Monday, April 30, 2007

Governor’s Dam Argument

The argument stands so clearly on its own in a general sense of what California's water needs are, that the specifics can be worked out later, but in an environment where every recent dam project in California seems to be rejected by the political leadership—though expert public administrative leadership disagree—it is no wonder the concept is floated without specifics to gauge the possibility of it gaining traction prior to coming up with the details.

Probably not the best way to develop public policy, but one works with one has.

Editorial: Arnold wants a dam
Water policy makes lousy political crusade
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 30, 2007

Who knows whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will ever manage to build a water reservoir, somewhere, to fulfill one of his goals akin to his favorite flavor of the month. But he sure is making the case in the wrong way.

He and Republican supporters in the Senate have proposed a $4.5 billion bond for the November 2008 ballot. The bond would include money to pay for half of two reservoirs. One is Temperance Flat, a reservoir on the San Joaquin River. The other is Sites Reservoir, near the Sacramento River west of the small town of Maxwell.

Somebody else -- local governments, Southern California, Warren Buffett, who knows? -- would have to pay for the other half of the costs. Nobody has stepped forward with a checkbook. There are no partners for either project and no final studies showing what the projects would cost or the amount of water they would provide. So the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee the other day did the obvious. It sank the governor's fuzzy reservoir plan on a party-line vote.

Detailed studies and a fuller set of facts are necessary to begin making the case for any new reservoir. But first things first. And at the top of any savvy leader's water list should be the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It is in crisis. The fish populations are dwindling. The state and federal pumping projects are in big trouble in separate court cases. The sea is rising. The levees are suspect. Nothing related to the Delta seems sustainable. And the California Legislature is preparing to make tough decisions about historic fixes next year.

Climate Change at the Vatican

An excellent place to bring opposing sides together to discuss climate change and global warming and though a little heat was in evidence, the beginning of two sides finding congruence might have started.

In the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace 2000 report “Care for Creation: Human Activity and the Environment” they said:
“Care for the environment is ultimately a call to respect all of creation and to assure that human activity, while transforming the earth, does not destroy the dynamic balance which exists among all living things that depend in turn on land, air and water for their every existence. The environmental issue has become central to social, economic and political thought precisely because of the growing degradation, which often strikes in a particularly severe way the poorer sectors of society. The risk of climate change and the growing number of natural disasters call into question the present course of modern society.” (p. 7)

VATICAN LETTER Apr-27-2007 (960 words) Backgrounder. xxxi
Mirroring wider debate, Vatican seminar on global warming gets heated
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite being held in a cool, climate-controlled conference room, some early discussions at a Vatican-sponsored seminar on global warming and climate change got pretty heated.

The rifts and tensions still dividing the global debate on the causes of and remedies for drastic climatic shifts were gently simmering in the small microcosm of the two-day Vatican meeting.

The seminar, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, gathered some 80 experts representing the scientific, political, economic and spiritual sides of the climate-change debate at the Vatican April 26-27 to discuss "Climate Change and Development."

"I have to commend the planners," said Lucia Silecchia, a professor of environmental law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, because "nobody can accuse them of bringing in a group of people who will agree with each other."

Disagreements even spilled out into the corridor during the closed-door seminar's first morning break when a Vatican official had to use his pastoral prowess to calm one participant.

"The scientific community has been so divided and so bitter" over the climate-change debate that experts who disagree with each other don't talk to each other, Silecchia told Catholic News Service.

But by bringing the opposing sides together under the neutral roof of the Vatican, she said, the church is helping give a fresh approach to an issue mired in conflict, confusion and, often, inaction.

The Vatican is reminding people that the environment and development cannot be helped by economics, science or politics alone, "that there are moral, ethical considerations" to take into account, said Silecchia.

She said policymakers have to avoid falling into the extremes that either see "the human almost as evil and destroying a beautiful planet" or consider development and technology as saviors of the world.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dust Bowl

Tragic reminder of the cost of making a mistake with natural resources.

George F. Will: Lessons from the Dust Bowl
By George F. Will -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 29, 2007

"The soil is the one indestructible, immutable asset that the nation possesses. It is the one resource that cannot be exhausted."
-- Federal Bureau of Soils, 1878

Seventy-five years ago, America's southern plains were learning otherwise. Today, amid warnings of environmental apocalypse, it is well to recall the real thing. It is a story about the unintended consequences of technological progress and of government policies. Above all, it is an epic of human endurance.

Who knew that when the Turks closed the Dardanelles during World War I, it would contribute to stripping the topsoil off vast portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas? The closing cut Europe off from Russian grain. That increased demand for U.S. wheat. When America entered the conflict, Washington exhorted farmers to produce even more wheat, and guaranteed a price of $2 a bushel, more than double the 1910 price. A wheat bubble was born. It would burst with calamitous consequences recounted in Timothy Egan's astonishing and moving book, "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl."

After the war, the price plunged and farmers, increasingly equipped with tractors, responded by plowing under ever more grassland in desperate attempts to compensate for falling wheat prices with increased volume. That, however, put additional downward pressure on the price, which was 40 cents a bushel by 1930.

The late 1920s had been wet years, and people assumed that the climate had changed permanently for the better. In that decade, another 5.2 million acres were added to the 20 million acres previously in cultivation. Before the rains stopped, 50,000 acres a day were being stripped of grasses that held the soil when the winds came sweeping down the plain.

In 1931, the national harvest was 250 million bushels. But Egan notes that it was accomplished by removing prairie grass, "a web of perennial species evolved over 20,000 years or more." Americans were about to see how an inch of topsoil produced over millennia could be blown away in an hour.

On Jan. 21, 1932, a cloud extending 10,000 feet from ground to top -- a black blizzard with, Egan writes, "an edge like steel wool" -- looked like "a range of mountains on the move" as it grazed Amarillo, Texas, heading toward Oklahoma. At the end of 1931, a survey found that of the 16 million acres cultivated in Oklahoma, 13 million were seriously eroded.

On May 10, 1934, a collection of dust storms moved over the Midwest carrying, Egan says, "three tons of dust for every American alive."

It dumped 6,000 tons on Chicago that night. By morning, the storm was 1,800 miles wide -- "a great rectangle of dust" weighing 350 million tons -- and was depositing the surface of the Great Plains on New York City, where commerce stopped in the semi-darkness.

Flood Protection

Though it is heartening to see the Sacramento area improve its flood protection from less than 100 years to 200 in this recent tax vote, one of the methods chosen, the spillway at Folsom, which will increase the amount of water that can be released into the Lower American River, will also increase the scouring and erosion that has steadily eaten away at the Parkway over the years.

The American River levees were originally built narrow to allow the river water to flush out the sediment left over from the strip gold mining that had occurred in decades past, which they did well.

If plans to construct the Auburn Dam (at a current estimated cost of $10 billion) to hold water when needed soon follow this improvement the corrosive effects will be substantially reduced.

New tax's projects already in pipeline
Flood safety work scheduled, funded by higher assessments.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bigger levees, a better Folsom Dam, diminished risk: They're on order now that Sacramento residents have approved a property tax increase to double the city's flood safety.

The tax was approved by 81.2 percent of property owners who returned mail ballots, according to results presented Thursday by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.
Only one-third of eligible voters returned ballots, but SAFCA Executive Director Stein Buer called the support "phenomenal" and well above polling that indicated 66 percent support.

The landslide vote reflects public concern about what a catastrophic flood could do to Sacramento:

More than 63,000 homes, schools and businesses could be submerged, causing more than $11 billion in damage, according to a state study. The city narrowly avoided such a crisis several times in the past 20 years.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Parkway Editorial

There was a wonderful editorial in the Sacramento Union April 20,2007 and here it is in its entirety with permission of the Union.

Save the American River Parkway

Sacramento Union Special Editorial

The 23-mile American River Parkway is Sacramento’s recreational crown jewel. That is why it has been so painful for us to watch it deteriorate. Sacramento has been a poor steward of this magnificent natural asset along the Lower American River. This is not a new revelation. A study conducted by the Dangermond Group seven years ago and updated in 2006 shows that the county has been shortchanging administration and upkeep of the parkway. In 2003, the county even considering closing parts of it. Now, parkway users are regularly confronted with the ugliest evidence of the parkway’s sad eclipse—hobo encampments and crumbling roads. Enough is enough. County leaders must establish a joint powers authority (JPA) to allow private donors, corporations, foundations, and adjacent property owners to rescue the parkway.

The JPA solution is no pipedream. Before 1980, New York City’s Central Park had steadily deteriorated. But then the Central park Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization contracted with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to revive the park. It has solicited donations of more than $350 million from individuals, corporations, and foundations and now provides more than 84 percent of Central park’s yearly $25 million budget. The conservancy funds crews to aerate and seed lawns; rake leaves; ensure the health of trees; maintain recreational areas, expunge graffiti; conserve buildings; nurture woodlands and riparian area; maintain drainage systems; and protect against pollution. It collects an annual fee from the City of New York and finances park operations, capital improvements, an endowment, and programs for visitors and volunteers. It has been a glowing success.

