Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Watching Our Water Ways

Archive for the ‘Lakes’ Category

Amusing Monday: Frogs really can be funny

Monday, April 28th, 2014

I almost forgot about Crazy Frog, who I featured a few years ago in an Amusing Monday entry. Crazy Frog was a cartoon frog. His first video showed him riding an invisible motorcycle. His “ah-ding-ding-ding-da-da-ding-ding-ding” became a popular ring tone for awhile until it drove everybody else crazy.

It’s OK to revisit a crazy cartoon frog by clicking on the link above. But this blog entry is about funny real-life frogs or facsimiles thereof, starting with a video in which a frog tries to catch his meal from a smart phone. Was the frog frustrated toward the end when he went after something larger?

See for yourself in the first video player.

The second video player shows a frog known as a desert rain frog, which comes from an exclusive desert area in Namibia and South Africa with just enough moisture to keep the species alive. The video shown here went viral after it described the little amphibian as the “world’s cutest frog.”

We all know that frogs can croak, but did you know that they scream. Here’s a video called “33 Screaming Frogs.”

On the serious side, PBS Nature produced a video about frogs and their risk of extinction. It was called “The Thin Green Line.”

Finally, to make sure you never run out of different ways of seeing frogs, I located a photo bucket said to contain nearly 20,000 images. It’s called simply “Frogs” by SimbleSimble. I scanned through the first 400 or so to verify that there probably are that many pictures and drawings of frogs.

The images below are from a different photo bucket called Funny Frog.

funny frog photo: Photoshop animated gif - Frog photoshopanimatedgif.gif

funny frog photo: funny frog with dentures 2z56oox.gif


EPA asserts protections under Clean Water Act

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Connections among streams, wetlands, rivers and lakes are at the heart of a new rule proposed today to clarify the intent of the federal Clean Water Act and to spell out the authority of federal agencies.

Specifically, the rule proposed jointly by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers calls for protecting most natural water features under the Clean Water Act. The rule embodies the notion that small tributaries and wetlands are likely connected to larger tributaries, rivers, wetlands and natural channels, even though they may not always appear connected.

The proposed rule is designed to reconcile scientific understanding of hydraulic connections with two U.S. Supreme Court rulings, which hold that federal jurisdiction applies only to permanent water features and their connecting waters. In the 2006 decision “Raponos v. United States” (PDF 535 kb), the court was highly critical of the Army Corps of Engineers for its effort to squeeze a wide variety of waterways under the definition of “waters of the United States”:

“In applying the definition to ‘ephemeral streams,’ ‘wet meadows,’ storm sewers and culverts, ‘directional sheet flow during storm events,’ drain tiles, man-made drainage ditches, and dry arroyos in the middle of the desert, the Corps has stretched the term ‘waters of the United States’ beyond parody. The plain language of the statute simply does not authorize this ‘land is waters’ approach to federal jurisdiction….

“In sum, on its only plausible interpretation, the phrase ‘the waters of the United States’ includes only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water ‘forming geographic features’ that are described in ordinary parlance as ‘streams, oceans, rivers [and] lakes.’ See ‘Webster’s Second.’ The phrase does not include channels through which water flows intermittently or ephemerally, or channels that periodically provide drainage for rainfall.”

The Supreme Court ruling has caused confusion, especially in situations where hydraulic connections were not obvious and could be questioned by property owners who wished to avoid federal regulators.

A scientific report was requisitioned by the EPA to fill the gap created by the court. Some findings from the report “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence” (PDF 11.3 mb):

“All tributary streams, including perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams, are physically, chemically, and biologically connected to downstream rivers via channels and associated alluvial deposits where water and other materials are concentrated, mixed, transformed, and transported…

“Wetlands and open-waters in landscape settings that have bidirectional hydrologic exchanges with streams or rivers … are physically, chemically, and biologically connected with rivers via the export of channel-forming sediment and woody debris, temporary storage of local groundwater that supports base flow in rivers, and transport of stored organic matter.”

