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Damnation film screening in Cleveland on Wednesday

If you haven’t seen it yet, and you are at all interested in dams and dam removal (or are even wondering why people would be interested in dam removal), I encourage you to watch the film Damnation. The film highlights some of the environmental issues associated with dams, showcases the growing movement to get them removed, and shows us the results when dams do come out. Plus, it features gorgeous scenery of Pacific Northwest Rivers. So check out the screening in Cleveland this week (info below) or ask Anne how to get access to her copy of the film.

Here’s the trailer:

The award-winning documentary, Damnation, is coming to Cleveland’s Capitol Theater on Wednesday, September 24th at 7 p.m. The movie tells the story of the use of dams around the United States and the impact that dams have on rivers. It was produced by Yvon Chouinard who, among many other conservation accolades, is the founder of Patagonia.

Kdudley Media is hosting the presentation of the movie at the Capitol and they have graciously invited Friends of the Crooked River to be their special guest. FOCR will have an informational display in the lobby before the showing and have a Q&A session after the movie focusing on local dam removal efforts. In addition, Kdudley has decided to donate any funds raised from the showing of the movie to FOCR in support of our conservation efforts. Here is a link to more information about the film:

Tickets will be available at the door, as well as on line.

The Capitol Theater is located at W. 65th and Detroit in Cleveland’s District, Gordon Square District. This area is also home to several good restaurants ranging from casual to upscale so you may want to come early and make a night of it.

Hope to see you on September 24th

Social Hour at 6 PM

Film at 7 PM

Q&A concerning dams on the Cuyahoga following show

The Cuyahoga Falls dam removal video you’ve been waiting for

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

This summer we were treated to not one but two dam removals on the Cuyahoga River, ~10 miles downstream from Kent. Those following me on twitter know that I obsessed about these removals all summer long, first as they were delayed by weeks of high water, then as they got started and I got to watch first on the live “dam cam” and then in person. But the video compresses a whole summer of waiting, watching, and obsessing into two and a half glorious minutes, complete with music. This is, without a doubt, what youtube was invented for.*

If that dam removal video merely served to whet your appetite for dam busting, I have a few other videos you might enjoy. First, there’s there’s an excellent 8 minute documentary on Marmot Dam on the Sandy River, Oregon, which explains the science that led up to this removal, features the excitable Gordon Grant, and shows the action unfolding. If you just want to cut to the action, you can’t beat the “blow and go” (that would be the technical term) of the Condit Dam removal in Washington. Finally, a feature length movie called DamNation is coming our way in 2014. I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it. I’m going to go watch the videos a few more times.

*Youtube was also invented for flash flood videos, videos of people running rapids on the Grand Canyon, the Lake Peigneur disaster video, and corny videos produced by sewer districts about CSOs.

Elementary students narrate the history of the Kent Dam

In various places around Kent, visitors with a smart phone can scan a QR code and watch a short video about the historical significance of that location. This super-cool project was actually done by students at one of the local elementary schools, with funding from the NEH and the help of Kent State University’s Research Center for Educational Technology and the Kent Historical Society.

Below, let them tell you about one of our town’s fluvial icons.

Brock Freyer defends his MS on the Mighty Mississippi

Two people, standing behind a boat, with river and bluffs in the background.

Brock and Anne at the end of field work on the Mississippi River, July 2008.

Today, Brock Freyer will be defending the results of his M.S. research. The title of his research project is: Fluvial Response to River Management and Sediment Supply: Pool 6 of the Upper Mississippi River System, Southeastern Minnesota.

Brock’s committee is composed of Anne Jefferson (advisor), John Diemer and Ross Meentemeyer.

The defense is on Tuesday April 23, 2013, at 1:30 pm in McEniry 307 of UNC Charlotte. As Brock is currently located in Alaska, this will be a Skype defense. All are welcome to attend.


