Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cleaner Air

Anything that can help clean the air of our valley, with reasonable accommodation to economic concerns, is a good thing for everyone.

Editorial: A victory for lungs
Air board holds the line on diesel soot
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The room was packed. The hearing dragged on for nine hours. The drama centered on whether the California Air Resources Board would succumb to intense industry pressure and reject or seriously weaken a plan to cut diesel soot from construction equipment.

It didn't. Last Thursday, the air board, which has survived much recent turmoil, decided to side with lungs instead of lobbyists. By a vote of 6-3, it approved landmark rules to help clean up the state's air. New air board Chairwoman Mary Nichols exercised decisive leadership in favor of cracking down on diesel soot.

Statewide, construction equipment accounts for a fifth of diesel particulates released into the air. These particles are highly toxic because they lodge deep in the lungs. People living near construction sites and construction workers are especially at risk.

Under the new rules, the gunk that billows from bulldozers and 180,000 pieces of diesel equipment statewide will be cut 74 percent by 2020. Nitrogen oxides emissions from this equipment (a cause of smog) are projected to drop 32 percent.

All this will help air districts in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley, which stand to lose federal funds if they don't take steps to cut smog. The rules will also help Sacramento, a hub of construction activity.

Bucks in Brownfields

The visionary action of current capitalists continues to tackle the problems created by the capitalism of the past, and we are reminded again that the solution is often within the problem.

Assets: Pay Dirt
Sacramento banker bets $500 million on brownfields
By Michael Bowker

Until recently, if you wanted to give your banker a good laugh, you asked him for a real-estate loan on contaminated property. It was the kind of knee-slapper that made the rounds at financial conventions. But at least one Sacramento banker with a national reputation for making things happen isn’t laughing anymore.

In fact, he’s got a half-billion dollars that says cleaning and redeveloping many of the estimated 5 million acres of so-called brownfields in the United States can be perfectly viable and profitable real-estate ventures.

“In the beginning, everyone thought I was crazy,” says Peter Hollingworth, president and CEO of the Sacramento-based Continental Environmental Redevelopment Financial fund (CERF), which this summer plans to offer debt loans of up to $100 million per project to redevelopers of contaminated areas. “Nobody did this before because they thought the risk wasn’t manageable, that it’s an inefficient market. We’re different from most lenders. We don’t try to avoid risk, we manage it.”

Supporters say that if Hollingworth is successful, CERF’s bold new debt-loan program could ignite re-development efforts that could reduce pollution, change the face of many of America’s cities and put an additional $2 trillion worth of prime, urban real estate on the market.

The Virtues of Dirty Dirt

The majority of the estimated one million sites in the United States contaminated with chemicals and industrial waste (officially labeled brownfields by the EPA) are in urban areas. Most are ugly warts on the cityscape, having been fenced and forgotten for decades. The Sacramento area has hundreds of such sites, ranging from empty neighborhood lots that once hosted gas stations, dry cleaners and the like, to the more high-profile brownfields such as the former Aerojet plant east of the city.

The EPA estimates that about 80 percent of the brownfields in the U.S. can be redeveloped for normal industrial, commercial or residential use. The other 20 percent are too badly polluted.

Alternative Energy

Though the politics around it are intense, one hopes they are gradually surmounted and good energy sources—without consequences worse than the problem—are discovered and developed.

Thrive: Fuel Wars
When Silicon Valley meets Big Oil, there are more twists than a Bond Flick
By Michael Bowker

Hollywood should pay attention to what’s going on deep in the Georgia pines this summer. On the surface, the plot may not seem like much — a virtual company called Range Fuels with offices and operations in Northern California and Colorado. Armed with a $76 million government grant and $150 million in private venture capital, it is developing a new cellulosic ethanol plant in the Georgia hills.

However, underneath this straightforward scenario is a seething potboiler of a storyline that is part old-fashioned soap opera and part James Bond-like thriller.

It features big stars, from the Silicon Valley’s legendary venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Microsoft’s Bill Gates to President Bush, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the boys at Big Oil. Like a Bond thriller, there are surprise twists, a few rooftop fistfights, some nifty subplots and nothing less at stake than changing, perhaps saving, the world.

Range Fuels is one of several that Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has bankrolled. The renewable-energy firm breaks ground this summer in Georgia for a plant that will produce ethanol from the wood scraps left behind by the Georgia timber industry. Ethanol, a non-polluting alternative to gasoline, is hardly a new idea; 5 percent to 10 percent of the gas you pump these days is ethanol, most of which is made from corn.

But, there are problems. Corn ethanol isn’t very energy- efficient to produce, it pollutes, and it consumes huge quantities of corn, driving prices up around the world. It’s actually being blamed for higher tortilla prices in Mexico.

Green Waste

Good back story about the green garbage cans that are for yard waste, one of which showed up in my front yard a few months ago and is working out fine so far.

Green Intentions?
Local municipalities try to rake in the costs of recycling yard waste
By Vanessa Richardson

YOU SAY YOU HAVEN’T YET RECEIVED one of those big, dark green plastic tubs or wheeled carts dropped off by your local garbage service? Fear not; you soon will. More cities and counties in the Sacramento area are issuing them as the main dumping place for residents’ “green waste,” aka the clippings from your lawn and trees, to place on the curb for trash day.

If you’re a good citizen, you’ve been dutifully placing your green waste in the bin instead of sticking it in a garbage bag or, worse, placing it in your household trash or leaving it for loose-in-the-street collections and not only during pruning season (a week each in February and May) and leaf season (two weeks in November and December).

Your local government thanks you for helping out, but your good deeds may also be hurting it hard in the pocketbook. Municipalities have too much green waste on their hands, says Richard Tagore-Erwin, a principal at Sacramento-based R3 Consulting Group, which focuses on waste-management issues.

“Their biggest problem is there’s so much of it that they can’t sell it all.” Many aren’t making a profit from turning it into something useful, let alone breaking even on the costs required to pick it up, cart it away and dispose of it properly, according to Tagore-Erwin.

As long as Californians love their lawns, green waste will be generated. The state produces an estimated 76 million tons of garbage yearly and, according to California’s Integrated Waste Management Board, 40 percent of that is green waste. And like it or not, your city or county has to keep picking it up.

To fight increased waste of all types and diminished landfill capacity, the state enacted the Integrated Waste Management Act in 1989, requiring local jurisdictions to reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills by 50 percent. Because green waste can easily be separated from overall waste, local governments are focusing their efforts on “greencycling.”

California Squids?

There are no boundaries in the oceans strong enough to keep hungry predators from a food source, so take care out there on the waves, lest your foot be mistaken for a hake.

Voracious jumbo squid invade California
Wed Jul 25, 8:15 AM ET

Jumbo squid that can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh more than 110 pounds are invading central California waters and preying on local anchovy, hake and other commercial fish populations, according to a study published Tuesday.

An aggressive predator, the Humboldt squid — or Dosidicus gigas — can change its eating habits to consume the food supply favored by tuna and sharks, its closest competitors, according to an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

"Having a new, voracious predator set up shop here in California may be yet another thing for fishermen to compete with," said the study's co-author, Stanford University researcher Louis Zeidberg. "That said, if a squid saw a human they would jet the other way."

The jumbo squid used to be found only in the Pacific Ocean's warmest stretches near the equator. In the last 16 years, it has expanded its territory throughout California waters, and squid have even been found in the icy waters off Alaska, Zeidberg said.

Zeidberg's co-author, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute senior scientist Bruce Robison, first spotted the jumbo squid here in 1997, when one swam past the lens of a camera mounted on a submersible thousands of feet below the ocean's surface.

More were observed through 1999, but the squid weren't seen again locally until the fall of 2002. Since their return, scientists have noted a corresponding drop in the population of Pacific hake, a whitefish the squid feeds on that is often used in fish sticks, Zeidberg said.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Railyards Project, Part One

The people involved in the project are always central to its success or not. Here is a good look at the partnership...and the challenge.

Stan & Heather's Excellent Adventure
The deal is a doozy, the city is in deep, Thomas Enterprises’ head man preaches, and the naysayers say déjà vu ...
By Ted Johnson

FIRST THERE’S THE SITE ITSELF: 240 mostly empty acres of former Union Pacific railyard, just north of downtown. A few moody brick-and-wood derelict buildings are all that is left of what was for many years the largest industrial site west of the steel mills in Pittsburg. It is now one of the largest pieces of undeveloped urban land in the nation.

Then there’s the mayor — 5 feet of energy, determination and grit. Heather Fargo, 54, contracted multiple sclerosis in 1997, and the first thing doctors tell those afflicted with the debilitating disease is to avoid high-stress situations. A decade later, MS has given her a distinct limp, and the hand-tooled cane is always close.

On the other hand, there’s the fit and muscled developer who is nearly as broad as he is tall. Along with shoulders big enough to carry a Kenworth and enough Southern charm to sweeten a chain of bakeries, Stan Thomas has the determination of an overachieving, contact-loving fullback who also happens to be captain of the team. He’s rich and busy and — rarest of all in the bottom-line world of major property development — reportedly loved by employees and revered by colleagues and clients of his company, Thomas Enterprises.

