Villages slowly vanish as Hispaniola lakes grow By EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ and TRENTON DANIEL | Associated Press – 11 hrs ago BOCA DE CACHON, Dominican Republic (AP) — No one thought much about it when the largest lake in the Caribbean began rising in a year of heavy rains. But then it never stopped.Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic has doubled in size over the past eight years, swallowing thousands of acres of farms and more than a dozen villages.In neighboring Haiti, smaller Lake Azuei has also steadily swelled, destroying homes and farms as well as disrupting trade by occasionally blocking a key cross-border highway. The two lakes are only three miles (five kilometers) apart and are fed by some of the same streams.It’s been a slow-motion disaster and potentially catastrophic for two countries already burdened by major environmental challenges. The waters’ rise has worsened exponentially in recent years, especially after heavy rains in 2007 and 2008 hit the island of Hispaniola, which both countries share. Tropical Storm Isaac dumped more water on the region last month, sparking more damage.While the cause remains a mystery, theories as to why the lakes are rising range from sediment and trash clogging the water system to increased rainfall from climate change and heavy storms.Dominican farmer Domingo Bautista recalls how the water gradually overtook his sugar cane, banana and sweet potato crop. Within two months, the family had to abandon their one-bedroom home in the sunbaked village of Boca de Cachon.”The water just crept up on us,” said Bautista, who now works as a janitor at a roadside inn. „It didn’t happen overnight.”The spread of Enriquillo has flooded 16 communities in two provinces, more than 46,500 acres of agriculture land and 1,000 properties, according to a July study authored by the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo and the NOAA CREST Center of the City College of New York. In all, some 10,000 families have lost cattle, farmland or their homes.In Haiti, heavy rains made the situation worse last year and dozens of families were forced to evacuate. Many migrant laborers who cross into the Dominican Republic couldn’t make the journey.”It’s a clear environmental disaster,” said Antonio Perera, the Haiti country manager for the United Nations Environment Program. „It’s happening slowly, slowly, slowly, and you won’t see the immediate effects like an earthquake or hurricane.”Researchers have brought up several factors behind the rise of Enriquillo and Azuei, which both contain salt water because the low-lying region was once part of the ocean.Scientists have speculated that, on the Haiti side, massive deforestation has caused sediment to fill the lake while trash clogs the canals that would drain it. The lakes in both countries may also be growing because of heavier than average rainfall in recent years.On top of that, Perera said, Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake may have shifted faults beneath both lakes and somehow altered the hydrology of the area, though water levels began rising years before the quake.”Two or three days after the earthquake there were springs everywhere in Thomazeau,” he said, referring to a lakefront town on the northern end of Azuei he visited after the quake. „Even in the living rooms.”Lake Azuei has expanded outward by about three feet per year for the past 10 years, growing to 52 square miles (134 square kilometers), according to satellite images captured in the City College of New York study. It was once only on the Haitian side but extends across the border by one to two kilometers, covering a Dominican customs office in brackish water.Similarly, Enriquillo’s shores have moved out by about three feet per year over the past decade, reaching 128 square miles (331 kilometers), double the size of the lake in 2004.Many believe that the two lakes will soon merge as the water levels rise. Right now, they’re separated by a road that often floods during heavy rainfall. Back-to-back storms in 2008 caused Azuei to spill and the border closed for several days, causing an untold loss in commerce.Like Enriquillo, Azuei is surrounded by cinderblock homes, and even a two-story resort, that are either partially underwater or completely so.Haitian farmer Cathleen Pierre and her family fled their home, now a part of Azuei, and live in a hodgepodge of shacks sandwiched between the lake and the mountains. The high cost of living in Port-au-Prince makes sure they stay there.”If the water rises again, we’ll move farther up the hill,” Pierre, 58, said as she hiked among her crops of corn and coconut. „We don’t have another place to go.”Despite the obvious concerns, both governments have done little to stem the rising water levels or help the families displaced by them. And it’s not clear what the countries plan to do in the long term.Both sides are studying the phenomenon and have called upon the United Nations to implement a $2.5 million project that has planted thousands of fruit trees along the border.”The governments really need to get serious about this issue,” said Jorge Gonzalez, a professor of mechanical engineering at City College of New York and the lead author of the July study.Authorities in the Dominican Republic have been sending food weekly to the poorest villages on the lake. They’ve also rebuilt broken