Sunday, November 23, 2008

A stroll along the north branch of the Chicago river watershed

The stroll starts a block from my house at the bus stop where the sidewalk ends.

This 10 pt buck hangs out about 50 yards further in.

Time for lots of mad running.

27 degrees ? not too cold for a swim.

The ice at the edge is a bitch though.

frost on the leaves.

No birds here.

or here.

This place looks a little different in the first part of May.

'Fish technology' draws renewable energy from slow water currents

Drawing renewable energy from slow water currents
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Slow-moving ocean and river currents could be a new, reliable and affordable alternative energy source. A University of Michigan engineer has made a machine that works like a fish to turn potentially destructive vibrations in fluid flows into clean, renewable power.

read the whole article here...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Midnight Regulations & Salmon Extinctions

IT is the midnight hour for the Bush administration and they are trying their hardest to permanently cement, for all time, this administrations place as the single most hostile government to fishing, and environmental causes. As this administration goes extinct the regulations it puts in place will further damage watersheds and air and water quality every where. The illustration below is from this week's SF Chronicle.

20 salmon and trout species are not expected to survive in California in the next few decades unless radical changes are put into effect to insure that there are adequate flows of water into the habitat that these species need. I would call these endangered species. The midnight regulations being put in place in the last week aim to gut the endangered species laws, once and for all.

It is not just in California. There are examples all over the U.S. of how the extraction, power generation, and agricultural industries are being blessed by these outgoing executive rules that can hopefully be over turned by the incoming congress and the new president.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Banner update time

The season has been closed for 6 weeks. I guess I've been in denial.

Winter stuff, tying flies, maybe some writing.

A centrist will not do

Advice from those radicals at Mother Jones

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect public health and the environment. Yet the agency has not done much protection of the environment, public health or the public interest in many, many years. The President-elect's pick for the agency is going to have to turn around an environmental crisis that mirrors the financial one. While Obama's rumored cabinet picks are largely people who cut their teeth in the Clinton administration, or showed rare bipartisanship over the past eight years, one place a centrist will not do is the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are some good environmental laws on the books; the problem is enforcement. The Bush administration has encouraged the worst industrial practices by, for example, refusing to regulate mercury from power plants or allowing mountaintop removal mining—and the incrementalists who ran EPA during the Clinton administration bear at least some responsibility. They should not be invited back.

The new EPA leadership is going to have to do two things.

The first is to throw the moneychangers out of the temple, literally: Replace Bush's corporate goons with public servants who will put science first, and rebuild the agency's enforcement capability and take on corporate interests who, not unlike the financial industry, have operated in an anything-goes world. The second, and perhaps more important role, will be to rebuild confidence in the agency and in the federal government's commitment to protect our citizens and our environment.

read the rest here...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Asian Carp : Welcome to the Great Lakes !

Just don't know what to say about this anymore. Apparently the corps of engineers built an electronic barrier that will only work if the charge is a hazard to people and barge traffic. Good thing there is nothing really important at stake here.

Great Lakes, Great Peril

Low-volt jolt: Carp barrier ready, but can't be operated at peak strength

The man in charge of the Army Corps of Engineers' electric Asian carp barrier says it looks like the $9 million contraption is ready to be turned on, but not at a power level biologists say is necessary to actually stop all sizes of fish.

That means the door to the world's largest freshwater system will remain cracked open to the giant filter-feeding fish that could ruin the Great Lakes' multibillion dollar fishing industry, ravage their ecology and threaten recreational opportunities such as water skiing because of their dangerous penchant for hurtling out of the water when agitated by the whir of a boat motor.

The fish have already overwhelmed stretches of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and have migrated to within about 15 miles of the barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The electric gate was finished in early 2006, but aside from testing, the Corps has refused to turn it on because of worries about the dangers the electrified water could pose to barge operators and pleasure boaters plying the manmade waterway that links Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

On Oct. 31, the eight Great Lakes governors wrote the Army Corps and U.S. Coast Guard seeking answers. The letter followed an Oct. 5 Journal Sentinel story showing about $1 million of the $9 million so far spent on the project has gone toward more than two years of safety tests and other work to make the barrier safer. Yet despite all that effort, the federal government still wouldn't say when - or even if - the barrier would ever be activated. Now the Army Corps says it looks like it's ready to finally flip the switch.

"I think it's probably ready to go," Chuck Shea, barrier project manager for the Army Corps, said last week. "We've done a lot of tests, and recent results appear fairly promising."

