Saturday, January 24, 2009

Senior Project Ideas (2010 Cohort)

Hi all--

In class on Friday we discussed ideas for our River Steward Senior Project. None of this is set in stone, but I volunteered to write a summary of our collective thoughts so Franz and Katie could see them and contribute, (as well as others if you would like)! Here it goes:

The first topic which came up is whether or not this would be an individual endeavor or not... and after we sort of decided, well, not...then this came up: The heavily awaited, much anticipated Great Miami River Corridor Canoe/Kayak/Camp Trip! We thought we could turn this trip which we have always talked about into our project by bringing out particular skill sets together to record, experience, plan, etc. to create some sort of presentation to show our community (perhaps at the River Summit? Our River Stewards Graduation?). This would be somewhat of a glorified documentary of all of the aspects of the GMR corridor we could get our hand on and minds around. For example, maybe we could do some biological testing along the way, photography, video taping, local school kid experiences, business planning, engineering ideas, networking, FUN, etc. Some aspects we have to initially worry about are feasibility and safety. Some of us will need to become Kayak certified instructors/have some sort of water safety certification. We were thinking that perhaps this summer some of us could work on doing this. Karen will be contacting Amy Dingle from FRO and Tracey will be contacting Dusty from MVCD to gather their thoughts and advice. Maggie will be talking to her roommate who is on SGA; she previously mentioned to her the possibility of $1,000 grant which we could apply for if we had a project. Maggie will be inviting her to our class next Friday to speak to us. Drew will be looking at maps, possible start and stop points, camping locations, and come up with a rough estimate of how long this might take us. Sam will go to the LTC to see if they would lend us video equipment to take along (we won't mention the water at first...). Jessie will be at the Rec working on her kayaking muscles so we can all hook up to her boat when we are dog tired and she will paddle us home!

As a side note, Drew's thesis involves using the GMR for geothermal energy and working closely with Dusty (correct me if that's wrong Drew!) So he will probably be using this as his Senior project (two birds, one stone deal) but he, of course, wants to River Trip with us anyway!

Another thing we hope to create from the trip is a Green Map of our Corridor. This can have a lot of things on it, like good places to eat, site to see, good places to fish, etc. Katie, Emily, Tim and I were first introduced to this idea this summer on our adventure to Columbus. Click here to see their map. To see the Green Map Home Page, Click there.

Okay, that's all for now, post new ideas/suggestions/comments/concerns!
River love to all! I'm so excited for this!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Reflection on NYTimes Article

A river without water; it seems ridiculous but Owens Valley, CA proved to us that it is just ridiculous enough to be true. Water scarcity is happening all over the world. Whether pollution or supply is the threat, water is endangered. We experience water problems even in Dayton. Here in Dayton, a major concern for us is pollution. While their story is different, Owens Valley can serve as an example. Their river lost many inhabitants that helped it thrive as we have in Dayton. During the fish shocking that we got to witness in August we learned how the rivers in Dayton have lost certain fish that keep it healthy. At the same time it has gained fish that keep it polluted. The Owens Valley story of revival can definitely show the people of Dayton that solutions and restoration are possible. As this story shows, restoration can bring new life to the river.
A river can have a huge impact on its surrounding community. Owens Valley even got into legal battles and conflict over the use of the river. But a positive aspect came from the resurgence of people coming to the river after its revitalization. The river can provide a great connection between people as well. We have fostered a connection because of the river as River Stewards and as we continue our work, eventually UD students and Dayton community members will be able to connect to each other as well.
A river has so much potential in multiple ways. It has potential to sustain life for its inhabitants and humans. As I said before it has potential to connect and bring people together. This potential cannot be realized without a healthy amount of water existing in the river. If that healthy supply is non-existent, then the river has potential to create many problems for the people that live around it.
While reading this article I thought about the English class that I am taking. The class looks at the use of the environment in literature. We have since studied a few of Shakespeare’s poems that equate nature with beauty and love. Times have certainly changed since then. It is an obvious statement but one that is prominent in my mind. Today we are in the midst of legalities and politics that are the deciding factors for what a river will be. I had a professor ask my class this semester what our purpose for being on Earth is. No one could answer definitely but I am confident in responding that it is not to misuse a river as we wish. It is a struggle to find a balance between using and respecting a river. From Dayton to Owens Valley, community members have a responsibility to work out this balancing act. Owens Valley now has a head start in front of Dayton, and time keeps passing. I address this to anyone who has ever been in contact with a river in Dayton, how are we going to catch up?

First Reading/Reflection

The following article published 12 Jan 2008 from is the first reading for Winter 2009:

INDEPENDENCE, Calif. — What Los Angeles took a century ago — a 62-mile stretch of river here in the parched Owens Valley — it is now giving back.

