Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sewage Spills & the Auburn Dam,

This is pretty gross news from the Sacramento Business Journal:

“The Sacramento Area Sewer District faces a fine of $201,000 for about 886,000 gallons of raw sewage that spilled into Arcade Creek and other surface waters from Nov. 2, 2006 through April 14, 2008. The largest spill happened on Feb. 13, when more than 700,000 gallons spilled into Arcade Creek after a pipeline bridging the creek collapsed.

“The sewer district serves much of unincorporated Sacramento County, Citrus Heights and parts of Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova.”

And certainly reminds those of us who haven’t yet done so, filter or buy your drinking water.

There is another move to shut down the Auburn Dam—which is still an approved project—and the California Republican congressional delegation recently sent a letter in opposition.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Funding, Big Fix, & New York

Our first guiding principle is:

(1) Preserving the Parkway is not an option, it’s a necessity.

We specify the funding support to be able to act on this principle as creating a public/private partnership with a nonprofit organization to manage the Parkway—contracting with a Joint Powers Authority of local government—which could raise supplemental funding philanthropically.

In the face of today’s article in the Bee noting that perhaps $900,000 might be cut by Sacramento County from the Parks Department—which runs the Parkway—our solution might look more attractive.

The Big Fix starts tonight and for those who have to use the 1-5 freeway or related arteries, the crush might be huge.

The New York firm that has done so much work in Sacramento gets another big job and it reminds us that the value of the development of the private and public sector in one of our nation’s oldest cities is well worth looking to for particular expertise.

We also have looked to them for guidance on how to manage and develop supplemental funding for our Parkway and have found it in the Central Park Conservancy, the public private partnership that has virtually saved Central Park.

A press release from January 18, 2008 on our news page (second one down) goes into more detail on the plan we propose to provide supplemental Parkway funding.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Warming, Creative Class & Indian Heritage

A new report out from the Department of Agriculture forecasts dire results—for agriculture, water supplies, and an increase in invasive species and insects—from global warming over the next 25-50 years.

Sacramento has earned a top ten best-places-to-live rating from Kiplinger magazine, and much of the data concerns the creative class concepts developed by Richard Florida in a series of books beginning with The Rise for the Creative Class.

Florida postulates that cities that cater to people whose work is driven by knowledge and creativity will become the most successful and even with some criticism of Florida’s research that has arisen, it is an interesting concept that has the ring of credibility and Sacramento could benefit by being so labeled.

The Indian Heritage Center, which we have been long supporters of, is moving forward and if all goes well will occupy a magnificent site at the confluence of our two rivers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Economy, Parkway, Bikes & Transparency.

What we see locally we also see nationally as the US makes it five years in a row it is ranked number one in global competitiveness.

Goethe Park has officially been renamed River Bend Park, a very nice name, descriptive of its location and setting in a big bend of the river in Rancho Cordova.

Bikes on K Street were being discussed to help commuters during the big fix but that plan has apparently been squashed. Too bad, it is a good idea and one that should be resurrected on a permanent basis, though you would certainly need some form of wall to protect bikers from walkers.

And, speaking of the big fix, here is a tentative schedule for the work due to start in two days, yikes!

The Sacramento Bee did a very informative test of the openness of several local governments and came away with some surprising answers which let us know we still have a way to go to get governments to follow their own laws requiring transparency in the conducting of the public’s business.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Details: Warming, Transit & Housing

The Senate is starting to look at a global warming related bill that would create a cap and trade policy regarding pollution and the details of it are significant, could cause real economic problems and redistribute income around the country in ways that many of those affected may not enjoy; all of which calls for some serious debate, which we will hopefully see over the next several months.

A major piece of the mass transit system in the United States is the airline industry and how they manage their companies says a lot about the impact of the experience of individuals using their mass transit, and one of them has written a book about it, an angry book.

Affordable housing, whether it is for the chronic homeless, or the working poor, is an issue each community wishing to be other than an exclusive enclave, needs to address and Sacramento has long chosen inclusiveness over exclusiveness.

It is a choice that always needs expression and expansion; and city wide affordable housing regulations do make sense to allow all developers a share in the process.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Energy & Memorial Day

Congress has been active on the energy front, though a comprehensive energy strategy incorporating utilizing our own sources of fossil fuel and a larger commitment to nuclear, still aren’t being addressed significantly.

Today is Memorial Day, so fly the flag, remember those who died and suffered for our freedoms, and a good place to visit is the Patriot Post for some good reminders of the meaning of today.

Enjoy the day, it promises to be mild, maybe a few showers later.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Texas, Potemkin, & Valley Air

It looks like the biofuel movement, of which ethanol is the main ingredient, has caused some economic problems in Texas around the cost of corn as cattle feed, and very probably also, contributing to the increase in food prices, and the EPA is being asked to stand down for a year, at least in Texas.

There is also a good argument being made, once again, to relook our dependence on fossil fuel and step up our investment in electric/ethanol cars, nuclear/wind/other alternative forms of commercial energy and all of this is doable, but it takes leadership rather than partnership, don’t hold your breath, but don’t lose hope either.

This article in City Journal suggests the environmentalism of our governor is more like the fake village of Potemkin the Soviets used to show visitors to their country how wonderful it was, but it was all a faced, only a façade, and a 2005 article from the same magazine reminds us why we need to get with it on nuclear power.

New air rules for the valley area appear to be a very good thing, and if we are all lucky could result in the long-stalled bridge and road development to move the auto traffic around the area a little more efficiently and reduce the stalls that generate even more air pollution; as well as increasing the use of transit for those folks who are able to cope with the insecurity of time schedules and insufficiently policed fellow passengers that can cause some safety concerns; which appear to be two of the reasons transit isn’t used more.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Life Jackets, Bikes & A Deficit

Local government is considering requiring life jackets for those people who are in our rivers, and it does make sense as the currents, rapids, and old holes from long-ago river dredging for gold are impossible to anticipate and protect against if you get caught in one, so yes, let’s be safer out there.

And, also being considered is allowing bikes on the K Street Mall during the Big Fix on I-5, which makes great sense, and even better to think about making it permanent, but creating a bike lane to protect bikers and pedestrians.

Sacramento city deficit is seen as ballooning to $200 million in the near future, big enough to ask what’s been going on and how can we fix it; and it is good to hear about this during a mayoral election, when voters have the option of bringing in new leadership if they agree the problems lie with the current team.

Friday, May 23, 2008

From Global to Greyhound

One of the best thinkers out there around the issue of global warming is Bjorn Lomborg and he penned this great article reminding us of the real catastrophes we could consider dealing with on an emergency basis, and global warming barely makes the list.

This is truly the kind of thinking we would be blessed to have from more public leaders.

Some very good thinking also comes from Europe around energy issues, and with its focus on cap and trade, plug in electric vehicles and other ideas, primarily grounded in market approaches to the energy issue, reminds us that regional and global energy cooperation really is beginning to shape itself, and that is a very good thing.

An award winning program to help women who have survived domestic violence, and their families, is The Grateful Thread, where discarded fabric items are unraveled and the thread is rewoven into marketable goods, an incredibly creative method of recycling and the rebuilding of lives.

We offered an idea—and had several meetings about it—in 2005 to involve the homeless in Parkway cleanup as a money making business in our report about the illegal camping in the Parkway’s lower reach, the ARPPS Homeless Job Training Project, see pages 34-36 for more information.

There hasn’t really been much follow up with it, which is too bad, as it has been working very well in New York as the Ready Willing and Able program that has won many awards for getting the chronic homeless—the same population of folks who make up the majority of those who camp illegally on the Parkway—back into the working life.

A new poll on the Sacramento mayoral race is out and there was a great one-on-one debate last night between the top two candidates, very informative and should be presented as an encore.

Elk Grove has petitioned to expand its boundaries southward, and there are some other local areas that are real hot for real estate sales, very good news for us all; and we are reminded that in the good-for-the-community move of the Greyhound Bus Depot to the Richards Blvd. area, we should not forget to make sure bus service goes to the new location regularly, to help those who take the bus, primarily low income folks, get there without difficulty.

Great weekend coming up, enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coyote Watch

The Cal Expo arena plan has moved to the next level and while it is much too soon to celebrate, the credibility of the people and institutions involved is heartening.

The American River Parkway now has sings posted warning everyone about coyotes, in response to the reported attacks on about a half-dozen children in Southern California, and though none of the attacks resulted in serious injury, it is sure better to be safe than sorry, so be careful out there.

