Monday, October 31, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part One

The Bee began a series yesterday about the danger of flooding in Sacramento, (they also did a series on flooding in 2004), and promises to look at all of the issues and all of the options.

The first articles in the series is excellent.

Tempting fate: Are we next?
Sacramento's flood peril is highest in U.S.
By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, October 30, 2005

First in an ongoing examination of the region's flood risks

In cities across the nation, rivers, streams, lakes, creeks and seas have made their sinister mark, inflicting damage and heartache when they flood.

There is, however, no major city in America more at risk of a catastrophic New Orleans-style flood than Sacramento.

That is the firm and unnerving conclusion drawn from a Bee survey of the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, conducted over the past month. Compared with other big cities, Sacramento is marked by a potentially deadly combination of geographic, hydrological and demographic factors unmatched anywhere in the United States.

Take a look at the collection of strikes against us:

* We sit at the confluence of two major rivers, the Sacramento and the American.

* They drain vast watersheds that begin high in the mountains, meaning a major flood would come with staggering volumes and ferocious velocities.

* Huge sections of Sacramento - including miles of neighborhoods, the downtown commercial center and the state Capitol - rely on levees to keep from going under in times of high water.

* Unlike other cities that sit on high ground or bluffs above rivers, much of flood-prone Sacramento sits lower than the levees and the rivers at flood stage. That means places such as Natomas, downtown, east Sacramento, Rosemont, North Sacramento, Oak Park, Curtis Park, Land Park, River Park, Greenhaven, the Pocket, south Sacramento and assorted neighborhoods along the north and south sides of the American River would fill up like giant soup bowls during a disaster-level flood.

* Sacramento's levees offer less protection than those in many other cities. Officials worry they could fail or overtop if a large late winter or early spring storm system brought more water than they were designed to handle. Warm "Pineapple Express" systems are especially feared, because they can sidle up against the mountains, rain for days, and cause too much snow to melt at once and barrel down river corridors.

* Recently, a new and insidious worry has emerged: Engineers discovered after the floods of 1997 that seepage is occurring deep beneath Sacramento area levees that could cause internal erosion and unforeseen failures.

* Beyond the levees is another concern: Folsom Dam, which holds back the American River to the east of the downtown core, is ranked No. 1 on the federal Bureau of Reclamation's safety priority list. With nearly a million people living downstream, no other dam in America has greater need of additional protection against a monster storm, according to the bureau.

* Finally, unlike other cities, where flooding may be severe but tends to occur on a localized scale, a major flood in Sacramento would spread for miles and run as deep as rooflines in some places. According to the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, more than 300,000 people and 140,000 structures are in the direct path of a serious flood in Sacramento.

In the eyes of the nation's top flood experts, only one other big city could rival Sacramento for the top catastrophe-prone title.

And it has been largely destroyed.

For the rest of the story:

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sacramento Not Protected From 100 year Flooding

As noted in the Bee yesterday, our Senator, knowing we are not protected from even 100-year flooding, is pointing to Sacramento as an national example of un-preparedness.

The storage and supply of water, especially in the American River, needs to become the front and center issue of public safety discussion, and all options for protecting the people of Sacramento and the natural resources of the Parkway, at the optimal level, have to be part of those discussions.

The Bee is beginning a special report on flooding in Sacramento, Sunday, October 30th.

Disaster planning questioned
Senator skeptical that U.S. could respond better now.
By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, October 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - Sen. Dianne Feinstein said after a two-hour hearing on emergency preparedness Wednesday that she doesn't believe the country is any more ready to respond to natural or terrorist-caused disasters than it was on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Democrat and former San Francisco mayor used Sacramento as an example, saying the state capital lacks even 100-year protection from floods.

"If there's an earthquake and levees go down, the flooding possibilities are enormous," said Feinstein, who along with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has been pressing the Bush administration unsuccessfully for a copy of its earthquake plan for the state.

Feinstein's comments came at the end of a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee's terrorism and homeland security subcommittee.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the hearing's purpose was to determine what should be done to "achieve an immediate, effective and successful" disaster response.
Witnesses were not encouraging.

Slade Gorton, the former Washington senator who was a member of the national commission that studied the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., said the country remains as vulnerable today as it was then.

"After 9/11, after Hurricane Katrina, we are still not prepared," Gorton said.

Among the larger concerns Gorton raised was poor communication between emergency fire and police crews. The inability to communicate via radio cost many firefighters their lives in the Twin Towers attacks, Gorton said, and greatly hampered Katrina responsiveness.

For the rest of the story:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Parkway & Regional Planning

The American River Parkway, as a natural resource of great importance to the entire region, has long needed regional planning expertise.

That however, has not been available, and with the bad luck our region has had with regional planning, here is an interesting concept in an article on regional planning from Planetizen: The Planning & Development Network.

Privatization: The Future of Regional Planning
United States Op-Ed Urban Development & Real Estate
17 October, 2005 - 7:00am
Author: David Renkert

Can property owners succeed where regional planners have failed? David Renkert argues that private property owners are in the best position to create, implement, and manage land use regionally, which could evolve the role of planners into liaisons between empowered property owners and the greater public.

Privatization: The Future of Regional Planning

Regional plans have basic flaws that prevent successful implementation. In most states, plans have little to no legal force, they can be relatively easily changed, and they must be implemented parcel-by-parcel, project-by-project. Add on top of that the fact that these plans, whose lifespan could be measured in decades, are supposed to weather political change and roller coaster funding cycles, and you can be nearly assured of their failure.

