Deepwater Horizon Update – 5/14/2010

This week was full of news about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:  the Macondome didn’t work, the media says that the leak may be much worse than thought, oil company execs blamed each other, and Obama blamed capitalism (but got it right when noting that the Minerals Management Service had been too cozy with the industry – but cronyism is not capitalism).

I’ve been getting about 30 emails per day from the “Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center”, most of them garbage about Federal officials holding press conferences or briefings about the “Administration-wide” response.  Some of the emails contain great photos with captions that contain snippets of information.  Then there are some that make me wonder about how bad the effects of the spill may be – they sent an email announcing  ”Rehabilitated bird to be released”.  Either it’s really bad and there’s only one bird still alive, or it may not be as bad as the media says – regardless I find it interesting that the U.S. Government deems it necessary to issue a press release about _a_ bird.

We get linked from other blogs , and sometimes they’re pretty good – here’s AL FIN.  They’ve posted some insightful thoughts about the spill, including “New Estimates of Oil Leak Rate Stoke Widespread Hysteria”:

New media estimates of leakage rates from the Deepwater Horizon seafloor gusher range from 20,000 barrels per day up to 100,000 barrels per day. These estimates were hastily arrived at by various remote methods by a number of academics: a mechanical engineer at Purdue, an astrophysicist at Berkeley, an oceanographer at Florida State University, and others who are willing to go on record with a public estimate. The official NOAA estimate of the leak rate remains constant at 5,000 barrels per day…

If the Deepwater Horizon gusher has been spewing 100,000 barrels a day for the past 24 days, it would have released 2.4 million barrels of hydrocarbon, or about 100 million gallons (roughly 300,000 tons)…

So if one ton of oil spreads to cover an area of 12 km2, 300,000 tons of oil would cover an area of 1.6 million km2 (or about 600,000 sq. miles). The entire surface area of the Gulf of Mexico is 1.5 million km2.

Of course much of the short chain hydrocarbons will have evaporated, and some of the oil has sunk beneath the surface. But dispersants tend to spread the remaining oil across a larger area, somewhat magnifying the apparent area of the slick. In other words, had as much oil been released as is claimed by the mechanical engineer, the astrophysicist, and the oceanographer, would it not be reasonable to assume that virtually the entire Gulf would be covered by now?

Here is the rub: a very large part of the hydrocarbon release is in the form of natural gas, which evaporates into the air straightaway. Without knowing the proportion of gas to oil fairly reliably, one cannot truly predict how much oil is being released by watching (or taking rough measurements of) the seafloor gusher. And the lighter the crude oil, the more quickly the short chain hydrocarbons will evaporate in the warm Gulf waters. So one must also have a good idea of the type of crude that is leaking…

Information about the causes of the disaster are slowly coming to light, and there will be plenty of time for judging the actions of those involved. But for now, whatever the rate and composition of oil leak — it needs to be stopped.

Good stuff.  I encourage you to read the whole thing, and while you’re there check out the other posts.

***

The U.S. Government cannot just blame BP et al and leave the clean up to them – it’s OUR oil and OUR beaches and OUR seafood and OUR environment.  The MMS leased the drilling rights to BP – but the ultimate responsibility for the stewardship of the oil is the Government.  The (probably) corrupt bureaucrats at MMS who approved drilling WITHOUT an environmental impact statement or WITHOUT adequate risk planning need to go to jail.

Obama plans to split the MMS  “into two parts: one charged with issuing permits and collecting royalties from drilling operation; the other responsible for safety and environmental enforcement”.  We’ll see if that solution is effective, but I’ll bet it won’t be as effective as prosecuting a few bureaucrats.

***

In other news, Swiss-based Transocean hired a lobbyist,  former Representative Bill Brewster (D – OK).

The company has not been a prominent political spender up to now. Since 2008, the company has spent less than $100,000 lobbying Congress on tax issues, documents filed with the Senate Office of Public Records show.

