For mussel’s sake, U.S. study could send more water to Florida

Look for the fat threeridge mussel to enter the lexicon of Georgia politics. From Ray Henry and the Associated Press:

Federal scientists could revise their estimate of how much water Florida’s Apalachicola River needs to prevent the deaths of an endangered mussel, a development that could give Florida more legal leverage in a long-running water dispute with neighboring Georgia.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers are revisiting a 2008 report that found keeping the river flowing at a minimum of 5,000 cubic feet per second would not threaten the existence of the endangered fat threeridge mussel. But in September, scientists reported that the mussels had moved higher on the riverbank than during the drought-stricken period when the study was completed.

As many as 1,200 endangered mussels were exposed to the air in September when river levels dropped, said Donald Imm, a project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Panama City, Fla. It’s not clear whether they died.

“These mussels, they are really a canary-in-the-coal-mine indicator,” he said. “If we lose the mussels, who knows what else we’ve lost from the natural system.”

The report scheduled for release Aug. 1 could have consequences in a long-running feud between Alabama, Georgia and Florida over regional water use.

Florida has asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to overturn a lower court judge who refused last year to order the release of more water from Georgia reservoirs into the Apalachicola River to protect the gulf sturgeon, the fat threeridge mussel and the purple bankclimber mussel. The appellate panel has delayed the case until Imm’s team completes its work.

“Because new information has come to light and the agencies are engaged in further administrative action, this litigation is likely to be affected,” said Parker Thompson, an attorney for Florida, in a court filing requesting the delay. He declined to comment further.

Georgia attorney Todd Silliman said he could not comment in detail until federal scientists file their report.

“We understand why they’re undertaking this additional consultation and we’ll just have to see what the results of it are,” he said.

When scientists conducted the last study, a severe drought had starved the river of water.

Mussels feed at the river’s surface and have some ability to follow changing waterlines. The ongoing study will examine the mortality rate of mussels, their ability to move with river’s surface and how quickly they die when exposed to air.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses research from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide how much water should be released from upstream reservoirs into the Apalachicola River, which flows down the Florida Panhandle. The headwaters of the Apalachicola are a dam-regulated reservoir fed by the Chattahoochee River, which flows along the Georgia and Alabama border, and the Flint River.

State leaders have fought for years over water usage. Alabama and Florida accuse metro Atlanta of using so much water upstream that it leaves too little for those downstream.

In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that metro Atlanta had little right to withdraw water from Lake Lanier on the Chattahoochee River, the main water source for roughly 3 million people. Magnuson said he will severely restrict the amount of water that Atlanta can use starting in 2012 unless political leaders in the three feuding states strike an agreement.

Georgia authorities have appealed that ruling while pursuing negotiations with Alabama and Florida.

In a related decision, Magnuson rejected a request from Florida seeking the release of water into the Apalachicola River to protect downstream wildlife, including the fat threeridge mussel. The judge said Florida did not prove that federal officials ignored evidence in deciding how much water should be released from Georgia reservoirs to support downstream wildlife.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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28 comments Add your comment

Not Blind

June 2nd, 2011
9:17 am

If the fat three ridged mussel dies out, SO WHAT ???? Species have been dying out since life began on Earth. The environmental whackos act like it’s the end of the world when some irrelevant species begins to decline and want to impose all sorts of short sighted and expensive measures to protect said species. The imposition these needless expenditures place on our economy is ‘a death by a thousand cuts’ or in these cases it would be ‘a death by a thousand research grants’ .

Buzz G

June 2nd, 2011
9:26 am

Under the corrupt Obama administration environmental whackos have taken charge. Wanna know why gas is nearly $4 a gallon? Take a look at what is going on with the Keystone XL pipeline. A Canadian company wants to build a pipeline that will haul 863,000 barrels crude oil daily from the Canadian tar sand area to large refineries in Texas. The pipeline is to be built with private money (no taxpayer subsidy) and provide many jobs. But the best part is it will replace 863,000 barrels of oil every day that we now import from places that don’t much like us (Saudi Arabia, Venezuela) with Canadian oil. But because it crosses the border, it must be signed off by Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton. In a bow to environmentalist radicals, she refuses to sign. This is the most important story that the mainstream press (including Jim G.) completely ignores.