In the Puget Sound region, the connections among waterways are fairly obvious. In more arid states, however, the connections may occur only during rainy periods, if then.

In a press release, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposed rule fits the Supreme Court’s narrower reading of the Clean Water Act while maintaining the historical coverage of the federal agencies:

“We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are absolutely vital to downstream communities. Clean water is essential to every single American, from families who rely on safe places to swim and healthy fish to eat, to farmers who need abundant and reliable sources of water to grow their crops, to hunters and fishermen who depend on healthy waters for recreation and their work, and to businesses that need a steady supply of water for operations.”


Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, added:

“Today’s rulemaking will better protect our aquatic resources, by strengthening the consistency, predictability, and transparency of our jurisdictional determinations. The rule’s clarifications will result in a better public service nationwide.”

Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act:

  • Most seasonal and rain dependent streams are protected.

  • Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.

  • Other types of waters with more uncertain connections to downstream water will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not protecting similarly situated waters.
  • Agricultural exclusions are retained, and agencies have identified 53 conservation practices that will be considered exempt from Corps permits.

EPA’s webpage: Waters of the United States

Environmental groups were thrilled that the Obama administration stepped up to protect waterways where state laws are not as strong.

Stated Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice:

“The EPA’s new Clean Water Act rule finally restores protections so that we can begin the hard work of cleaning up our waters for our children to swim in, fish in, and drink from.

“No doubt, polluters will rail and lobby against this rule and any other clean water safeguards that keep them from dumping their toxic waste in our communities and waters, or that hold them accountable for their pollution.”

“We cannot back down on protecting the waters that eventually flow through our faucets. Our children, our health, and our very drinking water are at stake. We urge the Obama administration to resist the polluter lobbies and quickly move forward in protecting our waterways and our families.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the new rule. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval of the Western Governors Association wrote a letter to McCarthy and Darcy complaining that state officials have been left out of the conversation, despite state authority to regulate water use.

In a March 10 letter, Phillip Ward of the Western States Water Council urged agency officials to delay publication of the proposed rule until EPA’s connectivity report undergoes peer review:

“EPA has indicated that its draft connectivity report will serve to inform the final rule on CWA jurisdiction. However, the draft rule’s submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before the finalization of the connectivity report raises concerns that the final report will have little or no influence on the final rule….

“Additionally, many western states have submitted individual comments for the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) to consider in its review of the draft connectivity report. EPA should carefully evaluate the SAB’s consideration of these comments and any subsequent recommendations from the final report.”

Kevin Kelly, president of the National Association of Homebuilders said the promise of clarification has brought a greater regulatory burden:

“EPA was told to make changes to the rule so that everyone understands exactly when a builder needs a federal wetlands permit before turning the first shovel of dirt. Instead, EPA has added just about everything into its jurisdiction by expanding the definition of a ‘tributary’ — even ditches and manmade canals, or any other feature that a regulator determines to have a bed, bank and high-water mark.”

Comments from others in favor of the proposed rule:
(more…)


New platform offers views of ducks and other wildlife

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

A new viewing platform within Newberry Hill Heritage Park provides a clear view of an open-water wetland, where lots of water birds can be seen at this time of year.

Platformfinished

That’s the word from Frank Stricklin, a member of the park’s stewardship group who helped build the platform. Frank told me that he has seen a variety of colorful ducks on the water, including bufflehead, hooded merganser and ring-necked ducks.

In the summer, the platform will provide a good place to watch swallows and bats flying low over the water at dusk.

Visible from the viewing platform, but somewhat shrouded in vegetation, is a large beaver dam that keeps the water backed up. Once, while Frank was working on the platform before dark, he spotted a pair of beavers swimming around.

Frank is president of the nonprofit Friends of Newberry Hill Heritage Park, which provides funding and volunteers to work on the trails and maintain the beautiful 1,100-acre forested park.

In addition to the volunteers, credit for the viewing platform should go to Silverdale Rotary Club and Kitsap County, which provided funding for materials, along with MTV Home Repair and Asbury Fuel, which offered materials and construction expertise, according to Frank.

