Saturday, March 31, 2007

Flood Protection Leadership

We assume this emerging leadership around flood issues will soon extend to developing a long-range plan for reaching the gold standard of flood protection (appropriate for the gateway to the gold fields) of a 500 year level of flood projection already attained by most major river cities, including Tacoma, St. Louis, Dallas, and Kansas City, and for a revealing graph of the status cut and paste this link to your web browser.

Fargo urges flood tax
$326 million assessment vital to lure government funds to area, she says.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 31, 2007

Calling flood protection vital to Sacramento's economy, Mayor Heather Fargo on Friday urged residents to support a $326 million property tax assessment that would lure more than $2 billion in state and federal funds to the region for flood control projects.

The assessment, proposed by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, is now being decided by local property owners in a special vote-by-mail election. Ballots are due back to the agency by April 19.

About 140,000 property owners are affected by the election, which would replace two existing flood assessment districts.

The average property tax increase under the new assessment would be $35 per year.

"The entire region would be affected if we ever did have a flood," said Fargo, who is also SAFCA's current chairwoman. "That is why we are working so hard to get this assessment approved. This is clearly an investment worth making."

Announcement: Folsom Dam Study released

Folsom Dam safety study released
- Bee Metro Staff
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 31, 2007

The final environmental study for a federal project to improve the safety of Folsom Dam and reduce the potential for flood damage has been released.

The document responds to questions raised during a review of the draft study, according to a news release issued Friday by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

The study covers plans for an auxiliary spillway, a 3.5-foot raise and replacement of three emergency spillway gates to reduce potential flood damage; strengthening Mormon Island Auxiliary Dam to better withstand seismic activity; and security improvements.

The study is available online at .

To request a CD or bound copy, call Rosemary Stefani at (916) 978-5309 or send an e-mail to

Community meetings to discuss the projects are scheduled from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Folsom Rotary Clubhouse, 7150 Baldwin Dam Road, and 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Cavitt Junior High School, 7200 Fuller Drive, Granite Bay.

Clean Parkway

One assumes the railroad, with a very long and important history in our region, is as concerned with the needs of the community to restore the Parkway to its previous state as they are about restoring their profit margins; and we look for them to move ahead vigorously in cleaning up and getting the Parkway ready for people to use once again.

Tracks nearly done -- clearing tainted dirt from parkway is next
Officials want UP to move fast so popular section can reopen.
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 31, 2007

With Union Pacific's fast reconstruction of a burned train trestle nearly complete, Sacramento County officials are urging the railroad company to move quickly to clean contaminated soil in the American River Parkway.

Parks officials say they have arranged a meeting Monday with UP representatives to push for rapid steps so the county can reopen a nearly two-mile section of the parkway and recreation trail that has been closed since the fire.

"The question is how quickly can we get the bike trail opened up," said county parks deputy director Dave Lydick.

UP showed it could amass the necessary equipment and crews to swiftly rebuild its freight line. Lydick said county officials would ask the railroad to "work with the same urgency to remove any contaminated soil."

Some 1,400 feet of wooden trestle on UP's Sacramento mainline -- serving freight and some passenger trains -- burned down March 14.

The fire's cause remains under investigation, fire officials said, as investigators interview witnesses and review videos shot at the site.

Shrinking Farmland

As more of our agriculture moves overseas and houses fill in once-cultivated farm land, third world incomes rise (a good thing) and California gets more people which, depending on one’s perspective, is also a good thing.

3/29/2007 6:00:00 AM
California's farm numbers, farmland shrink
Bob Krauter
Capital Press California Editor

SACRAMENTO - The number of California farms and farm acreage continue to decline, according to USDA data released this week. The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that 76,000 farms operated in the Golden State in 2006 on 26.3 million acres. Both numbers were down 1 percent from 2005.

USDA reported that the acreage California farm is 346 acres, compared to the national average of 446 acres in 2006.

California's farm numbers dipped below 80,000 starting in 2002. The high mark for farm numbers was back in 1950 when there were 144,000 farms in the state on 37.5 million acres.

Nationally, USDA estimates that in 2006, there are 2 million farms, a slight decline from 2005. Total land in farms was 932 million acres last year, declined by 780,000 acres, a drop of nearly 1 percent from 2005.

China Drought, Impact Here?

I wonder what impact the drought in China, given the flow of weather, can predict for us, already showing a very skimpy snow pack.

China Drought Threatens Water Supply for Millions
CHINA: March 29, 2007
BEIJING - A prolonged drought over a wide swathe of China is threatening drinking water supplies for 13.4 million people and 12 million cattle, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

Large areas of southern and southwestern China from the island province of Hainan to normally wet and subtropical Yunnan province have seen hardly any rain this spring, Xinhua said, citing the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Water shortages had also affected 13 million hectares of farmland, it added.

Inner Mongolia, covered by desert in large parts, and the frigid northeastern province of Heilongjiang were seeing similar water shortages and were in increased danger of being struck by dust storms, the report said.

"The China Meteorological Station is forecasting little rain in Sichuan, Chongqing and Yunnan in the next 10 days and floating dust in northern China," it said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned at March's annual meeting of parliament that abnormal weather conditions, a warm winter and drought, could reduce the country's grain production this year after three years of bumper harvests.

Klamath Dam Removal

Good analysis of the issues involved in dam removal including replacing the hydro power lost, and salmon protection.

Analysis: Suit adds twist to Klamath dams
UPI Correspondent

-- A California environmental group this week opened a new front in the battle to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River that had become bogged down in a standoff over economic forecasts.

By alleging that a fish hatchery maintained at one of the four dams was actually damaging the Klamath salmon habitat with its waste products and toxic algae, Klamath Riverkeeper raised the ante in the process of issuing a new federal license to PacifiCorp, the company that operates the dams.

PacifiCorp is part of MidAmerica Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, a fact not lost on Klamath Riverkeeper as it appealed directly to the Oracle of Omaha's legendary business judgment.

"We call on Mr. Buffett to scrutinize PacifiCorp's operation of these dams and take action to prevent further devastation to the River and the salmon," the organization said in a news release this week. "Hopefully, our citizens' enforcement suit will be the first step in resolving these issues and restoring the Klamath River, and the communities that rely on the river, to what they once were."

Unspoken in the statement was the implication that shutting down the 40-year-old Iron Gate Dam hatchery would leave PacifiCorp without the cushion it provided in the form of salmon hatchlings to offset the loss of population wrought by the dam itself. And without that cushion, PacifiCorp might find it impossible to meet federal environmental regulations without taking the draconian step of removing the dams and allowing the Klamath to theoretically return to its "natural" pre-dam state.

The idea of tearing down hydroelectric dams on the Klamath and other western rivers has been a vision -- or a pipedream -- depending on one's view, of the ambitious notion that the electricity supply given up for the sake of white water and great fishing can be replaced without a significant impact on the regional economy.

The Klamath Hydroelectric Project is located on the California-Oregon border and has a capacity of 169 megawatts (MW). That is a fairly small output when compared to coal power plants, but nonetheless larger than most wind farms, and big enough to supply power to about 1.6 million customers. Proponents of western dam breaching contend that it is easy enough to replace the electricity produced by hydropower.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hetch Hetchy

When you can accomplish something, like the removal of Hetch Hetchy, without costing water or power loss, and restoring one of the most beautiful valleys in the country, it isn’t a matter of should we do it, but when do we do it.

However, as much as it might be a no-brainer for the rest of us, one can certainly sympathize with the objection San Francisco has to perhaps clouding the fabled purity of the water now coming to them straight from Hetch Hetchy.

Dan Lungren: It is time to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley
By Dan Lungren - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 30, 2007

Yosemite Valley -- with all its resplendent beauty -- be dammed! Let's flood it now. After all, there are plenty of other national parks for Americans to enjoy.

Increasingly, the city of Los Angeles is in desperate need for this water source.

Besides, even though Yosemite Valley would be submerged, the granite peaks and their waterfalls would still be visible from the dam's state-of-the-art observation deck.

Imagine if the city of Los Angeles made this claim today. Although this scenario is fictitious, this argument was made on behalf of the city of San Francisco in the early part of the last century.

Eighty-four years ago the Hetch Hetchy Valley -- the smaller twin to Yosemite Valley that is completely contained within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park -- was converted to a reservoir to serve the water needs of San Francisco. At that time John Muir, the famous preservationist and founder of the Sierra Club, fought this decision and said, "Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."

So how did one of nature's most beautiful sanctuaries, a jewel for millions of Americans, get converted into a water source for a single city? The short answer is that a ready supply of water was available with no apparent practical alternative at a time when our frontier seemed endless.

What about now? The restoration of Hetch Hetchy is about more than water and definitely more than politics. The restoration of Hetch Hetchy is about the return of a national treasure to all of the American people, and the addition of a prized piece of the fabric back into the quilt that is our national park system.

Opposition to restoring the valley has been strong. However, claims about disrupting the Tuolumne River system and equating the removal of a dam to closing down of an interstate highway are understandable only if a viable alternative is not presented.

Fortunately, a recent study by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration confirmed that it is "technically feasible" to have the water supply from Hetch Hetchy be fully recovered, along with the current level of power generation, without depriving the citizens of San Francisco of either.

For example, water from the Tuolumne River, currently feeding the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, could be allowed to flow into an expanded Don Pedro Reservoir, which is now six times the size of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Alternatives such as Don Pedro Reservoir and improvements in engineering technology did not exist in 1923, when the dam was completed in the Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Parks City Settlement

Good news if all goes well, as the residents need the city and the parks district to come together for their benefit.

Tentative Elk Grove parks pact
By Loretta Kalb - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 30, 2007

The city of Elk Grove and the area's park district reached a tentative accord Thursday on the future of Elk Grove parks construction and management, signaling an end to years of strained relations, lawsuits and angry public protests.

Details of the tentative pact were not made available and still must be approved by the City Council and the board of the Cosumnes Community Services District. But most participants were upbeat.

"It's very favorable on both sides," CSD board member Keith Grueneberg told The Bee on Thursday. "One more meeting, maybe two, and we've got the thing (lawsuit) resolved."

The park district, formerly the Elk Grove Community Services District, filed suit in February 2005 to block the city from building parks in upscale Laguna Ridge, a 1,900-acre area under construction south of Elk Grove Boulevard.

The district was formed in the mid-1980s and has 74 parks in Elk Grove. It serves a 157-square-mile area and, in geography at least, dwarfs the 42-square-mile city.

In March 2005, the city countersued, asking a judge to affirm its right to build parks.

Steve Capps, spokesman for the park district, said the tentative pact came during a two-hour meeting Thursday morning with elected representatives from each side, their attorneys and staff members.

Any resolution promises to ease long-standing rancor between the area's two largest public entities over whether the city should build its own parks and, if it does, how the agencies might collaborate on park development, maintenance and management.

If the district board gives its thumbs up in a closed session Tuesday night, the City Council could call a special session soon after to take action on the plan, Councilwoman Sophia Scherman said.

She noted that the city voted unanimously Wednesday night to drop its countersuit against the district.

"I knew the minute we took that action, things would then start falling into place," Scherman said. "Both agencies work for the same people, the citizens of Elk Grove."

Nature Noir

The best book I’ve read about the part of the American River that is destined to be flooded when—or if—the Auburn Dam is built, is this one.


Ranger Jordan Fisher Smith, author of Nature Noir: A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra, had worked in the Sierra Nevada, the Grand Tetons, and Alaska.

But he found the greatest adventure of his life when he took a job watching over forty-eight miles of the American River canyons long condemned to be inundated by the Auburn Dam.

By the time Smith arrived on the American River, former residents had been bought out or condemned by the federal Bureau of Reclamation and their homes, mining cabins, and ranches were being burned to the ground as the river's canyons were readied to go underwater. But the dam's completion was delayed and what remained was a giant vacant lot of 42,000 rugged acres, which became a dangerous free zone for armed squatters, gold prospectors, and fugitives from the law. Over the next decade three dozen people would perish on Smith's beat in accidents, murders, and suicides.

Intending to stay only a year, Smith emerged from the American River canyons fourteen years later, his body wracked by Lyme disease he'd contracted from a tick bite there. Unable to forget what he'd witnessed, he spent another four years researching the river's human and natural history.

Now Jordan Fisher Smith has published a book about his experiences to rave reviews. "He writes about the natural world with more grace than anyone since Edward Abbey," says Newsweek. The New York Times calls Nature Noir "eloquently meditative." And Outside Magazine asserts: "Nature Noir marks the debut of a terrific new nature writer."

Rancho Murieta, Build Out & Activism

Very good look at the group trying to save Rancho Murieta from being built out in violation of the original regulations governing its development .

Confessions of a Republican environmental activist
Tree-hugging Republicans? Meet Candy Chand and her group of Rancho Murieta “greens.”
By Candy Chand

“If you’re going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise, they’ll kill you.”--George Bernard Shaw

For the last six years, Rancho Murieta has been both my home and battleground. Let me explain. With a quick first impression, one might assume this is just another conservative private community with a golf course. But before you go down that path, let me share what’s actually behind those elusive gates.

Murieta is an incredible, 3,500-acre, oak-studded, wildlife-filled environmental paradise. It’s no wonder residents love it here and will do almost anything to preserve this place they call home. So, when developers Gerry Kamilos and Robert Cassano (hired by the landowners--the Pension Trust Fund for the Operating Engineers) approached our community in November of 2000 with plans to “complete” the remaining acreage, we listened carefully.

However, when they pitched a full build-out project that would bring in multiple developers, destroy thousands of oaks, leave little open space, disperse wildlife, create traffic jams, bypass annexation, terrace our hillsides and diminish our lakes, we got just a little bit miffed.

Even the golfers stopped teeing off long enough to shout, “No way in hell.”

Although those objecting were not, for the most part, the kinds of folks developers were accustomed to dealing with, Cassano and Kamilos didn’t understand just what we were made of. Most residents, including me, were moderately conservative. (Yes, I voted for President Bush. Are you going to stop reading now?) Tree-hugging Republicans? Insert music for Sesame Street’s catchy little jingle--“One of these things is not like the other.”

But no matter what our party affiliations, we all shared one common denominator: We loved the natural beauty of Murieta and didn’t want to see it destroyed.

Our neighborhood was filled with committed people who knew they had something valuable to protect. Imagine men dressed in khakis and women tastefully draped in pearls having lunch at the country club, plotting the day they’d gladly lie down in front of bulldozers to save the community they loved. No, the citizens of Murieta were not the usual suspects.

With virtually no political map to follow, we did what any budding, untrained activists on a mission would do: We organized, gave ourselves a nifty name and started a petition. We called our group the RMDCCC (Rancho Murieta Development Concerned Citizens Committee), then drafted a controlled-growth document and began a signature drive.

Water Storage

It appears a new water storage and flood control reservoir will be built in Northern California that is twice the size of Folsom Lake…and that is very good news.

Above-ground reservoir push renewed in Sacramento
March 28, 2007

SACRAMENTO - Tehama County's Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are renewing the push for new water storage efforts in California and are pledging to work together to bring about the construction of new above-ground reservoirs.

Aanestad and Schwarzenegger took part in a news conference earlier Tuesday at the Joint Operations Center in Sacramento, where the governor highlighted his Strategic Growth Plan, a $6 billion investment to upgrade California's water systems. Sites Reservoir is identified as one of two above-ground storage projects in the governor's plan.

"I'm very happy with this governor on the water storage issue," said Aanestad. "He started talking about the need for new storage two years ago and hasn't backed down one bit in the face of opposition from environmentalists and some leaders in the majority party."

Aanestad says the California Department of Water Resources recently confirmed that Sites Reservoir in Colusa County is closest to actual construction in terms of planning and preparation. The DWR's Water Storage Program Unit expects to wrap up work on a three-phase feasibility project next year.

The proposed reservoir is located at the old John Sites Ranch, a natural bowl formation of hills ten miles west of Maxwell in Colusa County. It can host nearly two million acre feet of water. That's twice the surplus of Folsom Lake and about half that of Shasta Lake.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Trestle Rebuild Speed Needed for Parkway Clean Up

Assuming the railroad is as much concerned with the future use of the Parkway as the community is, we would expect to see as rapid a clean-up process as possible to get people and bikes once again moving through it in the affected area.

Editorial: Hop to it, UP
Railroad should speed cleanup efforts
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wow! Who knew a railroad could move so quickly? Just 12 days after a huge fire destroyed one of its key Sacramento area trestles, Union Pacific had erected a steel structure to replace it. Freight trains are rolling again. The first passenger train will cross the rebuilt trestle Sunday, with regular Capitol Corridor commuter service back in place Monday.

The trestle's breakneck reconstruction was an impressive logistical feat, and UP deserves much of the credit. Railroad crews worked around the clock to get that crucial span operating again.

Prompted by the governor's office, state regulatory officials helped, too, waiving or expediting the permitting process so that the railroad could move as fast as it did. There was reason. UP's rail corridor through Sacramento is one of the most important on the West Coast, connecting the busy Port of Oakland with the rest of the United States. Some 50 trains a day normally crossed that trestle. Its loss impacted commerce nationwide. Getting it back into operation quickly was essential.

So here's the question: Now that UP has demonstrated its ability to move swiftly and efficiently when its own economic interests are at stake, can it move just as quickly to clean up the mess its burned trestle has created? Tons of debris laced with cancer-causing chemicals must be disposed of. Creek beds and soils have been contaminated and vegetation destroyed. Officials are testing to see if groundwater supplies have been tainted as well. Remediation efforts need to begin immediately.

Equally important, the trestle runs through a portion of the heavily used American River Parkway. While freight trains are rolling over the new trestle even ahead of the railroad's initial ambitious construction schedule, the parkway below the trestle remains off limits to bicyclists and hikers.

Just as the trestle is an important commercial corridor, the parkway is an important recreational and commuter corridor for this region. The state and the railroad need to protect those interests as well.

Water Storage?

The need for more water storage in the American River Watershed will continue to be a increasing problem as growth continues and global warming increases.

Dry March cuts snowpack to half of normal
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 29, 2007

The latest Sierra Nevada survey shows that California's snowpack has fallen to less than half of normal after a dry March.

Wednesday's survey showed the snowpack's water content at 46 percent of normal statewide -- down from 64 percent recorded March 2. The snowpack banks water to get homes, farms and businesses through the state's dry summers.

"Instead of seeing an increase of 5 or 6 inches in March, we lost 8 or 9 inches.

That's a pretty bleak month," said Frank Gehrke, snow survey chief at the state Department of Water Resources.

Galt, Elk Grove, & Growth

Good planning is an important part of any growth, as is public involvement and this is a part of that process which the two cities and the county need to be continually involved with.

Galt hears growth goals
Elk Grove officials try to dispel fears over consideration of expansion plan.
By Loretta Kalb - Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 29, 2007

Elk Grove officials assured more than 100 people at a meeting Tuesday night in Galt that the city would not carelessly develop land in south Sacramento County if it expands.

The goal, Elk Grove Councilman Gary Davis said, is not to "pave over" the land.

Several community groups called for the meeting after the Elk Grove City Council decided in January to consider growth south of the existing city boundaries.

Elk Grove Planning Director Christine Crawford told the crowd that the city wanted to "dispel some of the fear" and characterized the process of considering expansion as in its "infancy."

The city's southern boundary at Kammerer Road coincides with Sacramento County's urban services boundary limiting development.

Two weeks ago, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal to move the urban services boundary to allow 3,400 acres of grazing land to be developed along the El Dorado County line. Supervisor Don Nottoli, who attended Tuesday night's session in Galt, said the decision showed that the boundary "is a very serious line."

Any expansion of Elk Grove would depend on many factors, including the public planning process and Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission approval.


The problem here is inadequate maintenance, similar to what our levees and other flood protection assets struggle with.

Mature public leadership, realizing that the maturation of infrastructure calls for ongoing maintenance, needs to respond, and one hopes they do.

The looming sinkhole crisis
Aging pipes badly needing repair are to blame for craters cropping up in cities worldwide.
By Thomas Rooney
March 28, 2007

WHEN THEY SAW the recent pictures of a giant sinkhole in Guatemala, some folks in Los Angeles may have thought: "It could never happen here."

They're wrong.

The Guatemala City sinkhole that killed three people and swallowed dozens of homes was formed by the same thing that creates sinkholes in Los Angeles. Not weather. Not an act of God. Not strange rock. Bad sewer pipes created this sinkhole. And the problem is getting worse, around the world and in the United States.

Last year was the worst ever in the U.S. for sinkholes. Almost every state in the country experienced record problems.

In San Diego, the mayor held a news conference near a yawning abyss. A 64-year-old Brooklyn woman fell into a 5-foot-deep sinkhole in front of her house.

In Los Angeles, a broken water main created a sinkhole 30 feet deep and shut down half of Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. At the same time, a broken sewer pipe shut down the adjacent beach.

In Northern California, an 8-foot-deep sinkhole stunned the occupants of a nearby office building. In Grand Rapids, Mich., residents had to boil water after a sinkhole cut off their water service

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Leaky Levees

Tougher standards, primarily the result of the devastation broadcast on the daily news during the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, are good for the community; and one hopes the continuing focus will soon result in the Sacramento region adopting the need to obtain a 500 year level of flood protection for our communities as most other major river cities have.

Editorial: More leaky levees
West Sac gets a better handle on flood risk
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It looks as if West Sacramento will be joining the growing ranks of communities in the Central Valley that are finding flaws in their flood control systems because they are looking harder for problems.

Based on a recent review of its levee system, the city is learning that a widespread weakness in the flood walls -- underseepage -- affects West Sacramento as well.

Standards that identify seepage-prone levees are tougher than they used to be. It's doubtful that most levees will pass the underseepage test unless they have been upgraded recently. The news coming from West Sacramento is not surprising.

West Sacramento's major problem is one that boils down to advertising. Based on an outdated review of its levee system (before that underseepage test got tougher and more realistic), the city claimed it had 300-year protection from floods along the Sacramento River. The city didn't change that claim when the levee standards changed. After Hurricane Katrina (who knows -- maybe those stories in The Bee about flood control issues had an effect as well), West Sacramento officials made the right decision to conduct a new round of geotechnical studies of the levees.

Fast Repair

Great Job!

Hopefully the same speed will apply to getting the bike trail open again.

Trains using new trestle 12 days after huge blaze
As second rail line is built, questions remain on cause of fire and its toxic effects.
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Freight trains rumbled again through Sacramento on Tuesday along Union Pacific's newly constructed main line, a scant 12 days after a key trestle burned to the ground in a suspicious blaze.

And while UP's rebuilding effort received kudos as an impressive display of engineering muscle, company spokesman Mark Davis shrugged it off as typical yeoman's work to bring a vital freight corridor back on track.

"I've seen (UP) put together trestles over the years in remarkable time," a laconic Davis said from the agency's Omaha, Neb., headquarters. "This isn't unusual."

Yet even as the first trains crossed the concrete and steel structure, questions loomed in the aftermath of the March 15 fire:

The cause is unknown, the full threat of the fire's plumes of black smoke remains unmeasured, and initial results of state testing showed high levels of toxics in soil at the site of the fire.

More than 100 people have called the Sacramento Fire Department's special tip line as part of the investigation, fire Capt. Jim Doucette said.

"The chief investigator says they are knee-deep in it," Doucette said. "This is an important case."

He said investigators are interviewing witnesses and saying little about what they've found.

Although the fire scene was cleared of debris by UP the weekend after the fire, fire officials said they had inspected the scene and obtained the information they needed before rubble was cleared.

"UP wanted to get in there right away," Doucette said. "Our guys wouldn't let them in until they felt comfortable they had ... what they needed."

Local air pollution and health officials have yet to learn the type and amount of toxic air contaminants in the smoke from the fire, which spanned four days. Burning timbers contained creosote, a wood preservative that releases benzopyrene and other cancer-causing chemicals in a fire.

Government officials have not yet received full results from smoke samples collected and analyzed by a private testing firm on behalf of the railroad.

"They're still trickling in," said Larry Greene, executive officer of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Greene said officials expect complete data from UP by Friday. State scientists will evaluate associated health risks and announce results next week, he said.

And there's the soil.

Results of initial sampling by the state -- from the river bank below the railroad bridge and from the blackened ground beneath the burned wooden approach -- show cancer-causing contaminants from burned creosote exceeding federal limits more than sevenfold in the case of benzopyrene and napthalene.

"There's a potential for groundwater contamination," said Duncan Austin, who collected samples the day after the start of the fire for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

By state law, UP must conduct a more thorough environmental investigation. It's clear from the water board's limited sampling, however, that the railroad will have to remove truckloads of toxic soil and revegetate the site, Austin said. That means the area, within the American River Parkway, will remain closed to bicyclists and others during the remediation, Austin said.

Carbon Tracking Tool

Very cool tool!


March 21, 2007 — Scientists from the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory announced today a new tool to monitor changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by region and source. The tool, called CarbonTracker, will enable its users to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts to reduce or store carbon emissions. (Click NOAA image for larger view of the pattern of CO2 exchange calculated in CarbonTracker for the time period indicated. Negative fluxes (blue regions) indicate places where uptake of CO2 occurs. Positive fluxes (red colors) indicate places where emissions of CO2 occurs. The figures include biological and fire fluxes, no fossil fuels. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The online data framework distinguishes between changes in the natural carbon cycle and those occurring in human-produced fossil fuel emissions. It also provides verification for scientists using computer models to project future climate change. Potential users include corporations, cities, states and nations assessing their efforts to reduce or store fossil fuel emissions around the world.

The Third California

This is an excellent report, based on California being three California’s, in their respective development and geography.

The First California is the San Francisco Bay area, the Second California is the coast from there to San Diego, and the Third California is the interior valleys, and that's us.

Highlights from report, including those about Sacramento:

The Third California: The Golden State's New Frontier
by Joel Kotkin and William H. Frey
March 2007

"Extending from the outer suburbs of greater Los Angeles to the foothills of the high mountains of Northern California, the "Third California" contains virtually all the state's fast-growing regions—from Riverside-San Bernardino in the south to the burgeoning suburbs around Sacramento. However, this growth comes with serious collective challenges on how to capitalize on job and population increases while addressing workforce and environmental concerns." (Introduction)

1) “From 1995 to 2000…Third California experienced nearly a 40 percent growth in its ranks of people with graduate degrees, a rate of increase larger than the Second California and close to that of the First California. This movement of professional into parts of the region—most notably the Inland Empire and Sacramento—may signal a longer-term shift in the area’s ability to compete in high-skilled industries.” (p. 7)

2) “Taken together, housing costs and a weaker coastal economy, particularly in the Bay Area, have produced an ever widening gap between growth rates in the Third California and the rest of the state. In fact, between 2000 and 2005 the Third California growth rate has reached over 14 percent, four times the rate for the rest of the state.” (p. 9)

3) “A recent study found that over the past decade areas such as Riverside-San Bernardino and Sacramento led California in creating middle and high income jobs; in contrast, Orange and Los Angeles saw modest growth while San Francisco and San Jose suffered declines.

"If high-skilled jobs, particularly in services and information, continue to shift to the interior this might accelerate the movement of skilled professionals out of the coast and into the Third California. This is particularly true of those regions, notably Sacramento and the Inland Empire, which appear to have progressed furthest along the path laid out in [economist] Dr. Husings ‘dirt theory’ [first stage of development is cheaper land prices] . Sacramento also may benefit from its position as the state capitol, since the government both hires professionals and stimulates industries, such as lobbying and political relations, which hire them." (p.12)

4) “The greater Sacramento region [Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Placer, and Yolo Counties], with roughly 2.7 million people, entered the 21st century with arguably the healthiest trajectory of any part of the Third California….

"This increase reflects important differences from the rest of the third California. In contrast to most Third California regions, where much of the new population growth came from births, in the Sacramento region most growth came from outside the region. It seems clear as well that this area has greater appeal than any other Third California region for educated workers, something traceable, at least in part, to the presence of the state government. Similarly, the migration of educated immigrants—including those from Asia—was consistently higher than other parts of interior California." (p. 14)

5) "To attract new skilled migrants and companies, the Third California must focus heavily on the needs of those demographic groups, notably young families and early retirees, who make up the bulk of skilled domestic migrants to the region. It makes infinitely more sense to concentrate on those things—such as basic infrastructure, open space, and parks—that matter most to both young families and downshifting migrants now coming from the crowded coastal regions. …

"One critical facto could be amenities including the redevelopment of older central cores, or providing better entertainment, retail and dining possibilities." (pp. 16-17)

Public Private Partnerships

This is the type of partnership we would like to see the local governments adjacent to the Parkway, through the formation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) enter into with a nonprofit organization to manage the Parkway.

This is the arrangement already showing great success with our own Sacramento Zoo and in New York with the Central Park Conservancy.

In this months report from Senator Dave Cox, the partnership concept is discussed, and though it is in relation to transportation, it is a good look at the viability and success of such arrangements.

Public/Private Partnerships In Transportation

Last November, the voters of California passed the largest infrastructure bond package in the history of the United States. The passage of almost $20 billion for transportation alone was a tacit acknowledgement of the failure of traditional planning methods to keep pace with infrastructure demand. Although California spends roughly $11 billion a year in state and federal dollars to fund transportation programs, we have failed to meet the demands of our current population, let alone the five to seven million additional citizens the state will add over the next decade.

While vehicle miles traveled continues to grow exponentially, the amount of revenue collected by traditional funding mechanisms is failing to keep pace. The result has been a growing deficit in which $20 billion will barely put a dent. The result is that California, like many other states, is faced with a choice between finding innovative methods for building infrastructure, or allowing its transportation system to continue to decay.

One innovative method of developing infrastructure being discussed is public-private partnerships (PPP). PPP is a general term to describe financial arrangements in which private enterprises partner with governmental entities to provide a service typically provided by government.

PPP are far from a new concept. In fact, in the development of transportation facilities and public utilities, PPP was the standard practice until the 1930s. Prior to that period of government expansion, investment in massive public works facilities was accomplished through joint public-private ventures, such as the first intercontinental railroad.

There have been a number of successful PPP transportation facilities constructed that have provided state-of-the-art facilities at a fraction of the price to the public. The Route 91 Express Lanes in Orange County was the first public/private partnership completed in modern times in California. This toll road project is still profitable today, although it is now publicly owned.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Groundwater in California

One of the water storage arguments being presented is using groundwater. This article looks at that option, which though usually can be quicker than above ground storage, if the aquifer is local, it also has many problems around water quality—especially in industrial areas—cost of replenishing and accountability around what is actually underground—what is being used and what is left—as well as what it will actually cost to replenish it.

Water 'war' may brew beneath surface
Aquifer control could pit districts vs. state
By Michael Gardner
March 27, 2007

SACRAMENTO – California literally sits on one of its best drought cushions.
Yet, despite the importance of groundwater, this largely arid state lacks an overall plan to take advantage of it. Nor does the state have a firm grasp of how much is squirreled away in underground bowls or where there is room for more.

Instead, aquifers for the most part are the province of local water agencies.

Managers armed with protectionist laws can jealously guard supplies. Some aquifers are shrinking as demand outstrips supply. Pollution caused by farms and industry plagues other basins.

Because it is out of sight, groundwater often tends to be out of mind.

Until now.

Democrats have elevated the availability of groundwater to a place alongside traditional arguments – the environment, conservation and desalination – against building additional reservoirs.

“It's much cheaper, faster and more efficient,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata, D-Oakland, arguing for a greater focus on groundwater.

But is it?

Relying on more subterranean supplies has its own challenges, not the least of which are finding extra water to store and an accessible place to keep it. Contracts over ownership must be negotiated. Miles of plumbing, along with energy contracts to power pumps, have to be put in place. Pollution, whether from farm fertilizers, industrial dumping or seawater intrusion, is a growing headache. Aquifers also cannot match the flood control provided by reservoirs.

“There is the whole realm of legal, institutional, political and economic issues,” said John Woodling, a groundwater specialist with the state Department of Water Resources.

Dams & Water

It is very refreshing to see public leadership understanding the value of surface water storage that dams provide, along with their flood control and power generation and arguments that they are two expensive and take too long are not germane, as much of the infrastructure needed by a growing state does cost money and does take time to complete.

California is one of the most desirable places to live in the country, if not the world, and as it continues to attract million of new families, they all need homes to live in, roads and trails to transport themselves, parks, parkways, and open space to enjoy and find sanctuary in, and water to allow all to flourish.

Governor launches new water battle
In Fresno, he pushes $4 billion bond in 2008 for new dams.
By E.J. Schultz - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, March 27, 2007

FRESNO -- A year after he backed off demands for state money for dams, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back to wage battle, saying Monday that he's in it to win the water fight he once compared to a "holy war."

"This is absolutely essential for the state of California because we need more water storage," he told a crowd of dam supporters at Friant Dam east of Fresno.
"You can't always get everything, and last year I said we'll be back, so this year we're back."

The morning appearance, followed by a later speech at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Fresno, marked the beginning of a weeklong campaign to push a $4 billion water bond Schwarzenegger hopes to put on the 2008 ballot.

In choosing Fresno as the launching point, Schwarzenegger found a sympathetic audience. Valley mayors and growers have long sought state money for water storage.

A site upstream of Friant Dam, which holds back Millerton Lake, is a likely spot for one of two new dams should the proposal win approval.

But the plan is sure to face an uphill fight in the Legislature. Democrats, who control the Senate and Assembly, favor a combination of conservation and groundwater storage to meet the state's water needs. Dams cost too much and take too long to build, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said at a recent news conference.

But Schwarzenegger said new dams are needed to supply water to a state whose population is expected to jump 30 percent in the next 20 years. He also cited global warming, which he said could reduce snowpack.

"That means more floods in the winter and less drinking water in the summer," he said.

Going Vertical

The increased building in Sacramento urban areas is exciting to watch and will slowly begin to create the 24 hour city the central core needs to become the sustainable heart of our region.

The brownstones are coming
East Coast icon offers urban chic on compact lots
By Jim Wasserman - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sacramento home builders are tapping that venerable icon of East Coast architecture -- the brownstone -- to stir sales for nearly 100 new three-story town houses coming to midtown.

They don't look like much now as construction begins. But as the new homes begin to sprout on vacant land in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, builders say they'll evoke a classic brownstone ambience with their sturdy stone exteriors, second-story kitchens and living rooms and third-floor bedrooms.

The vertical, narrow homes are a key in the push for higher density housing in the region -- with up to 43 units per acre compared to the five or 10 per acre common in the area's suburbs -- and new examples of how in-fill projects are being used to turn the concept into reality.

"We were looking for something with urban cachet and it evolved very quickly into the brownstone concept," said Kevin Noell, partner in Metro Nova Communities.
Noell, a San Diego builder, and his development partners Tony Giannoni and Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis plan 58 brownstone-style homes on 3 acres at 21st and U streets in a project dubbed Tapestri Square. Three models are under construction.

None of the new Sacramento homes will be exact replicas of the brownstones that populate the streets in eastern cities like New York and, increasingly, some Western cities such as Portland, Ore. Neither do they share common walls, a standard feature of the homes that originated as multistory European row houses.

But they do mimic the narrow widths common to homes built in urban areas: The buildings at Tapestri Square range from 16 1/2 feet wide to 24 feet wide.


The new ideas animating philanthropy are creating more awareness of the importance of accountability (have a strategic plan and report on it annually), transparency (post your work on your website annually, including your financial summaries), and effectiveness (report on your results and show how they are connected to your mission in your annual report) for nonprofit organizations asking you for money to support their work.

A very good thing.

Higher-Impact Philanthropy
Applying business principles to philanthropic strategies
Thomas J. Tierney
February 14, 2007

Philanthropy is a growth business. Over the past two decades, the number of foundations has increased nearly threefold; some 1,300 were established in 2004 alone. A recent survey of donor-advised funds revealed a 21 percent increase in their collective grant awards between 2004 and 2005. Single gifts exceeding $5 million used to be unusual; in the past five years there have been at least 1,054 such "big bets." Total foundation assets in America now top $510 billion, and this is just the beginning.

The healthiest and wealthiest generation the world has ever known is now entering philanthropic prime time. As the baby boomers age, they will be part of a massive onetime wealth transfer estimated to amount to at least $40 trillion (with a possible upside of $88 trillion). This wealth can flow to only three possible destinations: family members (through inheritance), the government (through estate taxes), or nonprofit organizations including foundations (through gifts and bequests). So there will surely be even more philanthropists and more foundations, with even greater assets, giving away more money. Will this influx of philanthropic capital yield dramatically more social impact?

Considering that most donors already want their dollars to make a difference (and certainly don't want to see their hard-earned money go to waste), it's reasonable to wonder why such a question even needs to be asked. After all, leading foundations have long invested in formal evaluations to assess the impact of their grantmaking.

Today, more and more grantmakers (individuals and institutions both) are pressing their grantees to develop metrics to quantify the results of their programs. Grantmakers themselves are wrestling with what it means to give "strategically." Nevertheless, this question holds for two reasons.

First, and perhaps most obvious, not all philanthropic giving is motivated purely by the desire to achieve results. Donors often make gifts based on perceived community obligations ("doing my share"), personal relationships ("can't say no"), giving back, returning a favor, or felt responsibility ("we need 100 percent participation from the board"). Such gifts may be relatively small (given one's circumstances), as in purchasing a table at a charitable event. Or they may be enormous, as evidenced by the large number of seven- and eight-figure gifts given to universities each year. Either way, the motivation behind the gift is primarily personal, based on private beliefs and individual priorities. When people choose to donate their time by volunteering, they are allocating a scarce resource to a cause or organization they care about. The same is true when they give away money (although, for many, time is the more scarce resource). Impact matters, of course, but impact is not the driving force.

Second, achieving and measuring impact is exceptionally difficult with certain types of philanthropy. In the complex world of giving away money, tangible philanthropy--constructing a new medical center, preserving acres of wetlands, endowing a senior center--is as simple as it gets. As donors, we can take pride in our contributions without the nagging suspicion that somehow we didn't get exactly what we paid for.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Galt & Growth

In the current scheme of things, growth is how local government, without independent wealth, survives and with the growth surrounding it, Galt will find it difficult to not respond.

Though if it can develop a boutique village or high-end rural agriculture—organic products mix/eco-tourism—concept, which it has some of the bones for, it may find a way through the growth imperative.

Protecting an identity
Galt has rejected big growth plans to preserve its small-town charms - perhaps risking its future
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, March 26, 2007

With a wary eye on Elk Grove, its mushrooming neighbor to the north, the little city of Galt is trying to figure out how to preserve its small-town identity without going broke.

In November, two newcomers were elected to the Galt City Council, supplanting a majority that had pushed a major expansion to the north to accommodate a Sun City-style golf course development. The Del Webb project would have abutted both the city's sewage treatment plant and the Nature Conservancy's Cosumnes River Preserve.

The new council majority has since eliminated the Del Webb development from consideration and pulled back the city's expansion plans on other fronts as well.

"It didn't seem logical for a city of 24,000 people to expand the way the previous council was planning on expanding," said Andrew Meredith, one of the new council members. "This community still has an identity that hasn't gone away. I think you have a strong sentiment in the community that people want to keep it that way. It's a rural community focused on agriculture."

Bond Money

Who didn’t’ see this coming?

One hopes sounder judgment, concerned about the reasons voters approved these bonds, prevails.

Legislators target bonds-package billions
Bills seek to have public works funds spent on favored projects, issues.
By Jim Sanders - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, March 26, 2007

A modern-day Gold Rush has erupted over $43 billion targeted for California public works projects, with legislators crafting dozens of bills to affect how the money is spent.

Voter passage of the record bond package last November has spawned a frenzy in which communities and their officeholders are fighting for a piece of the massive pot.

"It's kind of like the heirs to the estate of some very wealthy person," said Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist. "People fight over money -- and they fight especially hard over a lot of money."

Front Yard Gardens

While certainly seeing the point of restricting it, how can it be done without impinging on the lowly fruit tree, or the fanciful cherry tomato bush.

Editorial: Needed: A peas treaty
Does council know beans about gardens?
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, March 26, 2007

Back in November, when a Sacramento City Council committee mulled a proposal to restrict the growing of vegetables in front yards, this page urged the council to give peas a chance.

Since then, numerous local organizations and garden activists have taken up the cause of peas. Dozens are expected to converge on an April 3 meeting, where the full council is expected to take up a revision to the city's front yard landscape ordinance that remains unnecessarily hostile to veggies.

As amended in November, the proposed ordinance would restrict the growing of vegetables and nontree fruits to no more than 30 percent of a front yard, with no plants higher than 4 feet.

Water-sucking lawns? Fine.

Rose bushes that demand pesticides? Go ahead. Nuke your yard.

But a beautiful flowering trellis of legumes? No way, say the yard cops. Apparently, they don't want our city to showcase Native American plants, such as corn and tomatoes. They don't give a hill of beans about the burgeoning movement known as edible landscapes.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Community Building

While others may differ, much of the reason we are here, it seems to me, is about building human communities where the centrality of respect for human dignity prevails, and the embrace of the natural world surrounds us, and since we have moved way beyond the possibility of the ancient farm-based economy of the village, the various manifestations of California suburban life, realized most favorably in our valley and foothills, seems just about ideal.

It is the folks who actually do the work of creating that, the trades people, the builders, developers, public administrators, politicians, and of course the eager buyers who rush to buy out suburbs before they are finished, rather than those who prioritize humanity on the bottom of the scale of importance in our world, who need to be respected for their contribution to that effort, instead of being (in our often topsy-turvy public discussions) demonized.

In our 2006 Research Report on the Auburn Dam Policy Environment, available on our web site , we discuss the development of this demonizing way of thinking and how it impacts the necessary work of building community.

Angelo K. Tsakopoulos: Top of the agenda: Communities and homes
By Angelo K. Tsakopoulos -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, March 25, 2007

I am deeply concerned about the two editorials, two news stories and a cartoon printed over the last few weeks in regard to our company, AKT Development, and our proposal that the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors study 3,400 acres of land in the east county as part of the general plan update process.

Since some of what was written included attacks against me personally, I thought I should start by sharing with your readers the root of my perspective. My family spent part of World War II as evacuees from our village home, with no certainty of return.

That experience, of homelessness, is one that has never left me.

When my team and I begin the process of readying a piece of land for development, this is where my mindset is: Communities and homes for people. That's what we have provided families in this region for nearly 50 years. We are proud to have been the developer of such projects as Laguna West, the first pedestrian-oriented, smart-growth community in California since World War II.

When we asked that our 3,400 acres be added to the tens of thousands of acres that the county will evaluate for possible urbanization, we had a very simple expectation: that there would be a civil, informative dialogue that would better educate our community about the property.

This dialogue never had a chance.

The Environmental Council of Sacramento, and several of its extreme environmentalist leaders, had no intention of allowing anyone to hear the pros and cons of developing this property. Why? For years, they have been advocating a position that no property should be considered for development outside of the urban services boundary. Ever. It's their holy grail.

It seems to us that members of The Bee's editorial page and at least one reporter also are caught up in their quest.

This is wrong. Not just because we think that a portion of the property should develop, but because we do not believe it is the role of ECOS to make this decision, using scare tactics and misinformation. We believe the community deserves a chance to hear the facts.

So what are the facts? The property is adjacent to planned and existing development, with the closest existing homes being less than a half mile away. Because the existing development is on the other side of the county line, and because El Dorado didn't participate in the Blueprint project, it's not information that has been regularly seen by Sacramento County staff. But it is there.

Wal-Mart & Energy Use

In the largest company on earth, using one percent of the country’s electricity, energy savings has been embraced as a sound business strategy and where Wal-Mart goes, many will follow.

Kudo’s all around, to Wal-Mart and the national environmental advocacy group helping them, Environmental Defense, and the many Wal-Mart consumers (count our family among them) also embracing good energy use along with great prices.

Wal-Mart sees the light
Chain cutting energy use -- and its bills
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, March 25, 2007

Store manager Joe Sanders squinted up at the sunny rectangles that march across the ceiling of the Wal-Mart in Dixon.

"I really didn't believe in the skylights" at first, he said.

It's a simple concept, now standard in new Wal-Marts: Let the sun shine on the store floor, dim the fluorescent bulbs and cut daytime lighting costs by as much as 80 percent.

But it hasn't been without hassles.

"(The lights) used to go completely out," Sanders said. When he took over his first store with skylights, in Palmdale in 2005, a bug in the control system for the overhead lights left things gloomy.

For Sanders, though, just flipping on the lights wasn't an option. His job depended on making the skylight system work as intended: The store's electric bill was part of his performance review. "The home office is really pushing this," he said.

Looking to reduce operational costs, boost a public image scarred by criticism of its labor practices and aggressive expansion, and reverse a long -- if gradual -- stock slide, Wal-Mart has over the past year taken on climate-friendliness as both a rallying cry and a business strategy.

With more than 3,900 stores and distribution centers across the country, Wal-Mart is the nation's biggest electricity user outside the federal government. As public and government concern about global warming grows, Wal-Mart and many other businesses are taking stock of their greenhouse gas footprint.

Flood Threat & Levees

In what appears to be a recurring storyline around the region (thanks to the continuing flood protection reevaluation in the light of Katrina), another community’s levees are possibly not as strong as once thought.

West Sac re-examines flood peril
Seeping levees mean the city's risk may be much greater than it thought.
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, March 25, 2007

Property owners in Sacramento are not the only ones facing flooding worries and a possible new tax for greater flood protection.

Preliminary geotechnical findings indicate the city of West Sacramento has underseepage problems similar to those found in levees in Natomas and elsewhere in the Central Valley.

Although final analyses are still being conducted, the early results indicate the fast-growing community on the west side of the Sacramento River has a lower level of flood protection than previously believed.

West Sacramento officials soon will ask property owners to approve a new assessment to strengthen levees. The West Sacramento election planned for May would be smaller but similar to a weighted mail ballot election for flood control now going in portions of Sacramento and Sutter counties involving 140,000 property owners.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sacramento’s Business Climate

With the solid economic base of state government as a foundation, the attraction of venture capital in larger sums than now occurring would be of huge benefit regionally.

This happening will, as the editorial notes, depend to some degree on developing the capacity of our universities to become larger players in venture business through the generation of solid research, and creativity.

It will also happen through the preservation and enhancement of our natural resources to ensure our regional parkways, parks, riverways, trails, and greenways, are congruent with a increasingly urbanized environment, providing the natural sanctuary the human spirit depends on for refreshment, contemplation, and creativity.

Editorial: Ventures of success
Region's future depends on private investors
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 24, 2007

There's a reason that California is arguably the best place on the planet to convert an idea into a thriving business.

All the ingredients for success are here. We have the minds with the ideas. And we have the deep, private pockets of investors willing to take a chance on them.

Venture capital isn't on the fringe of the California economy. It's at its very foundation.

A new national study by the research firm Global Insight found that nearly 17 percent of the nation's domestic product has resulted from firms funded by venture capital. The state that attracts the venture capital wins. The region in the state that lures the capital wins even more.

At the moment, the Sacramento region has a ways to go to become the kind of place where big dreams are the talk at power breakfasts. If the region wants to continue evolving from a government town to a resilient, diverse economy, it better pay attention to attracting private capital along with the big-name companies that are household names.

Global Insight reviewed companies that have received venture capital since 1970 and compared their performance against the economy as a whole. In California, venture capital fueled nearly 8,000 businesses to the tune of $161.4 billion. That, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, is about 42 percent of all venture capital investment for the nation.

The numbers seem solid, even if extrapolating the jobs and benefits gets into taller weeds of methodology. The funder of Global Insight's study is a venture capitalist association with political agendas, such as promoting immigration policies that allow highly skilled workers to come to the United States. Even so, it's important to follow this money in California and consider why venture capital is invested more in some communities than others.

Nonprofit Management of Parkway

It is one of our main goals and would do wonders for the Parkway, and the model we use, indeed the model for the country of nonprofit management of an urban park, is the Central Park Conservancy.

About the Central Park Conservancy

The Central Park Conservancy's mission is to restore, manage, and preserve Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

The Central Park Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1980 that manages Central Park under a contract with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Thanks to the generosity of many individuals, corporations, and foundations, the Conservancy has raised more than $350 million to date and has transformed Central Park into a model for urban parks nationwide. The Conservancy provides more than 84% of Central Park's annual $25 million operating budget and is responsible for all basic care of the Park.

With 25 million visitors each year to its 843 acres, Central Park is the most frequently visited urban park in the United States. To manage the Park, Conservancy crews aerate and seed lawns; rake leaves; prune and fertilize trees; plant shrubs and flowers; maintain ballfields and playgrounds; remove graffiti; conserve monuments, bridges, and buildings; and care for waterbodies and woodlands, controlling erosion, maintaining the drainage system, and protecting over 150 acres of lakes and streams from pollution, siltation, and algae.

San Joaquin Plan Costly

The cost to the local economic health may be more than the plan to restore the river, as great as the plan is, can bear, and that would be a tragedy we hope can be averted.

Report tallies costs of river plan
Some skeptical that the San Joaquin restoration would cut up to 3,000 jobs.
By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau
03/23/07 04:36:00

Restoring the San Joaquin River could put 3,000 people out of work, a newly released -- and already controversial -- study concludes.

Ground-water levels would fall. Pumping prices would rise. Hydroelectric power production would drop and local produce quality could suffer, the analysis contends. The consequences, moreover, would extend beyond farming.

"Changes in agricultural production have impacts on many businesses and industries throughout the larger region," noted study author Robert McKusick, a consultant with the Vancouver-based firm Northwest Economic Associates, which specializes in natural resource issues.

San Joaquin Valley agricultural production could fall by $159 million annually when farmers lose irrigation supplies, McKusick estimated. On the Valley's east side, 51,300 acres could go out of production as water once used for crops flows down the long-parched river channel.

McKusick's 189-page study and a 58-page supplement -- completed in September 2005 but only made public this week -- is apparently the first to estimate the concrete consequences of restoring the San Joaquin River.

The study came to light through the efforts of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, who has been critical of the restoration plan's possible effect on farmers.

Nunes' staff began asking about six months ago for any studies that had been conducted on the water losses and economic effects. Following a House subcommittee hearing several weeks ago, Nunes obtained the study and supplement, although he said he was furious about the long delay.

Water districts representing Valley farmers had commissioned the study as part of trial preparations for a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, but it was unclear why the study was not released earlier.

Friday, March 23, 2007

K Street Loss, Arden’s Gain

A continuing story and a sad one for the ever suffering downtown where the best thing going is what the state has done.

Trendy retailer nabs Arden site
Urban Outfitters had been possible tenant in K Street project.
By Jon Ortiz - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 23, 2007

Sacramento's first Urban Outfitters store will open by the end of this year in the Market Square shopping center near Arden Fair, the property's management company announced Thursday.

Fulcrum Management Group said that the trendy -- and sometimes controversial -- apparel and accessories chain has signed a lease for the former Virgin Megastore space that went dark nearly two years ago.

The signing signals that Sacramento's growth in the past few years continues to attract retailers that previously skipped the region in favor of larger population centers, said Doug Fleener, president of Dynamic Experiences Group, a retail consulting firm based in Lexington, Mass.

"It says good things about Sacramento," Fleener said, "and it indicates that Urban Outfitters wants to aggressively grow into new markets."

It also clouds plans for Sacramento's K Street redevelopment plans. Developers have mentioned Urban Outfitters as a possible tenant that could help spur the troubled retail center's renaissance.

America Builds

We don’t often get to see this type of building anymore. Treasure it. It was how America was built.

UP comes out smokin' on rail fix
Company plans to take just 16 days to build new bridge at fire site.
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 23, 2007

As a column of black smoke rose like an exclamation point above Union Pacific's burning trestle in Sacramento last week, state officials launched their own firestorm of e-mails and conference calls.

The message from the Governor's Office was simple:

Do whatever possible to help UP rebuild its freight line to ensure the "critical corridor reopens as quickly as possible," said Eric Lamoureux of the state Office of Emergency Services.

Reacting with equal urgency, and even before the flames died, UP rolled an armada of trucks in four Western states loaded with precast construction materials, all bound for Sacramento.

In a flash, an astonishing construction site has emerged on the north bank of the American River near downtown Sacramento.

The cause of the fire that destroyed 1,400 feet of wooden trestle March 15 during the evening commute has yet to be determined.

Working night and day, seven days a week in 12-hour shifts, a crew of 135 -- headed by a travel-weary UP veteran from Omaha, Neb. -- is erecting a curving concrete and steel rail bridge from the ground up. The goal is 16 days.

New National Heritage Area

This is the website of the new group working to see The Journey Through Hallowed Ground become the next National Heritage Area (a designation which it so richly deserves to become) and provides insight into what is required if we are to see the American River Watershed someday become the Rivers of Gold National Heritage Area.

Explore the Journey

Explore the Journey's scenic and historically rich landscape recognized as the region which holds more American history than any other swath of land in the country. It is home to significant and unique historical, cultural, scenic and natural legacies. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground corridor follows US Route 15 and Route 20 on a 175-mile meandering course from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, through Frederick County, Maryland and ending in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kevin Johnson

Very nice article about his work to revitalize Oak Park, and he’s right, Sacramento is still learning about social entrepreneurship and mostly from his work.

15 Minutes with Kevin Johnson

SSIR Academic Editor Jim Phills sat down with former NBA superstar Kevin Johnson to discuss how he’s revitalizing his old inner-city neighborhood.

During his 12-year NBA career, first with the Cleveland Cavaliers and later with the Phoenix Suns, Kevin Johnson was one of basketball’s leading playmakers. The three-time NBA All-Star is one of only four players to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in three different seasons. In July 1989, shortly after the close of his second season, Johnson returned to the inner-city Sacramento neighborhood where he grew up. He launched a nonprofit afterschool program housed in a portable classroom on the grounds of Sacramento High School. Today, Johnson’s nonprofit has taken over the entire high school, and then some. Johnson retired from basketball in 2000 and began focusing all of his discipline, energy, and intelligence on his 11- year-old nonprofit. Under his leadership, St. Hope has blossomed into a full-fledged community revitalization project: St. Hope Public Schools, a pre-K to 12 charter school district serving 2,000 students; St. Hope Neighborhood Corps, which trains young people to be community leaders; 40 Acres Art Gallery, which sponsors exhibitions, films, lectures, performances, and classes; and St. Hope Development Company, which has generated more than $11 million in development projects, creating 14 businesses and 282 jobs.

JAMES A. PHILLS JR.: Was there a seminal moment in your life when the passion for the work that you’re doing was ignited?

KEVIN JOHNSON: I remember sitting in an English class in college at UC Berkeley. I was a freshman – it was the first day of class and the teacher asked all the students if they knew what the word “euphemism” meant. There were 32 kids in the class and 31 raised their hands. I was the only one who didn’t, and I was just baffled: “How could all these kids know what the word ‘euphemism’ meant?” Then one kid asked the teacher a question and I couldn’t even understand the question. I just didn’t think it was fair that 31 other people from all over the state – who went to different high schools – were exposed to that learning and I wasn’t. It wasn’t a cool feeling. So I said to myself that if I ever made it, I was going to go back to my community because I didn’t want other kids to have to feel that feeling.

How do you think about what’s necessary to achieve educational reform in underresourced communities?

First, in order to really improve inner-city public education, economic development and community revitalization have to be a part of the equation. We have to make sure that businesses and services and private investment are all directed toward building inner-city communities. It has to be a holistic approach.

Second, every community, every child, and every family has to have access to a high-quality education. Public schools are not providing that across the board, while charter schools and others are providing families with a choice, and via that choice, competition. Competition is not a bad thing.

Third, I think a voice is missing from this fight – this movement that we’re all participating in – and it’s the grassroots voice of the students and families that are most disenfranchised. Until we get them to the table there are going to be inequalities, no matter how hard we try. But when their voice is loud and consistent, then real pressure will be put on the schools and the system that unfortunately strangles the opportunities that we so desperately want to have.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ARPPS Letter Published Today in Bee.

See post from March 13th for link to editorial.

Where to honor Indian heritage
Re "Opportunity in danger," editorial, March 13:

We agree that the planned Indian Heritage Center in the American River Parkway is a very important addition to our region. The center will be of significant statewide and national import, further clarifying the national heritage value of the American River and its first residents.

It is of such importance that we cannot envision it not being approved. The argument that it doesn't fit in the parkway plan is misrepresented as it is in the same general purpose category, though obviously of much larger size, of the already existing and recently expanded Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which the county describes as an "environmental and cultural education center."

For environmentalists to sue a project that would be considered of national environmental importance would be absurd.

The center is to be on the historic site of the most important Indian village (Pujune) in the two rivers area, celebrating the heritage of California's first residents, the original American environmentalists.

- David H. Lukenbill, Sacramento
Senior Policy Director,
American River Parkway Preservation Society

Bike Trail

We couldn’t agree more.

Those who ride the bike trail are among the Parkway’s most loyal and caring users and they need a priority effort expended on their behalf when the trail is disrupted, as it is now from the trestle rebuild.

Editorial: Don't forget cyclists
Trestle detour frustates key commuters
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 22, 2007

The fire that destroyed the Union Pacific trestle has disrupted travel for Amtrak commuters and forced UP and other railroads to reroute their hauling of freight. To their credit, UP is moving quickly to rebuild the trestle, and Amtrak has organized buses to help passengers get between Auburn and Sacramento.

Unfortunately, local officials and UP haven't responded as quickly to ensure that another group of commuters aren't endangered or unduly inconvenienced by the construction work -- bicyclists.

Bicyclists? Those sweaty, lycra-clad Luddites? We can already hear some readers questioning why anyone should care.

Actually, we all should. Every day, hundreds of local residents commute to downtown jobs by bicycle; more would likely do so if they could depend on safe, reliable routes. The American River bike trail is essential to such commuting.

Yet as The Bee reported Wednesday, demolition and construction on the trestle has prompted authorities to create a problematic detour that forces cyclists traveling east "to dismount from their bikes at least twice, scale a steep, grassy section of the levee, go down the other side along a dirty path, take up to six turns on surface streets -- some of them unmarked -- before scaling a steep ramp covered in think gravel back onto the levee."

Good News on Flood Funds

It is good to hear the process is moving along well.

Flood-control spending set at $110 million
Army Corps announces priorities for Sacramento-area river projects.
By David Whitney - Bee Washington Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sacramento will get all the money it needs for ongoing flood-control work this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed Wednesday.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, said late Tuesday that the corps had completed work on its spending priorities for 2007 and that a record $110 million will be spent on Sacramento-area projects.

While the corps has consistently maintained that Sacramento is a top priority, money for work this summer was in doubt because of Congress' failure to pass a spending bill for water projects last year.

Congress, now under Democratic control, approved a resolution in February funding the government but without all of the specific earmarks, such as those that have guided corps spending in Sacramento.

Instead, the congressional resolution left it up to the corps to set priorities about how it would spend more than $2 billion appropriated to it.

Those priorities were released this week.

"This is going to keep us on track," said Christine Altendorf, deputy district engineer for project management in the corps' Sacramento office.

Global Warming Debate

In addition to the one in Congress, this one was between skeptics and believers in New York, as reported by the Scientific American Magazine blog:

March 15, 2007
Debate Skills? Advantage: Climate Contrarians

Last night at the Asia Society and Museum, a panel of notables debated the merits of the proposition "global warming is not a crisis." Arguing for the motion were the folksy (and tall) Michael Crichton, the soft-spoken Richard Lindzen and the passionate Philip Stott. Arrayed against were the moderate Brenda Ekwurzel, the skeptical Gavin Schmidt and the perplexed (by the inanity of the contrarians' arguments) Richard Somerville. (Note: all the adjectives are mine.)

The hosts--the Rosenkranz Foundation and Intelligence Squared U.S.--asked the audience to vote both prior to and after the event. Early voting skewed heavily against the motion: 57 percent in the audience favored dismissing it while only 30 percent supported it. But that was before anybody opened their mouths.

Robert Rosenkranz, chairman of the eponymous foundation, brought up the first bugaboo of the night in his introduction: "I am old enough to remember the consensus on global cooling." And the second: how can we know what the future climate will be when we can't even predict the weather a year in advance, something that would be worth billions of dollars?

1. As Somerville later pointed out, any consensus over global cooling was more in the media hype surrounding it than anything else.

2. Climate and weather are two separate things, climate being the average of weather over a given time period. We cannot say that it will be 76 degrees F next March 15 but we can say, based on atmospheric physics, that 20 years from now the month of March will, on average, be warmer than it is now.

As Lindzen noted in his opening remarks, the climate is always changing. The question is whether the warming we are currently experiencing--and every panelist agreed that warming was happening--is worrisome and/or manmade. For example, Lindzen argued that in a warming world we might expect less severe weather as a result of the decreased temperature difference between the poles and the equator. And he noted that India has warmed in recent decades yet its agricultural yield has increased.
(Perhaps Prof. Lindzen is not familiar with the Green Revolution?)

Distinctive Historical Destinations

The only California location, at this point, is Hollywood, and when you read this think Coloma (on the American River where gold was first discovered), think the Parkway, think the Rivers of Gold National Heritage Area, which we would like to see the American River Watershed designated as.

Dozen Distinctive Destinations 2007: National Trust for Historic Preservation

From a charming Colorado mining town nestled among spectacular red sandstone bluffs where Puebloan ruins abound, to a Southern city that's home to a presidential library and linked forever to a defining moment in American history, to an 18th-century drop-dead gorgeous Chesapeake jewel of a town, America offers a wealth of alternative vacation destinations that symbolize an increasing dedication to historic preservation.

In recognition of this travel trend, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the country's largest private, nonprofit preservation organization, today announced the selection of its 2007 Dozen Distinctive Destinations, an annual list of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States.

"From a historic Western frontier town like Durango, Colo., to Little Rock, Ark., a place that forever changed the face of race relations in this country, to Chestertown, Md., one of the most charming, well-preserved towns on Maryland's breathtaking Eastern Shore, these twelve communities represent a truly distinctive slice of America," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "It is my hope that more American cities and towns will follow the lead of these great destinations in preserving their own unique spirit of place."

Salmon Overview

Good article with the caveat that it places salmon well-being above human well-being and doesn’t understand the social evolution of many species that have to interact with human beings which, just as urban humans have had to do in relation to their natural and wild past, adapt to the urbanization of our planet.

In this case, human beings need water, and dams store water. Dams also restrict natural salmon spawning habitat, which humans have addressed through hatcheries and the release of cold water from dams to lower reaches of rivers where salmon didn’t normally spawn, but now can due to the cold water release.

Spring 2007 Issue
The State of the Salmon
by Eric Winford

A rough estimate on the number of chinook salmon that returned to spawn in Central California rivers in 2006 is 350,000. Although that figure sounds impressive at first glance—and is, indeed, a substantial improvement over the low runs of the early ‘90s—it represents only a fraction of California’s historic salmon population.

The majority of those returning chinook, about 290,000 of them, ran upstream in the fall. The rest came in California’s other runs: late fall, winter, and spring. These runs are designated "evolutionary significant units"—each reflecting a unique adaptation to local conditions, each representing a unique genetic code, and each worth preserving.

"California is unique in that we have four distinct runs of salmon," explains Tina Swanson, a senior scientist at the Bay Institute of San Francisco.

California’s rivers once swam with millions of salmon. In the 19th century, annual accounts commonly reported one to three million chinook in the rivers draining the Sierra Nevada. The spring-run chinook historically returned to spawn in the largest numbers, prior to losing 90 percent of their habitat to dams, diversions, and destruction.

The returning salmon climbed as high as 6,000 feet up rivers swollen with melting snow. They existed in 17 geographically distinct populations in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, but now they are reduced to spawning below dams in the few rivers that can support them. They have been entirely eliminated from the San Joaquin watershed, and federal and state agencies have listed spring-run chinook as a threatened species.

The winter run is listed as an endangered species on both state and federal lists. Its population fell to 211 in 1991, and although numbers have grown to a recent estimated peak of 17,000, the run is still considered endangered because the majority of the wild population spawns in only one place: below Shasta Dam. Restoration of Battle Creek allows some portion of the wild population to use that habitat.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Protecting Public Space

In the wake of the recent trestle fire (whose suspicious cause is still being investigated) in the area of the Parkway where illegal homeless camping and the related fires, habitat destruction, and crime has been a serious issue for several years, it is a good reminder to local government to protect public space and that is an important priority (second of seven) of this column.

Seven Big Lessons
for Local Governments

...Lesson 2: Protect the order of public spaces.

There are times in our past when you look back and wonder, “What were we thinking?” The early 1960s to the 1990s — when we lost control of our streets, parks and urban plazas — was one of those head-shaking eras. In the 1990s, some courageous mayors and police chiefs began reclaiming our urban spaces. Most notable was Rudolph Giuliani, who started by busting the squeegee men and ended up making New York safe again for decent people. ...

We still face challenges in preserving public order. One is keeping the crime rate down (it’s creeping up in most cities); another is dealing effectively with the homeless — who, while not criminals, disrupt public spaces. As this column says, cities have tried coddling the homeless and criminalizing them, only to watch the problem grow worse. But there are approaches that work, and they begin by getting homeless people out of our parks and off our sidewalks and into housing. This new approach is humane, effective and, in the long run, far less expensive than surrendering our urban spaces.

Trail Disruption

Unfortunately there is no good detour that won’t cause problems for the period it takes to fix the trestle, and a reminder of how important it is to keep our bike trail protected.

Trestle fire pushed bike trail off the rails
By Blair Anthony Robertson - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As Union Pacific crews work day and night to replace the wooden train trestle destroyed by a spectacular fire Thursday, cyclists who use the lower stretch of the American River bike trail are struggling with a detour that is awkward, confusing and potentially dangerous.

A test of the detour by The Bee on Monday afternoon found the route required cyclists traveling east from downtown toward the suburbs to dismount from their bikes at least twice, scale a steep, grassy section of the levee, go down the other side, along a dirt path, take up to six turns on surface streets -- some of them unmarked -- before scaling a steep ramp covered in thick gravel back onto the levee.

The levee eventually returns the cyclists to the bike trail, but not before a confusing split in the route and an unmarked turn onto a feeder trail.

The bike trail, which stretches from downtown 32 miles to Folsom Lake, is the essential artery for cycling commuters and attracts thousands more on weekends. It is Sacramento's signature recreational area and a key tourist destination.
Officials said the detour will be in place until May.

Currently, the signage along the detour is spotty and at times difficult to follow.
John Havicon, a county park ranger, said the county ran out of barricades used to mark the detour. The current signs actually say "Trail closed" with "closed" crossed out, replaced by a handwritten "detour."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Trestle Replacement

The century old wooden trestle, built from logs hauled down from the Sierras, will be surely missed for the beautiful and serviceable structure it was.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

UP's repairs on fast track
Officials see one set of rails open by month's end -- but probe of fire's cause is going more slowly.
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, March 20, 2007

With crews working at breakneck speed, Union Pacific rail officials say one of two critical Sacramento tracks may reopen by month's end, a mere 16 days after being destroyed by a suspicious fire.

The same can't be said about determining the cause of the fire, which remains suspicious in the minds of investigators.

After laboriously sifting through the fire scene in the parkway just north of the American River and coming out with few leads, Sacramento Fire Department officials say they now must track down potential witnesses and winnow down the possible causes.

"We haven't identified the cause of the fire," Fire Marshal Troy Malaspino said Monday. "We are going to have to solve it primarily through witness interviews.

"It is going to take time."

Water Politics

Good overview on how the politics around water is shaping up these days.

Climate might be right to replumb water system
George Skelton
Capitol Journal
March 19, 2007

Sacramento — Mark Twain famously said whiskey's for drinkin' and water's for fightin'. But this year in Sacramento, water's also for compromisin'.

It's for using as trade bait — for applying leverage in wheeling and dealing.

"People are talking about it as a chit to be played," laments state water director Lester Snow, who'd like to keep the water debate focused on water. But that's not going to happen.

Problem is, water — generation to generation — always has been California's most contentious issue. It also has been one of the most eye-glazing, until there's a killer flood or a devastating drought. So politicians, especially during this nearsighted era of term limits, have been avoiding the subject.

This year, however, there's potential for rare action.

Democratic support for a new off-stream reservoir could be traded for Republican backing of a comprehensive healthcare plan. Or swapped for a state budget, if lawmakers get stuck in a long summer stalemate. Or, more appropriately, bargained for an environmentally friendly fix to the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Or all of the above.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Two Rivers Trail

Fulfilling the visionary promise of our area in relation to its rivers is just what this project is part of and it is a truly beautiful vision.

Riding into tomorrow
New trail along the south bank of the American River, when finished, will serve cyclists and future residents of the scenic area
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, March 19, 2007

The asphalt on the levee for bicycles practically sparkles like black glass in spots -- a sign that few bicyclists have discovered this new trail.

Although only half of the five-mile Two Rivers Bike Trail in northern Sacramento is finished, its potential is already gleaming for cyclists -- and for people with real estate in the surrounding gem of the River District.

The trail is like icing on a cake yet to be baked, said Steve Ayers, past president of the River District. The property and business improvement district, from Interstate 5 east to Highway 160, is rimmed by the south bank of the American River -- and the finished part of the trail.

"It means people living here will have nice access to the river, and it just provides for additional quality of life," Ayers said.

The River District has plans to largely transform the warehouse- commercial area that backs against the river into a lighter mix of housing and commercial. Rather than hide the river, people here want to showcase it, dressing it up with new assets like the bike trail.

"It's one of Sacramento's best-kept secrets. That's evolving and changing," Ayers said of the south bank of the American River.

Parkway Trestle Work Moving Fast

It is impressive to see at what speed and dispatch work of an important nature can be accomplished when the stakes are high, and it is, though on a much smaller scale, a reminder of the freeway rebuild CC Myers did in the southland several years ago.

Trestle work off to fast pace
Pile driver to sink steel supports in place of timbers destroyed in fire
By Chris Bowman - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, March 19, 2007

The only smoke spewing from the site of Sacramento's spectacular railroad trestle fire today should be the soot of pile drivers sinking supports for a replacement bridge.

By Sunday morning, Union Pacific Railroad contractors had extinguished and hauled away the last of the smoldering timbers from the inferno, which broke Thursday evening under circumstances still being investigated.

"They have started preparing the ground for driving the steel piling," said Mark Davis, spokesman at Union Pacific headquarters in Omaha, Neb.

Stoked by logs preserved with creosote oil, the fire swiftly engulfed the century-old trestle, issued towering columns of coal-black smoke, detoured interstate freight and disrupted commuter service between Sacramento, Roseville and Auburn.
Though the charred rubble is gone, the stink of creosote lingered Sunday.

A steady stream of onlookers in summer clothes and with toddlers and family dogs in tow scampered up the bank of a levee to view the staging grounds for reconstruction.
Robert Hughes, a state Fish and Game spokesman who has observed the activity since Friday afternoon, marveled at the pace of the railroad contractors.

"These people are fast; they're rolling," Hughes said against a backdrop of hard-hatted workers assembling a giant crane for the pile driver. The diesel-powered driver will pound into the ground bunches of 60-foot-long columns to anchor a more fire-resistant trestle of concrete and steel.