Science and report notes: New radar to map surface topography of water, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and BDCP restoration, sediment and dam removal, and more!

New precision radar will map the surface topography of water:  Last week, scientists took to the air over the Sacramento River to fine tune a new precision radar system called AirSWOT (Air Surface Water Ocean Topography): ““AirSWOT is an instrument that is going to map the surface topography of water, both for the oceans and for freshwater,” Moller told OurAmazingPlanet. “This is a very new concept,” she said.  The SWOT satellite aims to solve a critical problem: No one knows how much freshwater there is on Earth. “We don’t know where all the water is and where it’s going,” Moller said.  SWOT will measure the surface height of water to within 4 inches (10 centimeters) on land and 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) over the deep oceans, covering a swath 75 miles wide (120 kilometers). … ”  Read more here from Live Science: Water-Mapping Mission Takes Flight

Power point available from the March 5 brown bag seminar:  Unifying aquatic science for adaptive management of the Delta, by Erwin Van Nieuwenhuyse, Ph.D., Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, Sacramento CA

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and BDCP restoration:  The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is often heralded as a model of success in integrating habitat with flood protection and agricultural uses, along with a recreational and educational program.  Howver, the Wildlife Area is now an important piece of the BDCP’s restoration proposal, but it is far from clear whethter the BDCP proposal can proceed in a manner that will preserve the biological value of the 17,000 acres within the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.   The author, Rachael E. Salcido, writes:  “In this article I use this grassroots restoration project as a jumping off point to examine a few new challenges facing the restoration movement. How the next wave of restoration in the Yolo Bypass is achieved will shape perceptions of restoration. With some places undergoing multiple transformations, it becomes more difficult to distinguish environmental restoration from other types of land use development driven by an array of legal and policy influences that shift with time and the perceived needs of society.  Multiple iterations of restoration threaten the capacity of the restoration process to bring about harmonious relationships between people and the natural environment. How project proponents navigate the space between biocentric and anthropocentric orientations to restoration has an impact on individual project support, as does the process used to facilitate transition. Ultimately, in the Yolo Bypass and elsewhere, large-scale ecosystem restoration must find a way to avoid turning local conservation initiatives into pyrrhic victories. … ”  from Ecological Law Quarterly: The Success and Continued Challenges of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area: A Grassroots Restoration

A long list of California water lawsuits:  Bloomberg BNA has an article on the plethora of lawsuits currently winding their way through the courts in California – an extensive list that even references the Cadiz project in the Mojave Valley and the Antelope Valley groundwater lawsuit.  For a look at lawsuits up and down the state, check out Legal Battles Over California Water Supplies Set to Escalate With Final Bay-Delta Plan

Sediment and dam removal: Work began last year on the removal of the Elwha Dam, the largest dam removal project undertaken.  With so much sediment behind the dam – 34 million cubic yards – marine geologists from the University of Washington are studying the what will happen to those sediments:  “Aerial photos show sediment starting to fan out around the river’s mouth.  “One of the risks of just looking at these beautiful plume pictures is that you really don’t know the extent of where that sediment actually ends up,” said Andrea Ogston, a UW associate professor of oceanography. “Our focus is looking at what’s happening very close to the seabed — how it’s going to move, where it’s going to get to, what’s its ultimate fate.”  Read more here from Science Daily:  Tracking Sediments’ Fate in Largest-Ever Dam Removal

Stormwater vs Wastewater:  Many agencies are assuming responsibilities for stormwater these days, and there are a lot of reasons why that makes sense.  However, there are some important differences: “ … Wastewater organizations face unforeseen issues when taking over stormwater programs, many stemming from the fact that, while stormwater seems similar to wastewater, it is actually very different in significant but unappreciated ways. Understanding these differences can determine whether the development of a stormwater program is successful or fails to meet community or customer expectations and regulatory mandates. … ”  Read more here:  Ten reasons managing stormwater is different than managing wastewater

Managing contaminated groundwater sites:  Thousands of hazardous waste sites across the country, such as Superfund sites, facilities that handle and dispose of hazardous waste, active and inactive dry cleaners, and leaking underground storage tanks, are contaminated, and clean up can be costly and difficult:  “At least 126,000 sites across the U.S. still have contaminated groundwater, and their closure is expected to cost at least $110 billion to $127 billion. About 10 percent of these sites are considered “complex,” meaning restoration is unlikely to be achieved in the next 50 to 100 years due to technological limitations. At sites where contaminant concentrations have plateaued at levels above cleanup goals despite active efforts, the report recommends evaluating whether the sites should transition to long-term management, where risks would be monitored and harmful exposures prevented, but at reduced costs…. ”  Read the report here:  Alternatives for Managing the Nation’s Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites

Reclamation’s climate change and drought programs examined:  Reclamation operates hundreds of water projects throughout the southwest, and resources are at risk from climate change and droughts: ” … This Article considers whether USBR has sufficient authority to adapt to the challenges of serious and chronic water supply shortages — that is, whether it has the legal tools necessary to help the West deal with the “double whammy” of drought and climate change.  It focuses primarily on two federal statutes, each of which deals with a single whammy: the 1992 Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act (Drought Relief Act), which authorizes drought planning and various short-term measures to mitigate drought impacts on water uses; and section 9503 of the SECURE Water Act of 2009, establishing the Reclamation Climate Change and Water Program. … This Article contends that the Drought Relief Act, with its power to take specific actions to mitigate the impacts of water shortages, could significantly augment USBR’s ability to reduce the harm caused by drought and climate change, particularly if Congress acts to revive key provisions that expired in September 2012. … ”  From Ecological Law Quarterly: Federal Water Law and the “Double Whammy”: How the Bureau of Reclamation Can Help the West Adapt to Drought and Climate Change

And lastly … National Geographic interviews Dr. Michael Hutchings about conflicts between humans and wildlife, Dr. Peter Gleick pays homage to Dr. John Snow (the man who determined why so many Londoners were getting sick from cholera in the mid 1800s), and research scientist Cassandra Brooks fights over the last tomato in Antarctica while paying tribute to those hearty explorers who came before her.

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