Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Last blog till after Christmas & New Years

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Eleven

This article continues the Bee's coverage on flooding with a focus on the finances around the levees, mostly in the Delta, which are closely connected to the Parkway and need to be seen as part of the ecosystem.

Here is an excerpt.

"If levee districts are struggling now to stay in operation, those in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta soon will struggle more.

"On July 1, the state's Delta Levee Maintenance Program will lose two-thirds of its funding.

"Known commonly as the subventions program, it provides state matching funds for maintenance and improvement projects done by Delta districts. After July 1, the program will receive a maximum of $2 million annually in state funding, compared with $6 million previously.
"The outcome is going to be that (districts) are going to stop maintaining their levees," said John Winther, president of four Delta reclamation districts.

"The Delta's 1,100-mile maze of levees is critical to protecting water quality for the 23 million Californians who use its water in their homes and businesses. Delta levees also protect two state highways, a key railroad line, several small towns and 700,000 acres of farmland - all in a marshy region between Sacramento and Tracy.

"All levees need constant maintenance, and that is especially true in the Delta, where many sit on spongy peat soil. Peat, an organic material composed of decayed plant matter, slowly compresses over time under the weight of levees.

"Without improvements, Delta levees gradually get lower in relation to sea level, allowing water to flow over them and cause levee failures.

"If we hadn't had that (subventions) program, we would have overtopped at least half the levees in the Delta either in '95, '97 or '98," said Gilbert Cosio, a partner with MBK Engineers in Sacramento, a consultant to many levee districts.

"Farming on Delta islands adds to the problem, because cultivation exposes peat soil to the air, causing it to decompose faster. Delta islands lose up to an inch of soil depth annually, and today some island interiors are more than 20 feet below sea level, leaving less mass to push back against flood waters.

"California leaders long ago recognized these problems and the broad state interests in preserving the Delta - for water supply, wildlife habitat, transportation and recreation. The Delta Levee Maintenance Program was created by legislation in 1981 to provide a way for the state to share in the Delta's upkeep."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Ten

The series Tempting Fate continues today in the Bee and what today's story reminds us is how intimately the American River is connected to the vasy network of levees, and communities in the river and delta area.

Here is an excerpt, click on title for full story...

"The guardians of vital levees in California's flood-prone Central Valley are on the verge of financial crisis, an investigation by The Bee has found, one that puts basic maintenance at risk and virtually rules out upgrades for a system in decline.

"The Bee examined a year's worth of financial audits for 73 levee districts between Butte City in the north and Visalia in the south. These tiny government agencies work behind the scenes in cities and rural areas, getting a share of property taxes from landowners to maintain thousands of miles of levees.

"While state and federal agencies often help pay for major levee upgrades, local levee districts are the eyes and ears of California's flood defenses - literally the front line between us and high water.

"The Bee's analysis found that front line pocked with holes.

"Thirty-three of the districts reviewed, or nearly half, ended their most recent fiscal year in the red, with an average deficit of $133,839.

"One of the healthiest was District 341 on Sherman Island near Antioch, which is partly owned by the state and ended its 2004 budget year with a surplus of $380,325. At the low end was District 1500 near Yuba City, which ended the year in the hole by $502,010.

"The numbers reveal a stark truth: Many levee districts are chipping away at their meager assets to perform the basic maintenance that protects cities and towns from flooding.

Only a third of the districts have enough cash in reserve to cover a year's operating expenses, according to The Bee's review.

"To be very honest, we're not doing well. We don't have much money to operate," said James Waller, a board member of Reclamation District 10, which abuts the city of Marysville.
His district has an annual budget of $12,000 to maintain 23 miles of levee. Typical maintenance costs are $5,000 to $15,000 per mile of levee.

"California's levee districts were formed in the late 1800s and early 1900s by farmers to protect crops from the state's ever-meandering rivers. Nearly all still are run by farmers and they operate on a shoestring, in many cases unable to draw funds from the populated areas they now protect.