When was the last time you saw a property owner involved in a planning meeting that didn't specifically address the owner and the owner's property? The public, property owners in particular, have grown apathetic to planning. They know that a few years down the road "something" will change and any decision made today will simply be decided again later.

The lack of certainty and predictability regional plans offer is driving many property owners to find their own solutions. People today are educated and empowered as never before. Anyone with internet access can find and communicate information about issues that affect them. Satellite imagery and simple GIS capabilities are now available to nearly everyone with the ability to push a button.

In suburban Washington, D.C., property owners are forming groups to sell en masse to developers attracted to redevelopment opportunities. Not far from Atlanta, property owners created their own land use plan covering over 43,000 acres. Outside of Chicago, farmers pursue specific plans together to ease acquisition of development entitlements. Landowners and land trusts around the country are working together to protect open space and critical natural habitats and resources privately

For the rest of the article:

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Nonprofit Organizations & Public Policy

The work of the American River Parkway Preservation Society is educational, with a long-range purpose of helping to change public policy regarding the American River Parkway to help preserve, protect, and strengthen it for our community and the generations to come.

To illuminate the role of nonprofit organizations in changing public policy, here is a discussion with executives of two nonprofit foundations that fund public policy work, from the January/February 2005 issue of Philanthropy, published by the Philanthropy Roundtable.

Foundations and Public Policy
Two prominent players square off on the value of funding public policy work

At the Philanthropy Roundtable’s recent annual meeting in Palm Beach, James Piereson (executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation) and Rebecca Rimel (president of the Pew Charitable Trusts) addressed the relationship between philanthropy and public policy, then fielded questions on such topics as K-12 education, campaign finance reform, universal preschool, and taxes. Chester E. Finn Jr. (president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation) moderated the session.

James Piereson: Private foundations are limited by law in the ways they can and cannot seek to influence public policy. Involvement in election campaigns, for example, is prohibited. Lobbying—contacting representatives to support or oppose legislation—is likewise prohibited in nearly all cases. If foundations spend funds in these ways, they may lose their tax exemption.

Grantees—public charities—are permitted to lobby legislatures, so long as such efforts represent only a small part of their activities. While foundations may support charities that lobby, they are not permitted to earmark funds for lobbying. In short, if foundations are to affect public policy, they must do so indirectly, through grantee programs which in various ways may influence legislators, experts, or public opinion on broad principles that go beyond particular bills under consideration.

For much of their history—from the early 1900s into the 1960s—foundations typically influenced public policy through demonstration projects or through blue ribbon panels that recommended this or that policy. In the early 1960s, for example, the Ford Foundation’s Model Cities program was picked up by the Johnson administration as part of its “Great Society” agenda, and prominent foundations funded private commissions that helped birth public television and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

Foundations had little input on the New Deal programs of the 1930s. Waldemar Nielsen’s history of foundations, Golden Donors, hardly mentions foundations in this connection, except to note the antipathy to FDR of various business leaders like J. Howard Pew and Alfred Sloan. Typically, foundations were wary of political involvement because they feared that controversy and public notice carried great personal and institutional risks. By the 1960s, such concerns had faded; today they seem to have disappeared.

A significant shift in policy-related philanthropy occurred when McGeorge Bundy, a refugee from the Kennedy-Johnson administrations, became president of the Ford Foundation in 1966. He developed the pioneering strategy of “advocacy philanthropy,” in which foundations invested funds in a maze of advocacy and litigation groups to promote feminism, affirmative action, disarmament, and other liberal causes. The groups didn’t lobby for legislation, but advocated ideas that led to legislation, then sought to influence the regulatory bodies that carried out the legislation and the courts that interpreted it. Such influence was often reinforced by timely research studies, conducted by a think tank or a university program funded by the same philanthropies. Bundy’s strategy of bypassing the electoral process became the model for foundations seeking to affect public policy.

This innovation had important consequences. First, it led to a 1968 effort, funded by the Ford Foundation, to decentralize New York City public schools by creating community school boards. This change brought on an explosion of ethnic tensions and set back race relations and public education in the city for a generation or more—it was a spectacular failure.

Second, the liberal groups created under Bundy’s leadership came to control the Democratic Party, displacing the old voting blocs (Southerners, Catholics, urbanites, union members) of FDR’s coalition. By the end of the 1970s, the Democrats had surrendered their place as the nation’s majority party; now, after a generation, they remain trapped in the advocacy group box Ford built.

Third, in the late 1970s, various conservative foundations, my own prominent among them, adopted the “advocacy philanthropy” model. The impressive array of conservative groups one sees today—from the Manhattan Institute to the Heritage Foundation to the Federalist Society to the campus newspaper movement—resulted from this strategy.

Unlike Bundy, the Olin Foundation has focused more on building institutions, nurturing talent, and promoting broad ideas than on promoting specific policies. We thought this focus better fit our competence, and we believed policies would follow once the institutions, talent, and ideas were in place.

Our achievements and failures? I think our work has encouraged a popular acceptance of free markets and religion’s role in society, and a consequent skepticism of socialism and the welfare state. This appreciation of the institutions of liberty is what we are most proud of.

For the rest of the discussion:

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Salmon Restoration

The American River Parkway Preservation Society (ARPPS), sponsor of this blog, is going to be spending the next year looking at water supply issues in the American River as it relates to the health of the salmon, with a report in September of 2006.

In the process, along with primary research, we will be visiting various nonprofit and government institutes who research related issues.

One we will be visiting is the Property and Environment Research Center
(PERC), whose website is at

“PERC is the nation's oldest and largest institute dedicated to original research that brings market principles to resolving environmental problems. Located in Bozeman, Montana, PERC pioneered the approach known as free market environmentalism, which is based on the following tenets.