Macondome 1 arrives

Milestone – dome at location.  The M/V Joe Griffin delivered the Macondome 1 to the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 earlier today (report from one of my new favorite sources – UpstreamOnline).

He said: “It’s going to take a couple of days now to lower it 5000 feet to the sea floor and to connect the riser.”…

Once the “Macondome” is in place, BP will then bring in Transocean’s drillship Discoverer Enterprise and connect the dome to the ship via a rigid 2″ steel riser with a 6 5/8″ drill string.

Wine said: “The plan is to pump sea water down the annulus to help lift the oil – oil is lighter than sea water – and to keep it fairly warm.

“It’s a fairly gasy oil – it has a gas-to-oil ratio of about 3000 – so a major challenge for at least the first 2000 feet is hydrate management. It’s at those first couple of thousand feet where the risk of gas hydrate formation is the highest.”

When they say the “risk of gas hydrate formation”, they mean that this thing could get clogged up with gas hydrate crystals.  The problem is that gas hydrates like to form in cold temperatures (check) under high pressure (check) – deep water is both.  We all hope that the warmer seawater pumped down the pipe will keep the oil warm enough to inhibit gas hydrate formation.  They may also plan to inject glycol (think antifreeze) into the pipe to inhibit the hydrates.

The next Milestone might be reached Saturday – Macondome secured to seabed.  After that, the Discoverer Enterprise will need a couple of days to connect.

‘Macondome’ loaded

Deepwater Horizon Milestone – cofferdam dome (aka ‘Macondome’) loaded onto ship, scheduled to set sail at 5PM today.  I don’t know if it did, but if so it might be at the Macondo site by 5AM Thursday.  Then another 48 hours to lower the dome and secure it to the seafloor.  Then another couple of days to connect the dome to the Discoverer Enterprise and start pumping.

100505-G-8744K-006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORT FOURCHON, La. – Crewmen aboard the motor vessel Joe Griffin guide a cofferdam onto the deck as the ship prepares to depart Wild Well Control, May 5, 2010. The chamber was designed to contain the oil discharge, that was a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident, before it reaches the surface. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.

***

Mobile Baykeeper volunteer email:

We cannot thank you enough for your outpouring of support and offers of help.  Each call and email with your information has been entered into our volunteer database.  We now ask for your patience as we create activities and assign tasks to our volunteers.  We will contact you via email or phone as we need you.
 
It is important for you to know, that other than initial cleanups of beach debris, you must undergo the training specific to your volunteer task.  All volunteers working directly in oil clean-up will be required to have hazwoper training first, which we have been told will not be offered until the oil actually reaches the coast. There are health impacts, and we are not encouraging anyone to go out without proper training. Exposure to the toxic chemicals involved can cause respiratory and other health related problems even in people without pre-existing conditions.
 
If you are interested in being trained to deal with OILED WILDLIFE, visit www.mobilebayaudubon.org/, scroll down, and clink the link to sign up.
Thanks again to all of you who have called to volunteer and to everyone who is concerned.  While we know it is difficult, what we need from everyone right now is to remain patient and calm.  This is the beginning of a long recovery effort, and we will need you in the coming weeks and months as opportunities to volunteer present themselves.  Please check out our website (www.mobilebaykeeper.org) and facebook page frequently for updates. 
 

Deepwater Horizon valve set

Remember how I said in the first Deepwater post that details are “sketchy and developing”.  Yep.  I still don’t really know if I should refer to the incident by Deepwater Horizon (sunken rig name) or Macondo (site name)…

Turns out that the ‘dome’  (cofferdam) that earlier today was reported to be on the way is still at the yard in Louisiana and is not expected to be loaded onto a workboat until tomorrow:

Suttles said on Monday that he expected to load the first of two massive containment domes onto a work boat Tuesday, but today he said that operation is planned for noon Wednesday.

It is expected to take about 12 hours for the first dome to reach the location of the leak.

Once on location, it should take another 48 hours to lower the 70-ton structure, which measures 14 feet by 24 feet by 40 feet over the largest leak at the end of the riser and secure it to the seafloor, Suttles said.