And a Parkway bike riding event that benefits the Parkway is coming up next month.

Carmichael parks is set to begin work on some new parks, and according to plan, should have four new parks finished within two years.

Enjoy the day, windy though it is.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Of Mice and Men

It always amazes me how adaptable nature is to human development, almost as if it is all really part of nature, all natural, the works of humans and of critters, and this story of the nesting swallows on the river barge is such a story.

Moving the bus depot from downtown is a very good thing as downtown bus depots traditionally attract the transient, often loitering populations that can cause some distress to the commercial establishments near by, but in the discussion by the city council to approve the move, the good point was made that we still need to remember that poor people are as worthy of our respect as the rich, and that is so very true.

The county has opened up Parkway adjacent parking for free use to help with the traffic congestion during the I-5 big fix by encouraging people to park their cars then bike on the Parkway bike trail to work, and that is very good, but better still would be if they left the access free, which, considering the common good resulting from it being easier to bike commute, would be worth the tradeoff.

And if the Parkway comes under nonprofit management, as we suggest, the resulting ability to generate philanthropic funding to supplement government funding could very well make up the difference and more.

One of the original organizers of Earth Day back in 1971 is still coming up with good ideas and his powerful electric car is one of them.

An ARPPS Letter was published in the Bee today, and here it is:

Of mice and men

Re "Rodents shouldn't trump humans in disaster recovery," May 19: David Stirling's commentary is a poignant reminder that we really do need to begin to restore some balance between our shared concern to protect the environment and private property rights, as it has gotten too far out of balance.

The creation of rights for animals is a form of environmental stewardship most people can support, but using those rights to pursue government actions that outweigh the property rights of human beings is going to an extreme few people will support.

We can have both, the protection of property rights and the protection of animal rights, but we need to remember that the balance has to lean toward human beings.

This is an issue similar to what is playing out in the ongoing discussions around the American River Parkway and how much space should be devoted to natural preserve vs. how much to developed recreation.

While both are crucial, the need for more developed recreation to address the needs of all parkway users, including the frail elderly and the disabled, has to become a higher priority.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Housing, Boulevard, Parks, and Arena

A prominent global warming scientist has apparently changed his position after new research he conducted, as this story from CBS notes.

Del Paso Boulevard, the main street of a wonderfully intact community that was once the city of North Sacramento, is slowly coming back, in a new way, but still is struggling with old problems, like the bike riding stabber.

Our state parks make a list of endangered places, and as with the Parkway, it is still a struggle for the public agencies that manage parks and open space to realize that it is time to move beyond increasing taxes to pay for parks and look to the type of public private partnerships that work so well with places like Central Park in New York and the Sacramento Zoo.

The premier parks are the ones that have the best chance to develop philanthropic efforts to help fund them, but even the less well-known can build a strong community support network with the proper work and management.

It takes a change in thinking we hope to soon see at the state level and here with our Parkway.

Home sales are up big time in Sacramento and it is great news, though the depressed housing market bas been quite good for the organizations, like habitat for Humanity, to buy price depressed properties real cheaply and help get more low income people into homes, a very good thing.

The arena effort at Cal Expo, right next to the parkway, is moving along very nicely and it appears to be the best location, with all of the right people lined up, to actually become a reality, which would do wonders for the Point West area and the region.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Be Careful & Have Fun

This is river time for many Sacramentans and we need to remember that it can be as dangerous—as we see on our two rivers—out there as joyful and remembering basic river safety rules can keep us happily in the latter.

And how about those sweet Delta breezes coming in last night, a nice cool down, but the heat is sure nice too, and there is great news about the Delta King being remodeled and getting ready to get back in the river, one of Sacramento’s finest treats is riding up the Sacramento on it, and maybe having an evening dinner on the way.

We couldn’t agree more with the editorial in the Bee this morning that the arena finally appears to be located in the right spot, handled by the right people, and is just a triple win for all. If all goes well with design and placement, there might even be a view of the river from some of the seats.

And of course, it being summer, there will continue to be struggles around air pollution, especially in Southern California, but it all shouldn’t affect our enjoyment of the summer, though the water looks a tad low, and the heat maybe a bit high, it still looks like a very nice summer coming up for all of us.

Finally, is it any wonder that some folks get upset with the environmental movement when, as in this case during hurricane recovery efforts in Florida, rodent's "rights" trump those of human beings?

Enjoy, and stay cool.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Sunday News

The advent of Indian casinos is beginning to have the effect on Lake Tahoe gambling that many warned about, but is also having a very nice impact that most didn’t think about; the restoration of one of the most beautiful lakes in the country (and recently ranked number one as a tourist destination) to just a beautiful place to visit, stay awhile, have dinner; returning it, in a very updated way, to the ambiance of many years ago when those of us fortunate enough to have grown up here and of an age to remember when it was primarily "our" lake.

A very spiffy new car is being developed that has three wheels, leans like a motorcycle around turns, travels at speeds up to 100 miles per hour and gets 100 miles per gallon. Sign me up!

A very nice story about Midtown and its growth from the perspective of long time residents and newer business owners and developers, both speaking a lot of truth and giving the sense that this area will continue on its upward spiral and residents will need to learn from more urban areas how to live there and still find peace and harmony. Think thicker walls and windows, iron gates, closed in front porches, etc.

The June primaries aren’t stirring up much excitement except in our local mayoral race, and in this very political town, that is enough to keep us busy.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Greyhound on the Move

Finally, a deal appears to have been reached.

"After nearly two decades of talk, Sacramento's downtown Greyhound bus terminal is finally about to leave the station.

"Assuming City Council members approve the latest relocation plan on Tuesday night, a new, temporary bus terminal will be in operation next year on Richards Boulevard.

"This has been a long time coming," says Michael Ault, head of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which has viewed the existing terminal as a crime magnet and impediment to redevelopment.

"Ault says the development comes at the same time Westfield Corp. is about to seek approvals for a Downtown Plaza makeover, the Citizen Hotel is nearing completion at 10th and J streets, and Moe Mohanna is rumored to be near a settlement of a dispute with the city that has stalled development on the 700 and 800 blocks of the K Street Mall.

"A lot of things are starting to come together," Ault says.

"As the first step of the planned Greyhound move, council members will be asked to approve $2 million for street improvements around the new terminal site at 420 Richards Blvd., not far from the I-5 exit."

Bigger Airport

Today’s Bee article notes the vote:

"Workers at the airport are expected to break ground next month on perhaps the biggest public works project in Sacramento history.

"Acree, Schutten and Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors have designed a gleaming four-story steel-and-glass terminal in the center of the airport to replace Terminal B.

"It will be backed by a hotel tower. A people-mover tram will take riders to a 19-gate concourse on the airfield. A second parking garage will serve the new terminal...

"Led by Sacramento's dominant carrier, Southwest, resident airlines charge Acree with twisting their arms to pay more than they should for what they think will be an oversized facility...

"The airlines last week pleaded with county supervisors, asking them to rethink the financing. Supervisors instead voted to increase fees 45 percent."

Taxes to be Cut

According to the Bee this morning:

"Nearly 180,000 Sacramento-area homeowners can expect millions of dollars in collective property tax cuts this fall as county assessors engage in a wholesale markdown of home values.

"Assessors say the tax cuts may reach $104 million or more in the eight-county capital region – and primarily benefit people who bought homes in 2004 and afterward.

"The wide-scale reassessments will enable owners with declining home values to keep more of their personal income as intended under Proposition 8, an initiative passed in 1978 that, among other things, requires reassessments when a home's value falls below its purchase price.

"The new assessments will also sharply trim budgets for school districts, cities and counties and special districts during the 2008-09 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"This marks the second consecutive year assessors in Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties have put residential property taxes under review. The reassessments come as mounting foreclosures and a massive inventory of discounted bank-repossessed homes have sharply depressed values."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Big Fix

The work on I-5 is coming up in a couple of weeks and you can go to this announcement in the Bee to see the tentative work schedule with closure times and contacts.

Walking in Sacramento

Sacramento has always been a great walking city, and this Bee article says it is even getting better, but watch out for the cars, as this excerpt notes:

“Anne Geraghty's seemingly simple job is to make walking safer and easier in Sacramento and its suburbs.

“For better or for worse, Geraghty's business is booming. The 66-year-old executive director of the nonprofit WALKSacramento has made travel on foot her mission in life.

“She's not going it alone. Walking is considered a key part of the equation as midtown enjoys a renaissance. The city is witnessing more pedestrian energy out there, the way a thriving city should and, according to urban visionaries, must.

