Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flood Control & Mayoral Candidates

The sad part of all of the answers is that the highest level of flood control called for is 200 years, when New Orleans had a 250 year level when it flooded, and virtually every other major river city in the country has a 500 year level.

To see this in a graph go to the Department of Water Resources report: FloodSafe California: Rebuilding the System, Reducing the Risk and look at page 13.

Building Auburn Dam would give Sacramento a 500 year level of protection.

The candidates' views: Flood control and development
Sacramento mayor's race
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Seven candidates running for mayor in the June 3 primary recently answered a Bee survey on key issues facing Sacramento.

We will share their responses with you over the next several days.

Today we explore their views on flood control and future city growth. Some answers have been edited for length.

-- Bee Metro Staff


1. Natomas has less than 100-year flood protection. Should the city allow building there until the new flood maps go into effect in December?
2. What level of flood protection do you think is adequate for building?
3. Should the city annex and develop farmland areas north of the city limits?
4. Where else do you support city annexation? List specific areas.

Global Warming Think Tank

You would think we have enough groups studying this issue, but if a good case can be made for California to have its own, it could be a good use of public funds.

Climate think tank created on shaky legal grounds, Legislature's attorneys say
California utility regulators overstepped their authority in establishing the institute and can't force ratepayers to pick up the tab, the opinion says.
By Elizabeth Douglass
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 29, 2008

California utility regulators overstepped their authority and can't force electricity and natural gas customers to pay for the recently approved $600-million global-warming think tank, according to an opinion issued Monday by the state Legislature's attorneys.

The 14-page opinion was requested by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), who disagreed with the California Public Utilities Commission's decision this month to create the California Institute for Climate Studies using funds from utility ratepayers.

"We have not found either a constitutional or a statutory basis that authorizes the commission to establish the CICS," Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine wrote in her opinion. "We think that a court would hold that the establishment of the CICS by the commission is outside the commission's general constitutional authority to establish rules for, and to fix the rates of, public utilities."

Use the Steam

It appears we waste a lot of the energy we consume and recycling it could do wonders for our pollution footprint.

A steamy solution to global warming
Waste Not

Forty years ago, the steel mills and factories south of Chicago were known for their sooty smokestacks, plumes of steam, and throngs of workers. Clean-air laws have since gotten rid of the smoke, and labor-productivity initiatives have eliminated most of the workers. What remains is the steam, billowing up into the sky day after day, just as it did a generation ago.

The U.S. economy wastes 55 percent of the energy it consumes, and while American companies have ruthlessly wrung out other forms of inefficiency, that figure hasn’t changed much in recent decades. The amount lost by electric utilities alone could power all of Japan.

A 2005 report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that U.S. industry could profitably recycle enough waste energy—including steam, furnace gases, heat, and pressure—to reduce the country’s fossil-fuel use (and greenhouse-gas emissions) by nearly a fifth. A 2007 study by the Mc¬Kinsey Global Institute sounded largely the same note; it concluded that domestic industry could use 19 percent less energy than it does today—and make more money as a result.

Economists like to say that rational markets don’t “leave $100 bills on the ground,” but according to McKinsey’s figures, more than $50 billion floats into the air each year, unclaimed by American businesses. What’s more, the technologies required to save that money are, for the most part, not new or unproven or even particularly expensive. By and large, they’ve been around since the 19th century. The question is: Why aren’t we using them?

One of the few people who’s been making money from recycled steam is Tom Casten, the chairman of Recycled Energy Development. Casten, a former Eagle Scout and marine, has railed against the waste of energy for 30 years; he says the mere sight of steam makes him sick. When Casten walks into an industrial plant, he told me, he immediately begins to reconfigure the pipes in his head, totting up potential energy savings. Steam, of course, can be cycled through a turbine to generate electricity.

Heat, which in some industrial kilns reaches 7,000F, can be used to produce more steam. Furnace exhaust, commonly disposed of in flares, can be mixed with oxygen to create the practical equivalent of natural gas. Even differences in steam pressure between one industrial process and another can be exploited, through clever placement of turbines, to produce extra watts of electricity.

By making use of its “junk energy,” an industrial plant can generate its own power and buy less from the grid. A case in point is the ArcelorMittal steel mill in East Chicago, Indiana, where a company called Primary Energy/EPCOR USA has been building on-site energy plants to capture heat and gases since 1996. Casten, Primary Energy’s CEO from 2003 to 2006, was involved in several proj¬ects that now sell cheap, clean power back to the mill.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Housing Chronic Homeless

The folks who camp out in the Parkway for extended periods, creating an unsafe situation for the adjacent community to recreate in the Parkway, and for themselves by being unprotected, have an option and it is slowly being implemented by Sacramento.

Ending homelessness … one person at a time
Shortfall threatens successful city/county venture
By Amy Yannello

For Bill Schield, it’s the small pleasures that mean the most: having a place to build his model airplane (a SlowPoke Sport 40), setting up his own aquarium (“I want freshwater tropical, maybe some eels … no goldfish”), watching The Price Is Right in the morning, having a bed to lie in when his back gets to aching, as it often does.

Schield is one of 171 chronically homeless individuals to be housed and provided with case-management and treatment services through a joint Sacramento city/county Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. The plan, which just completed year one, stems from the Ending Chronic Homeless Initiative that set a goal of housing and providing supportive services to 1,600 chronically homeless people by 2017.

Sacramento County officials are confident they can reach the initiative’s goals when it comes to the number of chronically homeless people served and housing units acquired. But they confide to SN&R that they are worried about continued funding for treatment and case-management services people taken off the streets desperately require to remain in permanent housing.

Initiative backers are about $150,000 short of what they’ll need to provide case management to clients through 2009, acknowledged Tim Brown, newly hired director of the initiative.

“The case management is a big gap moving forward,” Brown said. “It will take collaboration on the part of the entire community.”

By collaboration, Brown means money—private money to augment city, county and federal case-management dollars that just aren’t there. Brown said longer-term estimates were still being calculated but could range in the neighborhood of $1.5 million to $2 million annually when all 1,600 people are housed.

Think of case managers as the first line of defense—or offense, whichever is needed—for the formerly homeless person coming off the street, re-entering society. Sometimes called service coordinators, case managers help individuals obtain housing, an income of some kind and links to medical, psychiatric, educational, vocational and drug- and alcohol-treatment services.

As Sacramento Self-Help Housing’s John Foley, one of the initiative’s early partners, explained, the chronically homeless coming off the street need “someone to sit down with them regularly, check in with them and see how they’re doing.” But, as he acknowledged, “There isn’t a lot of money for that now.

“There’s no point in constructing housing for people coming right off the street like this if there’s not going to be any case-management services for them,” Foley continued.

To ensure case-management services continue, Brown must engage in a public-education campaign to raise both awareness and dollars—to make believers out of ordinary Sacramentans for whom the homeless problem, especially in the downtown area, is particularly vexing. And Brown should know. In his former life, he spent six-and-a-half years as executive director for Loaves and Fishes, a successful, if sometimes controversial, homeless-services compound downtown.

Global Warming, Climate Change?

Good column.

Debra J. Saunders
Sunday, April 27, 2008

I'm not sure which ad put out by Al Gore's new global-warming ad campaign is worse - the one featuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich on a love seat, or the spots with the Revs. Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson noting their agreement on the issue.

I don't think Pelosi does herself any favors posing with that sultan of smarm, Gingrich - even for an issue so dear to the left. Gingrich's role confirms the suspicion of many Republicans that the Newter will say any trendy thing to get his face in the limelight. Also, my first thought when I see Robertson and Sharpton on the same side is this - that any cause that can put them on the same side, well, it can't be good. And it's sure to involve cameras and professional lighting. Over and again, Gore has argued that an overwhelming consensus of scientists believes that global warming is man-made and likely to have catastrophic consequences, including a sea-level rise of some 20 feet.

So who does his new three-year $300 million public-advocacy campaign get to hype the cause? Two politicians' politicians. Robertson, who has warned that widespread homosexuality can result in "earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor." And Sharpton, who became famous during a 1987 race-tinged controversy involving a 15-year-old girl's unsubstantiated accusation that six white men raped her and smeared her with feces. The ads told me: Forget science, forget the steak. Savor the sizzle.

Gore's new climate-change campaign calls itself "We," as in "" But its focus is not on how We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now. No, it focuses on how We can tell others how They should think about global warming. We's focus is not on what We can do to reduce emissions, but what We can do to get Them to walk and talk in lockstep with the crowd.

So when you click to "We are Succeeding" - you don't read about how entire towns have begun to carpool or that Hollywood biggies are giving up private jets to save the planet. No. For the most part, success is tallied by a convert count. As in: "Thousands urge the Press to Ask Questions on Global Warming, Stunning Response to Calls for a Global Treaty, State Department Feels Public Pressure in Run-Up to Climate Conference."

