Life on Mekong Faces Threats As Major Dams Begin to Rise

Anyone who has been to South East Asia has been impressed with the mighty Mekong.  It is THE artery of life for millions.  Watch out!  Modernity is on its way.

With a massive dam under construction in Laos and other dams on the way, the Mekong River is facing a wave of hydroelectric projects that could profoundly alter the river’s ecology and disrupt the food supplies of millions of people in Southeast Asia.

… Seven dams built upstream in China and the blasting of rapids to improve navigation have already altered flows, reduced fish populations, and affected communities along portions of the Lower Mekong, which flows through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. But the impacts may soon get much worse as a new era of hydroelectric dam-building begins in the Lower Mekong Basin. Eleven major hydroelectric dams — mostly within Laos — and dozens of dams on tributary streams that feed into the Mekong have been proposed or are under construction.

at Yale e360

Letting Rivers be Rivers

Another nice story on projects around the county –unfortunately not copied around the world: China, Chile, Pakistan  — to take dams out of once free-running rivers, and helping nature return to its native state.

..dismantling the Veazie Dam this week … is a decade-long $60 million effort that, in combination with two other major river restoration projects on the Penobscot, will give 11 species of fish, including river herring and Atlantic salmon, better access to 1,000 miles of spawning habitat for the first time in two centuries. “I can’t think of another river restoration project in our lifetime that is opening up this much habitat to these many species,” said Josh Royte, a senior conservation planner for the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy

A cormorant surfaces from the water after catching an alewife.

A cormorant surfaces from the water after catching an alewife.

… Since the 1999 breach of its Edwards Dam, the Kennebec River has seen river herring runs more than two million fish strong, and many river-watchers hope that will foreshadow what can happen here. “The potential here is much bigger,” said Laura Rose Day, the executive director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, which says the river could eventually see runs of four million to six million river herring.

Drought, Rivers Down, Over Fishing: Big Trouble in Florida

It’s hard getting our empathy worked up for people who are heavily involved in causing their own troubles, or at least not minding the signs and signals that troubles are coming and continuing as though it will be just another year.  Nevertheless, the conditions described by Lizette Alvarez in Sunday’s New York Times in Florida’s northwest Apalachicola Bay make us pay attention.

Oyster Seeding Oyster Seeding

In a budding ecological crisis, the oyster population has drastically declined in Apalachicola Bay, one of the country’s major estuaries and the cradle of Florida’s prized oyster industry.

The fishery’s collapse, which began last summer and has stretched into this year, is the most blatant sign yet of the bay’s vulnerability in the face of decades of dwindling flow from two rivers originating in Georgia. For 23 years now, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have waged a classic upstream-downstream water war, with Alabama and Florida coming out on the losing end of a long court battle in 2011.

Oyster overharvesting in the bay after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which largely missed this area, worsened the situation, as did persistent drought.

Though the fight over river water between three states is described as the leading cause that of course has the cart before the horse, or horses — of drought, extravagant water use (lawns and golf courses!), poor planning, over population and anti-scientism.

And of course, those who cry loudest about big government have got few other ideas but to ask big government for help when they, themselves, need it.  So different than when the unworthy and sinfully lazy poor ask.

Economically, the situation has become so desperate that Gov. Rick Scott, a conservative Republican who is not inclined to ask for federal help, wrote to the United States Commerce Department last year and asked it to declare the oyster harvesting areas a fishing disaster.