“People are walking to get groceries, to join friends for dinner, to take their dogs and hang out at the coffee shop. They meet strangers eye to eye and, on occasion, mingle.

“As AAA's magazine Via says in its May/June issue: "Sacramento has become what many cities aspire to be: a great walking town."

“Some folks are buying into this walking dynamic to such an extent they are moving into the city's center and giving up their cars, or at least their second cars.

“So why is it that when Geraghty stepped off the curb one recent morning at a well-marked crosswalk at the corner of 13th and H Streets near her office, she got no respect?

“The driver of the first car didn't even look her way. The second one zoomed past. Then came the third, the fourth, the 11th. Nobody came close to stopping, as required by law.

"People are trying to get somewhere in a hurry," she said with a shrug after the street cleared and she made it across. To be fair, upon Geraghty's return, someone did stop, a woman driving with a child.”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Auto Parts Jobs Leave

Our region loses quite a few jobs. Not real good news in this period of time.

“A Rancho Cordova car-parts factory will lay off most of its workers next month, after completing the sale of much of its business to a competitor. Their jobs will be sent to Tijuana, Mexico.

“An estimated 144 workers will be let go by Automotive Importing Manufacturing Inc., or AIM, according to a notice filed with the state. The 40-year-old company remanufactures, or overhauls, used alternators and starters.

“Steve Seabourne, AIM president, said the layoffs follow the sale of most of AIM's business to Motorcar Parts of America Inc., a publicly traded company based in Torrance. The deal is set to close Friday.”

Sacramento Train Business

The existing Sacramento manufacturer is expanding, which is very good news for the area.

It would appear that high gas prices are helping to encourage more folks to ride the rails.

“The Siemens light-rail assembly plant in Sacramento will announce the largest order in its 24-year history today, bringing new jobs at a time when the area's economy is struggling.

“The $277 million contract calls for Siemens Transportation Systems Inc. to build 77 light-rail cars for Salt Lake City's transit system over four years.

“Salt Lake's order surpasses Denver's purchase of 55 cars, for $184 million, in January 2007.

“The new contract will require Siemens to increase employment from its current level of 550 workers, although it wasn't immediately clear by how many.”

Trout Returning

The popular trout lake gets its fish tomorrow.

"PORTOLA – Thousands of Eagle Lake trout are in line for new homes Friday in Lake Davis when the California Department of Fish and Game begins to make good on its promise to plant 11 tons of trout in the Plumas County reservoir.

"Among the trout scheduled for release by hatchery trucks are 3,000 up-to-13-pound trophy trout that will be netted by hand and placed in the water at Honker Cove, said Randy Kelly, the department's pike project manager.

"The fish releases are part of a two-day restocking that will culminate Saturday, when anglers and the local community will celebrate the return of Lake Davis as a world-class trout fishery."

New College Campus

If all works out it, appears we may have a new college campus in the area in the future, and that is very good news.

“Sacramento County supervisors, on a 4-1 vote Wednesday, gave new life to a controversial plan to build a four-year college and housing on more than 2,000 acres of undeveloped land east of Rancho Cordova.

“The vote on the Cordova Hills project overturned an earlier planning department decision. Planners had asked the supervisors to uphold their rejection of the project based on its location outside the urban policy area.

“Despite the supervisors' vote, developers are a long way from turning thousands of rolling acres of eastern Sacramento County into housing and the new home of the University of Sacramento, run by the Legionaries of Christ.

"All that we did today is allow an application to be filed," said Paul Hahn, who heads the county's municipal service agency.

“The project faces further hurdles once specific building plans and environmental studies are completed.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Parkway Biking Announcement

Parks department holding event to encourage bike riding
By Niesha Lofing -
Published 7:12 am PDT Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A bike, a bagel and a breath of fresh air on the way to work?

You bet.

The Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks is hosting Park'n Ride to Work, an event to support the annual Bike to Work Day, from 6 to 10 a.m. Thursday.

The event also will launch the promotion season for the Passport Annual Parks Pass, which allows holders unlimited access and parking at Sacramento County regional parks, according to a department news release.

Participants can park for free and enter the bike trail at Lower Sunrise, Sacramento Bar, William B. Pond Recreation Area and the American River Parkway South.

Coffee, juice and bagels will be available at "energizer stations" at the four entrances. Participants also can purchase a 2008/2009 parks passport and register to win a free Trek 7000 bicycle, courtesy of Bicycles Plus in Folsom.

Revenue earned through the passport program stays with the regional parks department and helps fund operating and maintenance of the parks.

Parkway Adjacent Township 9 Announcement

Street expansion funded
Published 5:46 am PDT Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A major street expansion to serve a planned 2,300-unit residential development in downtown Sacramento won $2.2 million Tuesday from the Sacramento City Council.

The council approved funding to rebuild North Seventh Street in the 65-acre redevelopment project, which will also include offices, stores and restaurants.

The money was promised earlier as a condition of the city's April application for $30 million in state bond funding.

Construction work at Township 9 is scheduled to begin this summer, with the first residential units opening in 2010.

– Jim Wasserman

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tahoe is Clearer

Very good news and proof based on fact, that work has not been in vain.

Hopes rise for keeping Tahoe blue as clouding trend slows
By Chris Bowman -
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Scientists who for decades reported that famously clear Lake Tahoe was turning murkier have discovered that its clarity actually has been stabilizing since 2001.

Using a new, more sophisticated statistical analysis of environmental data, researchers also determined that a reduced rate of visibility loss in the lake was likely the payoff from decades of erosion control, purchases of environmentally sensitive land and restrictive building rules designed to curb runoff.

"It's a good hypothesis that the land use restrictions and erosion controls have something to do with it," said John Reuter, a lake scientist with the University of California, Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

The findings, released Monday, mark the most encouraging development in 40 years of monitoring the clouding of Lake Tahoe, according to Charles Goldman, a UCD professor who in the 1960s was the first to foresee Tahoe's troubles, and then act on its behalf.

"There's promise in this data that we've crossed the line," Goldman said.

"That's excellent news," cheered Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, known for its "Keep Tahoe Blue" bumper stickers.

"We have good reason to believe the measures to protect Lake Tahoe are indeed improving the clarity, and this news supports that," Nason said.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Water Plan

Any new water plan for California that doesn’t include new water storage—dams—is just whistling in the river and we need to hold the river’s water not whistle as it goes by.

John Garamendi: State’s water needs require bold approach
By John Garamendi - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, May 12, 2008

Like a splash of cold water to the face, the recent startling reports from state water surveyors should be enough to wake up our state.

As The Bee reported May 2, the Sierra snowpack stands at just 67 percent of average levels, and March and April were the driest in recorded history. Local governments have been told to prepare for rationing. But as we proceed rapidly into a world changed by global warming, a spring like 2008's may be the new normal.

Climate change is anticipated to have three major impacts on California's future water supply. First, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, California's primary water reservoir, is anticipated to shrink 30 percent to 90 percent by the end of the century. Second, warmer temperatures will produce warmer winter storms – the classic Pineapple Express – which will lead to more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow, increased threat of flooding, more pressure on our already vulnerable levee systems and serious issues surrounding our ability to store water. And third, rising sea levels will lead to an influx of salt water on our coastline and rivers, affecting water quality, habitat and further reducing our already limited freshwater supply.

Add to this the pressure California's population growth (600,000 people per year) is placing on water resources, not to mention the declining health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and shrinking supplies from the Colorado River. The simple truth is California's water infrastructure cannot withstand the dual stresses of climate change and population growth. We must adapt and manage our water more efficiently.

Sacramento Flooding

The first sentence tells it all. “California's capital city may be best known for politics, but it has another claim to fame: It's America's most flood-threatened city not named New Orleans.”

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.

Sacramento prepares for the worst -- massive flooding
State and federal agencies race to complete work designed to prevent the $25-billion disaster that could result if the rivers surrounding the capital city overflowed or breached aging levees.
By Eric Bailey
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 11, 2008

SACRAMENTO — California's capital city may be best known for politics, but it has another claim to fame: It's America's most flood-threatened city not named New Orleans.

A recent state report predicts that the right combination of unlucky weather conditions could put some parts of the city under more than 20 feet of water, causing a $25-billion disaster that would cripple state government and ripple through the California economy.

Authorities are racing against time to strengthen the earthen levees that ring nearly the entire city to hold back the swollen American and Sacramento rivers.

"Every winter we hold our breaths and hope this isn't the year something happens before we can finish the work," said Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson. "There is a sense of the clock ticking."

