Hurricane Blanca Makes Landfall

Hurricane Blanca’s winds hit Loreto around 3am, easily waking me. Storm anticipation is a sure sleep-wrecker. The electricity went off / then on again. I pulled open the slider and shuddered at the power of the wind and the dark dark night. No stars nor moon could pierce the heavy cloud cover.

I walked out onto the beach – no rain yet, just strong winds and pelting sand. The seas were frothy in the muted light, a virtual blackened plane punctuated with surging waves and white caps. The sound of the wind, it’s force and the darkness, were unsettling. Already, the scent of mud-washed arroyos permeated the air.

At 4am, satellite imagery showed the now diminished hurricane bearing down on Puerto Cortez, the western tip of the peninsula before spreading into Bahia de Ulloa and Bahia San Juancio. The storm made landfall as a tropical storm around 8am Baja Sur time, with increasing winds and falling rain.

Blasting winds, steady at 25-34 mph with gusts clocked at 46 mph, bent trees and shrubs as morning spread her light, have kept birds fluttering for cover, and pelicans struggling to remain afloat in the storm driven seas.

Blanca still churns her energy slight south of Loreto – the lean of the palm  revealing the location of the heart of the storm. Most recent imagery indicates that the bulk of the rain has been deposited, and what remains is a wildly windier afternoon.

This display of nature’s force fuels a celebration in me – as witness the power of wind and sea and storm – while remaining grateful, that from a Category 4 hurricane just 3 days ago, Blanca’s presence here in Loreto has been that of a Tropical Storm.

Mining in Baja California: Is it Worth the Risk?

Two presentations by

Mark Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation

Mining Concessions in Baja California

Mining Concessions in Baja California

Please join Mark Spalding on Friday, April 10, at 3pm at the indoor restaurant at the Inn at Loreto Bay, or on Saturday, April 11, at 5pm at the Community Center for the Environment (CenCoMA) at Eco-Alianza headquarters for an informative presentation and discussion regarding his ongoing research on the various mining projects throughout Baja California Sur, including Loreto.

Is mining actually good for the economy for more than the short term? Or does it do more harm to long-term sustainability of natural resources (land, water and sea) and the plants, animals and people who depend on them? What does it mean for the tourism sector?
Three major projects are currently in various stages of development:

  1. Loreto/San Basilio: Azure Minerals Limited is an Australian mineral exploration company focused on developing mining projects in the richly mineralized Sierra Madre Occidental mining province in northern Mexico. In 2013, Azure successfully bid for the Loreto Copper Project, which covers 9,571 hectares on the east of the Baja California peninsula, 6 kilometers north of the town of Loreto.
    Todos Santos: Los Cardones is proposed open pit metallic mining project. The EIA for the project predicts that Los Cardones will occupy 543 hectares and will include two massive open pits from which 173 million tons of material will be extracted. 135 million tons of extracted material will be placed in material banks of waste rock and 38 million tons of the contaminated processes material will fill a massive tailings pond. The project will require the construction of a desalination plan on the Pacific coast near as Playitas that will extract 7500 cubic meters of water per day.
  2. Ulloa Bay (between San Carlos and Abreojos): Exploraciones Oceánicas a Mexican subsidiary of Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX)is in the permit process for underwater mining for phosphates in Baja’s Pacific coast. Known as the “Don Diego project” Ocenanica has received it’s concession for the Gulf of Ulloa but does not yet have its permits. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for proposed dredging and recovery of phosphate sands from the “Don Diego” deposit has been filed with the Mexican Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) as of Sept. 4th, 2014.

Mark is President of The Ocean Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Center for the Blue Economy. He is an environmental expert and attorney, tirelessly advocating on behalf of the world’s coasts and ocean. Mark has engaged in numerous environmental challenges in BCS, including last year’s successful challenge to the Cabo Pulmo development, and the successful prevention of a second industrial saltworks at Laguna San Ignacio. Mark also has a particular affinity for Loreto, serving as a member of Eco-Alianza’s advisory board since its founding, and having helped to establish and steer the Loreto Bay Foundation.