BP will then bring in Transocean’s drillship Discoverer Enterprise and connect the dome to the ship with a system of pipes.

Suttles hopes to begin pumping oil into the drillship within six days.

Delays like this are why BP / Coast Guard won’t want to publish a schedule.  Lets hope that by Monday the Discoverer Enterprise drillship starts pumping.  We’ll probably follow the milestones (dome on workboat, dome at location, dome secure to seafloor, drillship connect and pumping).

Here’s some good news: 1 of the 3 leaks has a valve set on it:

The move is not expected to reduce the estimated 5000 barrels per day of oil gushing from the well but it will close one of three sources, leaving the UK supermajor only two other leaks to address… Crews first cut the jagged end of the drill pipe, which extends beyond the end of the broken riser. Next they fabricated and installed the valve.

Here’s a tough decision – take the risk of capping the well with the chances of stopping the flow or making it worse:

BP continues to look at installing a new blowout preventer (BOP) on top of the existing well, which could then be used to shut the well.

It is understood that the BOP on board the Transocean drillship Discoverer Enterprise will be used. The drillship is on location…

However, if the plan does not work it could cause the flow from the well to increase by eliminating the back pressure created by the crimped riser.

More good news:

There have been no confirmed reports of oil making landfall on the southern Louisiana coast, Coast Guard officials said.

On a related note, Meyer Real Estate in Gulf Shores is temporarily changing their cancellation policy:

During this time of uncertainty about the coastal impact, we have relaxed our cancellation policy which is currently 30 days minimum notice for cancellations in condos and 60 days minimum notice for houses. Until further notice when the coastal impact is evident, you may cancel your reservation at any time without penalty. If you have already made your vacation plans with us we strongly encourage you to not cancel your reservation, which secures your desired property for your desired dates. If you have not yet made your vacation plans with us we encourage you to do so.

Do your part for Alabama’s economy… Go to the beach!

Deepwater Horizon update – 5/4/2010

Dome, cofferdam, box, vacuum cleaner.

I’ve heard these terms describe the cofferdam that will be placed over the largest of the three oil leaks.  The cofferdam was finished yesterday and is on its way to the Discoverer Enterprise, the Transocean drillship on station at the Macondo (Deepwater Horizon) spill.  Two more cofferdams are under construction for the smaller leaks.  Upstreamonline has some great information: 

A similar system worked in the shallow-water US Gulf after hurricanes damaged production installations, but it has never been tested at this water depth…

We should know within a week IF the dome works.  Reports suggest that if the domes do work, about 80% of the leaking oil can be recovered – lessening the environmental impact.

Transocean / BP has one semi-submersible rig (Development Driller III) onsite and spudding a relief well:

…the well will take between two to three months drill to about 18,000 feet and then intercept the blown-out well…

The intercept is like hitting a bullet with a bullet – the well is about 7 inches wide.  Intercepts often take several tries.  In order to mitigate the risk, BP is bringing in another rig:

…the Transocean semi-submersible rig Development Driller II, to spud a second relief well.

The rig will arrive on location in 10 to 12 days and will “race” to spud a second relief bore.

In addition, BP is working on the blown out well (like shearing off jagged pipes).

Sometime in the next three days, BP will try to install a meter to gauge the pressure on the lower marine riser package…

When the meter is installed, we’ll have a better idea of how much oil is actually leaking (the 5,000 barrel a day number has “a wide margin of error”).  BP is testing subsea cleanup methods (well, not really cleanup – remember the old rule – ‘dilution is the solution’):

BP successfully tested a plan to apply dispersant to the oil as it exits the riser three days ago. Over a six-hour test, BP sprayed about 3000 gallons of dispersant using two-inch coil tubing connected to a wand. The dispersants break the oil down, which allows it to degrade more quickly… BP was pleased with the results but that it would take some time before changes in the volume of oil on the surface were noticeable. BP began subsea spraying operations again yesterday. The company now plans to try to drill into the riser and directly inject dispersant into the oil stream before it shoots into the water. The direct injection would ensure that more dispersant comes in contact with the oil and would give the substances a chance to fully mix before being diluted by water. Fryar said BP hopes to try the direct injection sometime “over the next several days”.