Partners in Grime

Mayor Heather Fargo and Georgia-based developer Stan Thomas, surprisingly coy about his age beyond “early fifties”, the CEO and chairman of Thomas Enterprises, have become partners in one of the country’s more daunting redevelopments, the Railyards just north of the Sacramento Valley Rail Station at 5th and I streets. Thomas estimates the deal cost him more than $40 million in predevelopment fees alone, a reasonable ante for a project expected to cost at least $5 billion and take up to 20 years to develop. But Thomas still doesn’t have the entitlements from the city, which would give him the right to develop. That issue will be voted on by the city council this autumn.

The Heather and Stan show will dominate local politics for the near future, and their success could have as much impact on how the city of Sacramento takes shape in the first half of the 21st century as the Gold Rush did in the 19th. In the view of those who have been involved in city politics for some time, this tandem is also attempting to transform the most moribund, difficult plot of land this side of a Superfund site.

Railyards Project, Part Two

The man at the head of the company in charge of the development has been here before.

Gambling Man: Stan Thomas in Vegas
By Ted Johnson

CALVIN COOLIDGE SAID the business of America is business, and when the business of America wants to meet to do a lot of business, there’s only one place to go — Las Vegas. Its incessant ching-a-ling-ling provides the perfect backdrop to the International Conference of Shopping Centers, which gathers the world’s largest developers, financial institutions and myriad public agencies for the chance to meet up and get down to business.

The Las Vegas ICSC houses hundreds of companies that, to a great degree, power our $13 trillion economy. In the ICSC it’s common for people to say to someone they just met, “I need a $100 million bridge loan,” with nary a blink.

During the ICSC Stan Thomas moves from table to table, overseeing deals and projects, luring potential lessees to his buildings. The Thomas Enterprises booth is a freeway of people who constantly drop by to talk deals (“Mr. Thomas, these are the Marriott people.”) But it’s also the only way to have a chance to meet the man who might have as much to say about the way Sacramento looks in 25 years as did John Sutter in 1849.

“He basically works all the time,” says Bill Brown, a former VP under Thomas who has left to run his own firm, Forum Development, which does projects with Thomas Enterprises. “His way of relaxing or taking time off is to fly his jets.” There are three company jets and two helicopters, all used for business, so Thomas or his employees can be at any spot in the country in hours. After Las Vegas, Thomas flew to his cattle ranch outside Jackson, Wyo.

Railyards Project, Part Three

With deep experience in the area and with a sense of how many feel resonating through their perspective two Sacramentans take a look.

A Cranky History of the Railyard
The Sound of Silence
By Jeff Raimundo and David Townsend

IT WAS 1990, ALREADY DECADES AFTER most major railroad operations had shut down at the Southern Pacific Railyard in downtown Sacramento.

A much-heralded public-private partnership involving SP, the city of Sacramento and private developers swept in some of the world’s then-hottest architectural talent to help plan what to do with the 240-acre “brownfield” — Boris Dramov and Roma Design, neighborhood guru Peter Calthorpe, urban designer Cesar Pelli. They even brought us in to handle the media relations.

The partnership held five community workshops called charettes (French for “complete waste of time”), where suggestions to build a space station and a World’s Fair on the yards were among our favorites from the community.

A future deputy mayor led a small band of protestors with signs suggesting that merely approaching the toxic-soaked railyard could result in melted tennis shoes.

After months of work, the architects designed a grand new city (using few ideas from the charettes) equal in size to today’s existing downtown. It featured high-rise office corridors, a cultural centerpiece around the huge historic locomotive works, housing of all sorts, large stores and small shops, with parks and lakes and greens and connections to the Sacramento riverfront.

To help folks grasp the scope of their ideas, the planners unveiled a model train-type, HO-scale replica (this was, after all, a railroad yard) as big as a dining room and put it in a space at the Sacramento Train Depot where no one would see it unless dragged there.

And then the silence began. Nobody came. No builders, no people, no public officials … for years. Just silence.

For the next decade and more — despite the brief interest of a major national shopping-center developer and the sale of Southern Pacific to Union Pacific — Sacramento watched dirt being moved from one pile to another. And they heard more silence.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Folsom Dam

To maintain the recreational and natural resources we treasure in the Lower American River Watershed—from Folsom Lake through the Parkway to the confluence with the Sacramento River—it is becoming more and more evident that we need to construct the Auburn Dam on the North Fork of the American River to store water in wet years for use in dry ones.

Folsom Dam pours it on
Rapid releases are worrying fish fans
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 29, 2007

Drought and rapid water releases out of Folsom Dam this month are causing some American River observers to warn that a massive fish kill could be in store this fall.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been releasing water from Folsom Dam at around 4,000 cubic feet per second every day this month -- far more than in the two previous dry years, in 2001 and 2004.

That's been good for river recreation but may mean trouble for fish. It could deplete cold water in Folsom Lake that would otherwise be available to release when salmon return to spawn and young steelhead wait to travel downstream.

Salmon and steelhead are both protected by state and federal endangered species laws. Ironically, a crisis with another protected fish contributed to the problem this year.

In June, state and federal water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were slashed to protect the Delta smelt. Hundreds of the tiny fish were dying in the pumps, when their total population was already known to be at historic lows.

To continue serving farms and cities south of the Delta, water was delivered instead from San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, a waystation along the state and federal canal system.

Gold Dredging

As much as private enterprise is to be honored, it may be time to restrict it in the delicately balanced rivers and creeks in the mountains to protect aquatic habitat.

Gold or fish? Battle brews on California rivers
Miners say bill that would limit dredging to protect native trout and other species goes overboard.
By Peter Hecht - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 29, 2007

In his 49th year of life, veteran miner Jeff Kilgore feels increased kinship with the original 49ers who long ago worked the same frigid river high in the Sierra Nevada.

It's different now. The Gold Rush is gone. Kilgore uses modern equipment -- a gas-powered gold dredger -- to vacuum precious flecks from the cobbled rock beneath the Yuba River. And the takings are slim.

On good days, thanks to high gold prices, Kilgore says he recovers enough gold to earn $100 selling minuscule pieces and dust to jewelry makers and tourist shops along historic Highway 49. He used to take in barely $40 a day, working two mining claims six days a week.

Now Kilgore says he fears his modest livelihood is in danger from state legislation that seeks to restrict gold dredging in order to protect fish populations.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sacramento Zoo

The Zoo has been managed by the nonprofit Sacramento Zoological Society—the management model we would like to see for the Parkway—for ten years this month.

The Zoo property, buildings and animal collection remain assets of the city of Sacramento.

The Society, formed in 1957, assumed daily financial management of the Zoo from the city in July 1997. Since its inception, the society has served as the fund-raising organization for the Zoo, providing funds for habitat improvement, education and conservation programs.

Editorial Notebook: Yes, it's all happening at the zoo
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Sacramento Zoo is alive and well. I can report that authoritatively, because I went there last weekend after receiving a scary e-mail from a reader.

"What has happened to our zoo?" she wrote. "No elephants, hippos, bears and only one species of large cat, and only two sets of primates. No monkeys, no gorillas."

OK, there were no elephants, hippos, monkeys or gorillas. But -- whew! -- she got the rest of it wrong, as my 5-year-old investigative sidekick, Severin Donner, and I found out.

We saw three young Sumatran tigers taking turns gnawing on a piece of wood in an open-air enclosure. Right next door a lion blithely ignored two boys that kept trying to growl at it. And around the corners were a big, snoozing jaguar and a snow leopard.

As for the primates, we spotted a white-haired gibbon, two reddish-brown orangutans with the longest dreadlocks imaginable and two chimpanzees having a dandy time swinging from ropes and munching on leaves.

Arden Arcade Cityhood Announcement

Funding for Arden Arcade
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, July 28, 2007

A leader for Arden Arcade cityhood backers said Friday proponents have signed a funding agreement, giving consultants the green light to start work on studies needed to place the issue before voters.

Work on the fiscal and environmental studies was delayed when the group missed a July 1 deadline to make a deposit of about $28,000. The money was fully paid Wednesday.

Joel Archer, who heads the Arden Arcade Incorporation Committee, said the group had to sign the contract for work to start.

"But we are not satisfied with all the terms of the agreement," he said.

Officials at Sacramento's Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees the incorporation process, could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

-- Chelsea Phua

Levee Habitat

It appears that it may be able to stay, a good thing.

Corps may leave most levee habitat
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sacramento levees could keep much of the vegetation that is among the region's last riverside habitat for wildlife, under a compromise suggested Friday by the newly appointed national commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp said he intends to create a flexible levee maintenance policy that allows California levee managers to keep vegetation that now covers many levees. The new policy will be based on science and collaboration with state and federal agencies overseeing levees and wildlife in California.

"We'll be reasonable," he said. "We're going to keep public safety job one. But these are multipurpose levees in that we have habitat and endangered species, and we're concerned about that, too."

His comments are the clearest public statement yet from the corps that it intends to accommodate the region's unique river environment.

It is likely to break some tension over a conflict that emerged in February, when the corps said it would apply national levee maintenance policies in California for the first time.

Those rules bar vegetation over 2 inches in diameter on levees, putting hundreds of miles of habitat at risk in Sacramento and the Central Valley. Thirty-two California levee districts failed the standard, largely because of excessive vegetation. Many more are likely to fail after further inspections this fall.

For decades, the corps' Sacramento District has applied a different standard in California, largely in recognition of the region's unique environment.

Most California levees were built close together after the Gold Rush to make rivers run faster to scour out mining debris.

As a result, trees and shrubs on levees now provide the only waterside habitat that remains for many sensitive wildlife species.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bike Trail Open Announcement

Bike trail whole again after fire
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 27, 2007

Four months after a massive railroad trestle fire closed a stretch of the American River Parkway, a section of bike trail reopened Thursday.