Sacramento County should look to Central Park as the model for what it could accomplish with a JPA at the parkway. Such a JPA could contract with a nonprofit “American River Conservancy” to raise funds to purchase equipment; perform maintenance; make capital improvements; resurface roads; expand park land; hire more interpretative guides; and expel transients by ratcheting up enforcement and increasing the number of park rangers. The Dangermond study found that accomplishing the things could cost up to $8.5 million more than the county’s baseline support over the next ten years. The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors should immediately enact an American River Parkway JPA to raise the funds necessary to restore the luster of the area’s foremost recreational asset.

Flood Vote

The recent vote to move Sacramento to a 200 year level of flood control is an excellent first step and one our public leadership rightly should be commended for.

However, it is still important to remember that New Orleans had a 250 year level when Katrina hit.

We should rejoice in this first step but keep focused on the eventual goal of achieving a 500 year level of flood protection, which other major river cities, except for Sacramento and New Orleans, have reached.

Editorial: Historic flood win
Sacramento poised to improve its protection
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 28, 2007

This was huge. Voters have put in place the final piece of the flood protection puzzle. Now it will be possible to put the money together to dramatically improve the Sacramento area's flood protection.

Floodplain property owners have made the difference by agreeing to a local assessment. It will fund projects along the Sacramento and American rivers that will eventually provide a 200-year level of protection.

This community's fight against flooding will never stop. But this is a moment to savor. It's nice when a government and the public that it serves agree on the same goals and how to get there.

Klamath River

The ongoing debate around dam removal (which might be justified here), river health and salmon, continues.

To preserve a way of life, coalition wants river to flow
Polluted river waters have made American Indian healing rituals unsafe and caused a decline in the salmon population, a crisis that some concerned are asking billionaire Warren Buffet to resolve
By Clea Benson - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 28, 2007

For as long as anyone can remember, medicine men in Northern California's Karuk tribe have bathed as often as 10 times a day in the Klamath River while praying during their renewal ceremonies.

But now, toxic algae blooms caused by stagnant water have polluted their rituals, say tribal members. Last year, one medicine man had to leave his camp in the midst of his prayers to be treated at a hospital for an ear infection, said Chook-Chook Hillman, a Karuk priest who was at the Capitol on Friday.

Members of the Karuk and Yurok tribes and a group of commercial fishermen stopped in Sacramento on their way to Omaha, Neb., to crash billionaire Warren Buffett's annual meeting next Saturday with shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway. They want a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, PacifiCorp, to remove four hydroelectric dams it operates on the Klamath.

Parkway Activities

It is wonderful to see an increase in Parkway related activity as the continued legitimate usage, especially in the Lower Reach area long plagued by illegal camping, will eventually drive out the illegitimate.

When the Parkway, as we hope it someday will, is managed by a nonprofit organization under contract to a Joint Powers Authority of all Parkway adjacent communities—Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Sacramento city and county—the funds collected will provide structured and dedicated help in the areas of most concern, whether increased public safety resources, additional trail upkeep, or land acquisition to expand the Parkway.

Taking steps to aid parkway
Some 1,500 expected to participate in next weekend's inaugural walk, run fundraiser.
By John Schumacher -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ken Press runs on the American River Parkway every week with a local running club. So when he kept hearing about Sacramento County's recreational jewel struggling to find adequate funding, he hatched an idea.

Why not hold a race on the parkway, with the proceeds going to support the scenic stretch of land along the American River?

Something clicked, because the first American River Parkway Half Marathon has attracted a big turnout for a new event. A field of close to 1,200 runners and 300 walkers is expected for the race, set for next Saturday at William Pond Recreation Area in Carmichael.

"Everyone trains on the parkway," said Press, a 43-year-old state worker who serves as president and chief executive officer of Sacramento Friends in Training (Sacfit).

"I always thought it would be a great place to have a race. This was a great opportunity to have a race in the parkway and have the proceeds help the parkway out.
"My sense was it wasn't just a place we could conduct our training, but (there could) be a partnership in the use of it."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Congressional Leader on Flood Control

Hopefully, the goal of achieving a 500 year level of flood protection—which the Auburn Dam would provide—will soon be embraced by public leadership as the soundest goal for our seriously threatened community, still ranked as the least protected of any major river city in the nation from disastrous flooding.

Doris O. Matsui: Bringing new vision to flood control
By Doris O. Matsui -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 27, 2007

This month the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act, providing the first opportunity in more than seven years for our country to put in place a national water resources policy.

While the legislation was long overdue and includes a new spillway project at Folsom Dam to provide vastly improved flood protection for Sacramento, it does only part of the job for our region.

The farm bill, which comes before Congress later this spring, could be another vehicle to take on our other major flood protection challenge -- the Sacramento River watershed. The farm bill gives us a chance to increase voluntary incentives for farmers in the Sacramento Valley and, where it makes sense, allow farmland to become part of new or expanded flood bypasses.

Locally, the value of the Water Resources Development Act cannot be underestimated. It includes the Folsom Dam Joint Federal Project -- a top priority of mine since taking office. When a new spillway is completed at Folsom in 2015, it will provide Sacramento and those communities along the American River with a 240-year level of protection. The project combines the resources and expertise of two federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, and solidifies it with strong state and local partnerships. This project will serve as an example of how government should work.

We experienced record floods in 1964, 1986 and again in 1997. And while our flood control system on the American and Sacramento rivers did its best to stave off a massive flood, I am convinced that nationally and regionally we must take a broader approach and create new partnerships to expand the flood protection infrastructure we dearly depend upon.

Pike Story

This ongoing tragedy will make a good case study of public management of a community water source that hasn’t seemed to work at any level.

Pike poison plan includes carcinogens
Portola resident says putting chemicals in reservoir is 'insane.'
By Jane Braxton Little - Bee Correspondent
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 27, 2007

A plan to poison northern pike in Lake Davis will use chemicals that include several known carcinogens but at levels so minute they will not threaten human health, state officials said this week.

Naphthalene and three different benzene compounds, all hydrocarbons identified as causing cancer, are among the components of the liquid rotenone formulation the California Department of Fish and Game plans to pump into the Plumas County reservoir to eradicate pike.

A Wednesday night workshop to discuss the environmental effects of the chemical treatment, scheduled for September, drew strong criticism from local residents who objected to putting carcinogenic chemicals into the reservoir, a backup source of drinking water for Portola and a neighboring community.

"I don't want to see any hydrocarbons in drinking water," said Dr. Chris Stanton, a Portola general practitioner.

Fish and Game officials are not happy about putting chemicals in drinking water, said Ed Pert, Fish and Game pike project manager.

Flood Protection Tax

This is a good first step towards achieving the gold standard in flood protection, a 500 level, which most other major river cities have achieved, including Tacoma, St. Louis, Dallas, & Kansas City, while New Orleans had 250 year protection when Hurricane Katrina hit.

One hopes public leadership soon adopts the gold standard as their goal for our community, removing us, even with this new work—which will only achieve 200 year protection—from the bottom of the list of well protected river cities from future flooding.

Voters back flood tax
Higher property assessment will pay to shore up Folsom Dam, local levees
By Phillip Reese - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 27, 2007

Sacramento-area voters have overwhelmingly approved a $326 million property tax to improve Folsom Dam and local levees, sanctioning a down payment that supporters say will bring greater flood protection to the area.

The results, announced Thursday at a board meeting of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, were lopsided: Almost 82 percent of the weighted votes were in support of the measure; the rest opposed it.

All told, about 45,000 ballots were cast by property owners, with just more than 800 of those ballots deemed invalid.

Some ballots had more votes than others, depending on each property owner's assessment amount.

"For those of us who represent people who live in the floodplain and are at risk, this is momentous," said county Supervisor Roger Dickinson, a SAFCA board member.

Under the approved measure, a new assessment district will replace two existing districts.

The average property tax increase is about $35 a year.

Money raised by the tax will provide a local match for state and federal funds -- together, they will build projects costing $2.68 billion.

Some of the matching funds come from Proposition 1E, the flood-safety bond statewide voters approved in November.

"This assessment is about paying the local match," said Jay Davis of Gualco Consulting, which works with SAFCA.

"Otherwise, those funds will not come our way."

The assessment ballot was driven, in part, by revelations last year that Natomas levees do not meet a minimum 100-year level of flood protection.

But the money would pay for projects throughout the area, including upgrades to Folsom Dam and levee strengthening along the American and Sacramento rivers.

It's expected to restore 100-year flood protection to Natomas in three to five years and provide 200-year flood protection citywide within a decade.

Space Umbrella & Global Warming

A very wow idea…and cool in more ways than one…

The fact that this might be needed, and can be built, is all the case needed for a much greater budget for NASA.

UN panel proposes giant parasol in space
Dennis Buecker, The Canadian Press
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

If all else fails in the battle to curb global warming, there's always the big umbrella in space.

Governments should consider proposals to put a huge barrier in space to block sunlight if conventional efforts to curb rising temperatures don't succeed, says a draft report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Scientists believe that such "geo-engineering techniques," however far-fetched they sound, could be used to buy time if worst-case ecological predictions are realized.

A sun-blocking disk would cover an area of 106 square kilometres, weigh 3,000 tonnes and would spin continually. It would be built over time by a space shuttle, says the draft report. Construction would require one shuttle flight annually for 100 years.

Another proposal, which some liken to an artificial volcano, calls for controlled scattering of tiny sulphur particles in the atmosphere, to reduce sunlight reaching the planet.

