Water Closet for June 19, 2015
[pullquote] “It is as if the Mediterranean Sea had just been discovered,” King said. “It’s a huge body of water”.[/pullquote] As a boy the old Closeteer slept beneath a large Mercator projection map of the world. His family like most didn’t have a globe. Each night as he drifted off to sleep the greatly exaggerated northern lands of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia loomed above him. Those lands of daylong light and dark were exciting; he had read of Vikings, bold British explorers, and Yankee whale ships sailing up along barren coasts and between islands in seas locked in ice much of the year. Those cold climes were the lands of the fascinating Eskimos, wise to their climate through centuries of adaptation. Others, ambitious merchants and fame seeking explorers had long dreamed of a northwestern Atlantic passage to the Pacific. While bound to fail they kept trying; many never returned. Their ships became locked in the ice in early fall. Long dark winters hid their often unknown fates. How bold, how foolhardy the newcomers were! Now almost eight decades later, the old Closeteer, the map still lingering in his mind despite the benefit of satellite images of the Earth taken from space, watches as big steel ships with icebreakers enter the passages so long forbidden and come out on the other side. And from the land along the continent’s edges oilmen drill holes in the shallow seas with their governments’ blessings. During future late summers they’ll wave from their rigs as the huge cargo ships pass by. The boy’s once strong faith in a forever, ice-blocked north is gone.
The following is an article by Tom Groening, editor and reporter, in the June 2015 issue of The Working Waterfront published by The Island Institute of Maine. It is about plans being made for trade along shipping routes east, north and then west from his Maine around our continent, as the Arctic Ice Cap loosens its grip and as children’s maps fade in old minds. Groening has kindly given the Water Closet permission to reprint his article here. It describes not the world we environmentalist would have but rather what the ambitious movers and shakers in the saddles of “growth economies” want. These hard riders dismiss us as pesky dreamers in kayaks and Greenpeace vessels.
Stream Teamers print the following because we want folks to know what is going on in a world where short term economic gains trump the long term welfare of most species of organisms and therefore the health of the planet.
Arctic Holds Opportunities for Maine
U.S. must work for international cooperation, says Sen. King
By Tom Groening
Receding ice in the Arctic is the dramatic, even shocking result of climate change, climatologists say. But despite what may be understood as environmental catastrophe, open waters in the previously ice-bound region present opportunity.
Those opportunities include new shipping lanes, oil and gas exploration and even tourism.
This year, the U.S. assumes the leadership role of the Arctic Council, a group that includes representatives from Canada, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden along with the United States.
And in a related development, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine has called attention to the region by forming the Arctic Caucus in the U.S. Senate with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
King was a guest on the April 9 edition of the Main Public Radio program “Maine Calling,” discussing the region.
“As far as Maine is concerned, the most immediate opportunity is shipping.” King said. Shipping to and from Asia via a northwest passage “is a huge savings in time” over using the Panama Canal, “and therefore money,” he said.
“It is as if the Mediterranean Sea had just been discovered,” King said. “It’s a huge body of water”.
The region also holds the potential for geo-political conflict, King said. Canada and Russia are the nations adjacent to the Arctic, and Russia recently conducted military training operations there, he said.
The senator advocates developing better relations among the nations in the Arctic Council to help resolve any conflicts and to settle on boundary lines. But since the U.S. is not a signatory on the Law of the Sea Treaty, King said, it ability to define these boundaries is limited.
Another limitation for the U.S. to effectively use open Arctic waters is that it has “just one heavy ice breaker and one medium icebreaker,” while the Russians have 17.
“I think it is something that should have substantial benefits for Maine,” King said of the changes in the Arctic.
Patrick Arnold, director of operations and business development for the Maine Port Authority, also a guest on the radio program, said shipping via the Arctic currently “is very much seasonable, limited to a two-month period, in the late summer and early fall.”
The freight moving on the route tends to be bulk, he said, such as petroleum or iron ore. But container shipping using the northern route could develop further, realizing a savings of 20 percent to 30 percent, Arnold said.
“That is just the beginning,” he said. Consistent access through the Arctic is about ten years away, he added.
Maine Maritime Academy recently landed a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop and teach maritime ice navigation and first responder courses.
“Ships and ice and fog simply are not a good combination,” said MMA professor Ralph Pundt, who is charged with developing the new course. He said fog is a regular feature of the environment there.
Pundt, also a guest on the show, said new standards go into effect for mariners traveling to the Arctic in 2017 and MMA course, along with U.S. Coast Guard training, is designed to meet these rules.
The Maine International Trade Center recently created the Maine North Atlantic Development Office. Its director, Dana Eidsness, said the new office’s focus is to develop trade links to northern Europe, Atlantic Canada, Iceland and Greenland.
Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping firm that now operates from Portland, offers Maine the company’s existing connections with Iceland, Greenland and the parts of northern Europe near the Arctic, Arnold said.
Though the economic opportunities through new shipping routes represent a silver lining to the otherwise dire climate change news, the Arctic environment remains fragile, and could be further threatened by more human activity.
Patty Matrai, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, began visiting the Arctic in the late 1980s, she said on the radio program, including two trips to the North Pole. Sea ice of varying thickness, is common in three seasons, she said.
“The major change is happening in summer.” Matrai said. “The sea ice is thinner.” Air temperature is rising in all seasons, but when it rises in the winter, it has its most lasting effect, she said.
“There is a lot more fresh water on the Arctic. There is a very large ‘lens’ of fresh water right now,” which is working its way south, eventually raising the fresh water content in the Gulf of Maine, Matrai said.
King acknowledged concern over the environmental impacts of exploring and using the Arctic region. Emissions that leave soot on the ice could accelerate melting there, he said.
These concerns make cooperation among nations critical, King said.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||March||April||May||June|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.65||4.53||4.06||3.95|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||3.62||2.38||0.94||4.2 as of 6/16**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For June 16, 2015 Normal . . . 32 CFS Current Rate . . . 18 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru May.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for June.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584