Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Countdown To CAOmageddon: Flaw #45 - Linkages and Scale

Today, there is a very relevant article in the Seattle Times about Hood Canal and our old friend nitrogen. For those of you following the CAOs, you'll remember that Dr. Adamus and Shireene Hale have used the prospect of nitrogen pollution to make the case that our buffers should be much bigger.

Over the past many years, it had become accepted wisdom that fish kills and related problems in Hood Canal were caused by humans, especially human waste coming from septic systems. However, a new comprehensive review of the science dispels that idea as a myth. It has lessons for us here in the San Juans about jumping to the "blame the people" conclusion, especially since it turns out to be wrong for poorly-circulated Hood Canal with 60,000 people, whereas we are fewer than 16,000 people living within the very well-circulated Straits of Georgia.

I encourage you to read the linked article for yourself. Here are some excerpts:
But in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2010, periods of low oxygen were so extreme that fish died in massive numbers. In most of those years, thousands of fish from more than two dozen species were killed. Underwater photographs captured wolf eels seeming to pant and rockfish by the hundreds gathering near the water's surface, where oxygen was more plentiful. Dead lingcod washed ashore.

While no one formally tracked fish kills through history, the events of the last decade unnerved many scientists.

Fish kills have hammered Hood Canal off and on at least as far back as the 1920s, if not earlier. A 2008 study of core samples found that oxygen levels in much of the canal were actually lower before 1900 than they were for most of the 20th century.

When several studies, including by both Newton and Brett, showed significant nutrient loading from human waste found its way to Hood Canal, that seemed to offer an explanation.
But there was debate about scale. Even though hundreds of tons of nutrients washed into the canal, that remained a fraction of the nitrogen coming from natural sources. The chief question remained: Were human sources enough to push the system over the edge?
"The biggest source is the Pacific Ocean," said Mindy Roberts, who led the new review for Ecology. But in Lynch Cove, in particular, "some evidence is showing humans are contributing. Other evidence is saying no."
The two watchdog agencies — along with an exhaustive review by outside experts — concluded that human sources of nitrogen contributing to low-oxygen events in the mainstem of Hood Canal were "insignificant," while evidence linking humans to oxygen problems in the more troubled area near the canal's end in Lynch Cove "is not strong."
The overwhelming causes of fish kills, the agencies concluded, are the geography of the canal and ocean conditions.


  1. My two favorites, among numerous comments submitted in response to the Times article, are (1) "Rats. You mean there is not enough evidence for the government to intervene and severely curtail human activities? Surely the data must be wrong. We must keep studying until we get a better result." and (2) "BUSH did it."

  2. The new "science' ain't the same as the old science. The new science is based on political consensus and how you feel the world should be. "Scientists" are only necessary to support your unfalsifiable assumptions. Look at the whole global warming nonsense. Which spells the end of real science as we have known.

  3. The horror of all this, beyond the colossal and obvious waste of lives and resources, is the degree to which specious environmental scares shade out the real ones. Let's remember the reason all this started--burning rivers, unfettered industrial dumping, etc. We owe a real debt to the historic environmental movement. Equating residential or SJ scale agricultural impacts with any of this is not only wrong but is deeply destructive to the credibility of any environmental effort. We do have real environmental problems, but in a twisted version of Greshams law, the nonsense issues are driving out the real ones. I understand the desire, on an aesthetic level, to bring human activity to heel. The problem of course is that aesthetics are subjective. What is happening here is the overlay of a bogus environmental cover on sub-surface aesthetic motivation. And the bad drives out the a huge human and financial cost. What a waste this has all been.

  4. There's a red moon rising
    On the Cuyahoga River
    Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

    There's a red moon rising
    ON the Cuyahoga River
    Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

    There's an oil barge winding
    Down the Cuyahoga River
    Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

    Cleveland city of light city of magic
    Cleveland city of light you're calling me
    Cleveland, even now I can remember
    'Cause the Cuyahoga River
    Goes smokin' through my dreams

    Burn on, big river, burn on
    Burn on, big river, burn on
    Now the Lord can make you tumble
    And the Lord can make you turn
    And the Lord can make you overflow
    But the Lord can't make you burn

    Burn on, big river, burn on
    Burn on, big river, burn on

  5. Well, I'm glad to know that before someone went and spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars on . . . oh, darn.

    So will the Orcas Mosquito Breeding Project be used for another purpose if it is shown (as it has rumored to have been) that the low oxygen in East Sound is just as much a natural occurrence?

  6. Could not agree more with "Fish Eater" Yes, we do have some MINOR almost miniscule HUMAN affect on our island environment, so let us address that. Friday Harbor and perhaps East Sound have a VERY MINOR hit on their local water impact. Likely next to nothing, but if we want to get doing something about nothing that's reality, all the rest of this CAO shit will last about ten hot minutes before any judge who has had a cup of coffee.

    It is over! Word on the street is that a Woods Hole guy came in and told an appalled Ms. Hale all of her work should be put on a burn pile or in a recycle bin.

    Well you knew that. Such stupidity was obvious except to Pete Rose.

  7. Perhaps I overstate, but it sure sounds as though good sense and science is beginning to expose the BAS junk "science" for what it clearly is. I sure would like to hear more about the Woods Hole guy's visit with Shireene Hale. More particulars, please.

  8. While I would like to agree with the last commenter, if you happened to watch the Council meeting this morning, you would realize that no amount of valid or constructive criticism can affect the impenetrable views of Adamus or anyone on the Council, with the exception of Rich Peterson. Adamus and the others hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. They are marching like storm troopers to pass the horribly flawed CAO proposals.

    It was our mistake to think that our elected representatives possessed the capacity to be reasonable. Our Council members are simply on an ideological mission to subject us to pointless and intrusive laws using environmental protection as a ruse.

    The CAO proceedings today have illustrated the incompetent scorn and abuse that characterizes our Council's governance of our community. I hope that the public acknowledges their inexcusable behavior and holds each member personally accountable.

    If you haven't watched this morning's Council session, please do. You will see them steamrolling everything on the CAOs. It shows how out-of-step they are with the sentiments of the general public as well as science. Of course, by their definition, "science" is whatever Dr. Adamus says it is.

    The Council is so deep into Dr. Adamus that at this point, Adamus could say, "According to science, thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," and at least 5 of the 6 Council members would buy it ... along with Shireene ... and Jon Cain of our PA's office.

    At some point the incompetent ideology of the Council becomes impossible to surmount. We have reached that stage. They just don't get it.