In this age of environmental restorations and rehabilitations, the scale and extent of projects have been getting larger and more expensive. In the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) has begun the task of restoring the negative effects that over a century of river management has incurred. Due to the scale and cost of such projects, it is essential to understand the natural and human processes that have affected the river system. In the UMRS, erosion and land loss are considered the dominant geomorphological trend, but Pool 6 of the UMRS is an exception to this norm. In Pool 6, deposition and land growth in recent decades have allowed the river morphology to begin reverting to its condition prior to intense river management. Through the application of varied chronological data sets within ArcGIS, spatial variations were measured to better understand where and why changes have occurred. A nested study area approach was applied to Pool 6 by dividing it into three scales: a general Pool wide observation; a smaller more in-depth observation on an area of island emergence and growth in the lower pool; and a subset of that section describing subaqueous conditions utilizing bathymetric data. The results from this study have indicated that site-specific geographic and hydrologic conditions have contributed to island emergence and growth in Pool 6. In Pool 6 land has been emerging at an average rate of 0.08km2/year since 1975.  Within lower Pool 6, land has been emerging on an average rate of 18m2/year since 1940. The bathymetric subset has shown that sediments on average have gained 2.41m in vertical elevation, which translates into just under 828,000 m3 of sediments being deposited in 113 years.  By identifying and describing these conditions river managers will be able to apply such knowledge to locate or reproduce similar characteristics within degraded sections of the UMRS. If the observations hold true in other locations, restoration efforts will be cheaper, more self-sustaining, promote natural fluvial dynamics, and ultimately be much more successful.

We are currently preparing a manuscript for publication.

Condit Dam Removal video

No excited Gordon like at Marmot Dam, but this is one exciting “blow and go” dam removal video. This was Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington in October 2011. Spectacular to watch, and even neater knowing that there was important (and hair-raising) science being done both upstream and downstream of the dam throughout the dam removal process.

Looking back at the Upper Mississippi River, moving forward

A student and I are working on finishing a project that has lingered for too many years: a careful analysis of the cumulative effects of river management on islands in the lower part of Pool 6 of the Mississippi River, near my hometown of Winona, Minnesota. There will be a MS thesis soon and hopefully a journal manuscript shortly to follow that, but for now, I’m enjoying discovering new and old research and resources on “the father of waters.”

First, check out this 17-minute silent film on the 1927 Mississippi River flood:

For more information on the film made by the Signal Corps in the 1930s, head here:

Then, check out this 2012 publication from the USGS on “A Brief History and Summary of the Effects of River Engineering and Dams on the Mississippi River System and Delta.”

Finally, there’s a paper just out in Geophysical Research Letters by Frans et al. titled “Are climatic or land cover changes the dominant cause of runoff trends in the Upper Mississippi River Basin?.”

And that’s my afternoon reading sorted.

Flooding around the world (early June edition)

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

Got flood fatigue yet? Too bad, because the wet weather and the high water keeps coming. Here is a quick round up of the notable flood-related news of the week.

High water on the Mississippi River, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 21 April 2011

Front row seats for water levels above flood stage on the Mississippi River, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 21 April 2011

Mississippi River

Floodwall (with emergency height added) in Omaha, Nebraska during the record 1952 floods.

Floodwall (with emergency height added) in Omaha, Nebraska during the record 1952 floods. Will that record be broken this year? (Image from Nebraska DNR.)

Missouri River

Heavy snowpacks in the Missouri River watershed (an areally large, but volumetrically smaller contributor to the Mississippi) have led to near-record flooding that is on-going along its whole length from Montana to Missouri. It’s not getting as much media attention as the Mississippi River, but water levels may stay above flood stage for months. Right now there are heavy rains occurring in parts of the basin, with more rain in the forecast, which will only add to flood problems.

Like the Mississippi, the Missouri is heavily managed by the Corps of Engineers, which is taking some criticism for residents in affected cities. There have also been evacuations because of seepage under levees and concerns about the possibility of failure. Like all big river/developed world flood stories, this one is a complicated mix of huge volumes of water, complicated multi-purpose river management plans, and unwise historical floodplain development.

