Federal Water Tap, September 26: Dam Removal, Present and Future

In Washington
Last week the federal government began tearing down two dams on Washington state’s Elwha River. The $350 million project is the world’s largest dam-removal and river-restoration. The National Park Service is maintaining a website with daily photos monitoring the project’s progress.

In Oregon and California
The Department of the Interior released several peer-reviewed government studies on the economic and environmental effects of removing four dams on the Klamath River, which flows from California to Oregon. The department also released a draft environmental impact statement on the dam removal. Full dam-removal is estimated to cost $291 million in 2020 dollars (since that is when the project would begin), and fisheries, water quality and Indian tribes would benefit. Power from the dams will be lost and long-term flood-risk will increase slightly. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will use the studies to decide whether to approve the project.

Puddle at the Top of the World
Sea-ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean reached record lows this year, according to measurements from instruments on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Coverage in the summer of 2011 was either the lowest or second-lowest on record, depending on the method used to extrapolate the satellite data. The summer of 2007 is the lowest to date. NASA’s Earth Observatory has an animation showing the melting.

Hi Ho the Dairy-O
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, part of the national laboratory system funded by the Department of Energy, is working with California’s energy agency to help the state’s dairy industry cut its energy and water use. The partnership has produced an assessment tool that dairy processors can use to calculate efficiencies and find savings. More than anything, the tool’s designers are looking for more data on state dairy practices in order to refine both the tool and future assessments on industry energy and water use.

There Will Be an App for That
The Environmental Protection Agency wants to get its trove of environmental data into the hands of the public in a format the people can use. To do so, the agency is holding an “Apps for the Environment” contest. The goal: design a computer application, or “app”, to make sense of the numbers. The agency received 38 submissions and it is asking you, the end-user, to vote on them. Votes will be tallied until October 7.

No Boundaries
The Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft document describing Border 2020, an environmental partnership with Mexico. The program, which focuses on communities along the 2,000 mile border, has six goals, including air pollution reduction, increased access to clean water, and improved chemical safety. The public comment period runs through November 30. Comments can be submitted here.

Drought in East Africa
On Friday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. would make available an additional $42 million in humanitarian assistance for the drought in the Horn of Africa. Three-fourths of the money will go to Somalia. Total financial assistance from the U.S to the region this fiscal year is $647 million.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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