Fly-Fishing: Esopus showing effects of tropical storms

Over the weekend, I fished Esopus Creek for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene. Most of the m

Over the weekend, I fished Esopus Creek for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene.

The fishing was slow; my buddy and I only moved three small rainbows despite what seemed like great conditions.

Most of the more obvious wreckage from Irene had been cleaned up, toppled trees cut and hauled away, washed-out roads filled in and patched.

The creek itself had been profoundly affected.

At the spot we fished, a public access in Shandaken, above the “portal” where piped water from Schoharie Reservoir joins the Esopus, the creek appeared to have torn away several feet of the forest that lined the far bank. On the road side, it had gouged a deep, sandy ravine that will mud the whole creek during the next high-water event. In between was a moonscape of grapefruit-sized cobblestones the size of a football field, a feature repeated at numerous sites downstream.

At the downstream end of this particular gravel bed was something I’ve never seen before, on the Esopus or any other stream: an expanse of exposed sand, maybe 100 feet square. Like the gravel itself, I couldn’t tell if the creek had deposited it or simply uncovered it.

The impact on Ulster County residents was still evident. At the confluence of Fox Hollow and the Esopus, vacation bungalows kicked off their footings stand jumbled together. What used to be the picture window of a cottage was a gaping, glassless hole where the water smashed in. A Honda sedan leaned vertically against a tree alongside another ruined house, a few feet from the creek. A jumble of naked dolls lay in the now-abandoned yard, along with clothes and household items. Yet another house down the road sagged on the verge of collapse, roped off by orange tape.

I’ve seen the Esopus flood many times, but I’ve never seen anything like this. I get the feeling I won’t have to wait long to see it again. What used to be called hundred-year floods are happening every couple of years in the Catskills.

It will be decades before anyone will be able to say for sure whether these big storms are the result of climate change. But more big storms is exactly what climate scientists have said would happen from global warming.

That brings us to fracking, and the biggest, most intense effort I’ve ever seen to extend our dependence on fossil fuels.

There’s an anti-fracking rally scheduled today in Binghamton. Monday, the Delaware River Basin Commission is scheduled to decide whether to allow fracking in the headwaters of the best trout rivers in the eastern half of the country. Public hearings on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to invite fracking to New York are scheduled for Nov. 29 in the Catskills and Nov. 30 in New York City.

The industry line is that fracking will provide jobs and clean energy. Good jobs? Permanent jobs? Beats me. Worth the industrialization of the rural countryside? I doubt it. As for clean energy, gas may burn cleaner than coal, but extracting it releases huge amounts of the worst greenhouse gas, methane.

Common Cause reports the energy industry has spent $747 million lobbying for fracking since 2001, including its astonishing 2005 victory — getting Congress to exempt fracking from the Clean Water Act.

The lobbying isn’t generally visible to the public, but the wall-to-wall pro-fracking TV commercials are.

Industry only spends that kind of cash when it expects to make it back many times over. They can talk about clean energy, energy independence and jobs all they want, but make no mistake, the frackers are only here because there’s a lot of money to be made.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]

Categories: -Sports

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