Mother Lode River Center’s Greenhouse Gas Action Plan (GAP)


“The light at the end of the Tunnel” on the Middle Fork

At Mother Lode we are concerned that there are at least twelve (12) major environmental challenges that currently face humankind. It is not enough to address human induced climate change in isolation. Nevertheless, global warming is both urgent and important, and we intend to do what we can to make a difference on this issue.

If you have questions about the science that supports human induced climate change, or are interested in how we think it fits into the larger environmental picture, we have other blog postings that address these issues. We look forward to your input and assistance in making our collective efforts more effective in all the areas of environmental concern. We are also excited to hear what you are doing at home, at work, and in your community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Choosing a Goal

If you have had a chance to review our discussion on global warming, you know we are convinced that the goals being set nationally and internationally are not aggressive enough to get the results we need. To avoid the worst environmental consequences, the number of 500 ppm of carbon dioxide has repeatedly appeared in the press as the level we should stay below. Yet the world has never been above the present 350 ppm concentration of carbon dioxide in at least the last 650,000 years. There is no good scientific evidence that staying under 500 ppm will avert the major consequences that are predicted. In fact, the CEO of General Electric, a participant in the USCAP group, indicated that the goals of the USCAP group were likely to allow some of the worst consequences to occur but that more aggressive goals had not been proposed specifically to avoid hurting the bottom line of the companies that participated. I think he was embarrassed.

Let’s first look at goals that have been proposed worldwide:

Sir Isaac Stern, Great Britain’s Finance Minister, who is charged with the responsibility of studying the issue of global warming and setting goals for the United Kingdom, in late 2006 suggested that the world expend 1% of gross economic product to achieve a greenhouse gas reduction of 30 % by 2020 and 50% by 2050.

The January 22, 2007 recommendation by the USCAP consortium consisting of 10 major US corporations and 4 NGOs recommended 100-105% of today’s level within 5 years of enactment of legislation, 90-100% within 10 years and 70-90% within 15 years.

California’s State goal under AB 32 was a 20% reduction by 2020.

The American Institute of Architect’s “30/30 challenge” calls for a 30% reduction by 2030.

None of these goals are good enough.

Let’s go for 20% by 2012, 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

How will we do it? Very aggressively, and hope to do even better. This may not be good enough!

Clearly, the effect of our behavior will be miniscule in itself. However, we will plan to use our efforts to educate and inspire.

*One target will be our fellow outfitters on the American River who are an environmentally aware bunch. We will also hope to affect the national outfitting industry as a whole.
*Our community of Coloma will be a great place to intervene and there are already quite a few people and businesses who are doing what they can to get started.
*We can affect the County of El Dorado’s activities. One river related improvement would be a private boater “green” shuttle initially with natural gas or biodiesel transitioning to hydrogen gas generated by solar as it becomes available.
*Given that it is nearby,we can lobby at the State level in Sacramento. The Governor has shown he is commited, we should support him and urge even stronger action. For instance, he could mandate changes in Title 24 of the building code to cause new building and remodeling to meet higher energy efficiency standards. We can also lobby our representatives at the Federal level (Senators Boxer and Feinstein should be especially receptive) regarding changes to Title 24, increasing Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for autos, and actions to invent and deploy alternative energy technologies.
*At the State, Federal and International level we have a responsibility to actively educate everyone we can on the issue of nuclear power. Dr. Helen Caldicott’s book, “Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer” makes it clear that if you consider the entire fuel cycle from mining uranium to disposing of nuclear waste, the carbon cost of nuclear power is comparable to fossil fuel once you start mining any but the highest grade ore. The supply of high grade ore would be sufficient for only 9 years if were it to replace other forms of energy entirely. Therefore, the proposal by Prime Minister Tony Blair of England to primarily use nuclear to address global warming is misguided at best!
*We can write to the USCAP group and urge them to have more aggressive goals and look more realistically at nuclear power as well. The statement by the CEO of Duke Energy that nuclear power has “no carbon imprint” is lunacy.
*We will partner up with everyone we can. There should be as many partners as possible!
*We can also affect every participant in our programs. They can write letters to government bodies that are considering legislation and they can affect their own communities through grass roots action.
*We can update our environmental school curriculum and offer programs that incorporate work on this issue as a student project.
*We can let the kids see our electric meter spin backward to demonstrate solar power and introduce them to our recovered cooking oil based biodiesel program. We can educate them on the difference in carbon cost between grain or corn kernel based ethanol and sugar cane or cellulose based ethanol. “Move down the stalk”.
*We can urge all our participants to carpool and educate them the importance of purchasing more efficient vehicles such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids/etc.
*We can brainstorm at MaLode as well as learn from our participants what they are doing.

