Lloyd Carter's blog

35-year Mega-Drought coming for San Joaquin Valley and the American Southwest?

   A new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the US Geological Survey researchers looked at the deep historical record (tree rings, etc.) and the latest climate change models to estimate the likelihood of major droughts in the Southwest over the next century. The results are as soothing as a thick wool sweater on a midsummer desert hike, according to Mother Jones Magazine.

   The researchers concluded that odds of a decadelong drought are "at least 80 percent." The chances of a "megadrought" one lasting 35 or more years, stands at somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent, depending on how severe climate change turns out to be. And the prospects for an "unprecedented 50-year megadrought" — one "worse than anything seen during the last 2000 years" — checks in at a nontrivial 5 to 10 percent.

    To learn more, go to this link: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/09/southwest-megadrought

The Power of Salt

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. In principle, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less-salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power. The MIT team has now developed a model to evaluate the performance and optimal dimensions of large PRO systems. In general, the researchers found that the larger a system’s membrane, the more power can be produced — but only up toa point. Interestingly, 95 percent of a system’s maximum power output can be generated using only half or less of the maximum membrane area. Leonardo Banchik, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says reducing the size of the membrane needed to generate power would, in turn, lower much of the upfront cost of building a PRO plant.  READ MORE »

Drainage Deal Imminent?

A tentative agreement is near in secret talks between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation,the U.S. Justice Department and the Westlands Water District to settle three long-simmering drainage lawsuits, according to Interior Department sources. The settlement could be a bonanza for Westlands, which has been searching for half a century for a solution on how to safely dispose of farm drainwater containing salts, heavy metals and the trace element selenium. Westlands drainage triggered deformities in birds at evaporation ponds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County more than 30 years ago. According to one source, Westlands will only have to retire a minimum amount of selenium-tainted soils even though a safe drainage solution has not been achieved. A current Reclamation plan to reduce or eliminate toxic drainwater will cost an estimated $2.7 billion for Westlands' 600 growers. Geologists say more than 300,000 acres of land in Westlands and adjacent water districts (state and federal) have elevated levels of selenium, a trace element highly toxic to birds and fish. Environmentalists have called for a cessation of farming on these tainted soils.  READ MORE »

U.S.Supreme Court rules in favor of protecting Los Angeles rivers and beaches

FROM A Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper news release

 

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2014) – A decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court will protect millions of people living near and visiting Los Angeles rivers and beaches from the harmful effects of water pollution. The Supreme Court declined Los Angeles County and the County Flood Control District’s request to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling finding Los Angeles County liable for untreated stormwater pollution that plagues local waterways.

  The decision stems from a lawsuit initiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper in 2008. The Supreme Court previously remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit Court, which sided with NRDC and Waterkeeper last August. In an attempt to shirk its responsibility for cleaning up the region’s chronically polluted waterways, the County petitioned the Supreme Court for review in January 2014. Denying review of the case allows the lower court ruling to remain in place and holds Los Angeles County liable for water pollution, with documented and persistent violations of its Clean Water Act permit in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers since 2003.  READ MORE »

Monsanto and rivals creating "superweeds"

WASHINGTON (May 1, 2014) – An animated video released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) illustrates how the agribusiness giant, Monsanto, and its competitors are responsible for the rise of “superweeds” – weeds that have developed resistance to a common herbicide that once kept them in check.

According to a recent UCS policy brief, superweeds are cropping up on more than 60 million acres of U.S. cropland, increasing farmers’ costs and driving an increase in overall herbicide use and the return of more toxic chemicals. The video, “Monsanto Supersizes Farmers' Weed Problem—but Science Can Solve It,” depicts Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed and herbicide system as a “superhero” with a fatal flaw. Monsanto sold the system as a way to make weed control easier.

Farmers adopted the system enthusiastically, and for a while it did reduced their overall use of herbicides. However, as weeds developed resistance to Roundup weed killer, the false superhero was unmasked. Nationally, weeds began to develop resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, only five years after the Roundup Ready products were introduced in the United States. Resistant weeds can grow eight feet tall and the tough stems damage farm equipment. These weeds also steal nutrients from crops, hurting crop yields and overall productivity.  READ MORE »

Federal Judge gives Westlands and Reclamation six more months to pursue settlement talks on drainage problem

Federal Judge Lawrence O’Neill in Fresno has signed an order allowing the Westlands Water District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation another 6 months to pursue settlement talks without any further implementation of the 2007 Record of Decision regarding Westlands' long-standing farm drainage water problem.

The key final paragraph of O'Neill's order reads as follows:  READ MORE »

Bay Area Developer hit with huge damages in dispute over sale of Kings County farmland

By Lloyd G. Carter

    A prominent western San Joaquin Valley grower and a Bay Area developer have been ordered to pay $128.6 million in damages following a nearly three-month trial in Kings County Superior Court.  McCarthy Family Farms, headed by John McCarthy, and Sandridge Partners, a family-own real estate business headed by John Vidovich of Los Altos Hills were ordered Friday (March 28) to pay $73.4 million in compensatory damages and $55.2 million in punitive damages.  McCarthy was found guilty of breach of contract and Sandridge Partners was found guilty of interference with contractual relations.   READ MORE »

Quote of the Week

"The problem in California is not that we don't have enough reservoirs. It's that we don't have enough water in them. It wouldn't help to build any more (reservoirs.)"

     Dr. John Holdren, White House science adviser

 

House Natural Resources Committee hearing Dog and Pony Show

    By Lloyd G. Carter

   All you need to know about Wednesday's (March 19)  drought field hearing in Fresno of the House Committee on Natural Resources is that salmon were never mentioned and the GOP pols knew how to throw red meat to the farmers in the packed city hall chambers. It speaks volumes that there were seven Republicans and only one Democrat (Rep. Jim Costa) at the hearing chaired by Rep. Richard N. "Doc" Hastings, who is retiring after his term ends.

    Hastings said he invited all 21 Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee to participate in the hearing but only Costa, who had no explanation why no other Democrats showed up, was in attendance. Committee members Jared Huffman and Grace Napolitano, former chair of the house subcommittee on water, were among the no shows.

     Hastings also said he was "very, very disappointed" that State Water Resources Control Board chairwoman Felicia Markus failed to appear despite being invited.  Marcus, who previously worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as western regional  director, also served as EPA director for Region 9 and was appointed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger to the Delta Stewarship Council.  READ MORE »

Fish and Wildlife Service supervisors commit misconduct to further Keystone XL Pipeline Project

Editor's Note: Greenwire news service has released the article below showing repeated scientific misconduct by two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supervisors pushing for approval of the controversial Keystone Pipeline project. It is clear to see from the agency's press spokesman, Chris Tollefson, that Fish and Wildlife is still stonewalling on this.  I blogged about Tollefson sometime back.  Type his name in my website search engine box (upper right corner of home page) and read the story about two-headed fish.  Does President Obama have a clue what's going on in his wildlife protection agency?

(Thursday, February 6, 2014)

By Emily Yehle, Greenwire reporter

 

Two supervisors at the Fish and Wildlife Service purposely ignored staff concerns in order to shrink the habitat of the endangered American burying beetle, committing scientific misconduct of a "serious and intentional nature," accordingto newly released internal documents. The documents provide new details on the scientific integrity cases against Dixie Porter and Luke Bell, who worked in the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office. Porter was the field supervisor, while Bell was the branch chief of threatened and endangered species and contaminants.  READ MORE »

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