Union Pacific won raves for how quickly it replaced the bridge near Cal Expo. Repairing the half-mile section of bike trail has been another matter. Bicycle commuters and pedestrians have been forced to take a detour since the March 15 fire.

"It has been quite a while that trail users have been inconvenienced. We're just glad that it's finally completed," said Dave Lydick, deputy director of the county parks department.

He acknowledged the fix took a bit longer than some had hoped. While rules were waived to speed the track reconstruction, fire cleanup and trail repaving required permits and authorization from several state agencies, Lydick said.

Additionally, 14,000 cubic yards of soil with fire debris needed to be removed and replaced with clean soil, he said.

Lydick said there is some work still to be done -- the de-composed granite shoulders still need to be added -- but with the paving done, there was no reason to keep the trail closed.

-- Ed Fletcher

Best Ranger Award

An excellent profile of an award winning ranger exemplifying the heart of public service.

American Ranger of the Year
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 27, 2007

As a 3-year-old, Scott Cramolini gazed up at a park ranger astride a horse on a park visit and saw his life before him.

Cramolini never really considered another career after that, visiting ranger stations as a youngster, working at one as a teenager and, finally, being sworn in as a ranger as a young man.

"When you love your job and have a passion for it, it is you," said Cramolini.
Cramolini, a Ventura ranger with California State Parks and Recreation for 25 years, is America's Ranger of the Year, chosen largely by park visitors. ReserveAmerica, the camp site reservation giant, selected Cramolini as the third recipient of the annual award.

Cramolini is park ranger in five state beaches that line Ventura County's coast, including Point Mugu. He's spent his whole career there.

In a nominating message, an Ojai woman said Cramolini was memorable because he reassured her she could take refuge in her camper on the beach during a wildfire that burned 162,000 acres in Ventura County last September.

Cramolini told her not to worry about a seven-day camping limit while she was evacuated from her home.

"He stopped by numerous times during our stay to check on us and to see if we knew how our home was faring," Bettye Berg wrote to ReserveAmerica.

Cramolini remembers it as another day on the job.

"I was just trying to help her out," he said.

Arden Arcade

Citrus Heights helps with a large donation to continue the work of cityhood and the discussion about the best way to provide services to Arden Arcade and that is good news.

Donation lifts Arden Arcade cityhood bid
By Stan Oklobdzija - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 27, 2007

A last-minute donation from Citrus Heights has given the Arden Arcade incorporation drive a push, but whether cityhood backers can keep the effort in motion remains to be seen.

Today, proponents of Arden Arcade cityhood are scheduled to meet with Sacramento's Local Agency Formation Commission -- the local body charged with drawing political boundaries and handling the incorporation of new cities -- to hash out a critical contract that may make or break the chances of a cityhood vote making the November 2008 ballot.

On July 19, the Citrus Heights City Council directed staff to donate $10,000 to the group's incorporation effort. The money came after the group missed a key July 1 deadline to come up with a deposit of about $28,000 to fund fiscal and environmental studies needed before the cityhood issue could be put to a vote.

But the studies can't start until a funding agreement is signed that spells out how the costly Environmental Impact Review and Comprehensive Financial Analysis will be paid for, said Peter Brundage, LAFCO executive director.

Global Warming & California

The discussion around California law regarding this global issue intensifies.

Laying down law on global warming
Brown uses 1970 statute to insist projects assess climate-change impacts.
By Chris Bowman - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 27, 2007

The first greenhouse gas-fighting mandates to pinch Californians won't be the state's trend-setting new laws requiring low-carbon fuels and more fuel efficiency.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown is the first to crack down, using a California law enacted long before stranded polar bears became symbols of global warming.

Squeezing the trigger on the 37- year-old California Environmental Quality Act, Brown is pressuring high-growth cities and counties such as Sacramento and Yuba to immediately include climate change -- alongside traffic congestion, sewage treatment capacity and water supplies -- in assessing environmental impacts of major proposed projects.

Brown's action comes as leading climate scientists warn that the world is closer to the brink of a climate crisis than previously realized.

"California can't wait," said Brown, who was the state's Democratic governor from 1974 to 1982 and more recently Oakland's mayor. "If we do nothing for the next several years, then the buildup of these gases will require even more drastic reductions."

Despite the urgency, Brown has run into resistance from some counties and legislators.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Art on Watt

This could be a welcome addition to an area of the street that has been pretty unsightly for years.

Watt's median art gets welcome
Metal collage of the Arden Arcade area's history was three years in the making.
By Ramon Coronado - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, July 26, 2007

Three years in the making, a 600-foot-long median structure that mirrors Arden Arcade history and nature will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Friday.

The work, on Watt Avenue between Butano Drive and El Camino Avenue, includes salmon, city landscapes, sculpted crows and a 15-foot-high palm tree with a stone trunk.

The metal collage of symbols and images of the area's past, present and future was created by local artist Alan Osborne.

The art in the median replaces a rusted, bent chain-link fence. The artwork is part of a multimillion-dollar makeover of Watt Avenue. The dedication will be in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The artwork was approved in 2004 by the county Board of Supervisors as part of an $8 million Watt Avenue beautification project.

Arden Sidewalks

The discussion about having them or not in the Arden area continues and “not” seems to be winning.

Clash over new sidewalks
Safety concerns conflict with a desire to keep rural feel
By Ramon Coronado - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, July 26, 2007

To most people, sidewalks are walkways along either side of a roadway. In Arden Manor, they are a sensitive subject.

In what has been a long and bitter debate, a pedestrian and traffic safety master plan is moving ahead. Some residents believe that more sidewalks would improve pedestrian safety. Others feel sidewalks will spoil the rural character of their neighborhood.

"There is a need for continuity," said Howard Schmidt, of Supervisor Susan Peters' Third District office, which covers Arden Manor.

Dave Frankee is overseeing the master plan, which is now in its draft stage. He said community meetings have been held, including one Wednesday at the Arden-Dimick Library, in which people have voiced their strongly held opinions for and against sidewalks.

"We have taken a lot of the sidewalk (plans) out" as a result of community concern, Frankee said.

Graffiti on Trail Announcement

Racist graffiti found along Natomas bike trail
By Eric Stern and Chelsea Phua - Bee Staff Writers
Published 6:34 am PDT Thursday, July 26, 2007

Racist graffiti was found spray-painted along a Natomas bike path Wednesday evening.
The graffiti included swastikas, "kill blacks," "hale(sic) Hitler," profanity, racial epithets and lewd anatomical drawings.

Bill Lackemacher, who was on a bike ride with his daughter Wednesday, took photos of the graffiti and posted it on the blog, Sacramento for Democracy. He described it as "disgusting" and "hate-filled."

"By the looks of their immature graphics and inability to spell, I'd guess it was done by some puerile, pubescent kids," he wrote.

Lackemacher said he called police but was frustrated that authorities consider the incident vandalism, but not a hate crime.

Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Matt Young said the department is taking the matter seriously.

"We're on it," he said. "We are looking into it."

But he added that graffiti and vandalism are difficult to prevent and to make arrests on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Good Partnership

Particularly if advertising it is restricted to news stories, information brochures, other media material, and perhaps a Raiders Grove somewhere, a good deal all around.

State parks find a friend wearing silver and black
Oakland Raiders link with foundation that's lining up revenue from private sector.
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What do the Oakland Raiders and towering redwoods or spectacular waterfalls have in common?

The professional football team is one of the first private businesses to sign on as a partner with a foundation to promote California's state parks. The grandeur of state parks will be noted in different ways during games, and in exchange, the team's familiar logo will grace handout materials given to state park visitors.

It's the start of a beautiful friendship for the California State Parks Foundation, which is trying to create innovative revenue sources for the park system's shrinking budget.

But for some, any collaboration with private business is questionable and could launch the kind of commercial flurry that seems to fill every inch and every moment with advertising -- from the names of stadiums to an officially designated soft drink.

Tahoe Fire Commission

Hopefully something comes from the study that helps prevent future firestorms, perhaps mandatory fire-proof roofs, and making it easy for homeowners to remove fire fuel from around their houses, even if its trunk is over six inches in diameter.

Angora Fire: Averting another disaster
Bi-state panel to draft Tahoe fire rules as studies stress more home safety steps.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The governors of California and Nevada today will announce the creation of a commission that will propose new rules to avoid disasters like the Angora blaze, the largest wildfire to strike the region in modern times.

The Angora fire burned 254 homes and 3,100 acres in South Lake Tahoe last month. The committee plan emerges just as preliminary studies are suggesting that forest-thinning projects helped slow the burn, but may not have preserved homes -- especially those without fire breaks or fire-resistant materials.

The new California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission will be charged with examining forest and fire policy in the region and making recommendations by March 21. Its 23 members will be appointed equally by the governors, with one person chosen by the federal government.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to announce the new commission at a South Lake Tahoe ceremony today.

Granite Park Announcement

Skate Park, Dog Park, AND All-Weather Soccer Field

Granite Park – formally a mining site – now houses a skate park, dog park AND an all-weather soccer field. The Skate Park is one of the largest in the country with both bowls and a street course. The 2-acre dog park has a dog-drinking fountain, a gated lake, and dog waste bag dispensers. Soccer facilities include the all-weather, 24-hour, lit surface soccer park as well as several grass soccer fields. All located just south of Folsom Boulevard at Ramona Avenue off of Power Inn Road. Use light rail or RT bus.

