Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Almost There Baby!

Things have been insane the last few weeks at TWK Intergalactic Headquarters. Most of it has been work and travel--gotta pay the rent--but also Teh Windknot is preparing to be completely out of pocket for a week on a (mirabile dictu!) full blown fishing trip. Been too busy even to toss a few 'maters Donny's way, even though he has been in the new again.

We are down the teh short strokes not folks. This afternoon, TWK braves the hell that is summer air travel to spend a couple of days doing the meet and greet in Teh Big Apple, but Friday a.m. (good Lord and US Scareways willing), you hero is hittng the road for ten days fishing in Michigan.

It ain't the most exotic locale, but it is the highlight of the year. For going on 15 years now, TWK and a couple of buddies have rented a cabin on the Holy Waters of the Au Sable. A cabin without a phone and even reliable cell phone service. A stint of pestering the feeshes late at night on the Au Sable and Manistee with mousies will work wonders. Sitting on the porch, looking at the river while drinking cheap beer during the day won't hurt much either.

I will definitely return refreshed and take up tweaking the Spring Ridge Club and other losers again. Who knows, I may even post some fishing pics.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Truth Is Out There

Teh crack team in the basement of TWK's world headquarters is ready to blow the lid on the real mission of Field and Stream.

Most of you loyal reader(s) probably don't read such trash (except in the checkout line of the grocery store), but Field and Stream is a popular, mainstream outdoors magazine, known to snobs like TWK as a hook and bullet rag. One thing that F&S loves--almost as much as photos of guys with dead critters and B.S. bear stories--is ranking stuff. They probably are second only to People and VH1 in the number of rankings of the useless and unrankable.

A fishing pal, sent me a link to F&S's rankings of the best tailwaters in the U.S., presumably so we could share a good chuckle. I checked it out just to see how silly they were in choosing one fine well-known stream over another.

The article is mostly about the Green in Utah. Haven't hit it yet, but it isn't one to argue about. Then I got to the 'Best of the Rest' piece that is required in any ranking article and here is the summary:
Here's a quick guide to five of the best:

1. San Juan River [New Mexico]
2. Fryingpan River [Colorado]
3. Lower Sacramento River [California]
4. White River [Arkansas]

San Juan, Frying Pan, blah blah--all famous tailwaters. Then I got to:

5. Gunpowder Falls [Maryland]

WTF? The Gunpower? One of the top tailwaters in the US? Now, I love the Gunpowder and fished it all the time when I lived in the area--and even hit it a few weeks ago for old times sake when passing through--but no way is it one of the top tailwaters. Sure it may be one of the top tailwaters in the Bodymore-Washington Metroplex, but F&S listed it over some far, far better steams.

I was just about to close out of the window, when I noticed their latest list 150 Best Fishing Spots (near you). This one was complete with Google Maps of said spots. So, I checked it out in all the states with which I am familiar and it was even weirder than the tailrace list. Each state (that had all three) got a saltwater place, a bassin' impoundment and a trout stream. However the trout streams were either all very famous streams or completely wrong. Some crappy stocker stream that nobody but the greenest n00b would waste a minute on.

Then it hit me. Field and Stream is actually one of the good guys. Unlike many of it's 'highbrow' bretheren, F&S isn't telling anyone anything about where to fish, unless it is a stream everyone in the world already knows. Deliberate misinformation. A conspiracy.

Daddy likey!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Hail To The Victors Valiant!

No, Teh Wind Knot is not getting an early start on the college football season. Heck, he is not even a Big Ten fan.

Teh shoutout is for The Anglers of the Au Sable who just won an injunction in court against Merit Energy's plan to pump 1.2 million gallons per day of treated groundwater into Kolke Creek.

Merit bought some production property near the headwaters of the Manistee that Shell Oil had spent years polluting. As part of the purchase, they took over the requirement to do something about the toxic groundwater plume caused by the previous owners. Merit wanted to pump the groundwater, filter it and discharge it into Kolke Creek, which runs into the Au Sable river.