Folks, it it high time we brought down the world of environmental extremism. It is doing more than its share to bring the US down from its super power status.

Aquagirl

June 2nd, 2011
9:30 am

If you need endless water to wash your fat butt and SUV, try downsizing both.

John

June 2nd, 2011
9:42 am

Who is John Galt?

LC

June 2nd, 2011
9:54 am

Hey Aquagirl,
you do realize that for most people in Atlanta when they take those long showers that it goes down that little hole at the bottom of the shower into a pipe that eventually leads to the wastewater treatment plant then that same water that was pulled out of Lake Lanier goes back into the Chattahoochee and onto your poor little fat three ridged mussels? Amazing

Aquagirl

June 2nd, 2011
10:13 am

LC, there’s less water downstream, and evaporation works pretty much the same as always. Where is that water going? You’re blaming the spotted atlantan water-sucking mussel?

Frankly the mussels downstream have more brain than you, so I’m not crying if you go thirsty.

Ru kidding

June 2nd, 2011
11:09 am

Why not transplant the mussels to a lower portion of the bank

Shiri

June 2nd, 2011
12:00 pm

“These mussels, they are really a canary-in-the-coal-mine indicator,” he said. “If we lose the mussels, who knows what else we’ve lost from the natural system.”
Hey, we would lose ‘Humans’, no water, no life. Of course our counties will raise water rates since water will become an ‘endangered species’…

Dr Earl W. Bedpan

June 2nd, 2011
12:55 pm

I say we serve then in a garlic, white wine and shallot sauce with spent grain bread.

jim

June 2nd, 2011
1:30 pm

The farmers in SW GA are sucking the aquifer and the Flint River dry and we have to make up for it from Lake Lanier. Why does not the State make the farmers suck it up like we have to and share the pain all around. It is not right for Lanier for have to support the farmers just because corn prices are high.

rbd

June 2nd, 2011
1:38 pm

What I have never understood is that we are told to build reserviors for water retention rather than use Lake Lanier. If the water goes into a reservior doesn’t that take water that would have gone into the lake?

Independent

June 2nd, 2011
1:48 pm

So what happened to the fat three-ridged mussel during low flows related to droughts prior to Lanier being built? What would happen to the fat three-ridged mussel right now if Lanier was not there to artificially increase the flow. One problem with the Endangered Species Act is that it has been used as a weapon to stop projects or to advace certain causes. Everyone knows that Florida doesn’t give a damn about endangered species, it only wants the constant water flow to protect its lucrative oyster beds in the Apalachicola Bay.

Not Blind

June 2nd, 2011
1:48 pm

Here is a simple water release formula even aqualibs could understand. Buford Dam should release the exact amount of water that is flowing into Lake Lanier. If it’s raining and there is XXXX flowing into the lake then they release XXXX out of the dam. If it’s a drought and X is flowing into the lake then you release X. The problem comes when you have X flowing in but the COE is releasing XXXXXXXXXXX. Then the lake gets emptied and the resulting low water flows kills the poor mussels inspite of the EW’s handwringing.

Independent

June 2nd, 2011
1:52 pm

LC – you are absolutely correct – the only water that is lost from the system is from evaporation, everything else comes back into the river. I always wondered why Atlanta doesn’t just move its water intake to the Chattahoochee River just below Buford Dam. Then it will never run dry of water because the river never runs dry.

Not Blind

June 2nd, 2011
1:55 pm

Independent, I wonder how many people actually make their living off the oyster beds ? Probably a pretty small number when compared to the number of businesses devastated by the draining of Lanier a couple of years ago.

