Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sand Creek Oil Spill CBS story

I am sure I am not making it on the CDPHE Christmas card list after this story played on the CBS news.

Fairly or not, the interview came out harsh.  I do stand by my statement that the initial response was a failure.  It needed to be clearly and succinctly stated and I would do so again.  It is my opinion, I knew while I was saying it that it would come out harshly and I do not think it is even a remotely unreasonable one.  I want to be perfectly clear that that is not a personal attack on the actual people involved though.  I am sure that it feels like it but in these kinds of situations I do not believe that it is people that fail but systems and processes. 

A long time ago I had a job as a quality/process control engineer in a manufacturing plant.  At one point I had to blow the whistle on aspects of the production process to the highest levels of the corporation.  I expected the workers involved to hate me.  On the contrary they thanked me.  The truth was that everybody involved truly wanted to make the best product possible but the process and culture was systematically forcing them to do otherwise.  In an enlightened response the leadership of the corporation came down hard on responsible management and the negative cultural forces instead of the workers.  I and others were given the full authority to fix the process and the pressure on the workers to do the wrong thing disappeared.  Quality went through the roof and I developed a gratifying relationship of mutual respect with the workers involved.  I learned a valuable lesson that I will never forget.  The overwhelming percentage of people do the best possible job that they can given the processes, resources, systems and cultural pressures that they are working with.

I honestly hope that somebody takes my opinion to heart and thinks about improving the system.  I have no doubt however that the people involved at all levels including CDPHE, Suncor and the Tri-County Health Department are good people.  Fathers, mothers, daughters and sons just doing a job the best they can with what they are given.

Excellent Denver Post Sand Creek Oil Spill Article

Bruce Finley at the Denver Post posted an excellent article with some very thought provoking information and background.

Well done Bruce!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sand Creek Petroleum Discharge Time Line

I have seen several news reports that have the time-line totally muddled on the Sand Creek petroleum discharge.  They indicate that the seep, spill, slick or whatever term you would prefer started Monday morning which is wrong.  As a matter of fact the issue was first identified and communicated to authorities by me Sunday morning and could have been going on for weeks before that.

Here is what I know of the time-line.  This is in more detail than any of my readers would care about but I feel like I need to preserve and publish this information.  I can look some times up precisely on my cell phone.  Others I have to estimate.

SUNDAY November 27th 2010
1)  Approximately 9:00 AM - I arrived at the Sand Creek / Denver South Platte confluence and started fishing.  I got a hint of a petroleum smell almost immediately but brushed it off.  I was in the worst smelling square mile of Metro Denver after all.
2)  Approximately 9:30 AM - I waded across the South Platte below the 270 bridge and got hit by a really strong odor about half way across and then noticed a sheen on the top.  As I started to investigate I noticed more and more signs of an issue and finally isolated it to Sand Creek.
3)  Precisely 10:03 AM:  I made my first call to information in search of the CDPHE hotline.
4)  Precisely 10:16 AM:  I placed the call to the duty officer with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hotline.  He asked if he could call me back in 20 minutes.  I got offended and rudely said no.  He sincerely apologized and took the information.  I apologized for being rude about it.  I then moved to a different section of the South Platte to continue fishing.
5)  Precisely 11:03 AM:  I received a call indicating that somebody was on their way. 
6)  Somewhere between then and 2:14:  I received a call from somebody at the 74th avenue bridge (well down-river) indicating that they did not see anything and wanting to know where to go from there.  My cellphone tracked this as a duplicate received call and won't give me the precise time.
7)  Precisely at 2:14 AM:  I received a call from somebody standing on the pedestrian bridge spanning the bridge below the confluence indicating that he did not see any sheen in the water.  I told him that he needed to get down and walk up Sand-Creek.
5)  Precisely 3:08PM:  I used "received calls" to call back and ask if he has walked Sand Creek and seen anything.  He indicated that he did walk up the creek and did not see any sheen.  I asked if I called the correct people.  He assured me that I did.  I foolishly assumed that the discharge had concluded and dissipated.  It clearly had not.  Either he did not know what to look for or the discharge had only temporarily stopped.
6)  Sunday evening I made a blog post about the incident.