I’ve sent off volunteer inquiries to two groups – one at the official BP website:

http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/

I got this response:
Thank you for you inquiry. We appreciate your concern and willingness to help. Your information will be forwarded to the Volunteer Coordinator. We are receiving an overwhelming number of gracious calls offering support. We have had requests from hundreds of people willing to volunteer and are grateful for every offer of support we’ve received. It may take some time before organized opportunities arise where we can utilize your services, so please have patience. Our Volunteer Coordination team will be back in touch with you.

I sent the other volunteer request to:

http://www.mobilebaykeeper.org/

I also asked the Deepwater Horizon people to publish a schedule of activities and progress toward capping the well.  It’s a complex project with a couple of  different paths, but they could make a top-level schedule with significant milestones available.  We’re looking at about three months and I’d like to know how they’re doing. I know that if I were the Governor or even a candidate I’d like to see a schedule…

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Hat tip to Ace of Spades for the Ixtoc I information.

Let’s start with some history.  The last big Gulf oil spill was from the explosion and sinking of the Mexican Ixtoc I oil platform in June 1979 – the well wasn’t capped until March 1980 – about nine months after the incident.

Here’s the NOAA Incident Report about Ixtoc I:

On June 3, 1979, the 2 mile deep exploratory well, IXTOC I, blew out in the Bahia de Campeche, 600 miles south of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The IXTOC I was being drilled by the SEDCO 135, a semi-submersible platform on lease to Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). A loss of drilling mud circulation caused the blowout to occur. The oil and gas blowing out of the well ignited, causing the platform to catch fire. The burning platform collapsed into the wellhead area hindering any immediate attempts to control the blowout.

Sound familiar?

…experts were contracted to bring in skimming equipment and containment booms, and to begin cleanup of the spilled oil. The IXTOC I well continued to spill oil at a rate of 10,000 – 30,000 barrels per day until it was finally capped on March 23, 1980.

The Deepwater well is leaking at a rate of 5,000 (officially) to 25,000 barrels per day.  It is expected to be capped in 90 days – compare that to the nine months it took to cap Ixtoc.

Here’s an interesting tidbit about Ixtoc I from Wikipedia:

The US government had two months to prepare booms to protect major inlets. Mexico rejected US requests to be compensated for cleanup costs.

Compare that to BP’s response to the Deepwater incident:

BP will compensate all those affected by the oil spill saying that “We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honour them. We are going to be very, very aggressive in all of that.”

This is what NOAA has to say about the BP / Transocean Deepwater Horizon:

A fire and explosion occurred at approximately 11:00 PM CDT, April 20, 2010 on the DEEPWATER HORIZON, a semisubmersible drilling platform, with more than 120 crew aboard. The DEEPWATER HORIZON is located some 50 miles SE of the Mississippi Delta and contained an estimated 700,000 gallons of #2 Fuel Oil or Marine Diesel Fuel.

Since the Deepwater Horizon incident is so recent, details are still sketchy (and developing).  Keep this information (NOAA update) in mind as you read about the oil spill – people died – the 11 “unaccounted for” are presumed dead:

126 people were on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig when the incident occurred. 11 remain unaccounted for; 17 were injured, 3 of them critically.  1 injured person remains in the hospital.

I realize that this post is kind of choppy, but I wanted to get something out there.  The bad news is pretty bad – the economic impact of this spill is expected to be tough on coastal businesses.  The better news is that this too shall pass - Mother Nature’s winds and tides cleaned up the Mexican spill (with some human help).  We should do better than the 1979 Ixtoc spill, in terms of capping the spill earlier and using improved technologies and mobilizing the clean up efforts.

