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NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
13 Jun 2005

    Geography
  • United States
    Oregon
    Deschutes County
    Locality
  • Willamette National Forest
    Latitude/Longitude
  • 44.36576   -121.99361
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
  • SONY TCD-D8
    Microphones
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
  • Sennheiser MKH 40
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Decoded MS stereo; Sonosax SXM 2 preamp

NPR/NGS
RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Show: USFS 100th anniversary
Engineer: Leo DelAguila
Date: June 11-13, 2005

DAT #5

Gordon Grant, Research hydrologist with the USFS Pac NW research station in Corvalis Oregon
Elizabeth Arnold
Leo delAguila

0:03 Leo- Dat # 5, June 13, I'm with Elizabeth, and where are we?

0:08 GG- We are at roaring springs, on the upper south fork of the Mackenzie River.

1:35 EA- What's going on here? There's water and it's coming out of the hillside but it's? What is going on here?

1:51 GG- it's a pretty wild place. This is roaring spring and it's just an amazing place. We just climbed down about a 100 foot cliff and we're still about half way down to the main river valley but we see a wall of water in front of us that must be probably about a football field in length, you can't even see the end of it from here, it just gets lost in the trees. And the water seems to be coming outo f a line, like you could almost trace it with a pencil and it's just cascading down hundreds of feet over moss covered branches and woody debris and rock. Above it there is nothing. We hiked in. Did you see any trace of a river? (No) No clue that this is coming out, and yet, you're looking right here, right now, at 1% of the Willamut river's flow into Portland Harbor in the summer time. Comes out of this one place in the mountains and so the role that springs like this play in sustaining rivers downstream all the way down to and through the biggest urban center in Oregon, is tremendous. The water is, has a constant temperature, and I mean winter, summer, year in year out, of just about 38 or 39 degrees. We know from isotopes that the water is five years old, it's taken about five years to come out here. We have no clue as to what areas are contributing water to this point. It's all underground. It's obviously a very well organized river system that's underground and the reason we thinkt he spring is here is that this valley that we're in is glaciated and the most likely story to explain the spring is that there was some sort of big regional underground river and the glacier came along and rasped it's way, cut it's way down along the side of this hill, and essentially liberates it. But from a map you would never know that this much water was flowing underground here. In other words, in general ecology when we want to understand how big a river is we measure it's drainage area, how much area is draining to that point. The drainage area of this river is Zero, it is zero because the water is not coming from the surface, it's all coming sub surface. It's a mystery and it's even more a mystery because we don't even have the smoking gun lava's, no where in the vicinity of this watershed can we find those young volcanic flows of the kind we've been looking at. And we know from the potassium argon dating of the rock here, that the water is flowing in lava flows that are approximately 400,000 years old. So this spring is much older, the water conduit is much much older than anything we've ever seen.

6:00 EA- this is an amazing place, sort of like one of those natural wonders.

6:10 GG- It really is. It's a , you know,

6:18 EA- what did you think when you first came here?

6:20 GG- I was dumbstruck. We knew because of the nature of the river, because of the shape of the channel, the fact that it doesn't have a flood plane, because there is no evidence of flooding, we knew that there had to be some big streams and it was really one of my graduate students and field assistants who first stumbled up on this place, they were helped with some guidance from the local forest service, and they took me out here. I felt like I was a little kid. It's like seeing Shangri-la and just feeling that amazement in your heart that transcends any attempt to build a rational explanation around it. And then since then we've been trying to get rational, how do we explain this and how do we think about it. One way to think about it, we've tried different ways of thinking about the value of these streams and one way to think about this stream is that, if you could capture the water that's coming out, it's about 30 CFS, and we know that because we measured the river down stream, if you could capture 30 CFS and put it in those bottles that you buy of bottled water for about a buck, this one stream would generate about 3 million dollars a day of water, and the water is of the absolute highest quality. There is almost nothing in it. It is almost pure water. There's a little potassium in it, there are a few other trace minerals in it but there's almost nothing in the water because it's effectively almost going through the salt underground system and not reacting in any way that we can detect with the surrounding rock.