The New York Times
The Owens River now draws plants, animals, even humans.
One of the largest river-restoration projects in the country has sent a gentle current of water meandering through what just a year ago was largely a sandy, rocky bed best used as a horse trail and barely distinguishable from the surrounding high desert scrub.
Mud hens dive for food. A blue heron sweeps overhead. Bass, carp and catfish patrol deep below. Some local residents swear they have even seen river otters.
So much reedy tule has sprouted along the banks, like bushy tufts of hair, that officials have called in a huge floating weed whacker, nicknamed the Terminator, to cut through it and help keep the water flowing — a problem inconceivable in years past.
The river, 2 to 3 feet deep and 15 to 20 feet across, will not be mistaken for the mighty Mississippi. And an economic boon promised to accompany the restoration has yet to materialize.
Yet the mere fact that water is present and flowing in the Lower Owens River enthralls residents nearly 100 years after Los Angeles diverted the river into an aqueduct and sent it 200 miles south to slake its growing thirst.
“This is infinitely better than before,” said Keith Franson, a kayaker pumping up his boat on the banks this week and preparing to explore a stretch of the renewed river. “You got birds, herons, terns, all sorts of wildlife coming back in because life is coming back in the river.”
Francis Pedneau, a lifelong Owens Valley resident who had sparred with Los Angeles city officials over access to fishing sites, said word was spreading among fishing enthusiasts about new spots along the river. Mr. Pedneau said he had actually caught fewer bass this past season, “probably because the schools are more spread out now.”
But Mr. Pedneau, 69, has praise for the project, even though he, like many old-timers, is generally suspicious of Los Angeles, given the tension-filled history behind its acquiring water and land here (the inspiration for the 1974 movie “Chinatown”).
“The river didn’t look anything like it does now,” he said. “I never thought I would live long enough to see this.”
Los Angeles officials are in a celebratory mood. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa plans to come here next month when engineers temporarily step up the flow as part of regular maintenance.
The flow is carefully controlled, kept at a minimum of 40 cubic feet per second, well above the 5 cubic feet per second in the parts that had still managed to have something of a stream after the river was diverted.
Los Angeles agreed to restore the river as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Owens Valley Committee, a local group, and the Sierra Club over what it called the excessive pumping of groundwater in the valley in the 1970s and 1980s to increase drinking water supplies beyond what the city was taking from the river.
Under the settlement, Los Angeles, working with Inyo County on the $24 million project, has also taken steps to restore the cottonwoods, willows and wetlands that flourished along the river decades ago and drew an array of wildlife.
Near the river’s delta, the released water is recaptured, with most of it used to control dust on Owens Lake, which the diversion had dried up, and the rest sent back into the aqueduct and on to Los Angeles.
The city still gets about 50 percent of its water, including groundwater, from the valley, down about a third in the past several years because of environmental obligations like the river restoration.
Mr. Villaraigosa, who has promised to patch up relations with the Owens Valley, said ending litigation and reviving the river sent an important message.
“By releasing this water, we are demonstrating our commitment to environmental stewardship and a new era in terms of our relationship with Owens River residents,” he said. “We can’t claim the mantle of the cleanest, greenest big city in America if we continue to degradate the environment in places like the Owens Valley.”
Not all disputes are settled.
The Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club, while largely pleased so far, said they would like to see Los Angeles more closely monitor the wildlife and habitat making a comeback. Better management of the burgeoning ecosystem, they say, will ensure its success.
“We will have concerns if certain species that should be here are not returning,” said Mike Prather, a birder and a committee member.
Brian Tillemans, who manages the project for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said it was working on a plan. But the department generally prefers a “build a habitat and they will come” approach, Mr. Tillemans said, which costs less and allows nature to take the lead.
“The best we can do is optimize the habitat, and nature will take its course,” Mr. Tillemans said. Within three years, he said, trees will line the banks, drawing more wildlife and naturally controlling weeds and underbrush.
One species locals hope to see more of is humans.
Some businesses have noticed a slight increase in people coming to see or play on the river, and the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, one of the larger business development groups here, plans to revise its tourist guide to play up the restoration.
“People are starting to come at odd times of the year, like now, to visit, but what we look forward to is it making a great deal of difference in the long term,” said Kathleen New, the chamber president and a lifelong resident.
“Right now, it’s a lot of local people going out and getting wet and acting foolish,” Ms. New said. “It’s marvelous.”
Mr. Franson, the kayaker, prepared to launch his inflated boat. Some forays have been long, he said, and others cut short by the tule, but they were all a pleasure.
“I may just get around the corner and I’m stuck,” he said. “But, look, this was completely dry not long ago and now it is not.”


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


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