The Stream, September 30, 2020: Lake Powell Pipeline Approval Could Deplete Reservoir’s Water Supply

The Global Rundown

Utah asks the federal government to slow the approval process for a pipeline that could have long-term environmental effects. Maryland residents could receive notices from local utilities starting tomorrow. A new study illustrates the impacts of long-term ocean stratification globally. A new interactive tool can help researchers and community members understand the health impacts of fracking wells in the United States. Geological engineers push back on a plan to replace parts of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

“What Enbridge has submitted to the state of Michigan doesn’t come close to properly designing and preparing for a tunnel underwater.” – Brian O’Mara, a geological engineer who has worked on dozens of tunnel projects. Enbridge’s plans for drilling an oil pipeline tunnel beneath a channel linking two of the Great Lakes do not meet industry standards and pose significant hazards to workers and the environment, experts who reviewed the project documents on behalf of opposition groups said Monday. Enbridge contends the 67-year-old Line 5, a pipeline that crosses the bottom of the waterway connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, is in good condition but wants to replace the 4-mile-long (6.4-kilometer-long) underwater segment with another to be housed in a nearby subterranean tunnel. An analysis for the replacement plan was requested by Oil & Water Don’t Mix, a coalition of environmental, business and tribal organizations who are fighting to shut down Line 5. Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy said the tunnel plans were developed in consultation with experienced geologists and engineers. AP

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By The Numbers

1 The number of days before notices could begin going out informing Maryland residents of potential water shutoffs. A state prohibition on residential disconnections began in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A moratorium remains in place for water, gas and electric service turn-offs until Nov. 15, but notices can begin going out Oct. 1. Consumer advocates, state officials and utility companies have urged residents in need of assistance in paying their utility bills should reach out to their utilities and apply for assistance as soon as possible. More than $150 million has been set aside for energy assistance in Maryland, but many people who need help still haven’t applied. Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C., have active moratoriums on utility shutoffs in response to the pandemic. Another 13 states’ moratoriums have already ended. Baltimore Sun

In context:

14,000 The number of public comments on a draft environmental impact statement Utah has asked the federal government to consider before moving forward with a fast-track approval process for the Lake Powell pipeline project. The project would build an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons to the southwest part of the state but is facing oppositions from six states who rely on water from the Colorado River for their cities and farms. The project would send 86,000 acre-feet (106 billion liters) of water to Washington County, Utah. Although the state is entitled to the water under agreements dating back a century, critics say the pipeline could deplete Lake Powell, one of two man-made reservoirs where Colorado River water is stored. AP

Science, Studies, and Reports

A new study shows that less dense waters sitting above more dense waters in the ocean, a process known as stratification, is increasing. When warm waters sits stably  at the top of the ocean surface, they can provide fuel for large and devastating typhoons and hurricanes. Other consequences of a more stable ocean include the ocean absorbing less carbon dioxide as well as the ocean becoming less efficient at moving nutrients through its waters. The study illustrates that the warming that humans have created in the past has resulted in this more stable ocean and that will increase future warming is a feedback loop that keeps getting stronger. Nature Climate Change

On the Radar

Penn Medicine researchers have created an interactive tool called WellExplorer for researchers and community members to use for retrieving information about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fluid in drinking water. Close proximity to fracking sites has been linked with increased hospital utilization, increased risk of preterm birth and increases in congenital heart defects and possibly neural tube defects. The purpose of WellExplorer, the researchers behind the project said, is to provide accessible information on pathways and proteins that are targeted by chemicals used in fracking fluid for researchers and community members and to include information about well locations so that community members can search their own zip codes to locate fracking wells in close proximity to them. Database: The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation

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