"Few districts manage to get to the larger projects that will make levees stronger, which can cost more than $1 million per mile."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Flood Control Editorial

This editorial in today's Bee shows signs of an emerging collaboration among public leadership around American River flood control involving the Folsom Dam.

We hope it continues, here's an excerpt.

"Talk about a turnaround. Six months ago, the flood control project at Folsom Dam was a near disaster when its project cost appeared to triple. Today, a new project is rapidly taking shape that could solve the problem of the dam's inability to release enough water before big rains arrive.

Part of the credit goes to the engineers who may have found a cheaper solution. But huge credit goes to an emerging team of federal and local agencies. They have learned that this flood control problem cannot be solved expeditiously without each other's help.

Big flood control projects are typically the sole domain of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A different federal agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, actually operates Folsom Dam. But the original flood fix was entirely under the corps' control.

That project was to enlarge the existing outlets on the face of the dam. The corps thought the project would cost around $200 million. But bids came in above $600 million - way beyond any federal or local budget.

Then a new engineering solution emerged. There is an emergency spillway to the side of the dam. A small cofferdam behind the dam could expose this spillway to give construction crews easy access. The idea is to construct new flood release gates."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wildlife Count on the Parkway

The annual count on the Parkway has been completed. The link goes to the full article in today's Bee, and here is an excerpt:

"Forty-six observers spotted 103 bird species and 12 mammals recently in the American River Natural History Association's 21st annual wildlife count on the American River Parkway.

By canoe and on foot, the volunteers trained their eyes on wildlife from Nimbus Dam to Discovery Park on Dec. 3.

The cool, sunny weather made for good spotting. For only the second time, a Lewis's woodpecker and a Ross's goose were seen during the count.

Previous bird totals mostly ranged between 101 and 110 species. A majority of the counters were Sacramento Audubon Society members.

Among the non-bird species, the volunteers saw 72 deer, 14 ground squirrels, 46 gray squirrels, 126 fox squirrels, five coyotes, two river otters, 10 black-tailed hares, two cottontails, two beaver, eight house cats, a striped skunk and a black rat.

The skunk and rat were firsts in the 13 years that non-bird species have been counted. Since the count was undertaken during the day, some mostly nocturnal animals such as raccoons and opossums, were absent from the list."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

American River Salmon

A wonderful story in today’s Bee of human intervention into the ancient ritual of the salmon spawning in the American River, which not only helps overcome the loss of their ancestral run up the river, but recovers them after spawning to feed the poor and homeless.

Salmon give all for their own - and feed needy people, too
Nimbus hatchery helps species survive and is a link in distributing high-quality food.
By M.S. Enkoji -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A tale as old as the sea plays out every year at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, with a little modern intervention: Salmon swim and spawn, live and die - and go on to feed thousands of needy people each winter.

And fertilize a few lawns and feed a few pets as part of the bargain.

"In a sense, none of the fish is wasted," said Bob Burks, a state Department of Fish and Game manager at the hatchery.

In the final days of the spawning season, inside a cavernous building at the Hazel Avenue hatchery, a crew worked with ballet-like precision, hauling in fish, sorting them by gender, then quickly killing them.

The fresh-killed fish slid along stainless steel chutes toward the "spawner," the guy in the raincoat as orange as the glistening eggs scooped from the females. Once extracted, the eggs were fertilized.

In a natural cycle, the fish would die in a river after spawning, withering away in a watery grave. But at the hatchery, a diversion in the natural process ensures that the salmon are killed while they are still suitable for eating, Burks said. Once finished with their propagating duties, the fish, packed in ice, are trucked to a Washington fishery, processed into fillets and flash-frozen. The rest is ground into fertilizer or cat food. Unused eggs are sold for bait.

As much as 125,000 pounds of salmon from six Northern California hatcheries is distributed throughout Northern California every holiday season to charities such as Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento and to 40 Indian tribes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lower Reach Report, Homeless Follow Up Part Three

Sacramento public leadership has proposed a housing first model to deal with the chronic homeless, those are the folks who inhabit the illegal campgrounds along the Parkway in the Lower Reach, and it is a model we agree with, as we outlined in our Lower Reach Report on our website.