When heavy rain begins to fall, folks here peer nervously at the sky and riverbanks. And Stein Buer -- the person perhaps most responsible for their fates -- frets and prepares.

"I never sleep during storms," said Buer, executive director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, which is working with the state and federal governments in a multibillion-dollar effort to avert catastrophe. "It's the nature of my responsibility."

Worst-case scenarios project 500 dead, 102 square miles flooded, 300,000 people uprooted, an international airport and state agencies under water, and years of recovery.

To avoid that outcome, Buer has plotted strategy, navigated bureaucracy, even joined crews tossing sandbags.

He isn't going it alone. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the federal Bureau of Reclamation have all stepped up prevention efforts since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. State flood experts and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, are pushing to buttress the Central Valley's 1,600 miles of levees.

The aim, with the help of nearly $5 billion in state bond money approved in 2006, is to double Sacramento's flood protection over the next decade.

Work began recently on a $683-million Folsom Dam spillway channel that would more quickly lower the lake as a mega-storm approached the American River's 18,000-square-mile watershed. Along the Sacramento River, which drains 23,000 square miles of Northern California, crews have reinforced aging levees near some of the most flood-prone neighborhoods.

But in Sacramento's fastest-growing neighborhood, big trouble still looms -- even without a flood.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Parkway Arena

With big windows on the upper decks facing south, the American River parkway would be a great view as would the horizon overlooking midtown and downtown.

Arena plan excites officials, fans at crumbling Cal Expo
By Todd Milbourn -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 11, 2008

The water pipes at Cal Expo are deteriorating. The sewer system is outdated. Fewer people are showing up at the horse track.

California's state fairground – once envisioned as a "Disneyland of the North" – is starting to resemble a concrete wasteland when the fair isn't under way.

So it's easy to understand why Brian May, a Cal Expo executive, was so excited about the news he received Friday: Negotiators for Cal Expo and the NBA have agreed to move ahead on plans to build a Sacramento Kings basketball arena at the fairground.

Not only would that mean renewed prominence for 40-year-old Cal Expo, but an infusion of cash to help pay for $40 million in needed repairs. It's enough to make the potential traffic headaches tolerable.

"This is just a great opportunity to modernize and redevelop," May said Saturday. "We hear a lot from people we do business with that our facilities are starting to look tired, and they're not meeting their needs."

The Kings are still years away from a new arena – wherever it ends up, if anywhere in Sacramento at all.

For now, the NBA and Cal Expo plan to spend the next 180 days hammering out a development plan that would accommodate both an arena and a revamped fairground.

Developers will submit proposals for turning the 360-acre fairground into a mixed-use and entertainment district.

Parks & Guns

Many people have felt for years that the only safe way to traverse the Parkway in the North Sacramento area is with a gun.

No guns in parks
A government push to end a ban on guns in national parks must be aimed at making the NRA happy.
May 10, 2008

President Reagan's administration banned easily accessible, loaded guns from national parks where hunting is not allowed. That seemed logical: It decreased the risk of violent encounters among visitors, improved safety for park rangers and reduced the likelihood of poaching. Today, the parks, monuments and recreation sites overseen by various divisions of the Department of the Interior are among the safest places in the nation. Statistically, visitors stand a better chance of being hit by lightning than of becoming victims of violent crime. And yet in the world of gun lobbying, no place is safe from irrationality, as Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has demonstrated with his proposal to end the 25-year ban.

Currently, visitors who bring guns to the parks must unload them and place them somewhere out of easy reach, such as in a car trunk. Under new rules proposed by Kempthorne, people who have permits for concealed weapons would be allowed to carry them in national parks if the state in which the park is located so allows. This would create a hodgepodge of policies that would be a nightmare to enforce. Take Death Valley National Park, which straddles Nevada and California. California prohibits loaded and accessible guns in its national parks, and Nevada does not. Visitors carrying guns could break the law simply by entering the wrong part of the park.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Public Private Partnerships

This is the model for many of the most successful global efforts over the past several decades that have added immeasurably to the common good of our world, and California really does need to consider this type of approach for our infrastructure.

A public-private solution to aging infrastructure
By Roger Niello - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 10, 2008

California will need at least $500 billion over the next 20 years to fulfill its infrastructure needs, the state Department of Finance estimates. By some accounts, our system of roads, public transportation, schools and hospitals is reaching Third World standards. We've come a long way from the days of Gov. Pat Brown, when infrastructure investment represented a significant chunk of the state's budget.

Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to meet our needs, even after the recent passage of transportation bonds.

Last week, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee missed an opportunity to expand the pie of resources available to modernize California's crumbling infrastructure. My legislation, Assembly Bill 2600, would have allowed state agencies to enter into partnerships with private firms, leveraging their abundant access to capital and diverse expertise. This arrangement is known as public-private partnerships, or performance based infrastructure, and is commonplace in many other states and many countries around the world.

If there's one thing that we should all agree on and take from this current state budget crisis, it's that California needs to start doing things differently. We need to look at budget reform, education reform, pension reform and reform of the way we build very expensive public works projects. A good place to start is by drawing on the positive experiences of other economies around the world.

Why partner with the private sector? The answer is simple. The private sector has access to capital, the private sector is designed to bear risk and guarantee a bottom line, and the private sector can be held contractually accountable by the public agency to deliver the best product for California's citizens, on time and on budget.

It all sounds logical enough, but unfortunately, in California, the challenge is political. Public employee unions are fearful that these partnerships will lead us down the path of privatization and public-sector job elimination. But only a small percentage of projects are candidates for public-private partnerships, as the method is used only where it adds value, and with a $500 billion need over the next 20 years, there will always be a significant role for state government engineers and employees to play in countless projects. Even on public-private partnerships projects themselves, state engineers and other government employees are a part of the project. And government will always play the role of setting the goals, establishing the rules, and ensuring that environmental and labor standards are met.

Green Gets Gory

Sometimes new technologies just don’t work and cause more problems than the one they were meant to solve.

But that’s how technology advances, from its failures.

Elk Grove wants a refund after hybrid-bus fires
By Loretta Kalb -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 10, 2008

The once-vaunted hybrid gasoline-electric buses that powered the early days of Elk Grove's transit service are languishing in a city corporation yard over city concerns about buses catching fire.

The city reportedly is demanding that manufacturers refund much of the $10 million it spent on 21 buses, most of which were on hand to launch Elk Grove's e-tran service in January 2005.

The hybrids, all older, refurbished buses, replaced Sacramento Regional Transit buses that city officials said weren't giving residents their money's worth. From the start there were breakdowns and delays. And the fires really upset the city.

In 33 months, hybrid buses caught fire four times and recorded 25 to 30 "thermal incidents," the city said. Manufacturers dispute those numbers.

In September, the underside of a bus caught fire. A fire crew arrived, and passengers were safely evacuated.

That fire was the last straw, interim City Manager Cody Tubbs told The Bee. He said he immediately sidelined the troubled hybrid fleet.

Point West Arena

This is one of the most visionary ideas Sacramento has seen and, once the traffic and costs get worked out, will rejuvenate a rather sleepy area of our city that can become a real jewel along the American River Parkway.

NBA, Cal Expo agree to move ahead on Kings arena
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 10, 2008

Negotiators for the National Basketball Association and Cal Expo on Friday announced they have agreed to move forward jointly on a plan to build a Kings arena in the state fairgrounds.

According to a letter of understanding, which still must be approved by the Cal Expo board of directors, the two sides will spend the next 180 days working on a development plan that would accommodate both an arena and a revamped fairgrounds.

They plan to ask developers to submit proposals for turning the 360-acre fairgrounds into a mixed-use and entertainment development.

Cal Expo's board is scheduled to consider the letter at its May 21 meeting. Both NBA Commissioner David Stern and former Gov. Pete Wilson, the lead negotiator for Cal Expo, plan to attend.

The board also will decide whether to retain Wilson's law firm, Bingham McCutchen, to continue working on its behalf.

The Maloofs, who own the Kings, are scheduled to be briefed by phone next week on the progress of talks, said spokeswoman Donna Lucas. "They continue to be very supportive and appreciative of the work the commissioner and the NBA have been doing on the issue," she said.

Stern said in a phone interview Friday that the Maloofs, while not involved in the talks, have paid for expenses incurred by the NBA for consultants and studies, and will continue to do so.

"They've said, 'Do what it takes; spend what you need. Let's give everything we can to make this work in Sacramento,'" Stern said. "They couldn't be better. They want this to work."