There are two separate opportunities to learn more about mining and associated risks in Baja California Sur with Mark Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation. Come and increase your knowledge about environmental concerns and add your voice to the conversation.

Friday, April 10, 3pm

The Inn at Loreto Bay
Indoor Restaurant
Loreto Bay
Saturday, April 11, 5pm

The Community Center for the Environment
Eco-Alianza Headquarters (CenCoMA)
#3 Miguel Hidalgo esq. Romanita
Col. Centro

pre-dawn ….

Sunrise, Loreto 21 January 2015

Sunrise, Loreto – 21 January 2015

roosters crow in the distance … so blessed to be in space where i can hear their call to morning

dogs begin their own conversation one house to the next .. a woof/bark that reaches all the way to Buster, who adds his voice to the symphony of canine expression

in the hour before light, each sound echos across the flat basin that flows to the sea from the foot of the sierra

i hear the chatter of early beach walkers, their figures shrouded in the dark,  their voices announcing their presence before i can make out their shadowy forms .. girl talk, boy talk, start the day talk.

the crunch of footsteps on the gravelly sand – the neighbors and their dogs out for morning ‘duties’

pre-sunrise light paints the sea and the sky with corals, periwinkle blues, deep reds and brilliant yellow gold

a pelican splashes

the wind begins to ruffle the surface of the tranquil sea

a cruise ship waits to unload their guests for an exploration of our small town of Loreto.

morning. wednesday. for those of us with breath, we begin again.

The Track of Hurricane Odile

Horricane Odile's Track up  the Spine of Baja

Horricane Odile’s Track up the Spine of Baja

I am a storm watcher/lover .. but this one, Odile, may be hard to love. While I’ve been stateside for the duration, my heart and energies have been focused on Baja – the long skinny peninsula that is my second home.

Odile – as you can see from the graphic – drove straight up the spine of Baja and has been called ‘the most powerful hurricane to ever hit Baja’. Her track was unusual – the bulk of her interaction with land was on top of land, not at sea. She maintained hurricane status for the bulk of her journey. The desert cannot absorb rain when it comes too hard and too fast, and rushes down canyons and flashes out arroyos to the sea. And then there was the wind …

Power is out. Phones are down. The early photographs of Cabo show horrible damages – and to a city that has a very substantial infrastructure and in new construction, modern building codes. The rest of the Baja – maybe not so.

It’s horrible not knowing what happened to my neighbors and the town. One video shot from the top of the Mission Hotel shows waves breaking on to of the malecon. I can only imagine that the streetfront businesses had minor to major flooding.

A brief cell phone call late yesterday afternoon from my next door neighbor – how it got through I have no idea – said that her house was totally flooded from the horizontal rain – that she’d gone through all the towels – wrung them out – and the water was still coming in. Her fans had been ripped off – and then she had to go. No power to recharge her one lifeline to the outside world.

Loreto was hard hit – that’s obvious from the storm track and early reports before power was cut. But Loreto, too, has a decent infrastructure – and some of the most resilient people I have ever known. All of Baja for that matter. Shovels, mops, bulldozers will be hard at work before the rain drizzles have stopped.

The most pressing issue will be the roads and flash flooding that Odile has likely caused. Mex One is the lifeblood of the peninsula and trucking of supplies has the one route north and south. Unlike the states, when the roads was out, everyone that is able jumps into help. Tractors tow semi-trucks through washing and mud-laden arroyos. Boulders get moved off the road. New paths are created around obstacles. There is no shutting down the highway for months while surveyors decide what to do and budgets have to be settled and contracts awarded. Nope. Just get on with getting on and move people and goods. Detailed repairs will happen later.

This morning, all prayers to those who lost homes, autos – whatever Odile threw at them. And hopes that hands together, a speedy recovery can be made.

And then .. there is the next storm.  Really? Polo? Please please head west …….

Seriously – Another Hurricane?

Hurricane Odile - Cat 4

Hurricane Odile – Cat 4

“Odile” is the latest in a string of late-season hurricanes with similar paths – off the west coast of Baja. But each one seems to have been moving slightly closer to land – and Odile looks as he he’ll skim the coastline, wreaking havoc with winds and rain. On Sunday morning, the storm has already intensified to a Category 4 – a “major and dangerous hurricane” – with sustained winds at 135mph and gusts up to 160mph. Batten the hatches. Put up the storm shutters and bring all the patio furniture inside.

Even in their fury, the storms seen from satellite are mesmerizing.

Building a Blueprint for Coastal Community Conservation

[first published by The Ocean Foundation, November 6, 2013]

Imagine ….

Imagine … a cadre of youth educated and dedicated to protecting and nurturing their environment and sharing that knowledge with family and friends …

Imagine … a group of energetic hands-on volunteers committed to solving local issues of water quality, waste management and resource protection …

Imagine … a community center where like-minded individuals come together, a gathering space for researchers, government organizations, local partners and fishermen to chart paths to preserve natural resources and their ways of life …

Imagine …  a staff of talented enthusiastic leaders guiding and directing activities of such a center with outreach programs in support of environmental goals …

Imagine … partners, sponsors, supporters, and Directors with the resources and connections to fund and support a foothold and voice in the stewardship of a wide range of environmental activities …

Imagine … relentless visionaries with tireless energy determined to make a difference, to manifest a dream, in a small seaside city …

Imagine these things … and then stop imagining, because they are real.

CenCoMa Building (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson)

CenCoMa Building (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson)

On October 19, 2013, the Community Center for the Environment, CenCoMA (Centro Comunitario para el Medio Ambiente), in Loreto, BCS, Mexico celebrated its formal dedication. Over 150 people turned out in support of the celebration, which began a blessing by the Padre of Our Lady of Loreto Mission, and was followed by a ribbon cutting by the representatives from the Local government, the Director of the Bay of Loreto National Park, Everardo Mariano Melendez, and Yvo Arias Salorio, Board President.

Delicious food and beverages were served to the enthusiastic guests who toured the new facility.  A large screen display provided a backdrop amongst the café tables set up for the event, with images that illustrated some of the perils that challenge the local environment The dedication solidified the physical framework of an on-going dream, where making a difference isn’t just something spoken, but actually taking place on a day-to-day basis.

Advisory Board Members/ Richard Jackson, Jill Jackson, Charles Mitchel and Roberto Lopez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

Advisory Board Members/ Richard Jackson, Jill Jackson, Charles Mitchel and Roberto Lopez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

At the heart of CenCoMA is Eco-Alianza de Loreto, founded in 2007 by a group of concerned citizens and friends in the Loreto municipality to support smart growth strategies in response to rapid development by outside interests.  Over the past six years, Eco-Alianza has strived to establish a sustainable community devoted to conserving the abundance and diversity of terrestrial and marine life.

In less than a year since it’s opening, CenCoMA has already become a valued asset to the community of Loreto. The Center is strategically located in the center of town and was made possible through a gift by the Linda and Anthony Kinninger Trust.  Renovations converted the property to offices and a public meeting space and were made possible by a donation from Engineer Hugo Quintero Maldonado, founding President of Eco-Alianza, Kathryn and Charles Mitchell, and an anonymous donation from a U.S. foundation.

The Center currently houses a Water Quality Lab for testing and office space for a professional staff of eight who conduct programs that include:

  • A Campaign for a Clean Loreto
  • Citizen Monitoring of our Marine Environment
  • Loretanos for a “Sea Full of Life”
  • Sustainable Fisheries Project
  • The Loreto Watershed Conservation Campaign
  • The Environmental Leadership Club
  • Environmental Education for Loreto Youth and Community
  • Outreach programs to celebrate conservation days, such as Earth Day, World Ocean Day, World Environment Day, World Water Day, Recycling Day

Along with those programs, Eco-Alianza is working with Loreto’s decision-makers to create responsible growth policies, a watershed conservation ecological ordinance, and fisheries regulations.  It is hoped that these endeavors will become an example for other coastal communities to follow worldwide.