Granite Park
Ramona Ave and Power Inn Rd, Sacramento, CA

Folsom Lake Low

The lake is already shrinking drastically, and we aren't even in drought mode yet.

Boaters Frustrated With Low Water At Folsom Lake
Jul 23, 2007 7:34 pm US/Pacific

CBS13) FOLSOM, Calif. The mild weather this past winter is causing extremely low water levels at one Northern California lake. The conditions at Folsom Lake are not what boaters are used to during the summer. It's forcing some drastic measures.

One by one boats are pulling out of Folsom Lake.

Just 3-weeks into July, lake levels are half of what they were a year ago and still dropping by 9-inches a day. The 675 boats docked at the Browns Ravine Marina have until August first to pull-up anchor.

“We pay for 12-months out of the year to use it for recreation and unfortunately we have to pull out after just 3-months in the water,” says boat owner Valarie Coons.

There isn't much choice; a month from now the marina will likely be sitting on dry ground. The driest snow pack since 1988 has left the lake without the one thing it needs most - water.

"We would've like to have gone way into September. We knew it was be a dry year we just didn't know it was going to be this dry,” says harbor master Ken Christensen.

Folsom Lake is also a reservoir providing water for drinking, power generation, and agriculture. But the lake is so parched the allocation to Central Valley farmers has been cut by 50%. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is going to have to take less too, about 15% less.

Many lakes in northern California are likely to experience lower water levels; but few like Folsom Lake.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Selling River Water

In what will be a continuing issue, claims on the water from the American River will accelerate, reducing optimal salmon habitat and Parkway recreational value.

El Dorado seeks one-time purchase of capital water
By Cathy Locke - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In a move to provide El Dorado County with a degree of drought protection, the El Dorado Water and Power Authority will seek a one-time purchase of water from the city of Sacramento.

The move is not related to a more ambitious plan to gain more American River water from the city, either by long-term purchase or by law.

The proposed purchase of 15,000 acre-feet would benefit El Dorado Irrigation District customers. Under a 2005 "cooperation agreement" between the water and power authority and Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the irrigation district may use reservoirs in SMUD's Upper American River Project to store up to 15,000 acre-feet as a hedge against drought.

An acre-foot is the amount of water that will cover an area of 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot. Average homes in the El Dorado Irrigation District use between 0.58 and 0.80 acre-feet of water annually.

With water remaining in district reservoirs from last year, the agency will have adequate supplies this year, said district director George Osborne. But a second dry winter could result in water shortages in 2008.

Peripheral Canal

Continuing the discussion, on this project and others like the Auburn Dam, make a lot of sense.

A P.C. peripheral canal
A loaded term in water wars, the well-worn proposal to route supplies around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta deserves a look.
July 21, 2007

"PERIPHERAL CANAL" just might be the most fearsome phrase in California politics: two words that reignite decades-old water wars, pitting environmentalists and Northern Californians against farmers and Southern Californians, and destroying political careers in the process. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is brave to bring up the idea anew, as he did this week. Californians should hear him out.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an expanse of islands and levees that's home to farmers, vacationers and a unique native ecosystem. It's also a conduit for more than a third of Southern California's water supply. Gov. Jerry Brown ran into crushing opposition in 1982 when he backed a peripheral canal that would carry water around the delta to users in Southern California. Those users saw it as an extension of the system that greened their cities. Northern Californians, environmentalists and others saw it as a water grab. It was defeated at the polls by a 3-2 margin.

Much has changed in the quarter of a century since. Hurricane Katrina's spectacular floods demonstrated why protecting a state's water supply from old levees might make a lot of sense.

Desalination Plant Announcement

Construction starts on Santa Cruz pilot desalination plant
Monday, July 23, 2007
(07-23) 05:07 PDT Santa Cruz, Calif. (AP) --

Construction has begun on a pilot desalination plant that could turn ocean water into drinking water by the end of the year.

The city and Soquel Creek Water District are building the $4 million pilot desalination plant at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Long Marine Laboratory.

The 2,400-square-foot test facility is expected to pump 72,000 gallons of sea water a day. If it passes environmental scrutiny, city water officials and the water district may build a $40 million permanent desalination facility.

"I'm hopeful we can demonstrate that desalination will have a less-than-significant impact on the environment," Councilman Ed Porter said Friday. "We need to take some prudent steps to ensure we have an adequate water supply."

The pilot plant should be completed by October and up and running the following month.

The test plant will operate for at least one year to examine details of the energy-intensive reverse osmosis process, impacts on marine life and the resulting water quality.

Information from: Santa Cruz Sentinel,


For all of us who use the internet a lot, Wikipeda is a great tool and this is an interesting look at it from HBS Working Knowledge.

How well it stands up against Britannica for accuracy is a revelation, a comforting one.

HBS Case: How Wikipeida works (Or Doesn’t

HBS professor Andy McAfee had his doubts about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia created and maintained by volunteers. "I just didn't think it could yield a good outcome or a good encyclopedia. But I started consulting it and reading the entries, and I said, 'This is amazing.' "

So when the concept of "Enterprise 2.0"—a term coined by McAfee on the general idea of how Web 2.0 technologies can be used in business—popped up on Wikipedia, McAfee beamed. "I was bizarrely proud when my work rose to the level of inclusion in Wikipedia." Then, however, a turn of fortune took place. A "Wikipedian" nominated the article for deletion as unworthy of the encyclopedia's standards. McAfee thought, "It's not even good enough to get on Wikipedia?"

He left the sidelines to join the online discussion about whether the article should be kept or jettisoned. It was also that moment that would eventually lead to an HBS case study, written with professor Karim R. Lakhani, on how Wikipedia governs itself and faces controversial challenges.

The case offers students a chance to understand issues such as how online cultures are made and maintained, the power of self-policing organizations, the question of whether the service is drifting from its core principles, and whether a Wikipedia-like concept can work in a business setting. (See related story below.)

The wisdom of crowds

Even by online phenomenon standards, Wikipedia is huge. Begun in 1999 by Jimmy Wales under the name Nupedia, the service today claims 1.8 million articles in English, 4.8 million registered users, and 1,200 volunteers who regularly edit Wikipedia articles.

Anyone can submit or edit an article, which is why Wikipedia has been lampooned for high-profile inaccuracies, such as a biography of journalist John Seigenthaler Sr., who, according to the anonymous contributor, "was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother Bobby." Not so. A recent cartoon parodied, "Wikipedia: Celebrating 300 Years of American Independence!"

But Wikipedia also employs a series of consensus driven vetting processes that strive to ensure the information is accurate, is verifiable, is built on solid sources, and excludes personal opinion. Just as anyone can submit an article, anyone can also start an "Article for Deletion" (AfD) review process if they believe the piece does not live up to those standards. After online debate about the worthiness of the piece, a Wikipedia administrator reviews the arguments and decides the fate of the article.

The result has been a product that even academics regularly consult. In late 2005, the scientific journal Nature conducted a study comparing 42 science articles in Wikipedia with the online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica. The survey revealed that Encyclopaedia Britannica had 123 errors while Wikipedia had 162 (for averages of 2.9 and 3.9 errors per article, respectively.) For the editors at Britannica, that may be a little too close for comfort.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Arden Arcade

Problems are developing which could be bad for the cityhood effort but good for the County, who will keep the tax money generated, and hopefully good for the Parkway, though the County’s record so far of funding it is not, falling behind about $1.5 million annually in maintenance.

We support annexation of the area into the city of Sacramento (with cityhood as a second option) for that reason, it will provide better funding for local service, including the Parkway.

Arden Arcade cityhood at risk
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, July 23, 2007

Arden Arcade cityhood proponents' goal of a November 2008 incorporation vote is in jeopardy -- a development that could derail the cityhood push and make forming a new municipality financially untenable.

If the cityhood vote is delayed and incorporation is not complete by July 1, 2009, Arden Arcade will miss out on millions of state dollars, a budget hit that could prove fatal to the effort.

Joel Archer, chairman of the cityhood effort, acknowledged this week that if the group misses its deadline and loses out on the extra state money, he's not sure if incorporating would still be viable.

For now, Archer said he still hopes to get the incorporation question on the ballot in 2008.

"We have known it's not going to be easy," Archer said.

Archer and his team missed a July 1 deadline to fund their share of the fiscal and environmental studies needed before the issue can be put before voters…

… Archer said he's still aiming for November 2008, but the group has quietly begun to consider ways to keep the drive alive, should they miss the election.

One option might be to request -- and pay for -- a special election in early 2009 so the new city might still be able to qualify for the state funds it wants.

The second possibility is persuading the state to change the rule, allowing cities formed after July 1, 2009, to get the extra state money.

Under the current state rules, if Arden Arcade were incorporated by July 1, 2009, it would collect $6.7 million in state aid (given as a substitute for vehicle license fee revenue) in 2010. The aid would decrease annually to $4.5 million in 2017, according to an initial fiscal analysis.

Green Rail

Very nice addition to local light rail.

Light rail on green track
Energy system up for test could save money and cut pollution.
By Merek Siu - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, July 23, 2007

Ask any superhero: It's not easy to stop a speeding train.

But when it does grind to a halt, energy resulting from normal braking is lost as heat, dispersed into the air around the city.

Regional Transit and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District plan to put this energy to use. They are planning to test soon a regenerative braking system for light rail's Folsom line.

