Most ads are interactive -- click on them to visit the folks who make The Panama News possible

opinion

Also in this section:
Menéndez, Environmental concerns about the canal expansion
What would we be flushing away?

Leis, Strategic visions and canal debates

Gutman, The reverend gets it way out of proportion

Human Rights Watch, Laws that are being violated in the latest Mideast violence

Lerner, End the suffering in the Middle East
Amnesty International, Protect civilians as Israel and Hezbollah fight it out

Silié, National identity in the era of globalization

Moise, US embargo against Cuba under capitalist assault

Sirias, The haunted house I'll never visit

Bernal, The International Criminal Court on its birthday
Hahn, The other side of paradise

Flushing --- what?

by Eric Jackson

Flushing, in the sense of what happens when you press the lever on the toilet, is a word that doesn't have an exact Spanish equivalent. In the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), they use the English word in Spanish discourse.

However, as part of their information control strategy for the "yes" campaign the ACP doesn't much use the word in English or Spanish discourse. But between now and October 22, we need to become much better acquainted with the concept as it applies to the proposed third set of locks.

The ACP talks about how water saving basins, as the proposed new locks would have, are a technology proven in Germany. However, the ACP literature that's readily available to the public --- which comes up on a Google search of the authority's website and doesn't entail an hour-long download using a fast computer with a broadband connection, for example --- never tells you where these locks are located. Why? First, because people will realize that actually, the technology proposed here is unproven because these locks will be 10 times or more larger than any existing locks with water saving basins. Second, because at all existing locks with water saving basins connecting salt water and fresh water systems, there has been a problem with salt water getting into the fresh water bodies.

There is no known way to completely eliminate this problem. However, to partially mitigate it fresh water can be flushed through the locks. That is the strategy that the ACP says it will use.

Other than it's not a complete solution to the problem, the trouble with flushing is that it adds to the problem that the water saving basins were designed to resolve in the first place, the huge demand for fresh water that the proposed new locks would entail. Yes, the ACP tells us that it will take 51 million gallons of fresh water from Gatun Lake to put a post-Panamax ship through the canal, slightly less that what's required for a smaller ship to transit our present system. But they exclude from that figure the water that will be needed for flushing. They won't tell us the real water usage requirements to run the proposed new locks.

So what if we don't flush? Then Gatun Lake becomes more brackish more quickly. It may, like Miraflores Lake, become too brackish to provide drinking water to our urban areas. But before that, the salt water intrusion will allow certain marine organisms from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean that are presently blocked by Gatun Lake's fresh water barrier to pass to the other side.

Which organisms, and the effect of the exotic species invasions, we can't tell and won't be able to tell until after the fact. The issues are too vast and complex to adequately address in an environmental impact study that takes a few months, as the ACP promises will be done if the voters approve the Torrijos - Alemán Zubieta Plan.

History does give us examples of what could happen, however. One of the world's greatest fisheries, the Lake Superior commercial whitefish industry, was destroyed in the 1950s when the Sault Ste. Marie Locks allowed seagoing ships, and the pestilential sea lampreys, to get into that great inland body of water on the US-Canadian border. Decades later, Canadian and American governments still spend a lot of money to control the lampreys, with incomplete success. The whitefish populations never came back, whole communities that had lived from fishing became ghost towns and eventually the whitefish were replaced by stocking the lakes with other alien species, chinook and coho salmon that are native to the Pacific Northwest and don't breed in the wilds of the Great Lakes.

Fishing is an ancient way of life in Panama, and the proposed new locks raise the prospect that it's a tradition that we may just end up flushing away.

 

Also in this section:
Menéndez, Environmental concerns about the canal expansion
What would we be flushing away?

Leis, Strategic visions and canal debates

Gutman, The reverend gets it way out of proportion

Human Rights Watch, Laws that are being violated in the latest Mideast violence

Lerner, End the suffering in the Middle East
Amnesty International, Protect civilians as Israel and Hezbollah fight it out

Silié, National identity in the era of globalization

Moise, US embargo against Cuba under capitalist assault

Sirias, The haunted house I'll never visit

Bernal, The International Criminal Court on its birthday
Hahn, The other side of paradise

News | Business | Editorial | Opinion | Letters | Arts | Review | Community | Fun | Travel
Unclassified Ads | Calendar | Outdoors | Dining | Science | Sports | Español | Front Page
Archives

Left Wing Publications Right Wing Publications

Make the Executive Hotel your headquarters in Panama City --- http://ww.executivehotel-panama.com
Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine --- http://www.evermarine.com