However, the details are important and the model we agree with is the Pathways to Housing model, which places people in individual apartments scattered throughout the community and provides treatment in that personalized setting.

The model that appears to be what Sacramento advocates are proposing (details are still sketchy) is to continue the type of concentration of services already blighting a large part of the downtown area and provide housing in the same manner.

Here is a recent San Francisco Chronicle article about the Pathways to Housing model from Pathway’s website.

Success in the Big Apple
New York City finds path for mentally ill Housing homeless before treatment bucks conventional wisdom
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, June 14, 2004

New York - -- Shopping for telephones is what finally drove it home to Tony Bartol that he was re-entering that almost-forgotten world where the sidewalk was not his bed. He stood in front of a wall lined with 200 of them in plastic packaging -- white phones with speakers, black ones with six lines, red ones with voice mail -- and scratched his head, confused.

"I have no idea what to pick here," he said. His hand trembled as he touched one, then another. "The last time I owned a phone was 1977."

A few weeks before, Bartol was sleeping in Manhattan subway stations, so mentally ill he could barely pluck reality from the visions of God in his head. He'd been that way for 19 years. On this day in mid-May, the 54-year-old, bushy-bearded string bean of a man was in a department store with two social workers shopping for a few essentials before moving into his own apartment.

He was still delusional, still without a job, and still not on the medication he needed to address his psychosis. But now, he had one angel over his street-tough shoulder that other mentally ill homeless people still foraging in alleyways didn't -- a program called Pathways to Housing, a New York-minted twist on the "supportive housing" model of tackling chronic homelessness in urban America.

Unlike other cutting-edge supportive housing techniques in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago -- and being embraced in San Francisco -- in which the hard-core homeless are moved en masse into residential hotels with on-site social services, Pathways to Housing snatches them straight off the street and gives them their own, individual apartments apart from other homeless people, alongside average New Yorkers. And unlike virtually any other program in the country, it does this with the hardest core population of them all: the mentally ill.

For the rest of the story:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Nine

What is revealing about this report in yesterday’s Bee is that it takes 80 foot deep slurry walls (sunken alongside the levee as protection barriers) to ensure against levee seepage, and many of the most populous areas do not have anywhere near that deep protection.

As tragic the floods in New Orleans were and continue to cause great hardship there, it has garnered well-deserved local attention as we are the least protected from flooding of any major metropolitan area in the United States.

Seepage threatening area levees
Experts drill next to earthen walls to pinpoint problems.
By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, December 11, 2005

Investigators studying the New Orleans flooding disaster have identified underground water seepage as a key reason certain levees collapsed during Hurricane Katrina.

A mostly invisible problem until it is too late, deep water seepage also is an urgent concern in Sacramento and throughout the Central Valley.

For years, flood control experts have had their hands full designing and maintaining above-ground levees that contain the rivers flowing across the landscape.

But now, they also are trying to get a grip on unseen waters traveling silently beneath those levees.

The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency recently concluded a massive drilling project along levees in Natomas, involving 110 deep drilling sites, to determine the depth and extent of seepage there.

In Yolo County, flood control officials in West Sacramento are evaluating similar geotechnical data already on the books, and are planning more investigative drilling next spring.

At the same time, the state has identified underground seepage as a major concern across the Central Valley, and is working on a plan for evaluating the layers of ground and the water flows beneath levees.

In New Orleans, preliminary reviews have found that such underground flows undermined certain levees and caused them to crumble after Hurricane Katrina hit. The seepage occurred below walls of sheet pilings that had been driven 10 feet into the earthen levees, far shallower than what engineers now say is necessary to protect the city.

Les Harder, California's acting deputy director for public safety for the Department of Water Resources, was part of a National Science Foundation team that investigated the New Orleans flooding disaster. He came home shaking his head - both at the losses in the South and at the potential for losses in California.

"Do we have those cases here? You bet," Harder said of the underground seepage threat. "Have we had past failures because of it? Absolutely."

For the rest of the story:

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sprawl & Smart Growth

This post is an article about sprawl and current thinking about it, which is playing a large role in the preservation of the Parkway.

In addition to this article, there is also a book out recently, Sprawl, by Robert Bruegmann, professor of urban planning at the University of Chicago, which makes a good case that sprawl isn’t the enemy most commentators would have us believe.

Here is an excerpt:
“Detractors call it sprawl and assert that it is economically inefficient, socially inequitable, environmentally irresponsible and ugly. Robert Bruegmann calls it a logical consequence of economic growth and the democratization of society, with benefits that urban planners have failed to recognize.

In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent or particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, and choice that were once the exclusive prerogatives of the rich and powerful.”

One of the facts noted in this article, confirming Bruegmann, is that the cities touted as smart growth models are cities that are also driving out their children and consequently moving away from smart growth policies, cities like Portland, Oregon.

Rocky Mountain News: July 9, 2005
Smart Growth & Sprawl-reducing policies suffer setbacks around the country
By C. Kenneth Orski and Jane C Shaw

"Smart-growth" policies, which became popular nationwide during the 1990s, are regulations designed to reduce suburban sprawl and control growth. They encourage people to live close together within walking distance of shops and offices. One goal is to reduce the use of the automobile. Another is to create neighborhoods full of interesting "streetscapes." A third is to cluster people in high densities in order to preserve large areas of open space. Today, smart-growth policies seem to be in retreat. Setbacks have occurred in Maryland, Virginia and Oregon, and new census information suggests that the public does not really embrace the smart growth way of life.

Maryland: No dent in land-use patterns

One sign of smart growth's weakness comes from Maryland, where former Gov. Paris N. Glendening unveiled a statewide policy in 1997 to manage growth. The idea was to restrict the use of public funds for development to areas where public infrastructure was already being supplied. Counties were to submit plans to the state showing where they wanted growth to occur. These "priority funding areas" would be eligible for state infrastructure financial assistance, but projects outside these areas would not. The policy was hailed as a milestone. But as Peter Whoriskey reported last fall in a series of articles in the Washington Post, Glendening's initiative has yet to make a significant dent in Maryland's sprawling land-use patterns.

"A review of key state and local planning records shows no significant shifts in Maryland's development patterns since the passage of Glendening's smart growth package," wrote Whoriskey. "Growth still takes place where there was nothing, rather than where it has gone before."

Although he did not have recent figures, Whoriskey noted that in 2001, 75 percent of the land consumed by home building in Maryland was taken from pastures, woods and other parcels outside the smart-growth areas - almost the same percentage as before the program began, according to Maryland Department of Planning records. One possible reason for the failure of Glendening's smart-growth policy was that it lacked teeth. The state could refuse to fund the necessary public infrastructure but could not veto a project. Large developers and retail giants such as Wal-Mart built anyway, financing the necessary roads and sewers themselves. Local officials refused to stand in the way.

For the rest of the article:

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lower Reach Report, Homeless Follow Up, Part Two

We hope that the ban on shopping carts this article (click on post title for complete article, excerpt below) in today's Bee discusses, is approved by the county.

The communities adjacent to the Lower Reach (Discovery Park, Woodlake and Cal Expo) of the Parkway, have been struggling for years with the trash of illegal campers, largely being hauled in by stolen shopping carts.

County may ban carts in parkway
Some say it's needed for safety; others fault lack of housing for the homeless.
By Bill Lindelof -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PST Thursday, December 8, 2005

County officials and bicycle advocates say banning shopping carts on the American River Parkway will prevent accidents and cut down on trash.

But advocates for the homeless say the answer is affordable housing - not more enforcement.
"It's putting the cart before the house," said Tim Brown, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, which offers free meals to homeless people at its North C Street complex near the parkway.

County officials paint a sobering picture of trash left in the riparian parkway by the homeless - a good deal of it carried in using shopping carts. In 2004, county parks workers hauled about 40 tons of trash from unlawful campsites.

And bike advocates say that homeless people dangerously crowd the paved trail with carts. Lea Brooks, president of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, said carts are slow, often pushed two abreast and are difficult to see in early morning or evening light.

Brooks told of several incidents involving homeless people and their shopping carts impeding bicyclists, including one particularly odd incident:
"One morning last winter, an illegal camper was sleeping in a cart in the middle of the bike trail," Brooks said. "It was dark and foggy near the Howe Avenue Bridge."

The bicycling Brooks could barely see the sleeping man and his cart blocking the bike trail.
Many homeless people are mentally ill and need help, she said. For their own health, it does not make sense to allow them to camp on the bike trail, she said.

Brooks said banning carts, along with the prohibition against camping, might trigger a desire in homeless campers to obtain help.

The County Recreation and Park Commission approved the cart ban by a 4-0 vote Nov. 17. It was scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lower Reach Report, Homeless Follow Up

The article in today’s Bee about the homeless plan reaches the same conclusion that we reached in our Lower Reach Report, posted on our website, that the chronic homeless, those who have been camping illegally along the Parkway for years, need to be placed in housing before they can begin to deal with their other issues.

The approach we like, which we hope to see implemented here, is the one New York based, Pathways to Housing, has had an 85% success rate with, and includes a treatment team approach that addresses the mental, drug addiction and other issues directly.

The Bee also published our letter to the editor today about the Sacramento Zoo we posted on a few days ago.

Homeless plan supported
City, county officials back strategy, await details
By Judy Lin -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PST Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Calling it a moral imperative, Sacramento city and county elected officials wasted no time Tuesday in endorsing a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness but left tough funding decisions to be worked out later.

"I see a lot of risk and cost, and yet, on the other hand, a lot of promise," said Sacramento City Councilman Ray Tretheway.

The plan is premised on a "housing first" approach that is showing success elsewhere in the country. The idea is that the best way to help the homeless is to find them shelter, and then they may be more receptive to using various programs designed to make them more self-sufficient.

Local elected officials got their first in-depth look Tuesday at the draft of the 10-year plan that is aimed at the estimated 1,600 chronically homeless people in the county. The plan defines this group as those who have been homeless for more than a year or who have been homeless at least four times in a three-year period.

For the rest of the story:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

God and the Environment, Part Two

One of the most beautiful and balanced expressions of the vital importance a river and its watershed can have in the history and life of the people who live within it, is the 2001 Catholic Bishop’s Pastoral Letter on the Columbia River Watershed.

This project has had deep significance for our work around the American River Parkway and the watershed birthing it.

I have excerpted the introduction and the completed document can be read at

The Columbia River Watershed:
Caring for Creation and the Common Good

An International Pastoral Letter by the Catholic Bishops of the Region

“God saw all that had been made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

“We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations … delicate ecological balances are upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources. It should be pointed out that all of this, even if carried out in the name of progress and well-being, is ultimately to humankind's disadvantage.... An education in ecological responsibility is urgent: responsibility for oneself, for others, and for the earth.”
--Pope John Paul II, The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility, 1990

“We must expand our understanding of the moral responsibility of citizens to serve the common good…”
--The Catholic Bishops of the United States, Economic Justice for All, 1986

“The fundamental relation between humanity and nature is one of caring for creation.”
--The Catholic Bishops of the United States, Renewing the Earth, 1991

“We need to reexamine the ways we think and act, to affirm and support what we are presently doing that is environmentally responsible and to critique and challenge what is irresponsible and unsustainable.”
--The Catholic Bishops of Alberta, Canada, Celebrate Life: Care for Creation, 1998

(c) 2000 Columbia River Pastoral Letter Project. Permission is granted to quote from this document, with appropriate attribution, for journalistic, educational, or discussion purposes.