Then again, the global warming movement always has been more about symbols and professing belief than results. Our Betters in Europe have spent the last seven years scolding George W. Bush for scorning the Kyoto global warming treaty, which Bill Clinton never asked the U.S. Senate to ratify. It was enough that Clinton said he supported Kyoto; true believers ignored the fact that under Clinton/Gore, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions grew.

Reducing Pollution

The call for the United States to severely reduce its emissions of polluting gases is rarely actually examined, and once it is, the facts are daunting, and can lead to at least one conclusion, we would become a third world country by doing it, barely able to heat our water throughout the year.

The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change
April 28, 2008; Page A19

The usual chorus of environmentalists and editorial writers has chimed in to attack President Bush's recent speech on climate change. In his address of April 23, he put forth a goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025.
"Way too little and way too late," runs the refrain, followed by the claim that nothing less than an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050 will suffice – what I call the "80 by 50" target. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have endorsed it. John McCain is not far behind, calling for a 65% reduction.

We all ought to reflect on what an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 really means. When we do, it becomes clear that the president's target has one overwhelming virtue: Assuming emissions curbs are even necessary, his goal is at least realistic.

The same cannot be said for the carbon emissions targets espoused by the three presidential candidates and environmentalists. Indeed, these targets would send us back to emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use.

Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions – CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy's most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.

Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes – from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000.

By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction.

It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low – even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

If that comparison seems unfair, consider that even the least-CO2 emitting industrialized nations do not come close to the 2050 target. France and Switzerland, compact nations that generate almost all of their electricity from nonfossil fuel sources (nuclear for France, hydro for Switzerland) emit about 6.5 metric tons of CO2 per capita.

The daunting task of reaching one billion metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 comes into even greater relief when we look at the American economy, sector-by-sector. The Energy Department breaks down emissions into residential, commercial (office buildings, etc.), industrial, and transportation (planes, trains and automobiles); electricity consumption is apportioned to each.

Consider the residential sector. At the present time, American households emit 1.2 billion tons of CO2 – 20% higher than the entire nation's emissions must be in 2050. If households are to emit no more than their present share of CO2, emissions will have to be reduced to 204 million tons by 2050. But in 2050, there will be another 40 million residential households in the U.S.

Today, the average residence in the U.S. uses about 10,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and emits 11.4 tons of CO2 per year (much more if you are Al Gore or John Edwards and live in a mansion). To stay within the magic number, average household emissions will have to fall to no more than 1.5 tons per year. In our current electricity infrastructure, this would mean using no more than about 2,500 KwH per year. This is not enough juice to run the average hot water heater.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Salmon Fishing

The struggle between having optimal conditions for salmon while maintaining optimal conditions for the human communities that also depend upon a stable supply of water requires using technology in partnership with nature.

On the American River, the demands of the growing communities that need its water require creating additional supply to ensure the salmon have the proper water flow and temperature to ensure optimal spawning.

From our perspective that calls for the building of the Auburn Dam as the only option (short of the unrealistic one of abandoning regional growth) as the only technology able to provide cold water at the right flow, while providing a stable water supply for the region.

A huge bonus is 500 year flood protection.

Dave Bitts: A fisherman’s view of the salmon crisis
By Dave Bitts - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 28, 2008

I wanted to become a salmon fisherman the first time I saw boats trolling around Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg as a kid. I have always approached this business with the attitude that we must leave the salmon fishery in good shape for the next generation.

Now, I worry whether we will leave our children and grandchildren any salmon at all. We've abused our rivers to the point that the fish are on the verge of permanently vanishing. Commercial and recreational fishermen, ice houses, fuel docks, boat yards, gear stores and other businesses could disappear along with the salmon.

Faced with a predicted salmon run in the Sacramento River of only half the minimum needed number of spawners, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council closed all commercial and recreational salmon fishing in California and Oregon and imposed significant restrictions in Washington. It's probably the right thing to do in these circumstances, but they took away my livelihood in one fell swoop. I had hoped I would add to my retirement this summer, not deplete it.

California trollers make most of our income from salmon. This is the third dismal salmon season in a row, coming on the heels of two mediocre crab seasons that would normally help offset the loss of salmon income. Many of us won't survive this disaster without significant help – and big changes in the way we treat rivers.

It's easy to fault ocean conditions for the salmon crisis, since we can't control the marine environment and no single entity can be held accountable.

Solar Power

As long as the industry is supported by taxpayers through subsidies, it will remain a footnote, but if it can, through new technologies, ever reach the point where it is actually profitable, then we all benefit.

Area businesses rush to cash in on solar power
By Jim Downing -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jay Cooper considers himself a conservative businessman, yet he has blackened the roof of his Auburn Honda dealership with one of the priciest green energy technologies: solar panels.

Hundreds of them.

"Obviously, it came down to dollars and cents," Cooper said.

After decades as a small-is-beautiful technology aimed largely at virtuous homeowners and off-the-grid types, solar is suddenly going large and at a price that makes business owners salivate.

Cooper's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. bill used to average about $8,000 a month. With the solar panels, which began generating electricity last fall, his power costs dropped instantly to $5,000.

That bargain is made possible by federal and utility subsidies, the sale of green energy "credits" and, critically, the recent development of financing schemes backed by big institutional investors. Together, those can drive down the effective price of solar-generated electricity more than 70 percent, developers say.

But the sort of deal that Cooper got could be short-lived. The federal tax credit that made it possible, which went into effect in 2006, is set to expire Dec. 31, though it may be renewed by Congress. Without the credit, those in the industry say, solar power will again be uncompetitive with grid electricity and sales are almost certain to plummet.

Carbon Tax

A very informative article on the response to global warming by Republican politicians, with a wind up case for a carbon tax strategy rather than cap and trade, good stuff.

Republicans Go Green?
The party follows Arnold's lead.
by Michael Goldfarb
05/05/2008, Volume 013, Issue 32
New Haven

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, once the proud owner of a fleet of gas-guzzling Humvees, got religion on global warming pretty quickly after taking office. And in one of the great political reversals of the decade, he has emerged as a major figure in the environmental movement.

Last week Yale University hosted the signing by Schwarzenegger and a handful of other governors of a "Declaration on Climate Change" (no substance, just lofty principles). He delivered the keynote address to a large crowd of overachieving tree-huggers. If it had been a different audience, you might say he threw them some red meat. But given the venue, let's just say Schwarzenegger was dishing prime tofu.

But he also railed against the "enviro-wimps" who prevent him from taking tougher action on climate change. Environmentalists want renewable energy, he said, "but they don't want you to put it anywhere. .  .  . It's not just businesses that slows things down, it's not just Republicans that have slowed things down, it's also Democrats and sometimes those environmental activists that slow things down."

Schwarzenegger also blamed Washington, and while he was careful not to name names, everybody understood that the man really slowing things down keeps office hours in an oval room.

Yet just two days before, President Bush had made an Arnold-like U-turn of his own, delivering a major speech on global warming in which he set a target date for capping greenhouse emissions (delightfully distant 2025), and spoke of "working toward a climate agreement that includes the meaningful participation of every major economy." Right on cue, conservatives began to worry that "the last line of defense has been breached" in the battle to prevent costly, and perhaps unnecessary, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

In truth, the defense had long ago been breached. Blowing off the threat from global warming, or more specifically the political support for addressing that threat, is no longer a serious option for this administration or its successor. All three remaining presidential candidates have offered concrete proposals for reining in greenhouse gas emissions, Congress is agitating for federal legislation, and the states, led by California, are getting antsy to act on their own. Put simply, the days of resolute federal inaction will soon be over regardless of what Bush does or doesn't say….

Unlike with cap-and-trade, a carbon tax would allow Americans to see the increased cost of energy every time they filled up at the pump, paid the electric bill, or bought a plane ticket. They would see it right there on the receipt, and they would be able to hold their representatives accountable for the rate. The simple truth--as conservatives especially have been known to point out--is that you get less of something if you tax it. This is why serious environmentalists would be on board: Cap-and-trade, as its name implies, merely caps emissions. A carbon tax, by some estimates, would prompt an 11 percent drop in total emissions within a year of being enacted. The political trick would be to sweeten the blow with countervailing cuts in income and payroll taxes.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Better Dead

This is the thrust of a book—Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence—that carries the environmentalist generated concept that humans are a virus on the earth and the philosophy known as utilitarianism, to its bitter end by proclaiming that it would be better for all life if human life were reduced, drastically.

Google led me to this blog posting about this from last year, pretty good comments.

Michael Cook | Tuesday, 2 October 2007
The ultimate miserabilist

Just when you thought philosophers couldn't get any more pessimistic, one of them surprises you.

What is there about utilitarians that makes them such miserabilists? The greatest happiness for the greatest number is the heart of their philosophy, but just try to find a happy utilitarian. The first of them, Jeremy Bentham, was such a sourpuss that he seemed pickled in vinegar. And in fact, he was, sort of. His embalmed body (pictured) still sits in a cabinet in University College London, one of its principal tourist attractions. He had no wife and no children. The greatest of them, John Stuart Mill, made utilitarianism a mainstream philosophy. But he suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 20, stole another man's wife and had no children of his own. And while Peter Singer, the most notorious of contemporary utilitarians, may be a karaoke champ in private life, his writings suggest otherwise.

However, these are bit players in the drama of miserabilism compared with South African academic David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Although the book has not been widely reviewed in the popular press, it was published by Oxford University Press and has been presented as a serious contribution to the increasingly influential philosophy of utilitarianism.

Professor Benatar's thesis is that life is so horrid that we all would be better off had we never existed. And not just us, but all sentient life. He introduces his thesis with a Jewish witticism: "Life is so terrible, it would have been better never to have been born. Who is so lucky? Not one in a hundred thousand!"

But Benatar is serious. "The central idea of this book is that coming into existence is always a serious harm." And, he continues, "coming into existence is always bad for those who come into existence. In other words, although we may not be able to say of the never-existent that never existing is good for them, we can say of the existent that existence is bad for them."

How does he reach this conclusion, which, even by his own reckoning, seems absurd and repellent? As a utilitarian, he calculates the benefits of existence by balancing benefits against harms. What possible benefit could a non-existent person receive that would outweigh a pinprick of pain? Since most people find this hard to accept, Benatar spends a chapter demonstrating that "human lives contain much more bad than is ordinarily recognised".

Given his distaste for life, why has he hung around so long? Hard to say. Perhaps he agrees with American writer Dorothy Parker:

Razors pain you, Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you, And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful, Nooses give,
Gas smells awful. You might as well live.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Parkway Park Naming Announcement

Parks panel backs Internet voters’ choice for name
By Ed Fletcher -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 26, 2008

With a nod from Internet voters and the county parks commission, River Bend Park appears to be the successor to the Sacramento County recreation area formerly known as Goethe Park.

County supervisors voted in January to temporarily revert to the park's original name, American River Parkway South, after concerns were raised about Charles M. Goethe's white supremacist and pro-Nazi leanings.

Thursday evening, the Sacramento County Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously to endorse naming the recreation area River Bend Park.

"There is a big bend right at that part of the parkway," said Dan Gonzales, parks commissioner and chairman of the park naming committee.

The Board of Supervisors – which has the final say – is expected to take up the issue May 27.

It will cost between $12,000 and $32,000 to create new signage for park. Officials say signs will explain the name change.

While Goethe was a noted philanthropist and naturalist, he also believed in white superiority and bankrolled research into eugenics, a pseudo-science popular in the 1920s and 1930s that called for breeding "worthy" humans and sterilizing the "socially unfit."

Leidesdorff Ranch appeared to be the early front-runner after the group that pushed for the change endorsed naming the park after William Alexander Leidesdorff. Leidesdorff was of Danish and Afro-Cuban heritage and owned thousands of acres of farmland near the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.

"He just seems to embody the ideal we're trying to lift up," Austin Aslan, a community organizer with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, said in an earlier interview. "The park should be named after someone like him instead of a person like Goethe."

But online voters didn't seem to back going from one hard-to-say name to another.

With 18.5 percent, Leidesdorff Ranch received the fewest votes among the five names suggested by county officials. River Bend received the most support, 42.5 percent of 870 respondents.

Gonzales said he's a fan of the public process. "It's the people park. I'm a big fan of community involvement," he said.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Global Warming Preparedness

Considering the current and just concluded year’s weather, the more appropriate question might be, will Sacramento become like Santa Cruz rather than Phoenix or Tucson, and the salient point is “first we need to educate ourselves”, starting with the reality, or not, of global warming, now being referred to as climate change—a change in terminology itself a clue to our knowledge.

Climate change a concern for public health officials
By Chris Bowman -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 25, 2008

While California leads the nation's charge against global warming pollution, local health officials lag on preparedness for the expected fallout of more frequent and more severe heat waves, bad air days and disease epidemics.

Sacramento County officials interviewed Thursday said they have yet to define their roles as first-responders to climate- related illnesses and deaths.

"We are starting to gather the data on what to expect and how to respond," said Val Siebal, county environmental management director.

Siebal convened the first meeting last week with county heads of public health, mosquito control and human assistance. They raised daunting questions:

Will Sacramento become like Phoenix or Tucson? Should homes and roads be designed to reflect rather than absorb the sun's radiation?

Should mental health specialists be enlisted to help residents cope with longer heat spells and a warmer Delta breeze? Will the region see a resurgence of malaria – the scourge of early Sacramento – or the emergence of such tropical diseases as dengue fever?

"I'm not sure I know all the implications of climate change," said Dr. Glennah Trochet, county public health officer. "We need to educate the decision-makers and the public, but first we need to educate ourselves."

Maybe, Salmon are just Salmon?

Sometimes in the midst of the vast uncertainties that nature always presents us—a reminder of our rather limited human powers—it may make sense to just rely on common sense.

Salmon might just be salmon, whether hatchery raised or wild, just as cows are cows and horses are horses, and they will find their way to spawning beds, reproducing their species, regardless of their status at birth.

Salmon tags to reveal if hatcheries help or hurt
State-bred fish tracked to see if they're pushing wild ones out of picture
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 25, 2008

Hoping to engineer their way out of a salmon crisis, wildlife agencies are manipulating the natural rhythms of the species to an unprecedented degree in hopes of producing more fish.

California has long trucked most of its young hatchery salmon around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to avoid losing them to pumps, poisons and predators. This year, under pressure from fishing groups, it will truck nearly all of them – nearly 17 million salmon smolts.

Federal officials will also truck about 10 percent of the salmon produced at their hatchery near Redding. They haven't trucked fish in more than a decade, and then only as a test. This year, those fish will ride nearly 200 miles to reach San Pablo Bay.

The hatcheries were created to replace spawning habitat eliminated by dams. But this year's changes are prompting important questions about how the hatcheries themselves affect salmon survival.

Fisheries experts have worried that trucking salmon around their home rivers breeds out the instinct that draws fish back to the right place to spawn – an instinct that defines the species.

"Are hatcheries supposed to be helping fish recover over time or just pumping out fish for fishermen to catch?" asked Rachel Barnett-Johnson, a fisheries biologist at the UC Santa Cruz Institute of Marine Sciences. "That's where the struggle lies in managing them now."

Barnett-Johnson published a study this month that found 90 percent of the salmon caught in California's ocean fishery are hatchery-raised, and only 10 percent are wild spawners. She analyzed growth patterns in fish ear bones, which look like tree rings.

Her results, based on a limited sample of fewer than 200 chinook, alarmed fisheries experts. Many assumed, again based on limited information, that wild salmon still make up 50 percent or more of the state's chinook population.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sacramento Transit, Part One

It is very nice to see it being used, though sorry it has to come about as the result of gas prices, and it appears Regional Transit wasn’t ready for the growth.

It's SRO on many commuter buses as gasoline prices climb
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 24, 2008

With the price of regular gasoline creeping toward $4 a gallon, commuters in Davis, North Natomas and Placer County are reporting a shocking sight when the bus pulls up.

All the seats are taken. Suddenly, it's standing room only on commuter buses around the region.

It's also evidence of what some transit officials say could be a ridership jump bigger than during the gas crisis of the early 1970s.

"I think we're heading for big demand that the region's (bus services are) frankly not ready for," said Sacramento Regional Transit official Mark Lonergan.

Jay Walsh is a frequent standee these days on the packed North Natomas Flyer, which charges $1 a ride into downtown Sacramento. Walsh hangs by a strap – as the bus travels on the freeway.

"A few of us, trying to be gentlemen, we'll stand and let the ladies take the seats," the state employee said. He doesn't mind. The ride is short.

But other passengers are grumbling, especially those who face 45-minute rides from the suburbs.

In Roseville, where commute buses started going SRO months ago, some would-be riders are just giving up.

"They'll see the line waiting for the bus and just get back in their car to drive to Sacramento," lamented Roseville transit official Teri Sheets.

Sacramento Transit, Part Two

Now if we can just keep it a safe ride.

Editorial: Time to require civility on Regional Transit trains and buses
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Sacramento resident who describes himself as "an older person" e-mailed The Bee recently to explain how lack of security on Regional Transit light rail trains led him to give up the continuing education class he attended at Sacramento City College. He rode light rail to class. "During my rides," he told The Bee, "I encountered spaced out drug addicts, boisterous gangs of youths, ticketless riders, fresh vomit and an overall lack of security presence that became unnerving." (The letter is reprinted here.)