Private property rights encourage stewardship of resources.

Government subsidies often degrade the environment.

Market incentives spur individuals to conserve resources and protect environmental quality.

Polluters should be liable for the harm they cause others.”

(PERC wesbsite)

A June 2003 article from PERC explores the restoration of salmon.

By Clay J. Landry

What is the value of a salmon? If you shop at Seattle's Pike Place Market, a freshly caught salmon might be worth $98 (that is, about $6.50 a pound). If you are a fly fisherman, the sockeye you catch might cost between $25 and $75- depending on how much you spent for your gear or a guide. But these figures pale in comparison with the amount of money that the federal government pays in its efforts to keep salmon flowing through the tributaries of the Columbia and Snake River basins in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. A conservative estimate is that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) alone is spending $400 per fish.

And there is little to show for this infusion of cash. Most of the money goes toward construction-oriented projects rather than the one thing that experts recognize is imperative for salmon protection-moving more water through the river system. Dam reservoirs "slow water flows . . . which may result in increased mortality, " wrote the General Accounting Office (GAO) recently. "An abundant snow pack aids juvenile passage to the ocean by increasing water flows" (GAO 2002, 8). Low flows are bad; high flows are good.

The General Accounting Office's 2002 study was one of the first studies to describe federal salmon and steelhead recovery projects and to quantify the amounts of money spent on preserving salmon. The study found "little conclusive evidence to quantify the extent of [the projects'] effects on returning fish populations" (GAO 2002, 3). Indeed, some of the GAO-reported activities don't really qualify as recovery projects. They include "research studies," "monitoring actions," "surveying spawning grounds," and ESA-required consultations" (GAO 2002, 4). Few activities are on-the-ground experiments in recovery management.

For the rest of the article:

Monday, October 24, 2005

Urban Parks Vision in Atlanta, Gold Rush Park Here

The following story in today’s Los Angeles Times about a wonderful urban plan to encircle Atlanta, Georgia with an emerald necklace of ‘trails, parks, and public transit’ can happen because the city has visionary leaders who claim, “No other city has this momentum.”

This story caused me to think about the wonderful plans presented by visionary leaders in our city for Gold Rush Park that would transform the south side of the American River Parkway in the Richards Boulevard area into an urban treasure chest of trails, parks, and public transit, for our community.

This is the project that will connect the urban heart of our community, downtown Sacramento, with it's natural heart, the American River Parkway.

Let us hope that someday we can also say about Gold Rush Park and Sacramento, “No other city has this momentum.”

An 'Emerald Necklace' May Grace Urban Atlanta
City leaders are looking to transform an abandoned 22-mile railroad loop into a civic jewel of parks and public transit.
By Jenny JarvieTimes Staff WriterOctober 24, 2005ATLANTA —

Kudzu smothers the old steel tracks. Broken bottles, chairs and grills litter the gray wooden crossties, and rusty chain-link fencing flanks each side. But the derelict railroad that circles the city may have a bright future — one bustling with joggers, cyclists and commuters.Atlanta's civic leaders envision the bleak alleyway as a lush "emerald necklace" of trails, parks and public transit, a jewel that could transform a poster child of sprawl into the archetypal city of the 21st century.

The massive redevelopment plan — known as the Beltline — would convert the 22-mile loop into a paved trail and streetcar line linking 45 historic neighborhoods and creating more than 1,200 acres of parkland. The proposal has captured the imagination of many in the city and has sparked a rash of real estate deals.

But formidable political and financial hurdles will need to be cleared for the project to move forward.Among them is a vote by the Atlanta City Council on Nov. 7 on whether to establish a tax district designed to raise nearly $1.7 billion to fund the Beltline. If approved, property taxes collected on new developments in the district would be earmarked to pay for the parks, transit and trails. Total cost of the project is estimated from $2 billion to $3 billion.

The Beltline has a good chance of becoming reality — eight of Atlanta's 15 council members are sponsoring the legislation."The Beltline would make Atlanta a new kind of city," said Alexander Garvin, professor of planning and management at Yale University and president of Alex Garvin & Associates, a New York design team. "The transformation would be staggering."

Garvin, who analyzed the Beltline's green space potential last year, has been impressed with the vision of Atlanta's officials. "No other city has this momentum," he said.

For the rest of the story:,0,846545.story?coll=la-home-nation

Friday, October 21, 2005

Honored to Sponsor the Guardian Angels

The American River Parkway Preservation Society was honored to be one of the sponsors, along with the North Sacramento Land Company, the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, Ridership for the Masses (a mass transit advocacy group), and the North Sacramento School District, in welcoming Guardian Angels' Founder Curtis Sliwa to North Sacramento this morning where he gave a presentation.

Curtis and Guardian Angels from San Francisco will be patrolling the American River Parkway in the Lower Reach, Del Paso Boulevard in North Sacramento, and mass transit.

Curtis is a visionary grassroots leader who has put his life on the line for 26 years to protect the public against violent crime, and I would encourage you to visit the Guardian Angel website at to get a full sense of what this remarkable man and the remarkable organization he founded is doing around the world, and now in Sacramento where he plans to begin a local chapter.

More Land for the Parkway

A story in the Bee on Thursday, October 20th, noted that a grant has been submitted to purchase a 123 acre site near Discovery Park which will make a wonderful addition to the Parkway.

The backstory, not mentioned, is that County Parks wisely established a foundation many years ago for this specific purpose, to acquire funds to buy land to add to the Parkway when it became available, but unwisely has allowed the foundation’s purpose to become Parkway clean-up.

