Here’s a little reflection of our 2/22 class. We started by talking about Elkhorn Slough, an inlet/river delta-like channel without a lot of trees found on the North American West Coast. Elkhorn Slough has an estuary, and was protected by a barrier island before a giant hunk of the island was cut out so that the region could be more useful as a port. Since this happened in the 1940’s, there have been some serious erosion problems. The estuary’s fragile salt balance is also threatened. But wait, there’s more– a growing community lives here and has to make some challenging decisions about how to manage their environment.
After an improv break, we went outside by our own little body of water (AKA Terman Fountain) for some role playing. Our activity represented the following stakeholders:
Developers, Monterey Bay Kayaks, Congressman Farr, Maria Rosales (an ALBA small scale farmer), ABC strawberry farms, Moss Landing Power Plant, Wetlands Specialist (researcher, role graciously filled by my dad who visited for Parents Weekend), Elkhorn Slough Foundation.
Confession time: I got really into it, and enjoyed making borderline under-the-table deals with the developers and the foundation.
I can talk from the perspective of the owner of the power company. I owned a natural gas-based power plant that was the region’s main provider of electricity, and a large job creator.
Sounds great, right?
The only problem is that I used a $^$%^ ton of seawater every day as coolant, which resulted in the untimely barbecuing of any sea life unfortunate enough to get sucked in to my plant. Then I released the hot water back into the slough, again disrupting the organisms that live in the cold water.
While my role as power plant owner was to provide electricity to the people of the region (and get lots of $$ from servicing the new beach houses going up. And as much as the biologists and ecotourism company may have doubted my motives, I really wanted to figure out an arrangement that would let my company provide electricity without compromising the health of the Elkhorn Slough’s estuary. We threw around a few solutions, like adding solar panels to supplement my natural gas (needs a lot of land I’d have to get from the foundation, as well as more water, as Grace pointed out), or capturing my heat to do something else with it, partially air-cooling the hot water at night, etc.
The most consistent problem was that these interventions would increase my costs, but the people buying this large beachfront property probably have a lot of money are are the kinds of people who would be as interested in protecting the estuary as we were. Both the partner/trio and whole group discussions were really interesting.
“I guess I gotta give part 2 of my confessions”– I felt like I struck gold when I found dark chocolate at the bottom of the trail mix
And now for a picture of the slough. You can see the barrier island (bottom), farms (right) and power plant (bottom left)