Managing sediment at the river basin scale: sediment-starved rivers and sand rights for the coast

Friday 26 October 1030-1p, Rm 223 Moses Hall.

The seminar will feature contributions from Carrie Monohan (Sierra Fund), Katherine Stone (MWGJF, retired), Mark Capelli (NOAA), and discussant Holly Doremus (Boalt).  Dams and instream aggregate mining interrupt the continuity of sediment in river systems, with consequences including coastal sediment starvation and consequent accelerated erosion and delta subsidence.  The concept of ‘sand rights’ has been proposed as a legal doctrine to protect downstream and coastal interests from interruption of their natural sand supply (Stone 2000).  In northern California, the legacy of sediment accumulation from 19th and early 20th century gold mining continues to present challenges, including problems created by the ‘debris dams’ (such as Englebright Reservoir on the Yuba) constructed to prevent sediment generated by hydraulic mining from moving downstream.

This seminar is part of the interdisciplinary faculty seminar series, Water Management: Past and Future Adaptation, presented under the auspices of the UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies.  As both the developed and developing world confront intensifying demands on rivers and other water resources, impacts are evident from extractions of water for human uses, proliferation of dams, mining sediments from river beds, and intensified land-use impacts, all exacerbated by climate change.  Accelerated erosion of coasts and deltas (e.g., from sediment starvation, groundwater pumping, accelerated sea-level rise) are among the manifestations of these impacts.  Our seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach these challenges by examining how societies have adapted to variability in the past (uncertainty in water supply, flood risk, etc) and considers the tools we have to manage future variability in river flows and sediment loads, including variability in water supplies, increased flood risk, and the existential threat to many coastal areas.


References Cited

Stone, K. 2000. Sand rights: a legal system to protect the shores of the sea. 29 Stetson Law Review 709, 732 (2000).