Clean-up is important, but having money, in-hand rather than having to count on a grant, to add to the Parkway is also. A central aspect of the strategy of the American River Parkway Preservation Society, available at our website is to create an endowment to help strengthen the Parkway.

We hope they get the grant, as there isn’t enough money in-hand to even properly take care of the existing Parkway.

Agency seeks to reclaim old mine
Pit near bike trail has become rest stop for migrating birds.
By Bill Lindelof -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, October 20, 2005

A grant will be sought to environmentally restore a large, privately held parcel in the American River Parkway.

The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency is seeking a $5 million grant to reclaim the 123-acre Gardenland Mine site near Discovery Park.

The agency has applied to the California River Parkways Grant Program in anticipation of being able to buy the property, which is dominated by a large hole.

The property, between the river and the bicycle trail, has reportedly been owned by the Urrutia family since the 1930s.

In the late 1970s, Henry Urrutia wanted to build a marina on part of the land. His family once had a bean farm on the property.

Urrutia had permission to dig sand and gravel from the property. The mining operation left a big hole that filled with water.

But the Sacramento City Council denied Urrutia permission to build the marina.
Meanwhile, the pit has become a resting spot for birds on the Pacific Flyway.

Elderberry bushes along the property's river edge are potential habitat for the threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle.

The property also has recreational possibilities: Trails could be built on the land if it is acquired, county officials said.

The city of Sacramento and Sacramento County both approved resolutions backing the flood control agency's grant application last week.

A county report notes that the mine site has "a steep-side 62-acre pit that is now a lake, hydraulically linked to the American River through alluvial soils." The pit, according to the report, is home to non-native fish.

In 2004, the flood control agency obtained grant funds that included $250,000 for planning of the lower parkway and $1.5 million for restoring the Gardenland Mine's riverside, according to the report.

A restored site could become a valuable, bucolic addition to the parkway, county officials said.

Also, county and flood control agency officials said, if a state Indian Museum is built nearby, the site would lend itself to interpretative programs.

For the rest of the story:

Auburn Dam on the Table

It is heartening to see that all options concerning water supply in the American River are beginning to be discussed.

The Parkway, the American River and the salmon running in it, are dependent on optimal water conditions, and the public decision-making process to provide those conditions is vitally important.

Having all options on the table is an obvious first-step.

Auburn dam talk revived in Katrina's wake
Congress would pay for a feasibility study, lawmaker tells panel hearing.
By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, October 21,

2005WASHINGTON - A new dam at Auburn was suggested Thursday as something that should be among the options to reduce flood-control risks for Sacramento in the wake of Hurricane Katrina levee failures in New Orleans.

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, who headed the House Resources Committee hearing on water supply vulnerabilities, said the flood protection Sacramento will get from improvements to Folsom Dam that have been authorized by Congress is insufficient.

He said he thinks Congress will fund a new feasibility study for an Auburn dam, which could double the city's protection.

"I'd like to see it," Radanovich said. "There's an interest in doing it. If it's not done this year, it would be next year."

For the rest of the story:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Salmon on the American and the Cosumnes Reborn

There is a good story about the American River salmon, and an editorial about the rebirth of the Cosumnes River, both in the Bee this morning and both directly pertaining to the availability of a stable water supply for the American River to provide us with the healthy salmon runs of 100,000 annually we have been blessed to receive these past several years, and to ensure the Cosumnes River is also kept supplied, the last un-dammed natural river which 20,000 or so salmon can run fully when it is healthy

Casting call: Salmon lure anglers to river
Another good run expected this year
By Bill Lindelof -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's salmon season, meaning fishing boats are lined up at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers - not far from downtown's tall buildings.

There's also a line of anglers fishing from the shallows at Sailor Bar in Fair Oaks.

And if it is the season of the chinook, Mike Brune, a 30-year veteran of salmon fishing, is on the American River, fly rod in hand.

Last week, he was knee-deep in the cool water at the Harrington Way access to the river in Carmichael.

It's a good spot for beginners, he said. The slope underwater is not steep - making for safe wading.

"It's a great place for a beginner to practice casting, and there's always a chance to get a fish," he said.

Before venturing into salmon fishing, Brune is inviting prospective anglers to a talk he is giving this weekend at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, in Ancil Hoffman Park.

His presentation, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, is titled "Salmon 101: Fishing in the Sacramento Area." Brune will explain bait, lures, flies, proper rods and reels and techniques he uses to land salmon.
Throughout the month, fish are surging upstream. Some will naturally spawn in the river, while others will go up the fish ladder to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho Cordova.

Patrick Foy, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game, said another good salmon run is expected this year. In the past dozen years or so, there have been runs of less than 10,000 fish and some runs of more than 130,000.

The popularity of salmon fishing is tied to the good runs of recent years, he said.

"There have been in excess of 100,000 fish in the American River system for the past five years in a row," Foy said. "That is going to draw a lot of people out to the river."

For the rest of the story:

Editorial: A river, reborn
Cosumnes gets a new lease on life
Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Cosumnes has long been Sacramento's forgotten river, but new efforts to restore this waterway are beginning to pay off. Having groundwater pumped near this river has raided the Cosumnes of its supply and turned it dry during weeks when it used to be wet. Through a complicated deal, the river will get some of its water back, good news for salmon and river enthusiasts. But it is also good news for water management for human needs.

The Cosumnes is the last remaining free river unblocked by dams between the Sierra and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It once had a salmon run of as many as 20,000 fish a year. These days, the river is lucky to have 500 salmon return.

For the rest of the editorial:

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Crime on the Parkway, Policing does Matter

Over the last few months we have seen evidence (see our previous posting on Parkway crime) that serious crime is increasing in the Parkway and many would argue that it is because the lack of enforcement of petty crime creates an atmosphere where crime grows and thrives.

This is the classic “broken windows theory” of crime and an excellent article about controlling crime by enforcing even its most petty manifestations, (as we have been calling for regarding the illegal camping in the Lower Reach of the Parkway), by one of the developer of the theory, George Kelling, is posted.

Policing Does Matter
William H. Sousa, George L. Kelling
New research refutes the “root-causes” theory of crime.

After September 11, as New York’s Finest turned some of their attention away from ordinary policing and focused on preventing another terrorist strike, violent crime spiked up in some areas of the city. The spike suggested how activist policing really does cut crime: if you stop doing it, this is what happens. The experience served as a reminder that Gotham’s amazing crime turnaround during the 1990s, with murder falling 70 percent and violent crimes in general down by more than half, rested on the innovations of Giuliani-era policing—and above all on the “broken-windows” strategy of policing such “quality of life” offenses as aggressive panhandling and public urination, on the assumption that tolerating such disorder gives wrongdoers the impression that no one is in charge and encourages more serious offenses.

Most academic criminologists, however, don’t buy the idea that changes in policing can change the crime rate. They believe that “root causes” or vast impersonal forces—not policy choices—explain changes in the crime rate. According to these academics, crime declined in the nineties because the crack epidemic burned itself out; the economy boomed, so poor people weren’t forced into a life of crime; and there were fewer testosterone-charged, crime-prone young males around. And if policing did contribute a little to lowering crime, in the ivory-tower view, the costs were excessive, as activist cops spread a reign of terror in poor minority neighborhoods.

For the rest of the article:

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Win for the Salmon and One for the Parkway

There are two articles today in the Bee about two good decisions, one for the salmon and one for the Parkway.

The first concerns the Cosumnes River and the recharging of groundwater through diversion of American River water, further highlighting the importance of developing additional water storage on the American.

The second concerns the recent court ruling stopping the building of large homes too close to the Parkway, in violation of the Parkway Plan, but currently being allowed by county supervisors.

A watershed deal
Increased flows on Cosumnes River will recharge groundwater, aid salmon run

By Chris Bowman -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Like theater-goers queuing up at the doors on opening night, chinook salmon are gathering at the mouth of the Cosumnes River in the Delta for their journey home.

The program, genetically speaking, instructs the migratory fish to start entering the Cosumnes in about two weeks. Historically, that's when the season's first rains transform the lower reach from puddles to stream.

But for the past 50 or more years, opening day has gotten later and later. Ever-larger volumes of groundwater pumped for riverside farms and housing growth in Elk Grove and Galt have caused the river to stay drier longer and over longer stretches.

In recent years, dry conditions have stretched through January, altogether nixing the annual fall run of chinook on the Cosumnes.

On Monday, help and hope for the salmon arrived with the turn of a valve.

In a long-negotiated agreement among preservationists, farmers and water utilities, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a torrent of American River water into the Cosumnes from the Folsom-South Canal, near Sloughhouse Road.

For the rest of the story:

Editorial: A parkway win
Judge forces reconsideration of big homes
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In her ruling Monday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Judy Holzer Hersher has stymied the county's sad tradition of allowing big new homes too close to the American River bluff. The river has scored an important victory.

The county has a pretty good plan when it comes to tearing down old homes and building new ones near the river. That plan generally calls for the homes to be set back from the river by at least 70 feet and for the design to blend in with the natural surroundings, not stick out like a McMansion. The problem is that the county supervisors like to make exceptions to that plan. They tend to spend hours in public session as they review the designs of these dream homes and tweak them to their satisfaction.

For the rest of the Editorial:

Monday, October 17, 2005

Public Meetings Should be a Two-Way Street

There was an excellent editorial in the Bee Saturday regarding city leaders initiating a public discussion about flood preparedness.

We are also pleased to see public leadership taking a proactive role in discussing Sacramento’s obvious vulnerability to the kind of flooding that sunk New Orleans. We also heartily agree with the editorial’s conclusion that, “These meetings should be a two-way street for learning.”

Public leadership too often has a tendency to so severely restrict public dialogue that the informed public wishing to participate drops-out of the process, which has largely happened in the American River Parkway Plan Update format, also restrictive of public comment.

Serious public issues call for a process encouraging public participation, not restricting it.

Editorial: Some humility, please
Big Easy mess couldn't occur here. Oh, yeah?
Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sacramento officials are now holding meetings across the city, assuring residents that the "fiasco" of the New Orleans flood disaster could never happen here.

There are many things to like about these meetings. Mayor Heather Fargo and city and county leaders are spending real face-time in neighborhoods, informing people about the need for flood insurance and updating them on levee repairs and Folsom Dam work.

But the tone and structure of these gatherings raise questions. Is the intent to seriously engage residents in preparedness? Or are these meetings largely a self-serving effort by leaders to deflect claims the city is not as flood-prepared as it could or should be?

A meeting Monday in Natomas suggested the latter.

For the rest of the editorial:

Friday, October 14, 2005

Other Rivers

There are some great articles and pictures about other rivers in this month’s issue of the River Management Society Newsletter, available at

In this issue, which focuses on the Southeast United States, they have articles on Three Rivers Greenway, Riparian Trails as Classroom, & Exploring the Chattooga, to name a few.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Parks Need For Adequate Funding

Our Parkway isn’t the only park having trouble finding adequate funding, as the following article in today’s Bee notes, but there are options, as we have proposed in our strategy for the Parkway (see our website at ) and as mentioned in the article.

State parks finding it hard to maintain the experience
Enough money to repair the facilities hasn't been budgeted for at least 15 years, officials complain
By M.S. Enkoji -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, October 13, 2005

As campers roll up their sleeping bags and head home for the winter, the California Parks and Recreation Department will get out the toolbox to fix fences, fill potholes and patch roofs. But not all of them.

The state Department of Parks and Recreation has a $906 million maintenance backlog - such as a deteriorating wall at Sutter's Fort - that has been on hold for the last 15 years. During the same time, annual state park visitors went from 76 million to as many as 87 million.

Because of budget cuts, the department has had to delay maintenance that doesn't affect public safety, said Roy Stearns, a department spokesman.

But the state's park system cannot withstand many more busy summer seasons without a healthy repair budget, he said.

Historical structures go without restoration; ancient sewer lines go without replacement.

At Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, the walls are weakening, even crumbling in some places, though it isn't a danger to the public, Stearns said. Something needs to be done in the next few years, but the estimated $1 million to do the restoration job isn't in the budget, he said.

Water and sewer lines are among the most expensive delayed maintenance projects because of the cost and additional expense of replacing them in environmentally sensitive areas, Stearns said. Smaller jobs, such as sealing wooden lifeguard towers at $500 a year, delayed for too long turn into a $40,000 replacement cost.

The department is beginning a search for a reliable money source outside the state's budget.
"We need to find a sustainable source," Stearns said.

Some of the options could be donations, bonds, a trust or a type of annuity.

For the rest of the story:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Crime Reports in the Parkway

Over the past two months there have been two crime reports of attempted rapes on the Parkway in the upriver areas east of River Park, areas generally considered safe to venture in alone, even for women.

As the area surrounding the Parkway becomes more urbanized, crime will inevitably go up, but with proper attention to increasing law enforcement's presence, the Parkway can remain the sanctuary we expect it to be.

An obvious first step is to increase the ranger patrols dramatically. Most Parkway users report that they hardly ever see the park rangers on any regular basis.

In a large park area where tree and plant growth is as extensive as it is in the Parkway's almost 5,000 acres, and criminals can hide virtually anywhere along the trails, it is absolutely vital that law enforcement be highly visible at all hours of public use to ensure public safety.

This just isn't an option and it speaks to a foundation of our organization's strategy( see our website at; ) to have the management of the Parkway come under a nonprofit organization providing a singular and dedicated focus, which it certainly does not have now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What Makes a Place Great?

We all know that the Parkway is a really great place.

However, as we document regularly, it is not such a great place downriver, in the Lower Reach, where most knowledgeable Parkway users learn to avoid or rush through when they have to be there and hopefully in broad daylight.

But for those upriver it still is a great place.

So what makes a place great?

That question is the title of a very informative article from Project for Public Spaces.

What Makes a Place Great?

It's surprisingly simple.

Over the past 30 years Project for Public Spaces has evaluated more than 1,000 public spaces, and informally investigated tens of thousands more. From all this we have discovered that most great places--whether a grand downtown plaza or humble neighborhood park--share four key qualities:

  • It is accessible and well-connected to other important places in the area.
  • The space is comfortable and projects a good image.
  • People are drawn to participate in activities there.
  • It is a sociable place where people like to gather, visiting it again and again.

Paying attention to these qualities can help you evaluate the public spaces in your own community, and make the changes that can transform them into great places.

Access and Linkages

You can easily judge the accessibility of a place by noting its connections to the surroundings--including the visual links. A great public space is easy to get to, easy to enter, and easy to navigate your way through. It's arranged in a way so you can see most of what is going on there, both from a distance and up close. The edges of a public space also play an important role in making it accessible; a row of shops along a street, for instance, is more interesting and generally safer to walk along than a blank wall or an empty lot. Accessible spaces are conveniently reached by foot and, ideally, public transit, and have a high parking turnover.

Questions to consider about Access and Linkages:

· Can you see the space from a distance? Is its interior visible from the outside?
· Is there a good connection between this place and adjacent buildings? Or is it surrounded by blank walls, surface parking lots, windowless buildings, or other alienating elements that discourage people from entering the area?
· Do occupants of adjacent buildings use the space?
· Can people easily walk to the place? Or are they intimidated by heavy traffic or forlorn streetscapes?
· Do sidewalks lead to and from the adjacent areas?
· Does the space function well for people with disabilities and other special needs?
· Do the paths throughout the space take people where they actually want to go?
· Can people use a variety of transportation options--bus, train, car, bicycle--to reach the place?

Comfort and Image

A space that is comfortable and looks inviting is likely to be successful. A sense of comfort includes perceptions about safety, cleanliness, and the availability of places to sit. A lack of seating is the surprising downfall of many otherwise good places. People are drawn to places that give them a choice of places to sit, so they can at various times of day or year be either in or out of the sun. Women are good judges of comfort and image, because they tend to be more discriminating about the public spaces they use.

Questions to consider about Comfort and Image:

· Does the place make a good first impression?
· Are there as many women as men?
· Are there enough places to sit? Are seats conveniently located? Do people have a choice of places to sit, either in the sun or shade?
· Are spaces clean and free of litter? Who is responsible for maintenance?
· Does the area feel safe? Are there security personnel present? If so, what do these people do? When are they on duty?
· Are people taking pictures? Are there many photo opportunities available?
· Do vehicles dominate pedestrian use of the space, or prevent them from easily getting to the space?