Is that one person's experience typical? Sadly, a 2006 survey of RT riders suggests that it may be. Regular light-rail riders who responded to the survey cited "lack of security" as their No. 1 concern. District crime statistics tend to validate their concerns. RT says passengers reported 31 felonies and 23 misdemeanors committed in March aboard trains, buses or at light-rail stations and bus stops. In addition, there were 1,700 infractions reported, almost all of them fare evasions.

To help Regional Transit deal with unruly and criminal behavior aboard buses and trains, Sen. Darrell Steinberg introduced Senate Bill 1561, a measure that would give transit districts the authority to bar misbehaving passengers from buses and trains for up to one year. Similar laws in Washington and Oregon have helped make transit safer. But even before it reached its first hearing, Steinberg's bill ran into opposition from civil libertarians, who feared it would be used by transit districts to target the mentally ill or homeless.

Our Environment Has Improved

The annual update shows much improvement, very good news.

Index of Leading Environmental Indicators: 2008 Report
PRI and AEI Study
By: Steven F. Hayward

As this report and others like it have explored for more than a decade, environmental improvement in the United States has been substantial and dramatic, almost across the board. The chief drivers of this improvement are economic growth, constantly increasing resource efficiency, technological innovation in pollution control, and the deepening of environmental values among the American public.

Government regulation has played a central role, to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things it is a lagging indicator of change, and often achieves results at needlessly high cost. Were it not for rising affluence and technological innovation, regulation would have much the same effect as King Canute commanding the tides.
This edition of the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators picks up the gauntlet of climate change and energy use and aims to provide a more probative picture of environmental realities today. The superior GHG performance of the United States in recent years opens onto a range of important factors that deserve closer scrutiny.

The Index concentrates on energy and environmental linkages among the leading developed and developing nations, in particular the 15 nations President George W. Bush has convened to deliberate about climate change. A more fine-grained look at the data reveals a different picture from the clichés of the media and activists.

LA & Green Building

In one of the smoggiest cities in the country (though having gotten much better), the city council moves to improve the air even more, and one hopes it works.

On Earth Day, L.A. passes a 'green' building law to clean the air
'Green' building rules for large commercial and residential projects will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
By Margot Roosevelt
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 23, 2008

Los Angeles embarked on one of its most ambitious projects to combat global warming on Monday, becoming the biggest city in the nation to impose "green" building rules that would potentially cut millions of tons of pollution over the next decade.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring builders of large commercial and residential developments to adopt such measures as planting drought-resistant landscaping and using recycled materials and energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting.

Noting "the Los Angeles tradition of smog and sprawl," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, wearing a green necktie in honor of Earth Day, signed the new law on a sunny terrace flanked by two model condominium high-rises, the Luma and the Elleven, off Hope Street in downtown, which were built to strict conservation standards.

The mayor has pledged to reduce the city's carbon emissions 35% below 1990 levels by 2030, an effort that will also require a crackdown on the city's coal-dependent municipal utility and a move toward electricity from renewable sources.

"We look toward the future through a greener lens," Villaraigosa said, "after decades of poor policies that neglected environmental concerns."

The law requires new commercial buildings and high-rise residential structures with more than 50,000 square feet of floor space to meet a nationally recognized "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" standard, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington-based nonprofit. It also would cover major renovations and low-rise developments of 50 units or more.

City officials said about 150 new and renovated buildings, or about 7.5 million square feet, would be covered by the ordinance each year.

The rules would amount to preventing about 85,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years, the equivalent of removing 15,000 cars from the roads.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Walters on Environmental Movement's Contradictions

The core belief of the environmental movement gives nature primacy over humanity—actually describing humans as a virus on the earth—and from that perspective, anything that contributes to human progress at the expense of nature is anathema.

In that context, supporting solar power but not power lines makes perfect sense.

Solar panels on the rooftops are cool, vast solar plants in the Mojave with power lines bringing the power to the power grid are not.

It's a contradictory policy position because the movement itself is based on contradiction.

Dan Walters: Greens like idea of renewable energy, balk at the reality
By Dan Walters -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An environmental coalition called Californians for Solar and Clean Energy has submitted more than 700,000 signatures for an initiative measure that would compel the state's utilities to use renewable sources for 40 percent of their electric power supplies by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025, a sharp increase in what the state's current policy requires.

The underlying notion is to reduce our reliance on carbon-generating fuels such as coal and natural gas and thus contribute to the fight against global warming.

Fair enough. If global warming is the threat to human life that we're being told it is, and reducing human-caused carbon emissions is the critical factor, then it will require big changes in the way we live, including how we generate and use energy.
As the coalition's name implies, solar is its preferred form of renewable energy – tapping the rays of the sun to create electricity through photovoltaic panels – although geothermal energy, utilizing heat from the Earth's core, is another source. And, as it happens, California is blessed with copious amounts of both sunshine and geothermal heat.

Merely generating energy from renewable, nonpolluting sources is one thing. Transmitting it from generation sites to where people live is another, and environmental groups that tout renewable energy often oppose transmission lines that would carry the power to homes and businesses, as a long-running battle over a project called "Sunrise Powerlink" illustrates.

Like Likes Like

A fascinating look at how many of us choose to live, around those like ourselves, go figure.

Like-Minded, Living Nearby
April 22, 2008; Page A23
The Big Sort
By Bill Bishop
(Houghton Mifflin, 370 pages, $25)

The more diverse America becomes, the more homogeneous it becomes.

No, that's not a misprint; it is the thesis of "The Big Sort," Bill Bishop's rich and challenging book about the ways in which the citizens of this country have, in the past generation, rearranged themselves into discrete enclaves that have little to say to one another and little incentive to bother trying. "As Americans have moved over the past three decades," Mr. Bishop proclaims, "they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs and in the end, politics."

It is an idea that has all but obsessed Mr. Bishop since he began thinking about it years ago in his hometown of Austin, Texas. In his Austin neighborhood, he observed, there were virtually no Republicans. In another community of similar size nearby there were very few Democrats. Thirty years earlier, he was willing to bet, nothing like that uniformity would have been possible. Values, ideology and partisanship would have mingled more variously in even the most compact neighborhood, ward or district.

This hunch and others led Mr. Bishop to write a series of widely discussed newspaper articles, and now, finally, a full-length presentation of the argument. I have always been skeptical about the clustering thesis myself, but there is one simple statistic, rightly seized on by Mr. Bishop, that is difficult to explain away. It is this: In 1976, less than a quarter of the American people lived in so-called "landslide counties" – that is, counties in which the spread between the two major presidential candidates was 20 percentage points or more. By 2004, nearly half of us lived in this kind of politically tilted territory.

How could this be? Well, we know one thing: It isn't gerrymandering. Nobody redraws the boundaries of a county every 10 years; they often stay the same for a century. Nor does it have much to do with natural population increase, which might push one group or another into a new proportional dominance within a certain geographical area. As it happens, there has been relatively little population growth in most parts of the country. The longer one thinks about it, the more seriously one has to consider Mr. Bishop's claim: that the local landslide effect has been largely the result of demographic resorting.

Why in recent years and not before? In Mr. Bishop's view, resorting is what happens when individuals in a society become more affluent, better educated and freer to make their own personal and political choices. But he also believes that the Big Sort has been a form of escape. As the country attracts more and more immigrants, and as large metropolitan areas become multiracial and multilingual, people feel a strong desire to retreat to the safety of smaller communities where they can live among those who look, think and behave like themselves.

"Americans," Mr. Bishop writes, "lost their sense of a nation by accident in the sweeping economic and cultural shifts that took place after the mid-1960s. And by instinct they have sought out modern-day recreations of the 19th-century 'island communities' in where and how they live." Not red and blue states, he is quick to insist; he calls that cliché an illusion. The reality is red and blue wards and precincts, suburbs and counties.

Earth Day & Leaving Greenpeace

One of the marks of a cult is acting in ways that are contrary to reason, and believing that your organization can do no wrong, and sadly, that is a mark too many in the environmental movement bear, as this former founder of Greenpeace learned.

Reason and a basic good will towards humanity need be the mark of public leadership that acts for the public good.

Why I Left Greenpeace
April 22, 2008; Page A23

In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.

But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science. As we celebrate Earth Day today, this is a good lesson to keep in mind.

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

The breaking point was a Greenpeace decision to support a world-wide ban on chlorine. Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.

My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.

Opposition to the use of chemicals such as chlorine is part of a broader hostility to the use of industrial chemicals. Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," had a significant impact on many pioneers of the green movement. The book raised concerns, many rooted in science, about the risks and negative environmental impact associated with the overuse of chemicals. But the initial healthy skepticism hardened into a mindset that treats virtually all industrial use of chemicals with suspicion.

Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas. Its antichlorination campaign failed, only to be followed by a campaign against polyvinyl chloride.

Smelt Hatcheries

Great idea to save the Delta smelt, which are threatened primarily by the pumps moving water from the Delta to farms and communities.

By replacing those lost to the pumps, the pumps are able to keep pumping water rather than being curtailed due to declining smelt; as has happened recently.

Lawmaker proposes hatchery expansion to save Delta smelt from extinction
By Mike Taugher
Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/21/2008 06:04:37 PM PDT

A San Joaquin Valley lawmaker wants to ease restrictions on water supplies by boosting the number of endangered fish raised in hatcheries.

State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, introduced his bill to do that in response to a court ruling last year that cut the amount of water available for pumping out of the Delta by as much as one-third to protect Delta smelt.

His idea is to raise enough fish to remove Delta smelt from the list of threatened and endangered species, which would eliminate the endangered species law mandate to protect the fish from Delta pumps.

"The fate of the fish in some ways is tied to the fate of the farmers," said Jason Peltier, deputy general manager of the Westlands Water District and supporter of the bill. "We need more smelt in the system."

Critics immediately faulted the idea. They contended that increasing hatchery production of fish would not address the larger problems in the Delta, where Delta smelt and three other open-water species have declined precipitously.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ARNHA Honors Carol Doersch

I met Carol when she became a fellow commissioner on the Sacramento History Commission and she recruited me and Lou Heinrich to join the ARNHA board of directors.

When I later served as ARNHA’s president she provided wise advice and administrative support.

She is rightfully honored for her many outstanding volunteer efforts on behalf of the Parkway, and is surely a community treasure who has done so much for our natural jewel.

Longtime nature center volunteer to be honored
By Ed Fletcher -
Published 6:16 am PDT Tuesday, April 22, 2008

As one of the founding members of the American River Natural History Association, Carol Doersch helped save and sustain Sacramento County's environmental education program during lean budget years.

Over the last 26 years, officials estimate, she given 9,000 hours -- a full year of her life -- supporting the Effie Yeaw Nature Center.

This morning, Doersch is one of 20 individuals and organizations being honored for their volunteer efforts. The ceremony at the 700 H St. board chambers starts at 9:40 a.m.

"Whenever we needed someone to speak for us she was there," said Marilee Flannery, director of the nature center. "We are just so grateful for her."

The American River Natural History Association was formed in 1981 when the county threatened to shut down the environmental education program. The group raised money to keep the center open. Doersch played a leading role. Since then the county has taken back much of the load.

While her work with the organization has slowed in recent years, she's still an inspiration and served as its institutional memory, said Lou Heinrich, an association member.

Without the association and Doersch, the Nature Center wouldn't be the same, Heinrich said. "It was a grassroots movement saying we really want this from the local government," he said.

Be Careful What You Wish For

An unforeseen cause of the bio-fuel aspect of the green economy is that poor people can’t afford the increased price for food that has resulted.

April 21, 2008

Poverty, famine and violence are among the supposed products of global warming in the future. Yet these calamities are with us today thanks to a key element of "green" policy, biofuels. This feel-good measure is becoming a real-world disaster.

The prices of wheat and rice this year will have doubled since 2004, according to World Bank projections. Soybeans, sugar, soybean oil and corn are expected to be 56% to 79% costlier than in 2004. The bulk of the increases have come in the past year and can be attributed to the West's push to turn these crops into fossil-fuel replacements like ethanol. Food prices will likely remain overinflated until at least 2015, the Bank says.

The result of these rising prices is that 100 million people could slip back into poverty, erasing seven years' worth of gains, Bank President Robert Zoellick warned earlier this month. Food inflation and shortages have sparked riots from Egypt to the Philippines, and six people were killed in Haiti alone during nine days of related unrest there this month.

Soaring oil prices have made it more expensive to transport food products, though the World Bank estimates this and costlier fertilizer account for only 15% of the rise in food prices. Improved eating habits in developing nations are also increasing demand for grains – both for human consumption and to feed livestock, since rapid economic growth in places like China means more people have enough money to buy meat. But the Bank notes that "almost all" of the increased growing of one of the key crops, corn, "went for biofuels production in the U.S."

It's no coincidence that the U.S. and the EU, which are leading the biofuel charge, both have powerful ag lobbies that see this latest eco-craze as a new way to milk taxpayers. U.S. and EU promotion of biofuels represent a trifecta of bad regulation: arbitrary production targets to juice demand, subsidies that encourage inefficient use of crops as fuel rather than food, and tariffs that stifle foreign competition. If only Third World consumers had the same influence as rich-world farmers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Parkway Trail Crowded

The Parkway trail is dangerously crowded and as the Parkway gains more users, it will become more so.

It is time that a separate trail be blazed and developed for pedestrians—and it needs to be of a consistency that parents pushing baby strollers and the frail elderly can safely use it—allowing the paved bike trail to be restricted to bikes.

Back-Seat Driver: Bring tolerance as you run/bike/stroll on American River Parkway
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 21, 2008

Can't we just get along out on the bike trail?

Apparently not.

Spring weather is here, and so are the annual conflicts on the region's recreational Eden – the ribbonlike American River Parkway bike and recreation trail.

We're not talking about the woman who got bit by the rattlesnake. We're talking about the venom exchanged by cyclists, walkers, runners, baby-stroller pushers and others commingling on the thin strip of asphalt.

Environmentalism as Religion & the Harm Caused

Our report of 2006, pages 19-31, addressed the issue.

This article discusses a recent book outlining the harm that has been done by the movement.

April 20, 2008 --

Tuesday is Earth Day, the calendar's High Holy Day of Green theology. With each passing year, environmentalism more clearly assumes the trappings of a secular religion. Now, along comes Iain Murray to assert that the Green God is dead.

Murray's new book, "The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don't Want You to Know About - Because They Helped Cause Them," clarifies the difference between caring for the environment - a reasonable and virtuous belief that people rightly harbor - and the modern-day movement known as environmentalism. The latter, Murray notes, has amassed a shameful legacy over a half century that has killed millions of people and consigned billions of others to backbreaking poverty. "Environmentalism deserves to be as discredited as Marxism," Murray argues. His book does a superb job of doing just that.

Murray, an energy expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, lives a low-carbon lifestyle. He loves nature and the outdoors. He's practically a tree-hugger. Nevertheless, he makes clear, "I am not an environmentalist."

Why? Because, as he explains, environmentalism has become a socio-political movement exploiting people's genuine regard for nature as a smokescreen for expanding government and exercising power. And the results have been disastrous for both humanity and the environment.

Murray chronicles seven environmental catastrophes, and shows the hand of the professional environmental movement in each one.

Thanks to the efforts of Green patron saint Rachel Carson, environmentalists have succeeded in curbing the use of DDT, which, Murray writes, is "highly effective in controlling malaria and thereby lifting millions out of poverty." While it's unclear if banning the pesticide has had much in the way of environmental benefits, it has been unquestionably harmful to humankind. Unchecked malaria has killed tens of millions of people, particularly in Africa, and continues to cost people their lives each year. "In 2005 alone, across Uganda, 50,000 children died from malaria," Murray notes. "That is the true Silent Spring."

The current biofuel craze is another case in point. Greens have long favored government mandates to convert corn into motor fuel. They claim this will cut into our supposed addiction to oil, while minimizing harmful greenhouse gas emissions from our tailpipes. The Greens got their wish, and in recent years Congress has ordered billions of gallons of ethanol to be introduced into our fuel supply.

European nations have passed similar biofuel mandates to fight global warming.

The result, by almost any account, has been a fiasco. Pouring corn into our gas tanks has led to a spike in food prices worldwide. Those high prices have caused food shortages and even riots in other countries (several in just the last month). While people starve, biofuels are creating an environmental disaster as well. In places like Indonesia, forestland is being cleared at alarming rates in order to plant palm oil crops and cash in on the artificial demand for biofuels. The result is a holocaust for many endangered animals. "The orangutan is being crucified on a cross of green," Murray notes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Building Communities

The developers who build communities people live in, raise their families in, and contribute to the commerce and government funding in the region are not always acting from misguided intentions when they attempt to shorten hold-ups in that building process.

They are generally acting in the best interests of all of us, as building community generally involves expanding its footprint.

Sometimes, remaining static is good for a community, but it hardly seems the proper prescription for the Sacramento region; capital of one of the world's most dynamic economies and possessed with such wonderful natural quality of life attributes, it is ideally suited for growth.

Editorial: Flood agency makes progress on Natomas flood protection
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 20, 2008

In working to stay ahead of the next raging winter, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency can't afford to hit logjams.