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Krutzen has advocated this as the safest of the unconventional techniques that are being considered, since natural volcanic eruptions are known to produce a cooling effect that is reversible. "These schemes do not affect the expected escalation in global carbon dioxide levels, but could reduce or eliminate the associated warming," says the draft study.

Low Snow Pack

The case for drought is increasing—though one year of dry conditions is not drought inducing, it should remind us of what can occur (more sequential dry years) that we should worry about—and the case for additional water storage should also be increasing, and one hopes public leadership responds.

Snowpack at 19-year low
Some Bay Area water districts call for immediate conservation -- no shortages expected this year because reservoirs are nearly full
Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2007

The water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at its lowest level in nearly 20 years -- less than 40 percent of usual for this time of year, state water officials say.

The size of the snowpack -- the source for most of the state's drinking water -- has already prompted calls for immediate conservation. And orders to curtail use of water could become mandatory this summer or next year if 2008 is also dry.

Usually the biggest accumulation of snow occurs around April 1. But this year the snowpack didn't grow after the first week in March.

Elissa Lynn, senior meteorologist at the California Department of Water Resources, called the 2007 snowfall "pretty dismal.''

"It was a very dry March, the sixth driest on record. There was a lot less snow falling and a lot more snow melting,'' she said.

But the state water agency isn't expecting shortages this summer because the reservoirs are relatively full after three years of wet weather.

"The impacts on a water supply don't become evident until you have multiple dry years. A single dry year is not particularly a big deal,'' said Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the Department of Water Resources.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fly Fishing

One of life’s truly great enjoyments and we are centrally positioned to enjoy it more than most.

Pleasant streams
The contemplative challenge in fly-fishing is also its lure
By Jim Jones - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 26, 2007

I love drifting roe to catch steelhead. Soaking pile worms all night for sturgeon. Suspending minnows under bobbers for crappie. Fishing with bait has its rewards.

But fly-fishing delivers a dimension that takes an angler downstream to a dreamy place.

"Fly-fishing is so engrossing that your sense of time vanishes," said Richard Allen, who publishes the California Fly Fisher.

Since Saturday marks the traditional trout opener for California's streams, his words resonate all the more.

"It gets you totally involved with the fish and your environment, and trying to figure out what's happening in front of you," Allen said. "It's so engrossing, you can spend half a day on the water, and it feels like half an hour."

I bought my first fly rod at age 11 with money from my paper route. I was too young to be intimidated by all the gear, the strategy and the literary legend of the pursuit.

Like the venerable Isaac Walton, who 450 years ago wrote in the "Compleat Angler": "Angling (with the fly) may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learnt."

Or those who argue that fly-fishing is for the elite upper crust and bait fishing for the crusty hoi polloi.

I'm here to tell you it's not that way.

It's more like the movie "A River Runs Through It," which lured legions to the idyllic banks of fly-fishing country, where workday thoughts are shed like clothes at a swimming hole.

A new generation of fly fishers is discovering that it's not so highbrow or complicated, but rather a simple way to fish and commune with nature: the cool push of water against the legs; the challenge of deciphering what is hidden, revealed, then hidden again by the shifting play of light and shadow.

Public Roads, Private Engineers

Sometimes one is necessary to keep the other built and running effectively. Public private partnerships are an important and necessary aspect of effective government.

Daniel Weintraub: Buy design? The fight over engineers at Caltrans
By Daniel Weintraub -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 26, 2007

When California voters approved Proposition 1B last year, thus agreeing to spend billions building new roads, ramps and bridges around the state, they triggered the need to hire hundreds of professional engineers to design those projects.

They also poured gas on an old debate around the Capitol: Should the state put all of those new engineers on the government payroll or use private consulting firms to perform much of the work?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signaled last week that he likes the private option. The governor hailed a state Supreme Court ruling that ended six years of litigation by the state's union of state engineers, which sued to block a voter-approved ballot proposition that was supposed to make it easier for the government to use private-sector road designers.

The court decision, Schwarzenegger said in a statement, would bring the Proposition 1B projects and the traffic relief they promise to commuters "faster and more efficiently." He pledged to work with the Legislature on the details of such a policy.

But the government engineers won't be giving in so easily. The people and the Supreme Court may have ruled against them, but there is still the Democratic majority in the Legislature.

Those Democrats have long been allied with the state-employed engineers.

Privies and Partners

The partnership between nonprofit groups and parks might be the only thing making the availability of outdoor privies constant in Tahoe National Forest.

Public private partnerships are a boon with parks and one of the strategies we call for to help manage the Parkway.

A new lament in the great outdoors -- padlocked privies
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 26, 2007

Toilets in the great outdoors can be an oasis for hikers, anglers, dirt-bikers and horseback riders, so the threat of padlocking them has created a little anxiety.

The Tahoe National Forest, one of the nation's busiest, is running short on money to maintain its portable toilets. Each of the non-flushing privies sits on a 1,000-gallon concrete tank that has to be emptied, typically once a season.

A bunch of dirt-bikers are offering to pay for pumping out one of them so it can stay open. But that's just one.

Another 10 or so toilets, mostly serving trailheads in the forest, face padlocking.
"The rest of Sacramento better know they should go to the bathroom before they come up here to recreate," said Joseph Cochran, president of the Nevada County Woods Riders.

His club will foot the bill -- which could be $1,000 -- for a private company to pump out an outdoor toilet serving the Burlington Ridge Recreation Area on Highway 20, about 15 miles north of Nevada City.


A good current overview and an option needing much more research and development, especially, it would appear, off the coast.

Air Power
Don Quixote tilted at windmills. We can use them to increase our energy supply.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Where does America get its electrical power, the annual four billion megawatt-hours of electricity consumed by our industries, cities, transportation, hospitals, homes and personal needs? Coal plants provide 51% of the nation's electrical energy; nuclear power 21%, natural gas 16%, oil 3% and renewable resources 9%, most of which is hydropower.

And where do the electrical sector's carbon dioxide emissions come from? About 82% from burning coal, 13% from natural gas, 3% from petroleum, and none at all from nuclear power plants.

So if additional electrical power were needed in a community, as it is in Delaware's growing coastal Sussex County, what kind of a power generation facility should be built? Nuclear is politically untenable, especially with a plant across the river, in New Jersey, so two traditional proposals have been submitted, one for a 177-megawatt gas turbine at an existing energy facility, and another for a new 600-megawatt coal-fired plant.

And then came a third proposal: construction off the Delaware coast of 200 wind turbines that would generate 600 megawatts of electrical power.

Wind power is global, clean and environmentally safe. Germany has 18,000 wind turbines generating electricity; Denmark has 5,300; and America has more than 20,000 wind turbines, which in 2006 produced less than 1% of our electricity--26 million megawatt-hours.

Unlike Europe, where many turbines are offshore in the ocean, our wind turbines are all on land. But two years ago a proposal was advanced to build 130 turbines in the waters of Nantucket Sound. It was opposed by environmental lawyer and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who complained that they would "damage the views from 16 historic sites," including the Kennedy compound at Hyannis, Mass. In March the project was deemed in compliance with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, but the argument over whether to build it will go on for some time.

Depending on the site selected, Delaware's 200 turbines would be 12 or 17 miles off the coast, and although very large--extending 256 feet in the air with 163 foot blades that would further extend their height to 400 feet at the top of their spin--they would be seen as only pinpoints on the horizon. They wouldn't be built in the shipping lanes or have a negative impact on the fishing industry or marine life.

They are estimated to produce enough electricity to supply 130,000 homes, and would be pollution-free--no oil, coal, no natural gas is needed to make them run, so they would generate no CO2, particulates, or pollutants of any kind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Building in Flood Plains

At some point the question needs to be raised: Why do we still have flood plains?

Most other major river cities have protected themselves at the 500 year level, yet after over 150 years of existence Sacramento still has the lowest level of flood protection of any major city in the country and at some point public leadership should commit to providing flood protection at those generally accepted levels.

We now have a price tag for 500 year protection and it is $10 billion, the latest cost estimate to build the Auburn Dam, and it should remain on the table as the only option so far able to do that.

Editorial: Sanity in flood plans
Why allow new homes behind suspect levees?
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is still fighting the good fight for a state law to discourage development in parts of the Central Valley that lack adequate flood protection.

Since Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, Wolk has argued that California cities and counties shouldn't be approving new homes in deep floodplains if their levees can't meet a certain standard. It's a basic public safety issue and a financial imperative. After all, courts have found California liable when a government levee fails in the Central Valley.

Facing opposition from the building industry, Wolk's legislation died in the Senate last session. This year, she is back with Assembly Bill 5, which faces a test today in the Assembly Local Government Committee. The bill is a work in progress, but with the right combination of amendments, it could become a much-needed vehicle for a saner flood control policy.

As now written, it would encourage Central Valley cities and counties to assess their levees' safety, as Sacramento has, and create local plans for upgrading the levees and ensuring an adequate emergency response. Cities and counties that developed such plans would have priority in receiving money from flood-control bonds.

Those who fail to develop such plans would be restricted from building in floodplains, starting in 2011, if their levees lacked a certain standard of flood protection.

Water Storage

Along with flood control and having the ability to provide fresh water for the salmon and other aquatic life, being able to control the water when it comes too fast and have some left when it comes rarely is the whole point behind dams and neglecting their obvious utility is only increasing our peril in an already uncertain world of water.

It is refreshing that our governor seems to understand this and is not neglecting them.

Defeated dams still supported
Governor isn't backing away from $4 billion in bonds after negative vote by Senate panel.
By Judy Lin - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday he has no plans to scale down his $4 billion proposal for building two new dams in the state despite watching Democrats reject his bill earlier in the day.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee killed the governor's plan to put bonds for two dams -- one on the west side of the Sacramento Valley and one east of Fresno -- on the 2008 ballot. Senate Bill 59 by Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, had Republican support, but couldn't muster the necessary five votes to pass out of the Democrat-led committee.

Schwarzenegger will now have to negotiate with Senate leader Don Perata, who is advocating a blend of water conservation and efficiency for sustaining the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta -- California's main source of fresh water. Republicans say they are willing to take the issue of dams to the voters in the form of a ballot initiative.

The Republican governor noted that politically charged topics like water take time to resolve. The bill was held for reconsideration, and Schwarzenegger says he remains optimistic about reviving his plan.

"I don't think we will have to scale back," Schwarzenegger said during a news conference after the vote. "I think the people of California deserve and need more water storage. ... We can't wait any longer."

Snow Pack & Yosemite Falls

The wilderness will be a little less dramatically beautiful this year it appears.

Sierra snow load not so hot
Published: April 23, 2007
The Union Democrat

This year's skimpy snowpack likely means an earlier opening of the region's mountain passes, that Yosemite National Park's waterfalls — a popular springtime attraction —will dry up more quickly and a high-elevation wildflower habitat could be threatened.

Given the below-normal snowpack, Sonora Pass and Ebbetts Pass will "very likely" open before Caltrans' usual Memorial Day weekend target, said Troy Bowers, a Caltrans spokesman based in Stockton.

For the past two years, Sonora Pass, along Highway 108, has opened on May 25 and Ebbetts Pass, along Highway 4, has opened on May 26.

Sonora Pass hasn't opened before May 22 since 2001, when the road was cleared by May 3. During that same time period, Ebbetts Pass — which is about 1,000 feet lower in elevation than Sonora Pass — has opened twice in late April.

"At this time of the year, the weather is so volatile — it fluctuates," Bowers said. "All I can truly say is that they will open as soon as they can."

As of this morning, Highway 108 was closed at Eagle Meadow Road and Highway 4 was blocked at Lake Alpine.

A main component of opening the passes involves repairing winter damage, like removing downed trees and boulders, Bowers said.

"It's not just a matter of removing snow," he said. "They also have to repair the highway and put it back in safe condition."

National Park Service crews have begun plowing Tioga Pass, over Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park, said park spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman.

Quoth The Raven…

Ah, those wondrous and so intelligent birds…

SPIEGEL ONLINE - April 10, 2007, 05:46 PM
Masters of Deceit
By Manfred Dworschak

Ravens can toboggan, ride other animals and spy on their enemies. Their life as cadgers stealing prey from wolves, eagles and bears has made them outstandingly intelligent. But do ravens know what they're doing and why? Austrian biologists want to find out.

Those ravens! Their newest form of entertainment is wild boar rodeo. Biologist Mareike Stöwe swears she often sees ravens trotting through the enclosure on the backs of irritated wild boars.

"Ravens like to make an impression," Stöwe says. The birds are always out to perform unusual tricks likely to impress their kin. Dangling head-down from a branch is another popular past-time of theirs.

Ravenologists always have something to laugh about. They're currently observing some common ravens (corvus corax) in large aviaries at the Konrad Lorenz Research Center in Grünau, Austria, where Stöwe works. The play instinct displayed by the birds is tremendous. In the winter time, they tumble down snowy hills. The especially courageous ones grab a boar by the tail and let themselves be towed through the snow on their backs, as if by a drag lift.

And yet the questions explored in Grünau are serious. The most important one is: How intelligent are the animals really?

Their skills when it comes to tricking and cheating, for example, have not been thoroughly explored. Ravens are cunning enough to set up mock hiding places in order to distract their thievish fellows from their real food stores. They're generally very inventive when it comes to tricking those who would snatch away their food. But how much truth is there to reports according to which ravens play dead next to carcasses in order to simulate a case of food poisoning?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Exploring the Mighty Columbia

The May-June 2007 issue of VIA, AAA Traveler’s Companion, has an excellent story about a new water trail on the Columbia River entitled: "From Portland to the Pacific On the Mighty Columbia", (pp. 36-42)

"Find pleasure or adventure, or both, along a new water trail on the West's greatest river. You don't even have to paddle, although of course you could."

Pike Plan

Still trying to get rid of them from Lake Davis.

Public workshop set on pike-purge plan
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The California Department of Fish and Game will host a public workshop Wednesday about the chemical compounds it plans to use to eradicate northern pike in Lake Davis.

The 6 p.m. workshop at Portola Baptist Station will focus on the effects on surface water and groundwater of rotenone, an organic poison designed to kill all fish in the Plumas County reservoir.

Officials also will explain their plans to protect human and environmental health during the chemical treatment planned for September after Labor Day weekend, said Steve Martarano, a Fish and Game Department spokesman.

California Department of Health Services officials are still reviewing public comments about their tentative determination that the chemicals will not have an adverse impact on the quality of water in Lake Davis, used as an alternate drinking water supply by the Portola and Grizzly Lake Resort Improvement District, said Lea Brooks, a department spokeswoman.

Fish and Game Director Ryan Broddrick announced plans earlier this year to lower the reservoir to about 45,000 acre-feet and apply liquid rotenone to rid it of pike, a Midwestern native species.

The $12 million project will use a liquid formulation of rotenone not available in 1997, when the department used a combination of liquid and powdered rotenone in an unsuccessful attempt to eradicate pike.

This week's workshop is the first in a series that will focus on the economic impacts of the poisoning, forest closures and a schedule for the project.

Land Sinking

This might drain some of the weight out of the argument to store water underground rather than above it. :)

Sinking on the west side
Because of dry conditions, farmers have had to pump water from underground, causing the ground to deflate.
By Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee

World-class farmland is sinking on Fresno County's west side.

The land dipped 30 feet between 1925 and 1977 near Mendota -- and it's still going down in what the U.S. Geological Survey calls "the largest human alteration of the Earth's surface." Ever.

The soil has deflated as deep-water pumping for farm irrigation drains away ground water. The dropping ground level is responsible for millions of dollars in damage to irrigation canals and could threaten such landmarks as the California Aqueduct and Interstate 5.

The Central California Irrigation District already faces the need to spend up to $6 million to fix one of its main canals. Eventually, the district's Mendota Dam, a key feature of the west side's irrigation network along the San Joaquin River, will need to be replaced as a result of the sinking soil.

Emission Reduction

Now that the goals have been set, the court cases can begin in earnest, and one hopes the impact on the consumer, and their interests will be well protected.

Air board sets goals to reduce emissions
Mark Martin, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Saturday, April 21, 2007

(04-21) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- Californians would have to buy cleaner gasoline and more efficient lightbulbs and face a new ban on a chemical backyard mechanics use to replenish air conditioners in cars under the first proposals aimed at meeting the state's landmark law to reduce greenhouse gases.

State regulators on Friday released a list of changes that could be implemented by 2010 to begin California's march toward its 2020 global warming target. The list -- and the reaction it garnered -- previewed what will likely be years of wrangling among regulators and interest groups.

Environmentalists complained that the state wasn't moving fast enough, and a representative of the makers of air conditioners for vehicles vowed to fight the change that would affect the auto refrigerant industry.

AB32, the law signed last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calls for a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. But the law also requires earlier changes, and Schwarzenegger administration officials and regulators with the state Air Resources Board released a preliminary set of changes.

SCOTUS & Superfund

A case that could impact our region, as it deals with rocket fuel propellant caused pollution.

The Associated Press April 23, 2007, 9:19AM EST

Supreme Court to hear environmental case

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider an environmental case Monday that could make it easier for many industrial companies to recover some of the millions of dollars they've spent cleaning up hazardous waste sites.

The case involves the 1980 federal environmental law, known as "Superfund," that set up a process for rehabilitating polluted industrial areas. Under the law, if the Environmental Protection Agency sues a company to force it to clean up a site, that company can then sue other parties that contributed to the pollution for a share of the cleanup costs.

But lower federal courts have disagreed about what happens if a company voluntarily chooses to clean up a site: can it sue other companies, or the U.S. government, to recover costs? Or does the Superfund law require a company to be sued by the EPA first, before it can take action against other parties?

The U.S. government has taken the latter position. The Bush administration argued in court filings that requiring companies to be sued by the EPA before they can recover costs from other entities encourages companies to settle with the government.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sacramento Annexations

The city of Sacramento is currently reviewing its growth documents and, in addition to considering annexing Arden Arcade, should consider bringing this little area into its embrace so that the ridiculous events regarding the flooding water mains no one could be found to shut off recently, won’t happen again.

Editorial: Fruitridge's Uncity
Water problems point to neglected 'pocket'
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 23, 2007

An old water main broke the other day in a neighborhood known as Fruitridge Vista, outside Sacramento's city limits. The gushing water started to flood nearby yards and garages. The Sacramento Fire Department showed up, but it didn't know how to turn off the water mains.

Firefighters called the small private water company that provides water to the area. They had to leave a message. Eventually the Fruitridge Vista Water Co. realized it had a problem. Once again, the company and firefighters pledge better communications.

Yes, the incident exposed a glitch in the water company's 24-hour customer service system but, more important, the problems of government boundaries and government services.

This community, part of what is known as the Fruitridge Pocket, belongs in the city of Sacramento. Its services, including water, should be provided by the city. Its leader should be a member of the Sacramento City Council fighting hard for the community, just as Bonnie Pannell does for Meadowview and Lauren Hammond for Oak Park.

Sacramento Makes List

The continuing popularity of our fair city and the region to which it is central bodes well for our economy and our natural resources, all of which can benefit from increased funding.

A recent report has the Parkway falling behind $1.5 million a year in basic maintenance and it needs another $8.5 million a year for at least ten years to catch up in facility upgrades, land acquisition, public safety staffing, and additional enhancements it needs to regain its status as "crown jewel".

Capital is 'hot' business city
By Jon Ortiz - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 23, 2007

Sacramento ranks 15th on Inc. magazine's "Hottest Places To Do Business" list of top 20 large cities. The River City is California's only representative on the list, sandwiched between No. 14, Nashville, Tenn., and 16th-place Austin, Texas. Las Vegas finished first.

The magazine's May issue is on sale today.

Inc. defined "large cities" as those with an employment base of 450,000 or more, and its researchers focused on job growth data to measure a region's economic strength.

When matched against 393 U.S. cities of all sizes, Sacramento dropped to 108 in the nation, just ahead of Brownsville, Texas, and just behind Shreveport, La. First place overall went to St. George, Utah, population 50,000. The Riverside-San Bernardino area ranked highest on the overall list among California cities, placing 26th. Other California cities of note: San Diego (164), Fresno, (223), Oakland (230), Los Angeles (283), San Francisco (317) and San Jose (356). The lists are online at

Ethanol Capital

Sacramento is an excellent headquarters to grow this fuel base, though experts indicate over-capacity may be a problem.

Fueling an empire
Pacific Ethanol, which recently moved its headquarters to Sacramento, seeks to grow
By Dale Kasler - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 23, 2007

Pacific Ethanol Inc. has just one production plant in operation, in Madera. But it has enough facilities under construction or on the drawing board to create an ethanol empire stretching from Idaho to the Imperial Valley. Its plan is to increase its production capacity tenfold by 2010.

Why the rush? Sacramento's newest publicly traded corporation, having just relocated its headquarters from Fresno, needs to expand quickly before the market gets too crowded. Pacific Ethanol wants to keep "the pole position, if you will, in the West," said President and Chief Executive Neil Koehler.

The auto-racing reference is appropriate. Lots of people are moving furiously to build ethanol plants in California and the West. There are projects under construction or on the drawing boards up and down the Central Valley, including a just-hatched plan to build the state's largest ethanol plant at the former Sacramento Army Depot.

Ethanol is hot these days, praised by politicians and environmentalists as a tool to reduce global warming and America's dependence on foreign oil. But even as demand grows for the gasoline additive, some experts are warning of a glut.

"There has been a tendency to over-invest," said Jim Jordan, a transportation fuel consultant in Houston. "The numbers speak for themselves. We're going to have too much capacity if somebody doesn't do something."

Arden Arcade as Sacramento

Absolutely makes the most sense as it rounds out the city, continuing a process of growth for the city of Sacramento congruent with its stature as the capital of California, while providing the citizens of Arden Arcade the services they deserve.

City exploring annexation of Arden Arcade
Despite incorporation bid, a councilman says merger would be a better option.
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 23, 2007

Arden Arcade is a popular place.

Some residents are fighting to incorporate it. County officials desperately want to keep the revenue generated there. And now, some city of Sacramento elected leaders say the city should consider annexing the unincorporated county turf.

Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn said he respects cityhood backers' desire to break from the county but said he has an alternative.

"There is a an even better option, and that is annexing into the city of Sacramento," Cohn said.

Earlier this month, cityhood advocates were told their petition drive was successful, clearing the way for an intensive incorporation study and keeping a November 2008 election in sight.

Because Sacramento borders Arden Arcade to the east, north and south, annexing the 13.3-square-mile area east of the Arden Fair mall would create a "more seamless efficient government," Cohn said.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Military Waste

Years of target shooting and industrial work that might have seemed so innocent then surely appears less so now as the bill for the clean-up comes due with the debris of our civilization and its military capability all around us.

Investigative Report: Wastes of War
California has hundreds of current and former military sites that pose environmental risks.
By Russell Carollo - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 22, 2007

Time bombs lurk beneath California, from the Mexican border to the Oregon state line, under hills, valleys and coastlines -- poised to contaminate wells, pollute waterways, jeopardize property values and endanger human lives.

Hundreds of locations already have been polluted, and how much more of the state is at risk, no one really knows.

What is known is that more than 1,000 confirmed and suspected military sites, the largest number in the country, are spread across California, covering 7.5 percent of the state -- an area more than twice the size of Connecticut. Many were abandoned decades ago but may still be contaminated with toxic chemicals, bombs and other munitions or even radioactive waste, a six-month examination by The Sacramento Bee found.

Additional parts of the state are at risk from pollutants migrating through groundwater, soil and open waterways, and the threat of toxic waste dumped decades ago becomes more dangerous as developers spread thousands of homes and business over and around former bases.

With so many sites, encounters with military debris and even munitions are becoming commonplace.

"I'm not looking for the stuff," said Yolo County farmer Duane Chamberlain, whose workers have found military debris about a half dozen times during the past 15 years while plowing fields.

Earth Day

A $10 million dollar prize might spur some innovation.

Editorial: The prize in an Earth Day call for innovators
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 22, 2007

The race is on this month, and it's a perfect competition for Americans who love reality shows. Except this is not a show. It's a race to your garage.

Can someone anywhere in the world design a car that can go 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline, or the equivalent, no matter the energy source? The car can't be a fancy fantasy model or worthy of a science fair. It must be commercially viable. The inventor's team has to have a business plan for building at least 10,000 cars at a cost that's not out of line with the marketplace today. And don't forget pollution.

The car needs to meet tough emissions requirements.

Rev those energy-efficient engines if you want a $10 million prize for your 100 mpg car, courtesy of the X Prize Foundation in Santa Monica. (In 2004, this organization gave $10 million to the inventors of a private spacecraft that soared above Earth.)

"The industry is stuck, and we think a prize is perfect to disrupt that dynamic," Mark Goodstein, executive director of the Automotive X Prize, told the New York Times earlier this month.

Inducement prizes may be just the ticket for our times. Earlier this year, Virgin Group chief Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore announced a $25 million prize for an innovator who figures out how to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

River Preserve

Nice story on the preserve and the people who work there.

Boy, some 'backyard'
Marcos Cabrera is only 9, but he helps his dad tend the vast Cosumnes River Preserve and dazzles visitors with insights as a guide.
By David Watts Barton - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 22, 2007

Marcos Cabrera bounds up an embankment of perennial pepperweed, pulls off his work gloves and shakes a visitor's hand.

"This is my big backyard," he says proudly.

And he's right: Marcos, 9, lives in a house with his father, Alex Cabrera, the site coordinator in charge of maintenance and restoration at the 46,000- acre Cosumnes River Preserve, 28 miles south of Sacramento.

Marcos' "backyard" is a dazzling blend of riparian habitats, backwater sloughs, Valley oak forests, vernal pools, organic rice farming and the Cosumnes River itself.

Half an hour from downtown Sacramento, it is home to dozens of bird species, river otters, beavers, minks, muskrats, deer and even mountain lions, as well as to Marcos and his father.

And while Marcos is a fourth-grader at nearby Franklin Elementary in Elk Grove, one gets the sense that the preserve isn't just his home -- it's his school, too.

"He's been out here pulling weeds and learning about the place since he was 3

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day

Any effort that helps clean up the pollutants in our air, earth, and water is to be celebrated and this is certainly one of them with lasting historic value and one your faithful blogger attended during its inaugural year at UCD and whose tie dye was surely in evidence.

Corporate joins tie-dyed for Earth Day
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 21, 2007

In the hearts of many environmentalists, Earth Day comes each April like an old, familiar friend. It's a day to plant a tree, clean up a riverbank, or gather with like-minded souls on a campus lawn to celebrate the marvels of the planet.

This year, in a distinct shift, more people than ever -- including a wave of corporate, government and international interests -- are marking the day, which is being celebrated around the world Sunday.

Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores set up first-time collection centers in the Sacramento area this weekend to recycle old computers, televisions and other electronics. Half a world away, the Chinese government has ordered its entire citizenry to participate in Earth Day.

And on Wednesday, California's Department of General Services held its first ever Earth Day celebration at the triangular ziggurat building in West Sacramento. The crowded event spilled onto the sun-dappled parkway along the Sacramento River, and featured a spectrum of displays ranging from "Dave the Solar Powered DJ" to private sector heavyweights such as PG&E and AT&T.

Gold Hill Ranch

Not far from the South Fork of the American River is the site of the first Japanese settlement in the United States, a precious bit of history the American River Conservancy and Congresswoman Doris Matsui are among those trying to preserve.