For the rest of the article:

Monday, October 10, 2005

Honoring California's Roots

There was a great story in the Bee yesterday about another phase of the work being done by California State Parks to honor the roots of all who have made California what it is.

The story, about how time and circumstance preserved the poems written by Chinese detainees on the walls of the detention barracks speak to us today of the pain and loneliness caused by the Chinese Exclusion Act of that period.

California State Parks should itself be honored for this work as well as their work establishing the California Indian Heritage Center & Museum in the Lower Reach of the Parkway, which stories were mentioned here on August 20th and 21st.

Here is yesterday's story about Angel Island:

Walls that talk again
Restoration progresses on carvings by Angel Island detainees
By M.S. Enkoji -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, October 9, 2005

ANGEL ISLAND - Just as the summer of 1916 faded from the San Francisco Bay, a 20-year-old newlywed woman from Hong Kong alighted from the Nippon Maru, her 56-year-old merchant husband at her side.

Quok Shee would spend her first two years in America as a prisoner. Detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station, she could do little more than gaze across the bay, where freedom and her new life waited.

How she dealt with her despair is unknown, but others in similar circumstances left a record. The walls of the men's quarters are dappled with poems, each a personal portrait of injustice under government-sanctioned discrimination.

Even though immigration workers painted over their work - seven times - and puttied in the carvings, the artful expressions survived. Putty, meant to smooth out defacing, actually helped define the characters as the wood around it, over time, deteriorated, leaving the putty to show clearly what it was supposed to have covered.

Once slated for destruction, the barracks and their talking walls are undergoing the first phase of a $50 million restoration by the state Parks and Recreation Department, which began in August.

For the rest of the story:

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Let's talk about building Auburn dam

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounaakis wrote a very thoughtful article of that title yesterday and I hope that her call to public leadership will be responded to.

Having the once-agreed-upon solution to our flooding problem off the table of flood solution discussion, as she described in her service with the Sacramento Water Forum, (SWF) is the thinking that doomed New Orleans.

It also explains the reaction I received shortly after forming the American River Parkway Preservation Society in 2003 and approaching the SWF for policy information about protecting the salmon in the American River by providing the optimal protective conditions of appropriate water temperature and water flow.

I asked the SWF leadership what solution the agency had determined could provide those optimal conditions, and a large dam holding cold water that could be released when needed was never mentioned.

It is hoped our public leadership will heed Ms.Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis’s implicit advice and create a proper forum for public discussion about solving the problem of major flooding, with every solution on the table.

Our community, with the beauty and serenity of the Parkway as its natural heart, await that leadership.

Here is her article and the link:

Monday, October 10, 2005
Another Voice
Let's talk about building Auburn dam
Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis
Sacramento Business Journal

After the devastating floods of New Orleans, I was really hopeful that our community leaders would start talking again about how we need to build the Auburn dam. But even faced with the realities of New Orleans, few seemed to want to wade back into the debate over the dam. At least, not on the side of why we should build it.

I should probably follow their lead. I mean, I've got an SUV and a place to go.

But I have this image that I can't get out of my head of a woman standing on her rooftop, clutching her babies and waving a white flag. And I know that without the Auburn dam, there is a very real chance it will one day happen here.

The levees won't be strong enough: If you didn't know it before, you should know by now that levees are no match for a major act of Mother Nature. But a lot of people have known this for a long time. And back in the days when our leaders thought big, back in the days when we built the University of California campuses and the interstate freeways, California had a plan.

In 1965, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that it would be the best protection against a major flood, construction of the Auburn dam was authorized by the federal government. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1968, and a giant concrete and steel foundation was poured.

The government bought land upstream from the dam to set aside as a new water reservoir. A 720-foot-tall bridge was built to carry traffic from one side to another. Construction got under way on the Folsom South Canal to incorporate the Auburn dam into the new enhanced flood control system.

In the mid-1970s, however, earthquake concerns were raised. The Bureau of Reclamation hired a panel to review the concerns, and it eventually came up with design modifications so the structure could withstand geologic shifts.

But it was the political ground that shifted. By the late 1970s, opposition to dam building had become a major tenet of the environmental movement. A debate raged for more than 20 years. Then in 1992 there was a meeting of the minds. Local congressmen Bob Matsui, Vic Fazio and John Doolittle (representing roughly the left, the center and the right of the American political spectrum) all agreed to go together to ask Congress for the funding to build the dam.

They were, first and foremost, concerned with the safety of the people of this region.

For the rest of the story:

Friday, October 07, 2005

Wrong policy effecting Parkway users

The opinion expressed this morning in the Sacramento Bee by County Supervisor MacGlashan regarding the proposed action to allow “local pharmacies to sell hypodermic needles to anyone over age 18”, is a good one.

The potential impact, as she notes, that it could have on legitimate users of the American River Parkway, particularly in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway where a large population of illegal campers exhibit a heavy use of syringes which are then routinely discarded in the Parkway, could be devastating.

The reasoning, if this was passed, would be to potentially penalize the innocent by enabling illegal behavior, which Supervisor MacGlashan correctly defines as,
“a misguided attempt to slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.”

Her article can be read here:

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Legendary Fishing Movie and Legendary Fish

Two stories today, one about the passing of the man who ensured the greatest movie about fishing and rivers, in my humble opinion, was true to its roots, and the other about our local festival celebrating the legendary salmon.

Legendary angler who taught 'Rivers Runs Through It' actors dies
By Vince Devlin of the Missoulian

It was, his son-in-law says, a ridiculous-looking thing. George Croonenberghs called it the Santa Claus fly, and he swore by it.

