Window Seat: A Land and Water Use Perspective

I recently completed a few legal assignments for Telisport Putsavage, an attorney with more than 30 years of experience practicing environmental law.  He has served as Assistant Counsel of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and Assistant Attorney General in the Maryland Department of the Environment.  He also rarely travels without his camera.

Telisport shot these photos during a flight from Phoenix to Washington, DC.  Water scarcity and land use are two themes depicted in his images.  The photo below shows a wildfire east of Phoenix.  This fire is most likely the Whitewater – Baldy Fire, the largest fire in New Mexico’s history, which was caused by severe drought and above-normal temperatures.

      
The photos below show different styles of irrigation used in the Great Plains.  Central pivot irrigation creates circle formations, while lateral spray and drip irrigation methods allow for an entire square plot of land to be watered.  The photo to the left also depicts the wells that most likely lead to an underground aquifer where the water is sourced.

   

The photos below show drier areas of land used for agriculture.  Water for irrigation is typically sourced from groundwater aquifers (extracted from springs or wells), or surface water from rivers and lakes.  However, in extremely dry areas, treated wastewater, desalinated water, or drainage water can be used.  USGS estimates that 60% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals go toward irrigation uses.

   

The photo below and to the left shows an area of land that is most likely irrigated with water from the river running through the center.  To the bottom right is an area that is probably subject to natural gas drilling.  Perhaps it was taken somewhere above the Barnett Shale.

                         

The final photo shows an area where mineral resources are being extracted.  Thanks for sharing Tel!

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In Japan a year after the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster

On March 11, 2011, the most severe earthquake on record hit the Pacific coast of Japan.  This earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves, which caused serious accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  Emergency generators used to pump necessary coolant to three nuclear reactors failed, causing the reactors to overheat and explode.  This “meltdown” caused the release of dangerous amounts of radioactive materials into the surrounding area.  Besides the Fukushima disaster, the earthquake devastated neighborhoods in northeastern Japan.

A few friends and I visited Japan a year after the earthquake.  Our host, Mike Peragine, filmed the footage below in Ishinomaki shortly after the earthquake hit.

Earthquakes are far from a rare occurrence in Japan.  The film below depicts all of the earthquakes to hit Japan in 2011.  Watch it until at least March 11th!  It becomes clearer why anti-nuclear activists argue that nuclear reactors should not be placed in earthquake prone areas, among other things.

To protect against flood damage from tsunamis, the Japanese government developed the G-Cans project, a $2B underground waterway and water storage area.  This futuristic system was dubbed the “underground temple.”

  

A few of my photos from the trip are below.

  

  

“Long Live the Mighty Salmon”

Salmonids are special because they spawn in fresh water, spend most of their lives at sea, then migrate against strong currents back to river sources to reproduce.  The Coho, Chinook and Sockeye salmon, and the Steelhead trout are popular salmonidae species in the Pacific Northwest.  The images below depict the headwaters of the Washougal River where salmonids reproduce and spawn.

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Before modern development, it is estimated that 10 to 16 million salmonids returned each year to the Columbia River Basin from the Pacific Ocean.  Today, these salmon runs have declined about 90% to 1.5 million fish.  What’s the biggest culprit?  Hundreds of hydroelectric, irrigation and flood control dams built in the Columbia River Basin.  The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission estimates that dams are responsible for 70-90% of human-induced salmon kills.

The video below depicts a salmon migrating upstream toward a dam. Excuse my remarks, I’m very excited to capture this fish on film!

Dams contribute to the decline in salmon population in a number of ways.  Dam turbines can kill or stun migrating salmon, stir up salmon eggs, and change the water temperature and turbidity needed for healthy salmon runs.  The photo on the left depicts the dam that our fishy friend filmed above had to pass.  The photo to the right depicts a fish that didn’t make it.

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One method to protect fish from dam danger, which is almost as old as the concept of the dam itself, is the construction of fish diversion ladders.  This article from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council discusses fish ladder pros and cons.  Also, various articles in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management analyze experimental fish ladders.  I hate to use non-original fish ladder photos from the Internet, but the Bonneville Dam fish ladder was closed when I tried to visit. 😦 I recently moved to the East Coast, so these photos will suffice.I: I’ve

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Salmon advocates such as Save Our Wild Salmon and native tribes argue that dam removal is a more effective method of salmonid population restoration.   A group of salmon advocates filed a lawsuit against the federal government (National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service III) arguing that the federal Salmon Plan, also known as the 2010 Biological Opinion for the Columbia and Snake Rivers, violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it relied on “unidentified and uncertain habitat enhancement measures.”  In the summer of 2011, the Federal District Court of Oregon found that the Salmon Plan violated the ESA.  This means that the federal government must craft a new plan and analyze more alternatives, such as dam decommissioning. 

Ian O’Brien photographed the images below during our trip to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery.  The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission estimates that 75% of the salmonids in the Columbia Basin are raised in hatcheries.

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Trudy McDonald, my good friend and anthropology enthusiast, developed the PowerPoint  presentation linked below.  It explains the aboriginal system of catching and storing salmon, and how native tribes maintained optimal populations of salmon for future generations.  I also need to credit Trudy for the title of this post.

Historical Ecology Presentation Photo of Trudy at work.