Saturday, September 03, 2005

Priorities. First priority was the -get ready for Erika and Collette to come- morning/afternoon. And after editing so many Katrina posts, and sifting through all kinds of reports spanning from heart-wrenching, practical, dire economics, to rather frightening or just plain crazy theories (Unknown Country has some, also the so-called Woodpecker Grid-maybe the grid is real, but what it can do is questionable, WeatherWars, Scalar Wars, slowing/stoppage of Thermohaline Circulation), I was ready to stock up on goods at the very least, we're in for some rapidly rising prices out of all of this.

Reported in the Swiss news today is that they are releasing (along with other European countries) some of their strategic oil reserves to the US to help us out, I read also that Japan is sending us 12% of their strategic oil reserve as well.

From Bloomberg: "The Gulf Coast region produces a third of the nation's oil and a fifth of its natural gas, and also handles 40 percent of U.S. grain exports. Some pipelines that move fuel to the rest of the country were closed by the storm."

If we are tapping our strategic reserves, and that's not enough - we need SWISS reserves too, seems like we're in a lot more hurt than anyone is admitting.

So off to Costco I went, and concentrated on dry goods that I regularly use, just picking up an extra one of each to have ahead. Picked up some food goods too, but needing to keep in mind what I would really use. There is a tension between what good store well, and what someone who believes in very fresh and healthy will eat... of course one eats differently in an emergency, but you have to rotate even preserved foods that you store.

I stopped at Jo-Ann & Jonathon's on the way back and we enjoyed a rather extended conversation about California's central valley and it's vulnerability to earthquake. You might wonder about Stockton and the Central California Valley. This part of California feeds a lot of the nation, and it is built on a peat-bog which is sinking due to lack of water replenishment each year. For the last 150 years farmers have been building a patchwork of levees to keep the water at bay, and these are not like New Orlean's Army Corps of Engineers well-engineered levees, these are made from whatever materials were at hand then, sticks, rocks, etc. The water supply from this area is used for 2/3's of California's population. Apparently these levees are in real disrepair and an earthquake, like the one expected on the Hayward fault in the next 30 years, could cause massive breakage, and flooding of the area, contaminating the water. The bay area would be heavily affected, and Contra Costa's water supply would be basically wiped out.

From the East Bay Express, February 23, 2005:

"A major Hayward Fault earthquake could slice through the weak levees like "the sword of Damocles," said Mount, a geology professor who has studied the levees extensively. The most vulnerable are the westernmost islands in Contra Costa County closest to the fault. The collapse of just a few could create a domino effect. Mount explained why: The bay-water sides of the levees were built stronger because there is more daily pressure on them. But when a levee breaks and floods an island, the water pressure is transferred to the weaker inside of the next levee. That next levee, then, becomes much easier to topple.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and the collapse of eight levees in a row is called the "Big Gulp." So much saltwater will rush in that it will ruin the delta's freshwater supply, possibly for up to a year or more. "It turns out that once it gets in, it's hard to get out," Mount said. He explained that there's only one construction company in California that repairs levees -- the Dutra Group. Under perfect conditions, Dutra can fix two to three levees in the course of a summer. But working from barges while battling wind-driven delta waves is devilishly difficult, and the company likely will be under fierce pressure to be elsewhere. "If you have a 7.0 earthquake on the Hayward Fault, do you think that Dutra Corporation is going to be out fixing the delta?" Mount said.

That's very bad news for California. The delta is the main drinking-water source for 22 million people. While it mostly supplies Southern California via the State Water Project canal, it also is a primary source for Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties and the main irrigation water supply for five million acres of cropland in the country's leading agricultural area, the San Joaquin Valley.

Major aqueducts in the EBMUD and Hetch Hetchy water systems also are at risk where they cross the delta. If it suddenly becomes a giant inland sea, those aqueducts will be torn apart. EBMUD is currently studying whether it's possible to fix its main water supply, the Mokelumne River Aqueduct, from barges.

What happens when the water is too salty to quench the thirst of more than two-thirds of California's residents and much of its best farmland for a year or more? California has never completed a comprehensive study of the likely long-term economic effects on the state, the nation, and the world's economy. Tens of billions of dollars? Hundreds of billions, perhaps? Whatever it turns out to be, it will pale in comparison to the $1 billion or so that Mount says it would cost now to sufficiently fortify the old levees."

Apparently, the voters of California have about the foresight of our 'leader' Bush -- a few years ago there was a $36(?) million dollar bond issue put before the voters to approve to repair these levees, and it FAILED.

This conversation made me want to know where Mill Valley's water source is coming from. I get those little flyers every year, like everyone else, but paid more attention to the QUALITY of the water we're getting rather than the SOURCE. My vague recollection was that it comes mostly from the Mt. Tam watershed (safe from the above scenario), but I also remember, at least as a county, we don't produce enough water for our needs and import some from Sonoma(?), and Jonathon mentioned an experimental desalinization plant working in the county. So I found the website for the Marin Municipal Water District, and basically found out my memory was correct.

Meanwhile, while I'm envisioning water... Erika is stuck in traffic because of a FIRE near LA. After about 3 hours of traffic, never leaving the LA area, she gives up on her plan to visit me this weekend, turns around and heads home.

A natural disaster kind of day...

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