Similar to the system in popular gas-electric hybrid vehicles, braking energy from the electric-powered trains will be captured and sent back into power lines to boost the acceleration of trains as they leave the station. The technology was developed by Sacramento-based Siemens Transportation Systems.

While modest savings of $25,000 a year are expected, this move toward green technology is in line with a vision for the region held by some politicians and businesses.

That vision was highlighted at a clean-energy forum in Sacramento last week.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


An overview reminder of the destruction fires can cause and how quickly they travel.

The coming firestorm
Will Angora fire be a prelude to wildfire devastation across the West?
By Daniel James Brown - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 22, 2007

In a thousand dusty and brush-choked canyons, in tinder-dry forests redolent with the sweet scent of pine pitch, and on wind-swept grasslands all around the American West, disaster is brewing.

The flames and the dense pillars of smoke rising above South Lake Tahoe last month were merely a prelude to what is already shaping up to be another devastating fire season. In the days since the Angora fire was quelled, hundreds of other fires have erupted all over the West. The outbreak suggests a trend that has been accelerating for decades will continue. The trend is toward more, and increasingly ferocious, wildfires.

Few of us understand just how dire the threat to our lives and our property really is. We have forgotten, or we never learned, a harsh series of lessons from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in what were once the rich pinelands of Minnesota and Wisconsin. There, in a time before wildfire was really taken seriously, a catastrophic series of massive fires killed thousands and destroyed millions of acres of forest. The worst of these holocausts occurred on Oct. 8, 1871, when the town of Peshtigo, Wis., was overwhelmed by a firestorm of staggering proportions.

Perhaps 2,000 people died. Then, on Sept. 1, 1894, two fires converged on the town of Hinckley, Minn., killing more than 400 people in a horrific catastrophe chronicled in my book, "Under a Flaming Sky." The Hinckley firestorm consumed more than 300,000 acres -- 100 times as much land as last month's Angora fire at South Lake Tahoe -- in a matter of a few hours. On Oct. 12, 1918, a series of unstoppable fires raged across the Cloquet and Moose Lake areas of northern Minnesota, killing more than 400 people.

In our modern age, we tend to think that we are immune to such disasters because we enjoy instantaneous communications, we have aircraft that can dump thousands of gallons of water or flame retardant on fires and we can flee fires in automobiles.
But we aren't immune. Large fires remain highly unpredictable in how they evolve. Bombers and helicopters are of limited use in the extreme winds that firestorms generate and feed on. And as the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 demonstrated, cars are of little use on roads jammed with people trying to flee a wildfire. And fire can easily outrun anyone on foot.

We live, in fact, in an age of increasing peril when it comes to wildfire. Between the beginning of 1960 and the end of 1965, wildfires consumed roughly 25 million acres in the United States. Between 2000 and 2005 the figure rose to almost 40 million acres, despite improved firefighting equipment and better spotting and tracking technology. Last year, a record-breaking 9.09 million acres burned between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, a 166 percent increase over the previous 10-year average. Unfortunately, it's a record that's likely to be broken, and soon.

Natomas Growth

The discussion whether to restrict construction or not, depending on the flood protection level, continues.

Editorial: In Natomas, flood protection has to come first
FEMA should limit further development until levee improvements are a reality
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 22, 2007

Everywhere flood experts look in the Central Valley they find the same problems that plague the levees of Natomas.

Many of these levees are a century old and built on foundations of sand. When the rivers run high, water flows underneath these levees. Too much flow, and the levees could collapse.

Because local, state and federal flood agencies were diligent in investigating these problems, the federal government last year declared that Natomas no longer met minimum standards for flood protection. In a post-Katrina era, it won't be the last Central Valley area to earn this distinction. As flood engineers continue their investigations and update flood maps, dozens of valley communities and hundreds of miles of river levee will no longer have "100-year flood protection." As that happens, the status of thousands of square miles of property will be thrown into question.

Because the stakes are so high, the decisions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be crucial in coming months. Natomas will be a test case. Communities nationwide will be watching to see how FEMA administers its regulations in one of the deepest and fastest growing floodplains in the country. Congress and taxpayer groups will also be watching, since the agency's actions could either increase or decrease the liabilities faced by the National Flood Insurance Program.

Eppie’s Great Race

One of the enduring local events centered on the Parkway celebrates another wonderful year.

The pace is the thing ...
... but so's the hooting, hollering, cheering and fun at Eppie's 34th Great Race
By Alison apRoberts - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 22, 2007

For a few sparkling hours Saturday along the American River, there was no talk of Harry Potter, overdue state budgets or presidential polyps.

There was only hooting, hollering, cheering and gasping for breath at the annual running, rolling and splashing party known as Eppie's Great Race.

Retired restaurateur Eppie Johnson started the tradition as a little promotional event way back in 1974.

"I did it as a lark," Johnson said just before the 8 a.m. race start.

The race has become a huge lark, judging by Saturday's spirit and numbers. For the 34th annual event, there were 1,958 adult competitors who completed the race, the most since 1988. (Last year, 1,614 completed the course.) Of those, there were 627 iron competitors (solo rather than team competitors), the most in the event's history.

The race is a three-part event: a 5.82-mile run followed by a 12.5-mile bike ride and a 6.35-mile paddle.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summer Camp

Nice memories for most of us, as this story notes.

‘The Best Place in the World’
By Amity Shlaes Thursday, July 12, 2007
It’s summer camp, a phenomenon invented by a Prussian and now quintessentially American. AMITY SHLAES remembers Camp Martin Johnson and has the scar to prove it.

Our 13-year-old likes a lot of things: his Wacom Graphire set, a session of pick-up soccer on the street after dinner. But the thing he likes most is his summer camp. September, November, March are all fine months, but to him they are just wait time until he can get underwater in McWain Pond at “the Rock”—his camp, Birch Rock.

Visiting day his second summer he stood behind a large outdoor hearth and before a group of parents on log benches and told an embarrassing little parable. “My life at home is like life in a harbor. At home there’s candy, and there are video games,” he said. But Birch Rock had changed him, he told his audience. He had realized that “a harbor is not what a ship is for.”

I share his enthusiasm. I once crafted a whole radio commentary—ostensibly about teen employment, I believe—all for the sake of getting a single sentence onto the air: “Birch Rock Camp in Waterford, Maine, is the best place in the world.”

My son and I are not alone. Camps are important to Americans—so important that some are more loyal to their camps than to their jobs, schools, or churches. The American Camp Association accredits more than 2,400 of them, and many more are unaccredited There are day camps, weekend camps that offer hours in the batting cage, chess camps, weight-reduction camps, and family camps that teach togetherness by demonstrating the construction of s’mores. (Build tower of graham cracker, Hershey bar, and marshmallow; toast over campfire.)

In a few families, three or four generations have already known the experience of going eye to eye with those tiny “skeeter bugs” zipping across the water’s surface, of making their way across pine needles to a dark bathhouse, of sleeping in an odiferous cabin with, when possible, a raccoon underneath.

For many of us, sleep-away camp is the first and most important attempt at utopia, a better life outside of life. Some Americans become lifetime campers, smoothly transitioning from first-session newbie to archery instructor in a matter of eight or ten years. New England is home to a number of such people, many of whom have worked up and down the East Coast.

Red Legged Frog

Politics has infused this science for as long as it has been around and determining what the correct path to travel is will occupy us for some time as we try to balance the needs of people and habitat, which can be dealt with congruently.

Species to get second look
Agency will investigate decisions in 8 cases after a top official's resignation
By Michael Doyle - Bee Washington Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, July 21, 2007

The California red-legged frog is getting a second look from Bush administration officials who now acknowledge politics may have trumped science in earlier endangered species decisions.

In an extraordinary and apparently unprecedented move, the Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday it will review how the agency handled eight endangered species decisions going back several years. Officials fear former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie A. MacDonald may have twisted policy to please private interests.

"In some cases, unfortunately, it appears there were changes made that shouldn't have been," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall, adding that "it's a blemish on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service."

The new reviews will reopen some intensely fought endangered species battles. They range from removing protections for a jumping mouse in Colorado to shrinking the critical habitat designed for the Southwestern willow flycatcher and the Canada lynx.

In California, the agency will be reviewing MacDonald's role in drastically reducing the critical habitat set aside for the California red-legged frog. Last spring, the agency designated 450,288 acres as critical habitat for the amphibian made famous by Mark Twain's story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tahoe Fires

The discussion continues about what was done and what should be done, to prevent this devastation from reoccurring.

Ending the cycle of catastrophic fires
By Dave Cogdill - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 20, 2007

Once again, catastrophic fire has left its devastating footprint on our California landscape.

It seems that this time every year, we find ourselves in the same precarious situation of watching our hillsides get drier and drier while the summer gets hotter and hotter, until a fire erupts and we scramble to contain it and minimize its effect. Once the fire's been put out and things return to normal (for the most part), we do little to prevent future fires. Then summer hits once again and we're back to square one. It's time we put an end to this cycle.

This reality has never been as evident as with the Angora fire that devastated the South Lake Tahoe area. A drier than usual winter, low humidity, illegal campfires, wind gusts and an abundance of undergrowth all served as catalysts that fed the fire.
The existing hands-off approach is simply not acceptable -- suppression alone is a flawed policy whereby forest fires are merely put out and there isn't enough active forest management. This policy has resulted in the Lake Tahoe basin having twice as many trees as normally would be sustained. As a result of certain crippling environmental laws regarding forestry, this calamity has endangered our families, children and firefighters, destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of residents, threatened our air and water quality, and caused millions of dollars of damage to the Lake Tahoe region.