water channels that were damaged in the 2007 and 2008 storm seasons. The Agriculture Ministry said it plans to relocate 500 families around the lake to give them fresh land for farming.The Haitian government, for its part, has laid gravel to elevate the road that leads to the southern border crossing, and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe recently visited the area.The new environment minister, Jean-Vilmond Hilaire, said Haitian and Dominican officials were first trying to understand what was going on before coming up with a plan.”Both governments need to sit down and work to solve the problem,” said Hilaire, who assumed the post in August.The rising waters have only added to the region’s environmental challenges. Already, Haiti has only 2 percent of its forest cover left, after people deforested the mountains by chopping down trees to make charcoal. In the Dominican Republic, deforestation has hit more than 20 percent of the country.Plus, the lack of a proper sanitation system aggravated a deadly cholera epidemic that surfaced in Haiti the year of the earthquake and then spread, though mildly so, across the border.After 2007’s Hurricane Noel caused the lake water to flood his home and crops, Bautista left his farm for the border town of Jimani. He spent three months there, waiting for the water to subside as he took odd jobs to get by.When he returned to Boca de Cachon, he found the water covered his house, which was stripped of its belongings by thieves. Bautista became frustrated while describing how little the government has helped him, and how he’s forced to clean rooms at a love motel named El Encuentro, or The Encounter.”I have kids and I have to work because I’m not going to steal anything,” Bautista said in the middle of a two-lane road where it vanished into lake water. „I have to earn a living for my family and will do it with my own sweat.”_Associated Press writer Evens Sanon contributed to this report from Port-au-Prince.
Shuttle Endeavour Set for Final Ferry Flight Wednesday, If Weather Allows By Robert Z. Pearlman | SPACE.com – 7 hrs ago CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Endeavour is riding high and ready to go, if only the weather would cooperate.On Sunday (Sept. 16), NASA rolled out the retired orbiter, secured atop the space agency’s modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), from the gantry-like Mate-Demate Device that two days before had paired the spacecraft with the jumbo jet.Now parked on the tarmac at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, the SCA is targeted to take off with Endeavour on Wednesday (Sept. 18) at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT), two days later than NASA originally planned. The duo will fly west on a three-day ferry flight to Los Angeles, where the shuttle is destined for permanent display at the California Science Center (CSC).On Sunday, NASA managers first postponed the planned Monday departure due to a forecast of inclement weather during the first leg of the flight between Florida and Texas. A low pressure front and its associated thunderstorms has made it difficult for NASA to decide when it will be safe to fly.As a result, the decision was made Monday to continue watching the weather and delay departure to no earlier than Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the SCA with Endeavour will be rolled back into the Mate-Demate Device to protect it against any local weather.Endeavour is the last of NASA’s orbiters to fly piggyback on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, which will be retired after delivering the shuttle to California.[Gallery: Shuttle Endeavour Rolled Out Atop Aircraft]Endeavour’s fly-out-If the weather conditions improve and Endeavour leaves Wednesday, it is not yet clear what route will take it to California. Flight planners are currently working to revise the flyover and stopover schedule.As it was originally planned, after departing Kennedy and circling Florida’s Space Coast, the SCA would conduct low flyovers of the NASA centers in Mississippi and Louisiana before landing at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center in Houston on the first of the four legs of its trip. The SCA was originally scheduled to remain at Ellington for two nights, but when the weather first forced a one-day delay, to keep the flight on schedule, the stay was shortened to just an overnight visit.After leaving Ellington and making a short stopover at Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas, to refuel, the SCA and Endeavour was to fly to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to spend the night. On the way to Dryden, the SCA would fly Endeavour over the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, where the shuttle orbiters’ thrusters were serviced between space missions and which served as the landing site for one early shuttle flight.Dryden, which was the fleet’s primary West Coast landing site during the shuttle program’s 30-year history, was then to be the point of departure for Endeavour’s final flight when the SCA took to the air one last time to finish its cross-country journey.Delivery and display-First heading north for scenic flyovers of Sacramento and San Francisco, the 747 jumbo jet was scheduled to — and may still — land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) between 11:30 a.m. and noon PDT (2:30-3 