Not Blind

June 2nd, 2011
1:59 pm

I like how the farmers are quick to point their finger at metro Atlanta but you can bet they are more than happy to have this big market to sell their crops to.

River Rat

June 2nd, 2011
2:00 pm

All used drinking water doesn’t make it to the mussels. Some of it leaks out, goes to other basins, etc. Probably 60 to70% is returned to whence it came. Of course, the main problem for the mussels is the agricultural, ground water withdrawals in SW Georgia which dwarfs the consumption in metro Atlanta, and causes most of the mussel distress.

oldfart

June 2nd, 2011
2:12 pm

Pray tell how did the mussels survive during droughts before there was a Buford dam?

Hillary

June 2nd, 2011
2:24 pm

Buzz, Bet you don’t recycle. You are so ignorant and full of s@@t, obvious from your post.

oldfart

June 2nd, 2011
2:25 pm

Oh, and just for the fun I’ll give you a bit of George Carlin.

“You got people like this around you? Country is full of them now! People walking around all day long, every minute of the day — worried about EVERYTHING! Worried about the air, worried about the water, worried about the soil. Worried about insecticides, pesticides, food additives, carcinogens; worried about radon gas; worried about asbestos. Worried about saving endangered species.

Let me tell you about endangered species, all right? Saving endangered species is just one more arrogant attempt by humans to control Nature! It’s arrogant meddling! It’s what got us into trouble in the first place! Doesn’t anybody understand that? Interfering with Nature! Over 90 percent.. over… way over 90 percent [actually over 99.9%] of all the species that have ever lived — EVER LIVED — on this planet are gone. Whissshht! They are extinct!

We didn’t kill them all.

They just… disappeared! That’s what Nature does! They disappear these days at the rate of 25 a day, and I mean regardless of our behavior. Irrespective of how we act on this planet, 25 species that were here today, will be gone tomorrow! Let them go… gracefully! Leave Nature alone! Haven’t we done enough?

We’re so self-important. So self-important! Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees; save the bees; save the whales; save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all, “Save the planet.” WHAT? Are these [bleep]ing people kidding me? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t learned how to care for one another, we’re gonna save the [bleep]ing planet?”

rbd

June 2nd, 2011
2:25 pm

Good question.

River Rat

June 2nd, 2011
2:48 pm

We’re losing species at an alarming rate due to the actions of man. If we can ameliorate or even reverse these man induced effects on the system, it would seem that we’ve gained something of value if it reduces the decline of species. Loss of a species can mean the lose of a medical cure. C’mon, we’ve all seen Medicine Man. Additionally, if we create conditions that are antitheses to some life, how good is that for our species?

oldfart

June 2nd, 2011
2:59 pm

Without the actions of man keeping an artificially higher flow of water through the Apalachicola during the most recent drought period or previous ones since the early sixties the mussel would probably already be extinct.

Cale Parrish

June 2nd, 2011
4:35 pm

Hey Oldfart,
Here are two definitions of self-importance.
1.self-importance – an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others
ego, egotism
2.Self-importance – an exaggerated opinion of your own importance
I just can’t see how George C considers this an act of self-importance. I don’t see how other people relate this term to environmentalists. Sorry, I thought George C was funny but for the most part he seemed to be a bitter dried up hippie that gave up on caring. To me it seems that the people that litter and don’t conserve water, energy, etc and don’t recycle could also be considered self-important.

