Messy Jellies

In Nick Welsh’s “Sticker Shocked” news story, in the July 10 issue, regarding the community’s drought-related problems, he cites state water board officials’ opinion that reactivation of Santa Barbara’s desalination plant “would probably win approval so long as it mitigates its deadly impacts on microscopic sea life … [and] comes equipped with the most restrictive mesh screening to keep tiny sea creatures from being sucked into the expensive … water-making machine.”

The recent book Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Oceans, by Lisa-ann Gershwin, has raised concern for what she considers the unstoppable worldwide proliferation of jellyfish in the planet’s oceans. She attributes this to sea waters’ warming, increased acidification, and depleting oxygen (conditions in which jellies can thrive) as well as by the massive availability of floating home bases for jellies’ offspring created by plastic bags and by the escalating disappearance of jellies’ predators, sea turtles, via plastic bag ingestion.

Teisha Rowland, in a Santa Barbara Independent article of November 18, 2010, wrote, “ … increases in jellyfish numbers have … caused … damage to desalination and nuclear power plants (by clogging pipes carrying water).”

Indeed, in 2006, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan had to leave its Australian port because jellyfish were destroying the cooling of its nuclear plant by massively clogging its water intake pipes.

Is there a plan to avoid this possibility in a resurrected desalination plant, not only perhaps by jellyfish but by other organisms that, though not sucked into the system, could massively clog its vents?

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