Caring for Creation, Community and the Columbia

The Columbia River Watershed stands as one of the most beautiful places on God's earth. Its mountains and valleys, forests and meadows, rivers and plains reflect the presence of their Creator. Its farms and fishing boats, rural communities and cities, railroads, ports and industries reveal the varied ways in which peoples of the region have worked with earth's beauty and bounty to derive their livelihood from the land and water.

The core of the 259,000 square miles of the Columbia Watershed is the 1,200 miles of the great river known as the Columbia. It begins in British Columbia in Canada, is fed in the U.S. by tributaries in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, and flows to the Pacific Ocean. This magnificent network of rivers -- the region's lifeblood -- is an extensive ecosystem that transcends national, state and provincial borders.

We, the Catholic bishops in the international watershed region of the United States and Canada, write this pastoral letter because we have become concerned about regional economic and ecological conditions and the conflicts over them in the watershed. We address this letter to our Catholic community and to all people of good will. We hope that we might work together to develop and implement an integrated spiritual, social and ecological vision for our watershed home, a vision that promotes justice for people and stewardship of creation.

We recognize the great contributions that our ancestors made to this region. The original native inhabitants and the early ranchers, farmers, fishers and loggers struggled against almost insurmountable odds to carve out a home in this sometimes inhospitable land. We recognize that damage to the watershed may have been caused by financial need and lack of knowledge more than by a lack of appreciation for the environment.

Our pastoral letter is not meant to criticize people's efforts to provide a suitable living for their family. We are hopeful that those involved in industry are, by and large, also concerned about the environment.

At the same time, we commend those who have recognized and responded to the environmental challenges that result from commercial and industrial enterprises. It is important for those with deeper concerns about the environment to recognize that farmers, ranchers and other landowners and workers are not their enemies. It is equally important that the latter groups seek to better understand environmental concerns. Protection of the land is a common cause promoted more effectively through active cooperation than through contentious wrangling.

We call for a thorough, humble and introspective evaluation that seeks to eliminate both economic greed that fails to respect the environment, and ecological elitism that lacks a proper regard for the legitimate rights and property of others.

The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good focuses particularly on our common responsibilities for our region. In this pastoral letter we will explore biblical and Catholic Church teachings about stewardship; the need to respect nature; and the need to recognize and promote the common good. These themes are consistent with a Christian belief that the earth is a creation of God intended to serve the needs of all creation.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Eight

The Bee, in an editorial Saturday, highlighted the absurdity of the reasoning keeping vital flood scenario maps relatively unavailable to the public, and in so doing reminds us of why we need to pay attention to the local follow up of the increased scrutiny around flooding issues since New Orleans.

The Bee has also done a valuable public service by posting the map information and we applaud that but question why the Bee needs to do the job public administrators are hired, and paid quite well, (recent research by the Employee Benefits Research Institute shows that public employees now make 46% more in average wages and benefits than private sector employees) to do.

We’ll continue to track this entire flood/water supply/water storage issue, as it has huge implications for the long-term preservation, protection, and strengthening of the Parkway.

Editorial: Flood planning for all
Why does the city keep maps under wraps?
Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, December 3, 2005

Sacramento is ahead of many Central Valley communities in mapping for flood disaster. The city and county have prepared 18 maps that depict how deep - and how fast - the water would flow in various neighborhoods, if and when levees break.

This cartography, while grim, is a vital tool for emergency planners. It is also helpful for everyone in the flood plain. More than any official pronouncement, these maps hammer home the imperative for residents and business owners to plan for disaster and evacuate early.

Given their impact, you might expect these maps to be easily accessible to residents. Sadly, they are not. City and county officials have been displaying some maps at recent meetings, but have declined for years to put some or all of them on their respective Web sites.

Why? One official excuse is that digital versions of the maps are too large for people to easily download them. Another recent claim is that residents might use the maps to make predetermined - and possibly foolhardy - decisions about where they should evacuate. Neither excuse stands up to scrutiny.

For the rest of the editorial:

Friday, December 02, 2005

God and the Environment

This article, God and Man in the Environmental Debate, (click on post title, excerpt below) from the Acton Institute, points out the folly in keeping a large part of the community, those who are religious, from any public debate about the protection of natural resources.

