January 28, 2008

News from the homefront...

...time will tell whether it is good or bad.

At first glance, it's wonderful news. In case you didn't click through, this weekend it was announced that the PCB dredging plan in the Hudson River has been revised, and as a result, will remove 70% more contaminants from the river, while only needing to dredge about half of the volume of sediment originaly planned. A secondary result of this new plan is that some of the areas of focus have moved downstream, leading to significantly less impact in the Fort Edward area (my first, and shortlived, hometown). Finally...the reason behind all these changes...contaminated sediments have been shown to be generally shallower than previously anticipated.

Chances are, the reduction and shift of impact will not be enough to lessen the local impact (trust me, there are some actual sob stories coming from the preparation activities already). But when I saw the headline, I immediately felt both vindicated, and happy for the often attacked and antagonized proponents of the dredging project.

Let's just say, this project has been and will continue to be a controversial issue, and I have always had mixed feelings about it. I can't count the times I have actually refused to give my opinion on the subject. However, I do believe it is for the ultimate well being of those living in proximity to the river (both in the project zone and downstream), especially future generations, that the dredging take place.

The reason the headline got me so aroused has to do with the initial debates over what the right course of action would be. While the scientists (generally) stressed the risk of a flood-enduced scouring and re-suspension/transport of contaminated particles (read up on the physical and physiochemical characteristics of PCBs), GE sewn and home-grown opposition stressed the damage to be done by digging up the sediment to recover deeply buried (and therefore now safe to let sit) contaminants, including habitat destruction and contaminated particle re-suspension/transport. Of course, we all know what happens when we let dangerous chemicals sit unattended only to be forgotten (HR PCBs gave us their own reminder in 1973).

I'm glad that the scope of the project may lessen some of the impacts...but more important to me is that, with the contamination being relatively more shallow, it would be even more succeptible to exposure via future events (perhaps near future), and causing untold harm. Besides, if the river has recovered so well since the cessation (or perhaps more appropriately, limitation) of industrial chemical inputs to the river, it will surely be able to recover from the removal of some bottom sediments in relatively short order.

You have to wonder whether that's the whole story though. The first line of the Times Union article says it all;

General Electric has convinced federal officials that it can dredge much less Hudson River bottom...

GE came up with the idea to dredge less material, huh? Tell me that doesn't give you pause when thinking about the merits of the proposal. Without having looked through what they offered as an argument, all I can do at the moment is hope that due diligence was done, both by the EPA, and by GE's hired scientists and engineers. Do you trust them? I can't say one way or another, and I don't often consider myself a cynic...but I do find myself questioning motives.

"I have no idea if this will affect the budget. This is something that we don't discuss," said GE spokesman Mark Behan.

Oh, ok, as long as you put it that way, I no longer have any concerns. You expect me to believe a multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporation, in the interest of good-science, has yet to consider the financial implications of their proposal?

January 17, 2008

Environmentally semi-friendly biodiesel?

Mixed feelings about the news/revelation that didymo ("rock snot") can be harvested for processing into biofuel.


First of all...I have no firsthand experience with the stuff. Let's start with that disclaimer. But to me, all that's come out so far regarding the algae is overhyped fear. All we know for sure is it is generally unpleasant and is rapidly spreading into new arenas. Other than that, there isn't enough data (that I've seen) showing it to be harmful to other biota (specifically the salmonid food chain).


That said, caution is certainly warranted, and observation of posted warnings (if you've been on a stream in the northeast this past season, you've seen them) is critical to keeping the spread limited.


So now it seems it could be a blessing in disguise? I mean, hey, we have this potentially invasive species...but at least we can find a use for it? Sure, it's nice to make the best of things, but caution is also warranted in pursuing the algae as a fuel source.
What's worse...? The prospect of having our streams choked off by algae, or the prospect of having our streams mined for algae? Certainly, if it is considered a viable source of fuel, a lot of work will go into maximizing the potential yield from the organism. This means that, like many other crops, didymo would probably undergo some "engineerng" to maximize it's ability to survive, grow, and reproduce. With the evident recent twist on increasing adaptability already seen in didymo, it's a scary thought that we might be engineering a super-invasive strain in the near future.

You heard of fish-porn...? This is fly-porn.

This is why I need to work on my tying skills. Singlebarbed explores his creativity...and shows a little more about the inner workings of his mind than I might want to know....

So where's the money-shot imitation?



January 4, 2008

Longing...

No, I haven't been fishing. Weekend before Christmas would have been perfect to get out a bit...but of course, for procrastinators like myself, there was much more urgent business to attend to. Alas, I am now wondering if I will ever have a chance to get out this winter. This coming weekend too had looked promising...but the break in weather has now been pushed all the way back to next week.

It's a new year. That means spring is not too far off. If my count is right, 15 weeks untill open trout season. Of course, I plan on hitting some special reg. areas at ice-out, but with fickle weather, work deadlines and social callings (two of those weekends will require my attention be focused on addressing my Irish side), Spring will be upon us in no time. That means opportunities remaining for winter browns are very limited. Every rose has it's thorn ....

So how were your holidays? Get anything good? Ok, don't really care what you got, but I do have a question for you...what should I get with my $75 gift card to LLBean (thank you sister)? Now that I have a head start, I know I need something, question is, WHAT?
-New waders & boots?
-Folding binoculars or spotting scope?
-Tying equipment?
-Hiking boots?
-New, longer 3 wt.?
-New snowshoes?
-New fly boxes?
The needs (options?) are limitless...the funds are not. Help me.