Friday, June 30, 2006

Salmon Potlatch

A very interesting article about an idea to reestablish the historic relation between the salmon and the Indian Tribes through the use of Potlatch.

An excerpt.

A Modern Potlatch?
Privatizing British Columbia Salmon Fishing
By D. Bruce Johnsen

Tensions run high between native and commercial fishermen in British Columbia. One reason is that the Pacific salmon fishery is being depleted. Another is the case law determined by the Canadian Supreme Court, which gives First Nations tribes priority to a fixed claim over commercial fishermen for the seasonal salmon catch.

Unfortunately, the legal discourse on these issues is framed by the Canadian courts’ reliance on cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropologists have traditionally regarded the British Columbia First Nations as “hunter-gatherers” who had the good fortune to reside in an environment naturally “superabundant” with salmon. But this view is contrary to an economic interpretation of the ethnographic record.

In this essay, based on a longer one (Johnsen 2006), I will paint with a broad brush a picture of how tribes managed Pacific coast salmon before the arrival of white settlers and will present a plan that is culturally consistent with past tradition, one that can end the disputes over tribal salmon rights and lead to a sustainable fishery. For more detail, see my longer essay.

When Europeans made first contact on the Pacific coast, many tribes had exclusive property rights to salmon streams (Johnsen 1986, 2001).1 Because Pacific salmon return to their natal streams to spawn, tribal ownership of streams provided secure ownership of native salmon stocks. Rather than being the fortunate beneficiaries of a naturally rich environment, the coastal tribes actually created an abundance of salmon through centuries of purposeful husbandry and resource management.

Tribes in British Columbia lost exclusive ownership of their salmon stocks with the arrival of commercial canneries, the first appearing at the mouth of the Fraser River in 1871. Commercial fishermen began intercepting salmon in the ocean rather than in streams, beginning the long downward trend in salmon stocks. Government regulation has been unable to stop this decline.

Between 1950 and 1997, nearly fifty percent of the salmon populations in British Columbia were wiped out due to overfishing and other intrusions. Degradation of spawning habitat also occurs through industrial pollution, erosion from logging roads, silt deposits due to clear-cutting, organic wastes, dams, changes in water temperature, and changes in water flows owing to real estate development. In the absence of public outcry, federal and provincial governments apparently lack the incentives to properly protect the stocks.


The importance of salmon to the pre-contact native economy cannot be overstated. Most coastal tribes’ livelihood revolved around the yearly cycle of salmon runs. Except on larger rivers such as the Fraser, each tribe normally claimed a large territory oriented around one or more rivers small enough to be owned throughout their entire length. The tribe consisted of several shifting subdivisions, sometimes called clans, which in turn were divided into local group houses. These tribal groups took much of the salmon harvest in tidal or fresh water with elaborate fish weirs (small dams or fences) and traps, or with dip nets, harpoons, and spears, primarily at upstream summer villages controlled by local clan-house leaders. Almost uniformly up and down the coast, wealthier title holders were known by a name that translated roughly into “river owner.”

It would be difficult to find a genus in the animal kingdom better suited to husbandry than Pacific salmon. The time between generations is short enough, and the struggle to reproduce keen enough, that during a person’s lifetime the characteristics of a given salmon stock can evolve dramatically in response to minor environmental changes, whether induced by nature or by human influences.

The tribes’ fishing technology was suited to salmon husbandry. Many tribes relied on fish weirs. During a run, salmon entered a holding trap, and the attendants could select which salmon could continue to the spawning beds. To increase the average size of fish, a chief could have required the attendants to harvest the smaller fish, leaving the larger fish to spawn and, in turn, to reproduce larger offspring. It is plausible that the tribes engaged in purposeful genetic selection of stocks this and other ways.

Tribal organization was also suited to knowledge accumulation. Tribal chiefs held title to streams and other resources on behalf of their tribe. A tribal leader’s reputation was part of his payoff from superior salmon husbandry, and tribal chiefs were known to possess a corpus of “secret” knowledge about how best to use their resources to create wealth (Drucker and Heizer 1967, 7).

Potlatching evolved as a way to define and enforce exclusive tribal property rights to salmon streams and stocks. This ceremonial gift-giving has been described as “the ostentatious and dramatic distribution of property by the holder of a fixed, ranked, and named social position to other position holders” (Codere 1950, 63). The practice redistributed wealth both within and between tribes and seems to have increased at the time of European contact.

Global Warming Debate Overview

An excellent overview on the global warming debate by the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, Richard S. Lindzen.

There Is No 'Consensus' On Global Warming
By RICHARD S. LINDZEN June 26, 2006; Page A14 WSJ

According to Al Gore's new film "An Inconvenient Truth," we're in for "a planetary emergency": melting ice sheets, huge increases in sea levels, more and stronger hurricanes and invasions of tropical disease, among other cataclysms -- unless we change the way we live now.

Bill Clinton has become the latest evangelist for Mr. Gore's gospel, proclaiming that current weather events show that he and Mr. Gore were right about global warming, and we are all suffering the consequences of President Bush's obtuseness on the matter. And why not? Mr. Gore assures us that "the debate in the scientific community is over."

That statement, which Mr. Gore made in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, ought to have been followed by an asterisk. What exactly is this debate that Mr. Gore is referring to? Is there really a scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison? Far from such a thing being over, it has never been clear to me what this "debate" actually is in the first place.

The media rarely help, of course. When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed. Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree. Even Mr. Gore qualified his statement on ABC only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way. When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists "don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence" one way or the other and went on to claim -- in his defense -- that scientists "don't know… They just don't know."

So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the "consensus." Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template -- namely, shrill alarmism. To believe it requires that one ignore the truly inconvenient facts. To take the issue of rising sea levels, these include: that the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940; that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average. A likely result of all this is increased pressure pushing ice off the coastal perimeter of that country, which is depicted so ominously in Mr. Gore's movie. In the absence of factual context, these images are perhaps dire or alarming.
They are less so otherwise. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why.

The other elements of the global-warming scare scenario are predicated on similar oversights. Malaria, claimed as a byproduct of warming, was once common in Michigan and Siberia and remains common in Siberia -- mosquitoes don't require tropical warmth. Hurricanes, too, vary on multidecadal time scales; sea-surface temperature is likely to be an important factor. This temperature, itself, varies on multidecadal time scales. However, questions concerning the origin of the relevant sea-surface temperatures and the nature of trends in hurricane intensity are being hotly argued within the profession.

Even among those arguing, there is general agreement that we can't attribute any particular hurricane to global warming. To be sure, there is one exception, Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who argues that it must be global warming because he can't think of anything else. While arguments like these, based on lassitude, are becoming rather common in climate assessments, such claims, given the primitive state of weather and climate science, are hardly compelling.

A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse. Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended -- at least not in terms of the actual science.

A clearer claim as to what debate has ended is provided by the environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook. He concludes that the scientific community now agrees that significant warming is occurring, and that there is clear evidence of human influences on the climate system. This is still a most peculiar claim. At some level, it has never been widely contested. Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998.

There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 ppmv (parts per million by volume) in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatsoever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas -- albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected.

Given that we do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change, this task is currently impossible. Nevertheless there has been a persistent effort to suggest otherwise, and with surprising impact. Thus, although the conflicted state of the affair was accurately presented in the 1996 text of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the infamous "summary for policy makers" reported ambiguously that "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." This sufficed as the smoking gun for Kyoto.

The next IPCC report again described the problems surrounding what has become known as the attribution issue: that is, to explain what mechanisms are responsible for observed changes in climate. Some deployed the lassitude argument -- e.g., we can't think of an alternative -- to support human attribution. But the "summary for policy makers" claimed in a manner largely unrelated to the actual text of the report that "In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

In a similar vein, the National Academy of Sciences issued a brief (15-page) report responding to questions from the White House. It again enumerated the difficulties with attribution, but again the report was preceded by a front end that ambiguously claimed that "The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability."

This was sufficient for CNN's Michelle Mitchell to presciently declare that the report represented a "unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse and is due to man. There is no wiggle room." Well, no.

More recently, a study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words "global climate change" produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it.

Even more recently, the Climate Change Science Program, the Bush administration's coordinating agency for global-warming research, declared it had found "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system." This, for Mr. Easterbrook, meant: "Case closed."

What exactly was this evidence? The models imply that greenhouse warming should impact atmospheric temperatures more than surface temperatures, and yet satellite data showed no warming in the atmosphere since 1979. The report showed that selective corrections to the atmospheric data could lead to some warming, thus reducing the conflict between observations and models descriptions of what greenhouse warming should look like. That, to me, means the case is still very much open.

So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.

First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists -- especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.

Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce -- if we're lucky.

Mr. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.

National Academies Report, Global Warming

Link to the news release and report from the National Academies about global warming temperature research with the introductory blurb, posted here.

High Confidence in Surface Temp Reconstructions Since A.D. 1600

June 22 -- There is sufficient evidence from tree rings, retreating glaciers, and other "proxies" to say with confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years, according to a new National Research Council report. There is less confidence in reconstructions of surface temperatures from 1600 back to A.D. 900, and very little confidence in findings on average temperatures before then.

River Wild

The annual 4th of July warning about staying safe on the river, which is running fast, cold and relatively high.

An excerpt.

River's revelers urged to play it safe on 4th
Wear life jackets, drink responsibly, safety officials warn American River partiers

By David Richie -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:01 am PDT Friday, June 30, 2006

Local public safety officials hope to halt a disturbing series of drownings by urging Fourth of July revelers to wear life jackets, cut down on their drinking and use their heads -- especially if they are floating down the American River or boating on any other open water.

Last year approximately 42 drownings were recorded in Sacramento region rivers, lakes, pools and ponds, said Fire Capt. Jeff Lynch, spokesman for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.
"This year, so far, we have had 24," Lynch said. "That may sound like we are just at the halfway point, but it is alarming. The swimming season is just beginning."

Adding to the concern is the higher number of near-drownings, which can result in serious long-term complications. Medical personnel cite brain damage as the most severe result of a loss of oxygen to the brain. Near-drowning victims can also develop respiratory illnesses when water enters the lungs, which can vary in severity and sometimes lead to death.

"For every drowning, you have three to five near-drownings," Lynch said.

An estimated 10,000 people will hit the river each day leading up to the Fourth. Many will be underage and under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

The fire district is tackling the problem at the river's edge with its "Operation River Safe."

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, volunteers will be stationed on both sides of the American River just downstream from Sunrise Boulevard, one of the most popular launching spots for rafters and tubers.

The volunteers will be offering loaner life jackets of all sizes and in several styles. They will assist each person to make sure each life jacket fits properly and comfortably, Lynch said.

Later in the day volunteers will move downstream to collect life jackets at Goethe Park and the Harrington Way river access area. Rafters going farther can turn their loaner life jackets in at any fire station, Lynch said.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Review of Gore's Film

This is an excellent review of the recent film by Al Gore about global warming which peels away the political posturing while presenting some cogent questions.

An excerpt.

An Inconvenient Truth
By James Bowman Published 5/31/2006 12:02:22 AM
The American Spectator

It's true that I am a natural skeptic about prophecies of doom from scientists and other experts. And if the media buy into these prophecies and make them the subject of endless scare stories -- as they did about "the population explosion" some years ago, before it became clear that it would be population implosion we had to worry about -- I am even more likely to set my face against them. But the real clincher, I don't mind telling you, and the thing that is sure to persuade me there is nothing to worry about, is the presence of Al Gore as the pitchman for the apocalypse....

I am not a scientist and am unqualified to offer an opinion on the science that he uses to prove his point. As far as it goes, it sounds as persuasive to me as it was meant to sound. But it doesn't go very far. For even if we accept that the science of man-made global warming is air-tight, there are only three questions about it that matter, politically speaking. They are these. How much of a difference in the worldwide rise of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures can we make by our political choices? What are the choices available to us? And how much will those choices cost us? The former vice president deals with none of these questions in any serious way. Instead, he adopts the currently fashionable technique -- which is unfortunately not limited to cinematic entertainments -- of simply ridiculing the choices of the morons in power.

Do you suppose it's merely coincidental that millions of others join the speaker in believing that he should be sitting where the moron-in-chief sits?

As to how much of a difference we can make, he gives us none of the science on that point. Bjorn Lomborg's calculation that the implementation of the Kyoto accords, the great shibboleth of the global-warming lobby, would at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars a year only postpone the temperature rise over the next century by six years may be wrong, but Mr. Gore never mentions that calculation, let alone demonstrates its error. Presumably, his performance has been so winning, the sympathy we owe him for his personal griefs and disappointments so great, that he doesn't have to. Similarly, the only choices he mentions are but marginally political ones. We can make a difference, he says, by buying more energy efficient light bulbs or recycling. We could also raise the CAFE standards for car manufacturers. But how much of a difference these things would make is not mentioned. Nor are the choices that would make the biggest difference, namely a carbon tax and the construction of new nuclear power-generating plants.

Most importantly, the question of cost is treated with a scandalous lack of seriousness. Indeed, the very idea that there could be any cost, any trade-off between American or world prosperity and an environmentally clear conscience is described as a "false choice." Handsome Al at his most engaging stands grinning before a comic graphic of a scale. On one side of the scale are piled up gold bars, on the other side -- planet earth. Would we sell our whole planet for any number of bars of gold? Of course not! Where would we live? See how easy it all is? You'd have to be a moron not to understand it.

Floods Waning

Lest we forget, there is still flooding going on in our country, but thankfully the worst appears to be over.

An excerpt.

New York Times
June 29, 2006
Worst of Flooding in Northeast Appears to Be Over

A network of swollen rivers, heavy from days of steady rain, spilled across their banks Wednesday, threatening to inundate towns and cities from Virginia to Vermont and causing tens of thousands of evacuations along the banks of the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

But the waters did not rise to the direst predicted levels overnight, and in one area where officials ordered 200,000 people to evacuate — in and around Wilkes-Barre, Pa. — a system of levees appears to have held back the surging Susquehanna River.

The levees, reinforced in 2004, are designed to protect the city against river levels of up to 41 feet. The river peaked Wednesday evening at about 35 feet and a feared second surge early this morning that might have overtopped the levees did not appear.

There was some flooding in surrounding areas. But unless there are further heavy rains today, the worst is over for the region, according to Paul Head of the National Weather Service's Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center in State College, Pa. "The water that has fallen is in the river and heading downstream," Mr. Head said in a telephone interview this morning.

Though the Susquehanna has yet to peak in downstream locations like Harrisburg, he said, severe flooding there is less likely because the river is much wider and because only its north branch has been swollen by the recent rains.

Still, he said, swollen tributaries of the river are still doing severe damage in some locations, like the Swatara Creek in Hershey, Pa.

Officials in Wilkes-Barre told Reuters that 50,000 to 70,000 people complied with the call to evacuate and were housed overnight at high schools, fire stations and police stations on high ground. A two-punch combination of saturated earth and rising currents led to at least 10 deaths in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, and there were reports of two houses, one with a 15-year-old girl trapped inside, set adrift. The day of devastation led the governors of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to declare emergencies across wide swaths of their states.

The potential for destruction was so widespread and unpredictable that the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for eight states.The damage from the floods was still being tallied this morning, and the reports were sobering. Two truck drivers died yesterday near Sidney, N.Y., 35 miles from Binghamton, when their rigs plunged into a 50-foot-deep hole in the washed-out bed of Interstate 88, and a 15-year-old Pennsylvania boy as well as someone trying to rescue him drowned in a lake in Luzerne County, officials said.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania declared emergencies in 46 of the state's 67 counties and activated 1,000 members of the National Guard, saying the storms were "a major hardship." Entire villages in Delaware County, N.Y., were left stranded.

Several people were reported missing, their fates unknown

Whitewater Parks on the American

Whitewater parks, what a great way to expand the enjoyment of the river, and it is refreshing to see its growing popularity.

An excerpt.
Rollin' on the river
Whitewater festival reflects sport's rising attraction

By Janet Fullwood -- Bee Travel EditorPublished 12:01 am PDT Thursday, June 29, 2006

.…While recreational kayaking on lakes and slow rivers has grown at warp speed over the past decade, whitewater kayaking -- the sport's flashier, more-adventurous dimension -- is attracting both never-evers and flat-water paddlers ready to take on the challenges presented by swift-water currents, foaming rapids and swirling eddies.

Sacramento, with its proximity to the American River and other fast-flowing streams, is a hotbed of the sport that industry experts say is becoming more accessible to a broad range of recreationists….

A park on the American?

Meanwhile, scores of similar parks have sprung up around the country, from Fort Worth, Texas, to Green River, Wyo., to Golden, Colo. The first "superpark" opened June 15 in Charlotte, N.C.
Built at a cost of $21 million, the U.S. National Whitewater Center features three channels of recirculating whitewater on 277 acres just outside the city.

"The water is all pumped; it's not on a natural river at all," Litchfield says.

A park for Sacramento is still in the dream stages, but a lot of people are dreaming. Dan Crandall, a member of the U.S. Surf Kayak team and owner of Current Adventures, a paddling school based in the El Dorado County hamlet of Lotus on the American River, has been involved in a long-term effort to get one built.

"As a result of quite a few successful courses built in Reno and elsewhere over the last four years, many cities are beginning to realize their potential," he said. "Especially in Sacramento, where a lot more people are into the recreational scene, a whitewater park could have year-round potential for a variety of things, from kids programs to park-and-play elements, competition elements, swift-water rescue training and tubing elements."

A multiuse park ties in to what Patrick Nichols, a former Texas Tech linebacker who operates the SurfNV kayak school in Reno, sees as nationwide trend.

"Individual sports -- kayaking, snowboarding, skating -- are growing, while team sports are declining," he says. "White- water parks are driving the sport more than anything. If cities will support them, everybody benefits."

As a spectator sport, whitewater kayaking -- particularly the playboat side, in which paddlers perform cartwheels and other showboat tricks in short, stubby craft colored like Easter eggs -- is fun to watch from the shore. But, as California Canoe & Kayak's Borichevsky notes, "to participate in it takes a tremendous amount of time and commitment."

More appealing to the majority of paddlers is downriver touring, she says. "It's about enjoying rapids, enjoying scenery, enjoying camaraderie, doing a little playing. It's much more forgiving -- people don't have to do it every day or every weekend to enjoy it."

The Yuroks and the Salmon

The Yurok Tribe on the Klamath has won a seat at the table in decisions affecting the salmon.

Having people in the decision making process whose dependency on the decision is great, as is the tribe’s, is the wise thing to do, and will probably be of great benefit to the salmon and the river.

An excerpt.

Tribe wins greater say on Klamath River
By Matt Weiser Published 12:01 am PDT Thursday, June 29, 2006

Federal agencies agreed Wednesday to give the Yurok Tribe a larger role in managing the Klamath River, where water diversions and habitat loss have depleted salmon runs.

The tribe will have a seat at the table with federal agencies that manage the river, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service. Previously, it was a bystander.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flood Protection

Reading articles like this one reminds us of how important it is that government work well addressing the big things, and flooding certainly qualifies, but government doesn’t seem to be working too well at responding to it.

Let’s hope this series of meetings result in better coordination in handling the large issue of flood protection so important to the public’s safety.

Here is an excerpt.

Delta counties work on flood plan
Greg Kane Record Staff Writer Published Tuesday, Jun 27, 2006

ISLETON - A major flood or other disaster in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could expose a lack of planning and communication between different counties, state and federal agencies during evacuations and flood fights, regional emergency response officials said Monday.

The fragile system of dirt levees, waterways and islands meanders through parts of five counties, including Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Contra Costa and Yolo. Each county generally has a hierarchy in place for local emergency response efforts, but officials say that coordination becomes more complicated when disasters reach across city and county lines.

Nearly two dozen emergency response and elected officials from the five Delta counties met Monday in Isleton to discuss how to better organize large-scale flood operations. The group hopes the meeting was a first step toward establishing a regional plan that would improve communication and establish authority during flood fights, evacuations and other large responses.

"Hopefully we'll end up with some kind of formal plan," said Ron Baldwin, San Joaquin County's emergency services director. "

The key will be the follow-up."

Officials at the meeting included: Baldwin and his emergency response counterparts in the four other Delta counties; elected officials, including Sacramento and West Sacramento Mayors Heather Fargo and Christopher Cabaldon; and members of the Delta Protection Commission, a state agency charged with preserving the 738,000-acre system.

One of the Delta's biggest challenges is that the sprawling system touches so many different counties that it's easy for agencies to fight over jurisdiction or fail to communicate when they could be making each other's jobs easier.

Philanthropy Can Do Wonders

The reason the recent philanthropy by Warren Buffet (giving $31 billion to the Gates Foundation) is important to the Parkway is that it shows the huge potential philanthropy has to suddenly change the dynamics of a public issue (in this case that of pubic health).

A direction we have proposed for the Parkway (suffering from ineffective management and scarce funding) is to allow a nonprofit organization to provide management and fund development because what can happen when you mix the good will of people with the public good can be wonderful.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: Buffett's generosity
A notable gift, a notable example
Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The amount of money is so large -- who can really imagine having $31 billion, much less giving it away? -- that the magnitude of Warren Buffett's philanthropy is hard to grasp. But the Omaha investor's decision to donate the bulk of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is enormous, and not just in terms of the sum involved. It literally has the potential to change the world.

Buffet's donation, combined with the Gates Foundation's existing endowment of more than $25 billion, will create a philanthropic endeavor on a scale never seen before, with ambitions to match. At the announcement of Buffett's gift, Gates spoke of the possibility of developing a vaccine for AIDS and curing the 20 most prevalent infectious diseases in the world.

Salmon Fishermen Aid Delayed

It is difficult to argue with either position here, one, that an industry is suffering and needs help (something government does) and two, that the reality of the suffering is still unknown so the government wants to wait until then to provide aid (good fiscal management by government).

Here is an excerpt.

Delay in salmon fisheries aid prompts anger
By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration said in a heated meeting with West Coast House members Tuesday that there will be no economic aid until at least February for salmon fishermen idled because of the collapsing Klamath River fishery.

"This is NOAA saying to the fishermen of California and Oregon: Drop dead," snapped Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, after the closed meeting with Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The virtual closure of the West Coast salmon season is affecting fishermen from Monterey to Portland.

"This has hurt communities just as seriously as Hurricane Katrina," said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara. "We have fishermen in San Luis Obispo suffering, not being able to make their boat payments, not being able to continue their family businesses. Our communities need help, and they need it now."

Thompson and Capps were among a half-dozen House members appealing directly to Lautenbacher and the Commerce Department for $81 million in disaster aid for the fishermen and dependent communities. The meeting followed a letter from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Bush administration Monday expressing deep frustration over the delay.

"I am at a loss as to what further information you need so that our fishing-dependent communities can become eligible to receive disaster assistance," the governor said.

The House members said they were told no disaster declaration would be coming until at least February, after the closure of the season and enough time for the administration to calculate actual damages.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

High Court to Look at Global Warming

In what might be the best chance we have to get a balanced look at this political hot potato, the Supreme Court will be looking at greenhouse gas.

Here is an excerpt.

High Court mulls greenhouse gas regulation
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer
Published 2:33 pm PDT Monday, June 26, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court plunged on Monday into the acrimonious debate over global warming and whether the government should regulate "greenhouse" gases, especially carbon dioxide from cars. The ruling could be one of the court's most important ever on the environment.

Spurred by states in a pollution battle with the Bush administration, the court said it would decide whether the Environmental Protection Agency is required under the federal clean air law to treat carbon dioxide from automobiles as a pollutant harmful to health.

The decision could determine how the nation addresses global warming.

President Bush has rejected calls by environmentalists and some lawmakers in Congress to regulate carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping "greenhouse" gas going into the atmosphere. Bush favors voluntary actions and development of new technologies to curtail such emissions.

But a dozen states argued that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping chemicals from automobile tailpipes should be treated as unhealthy pollutants. They filed a lawsuit in an effort to force the EPA to curtail such emissions just as it does cancer-causing lead and chemicals that produce smog and acid rain.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take the case after a divided lower court sided with the administration. Arguments will be late this year, with a ruling by next June.

"This is going to be the first major statement by the Supreme Court on climate change. ... This is the whole ball of wax," said David Bookbinder, an attorney for the Sierra Club, one of a number of environmental groups that joined the states in their appeal to the high court.

Homes Approved on Super Levees

The experts agree that the super levees allowing 11,000 homes to be built in the Delta will provide the safest protection from flooding in the area.

Good news for all.

Here is an excerpt.

Homes approved near river with 'superlevee' protection
State board satisfied with barrier guarding San Joaquin project
By Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, June 27, 2006

State flood-control officials gave a green light Monday to a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.

The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer, British-owned Cambay Group, plans to build 224 of those homes on top of a new 300-foot-wide "superlevee" overlooking the San Joaquin River.

The Reclamation Board approved an encroachment permit that determines where private structures can be built on the levee. It reserves 60 feet of space inland from the San Joaquin River for levee maintenance.

But critics said it could open the door to more development in the Delta and expose thousands more people to flood risk.

"I believe they have insulted the public, and I believe they have permitted projects that are injurious to the public," said Tom Foley, president of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Growth, a Marysville-based group that opposes the project.

Susan Dell'Osso, River Islands project director, said the levee gives her project some of the highest flood protection in California.

"We think the proposal before you today treats us the same as other applicants," she told the board. "In fact, it's a little harsher on us, yet it's something we can live with."

The board voted 4-1 to approve the permit. RoseMarie Burroughs cast the only "no" vote.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said. "Building homes on levees makes the hair stand up on my back with fear."
River Islands has already received approval from the city of Lathrop to build the homes on Stewart Tract.

The city also granted a grading permit that allowed River Islands to build a new private ring levee inside part of the existing federal levees on Stewart Tract. About 2,400 homes will be built inside this new levee during the first phase of construction.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wilderness Area Needs Access

In this story of the California wilderness bill in Congress, a big issue is access, as it should be.

Traditionally, access to wilderness areas has been restricted to foot traffic, but it is becoming more evident that other access methods are needed if all members of the public are to have the opportunity to use public areas set aside for their use.

And that is really the ultimate purpose of public lands, access for the public who pays for and maintains them.

Here is an excerpt.

Wilderness bill's fate hinges on access
Del Norte County initially was opposed, but changes put outcome in doubt
By David Whitney -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:01 am PDT Monday, June 26, 2006

WASHINGTON -- If Rep. Mike Thompson's 300,000-acre wilderness bill protecting some of the most scenic lands along California's North Coast passes this year, what made the difference may well have been negotiations that won the endorsement of a Del Norte County supervisor in February.

With the clock ticking down on the congressional session, last-minute pressure is building on House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, to move the bill out of his committee and to the House floor for passage.

First introduced in 2002, the legislation would declare as wilderness federal lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service from Napa County to the Oregon border.

The most spectacular addition would be 42,585 acres in the King Range National Conservation Area, including a 26-mile stretch of beach that is the longest undeveloped coastline remaining in the continental United States.

Other additions would be the 30,870acre proposed Cache Creek wilderness area in Lake County, a popular whitewater rafting area; a 50,000-acre expansion of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness; 48,754 acres of additions to the Siskiyou National Forest wilderness; and 53,887 acres in the proposed Yuki Wilderness Area of the Mendocino National Forest.

Lands designated as wilderness are off-limits to mechanized travel and generally are open only to foot travel. Thompson's bill, however, makes special provisions for fire prevention in the King Range, and some privately owned shore lands there still would be accessible to the owners by road or airplane.

The measure cleared the Senate last fall after Sen. Dianne Feinstein worked through changes with the measure's principal Senate author, fellow California Democrat Barbara Boxer.

But the bill has languished before Pombo's House Resources Committee following a contentious hearing last summer that removed any hope of smooth sailing there.

The bill drew heated criticism in the state's northernmost coastal county. Only about 13 percent of the federal lands proposed for wilderness designation are in Del Norte County, but it alone stood in the way of unanimous support of the Thompson measure among elected government agencies.

"The state and federal government currently own and control close to 80 percent of the land in Del Norte County," Supervisor Chuck Blackburn exclaimed at the hearing. "I hope that this committee will honor the request of Del Norte County to be removed from this bill."

The county's opposition could have been the kiss of death. One of Pombo's requirements for moving wilderness legislation is community support.

But after that hearing, Thompson, a Democrat from St. Helena, went to work on agreements with Del Norte interests that removed 1,200 acres from the wilderness list and earned the support of Supervisor David Finigan, placing in doubt the Del Norte board's previous 3-2 vote to oppose to the bill.

"A local ad hoc group and myself have worked with you and your staff to help refine the areas of major concern," Finigan said in a letter to Thompson in February. "The areas proposed are (now) suitable for wilderness designation."

Blackburn said he was surprised by Finigan's letter, saying he had not heard of his change of position until contacted by a reporter. But Blackburn insisted it doesn't change the board's official position against the measure. "This board has not voted to change its position," he said.

Finigan's view is not unanimous.

Among those with remaining concerns is the influential International Mountain Biking Association.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Public/Private Partnership Creates New Trail

This article from the Bee today is about a very nicely located new trail that has been opened in the County as a result of a public/private partnership between SMUD and the nonprofit Nature Conservancy.

Public/Private Partnerships are one of the best ways to achieve open space goals in an era of shrinking public resources for land acquisition and parks/open space management.

It is the kind of arrangement we would like to see between local government and the American River Parkway someday soon, and it would help resolve the funding and management problems facing the Parkway these past several years.

Here is an excerpt.

Trail lets hikers coexist with cows and experience nature
7-mile walk winds through ranch alive with seasonal pools.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hikers and cows will coexist on a new, seven-mile trail opened Friday in the Rancho Seco Recreational Area.

In the works for three years, the new trail starts at the north end of Rancho Seco Lake and loops into the adjacent Howard Ranch, a privately owned cattle ranch on which the Nature Conservancy holds a deed restriction that prevents development.

The trail is one of the first local experiments in allowing people to recreate alongside grazing cows, said Jaymee Marty, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy.

"We have certain rules -- no dogs, no bikes, no horses, just pedestrians and wheelchairs," Marty said. "We also have a sign that says not to interfere with the livestock."

The man who owns Howard Ranch, Jim Chance, has agreed not to put bulls in the area.

"Time will tell, but I can't see why it wouldn't work," said Chance, who attended Friday's dedication ceremony by the Nature Conservancy and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which operates the recreation area.

Friday, June 23, 2006

National Parks Mission Change Halted

This editorial about public response at mission changing for the national park system is an excellent reminder of the power of the individual, particularly when speaking together on one issue.

However, the management concept the government was promoting, that management plans need periodic updating, is very valid. Part of the problems with the management of our Parkway is that the mandated five year review of the 1985 Parkway Plan wasn’t adhered to, finally being updated more than twenty years later.

While an every five year update process doesn't make much sense for a national park system (though every ten years does), it makes very good sense for a local one.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: When Americans speak ...

U.S. Park Service reverses radical course
Published 12:01 am PDT Friday, June 23, 2006

When the American people speak, sometimes, just sometimes, their government listens.

After 50,000 people sent in comments on proposed radical changes in the management of the nation's parks, the National Park Service stopped the rewrite of regulations in its tracks.

On June 13, new Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced a new draft of the rules that restores the consistent 90-year history of policies that emphasize keeping our national parks unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations as well as for our own time.

This is a major victory for public participation.

The fight began last August, when a political appointee's draft of the rules was leaked. That draft downgraded the 90-year mission of the parks and emphasized more commercialized parks with more motorized recreation. The fight continued when the Department of the Interior released a formal draft in October with those changes.

At a Tuesday hearing before the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, Stephen Martin, deputy director of the National Park Service, told senators how the department came to reverse that course. He said public comments "repeatedly stressed the vitality and relevancy" of the 1916 act that created the National Park Service and that the act "must be honored" in the management of our national parks. "We heard that our mission to protect parks was of paramount importance," he concluded.


There are some lessons in this experience. The last rewrite of management policies was in 2001, after a six-year public process; the park service usually does updates only once a decade. No one provided a convincing argument why the park service needed new management policies after only five years -- much less a radical overhaul of the 90-year mission of the national parks system.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Auburn Dam, Covering & Creating Beauty

In the July/August issue of Via the American Automobile Association’s magazine for members, there is a delightful article by Josh Sens: National Parks, The Trails Less Traveled (pp. 46-52), that makes a real good point.

“On a bright blue day in June, we were gazing out at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir from the top of the O’Shaughnessy Dam, the concrete cork in the Tuolumne River. Until the 1920’s, when the dam was built to quench San Francisco’s thirst for water, this was Yosemite’s other valley, smaller in scale but comparable in majesty to its more famous sibling to the south. Hetch Hetchy Valley now lies submerged under several hundred feet of water, and the dam is seen by many not only as a scar but as a symbol of misplaced priorities.

“What seemed to me, as Braun and I walked the trail to Wapama Falls, a path etched along the water’s edge, was that in covering one beauty, the dam had managed to create another. The sheer valley walls rise abruptly from the waters like the sides of a great granite tub, their outlines casting a quivering reflection in the mirror of the reservoir’s surface. Just ahead, the impressive cascade of Wapama Falls was weeping freely, draining the park’s north-western snowpack. (p.48)

This is a point well remembering in the continuing debate about Auburn Dam, that although it will cover beauty it will also create new beauty, as yet unseen.

Governor's Involved

This morning’s editorial in the Bee looks at the governor’s involvement in the flood situation and appears to not be very impressed…but it is good news that at least he is involved, and one hopes his administration gets it right.

Here is an excerpt

Editorial: Warning! He's involved!
Schwarzenegger gets in flood game -- alas
Published 12:01 am PDT Thursday, June 22, 2006

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to build a legacy on protecting California -- and state taxpayers -- from costly winter floods, he must demonstrate more leadership than he has shown to date.

For months, the governor played the part of a spectator while building and banking lobbyists have killed flood-control bills in a series of drive-by shootings.

Now the governor has decided he wants to get involved -- and the results appear to be disastrous.

At issue is a measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk that may end up being the only meaningful flood legislation of this session. Known as the "show me the flood protection" measure, Assembly Bill 1899 passed the Assembly this month, passed a Senate committee yesterday and has a fair chance of passing the full Senate.

Wolk's legislation would put the onus on Central Valley cities and counties to demonstrate they have adequate levees before they approve new developments in floodplains. Under her bill, the state Reclamation Board would have to certify that an area planned for growth has solid, 100-year flood protection -- a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year -- and a plan to double that protection in the next decade.

Not surprisingly, the Building Industry Association opposes Wolk's measure. The BIA would rather maintain the current system, in which developers can build new housing in deep floodplains -- such as Plumas Lake in Yuba County, which has flooded twice in the last 20 years -- without any state oversight.

What is surprising is Schwarzenegger's stance. He and his advisers know that state taxpayers face billions of dollars in potential flood control liabilities, thanks to a court decision involving a 1986 flood in Yuba County. Given that exposure, state leaders face a pair of tough choices: Either they require local governments to indemnify the state whenever it spends money on a levee, or they take steps to ensure that local development doesn't outrun the state's ability to provide essential flood control.

Flood Map Update

In this story that seems to revolve more around the failure of not having a built in updating process for vital flood maps, rather than the political squabble it outlines, still makes clear there is a lot of work to do, and the federal government should continue to press for the updating of the maps, even though they are rushing now where before they were sluggish.

Here is an excerpt.

More time sought for flood maps
By Michael Doyle -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 12:01 am PDT Thursday, June 22, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A billion-dollar update of the nation's flood maps is exacting a political toll in the Central Valley.

In places like Merced, San Joaquin and Yolo counties, developers and community leaders worry the federal government is moving too quickly. Some fear fast-approaching deadlines could leave certain regions more exposed -- not to flooding, but to ambiguity and higher insurance rates.

"We have a certified levee that has been properly maintained," Lathrop City Councilwoman Kristy Sayles said Wednesday, "and now they're talking about remapping it and basically changing everything, but they're not saying what the new standard is going to be."

Sayles cited the proposed 11,000-home River Islands development, along with two others in Lathrop, that could be put under a shadow. In the worst case, some fear developments could be deemed unprotected and therefore subject to flood insurance.

The worries resonate on Capitol Hill, where they are echoed by politically influential real estate and development interests. This week, 18 California members of the House added their voices in a pointed letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. First and foremost, the lawmakers want to push back mapping deadlines that would force additional Valley counties to draft maps by Sept. 30.

"The information is critical, and must be calculated correctly," said Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy. "The current timelines are unrealistic to achieve that goal."

Pombo chairs the House Resources Committee, which amplifies his voice on such matters. He joined with Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, among others, in firing the warning shot across FEMA's bow.

Federal emergency management officials stress the importance of updating information, though they did not rule out the possibility of postponing some deadlines.

"Most of the maps were done in the early '80s," FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said Wednesday. "We've got new data, obviously, and we've got lots of new land use. It's time to update them."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Levee Politics Heat Up, Part Three

A good analysis of the struggles the legislature is having around levee and flood related funding, and reveals the main reason we have waited (and probably will continue to wait) decades for good infrastructure leadership from the state.

Here is an excerpt.

Article published Jun 21, 2006
Hurdles for flood repair funding
Reception chilly for new legislation

SACRAMENTO - Try as they might, legislators have yet to find a way to fund Central Valley flood repairs without every interest group in the region raising the alarm.

But momentum is building to break the deadlock before the Legislature adjourns at the end of August.

Well before Hurricane Katrina, California Department of Water Resources officials and a cadre of interested lawmakers began looking at creating a long-term source of levee-repair funds, spreading legal liability for flood control among state and local governments and giving the moribund state Reclamation Board some teeth.

Legislation to do just that is still alive in these final two months of the Legislative session, and leaders in both the Assembly and the state Senate are monitoring the issue.

But if the reception one bill received Tuesday was any indication, reform's bumpy road could become impassable.

A week ago, the Department of Water Resources revised AB1665 for the sixth time; the measure covered liability, Reclamation Board reform, a "flood fee" to be assessed on Central Valley landowners, and provisions to remap the region's flood plains and inform homeowners living behind levees of their potential danger.

But the Department of Water Resources never vetted its proposal with Central Valley lawmakers, and the Senate Natural Resources Committee tore it to pieces Tuesday during a 40-minute hearing.

"I think the direction of this bill is a worthy one, but this bill is suggesting too much change in a short time in the shadow of a session - without the consultation of those who are affected," said state Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden.

"This is really not yet cooked," added Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley.

San Joaquin County, the Farm Bureau Federation, a raft of local water agencies and the California Chamber of Commerce oppose the bill.

As a stopgap measure, the committee stripped out a provision distributing liability among state and local governments as well as the Reclamation Board provision. Those issues are expected to be debated in other bills next week.

Another flood-control bill is expected to receive a hot reception: legislation by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, that would require local governments to certify that levees protecting new subdivisions will provide enough protection to reduce flood risk to a 1-in-100 chance per year and that they have a plan to upgrade that protection within a decade to a 1-in-200 chance per year.

Most San Joaquin County developments have so-called 100-year protection, and a few new projects around Stockton will have 200-year protection.

Wolk's bill passed the Assembly with the minimum 41 votes and is virulently opposed by the building industry and local governments.

Wolk's measure and its cousins are all trying to get at a paradox: Thanks to a recent lawsuit, state taxpayers are on the hook for any damage done when any levee repaired by the state fails.
That leaves local governments free to allow builders to erect subdivisions behind those levees without fear of future flood-related lawsuits.

Auburn Dam Politics

An insightful and excellent editorial overview from the Auburn Journal about some of the politics around the Auburn Dam.

Here is an excerpt.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Last modified: Tuesday, June 20, 2006 10:16 PM PDT

Agency must take a stand for or against building Auburn dam

The Placer County Water Agency needs to wade deeper into the Auburn dam question.

With the water supply phase of the American River Pump Station project nearing completion, the agency will soon have the permanent water connection it has been seeking for half a century.

Water will be pumped year-round from the American River to the western areas of the county - a goal that initially lay with a pumping station the agency had installed itself in the 1960s as part of the Middle Fork Project. The agency has water rights to 120,000 acre-feet a year of north and middle fork American River water. If a dam is built, it would have the ability to take 117,000 acre-feet a year.

When Auburn dam construction began, the agency reluctantly had the permanent station taken out on the condition that the dam's builder, the Bureau of Reclamation, guaranteed temporary pumps would be installed yearly as needed. As Placer County has grown, the installation of temporary pumps has been undertaken yearly since the early 1990s.

If a multipurpose dam is to be seriously considered in the future, the water agency needs to provide solid backing now - if that's what it wants. A resolution in support would be an adequate, if not bold, first step. Despite some inner politics, the agency board has supported past efforts to build an Auburn dam. But that was before it had its permanent pumping station in place.

If it wants to opt out and take a stand against building a dam on the basis that it is about to get the plumbing upgrade it has been seeking all along, then it should develop a stance sooner rather than later.

The debate on the Auburn dam has been taking place for five decades. It is said to be the most studied construction project in United States history. One more study will soon be added to the mountainous pile that already exists. Due in the summer, the $1 million report will help determine costs and benefits. With a plethora of information already out there, it may not be enough to sway already entrenched positions.

As a major player with the American River Authority, the water agency needs to don the mantle of authority voters demand, make decisions and stick by them. It has that kind of clout.Waiting for another report could mean more federal funding, which means federal tax dollars, may be wasted on studies that lead nowhere.

Nature’s Cops Lose One

We enjoy seeing the bear win one, but the underlying issue is the danger of someone or someone's pet being hurt running into the rambling bear in the proverbial dark alley, and as the slender barrier between the natural habitat of the bears and the growing one of people, becomes even more slender, the chance of that happening are even greater.

Here is an excerpt.

Suburban pursuit ends without bear in the bag
By Molly Dugan -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bears 3, Fish and Game 0.

That's the score after the latest hide-and-seek game that almost has become an annual event in El Dorado Hills and Folsom.

Packing up their tranquilizer darts Tuesday, Fish and Game officials gave up trying to locate the latest suburban invader.

The black bear that eluded Fish and Game in El Dorado Hills on June 12 reappeared in Folsom a day later, following a treacherous crossing of Highway 50.

"They're incredibly agile and fast. They can cover huge distances in short periods of time," said Patrick Foy, spokesman for Fish and Game. "It's really hard to find them."

To top it off, Foy said, bears are expert hiders -- holing up under decks and in thick shrubbery.
On Tuesday morning, a week after the bear was last seen, Fish and Game officials assumed that the bear is finally back home.

It was the third bear in three years to enjoy the suburban trappings of Folsom and El Dorado Hills. None of them caused injuries to people or pets or significant property damage.

"Each of the three bears we've had experiences with in this area have created a huge ruckus for about two days, then disappeared," said Foy.

Nature's Cops

This story reminds us that we need cops out there where the trees grow tall, the rivers run fast, and the critters have their home.

It is the same on the Parkway, a desperate need for more park rangers to protect the Parkway and create that sense of safety the public needs to become active users in the suspect areas, like the Lower Reach.

Here is an excerpt.

Game wardens feel they're under the gun
By Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Inside a giant freezer in Rancho Cordova, state game warden Alan Weingarten combs through the gruesome evidence.

A pair of pheasants, still beautiful in their showy plumage. Bags of illicit salmon roe. Severed fish heads the size of basketballs. A whole female deer, solidified in death's icy claw.

Each carcass and body part is evidence in an unsolved crime against the Golden State's natural resources, a violation of hunting or fishing laws that game wardens are hired to prevent.

But those carcasses also prove another problem: a severe shortage of California game wardens. The frozen gore might not be here if the state had enough wardens to investigate these crimes.

"All we need to do is follow up -- find blood on a vehicle, blood in someone's residence," said Weingarten, who patrols Folsom Lake and Sacramento County. "But wardens just don't have time because we're always working new cases."

The Department of Fish and Game has 192 field wardens on the job to protect an area spanning 159,000 square miles, a landscape second only to Hawaii in wildlife diversity.

But hiring is difficult because a starting warden earns $37,000 a year, said Nancy Foley, the department's chief of enforcement. That is two-thirds the pay of a starting highway patrol officer.

At least 40 wardens are expected to leave this year because of retirements and low pay, said Bob Orange, vice president of the California Fish and Game Wardens' Association. The state already has 64 warden vacancies that are difficult to fill because of the pay inequity, he said.

"We're losing the battle big time, quite frankly," said Eric Mills, coordinator of Action for Animals, a Bay Area animal-rights group. "Morale is way down (among wardens) and there's major poaching going on all over the state right now, everything from deer to crab, surf perch, all kinds of stuff. It's a nightmare."

River Park in Maryland

This article from today’s Wahington Times talks about a new park along a creek in Maryland that developed from a flood control project, and is an interesting story of how a beautiful, modern project can be created and beocme congruent with its historical home.

It sounds like a lovely project.

Here is an excerpt.

Frederick park focus of new look
By David Dishneau
Associated Press, June 21, 2006

FREDERICK, Md. -- San Antonio has its River Walk. Now Frederick has Carroll Creek Park.

Today, the city will reopen a three-quarter-mile stretch of walkway designed to make Carroll Creek the splashy center of downtown revival and expansion.

The park, conceived 28 years ago, capitalizes on redevelopment opportunities created by a flood-control project that tamed the waterway in 1993. Restaurants, shops, offices and homes are starting to open along both banks on land once occupied by dank factories.

After devastating floods in 1972 and 1976, "this was basically unusable ground -- out of sight, out of mind," said Richard Griffin, the city's economic development director and park project manager.

The $60 million flood-control project put the creek safely underground, leaving on the surface a waist-deep waterway in a 1.3-mile manmade channel with concrete banks 40 feet wide. After years of planning, debate and false starts, the city closed a section of the barren corridor in April 2005 for construction and landscaping that have transformed it into a brick-lined promenade -- Phase I of the $30 million park project.

Navy blue lampposts, railings and other hardware bring a nautical touch to the surroundings. Newly planted trees and shrubs soften the views of new buildings clad in red brick matching the color of many 18th- and 19th-century structures in the surrounding historical district.

A 400-seat amphitheater will be christened tomorrow with the blues of Automatic Slim and His Sensational Band. Across the creek stands the curvaceous, recently expanded public library. Just upstream is an 80-foot-long pergola, available for parties and picnics. A kayak livery will open nearby.

Paddlers can pass beneath three new pedestrian bridges -- including an unusual single-column suspension bridge -- and at least three traffic bridges. The older spans include the meticulously hand-painted Community Bridge, a renowned piece of public art that has been Carroll Creek's main attraction since muralist William Cochran finished it in 1998.

Dick Kessler, chairman of the task force that has guided the project for nearly three decades, said the park and new buildings will complement the clustered spires of centuries-old churches that many associate with downtown Frederick.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Court Rules on Clean Water Act Case

In a story from the Washington Post today about an important case with two clearly divided sides, one represented by Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, the Supreme Court came down in the middle (probably the best place to be) and for the foreseeable future, cases around this law will have to be decided on a case by case basis; again, probably a very good thing.

Here is an excerpt.

Justices Rein In Clean Water Act
Still-Divided Court Leaves Reach of The Law Unclear
By Charles Lane Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, June 20, 2006; A01

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that new limits could be placed on the federal government's power to enforce the 34-year-old Clean Water Act, but a set of opinions handed down by the justices did little to define what those limits might be.

The splintered decision was the clearest sign yet that the court's long-standing ideological divisions have not disappeared with the addition of two conservative justices. It also underscored that, perhaps more than ever, forming a majority in significant cases depends on winning the vote of a single justice -- moderate conservative Anthony M. Kennedy.

In yesterday's ruling, a five-justice majority agreed that the Army Corps of Engineers, the lead federal agency on wetlands regulation, exceeded its authority when it denied two Michigan developers permits to build on wetlands. The court said the Corps had gone beyond the Clean Water Act by making landowners obtain permits to dump rocks and dirt not only in marshes directly next to lakes and rivers but also in areas linked to larger bodies of water only through a network of ditches and drains.

But there was no clear majority as to where the Corps should have drawn the line, with a four-justice plurality made up of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. arguing for an across-the-board reduction in the Corps' regulatory role but Kennedy rejecting that view and calling for a case-by-case approach.

The net effect of the most important Clean Water Act case to reach the court in recent years was thus neither the outright rollback of federal wetlands regulation that property rights advocates have long sought nor the reaffirmation of the Clean Water Act that environmental organizations had desired.

Instead, unless Congress amends the law or federal regulators change their rules, the likely outcome is more litigation in lower courts, with property owners, U.S. agencies and federal judges trying to figure out how to satisfy the standards sketched in Kennedy's solo opinion.

Monday, June 19, 2006

World's Best and Worst Parks

From Project for Public Spaces, the listing (inlcuding many photos) for the best and worst parks in the world with links to most of them, very interesting.

Here is an excerpt.

The World's Best and Worst Parks
PPS names the parks--both superb and shameful--that stand out from the rest. Which places do you think should make the list?

At PPS, we love to stick our necks out. And we've done it again here with these lists of the best and worst parks, along with the best and worst squares. We know all of these parks and squares very well -- meaning we have studied them at various times of the year, we've worked on campaigns to improve them, or we have visited them at least five times. With both our lists of the greats and those most needing improvement, we hope to inspire discussion about how to make all parks and squares better.

The Santa Fe River

In Northern California, though we certainly have our dry spells, generally our water is abundant; lakes are brimming and the rivers run full and fast. In the Southwest, water is scarce and rivers running full and fast are very rare.

This is a wonderful story from Land & People, Spring 2006, about the Santa Fe River.

Here is an excerpt.

A Once and Future River
By William Poole

From time to time, Land&People tells the story of a conservation effort through the voices of participants and community members. The characters in this story come from the historic community of Agua Fria, on the outskirts of Santa Fe, where TPL recently helped enlarge the San Ysidro River Park as part of a larger effort to acquire open space along the Santa Fe River.

Maria Albina's Grandaughter

Melinda Romero Pike remembers when the new parkland was a verdant meadow along the Santa Fe River. Slender, vivacious, and elegant, with a coiffed cap of snowy hair, Pike does not willingly confess her age. It is enough to know that this memory comes from before the 1930s, when the one-room Agua Fria School stood across the street from the meadow, and the teacher would take Pike and the other students to play in it.

"A big meadow was there," she says, "and years ago when I was a child-like five or six-there was some gentleman who had herds of goats. And he had long white whiskers to here. And that man would come with his goats and he would graze them there, but they didn't make a dent in it. It was just like you'd planted a lawn, but it was natural."

Pike traces her family line in Agua Fria back to the early 17th century, and her adobe home down the street from the San Ysidro River Park is named Casa Maria Albina after her grandmother, who lived here. The village priest once boarded in this home. Her great-grandfather donated the land for the local church, built in 1835 and named for San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers. And during the Depression what is now Pike's living room served as a community store.

Even for a part of the country that measures its age in centuries, Agua Fria is venerable, thanks in large part to the Santa Fe River and flat fertile ground it once watered. (Agua fria means "cool water" in Spanish.) Pueblo ruins dating from before the conquistadores have been discovered along the river. And at least some current Hispanic residents trace their lineage back to officers in the Spanish army who were rewarded for their service with rich agricultural lands. The main road along the river, Agua Fria Street, is part of a prehistoric trail system that in colonial times became known El Camino Real. The route ran from Mexico to the colonial capital of Santa Fe, only five miles upriver from Agua Fria.

In her comfortable kitchen, Pike unrolls an undated map that shows the town at its productive peak. The map shows slivers of land as little as 50 or 100 feet wide where they intersect the river but stretching back from there up to several miles-giving everyone access to water as the land was divided within families over generations. Other water for planting came from acequias, irrigation ditches off the river, and from springs and shallow wells.

Map details suggest the fecundity of Agua Fria in the decades before World War II. Plots of land are labeled as alfalfa, row crops, corn, orchard, and plowed ground. Along the meandering stream ran a bosque-a riverside forest of cottonwoods and willows, Pike recalls. "On the high side of the bank my brother would lasso the tree branch and we would swing, and down below we would climb the trees."

Then, pretty much overnight, Agua Fria all but dried up. The cause of this calamity was the damming of the river to slake the thirst of a growing Santa Fe. Instead of running in all but the driest weeks of summer, in most years the river ran only in the wettest winter weeks. With the water gone, gravel miners quarried the river's banks to make concrete for the growing city. The water table dropped so that wells had to be dug deeper and deeper. The bosque and other vegetation dried up, and without the vegetation to slow it, the river, when it did flow, ran like an express train, straightening the channel, undercutting the banks.

“There was no river left," Pike says. "It was the memory of a river." Today there is very little agriculture in Agua Fria. Horses graze in dusty pastures, and houses look out on weedy fields or drooping barbed-wire fences. Along Agua Fria Street, many homes are compact and modestly prosperous. Farther back from the road, house trailers march along old family plots where crops were once planted and acequias once ran. There is no store, and the closest thing to a community center is the elementary school. It is a place that some might consider "underutilized," a series of cul-de-sac subdivisions waiting to happen-an option most residents definitely do not embrace.

As for the former meadow across from where the old school had stood, it has dried to gravelly desert, enlivened by the shrubby yellow bloom of rabbitbrush and purple asters. Despite this, the land's protection as part of a larger effort to preserve open space, build new parks, and create a trail system along the river has been widely celebrated in Agua Fria and greater Santa Fe. Some folks simply welcome the recreational values the project would bring. But for Melinda Romero Pike and others it symbolizes the possible recovery of a community from the insults that began with the damming, the possible revival of a river nearly given up for dead, and the chance to make the river a focus for community life once again.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Loggers and Environmentalists

In this story the age-old battle between those who see forest management as good for the forest and those who see any form of management as bad for the forest, continues, and we are left to wonder who is right in this argument.

One clue is in the reality their respective comments reveal and the reality the pictures accompanying the story reveal.

The environmentalist says: "The Sequoia National Forest is an island of trees surrounded by desert, every tree that is removed is opening the forest to become part of the desert."

The logger says: "You know what? I've logged this area three times and I think it looks better every time I come back."

The picture with the story agrees with the latter.

Here is an excerpt.

Fight over a forest's future
Loggers, activists duel over thinning trees in sequoia preserve.
By Tom Knudson -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, June 18, 2006

GIANT SEQUOIA NATIONAL MONUMENT -- Ahhh, springtime in the Sierra -- a time of snowmelt creeks, pine-scented breezes and here, in a forest of jaw-dropping, super-sized trees, the rumble of fully loaded logging trucks.

One day last week, as loggers stacked trees in a dusty clearing on one of the last commercial timber sales slated to occur in this 6-year-old monument, Ara Marderosian stood to the side and watched in dismay.

"I hate it," said Marderosian, director of an environmental group called Sequoia ForestKeeper. "They are turning this place into a desert."

From his perch in a big yellow loader that thundered across the clearing, timber company owner Harold Kiper cast a glance at Marderosian, but kept on working. Thinning out dense, fire-prone stands, Kiper said, is good for the land.

"It's a benefit to the forest," said Kiper. "It really is. I'll never be convinced any other way."

Ever since the days of John Muir, logging has touched off conflict in the Sierra. And although there is less timbering today -- the result of layers of environmental restrictions -- loggers still work the woods, increasingly in the name of forest health.

Spillway and the Dam

In this editorial from today, the spillway by Folsom Dam will allow a huge release of water through the Parkway when flood conditions prevail, and that is good, but what is even better is to have the Auburn Dam come on line, reducing the possibility of flood conditions and the erosion of the Parkway’s integrity when fast and high water has to be let loose to run through it.

Here is an excerpt.

Cooperation -- and a cheaper Folsom Dam fix
Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, June 18, 2006

Engineers from two federal agencies not known for cooperating continue to make progress on a fix for Folsom Dam that could save Sacramento from a great flood.

As you may recall, plans to modify the river outlets on the dam hit a snag last year when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviewed the bids and learned the project could cost about $2 billion, almost three times the original estimated cost. This was a big setback, since the easiest way to quickly increase Sacramento's level of flood protection is to give dam operators the ability to release extra water in advance of a storm.

What was the problem? Modifying the dam outlets -- should we call them the damn outlets? -- would involve contractors doing complicated underwater work, with a fair amount of risk and liability.

As a result, the Corps and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Folsom, went back to the drawing board.

The apparent solution is a 1,700-foot-long concrete chute that could be built on the south side of the dam. This spillway would do the same job as expanding the river outlets, but it would be easier to build, and cheaper.

San Joaquin Might Flow Again

And, as this article from today notes, that will be a good thing, seeing another salmon run restored and another river flowing to create the river ambiance, recreation, and sanctuary loved by so many. So much is possible when we use our knowledge to reach goals, and this one requires controlling the water we do have the knowledge to control and using it where it is needed.

On the American River, the Auburn Dam will control a large amount of water now flowing to the sea, some of which is needed by the Delta, but much of which is more needed here, and maybe even some for the San Joaquin.

Here is an excerpt.

Some see a deal to get river rolling
A long-sought pact for dry San Joaquin could become reality after Monday hearing.
By Michael Doyle -- and Mark Grossi -- Fresno BeePublished 12:01 am PDT Sunday, June 18, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The dried San Joaquin River might flow again, along with lots and lots of money, under a historic deal coming closer by the hour.

Long-warring parties who beat the odds to become negotiating partners will march once again before a federal judge in Sacramento on Monday. In their hands could be an accord that reshapes California's water future.

"The agreement is there," said Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa.

Attorneys for farmers and environmentalists quietly concur, though the final haggling could well last all weekend. Negotiators are motivated. They know that if they fail, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton will impose his own unpredictable solution -- which might hit farmers hard.

"The negotiators believe that it is possible to reach agreement in principle on the few remaining issues before June 19, and will continue to work between now and the status conference," attorneys advised Karlton on Thursday.

Details are cloaked and negotiators tight-lipped. Still, any deal will be heard loud and clear throughout the West.

It will be ambitious, as officials revive the San Joaquin for the first time since Friant Dam began constraining the river in the 1940s.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hetch Hetchy Valley Restoration

Today’s Bee editorial shows the Hetch Hetchy Valley restoration moving along (a most important recreational addition to California and significant as it involves removing a dam to accomplish it) and we couldn’t be more pleased to see this wonderful project approaching implementation.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: Hetchy, almost hatched
State's review to surface at campaign time
Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, June 17, 2006

Word is that state officials have authorized the printing of the long-awaited study of the feasibility of restoring Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The great naturalist John Muir considered Hetch Hetchy to be the smaller twin of the magnificent Yosemite Valley. But this treasure has been underwater for 83 years, thanks to a dam on the Tuolumne River that created a reservoir to serve the San Francisco Bay Area. This upcoming study by the Schwarzenegger administration will review some intriguing ways to store this same water supply outside this stunning setting. If those options work, a wonderful deal may be in the offing. The Bay Area keeps its water; Yosemite gets back its stunning glacial valley.

This is precisely the kind of outside-the-box thinking that, at the beginning of his term, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed to relish. But this is now the political season of a re-election campaign. His campaign handlers may be tempted to revert to cautious behavior.

The inundation of the Hetch Hetchy Valley was arguably the most contentious environmental decision that Congress made in the 20th century. Talk of undoing the deed, even preliminary talk, has prompted hyperventilation from San Francisco and wild charges of a Southern California conspiracy to steal their water.

Puhleeze. The key instigators here are some key Northern California water leaders in the Legislature who are seeking new and better information about options for Hetch Hetchy.

So what is a governor who likes to think big -- yet wants to keep his day job -- to do? Here's hoping it will be obvious.

One side wants a new set of accurate facts to better understand the true costs and benefits of creating a Yosemite with two valleys. The other side doesn't want new facts and prefers to consider things settled as of 1913, when Congress approved the Hetch Hetchy dam. Neither side should be afraid of facts. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, are you listening?) Neither should Schwarzenegger (nor Phil Angelides, for that matter).

We have grown excited about the possibilities for restoring Hetch Hetchy because of some potential flexibility in the Bay Area's water system. Hetch Hetchy is but one of nine reservoirs in the system. Either by expanding others, maximizing their use or storing water underground, the same supplies may continue to be captured as Hetch Hetchy gets reclaimed.

Reclamation Board Makes it Right

In today’s Bee the Reclamation Board fixed the mistake it recently made by voting on an important levee issue without an open meeting or having the item on the agenda, both important public sector governance principles, and we applaud the correction.

Here is an excerpt.

Reclamation Board vote voids a levee decision
Earlier action on a luxury development was said to violate open meetings law
By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, June 17, 2006

The California Reclamation Board agreed Friday to "cure" an alleged violation of the open meetings law by rescinding an action of two months ago on a housing development in the Delta.

The board then spent another six hours discussing an encroachment permit for the proposed River Islands project in San Joaquin County near Lathrop.

The encroachment permit has been a sticky issue. It involves placing fill between an existing levee and a new levee, creating a 300-foot-wide "superlevee" and building luxury homes on top.
The board voted Friday to permit the fill between the levees. But members left more complex permit matters -- such as where fences, pools and trees can be placed on the levee -- until June 26.

The Reclamation Board oversees flood control in the Central Valley. It approved the initial River Islands encroachment permit -- which addressed fences, trees and structures -- on April 21, despite a warning from board attorney Scott Morgan that the action would violate the Bagley-Keene Act because that day's agenda item addressed only the fill permit.

Friday, June 16, 2006

President Bush Signs Flood Bill

In this story from today’s Contra Costa Times President Bush signs bill giving money to California for flood protection.

Here is an excerpt.

Federal emergency plan benefits state levee system
$94.5 billion plan includes $30.4 million for flood protection and levee repairs

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Thursday signed a $94.5 billion emergency spending bill to fund hurricane relief and the Iraq war that includes $30.4 million for Sacramento flood protection and levee repairs.

The money includes $23.3 million targeted for 29 levee sites that state officials say represent an urgent risk. Last month, the state and federal governments agreed to allow expedited environmental reviews so those projects can be completed by Nov. 1. State officials now estimate the total cost of repairing those levees at less than $150 million.

The remaining $7.1 million is for stream repairs in south Sacramento.

The total was close to the $37 million that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Appropriations Committee, obtained in the Senate version of the emergency spending bill last month.

The House version had no money for California levees, but the funding mostly survived negotiations by House and Senate lawmakers on a compromise bill despite White House pressure to keep the cost down.

"This funding is a critical piece of the puzzle to restoring our levees," Feinstein said in a statement. "The Army Corps of Engineers has indicated that this money could be spent immediately on critical projects. If we do not act, the risks are clear -- to lives, to property and to drinking water supplies."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also welcomed the bill's passage.

"The federal government owes the people of California for the cost of our levee repairs and border security. This is a step in the right direction, but much more money is owed," he said in a statement.

Salmon Virus at Nimbus Hatchery

In this story from today’s Bee the year has not been good for the salmon, with 2 million being lost to this reported disease outbreak this spring.

Here is an excerpt.

Scientists to visit lake for hatchery virus clues
Samples from fish caught at Folsom to be tested for link to Nimbus outbreak.
By Edie Lau -- Bee Science Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Friday, June 16, 2006

An investigation into a disease outbreak at Nimbus Fish Hatchery this spring will bring state scientists to Folsom Lake on Saturday looking for blood.

Fish blood, that is.

Tresa Veek, an associate fish pathologist, will be at Granite Beach with colleagues from the Department of Fish and Game asking anglers for blood, tissue and organ samples from salmon and trout they catch that morning.

Fish and Game officials will collect the samples, a process that should take about five minutes, Veek said; all fishermen need do is bring over live fish, or fish that have been preserved on ice.

Veek said live fish are preferred because blood coagulates quickly in dead fish. She noted that salmon and related fish are not supposed to be kept live after being caught, but wardens will make an exception to the rule to support the investigation.

The department is trying to determine the source of the virus that caused an epidemic of infectious hematopoietic necrosis, which killed about 2 million juvenile chinook salmon at the hatchery this spring.

The outbreak is now largely over. The roughly 3 million survivors are being transferred to San Francisco Bay, said Bob Burks, hatchery assistant manager. The juveniles swim out to sea, where they spend two to five years before returning inland to spawn.