8:30 talking about sound, EA and Leo

9:35 water ambi at waterfall out:11:38

11:52 Recording facing waterfall Out: 14:04

14:19 EA- so we've got all this water coming out from dozens of places in this wall, what are we talking about in terms of volume?

14:33 GG- This one spring is running about 70 CFS. That's, It's hard to visualize 70 boxes that are one foot by one foot by one foot going by every second. But maybe a better way to think about it is in terms of that amount relative to what rivers normally flow around here. At the end of the summer in Oregon, it hasn't rained for three months, most of the rivers are either dry or way down, but at that time of year if you cross the Willamut river in Portland you see a big wide river flowing in front of you. One percent of that flow is coming out of this spring. Right here, one spring, one place in the forest, produces 1% of the total water going down in through Oregon's biggest river.

15:41 EA so that's a pretty incredible asset when you think about the ever increasing value of water.

15:47 GG- well there are different ways of thinking about it. We've actually done the back of the envelope calculation that if you were able to capture the flow that's coming out of the spring and put it in those waterbottles that you buy for a dollar at a convenience store, this one spring would make you three million dollars a Day, A day, A day. And you wouldn't have to do anything to this water. One spring, if youcould pipe this water, you could supply the entire water needs to the entire Eugene/Springfield area, for a year, without treatment. So when you think about it, what in a sense the geology is giving us, this is why in a sense geology is destiny because geology give you this asset, this amazing resource and then it's up to us to figure out how to manage it, how to protect it, how to use it, how to , as long as the law of gravity remains in force, this water's gonna come down, but at this point, when it comes out of the ground, suddenly it's subject to all the things that can happen to water on it's way down to the sea. This is the water that supports the ecosystems in these rivers. We have endangred bull trout5 in the Mackenzie that are cold water obligates, this is what they're keyed into, it's springs just like this that provide the habitat for thos organisms. We have riperion communities that are organized by the flow through these channels and rely on the water for the water they need. WE also have human communities that are organized by these channels. If you look at the history of Western Oregon, it's all about people colonizing flood planes next to rivers. SO whether you're looking at ecosystems or humans, how this water gets used is one of the fundamental questions.

18:15 EA- Why is it important for the forest to understand how this all works.

18:29 GG- I guess I think of it like this: because the forest service is the steward of the public lands, the forest service doesn't own the land, thef orest service is the governemtn agency that's responsible for managing these lands and seeing that they're taken car of. And my sense is that the lands themselves have intrinsic value, and it's a value to us as human beings. WE have intrinsic value that we assign to ecosystems, but we also value what comes from the forest. WE value the wood we value the water we value the esthetic experience of going to the forest. WE value the opportunity for recreation. It's all of those values that are at the heart of the mission of the agency. Research like this in that context, is what lets us understand how the place is wired together, and in a sense it give us a sense, not of what we should do, because that's ultimately a question of value, how we want to value those values is not something that science is going to tell you, but science can inform you as to what the boundary conditions are, in other words, how much water is there, what quality is it, what's likely to happen in a drout? Will theses streams continue to flow at this rate if we have one year, two years, five years of drout? This year we dodged a bullet , because it looked like we'd be heading into the summer in a real water scarcity situation. So what I think research really doe is it helps us understand the magnitude of the resources we have tow ork with and the limitations of these resources as well. Ultimatley it give us a sense of what the tradeoffs are and what the tradeoff dimensions look like.

20:56 EA- so not necessarily the decision, What to do, but the repercussions of these decisions would be.

21:05 GG- right, so the questions we face in research are what are the implications of human activity in this landscape. What happens if we build a road or thin a forest? What happens if we build a dam? What happens if we don't build a dam or don't build a road? And all of those actions and even non actions have implications and consequences. And in my view it's the mission of the research arm of the agency to help stear us by helping us understand the consequences, not to tell us what to do, but just to help us understand the consequences.

21:48 EA- when we were up top we were talking about the mission of the agency and most people when they think of the forest agency they think ¿trees¿ but obviously it's a lot more than trees.

