Tag Archives: Coastal Issues

On The Elwha, A New Life When The Dam Breaks

Elwha Dam, before. Photo source: National Park Services.

Excerpts; By The Smithsonian

The nation’s largest and most ambitious dam removal will begin this month, when workers start demolishing two antique dams on Washington state’s Elwha River. The Elwha has been cut off from its source in the Olympic Mountains for almost a century, and its once rich salmon runs have dwindled to practically nothing…

Read Full Article, The Smithsonian

Biggest dam removal in U.S. history will look like this, Los Angeles Times
Nobody figured the largest dam removal project ever attempted in the U.S. was going to be easy — or fast. In fact, though the official demolition started Saturday, it will take two or so years to completely remove both dams on the Elwha River in Washington state, engineers say.

Olympic National Park

Elwha Dam Removal Project

Elwha Dam Removal Begins—Long-Planned Project Will Restore Ecosystem, Salmon Runs: USGS

By Jonathan A. Warrick / USGS

The largest dam-removal project in U.S. history—the Elwha River Restoration Project—commenced during the second week of September 2011, when National Park Service contractors began to dismantle two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. The 32-m-tall Elwha Dam and the 64-m-tall Glines Canyon Dam, completed in 1913 and 1927, respectively, have been blocking the natural supply of sediment to the lower river and coast and severely limiting salmon and steelhead spawning for nearly a century. In a ceremony celebrating the beginning of the Elwha River restoration, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar praised the project, saying, “America’s rivers are the lifeblood of America’s economy—from the water for farms that produce our food to the fish and wildlife that sustain our heritage.” He added that restoration will help support the culture of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, who have lived along the river for centuries.

Elwha Dam, removal started. Photo source: National Park Services.

The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1992, directed the Secretary of the Interior to study ways to fully restore the Elwha River ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries. (Anadromous fish, such as salmon and steelhead, spend most of their lives at sea but return to freshwater to breed.) In 2000, the federal government purchased the dams and related facilities, and on Saturday, September 17, 2011, removal of the dams began. News of this event appeared throughout the national media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the Associated Press.

To kick off the unprecedented restoration, the Olympic National Park and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sponsored a week of festivities titled “Celebrate Elwha.” The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which has a long history of Elwha River research and monitoring (see related Sound Waves articles “Studying the Elwha River, Washington, in Preparation for Dam Removal” and “Dam Removal on the Elwha River in Washington—Nearshore Impacts of Released Sediment”), participated in numerous Celebrate Elwha events. Concurrently, several USGS research groups conducted their final “pre-removal” surveys of the conditions of the river, the reservoir sediment, the river-channel morphology, and the coastal setting at the river mouth. The multiagency activities of September 2011 helped to inform colleagues, managers, and the general public about the restoration of the Elwha River, as well as providing the final observations of the river in its dammed state.

Among the week’s activities was a 2½-day Elwha River Science Symposium, led by USGS scientist Jeff Duda of the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC). The symposium was attended by more than 350 participants and included numerous scientific and multimedia presentations. Keynote speakers included experts in river and salmon restoration and people deeply knowledgeable about the Elwha: James Karr (Professor Emeritus in the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences), Thomas Lovejoy (Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University and founder of the Public Television series Nature), Yvon Chouinard (global conservationist and founder of the outdoor clothing and equipment company Patagonia), Martin Doyle (Professor of River Science and Policy at Duke University), Dick Goin (resident with 7 decades of experience observing the Elwha River and its salmon populations), Gordon Grant (Research Hydrologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and Professor [Courtesy] in the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University), David Montgomery (Professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington), and Thomas Quinn (Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington).

On the first evening of the Elwha River Science Symposium, USGS geologist Jonathan Warrick gave a public lecture along with reporter Lynda Mapes (Seattle Times) and documentary filmmaker and photographer John Gussman (Doubleclick Productions). During the symposium sessions, findings on baseline conditions in the Elwha River watershed and expected outcomes of dam removal were presented by USGS scientists from several centers, including Amy Draut (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center [PCMSC]), Guy Gelfenbaum (PCMSC), Chris Konrad (Washington Water Science Center [WWSC]), Chris Magirl (WWSC), Pat Shafroth (Fort Collins Science Center), Steve Rubin (WFRC), and Jonathan Warrick (PCMSC). Several other USGS scientists were noted for their early and important work on the Elwha River, including Mark Munn (WWSC) and the late Dallas Childers (formerly with the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory). The Elwha River Science Symposium ended with a 3-hour cruise from Port Angeles to the mouth of the Elwha River for 100 attendees. Jonathan Warrick and Ian Miller (University of California-Santa Cruz and Washington SeaGrant) served as co-emcees, providing interpretations and background information during the cruise.