  • In Historic Flooding On Mississippi River, A Missed Opportunity To Rebuild Louisiana:
  • Flooding from heavy rain in Guizhou province, southwestern China on 6 June 2011 (photo: Xinhua)

    Flooding from heavy rain in Guizhou province, southwestern China on 6 June 2011 (photo: Xinhua)


    For months, China has been stricken by its most intense drought in 60 years, but right now it’s too much, not too little, water that is the problem. Flooding since the 1st of the month has affected East China’s Jiangxi Province and 12 provinces in central and southern China, and more rain is in the forecast for many areas. Intense rains over the last few days have caused the evacuation of more than 100,000 people and killed at least 54.


    The Flood Observatory is also reporting on-going flooding in Colombia, the Philippines, Algeria, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Canada, India, and Upstate New York/Vermont’s Lake Champlain area. In every one of these places, people are losing their homes and lives. While volcanoes and earthquakes shake things up spectacularly now and again, every single day, somewhere in the world, there’s a devastating flood going on.

    Anne's picks of the June literature: Humans as Agents of Hydrologic Change

    ResearchBlogging.orgHow the world’s biggest river basins are going to respond to mid-century climate change…and how large reservoirs affect our measurements of global sea level rise.

    Immerzeel, W., van Beek, L., & Bierkens, M. (2010). Climate Change Will Affect the Asian Water Towers Science, 328 (5984), 1382-1385 DOI: 10.1126/science.1183188

    Where do 1 in 4 people live? Where do those people get their water? 1.4 billion people live in five river basins (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, and Yellow) and those mighty rivers source some of their water in the Himalayas, where on-going climate change will have a big impact on glacier melt and seasonal precipitation. In this paper, Immerzeel and colleagues used the SRM hydrologic model and GCM outputs to simulate the years 2046-2065 under two different glacier extent scenarios, a “best-guess” and an extreme case where all glacier cover had disappeared. The five basins all behaved quite differently from each other, because each basin has a different topographic distribution. The Brahmaputra and Indus have the highest percent of glacier-covered area, and these two rivers will be the most severely impacted by projected climate change via decreases in late spring and summer streamflow, as reduced glacier melt is only partially offset by increased spring rains. Between these two basins, the authors estimate that the hydrologic changes will reduce the number of people who can be fed by 60 million people! On the other hand, basins with less reliance on meltwater will not be as bad off – in fact, the Yellow River is likely to experience an increase in spring streamflow and may be able to feed 3 million more people. To me this paper emphasizes the fact that the consequences of climate change are not going to be evenly dispensed across the world’s population and that we’ve really got an urgent task of figuring out how regional climate changes will cascade through hydrology, ecology, food security, disease, and almost every other aspect of the world on which we depend.

    Fiedler, J., & Conrad, C. (2010). Spatial variability of sea level rise due to water impoundment behind dams Geophysical Research Letters, 37 (12) DOI: 10.1029/2010GL043462

    Global reservoirs trap ~10,800 cubic kilometers of water – enough volume to reduce sea level by ~30 mm. But when large reservoirs are filled, the water weight locally depresses the Earth’s surface and increases local relative sea level. Thus, tide gages that are close to large reservoirs don’t record the true sea level effects of water impoundment – instead recording only about 60% of the true drop. This creates an added wrinkle in the estimation of global sea level rise over the last century, and Fiedler and Conrad compute that these reservoir effects on the geoid have caused an ~10% over-estimation in rates of sea level rise. The largest effects on sea level rise records are places where tide gages are near big reservoirs – like the east coast of North America. *

    * Please note that I can’t read the full article of AGU publications (including WRR, JGR, and GRL) until July 2010 or the print issue arrives in my institution’s library. Summaries of those articles are based on the abstract only.