Stern took over the arena effort in December 2006 after earlier attempts involving the Maloofs and city and county officials collapsed in bitterness and recrimination.

The Kings owners walked away from the last serious proposal to build a new arena, in 2006. That effort would have involved raising the sales tax countywide to pay for an arena in the shuttered downtown railyard. Without the Maloofs' support, voters trounced the plan.

The agreement announced Friday is not legally binding, but representatives of both the NBA and Cal Expo said it represents a significant step forward. They also cautioned that major challenges lie ahead.

"We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think there was a more than fair chance it could be done, but recognizing that it's not a slam dunk," Stern said.

Negotiators for both sides said they were confident enough that they could come up with a mutually acceptable development proposal to move to the next step: crafting an actual plan, and looking for a developer to design and build it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Auburn Dam’s Death?

Auburn Dam's demise has been foretold many times, but as long as it remains the one solution to our flooding woes, and provides the additional water supply so necessary for our growing region, it will struggle along until wise leadership gets it built.

Along with protecting the physical integrity of the Parkway and providing water cold enough and flowing at the right rate for healthy salmon, it is the only way Sacramento can achieve a 500 year level of flood protection, the gold standard most major river cities in the country have already achieved.

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.

Auburn dam may be dealt death blow
By Matt Weiser -
Published 6:04 am PDT Friday, May 9, 2008

A long-stalled Auburn dam on the American River has suffered many defeats. But the next could be truly fatal.

The State Water Resources Control Board plans to revoke the water rights held by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the project. The unfinished dam, in other words, would no longer have any water to hold back.

Reclamation halted construction on a dam more than 30 years ago due to earthquake concerns, leaving the river's north fork heavily scarred but not permanently blocked. A host of environmental concerns and ballooning costs have delayed the project ever since.

Though still coveted by some officials in the region, a dam is probably doomed without water.

"If they lose the water rights, it would be very problematic, I would think," said Bruce Kranz, a Placer County supervisor and chairman of the American River Authority, a joint-powers agency and leading dam advocate.

The original Auburn dam was approved by Congress in 1965. It was designed to store 2.5 million acre-feet of water behind a dam nearly 700 feet high adjacent to the city of Auburn.

Reclamation secured water rights for a dam from the state in 1970. Those rights allowed the agency to store a staggering amount of water – 5 million acre-feet – at different times of year for purposes ranging from power generation and recreation to farming and urban consumption...

But Reclamation spokesman Jeff McCracken said his agency will argue to keep the rights. It requested a hearing on the matter before the water board, set for July 21 in Sacramento. A prehearing conference will be held June 4. Both are open to the public.

"This remains a congressionally mandated project," McCracken said. "The bottom line is, we continue to want to hold onto those rights because Congress told us to do something and it hasn't yet been completed."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

River Restoration

It keeps chugging along, and once completed, can help reinforce the case that good dam management can really help the salmon, in this case, returning them from the extinction the dam created.

The solution is often in the problem.

River restoration plan passes Senate panel
By Michael Doyle -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 8, 2008

WASHINGTON – A key Senate committee on Wednesday handily approved a revised but still ambitious bill to restore the San Joaquin River.

Following months of tinkering and political maneuvering, lawmakers quickly embraced the river restoration effort. The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee's approval by a bipartisan 15-7 margin builds momentum, while not eliminating all resistance.

"Bottom line: This legislation can help resolve one of the oldest water disputes in the West," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said after the committee's approval.

The bill authorizes work to improve the parched river channel below Friant Dam so more water can be released and salmon reintroduced. The bill has a federal price tag of roughly $190 million, although calculating the full cost of river restoration is very complicated.

"I see this as a huge federal commitment and expense that has a lot of implications and consequences," cautioned Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., also warning of a "pretty heavy cost to taxpayers."

Sacramento Law & Polar Bears

Enough heat and ice to make a case.

Law firm vows to sue if U.S. links climate to polar bear's survival
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Sacramento law firm known for its conservative advocacy is poised to join the political melee over the fate of the polar bear, vowing Wednesday to sue the government if global warming is cited as a threat to the species.

The Pacific Legal Foundation's warning comes in response to a much-anticipated decision next week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on whether to protect Alaskan polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. The service faces a court-ordered deadline of May 15 for that ruling.

At issue is growing debate over how aggressively government should act to protect wildlife threatened by climate change. In the case of the polar bear, neither side disputes that the Arctic is changing. But they disagree about the effect on polar bears.

A similar issue was decided last month when the California Fish and Game Commission rejected a petition to protect the American pika in response to threats posed by climate change. Lots of evidence shows that the pika's high Sierra habitat will shrink as temperatures warm. But a decline in the pika's numbers has not yet been documented in California as a result.

Reed Hopper, a foundation attorney, claimed polar bears are thriving and already adequately protected.

"This listing of the polar bear really isn't about the polar bear," he said. "This is a political ploy on the part of activist groups to try to hijack global warming policy from the hands of Congress and to put it into the hands of the courts."

Kassie Siegel, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said it is "untrue and reprehensible" to claim that polar bears are thriving.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mayoral Debate Announcement

Mayoral debate
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Bee, News10 and The California Museum are sponsoring "Mayoral Race '08: Candidates Face the Voters," a live televised debate in which all seven candidates for mayor of Sacramento have agreed to participate.

When: 6 to 7 p.m. tonight, televised live on Channel 10. The candidates will continue a half-hour live debate from 7 to 7:30 p.m., answering questions submitted online. Watch the entire 90 minutes at (The forum is not open to the public.)

Who: Mayoral candidates Adam Daniel, Shawn Eldredge, Mayor Heather Fargo, Kevin Johnson, Richard Jones, Leonard Padilla and Muriel Strand
Moderator: Dale Schornack, News10 anchor

Panelists: The Bee's Terri Hardy, News10's Sharon Ito, and Claudia French, California Museum executive director, who will pose questions submitted by the public

Public's role: Questions from the community will be posed via prerecorded tapings. You can also submit a question online during the forum at

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New Chief Announcement

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation names chief for Sacramento office
- Bee Metro Staff
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has appointed Donald R. Glaser as the new mid-Pacific regional director, replacing Kirk Rodgers, who retired in August.

Glaser, 61, will take charge of the Sacramento regional office, which has a huge influence on water in California. It operates Folsom and Shasta dams as well as the Central Valley Project, a massive canal and pumping system that exports water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Born in Long Beach, Glaser graduated from Santa Barbara High School and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and economics from Eastern Montana University, now Montana State University at Billings. He worked for the Bureau of Reclamation for 20 years, starting in 1974, in several positions throughout the West and in Washington, D.C., including serving as assistant commissioner for resources management and deputy commissioner.

He has spent the past seven years managing nonprofits in the Denver area, including the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and the Douglas Land Conservancy, and was a senior manager and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

He also served as Colorado state director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and was executive director of the Presidential Commission on Western Water Policy.

Glaser rejoins the bureau as the agency is managing the $1.5 billion upgrade to Folsom Dam and is entwined in a host of environmental challenges confronting the Delta. He started work Monday and plans to move to Sacramento with his wife, Sandi, in the near future.

Trees are Good, Very Good

Tree study clears the air
UC Davis researchers find tall evergreens, planted in rows, filter toxic auto exhaust and disperse it.
By Chris Bowman -
Published 12:17 am PDT Tuesday, May 6, 2008

UC Davis researchers say they have confirmed in laboratory experiments that certain trees are highly effective in filtering and dispersing some of the most toxic particles in auto exhaust.

The findings suggest health risks in neighborhoods and schools near heavy traffic can be cut significantly by flanking the roadways with tall evergreens.

If the cleansing effect holds under further testing, roadside tree "walls" could be a relatively inexpensive, low-tech and aesthetic strategy for mitigating the sooty aerosols wafting off urban freeways, according to Breathe California, a nonprofit public health advocacy group that sponsored the University of California, Davis, study.

"We would like to do more studies and test it in the real world, to show that it works for a lot of people in lots of places," said Koro Titus, spokeswoman for the group's Sacramento chapter.

Green Roof

Cost a lot but should save money and cool down the building.

New Natomas school roof is green - and growing
By Laurel Rosenhall -
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A new school being built in Natomas has something in common with the Chia Pet.

With a few sprinkles of water, plants will spring from its top, forming a cover of vegetation across the roof of the H. Allen Hight Learning Center.

The school's "green roof" is one of many construction features designed to save energy when the campus opens in August with 500 students. It's also likely the first local example of a building trend sweeping across rooftops worldwide.