22:13 GG- if we go back to the mission of the forest service it was trees, it was timber, and it was water, and it was the forest itself. Those were the fundamental organizing principals and so it is part of our mission to take a fabulous resource like this, which is providing water for everything down stream and to understand how it works because that helps us understand for example, can we cut the forest? Should we build a dam? Should we remove a dam? These become part and parcel of the mission is to understand these issues.

23:08 EA- at it's inception it was about getting out the cut, and now it's about a myriad of interests.

23:31 GG- the range of things that people want from forests has grown with time, exponentially, and we are engaged in an ongoing discussion about what do we want from our forests? DO we want timber? If so how much? Do we want endangered species? If so, how much and where? And balancing those different dimensions of what we want and where is a very difficult and complex task and it's made even moreso because we don't always have consensus for those things. It's not the job of research to decide which side to come down on, but it's I believe the job of scientists who are fortunate to have jobs like mine, to help paint he picture of what the tradeoffs are among those different resources that need to be balanced. And then it falls to the managers, but perhaps even more importantly it falls to the public to decide, what do we really want? And the reality becomes after a while, one of the things we learn is that you can't have it all and so that's where these tradeoffs come in and understanding these tradeoffs is a tricky business.

25:01 EA- in a very simple sense these forests

Leo pauses and they readjust

25:50 EA- I'm trying to get at, it ain't just trees. It's been about carbon, canopy, and now it's about water, very pure water.

26:14 GG- Water has been a part of management side of the forest service from the get go. The issues around protecting water sheds and understanding how timber havest affects water sheds was at the core of setting up experimental water sheds in which different treatments were tested and applied and so forth. Concern about possible effects of timber harvest on natural hazards such as floods has been built into the way the agency plans and thinks about it's actions. The issue of water, the forest service, by virtue of geography, at least inthis corner of the world, manages the headwaters of almost all the rivers, almost all the rivers in the North west are on public lands, the headwaters of those rivers and so what happens on those headwater lands plays out through the whole system. I feel pretty comfortable with the way the forest service manages it's lands. And I say that because I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world and see other rivers in other places and the contrast between the way we think about managing rivers and hyperion zones and such and the way that other countries that have a much longer history of development do, is striking. The fact that every river on public lands has vegetation around it in the northwest is an important and really, in the scheme of things a remarkable achievment. When we look ahead though, when we look at the future, my sense is that both the role importance of water and the way we think about management of the water resources is likely to change. And that will be true because of certain inexorable trends. One of them is the pressure of development. People are continuously moving outo f cities, resorting. There will be changes to the way we manage water sheds because of certain inexorable trends. The population is increasing, the way we use water changes. Who would have thought, 50 years ago, of the importance of clean water for chip manufacturing. We could not have predicted that. No one can predict what the future climate is going to be, so one of the issues that we are going to be increasingly thinking about is how does the management of the public lands interact with the climate over a range of issues. How does it interact with climate around fire? How does it interact with climate around production and supply of clean water. One of the aspects of the landscape that we've been exploring in the central cascades is that we think because of these deep groundwater systems what we effectively have is an extra storage tank which is likely to buffer the effects of climate variability. This is one of the very active areas of research right now which is, if we have a sequence of dry years will this big storage tank that we've been talking about, will it draw down, will we see springs like this beginning to dry up. Our hunch at this point is that we've got a fair amount of resiliency here because of the enormous volume of water that's stored in the ground, and so that becomes another part of the research mission, to look down the road and see issues that just haven't quite come over the horizon, or are just starting to come over the horizon and say you know, we ought to be beginning to configure ourselves so that we can take those on as well, so that in 20 years or 30 years when people need to make management decisions, they have some information to go on.

31:44 GG If you look at the original legislation that started the forest service, the concern was that if the government did not step in and begin to set aside forest reserves that there would be rampant cutting of trees and that what would result from that would be a set of bads, including unfavorable flow. So the concept and the idea, the linkage between trees and harvest and flow was built into the fabric of the initial enabling legislation. It hink the focus has been, if you look at the history over the last hundred years, we've tended to take the water part more for granted. That's not true across the board, it goes back to the law of gravity, as long as water falls out of the sky and runs down the creeks, we're good. I don't hink we can take it for granted. I don't think we can assume that because that's the way it's been, that's the way it will always be, particularly in light of the kinds of development pressures and population pressures and expanding uses and needs for water.