That's why it is encouraging that SAFCA has scored several recent breakthroughs on plans to upgrade Natomas' levees, modify Folsom Dam and establish a financing plan to bring the entire Sacramento floodplain to a 200-year level of protection.

Lawsuit settled

SAFCA is planning a two-year, $576 million project to widen and fortify Natomas levees prone to seepage. Hundreds of thousands of truckloads of dirt will be needed. Residents of the Garden Highway filed an environmental lawsuit, which could have delayed the agency's ability to sell bonds and proceed with the project. But last month, both sides drafted a settlement, which the agency's board approved Thursday.

As part of that deal, SAFCA will not use the Garden Highway for construction traffic and will take other steps to limit the impact on residents. The agency has also agreed to seek a study of a new bicycle trail, meaning that a wider levee could bring safer cycling.

Kerridge sees the light

For far too many months, SAFCA's staff has been dealing with a misguided lobbying campaign by Natomas developers who want the governor to declare an emergency in the basin. Lawyer Greg Thatch and homebuilders alarmed by a pending building moratorium in Natomas claim that SAFCA's two-year schedule is too slow in bringing levees back up to federal standards. They claim an emergency declaration would cut through red tape and speed up the levee work.

Commercial Salmon Fishing

A tragic reminder of the dislocation being caused by the closure of the salmon fishery, as well as another reminder of the difficulty people have adjusting to changing economic circumstances and the change in patterns long held.

A key impact factor here is the continuing domestication of animals humans form relations with, whether for food source, recreation and sport, or for personal companionship; and the continued development of hatcheries as well as the broadening of farmed salmon point to that impact.

Mendocino coast rocked by closure of salmon fishing
By M.S. Enkoji -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, April 20, 2008

FORT BRAGG – Salmon is king here along the Mendocino coast, but the monarch has been dethroned, leaving all the king's men and women in this hard-toiling town fearing for their livelihoods in a way they never have before.

"As of now, I'm broke," says Randy Thornton in the cabin of his 50-foot boat, his face coppered by sun and wind. Overhead, salmon rods with brightly colored lures are racked, idled for the year.

Thornton's charter-fishing business has been killed by an unprecedented yearlong ban on salmon fishing – both commercial and sport.

"My dilemma is I have a boat and I have to make a living," says Thornton, 46 and father of two.

After 10 years of payments, he finally paid off the boat last year. This might have been the year he and his wife would buy a house, he says.

But last week, state Department of Fish and Game officials voted to ban salmon fishing in state waters, which extend out three miles from shore. Five days before, the Pacific Fishery Management Council had banned salmon fishing in the 200-mile-wide swath of federal waters off California and Oregon.

Federal and state biologists believe closing the season for virtually all the West Coast before it even revs up is the only way to boost the number of chinook salmon returning from ocean waters to spawn in the Sacramento River this fall.

Last year was the second-lowest spawning season on record along the Sacramento River and its tributaries. Just 90,000 chinook returned from the sea to complete their life cycle in the freshwater – a 90 percent drop from five years earlier…

The Harvest Market, which almost overlooks Noyo Harbor, once filled its iced seafood cases with the catch from the harbor down below. A slab of salmon in the case last week was wild, but from Alaska.

Out of solidarity for those who once supplied the store, the market won't resort to farmed salmon, says seafood manager Ken Armstrong.

"How do you bring in farmed fish and say to the fishermen, 'We don't care about you?'" he says.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Salmon Hatcheries

The historic change in the salmon environment that occurred by the building of human communities, and the dams in the spawning rivers that protect those human communities from flooding and provide them a stable source of water cannot—nor even if it could would it be desirable—be undone.

However, restoring the salmon population can be done and the proper use of hatcheries is how this author proposes to do it.

California hatcheries are seen here at the department of Fish & Game website.

Michael Keopf: Solution to salmon decline: Build more hatcheries
By Michael Keopf - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 19, 2008

When I was a boy growing up in Half Moon Bay, salmon boats would sail from the harbor and head out to sea long before sunrise. When the king salmon were running, hundreds of mast lights – like a tiny galaxy of stars – went out in the darkness to bring salmon to your table.

My father was a salmon fisherman, and in time I was too, as were my brothers. We all fished salmon to feed our families, for there was a time in California when wild king salmon were plentiful.

Now it's finished.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council has halted salmon fishing for commercial and sport fishermen off the coasts of California and Oregon. On Tuesday, the state Fish and Game Commission voted to ban fishing for salmon in state waters off the California coast. They cite diminished returns of spawning salmon in the Sacramento River.

Sadly, there are a few misguided visionaries who applaud this decision, effortlessly citing overfishing as the culprit. They see commercial fishermen as ravishers of the ocean. They see sports fishermen as recreational rednecks who should learn to eat tofu. It's a condescending viewpoint.

Salmon are sustainable. No fisherman would cut his own throat and fish himself out of business.

What has happened to our salmon? The answer is simple: King salmon have lost their bedrooms. There's no place for hanky-panky to spawn little fish.

We know the culprits: Mining in the 19th century washed away spawning grounds; pollution; real estate development; logging; the extraction of fresh water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that salmon require to get out to sea.

Sea lions are blamed, but sea lions and salmon have coexisted for eons. Then comes the big one – dams. There are 1,400 dams in the state of California. Many block salmon from returning home.

And, there's another reason, even bigger than dams: global warming, that convenient excuse that forestalls solutions. Some claim that global warming has robbed the ocean of the food salmon eat…

There is a solution despite our lack of state and federal leadership: hatcheries.

Currently, there is one federal hatchery in the state of California, built in 1906. The California Department of Fish and Game maintains a grand total of eight, most of them built in the 1950s and '60s. Hatcheries are the primary incubators of what's left of California's wild king salmon. That's nine hatcheries vs. 1,400 dams. Advantage cement.

How many hatcheries would $60 million or $90 million build? The Pacific Fishery Management Council spends roughly $3 million a year on salaries and expenses. They've been around for three decades "regulating" salmon back into existence.

Hatcheries are a low-tech solution. I oversimplify, but all that is needed is clean flowing water, egg and milt (sperm) collection with seasonal labor and holding ponds to raise the smolts (baby fish) before they're released to go wild in the sea. New hatcheries could be built not only on the waterways that drain the San Joaquin Valley, but also on coastal rivers that historically had large runs of king salmon.

Mother Jones on Nuclear Energy

This is an excellent article about an energy generating option we really need to seriously consider.

The Nuclear Option
So you're against nuclear power. Do you know why?"
Judith Lewis"
(May/June 2008 Issue)

A decade and a year after Enrico Fermi demonstrated the first atomic fission chain reaction, President Dwight D. Eisenhower went before the United Nations General Assembly to avert an apocalypse. Other nations now had in their hands the weapon with which the United States had pulverized two Japanese cities; altruistic scientists and eager investors both had pressured the president to share the technology for peaceful uses. And so Eisenhower had little choice on that December day in 1953 but to announce a new purpose for the force inside the atom: Properly monitored and generously financed, he declared in his "Atoms for Peace" address, fission could be harnessed "to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world."

You could have been forgiven for thinking the president and his advisers had just hatched the notion that month, so full of poetic wonder and portent was that speech. In fact, not only were the Soviets about to power up a five-megawatt reactor, but the Westinghouse Electric Corporation was well on its way to building the country's first commercial atomic power plant. Within five years, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station would begin sending its 60 megawatts of electricity to the city of Pittsburgh.

That was probably about the best atomic power ever looked. For it wasn't long before the electricity touted as "too cheap to meter" proved too pricey for profit: The power that came out of Shippingport cost 10 times the going rate. Though in the coming years many more reactors would be hitched to the nation's grid, Eisenhower's gallant dreams were undone by rising construction costs, high maintenance bills, and risk. The last application for a new nuclear plant was withdrawn in 1978. By the time Three Mile Island nearly melted down in 1979, the United States was through with nuclear-generated electricity.

Until now.

When President George W. Bush celebrated the Energy Policy Act of 2005 at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland, he may as well have been delivering the 21st-century update of Eisenhower's 1953 manifesto, minus the poetry, and plus some dopey jokes. ("Pass the Mayo," he chirped to Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck.) This time, however, the marketing slogan was not about peace, but the very future of the planet. "Without these nuclear plants," Bush said, "America would release nearly 700 million metric tons more carbon dioxide into the air each year."

Half a century after Shippingport powered up, the U.S. government has once again entwined its long fingers under the heel of the big industry that couldn't.

In his day, Eisenhower shared his vision with a number of vocal pacifists:

Redirecting atomic power to electricity, they believed, would at least keep the military occupied with something other than blowing up cities. And Bush shares his vision with some prominent environmentalists: Stewart Brand, for instance, who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and Fred Krupp, the director of the Environmental Defense Fund, who believes that "the challenge of global warming is so urgent we can't afford to take anything off the table."