Also the deal about the artificially higher flow of water theory does not quit pan out and here is why. Please note that I am basing this off of West Point Lake and below since this is where I live. During the summer months the Corp of Engineers tend to keep the lake at a certain level for recreational use. This means that they have minimal to almost no releases except for when they generate because they are trying to maintain this level during a drought, during the summer.
What happens downstream is that the water gets real shallow from the lack of flow. This flow is what also helps to maintain the water temp. The shallow slow flowing or standing water gets real hot killing the mussels besides creating other problems and boy do those things stink up the place when they die.

oldfart

June 2nd, 2011
10:14 pm

Please explain why the flow would be more during a drought without either dam, regardless of how much they choose to release. West Point’s level is determined by the releases from Lanier which holds much more in reserve but even then from a much smaller basin than most reservoirs of it’s size. The fact that there is even a reservoir to draw from when there was none before means they are receiving more water downstream than would have occurred without the dams during drought periods. This is the case of a species not going extinct because of man. An argument could be made that West Point Lake should never have been created in the first place. If it hadn’t been for the need for barge surges and some lobbying developers I doubt it ever would have happened anyway. Buford dam on the other hand was necessary for flood control, could have been one helluva’ better power generator given so better mods, and a controlled supply of water to metro Atlanta and those down stream. Decisions on what flows from it should involve all of this on economic impact and how best to help HUMANS, not a species that is likely doomed anyway and likely would be already without the intervention of man. I don’t mean just metro Atlanta, the farmers downstream, the oyster men in the basin, but all the humans that rate above a species that is doomed anyway in my ledger. I’m not a believer in many things but natural selection has been working for a few billion years and man is a cog in that wheel. I like being near the top of the food chain but we wouldn’t have stood a chance in some of the earlier ages. Enjoy it while you are here and don’t get so hung up on the inevitable.

By the way, I recycle, blah, blah, because landfills make no sense though many of them end up there anyway. The Alcoa aluminum plant in Alcoa, TN was built to utilize the hastily built TVA dams in the buildup to WWII. Now the generators in those dams are mostly idle due to lack of maintenance and/or upgrades and NO aluminum is produced at the plant in a town named for it because of pollution regulations and higher power costs from coal power plants. BTW they aren’t even melting your recycled cans there, choosing to purchase ingots from Russia where they have little concern for pollution issues. The global impact is still the same, only the local Volvo driving do-gooders, self-satisfied politicos and militant tree huggers are happy. Meanwhile back a the ranch the local employees that have been “made redundant” as the Brits say could go back to farming but the lush valleys their ancestors farmed are now reservoirs.

My retirement home now under construction involves more man-made destruction on a temporary basis. I’ve flattened a “knob” as they call it in the hills. Will recover it with an earth-sheltered and passive solar home with an atrium full of organic plants watered from the cistern already constructed to receive the limestone filtered runnoff. Primarily DC electrical lights and appliances due to a nearby creek that I can’t dam but there is enough flow and fall to utilize ram pumps using water to pump them to my own reservoir to be drawn off as needed to produce power or charge batteries. By current standards my estimates are that the meter will run backwards.

I’m doing this out of prudence and anticipation of a fixed income, dwindling fossil energy and looking out for number one. If you want to feel self-important by using a square blue receptacle to throw your aluminum foil please continue, just don’t judge me because I am a pragmatist and very little of what a few do-gooders accomplish here will have an impact on an entire planet. We have a few billion Chinese and Indians that are about to enter the American consumerism phase of the 50’s.

I’m also a student of history and can’t tell you how many wars have been fought over the guy upstream pissing in the downstream guy’s water. The mussel is just a negotiating tool in the fight and please don’t exaggerate its importance above that level.

JD

June 3rd, 2011
10:49 am

Now I have not read every comment, but why does anybody think any of this actually has anything to do with an endangered specie?

Those of you that buy into the “mussel conspiracy” are lunatics and very hateful people.

FedUp

June 3rd, 2011
12:38 pm

Aquagirl-you have serious attitude problems and your post has nothing to do with the topic. Stay on the topic and back off of what others have a right to drive. By the way, I wash both my great gas mileage car AND my SUV at a car wash that recycles the water used there so your hateful statements have no warrant. Take your resentful attitude elsewhere and leave the commentary relative to the story-like, mussels!