There is a group of people who tend to the more extreme side of environmentalism, who insist upon stricter air quality regulations on industries and agriculture, and yet endorse policies such as an arbitrary limit on the size of trees that can be removed from our forests and the exclusion of biomass (converting forest waste into usable energy) as a form of alternative fuel. These are the same policies that have led to overgrown, dense forests that act as "powder kegs," as termed by Thomas Bonnicksen, a professor at Texas A&M and an expert on forestry and forest management. Once that powder keg is ignited and a runaway wildfire ensues, unheard of amounts of carbon are dumped into our air, completely undermining any progress made in improving air quality.

Water Work

We agree, there is much left to do to stabilize the water situation regarding supply and flood issues, requiring more work from legislative leaders than currently proposed, and allowing sound planning rather than ideology to determine that direction is a hoped for strategy.

Editorial: Two water proposals in need of improvement
Plans from Schwarzenegger and Perata fall short on priorities, fiscal responsibility
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 20, 2007

There's an old African proverb that states: "Only a fool tests the depth of the water with two feet." Apparently, neither Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata knows of that proverb. Both have jumped feet-first into the crocodile-filled pond of state water politics by promoting multibillion-dollar packages for a 2008 ballot.

Some might call this leadership. Some might call this a cynical attempt to win Republican votes for a budget compromise. Whatever the motivation, there's little doubt that California faces major water challenges. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is in crisis. The meager snowpack of the past winter offers a foreboding backdrop for a recent state report that California will grow to 60 million people by 2050.

Unfortunately, neither Schwarzenegger nor Perata has yet offered proposals that set clear priorities or offer sufficient details.

Katrina & Sacramento

Tragedy stimulates action and the flood consciousness Sacramento is now awash in has resulted in the important step of doubling our existing flood protection, from 100 to 200 year level.

The next step public leadership should take is to factor the 500 year level into its strategy.

That is the level most major river cities, (Tacoma, St. Louis, Dallas, Kansas City)have already attained.

New Orleans had a 250 year level before Katrina hit.

Region feels Katrina pain, boosts own flood safety
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, July 20, 2007

Two summers ago, flood safety was not a big concern for many people in the Sacramento region.

How different things are now.

On Monday, the final vote tally in West Sacramento revealed residents and businesspeople had overwhelmingly approved a $42 million property tax assessment to pay for an upgrade of the levees surrounding their community.

It was the second such assessment in three months in the capital region. In April, West Sacramento's neighbors on the eastern side of the Sacramento River said yes to a $326 million assessment sponsored by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, or SAFCA.

The back-to-back measures came as part of a much bigger wave of flood-safety awareness and activity in Sacramento and California, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

"If that hurricane had never happened, these levees would never have become such an issue," said Larry Langford, a state worker who lives in West Sacramento with his wife and three sons. "I keep thinking of those hurricane victims and how it falls on all of us to work together to take care of each other."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Arden Arcade Competition

This increases the level of public discussion around this important issue, and that is a very good thing.

Cityhood foes organize
Backers miss a second key deadline but now say their goal is June 2009 election.
By Ramon Coronado - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, July 19, 2007

As a second-chance deadline to get Arden Arcade cityhood on the November 2008 ballot has come and gone, opponents of the lingering effort are picking up steam.

"We are not counting on them being dead in the water," said Mike Duveneck, of Stay Sacramento, which opposes incorporating the Arden Arcade area.

Joel Archer, who is leading the charge for cityhood, said while the 2008 election would have been nice, the real goal now is the June 2009 election.

"We are continuing to push forward to educate the community that local cities are thriving at a time when the county continues to lose money," Archer said.

Opponents of incorporation, who argue that cityhood would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and new taxes, and would duplicate services already in place, held what they called their first organizational meeting last week.

About 50 people attended the hors d'oeuvres and wine social at Duveneck's home, including former Sacramento Sheriff Lou Blanas, who was introduced as the "honorary host."

"It was an opportunity for businesses and residents to find out who we are and what we are doing," Duveneck said.

A variety of business people, longtime area residents, Realtors and a Sacramento Superior Court judge attended the event and gave donations ranging from $25 to more than $500, Duveneck said.

The event raised more than $4,000, he said.

99 Work

One of our great highways will be getting some long needed work.

Daniel Weintraub: Prop. 1B money will soon transform Highway 99
By Daniel Weintraub -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, July 19, 2007

U.S. Route 99, or just plain " 99" as it is known to locals up and down the Central Valley, is California's version of Route 66, the famous road that cut a swath through the American heartland and made its way into the culture and language of a generation.

Built in part along an old Indian migratory trail, Highway 99 was once the primary north-south route on the West Coast, at one point stretching from the Mexican border into Canada. In California, it was the road John Steinbeck made famous in Grapes of Wrath, his classic tale about the hard lives of the state's first migrant farm workers, Depression era refugees from the Dust Bowl.

Although in places the route passes through what are now major cities, including Sacramento and Fresno, elsewhere it still has the feel of an old country road. Drivers pass miles and miles of open farmland and orchards of peaches, plums and almonds. Barns that have seen better days dot the landscape on the other side of the shoulder.

The old highway could have died when fancy new Interstate 5 was built parallel to it on the other side of the valley. But instead of fading away the way Route 66 did when the interstates passed it by, 99 is fighting for its life. Already upgraded into a fully divided freeway along much of its path, the road is about to get its biggest-ever infusion of money and upgrades.

Proposition 1B, the $20 billion transportation bond California voters passed in November 2006, contained exactly one earmark setting aside some of its money for a specific project. That provision was a flat $1 billion for Highway 99.

Walters on Levee Vegetation

In what looks like a classic public snafu, we might be moving to a situation where all the planting being done now could be torn up within a year.

Sometimes one wonders if public leadership reads the news.

Dan Walters: Vegetation on levees in danger
By Dan Walters - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, July 19, 2007

State and federal governments spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year on an emergency levee repair project along the Sacramento River and other Northern California waterways.

The 2005-06 winter had been very wet, with flows on the Sacramento approaching 100,000 cubic feet per second, and water officials, with Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans a fresh memory, were concerned that another wet winter could breach levees and cause serious flooding.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger persuaded the Legislature to approve a $500 million emergency appropriation for the repairs, and the federal government made its own commitment. Men, machines -- including a fleet of barges and tugboats -- and immense quantities of rock and earth were mobilized to shore up the levees before winter rains began.

As it turned out, last winter was a mild one with subpar precipitation, and official concerns have turned from flood to drought, but workers returned to the repaired levees this year to begin a new phase, still under way, of planting thousands of trees and shrubs for esthetic, ecological and engineering reasons. The cost: many more millions of dollars.

The current operational guidelines of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees levee construction, maintenance and repairs along major waterways, call for planting vegetation on California levees to provide shade and wildlife habitat. And during last year's repair project, great pains were taken to preserve existing trees where necessary.

While workers are busily digging holes, planting and installing watering systems on the otherwise stark levees, however, the national Corps of Engineers office is busily writing new regulations that would not only prohibit such plantings but require local and state levee maintenance agencies to dig up and bulldoze existing vegetation or lose federal support. It's entirely possible, in other words, that all those costly, brand-new trees and shrubs could be ripped out in a few months if the new rules are not modified.

Taxes Collected & Spent

Report on what was collected and where it went.

Federal, State, and Local Government Revenues
Author(s): Roberton Williams

The federal, state, and local governments collected nearly $3.9 trillion in revenue in 2004, roughly one-third of GDP. Almost half that amount went to the federal government, which turned around and passed more than $400 billion on to state and local governments (90 percent to the states). For their part, the states brought in almost $1.2 trillion of their own revenue, 30 percent of which they passed on to local governments to help finance education and other activities. Finally, local governments used property taxes and other sources to collect nearly $800 billion.
The federal, state, and local governments collected nearly $3.9 trillion in revenue in 2004, roughly one-third of GDP. Almost half that amount went to the federal government, which turned around and passed more than $400 billion on to state and local governments (90 percent to the states). For their part, the states brought in almost $1.2 trillion of their own revenue, 30 percent of which they passed on to local governments to help finance education and other activities. Finally, local governments used property taxes and other sources to collect nearly $800 billion. Net of intergovernmental transfers, the federal government kept 38 percent of all revenue, with states and local governments each getting 31 percent.

Over the past quarter century, total revenue collections roughly doubled in real terms (but claimed roughly one-third of GDP throughout that period). At the same time, the division of that revenue across the three levels of government shifted. Between 1977 and 2002, the federal government’s net share of revenue ranged between 43 percent and 50 percent of total revenue, averaging 47 percent. That share plunged sharply to 38 percent in 2004, a result of revenue falling at the federal level and rising for state and local governments. Federal revenue in 2004 was 15 percent below its 2000 peak after adjusting for inflation. In contrast, state revenue collections, after dropping more than 25 percent in real terms between 2000 and 2002, jumped by half to a 2004 level 10 percent above that in 2000. Local revenue followed a smoother upward path on the strength of rising property values, falling barely 1 percent in 2002 in the middle of a 12 percent real rise over the 2000-2004 period.