Forgetting the fact that this water might not be as squeaky clean as Merit says it will be, the simple fact of taking this much water that essentially runs into the headwaters of the Manistee and move it to the headwaters of the Au Sable is going to make a big difference in both systems. It is the kind of idea only Krushchev would love these days.

The Anglers of the Au Sable and local property owners filed a lawsuit and recently won an injunction to stop the plan.

The judge in the case held:
Plaintiff landowners have brought this action to prevent the release of treated groundwater into Kolke Creek as part of the Defendants' efforts to remediate a hydrocarbon spill. This court finds that the Defendants' proposed use of Kolke Creek is unreasonable, and grants a limited injunction to prevent unreasonable use, of the watercourse. In addition, this court holds that the proposed use would violate the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

He goes on to note:
Given the delicate ecosystem of Kolke Creek, this court finds that it is not a suitable location to discharge large volumes of treated groundwater. This is especially true in light of the fact that Merit has other feasible and prudent alternatives to discharging the treated water.

A huge pat on the back goes out to The Anglers of the Au Sable, the landowners and Rusty Gates, who worked very hard on this one. Unfortunately, these folks have no time to rest on their laurels. They are fighting a plan to drill for gas near the Mason Tract on the South Branch in U.S. district court.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dam The Salmon

In today's Wall Street Journal, Shikha Dalmia, an analyst from the libertarian think tank, the Reason Foundation, takes up the issue of the removal of the Klamath dams (subscription required).

The basic argument is that the radical environmental movement and their BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything) approach to various energy issues make any attempts to reduce greenhouse gasses more difficult--and that this is at least as big an obstacle as the over-consuming American lifestyle the folks in Birkenstocks always rant about.

According to Ms. Dalmia:
Greens, it seems, always manage to find a problem for every environmental solution

With this, I would agree. The problem is that there is a problem for every environmental solution. Duh. There are no free lunches.

The opinion piece correctly points out that replacing this energy with natural gas would increase CO2 emissions by about 500,000 tons annually for a state that has ambitious reduction targets. This is an issue that will not be solved easily and inexpensively. Not with wind, not with nuclear and, granted, not by removing the dams on the Klamath.

Ms. Dalmia goes on to complain about the tree huggers:
Environmentalists don't even let many states, including California, count hydro as renewable

Guess what? Hydro is not renewable.

Sure, small hydro is not bad and most states count small hydro as renewable energy. However, large hydroelectric dams are perhaps the most ecologically destructive form of power we have. When you build a big dam, an entire ecosystem is irrevocably changed. By happy accident, sometimes that creates great fisheries where there was none, but sometimes it screws things up big time. And this is what happened on the Klamath (and virtually all river systems that support andromonous fish).

Even being in the energy biz, Teh Wind Knot does not begrudge environmentalists for being environmentalists. That is what they do. They oppose everything. It is sometimes funny to watch, such as the green vs. green fights over wind farms on the Appalachian ridges, but it keeps us honest. In the end, some sort of medium is reached, since nobody wants to go back to a pre-industrial lifestyle, but if they weren't there being BANANAs real issues would not be raised and worked on.

My main problem with the article is that Ms. Dalmia seems to abandon her organization's libertarian principles in finding a solution to this complicated problem. She points out that large hydro dams provide about 20% of California's power. Folks, that is way more than the national average--and we are talking about an essentially arid region. Why should California receive so much cheap, government subsidized hydro power when, according to the EIA, the national average in 2005 was 6.5%?

The fact is that California has long received low, subsidized energy from other parts of the country (and don't even start with the water consumption). The state is too crowded and has more agriculture than it can support without massive subsidies.

Pollution, including greenhouse gasses are externalities--something that affects folks other than those who decide the scale of their production. By imposing a cost on the producer of the externality, they will produce less than if it were free.

By subsidizing something you induce over-consumption. Sure, removing subsidized energy prices and water for agriculture will cause prices to increase and folks will move farming and manufacturing out of California. Is that a bad thing? I guess it depends on where you stand, but at least it allows people to make decisions based on the true costs of their actions.

In my opinion, restoring the salmon habitat that was destroyed in the name of subsidized electricity is a good thing. Those dams never would have been built today, since we have the pesky environmentalists to point out that unintended cost. If it means that folks--all of us, since this all moves through the economy--have to pay a little more for stuff, that is what it means. We have been paying too little for years because of the subsidies.