33:15 EA- the fact that the anency has someone like you on staff doing what you're doing is a sign that they get that too.

33:23 GG- I feel really grateful that I'm allowed to spend a career trying to understand and play with rivers, and still work for the government. (laughing)

34:14 GG- tries it again
I feel really greatful that I get to spend a career studying, trying to understand, and trying to communicate that understanding about rivers, and still work for the government. I think it's really a, I like to think that the tradition of government science, of supporting some small tiny fraction of the government engaged in trying to figure things out in ways that assist the public good. I think that's a good thing.

35:04 EA- I think a lot of us¿a lot of people, have a sense of the forest service as dinosaurs and in the last couple of days, I've spent time up above with researchers, and here with you, and the fact that the agency is actually engaged, all the instruments, all the technology, it's a pretty amazing thing. You've heard the word timber beast. Nothing we've seen or talked about in three days has talked about htat.

36:19 GG- The image of the forest service rises and falls with the degree of consensus, or lack thereof, we have about what to do with forests, and when we all agreed that we wanted wood from forests and we wanted them not to burn, we had smokey bear and we all felt very good about smokey. Now we don't feel so good about smokey. I think that an angency that's charged with managing public lands has to be as complex and as diverse and as insightful as those lands demand because landscapes are not simple. Rivers are not simple, forests are not simple. And I think the place where we get the most in trouble is when we apply simple rules tocomplex systems and I like to think that the role of scientists is to help us understand these systems, to simplify them to a point that we can understand them, but to resist over simplifying them and to help people understand that sound stewardship is really an art form as well as a science. I want to keep the balance in my head between my own tendency for glibness and also what I believe. Let me try that one again, does that work?

38:50 EA- why does somebody in NJ give a damn about what we've been talking about for the last three days.

39:03 GG- I'd like to think that if I could transport someone in new Jersey out to this spot and turn them around and say, Look, isn't this wonderful? They would nod their heads and say, yes. And if I were then to say, aren't you glad that this is on public lands, they would say yes, and that when they would then turn to me and say, I don't get it, where does all this water come from? That I would then have an answer for them. That's why I think someone in NJ might care.

39:49 EA- why do you give a damn?

39:55 GG- well I fell in love with rivers at a very young age. I was just fascinated by this physical entity that just seemed to never stop, and I think I'm not alone. Rivers have been the purview of poets and artists and musicians and there's something about us that's attracted to rivers and I got in touch with that, pardon the expression, at an early age. I find that my fundamental desire is to understand how they are and what they are, how they work, what they do, what happens when they flood, what is doing human activities in the watershed doing to the river. What happens when you build a dam? What happens when you take a dam off the river? I think a huge piece of my motivation is just trying to understand, but also trying to communicate, because to me part of the bargain of getting to do science on rivers, and spending a career doing it, is that I need to help bring other people along on it and help bring other people along on it and to share what we've learned and a lot of it is because it's just really neat stuff, it's fun, and it boggles your mind, I mean, to look at that water and realize that water fell out of the sky five years ago. Where has it been in that journey? We don't know. And why is it coming out here? And so that really intrigues my mind and I think it can intrigue other people's minds.

44:18 Water falling Ambi 46:02

again 46:20 -48:55

again 49:07 EA For Radio Expeditions, I'm Elizabeth Arnold

2nd Take 49:17

49:34 EA- It's the hundreth anniversary of the forest service and we're standing in a forest where water is coming out of the ground. Join us tomorrow on Morning Edition.

50:13 EA- We're standing at the base of a waterfall that seems to be coming from the ground, join us tomorrow on Morning Edition for the hundreth anniversary of the national forest service.

50:36 EA- We're at a waterfall that doesn't seem to have any beginning. Join us tomorrow on morning edition for the hundreth anniversary of the forest service.

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