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Science, Law & the Environment Emerging Topics in Environmental Law

What We Are Reading on Friday, August 29th: Elwha River Dam Removal, Science Advice to Governments, Coal Export Developments, and More

Posted in Emerging Policy, Energy Policy, Geeky Science Stuff, Ocean Acidification, Project Permitting

Here is a quick roundup of what has caught my eye this week.

First, the last 30 feet of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River was removed in a spectacular blast at 4:12 pm on Tuesday. John Gussman, “Return of the River” filmmaker, documented the blast:

Fox Wilmar Productions also documented the blast. You’ll want to be sure that your volume is up for this video.

The event prompted a great piece in National Geographic, along with local coverage in the Peninsula Daily News. I’ve been following these dam removal efforts since they started three years ago, and my prediction is that we’ll continue to see massive changes to the delta at the mouth of the river, along with rapid ecological rebound. As I’ve stated before, public investment in these types of projects, although controversial, is a great example of wise use of funds to maximize the return on investment in terms of habitat improvement. I look forward to the day that I can take my son fishing for abundant returning salmon in the area. Here are some pictures of the dam site right before the final blast and then again this morning:

Second, the Science Advice to Governments Conference was held in Aukland this week. The conference’s website has been updated with summaries of the panels (with more to come), Twitter has been providing real-time summaries and updates, and Nature took the time to pull together a series of relevant articles from its archives for the occasion. As a science/policy geek, I’m excited to take the time over the next few weeks to digest all this information, and will try to highlight particularly interesting parts here, while focusing on relevance to issues in the Pacific Northwest.

Third, last week, Oregon denied Ambre Energy a permit for a dock on the Columbia River for its coal export facility in Morrow. The permit denial is being hailed as “Bad News for Big Coal,” although the Morrow project was minor in scope compared to the two other export facilities still in the works, so I think the significance of the potential failure of this project is overblown. However, current coal prices in China (down 40% from 2011) are projected to remain low over the next 12 months–and this demand side dynamic may have more to do with the future of the two planned export facilities in Washington than Oregon’s permit denial for the Port Morrow facility.

Last, I’ll leave you with this spot on ocean acidification that my kiddos enjoyed when I shared it with them after it popped up in my Twitter feed. I’d note that this three-minute spot does a better job of explaining the chemistry of ocean acidification than many bloggers and mainstream press have done: