Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is Jordan Lake functioning well?

Bill Bell thinks so. The Durham City Council opposes mandating controls for stormwater runoff from existing developments in Durham. There are many facets to this story but lets start with the following incident report.
On March 20, 2006 Phytoplankton samples were collected by the Division of Water Quality as part of a fish kill investigation. Forty nine catfish and 1 shad were found dead in the New Hope Arm of Jordan Lake near HWY 751. Staff found elevated dissolved oxygen (106%) and pH (8.5) indicating a possible algal bloom occurring at the site. Phytoplankton density was 45,000 units/ml which is considered a severe bloom ( >30,000 units/ml). The assemblage was diverse and comprised of blue greens, greens, diatoms, and cryptomonads The dominant taxon ( >30% of total density) was the filamentous blue green Pseudanabaena at 17,000 units/ml. Pseudanabaena is considered an indicator of nutrient enrichment.
To me it doesn't sound like the lake is functioning well. But lets continue with some of the talking points we've seen regarding the lake.

1. It was ill conceived in the first place and was never intended to be anything but flood protection. Well both statements may be true, but that doesn't change the fact that its now an important part of the regions ecosystem, recreational economy and a source of drinking water for many communities, so lets we must accept it for what it is today and deal with it.

2. Those upstream (Durham) bear an unproportional burden for protection compared to the benefit received via the lake. Again, this may be so, but doesn't this argument for inaction sound selfish and immoral.

3. "The "science" behind Jordan Lake’s condition can certainly be argued both ways, but it is a fact that the lake is successfully serving uses that many experts thought would be impossible when it was constructed." (City of Durham Statement on Jordan Lake Nutrient Rules). In my research I haven't found any rebuttal from an accredited scientist of the "science" behind the Jordan Lake Nutrient Rules. The closest I can find are the rule comments from the Environmental Policy Analyst of the National Association of Home Builders in which the accuracy of chlorophyll-a analyzers, and thus any modeling derived therefrom, are called into question.

4. We just don't have the money. Utilities made the same arguments when the Clean Air Act was going to make them clean up emissions of particulate and SO2, but those companies are still around many years later. And then again with the EPA's NOx SIP Call. And now again with the recent ruling that CO2 can be considered under the Clean Air Act. We now see this argument almost anytime regulations are introduced that will requires companies, or in this case municipalities, to make significant capital expenditures for social benefit programs. Instead of just saying we don't have the money, how 'bout demonstrating to the public the budget shortfall expected and what other programs would need to be cut to make room for the program.

Finally, I would just like to say that our local politicians are joining the ranks of national politicians regarding their disregard of citizens' opinions. Consider the final tally of pro and anti public support received by the DWQ during the public rules commenting period.

Support: 58 letters, 28 emails, 3500 postcards, 2844 signatures. In addition, general support was given by ~ 100 municipalities, for profit and non-profit companies, professional organizations, etc..

Oppose: 14 letters, 600 postcards. General opposition from ~25 municipalities, etc.. Of these it seems the majority were from individuals or companies related to the construction / apartment complex industry.

The following letter is from a real estate agent in favor of the rules, which I believe gets to heart of the matter.

"As a REALTOR and avid outdoorsman and kayaker, I feel as though I have a unique perspective on the pollution problems at Jordan lake. I have seen firsthand the sediment build-up and algae blooms in the NE Creek section of Jordan Lake. At the same time, I know that and owners have rights to develop their land, and development is inevitable....but development must be done responsibly. Susanne Gomolski and myself, regularly paddle NE Creek, and we have seen a major increase in sediment build-up and pollution in NE Creek over the last two years. We must institute better controls for runoff at new and existing developments, and to require waste water treatment plants to begin nitrogen reduction now. The Lake is in trouble and needs help now. My family had to develop the Berryhill tract in Carrboro several years ago to pay estate taxes. It was a difficult process, but Carrboro finally approved the sale and development after a portion of the land was deeded to the Triangle Land Conservancy. So, I am fully aware that landowners often need to develop their land, but it needs to be done responsibly. We need rules in place to protect our streams and lakes and the wildlife who call these areas home. If we do not protect these fragile areas which are our sources of drinking water, recreation, and wildlife habitat....then we will certainly pay a hundredfold in the future for our lack of action now. Thank you.
Gregg Weiner

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to get to Kyoto?

The Kyoto Protocol calls for a reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions to 7% less than1990 levels, whereas in 2007 Duke emitted 84% more GHGs than in 1990. These figures also do not include student transportation contributions, which undoubtedly have shown similar gains within this period. Meanwhile, GHG emissions per square foot of building space have remained pretty constant over the same period (see 2008 GHG inventory update presentation at bottom of Duke's Climate Action Plan webpage). Given that a 2005 Feasibility Study Committee found that Duke could reduce its carbon emissions from current levels by ~10% cost competitively, that leaves a whopping ~70% more to go.

Heres the BCEW simple path forward for Duke to reach the Kyoto goals.

1. Stop expanding until you figure out how to do it sustainably, and spend the capital for the new gas turbine on something more productive, like the following.
2. Phase in buying electricity via NC Green Power. Start with 20% of purchased electricity in 2009, working way toward 100% of purchased electricity in 2020. The cost of this electricity will motivate a redoubling of effort towards energy efficiency I bet.
3. Get involved in boostering Durham area public transportation projects, including light rail. Promote public transportation to students by giving students incentives for using public transport to get to/from campus. Give parents feebates if they send their kids to campus without cars.
4. Implement a Parisian style bike program, where bikes are free to students/employees and picked up/dropped off at many locations around campus.
5. Start digging geothermal wells for all that heating and cooling.
6. Build some concentrating solar hot water heaters.
7. Reduce consumption with continuous energy efficiency upgrades and campus conservation initiatives.

When you're done all of the above you should be carbon neutral. Its really not so hard.