Sunday, April 30, 2006

Flood Protection, Public Discussion, Part two

Hopefully the many local leaders heading back to Washington this week as part of the annual Metro Chamber sponsored Capitol-to-Capitol trip, will have read this story in today’s Bee regarding a balanced approach to flood control.

The folks who did the initial planning many years ago knew this, which is why they included the Auburn Dam, a higher Shasta Dam, and a peripheral canal in their planning to control floods, store and move water to deal with the dry years California sees regularly, and the substantial growth they knew would continue, as people migrate to the lifestyle and weather that make California a premium place to live.

Achieving balance in our approach to flood protection is a crucial aspect of the public discussion, and we are pleased to see it presented so well by the Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division commander headquartered in San Francisco, Brigadier General Joseph Schroedel.

Here is an excerpt.

General: Integrate solutions on floods
By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, April 30, 2006


WASHINGTON - Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' South Pacific Division in San Francisco, oversees military and civilian operations in 10 states with a $1 billion annual budget.

What's been bringing him lately to Washington and Capitol Hill, where he has been a frequent witness at hearings, is flood control in Sacramento and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Hurricane Katrina has accelerated interest in a long-term solution to what has been an enormously thorny political division.

Schroedel said he believes the region is facing a rare opportunity to address the region's long-term water and flood-control needs and, in doing so, pull the Delta back from the brink of environmental collapse. He said that a mix of projects, perhaps including an Auburn dam or a peripheral canal to carry water from the Sacramento River to Southern California rather than pumping it from the Delta, will be needed.

He was asked about these issues in a telephone interview Friday.

Q: General, you preach the need for a comprehensive approach to flood control in Sacramento and the Bay Delta. What do you mean?

A: There are three overall points that need to be made.

First, we need action now, on both short-term and long-term activities. Second, we need the public involved. And third, the public agencies are working very hard to find the solutions for both the short and long term to make the best use of limited resources.

I think Katrina was a wake-up call to the nation. We've got to fix our aging infrastructure and, for us, we've got to fix our levees. We've got to solve problems on a watershed basis. That means there are multiple objectives, not single objectives of just water supply or just environment or just flood protection.

When you look at how we've done business in the past, we've taken a piecemeal approach that generally led to an either/or mentality which leads to debates and limited action, if any.

What I think what California needs is both a short-term and a long-term action plan.

On the American River, short term, we are working very hard to complete the Folsom Dam project to increase the flood protection for Sacramento and that portion of the basin to 175-year protection. We're also working on the repair of erosion sites on the Sacramento River. The third component is addressing the Delta.

We need a long-term plan that looks at the basin as a whole, that takes the Delta, the American River, the Sacramento River, the entire state of California, the water supply issue for the south, and integrates those into a solution that resolves any competing demands.

Parks, Public/Private Partnerships

Our next focus, beginning in October after our report on Water Supply comes out, will be on one of our mission goals, nonprofit governance of the American River Parkway, in partnership with the public entities now responsible for it, adjacent to it, and stakeholders in it.

This article, Chapter 1 from the Project for Public Spaces book Public Parks, Private Partners (2000) is an excellent introduction to the subject.

Here is an excerpt:

Why Build Partnerships for Parks?

In a city, a public space can be an asset or a liability. A main street or a park can be a symbol of a neighborhood's vitality and character, or an emblem of its disorganization and poverty of spirit. When it is an asset, it takes on the neighborhood's identity, becoming its star attraction and raising the quality of life, and property values, for residents.

In Brooklyn, New York, for example, Prospect Park functions as a sort of Main Street, as a different version of the idea of downtown. It is a place where people come together, where they have a common investment that is both psychological and monetary, and where they locate the heart of their neighborhood. And many neighborhoods around the park, such as Park Slope and Prospect Park South, bear the name proudly, as proximity to such a resource contributes substantially to their livability and economic value.

This is not always the case. Indeed many urban neighborhoods bear the names of their local parks like badges of shame. These parks are empty and underused, or spilling over with garbage and illicit activity. They are a liability for their neighborhoods. Of course, many cities and towns simply cannot allocate enough funds to their public spaces to maintain them and manage them at a reasonable level. The public pie has gotten smaller, and police, schools, and social services are considered higher priority areas. This can be partially attributed to several factors that have contributed to the rise of the nonprofit sector overall in this country, among them a shrinking tax base in cities in the northeastern United States, because of depopulation and massive federal cuts in urban programs that have forced cities to spend more money to achieve the same level of service to their citizens.

But money is not the only factor, for there are plenty of wealthy cities and towns that have empty main streets, barren parks, or parks that are simply a loose connection of ballfields and play areas. These spaces, instead of bringing people together, actually alienate them from one another. For those communities, parks are at best playgrounds, and at worst sad, humiliating places.

When people say that their neighborhood lacks a sense of community, this is what they mean. They feel that there is no way for them to participate in their public realm, whether as users, as volunteers, or as financial partners. Malls go up in the suburbs and a downtown deteriorates. A violent incident virtually eliminates use of a park. There may be hundreds of interested, caring individuals in the neighborhood who would like to volunteer, or contribute, or simply use that park or downtown in numbers, but they are not organized, and as a result nothing happens. As an incoming parks director in Indianapolis in the early 1990s, Leon Younger discovered this phenomenon in regard to that city's inefficient, underused park system. People wanted to help. I believe that people aspire to serve, said Younger. However, we needed to create the mechanisms to allow them to invest in the park system.

In Indianapolis, those mechanisms took the form of community partnerships. In one case, the parks department gave maintenance responsibility for smaller parks to churches in the neighborhood, paying them a small fee to do it. This allowed Younger's park workers to concentrate on rebuilding the city's greenways and maintaining its flagship parks.

In New York City in the early 1970s, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers was running a summer youth program as part of the Parks Council volunteer association, a parks nonprofit advocacy group. Thinking about and working in Central Park caused her to notice this same phenomenon a lack of mechanisms that allowed people to invest in the park. She wrote an article entitled 33 Ways Your Time and Money Can Help Save Central Park, which she described as an L.L. Bean catalogue of opportunities. The next week, $25,000 in $5, $25, and $50 contributions, flooded the Parks Council offices. These checks, said Rogers, were accompanied by wonderful memories. That's when I decided I had to stay and stick with the vision.

Rogers eventually became the Central Park Administrator, a city position that was created specifically for her, as well as the president of the Central Park Conservancy, an organization she launched that now has raised over $110 million to restore the park and employs 216 in staff, including 172 positions in horticulture, maintenance, and programming. But New Yorkers don't judge the effectiveness of the conservancy by its funding and staff levels. They vote with their feet, visiting Central Park more than 16 million times every year.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Week After Earth Day Reflection

After selecting all of the Earth Day related posts, and after spending the past few years studying the various environmental aspects related to the mission of our organization to preserve, protect and strengthen the American River Parkway, what remains difficult in trying to determine what is really going on with the environment is discerning between the opposing representations of it.

On the one side are the folks who see ‘environmentalism-as-a-way-of-life’, of various persuasion, whose essential message seems to be that human beings are a part of nature, but unfortunately, the part most responsible for destroying it.

On the other side are the folks who see ‘environmentalism-as-reaction-to-certain-aspects-of-life’, of various persuasion, whose essential message seems to be that human beings are stewards of nature and whatever problems have been caused by human living can be fixed by human ingenuity.

There is obviously plenty of common ground that can be found here, but with the clearly politically partisan, and religious aspects of each side, the enmity appears stronger (at least at the moment) than the collegiality.

Hopefully that is changing, and from my brief period of studying the field, it certainly appears to be, with many of the once radical ideas of the early ‘environmentalists’ now being accepted as common knowledge as the care and respect for God’s creation (or evolution’s result) slowly deepens.

As your erstwhile blogger and senior policy director for ARPPS, I have a charge to try and sort through all of this to discover those policy ideas presenting the best opportunity to fulfill our mission, and while not always an easy task, it is one in which the vast amount of knowledge available is particularly helpful if also sometimes overwhelming; leading to my tendency to post more than less, to allow you to also join in on the study if so inclined.

The blog is also designed, as you may have noticed, without the opportunity to comment as I have found that leaves little time (of the little time to begin with) for research and posting, so the decision was made early on just to keep this as a bulletin board blog; and for those really wanting to respond to a particular issue, a contact email is available on the ARPPS website noted in the blog header.

Environmental News, Rebuttal

In a rebuttal to the recent major environmental issues published by Vanity Fair and Time magazines, the Capital Research Center published this article; which focused on the scariest item in the Vanity Fair issue that the Greenland glaciers are melting, or decreasing in size, when, according to this rebuttal, they are actually increasing in size.

Here is an excerpt.

Enviroscam: A Vain Affair

April should be dubbed “Climate Change Alarm Month.” Both Vanity Fair and TIME magazine have published scare stories this month, hyping the supposed dangers of global warming. Both issues fill their pages with glossy photographs worthy of any fashion magazine. Vanity Fair goes the extra mile by dubbing “Green: the New Black,” and filling its pages with environmentally-sensitive celebrities such as George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Roberts combats global warming by using “environmentally friendly Seventh Generation diapers.”

You know that any Vanity Fair article will be “fair and balanced” when the author is Mark Hertsgaard, environmental correspondent for The Nation. From the get-go, it’s clear that Hertsgaard doesn’t know what he’s talking about. For example, he describes carbon dioxide as “the most prevalent” of the greenhouse gases. In fact, the most common greenhouse gas is water vapor, which accounts for between 36-70 percent of the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide accounts for 9-26 percent, while the other greenhouse gases include ozone, methane, and nitrous oxide.

Hertsgaard’s piece is accompanied by altered photographs purporting to show how Washington D.C., New York City, and the Hamptons(!) will look underwater when the greenhouse effect causes the sea-level to rise. Vanity Fair certainly knows its audience. According to Hertsgaard, “The image of Washington, D.C., shows the effects of a 20-foot sea-level rise, which is what scientists expect if the entire Greenland ice sheet melts. The ice sheet has shrunk 50 cubic miles in the past year alone, and is now melting twice as fast as previously believed.” Then there’s New York City whose image “shows the effects of an 80-foot rise in sea levels. That's what would happen if not only the Greenland ice sheet but its counterpart in the Antarctic were to melt, says James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.” The TIME article says much the same: “It’s at the North and South poles that…steambath conditions are felt particularly acutely, with glaciers and ice caps crumbling to slush.”
Listen up: Neither Greenland nor Antarctica is likely to melt. A 2005 article in Journal of Glaciology notes that while “the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins,” it is “growing inland with a small overall mass gain.” Another 2005 article in Science finds an average gain of about 5.4 centimeters of ice per year over the entire Greenland ice sheet. The Antarctic also appears to be gaining ice. A January 2002 article in Science found the ice there grew by about 26.8 billion metric tons per year, while a 2005 Science article found ice in the Antarctic increasing by an average of about 45 billion metric tons annually (with a range of plus-or-minus 7 billion metric tons.)

National Academies, Earth Day

This recent post by the National Academies provides another good overview of Earth Day and the science around it.

Here is an excerpt.

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
ADVISORS TO THE NATION ON SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE

Earth Day
By Lisa Pickoff-White

April 21 - April 22 marks the 36th anniversary of Earth Day, a day of celebration and activism intended to raise awareness of environmental issues. In 1970 the Environmental Teach-In, led by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes, helped organize around 20 million demonstrators to show support for a policy agenda focused on these concerns.

Many laws to protect the environment, including the Clean Air Act, were passed by Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created to protect the environment and public health.

Several National Academies reports from the past year examine how science and technology can be harnessed to protect the Earth and sustain the diversity and well-being of the life it supports.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Klamath Salmon Run

This story in today’s Bee about the salmon run on the Klamath and the troubles the commercial fisherman are having, while not directly impacting the situation on the American River, is connected in the sense of seeing a future we don’t want to see in terms of the salmon suffering from the terrible effects of not having the proper water flow and water temperature needed for their optimal health.

While the current year on the American River promises good conditions for the salmon, (though the flow may be too high and fast due to having to use the American River as part of the flood conveyance system to open space in Folsom Lake for spring run-off) it is important to remember that drought conditions are common and will return.

This acknowledgement constitutes part of our reasoning for why we support the building of a major new dam on the American River, to have adequate water to maintain the proper flow and temperature for the salmon during drought years.

Here is an excerpt.


Democrats' SOS for fishermen
Lawmakers seek help for commercial salmon fleets, inhospitable Klamath River.
By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 28, 2006


WASHINGTON - California and Oregon Democrats are rallying behind commercial salmon fishermen facing drastic reductions in their season because of poor runs in the Klamath River.

The 32-member California House Democratic caucus and Oregon's four Democratic House members joined in legislation introduced this week by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, that directs $81 million in emergency relief to the commercial fishermen. It also calls for spending another $45 million to make the Klamath River more hospitable to the prized fish.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., making the call for federal aid a unanimous Democratic initiative.

So far, no Republican member has joined on the legislation. But Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., has introduced a much narrower bill that includes the $81 million for emergency assistance but does not seek any funds to improve river conditions. Wyden is also a co-sponsor of that bill.

The political jousting showcases a huge divide over Bush administration environmental policy. It comes as Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is about to act on a recommendation by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to drastically reduce the commercial salmon harvest this summer from Monterey to the Columbia River in an effort to protect the low numbers of fish migrating back to the Klamath River to spawn.

More than 30,000 adult salmon died in the lower portions of the Klamath in the fall of 2002 when the river was running low, the water was warm and a fatal parasite spread. Poor runs last year and this year are related to that die-off, and continuing water quality issues in the river have been blamed for tens of thousands of additional fish dying either as they head out to mature in the ocean or as they return to lay their eggs as part of their three-to four-year life cycle.

Homeless in the Parkway

In this story from today’s Bee, the ongoing tragedy of the homeless in our community continues as we read about their struggles against the natural elements as they find themselves flooded from their campgrounds along the American River.

In our report on the Lower Reach (www.arpps.org) we called for support of the Housing First option to help the chronic homeless who camp along the river and would encourage public leadership to renew their efforts to bring this program on line.

What isn’t written about in this story is the extensive damage the illegal campers cause to the Parkway and virtually deny the people who live in the adjacent community the opportunity to use their part of the Parkway in safety, free from refuse and fear.

This is, in many ways, a larger tragedy and we continue to look for the leadership of the homeless organizations, while continuing their call for Housing First, to also speak out for the safe and enjoyable use of the Parkway for the adjacent community.

While it is important to show compassion for the homeless illegally camping in the Parkway, it is also important to show compassion for the community suffering from the consequences.

Here is an excerpt.


Spring no friend to city's homeless
Mosquitoes, flooded camps add to troubles

By Jocelyn Wiener -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 28, 2006

The tiny winged torturers thirst after Glen Elliott's blood.

"They eat me up," he pronounced grimly. "All day, all night, all day, all night. They chase me in swarms."

"He hasn't been able to get a decent night's sleep in several days," chimed in his companion, Tracey Knickerbocker, 45. The pair have been sleeping under a bridge since high river waters swallowed their previous camp.

Desperate to ward off the mosquitoes that have multiplied in puddles left by a too-long winter, Elliott and Knickerbocker swaddle themselves in blankets at night. Eventually, they get so hot that they can't bear it. They slather themselves with repellent, if they have any. If they don't, they've taken to begging Loaves & Fishes officials for anything chemical that might grant some relief. WD-40, applied directly to the skin, works very well, Knickerbocker said.

"It's not good, it says 'don't do that,' but it keeps them away," she said.

In certain respects, spring weather offers homeless people in Sacramento a welcome change after so many cold, rainy months. But warm temperatures, combined with high river waters, have ushered in a new set of problems.

Mosquitoes are one. Suzi Ettin, a nurse at the Loaves & Fishes homeless service complex, worries about her charges. She tells them to wear long sleeves and - with a bit of wishful thinking - to avoid being outside at dawn and dusk. Still, bites itch, dirty fingernails scratch, and already Ettin is dealing with infections.

Given the looming specter of West Nile virus, the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District made a point to visit Loaves & Fishes on Thursday. Employees delivered baskets filled with thousands of repellent wipes, and promised to send tens of thousands more.

Beyond nurturing the mosquitoes, spring weather and high water have had other consequences for the homeless.

Perhaps most obvious: It has driven them from their dwellings in the shadows and brush of the American River. The winter overflow shelter closed in March, and now many homeless people say they don't know where to go. Every evening, dozens gather around the corner from Loaves & Fishes on Ahern Street.

Rivers Flow, Sierra Snow

In this story from today’s Bee, it appears there will be room for the run-off from the spring snow melt in our rivers, but they will still be running high and fast, and the implications for the continued integrity of the Parkway, with parts of it still flooded, and the erosion and scouring damage caused by having to use the American River as part of a flood conveyance system (which could be remedied by the construction of a major new dam on the American River) still undetermined, it will be a somewhat soggy spring along the Parkway.

But the weather is beautiful, and for those fortunate to be able to use the upper reach of the Parkway, they will enjoy absolutely beautiful conditions.

Here is an excerpt.


Rivers' flow has room for Sierra snow
By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 28, 2006


Thursday's deliciously warm temperatures signaled a turning point not just in the Central Valley but up in the Sierra as well.

Arthur Hinojosa, who keeps track of water in all its weather forms across California, predicted winter soon would come to an end in the mountains:

"This warm weather will start the snowmelt in earnest," said Hinojosa, chief of the state Department of Water Resources' hydrology branch.

With highs reaching into the upper 80s in the Valley on Thursday, another time of year also is coming to a close in Sacramento: flood season.

Typically, flood season runs from the first of November through about mid- April, Hinojosa said; this year, heavy storms continued right up to Easter, and the threat along the San Joaquin River has lingered.

Now, however, the Sacramento River system is running well below the "monitor" and "flood" stages, with plenty of room to accommodate water from snow melting in the Sierra.

According to statistics released Thursday, it is quite a snowpack that will melt and flow in our direction. At four locations near Echo Summit, the snow depth measured between 67.4 inches and 102.1 inches, while the snow's water content at those sites measured between 31.8 inches and 47.8 inches - nearly double the average.

Electronic sensor readings throughout the Sierra showed that statewide, the water content of the snowpack measured 180 percent of average for the date. The southern Sierra came in at 175 percent of normal, the central Sierra at 169 percent, and the northern Sierra at 207 percent.

Sacramentans need not fear a flood from all the melting snow, Hinojosa said. Reservoirs and river channels in the Sacramento River system, which includes the American and Feather rivers, have plenty of space for conveying the oncoming water flows.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

President's Earth Day Visit

In this report from Pacific Research Institute yesterday, we have a nice wrap-up of the presidential visit to California this Earth Day, along with reminders of the progress we have made in cleaning up our air in California.
Here is an excerpt.

George Bush Visits California on Earth Day
by
K. Lloyd Billingsley

SACRAMENTO, CA – Last Saturday, Earth Day, President Bush toured the California Fuel Cell Partnership in West Sacramento, where he told an audience of about 150, including reporters, that after five years of his administration, "America's air is cleaner, our water purer and the land is better cared for." That invites a look at the delicate subject of air quality in California.

The last three years have seen the nation’s lowest levels of ozone smog since monitoring began in the early 1970s. In 2004, ozone levels were the lowest in U.S. history. In 2005, a hot summer caused more exceedences of the Clean Air Act standard than were experienced in 2004. Ozone levels, however, remained below those of previous summers with above-average temperatures, especially 1988 and 1998.As the media noted, Houston and the San Joaquin valley experienced "exceptionally clean air." While that made Los Angeles look bad by comparison, California's largest city did well on its own terms, with fewer exceedences of the ozone standard in 2005 than in 2004, part of a long-term trend.

Mandatory Flood Insurance, Part Five

In this editorial from today’s Bee, though defining the recent failure of the bill to require mandatory flood insurance as a failure of a particular party, may actually be a success of public service by understanding that the rationale doesn’t exist for this mandate as it does, for instance, for mandatory car insurance; so allowing it to die in committee may be a good thing.

Here is an excerpt.


Editorial: Democrats' flood failure
Calderon does the bankers' bidding
Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, April 27, 2006


Democrats in the Assembly had a chance this week to distinguish themselves from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his half-baked efforts to protect the Central Valley from a deadly and costly flood.

As usual, the Democrats blew it. Their failure was largely the handiwork of Assemblyman Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, the benefactor of the banking industry.

Calderon chairs the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee, and in recent years he has blatantly used his position to fatten his campaign coffers. Last year, his campaign invited lobbyists to a "Banking and Finance" reception that cost $3,200 per couple. During his first year of office, in 2003, he raised $356,000 from bankers and other contributors; then spent much of it on junkets to Las Vegas and lavish meals.

The banking industry knows it has a good friend in Calderon, and he proved it again this week. Almost single-handedly, Calderon killed a bill by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, that would have required homeowners living in flood-prone areas to carry flood insurance.

Why did mortgage bankers dislike this bill? For one thing, it might have prompted homeowners to think twice about buying a home in a floodplain. That might have chilled some of the mortgage business, but allowed willing home buyers to recover from a future flood. The bankers also didn't like the original version of Jones' bill, which would have required mortgage lenders to enforce the insurance mandate as a requirement for obtaining a loan.

Two Rivers Trail Moves Forward

This story from today’s Bee is a wonderful example of the strengthening of the American River Parkway, key to our mission, by the Sacramento City Council moving forward on the long planned Two Rivers Trail, on the south side of the American River between Interstate 5 and Highway 160.

Anytime we are able to see the existing Parkway expanded, either through adding additional land or connecting to other open space or trails, it is a huge plus for area recreation, and though there is still work to be done, it is great to see it continued.

Here is an excerpt.


Council pushes levee bicycle trail
City negotiates to buy land but says it'll use eminent domain, if necessary.
By Ralph MontaƱo -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, April 27, 2006


A trailblazing Sacramento City Council pushed forward plans last week to create a bicycle trail along the southern levee of the American River.

The project, known as the Two Rivers Trail, would run between Interstate 5 and Highway 160.
By a unanimous vote April 18, the council said it would acquire - by eminent domain, if necessary - ownership of recreation easement on properties needed for the trail.

Negotiations are in progress with six property owners, but no agreements have been signed, city officials said.

"Staff will continue to make every effort to negotiate with the property owners," said Blandon Granger, a city property agent.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rancho Cordova Parkway Planning, Part Three

In this story from today’s Bee we learn that the request by Rancho Cordova, made through their state senator, to have a say in the governance of the Parkway, of which approximately 25% is within their city limits, has been denied on its first legislative attempt.

That is too bad as the principle that governance benefits when all stakeholders are able to be involved is a sound one, and furthermore, the existing governance experience has been less than exemplary, suggesting that new perspectives might be appropriate and necessary.

Here is an excerpt.


Rancho Cordova loses parkway vote
By Ed Fletcher -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Wednesday, April 26, 2006


SACRAMENTO - Legislation giving the recently formed city of Rancho Cordova equal say in the governance of the American River Parkway was soundly rejected Tuesday by the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water.

After hearing concerns from environmentalists about the potential of Rancho Cordova undoing an ongoing update to the parkway use plan, Senate Bill 1776 - carried by Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks - failed without a single "aye" vote. It could be reconsidered later.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mandatory Flood Insurance, Part Four

In this story from today’s Bee we learn that the mandatory flood insurance bill, not a good idea to begin with, died in committee. While the legislator’s intention to impose some financial protection for citizens who suffer from flooding was a good one, the means was not.

The better method of providing financial protection for citizens living in flood-prone areas is to do all that can be done, optimally, to ensure floods don’t happen to begin with.

While heavy rains and repeated storms hitting our region are out of our control, the means of stopping floods by capturing flood waters through large dams are not.

Hopefully, the legislature will soon realize this is the better alternative for protecting Sacramento from flooding and rally behind those public leaders working in this direction.

Here is an excerpt.

Sweeping mandate for flood coverage dies in committee
By Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Legislation to require virtually every Sacramento home and business owner to purchase flood insurance as a hedge against catastrophic levee failure died Monday in an Assembly committee.
The measure by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, ended with a whimper when nobody seconded a motion to approve Assembly Bill 1898, thus ending the Banking and Finance Committee session without a vote.

"I think we've missed a very important opportunity to make sure people are protected so that when a flood comes, they'll have something to fall back on," Jones said.

AB 1898 was opposed by the insurance and lending industries.

"We do not think it's the appropriate role of state government to mandate flood insurance - or any insurance," said Michael Paiva of the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

Two Sacramento-area legislators serving on the Assembly banking committee - Republicans Roger Niello of Fair Oaks and Doug La Malfa of Richvale - spoke against AB 1898.

Monday, April 24, 2006

2006 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators

This annual report is an overview of what has happened in the environmental world over the past year, from the Pacific Research Institute.

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction.

2006 INDEX OF LEADING ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS:
The Nature and Sources of Ecological Progress in the U.S. and the World. ELEVENTH EDITION

INTRODUCTION; THE YEAR THE MUSIC STOPPED?

The year 2005 offered a full plate of environmental episodes that riveted the nation’s attention, including sky-high energy prices, expanded talk of permanent oil shortages, Hurricane Katrina, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal, where the U.S. came in for the usual pasting from the “international community.” Yet a funny thing happened along the way.

The modern environmental movement died.

Perhaps this is an overstatement. No movement that commands hundreds of millions of dollars in financial resources and millions of dues-paying members can be said to be fully deceased. The end of the year saw environmentalists celebrating a large political victory in Washington, D.C., where efforts to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas production were stymied again—though it should be noted that this was purely a defensive win for the greens, relying on a Senate filibuster against majority support for opening ANWR. In the long run that is likely to be a losing hand.

Although the continued success in blocking the opening of ANWR shows the latent potency of environmentalism as a political force in Washington, at the same time the environmental movement increasingly resembles the hapless incipient corpse in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who protests, “I’m not dead yet!” Leaders of the environmental movement have been convulsed for much of the last year in an intramural debate over “The Death of Environmentalism,” the provocative memorandum from two young insurgents in the movement who argue that environmentalism has failed in its larger aims and should now integrate itself within a broader spectrum of “progressive” causes. “The Death of Environmentalism” received an extraordinary amount of media attention, including front-page news stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and extensive features in publications as diverse as The Economist and The Wilson Quarterly. The authors, Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, are coming out with a book on the subject soon.

Should the environmental movement follow their advice to turn further to the left, we will undoubtedly come to speak of environmentalism’s suicide rather than its death from natural causes. To be sure, much of what ails the environmental movement comes from its self-inflicted wounds, but it is still surprising to find environmentalism in its current funk amidst a presidency whose soggy approval ratings are seldom worse than on environmental issues, and at a time when corporate America seems to be embracing green values on a large scale (such as GE’s “Ecomagination” campaign). Yet one of the remarkable things about 2005 was that environmentalists received proportionally almost as much bad press as President George W. Bush.

Transforming Cities

This April 5th speech from the Brookings Institution is an excellent big-picture look at what cities can do, with many examples applicable to Sacramento, the Parkway and our river waterfront.

The speech is entitled: Transformative Investments: Unleashing the Potential of American Cities, and was delivered by Bruce Katz (Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, on April 5, 2006.

The presentation is replete with pictures, graphs, and examples from around the country.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Earth Day Message, Project for Public Spaces

Here is an Earth Day message from the Project for Public Spaces, sharing an excellent perspective, to focus on those public places we use and love, and my thoughts immediately went to the Parkway.

Bringing Environmentalism Back Home
How Placemaking can reinvigorate the environmental movement

By Fred Kent, President, Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org)

When I coordinated New York City's first Earth Day celebration in 1970, I hoped that the new idea of environmentalism would launch a robust citizen's movement to create what today we would call "livable" and "sustainable" communities. But over the past three and a half decades, what began as an extraordinary outpouring of grassroots energy has turned into a professionalized movement that seems beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Scientists and lawyers now dominate green discussions.

While environmental organizations have made great contributions, we are increasingly confronted by problems that transcend science or law, from the deterioration of our landscape at the hands of out-of-control sprawl to the decline of once-vital communities in cities, suburbs and small towns. These realities are shaping the lives of tens of millions of people.

In celebrating another Earth Day this year, we at PPS are reminded that creating great public spaces is one of the best ways to engage people in shaping the environment around them. In other words, Placemaking creates meaningful connections between people and their surroundings. This simple idea could have profound implications for the contemporary environmental movement.

The environmental movement has raised its voice loudest in defense of rainforests, wetlands, and old-growth wilderness, sending a subtle message that the places most of us care about strongly--our neighborhoods, our hometowns--aren't really as important. But suppose for a minute that we enlarged the usual definition of the environment to include the places that people inhabit--where we live and work and play. Many people would then be willing to stand up as part of the environmental movement.

We'd witness a new breed of environmental activists working to make streets safe from traffic so our children can walk to school. They would lobby for communities to be better served by parks and farmers markets, and against the proliferation of wider roads and vast parking lots. They would transform outdated shopping malls into neighborhood centers complete with housing and lively public squares, sidewalk cafes and convenient transit stops, even libraries or new schools.

In short, this emerging vision of environmentalism protects both communities and nature by:
  • Curbing sprawl by improving places in existing neighborhoods, creating less incentive for people to move to new homes in greenfield developments;
  • Reducing air and water pollution by supporting small-scale, local economies, which by their nature are less resource-intensive;
  • Reining in global warming by creating mixed-use destinations that shorten and minimize vehicle trips and reduce energy use.

Campaigns that incorporate the common goals of environmentalism and Placemaking are already underway. For instance, the New York City Streets Renaissance, a partnership between PPS, Transportation Alternatives, and the Open Planning Project, seeks to reduce car use by creating places that prioritize pedestrians, transit, bicyclists, and above all street life. The challenge now is to make this kind of thinking--and this type of action--a model for environmental groups everywhere.

Luckily, environmentalists have always embraced the idea of place, especially in its ecological sense. Kentucky poet and farmer Wendell Berry, one of the most influential spokesmen for environmental causes, has written eloquently about the role of local ecosystems--or "places"--in sustaining human civilization. Gary Snyder, another respected thinker in the movement, has stated that "community values come from deliberately, knowledgeably, and affectionately 'living in place.'" British green leader Jonathan Porritt notes, "the environment is rooted in our sense of place: our homes, our streets, our neighborhoods."

A great opportunity now exists for the environmental movement to reach out to a broader base and new partners simply by expanding the scope of places it is willing to fight for. This expanded notion of the environment would encompass rural watersheds and town squares, coastal wetlands and neighborhood playgrounds. And by reinforcing the connection between public spaces and environmentalism, it would harness the energy of people who care passionately about Placemaking. It's a winning strategy to revive the movement and restore our planet. Let's bring the environmental movement back home.

Earth Day Quotes

Here are some excellent quotations from the National Center on Public Policy Research about Earth Day and environmental accomplishments.

Earth Day 2006 Fact Sheet

Quotes About the Environment

"Using less wood is logically inconsistent with reducing C02 emissions on this planet. So the solution is to grow more trees and use more wood. And the public is being told, unfortunately, the opposite by many people -- and they're getting the impression that by using less wood we can save the trees. 80% of all the timber produced in the United States, for example, is from private land. Why is that? Because private landowners can make money growing trees, because people want wood. If those private landowners had no market for wood, they'd clear the forest away and grow something else that they could make money from instead. When you go into a lumber yard, you're given the impression that by buying wood you're causing the forest to be lost, when in fact what you're doing is sending a signal into the market to plant more trees. That's why there's just about the same area of forest in the United States today as there was a hundred years ago. And that's why there's no more land being used for agriculture today than there was a hundred years ago. It's because of high-yield agriculture." - Greenpeace cofounder and former director Patrick Moore, April 30, 2002, available at http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=1585

"The United States made the connection between polluted air and public health decades ago and has worked steadily to reduce harmful emissions, down fully half in 30 years... By virtually any measure, the air we breathe in the United States is cleaner today than at any time since we started monitoring air quality back in 1970." - Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, June 2005 issue of the State Department's electronic journal, Global Issues, available at http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/Archive/2005/Jun/13-495911.html

"The solutions that are being offered by the environmentalist movement are quite often in total opposition to the objectives that we are trying to achieve: protection of the environment, feeding people... And why? It's because those solutions are designed to split people from the land and the water. They are designed to keep people further and further and further away from the realities of this world. And they are designed to take away from the debate and the protection and conservation of the environment, human elements such as creativeness, innovation, and initiative." - World Conservation Trust Foundation president and former executive director of the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species Eugene Lapointe, April 30, 2002, available at http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=1585

"Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things." - Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Laureate and father of the "Green Revolution," available at http://www.worldconnected.org/article.php/311.html

"Energy production techniques are as different today as the computer you are carrying is as different from the one you used two decades ago. If you imagine that the front page of your daily newspaper represents the total area of Alaska the footprint of energy development in a small section of ANWR would be represented by a single letter on that front page - 2,000 acres." - Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, December 12, 2005, available at http://www.doi.gov/news/05_News_Releases/051212a.htm

"The U.S record of achievement in addressing environmental issues over the past 30 years is impressive. Today, we treasure the clear skylines of our great cities, the swimable waters of lakes and rivers, and our national parks, forests, and wilderness areas. The symbol of our nation, the bald eagle, can be seen again nesting within 35 kilometers of the nation's capital." - Dr. Paula J. Dobriansky, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, June 2005 issue of the State Department's electronic journal, Global Issues, available at http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0605/ijge/dobriansky.htm

"What is clear to me after close to 20 years of trying to make ESA (Endangered Species Act) work, is that-from the outside, in deference to you trying to do it from the inside-is that on private lands at least, we don't have very much to show for our efforts other than a lot of political headaches. And so some new approaches, I think, desperately need to be tried because they're not going to do much worse than the existing approaches." - Environmental Defense president Michael Bean in a speech delivered at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service training seminar in 1994, available at http://www.capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/OT0206.pdf

"The incentives are wrong here. If a rare metal is on my property the value of my land goes up. But if a rare bird is on my property the value of my property goes down. We've got to turn it around to make the landowner want to have the bird on his property." - US Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director Sam Hamilton, available at http://www.pacificresearch.org/pub/sab/enviro/99_enviroindex/wildlife.html

"With all that has happened in the state, it's understandable that the Louisiana chapter of the Sierra Club may not have updated its website. But when its members get around to it, they may want to change the wording of one item in particular. The site brags that the group is 'working to keep the Atchafalaya Basin,' which adjoins the Mississippi River not far from New Orleans, 'wet and wild.'...These words may seem especially inappropriate after the breaking of the levee that caused the tragic events in New Orleans last week. But 'wet and wild' has a larger significance in light of those events, and so does the group using the phrase. The national Sierra Club was one of several environmental groups who sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop a 1996 plan to raise and fortify Mississippi River levees." - Competitive Enterprise Institute Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow John Berlau, available at http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/berlau200509080824.asp

"Despite the mayor's apparent incompetence, these floodgates environmental activists sued to prevent from being constructed may have kept a flood from consuming the city to the extent it did in the first place. The current programs aimed at reinforcing existing levees but would only prove effective against a level three hurricane; they were not adequate for a level five storm like Katrina. Moreover, they did not fortify the specific areas the government sought to protect, to keep Lake Pontchartrain from flooding the entire city, which everyone knew posed a danger to a city below sea level. In other words, this plan would have saved thousands of lives and kept one of the nation's greatest cities from lying in ruins for a decade... At a minimum, [the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Barrier Project] would have staved off a significant portion of the disaster that's unfolded before our eyes... Worse yet, the environmentalists' ultimate decision to reinforce existing levees may have actually further harmed the Big Easy. There is at least one expert who claims the New Orleans levees made no difference - in fact, they contributed to the problem. Deputy Director of the LSU Hurricane Center and Director of the Center for the Study Public Health Impacts by Hurricanes Ivor van Heerden said, 'The levees have literally starved our wetlands to death by directing all of that precious silt out into the Gulf of Mexico.'" - Michael P. Tremoglie, "New Orleans: A Green Genocide," September 8, 2005, available at http://frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=19418

"I believe we have learned how to master the problem of environmental quality. Both air and water pollution have been virtually eliminated in developed nations. The main problem now is poverty in the rest of the world; once that is solved, environmental problems will be taken care of." - Dr. S. Fred Singer in an interview, available at http://www.sepp.org/NewSEPP/singer_interview.htm

"Progress since the 'good old days' is even more dramatic. In 1905, average US life expectancy was 47 years; today it's 78. Few homes had electricity; instead, coal and wood fires created clouds of pollution, and the average home generated 5,000 pounds of wood or coal ash a year... Over 3 million horses worked in American cities -- producing 11 million tons of manure and 9 million gallons of urine annually. Most got left on streets or dumped into rivers; during summers, manure dust was a primary cause of tuberculosis. In New York City alone, crews had to remove 15,000 horse carcasses from streets every year... The arrival of automobiles changed all that. It also meant we no longer needed vast forage and pasture land for horses, modern farming began increasing production per acre, and we've been able to add a million acres of new US forestland annually since 1910." - Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow Senior Fellow and Congress for Racial Equality Senior Policy Advisor Paul Driessen, April 22, 2005, available at http://www.cfact.org/site/view_article.asp?idCategory=9&idarticle=744

Compiled by Peyton Knight

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day, World is Cleaner, Part Two

Here is another Earth Day release following the previous post from the Wall Street Journal.

Earth Day Information Center Cites Environmental Progress

Washington, D.C. - Although many environmental organizations will strain to find the black lining in the silver cloud of environmental progress on the occasion of Earth Day, the Earth Day Information Center, a project of The National Center for Public Policy Research, is pleased to note environmental progress in many areas. Earth Day is Saturday, April 22.

"The air we breathe and the water we drink is substantially cleaner than it was at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center, adding, "Of course, good news on the environment, of which there is much, rarely makes the cut for the broadcast evening news."

The National Center notes that volatile organic compound emissions from cars and trucks, which are largely responsible for creating ground level ozone and smog, have declined 73.8 percent since 1970. In addition, between 1993 and 2002, aggregate emissions of the six principle air pollutants tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have declined 19 percent.
Cleaner air has made for good news on the acid rain front as well. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions - the main pollutants in the formation of acid rain - have been markedly reduced. Sulfur dioxide emissions in the electric power industry are down 38 percent from 1980 levels, and nitrogen oxide emissions for the entire power industry are 37 percent below 1990 levels according to the EPA.

The Center also notes that, despite some claims to the contrary, the United States is gaining wetlands.

"In 2002 and 2003, the United States gained a net average of 72,000 acres of wetlands each year," said Knight.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture observes that net wetland acreage also grew at a rate of 26,000 acres per year between 1997 and 2001.

"The best way to ensure a healthier, cleaner world is to allow the power of human ingenuity to come to grips with environmental challenges confronting us," says National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen.

"Technological innovation and well-protected property rights - not micro-management through bureaucratic fiat - will enable people the world over to live longer, healthier lives. Sadly, this message seems completely lost on an environmentalist establishment that is more concerned with fund-raising through fear-mongering than with providing common sense solutions," says Cohen. "The very things they attack, man-made chemicals, for example, have helped eradicate diseases, purify drinking water, create life-saving medicines and medical devices, and brought about countless other improvements in our daily lives."

Though progress has been made in clean air, water, and wetlands, there is at least one environmental issue area where advancement has been lacking: Endangered species recovery.

The House of Representatives approved the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act last year. The Act aims to remove some of the barriers to species recovery that are present in the current Endangered Species Act. However, this reform effort has been met with strong resistance from the environmental community.

"In the 33-year history of the Endangered Species Act, less than one percent of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act have been recovered," notes Knight. "While most would consider a less-than-one-percent recovery rate a failure, many environmentalists apparently consider it good enough to continue the status quo."

This and other extensive information related to Earth Day and environmental policy is available at the Earth Day Information Center website at http://www.nationalcenter.org/EarthDay98.html.

A history of Earth Day is available, as well as information and commentary on issues such as global warming, energy policy, forest policy, smart growth, and property rights.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, DC.

Earth Day, World is Cleaner

In this article from today’s Wall Street Journal, appropriate for Earth Day, we are reminded of the benefits of environmental thinking grounding Earth Day.

I remember attending the first Earth Day celebration, at Davis, and though it was sparsely attended, you had the sense that something good, though a bit excited as was normal then, was beginning, and it was.

Here is an excerpt.

Breathe Easier
The world is getting cleaner, Al Gore notwithstanding.
Saturday, April 22, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Today, April 22, is Earth Day, which has been marked each year since 1970 as a day of reflection on the state of the environment. At least that's the idea, so let's begin with some figures.

Since 1970, carbon monoxide emissions in the U.S. are down 55%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Particulate emissions are down nearly 80%, and sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced by half. Lead emissions have declined more than 98%. All of this has been accomplished despite a doubling of the number of cars on the road and a near-tripling of the number of miles driven, according to Steven Hayward of the Pacific Research Institute.

Mr. Hayward compiles the "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators" published around Earth Day each year by PRI and the American Enterprise Institute. It serves as an instructive antidote for the doom and gloom that normally pervades environmental coverage, especially of late.

This year, for example, Vanity Fair has inaugurated an "Earth Issue," comprising 246 glossy, non-recycled pages of fashion ads, celebrity worship and environmental apocalypse. Highlights include computer-generated images of New York City underwater and the Washington mall as one big reflecting pool. The magazine also includes a breathless essay by U.S. environmental conscience-in-chief Al Gore. The message is that we are headed for an environmental catastrophe of the first order, and only drastic changes to the way we live can possibly prevent it.

If arguments were won through the use of italics, Mr. Gore would prevail in a knockout. But as Mr. Hayward notes in his "Index," the environmental movement as a whole has developed a credibility problem since the first Earth Day 36 years ago. In the 1970s, prominent greens were issuing dire predictions about mass starvation, overpopulation and--of all things--global cooling. Since then, population-growth estimates have come way down, biotechnology advances have found ways to feed more people than the doomsayers believed possible, and the global-cooling crisis has become the global-warming crisis without missing a beat.

Environmentalism & Politics, Part Two

In this post on the First Things website, Richard John Neuhaus follows up on his discussion a few days ago, also posted here, about the reality behind the environmentalist’s alarm raising on global warming which would require the kind of major sacrifices no first-world society is prepared to make, “in the hopes of forestalling coastal flooding in 2047.”

We see, so far at least, the same syndrome here, where everyone agrees that the Sacramento area is the most flood-prone city in the country, with the potential for tens of billions of dollars worth of flood damage; which could be remedied by the relatively minor investment of a few billion dollars for 500 year protection by building a dam, yet that optimal solution is still presented by most local public leadership as a pipe-dream.

The first thing we all might consider doing, is perhaps beginning to think about our problems around flooding, and other environmental issues, with more rationality, seeking optimal solutions as they are the best solutions by definition, and the best is always the right place to start.

Here is an excerpt.

April 21, 2006
Richard John Neuhaus writes:


Some readers have taken sharp issue with my agreement with George Will, Thomas Derr, and a host of others that we should cultivate an informed skepticism about some of the more alarmist claims advanced by those warning us about global warming. One reader writes, “Of course there is uncertainty, but uncertainty does not mean we should do nothing; it means we do should more.”

But more what? Some of the proposals advanced would mean–and their proponents often readily agree–the economic crippling of affluent countries and the consequent calling off of the aspirations of poor countries for economic development. This is the point of an incisive commentary by Ross Douthat over on The American Scene. He writes:

"None of this is to say that talking about climate change, and looking for sensible policies to cope with it, isn’t a good and necessary thing to do. Nor is it to say that the Bush Administration hasn’t dropped the ball on this somewhat, as it has on so many other issues. But any serious response to global warming has to begin with an awareness that we–and by we, I mean the whole world, not just the present and future occupants of the White House–simply aren’t going to accept the kind of “pain” that would be necessary to prevent it from happening. For better or worse, constant economic growth is the engine of our world, and the source of whatever limited political stability our planet enjoys. And no matter how many documentaries Al Gore makes and how lavishly they get praised, there’s simply no one, from Berlin to Beijing to Bangkok, who’s going to cut the engine in the hopes of forestalling coastal flooding in 2047.

"Religious leaders who have jumped on the global warming bandwagon frequently say that we have to be willing to make radical sacrifices. But it is the poor of the world who will be required to make the greatest sacrifices. It may be a relatively little thing for an American to give up his SUV, but it’s a very big thing for somebody in Niger to give up his hope for a square meal each day. It is not bold and prophetic to call for sacrifices, whether here or in the global South, that no political leader could possibly embrace. It is moralistic self-indulgence."

Fast Track on Levee Work

In this story from today’s Bee, the crucial point is that the levee work will be put on a fast track, though new federal funds will not be available for this levee work, and if this frees up new federal funds for the work being done on the optimal flood solution, a dam on the American River, that is truly good news.

Here is an excerpt.

State levee plea rejected
No new federal money, but work put on fast track
By Sam Stanton and Jim Sanders -- Bee Staff Writers Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, April 22, 2006


SAN JOSE - The Bush administration announced Friday that it had ordered federal officials to streamline procedures that will allow 29 endangered California levees to be repaired by November, but the White House refused to declare an emergency or to offer any federal funding.

The announcement, which came shortly before President Bush landed in California and met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the state's levee problems, left some state leaders angry.

But one top Bush official said that the administration was limited in what action it could take, and that the federal government could not issue the disaster declaration requested by Schwarzenegger because no crisis had yet occurred.

Bush will continue his four-day California visit with a stop today in West Sacramento, marking his first appearance in the capital area since a Memorial Auditorium event in October 2001.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson labeled Friday's levee developments "a step in the right direction."

"However, more work needs to be done if we are going to rebuild our levees as quickly as possible," she said.

"We look forward to seeing the details and language of the president's directive. The governor will continue pressing the federal government to expedite the levee repairs."

Specifically, Bush directed his Cabinet to put planning and permitting processes on a fast track to allow levee repairs to begin immediately, and to take procedural steps necessary to accept money from California to launch the work.

The President's Visit

In this editorial from today’s Bee, the call for the President to notice the flood danger in Sacramento is well-placed and probably well-received, as the presidential visit is one in a series of high-level visits to out area in the last few months, prompted probably by what happened in New Orleans and the danger of it happening here.

Too bad it always takes a disaster to start serious disaster planning, but we do keep getting smarter?

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: Dear Mr. President
Welcome to our floodplain - and reconsider

Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, April 22, 2006

Word has it, Mr. President, that you will arrive in the Sacramento area today via helicopter to see cars powered by fuel cells. The helicopter is a perfect means of transport for this visit, sir. From it, you can't help but notice all that water out there.

Californians, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been trying to get your administration's attention. We've been hoping to persuade you to immediately invest in preventive homeland security by improving the levees around Sacramento and other cities rather than waiting for a Katrina-style disaster.

To date we've failed. Even the usually persuasive governor can't seem to get through to you. "I'm shocked at the federal government's lack of action and understanding on this issue," he said the other day.

But seeing is believing.

Too Much Water, Too Little Water

In this story from today’s Bee, it is the old refrain of too much water, which is companion to the also oft heard, too little water; both of which are solved by developing the appropriate water storage facilities to capture it when there is too much as now, to benefit all of us when there is too little, sure to be someday soon.

Here is an excerpt.

Dealing with the deluge
There's so much water, some agencies are giving it away. Rice and tomato farmers, however, wait for a dry spell.
By Jim Downing -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, April 22, 2006


Sometimes California's water gods give, and sometimes they take away. This spring, they're doing both, as far as Central Valley farmers are concerned.

The state's network of reservoirs and aqueducts are overflowing with a bonanza, always a good sign for irrigation-dependent farms.

On the flip side, heavy spring rains have caused delays and damage, particularly in the Sacramento Valley, and yields for some crops are already suffering. In Yolo County, a state of disaster was announced Friday afternoon, citing an estimated $14 million loss to the county's third-largest crop, alfalfa.

But first, happier news.

There's so much water in rivers and reservoirs that the federal Bureau of Reclamation is, for the first time, giving it away from the Central Valley Project in some areas.

"Get a bucket, and get on down there," said bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken. For at least another few weeks, "anybody can divert as much as they want" downstream of Friant Dam, north of Fresno, he said. The idea is to ease the pressure on the San Joaquin River, where high water is threatening levees.

Federal agricultural water deliveries are forecast to be at or near maximum levels through the summer.

The State Water Project is also flush. On Tuesday, the Department of Water Resources forecast its largest deliveries to farms and cities: more than 4.1 million acre-feet.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Auburn Dam Discussion, Letters to the Editor, Part Two

In today’s Letters section in the Bee, there were a couple of thoughtful letters about the renewed interest in the Auburn Dam.

Here are excerpts.


Letter 1) "The American River Authority has always supported the construction of a dam at the Auburn site. The basic problem is that Sacramento County and Yolo County are not part of that board. Money must be raised to finish the feasibility study and environmental reports. Five counties rather than three will make it easier to raise that money.

"The feasibility report will prove that a multipurpose dam is the best answer, compared to a "dry" dam. Five hundred year protection is much superior to the current 100-year protection. Revenue bonds can be sold to fund the project, especially if the feds fund the flood-control protection portion of the dam."

Letter 2) "In the early 1980s, I was an undergraduate geology student at CSUS. We studied the Auburn dam site. My instructor, a sedimentary petrologist, kept repeating his alarm over putting such a high-capacity dam in a canyon where the layers of shale could possibly slide under the lubricating effects of water under pressure. At the time, he said the engineers planned to bolt together the layers where the dam's foundation would connect to the walls of the canyon."

Flood Protection Funding, Part Four

As we see in this article from today’s Bee, the cost of levee strengthening, while a necessary intermediate step in flood protection, is slowly rising to the level of long-term flood protection; around $300 million just for Natomas, with frustrated speculation that another $700 million might someday be needed.

Here is an excerpt.

$4.6 million allocated for levee study
Consultants will assess flood risk in Natomas.
By Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 21, 2006


Sacramento flood-control officials on Thursday agreed to spend $4.6 million studying how to upgrade weak levees in fast-growing Natomas.

The action by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency comes in response to a February report that showed Natomas levees may not meet the 100-year flood standards, despite $57 million worth of improvements in the 1990s.

Those upgrades cleared the way for housing development in Natomas, ending a seven-year building moratorium. The area's population has nearly tripled to 67,000 since then.

But the study released in February, based on new soil tests, found that levee seepage is a bigger problem in Natomas than previously known. Soil is so porous in some areas that floodwaters could even undermine seepage walls installed in some levees in the 1990s.

The new findings mean the federal government could designate Natomas as a floodplain, which could again halt development.

SAFCA wants to avoid that, so it is moving swiftly to devise improvements.

The $4.6 million work plan includes contracts with 12 consultants. The biggest single contract is with the engineering firm Kleinfelder Inc., for $2.8 million, to conduct additional soil borings to learn more about what Natomas levees are made of.

Most of the remaining contracts are for design, permits and land acquisition planning for levee projects along virtually all the waterways ringing Natomas, including the Natomas Cross Canal, Sacramento River and American River. SAFCA hopes to start construction in 2007.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spring Days, Still Soggy

In this story from today’s Bee, we are reminded of what we all are joyfully witnessing, spring seems to finally be here and it is time to get outside; however, there are still some flooded, and soggy spots, particularly along the lower and mid reach of the Parkway, though the upper reach is fine.

Here is an excerpt.


Itching to get outside
Recreation areas are slowly opening but will be soggy for a while -- and just wait for the rafting season
By Cynthia Hubert -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PDT Thursday, April 20, 2006


It's been a long, wet winter, and finally you're ready to come out of hibernation.

You've got the bikes tuned up. Broken in the hiking boots. Dragged out the kayaks and the rafts.
Not so fast.

Relentless rains these past many weeks have swamped some of Northern California's most popular recreational areas. Wilderness trails and campgrounds remain snowbound or soggy.

Rivers are high and wild - a good sign for whitewater kayak and rafting seasons, but maybe not so good for anglers who must cautiously wade into the April 29 trout opener.

Some lakes and reservoirs are at capacity and causing erosion problems, while others are cold and riddled with dangerous debris.

Numerous outdoor spots beckon, and the dry ones are more beautiful and bountiful than ever. But before you get out there, do some research.

Among places in the Sacramento area that took a hit this winter is the American River Parkway, 32 miles of heaven between Discovery Park and Folsom Lake. Discovery Park, which was swamped with water, is closed and the bike trail between the park and the Capital City Freeway is flooded. You'll also run into water near Cal Expo, right around Howe Avenue.

The trail, normally crowded this time of year, has been "pretty vacant" of cyclists, in-line skaters and runners in recent weeks, said Dave Lydick, chief ranger for the Sacramento County parks department. But that may change this weekend.

"On the few sunny days we've had, people have flocked to the bike trail," Lydick said. "Everyone has cabin fever. They just want to get out."

Although a few hardy kayakers and rafters have braved the American River, Lydick said, boating on the river remains hazardous. The American is running high and fast - about 20,000 cubic feet per second in some spots, or five times the norm.

"We discourage anyone from getting out there when flows are above 6,000," Lydick said.

Still, most of the parkway is dry and the scenery is stunning, said Warren Truitt, who rides or walks it six days a week, rain or shine.

"It's absolutely gorgeous with all the greenness, and wildflowers are abundant, coming out all over the place," said Truitt, vice president of Save the American River Foundation. "I see renewal, and I actually have been pretty pleased to see how many cyclists have been out on the parkway all winter long."

If you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the many forms of wildlife that inhabit the area along the parkway, from coyotes and deer to egrets and great blue herons. And as the asphalt warms, watch out for rattlesnakes.

"Just take a wide berth around them," said Lydick. "Most of the time they completely ignore you."

Water Storage Leadership

In this story from today’s Bee, we see some legislators, discussing the current water bond bills, realizing that without dams you really don’t have good flood control, and one of them says it clearly: "To not have water storage be part of this bond is very shortsighted and almost criminal," added Assemblyman Doug La Malfa, R-Oroville. "To me, water storage is the best possible first step for flood control."

Here is an excerpt.

Central Valley lawmakers want reservoir money back in bond package
By STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press WriterPublished 12:10 am PDT Thursday, April 20, 2006


SACRAMENTO (AP) - Eight Central Valley lawmakers urged their leaders to restore funding for at least one new reservoir to the package of public works bonds that legislators are trying to put on the November ballot.

They said they would have difficulty voting for the bonds without the reservoir money.

"We need additional storage to keep water for dry years and we need additional storage in wet years to prevent flooding," Assemblyman Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, said at a news conference.

"To not have water storage be part of this bond is very shortsighted and almost criminal," added Assemblyman Doug La Malfa, R-Oroville. "To me, water storage is the best possible first step for flood control."

The four legislative leaders who have been trying to negotiate a bond package said Tuesday at a conference in San Jose that they had agreed to drop the reservoir funding and money for parks and other natural resource projects from the bond package in an attempt to reach agreement.

"At this point in time those elements are out," Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, said Wednesday. "But that could change tomorrow.

"When you have negotiations things change.... So until you have a final deal it's still fluid. Anybody is free to bring up any subject they want."

He suggested the reservoir funding could be included in a later bond measure if it's left out of one placed on the November ballot.

The reservoir funding has been a major stumbling block since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed putting $68 billion in bonds on the ballot to help pay for highway expansion, school construction, levee repairs and other public works projects.

Schwarzenegger's bond plan included $1.25 billion for reservoir construction. Environmentalists and most Democratic lawmakers suggested that underground storage and additional water conservation were a better approach.

Flood Protection Funding, Part Three

In this story from today’s Bee, it is heartening to see the governor exerting pressure, and exhibiting leadership, around flood issues at the national level, as their resolution does ultimately lie there.

While state and local government can help with ongoing levee maintenance, the larger flood control projects, particularly dams, require federal help.

Here is an excerpt.

Bush facing levee pressure
Governor rips funding, plans to discuss it Friday with president.
By Andy Furillo -- Bee Capitol Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, April 20, 2006


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday "it is inexcusable" that the federal government has not responded to his emergency request to help fix California's flood-threatened levee system and that he intends to press President Bush on the issue when the two meet on Friday.

A federal failure to act on California's levees, Schwarzenegger suggested, could leave the federal government taking blame for another New Orleans-style flood disaster that is lurking just over the levee walls from Sacramento and other vulnerable Central Valley communities.

Schwarzenegger said Bush's acting secretary of the Interior, Lynn Scarlett, is "dangerously misinformed" if she believes, as reported in one press account, that the federal government is already adequately funding state levee upgrades.

The governor's comments came at a news conference two days before he is set to meet with Bush during the president's weekend visit to California, a trip that will include stops in West Sacramento on Saturday and Southern California on Sunday.

"I'm looking forward to meeting with the president on Friday," Schwarzenegger said. "It's extremely important to let the federal government, let the White House know, let the president know, how important it is for us to get help from them for our levees, because our levees are very vulnerable."

Schwarzenegger added that he thinks it is "irresponsible (for) the federal government, and I think it is dangerously misinformed, I would say ... when they come out here and they say we don't need federal help. It's inexcusable, and I think that is the message I want to get across to (Bush)."

White House press officials forwarded a request for a response to Schwarzenegger's statements to the Department of Homeland Security, whose spokesman, Russ Knocke, noted that the agency's secretary, Michael Chertoff, last month conducted an aerial tour of the state's levee system with the California governor.

"It was a fact-finding mission for the secretary," Knocke said. "He had a very important dialogue with the governor and with California officials. This is a very complex issue and one we continue to look into."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flood Protection Funding, Part Two

In this editorial from today’s Bee, we see the ongoing politics of flood protection slowly winding its way through the capital, like a meandering stream seeking the sea.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: Real flood protection
Is amended bill workable or watered down?
Published 2:15 am PDT Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Levee protection in the Central Valley tends to be a game of catch-up, with flood control agencies scrambling to protect areas where local governments have approved new development.