Mitigation Strategy: Initial Draft

Conservation: This is our most immediate and cost effective impact*
Cheap Technology Investment$ Expensive Technology Investment$$

Electrical Use:
*We will reduce electrical use by appropriate adjustment of thermostats, turning off lights, computers, and electrical appliances when not in use. We will change procedures to reduce use of these items.
*$Replace as many lights as possible with LEDs or energy efficient fluorescent globes.
*$$Replace appliances with energy efficient appliances.
$$Install solar panels
$$$Design and install solar/ gravity battery system based around climbing wall upgrade. A personal, but admittedly impractical, favorite!

Propane Use:
*Heating of water- we can turn down our water heater.
*$$ Augment water heater with solar heating.
*$$We can transition to flash heaters and have no heated water storage.
*We can reduce water use with even lower flow heads.
$ We can place timers on showers and lights.
*We can restrict shower use to overnight guests.
*We can adjust thermostats in the house.
*We can eliminate the mobile home altogether.
$$We can convert the mobile home to a new form of heat.
*Cooking- be more careful with us
e. Keep gear clean.

Gasoline consumed by us:
*We can make food shopping more time and motion efficient by using vendors and reducing trips.
$$We can use a more fuel-efficient vehicle for shopping and errands and make errands more efficient. Steal Catherine’s Prius!
*We can make shuttles more efficient by reducing the number of small trips, consolidating trips, reducing the types of trips.
$$We can replace gasoline with recovered cooking oil and replace gas vehicles with diesel vehicles that will burn it.

Gasoline consumed by customers:
*We can encourage carpooling and hybrid vehicles by incentive parking
*We can sell or give away cool T-shirts: “carpoolers never swim, hybrid carpoolers walk on water!”; “count all your carbon, make all your carbon count!”; “Help Buy the Farm!” with a windmill farm and a thermal solar collector farm plugged into a hybrid.
*We can reward hybrid owners by letting them eat first.
$$We can provide electrical hookups for plug-in hybrids driven by solar panels
*We can facilitate bus transportation for groups
*We can shuttle groups of clients from bus terminals or train terminals: AMTRAC specials

Food Program:
*More vegetables, less meat. Move down the food chain.
*Locally grown food.
*Less waste of food.
*Fewer paper and plastic products.
$Enlarge the organic garden.

Property Maintenance:
$$Replace gasoline water pump with electric pump and run on solar power/electricity credit with utility company.

Recycling /Waste Control Program:
*Better system for cans and bottles with better marking to increase compliance and better ergonomics to decrease labor/ risks of recycling to employees.
*Use less paper, recycle more of it.
*Go paperless on reservations and in every way possible.

Wild and Scenic: South Fork American River

Over the years MaLode has supported Wild and Scenic Status for several different California Rivers including the Tuolumne, Merced,etc. These efforts have succeeded in part because of the letters written by MaLode participants. For instance, the Tuolumne River Wild and Scenic campaign coordinated by Friends of the River produced 10,000 letters total. In spite of the fact that we don’t run the “T”, 5,000 of these letters were written by MaLode participants.

Last season a very special thing happened. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed a study on our home river, the South Fork of the American, and found it suitable for protection under the “Recreational” classification of Wild and Scenic. There are three different classifications: Wild, Scenic, and Recreational. A river need not be a “wilderness” river to be protected under Wild and Scenic.

As the most popular whitewater river in the West, one would think the South Fork is a “Recreational” category slam-dunk. One problem has been that some Federal Agency must own a specified percentage of the land along the river. Fortunately, acquisitions of land along the South Fork by the BLM have been occurring through the American River Conservancy over the past 16 years and have finally made this possible.