MONDAY November 28th 2011:
I don't know all the mechanisms that may have helped get the ball rolling but I do know the following:   
1)  At some point Gregg (Hero #1, a friend of Fly-Carpin) from Idaho contacted Bruce Finley at the Denver Post about my blog post.
2)  Bruce Finley (Hero #2) contacted the EPA.  Here is Bruce's latest article on the spill.
3)  Mitigation started sometime Monday evening.

Nobody has a clue how long it was going on prior to Sunday but from the first call it was just under a 4 hour on-the-scene first-response time and something on the order of a day and a half delay before mitigation started.  Furthermore if Gregg and Bruce Finley hadn't heroically stepped in it would probably still be flowing because the first response failed to confirm the issue.

Clearly the delay in response and verification of the issue is not my fault.  This is not my job and people who should be trained professionals and who's job it is were put in a position to perform that job.  Nevertheless, while I hope to never find myself in this position again with hindsight this is what I will do next time to more pro-actively force the issue:

1)  Pushed for an estimated time of arrival.
2)  Gotten clear of the fumes but stayed in the general area.
3)  Met up with the first responder to show him exactly what to look for.
4)  I am presuming that I would have been able to convince him of the issue if I was present.  If not, start calling the press and the EPA immediately.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sand-Creek Petroleum Discharge

This morning was awful.  I am looking for the words to describe it and can't.  To put it shortly I am absolutely 100% positive I witnessed a petroleum discharge or dump of some kind in Sand-Creek flowing into the South Platte.  Furthermore I am quite certain that whoever is responsible got off scott-free.

This morning at 9:00AM it smelled like a gas station at the Sand-Creek / South Platte confluence. There was also an oily sheen across the entire Sand-Creek side of the South Platte current.  Every carp in the area (something on the order of 60?) was tightly grouped (alive but not very active) in a 20 foot section as far from Sand-Creek as they could get.  And yes, I am very aware that it always smells nasty in the area.  This was definitely very different.

I walked several hundred feet up Sand-Creek and there was an oil sheen the whole way and there was even a weird milky chocolaty sludge trapped in the small back-eddy below the confluence.  My fly smelled like gasoline.  My fingers smelled like gasoline.  I could see micro-currents and upwells in the water column that you usually just can't see.  Something was terribly wrong.

It took me a while but I found the correct Colorado Department of such and such spills / illegal discharges "Hotline" number (877-518-5608).  For some foolish reason I pictured environmental cops showing up with sirens blazing.  Three to four hours later I got the call that they were there and didn't smell anything or see any sheen on the water.  They are just men like you or me doing a job and seemed to legitimately care and if it isn't still happening when they show up there is nothing they can do but I can't help being a little disappointed by the response time.  

On the one hand I guess that is good.  Whatever happened is over and was relatively short-lived (assuming it wasn't going on all weekend).  On the other hand if it was one of the multiple refineries upstream of that location they got away with it and will probably get away with it again in the future.  I feel like vomiting.

I wish I knew more to do in that situation.  Somehow the hotline did not seem to be the trick although that is all I know to do.  This is one of those rare occasions that I wish I was a real investigative journalist instead of just a shmuck with a shmucky blog.  I can't help wondering what the history is with those refineries but would have no clue how to find out.

Since I really didn't know anything else I could do I did the obsessive and selfish thing and got on with fishing.  Maybe I should have sat there and waited until they showed up.  At any rate I met up with Chris Galvin and we spent the rest of the day swapping favorite spots up-river and talking carp.  None of those spots was hot today and we got skunked but at least I spent the rest of the day fishing with a friend instead of worrying.  I am worrying pretty hard right now though.  I can't get that sheen and smell out of my mind.  Not to mention 60 of my favorite carp huddled together in what I hope was not desperation.  Carp are tough so lets hope they and the several other nice carp pods down-stream are OK. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Native Cable Sunglasses Review

If you have been fly fishing for Carp for a while then you will probably agree that your shades are your most critical gear.  How appropriate that Outdoor Blogger Network recently randomly selected me to participate in a free gear give-away review of a set of Native "Cable" Sunglasses. 

After two fishing outings and a good month of using these as my kickin-around glasses I rate these very highly.  They have excellent clarity, are for the most part extremely comfortable, come with nice accessories, have the capability to switch out lenses and even look good!  I do have a couple of minor complaints with the ear-pieces and the instructions for switching out the lenses but Native clearly manufactures very nice sunglasses. 
Native Cable Sunglasses
Native "Cable" Sunglasses

Manufacturer:  Native Sunglasses
Style: Cable
Frame Color:  Maple Tort
Lenses:  Polarized Brown (12% visual light transmission per the manufacturer)
MSRP:  $129.00

Accessories Included In The Package:
SportFlex non-polarized low-light replacement lenses.
Case with a spiffy integral replacement lens wallet.
Micro-Fibre bag.

I spent several days on the water switching back and forth with my Costa's (amber glass lenses with green mirror finish) and could detect no difference in clarity or the water-piercing power of the polarization. In short the lenses seem to be superb. In the end helping to see fish is the most critical feature of sunglasses for those that fly fish for carp and they performed well in this area.

The $129 MSRP seems to be a fair-market value when I compare it to other manufacturers.

We all know that carp and other fish are keen observers of style.  You show up on the water without some Fonzarelli and they won't give you the time of day right?  All sarcasm aside though, the first thing my wife said was "Wow, those look much better on you than your other glasses".  Based on a scientific poll of one I would have to say the chicks dig them.  The only one that matters at any rate!

Get Your Fonzy On
I wear a 7-1/8" hat which seems near optimum for these frames and they fit very naturally.

I have deep-set eyes with a jutting brow.  Those cave-man eye-brows usually manage to put a big nasty smear on the inside of my shades.  The stand-off above the lenses on the Cable keeps them just far enough from my greazy self that the lenses stay cheese free and this is by far and away my favorite feature on these sunglasses.  The nose-piece is perfectly shaped to get back in and grab the nose in the right location and is very comfortable.

Love the facial stand-off at the brow.
I do have one minor comfort complaint however.  The ear pieces do not curve down much behind the ears and as a result they interfere with my hat-band.  In order to sit perfectly on my face the ear-pieces must go under my hat-band behind my ears.  I find that a little annoying and this is my least favorite feature.
I would like a little more down-ward curve to the ear pieces
One of the interesting features of Native Sunglasses is the ability to change out the lenses.  This feature is interesting in that it provides the ability to tune the lens tint to conditions and to replace your lenses if they get scratched.  I would love to be able to switch to a different lens tint which could help with the wimpy winter sun.  I like this feature and when I have the time and money I am plan on ordering a set of the copper lenses (18% VLT per the manufacturer, $40.00 MSRP) in order to see if they perform better in low-light.

I am just a little disappointed in the process for switching lenses.  The directions for the Cable style would seem to imply that it is just a matter of lightly gripping the lenses and pushing them in the appropriate direction.  I spent a while trying to get them out per the directions, but eventually had to resort to putting an uncomfortable amount of twisting and bending of the lenses and frames to make the switch.  Afterwards the lenses were grimed to the max with finger grease and I had to clean them with a solution.  I would say that on these particular frames the lens interchangeability may not be an on-the-water feature.  If you feel this is a critical feature I would recommend taking a look at a partial-frame design or trialing the process at a physical retailer before purchasing.

The case is very nice and has a nice integral lens wallet and enough extra room to carry some small extras.  The micro-fibre bag comes in handy for protecting and cleaning the lenses on the go.  The Sport-Flex lenses that come in the package are very clear and look cool but since they are not polarized I am not sure what I would use them for.
The Goodies
I was not financially compensated by the manufacturer and am not associated with Native, but this product was provided free of charge in exchange for testing the product and writing a review.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bringin Home The Digital Bacon

How much of our passion for fishing stems from primordial instincts to bring home some food? For the bulk of man-kinds existence grubbing up some grub took most of our daily energy.  Nowadays we bring home digital bacon.  Ones and zeros that equal spending power in the form of dollars.  Ones and zeroes that capture moments in the form of pictures.  Friday was a great day for bringing home memories in the form of digital bacon. It was a beautifully warm November day in the 60s and the carp were feeding. 