Intergovernmental transfers roughly doubled in real terms between 1977 and 2004 but changed only marginally as a share of total revenue. Federal transfers fell from about 10 percent of total revenue in the late 1970s to about 7 percent in the late 1980s, before climbing to 11 percent since 2002. The division of those transfers between state and local governments shifted in favor of states: Their share of federal transfers rose from less than three-fourths in the 1970s to nearly 90 percent in more recent years. States compensated only a little for that shift by sending about 1 percent more revenue to local governments by the end of that period.

Solar Power Gaining Ground

While beginning to generate fairly substantial power in the state, cost is still an issue.

Power burst
Bay Area and state warm up to solar energy, survey says
David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spreading one rooftop at a time, solar panels in California are finally generating serious power.

The Bay Area alone now has enough panels to provide electricity to about 61,725 homes, according to a survey released Tuesday by a solar advocacy group. Statewide, the output of solar installations equals that of a mid-size power plant.

The survey, by NorCal Solar, a nonprofit group, shows that the environmentally friendly technology is becoming entrenched in both the Bay Area and the state.

"This report shows huge growth," said Liz Merry, NorCal Solar's program manager. "We're at a very exciting time right now. The demand is really strong."
But the survey also highlights solar's biggest drawback -- its cost.

The solar arrays scattered across California homes and offices cost about $2.8 billion to install and can generate a maximum of 336 megawatts of electricity, according to the survey. Traditional power plants burning natural gas can generate the same amount of energy at a fraction of the up-front price. And solar projects can take years to recoup their initial investments.

"This is not a cheap technology," said James Sweeney, an energy economist with Stanford University. "It is anything but."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Majority Rules

Politicians, especially local ones, generally respond very well to what the majority of their constituents want and they have done so in this case, providing a community of spacious homes, large lots, car-oriented, with lots of parks, trails and open space.

Editorial: In Placer, region's Blueprint withers on the vine
Supervisors' decision makes sprawl look like the region's growth plan of the future
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Placer County Board of Supervisors dealt a severe blow Monday to the Sacramento region's efforts to grow up, instead of out.

Siding with developers, the supervisors approved a low-density mix of 14,132 homes for the Placer Vineyards project west of Roseville. None of the five supervisors endorsed an alternative "Blueprint" plan that would have allowed more residences to be built on this pivotal 5,230-acre property. That would have put housing closer to jobs and created the kind of community where transit is a viable option.

We had high hopes that Supervisor F.C. "Rocky" Rockholm would help make Placer a leader in designing a community that would retain its appeal far into the future. Instead, he and others opted for the same-old, same-old -- and offered a number of unconvincing reasons for their decision.

At Monday's meeting, supervisors mouthed fears that the higher-density Blueprint alternative would increase regional traffic congestion. Rural residents in nearby Sutter County could bear the brunt of this traffic, they said, creating bad neighborly relations on Placer's border.

Governor Tours Delta

He is keeping on top of the issue, very good to see.

In Delta stop, governor orders screens for fish
By Kevin Yamamura - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday promoted state actions to improve the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta after taking a brief tour of Twitchell Island along the estuary.

The Republican governor directed the state Department of Water Resources to install fish screens at two islands to protect Delta smelt, a threatened species. He also called for the restoration of habitat at Cache Slough in the north Delta and for increased stockpiles of materials to protect against levee failure, among other actions.

The efforts will cost an estimated $28 million, Water Resources Deputy Director Jerry Johns said. The state will tap funds from Proposition 84 and the State Water Project.

Schwarzenegger also called for using more than $120 million in future bond funds to pay for additional Delta restoration and studies. But he downplayed his short-term solutions on the same day he promoted them, focusing more on a $5.9 billion bond plan to build new water storage and a possible canal around the Delta.

Parkway Trail Dangers

These experiences, plus many involving bikers and walkers, really point to an increasingly important need for a separate pedestrian trail on the Parkway.

Letters to the editor
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Menaces, leashed or unleashed

Recently, on the American River Parkway bike path, an unleashed dog took off after another dog and took my bike and me down -- hard.

After a fuzzy minute or three, I regained my feet, and dimly saw a two-legged critter some 20 yards away, belatedly holding his dog by its collar, looking my way and hoping I would do what I did: get up and ride away, leaving him with unleashed pet and unlitigated liability.

My wife drove me to the nearest emergency room. Cost, with insurance: $50 for emergency room X-rays of head and shoulder; $80 for a new helmet to replace my old one; plus road rash on my left knee, hip, elbow and shoulder.

Now, I thank owners of leashed dogs, growl at owners of unleashed dogs -- and just shake my head at bikers without helmets.

In thoughtless hands, even leashes can be dangerous: I know a biker who was almost garroted by a leashed dog and owner, standing blithely on opposite sides of the bike trail!

- Jim Schoning, Sacramento

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Governor on Dams

In what appears to be a sound understanding of the water situation and the need for more dams, the Governor continues to make his case, and that is a very good thing, as global warming will increase our need to control and store more water.

Governor's push for dam bonds stall in committee
By Steven Harmon/MediaNews Sacramento Bureau
Article Launched: 07/17/2007 12:00:00 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's push for $4 billion in bonds to build two new dams stalled in a key committee Tuesday, but Democratic opponents said they don't expect the issue will go away so easily.

Schwarzenegger has returned to water politics with a renewed vigor, thrusting dams into the center of what may become highly contentious upcoming budget negotiations.
In the last week, Schwarzenegger has made several trips around the state casting the legislation, SB 59, in stark terms, saying it would be a hedge against such ills as global warming, droughts and other disasters.

"With shrinking snow packs from a changing climate, above-ground water storage will be a central part of California's water future," Schwarzenegger said. "It is early in the legislative process and water planning is one of the most difficult and complex issues facing California. My administration will continue to utilize all available means to push for a solution that includes surface storage, allowing California to implement a water plan to endure longer drought periods and higher flood peaks."

Republican lawmakers, who are especially interested in the dams, have the power of a required two-thirds vote on budgets, which gives them some leverage in forcing the dam proposal into negotiations. Schwarzenegger needs Republican votes on a number of budget issues - especially his health care reform, which includes fee increases on doctors, hospitals and businesses that Republicans have vowed to reject.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the chairman of the Natural Resources committee, said the committee rejection "is not the end of the discussion." He indicated that deal-making with Democrats isn't out of the question, saying, "I would not take this vote to be a vote against water storage."

Cool Paints

Might be the coming thing…I could sure use a five degree drop in my summer car’s interior.

Daniel Weintraub: How cool paints became hot topic in the Capitol
By Daniel Weintraub -
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cool paints, it turns out, are not only those psychedelic colors that hippies used to paint their Volkswagen vans. They are also at the heart of a nasty dispute over whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a serious environmentalist or just wants you to think he is one.

Until a couple of weeks ago, few people in the Capitol had probably ever heard of cool paints. Now they've suddenly become a symbol of Schwarzenegger's commitment to saving the Earth, or lack thereof. How did that happen?

Assembly Bill 32, the global warming law Schwarzenegger signed last year, requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

As a first step, the law required the Air Resources Board to list a set of "early actions" that were considered the low-hanging fruit in the global warming fight. These new rules had to be enforceable by Jan. 1, 2010, just 2 1/2 years from now. That's the blink of an eye in regulatory time.

After reviewing more than 70 suggestions from the public, the air board this spring winnowed the list to three that the board's staff said met the law's definition.

One was a low-carbon fuel standard requiring the oil industry to reduce the carbon emissions from the fuel it sells by 10 percent. Another was a proposal to require car owners to use licensed mechanics to maintain their automobile air conditioning units. A third was a requirement that garbage dump operators do more to capture the methane gas that leaks from their landfills as the trash decomposes.

The air board also looked at 23 other items that the staff said were not quite ready for prime time but might be developed into regulations on the heels of the three "early action" items. One of those was cool paints.

As anyone who has ever left their car in the sun on a hot summer day can tell you, sunlight can heat the surface of a vehicle to a temperature that can burn your hand if you touch it. That heat also bakes the inside of a car and forces up the temperature of the interior. The result: more air conditioning.

Automobile air conditioning puts a strain on the engine, causing it to burn more fuel. And as it burns more fuel, the engine produces more carbon dioxide, a "greenhouse gas" that has been fingered as a major contributor to global warming.

White cars tend to reflect more of the sun's rays than darker cars, and that's why they stay cooler. But scientists have discovered that any color of paint can be formulated to reduce the amount of energy it absorbs. Thus: cool paints.

After the air board's staff recommended only three items for early action, Robert Sawyer, then the board's chairman and a University of California, Berkeley, energy and environmental scientist, asked for more information about vehicle paints. The staff responded with a memo on research suggesting that a 5-degree reduction in vehicle temperature from cool paints could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 million metric tons per year. That's the equivalent of shutting down three gas-powered electricity plants, or taking about 440,000 cars off the road.

Parkway Golf Course

A truly great convergence of public use with the river, which also provides those traversing the H Street bridge a nice view point of the congruence of golf course with the Parkway and the river.

Campus Commons Golf Course open again
A tightknit group of golfers lamented the closing of Campus Commons for repairs in 2005. It's open again, and old friends are back.
By Ryan Lillis - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Robert McMillan had just finished walking nine holes at the Campus Commons Golf Course on Monday morning, refusing -- as usual -- to keep score. Sitting in the shade on a wooden bench, he was asked to summarize these past 29 months, a difficult period during which the tidy course had been shuttered.

