Hurricane’s legacy; Red River forum

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Planners worry Sandy’s lessons will be lost
One month after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeastern United States, causing tens of billions of dollars in damages to property and infrastructure and claiming the lives of more than 100 people, leading urban planners, academics and government scientists worry that the event will dim into memory and the havoc and devastation it created will be overshadowed by society’s attempt to return to normal.

Furthermore, they say, ignoring questions about how to reduce the region’s vulnerability to rising sea levels and more frequent, intense storms will ensure that in the decades to come, the region will continue to experience massive infrastructure collapse and possibly more fatalities.

“What can we do to take advantage of this horrible disaster, in which people lost their lives, millions of damages were done?” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “How can we have this be something more than just another disaster? How can it have a legacy that does justice to the people that lost their lives? How can we have the next Sandy be something for which we are better prepared?”

Lubchenco provided the opening remarks at a New York City event focused on the potential engineering, ecological and public policy responses to the rising sea levels and more frequent, intense storms brought about by climate change.
–Scientific American

Public forum set on L. Winnipeg, Red River
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Consulate General of Canada will sponsor a free, public forum in Minneapolis on threats facing Lake Winnipeg and the north-flowing Red River. The Freshwater Society is a co-sponsor of the forum.

The forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute is intended for scientists, teachers, students, policy-makers, public officials and anyone interested in learning about the health of the Red River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Watershed.

The forum, which will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Learn more and register to attend..

DNR updating threatened and endangered list
Between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7, the Minnesota DNR will conduct five public hearings – in Rochester, New Ulm, Bemidji, Duluth and Plymouth – on a proposed revision of the state’s list  of endangered and threatened species.Learn more.

Texas cities lock up groundwater supplies
Amid a persistent drought that has rattled Texans about water supplies, cities and investors are jockeying to purchase millions of gallons of underground water and pipe it to rapidly growing communities.

The Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency is among the latest to enter the fray, paying to secure water it isn’t expected to use for a decade or more.

The agency isn’t alone. The rush to secure water rights across Central Texas means millions are being paid each year for unpumped water. “If you’re a city, you still have to make sure industry will keep coming to town. It’s a matter of economic life or death to you. You have to make decisions, and the easy answers are gone,” said Robert Cullick, a consultant on water and public infrastructure projects.

James Earp, assistant city manager for the city of Kyle, said that if the city’s population grows as expected, Kyle’s current water portfolio couldn’t support any new residents by about 2026. That was a driving force in its support for securing groundwater rights.
–The Austin American-Statesman

Los Angeles storm water before high court 
The Supreme Court gave a skeptical hearing to a Los Angeles lawyer who sought to absolve the county’s flood control district of responsibility for polluted storm water that flows into the Pacific Ocean.

“Doesn’t common sense suggest” the flood control district is responsible? asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “The storm sewer system in Los Angeles hasn’t been shut down, right? You don’t question that there was an actual discharge [of pollutants]. What is it monitoring if not discharges … for which you’re responsible?”

The justices tried to sort out a complicated regulatory dispute over the highly polluted water that flows down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in the days after a heavy rainstorm. They sounded split on how to rule, however.

They could free Los Angeles County from any liability on the grounds that its two monitoring stations in the rivers do not point to the source of the pollution. The county made just that argument. Or they could send the case back to a judge in California to hold further hearings aimed at pinpointing who is to blame for the polluted runoff.
–The Los Angeles Times