Perhaps the highlight of the week was the ceremony held on and adjacent to the Elwha Dam on September 17, 2011. Speakers at this event included Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles, U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. Music and dance were provided by several groups, including the Klallam Drum and Dance Group. Three USGS scientists—Jeff Duda, Pat Shafroth, and Jonathan Warrick—were among the half-dozen docents who welcomed attendees and provided interpretations for the day’s events. The ceremony ended with the removal of part of the Elwha Dam by an excavator with a gold-painted bucket. The excavator tore apart a section of the dam to the sounds of celebration drumming and singing by the Klallam Drum and Dance Group.

While the week ended with concerts, parties, public hikes into the Elwha River watershed, and storytelling and film events, Amy Draut, Josh Logan (USGS PCMSC), and Toby Minear (USGS, California Water Science Center) finished the final pre-removal surveys of the river channel and reservoir sediment. These surveys will help document how the Elwha River channel changes after dam removal.

The commencement of dam removal begins a 2½-year process of taking down the Glines Canyon and Elwha Dams to help restore the once-vibrant salmon runs on the Elwha River. It also launches a new and important phase of scientific investigation, as researchers seek to describe and understand the changes that will occur to the ecosystems and natural resources of the Elwha River watershed and coast during and after dam removal.

Photo source: National Park Services.

Observations of Climate Change from Indigenous Alaskans

Huskies pulling sledge, 1911-1914. Photo source: State Library of New South Wales


Personal interviews with Alaska Natives in the Yukon River Basin, provide unique insights on climate change and its impacts, helping develop adaptation strategies for these local communities.

The USGS coordinated interviews with Yup’ik hunters and elders in the villages of St. Mary’s and Pitka’s Point, Alaska, to document their observations of climate change. They expressed concerns ranging from safety, such as unpredictable weather patterns and dangerous ice conditions, to changes in plants and animals as well as decreased availability of firewood.

“Many climate change studies are conducted on a large scale, and there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how climate change will impact specific regions,” said USGS social scientist Nicole Herman-Mercer. “This study helps address that uncertainty and really understand climate change as a socioeconomic issue by talking directly to those with traditional and personal environmental knowledge.”

By integrating scientific studies with indigenous observation, these multiple forms of knowledge allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the complex challenges posed by climate change. The indigenous knowledge encompasses observations, lessons and stories about the environment that have been handed down for generations, providing a long history of environmental knowledge. These observations can also help uncover new areas for scientists to study.

The Arctic and Subarctic are of particular interest because these high latitudes are among the world’s first locations to begin experiencing climate change.

The most common statement by interview participants was about warmer temperature in recent years. It was observed to be warmer in all seasons, though most notably in the winter months. In previous generations, winter temperatures dropped to 40 degrees Celsius below freezing, while in present times temperatures only reach 25 C or 30 C below freezing. Moreover, in the rare case that temperatures did drop as low as they had in the past, it was a brief cold spell, in contrast to historic month-long cold spells.

The considerable thinning of ice on the Yukon and Andreafsky Rivers in recent years was the topic of several interviews. Thin river ice is a significant issue because winter travel is mainly achieved by using the frozen rivers as a transportation route via snow machines or sled dogs. Thinning ice shortens the winter travel season, making it more difficult to trade goods between villages, visit friends and relatives, or reach traditional hunting grounds. One interview participant also discussed how the Andreafsky River, on whose banks their village lies, no longer freezes in certain spots, and several people have drowned after falling through the resulting holes in the ice.

The unpredictability of weather conditions was another issue of concern, especially since these communities rely on activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering wild foods for their way of life. One does not want to “get caught out in the country” when the weather suddenly changes.

Vegetation patterns were also observed to be shifting due to the changes in seasonal weather patterns, and this leads to increased difficulty in subsistence activities. Interviews showed the unpredictability from year to year on whether vegetation, particularly salmonberries, could be relied upon. Those interviewed spoke of a change in the range of species of mammals (moose and beaver) as well as a decrease in the number of some bird species (ptarmigan). This is of special concern because of the important role these animals play in the subsistence diets of Alaska Natives. Many also rely on hunting or trapping for their livelihoods.

Participants also discussed lower spring snowmelt flows on the Andreafsky and Yukon Rivers, meaning less logs are flowing down the river. This hampers people’s ability to collect logs for firewood and building materials, placing a strain on an already economically depressed region through increased heating costs and reliance on expensive fossil fuels.

An article on this topic was published in the journal, Human Organization. The full article with additional quotes and observations from indigenous people is available online Society For Applied Anthropology.

Original Article

Global Climate Change: A Primer
This timely, informative book is exactly what the public needs to understand the ongoing disruption of the earth’s climate. Orrin H. and Keith C. Pilkey present an excellent summary of what we know, and what we don’t know, about the planet’s climate. They also provide a superb overview of a huge campaign underwritten by corporate dollars and intended to confuse the public and manufacture doubt about climate issues.

Dirty Laundry: Greenpeace Reports on Toxic Industrial Water Pollution

“Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry; Unravelling the toxic trail from pipes to products.”New clothing tests implicate global brands in release of hormone-disrupting chemicals

By Greenpeace

The latest research into toxic water pollution released August 23rd, by Greenpeace International, reveals the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (1) in clothing items bearing the logos of 14 global brands (2), including Adidas, H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch.

The chemicals, which break down to form nonylphenol, which has toxic, persistent and hormone-disrupting properties, were detected in clothes bought and manufactured in locations all over the world, demonstrating that the use and release of hazardous chemicals is a widespread and pervasive problem with serious, long-term and far-reaching consequences for people and wildlife.

“Our research shows that global clothing brands are responsible for the discharge of hazardous chemicals into waterways in China and across the world, as part of their manufacturing processes,” said Yifang Li, Toxic Water Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. “People have a right to know about the chemicals that are present in the very fabric of their clothing and the harmful effects these chemicals have when released into the environment.”

Launched August 23rd 2011, in Beijing and Manila, Greenpeace’s second “Dirty Laundry” report presents the results of analysis of clothing and fabric-based shoes sold internationally by major clothing brands. Of the 78 articles tested, 52 were found to contain nonylphenol ethoxylates, chemicals which breaks down into the hormone-disrupting nonylphenol. The findings provide a snapshot of the kind of toxic chemicals that are being released by the textile industry into waterways all over the world and are indicative of a much wider problem. To highlight this problem and the need for urgent solutions, activists in the Philippines today hung out t-shirt shaped banners exposing the 14 brands ‘Dirty Laundry’ over the Marikina River, challenging them to “Cut the chemicals and Detox our water “.

Released six weeks ago, the first Greenpeace Dirty “Laundry” report detailed the results of a year-long study linking many of the same clothing brands to suppliers in China who were found to be releasing a cocktail of chemicals into the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas.

Nike and Puma have publicly committed to the elimination of all discharges of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products.

“Now that Nike and Puma have committed to cleaning up their supply chains, and are using their power as brand owners to influence the environmental impacts of their production, Adidas and other leading clothing brands can no longer avoid the responsibility of ensuring that the environment, their customers and people across the world are no longer threatened by the release of hazardous chemicals”, said Li.

“By failing to take action to eliminate these chemicals, global brands like Adidas are expecting customers to do their dirty laundry for them, every time clothes containing these chemicals are washed, hazardous substances are released into waterways across the world. Brands must remove these chemicals from their products, and the best way to do this is to eliminate them from their production processes and to come clean about what chemicals their factories are using and discharging”, concluded Li.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace is campaigning to stop industrial pollution of our water with hazardous, persistent and hormone-disrupting chemicals by demanding that companies and governments take action to “Detox” our future.

1) Greenpeace International submitted 78 articles of clothing for analysis by a leading independent laboratory, which examined them for the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), man-made chemicals often used as a surfactant in the textile industry. Where released untreated, NPEs break down in rivers to form the persistent, toxic and hormone disrupting nonylnhenol (NP). Even where wastewater containing NPEs is treated, this only speeds up the conversion into the toxic NP. More detailed information on these substances are available on page 12 of “Dirty Laundry II” report.

(2) The 14 brands where residues of NPEs were detected were Abercombie & Fitch, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Converse, G-Star RAW, H&M, Kappa, Lacoste, Li Ning, Nike, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Uniqlo and Youngor.

Original Article

Photo Gallery: Toxic water pollution and textile manufacturing in China, By Greenpeace

Dirty Laundry: Unravelling The Corporate Connections To Toxic Water Pollution In China
“Dirty Laundry”report, profiles the problem of toxic water pollution resulting from the release of hazardous chemicals by the textile industry in China.Greenpeace is calling on the brands and suppliers identified in this investigation to become champions for a toxic-free future, by eliminating all releases of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and their products.

Dirty Laundry II: Unravelling The Toxic Trail From Pipes To Products
Research commissioned by Greenpeace International has revealed that clothing and certain fabric-based shoes sold internationally by major clothing brands are manufactured using nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Nonylphenol is a persistent chemical with hormone-disrupting properties that builds up in the food chain, and is hazardous even at very low levels.

Secret Behind Jeans: China’s industrial Pollution

East coast earthquake reveals faults in nuclear emergency planning

Morro Bay, located 12 miles from controversial coastal Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, California. Photo source: ©© Mike Baird


To say that Tuesday’s east coast magnitude 5.8 earthquake surprised everyone would be an understatement.

The earthquake rocked the East Coast and prompted two nuclear reactors near the Virginia epicenter to automatically switch to emergency power sources…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

Quake Raises Safety Concerns, Reuters

Why We Build Nuclear Plants In Earthquake Zones ? By Cleo Paskal, In Huffington Post

Asian Nuclear Renaissance Taking Place On Seismically Charged Region, AP Article
Asia, the world’s most seismically charged region, is undergoing a nuclear renaissance as it struggles to harness enough power for its huge populations and booming economies. The skeleton of what will soon be one of the world’s biggest nuclear plants is slowly taking shape along China’s southeastern coast, right on the doorstep of Hong Kong’s bustling metropolis. Like Japan’s Dai-ichi plant they lie within a few hundred miles of the type of fault known to unleash the largest tsunami-spawning earthquakes.

Magnitude-5.8 Earthquake Strikes National Capital Area: USGS


A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck the National Capital Area on Tuesday, August 23, at 1:51p.m. (EDT), causing moderate shaking and potentially significant damage, and was felt throughout Northern Virginia and neighboring areas. No casualties are expected.

The earthquake occurred near Louisa and Mineral, Va., approximately 100 miles southwest of Washington, DC. It was a shallow earthquake, and shaking was recorded all along the Appalachians, from Georgia to New England.

There have been several aftershocks.

The information provided by the USGS is part of a government-wide response effort, in coordination with the Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House.

The earthquake occurred in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone, which has produced earthquakes in the past. The most notable was an earthquake that occurred in 1875 that scientists believe was about a magnitude 4.5.

This earthquake is almost as strong as the strongest recorded earthquake in Virginia, a magnitude 5.9, which occurred in May 1897 in Giles County, Va. The strongest recorded earthquake to strike the East Coast was the 1886 Charleston, S.C., earthquake, which was about a magnitude 7.3.

Over 10,000 reports of felt shaking have already been received from more than 3400 zip codes all over the eastern United States.

The earthquake was felt so widely because it was a shallow earthquake, and geologic conditions in the eastern U.S. allow the effects of earthquakes to propagate and spread much more efficiently than in the western United States.

Western rock is relatively young, which means it absorbs a lot of the shaking caused by earthquakes. Thus, western earthquakes result in intense shaking close to the epicenter, but fade more quickly the farther the earthquakes travel.

In the eastern United States, on the other hand, the rock is far older, and so earthquakes can have a much larger and more widespread impact. Earthquake energy can therefore spread farther and have a greater impact.

Map of USA Power Reactor Sites. Image source: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

True colors : Bloom in the Barents Sea

barent sea nasa

By Mike Carlowicz and Holli Riebeek, with interpretation from Barney Balch and Norman Kuring and Sergio Signorini of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

Brilliant shades of blue and green explode across the Barents Sea in this natural-color image taken on August 14, 2011, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite.

The color was created by a massive bloom of phytoplankton that are common in the area each August. The clear view is a rare treat since the Barents Sea is cloud-covered roughly 80 percent of the time in summer.

Plankton blooms spanning hundreds or even thousands of kilometers occur across the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans every year. Many species thrive in the cooler ocean waters, which tend to be richer in nutrients and plant life than tropical waters.

In this image, the milky blue color strongly suggests that the bloom contains coccolithophores, microscopic plankton that are plated with white calcium carbonate. When viewed through ocean water, a coccolithophore bloom tends to be bright blue. The species is most likely Emiliana huxleyi, whose blooms tend to be triggered by high light levels during the 24-hour sunlight of Arctic summer. The variations in bloom brightness and color in satellite images is partly related to its depth: E. huxleyi, can grow abundantly as much as 50 meters below the surface.

Other colors in the scene may come from sediment or other species of phytoplankton, particularly diatoms. The Barents Sea usually witnesses two major bloom seasons each year, with diatoms peaking in May and June, then giving way to coccolithophores as certain nutrients run out and waters grow warmer and more layered (stratified).

The area in this image is located immediately north of the Scandinavian peninsula. The region is a junction where several ocean current systems—including the Norwegian Atlantic, the Persey, and east Spitsbergen currents—merge and form a front known as the North Cape Current. The intersecting waters, plus stiff winds, promote mixing of waters and of nutrients from the deep.

Ice-covered for most of the year, the shallow Barents Sea reaches its warmest surface temperatures (6.6 C) in August, when ice cover is at a minimum and the water is freshest (less saline due to ice melt and river runoff) and most nutrient depleted. Those conditions, researchers have found, are perfect for coccolithophores to take over from other species and dominate the surface waters.

In a 2009 paper by Signorini et al, the researchers note:
Coccolithophores, among which E. huxleyi is the most abundant and widespread species, are considered to be the most productive calcifying organism on earth. They are important components of the carbon cycle via their contribution and response to changes in atmospheric CO2 levels…Coccolithophores appear to be advancing into some sub-Arctic Seas and climate change induced warming and freshwater runoff may be causing an increased frequency of coccolithophore blooms within the Barents Sea.

Original Article

Oldest Fossils Discovered On Oldest Shoreline Known On Earth

western australia coastline
Coastline, Western Australia. Photo source: ©© Lin Padgham

Excerpts; By The University Of Oxford

Earth’s oldest fossils have been found in a remote part of Western Australia called Strelley Pool, very well preserved between the quartz sand grains of the oldest beach or shoreline known on Earth, in some of the oldest sedimentary rocks that can be found anywhere.

The microscopic fossils show convincing evidence for cells and bacteria living in an oxygen-free world over 3.4 billion years ago.

The work also has implications for looking for life on other planets, giving an indication of what evidence for such life might look like…

Read Full Article, University Of Oxford

Dinosaur footprints threatened by natural gas project, Western Australia, Nature News
Fossilized dinosaur tracks that dot a remote 80-kilometre stretch of Western Australia’s coastline are under threat from a proposed natural gas facility, say paleontologists…

dinosaur footprints
Cast of dinosaur footprint, over 130 million years old, at Gantheaume Point, Broome, Western Australia. Photo source: ©© Lin Padgham

Beach Goers To Report Endangered Leatherback Turtle Sightings, UK

leatherback turtles
Photo source: Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center/ NOAA


The leatherback turtle has a unique biology among turtles. Its circulatory system and internal shell structure enable it to withstand cooler temperatures and dive deeper than other species. It often turns up in UK waters.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) wants the public to report any turtles they see during August, the peak time to spot the creatures in UK waters, to see if there are any hotspots for them or areas where conservation measures are needed…

Read Full Article, The Marine Conservation Society

US scientists predict eruption of undersea volcano

Axial Seamount is a seamount (undersea volcano) located on the Juan de Fuca Ridge approximately 480 km (300 mi) west of Cannon Beach, Oregon. Cannon Beach is located near several significant fault lines. Haystack Rock, on Cannon Beach is accessible at low tide. There is a small cave system that penetrates the rock and can be seen from the coastline. The rock is also protected as a marine sanctuary.Photo source: ©© Postdif

Excerpts; By Oregon State University, in Science Daily

A team of scientists just discovered a new eruption of Axial Seamount, an undersea volcano located about 250 miles off the Oregon coast, and one of the most active and intensely studied seamounts in the world.
What makes the event so intriguing is that the scientists had forecast the eruption starting five years ago, the first successful forecast of an undersea volcano…

Read Full Article, by Oregon State University, in Science Daily

AFP Article

Better Desalination Technology, Key to Solving World’s Water Shortage

Photo source:
©© Midlander1231


Over one-third of the world’s population already lives in areas struggling to keep up with the demand for fresh water. By 2025, that number will nearly double. Some countries have met the challenge by tapping into natural sources of fresh water, but as many examples, such as the much-depleted Jordan River, have demonstrated, many of these practices are far from sustainable.

“The globe’s oceans are a virtually inexhaustible source of water, but the process of removing its salt is expensive and energy intensive,” said Menachem Elimelech, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale and lead author of the study, which appears in the Aug. 5 issue of the journal Science

Read Full Article, Yale University, in Science Daily

The Future of Seawater Desalination, Original Article in Science Magazine
In recent years, numerous large-scale seawater desalination plants have been built in water-stressed countries to augment available water resources, and construction of new desalination plants is expected to increase in the near future. Despite major advancements in desalination technologies, seawater desalination is still more energy intensive compared to conventional technologies for the treatment of fresh water.