By Chiggers Stokes (Excerpt from True Color: A Story of Contemporary Pioneering, special thanks to the Forks Forum)
Before one can confine water to pipe, for work or for sustenance, there are legal concerns that need answers. Water and the fish therein belong, pretty much, to Washington State. Manipulating the flow of any creek in Washington State requires filing for a Hydraulic Project Approval through State Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Any streams with resident or seasonal fish will trigger restrictive management, particularly salmon habitat. In the vicinity of Forks, The Quileute Nation has an interest in fish and habitat lying within their usual and accustomed grounds. State Department of Ecology manages water rights, and such will be needed to draw or divert water out from streams, lakes or the ground.
Then there are questions about land ownership. Any pipe project that does not have the express permission of all land owners involved will end poorly. Court actions such as filing for an Easement by Prescription are the worst possible scenarios in trying to work things out. Easement by Prescription is not favored by the Court since it comes under the Realm of Adverse Taking requiring compelling arguments from the Plaintiff or trespasser. “Hand shake agreements” without any written contract have some, but limited support in Washington Case Law. Permission kills Prescription, lawyers banter, for if a land owner gives permission, they establish their authority to later rescind it.
A wild creek is a pretty noisy affair. The babble of the creek is so endearing, but in herding water into pipes we wish water to run in silence. Any sound at all from the pipe is an indication of turbulence or air, either of which dramatically detracts from the power of water in pipes. The larger the bore of the pipe is, the less pipe friction; less loss of pressure and greater flow downstream. Determining static PSI of the downstream end of a pipe is solved by vertical feet in height multiplied by 0.43. But one requires a pipe Nomograph and knowledge of flow rate to plot the difference between static or real head vs. dynamic or working head. But a pressure gauge tells you both.
A funny thing about water in pipes is how much it behaves like electricity in wire. WATER is like WATTS. Volts are like PSI filling up a 50 gallon tub with a garden hose has much equivalence in charging a 50 amp-hour, deep cycle battery.
Any 33.8 foot column of water will weigh the same as a corresponding diameter column of air going all the way up to the troposphere. For divers, 33.8 feet underwater means about 15 PSI of pressure. For a pump, it is a limit of 33.8 vertical feet, beyond which water cannot be pulled.
Sometimes our intuition is wrong about water in a pipe and sometimes our intuition of people is wrong. For me, both circumstances came together in the year 2000. A handshake agreement I had with neighbors to allow me to have my pipe on their property in exchange for me building a driveway for them across my land, ended poorly. These absentee land owners from Los Angeles attacked my pipe penstock on Rayonier Land, because they couldn’t find it on their own land. They seized my pipe and I had to walk away from a $15, 000 investments in pipe and ditch.
I worked for a year with Rayonier, Quileute Natural Resources, WDFW, and Department of Ecology to reroute my hydroelectric penstock around my recalcitrant neighbors from Los Angles. My Hydraulic Permit Approval was in hand and Dick Moody had sold and delivered over a mile of pipe. There was only one law that I was breaking, but it was an intractable law of Nature.
The water from my project plunged over a big hill falling about 227 feet to my hydroelectric. The problem was that my intake was about 27 feet below that point going around my neighbors. I believed that I could siphon water uphill, close to the physical limits of Nature. Water would gush out for a minute or so, decrease to a dribble in five minutes and air lock entirely in 10 minutes.
The only way to save my project was to punch out of the beautiful upper Hemp Hill Valley. I would need a 300 foot trench, to be excavated, 12 feet deep at its shallowest and 27 feet deep on the other end. It seemed like impossible engineering. The pipe would have to lay flat at the bottom of the trench and the trench had to have pitch at least an inch every four feet).
So you get slapped down by a law of Nature you never gave much thought to and then it’s back to the laws of people. Human law is supposed to be, “Let’s take care of each other”. It was more neighbor helping neighbor than the business of a well digger that built the ditch that restored my hydroelectric. I will always be grateful to Darryl Gaydeski for winning it back for me.
Since I walked away from the grid in 1973, it didn’t take many nights for Coleman lanterns and oil filled lamps to lose their charm. The fire hazard, smell, and expense of such lighting contribute to the appeal of electricity, even before the advent of LED bulbs. But running a generator to power a few lights doesn’t make sense because your average generator is about a 5 kW unit capable of running 50 hundred watt bulbs or enough lumens to burn the hair off your cat. Your average generator is inefficient for lighting because it produces too much power. The remedy is storing that extra power in batteries and using the batteries as backup to the generator. The problem here is that house power is around 120 volts alternating current and a battery is usually 12 volts direct current. Inefficiencies occur with each conversion of power. So, in a scenario where you wanted to put extra power into batteries while running conventional genets, you would need a big battery charger capable of pouring 50 to 80 amps into a battery bank. Then you need an inverter after the GenSet goes off line to produce house power off the charged battery bank.
I began my electrification of the Flying S Farm 37 years ago by bringing charged batteries from work. I had some old communication wire I had rescued off a dump pile and strung out car lamps with dc switches. It beat breathing kerosene. Soon I purchased a tiny 700 watt GenSet that offered built in 10 amps DC charging. But it was a noisy little devil and I leaned to apply Ohms Law to evaluating my energy systems. Electricians reduce Ohms law to PIE where Power in watts is equal to I (current in amps) multiplied by E (voltage). Watts equals volts multiplied by amps. I said it over and over to myself so I would never forget. With this formula I realized that I was only getting about 120 watts out of a GenSet designed to put out over 700 watts or about one horsepower. So that was inefficient.
My wife, during these times of early experimentation was an avid reader of Mother Earth News. She pointed out an article by some electrician-turned-out-of-work-hippie that you could wire 8 to 10 batteries in series to produce a jolt of direct current which would power normal incandescent bulbs and run any brush motor such as a circular saw. I bought 10 “Died Hard Batteries” From Vern Poole’s Sears below the RAC/Oddfellows building. I constructed a switching system so that I could charge 10 12 volt batteries in parallel and then jump it up to 120 Vdc by putting the whole array in series. The electrician-turned-hippie- writer forgot to point out is that this system will fry pretty much any home electronics you plug into it and will burn up switches on your tools…and even your household switches which are not designed for the punch of alternating power. My light bulbs would unscrew themselves, there was so much punch. All my circular saws were on the bench awaiting new switches. But, that November in 1981, I found out that you can drive Christmas lights on 120 Vdc and I was on a ladder stringing lights over a wilderness creek, to put squirrels in the proper seasonal spirit, when I first discovered what direct current feels like going through an aluminum ladder. If you chained me to the ladder, I still would have caught air. When I picked myself off the ground, not even 4 strings of already illuminated Christmas lights cheered me up.
I learned that you can wire a house up to code and use that system to convey battery powered direct current to incandescent lights and other low voltage direct current applications. I’ve learned that unless you sign or idiot proof every socket, someone will destroy some inductive device by plugging into your battery.
In fairness the electrician turned hippie-writer made a great suggestion. His idea was to take a lawn mower engine and belt a car alternator to it. I found young Alan Quigley working for his step dad at Dilly’s and asked if such a thing would work or blow me out of another ladder. Alan expressed great optimism for the system and helped me with the basic wiring and field control once I had bolted the engine and alternator to a piece of plywood. It was not elegant, nor was it designed to last forever. But it sure charged batteries and didn’t use much gas. I was playing around with a 40 watt solar panel, but in January of 1982 it was the artificial light by which I learned to wash dirty diapers and rescue my precious new daughter from their grip.