The viewing platform is located at a popular vista along Wildlife Trail where the vegetation had been trampled by people trying to get a better view, Frank told me. The platform allows people to view the water without causing damage to the shoreline.

The easiest access to the site is from the Holly Gate along Seabeck Highway near Holly Road. Walk along the service road until it comes to a junction, then turn north. It’s about a mile of level walking from the gate to the viewing platform. A map is posted on the website of Friends of Newberry Hill Heritage Park.

Two other platforms are being planned for the wetland, one near the north end and one near the south end. The northernmost platform will be located on a small ridge, with views of Green and Gold mountains. The southernmost platform will be near the 135-foot-long beaver dam.

Frank, who was recently appointed to a full term on the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said volunteers are always needed to help improve this amazing parkland. For information, visit the Friends of NHHP website.


Sinkhole madness: Yes, these things are real

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

It’s comforting to know that we in the Puget Sound region are not likely to encounter sinkholes. It’s hard for me to imagine watching my house being swallowed up by a hole in the ground or feeling the terror of waking up as I fall into a deep chasm. But these things are real.

On the other hand, those of us who live in Western Washington should be prepared (as much as we can be) for an earthquake that could take down cities and change millions of lives without warning. Maybe the threat of sinkholes is not so bad after all. Still, the images of sinkholes in action are pretty fantastic.

A new video taken in a Louisiana swamp was posted on YouTube this week. It was then picked up by news organizations across the country. I’ve posted it in the video player on this page. (The real action occurs in just the first minute or so.)

The sinkhole first made itself known in June, and about 350 people have been evacuated from the area, according to a report from Elizabeth Barber of the Christian Science Monitor.

I’ve learned a lot lately about sinkholes from reading and listening. I won’t try to explain them, since others are telling the story well. Amol MHatre of CBS Sunday Morning produced a nice piece on the subject.

The U.S. Geological Survey provides several webpages that describe the phenomenon, including one linked from the map below, showing where in the U.S. sinkholes are most likely to occur.

Sinkholes


Live webcam shows return of sockeye

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

A salmon cam in Alaska’s Steep Creek is showing fair numbers of sockeye swimming upstream near the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau.

The U.S. Forest Service, which placed the camera (at right), says the sockeye are likely to be visible from mid-July through August. If you’re lucky, you may see the sockeye pairing up and possibly even digging redds for their eggs.

Adult sockeye tend to average 24 inches long in Steep Creek.

Besides sockeye, you may see cutthroat and Dolly Varden trout in the creek. You may also see young coho salmon swimming by. The camera is managed by Forest Service officials in Tongass National Forest.

If you recall, I listed several wildlife cams in a June 17 entry in Water Ways. At the time, a pair of ospreys was raising three young chicks. Take a look now at the ospreycam; the babies are almost as big as their parents.

As for the Mendenhahl sockeye, additional information was provided in a news release issued by the Forest Service:

(more…)


Amusing Monday: Singing songs about water

Monday, December 10th, 2012

It has been awhile since we did anything musically for “Amusing Monday,” so I wandered around the World Wide Web and learned that some people have compiled top-10 lists of their favorite water-related songs.

Jonathan Kay, who works for KOR, felt compelled to create a top-25 list of water tunes while working in a booth where he promotes the company’s specially designed water bottles. Check out the blog called “The Water Advocate.”

Jonathan listed “Rain” by The Beatles as his top choice for playing in the background while he made his sales pitch. Others were: 2, “Sloop John B.” by the Beach Boys; 3, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding; 4, “Tide is High” by Blondie; and, 5, “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin.

Before I mention other song lists, I’d like to refer to a website called Songfacts, which compiles songs into dozens of categories and then tells you about each song. Included are facts about the artists and the music with links to the song on YouTube. You can also get the lyrics, sheet music and ringtone, as well as information about purchasing the song.

According to Songfacts, Ringo once said his best drumming was done on “Rain,” which was the first song to use a tape played backward for unusual audio effects. The fade-out vocals at the end was the backwards version of the opening line, “When the rain comes they run and hide their heads.” The rhythm track was played fast and slowed down for the version we hear. It was also John’s first song to explore themes of reality and illusion.