The BLM asked for public comment on its Wild and Scenic proposal. The initial comment period ended December 13, 2006 with over 2000 letters received. This is the largest number ever received by the BLM on such a proposal. Of these, three (3) were against Wild and Scenic and the rest (1997) supported it. Done deal? Not quite. The rubber now meets the road and local opposition is expected. This opposition is largely from landowners who mistakenly think their private property rights might be affected. This is not true. What it will do is prevent dams or diversions that interfere with recreation. Everything else is unaffected.

How likely is it that the river could be dammed? Unfortunately, the South Fork currently has no protection from dams or diversions. In 1974 when I started boating on the river, the South Fork had two proposed dams which had been approved and were seeking funding. One would have been at Salmon Falls and would have destroyed the Gorge Run. The other was above Troublemaker Rapid and would have destroyed the Chili Bar Run. We defeated those dams. However, these or other proposals could come back without permanent protection.

Given this situation, MaLode will be supporting Wild and Scenic designation for the South Fork in every way we can. Stay tuned and remember to ask your guide for an update!

Alternative Proposal wins on South Fork American River

As many of you no doubt recall, during the 2006 season you were asked to write letters to the Board of Directors of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). The purpose was to urge the acceptance of the “Alternative Proposal” for the re-licensing of SMUD’s Upper American River Project (UARP) hydroelectric facilities on the South Fork of the American River. This proposal provided for ecological restoration in areas historically de-watered by the UARP and, for the first time, a predictable water flow regimen for recreational and whitewater boating below Chili Bar Dam.

Your response was awesome! Over 1000 letters resulted. These were hand written, and since pollsters say one hand written letter is the equivalent of 100 typed or e-mailed letters, and represents the opinion of over a thousand people who don’t bother to write, it said a lot! Some letters were illustrated with pictures of fish and critters that were very cool. All reflected the passion we share about rivers. The MaLode guides were awesome too. They were virtually the only commercial company’s guides there, and definitely the only ones to attend more than one meeting. They spoke eloquently and personally read some of your letters to the Board of Directors of SMUD.

The Board listened and heard what you asked. The negotiations, which were going badly, turned around after the Board appointed an oversight committee that helped get things back on track. Bottom line, the river won! The Alternative Proposal was the basis of the final agreement and more water will flow for fish, wildlife, recreational boating and other uses. We should all be proud of this achievement. It probably wouldn’t have happened without your help. Thank you from the fish, frogs, deer, macro-invertebrates and other critters whose homes you helped enhance. Now come enjoy the recreational boating flows that are mandated for the next fifty (50) years! Who says democracy can’t work?

Spring Boating on the American River

Let’s Go Boating!

As winter turns to spring the reasons to go boating just keep increasing! One of my favorite reasons is all the green everywhere. On the North Fork of the American brilliant yellow poppies punctuate the intense green of the hills, and waterfalls tumble carelessly down the steep canyon walls. The Chili Bar run on the South Fork of the American is also famous for its poppy explosion. Drier years are particularly spectacular as they favor poppies over the beautiful purple lupine that share the slopes but predominate in wet years. Either way, April and May are the months to catch wildflowers!

When June rolls around the Middle Fork of the American has special appeal. Last season, in June, I saw a mountain lion cub dash back from the river’s edge and disappear into the brush. I wasn’t sure what it was until I replayed the image in my mind and realized nothing else disappears leaving a tail that long as its mental calling card. It was like a flourish at the end of ones signature.

Once the season gets going, there is just no wilderness river that lasts as long or offers more appeal than the Middle Fork. All the way through September one can enjoy plunging down the Tunnel Chute and disappearing in the foamy whitewater catcher’s mitt at the bottom of the rapid, then float serenely through the Tunnel to the other side of the mountain. Wow! I love to spend two days and camp overnight so I can smell breakfast cooking on an open fire in the morning. The native Brown Trout are huge, and I just bet I could meet one I released years ago to check out how it has grown.

Once again I’ve got myself all excited to enjoy another season of river running. Will I ever get tired of it? I don’t know, have I got a pulse?