*** MORE ***

Here’s the BP / Transocean website for the Deepwater Horizon Response:

http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/

Here’s a great roundup from Texas A&M:

http://gulfseagrant.tamu.edu/oilspill/index.htm

Here are links to Alabama organizations that plan to help clean up the spill:

http://www.mobilebaykeeper.org/

http://www.joinacf.org/index.html

http://www.mobilebaynep.com/

Right now they don’t seem to need volunteers (maybe as soon as tomorrow), but they are taking names (and donations) at their websites.  Also from the Baykeepers:

…the best thing we can do right now to prepare for oil making landfall is to clean up the shorelines. The less garbage and debris on shorelines the easier they are to clean up. We know the weather is not going to be friendly, but if you can get to your favorite shoreline today or tomorrow you can help speed up the clean up process.

DO NOT remove any live plants. Simply remove any garbage, large shells, drift wood, etc. Debris should be removed to the extent that wave and tides can reach.

That sounds like good advice no matter where you live…

Happy New Year to The Huntsville Times

I resolved that my first post about The Huntsville Times would be positive.  John Peck wrote an editorial “Going wild after Forever Wild”:

Alabama’s Forever Wild land preservation program has been wildly successful in acquiring environmentally sensitive property and setting it aside as permanent public green space.

Since voters overwhelmingly approved the program in 1992, Forever Wild has acquired more than 200,000 acres of wild lands including the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County, mountaintop trails around Huntsville, eagle roosting areas around Guntersville and 35,000 acres of wetlands in the Mobile delta.

The properties are bought using a portion of interest earnings off the $3 billion Alabama Trust Fund fed by oil and gas leases…

The official expiration of Forever Wild isn’t until Oct. 1, 2012, but already outside interests are setting their sights on the trust in ways that could decrease its buying power even if Forever Wild wins another 20-year continuance.

Some lawmakers want to tap the Alabama Trust Fund for a $1 billion road building program. Contract holders with the cash-strapped prepaid college tuition plan also want to siphon money from the trust. Recent news reports revealed that the Alabama Farmers Federation is eyeing the trust for farm, soil and water conservation efforts.

Any drawdown on the principal would reduce interest earnings, of which 10 percent is now dedicated to Forever Wild.

Former Times editor John Ehinger was  supportive of Forever Wild and I’ve linked to his columns before.  I’m pleased to see that the new editorial board is just as supportive of this program.  If only The Times would name the “lawmakers” (State Senator Lowell Barron – Democrat) who want to tap into the Trust Fund; don’t leave us hanging…

Thanks Kevin Wendt – I hope The Times makes lots of money and gets lots of new subscribers and wins plenty of major awards this year.  We here at Flashpoint are always willing to nudge you onto the right path to prosperity. Just know that our critiques come from a place filled with love and respect…

While I’m being all warm and cuddly, I’d like to invite The Times to cover the Huntsville Governor Candidates Forum on March 2, 2010.  All seven GOP gubernatorial candidates have committed to attend the forum, which promises to be the largest debate in the State.  The Young Republicans and Right On Huntsville would certainly appreciate the press attention.

***

Back to a Forever Wild-related topic, this time from the Montgomery Advertiser, “Birding trail more popular than expected”:

When the North Alabama Birding Trail opened in September 2005, local tourism and state conservation officials predicted tourists would flock to Alabama to see bald eagles, waterfowl, warblers and other birds.

About four years later, those officials said the response to the trail, which includes 12 sites in and around the Shoals, has exceeded expectations.

“We have a tremendous amount of people coming by or contacting our office for information on the birding trail,” said Alison Stanfield, assistant director of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism. “Interest in the trail remains very high.”

…while there have been no studies to determine how many people visit the bird-watching sites, the trail is boosting tourism in the region…

Mark Sasser, coordinator of the non-game wildlife section for the conservation department, said the success of the North Alabama Birding Trail is spawning a proliferation of bird-watching trails throughout the state.

He said the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel will create a series of birding trails with hopes of including all 67 counties. He said wildlife watching is one of the fastest-growing forms of outdoor recreation in America.

