Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Wisdom of Spines and Flowers

You wonder where they come from...the disparate elements of flowers and spines.

Alarmed queries often accompany a proposed visit to the desert. "Aren't you afraid of the snakes?" "What if you're pricked by a cactus?" "Are there scorpions?" All have spines...

The answer is usually a shrug or "So what?" Dangers are usually benign...at least in the initial stages of a journey.

The desert is quiet except for the hum of bees - which have spines of their own. And the flowers endure, living in tranquility with all the spines. It is a wondrous harmony of disparate elements.

Cactus leaves have evolved into protective, water conserving spines...and the bees ensure the flowers will appear next year.

Except for the occasional javelina or desert tortoise that grabs a bite of prickly pear, spines ensure that cactus flowers survive as the "least molested" of blossoms.

The desert, however, isn't generous to those who won't adapt to its regimen of lean necessity.

It discovered long ago that only occasional water is necessary -- and hums along with its bees and flowers and spines in oft hidden tranquility.

It seems to know...if we won't adapt, if we lack an instinct for economy, we'll vanish.

The flowers will surely be here, but we won't see them.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Water Use Will Change...Like It or Not

Some people just don’t get it!

They seem to believe that water originates at the tap and hold the limited view that, since grass has been planted, it's a great idea to water it.

Or, if a hot-tub is available, it's quite OK to fill it...constantly...letting the tub's overflow drain handle the excess.

I have some otherwise intelligent neighbors who dismiss talk of water shortages in this arid region with the reminder that “our water comes from a spring and, anyway, the town charges families equally, whether we use it or not.”

Fortunately, this will change.

The Town of Jerome is in the process of installing water meters that will enable it to bill residents on usage.

A note on the Jerome Post Office bulletin board (it’s a small town, you know) proclaims that “Grapes are ripe at Xxxxx's. Come grab a bunch.”

Xxxxx waters his grapes twice a day with no thought of depleting the aquifer that supplies his preoccupation. We'll see if a few grapes are worth the high water bills. Realistically, however, if water from this spring doesn't flow into a storage tank, it runs down Mingus Mountain into Bitter Creek and ultimately into the Verde River.

The poor Verde -- It needs all the input it can get. As a newbie out here I was truly appalled at the diversionary dams that channel thousands of gallons-per-hour through open ditches. Signs posted by the Cottonwood Ditch Assn. proclaim, "NO Trespassing." (The photo that heads this blog was taken past this sign.)

The Northeast is experiencing the same poor water management. My friend, a competitive paddler, is lamenting the destruction of his training environment -- Akron, Ohio’s, East Branch Reservoir.

East or West, it’s all the same. Reservoirs, established by dammed rivers, are not an efficient place to store water. Aquifers, also, disappear with over-use and poor water management.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When You Ride Back in Time in Jerome

The white carriage pulled by 2,000 lb. Barney and his 1,800 lb. carriage mate, Babe, is a familiar sight to throngs of tourists in the historic mining town of Jerome, Arizona.

For quirky personal reasons, a Jerome City Council member, Nancy Stewart, is attempting to dismantle this business seen and enjoyed by thousands.

In this town, "getting rid" of a business is done through:
1.) retroactive regulations,
2.) selective rule application, and
3.) an absurdly detailed "conditional use permit" aimed at the business owner, Bob Peterson.

A good friend who is "Village Administrator" of a small town (in a different state) remarked that administrators are responsible for following up complaints relating to "the public good," but should have the sense to stay away from personal agendas.

He guessed the Police Department had better things to do than walk around taking the temperature of streets 4 ft. above the pavement.

Some issues:

a) While the regulations being explored will apply to horses used in a carriage business, they will not apply to horses used for recreational riding by, for example, the "Vice-Mayor" of Jerome, Jane Moore.

b) Someone will have to explain the ergonomic differences between a horse carrying a rider and a horse pulling a load. The horse is working either way.

c) What is the difference between the pack horses (and mules) working at the Grand Canyon and the horses working Bob Peterson's Ride Back in Time? I suspect the packer franchises run by the National Park Service have received more scrutiny than The Town of Jerome could ever hope to bring to this situation.

A woman, knowing the situation, remarked, "the pet Nazis are out."

Another townsperson quipped, "there are people in this town who would like horses to join them at the dinner table."

A letter to the editor of a regional newspaper is more to the point:

Please Do Not Destroy a Man’s Livelihood and His Way of Life with Horses

I have ridden many times in Bob Peterson’s carriage. I have been around horses for the past 36 years and have owned many horses myself. In my opinion Bob takes very good care of his horses.

The horses he drives are made for hard work in fields or to pull very large wagons, not just a carriage which I can move around by myself (and I am not a large person).

May I ask, unless these people who are complaining are professional horse people, not just people with a backyard pet or making a prejudgment based on gossip or their unprofessional judgment, what right do they have to try to take a man’s livelihood away from him.

THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OF THIS LETTER AND ME IS THAT I WOULDN'T SAY PLEASE! This activity is ethically bankrupt and a foolish pursuit for the town.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Balancing Tourism with the Environment

Predicting the weather is risky business and predicting the longterm effectiveness of Glen Canyon Dam and Powell Reservoir even more so. The Reservoir is currently down some 150 ft. and dropping. Even the Bureau of Reclamation indicates the Reservoir may be empty 15% - 50% of the time. You find uncertainty even from this quarter.

But, the questions are serious ones. While it appears likely that Powell Reservoir will disappear -- making what happens to the dam almost irrelevant -- the question remains how the area will supply water to a growing population in an intelligent and reasonable manner.(Tank farms come to mind but the seers in this controversy may have other solutions.)

A friend living across the street has a sign in her house that reads, "The River Always Wins", but it begs the question, "What if the river disappears?" The Colorado River? That national treasure? That gargantuan serpent whose back we've tried to ride for decades?

Into this controversy steps Page, Arizona, booster Joan Nevills-Staveley who, in a recent article titled "Glen Canyon Dam: 50 years of controversy" published in The Salt Lake Tribune, measures the value of Glen Canyon Dam in terms of motel beds.

Referring in the article to environmentalists Rich Ingebretsen, president of the Glen Canyon Institute, and Ken Sleight, environmentalist and former river runner, Ms. Nevills-Staveley comments, "You'd like to do them in." (italics mine)

Do them in?... In the name of Page tourism?... Some people are scary, but it's scarier that serious water-supply issues can be answered with quirky sentiments and irrelevant considerations.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

There's a Ring Around the Tub.

Powell Reservoir is evaporating behind the buttress of Glen Canyon Dam despite the best laid plans of men (and women) of the Bureau of Reclamation and the ignorant perseverance of those who insist on storing water in an open container in this arid region.

Rich Ingebretsen, president and founder of the Glen Canyon Institute, in a recent presentation to the Colorado River Workshop held at Western State College in Gunnison, CO, pointed out that more than 40 million acre-feet had already been lost in this way. The Bureau of Reclamation, with seemingly no ax to grind (except to keep its dam), has estimated that Powell Reservoir will likely be empty 15% of the time.

Water questions are volatile issues in the Southwest, closely tied to political sentiment and the veracity of global warming. As referenced in the May 24th edition of The Daily Sentinal, Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, claimed she got "heart cramps" when talking about tearing down Glen Canyon Dam. In contrast to the Bureau of Reclamation, she does have an ax to grind, but I'd recommend atenolol for the cramps and some enlightenment re water storage.

It's an environment where a forgotten cup of coffee will evaporate in a week.

And...the governors of the Great Lakes states have suddenly gotten wise and effectively put an end to any plans to implement a pipeline to Arizona or any other distant state.