It had a bright red body wrapped in golden tinsel, with polar bear hair for wings, and it wound perfectly around Croonenberghs' preferred fly-fishing technique.

"When he fished, he liked to put the fly between the sun and the fish so it was more radiant," says Karlheinz Eisinger, who is married to Croonenberghs' only child, Sandra. "He liked to cast into the sun so the fly would light up. It seemed to excite the fish." Croonenberghs, who died last week in his native Missoula at the age of 87, was best known for his work as the fishing and period adviser on Robert Redford's 1992 film, "A River Runs Through It."

This is the man who taught Brad Pitt how to fish.

Croonenberghs wasn't just hired for the movie - based on Norman Maclean's famed novella about his family, fly fishing and the murder of his brother Paul - but because he knew fly fishing inside and out.

No, Croonenberghs knew the Macleans inside and out, too. It was the Rev. John Maclean himself who taught Croonenberghs to tie flies at the young age of 6, and the two families built two of the first cabins on Seeley Lake back in the 1920s, sharing the same beach, ice house and water tower.

"He tied for Paul and Norman, and if they didn't like the flies, they'd give him the old one-two-three off the dock," Sandra says. "He learned the hard way early."

Norman Maclean, mostly ambivalent about whether "River" was ever made into a movie, was adamant that, if it was, it be accurate.

Croonenberghs, a retired railroad engineer, was the key to helping Redford keep his promise that it would be. Croonenberghs didn't only tie the same flies for the movie the Macleans had once used in real life.

For the rest of the story:

And the story of the legendary fish, whose continued health and presence in our river is so vital to our mission, is about the annual Salmon Festival.

At salmon festival, all hail the king
Bee Staff Thursday October 6 2005

With all due respect to other fish, you have to like the wild salmon's style.

Locally, the species found in the American and Sacramento rivers is the chinook (a.k.a. king) salmon. Big and powerful, the king has been known to reach 50 pounds in California - the size of a small child. Catching even a 10-to 30-pounder is a seasonal thrill for anglers; observing the salmon's upstream tenacity and surging movements is just as satisfying for others.

For the rest of the story:

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Concentrating Services for the Destitute

An article from today’s Los Angeles Times points out the devastation caused to surrounding neighborhoods by the concentration of social services in one area, something we addressed in our report on the Lower Reach of the American River Parkway, currently suffering under a huge illegal camping problem.

Our report can be found on the News page on our website at

As the article from the Times points out, the centralizing of services attracts more of those needing services, which is good for them and the service providers, but can be disastrous for the surrounding community.

Why Skid Row Has Become L.A.'s 'Dumping' Ground
Agencies there don't, or can't, turn away the addicts, the destitute and the homeless.
By Cara Mia DiMassa and Richard Winton,Times Staff Writers October 5, 2005

To understand how the streets of downtown Los Angeles have become a depository for drug addicts, parolees and homeless people, just look through the logs of the skid row detox center run by the Volunteers of America.

In the last month alone, dozens of police cruisers from as far away as Carson and Venice have pulled up to the center's doors on Crocker Street near 5th Street, bringing with them more than 150 intoxicated homeless people. The drop-offs have come from nine law enforcement agencies besides the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the records reviewed by The Times, but also from various LAPD divisions, including Hollywood, Pacific and West L.A.

A block away at the Union Rescue Mission, social workers say ambulances and taxis regularly drop people at their doorstep from hospitals, healthcare centers and even retirement homes.

Although critics might denounce such actions as dumping problems in downtown Los Angeles, the reality, according to police, social workers and community activists, is more complicated.

Skid row has the county's largest concentration of services for homeless people and those with drug and alcohol addictions. This makes it a place of last resort for agencies dealing with people who have been released from jail, hospitals or other institutions and have nowhere else to go.

For decades, few questioned the arrangement — largely because that section of downtown had long been home to single-room-occupancy hotels and charity groups that attracted transients.

But in recent years, the neighborhoods around skid row have been at the center of a major revitalization, as long-abandoned office buildings have been converted into luxury lofts and condos. Now, with units in the shadow of skid row going for as much as $700,000, some residents and city officials say they are tired of the area being a dumping ground for the region's problems.

For the rest of the story:,0,3581498.story?coll=la-home-local

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sacramento Flood Protection, the Best or Less ?

There were two important articles in the Bee yesterday about flood protection.

One reminds us of what we need to do, which is seek the best flood protection possible, and the other reminds us of why we haven’t already done that, because some public leaders are willing to settle for less than the best, even in the context of the horror we witnessed from New Orleans.

The first article, Louisiana has some advice for us, notes: “Joe Suhayda, a Baton Rouge resident and former director of the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute…urged that communities ... set their bar high, for 500-year flood protection or more, and insist on a commitment to reach that level.

The Netherlands and Japan aim to provide coastal residents with 10,000-year flood protection, some point out, but costs are steep. Massive upgrades to the Dutch system of dams, dikes and seawalls after a 1953 flood cost an estimated $8 billion to build and $500 million annually to maintain, according to news reports.”

The full article is at:

The Dutch and the Japanese have chosen the best protection possible and don’t buy into a settling-for-less-than-the-best approach the next article promotes, the type of thinking which doomed New Orleans.

The second article is entitled
Flood reality [Folsom] dam is the key, where the writer says: “Some well-meaning people have argued that we need 500-year protection. Maybe we do. But, that's irrelevant now since there is no authorized project nor funding on the horizon to provide the 500-year level of protection. On the other hand, 200-year protection is within our grasp."

The full article is at: