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"Tribes May Get Support from New Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch." That story and more in the latest edition of "This Week in Water"[ Show/Hide Transcript ]

Tribes: Washington State Should Remove Culverts to Honor Treaties

The State of Washington should have to replace hundreds of water culverts under roads that block salmon migration—that was the argument of twenty-one Native American tribes before the U.S. Supreme Court last week. The main issue in the case concerns treaties that were entered into about 160 years ago. The tribes say they were guaranteed that the number of fish in western Washington would always be sufficient for them. A lower court had ruled against the state of Washington and ordered that the culverts be replaced within 17 years. The state has said it could cost 2 billion dollars to do so and it appealed. According to Scotusblog, the tribes attached photos to their brief showing how poorly-designed culverts strand and harm fish.

In 1855, the natives gave up almost all of their territory in exchange for smaller reservations and rights to their fishing grounds. The Court’s newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch said he was struggling to accept that the state’s interests could outweigh those of the twenty-one tribes and added that the treaties don’t say their rights could be eliminated for a domestic need. A decision from the Supreme Court in the culverts case could come out before July.

Movement toward Talks in Colorado River Dispute

There has been some movement toward talks between the two factions feuding over water allocation on the Colorado River. Since we first reported on a potential water war, representatives of the Central Arizona Project have asked to meet with the upper basin states, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico. About ten days ago officials in the upper basin accused the managers of the Central Arizona Project of planning to take as much water as they could from the river, failing to conserve, and threatening the stability of the whole river system.

The dispute started when the Central Arizona Project brazenly posted a graphic on its website showing how it could force releases from Lake Powell to supplement the lower reservoir—Lake Mead—for its benefit. The upper basin states say that this would be “gaming the system,” which threatens conservation efforts in the north, and also relationships built upon trust up and down the river. One of the problems is that Arizonans are in disagreement among themselves about who in that state decides water policy.

The Arizona district manages the massive system of canals, and pipelines that supply municipalities in the Phoenix area and Tucson with water from the Colorado. A possible meeting between the two sides could take place on April 30th, but as of airtime, no date had been confirmed.

Tiny Creatures Cause Massive Ocean Mixing

April 22nd is Earth Day and the theme for 2018 is "Ending Plastic Pollution." Events around the globe are raising awareness about plastics and the impact they have on the environment—especially our oceans.

In the spirit of Earth Day, we bring you the story of some little sea creatures that may have a profound effect on the planet. A new study from Stanford University has shown that tiny shrimp can mix sea waters by moving in swarms. The centimeter-long animals, known as zooplankton, have feathered legs that they beat to move. In laboratory tests, the researchers found that the organisms can create enough turbulence to mix ocean waters. A statement from Stanford explains that the krill, which are abundant, migrate daily in giant swarms up to the surface at night, and down in the day.

The findings are important because they can now be included in models of ocean circulation used to understand how the seas affect climate change. Wind and waves were thought to be the main causes of ocean mixing, but scientists found waters mixed one thousand times faster with the shrimp than without.

Lawsuits Filed over Climate Change

Several lawsuits were filed last week about climate change. In Colorado, the City of Boulder and the County in which it sits were joined by San Miguel County, where Telluride is located, in suing ExxonMobil and Canadian energy giant Suncor. The lawsuit says that the corporations contributed to, accelerated, and exacerbated human-caused climate change and they concealed what they knew and the dangers of continued and increasing fossil fuel use.

In Florida, young people—10 to 20 years old—filed a lawsuit against Governor Rick Scott and his government because the state they say has not responded to the climate crisis. And in Massachusetts last week the state’s high court ruled that the attorney general can obtain internal documents from ExxonMobil to determine if it mislead the public about manmade greenhouse gases.

These suits brought by children, state governments and municipalities are, according to the Sierra Club, all coming at a time when the federal government, its EPA and the Congress are failing to act.

Why Bajau Divers Can Stay Underwater So Long

BajauDiver_web And finally, the Bajau people of Southeast Asia spend more of their time in the water than on land. Sometimes called “sea nomads,” the Bajau live on small houseboats or in huts built on stilts. Accordingly, their diet comes almost entirely from the sea, so over time they’ve gotten really good at diving, swimming—and holding their breath. In fact, the Bajau people can stay underwater for several minutes at a time at depths of over two hundred feet.

This extraordinary ability has been documented, but researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the University of California-Berkeley wanted to launch a scientific inquiry as to how they did it. The answer, published in the journal Cell, reveals that the Bajau have really large spleens. What does a spleen do to facilitate long underwater forays? Even though we can live without them, the spleen’s main function is to filter blood, fight bacteria, and to recycle red blood cells.

But, as Gizmodo explains, it also plays an important role during an acute oxygen shortage, such as when we hold our breath. When we do, our heart rate slows down, the blood vessels in our extremities constrict, and our spleen shrinks down in size—releasing oxygenated red blood cells, which provide an extra jolt to the bloodstream. The bigger the spleen, the greater the amount oxygenated blood.

The findings suggest that the Bajau’s unusually large spleens are the result of a genetic mutation, not training. It’s a rare example of natural selection happening in modern humans, and the researchers hope that insights from their study could lead to new treatments for respiratory disorders.

Music Credits: The Fixer, Funkygroove  | Qin, Dr.Guonake  | Jah Moon, Sun Ska Riddim Originale  |  Scott Holmes, Cat and Mouse  |  Grégoire Lourme, Rain  |  Maze, Dark Clouds  |  Creative Commons

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