Songfacts lists more than 200 songs with weather conditions in the title, including lots of songs with the word “rain” in them. The list includes six songs titled simply “Rain.” In addition to the version by The Beatles, there are “Rain” songs by:

Breaking Benjamin,

Madonna,

Trivium,

Mika, and

Creed.

Bill Lamb of About.com Guide lists his top-10 rain songs, leading with Brooke Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia.”

Others on the list are: 2, “Here Comes the Rain Again” by Eurythmics; 3, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival; 4, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” by B.J. Thomas; 5, “Rain” by The Beatles; 6, “I Can’t Stand the Rain” by Ann Peebles; 7, “Umbrella” by Rihanna; 8, “Purple Rain” by Prince; 9, “Rhapsody in the Rain” by Lou Christie; and 10, “Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters.

Another song list with “Rain” in the title, which includes 30 songs, can be found on the website Epinions.com. Aida Ekberg of Yahoo Contributor Network compiled what she calls “30 songs about rain that rock.” And Michelle Barlond-Smith has compiled 48 videos on YouTube that address the issue of water.

Shifting categories, Jeff Opperman of The Nature Conservancy created his top-10 list of river songs for World Water Day, led by Woody Guthrie’s “Roll on Columbia,” Randy Newman’s “Burn On” and Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising.”

When Opperman asked for reader contributions, the top-10 list started with “River” by Joni Mitchell tied with “Moon River” by various artists. Next came “Down by the River” by Neil Young and “Take Me to the River” by Talking Heads and others.

Other categories in Songfacts that include some water-related songs:

Songs with bodies of water in the title

Songs with natural disasters in the title

Songs about animals

Songs about the environment

Songs about nature


Amusing Monday: 20 questions about H2O

Monday, October 1st, 2012

This week, I looked for some interesting facts about water and created the following 20-question quiz. Find the answers below along with the various sources of the information.

Image: U.S. Department of Energy

1. If an adult’s body is 70 percent water, what percentage of water is an infant’s body?
A) 60 percent
B) 70 percent
C) 80 percent
D) 90 percent

2. How much of the Earth’s surface is covered by water?
A) 60-65 percent
B) 70-75 percent
C) 80-85 percent
D) 90-95 percent

3) An average person uses from 80 to 100 gallons of water a day. Excluding lawn-watering, the largest water use by an individual results from:
A) Flushing the toilet
B) Cooking and drinking
C) Taking a bath or shower
D) Water fights
(more…)


Amusing Monday: Time-lapse enters new realm

Monday, September 17th, 2012

John Eklund, a professional photographer living in Portland, has moved time-lapse photography to a wonderful new realm with his recent release of “Purely Pacific Northwest.”

His video transforms the rather deliberate pace of nature into a stunning dance of clouds and stars. A heightened sense of movement is felt when he gradually changes the point of view — sometimes moving the camera horizontally and sometimes with a vertical angle.

Be sure to view this full-screen with the sound on.

The Internet has been abuzz with John’s video since it was released a week ago, so you may have viewed it already. The video was featured in Smithsonian Magazine’s online feature “Retina” and was mentioned in the Huffington Post.

The video includes scenic landscapes, mostly in Oregon, including Mt. Shuksan, Crater Lake, Mt. Bachelor, Mount St. Helens, Oregon’s Badlands, Painted Hills, Cape Kiwanda, Mt. Hood, Lost lake and Cannon Beach, as Eklund describes in the notes on the Vimeo page.

“I started this project in July 2011 and shot the final scene in August 2012,” he said. “I took approximately 260,000 images. I used 6.3 TB of hard drive space.”

On his website, “The Art of Time Lapse,” Eklund says he began his career as a portrait, wedding and landscape photographer. Then, in 2004, while browsing on YouTube, he became captivated and inspired by the time-lapse work of an artist posting as Mockmoon2000.