The tragic consequences, whether it is the premature banning of DDT and the resulting resurgence of mosquito borne diseases, or the protection of animals at the expense of human being's health and welfare, starkly remind us that all voices need to be raised in the public square.

God and Man in the Environmental Debate
by Jay W. Richards, Director of Institutional Relations

I recently received a letter from a leading botanist at a prominent scientific institution. The letter was mostly agreeable and even complimentary. But near the end, when humanity became the subject, its tone darkened. The scientist said he disagreed with me that human beings were part of the plan, as it were. On the contrary, he complained about “the devastation humans are currently imposing upon our planet”:

"Still, adding over seventy million new humans to the planet each year, the future looks pretty bleak to me. Surely, the Black Death was one of the best things that ever happened to Europe: elevating the worth of human labor, reducing environmental degradation, and, rather promptly, producing the Renaissance. From where I sit, Planet Earth could use another major human pandemic, and pronto!"

Based on his public writings, I would expect this scientist to be personable and humane. Nevertheless, in his private correspondence, he casually wishes for the deaths of many millions of his fellow human beings. If he were merely offering an eccentric, private opinion, I wouldn’t be writing about it. Unfortunately, his desire is all too common among some self-described “environmentalists.” Our wellbeing, on this view, doesn’t really enter into the calculation. We are, at best, an accident of cosmic history, and at worst, despoilers and destroyers. Adding more humans to the planet, then, is as bad as adding more parasites to an already ailing host.

Again, this would be merely academic, except that such ideas have real world consequences. Every environmental policy implemented by government authority, for instance, stems from someone’s views about the nature of man and man’s place in nature. If those views are anti-human, the policy probably will be anti-human as well. Consider the ban on DDT in the 1970s.

The ban, which in hindsight we know was misguided, has resulted in the deaths of more than a million people a year. The vast majority of these deaths have been among the poor in developing countries.

Because environmental policies perpetuate certain notions about the human person, and because these notions have real world consequences, Christians have little choice but to engage the debate over the environment. In particular, we should strongly challenge the misanthropic strain in the modern environmental movement. Human beings aren’t an accident. We are an intended part of God’s good creation. And while God called everything he created “good,” he only called human beings, whom He created in his own image, “very good.”

(click on post title for full article)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Seven

Another installment in the Bee series on flooding focuses on the cost of the levee fix, which at an initial maximum figure of $12 billion is still much less than the $26 billion estimated loss, which does not account for the incalculable costs of ruined lives, that a major flood would cost Sacramento.

Clearly, it is time for public leadership to address this straight on, and however large the task appears, the public’s safety and community well-being are well worth it.

California once led the nation in infrastructure, and we certainly still have that capability, and one hopes the political will is building.

Fixing levees is huge task, experts tell lawmakers
A rough price tag is $7 billion to $12 billion, Assembly panels are advised, but the cost could easily double, too.
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Thursday, December 1, 2005

It's impossible to put a solid number today on what it would cost to shore up California's levees, but the roughest guesses run well into the billions, state water officials told Assembly members Wednesday.

The $7 billion to $12 billion price tag they outlined is intended only to give lawmakers a feel for the scope of the problem, said Les Harder, acting deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources.

The true amount might run less than that - or it could easily double, he said in an interview after a joint hearing by Assembly committees on water and infrastructure.

"People are clamoring for these numbers," Harder said, but "there's very little information to justify them." It would take up to $200 million just to quantify the problem, through a massive study probing the structure of mile after mile of levees.

Harder was among more than a dozen experts in flood control, finance, land use and local government called in to help lawmakers understand what's at stake in keeping the Central Valley dry, what's gone wrong and what it will take to fix it.

In Sacramento alone, three levee breaks during a heavy, "200-year" storm would cause about $11 billion in property damage and up to $15 billion more in lost wages, taxes and other costs, according to one Water Resources scenario. Bigger floods would boost that toll.

"People are really underestimating the risk," said Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones.

For the rest of the story: