Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
To dam, or just think about it
That is the question consuming farmers, leaders and activists.
By Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee (Updated Monday, May 29, 2006, 5:12 AM)
Farmers and Fresno city leaders say the time has come for a new dam on the San Joaquin River — the first such major project in more than six decades.
But environmentalists and others say the campaign this year for $1.2 billion to build the dam is not working because the San Joaquin Valley hasn't waited long enough.
Important details on a new reservoir are not yet available, they say, such as the exact location, the true cost, who pays and who would benefit. Since 2003, the federal government has been working on a $16 million study that will fill in many of the blanks.
But such studies take years for a reservoir that would be more than twice the size of Millerton Lake. The study won't be finished until 2009.
That's the time to have the financing conversation, said Barry Nelson, senior analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, an environmental watchdog.
"It's simply not credible to talk about it yet," he said. "You can't just ask the public to hand over money without knowing more."
Many city leaders, such as Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, think the time is right. They say a larger reservoir would protect people from floods, especially in a wet year like this one, and provide more water for growing cities, farming and restoring the San Joaquin River.
Similar sentiments come from the Friant Water Users Authority, representing thousands of farmers who use the river for irrigation water.
Friant and NRDC have been facing off in court over river restoration since the 1980s. They are expected in the next month or so to settle an 18-year-old lawsuit over restoration, and a plan to restore dried portions of the river probably will emerge.
NRDC has opposed construction of a new dam, saying there already is enough water if it is managed differently. But Friant officials have long considered a new dam the key solution. The extra water in storage could be released to keep the river flowing, they have said.
Here is an excerpt.
Al Gore's new movie is the feel-good hit of the summer--but not much more.
BY HOLMAN W. JENKINS JR.Wednesday, May 31, 2006 12:01 a.m.
It's only been out a week, but audiences seem not to have poured forth from Al Gore's movie and, in an unprecedented reversal of political polarity, demanded higher gasoline prices.
This is bad news for Republicans, who will bear the burden of high gas prices to the polls in November. Not that Mr. Gore's movie advocates higher gasoline prices. It reportedly doesn't advocate any policy that would actually relieve the fears of climate worriers. When he last sought the White House in 2000, recall, it was Mr. Gore who persuaded President Clinton to open up the strategic reserve to provide consumers with cheaper gas, harm to the climate be darned.
Here's a test. What if science showed conclusively that global warming is produced by natural forces, with all the same theorized ill effects for humanity, but that human action could forestall natural change? Or what if man-made warming were real, but offsetting the arrival of a natural ice age? Would Mr. Gore tell us meekly to submit to whatever nature metes out because it's "natural"?
Mr. Gore's next movie should be about the urge to propitiate the gods with sacrifices, a ritual whose appeal did not go out with the Aztecs. Yes, Al, let us give billions to alternative energy bureaucrats and emissions regulators. This we do as a tribute to your shamanism, although it will make little appreciable difference to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
That said, a valid service is performed in satisfying the eternal human appetite for gloom and doom (and no virgins were sacrificed), distracting people from the reality of life, which is that we all are doomed, while the universe, the Earth and all that environmentalists hold dear will go remorselessly on and on without us.
In a million years, the time it takes the earth to sneeze, the planet will likely be shorn of any conspicuous sign we were ever here, let alone careless with our CO2, dioxins, etc. Talk about an inconvenient truth.
How much more securing, in a way, to believe we are ruining the planet than the planet just does not care about us, and will run rampant with life long after we are dust. And how pleasant to be able to transmute our fury over our fate into incoherent feelings of self-heroism against our present "enemies."
Thus Washington Post columnist, and future dust, Sebastian Mallaby: "By their contempt for expert opinion on everything from Iraqi reconstruction to the cost of their tax cuts, Republicans have turned [Al Gore] into a hero. By their serial dishonesty, Republicans have created a market for 'An Inconvenient Truth.' "
That felt good, didn't it? That satisfied a need.
But we digress. A remarkable and improbable thing is that, despite presumably devoting decades of study to the subject of global warming, nothing Al Gore has learned leads him to say anything that would strike the least informed, most dogmatic "green" as politically incorrect. He doesn't discover virtues in nuclear power. He doesn't note the cost-benefit advantages of strategies that would remove CO2 from the atmosphere, rather than those that would stop its creation.
Anybody who deeply searches into any subject of popular debate inevitably comes back with views and judgments to shock the casual thinker. Mr. Gore utterly fails to vouchsafe this reliable telltale of seriousness.
That man-made carbon dioxide has a net planetary warming effect is an important hypothesis, one that science can make stronger or weaker, but can't prove. It may be true, but a layperson only has to look into the antecedents of today's "consensus" to realize it wouldn't be too surprising if tomorrow's consensus were that CO2 is cooling, or neutral, or warming here and cooling there.
And evidence of warming is not evidence of carbon-driven warming. These are different things, at least until scientists can be reasonably certain they've eliminated other factors and interrelationships that contribute to climate variability. But scientists are not close to understanding or even knowing all the factors that play into "climate change," a process that might as well be called "climate," since climate is always changing.
Finally, warming and what might cause warming are subjects entirely separable from the urge to gather up all the most dire and extreme speculation about what a warming earth would be like for humans and present it as scientific "truth."
Fundraising is, and should remain, within the purview of the private nonprofit corporate partner, such as the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy or the Central Park Conservancy, both models for the type of governance and fundraising structure we advocate for the American River Parkway to help resolve its long-term funding and management problems.
Here is an excerpt.
Do's and don'ts for U.S. park donors
New rules for private fundraising don't venture far from old.
By Michael Doyle -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, May 31, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Yosemite National Park officials now know the do's and don'ts of luring private donors.
The don'ts include taking money from liquor and tobacco companies and rewarding donors with big billboards.
The do's spelled out in new agency rules include dispatching Yosemite Superintendent Mike Tollefsen to woo potential contributors, so long as he doesn't explicitly put his hand out.
"Mike doesn't stand up and say, 'Please give money,' " Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said Tuesday, "but we feel it's appropriate to tell donors what the money is going for."
Yosemite benefits from private contributions more than almost any other park. Most dramatically, with big contributions from the likes of Chevron, the Yosemite Fund raised more than $11 million for restoration of the park's Lower Yosemite Falls area.
One of the few organizations of its kind larger than the Yosemite Fund is the San Francisco-based Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, which has contributed more than $80 million since 1981.
The much more modest Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Foundation has contributed about $500,000 to the two parks in the past two decades.
Depending on how contributions are counted, between $75 million and $100 million in private funds and donations annually supplement the National Park Service's budget. Following intense scrutiny by Yosemite aficionados and members of the public, the Bush administration earlier this month issued new rules governing this private fundraising.
Cue the nightmare visions of tacky ads dotting park landscapes and Ronald McDonald embracing the Statue of Liberty. But after fielding some 1,000 public comments over the past year, park service officials retained most of the conservative rules protecting parks from overt commercial exploitation.
"We pulled back from a number of the more controversial proposals," John Piltzecker, director of the National Park Service's Partnership Program, said Tuesday. "The time was not right for a number of those provisions."
For instance, the park service originally proposed that individual and corporate donors be recognized through prominent plaques, benches and embedded stones. Specific rooms within park buildings could also have been named for donors; for instance, the Chevron Room inside a Yosemite facility. The final rules dropped those ideas.
It is still possible, though, for donors to receive recognition.
Currently, a Yosemite Fund "Honor Wall" located behind the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center honors a variety of major donors.
"I think it's tastefully done," Gediman said.
Here is an excerpt.
Woman makes plea deal in eco-terror case
She pleads guilty to conspiracy and agrees to testify against her two co-defendants.
By Denny Walsh -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, May 31, 2006
In an apparent bid for leniency, one of three people charged in an eco-terrorism plot pleaded guilty in Sacramento federal court Tuesday and agreed to testify against the other two.
Lauren Weiner pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in connection with the trio's alleged plans to blow up commercial and governmental facilities in the Sacramento region.
She agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation and prosecution of the case, including testifying against co-defendants Eric Taylor McDavid and Zachary O. Jenson.
The 20-year-old Weiner admitted that one of their targets was the U.S. Forest Service's Institute of Forest Genetics in Placerville.
McDavid, Jenson and Weiner were accused in a grand jury indictment with conspiring to blow up the genetics lab in Placerville, the Nimbus Dam and nearby fish hatchery in Rancho Cordova, and cellular telephone towers and electric power stations in unspecified locations.
Weiner also admitted the group planned to take credit for their actions on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front, which the FBI has identified as a terrorist movement dedicated to violent attacks on what its followers believe are symbols of society's destruction and exploitation of the environment.
Congress has defined federal crimes of terrorism to include those involving the use of explosives that are "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct."
Here is an excerpt.
Bill seeks flood board overhaul
Senator says he wants to rectify pro-developer tilt.
By Judy Lin -- Bee Capitol Bureau Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The state's flood board, under scrutiny for possible violation of open-meeting laws and what some believe is a pro-developer tilt, would face an overhaul under a bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1796, which passed 23-11 and now goes to the Assembly, seeks to expand the seven-member State Reclamation Board by two members and requires some of them to have specific experience. The governor's appointees to the board also would be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, wrote the bill after the board took action to favor a developer seeking authority to build 11,000 homes on a flood-prone Delta island. The board also was accused of violating open-meeting laws in a related action. Florez has called on state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate.
"It's indicative of a pro-development board that isn't moving in the same direction as the Legislature or the governor," Florez said. "We (the Legislature) want to join with the governor. We want to take part of the responsibility."
The Reclamation Board, which handles flood-control policy in California and oversees a 1,600-mile network of levees, primarily in the Central Valley, will play a role in how the state spends $4.1 billion worth of flood protection money if voters approve a state bond in November.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had replaced all seven board members last fall after previous board members, most appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis, began to challenge development behind levees. Members can be appointed or removed at any time.
The Governor's Office has not taken a position on the bill.
Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, said he opposed the bill out of concern that a new board might compete with counties and other local governments.
"It could take out local land-use authority and give it to a new board, which is why I opposed it," Cox said.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Article published May 27, 2006
S.J. River restoration plan stalled amid negotiations
STOCKTON - What could turn out to be the single largest river restoration project in U.S. history remains mired in complicated settlement talks.The battle to revive the San Joaquin River pits environmental groups and local water agencies against the federal government and Southern California farmers. A settlement in the so-called Friant case, named after the upstream dam that both diverted water south and dried up portions of the San Joaquin, was expected earlier this year.
All sides appear to support restoring the river and its once-prodigious salmon runs. But reviving a 300-mile waterway after 50 years of relative dormancy has wide-ranging impacts, parties in the case said.
"We've spent a lot of time consulting with everyone that has expressed an interest," said Barry Nelson, a policy analyst with the National Resources Defense Council, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
"It's certainly taken a chunk of time," Nelson added. "But we are really making real progress."
Fifty years ago, Friant Dam began diverting 90 percent of the upper San Joaquin River to farmers and towns near Fresno and south - water that would normally flow down the San Joaquin and into San Francisco Bay.
As a result, water levels fell in the Delta, where 23 million Californians get their water. Delta farmers saw salty water coming in from the Bay, which lowered their crop yields. And the river's lazy waltz through Stockton invited bright green algae that both stinks and robs fish of oxygen.
In 1988, the National Resources Defense Council, along with several other environmental groups, local governments and water agencies, sued the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Friant Dam.
A prior round of settlement talks broke down three years ago. But in 2004, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled the federal government destroyed salmon runs and created severe water pollution in the Delta by drying up the river. Some said the ruling put the federal government on notice that it might lose a court trial.
A second settlement attempt began last year that both sides say is breeding hope.
"We believe progress is being made," said Ron Jacobsma, general manager of the Friant Water Users Authority.Jacobsma added that Karlton is "resolved" that a settlement is reached. "To that extent, he's sending a signal to the parties to remain steadfast," he said.
Some reports have suggested it would take about 400,000 acre-feet of water a year to restore the river below Friant. The dam only holds 520,500 acre-feet of water, roughly enough to grow 200,000 acres of tomatoes or meet the annual water needs of 2.6 million people.
Here is an excerpt.
New Natomas levee angst
Army Corps of Engineers declaration adds heft to reports of risky protection
Sacramento Business Journal - May 26, 2006 by Mike McCarthy / Celia Lamb Staff Writers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is adding its weight to findings that the Natomas Basin's flood-control levees are not very flood-proof after all -- a pronouncement that could temporarily squelch development in one of the region's largest planned-growth areas.
Plans for Natomas include about 75,000 homes and more than 50 million square feet of offices, stores and warehouses. The population of future workers, shoppers and residents combined would likely surpass 200,000.
The Corps' confirmation that the levees are defective in a basin that could experience 15-foot-deep floods may prompt building moratoriums or other restrictions by Sacramento city and county and Sutter County.
The levees were retrofitted in 1998 and the Army Corps of Engineers certified them as being able to withstand a 100-year flood -- a deluge of such severity that statistically there is only a 1 percent chance of it happening each year.
However, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency in March published an analysis concluding that the levees in Natomas and elsewhere "may be subject to unacceptable risk of failure due to deep underseepage and continuing erosion."
SAFCA asked the Corps and the state's Water Resources Department to review the study. Corps spokesman Jeff Hawk said the agency "basically concurs" with SAFCA that the levees are defective. An official announcement is expected soon.
Further putting the status of the levees in doubt, this month the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that levees nationwide, including those in Natomas, will have to be recertified at the 100-year level.
That's the level of protection the Federal Emergency Management Agency regards as safe enough to build without flood insurance. And municipalities regard that level of protection as safe enough to allow construction without requiring expensive flood-proofing for individual buildings.
Complicating matters for development in the basin, John Bassett, a director of engineering for SAFCA, estimated that it will take three to four years -- until at least 2009 -- to return the levees to 100-year flood protection.
More spoilers on horizon
The 55,000-acre Natomas basin runs northward along the Sacramento River from the American River to the Natomas Cross Canal in Sutter County. The basin is encircled by levees that were thought to offer protection against a 100-year flood.
If the Natomas' levees are believed to be less than safe, FEMA could issue new flood maps showing Natomas as a flood-prone area, kicking in the need for flood insurance and, possibly, for flood-proofing new buildings. FEMA estimates a first draft of the maps could be out next year.
Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo said that should the levees be found defective, she would favor stopping annexation proceedings in Natomas for the time being. She is less sure whether entitled infill projects should be stopped. That will require more study and discussion, she said.
"We don't want to put more people in harm's way," she added.
Other potential development spoilers on the horizon are two state Assembly bills. Assembly Bill 1988, introduced by Lois Wolk, a Yolo County Democrat, calls for a halt to building in areas that can't provide 200-year flood protection within five years. However, Wolk is considering an amendment to allow development in areas with 100-year protection if they could increase to 200-year protection within 10 years.
Sacramento County's Dave Jones, a Democrat, has introduced Assembly Bill 3050 requiring municipalities to jointly accept with the state liability for the results of bad flood-control decisions in new-growth areas. Currently, the law makes the state fully liable, leaving local governments to allow development with impunity, despite the existence of questionable flood protection. In other words, local officials who make land-use decisions may soon be on the hook for litigation.
"Cities and counties need to think twice about land-use decisions in floodplains," Jones said. "They've got to make darn sure they're not putting people in harm's way and that the levees are strong enough to protect them."
Money could also be a problem. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed two bills last week that can help. Assembly Bill 142 allows $500 million to be spent immediately for emergency work on erosion of levees statewide. SAFCA's Bassett, however, said the bill is probably not going to route enough money to the agency to bring the levees to the 100-year level.
A more likely source for that is Assembly Bill 140. It would raise $4.09 billion for flood protection from bonds. But the bonds need public approval on the November ballot. Basset estimated the state bond could supply up to 70 percent of the $140 million to $240 million needed to bring the levees to 100-year status.
SAFCA's goal is to build the barriers to the 200-year-level. That would put the full cost at $300 million. The agency's March analysis also suggested it might be wise to build a secondary levee, running behind the Sacramento River levee, that could push the total to $432 million.
Here is an excerpt.
Levee slumps; repairs to take weeks
Weak soil discovered in rebuilt Buras section
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 By Mark Schleifstein Staff writer
With hurricane season only three days away, the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday announced that a 400-foot section of earthen hurricane protection levee being rebuilt near Buras High School in Plaquemines Parish slumped by more than 6 feet overnight Saturday, and repairs could take three to six weeks.
Corps spokesman Jim Taylor said the levee section, just west of the main Mississippi River levee and about 60 miles south of downtown New Orleans, seemed to twist in place, losing 61/2 feet of height at its top. The earth at its toe rose by 3 feet, he said.
The levee had been raised to 15 feet by Saturday, and was scheduled to be raised to 17 1/2 feet by Thursday, the beginning of hurricane season.
"An unexpected event such as this during construction is disappointing, but we will continue to work as quickly as possible to restore the hurricane protection system repairs while making sure the restoration is done correctly," said Col. Lewis Setliff III, commander of Task Force Guardian, which is rebuilding local levees.
Parish President Benny Rousselle said the incident highlights the importance of residents complying with all evacuation orders this year.
"These repaired levees are virgin levees, and they need time to settle and get the grass growing on them again before they're tested with any major storm," Rousselle said.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the corps has spent more than $700 million to restore 169 miles of devastated hurricane levees, floodwalls and gates in the New Orleans area. But Taylor said the speed in restoring hurricane protection has resulted in the levees often being raised to pre-Katrina standards before samples of soils beneath them are analyzed and returned to the corps.
When the results show problems, he said, corps engineers and contractors have moved quickly to repair problem areas.
Corps engineers already were concerned with the Buras section, after test results received last week showed the underlying soil was weaker than other tests indicated before construction began, Taylor said. Corps engineers were looking at ways to compensate for the softer soils when the slumping occurred, he said.
Engineers also are studying similar test results showing softer-than-expected soil conditions beneath levee repairs under way at the Empire Lock, about five miles upriver, Taylor said. He said those were the only two locations with substandard soils among 200 sets of test borings reviewed last week.
Here are excerpts.
N.H. residents pay in towns that aren't in federal flood program
By Brian Johnson, The Eagle-Tribune May 30, 2006
SALEM, N.H. --For the five decades that Robert Castricone has called Haigh Avenue home, he never once thought about purchasing flood insurance, despite the fact that his home sits on the edge of the Spicket River.
"I never had a drop of water in the house," he said.
However, after 49 years of dodging the high waters that come every few years, the 78-year-old's luck ran out last week when the Spicket River flowed into his basement, filling it with more than 3 feet of water.
…Fortunately for Castricone, last week the state was granted a disaster declaration for homeowners in several counties. It's a move that will bring some financial relief to Castricone as he looks to recoup from the historic floods. He will be eligible for an immediate $5,400 grant from FEMA to help make his home habitable again, according to Kevin Merli, the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Division service director for FEMA's Boston office.
However, for people in about 35 communities in New Hampshire, there will likely be no financial relief from the federal agency because their towns do not participate in the National Flood Program.
The National Flood Program is a federal program that gives homeowners the ability to purchase flood insurance. In exchange, the communities must create a series of flood plain ordinances and management agreements to reduce the number of new developments within flood plains. The agency developed the program in the late 1960s after private insurers deemed that providing private flood insurance would be cost prohibitive.
Under federal guidelines, people who own homes in designated flood plains are required by lenders to purchase flood insurance when they buy a home. Flood damage and damage from ground water are not covered under homeowners insurance policies.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Here is an excerpt
By James Pinkerton
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a moving picture worth? You know, as in Al Gore's new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth"? That motion picture is powerful and effective, and so it must be worth a lot to the environmental cause. Some viewers might dwell on the irony of cine-technology -- all those celluloid-y chemicals! all those kilowatts! all those people driving their fossil-fuelmobiles to the theater! -- being harnessed to aid the cause of Greenery, but in fact, the techno-irony gets twistier than that. The heart of the film, and the true source of its effectiveness, is Gore's lecture on the grave danger of global warming, in which he uses the latest high-tech tools to present a brainful of quantitative information.
Say what you will about Gore the man, but there's nothing stiff or boring about his lecture. As he says, it's "like a major hike through the Book of Revelation." And speaking of revelation, the former vice president has sure had his epiphany. In the film, he recalls asking himself, "How should I spend my time on this earth?" As we well know, the answer for him was environmental salvation: "It's almost as if a window was opened, and the future was visible." And what was visible was "not so much a political issue as a moral issue."
However, to help the rest of us come along, there's PowerPoint. I'm no scientist, so I will leave it to others, including Arizona State's Robert Balling, Roy Spencer, and others here at TCS, to wrestle with the actual skull stuff. But I do know a visceral good show when I see one. And "Inconvenient Truth" is just that, a good show, because PowerPoint is its own kind of guaranteed spectacle. It's like putting men in black tie -- everyone looks good in a tux.
As meeting-attendees everywhere know, what works about PowerPoint is the seductive combination of high tech and high touch. That is, someone is in the room with you, as a reassuring stage presence, but he or she has a pretty good arsenal of slam-banging special effects, too. So you are lulled along by the voice, even as you are pulled along by the charts and graphics, in which all the risers and trendlines invariably move in the desired direction. It's hard to argue with a good PowerPoint -- how d'ya think the Pentagon convinced itself that it was going to win in Iraq with so few troops?
Indeed, the weaker the underlying argument, the more one needs PowerPoint. Microsoft knows this truth; it asks on its website, "Got the presentation jitters?" Not to worry: "Use headlines, graphics, and your spoken words to gain confidence and engage your audience." Phew!
Rancho Cordova (the newly incorporated city other parkway organizations feel is unfriendly to the parkway environment so they are contesting Rancho Cordova’s right to be involved in decisions regarding the parkway), has built an environmentally friendly city hall which will be the first "in Northern California to get a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U. S. Green Building Council, which requires certain energy-efficient ratings and conservation practices during construction and maintenance." (p. S-48)
Rancho Cordova’s new 79,000 square foot city hall is a beautiful building in which I spent a couple of hours recently attending a meeting on flood control issues, and a very welcoming aspect of the building is that it is surrounded, in wonderful California suburban accessible style, by free parking.
It is at 2729 Prosper Park Drive, and another delightful amenity is that it has “5,700 square feet of community space for rent for weddings and meetings, and 33,000 square feet of leasable offices.” (p. S-49)
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Editorial: Wreck board in action
Flood panel skirts law in helping developer
Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, May 28, 2006
Last September, this page took Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to task for firing the state Reclamation Board -- California's main flood control panel -- and appointing several newcomers who had obvious conflicts of interest and relatively little governmental experience.
A rush to judgment? Some thought so. "Let's give the new board a chance to demonstrate its commitment to its mission," said a letter writer.
Well, we've given the new Reclamation Board a chance, and it has met our earlier expectations. First it ran off an experienced and even-headed general manager, Pete Rabbon. Then it changed a prudent policy that limited new building in Plumas Lake, a Yuba County area that has flooded twice in 20 years.
All the while, this six-member board has quarreled with staff and bickered with itself. At one recent meeting, chairman Ben Carter was fed up with the motions and counter motions. "Please, get us out of this quagmire," Carter said.
Many of us feel the same way. While the Reclamation Board isn't a household name, everyone who lives in a floodplain -- and every state taxpayer -- depends on its decisions. The Reclamation Board is the sole agency that determines whether development encroaches on state-owned levees. If voters approve a levee bond issue in November, the board will influence how $4 billion is spent.
If the current Wreck Board were merely inefficient, it wouldn't be very noteworthy. Sadly, this board appears to be hopelessly biased toward new development in floodplains and is cavalier about open meetings laws.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Designing Against Crime
Time spent at the drafting table can make parks and green spaces safer
By Joel McCormick
Imagine being afraid to jog in your local park. Or perhaps you’re one day shocked to find graffiti painted on the playground where you like to take your children. Imagine avoiding a nearby green space because of fear.
This isn’t a myth for many communities; it’s a reality.
Park life is invaluable. Not only do park and recreation professionals recognize the benefit of fresh air and green space, but recent research has shown that the kind of experience park-goers receive is a psychological imperative for relaxation and happiness. The concern and stigma of crime is threatening our park and recreation areas, especially in urban environments.
The places that were built to rejuvenate us and to provide places for our children to play and grow often serve as “hang-outs” for criminals, including drug dealers and prostitutes. In fact, researchers reported in a 1992 study that “fear of criminal victimization threatens the quality of life of many Americans [and] almost half of the U.S. population has reported feeling unsafe in areas within a mile of their homes.” Consequently, it has become a part of routine park management to make parks and green spaces both regenerative, attractive, natural-looking areas while maintaining safety and peace of mind for the public.
Fortunately, a model for dealing with this universal problem has been effectively put into action. Crime prevention through environmental design is a phrase described by C. Ray Jeffreys in his 1971 book of the same title. Jeffreys defines CPTED as the “proper design and effective use of the built environment that can lead to a reduction in the fear and the incidence of crime, and an improvement in the quality of life.”
CPTED principles provide park users a comforting, safe feeling while discouraging potential criminals, therefore reducing crime proactively and unobtrusively.
CPTED is not a checklist, nor is it an easy fix for all situations. Good CPTED for one area may be completely inappropriate in another area.
For example raising the crown of a tree in one area may open up the field of vision in a trail, but in another area it could kill the tree. A fix for the latter area would involve diverting the trail instead of trimming the tree. Therefore, CPTED is site and situation specific.
There are four main principles to CPTED:
1. Natural Surveillance: This is keeping the environment maintained so that people can be easily seen by other users, staff, and anyone who may pass by the park, trail or playground.
2. Natural Access Control: You want natural access ingress and egress controlled by some means, such as a fence or a flower bed. In other cases, a hedge or a path could work. The important thing is that something should signal “walk here” and “do not walk” there. Therefore, a person in a walking area should not look out of place.
3. Territoriality: Territorial reinforcement is used to distinguish public and private spaces. This can be done by a number of means, including signage, flower beds and mowing. The idea is to show that someone owns and cares about this space. A space that is not used for legitimate park entertainment can quickly be used for some illegitimate, illegal or unwanted activity.
4. Maintenance: Parks should only build what they can maintain. Without maintenance, a public area is inviting criminal behavior. Joe Murray, an arborist consultant and biology professor at Blue Ridge Community College in Staunton, Va., is a member of the Safer By Design Coalition, an organization that grew within the state because of interest in CPTED. He says that CPTED is well established in Europe and that the coalition is living proof that there is growing interest in the United States.
Great Outdoors Month is an opportunity to celebrate and experience America's natural splendor and renew our commitment to conserve our air, water, and land. During this month, we also honor the dedicated men and women who volunteer to help protect our natural resources.
Americans live amid many wonders of nature. Our Nation's varied landscapes include sandy beaches, expansive forests, emerald waters, and towering mountains. Through biking, swimming, skiing, hiking, and many other activities, Americans are enjoying our country's magnificent scenery and the healthy benefits of outdoor recreation.
To ensure that our natural heritage remains a source of pride for all our citizens, my Administration is committed to conserving America's public lands and natural resources and pursuing environmentally responsible initiatives. We are working to accelerate research into cleaner sources of energy, protect our water sources, and encourage the use of hybrid cars. We have put in place a series of clean air regulations that will help us to meet air quality standards.
Through efforts like these, we will continue our Nation's economic growth and protect the environment.
Our citizens play an important role in protecting our natural spaces. Throughout our country, Americans are volunteering in their communities for environmental education programs, local parks, nature conservancies, and other stewardship opportunities. These devoted individuals are working to maintain park trails, restore wildlife habitats, plant trees, and clear overgrowth. I appreciate these volunteers for their efforts to keep America beautiful, and I encourage all Americans to demonstrate good stewardship and an appreciation for the outdoors. Individuals interested in volunteering can visit the Department of the Interior's Take Pride in America website at takepride.gov.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2006 as Great Outdoors Month. I call on all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities and to spend time enjoying the outdoors.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty third day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirtieth.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Friday, May 26, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Active 2006 Hurricane Season Predicted
By Lisa Pickoff-White
May 25 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the coming Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than average, with 13 to 16 tropical storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean during the six-month period beginning on June 1. Of these storms, between eight and 10 are likely to become hurricanes, and three to six could become Category 3 strength or higher.
Warmer ocean water, lower wind shear, weaker easterly trade winds, and a certain type of wind pattern favor the development of numerous high-intensity storms.
Several National Research Council reports deal with climate and weather. Lessons Learned Between Hurricanes: From Hugo to Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, the summary of a 2005 workshop, explores strategies for countering the challenges presented by hurricanes and looks at opportunities for emergency managers, academics, government agencies, and the general public to learn from past hurricanes and other disasters. A 2003 workshop summary, Communicating Uncertainties in Weather and Climate Information, explores how best to communicate weather and climate information by presenting five case studies that illustrate a range of time scales and issues, from the forecasting of weather events, to providing seasonal outlooks, to projecting long-term climate change.
Improving the Effectiveness of U.S. Climate Modeling discusses why dealing with climate-related disasters requires the best possible information and recommends how to enhance the effectiveness of climate modeling. Making Climate Forecasts Matter identifies research directions toward more useful seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts and examines how we can use forecasting to better manage the human consequences of climate change.
Learning about the huge salmon kill due to dissolved gas supersaturation caused by the prolonged and high release of water from Folsom and Nimbus Dams into the Lower American River, which has killed 1.2 million salmon just this past month, was a real shocker to begin the week.
That helped us put the finishing touches on our Press Release supporting Auburn Dam which will allow additional control of American River waters during storm and high run-off years that will preclude this type of tragedy, as well as protect the integrity of the Parkway, and provide 500 year flood protection for the Sacramento region.
Also this week we learned that the federal bill providing funds for flood protection, and the Auburn Dam feasibility study is moving through Congress with little opposition.
Finally, we all find this Memorial Day Weekend’s beginning weather just a tad strange as we see this time as the traditional summer beginning with the blazing hot weather, causing a rush to the rivers, we adore.
Enjoy the weekend, regardless of the less-than-summery weather.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Army Official Tours Eroded Levees Prior to Planned Repairs
Written for the web by C. Johnson, Internet News Producer
A top official with the U.S. Army's civil works division toured levees in the Pocket area of Sacramento Tuesday.
John Paul Woodley, Jr. is spending two days looking at some of the 29 levee sites in the Sacramento Valley and Delta that have been deemed in critical need of repair.
Woodley's Army Corps of Engineers is working with state and local officials in preparation of repairing those levees.
"The Sacramento River levees is among the most critical flood control projects in the country right now and we're very pleased with the progress we're making, but we need to continue," Woodley said.
If all goes as planned, the levee work will begin in July. In the Pocket area, where erosion is the primary concern, slurry walls will be built at some sites. A flood wall will be erected just south of the Pocket area.
Here is the brief.
Part of Mokelumne River closed to boaters
By News-Sentinel Staff Last updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - 01:29:43 pm PDT
The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department has closed two portions of the Mokelumne River to all boats and rafts, effective immediately.The affected areas are from Woodbridge Dam west to Peltier Road, and from Bruella Road east to Camanche Dam.
The Sheriff's Department, with the approval today by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, banned boating because of the high water release levels from Camanche Dam due to the heavy spring rainfall and expected snowmelt expected in the near future.
Portions of the Mokelumne River were also closed to boating in 2005, 1997, and 1995.
The next step is for the Senate to do its work, then the two house conference work during the summer and fall.
Here is an excerpt.
May 11, 2006
Panel Funds Auburn Dam StudyDoolittle Secures $187 Million for Nor Cal Water and Flood Control Projects
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Republican Conference Secretary John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville) announced today that the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee has approved over $187 million for water conservation, flood control, and watershed restoration projects throughout Northern California in the Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07) Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.
Included in the measure is $3 million to fund a feasibility study for a multipurpose dam on the American River at Auburn and $1 million to assess the feasibility of relocating Highway 49 where it crosses the American River between Auburn and Cool, California. “This bill shows a tremendous commitment by Congress to help Northern California meet its water management challenges.
I am especially gratified that the committee supports my efforts to push forward solutions to both our region’s short-term and long-term flood protection needs,” said Doolittle, who is vice chairman of the committee. “While making immediate improvements to Folsom Dam and the levee system, now is the time that we get serious about completing the Auburn Dam.”
The original Auburn Dam plan called for traffic on Highway 49 to cross over the top of the dam upon completion. Due to modern security concerns, a new bridge over the American River would now be required for the relocation of the highway when the dam is built. In addition to being an essential component of the overall Auburn Dam project, the relocation of this stretch of Highway 49 would resolve transportation concerns which have been commonly expressed in the surrounding communities for years.
Said Jack Sweeney, Chairman of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, “Anyone who has driven between Cool and Auburn knows how precarious it can be, particularly at night or in bad weather. Building a safer Highway 49 river crossing is something for which locals have wished a long time.”
Included in the House Fiscal Year 2007 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill are:
$3 million to update the 1996 Auburn Dam feasibility report;
$1 million for an assessment on the feasibility of Highway 49 relocation ;
$15 million for the new Folsom Dam Bridge;
$2 million for the Placer County Regional Waste Water Treatment Plant;
$1 million for the California Hydrogen Infrastructure Project (research in Lake Tahoe);
$7 million for Sacramento Area water conservation projects;
$1.25 million to fund the El Dorado Irrigation District’s Temperature Control Device at Folsom Lake;
$1 million to study diverting Sacramento River water to Placer County;
$2 million for the Placer County Water Agency’s American River Pumping Plant;
$46.8 million to improve Folsom Dam and the Lower American River levees;
$15 million for Sacramento River Bank Protection;
$9.7 million for South Sacramento Streams flood protection;
$40.11 million to fund CALFED, including $6 million for delta levees and $750,000 for the Upper Feather River Basin Assessment Study in Plumas County; and
$41.478 million for watershed restoration projects under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
Here is an excerpt.
Editorial: A life jacket
Two flood bills, still afloat, come up today
Published 12:01 am PDT Thursday, May 25, 2006
Sensible bills often die senseless deaths in the Legislature. Until last week, it appeared Assemblyman Dave Jones' bill to protect state taxpayers from billion-dollar flood liabilities would meet such a fate.
Then, something remarkable happened. The Assembly Appropriations Committee -- to everyone's surprise -- passed AB 3050 by a 12-5 margin.
The panel's approval was a victory for taxpayers and a setback for the bill's powerful opponents -- particularly the League of California Cities, the Chamber of Commerce and the Building Industry Association. They want state government to retain sole legal liability when a levee breaks, even though the state has no control over development in floodplains.
AB 3050 moves to the Assembly floor today. It isn't the only timely flood bill lawmakers will hear. Back in Assembly Appropriations, the committee will vote on AB 1899, a bill by Lois Wolk of Davis known as the "show me the levees" legislation.
Wolk's bill would require cites and counties to demonstrate they have adequate levee protection before approving new construction in floodplains. One might think that would already be law. It is not. In Yuba County and Natomas, flood engineers are scrambling to upgrade levees to safeguard existing structures.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Oroville Dam Postage Stamp to be Unveiled
OROVILLE –May 23, 2006: A stamp depicting the Department of Water Resources’ Oroville Dam will be unveiled at the dam on Saturday, May 27 by the U.S. Postal Service.
The stamp is part of the “Wonders of America: Land of Superlatives” series featuring 40 natural or man-made wonders that are the biggest, largest, deepest, tallest, longest, etc. of their type in the United States. Oroville Dam, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir, qualifies because at 770 feet it is the tallest dam in the nation.
Other landmarks in the stamp series being released May 27 include the St. Louis Arch (tallest man-made monument) and Mount Washington, New Hampshire, windiest place in the country.
For Immediate Release May 22, 2006 Sacramento, California
THE AMERICAN RIVER PARKWAY PRESERVATION SOCIETY ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR AUBURN DAM, AMERICAN RIVER LEVEE STRENGTHENING, AND RAISING THE HEIGHT OF FOLSOM DAM
Sacramento, CA: May 22, 2006: The Society is announcing its support for the construction of the Auburn Dam, the strengthening of the American River levees, and the raising of Folsom Dam, to protect the natural and recreational integrity of the American River Parkway, the health of the salmon, and flood protection for Sacramento.
In January we announced our support for a major new dam on the American River to capture and control the American River Watershed run-off, which, through flood-condition releases from Folsom Dam, was devastating one of the most important parkways in the country.
Since then we have witnessed the following:
1) Discovery Park closed more often than open since Christmas due to flooding.
2) Continued erosion of the Parkway threatening many old growth trees, other habitat and wildlife, and the bike trail.
3) Salmon deaths at Nimbus (1.2 million in the past month) due to dissolved gas supersaturation from the necessary and prolonged high run-off releases from Folsom and Nimbus Dams.
In January we felt that the proposed Auburn Dam design, planned for the North Fork of the American River, and the storage lake it would create, needed to be larger to accommodate the changing future conditions of climate, development, and public policy.
Since then, based on the continued and focused interest by national, state, and local government on flood protection and water supply in the Sacramento region, we are now confident that the planning for Auburn Dam will embrace the changing needs of the region, and, with the proposed raising of Folsom Dam and American River levee strengthening, will provide the storage, (and flow capacity when needed) to protect the integrity of the Parkway, the health of the salmon, and provide 500 year flood protection to the Sacramento region.
Michael Rushford, President
Deborah Baron, Executive Director
David H. Lukenbill, Senior Policy Director
American River Parkway Preservation Society (ARPPS)
2267 University Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95825
Phone: 916.486.3856 Web: www.arpps.org
Here is an excerpt.
County rejects building delay
Board wants to consider risks behind levees on case-by-case basis
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Sacramento County should not impose any delay on development behind potentially questionable levees because it doesn't know enough about how strong levees might be or who would be affected, county supervisors agreed Tuesday.
Instead, the county should consider possible flood risks on a case-by-case basis, look into whether flood insurance could be required for some projects and delay any broader decision until it knows more.
That consensus, reached without taking a formal vote, means the fate of lands behind Delta levees may only become clear bit by bit, as developers come forward with plans to put another 40 homes here or 50 there.
How the county will handle the much faster-growing Natomas basin also remains in limbo, with supervisors vowing to closely cooperate with the city of Sacramento, which is holding off taking any stand at least until it sees state and federal comments on a new levee study.
The delays may only postpone tough choices for communities that could face a significant risk of flooding, Supervisor Roger Dickinson warned his colleagues.
"There is a real threat, and we can't ignore that," he said. The county could endanger its citizens and increase the likelihood of state-imposed building restrictions "if we choose to push this off interminably, ignore it, hope it goes away."
As we know, though blessed with the Parkway and still abundant open space, a growing population is inevitable and requires even more. We need to begin seriously thinking about expanding the space we now have, including the Parkway.
Our mission is Preserve, Protect, and Strengthen the American River Parkway, Our Community’s Natural Heart, and the strengthening includes, not only the obvious enhancement of the existing entity but increasing its acreage.
Here is an excerpt.
Central Valley recreation game plan in works
By M.S. Enkoji -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, May 24, 2006
From the major highways of California's midsection, it's hard to miss the wide expanses of earthy brown, the land, terra firma, solid ground.
So what do the people in the Central Valley seek for recreation?
"They like water," said Ruth Coleman, director of California Department of Parks and Recreation. "People are drawn to water."
Whether people live on the cattle ranches of Fresno County or in housing tracts along Interstate 5 in Glenn County, they want to fish, swim, boat, camp near or just plain gaze at water for recreation, the department has found.
After a series of 2005 meetings in the Central Valley, the department has created the Central Valley Vision, a checklist of priorities and needs for shaping the future of public recreation opportunities in the state's heartland.
Now home to a sliver of state parks -- only 7 percent are in the Central Valley -- the expanse of California from Bakersfield to Redding is one of the fastest-growing population belts, Coleman said. As rooftops mushroom quickly, land prices could eventually prevent public acquisition, which is why the department needs a game plan now, Coleman said.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Familiar ring to debate on dam
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Last week's showdown in Auburn over the Auburn dam proved one thing.
Fifty years of arguing has sucked any spontaneity out of the debate.
Protesters wielded signs that could have been written 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.
Many of the speakers on both sides have been battling for or against an Auburn dam for decades.
And the arguments themselves are getting long in the tooth, based on studies that date back to the late 1980s and beyond on issues like earthquake probability, flooding risks, environmental consequences and dam-construction economics.
A new study with new estimates this summer could arm both proponents and detractors with updated perspectives on important issues like costs if an Auburn dam project were to again start rumbling forward. The study is to be released in August, with a new price tag estimated likely in the multi-millions.
Last Monday's board meeting of the American River Authority - including a three-hour marathon discussion on the Auburn dam - has given both sides an early window into the present-day stances of many of the major players.
Chairman Bruce Kranz, a pro-dam supervisor representing the eastern end of Placer County, talked about how construction of the multipurpose mega-project could provide flood protection for the Sacramento area that would be more than double what it would be after a planned Folsom dam raise and levees are improved. Under Kranz's scenario, Placer County could use power and water sales from the dam to pay its portion of the cost of the structure, if the authority took on a local sponsorship role.
But Friends of the River conservation director Steve Evans, who identified himself at the hearing as someone who lives and works in downtown Sacramento, noted that Sacramento, Sacramento County and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency are not in the American River Authority.
"You can't make decisions for entities in the flood plain," Evans noted. Evans' organization is one of the leading advocates in California of river preservation. Evans has been battling the Auburn dam since at least 1990, when he was hired as a staff member. He added that with higher water levels needed for water and power, and lower water levels needed for flood protection, an Auburn dam would have oddly competing purposes.
Evans was one of several speakers at last Monday's meeting to mention the possibility of an earthquake at the dam site. Studies sparked by an earthquake near the Oroville dam focused attention in the late 1970s on the Auburn dam. Construction, which had been authorized a decade earlier, was shut down soon afterward. Studies would later recommend construction of a dam that could be built to withstand a quake of 6.5 magnitude on the Richter scale and movement of - depending on the study - one to five inches.
Meadow Vista's Gord Ainsleigh, a distance runner and chiropractor, cited three faults at the site and the possibility that the Oroville quake suggested the Auburn reservoirs water-weight would induce its own seismic event.
Ainsleigh said that building the dam would force residents to buy earthquake insurance. In his case, the cost would be $500 a year. Area residents would be forced to pay billions yearly in added insurance, he said.
But another voice from the Auburn dam past - retired U.S. Bureau of Reclamation employee Mike Schaefer - was quick to counter quake arguments with his own.
Schaefer served as the bureau's last Auburn construction division chief, closing the Maidu Drive office overlooking the dam site in the 1990s. He said the bureau recorded more than 30 faults in the area of the dam with many occurring more than 100 million years ago.
Oroville's earthquake-induced seismicity was never proven, he said, adding that there are 55 dams in California more than two million acre-feet - about the size of a multi-purpose Auburn dam."There is not proof any of them had reservoir-induced earthquakes," Schaefer said.
Here is an excerpt.
Levees lure high-tech proposals
ALAMEDA: Firms suggest replacing outdated way of checking water delivery system with sensors, sonar, radar
By Mike Taugher
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Sensors used on underwater robots and single-seat submarines could help California address the deteriorating stability of its levees and water delivery system.
By using a combination of aboveground and underwater sensing devices, and feeding that information into sophisticated computers, a deep sea robotics and submarine company in Alameda says it can produce an "MRI" for the Delta that would allow experts to better target repairs.
Other companies, including one that has used its technology to look for ancient tombs in Egypt, are coming forward too, said Dave Mraz, supervising engineer in the state Department of Water Resources levees section.
Though there is no formal process yet to solicit new levee assessment work, companies are responding to growing concern about the levees and pitching improvements to the outdated approach now used to evaluate them.
Despite the fact that the berms are vital to conveying water to 23 million Californians, everything about the Delta's 1,100-mile levee system is low-tech. Inspections amount to a guy driving around in a pickup looking for erosion and repairs often amount to piling more rocks on them.
"Reclamation districts send their folks out in their cars and they look over the side and see if they see anything new and different. That's been the method for hundreds of years," Mraz said.
"We don't even know what all the problems are. This is one of the things that new technology can give us," Mraz said.
The proposal from DOER Marine, with its array of sensors and high-end software, comes at a time when the state is preparing to spend more on levees. As part of a $37.2 billion public works bond package to be put before voters in November, lawmakers included $3 billion in levee assessment and repair and another $1 billion in flood control and related projects.
"Billions of dollars are about to be spent to fix the Delta," said Grant Davis, executive director of the Bay Institute, an environmental research group. "You (now) have technology available that can provide a high level of certainty about the condition of the levees, the ones you should fix and, just as importantly, the ones you shouldn't."
Here is an excerpt.
Browns Valley forum to plan water supply
By Daniel Witter/Appeal-Democrat
Providing drinking water to housing subdivisions in the foothills of Yuba County was not the original purpose of the Browns Valley Irrigation District.
But with developers of the Spring Valley subdivision project knocking on the district's door looking for 4,000-acre feet of drinking water for the estimated 3,500 homes proposed for construction, the district is looking into the issue.
Converting from providing agricultural and irrigation water will be the focus of a workshop beginning at 2:30 p.m. today at the district's office at 9370 Browns Valley School Road. The public is welcome to attend.
“This is an educational process for the board to get a greater understanding of how domestic water might effect the district financially,” said district General Manager Walter Cotter.
Bob Reed, of the Reed Group of Sacramento, will give a Powerpoint presentation to the board and answer questions about issues related to the issue, Cotter said.
Here is an excerpt.
Don't Be Very Worried
The truth about "global warming" is much less dire than Al Gore wants you to think.
BY PETE DU PONT Tuesday, May 23, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, America's population has increased by 42%, the country's inflation-adjusted gross domestic product has grown 195%, the number of cars and trucks in the United States has more than doubled, and the total number of miles driven has increased by 178%.
But during these 35 years of growing population, employment, and industrial production, the Environmental Protection Agency reports, the environment has substantially improved.
Emissions of the six principal air pollutants have decreased by 53%. Carbon monoxide emissions have dropped from 197 million tons per year to 89 million; nitrogen oxides from 27 million tons to 19 million, and sulfur dioxide from 31 million to 15 million. Particulates are down 80%, and lead emissions have declined by more than 98%.
When it comes to visible environmental improvements, America is also making substantial progress:
• The number of days the city of Los Angeles exceeded the one-hour ozone standard has declined from just under 200 a year in the late 1970s to 27 in 2004.
• The Pacific Research Institute's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that "U.S. forests expanded by 9.5 million acres between 1990 and 2000."
• While wetlands were declining at the rate of 500,000 acres a year at midcentury, they "have shown a net gain of about 26,000 acres per year in the past five years," according to the institute.
• Also according to the institute, "bald eagles, down to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in 1965, are now estimated to number more than 7,500 nesting pairs."
Environmentally speaking, America has had a very good third of a century; the economy has grown and pollutants and their impacts upon society are substantially down.
But now comes the carbon dioxide alarm. CO2 is not a pollutant--indeed it is vital for plant growth--but the annual amount released into the atmosphere has increased 40% since 1970.
This increase is blamed by global warming alarmists for a great many evil things. The Web site for Al Gore's new film, "An Inconvenient Truth," claims that because of CO2's impact on our atmosphere, sea levels may rise by 20 feet, the Arctic and Antarctic ice will likely melt, heat waves will be "more frequent and more intense," and "deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years--to 300,000 people a year."
If it all sounds familiar, think back to the 1970s. After the first Earth Day the New York Times predicted "intolerable deterioration and possible extinction" for the human race as the result of pollution. Harvard biologist George Wald predicted that unless we took immediate action "civilization will end within 15 to 30 years," and environmental doomsayer Paul Ehrlich predicted that four billion people--including 65 million American--would perish from famine in the 1980s.
So what is the reality about global warming and its impact on the world? A new study released this week by the National Center for Policy Analysis, "Climate Science: Climate Change and Its Impacts" (http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pdupont/%20http:/www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st285/) looks at a wide variety of climate matters, from global warming and hurricanes to rain and drought, sea levels, arctic temperatures and solar radiation.
It concludes that "the science does not support claims of drastic increases in global temperatures over the 21rst century, nor does it support claims of human influence on weather events and other secondary effects of climate change."
Here is an excerpt.
Realistic dam option
As someone who attended the subject meeting, I can say that The Bee's May 16 article "Debate renewed on local Auburn dam sponsorship" was fair and accurate. The problem I have is that most of the people speaking against building an Auburn dam seem to think that this an undemocratic process, in that they did not participate. Surveys in Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties show a solid majority of registered voters support an Auburn dam. They also support an assessment of $25 or more, annually, to pay for feasibility and environmental studies.
Here is an excerpt.
A plan for levees in Natomas basin
By Doug Ose -- Special to The BeePublished 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, May 23, 2006
It's easy to identify a problem. The tough part is crafting a solution that works. My first day in Congress in 1999 included a discussion about how to improve the level of flood protection in my district in general and Sacramento in particular. That ultimately led me to understand that a timely solution requires cooperation among the federal, state and local governments. Each level of government has an interest and a role to play in reducing flood exposure. This is particularly true in the Natomas basin, where my family, as a significant landowner, has an obvious interest in the outcome.
The basin spans three local governmental jurisdictions - the city and county of Sacramento, and Sutter County. (The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors plans to discuss development in Natomas today.) Within the basin, about 65,000 people currently reside in the city of Sacramento. Sutter County is processing entitlements that would add another 35,000 residents to the area. Sacramento County has a $1 billion investment in the International Airport. The federal and state governments control the rivers that abut the area. The state government is responsible for the levees along the rivers.
The challenge in providing adequate flood protection is creating structurally sound levees in a timely fashion. Any plan that relies on the federal government or the voters in Los Angeles to support issuing state bonds to fund the improvements in Sacramento is a roll of the dice.
Fortunately, there is a way to achieve adequate timely flood protection for the Natomas basin. Aftermanyyears of hearings and deliberations, there is broad agreement among local elected officials that a substantial portion of the lands in Sacramento County east of the airport and north of Elkhorn Boulevard to the Sutter County line should urbanize. This area is called the Joint Vision Area. (Sacramento city and county signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2002 to proceed with urbanizing the area, with the city as the urbanizing entity.
Since then, the city has made no progress in implementing the memorandum.) In December 2004, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) unanimously approved a plan that also calls for urbanizing the area. SACOG comprises Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Yuba, Sutter and Yolo counties.
Using the memorandum and SACOG's plan as a foundation, local government could adopt a plan to assess new development to contribute to the funding required to provide adequate levee construction and maintenance. This "levee levy" would be a part of the approval process for urbanization in this area.
Here is an excerpt.
Editorial: A Natomas vision?
City, county need to clarify partnership
Published 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The plot thickens in Natomas, the vast basin that encompasses Arco Arena, Sacramento International Airport and all those new homes that seem to be sprouting as fast as weeds.
Even with all the stunning growth, there are still thousands of acres of undeveloped land from Elkhorn Boulevard north to the Sutter County line whose future is unsettled. There, landowners are getting increasingly curious as to what is going to happen to them. One of them is former Rep. Doug Ose. (See his commentary on the opposite page). The landowners' curiosity is justified, because the political leaders of the city and county seem to have forgotten what was once a clear strategy about growth in Natomas.
At present, the Sacramento city limits end at Elkhorn. The county controls the land in question. But the county and the city some time back struck a deal. They called it the Joint Vision. Under the deal, the county was to let the city annex the land that was to be developed. The county was to stay out of the development game. Within this broad arrangement, the city and county had to agree on some key details, such as how to share in some tax revenues and how to devise the map that identified both government's future turf.
Then came one complication after another. Federal Judge David Levy, ruling in a related lawsuit, questioned whether future development in Natomas could comply with the Endangered Species Act. The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency found that levees protecting the basin are vulnerable to seepage and may not protect Natomas against a 100-year flood, the minimum standard that is necessary for new development.
Here is an excerpt.
Campaign 2006: Voters asked to keep parks funds flowing
Opponents contend Davis already has enough money for outdoors upkeep.
By Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, May 23, 2006
With nearly 350 acres of parks and greenbelts meandering through the city of Davis, civic leaders say the city's parks system is one of the community's crown jewels.
And they want to keep it that way.
On June 6, city leaders are asking Davis residents to renew a $49 a year parks tax that would help maintain the city's parks and swimming pools. The tax would require a two-thirds majority to pass and would stay in place for six years if approved.
The tax, Measure G on the ballot, was first approved by voters in 1998 and renewed overwhelmingly in 2002. Backers say it would keep a $1.3 million stream of tax income coming into city coffers to help preserve the parks and swimming pools that Davis residents have said in surveys are among the town's biggest assets.
"Davis parks, bike paths, greenbelts, street trees and pools define our quality of life," Davis City Councilman Stephen Souza wrote in support of the measure. "Children, students and non-students all enjoy these community assets. They need our ongoing support."
Souza added that, for many people, the $49 a year is a small price to pay for great amenities.
"What we're talking about is 95 cents a week," Souza told The Bee in a phone interview. "That's a latte a month or a Coke a week."
Opponents of the measure say the tax is unnecessary, since the city has an $8 million budget reserve and is bringing in $2 million more per year in property taxes and $3 million more in sales taxes than when the tax was renewed in 2002.
"The parks tax makes up less than 1 percent of the city's total budget," opponents wrote on their Web site, www.dcn.davis.ca.us/vme/no-on-g/. "Surely it is possible to fund park maintenance without this special tax."
Here is an excerpt.
Capital region's spell of cool weather continues
Showers that brought a half-inch of rain in four days could return this weekend, forecasters say.
By Edgar Sanchez -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, May 23, 2006
After being splashed by a bit of rain, Sacramento on Monday enjoyed its fourth consecutive day of cool weather, with a high of 71.
Sporadic showers that began Friday ended early Monday, bringing the four-day rain total to nearly a half-inch, the National Weather Service said.
About 2.5 inches fell in the foothills between Friday and Monday.
From the perspective of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation -- which manages several Northern California reservoirs -- those totals were not alarming.
"We do not have any concerns at all about the rain that we had over the weekend," Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken said.
"It wasn't a warm storm, so there wasn't any significant snowmelt related to it," he said.
"None of the federal reservoirs had to make operational changes due to this storm."
In preparation for the Memorial Day weekend, however, the bureau on Monday began decreasing its releases from Folsom Lake onto the lower American River.
Releases that over the weekend stood at 11,000 cubic feet per second are slowly being lowered to an expected 5,000 cubic feet per second by midnight Friday, McCracken said.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Here is an excerpt.
Corps' Levee Work Is Faulted
Report says barriers in New Orleans may fail again and mistakes by federal engineers raise questions about their competence nationwide.
By Ralph Vartabedian Times Staff Writer May 22, 2006
NEW ORLEANS — A wide range of design and construction defects in levees around New Orleans raise serious doubts that the system can withstand the pounding of another hurricane the size of Katrina, even after $3.1 billion in repairs are completed, a team of independent investigators led by UC Berkeley's civil engineering school said Sunday.
The findings undermine assurances by the Bush administration and the Army Corps of Engineers that the federal levee repair program due to be completed in June will provide a higher level of protection to New Orleans, which sustained 1,293 deaths and more than $100 billion in property loss from Katrina.
The team's 600-page report disputed most of the corps' preliminary findings about what caused the levee breaches, saying the investigators had made critical errors in their analysis.
The mistakes raise concerns about whether the corps is competent to oversee public safety projects across the nation, said Raymond Seed, a UC Berkeley civil engineering professor who led the investigation, which the National Science Foundation sponsored shortly after Katrina struck."People think this is a New Orleans problem," Seed said. "It is a national issue."
The Berkeley team found that the defects that caused breaches during Katrina — including thin layers of soil with the consistency of jelly and sections of levees built with crushed seashells — had gone undetected and could be widespread."The rest of the system is unproven," Seed said.
"The entire system needs a serious reevaluation and study."Though the report questions the corps' competence, Seed said that Congress needed to authorize a comprehensive evaluation of the system and that the corps should conduct it.
As the only wild river in the County and public access already restricted, a strong case can be made to keep it as a nature preserve.
On the other hand, keeping it as a nature preserve, in addition to flooding, causes it to dry out occasionally, and it wasn’t long ago that water from the American River had to be diverted to it, stretching that already limited supply.
Development, which would occur if the dam goes in, is needed desperately by the County seeing its revenue shrink as city after city incorporates.
Here is an excerpt.
Editorial: Wild for a reason
A flood dam doesn't belong on Cosumnes
Published 12:01 am PDT Monday, May 22, 2006
A basic solution to flooding problems along Sacramento County's unpredictable Cosumnes River exists: Keep civilization out of its way.
With no significant dams in the bulk of its watershed, the river is the wildest on the western slope of the Sierra. The river reflects the prevailing weather, and when sheets of rain fall from the sky, the little Cosumnes quickly grows big. Engineers may be tempted to tame the Cosumnes River with a dam, as Sacramento County is studying. But a flood control solution could create an enormous growth problem. Real estate speculators have respected the Cosumnes as off-limits to urbanization. Build a dam, and they will come.
Sacramento County, however, has drifted into a misguided study of damming the Cosumnes because of a tiny community called Pleasant Point in the middle of the river's floodplain.
Pleasant Point, with perhaps 125 houses in all, lies south of Elk Grove on Interstate 5. After county supervisors urbanized greater Elk Grove, more runoff headed toward Pleasant Point. So the county for years has paid for flood insurance for Pleasant Pointers and collected money for a yet-to-be-determined flood solution.
“AB 3050 is just as bad and would serve only to prevent local governments from meeting its local housing needs. The bill says, "Even though we the state built and then forgot to maintain the levees, we think you local governments should be held responsible." That's not fair and that is not flood protection.”
Here is an excerpt.
Another view: Finger-pointing is not answer to flood risks
By Layne Marceau -- Special To The Bee Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, May 21, 2006
Hurricane Katrina served as a giant wake-up call for Californians.
Thousands, if not millions, of Californians are already living behind levees designed and built to protect them. This awakened recognition that California has a substantial flood risk has certain members of the Legislature taking steps that would not only stop desperately needed housing from being built but do absolutely nothing to protect the residents already living behind those levees. All paths to higher levels of flood protection in this state begin with fixing and better maintaining the levee system we have relied upon so heavily for almost 100 years.
California homebuilders support a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to flood protection, beginning with fixing the levees. Specifically a comprehensive plan should include:
• Conducting systemwide risk assessments of the state's levees;
• Appropriating necessary public funding to repair and fortify the levees;
• Establishing a program for ongoing maintenance of the levees;
• Increasing public awareness about flood risk;
• Increasing the availability and use of flood insurance;
• Ensuring that local governments have and utilize adequate land-use safeguards.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Let’s hope the next storm that would flood Sacramento waits until the Auburn Dam gets built, and we are saved again.
Here is an excerpt.
Folsom Dam at 50
Protective landmark awash in local history
By Deepa Ranganathan -- Bee Staff Writer Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, May 21, 2006
It's kind of tough to be the Folsom Dam.
You provide drinking water and power for hundreds of thousands of people. You hold back storm water that would flood cities. You cool things off for the fish at Nimbus Hatchery. You're the reason there's a beautiful lake in Folsom.
And what thanks do you get?
"People don't think about the dam on a daily basis. They think about it just in months like April, when it rained like crazy," said Dave Kane, assistant general manager at Citrus Heights Water District.
Saturday, hundreds gathered at Beal's Point in Folsom to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dam's completion.
The daylong event was a chance to reflect on the way things were before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 1,400-foot concrete dam on the American River: a cycle of floods and droughts that regularly devastated farmers and city dwellers alike.
"Over the past 50 years, this massive concrete wall has held back rainfall and snowmelt," said Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, the dam's long, rocky berm stretching behind her. " ... It's one of those pieces of history you sort of take for granted."
When the dam was completed in 1956 after eight years of construction, an enormous storm filled it up in just one week -- rather than the year that engineers had expected. Sacramento was saved from a flood.
Here is an excerpt.
Gigantic fish kill
State confronts a new threat in gas-charged water blamed for Nimbus fingerling deaths
By Edie Lau -- Bee Science WriterPublished 12:01 am PDT Sunday, May 21, 2006
California, often a leader in setting environmental standards, has none for a water-quality problem that is contributing to the fish killed at Nimbus Hatchery.
The problem, known as dissolved gas supersaturation, causes gas-bubble disease in fish. Divers experience a similar sickness known as "the bends."
Gas supersaturation has been the subject of numerous workshops and studies in the Pacific Northwest for decades. At least 20 years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended states set limits on dissolved gases in waterways.
But the issue is new to California, coming to the fore only since workers at Nimbus Hatchery began in the past week to remove dead salmon by the tens of thousands a day from their concrete troughs on the American River.
Jim Canaday, a senior environmental scientist at the state Water Resources Control Board, said that up to now, "It hasn't been a problem. ... It's something we'll have to look into," he added.
The hatchery fish, fingerling salmon that during a normal spring would be planted in the Bay Area to mature in the ocean, are suffering from a mix of woes.
Two are infections: One, called coldwater disease, can be treated with antibiotics. The other, infectious hematopoietic necrosis, is a viral infection for which there is no treatment.
The third is gas bubble disease, which can kill or stress fish, making them more vulnerable to other illnesses.
About 1.2 million out of 5.1 million Nimbus salmon have died in the past month. The hatchery was established to produce 4 million salmon annually to compensate for a loss of spawning habitat due to the construction of Nimbus and Folsom dams 50 years ago.
State Department of Fish and Game officials attribute the gas-bubble disease to frequent and prolonged periods of exceedingly high runoff last winter and this spring, caused by abundant rainfall and snowmelt. Massive volumes of water have been coming out of the Folsom and Nimbus dams off and on since Christmas.