As far back as 1978, Tom Alexander—an award-winning science writer with a deep knowledge of economics and ecology—urged utilities in the pages of Fortune to resuscitate the already-flagging nuclear industry lest a ramp-up in coal-fired electricity "trigger irreversible changes in the world's climate." The ramp-up happened on schedule; the changes in climate too. Which now makes it very hard to ignore the fact that whatever else nuclear power does to the environment, however many fish it kills or however much waste it leaves in our great-great-great-great-grandchildren's hands, it emits neither soot nor smoke nor mercury, and far less carbon dioxide than the coal that keeps most of our lights on.

Industry has been quick to take advantage of the shifting political climate: Last year, UniStar submitted an application for a new nuclear reactor to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the first to cross the agency's desk since Jimmy Carter was president. Four more followed, and 14 separate companies have notified the agency that they will file applications in the next year. It's hard to imagine any of the current presidential candidates slashing nuclear subsidies once in office. (Senator Barack Obama, for one, represents a state with 11 of the nation's 104 civilian reactors, and his donors include employees of nuclear giant Exelon.)

But can nuclear power really rescue our warming planet? And if you answered quickly, answer this too: Are you for or against because you know the science, or because someone said you should be?

When we talk about nuclear power these days, we talk about environmentalists for nukes, and about people posing as environmentalists for nukes. We talk about Dick Cheney's energy bill defibrillating a faltering industry with $12 billion worth of incentives and tax breaks. We talk about who is for and who is against, and whether we can trust them.

But no one talks about fission. No one talks about the letter Albert Einstein wrote to FDR in 1939, advising the president that "it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium" to produce enormous amounts of power. No one mentions that breathtaking moment on December 2, 1942, when Fermi, on a squash court at the University of Chicago, had an assistant slowly pull a control rod from a pile of uranium and graphite, sustaining a controlled chain reaction for 28 minutes and thus securing atomic power's industrial future.

For the last four years, I have tried to shut out the chatter—the goofy Nuclear Energy Institute ad (girl on a scooter says, "Our generation is demanding lots of electricity...and clean air."), and the warnings of No Nukes godmother Helen Caldicott, who, rightly or wrongly, cannot think of splitting atoms without thinking of weapons. I've tried to focus instead on the awesome force that binds the nucleus and whether it can ever be an appropriate source of civilian energy.

The idea of nuclear power arose more than half a century ago out of the most noble impulses of humanity's brightest minds, scientists who hoped that the destructive force they'd harnessed, the most concentrated source of energy on earth, could also be applied for good. But atomic electricity strayed so far from its promise—corrupted by government's collusion with industry, mismanagement for the sake of profit, and ordinary bureaucratic incompetence—that we seem flummoxed at the thought of ever reclaiming it.

To consider a technology as terrifying as nuclear power requires more than slogans. It requires looking beyond the marketing and activism, into the physics and its consequences. It means thinking about rocks. And waste. And fission.

Global Warming Data

The favored term lately has seemed to be “climate change”, and perhaps that is because the data for global warming is becoming suspect.

Regardless of who is correct in this latest imbroglio, it is clear we want to study long and hard before acting in such a way as to either bankrupt the economy or ignore the possibility the data is correct.

Our Climate Numbers Are a Big Old Mess
April 18, 2008; Page A17

President George W. Bush has just announced his goal to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025. To get there, he proposes new fuel-economy standards for autos, and lower emissions from power plants built in the next 10 to 15 years.

Pending legislation in the Senate from Joe Lieberman and John Warner would cut emissions even further – by 66% by 2050. No one has a clue how to do this. Because there is no substitute technology to achieve these massive reductions, we'll just have to get by with less energy.

Compared to a year ago, gasoline consumption has dropped only 0.5% at current prices. So imagine how expensive it would be to reduce overall emissions by 66%.

The earth's paltry warming trend, 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the mid-1970s, isn't enough to scare people into poverty. And even that 0.31 degree figure is suspect.

For years, records from surface thermometers showed a global warming trend beginning in the late 1970s. But temperatures sensed by satellites and weather balloons displayed no concurrent warming.

These records have been revised a number of times, and I examined the two major revisions of these three records. They are the surface record from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the satellite-sensed temperatures originally published by University of Alabama's John Christy, and the weather-balloon records originally published by James Angell of the U.S. Commerce Department.

The two revisions of the IPCC surface record each successively lowered temperatures in the 1950s and the 1960s. The result? Obviously more warming – from largely the same data.

The balloon temperatures got a similar treatment. While these originally showed no warming since the late 1970s, inclusion of all the data beginning in 1958 resulted in a slight warming trend. In 2003, some tropical balloon data, largely from poor countries, were removed because their records seemed to vary too much from year to year. This change also resulted in an increased warming trend. Another check for quality control in 2005 created further warming, doubling the initial overall rate.
Then it was discovered that our orbiting satellites have a few faults. The sensors don't last very long and are continually being supplanted by replacement orbiters.

The instruments are calibrated against each other, so if one is off, so is the whole record. Frank Wentz, a consulting atmospheric scientist from California, discovered that the satellites also drift a bit in their orbits, which induces additional bias in their readings. The net result? A warming trend appears where before there was none.

There have been six major revisions in the warming figures in recent years, all in the same direction. So it's like flipping a coin six times and getting tails each time. The chance of that occurring is 0.016, or less than one in 50. That doesn't mean that these revisions are all hooey, but the probability that they would all go in one direction on the merits is pretty darned small.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Development Fee Flood Protection Announcement

Development fee to pay for levee improvements
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 18, 2008

SACRAMENTO – Local flood-control officials gave initial approval Thursday to a development fee to pay for area levee improvements.

The fee, proposed by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, would add about $4,500 to the cost of an average single-family home and $2.69 per square foot for commercial projects. It would apply in Sacramento and Sutter counties and in Sacramento within the 200-year floodplain.

SAFCA's goal is to ensure development pays its share to offset increased risk to life and property caused by urban growth. The fee is expected to raise about $132 million by 2019.

The money, matched with state and federal dollars, will fund projects to attain or exceed 200-year flood protection, or the ability to withstand a flood with a one-half of 1 percent chance of striking in any given year. The money will augment $326 million to be raised by a property tax approved by Sacramento residents last year.

The SAFCA board plans a final vote on the fee at its May 15 meeting. It would take effect Jan. 1.

– Matt Weiser

Green Building Expo

The first in the area arrives May 8th .

Home Front: Expo to give builders outlook on 'green' construction
By Jim Wasserman -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 18, 2008

So-called "green" building has been one of the biggest fads in home construction for more than a year. But what does it mean and will consumers actually be willing to pay for it if it costs them more?

That's what a lot of local builders have been asking themselves.

Some of the answers are coming May 8, when the North State Building Industry Association hosts its first Green Home Expo in Sacramento. It's the first in California by a regional home builder trade group.

The daylong expo at the Sacramento Convention Center will tell builders about the newest green construction techniques and how to market and sell homes that feature them. It will show homeowners the newest ways to make their home green and how to use tax credits and utility programs to help pay for it.

This being a capital town, the expo includes panel discussions on the latest public policy trends related to green building. Many folks say they want to be green, but there are a lot of politics related to what green means.

Rancho Cordova, Building Community

Rancho Cordova continues building a welcoming community and continues the struggle against those who would restrict their efforts, and the battle over the interpretation of laws continues.

Rancho Cordova may ease wetlands protections
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 18, 2008

Rancho Cordova is preparing to loosen its policies for protecting vernal pools from development – a move that once again pits the young city against a statewide group seeking to preserve seasonal wetlands.

On Monday, the Rancho Cordova City Council is scheduled to vote on proposed changes to the city's general plan. The new language would give the city more latitude to allow streams to be channeled into concrete corridors and to build roads across preserves.

It also would modify language calling for connected habitat preserves within the boundaries of the city's new development areas, potentially allowing more builders to meet their obligations by preserving or re-creating vernal pools somewhere else.

On-site preserves would be required only if the city found them "feasible" and "necessary for (the) viability of protected species."

"They've removed anything enforceable," complained Carol Witham, a local leader of the California Native Plant Society.

Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands that fill in winter, flower in spring and may host a variety of endangered plants and animals, including tiny shrimp and plants such as the slender orcutt grass, which in the Sacramento area occurs only in Rancho Cordova, according to Witham.

The remaining grasslands of Rancho Cordova are dotted with some of the richest vernal pools in the region. Development has already been approved for much of this land, and more projects are on the way.

A lawyer for the native plant society – which is battling the city in court over development in the Sunrise Douglas community plan area – said the changes would lead to the city abandoning the idea of creating interconnected preserves in areas scheduled for building.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Public Safety in Public Space

This is a continuing issue as well on the Parkway and until public leadership realizes it can only be accomplished with steadily visible law enforcement presence, the problems will continue driving users away from the public space they have a right of expectation to be generally safe while using.

Adequate public safety needs to be part of the cost of doing the public’s business whether it is transportation, education, or recreation.

RT seeks input on how to keep troublemakers off light rail
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, April 17, 2008

Somebody behaves badly on light rail. The offender is kicked off, maybe even booked into county jail.

But hours later the troublesome rider can be back on board.

That revolving-door reality has frustrated Sacramento Regional Transit officials and riders for years.

Transit officials say they want the authority to crack down on bad actors and keep them off trains for months at a time.

They've learned, however, that getting tough is not easy.

State legislators have balked at RT's proposed law, Senate Bill 1561, that would grant transit agencies power to ban people for up to a year.

Instead, after negotiations, the agency says it will take a step back and convene a community task force to discuss the ban idea and other ways to deal with people who won't follow rules.

Encouraged by the bill's author, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, RT said it will pull together local mental health officials, homeless representatives and law enforcement officials.

American Indians From Asia?

Apparently confirming what many have thought for some time, this new study says the American Indians came from Asia.

April 9, 2008
Native Americans

In what may be the most comprehensive study of the genetic origins of Native Americans ever conducted, an international team of researchers has confirmed that Native Americans are descended from ancestors who crossed from Asia to the Americas approximately 20,000 years ago. Conducted by researchers from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, the Italian University of Pavia, and others, the study, The Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American MtDNA Haplogroups: Implications for Evolutionary and Disease Studies, is the first to compile, correct, and organize all the more than two hundred Native American mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences and lineages into a single tree with branches. Published by the Public Library of Science, the study found that those Native Americans whose ancestors crossed from Asia are the offspring of six ancestral mothers, and also confirmed the presence of genetic subgroups of five rarer, less known, and geographically limited genetic groups who arrived later.


Great idea for California!

From sea to tap
Conservation alone won't cut it -- California needs desalination.
By Peter MacLaggan
April 16, 2008

Mindy McIntyre of the Planning and Conservation League opines in an installment of a Dust-Up, "The SUV of water," that seawater desalination is impractical. It's 2008; innovation, technology and an evolving regulatory and environmental landscape render McIntyre's Model T-era assertion incredible and outdated.

Today, there are more than 21,000 desalination plants in 120 countries around the world producing 3 billion gallons of drinking water a day. Rest assured the world does not know something that we don't -- California has a dozen plants in various stages of permitting, including a 50-million-gallon-a-day plant in Carlsbad that will be the largest and most technologically advanced in the Western Hemisphere. Local, state and federal policymakers and water resource managers are aggressively pursuing seawater desalination in an effort to diversify water portfolios and protect against drought-inflicted blows to the economy and public health. Still, not everyone is honestly confronting the reality that new potable water supplies are not unlimited, choosing instead to believe that we can simply conserve our way out of the next water supply crisis.

California's water supply system is based largely on pumping water from environmentally sensitive watersheds in Northern California and the Colorado River over hundreds of miles to Southern California through an elaborate and costly network of dams, canals and reservoirs. But proven desalination technology now allows us to produce higher-quality water along the coast, where the majority of the state's population resides, at a comparable cost and without damaging the environmentally sensitive upstream habitats.

It is true that seawater desalination historically has been prohibitively expensive, but today this is no longer the case due in large part to technological advances and the escalating cost and scarcity of traditional water sources. Yes, energy is one of the cost variables associated with the production of desalinated water; however, the same is true for the transportation of imported water and the treatment of reclaimed water. In truth, the escalating energy costs that McIntyre worries about -- and associates only with seawater desalination -- will affect all means of new drinking water production.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Citizen Hotel

It looks like a beautiful redo of the historic building is shaping up, something we can be very proud of.

Bob Shallit: History becomes hip at new downtown Sacramento hotel
By Bob Shallit -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sacramento's newest downtown citizen is shaping up as a bit of a split personality. And that's exactly what developers of the Citizen Hotel, at 10th and J streets, have in mind.

The 14-story hotel, which has been covered in scaffolding for weeks, is still seven months away from opening. But workers recently finished two "model" guest rooms that give a glimpse of what's coming: rich fabrics and only-in-Sacramento political touches.

Like lamps and sconces with fabric shades depicting the state Constitution. (Great for insomniacs.) And framed prints of political cartoons by the late Newton Pratt, a Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist for more than 30 years.

The rooms are "relatively conservative with a humorous twist," says hotel managing director Brian Larson.

The overall effect: "Haberdashery," he says, noting the striped walls could serve as a clothing palette for "a gentleman from a certain political era gone by."

But the rooms – and traditional elements like the building's classic exterior and marble staircase – contrast with features designed to reflect the city's "sexy, cool, urbane" side, says Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels, the hotel operator.

Upping the hipness quotient: the red-hued lobby with law- library motif, an upscale restaurant (as yet unnamed) with a two-story wine tower, and a mezzanine bar with DJs spinning tunes.

Conley says it all fits with Sacramento's younger side that's now becoming more visible downtown.

"There's a whole new energy here," he says.

Light Rail & Public Safety

People expect to be safe when on public transit and the safer and more comfortable they feel, and if the transit can become somewhat convenient, it will be used much more than now.

Legislature moves to ban repeat offenders from light rail
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 6:03 am PDT Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Buoyed by support from state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Regional Transit officials say they intend to convene a task force this summer to look at ways they can ban repeat problem-causers from light rail trains, but do it in a way that respects passengers' rights and needs.

A Steinberg bill, SB 1561, directs RT to engage local mental health officials, homeless representatives and law enforcement officials in an effort to make light rail trains safer and train travel more pleasant.

The bill won support Tuesday from the Senate transportation committee.

RT official Mark Lonergan said he initially had hoped legislators would grant RT legal authority this year to ban some troublesome people for months at a time from riding trains, including those caught repeatedly riding without tickets and those arrested for committing crimes on RT property.

But legislative officials balked last week, saying that request, which would have applied to transit agencies statewide, was too complex and too rushed.

Lonergan said his agency instead will pull together a task force this summer, and would expect to return to the legislature in the fall with a proposal that has community support and applies only to Sacramento's transit system.

Sludge in Neighborhoods

This is a horrible use of federal funds and is the type of government work that creates the very reason the environmental justice movement has a case to make.

Families were told sludge safe for kids
07:59 AM CDT on Monday, April 14, 2008
Associated Press

BALTIMORE – Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead in the soil. Families were assured the sludge was safe.

The sludge, researchers said, put the children at less risk of brain or nerve damage from lead, a highly toxic element once widely used in gasoline and paint.

Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass. In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department.

The Associated Press reviewed grant documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and interviewed researchers. No one involved with the $446,231 grant for the two-year study would identify the participants. There is no evidence of any medical follow-up too see if there was any harm.

'Not in the realm of safe'

In the late 1990s the government began underwriting studies using poor neighborhoods as laboratories to make a case that sludge may directly benefit human health.

But there has been little research into the possible harmful effects of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms often found in sludge.

"There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe," said Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "What's needed are more studies on what's going on with the pathogens in sludge – are we actually removing them?"

That's not what the subjects of the Baltimore research and subjects of a similar test in East St. Louis, Ill., were told.

What residents heard

Rufus Chaney, an Agriculture Department research agronomist who co-wrote the Baltimore study, said the researchers provided the families with brochures about lead hazards, tested the soil in their yards and gave assurances that the Orgro fertilizer was store-bought and perfectly safe.

"They were told that their lawn, as it stood, before it was treated, was a lead danger to their children," Mr. Chaney said. "So that even if they ate some of the soil, there would not be as much of a risk as there was before. And that's what the science shows."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

24 Hours Cities are Noisy

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for because you get it and unforeseen issues like this one arise.

Editorial: Collaboration must roll as Midtown rocks
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, April 15, 2008

If you were standing near 20th and J streets on Saturday evening, you might not have believed you were in midtown Sacramento.

Throngs of people filled the streets. Bands blasted music on several corners. A juggler could be seen whirling a stick of flame. An impromptu parade started up, and soon scores of merrymakers were weaving through the midtown grid.

It wasn't exactly Mardi Gras, but for the Second Saturday art walk it was one heck of a street party.

Many Sacramentans have long lamented that the city lacks an entertainment district. In recent years, midtown has answered that call.

A steady increase in new eateries, lofts and art spaces has transformed this area. With this growth has come growing pains.

Parking has spilled into residential streets, and motorists have become impatient, sometimes threatening the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

And then there's the reality of inebriation. Many midtown patrons enjoy their libations responsibly. They don't drive after drinking or relieve themselves in people's yards. But some do, and their numbers have triggered a backlash against businesses seeking licenses for beer, wine and liquor.