There is so much of great historic value embraced by the American River Watershed, that, in our opinion, the process of obtaining National Heritage Area status for it would be relatively straightforward, and perhaps the public leadership involved in this wonderful effort would also consider being part of the leadership of that process in the future.

Tea and history
An effort begins to preserve the land that housed America's first Japanese settlement
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 21, 2007

Not even 20 when she died, Okei Ito embodies a spirit as intimate as her fellow Japanese pioneers settling in the green folds of El Dorado County, yet as expansive and enduring as the American Dream.

In 1869, Ito's father decided the 17-year-old should leave behind Japan's civil turmoil and a family who could offer no future. He sent her to America.

She sailed through the Golden Gate, then traveled onward into the foothills to join the new Wakamatsu Silk and Tea Colony.

Ito, a nursemaid to the colony's founder, and later, a worker on a neighboring farm, died from fever in 1871, the first Japanese woman to die in America. She is buried on a hilltop overlooking a vale where fruit trees once bloomed. She would hike the hill in the evenings, and there, standing on the crest, she would sing a lullabye as she gazed toward the setting sun -- toward home.

"She died of a broken heart. I'm sure it was a broken heart, not just fever," said Sally Takeda, the widow of Harry Takeda, a Sacramento lawyer who compiled years of research on the unusual settlement.

Ito's tale of pioneering perseverance along with her profound youthful longing for her homeland is the crowning story of the first Japanese settlement in the continental United States.

Today, she will be remembered with the launch of an effort to preserve the land where she and her fellow pioneers cultivated mulberry trees and tea along with hopes and dreams.

The American River Conservancy and supporters, including U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants, will gather today next to the lone, pale marble headstone of the woman more commonly known as just Okei. The land conservancy wants to raise $4.6 million to buy the 303-acre Gold Hill Ranch, which includes the original colony.

Efficiency Wins

And that is very good news for gridlocked motorists, and further affirmation of the soundness of private sector help with public sector issues.

Roadblock relief
10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, April 19, 2007

Taxpayers emerged as the clear winners in the state Supreme Court's ruling on Prop. 35 last week. The decision properly frees California to use the most cost-effective, timely approach to making traffic improvements.

The court upheld Caltrans' authority to contract with private engineering firms for work on public projects, powers voters approved with Prop. 35 in 2000. The state engineers union sued in 2002, stalling the measure in court until last week.

This case was only incidentally about the best way to provide public works. The state engineers union hoped to preserve a near monopoly on transportation work, while private engineers wanted access to billions of dollars in public spending.

But which engineers work on transportation projects is a side issue. The ruling's crucial import is that California now has the freedom to pick the most efficient way to provide public works. Surely, most Californians care far less about who handles projects than they do about easing traffic congestion as quickly as possible.

The state's legislative analyst notes that Caltrans would have to add 4,800 workers to handle the projects funded by November's $19.9 billion transportation bond. That prospect is not realistic. Nor should the state abide long delays in needed traffic improvements just to safeguard public employees' jobs.

And while the union argues that state engineers can work more cheaply than private firms, the state's backlog slows progress on projects, which creates substantial public costs.

Friday, April 20, 2007

San Joaquin Work Costlier

And it may threaten a good plan which is too bad.

$500 million price put on river repair bill
The estimate delays action by Congress on plan to restore the San Joaquin and reintroduce salmon.
By Michael Doyle - Bee Washington Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 20, 2007

Legislation to restore the San Joaquin River has a $500 million federal price tag, raising fresh problems for a delicate political compromise whose future remains in question.

The newly estimated river restoration cost exceeds earlier predictions. It could force antsy lawmakers to raise taxes or cut other projects. Already, it is delaying congressional plans for fixing the San Joaquin.

In other words, the new price tag poses a big headache for San Joaquin River bill supporters. For skeptics, it's an opportunity. For farmers, it's a reminder that if political compromise fails, a federal judge still could take charge of the river's future.

"I think the costs are a lot higher than have been advertised, and that's a considerable problem for the bill," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, said Thursday.

Alone among San Joaquin Valley lawmakers, Nunes publicly opposes the San Joaquin River restoration bill. He is seizing on the new Congressional Budget Office assessment as ammunition in his fight.

Introduced by Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, the San Joaquin River bill would help restore water and salmon to a channel depleted of both decades ago. The money would fund improvements so more water could spill over Friant Dam, with salmon due to be introduced into the revived river before 2013.

County Funds Shrink

Less money for the County means less for the Parkway.

Maybe also time to implement a Joint Powers Authority and consider contracting with a nonprofit organization to provide daily management of the Parkway and the supplemental fund raising a nonprofit can do well.

Property tax falling for 50,000 Sacramento County homeowners
By Jim Wasserman - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 20, 2007

A housing slump that has wiped out countless millions of dollars in Sacramento-area home equity is soon to give a few million back.

Letters to 50,000 Sacramento County homeowners are being mailed today announcing cuts of up to 10 percent in their fall property tax bills, said Sacramento County Assessor Kenneth Stieger.

The rollback will erase about $15 million in revenue for schools, the county of Sacramento, its seven cities and numerous special districts, Stieger said. It affects 12.8 percent of the county's 390,000 residential parcels.

Snakes are Out

Take care out there.

Sunny days bring out hungry snakes in area
By Cathy Locke - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 20, 2007

Folks living in the foothills and urban fringes have discovered they aren't the only ones enjoying sunny days in the yard and garden.

A relatively mild winter and spring have resulted in earlier-than-usual reports of snakes.

Susan Wallior, a resident of the town of El Dorado, west of Placerville, said a guest's 9-month-old Maltese puppy was bitten by a young rattlesnake about five feet from her back door on Easter, resulting in an emergency run to a veterinary clinic. The pup was treated and survived.

Then on Sunday night, Wallior said, her Great Pyrenees found a snake next to her back door. Though the dog wasn't bitten, Wallior said it was the fourth snake found in her yard in recent weeks. In one instance, she said, she and her granddaughter discovered a young snake by a garden path.

"We have lived here a long time and have found the occasional snake, but four snakes in this very short period is very concerning," she said in an e-mail.

Representatives of snake removal firms serving the Sacramento and foothills areas said calls for service began coming in about six weeks earlier than usual this year.

Sunny weather brings out snakes and the people who encounter them, said Mike Meissbach of Humane Rattlesnake Removal Service in Diamond Springs. Meissbach said he has been responding to calls in El Dorado and Placer counties since late March.

Heather Ramirez of Auburn-based Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal, serving several Northern California counties, said people usually start reporting snakes around Easter.

Park Smoking Ban

One of those, “Of Course!” ides that appears to be taking hold.

Park puffing ban sought
City Council will consider imposing fines for lighting up.
By Terri Hardy - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 20, 2007

It's the smoker's perpetual dilemma: Free to smoke, just not free to smoke anywhere.

Smoking bans have been declared on planes, in restaurants, in bars, most workplaces, around public buildings and near playgrounds.

Next? Sacramento may add city parks to that list.

The City Council in May is expected to vote on an ordinance that would prohibit lighting up in a park. Violate that ban and you could face a scolding, or even a $100 to $250 fine.

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who pushed for the regulation, said she wants to protect park-goers, particularly children, from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

"People ought to be able to go to a public park and not have to worry about their health," Sheedy said.

If the ordinance is passed, Sacramento will join a growing number of California cities looking to ratchet up their smoking restrictions. At least 11 other cities already ban smoking in their parks, including San Francisco, San Diego and Santa Monica, according to a city report.

Sustainable Master Plan

Sacramento has signed on to it and of the five things recommended, two look actually doable by more than a very small minority; the increasing of trees in town and using green technology in building, both of which have benefits worth doing beyond the environmental ones.

5 things Sacramento can do to save the planet
Will Sacramento’s new Sustainability Master Plan become more than another feel-good document? The answer is yes … if the city and its citizens step up.

By Cosmo Garvin
April 19, 2007

It’s a bumper-sticker slogan, a cliché: Think globally, act locally.
But around the country, cities are doing just that.

In Chicago, city leaders passed a “climate tax” on electricity bills, using the money to combat global warming. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was the first U.S. mayor to sign the Kyoto Protocols. And Seattle levies a “parking tax” to dissuade citizens from driving.

The notion that individual municipalities can do anything significant to tackle big problems like global warming and peak oil may seem quaint. But consider that 80 percent of all people in the United States live in cities. The way they develop, and the urban policies they enact on housing, transportation and energy, makes a big difference in the quality of the environment.

A year ago this week, Sacramento’s mayor, Heather Fargo, signed on to the United Nation’s Urban Environmental Accords, and our town joined hundreds of other cities around the world pledging to clean up environmental problems and do their part to combat global warming.

And on April 3, just a year after joining the U.N. initiative, the city embarked on its own Sustainability Master Plan.

The plan borrows the United Nations definition: “Sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Social Services

While the tendency has been to centralize, the effect on the neighborhoods where the centralization takes place is devastating, regardless of the rationale used.

A better approach, scattering services in much smaller sites around the urban areas being served might make a lot more sense, and happier neighbors.

So instead of having hundreds daily gather for service at a large site, smaller sites would see perhaps less than a dozen daily.

Loaves & Fishes eyes future
With two milestones in sight, charity plans for growth but faces hurdles.
By Ralph Montaño - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sometime today, a volunteer at Loaves & Fishes will serve what officials estimate to be the 5 millionth free meal in the charity's 24-year history.

But rather than using the occasion to look at the homeless service's past, Executive Director Sister Libby Fernandez said it is time to look toward the future. The complex in the Richards Boulevard neighborhood will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year and Fernandez wants to celebrate by raising money for rebuilding.

"We're going to be 25 years old, and we're falling apart," Fernandez said last week during a community briefing on social services in the area. "We want to refurbish, and we want to beautify our neighborhood."

Fernandez has put together a wish list called the Loaves & Fishes 25th Anniversary Fund. The list includes renovating existing buildings, such as Mustard Seed, a school for homeless children, as well as building a new warehouse and housing.

Creek Week

The annual event is coming right up.

Waterways to get their annual grooming
By Jennifer K. Morita - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 19, 2007

Every year during the last week of April, hundreds of volunteers converge on area creeks, dutifully scooping up bits of garbage and hauling away debris.

Creek Week, an all-volunteer effort to clean up miles of waterways meandering through Sacramento and Placer counties, also has evolved over the past 17 years into a good deal more than litter removal.

From guided walking tours to workshops on river-friendly landscaping, this year's activities are aimed at teaching the public how to protect its urban creeks.

"Creek Week is about educating people so they understand the value of our waterways," said Bill Plumb, head organizer of Lincoln's Creek Week events. "It allows people to get involved in the responsibility of caring for their creeks."

This year, organizers have added Creek Week celebrations at Roseville's Royer Park and Folsom's Willow Hills Reservoir Community Park. The get-togethers will feature displays on eco-friendly products, water pollution, recycling and other topics related to area waterways.

Both the Urban Creeks Council of Sacramento and the Dry Creek Conservancy in Placer County will offer workshops to teach homeowners gardening practices that are safe for area riparian habitats.

Sacramento Boroughs?

The idea is interesting, and growing the city of Sacramento has benefits perhaps beyond increasing incorporations, but the names suggested might be a little more creatively designated.

Carlos Alcalá: Big Apple's slices sought for Sactown
By Carlos Alcalá - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 19, 2007

Boroughing trouble? Petitioners have enough signatures (plus 141) for Arden Arcade incorporation, so there's a chance the matter may reach the ballot. That's good.

Residents should get to decide whether or not to become a city. After all, people outside are also weighing in with ideas about what to do with Arden Arcade. Mark Sharp, a Sacramento landscape designer, has floated the idea of a borough system for Sacramento. That's boroughs, as in New York City's five -- Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Sharp envisions five boroughs here, too. No catchy names, just Central, North, South, West and East -- which would include Arden Arcade, as well as Carmichael and the area around Cal Expo. Why boroughs? For details, check out In short, Sharp is frustrated by what he sees as Balkanization of his own neighborhood and thinks Sacramento would benefit from being a bigger city, but with boroughs that have a degree of independent governance. "It's a type of government that could work here," he said. He isn't petitioning for it, though. "I'm just throwing it out." ...

Retired Help Economy Bigtime

Not only the local retirees, but also the big draw that California is to retirees from other areas, would boost this figure higher.

State pensions lift economy, study says
Retiree dollars mean annual $21 billion in state, analysis finds.
By Gilbert Chan - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 19, 2007

California's retired schoolteachers, firefighters and other public employees pack a powerful economic punch in the state economy, surpassing the impact of three major University of California campuses combined, the airlines or the oil and gas industry, according to a new study.

Whether retirees are spending their pension dollars on rent or groceries, the money is fueling the growth of 139,000 new jobs a year with an annual payroll of $4.8 billion, researchers said in an economic impact report to be released today by California's giant public pension funds.

Overall, spending by 675,000 retirees of the California Public Employees' Retirement System and California State Teachers' Retirement System spurs an estimated $21 billion in economic activity across the state. It also produces an annual $1.36 billion boost to state and local tax coffers.

"We assumed they would have a significant impact. The magnitude is surprising," said Robert Waste, a public policy professor and one of the researchers of the study conducted by the Applied Research Center at California State University, Sacramento.

The study for the first time highlights the economic impact of the giant retirement funds. CalPERS, with $241 billion in assets, is the nation's largest public fund while CalSTRS is No. 2, with $163.5 billion in assets.

Downtown Plaza Announcement

Firm hired for Downtown Plaza remodel
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 19, 2007

The owner of Downtown Plaza has hired one of the country's largest architectural firms to help redesign the aging mall.

Seattle-based Callison will be charged with designing a mall "more vibrant, friendly and attractive for our shoppers and retailers," Larry Green, senior vice president for Westfield Corp., said in a news release.

Callison, with a reputation for working in downtown urban centers, has worked on Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu, Harrods White Hall in London, and Skymart at Chek Lap Kok in Hong Kong, according to Westfield.

City Councilman Rob Fong said Wednesday the announcement means Westfield is serious about plans to revamp Downtown Plaza.

Westfield has yet to submit an updated redevelopment application to the city, Fong said. As part of its application, Westfield will show how it can enhance its plans if a city subsidy is provided, Fong said.

Westfield officials have said a renovated mall will include a Target, a grocery store, an improved food court and an expanded movie complex with an eye-catching entrance on J Street.

-- Terri Hardy

Flood Tax Vote Announcement

Last day to vote on flood tax
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 19, 2007

Today is the last day for property owners to turn in ballots for the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency's special assessment election.

Ballots can be brought to a public hearing on the proposed new assessment district at 3 p.m. today at the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors chambers, 700 H St.

Ballots were mailed in March to 140,000 property owners in Sacramento and Sutter counties, asking them to agree to tax themselves for greater flood protection.

The assessment would raise $326 million over 30 years, and would help pay for $2.68 billion in flood improvements, including raising and strengthening levees on the Sacramento and American rivers and adding a new spillway to Folsom Dam.

The bulk of the costs would be covered by state and federal sources. The improvements would take about 10 years, and would bring a 200-year level of flood protection to the community. Currently, some urban areas don't have 100-year protection, considered the minimal safety margin by the federal government.

The amount of the assessments vary, depending on the type and size of the parcel, potential flood depths and cost of the improvements that directly benefit the particular property. Property owners get one vote for each dollar of assessment they would have to pay. It requires a majority of votes to pass.

Results are expected April 26.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Coastal Fishing

Changing a centuries old tradition of fishing freedom, the state has closed or restricted several coastal areas fishing access.

Editorial: 'Leave no trace'
Central Coast boasts marine protected areas
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The California Fish and Game Commission took a courageous step Friday by approving the nation's largest network of near-shore marine reserves.

The designation creates 29 separate protected areas along the Central Coast, encompassing 200 square miles of water.

Fishing will be restricted in some of these areas; banned in others. Many scientists predict that reduced fishing pressure will produce bigger fish and more healthy habitats of kelp and rocky shorelines. The spillover is likely to help marine life -- and fishermen -- far outside the protected zones.

Anyone reading news coverage of this decision likely will notice the negatives.

Words like "banned" and "restricted" sound draconian, especially for fishermen already reeling from Pacific Coast rules aimed at protecting rockfish and salmon.

No doubt this transition will be painful at first, partly because of the symbolism.

For centuries, coastal waters have been open to all, with fishing generally regulated on a species-by-species basis. Now, people want some marine habitats treated like wilderness areas, with access limited to activities such as snorkling and kayaking that "leave no trace."

Water Meter Announcement

City Council OKs 355 water meters
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The City Council on Tuesday approved installation of 355 water meters in parts of downtown and midtown in its continuing effort to place the devices throughout the city by 2025.

The council's action approved meters in all residential and commercial buildings in an area bounded by Seventh Street, 21st Street, B Street and F Street.

A 2004 state law required meters throughout the city. Of the 104,930 meters to be installed, 2,553 are in place, a city report said.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, bills for homes with meters will be based on a volume rate. Homes retrofitted after 2010 will have a one-year grace period.

-- Terri Hardy

Paper or Plastic?

Analysis of the energy usage and loss connected to both types of retail bags. Very interesting.

Vol. 2 No.5: April 17, 2007
Cleaner environment not in the bag for San Francisco
by Amy Kaleita, Public Policy Fellow, Environmental Studies

In late March, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to become the first American city to ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags by larger retailers, including supermarkets and drug stores. Alternatives include bags made of recycled paper or biodegradable plastic. But neither of these options is without problems.

Critics of plastic bags argue that the petroleum products required to produce them make these types of bags an environmental problem. The feedstocks for paper bags, on the other hand, are renewable wood products. But this is only part of the story.

According to the Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment, total production of a single plastic bag uses 120 kJ (kilojoules) of petroleum, but a single paper bag uses 500 kJ of petroleum.

When all elements are considered, the total amount of energy used by a single paper bag is 1,680 kJ, compared to 735 kJ for a single plastic bag. In other words, a paper bag is, in effect, a double bag requiring more than twice the amount of energy. Plastic is also the winner from the standpoint of pollutant production.

Renewable BioFuel

Talk about burning fat!

Energy, food giants to produce renewable diesel fuel
Sacramento Business Journal - 3:42 PM PDT Monday, April 16, 2007
by Houston Business Journal

ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods Inc. have formed a strategic alliance to produce and market renewable diesel fuel.

The alliance plans to use beef, pork and poultry fat to create a transportation fuel.

The companies said they have been collaborating over the past year on ways to combine the expertise of Springdale, Ark.-based meat producer Tyson and Houston-based energy company ConocoPhillips to introduce a renewable diesel fuel in the United States.

Tyson (NYSE: TSN) will make capital improvements this summer in order to begin pre-processing animal fat from some of its North American rendering facilities later in the year. ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) also will begin the necessary capital expenditures to enable it to produce the fuel in several of its refineries.

The finished product will be renewable diesel fuel mixtures that meet all federal standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel. Production is expected to ramp up gradually to as much as 175 million gallons a year of renewable diesel fuel.

The processing technology was developed at ConocoPhillips' Whitegate Refinery in Cork, Ireland. ConocoPhillips began commercial production of renewable diesel using soybean oil in Ireland late last year.

Warming & Floods & Drought

California is in for a lot of both, due to global warming, a new report says.

Report: Global warming means drought, floods for California
BY FRANK DAVIES, San Jose Mercury News
Article Last Updated: 04/16/2007 10:11:02 PM PDT

WASHINGTON - Fierce competition for scarce water among California and its neighbors.

Longer droughts and wildfire seasons throughout the West. Heat waves that will tax utilities. More severe storms and floods. Rising sea levels and problems for fisheries. And a mixed bag for agriculture, with some crops benefiting and others hurt.

That's the likely future for California and other western states contained in a mountain of data released Monday showing the potential effects of climate change on North America - part of the international report on global warming compiled by hundreds of scientists.

The findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will not surprise Californians who have been following reports on how climate change already is affecting the state. The IPCC report did not include original research, but was a compilation and analysis of data that had already been collected.

"What the IPCC report does is apply confidence to the quality of science" in numerous studies, said Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University climate expert.

The report found a 90 percent chance that global warming in western mountains will cause "decreased snowpack, more winter flooding and reduced summer flows exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources."

That means greater water scarcity throughout California and conflicts among western states - especially California and Arizona - and among users, from agriculture to homeowners to the tourism industry, said Roger Pulwarty, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The report also found a 90 percent likelihood that a rising sea level will increase coastal erosion. Also, the Sacramento River and other river basins with a history of floods will be exposed to an even greater risk of flooding.

"The report's message is water, water, water - more drought in the West, more flooding in the East and higher sea levels along all our coasts," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Traditional Neighborhoods?

The neighborhoods where everyone walks to work and shops, exist only in dense vertical cities, but in the rest of the horizontal country people drive cars, which need well-maintained roads, and the future of pollution reduction from cars will keep coming from the auto technology which continues to reduce it; with hybrids, biofuel, and other innovative technologies driving auto pollution down.

Editorial: Imprint the blueprint
Núñez needs to back bill on better planning
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When it comes to challenges that threaten the state's economy and environment, transportation is near the top of the list.

Californians are not only increasing in number, they are driving longer distances, for work and errands, and spending more and more of their time behind the wheel. You can measure the consequences in congested highways, worse air pollution and more families that complain they don't get enough time together.

These driving habits also pose a challenge to the state's law to reduce greenhouse gases. Even as Californians transition to cleaner vehicles, they are driving more miles. Ever-increasing mileage means more fuel consumption, more carbon dioxide and less chance the state can reduce emissions 25 percent in 13 years, as the law requires.

Fortunately, there are strategies for slowing the growth of what engineers call "vehicle-miles-traveled." One of these is embodied in legislation that goes before an Assembly committee tomorrow.

Religious Environmentalism

New book out about it, mentioned in this survey.

Feeling Green
Whose religious environmentalism?
by Andy Crouch

Early in my college career, the distinguished literary critic Wayne Booth paid a visit to a class in which I had managed to wangle a seat. The text of the week was Booth's Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, an attempt to rescue reasoned discourse from the clutches of corrosive modern skepticism. Asked a question about a point on one particular page, Booth borrowed the teaching assistant's copy to check the exact wording. He looked up in surprise, a slight smile on his face, and said, "I see that the owner of this book has written in the margin, 'Bullshit.' "

As the graduate student in question turned bright red and the rest of us laughed out loud, I noticed that Booth seemed strangely satisfied. Someone was paying attention, even if they didn't exactly respond with "the rhetoric of assent."

I can only hope that Roger Gottlieb is half as indulgent as the late Dr. Booth should he ever come across my copy of his book A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future. While I believe the marginalia are free of scatology, they do betray a fair amount of frustration. There are few causes in which I would more hope a writer to succeed, and there are few books that strike me as more likely to injure the cause, at least among one pivotal constituency: the evangelical Christians who, if books like Gottlieb's can be kept from doing too much damage, may yet become the decisive constituency for environmental stewardship in the 21st century.

Gottlieb, a professor of philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and frequent contributor to Tikkun magazine, is the very model of a postmodern progressive thinker. He leans "to the left side of just about any spectrum one could think of" but professes eagerness to engage those well to his right. He is frequently self-deprecating, generous to his likely opponents, and, it would seem, kindly disposed to folk of any flock who might join the environmental cause.

The phenomenon that Gottlieb documents—the flourishing of religiously motivated environmentalism in the past two decades—is both real and supremely important. Gottlieb ably surveys the development of Catholic teaching from Rerum Novarum's silence on environmental issues to John Paul II's ecologically astute questioning of unbridled technology in Redemptor Hominis. He briefly covers the Evangelical Environmental Network's "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign and its Evangelical Climate Initiative (of which I was a founding member). He interviews Buddhist monks in Thailand who are "ordaining trees" to the Buddhist priesthood in order to signal the worth of nature, documents a Jewish movement to redefine kosher in light of "the deep well-springs of Jewish wisdom about protecting the earth," and reports on Unitarians, Episcopalians, Wiccans, Sufis, and Calvinists who have engaged in various sorts of environmental activism. He approvingly quotes Bill McKibben: "Only our religious institutions, among the mainstream organizations of Western, Asian, and indigenous societies, can say with real conviction, and with any chance of an audience, that there is some point to life beyond accumulation."

Water Storage or Conservation?

Good overview, and what emerges is that we need to do both as well as we can, but we cannot continue to deny the reality of big dams being the only sound and proven protection against flooding and drought that we have yet devised.

Water more precious as state grows
Strong feelings over dams: Not everyone agrees with governor that new reservoirs are best way to prepare for dry years -- some experts wonder if they'll even be needed
Tom Chorneau, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Saturday, April 14, 2007

04-14) 04:00 PDT Maxwell, Colusa County -- From a ridge overlooking bucolic Antelope Valley, rancher Bob Alvernaz can almost make out the banks of the Sacramento River about 15 miles to the east.

Somewhere in the distance, he said, the state wants to build a canal and pumping system to bring the river water across the rice fields and up the hills to the valley, creating California's next big reservoir.

Although the Sites Dam project has been in the planning stage for years, it is still hard for the 76-year-old cattleman and rice farmer to visualize the whole length of the valley -- including his 5,000-acre ranch -- under nearly 2 million acre-feet of water.

And even after one of the driest winters on record, he doesn't see the sense of it.

"The water won't be for us," he said. "It will be too expensive. It's for the cities down south.

"And they say it will generate power, too -- but what about all the power it takes to get the water up here? There's got to be more sensible places to build more storage."

His concerns about the $2.4 billion dam project cut to the heart of a bigger debate among water resources experts and elected officials over the best way for California to meet future demands as the population increases an expected 30 percent over the next 20 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been pushing a $4 billion bond measure he wants to put before voters next year that would help fund the Sites project, as well as one other reservoir in the Central Valley -- a plan that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein endorsed just last week.

But a number of water resources experts say water demand is not likely to increase substantially, even with the population growth expected by 2030. They say conservation programs, improvements in residential design and changes in the economics of farming will likely offset increased demand from a larger population.

Both sides agree that climate changes are likely to produce smaller snowpacks and more flooding in the future, but there is no agreement on how best to prepare for those changes -- nor even if adding more storage facilities to capture the runoff is the best approach.

"I think spending money on new storage is grossly premature," said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based think tank that specializes in water and environmental issues. "There are other options that are faster, cheaper and more environmentally sound. I think that's supported by the state's own assessments."

Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, said that during the next 20 years, urban users are expected to continue to be more efficient even as cities continue to grow. He said more farmland will be converted to housing -- which will reduce water use as the state imports more foods that can be grown cheaper elsewhere.

Under such a scenario, some said, making good choices for water-project investments will be critical.

"In order to make decisions on billions of dollars of investments, we need to have a clear understanding of all the costs and benefits and all the options. I've not seen that study yet," said Bob Wilkinson, head of the water policy program at UC Santa Barbara.

"As we allocate scarce resources to meet our needs, what are the best investments?" he asked. "Surface storage may or may not be there. But clearly, efficiency strategies and recycling are very attractive from an economic standpoint, and from a reliability standpoint, too."

Lester Snow, director of the state's Department of Water Resources, disagreed that conservation alone could sustain state through multiple drought years. He said the governor also supports alternative strategies -- but new reservoirs must be part of the plan.

"Our future droughts are going to be worse, they are going to be longer and deeper, and our flood peaks are going to be higher," he said. "People say, 'Let's just conserve more.' But conserving this year will not help you in the eighth year of a drought, if you haven't stored the water somewhere.