AB 1899, scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Local Government Committee today, aims to alter this dangerous game of catch-up. Known as the "show me the levees" bill, the bill requires cities and counties to verify that areas slated for development have adequate flood protection - or will soon have that protection - before any homes are built.

As originally written by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, AB 1899 would have allowed local governments to do this certification. On the advice of legislative counsel and the attorney general's office, Wolk amended the bill Monday and handed the certification job to the state Reclamation Board.

The bill would require that before any local subdivision maps are approved in a flood zone, the Reclamation Board would have to certify that the area has "200-year protection" - protection against a one-in-200 chance of flooding in any given year - or has a plan in place to provide that protection in five years.

Water Supply, California

In this article from today’s Bee, we see that the water storage facilities in California are full, and 100% of the contracted water can be delivered to agriculture, business, homes, and the environment.

That is really wonderful to hear, regardless of how close we came to serious flooding, and the minor flooding so tragic for so many, that we did see.

What would be even more wonderful is if the public leadership of the state could, returning to those infrastructure dream decades of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, finish the job started then, which engineered Shasta Dam to be 200 feet higher than it is (tripling its water storage) and approved Auburn Dam; which might have allowed us to witness 100% delivery for many years, without the flood threats.

Here is an excerpt.

State's water gauge points to 'full'
Bee Metro Staff Published 2:15 am PDT Wednesday, April 19, 2006


A wet spring means state water contractors will get all the water they need this year. In fact, California has surplus water for sale.

The snowpack statewide is at 172 percent of normal, thanks to a March-April period that was the second-wettest in the northern Sierra since 1921.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Water Resources boosted its allocation to State Water Project contractors from 80 percent to 100 percent.

This marks the first time since the water project's founding in 1968 that contractors have asked for full contractual deliveries and will get those requests.

People Helping Themselves

This article, from this month’s issue of Philanthropy Magazine is about people helping themselves change their lives, and focuses on the Ready Willing & Able Program (a community clean-up program staffed by the formerly homeless) we highlighted in our Lower Reach Report (on our website) as a model for Sacramento area homeless programs to emulate to help the homeless help themselves, particularly those illegally camping in the Lower reach of the Parkway.

Here is an excerpt.

Helping People to Help Themselves
Encouraging work and personal responsibility is key to aiding the poor
By MICHAEL E. HARTMANN


By almost any measure, the United States is the richest nation in history. Yet poverty persists.

Tens of billions of dollars a year are donated in hopes of relieving suffering, but the very size and complexity of the efforts can be daunting. Donors look for the best poverty-fighting programs, but finding them can be difficult, and much well-intentioned giving has little to show for its benevolence.

To assist donors in this urgent work, I’ve written a new guidebook for The Philanthropy Roundtable, Helping People to Help Themselves. While it is not exhaustive in detailing all that is being done to assist the poor, it does sketch out several critical, overarching principles that funders should bear in mind, and it also has chapters highlighting some of the best work addressed to particular challenges, such as health care, worker training, substance abuse, and access to college.

In addition to explaining the issues involved, the book also depicts some of the most effective grantees in each field. For no matter how difficult the problem, there are groups who are achieving dramatic success in turning lives around and reducing suffering. Wise funders will study the reasons for their success and either consider supporting them or replicating similar programs in other locales.

Fundamental Principles

Certain fundamental principles recur throughout the book because they are critical to any effort to help the poor. Conversely, neglecting them will doom even the most well-intentioned philanthropy. First, respect the dignity of the poor by recognizing the role that personal responsibility must play in their lives. The ideal is to help people to help themselves, and to avoid a situation in which the poor end up dependent on public or private programs.

Challenging the poor to take responsibility for their lives is also a challenge to donors, who can be tempted to focus on their own good intentions rather than the long-term prospects of those they seek to help. But it is no compliment to imply that a person in need can do nothing to help himself or others. By contrast, to tell poor people that they can succeed at work, break a destructive habit, go to college, or otherwise advance themselves is not only complimentary but liberating.

The need to encourage personal responsibility leads naturally to a second principle: The greatest anti-poverty program is a job. Persons with low incomes sometimes need help finding jobs and developing work skills, but they and those who help them must stay focused tightly on the goal of gainful employment for all the able-bodied. Encouraging work was the fundamental reason for the dramatic success of welfare reform, and in both governmental and private programs it is critical that work be stressed.

Now let us see these two principles in action as we examine anti-poverty programs that emphasize personal responsibility and work.

A Valuable Callus

The callus between Napoleon Webb’s right thumb and forefinger is only a little smaller than the smile on his face. Tough and thick from mopping floors at the homeless shelter, Webb’s hands are a mark of pride.

“I’m left-handed, and I guess it has something to do with the way I sweep,” he explains, glad to be asked. Because of the callus, the middle-aged Webb’s sweeping days are almost over. He is in his last month at the Doe Fund’s innovative work program, Ready, Willing & Able (RW&A). Having finished nine months of training, he will soon transfer to another Doe enterprise, Pest@Rest.

In 1989, RW&A landed its first city contract under New York Mayor Ed Koch. Since then it has “graduated” 1,500 formerly homeless adults, mostly males with substance-abuse problems who have spent time in prison. Private employment is mandatory, and graduates must pay for their own apartment. Approximately 67 percent are still privately employed a year after graduation.

Environmentalism & Politics

This article, from this month’s issue of Washington Monthly, is an excellent historical look at the development of the environmental movement in the country, its partisanship, and the often strange bedfellows political strategy creates.

Here is an excerpt.

The Emerging Environmental Majority
There's a thaw in relations between greens and hunters. It could heat up big-time over global warming.

By Christina Larson

Today's GOP-controlled Congress has shown itself to be no friend of the environment, but even by conservatives' own standards, last October's surprise was a standout. An amendment inserted at the last minute into a budget reconciliation bill would have opened up millions of acres of public lands, including tracts in national monuments and wilderness areas, to purchase by mining companies and other commercial interests. It was to be the biggest divestiture of public lands in almost a century, and it was happening completely under the radar, with no floor vote, no public hearings, and no debate.

Washington's environmental community was the first to notice the amendment and sound the alarm. Staffers at Earthworks, the Wilderness Society, and other green advocacy groups identified lands in the crosshairs and called allies in the Senate, where the measure could still be defeated. It didn't take much prodding before western Democrats were united against the provision. But to stop the land sales, Republican senators would also need to speak out. That was a harder sell. Many conservatives accept large campaign contributions from mining, oil, and gas companies, and they tend to favor more industry access to public lands and resources. In addition, western Republicans don't take advice from national environmental groups, whose members tend to be urban and suburban liberals—not exactly their voters.

But there are outdoor organizations whose members include voters who can draw conservatives' attention. After an Earthworks staffer tipped off a counterpart at Trout Unlimited, the sportsmen's group (whose membership is two to one Republican) emailed its roughly 100,000 members and contacted regional editorial boards to spotlight the fight. News spread like wildfire—western sportsmen were outraged that public lands where they hunt and fish might be put on the auction block. Once they knew the stakes, local hook-and-bullet organizations held phone-bank days, organized letter-writing campaigns, and scheduled visits to regional Senate offices. A petition signed by 758 sportsmen's clubs affiliated with National Wildlife Federation, from the Great Falls Bowhunters Association to the Custer Rod and Gun Club, landed on elected officials' desks in Washington just weeks later. "These lands, so important to sportsmen and women, are open to every American, rich and poor alike," the letter read. "We believe it is wrong to put them up for mining companies and other commercial interests to buy at cut-rate prices."

The outcry from rural and exurban voters achieved what no amount of lobbying from environmentalists in Washington alone could have. Within weeks, western Republican senators renounced the measure on the Senate floor and to their hometown newspapers. As Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) told the Billings Gazette, "The local folks most impacted by a sale have to be on board." The measure was then effectively dead—within weeks the language was withdrawn from the House bill.

This victory marked a telling moment of cooperation between hunters and environmentalists, a working partnership once as unlikely as Madeleine Albright and Jesse Helms. Environmental policies have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Seventy-five percent of Americans in a 2005 Harris poll agreed with the statement, "Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost." Yet a shrinking minority of voters are willing to associate themselves with the loaded term "environmentalist." In the same poll, only 12 percent claimed that label. Americans like green, but they are less fond of greens. And that has been doubly true for outdoorsmen.