Caption:  Tony Kinninger, Kenneth Quintero, Hugo Quintero, Lorenzo Ochoa, Everardo Mariano, Linda Kinninger, Horacio Cabrera, Jorge Magdaleno, Antonio Verdugo, Mayra Gpe Lopez Lemus, Lizandro Soto, and Lizandro Soto Martinez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

Caption: Tony Kinninger, Kenneth Quintero, Hugo Quintero, Lorenzo Ochoa, Everardo Mariano, Linda Kinninger, Horacio Cabrera, Jorge Magdaleno, Antonio Verdugo, Mayra Gpe Lopez Lemus, Lizandro Soto, and Lizandro Soto Martinez (Photo Credit: Rick Jackson).

Eco-Alianza has embarked on collaborative effort to establish a “Sister Park” program to advance eco-tourism and job opportunity in the region.  To support this endeavor, it has partnered with the Bay of Loreto National Park, the Channel Islands National Park, the University of California Santa Barbara, and the Nature Conservancy.

The Center allows Eco-Alianza to expand its program capability, visibility, and outreach.  The Center will serve as a permanent symbol of conservation and preservation for the entire Loreto region for generations to come.

The Ocean Foundation (TOF) has been an integral part of Eco-Alizana since its inauguration.  TOF President, Mark Spalding and Vice-President of Programs, Kama Dean are members of the Eco-Alianza Advisory Board.  TOF has supported educational programs, the annual calendar, and general activities.  The original funding for the “Pride Campaign,” as well as a fisheries program begun by RARE Conservation were provided by TOF.  Advisory support was provided for CenCoMA.

Phase II of the expansion of the CenCoMA facility has just begun.  A fundraising campaign is underway to build a Natural History Museum and an Interpretive Learning Center on the property to support of the Bay of Loreto National Park and the Sierra de la Giganta region.

To continue the expansion of CenCoMA and help further the efforts of Eco-Alianza and its programs, your help is needed.  To find our more information about Eco-Alianza’s programs, or to make a donation, please visit Eco-Alianza’s website at: www.ecoalianzaloreto.org.

Donations are tax deductible in the U.S.A. or through our fiscal sponsor in the U.S.A., The Ocean Foundation. Click here to donate!

Thank you for being part of our dream.

The Colorado River Delta

The northern terminus of the Sea of Cortez is an arrid and parched land where once the Colorado flowed into the sea.  It was an area teaming with abundant life and provided vital nutrients to sustain marine life.

Naturalist and writer, Aldo Leopold, traveled the Delta with his brother in a canoe in 1922.  His ensuing essay, “The Green Lagoon,” provided lulling description of the Colorado River Delta at the time:

Dawn on the Delta was whistled in by Gambel quail, which roosted
in the mesquites overhanging camp. When the sun peeped over the
Sierra Madre, it slanted across a hundred miles of lovely desolation, a
vast flat bowl of wilderness rimmed by jagged peaks. On the map the
Delta was bisected by the river, but in fact the river was nowhere and
everywhere, for he could not decide which of a hundred green lagoons
offered the most pleasant and least speedy path to the gulf.

The still waters were of a deep emerald hue, colored by algae, I
suppose, but no less green for all that. At each bend we saw egrets
standing in the pools ahead, each white statue matched by its white
reflection.

Sea of Cortez meets what's left of the Colorado River (ie, nothing)

Sea of Cortez used to join the Colorado River

The place that Leopold described no longer exists.  Like too many precious and vital places on the planet, the Colorado Delta long ago gave way to dusty sand and desicated land – the victim of water practices in the Western United States that divert water to hydroelectric plants and the thirsty communities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

It could easily be argued, that without the water, the expansive growth of these communities would have stalled or been curtailed decades ago.