Low light and a slight tannin stain in the section where I started made sight fishing difficult.  At best I could fish to shadows and impressions of fish.  At the worst I had to resort to blind casting with down and across actively swimming presentations.  Seeing the take is great, but the sudden and unexpected feeling of a good sized carp jerking the rod out of your hands has it's own appeal.

Some serious digital bacon

By 11:00 I had hooked three fish in the mid to high teens and all three rate among the hardest, most thunderous takes I have had all year.  They also rate as some of the hardest fighting fish I have faced in months and I was only able to land the 16 pounder above.  In November.  It is amazing how quickly carp can spunk up with some nice weather in the winter.

Backing.  In November?!
Eventually clouds rolled in and stole the remainder of the weak winter sun.  I moved several miles upriver to find some clearer water and started working a section from ambush on the outside of a bend.  I could easily see the carp react to the fly as I plunked it within inches of their head and after a while they made it perfectly clear that neither a dropping nor a swimming presentation was going to draw interest.  As an experiment I switched to a dead-drifting foam trouser worm under an indicator.  Watching an indicator suddenly plunge under the thrust of a 12lb carp also brings a certain thrill.  I have gone 8 years without watching a carp pull down an indicator.  Why?
Thingamabobber?  Whatever works right? 
Two?  Have you no pride man?   No, not really.
 So, this would all seem to indicate that catching carp in the winter is easy.  I guess sometimes it even is.  On the other hand I went back out for a couple of hours today.  I did not fish well, I did not smell a take, I certainly didn't bring home the digital bacon.  I guess it is a good thing that our dinner is brought to us through money and the bounty that is King Soopers because a thousand years ago I would be sleeping on the other side of the lean-to tonight. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Almost Made Me Cry

Friday is looking like a go weather and no-work wise for chasing some carp around with a big flimsy stick.  I was going through and watching some YouTube videos to get pumped up when I ran into one of my favorites from this summer.   It literally almost made me cry. Why they gotta do that to a grown man? Aint right.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Welcome To The Revolution Part III: Revolt in the Land of Plenty

When I lived and fished in Michigan I tried to keep a written fishing journal.  The earliest recording I have appears below.

Thursday 8/10/00:  Little Muscamoot.  Water Temp = 58deg.  Hoping for Pike.  Missed one fish with a large white Deceiver.  Fish hit as I was picking up.  Scared the snot out of me.
And so it began.  This outing, or a similar one around the same time, marked my first conscious and deliberate steps down the road to revolution.  In the fall of 2000 I finally abandoned the idea that Trout (or even Salmon and Steelhead) are anything more than just another option on the fly rod.

The next year turned into the most exciting year of my life from a fishing perspective.  It couldn't have happened in a better place.  The options in Michigan are endless.  I caught carp, LMB, SMB, silver bass, pike, musky, striper, perch, bluegill, and steelhead.  I also bought a 17' Carolina Skiff, took my first saltwater trip and built a 13' spey rod by hand.

I found the idea that I could set out to intentionally target and catch so many species of fish intoxicating.   I will probably never fish that often or that hard again.

Although carp slowly asserted themselves as my favorite I continued to target many different species on the fly until I moved my family to Colorado in 2007.  Michigan has too much quality and variety to ever focus completely on one species.  As I read through that old journal though, I noticed that my current state of obsession was written in the cards.  Those believe in the carp spirits and read prophesy will know I was doomed from the start:
Monday 5/7/2001:  Bay south of Clinton.  Caught one 30+" carp.  He hit in dirty water on a size 8 olive mmf.  Fought like a mad-man.  Love this.  Took me 100 feet into the backing.  What do people dislike about carp?  Short 2-6" strips the key again.