"We wanted to see everything our eyes would accommodate, to think what we could, and, out of our seeing and thinking, to build some kind of structure in modeled imitation of the observed reality…None of it is important or all of it is."
Complex problems fill our world today, and holistic biology is where you find it. Our voyage in 2012 will be mostly up rivers and into the surrounding hills. We expect to discover many new and intriguing things. We'll explore three watersheds.
Elkhorn Slough – is a large tidal estuary/wetlands and provides rich habitat for marine invertebrates, fish, birds and sea otters. It is has a long history of commercial exploitatation and is surrounded by agricultural land and subject to nutrient loading and eutrophication. It is also highly influenced by tidal inputs from the ocean.
Salinas River -- is the major watershed in the central California coastal area. It originates in San Luis Obispo Country and enters the Pacific Ocean south of Moss Landing. Prior to the 1906 earthquake the river entered the ocean through Elkhorn Slough. Although it once supported major runs of steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, construction of dams and loss of spawning habitat eliminated salmon early in the 20th century. Steelhead persist in the Arroyo Seco drainage, the only major undammed tributary. The Salinas Valley supports a large agricultural industry, and ground-water depletion has led to serious problems of sweater intrusion into aquifers.
Carmel River -- "…is a lovely little river...The farms of the rich little valley back up into the river and take in its water for the orchards and the vegetables. The quail call beside it and the wild doves come whistling in at dusk. Raccoons pace its edges looking for frogs. It's everything a river should be.."3 Indeed, the Carmel River may have provided the frogs for Doc in Cannery Row, but development and commercial ground-water pumping to supply water for the Monterey Peninsula since Steinbeck's time have all but eliminated flow during dry years. San Clemente and Los Padres dams, built in 1921 and 1948, respectively, have filled with silt. These problems have impacted another endangered run of steelhead, as well as red-legged frogs, and have led to a cease-and-desist order requiring the California American water company to find an alternative source to supply the Monterey Peninsula. The case remains in litigation. But the general problem is not new and was recognized by Junipero Serra in 1776: "During all this time we failed to get water for irrigation, even though we took extreme steps. On this account, the harvests were diverse since they depended on the rain."
We will explore the Carmel with federal and local fisheries biologists and visit the lagoon at the mouth and San Clemente dam that is scheduled for removal. We'll also hike to Los Padres dam and then upstream into the Los Padres National Forest where we'll camp at Bluff Camp.