p.m. EDT, or 1830-1900 GMT) Thursday (Sept. 20). Whenever it finally arrives, a ceremony at the airport will welcome the shuttle to L.A. before work gets underway to remove Endeavour from the SCA using large cranes.A few weeks later on Oct.12, Endeavour will leave LAX mounted to a wheeled transporter on a two-day, 12-mile (19-kilometer) road trip to the CSC. On Oct. 30, the science center will open its Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion to the public.Three days later back in Florida, NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis will embark on its own road trip, moving to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for its exhibit opening in July 2013. Atlantis’ arrival will mark the final shuttle delivery, following the ferry flights of Discovery and Enterprise in April and Endeavour this week.See shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA’s retired space shuttles.Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and Twitter @collectSPACE and editor Robert Pearlman
Weather delays last flight of space shuttle Endeavour to museum By Reuters – 2 hrs 32 mins ago MIAMI (Reuters) – The departure of the space shuttle Endeavour on its final flight to a Los Angeles museum has been delayed until Wednesday by bad weather, NASA said.Endeavour, which was retired last year, was scheduled to travel piggyback on top of a specially modified 747 jet, but storms along the planned flight path have pushed back its departure from the Kennedy Space Center until Wednesday.It was the second delay caused by weather in transporting the shuttle, which was originally intended to depart on Monday.NASA said Endeavour is now expected to arrive on Friday in Los Angeles, where it will go on display at the California Science Center on October 30.On its trip, Endeavour is expected make a low pass over the beachside communities surrounding the Kennedy Space Center before heading west. It will make additional flyovers near NASA facilities in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.Endeavour was built as a replacement for the shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed in an accident that killed seven astronauts in 1986.Endeavour’s lifespan was relatively short by shuttle standards – 25 missions over 20 years, totaling 299 days in space.(Reporting by Kevin Gray; editing by Christopher Wilson)
Fall foliage season on track in NY despite early warmth, cold spell and dry weather By The Associated Press | Associated Press – 13 hrs ago ALBANY, N.Y. – The experts say unusual warmth earlier this year, a cold snap and then stretches without rain in some parts of the state won’t have much effect on this fall’s foliage colour in New York.Sunlight and the length of days determine when trees start showing off their yellows, oranges and reds, with cold snaps affecting the chemistry that brings out the deep reds and purples.As always, some trees are already turning because of local stresses like drought or pests.But the Catskills and Adirondacks are on track for the usual late-September, early-October show.While tourism officials say leaf-peepers generally weren’t deterred last season by tropical storms Irene and Lee, innkeepers in areas that were heavily damaged are looking for a rebound from the publicity that kept some people away.
After Irene scared away leaf peepers last year, businesses expect strong foliage season By Lisa Rathke, The Associated Press | Associated Press – 13 hrs ago MONTPELIER, Vt. – An optimistic forecast has inn owners expecting brisk business when leaf peepers visit the Northeast this fall, with some hoping to recoup losses from last year after images of Tropical Storm Irene swallowing up bridges and roads scared visitors away from Vermont and other affected areas.The Woodstock Inn & Resort had to cancel reservations for all of September last year due to flood damage. After multimillion-dollar renovations, it’s quickly filling up for the five-week season and nearly booked for Columbus Day weekend.”There’s almost pent-up demand from people that missed out last year and they’re very excited to be here this year,” said Courtney Lowe, the inn’s marketing director.After Irene tore through Vermont at the end of August 2011, national news showed images of floodwaters carrying away roads and bridges, including several of Vermont’s iconic covered bridges. Some would-be tourists from Texas and California cancelled last fall at the Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield, and the inn was down nearly 25 per cent in September.”When they saw the covered bridge go down the river, and in their world, from Oklahoma to California (to) Texas, every bridge in Vermont” was destroyed, even though only pockets of the state were battered, said Round Barn Farm co-owner Tim Piper.The inn made up some of the business in October, though, Piper said, when visitors from other parts of New England and from New York made the trek, partly to see the foliage, partly out of curiosity, and partly to help the economy. Vermont reaps more than $300 million from the foliage season, and fall tourism brings in an estimated $1 billion in neighbouring New Hampshire.Now, the inn is nearly full for the foliage season.