Rivers in the Media

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Water release another step in restoring health of iconic Snowy River

PUBLISHED: 15 OCTOBER 2014   SOURCE: abc.net.au; image: ABC News: Gregory Nelson

Efforts to revive the Snowy River are continuing with a major water release from Lake Jindabyne Dam on 14 October.


More than 10,000 megalitres of water flowed down the river in just eight hours, the biggest single pulse in a two-week flush designed to mimic the spring snow melt.


The high-volume release was part of continued efforts to restore the parched river, which was reduced to just 1 per cent of its annual flow rates by the construction of the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

The scheme, providing hydro-generated electricity to the national power grid, took 25 years to build and was completed in 1974.


The latest water release was the fourth annual pulse designed to flush accumulated sediment from the riverbed and make it easier for fish to spawn.


Simon Williams from the New South Wales Office of Water said the tactic was proving effective in the stretch of river just below the dam wall.


"Its enough to create a healthier channel, a more defined channel," he said.


But Snowy River Alliance chair John Gallard said total environmental flows were still short of the 21 per cent agreed to by New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth in 2002.


"We only have 15 or 16 per cent at max," he said.


Twenty-one per cent of the river's pre-dam flow equated to 212 gigalitres, but because some of the water entitlements bought for the environment were dependent on weather conditions elsewhere only 157 would actually flow past the dam this year.


Louise Crisp from Environmental East Gippsland said at Marlowhere the Snowy meets the sea, it remains choked with sediment.


"In the long term what we need is considerably more water to actually have an impact right down to the mouth of the river and keep it open as it once was," she said.


Indigenous groups who lived and fished on the unrestricted Snowy River agreed.


Local elder Alison Williams said the project brought traditional knowledge and Western science together.


"The water plays a pretty significant role in the way we occupy our land," she said.


"Our story lines run from the Murrumbidgee down to Orbost [in Victoria].


"Given that the climate's changing and the environment is changing we rely on that water and we have to walk that path together."

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Alaska’s Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust Receives National Land Trust Excellence Award

PUBLISHED: 01 OCTOBER 2014   SOURCE: Land Trust Alliance

Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust (AK), a nonprofit organization conserving the environment and resources of southwest Alaska, received the prestigious National Land Trust Excellence Award from the Land Trust Alliance during its annual conference in Providence, Rhode Island.


The award, presented Sept. 18 during the welcoming dinner of Rally 2014: The National Land Conservation Conference, celebrates the dedication and passion of Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust. It also honors the efforts of the organization in broadening support for land conservation, showing initiative in collaborating with others, and creating innovative communications, education and outreach solutions. Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust Executive Director Tim Troll accepted the award on behalf of the organization.


Bud Hodson, chairman of the board of Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, said 2014 is a particularly meaningful year to receive this award.


“This year is the 25th anniversary of the land trust movement in Alaska,” he said. “In 1989, our state enacted the Uniform Conservation Easement Act, and the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust was formed. We followed a path pioneered by our sister land trusts in Alaska. For us, this recognition underscores the importance of the conservation work yet to be done in Alaska and the critical role land trusts will play in that work.”


In addition to helping protect 23,000 acres, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust has worked to protect the region’s water and fish, increased understanding of the effects of mining and climate change on wild salmon, and educated youth about conservation by keying its efforts to the local sport fishing culture.


“One example of its significant impact in the region is the role it played in a local citizens’ effort to challenge the reclassification of state lands in Bristol Bay,” said Michael P. Dowling, chairman of the Land Trust Alliance Board of Directors. “The state is the largest landowner in Bristol Bay, and in 2005, the state reclassified most of its lands to allow for easier permitting of development projects. The land trust took the lead in the development and drafting of a science-based, alternative plan from citizens that ultimately helped convince the state to restore protective wildlife habitat classifications on 2.9 million acres and recreation classifications on 1.2 million acres of state land in Bristol Bay.”

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Biggest-Ever Dam Removal Frees US River

PUBLISHED: 29 AUGUST 2014   SOURCE: www.newser.com; Image: AP Photo / Elaine Thompson

The biggest dam-removal project in history is complete and Washington state's Elwha River is running freely for the first time in more than a century.


A blast yesterday destroyed the final 30 feet of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam, completed in 1927, on the Olympic Peninsula.


The older, 108-foot Elwha Dam was destroyed last year as part of a project to restore what was once the best salmon river in the area.


The restoration has been "the dream of tribal members for a hundred years," a spokesman for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe told thePeninsula Daily News as the tribe celebrated.


The old dams lacked fish ladders and no longer produced significant amounts of electricity.


Over the last few years of the restoration project, salmon have started returning to the river and more wildlife has followed.


Millions of tons of sediment that had been trapped behind the dams have created new habitats for wildlife downstream.


"We're seeing all sorts of different creatures. It's fantastic," a US Geological Survey spokesman tells National Geographic, which notes that hundreds of smaller dams have been removed over the last few years.

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Using the material choking Russian lakes for sustainable water technologies

PUBLISHED: 31 JULY 2014   SOURCE: The Guardian; Image: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The poor environmental practices of the former Soviet Union and other eastern European states over many decades is well documented. While these were most glaring for industrial plants and mines, they also spread to agriculture.


One of the lesser-known disasters came from a lack of systems thinking in irrigation. To create vast new areas of irrigated agriculture, the wetlands around lakes were drained to provide water for newly created farms. The unintended consequence was that where water, carrying oxygen, used to flow from the surrounding wetlands into the lake , now the net flow was directed away from the lake.


Lakebeds became desperately short of oxygen, while nutrients, probably from fertiliser runoff, were plentiful at the surface, leading to algae growth. Algae and other organic matter have a high biological oxygen demand and these large blooms further depleted the oxygen content of the lake. The jelly-like material on these eastern European lakebeds is known as sapropel (from the Greek sapros and pelos, meaning putrefaction and mud, respectively), and there is a lot of it.

Sapropel, though very rich in organic material such as algae, humic acid, and some living bacteria, is mostly waterand, luckily, can be easily pumped out. Removal of sapropel helps restore the lake to a place where many species can live. The challenge, however, is to find a use for it.


Romanian billionaire Dinu Patriciu has suggested using it as fuel, and this may yet prove to be commercially viable. But removing the large quantities of water takes energy; the challenge is to work out how to produce more energy than is consumed in retrieving the sapropel from the lakebed.

Another, and very different, approach is being taken by Zander Corporation, a Lancaster-based company. Zander has developed two classes of products from sapropel, which they call AgriZan and ClearEarth. These address several very important needs.


Tests by Zander, and engineers at Stopford Engineering, have shown that ClearEarth has strong binding properties for heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead and mercury. Industrial waste water contaminated with these metals, or water leaching from waste dumps, can be cleansed by flowing through ClearEarth. Further experiments have demonstrated that ClearEarth is a good bioremediation medium (using biological organisms to solve environmenal problems) for soils contaminated with hydrocarbons such as diesel or motor oil. Bioremediation is well established and regulated across Europe for such applications, and a new, effective material is likely to find a ready market.


Equally interesting is the application of AgriZan to improve efficiency of delivering water and nutrients to seeds and young plants. When seeds are growing, they demand water from their surroundings. Even very efficient drip irrigation systems waste water, and most conventional irrigated agriculture is worse, mainly because water is provided whether the plant needs it or not. With a material like sapropel, the water is bound as if in a sponge, and is provided to the plant when it needs it. Nutrients are similarly held and provided on demand. Tests on this material show that its effectiveness in soil seems to last over a very long period, several growing seasons.

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