But there is a catch: At this point the Corps would allow the barrier to operate at only about one quarter of its maximum power, or one volt per inch. That is the strength of a smaller "temporary" barrier currently operating in the canal at a level that biologists agree is not strong enough to permanently keep the carp out of the lakes. That is also the level the Corps promised the barge industry it would not exceed in a 2006 agreement allowing the new barrier to be turned on in an emergency if the temporary barrier fails, according to documents the Journal Sentinel obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Barge industry leaders fear that operating the barrier any higher than one volt per inch poses too much of a risk for sparking between barges, or for anyone who might fall overboard.

Power struggles

The Corps and Coast Guard say they still need more studies to determine if the barrier is safe to operate at its maximum power level of four volts per inch, but the one volt per inch level should be enough to protect the lakes from the supersized carp dubbed the 100-pound zebra mussel because of its ability to vacuum nutrients from the water.

The science says otherwise.

A throttled-down new barrier should repel larger adult fish, but little juvenile fish are less affected by electric currents and therefore need a bigger shock, according to laboratory research.

Shea said last week that the new barrier was always designed to operate at a "base" of one volt per inch and would be turned up to four volts only "if smaller fish become a concern in the future."

That's news to members of the advisory panel of scientists that has been helping the Corps get the barrier built.

"It was my impression that it was designed to operate at four volts per inch," said Phil Moy, a former Army Corps employee who now works for UW Sea Grant and is co-chair of the barrier advisory panel.

Panel member Irwin Polls said increasing the voltage was a major reason to build the new barrier in the first place.

"I do not remember anyone from the Corps mentioning that (the new barrier) would only operate at a higher voltage if young fish were present in the area," said Polls, a consultant who previously worked as a biologist for the Chicago sewer district.

Indeed, the Corps' own documents from 2006 note that the new barrier "will be operated at higher field strength, four volts per inch versus one volt per inch for the temporary barrier."

'Revisionist history'

The Army Corps has been wrestling with the voltage issue since 2004, when a barge operator reported electrical arcing between vessels at the temporary barrier. That could be a potentially hazardous situation because many of the boats carry flammable materials.

In 2005, records show, the Coast Guard asked the Army Corps to shut the temporary barrier down so safety tests could be conducted, but the Corps declined to leave the Great Lakes unprotected from the carp, and instead settled on new set of rules for boaters in the barrier zone, including a lifejacket requirement and no hitching or unhitching barges.

There have been no new safety incidents reported.

A big problem for the new barrier is that it was built just upstream from where barges unload their coal at a power plant. The Corps has spent $330,000 on a system to keep electricity flowing out of the barrier zone and into the coal loading area, and it appears to have worked - provided the barrier operates at only one volt per inch.

Work, meanwhile, is about to begin on a twin barrier just upstream from the new barrier. Its designers maintain that the new two-barrier system was always designed to work in tandem as a single unit, with the upstream barrier at times operating at a higher level and the existing new barrier typically operating at one volt per inch.

They say the new upstream barrier will be turned up above one volt if small carp are determined to be in the area, but that should happen only for a brief period each year after the annual spawn because the fish grow so fast.

That is nonsense, according to biologists who make their living studying Asian carp. The fish spawn throughout the warm months, and their growth rate can vary widely depending on how much food is in the river.

"You can find fish of any size in the river at any time of year," said Duane Chapman, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

And if the fish are smaller than about five inches, tests have shown one volt simply will not repel them all.

"Until we got close to four volts per inch, we were not overly effective at stopping small fish," said University of Nebraska biologist Mark Pegg, who conducted shock studies on the fish between 2002 and 2004.

Great Lakes Fishery Commission biologist John Dettmers said he has personally witnessed other species of small fish swimming just fine through the temporary barrier, and he calls it "revisionist history" that the Corps says the new barrier's normal operating level was never intended to be any higher than the temporary barrier.

"It's extremely disturbing that the Corps believes one volt per inch is sufficient to protect this very important waterway," Dettmers said.

He also said it is folly to think the barrier can be turned up only periodically to stop juvenile fish.

"We know small fish can be in the (river) almost the entire year, and it's going to be very difficult to determine exactly where those fish are at any time," he said.

More studies planned

Coast Guard officials in charge of safety on the canal say they are wrestling with a complex issue.

"The fish barrier must both prevent invasive species from migrating into Lake Michigan and also minimize the very real risk it poses to the lives and health of those many recreational and commercial waterways users who regularly pass near and over it," said Capt. Bruce Jones, the Milwaukee-based commander of the Coast Guard's Lake Michigan sector.

But advisory panel co-chairman Moy said he worries that biology is taking a backseat when the barge industry talks to the Army Corps and Coast Guard about how to best operate the new barrier.

"I'm just a little afraid that some of the science and invasive species biology might be left out of some of those discussions," Moy said. "I don't know of any biologists that have been involved with the discussions between the Corps and the Coast Guard and river carriers. Somewhere, some of the information is apparently not getting to the top."