 

Today, the Colorado supports about 30 million people and 1 million acres of irrigated farmland. It pours its flow out to Los Angeles and San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver and Mexicali. Its waters make the desert burst with tomatoes, melons, alfalfa and cotton.  But with no water reserved for the river itself, the Colorado dries up long before it reaches the sea, and much of its delta is at death’s door.– Sandra Postel, LA TIMES

The resulting paucity in nutrients reaching the Sea of Cortez has manifested in loss of marine life in the area.  Without the cascading effect of constant replenishment provided by the river, fish no longer spawn in the waters, and basically, that area of the sea has entered a period of deep decline.

Caught between humans jockeying for control of the resource, the river itself holds little sway.  It falls on the shoulders of a small number of activists who recognize an earth-based need to create a voice and speak for the river.

“A Changing Delta,” narrated by Alexandra Cousteau and sponsored  by The Ocean Foundation and Marine Ventures Foundation premiered at the Wild And Scenic Film Festival on January 12th.  The film  explores the history of the Colorado Delta from its original vibrancy to the present day restoration efforts by groups such as BlueCloud Spatial and Pronatura.  Says Ocean Foundation President, Mark Spalding, “I cannot imagine a better way to document the story of how we have changed the Colorado Delta over time.”

It is only through the ceaseless desire to make the Delta right again, that change slowly has begun to take place. One of the complications with the Delta property is that it exists entirely within the Mexican borders, but is fed – or was fed – by a river that has its origins in the United States. When the Glenn Canyon dam was built in the 90s, water reaching the Sea of Cortez vanished. Mexican outrage was ignored.

And so it was history in the making, when on November 20, 2012, Mexico and the United States turned a new page in their relationship to the Colorado River. The two countries united to sign a 5-year bilateral Colorado River agreement. Minute 319 is probably the most important water treaty since 1944.

The term of the agreement is short, and the Delta is but one provision of a large number of terms, but it establishes a framework for cooperation and recognizes the river needs on both sides of the border. With continued efforts, maybe the rich riparian Delta that Leopold and his brother canoed in 1922 will once again flourish.

Home Again ….

Sunrise : Sea of Cortez

How can I ever forget the beauty of Loreto? After a four week sojourn, I sit again, next to the sea and her fragrance hypnotises me. Gentle breezes caress the surface and small wavelets kiss the shoreline, turning beach stones over and over as if in a dance.

A blue monarch butterfly, and then a gold, flit among the flowers and the fat limes ripening on the trees that have exploded with growth. A hummingbird whizzes past my face toward the ruby colored stamens in the planter.

Recent rains have turned the dry lanky peninsula into a carpet of green, so verdant that from the sky, one could be fooled into thinking this was an oversized island of the Hawaiian chain. The sand in my yard has become a palm nursery. Hundreds of sprouted seedlings reach their first and second leaves toward the sunlight.

All it takes is water to change everything in the desert.

Only in Mexico

Only in Mexico could the transport of a huge tank that utilizes the entire width of Mex 1 – the solitary two-lane highway that spans the peninsula – take place in the full light of day. No matter that traffic backs up for hours over the spiny mountain climb through the central deserts of Baja. No. Just a couple of guys riding on the very back (no seat belts or other security measures) waving traffic to ‘back off.’

At special spots on ridges with a small pullout, the caravan (three huge trucks all tied together – imagine a Burlington-Santa Fe train – pulling this enormous tank) would simply stop. Rather than the rigs pulling over, the dudes on the back jump down and begin to direct north and south bound traffic around the road covering vehicles.

In between the stops, the traffic sooooo slow (around 8 MPH) let travelers kind of hang out, chat while ‘parked’ in the middle of the road.

In the States, it would require mountainous piles of permits, special hours of travel, police escorts with sirens and flashing lights, a special traffic co-ordinator, and specified rest stops.

It’s scenes like this that really bring travel Mexico to my heart. All that’s required is patience and a good sense of humor – along with a dollap of curiosity.

The tank? Probably bound for Santa Rosalia and the newly re-established copper mines.