“Over the past eight years, my love for time-lapse photography has grown exponentially,” John writes. “The privilege and challenge of capturing nature’s beauty and sharing the unique aspects of time through my camera lens is incredibly rewarding.”

He says he has found plenty of opportunities to document the changes of time in Northwest landscapes. He also describes the equipment he uses for those interested in the technical side of things.

“My dream – and goal – is to travel all over the world, shooting breathtaking locations and telling our planet’s story,” he says. “I have discovered that when time is the storyteller, a special kind of truth emerges.”

More time-lapse videos, including John’s first use of a dolly, can be seen on his Vimeo page.


Contrasts emerge at Glines Canyon Dam

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

In-water demolition pauses at Glines Canyon Dam. / Photo courtesy of Tom Roorda

The delta and shoreline above Glines Canyon Dam provide a stunning contrast to the surrounding forest in this photo take yesterday by Tom Roorda.

Work in the Elwha River stopped Aug. 1 for the “fish window,” which will halt all in-water work until Sept. 15. During this time, steps are being taken to reduce flows of sediment, which can harm migrating salmon. Salmon are being trapped downstream for transport into clearer waters above the dams.

As you can see, the reservoir level has come down at Glines as more of the delta is exposed and the river seeks multiple routes on its downstream course.

Tom Roorda, owner of Northwestern Territories, has taken aerial photos of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams and their sediment plumes since the beginning of dam removal. Check out his website, Roorda Aerial, which contains a slideshow of some interesting and beautiful aerial photos.

As we have discussed, the lower Elwha Dam has been removed and the river is flowing at historical levels. Massive amounts of sediment are moving downstream and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The finer sediments that have reached the Strait so far tend to disperse rather than accumulate.

During the fish window, work crews at Glines are preparing to demolish the intake tower, which is no longer in the river. A blast at the base will drop the tower onto its side, allowing a jackhammer attached to an excavator to break up the concrete.

In July, six controlled blasts lowered Glines Canyon Dam by 24 feet to the current elevation of 490 feet. About 90 feet of the original 210-foot-tall dam remain, according to the “Dam Removal Blog,” written Olympic National Park staff.

The two final blasts on July 29 and 31 notched the dam the final six feet to elevation 490 feet. Videos of three of the blasts can be viewed below in these explosive shots provided by URS:

July 15 blast at Glines Canyon Dam

July 29 blast at Glines Canyon Dam

July 31 blast at Glines Canyon Dam


Amusing Monday: Exotic wildlife in your room

Monday, July 16th, 2012

At times, it seems a little voyeuristic to watch wild creatures behaving naturally, unaware that eyes from all over the world may be watching them via the Internet.

One of the most engaging critter cams is set up at a place called Pete’s Pond, located in the Mashatu Game Reserve in eastern Botswana. The pond lies at confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers in a region that combines dry savannah, riverine forests and soggy marshes.

As I write this on Monday morning, several giraffes have come to the waterhole, where it is late Monday afternoon. Last night (Monday morning at the pond), I spotted a lone jackal wandering near the water.

The viewing is enhanced significantly by volunteers from around the world who take turns aiming the cameras and zooming in on interesting activities taking place. I love the sounds of the pond almost as much as the sights, but an ongoing clicking sound on the audio this morning detracted from the natural sounds.

Late afternoon in Botswana (morning here) seems to be an active time, but apparently different animals show up at the pond at all times of the day and night, and I find it interesting to watch and listen even when things seem completely serene.

I’ve mentioned other wildlife cams on this blog (See Water Ways, March 3, 2011). Technical difficulties always seem to be a factor in keeping these remote cameras in operation.

For the WildWatch Cams managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, it does not help that the department has been through some massive budget cuts. Staff efforts on these live videos has been reduced, and some are not in operation. But a few seem to be working fine. Try Batcam, Heroncam, Sealcam and Swiftcam.

If you are aware of other good critter cams working at the moment, feel free to pass them along.


Available on Kindle

Subscribe2

Follow WaterWatching on Twitter

Food for thought

"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

Archives

Categories