While the carp have been mysteriously stalled about 15 miles below the new barrier for the past couple of years, biologists say that after a big spawning year they typically make significant gains in their northward migration. The fish were imported to Arkansas from Asia over three decades ago and escaped their containment ponds.

This past year the carp had a big spawning season.

Still, nobody should expect the barrier to be turned on to levels that will repel all the little fish anytime soon.

The Corps might be able to turn on the new barrier at the one-volt level in the coming weeks or months, but Shea said it "will not be operated at higher voltages until the higher voltage tests are completed, reviewed, and approved by the Corps and Coast Guard."

History suggests that could take years.

And that has a growing number of people demanding faster action.

"Failure to use that barrier as it was intended to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan is not an option," said Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who also serves as the chairman of the Great Lakes Commission.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The cool kids @ buster & Barack

From Buster wants to fish, an invite to fly fish:

Open letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

Dear President-Elect Obama,

You prolly knew this was coming and stuff, but we at the Buster can’t help but put it out there proper since no one else has. Besides, we know you’ve been busy stomping fools and doling out extra-strength cans of robot beatdown.

If we recall right, you said, “One way or another, after this presidential process is over, whether–because I lose or because I win–and I’ve got a little vacation time coming, I’m going to learn how to fly fish.” and we sorta dug your whole heavy vibe there. It’s what we woulda done if we were in your shoes, but we’d have probably done it sooner and forgot about that long, yadda, yadda presidential race thing. Bad timing, it being fall and what not. Salmons, steelhead, muskies, smallies and trout—things go off in fall. You’ll learn.

That said, let’s do us some fishing. Be pretty cool to hang out with some regular folks instead of all those D.C. humps. A couple of us have boats that don’t smell all-too-bad, trucks that sometimes run and Smiff’s a professional fishguy that might even be able to hook you up with some sweet free pants or something. Thee and WT are 169% dialed on the Washington scene and Wally knows how to keep Thee’s surly quelled provided he hasn’t gotten into the brown liquor, Wook’s got the Northeast locked and people fear him so there’d be no need for the Men in Black. Creek’s even down in the Dirty, Dirty if you can’t get North.

You like hiking right? Salty’s always cool for an anklebone cast and blast and the Banknote and I’d be happy to put you on a swung-fly steelhead, but then you’d prolly quit your day job and buy a truck with a canopy and end up with capilene bonded to your legs or something from just bumming out all winter and such. Be pretty cool, tho. The hell with Joe the Plumber when you can get Bacon the Steelheader, right? You like Dinty Moore? Sweet, I’ll get two cans. Genuine unity, fella.

Hell, B, I’ll even take you salmon fishing. I know, it’s not all fly fishing, but it’s real badass and a good reminder of how real, regular folks still put real, unprocessed food on their family’s table. If we find rollers, maybe I’ll show you how to huck shooting heads. No promises there. You really should know how to tie your own bait loops and thread a sandshrimp and eggs beforehand, tho. See, I gotta row the plugs while you backbounce. No free rides and normally I’d say ass, grass or gas but we’ll let all those slide because you’re Mr. Obama not Mr. Clinton. We don’t have to talk like politicos or anything either, except I do wanna get some stuff straight about what’s-her-name’s support for the Pebble Mine because it’s gonna really put a lot of my friends out of work and let foreign interests irreparably wreck a national jewel like Bristol Bay. And the Columbia River gillnetters, the Snake River dams and all that private industry logging that steals both from our public forests and our Northwest identity, which oughta be cool since you said you were committed to restoring the Northwest salmon in that Portland speech last fall. Umm, what else? Eggs go to the boat and don’t mind the dog. She’s a female and all, but sometimes she’ll lay her hump on into your leg like a male would. I don’t know why. She’s cool tho. Brings the mojo. You’ll see.

Last thing: We’ll prolly have you out well after dark, so you might wanna set it up proper with Michelle and the kids so it’s not our last time on the water. Done right, you’ll smell like fish so as to prove we didn’t just go to some peeler club instead of fishing. Gotta keep the ladies happy. Always.

Thanks, a sincere congratulations on that thing last Tuesday night and we’re looking forward to fishing with you, good sir. We bid you dogspeed,

The Buster Wants to Fish Crew

PS: I like Rainier. Talls. In a brown paper bag. Sorta assuming you’ve got the hook-up, so maybe you could score some of those old-schooly Rainer pounders in the brown glass bottles too? KThnxbye.

If those rowdies are a but much for you, and you are looking for some more local to Chicago fly fishing, hdw-mobile is glad to step in.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fly tying season

These are a dozen 18 CDC BWO Cripple Emergers destined for a fly swap.
I call them "whatchoolookinat".