never seen before without scuba gear.


Amusing Monday: Humor helps push conservation

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Lack of rainfall and regional water shortages in South Carolina have led to some creative public service announcements for the Greenville Water System. The goal has been to get people to save water with the hope of avoiding mandatory water restrictions.

The three humorous videos below were from the 2008 “Conserve to Have More” campaign, which features a fish objecting to people wasting water in three different situations.

The current campaign, called “Fight Aquamania,” is similar in its message, but it focuses on three types of individuals — “aquamaniacs” — who waste water in their daily lives. Click here to view the TV spots in this campaign.

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Commissioner Bauer leaves environmental legacy

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer may have been appointed to his county post because of his financial abilities, but his concern for the environment will be his legacy for the county.

Steve Bauer

That’s the opinion of his fellow commissioner, Josh Brown, who talked about Bauer last week during Bauer’s last formal meeting of the commissioners.

Bauer, a former member of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Ecosystem Coordination Board, had been city manager in Bellevue. He also served for nine years as director of finance and administration for the city of Portland.

In Bauer’s four years as a Kitsap County commissioner, his financial abilities have proven useful as the county suffered through a “financial meltdown” and severe budget cuts as a result of the recession, Brown said, adding that the county’s budget has been slashed from $89 million to $80 million in a single year.

From the first time they sat together as commissioners, Brown said it became clear that Bauer’s greatest passion was for cleaning up Puget Sound.

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Amusing Monday: Jesse Ventura’s water conspiracy

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Jesse Ventura, professional wrestler who became governor of Minnesota, weaves a fantastic, interwoven tale of conspiracy that leaves your head spinning in his program “Conspiracy Theory” on Tru TV.

His latest program, purporting to uncover a worldwide conspiracy tied to water, contains just enough truth to make you wonder whether the worldwide population is destined to die of thirst unless we turn over all our money to corporations.


Worldwide Water Conspiracy, Part 2

Worldwide Water Conspiracy, Part 3

I think the show is supposed to be seriously dramatic, but I found myself laughing out loud by Ventura’s gruff voice and his over-acting, as if playing the role of an investigative reporter who has discovered something that no other environmental reporter ever imagined.

I realize that some people never question what they see or hear on television, but I’m suggesting that every segment of Ventura’s show is fraught with exaggeration. I hope I’m not the only one who sees humor in this program. Please tell me I’m not alone!

I was already planning to feature Ventura’s overblown rantings for today’s “Amusing Monday,” when GroovyJoker, a regular participant on Water Ways, beat me to the punch. Groovy mentioned Ventura’s program in relation to water-related comments made by our newest Supreme Court justice, Charlie Wiggins. I think GroovyJoker was smiling, but I’m not sure.
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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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