The Enemy of the Good

Almost 30 years ago as a baby writer in Los Angeles I covered the Playa Vista project, a real estate development that included the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands south of Marina Del Rey. My wife and I used to ride our bikes through the wetlands on the way to the beach. It seemed a place of great promise and hideous neglect, populated mostly by styrofoam cups.

The restoration looked to be a massive and complicated project. I moved away before it came to fruition, but always assumed the restoration — like the real estate development — had gone forward. So I was surprised, this morning, to find that the debate about how to restore the wetlands is still going on.

I have a little bit of a jaundiced eye about California environmentalists — particularly the urban ones. Many of them have strong nostalgic streaks that make them averse to any kind of change. I covered anti-development groups in the San Fernando Valley who didn’t get that their opposition to increased density was continuing sprawl — and that sprawl is far less environmentally desirable, even if more familiar.

To be fair, on the pro-restoration side are engineers who often seem more fond of bulldozers than they should be and assume a level of human intervention that usually produces outcomes that are far from natural. In this case, a key part of the argument seems to be whether there should be miles of bike trails in the plan — which indicates to some that we’re talking less about environmental restoration and more about building a park.

But its also very California, and the news peg of this particular article is the engagement of a 14-year old activist who draws her moral authority from her long-dead great grand uncle, labor activist Cesar Chavez. Which is, to me, indicative of a process focused on the use of public relations to gain a moral upper hand, rather than coming to the best solution.

Posted in Stage Zero, Wetlands | Leave a comment

Edenville Finger Pointing — The Plot Thickens

The owner of the Edenville Dam claims he asked the local Wixom Lake Association for financial help to repair the Edenville Dam. According to News 12 in Flint, Michigan, he says they refused, and now that the dam has collapsed homeowners are suing.

This opens interesting possibilities.

One construct is that the owner saw the collapse coming, asked the people who most benefit from the dam to help pay for the repairs, and when those people refused the owner basically washed his hands of it. The dam collapsed and the homeowners whose lake was suddenly replaced with a mosquito-infested mud flat sued, claiming no responsibility for anything.

This could be developing into a classic American infrastructure story: refusal to bear the costs turns to neglect turns to catastrophe turns to blame-game. It’s happening all over the country, with bridges and roads and every other kind of infrastructure. The goal of our politics has been keeping taxes low, particularly on rich people, and the easiest expense to defer is maintenance. After decades, the bills are coming due.

There are other explanations, of course. The dam owner, for example, could be lying. He would certainly seem to have a motive for passing the buck to someone else. The courts will figure it out.

But it makes me wonder how many other small hydroelectric dams there are that were purchased by disinterested and distant investors for long-term cash-flow — and how many of those dams aren’t getting any maintenance. Also, Senator Diane Feinstein is introducing the 21st Century Dams Act, which gives almost $26-billion for the repair of dams. How many of those are privately owned and, in effect, being bailed-out by taxpayers?

Posted in Dam Removal, Edenville | Leave a comment

Rescue Beavers

Placer County, California, considers spending millions to restore the dry, Doty Ravine creek bed, decides instead to spend $58,000 re-establishing the creek’s beaver population.

Damion Ciotti, a restoration biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who led the project, said hepredicted the Doty Ravine project would take a decade to reconnect the stream to the floodplain, but to his surprise, it was restored in just three years.

“It was insane, it was awesome,” said Lynnette Batt, the conservation director of the Placer Land Trust, which owns and maintains the Doty Ravine Preserve.

“It went from dry grassland. .. to totally revegetated, trees popping up, willows, wetland plants of all types, different meandering stream channels across about 60 acres of floodplain,” she said.

Sacramento Bee.

Posted in Good News, LTPBR, River Restoration, Wetlands | Leave a comment

Take This Stream and Shove It

The interesting case of the Raccoon River in central Iowa. One of the Ten Most Endangered Rivers in the Country because of agricultural runoff. An attempt at voluntary reduction of farm runoff hasn’t worked. An attempt to address the problem through the courts has also failed after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled plaintiffs had no standing to sue.

“There is not enough here to demonstrate that a favorable outcome in this case is likely to redress the plaintiffs’ alleged reduced ability to kayak, swim, or enjoy views of the Raccoon River, or would save them money on drinking water,” Mansfield wrote. “The plaintiffs’ claims must therefore be dismissed for lack of standing.”

Chris Jones, a researcher at the University of Iowa, writes in detail about the river.

I know some will hate this paragraph, but I think it needs to be said. Over the past 20 years, the ag establishment and the watershed’s farmers have made a mockery of efforts to improve the drinking water source serving 1/6th of Iowa’s people, and Iowa’s appointed and elected leaders, including supreme court justices, have for the most part endorsed this. Supported by Iowa’s economic and political establishment, the larger body of the watershed’s farmers have no intention of trying to reduce nutrient pollution, and this has always been so. I’ve seen firsthand on many occasions the hostility to change, and this was before both lawsuits. I’m not stating this as a casual observer.

Posted in Agriculture, River Restoration | Leave a comment

Lights From Above

I know you were wondering, “What would be a good indicator of the broad, real-world adoption of solar technology that’s unglamorous, local, and below the media radar?”

As it happens, a press release crossed my desk this morning: for the next eight years, the use of solar powered, outdoor LED lighting is projected to rise at an annual rate of about 25%, creating a $24.75 billion market that, a couple of years ago, didn’t exist. Coming soon to a streetlight near you.


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Environmental Remediation/Restoration Market

MarketsandMarkets estimates growth from USD 104.6 billion in 2021 to USD 158.8 billion by 2026.

Bioremediation technology is expected to account for the largest share of the environmental remediation market by 2026. The bioremediation segment is expected to lead the environmental remediation market during the forecast period, owing to the growing demand for this technology for both soil and groundwater remediation. Bioremediation is a biological remediation process that uses organisms to reduce or clean up contamination in soil and groundwater. It eliminates the use of toxic chemical, often using biochemicals and green plants, making it a cost-effective and safe technology.

Bioremediation backgrounder here.

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Alabama Spends Deepwater Horizon Settlement Money

They’re undertaking wetlands restoration and economic development in Mobile Bay, the Perdido River, and the peninsula in between.

A $302 million slate of restoration projects approved Wednesday by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council includes well over $20 million in work intended to improve water quality and sustain ecosystems in coastal Alabama.

The money comes through conduits established by the 2012 Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act, aka the RESTORE Act, which was passed to determine how money from fines and damages paid by the companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster would be spent. The first major wave of infrastructure, environmental restoration and economic development projects approved for RESTORE funding, including $315 million for Mobile and Baldwin counties, was announced in 2018.

So that’s more than $600 million in Alabama restoration as a result of Deepwater’s befoulment of the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Posted in Litorals, Oil Spills, River Restoration, Wetlands | Leave a comment

French Fries for the Environment

Wendy’s is recycling cooking oil to make diesel fuel.

Wendy’s recently-released Corporate Responsibility Report cites its partnership with DAR PRO Solutions, a Darling Ingredients brand, for producing 2.8 million gallons of cleaner-burning renewable diesel from 24 million pounds of used cooking oil in the U.S. This renewable diesel reduces up to 85 percent greenhouse gas emissions than traditional petroleum diesel.

Corporate responsibility report here.

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Carbon Removal Marketplace

There have long be mitigation banks that sold chunks of wetlands restoration projects to small developers who would rather not have to manage their own no-net-loss restoration credits. But this is something new — or, at least, something I’m unfamiliar with: carbon banking.

Nori is a Seattle-based start-up that sells carbon sequestration credits to individuals and businesses. They contract with farmers to grow crops that add carbon to the soil — providing a new income stream for the farmers along with sequestering carbon.

They have developed…

…a platform that makes it easy to fund carbon removal. A platform that allows businesses to help repair our planet by removing any carbon emissions they can’t yet avoid creating. An open platform that everyone can invest in with confidence, no matter how big or small their contribution. A platform that allows individuals, businesses, and nature to thrive, while creating a legacy we can be proud of.

Posted in Climate, Markets | Leave a comment

Seagrass Stores More Carbon Than Forests

Article from Reuters:

Seagrasses play a large role in regulating ocean environments, storing more than twice as much carbon from planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) per square mile as forests do on land, according to a 2012 study in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Countries that hope to earn credit toward bringing down their CO2 emissions could tally their seagrasses and the carbon they store, a first step toward accrediting carbon offsets for eventual trading on an open market.

Posted in Ocean Floor | Leave a comment