Green roofs – roofs covered with soil and plants – have become a favorite feature among environmentally minded builders. They naturally keep buildings cool and absorb rainwater. Plus, they're neat to look at.

"Green roofs are one of the visible, sexy, fun green building elements that are attractive to people," said Leslie Hoffman, whose New York nonprofit, Earth Pledge, published a book about green roofs. "It's not very fun or sexy to talk about insulation."

Green roofs were first developed in Germany about 40 years ago, Hoffman said. The technique then spread to Japan before picking up in the United States in the last 10 years. New York City now has more than 100 green roofs; Chicago has about 300. A green roof sits atop the Gap offices in San Bruno and one is being built on the new Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Conservation in 1908

Fascinating article from a 1908 issue of the Atlantic Monthly magazine when President Theodore Roosevelt began the process of national conservation of natural resources.

The Conservation of Our Natural Resources

During more than a century our government has been engaged in the alienation of an enormous domain. On a scale unequaled in history, and which probably never will be equaled, we have distributed land in generous homesteads to the land hungry of the world, transforming a tenant peasantry into a responsible electorate. In the pursuit of this business we have enlarged a simple policy of dispersal until the public domain has become a public grab bag; and pleading for the more rapid and profitable "development" of what we chose to call the unlimited resources of America, we have developed, instead, a national recklessness, spendthriftness, and wasteful extravagance, in which we have thrown away everything but the very richest part of our takings. The public land and the public water, in the form of fuel, power, timber, navigable streams, irrigable plains, and valuable minerals, have been so administered as to beget both a confidence in the eternal bounty of nature and a habit of treating public property as a source of private fortune.

To day, a number of things coming simultaneously to our attention call a halt. Our timber resources, sufficient, if not radically conserved, for barely a score of years; our rivers suffering from deforestation; our decreasing waterpowers falling into the hands of an increasing monopoly; our mineral fuels becoming more costly to mine, and amazingly less abundant; our farm lands losing millions of tons of their most fertile portions by soil wash,—all these things, and many more, bring us face to face with the certainty that this policy of spendthrift alienation and waste must be abandoned, and that its direct converse, the utmost conservation of our remaining natural resources, public private, must be adopted. More: it must be adhered to rigidly, not only to preserve a livable land for our children's children, but even to assure a modicum of prosperity for our own old age.

It is to bring this fact most startlingly to the general notice that President Roosevelt has called upon the governors of all the states and territories to meet him in conference at the White House during the present month (May), to consult and confer, not only with but with one another, and to set on foot a movement for the adoption of uniform legislation over the whole country at an early date. This is to be not only an unusual but a precedent making conference, since it is the first time the Chief Executive has called into consultation the coordinate officials of the states; but its importance from this point of view, great though it is, appears but slight beside the significance of the policy which it brings to public notice.

It is essential that we should get very clearly in mind at the outset precisely what this new policy is intended to effect. Its inception has been so promptly followed by the withdrawal from entry of the fuel lands remaining in the public domain, and the establishment of large forest reserves, and the opposition of the executive authority to any further development of water power by private interests on navigable streams or on public lands, that many persons have supposed that conservation was the opposite of alienation, and have imagined that President Roosevelt's plan was to hold all remaining public property in common and develop it on a more or less socialistic basis. Nothing could be further from the truth. The resources which are to be conserved are natural, not national. He plans to direct the organization of public sentiment, and the formulation of laws by which all such resources, whether in land or in water, whether national, state, or privately owned, shall be administered in a way to preserve intact or to increase the principal of them, and to give to each succeeding generation a larger wealth from the interest.

In the consideration of this proposition two questions immediately arise: first, what are these resources and how are they to be conserved? second, how can the states and the federal government cooperate to attain this result? Leaving the first of these for the moment and considering the second, the immediate motive of the present conference, we find an attempt to solve by a master stroke a problem for which no solution is provided in our form of government: that of bringing about parallel legislation in several states at the same time. Our government is organized from the point of view of the individual states, and it is so made up that both the people of these states as individuals, and the states themselves as governing entities, may have effective influence in shaping national legislation at Washington. There is nothing whatever of a reciprocal nature whereby the whole nation may either force, impel, or request a single state to legislate in a manner common to all. Any movement toward such interference within a state would be considered such an infringement of the rights of the states as might possibly plunge us again into the abyss of civil war. The tendency of the present administration toward centralization is well known; yet even the President would hesitate to attempt to bring about his purpose by other means than those which he has adopted.

Yet these means, "spectacular" as one governor has called them, appear before trial to offer a happy means of bringing about co legislation without infringing upon the dignity of any member of the Union. Calling the Democratic South and the Republican North into a common conference has become necessary, too, just because of their political difference; for any measure which might be brought to the notice of their respective congressmen would obtain favor or disregard according as the congressmen were with or against the party of the President.

The immediate purpose is to bring about three sorts of legislation: that which controls national resources, that which controls state resources, and that which directs the development of resources privately controlled. In this the cooperation of the states is not only desirable, it is absolutely essential. The federal authorities may enact laws for the maintenance and development of the public domain, both in land and in water; they may enter into partnerships, and do so enter, for the improvement of navigation and power in navigable streams and for carrying on irrigation; they may acquire land and establish reservoirs where such reservoirs can be shown to be necessary for the purpose of maintaining navigation; they, may shape the methods of taking fuel from the public land by inserting their requirements in the lease or deed under which the land is partially alienated. In addition, they may carry on a campaign of education aimed to persuade individuals to adopt rational methods. But a state can go much farther. It may buy land and plant forests without regard to the purpose for which the forest is established. It may drain local swamps. It may create reservoirs on small and insignificant streams, for the purpose of providing a town water supply, of improving water power, or for any reason whatever. It may enter into partnership, with its citizens and cooperate with them in forest development, in guarding against fires, in the erection of dams, in the management of mines, in any way it may choose. It may exercise its police power to provide that those who own private forests must police them, must cut fire breaks, must burn their slashings, and may not cut to exceed the increment in any year. It may encourage tree planting by direct legislation and by passing taxes on wooded lands. It may by law put land in escrow during the carrying out of large improvements; and it may even direct the economy of fuel at the furnace.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Uranium Mining

One hopes solutions satisfying both can be found, protecting the environment of the Grand Canyon and extracting the uranium needed to generate nuclear power, sorely needed for future energy needs.

And in a related issue, look at this earlier entry concerning California’s energy and the Rancho Seco nuclear facility in Sacramento that was irresponsibly shut down.

Uranium claims spring up along Grand Canyon rim
A rush to extract uranium on public lands pits environmentalists, who worry about the local effect, against mining companies, which point out that nuclear power wouldn't contribute to global warming.
By Judy Pasternak
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 4, 2008

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, ARIZ. — Thanks to renewed interest in nuclear power, the United States is on the verge of a uranium mining boom, and nowhere is the hurry to stake claims more pronounced than in the districts flanking the Grand Canyon's storied sandstone cliffs.

On public lands within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park, there are now more than 1,100 uranium claims, compared with just 10 in January 2003, according to data from the Department of the Interior.

In recent months, the uranium rush has spawned a clash as epic as the canyon's 18-mile chasm, with both sides claiming to be working for the good of the planet.

Environmental organizations have appealed to federal courts and Congress to halt any drilling on the grounds that mining so close to such a rare piece of the nation's patrimony could prove ruinous for the canyon's visitors and wildlife alike.

Mining companies say the raw material they seek is important to the environment, too: The uranium would feed nuclear reactors that could -- unlike coal and natural gas -- produce electricity without contributing to global warming.

And uranium is in short supply. In recent years, mines closed in Canada and West Africa, yet the United States as well as France and other European countries have announced intentions to expand nuclear power. Predictably, the price of uranium has soared -- to $65 a pound as of last week, from $9.70 a pound in 2002.

In the five Western states where uranium is mined in the U.S., 4,333 new claims were filed in 2004, according to the Interior Department; last year the number had swelled to 43,153.

The push to extract more uranium has caused controversy not just involving federal land but private and state land as well. In Virginia, a company's plan to operate in a never-mined deposit spurred a hearing in the Legislature. In New Mexico, a Navajo activist group is challenging in federal court a license issued just over the reservation's east border.

Uranium claims are also encroaching on stretches of Western parkland such as Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park, all in Utah, as well as a proposed wilderness area in Colorado called the Dolores River Canyon.

But by far the most claims staked near any national park are in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon, which draws 5 million people a year. The park is second in popularity only to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Parkway Takes Center Stage

It is a very good thing to see quality of life issues be focused on in a political race and one of the major quality of life issues is the health of the American River Parkway.

Supervisor candidates face off in Sacramento's District 3 race
By Ed Fletcher -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters played up her accomplishments – including roadway improvements along Fulton Avenue and other corridors – during a locally televised candidate debate Saturday.

Her opponent Warren Harding was on the attack.

"We have a developer-controlled Board of Supervisors; it should be a community-controlled board," Harding said in his opening remarks.

"I've been a good steward for the community," said Peters in her opening statement. "Fulton Avenue is really turning around."

The two are competing in the June 3 nonpartisan race to represent District 3, which includes Arden Arcade, Carmichael, Foothill Farms, Campus Commons, College Greens, east Sacramento, River Park and Sierra Oaks.

The debate, hosted by the Sacramento League of Women Voters and Metro Cable 14, was aired live and will be replayed several times in the coming weeks.

It's the first time that the challenger and the incumbent shared the same stage.

Peters, a former developer, was elected to the board in 2004.

Harding, a former county employee, has served on the Arden Manor Recreation and Park District's board for nearly 30 years.

Peters talked up the work she's done to improve the economic vitality of the district, including driving potential investors around personally.

Harding – though light on details – said the county is yielding to developers and encouraging sprawl.

But the debate's true focus was the 23-mile American River Parkway.

California’s Energy

A good look at the energy policies of our state and their generally negative impact, with a note at the reckless irresponsibility of shutting down the Rancho Seco nuclear facility.

California's Energy Colonialism
May 3, 2008; Page A11

"When you look at the globe, California is a little spot on that globe," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently at Yale University's Climate Change Conference. "But when it comes to our power of influence, it is the equivalent of a whole continent."

Perhaps. As an exercise of this influence, Mr. Schwarzenegger has attempted to push climate-change policy forward, signing the Global Warming Solutions Act. It commits the state to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels – roughly 25% below today's – and all but eliminating them by 2050.

“California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta," he said in his state of the state address last year. "Not only can we lead California into the future; we can show the nation and the world how to get there."

His words are in keeping with the state's self-perception. Politicians, business titans, academics and environmental activists proudly point to four decades of environmentally conscious public policy – while maintaining a dynamic economy, arguably the eighth-largest on the planet, with a gross state product of more than $1.6 trillion.

In truth, the state's energy leadership is a mirage. Decades of environmental policies have made it heavily dependent on other states for power; generated crippling costs; and left the state vulnerable to periodic electricity shortages. Its economic growth has occurred not because of, but despite, those policies.

Since the early 1970s, California has instituted new efficiency standards for appliances and the construction of new buildings. It mandated aggressive conservation programs and required a certain percentage of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources like wind and solar, which it has subsidized. It implemented far-reaching regulations on emissions from car tailpipes and from stationary sources like factories. And it has moved to shut down the state's nuclear facilities.

For a time, it worked. Since the mid-1970s, California's economy has grown while per-capita energy consumption stayed flat – an astounding fact, considering that such consumption has increased by roughly 50% elsewhere in the country over the same period.

But consider the story of the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station. Opened in 1975, it was capable of generating over 900 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power upward of 900,000 homes. Fourteen years after powering up, the nuclear reactor shut down, thanks to fierce antinuclear opposition. Eventually, the facility was converted to solar power, and today generates a measly four MW of electricity. After millions of dollars in subsidies and other support, the entire state has less than 250 MW of solar capacity.

Rancho Seco helps explain California's energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, when numerous rolling blackouts and power outages caused billions of dollars in damages. The degree to which rapacious power-company executives and traders were responsible for the shortages remains open to debate. Not open to debate is that California had insufficient power to meet demand, with a frayed and overloaded infrastructure for moving electrons.

California's flat per-capita energy consumption has not saved it from blackouts, either, since its population had been soaring. From 1979 to 1999, the number of residents jumped from about 23 million people to 33 million. Today, the figure is closer to 38 million, and it could top 45 million by 2020.

The blunt secret is this: California now imports lots of energy from neighboring states to make up for having too few power plants. Up to 20% of the state's power comes from coal-burning plants in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Montana. Another significant portion comes from large-scale hydropower in Oregon, Washington State and the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas.

"California practices a sort of energy colonialism," says James Lucier of Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington, D.C.-area investment group. "They leave those states to deal with the resulting pollution."

California's proud claim to have kept per-capita energy consumption flat while growing its economy is less impressive than it seems. The state has some of the highest energy prices in the country – nearly twice the national average – largely because of regulations and government mandates to use expensive renewable sources of power. As a result, heavy manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries have been fleeing the Golden State in droves.

The unreliable power grid is starting to rattle some Silicon Valley heavyweights. Intel CEO Craig Barrett, for instance, vowed in 2001 not to build a chip-making facility in California until power supplies became more reliable. This October, Intel opened a $3 billion factory near Phoenix for mass production of its new 45-nanometer microprocessors. Google has chosen to build the massive server farms that will fuel its expansion anywhere but in California.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Conservation and Dams

If California is to continue to provide the water needed by its people and environment, it has to consider building new dams as conservation alone will not address the issue of a perilous supply.

The other advantage of building new dams is that during wet years the state is more highly protected from floods.

In Sacramento we are struggling to attain a 100 year flood protection level in Natomas and the level in New Orleans before it flooded was 250 years.

A 500 year level is what experts say major river cities need and most in the country have it already.

To reach that level in Sacramento we need to build the Auburn Dam.

An update on the Auburn Dam work effort was made to the American River Authority in December of 2007.

Editorial: With drought a possibility, it's time for change
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 3, 2008

February came in like a lion and left like a wimp.

The next month didn't bring a drop of precipitation to Sacramento until March 29.

April? Almost bone dry. And May? Don't waste your time doing a rain dance. It almost never rains in May. The water year is effectively over – and it's a worrisome year indeed.

According to the Department of Water Resources, the average snowpack statewide is now about two-thirds of normal. That's better than last year at this time, when the snowpack was at 27 percent. But two years of subpar precipitation means that people and water districts must get serious about how they use and abuse H20. Every gallon they conserve this year will mean more in groundwater basins and reservoirs next year – when we may need it. If California experiences a third year of lousy snowpack, state officials will be using the dreaded D-word – drought.

It's been 15 years since California last experienced a drought, and during that time, the state has grown by 6 million people. Some regions have gotten smart about water usage, stretching available supplies without costly infrastructure investments. Others have skated by.

Off Leash Dogs

The problems that can be caused are severe and help make the case for dog parks where an enclosed area is available for folks to be with their dogs without leashes, but the parks need to be in areas that people want to walk in and that includes the American River Parkway.

Patrols increase after dog attacks
Pit bull went after a horse on an Auburn State Recreation Area trail, unseating rider.
- Bee Metro Staff
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 3, 2008

State park rangers will increase patrols in the Auburn State Recreation Area after two recent attacks on horses in the canyons of the American River.

Last month, a large pit bull mix dog repeatedly attacked a horse on an Auburn State Recreation Area trail, sending the horse's 70-year-old rider to the ground.

The incident occurred April 3 when rider Odette Parker of Lincoln came upon a man walking three dogs on the Foresthill Loop Trail near Foresthill Road.

Parker said when she saw what she believed to be a pit bull mix approaching her, she turned the horse, but the dog attacked the horse's hindquarters and then bit its nose.

Sacramento Grows Fast

Fastest in state, wow!

Sacramento Fastest-Growing Big City In State
State's Population Now Rivals Poland
POSTED: 10:42 am PDT May 1, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento is the fastest-growing big city in California, according to numbers released Thursday.

The Golden State's population has also topped 38 million, making it home to one in every eight Americans.

The state Department of Finance estimates that California passed the 38 million benchmark by nearly 50,000 residents on January 1. That's up by nearly 500,000 people, or more than 1 percent, from a year ago.

The state has about the same population as the country of Poland.

Officials said Sacramento added 8,762 people last year, for a population increase of 1.9 percent. Proportionally, that is bigger growth than other big cities.

Sacramento is currently the state's seventh-largest city.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Dams Help Salmon

One of the important concepts we have agreed on, regarding the building of the Auburn Dam, is that having the extra cold water the dam would store would be able to provide help to the salmon during times of low water, and this study validates that.

Dams are necessary for the development of land for human communities, providing flood protection and water supply, and they are also necessary for the stabilization of animal communities, such as the salmon, as they allow us the capacity to control the environment for their benefit when necessary.

Long-time residents of the Sacramento region will remember that before Folsom Dam was built, there were years when no salmon could spawn due to the almost dry conditions of the American River, and what water was in it was too warm and was flowing too slow for the salmon.

Study: Dams Could Benefit Salmon
Cold Water Stored In Reservoirs May Help Fish
POSTED: 6:58 am PDT May 1, 2008
UPDATED: 8:10 am PDT May 1, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's vast network of reservoirs -- which destroyed more than 5,000 miles of salmon habitat when their dams were erected decades ago -- could turn out to be a savior for a species on the brink of collapse, according to a new study.

Those dams store cold water, which the study says will be vital to the salmon's survival as climate change is expected to warm California's rivers.

"Paradoxically, the very thing that is constraining fish now, we could use those to our advantage," said study author David Yates, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

The peer-reviewed paper will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Climatic Change. Yates and the journal agreed to release the study's findings early to The Associated Press.

It comes at a time when the number of salmon returning to spawn in the Central Valley rivers, which are crucial to the West Coast stocks, are at historic lows.

Earlier this month, federal fisheries regulators recommended that fishing along California's coast and most of Oregon be suspended for the year. It was the first time the Pacific Fishery Management Council had taken such a drastic step, one that is jeopardizing the $150 million West Coast salmon industry.

Unfavorable ocean conditions, habitat destruction, dam operations, agricultural pollution and climate change are among the potential causes.

Historically, 1 million to 3 million chinook salmon spawned annually in the streams that tumbled out of the western Sierra Nevada. This year, just 50,000 are expected to return to the Central Valley river systems.

Yates' research projects that an increase in air temperature of 3.6 degrees to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit could be lethal for the young winter-run and spring-run salmon in the Sacramento River. The increase in water temperatures would vary depending on the depth and flows of the river.

Studies have shown that high water temperatures have wide-ranging and potentially fatal consequences for salmon, who generally need water temperatures lower than 68 degrees when they return to fresh water. It reduces their swimming ability, increases their vulnerability to disease and leads to lower growth rates. Spawning females require even colder water of 57 degrees for their eggs to live and juvenile salmon migrate back to the ocean more successfully when the river is no more than 64 degrees.

Higher water temperatures can be offset if federal water managers preserved the cold water stored behind Shasta Dam, near the head of the Sacramento River, and released it when the salmon head upriver. Salmon that once headed far upstream to cooler, mountain streams are now forced to spawn in valley waters because the dam blocks their path.

It's a management option not available on rivers that aren't dammed.

Illegal Camps in Parkway Claim Another Victim

The other victims in the illegal camps in the Parkway, besides the adjacent communities who have not been able to safely recreate in the Parkway for years, are the homeless campers who are subject to the predators that move freely among them.

He ran to the aid of a fellow homeless man who was under attack
By Jocelyn Wiener -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 2, 2008

They called him "Gremlin" because he looked like a leprechaun, with his shock of red hair and his elfin spirit. Michael Tinius was a fighter in life, championing the rights of men and women who dwelled – as he did – in clearings along the American River Parkway.

Friends say Tinius died as he lived – trying to look out for someone else.

Tinius, 47, was stabbed to death Wednesday evening when he intervened to protect a fellow homeless man who was being pursued by two men, according to friends, police officers and officials at the Loaves & Fishes homeless services complex.

Tinius and the other homeless man were rushed to UC Davis Medical Center, police said. Tinius – who police also identified as Michael Wentworth – was pronounced dead; the other man suffered stab wounds but was expected to recover. Authorities did not release his name.

Police arrested J. Douglas Halford, 65, and Mark Hernandez, 43, later that night. They each were booked into the Sacramento County Jail on charges of murder and attempted murder.

Patrick Hill, 42, a longtime friend of Tinius, said Thursday that he and Tinius had been drinking a few beers that afternoon near the bike trail behind the Blue Diamond Growers building. Hill had gone to urinate when he heard shouting and saw two men wielding a large stick and chasing a third man, whom Tinius seemed to know.

Tinius and Hill ran to assist the man. After a few shoves, Hill said the two suspects pulled out knives. They stabbed Tinius in the arm, Hill said, and then in the chest.

Growth Slows

To be expected considering the housing slowdown. Folks are largely staying put.

Regional growth? Not so fast, at least in '07
By Phillip Reese -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 2, 2008

The Sacramento region is growing – but at a crawl compared with the population boom that marked the early part of the decade. State Department of Finance figures released Thursday showed the pace of growth slowing in almost every city in the region.

That includes Elk Grove and Lincoln, which just a few years ago were growing faster than almost any city in the nation. Last year, the pace of growth in those communities fell off by more than 60 percent compared with the early years of the decade.

Slow growth is bad news for city tax collectors counting on fresh revenue, school districts counting on students and home builders looking for buyers. But it could offer a respite from congestion and give cities overwhelmed with growth a chance to breathe.

Here are voices from around the region on how the slowdown is playing out.

Short Snow

Water might be a little tight this summer.

Sierra snow comes up short
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 2, 2008

Despite new warnings Thursday that a water crisis is looming in California, state officials continue to maintain that enforceable conservation goals are not necessary.

The Department of Water Resources on Thursday took its final Sierra Nevada snowpack survey of the season, and the findings only added to the grim prognosis for the state's water supply.

The water content of the snowpack stands at just 67 percent of average for the May 1 date. That's because this year's March and April period proved to be the driest since 1921, when record-keeping began.

Though snowfall was about average in January and February, it wasn't enough to make up for the following two months, which were virtually snowless.

After drought conditions last year, much of the snowmelt will merely be absorbed by parched soil and won't make its way into the streams and reservoirs.

In addition, poor environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a federal court decision have restricted water exports to 25 million Californians. It's estimated these effects have already cost customers about 600,000 acre-feet of water this year, or enough to serve 1.2 million families for a year.

"We're really up against it here in California," said Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Arden Cityhood in 2010

It looks like the effort is back on, and that is a good thing.

Arden Arcade cityhood backers' new goal: Vote in 2010
By Ramon Coronado -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 1, 2008

The failure to put Arden Arcade cityhood on the ballot this year may in the long run help the incorporation effort, according to advocates.

"This might be a blessing in disguise," said Joel Archer, who is leading the charge to turn 13 square miles of unincorporated area into a city.

The plan to put the issue to voters on the November ballot fizzled last month after it was announced that a study needed before this year's election could not be completed in time. The timing was thought to have been critical in order to tap into millions of dollars in state vehicle license fees for the new city should voters pass the measure by 2009. Assembly Bill 1602, if passed, would restore those funds.

A new consulting firm is being recommended to finish the needed study. The first consulting firm resigned from the project after it was paid only $10,000 of a $130,000 contract.

If the study is completed and if there are no other surprises, residents could cast their votes in June 2010.

The study will be cheaper for the cash-strapped cityhood advocates, who now may have more time to raise money and support for their cause.

"Ultimately, we get more time to educate the community, and we get charged less. Chances of that bill being signed by the governor are very good, so we wouldn't lose the vehicle license fees," Archer said.

Peter Brundage, executive director of the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees political boundary changes, is recommending that a new consulting firm be hired to finish the study of the fiscal viability of cityhood.

Caterpillar Crossing

Watch your tracks!

Carlos Alcala: Step gently at the caterpillar crossing
By Carlos Alcalá -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ooey Gooey was a worm: Amy Greer is passionate about something many would rather not think about: hordes of caterpillars. Crawlers give the creeps to some people, but not Greer. When she noticed the recent spring emergence of pipevine swallowtail butterflies – a striking velvety black flier – her mind went to what comes next. Butterflies lay eggs. Baby caterpillars emerge and begin feasting on Dutchman's pipe – a native plant in the American River Parkway. Eventually, many of them try to cross the Jedediah Smith trail along the river. (This may occur because their food plant reacts to their feeding by turning bitter. They have to go look for fresh food.) The inevitable result isn't pretty. "These little caterpillars. … You see their little dead bodies," Greer said. She's an equestrienne and runner and will stop to help them off the path. Most people don't. "It's really hard to avoid them," said Lynne Pinkerton, a naturalist at Effie Yeaw Nature Center. But that's what Greer hopes you will do. She's even considering posting signs urging people to watch out for the smooth-skinned black larvae with orange spots. "I see too many squished bodies," she said. The butterflies don't seem endangered by the carnage (caterpillage?), but still, what's the harm in being careful? …