    Conference presentation: Effects of river management & sediment supply on island evolution in Pool 6 of the Upper Mississippi River, southeast Minnesota

    Watershed Hydrogeology Lab graduate student Brock Freyer has spent the last two years learning deeply about the hydrology, geomorphology, and sedimentology of the Upper Mississippi River System, as well as learning to use some sophisticated GIS techniques for 3-D analysis of topographic data. This week he is presenting the results of his work: “Effects of river management & sediment supply on island evolution in Pool 6 of the Upper Mississippi River, southeast Minnesota” at the Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium. Brock is speaking in a session on Large River Restoration. Brock will be defending his M.S. thesis sometime in late spring.

    Flood risks in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake

    As the casualty count continues to climb in China’s Sichuan province following the May 12th M 7.9 earthquake, authorities are struggling to provide shelter and prevent disease amongst the 5 million people displaced by the quake. Seismologists are warning that there is still the potential for large aftershocks, and many people are still jittery. But there’s also another potential danger lurking in the mountain valleys of Sichuan province – that of floods of water released by the failure of dams.

    Some of these dams are man-made and suffered structural damage in the earthquake, like the 150 m Zipingpu dam near Dujiangyan. NPR reported:

    One of its abutments sank 10 centimeters (4 inches). The force of the earthquake opened cracks in the dam wall. But, officials say,
    Zipingpu remains structurally stable and safe.

    Still, here’s an ominous thought: The reservoir at Zipingpu can hold up to 1.1 billion cubic meters of water. The Water Resources
    Ministry says the city of Dujiangyan, with a population of more than 600,000 people, “would be swamped” if the dam failed.

    An even more ominous threat is from landslide dams. During the earthquake, large landslides were knocked loose from the steep mountain slopes and came to rest in the narrow valleys below. The landslide deposits can block river flow and create a reservoir upstream. Eventually the water level will overtop the dam, and the reservoir will stabilize. Unless, of course, the erosive power of the overtopping is enough to cause dam failure, the pressure of the water is stronger than the unstable dam can support, or an aftershock destabilizes the deposits.

    In the week following the quake, 24 lakes had formed in the area affected by the earthquake. NASA has incredible images of one of those lakes, filling the valley and flooding two villages. The image is shown below.

    NASA Image

    The largest dam appears to be 3.5 km upstream from Beichuan, a town of 30,000 that has been the hardest hit by the earthquake and resulting landslides This dam is apparently still inaccessible because of blocked roads in mountain passes, but it is reported to be 2 km long and blocking the Qingjiang River. Another dam is 70 m high and 300 m wide, and it blocked the Chaping River and destroyed a hydropower station. =A smaller dam is 7 m high, 33 m wide, and 100 m long, and it holds back 606,000 cubic meters of water. At least one evacuation has already taken place when a landslide dam threatened to burst. Researchers are trying to develop plans to safely drain the lakes before catastrophe occurs.

    This isn’t the first time Sichuan province has faced this threat. In 1786, a M 7.75 earthquake triggered a landslide that blocked the Dadu River. F.C. Dai and colleagues (2005) did meticulous historical and geomorphic research to reconstruct the events that followed. The landslide dam was 70 m high and held back 50 million cubic meters of water in a reservoir area of 1.7 square kilometers. A large aftershock hit the area 10 days after the main quake, and it caused the dam to fail. The resulting flood had a peak discharge of ~37,000 cubic meters per second, but the real tragedy is that the flood killed 100,000 people living downstream. The landslide dam on the Dadu was not spectacularly large (the largest existing landslide dam is in Tajikstan and is 550 m high), but the deaths from downstream flooding make it the most catastrophic dam failure on record.

    Journal articles cited:

    Dai et al. 2005. “The 1786 earthquake-triggered landslide dam and subsequent dam-break flood on the Dadu River, southwestern China” Geomorphology 65: 205-221. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2004.08.011

    Stone, R. 2008. Landslides, flooding pose threats as experts survey quake’s impact. Science. 320:996-997.

    Other news sources are linked above.