"Seems like a hundred years," he proclaimed.

Bob Stowers -- who has been playing the little course on the banks of the American River as long as anybody -- was asked the same question.

"It's like going home," he replied, speaking from his real home in North Highlands. "We've been on a long, long trip."

Campus Commons, a nine-hole, par-29 course in the Campus Commons neighborhood, is hardly world-renowned. You'll never see it featured on the Golf Channel, and it's doubtful many people outside Sacramento have even heard of it.

But what Campus Commons has that many other courses do not is a community, a tightknit network of hackers, duffers and spot-on veterans who, as Stowers put it, consider the course their second home.

The course reopened this past weekend after a county sewer project that started in February 2005 tore up a big chunk of four fairways. For those who hadn't played the course before the line was added, it's difficult to even tell where the massive, 25-foot-deep trench was dug.

"It's just magnificent," Stowers said. "It's better than it's ever been."

West Sacramento Levees

Increased taxes approved for levee work to get the area above the minimum of protection, to the 200 year level, a good start.

We hope to see the leadership of the community began advocating for a serious commitment to reaching the gold standard of flood protection, a 500 year level.

W. Sac voters approve flood fee
Property owners tax themselves to raise $42 million for levees.
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Joining their neighbors on the other side of the Sacramento River, property owners in West Sacramento overwhelmingly approved a $42 million assessment package for greater flood protection.

The final tally -- 70 percent in favor -- came as welcome news Monday afternoon for the Yolo County city's political and flood control leaders.

"This is a historic and joyous day for us," said City Councilman Bill Kristoff, who serves on the West Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, which sponsored the assessment bid.

The measure's passage also marked the latest step for the Sacramento region in coming to grips with some of the most severe flooding risks in the nation.

In April, Sacramento and Sutter county property owners approved a $326 million assessment to pay for flood control improvements on the American and Sacramento rivers through the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.

Suburban Living Approved

The residents overrule the planners and vote to live how they have always wanted, in homes with yards, and space to breathe and park their cars, still the most efficient way to get around our part of the world.

Placer OKs 14,000 homes
By Mary Lynne Vellinga and Art Campos - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Placer County supervisors Monday approved a development the size of a small city just north of the Sacramento County line.

The Placer Vineyards project -- in the works for the past 13 years -- is the largest development ever approved for the unincorporated portion of Placer County, and one of the largest ever approved in the region.

It will bring 14,132 houses to a rectangular swath of 5,230 acres of farmland west of Roseville. About 32,800 new residents are expected in the development, which will be built over 20 to 30 years.

The unanimous vote on Placer Vineyards was a setback to the voluntary "Blueprint" regional growth plan adopted by the member governments of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments in 2004.

The idea behind Blueprint was to pack more people into areas earmarked for growth, making it more efficient to serve them with public transit and reducing the need to build on more farmland over the next half century.

In this case, however, the Blueprint concept lost amid community concerns about traffic.

The Placer supervisors opted instead for a plan containing fairly typical suburban densities for single family homes. SACOG had advocated an alternative with 21,631 residential units.

Climate Change Economics

A good look at the issue, and as so often, it really does come down to money, which for most of us, is of limited supply.

Climate Change Debate Hinges On Economics
Lawmakers Doubt Voters Would Fund Big Carbon Cuts
By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 15, 2007; A01

Here's the good news about climate change: Energy and climate experts say the world already possesses the technological know-how for trimming greenhouse gas emissions enough to slow the perilous rise in the Earth's temperatures.

Here's the bad news: Because of the enormous cost of addressing global warming, the energy legislation considered by Congress so far will make barely a dent in the problem, while farther-reaching climate proposals stand a remote chance of passage.

Despite growing public concern over global warming, the House has failed to agree on new standards for automobile fuel efficiency, and the Senate has done little to boost the efficiency of commercial office buildings and appliances. In September, Congress is expected to start wrestling with more ambitious legislation aimed at slowing climate change; but because of the complexity of the likely proposals, few expect any bill to become law. Even if passed by Congress and signed by President Bush, the final measure may not be tough enough to slow global warming.

"I don't think there's any question that what is being talked about now would, over the long term, be insufficient," said Philip Sharp, president of the think tank Resources for the Future and a former House member. "The issue is: Will Congress get in place a larger architecture that sends a signal to the economy that accelerates change?"

The potential economic impact of meaningful climate legislation -- enough to reduce U.S. emissions by at least 60 percent -- is vast. Automobiles would have to get double their current miles to the gallon. Building codes would have to be tougher, requiring use of more energy-efficient materials. To stimulate and pay for new technologies, U.S. electricity bills could rise by 25 to 33 percent, some experts estimate; others say the increase could be greater.

Most of the technologies that could reduce greenhouse gases are not only expensive but would need to be embraced on a global scale, scientists say. Many projections for 2030 include as many as 1 million wind turbines worldwide; enough solar panels to cover half of New Jersey, massive reforestation; a major retooling of the global auto industry; as many as 400 power plants fitted with pricey equipment to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground; and, most controversial, perhaps 350 new nuclear plants around the world.

"The scope of the problem is really enormous," said Prasad Kasibhatla, associate professor of environmental chemistry at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. Not only must Congress and the White House reach agreement on emissions limits, developing nations must also act to achieve temperature goals. "If the climate change bills go through Congress and could somehow be coupled to a multinational agreement, then things could really start to change," Kasibhatla said. "But I'd like to start seeing real agreements between countries before I call myself an optimist."

Measures taken by the world's governments to reduce greenhouse gases could cost 1 percent of world economic output, according to a report commissioned by the British government and written last year by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern. But Stern said the cost of not taking those steps would be at least five times as much, hitting the developing world hardest.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Leaded Water

We couldn’t agree more, unleaded water is the way to go and the technology exists to accomplish that, which is a good thing for all of us.

Editorial: Getting the lead out
State should stick to new faucet standards
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, July 16, 2007

California enacted a bold law last year to protect children and adults from the dangers of lead in drinking water.

Assembly Bill 1953 limited the amount of lead that can be contained in plumbing pipes, fittings and fixtures. Currently, such plumbing can contain up to 8 percent lead, some of which can leach into drinking water.

The new law requires manufacturers to produce faucets and other plumbing with no more than 0.25 percent lead by 2010. Can the industry do it? It can, but only if progressive firms step up to the challenge instead of resorting to scare tactics.

Trade publications and other sources note that faucets and other fixtures can be made with alloys that don't include lead. Lead alloys are favored by the industry because they are easy to forge and machine. But in Japan, manufacturers have been making nonleaded fixtures for many years, generally by using alloys such as silicon brasses and bismuth.

Here in California, manufacturers could profit handsomely by setting up a facility to make non-leaded plumbing fixtures for a major market. Sadly, lobbyists for the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute continue to obfuscate, saying the new law will "create product shortages leading to building stoppages and job losses."

Governor’s Water Leadership

Long overdue in California, it is very heartening to see a state executive sticking so clearly to coming up with a solution to our obvious problems around water, while being able to cut through the torrent of words and ideologies to protect and enhance the common good of continued growth while preserving and protecting our natural environmental resources.

Governor goes where there's flow as he stresses state water crunch
Tour will study dams, canal around the Delta and more conservation.
By Kevin Yamamura - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, July 16, 2007

As budget wrangling continues at the Capitol, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will head out to reservoirs and waterways this week to pressure lawmakers into approving water storage, conservation programs and a canal around the Delta later this year.

The Republican governor hopes to revive his water package after legislative Democrats blocked his $5.9 billion proposal in April. He wants lawmakers to agree this summer on a multibillion-dollar bond that would appear on the 2008 ballot.

Schwarzenegger also has shown more interest in a canal to transfer water around the Delta. His administration has framed the "conveyance" as a way to solve the state's ongoing environmental problems caused by pumping water through the Delta, but the idea has been controversial ever since voters rejected a similar "peripheral canal" in 1982.

Even though the governor's water tour comes as the state's budget deadlock enters its third week, water storage has not played a role in spending plan discussions, according to Schwarzenegger aides and Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine.

Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn said the governor is simply trying to lay the groundwork for a deal when lawmakers return in August from a scheduled summer break.

Democrats remain open to a deal with Republicans on a water package, but they do not want to commit the state to particular projects until after the governor's Delta Vision task force presents its findings in October, said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.

Democrats rejected the governor's earlier proposal partly because they believed it was too focused on specific projects -- new storage above Friant Dam near Fresno and another new dam in Colusa and Glenn counties.

"I think the governor is correct in focusing on conveyance, conservation and supply," said Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "But if he's going to focus on two specific dam projects and if he's going to promote an alternative canal around the Delta, those specific solutions are premature."

Department of Water Resources director Lester Snow said Friday that he believes a deal can come together that remains flexible enough to incorporate the findings of the Delta Vision group, which is examining storage and canal possibilities.

"We're willing to engage in a discussion about what's the right way to do storage," Snow said.

But he also warned against the Legislature focusing too much on short-term solutions to the state's water needs without setting the stage for major storage or water transfer projects. He said the state for too long has tried to patch over its problems "like a Band-Aid."

Legislative Democrats and Republicans are engaged in water talks, Ackerman said.

He'd prefer as many as three new dams -- two in Northern California and one in Southern California -- and he said his caucus will demand that any agreement contain at least one specific site for water storage.

"I think we have enough information to take action now," Ackerman said. "All of these issues have been studied and studied and studied."