after the rush, getting down to the science

Ultimately, what’s going on down in the Colorado River right now turns on a complicated mix of politics and science. The politics involves how much support advocates can gain for environmental restoration of the troubled system, on both sides of the border. The science supports those decisions After the rush of excitement about the historic release of a small environmental “pulse flow” into the Colorado River delta, most of the reporters (including, sadly, me) are gone, and the scientists are getting down to their work.

As of yesterday, the water had reached past a major dry stretch, and was approaching the crucial Laguna restoration sites, according to an email last night from one of the project scientists.

Sandra Postel, who thankfully has remained has a nice look at the scientists getting down to the science:

On Wednesday this past week, when the advancing Colorado River met up with the higher water table of Reach 4, delta scientists breathed a sigh of relief.

“It was very exciting to see the leading edge get connected to Reach 4,” said Osvel Hinojosa Huerta, a wetlands ecologist and bird specialist with the Mexican conservation organization Pronatura Noroeste. Hinojosa has been working in the delta since 1998.

The swallows and cinnamon teals were not here this morning, Hinojosa said, standing near the location where the flowing river met the channel filled with groundwater. “They came after the water arrived.”

“We’ll be tracking birds very carefully,” Hinojosa added. “They are good indicators of system health.”

Hinojosa and his colleagues were doing this work from the moment the release started. In the first days of the release, as the water was making its way past the groundwater “hole” near the San Luis Bridge, I caught up with him after the group had just completed a bird survey: wigeons, cinamon teal, blue-winged teal, ruddy ducks, lesser scaup along with coopers and sharp-shinned hawks following the water (and their lunch) downstream). They even say coots, which had lost their happy shallow home in the pool immediately behind Morelos Dam, riding the pulse flow down on cattail rafts. And carp “this big”, he said, his hands held apart fisherman-style to indicate a very large fish floating through a previously uninhabitable desert.

Osvel Hinojosa (second from right, in broad-brimmed hat) and crew as the pulse flow approaches San Luis, March 25, 2014

Osvel Hinojosa (second from right, in broad-brimmed hat) and crew as the pulse flow approaches San Luis, March 25, 2014, photo by John Fleck