I am surprised that a libertarian think tank didn't think of this.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And Now A Word From Donny's Sponsor

TWK was doing some follow up investigation into the various members of the hated Spring Ridge Club (see Outing Teh River Nappers) and decided to check out their site to see what was up. I was displeased to find that most of the good stuff has now been moved to password protected members only area, since Donny's stuff was the best source for anti-SRC information around.

What really interested me was that Donny had gotten a new sponsor, in addition to the much overexposed Gary and Cathy Beck (Lefty seems to be laying low these days). The new sponsor? Frontiers International, the high end outdoors travel outfitter.

At first I was confused. Why would the same folks who will whisk you away for a luxurious tiger fish expedition, sponsor some third-rate, pay to play, trout chow operation? Then I understood the marketing genius behind this move. By supporting Donny and his ilk, Frontier obviously hopes that soon there will be no place to fish in the United States without paying an obscene membership fee and having a guide chum with a little Purina before you cast. When this happens, we will be forced to sign up for Frontiers' services just to wet a line.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Good News About The Road To Nowhere?

The Charlotte Observer is putting a fork in the Road to Nowhere. In an article they report that the Park Service has finally given up after over 60 years of trying to build this road in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I hope it is true, but this sucker has been tougher to kill than a snapping turtle.

If you fish or visit the GSMNP, you probably know about this boondoggle. If not, here is some background. During World War II, the federal government built a big dam and made Fontana Lake so that a nearby Alcoa plant would have cheap electricity to make stuff for the war effort. As a result, many families lost their land and were cut off from cemetaries that were on land that became part of the park. The government promised to build a road so they could drive to the graveyards as soon as the war was over. Things moved slowly but the work started in the 1950s and part of the road was completed but work stopped in the 1970s when engineering problems halted work.

Since then the Federal government has looked at many options, including a settlement with the county (to compensate them for flooded tax base), as well as finishing the road. Most of the folks in the region thought that a big check that could be used for schools, etc. was preferable to a road that doesn't go anywhere, but a few powerful politicians, with ties to the road construction business stopped any settlment for years.

Building the road would be terrible for the park. Not only would it clear some of the best wilderness areas in the park, but it would increase acid leaching into severely threatened native brook trout habitat.

Opponents of the road got some support when the NC General Assembly passed some environmental regulations to protect the stream and even more when Heath Shuler (yes, the same Heath Shuler on whom my beloved Redskins wasted a first round draft pick only to find out that he can't play football) beat Charles Taylor, the king of road building pork in Western NC in the last congressional elections.

Now, with Taylor gone--and with him the threat of the Park Service losing all its budget if they supported cancelling the road--the NPS has decided that they will drop plans to build the road and pursue a settlement.

This is very good news for brook trout, but it is not dead yet. There will be another study and comment period, but it does look like the road supporters are going to have a very tough time winning, much like the Redskins when Shuler was QB.

I am keeping my fingers crossed. If this sucker dies, look for Teh Wind Knot to form a committee to draft Norv Turner for president.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Smallie Kill In Virginia

Now it is the James. After the Shenandoah smallies have been devastated over the last three years by fish kills, one has recently shown up in the James--in fact in one of TWK's favorite spots on a favorite smallie river. While scientists don't know for sure what is causing the infections and lesions, they suspect it has something to do with runoff from poultry litter.

To get rid of the waste products from all those big poultry operations, the owners give the litter--wood chips on the bottom of the houses that the chickens poop on--to farmers to spread on their fields for fertilizer. This stuff is good fertilizer. Perhaps too good. The land is over fertilized and when it rains, it runs off into the rivers. It is very sad.

We have made a lot of progress on the clean water front over the years but there are still threats, development and agriculture being the biggest ones today. Developers are an easy target, but no politician wants to run afoul of the agribusiness folks. While they spin themselves as such, these folks are not the family famers with a few chickens in the yard.

We need to get serious about doing something about the waste from large animal feeding operations. Either that or pray for drought.

Read more here