The State really should try to quantify the success of the Birding Trails (in terms of human visitors).  I know that the Forever Wild program suffers from the same lack of good information.  People like the parks, but without this information, we’re just guessing at how successful the program might be in economic terms.

We know that in environmental terms, like plant and wildlife diversity and conservation, or in terms of clean water and protecting watersheds, Forever Wild is successful.  But people pay the bills, and some people (Lowell Barron and some other Democrats) don’t love baby birds and fluffy bunnies and pretty flowers as much as the rest of us.  They’d rather pave paradise…

E-mails didn’t skip critic Christy

Kudos to The Huntsville Times for putting Climategate on the front page in “State climatologist John Christy, a critic of global warming, mentioned in leaked ‘Climategate’ emails”.

It’s about time that the global warming fraud gets widespread notice.  The data was manipulated to support the fraud and now we know that the raw data has been missing for 20 years (the dog ate my data).  The problem is that the Obama administration still supports the faked conclusions and is apparently willing to destroy the economy to further the ‘green’ agenda. 

The earth warms, the earth cools.  It happens all the time.  This global warming fraud is a socialist attack on capitalist economies.  China is the biggest polluter in the world, and constricting the US economy is the answer. Huh?

All of this is breaking as Obama arrives in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week for a global summit on climate change. The president is expected to pledge the United States will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Christy maintains that the steps being proposed “won’t have much effect” on the air, but will affect the economies of the nations that follow them.

Does Christy ever worry that he might be wrong?

“What I fear most is a government going down the road of centrally planned solutions,” Christy said.

Welcome back Lee Roop, fairly nice job on the article.

Friends of the Preserve and Sanctuary

As y’all know, I’m a big tree-hugger and I love me some Alabama.  Actually I’m a water-hugger but that makes no sense, except that we drink the water from the Flint River so protecting the area around our water supply is pretty important.  I attended the Friends of the Hays Nature Preserve and Goldsmith Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary annual meeting this evening at the Monte Sano State Park Lodge. 

The speaker was Bill Finch, Conservation Director of the Alabama Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.  I’ll go ahead and note that I like most of what the Nature Conservancy does, and they’ve done great work by preserving Alabama’s natural heritage in concert with the State’s Forever Wild program (for example, they helped buy the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County).  I don’t like their support for cap and trade (which I think is an Enron-like scheme that does nothing for the environment and will harm the American economy).  More on Finch and Forever Wild later…

The Hays Preserve and the Goldsmith Schiffman Sanctuary are Huntsville City Parks out Governors Drive past Hampton Cove.  I’d like to acknowledge and thank Boeing for their $23,000 grant and the Alabama Homebuilders for their $1,000 grant.  One of the projects underway is the construction of an interpretive center  being designed by Greg Kamback which will be LEED certified (which seems to take “the longest time for the smallest building”), but it will be way cool and cheap to operate once built.  It will feature a native drought tolerant landscape, natural lighting inside (tube skylights, light shelf, windows), an airlock, and possibly a geo-thermal heat exchange (like President GW Bush’s house – he was an early adopter of the technology) and a vegetative roof (real plants on the roof with a recirculating rain barrel system).  The Nature Preserve is also trying to be a dark sky park – which means limiting the light spillage from parking lots and driveways.  Note – the HSV Planning Department is interested in re-writing the Lighting Ordinance to better accomodate dark sky areas.

Now, back to Bill Finch.  He was a managing editor of the Mobile Press Register and their attention contributed to the purchase of the  Mobile Tensaw Delta under the State’s Forever Wild program.  Notable quotes include the following:  “Alabama is the most diverse Eastern State” in terms of forests and aquatic life (i.e., we have more different species of fish, turtles, mussles, and crawfish).  “In some years of our worst drought, we were almost as dry as Seattle” (Mobile is the wettest City / Alabama is the wettest State in the CONUS).  Alabama is the “genetic reserve” for North America.

My favorite quote was “Fire is as natural as rain in Alabama”.

Finch spoke about the Nature Conservancy and Forever Wild’s efforts to preserve the Paint Rock watershed (coincidentally, I drove through the area last weekend – absolutely incredible after the rains).  “We have the possibility in Paint Rock of recreating a functioning landscape” and it’s “the last 19th Century Appalachian Valley”.

Finch also spoke of the threats posed by invasive species.  The top threats are 1) ‘Laurel Wilt’, which could kill most of the undergrowth in our forests, and 2) the ‘Emerald Ash Borer’, which could kill ALL of the ash trees in the State.

He also reminded the audience that the Alabama Forever Wild program expires in 2012 and warns that there may be efforts to redefine the program (keep the name, change the deal).  I encourage all State elected officials and candidates for State office to pass the Forever Wild program as it stands now.

***

More thoughts and stuff.  The Monte Sano State Park Lodge is beautiful.  Thanks to the Hays and Goldsmith Schiffman families for their generosity in donating the Preserve and Sanctuary.  After the event, I ran into Bill Finch at Humphreys, which was pretty cool.  I also ran into Professor Tom and Vince, which was, again, pretty cool.  Prichard Distilleries up around Fayetteville makes an outstanding Double-Barrelled Bourbon (support your local businesses).

We must protect our watershed

Sam Sandlin, coordinator of the Flint River Watershed,  wrote the commentary “We must protect our watershed” for The Huntsville Times (published Saturday 24 Oct).  Sandlin wrote an informative, factual article containing useful tips with which IMO we can all agree.  I couldn’t find the article online, so I’ll try to give you a fair use summary.   It’s worth buying a copy of the Times if only to thank them for running the article.

Locally, we are blessed to have abundant water sources… we should recognize this blessing and apply conservation techniques to our water use and land management whenever possible to protect our assets, so to speak.
***
As the rain drains off the landscape to the river, it accumulates sediment from sites where soil has been disturbed, mixes with residues of gasoline, oil and other substances from concrete and asphalt surfaces, or picks up other pollutants like excess fertilizers, litter, household chemicals, and occasionally biological waste from animals or failing septic systems.
Healthy watersheds will filter and slow down this runoff of storm water before it can contaminate our streams and rivers.
***TIPS***
- Minimize erosion with some sort of ground cover like trees, grass, or mulch on your property.
- Prevent soil erosion by minimizing disturbed areas on construction sites.
- Limit the use of chemical fertilizers and soil test for maximum efficiency.
- Dispose of household hazardous wastes wisely and never pour them on the ground or into a storm drain.  Use the first Saturday drop-off at the Huntsville landfill
- …Keep livestock away from streams, provide an alternative water source and keep vegetation along waterways.
- …Treat water as a precious resource and conserve it whenever possible. For example, we have all heard that by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, you save about three gallons of water.  It’s true.
- …Learn about the local watershed, find out what land use plans are for your area and be involved in the future of your environment.

Water is a public resource which according to our legal tradition, derived from Roman Law and English Common Law, is therefore managed by the Government.  As conservatives dedicated to limited and efficient government, we should be as supportive of protecting our water as we are about protecting life and liberty.

Fertilizing when needed and minimizing erosion just make good sense.  It’s cheaper to use the right amount of fertilizer (soil analysis kits are available at the Extension Office on Cook Ave – IIRC $7) plus I think it’s interesting and educational to know what’s in the soil.  As for erosion, you don’t want the land you paid for ending up in the River.

Sandlin mentions that slowing down storm water runoff helps filter contaminants and promotes a healthy watershed.  One way we can accomplish this locally is to develop greenways instead of the concrete creeks we’ve got.  I know that the concrete creeks are good for flood control (by speeding the water out of neighborhoods), but slowing down the water with (more) natural courses and vegetation is better for the environment.  The City has a tough balancing act and should be credited with implementing pretty good flood mitigation measures.  However, I think that we need to move faster on the greenways, not only for the protection of our water, but also for the sidewalks (the original mass transit) and recreation that greenways can provide.

Disclosure – I’m a Pisces ;)