-„This year, our numbers are back on track to where they should be,” he said.Several couples who were stranded at the Notchland Inn in Hart’s Location in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for two days during last year’s storm are returning this fall.”We should have a decent foliage season as long as Mother Nature co-operates,” said co-owner Ed Butler.Visitors should see the show they’re expecting.-Dry spells this summer aren’t likely to hamper the fall colours in forests and mountains, experts predicted, and could even heighten them in some spots.Light and the length of days are the chief factors for when trees start revealing the yellows, oranges and reds of fall. The key to the deep reds are cold snaps that stimulate the development of another pigment, said Michael Snyder, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.visitors could see some brown patches where trees growing in thin soils are dry or where trees are under some other stress and have turned early.But the dryness also could enhance the colour in some spots.”We’ve had nice dry, hot summer,” said Maine’s foliage spokeswoman, Gale Ross. „We’re setting ourselves up for an ideal foliage season.” She’s already fielded numerous inquiries from potential leaf peepers, even one from China.The bulk of Maine’s trees will turn colour within the next few weeks.The season’s first online foliage report Wednesday showed leaves still green in the lower two-thirds of Maine. But in the far northern and northwestern parts of the state, 10 to 30 per cent of the leaves had changed, marking the start of the season.Tourism officials in New York’s Adirondacks and Catskills said the storms didn’t deter visitors overall last year, especially after word spread that a key road in the Adirondacks was quickly repaired.But there were pockets of disruption.-Christman’s Windham House is in an area of the Catskills that was hit hard by Irene.Owner Brian Christman said there was damage around the 49-room hotel and 27-hole golf course in the Greene County town of Windham, but he was ready to accommodate visitors during the foliage season.”When they put it on CNN that Windham was devastated, that pretty much stopped business,” he said. „We had people come. It was just a fraction of normal.”He figures about a quarter of his annual business comes from leaf-peepers and said this year’s reservations are much better.No matter what Mother Nature produces, it’s still spectacular, particularly to guests who come from far away, said Piper, co-owner of the Round Barn Farm.”In our worst foliage season that I’ve ever had, they’ve been in total awe of what Mother Nature gave them. We have variations on what is good, but for these people it’s still remarkable thing of nature,” he said._Associated Press writer George M. Walsh in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.
Scottish marine power grid costs to double by 2020 By Reuters – 4 hrs ago LONDON (Reuters) – The annual cost of connecting marine power projects in the far north of Scotland to the mainland grid is expected to nearly double by the end of this decade as transmission costs for the lengthy cables will be higher, a renewable energy industry group said on Tuesday.Britain is counting on a boom in projects using wave and tidal movements to produce electricity. The Pentland Firth and Orkney areas in the far north have some of the most suitable conditions.Figures compiled by industry association Scottish Renewables showed that the cost of connecting projects in those waters to the mainland would rise to 107 million pounds per year by 2020, compared with 56 million pounds if they are connected this year.”The level of charges for Orkney Waters is adding significant costs to wave and tidal projects and can only hold back investment in our world-leading marine energy sector,” said Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables.The lobby group has called on Britain’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, to make use of a legal clause that allows him to intervene when network charges hinder investment in renewable energy projects, such as in this case.The government estimated last year that up to 300 megawatts (MW) of marine energy projects could be operational by 2020 and that much larger scale deployment was expected after that.-Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Anthony Barker)
Areva finds UK partner for nuclear decommissioning By Reuters – 4 hrs ago LONDON (Reuters) – French nuclear reactor maker Arevaand engineering consultancy Atkins have set up a joint venture to bid for decommissioning contracts in Britain’s nuclear sector, the companies said on Tuesday.AREVA-ATKINS Partnership UK will be based in Warrington, northwest England, and seek to secure subcontractor work with companies appointed to manage sites owned by Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).”This will enable us to put our proven technology to use in meeting the challenges of UK decommissioning and strengthen Areva’s footprint in the country,” said Dominique Mockly, Areva executive senior vice president.The companies declined to comment on how much money they had already invested in the joint venture.Areva’s European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) is planned to be built in Britain as part of EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset, southwest England.Atkins has previous experience in UK nuclear work, such as the decommissioning of a storage pond at the former Sellafield nuclear plant.(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Mark Potter)