St. Francis Dam

This article from the Los Angeles Times is a grim reminder that big dams should be built by big government and this one was not; built by the city of Los Angeles and it failed due to bad engineering, as Wikipedia notes: “The dam failed as a result of defective foundations.” Retrieved November 16, 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Francis_Dam

Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times article.

There is a quiet campaign underway in northern L.A. County that deserves the support of people across California.

The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is pushing for the site of the St. Francis Dam to be declared a national memorial. The designation would commemorate both the dam and the more than 400 lives that were lost when it collapsed, the worst man-made disaster in California history.

The St. Francis Dam was squeezed into San Francisquito Canyon, about 20 miles north of what is now the city of Santa Clarita. Construction began in early 1925 and was completed in May 1926. Built to hold back some 12 billion gallons of water, the structure was more than 200 hundred feet tall and more than 1,200 feet wide.

About two years after it was finished, on March 12, 1928, just before midnight, the dam failed. Water had saturated a portion of the foundation underlying the dam, causing “uplift,” which expanded and destabilized its main concrete structure.

When the dam gave way, it let loose a 100-foot wall of water that raged for hours through the Santa Clara River Valley, blasting through Saugus, Piru, Bardsdale, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Ventura and other communities. The torrent morphed quickly into a flood not just of water but of concrete, asphalt, railroad rails and ties, farms, cars and homes. This gargantuan flow of debris was an equal-opportunity killer.

The first victims were city of Los Angeles employees. Lilian Curtis, who was several months pregnant, narrowly escaped after climbing a nearby hill while carrying her 3-year-old son. Her husband, Lyman, who worked for the Bureau of Power and Light, and two young daughters were all carried off.

A 12-year-old boy named Louis Rivera experienced something similar near Castaic Junction. Awakened by the rumble of the approaching water, he managed to grab his younger brother and sister and get them to higher ground. He watched helplessly as his mother and older brother got swept away.

There are dozens more stories like these. And there are no stories at all for the many victims who remain unidentified more than 90 years later.

The St. Francis Dam calamity has largely been forgotten, even though it is part of a larger saga that Los Angeles cannot help but remember.

The dam was built as a vital extension of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the lifeline that continues to bring water more than 200 miles from the Owens Valley.

The project was the brainchild of William Mulholland, who at the 1913 opening of his “Big Ditch” said famously of the water that came cascading through its sluice gates: “There it is, take it.”

After the dam burst — an engineering failure for which Mulholland was largely responsible — he uttered a similarly terse statement during a coroner’s inquest: “The only ones I envy about this thing are the ones who are dead.”

In history and popular culture (most notably in the film “Chinatown”), the main victims of L.A.’s thirst for unbridled growth are the residents of the Owens Valley, the people whose water and land the city acquired by hook and by crook.

Retrieved November 16, 2018 from http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-altenbernd-deverell-st-francis-dam-memorial-20181116-story.html

 

Posted in History, Shasta Auburn Dam

California Forest Management

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board writes about it.

An excerpt.

One problem with President Trump’s bullying rhetorical style is that he gives his critics reason to ignore him even when he has a point. Consider his weekend threat to yank federal funds from California amid its horrific wildfires.

Three fires are raging across the state, killing at least 31 people and scorching more than 200,000 acres, including the town of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Mr. Trump has no empathy gene even if he is right about forestry ills. Relentless winds and low air moisture make California’s fires harder to contain while development is putting more people in danger. But also fueling the fires is an overgrown government bureaucracy that frustrates proper forest management.

About 57% of California forestland is owned by the federal government while most of the rest is private land regulated by the state. Nearly 130 million trees died in California between 2010 and 2017 due to drought and a bark beetle infestation. Dense forests put trees at greater risk for parasitic infection and enable fires to spread faster. When dead trees fall, they add more combustible fuel.

Once upon a time the U.S. Forest Service’s mission was to actively manage the federal government’s resources. Yet numerous laws over the last 50 years, including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, have hampered tree-clearing, controlled burns and timber sales on federal land.

California also restricts timber harvesting and requires myriad permits and environmental-impact statements to prune overgrown forests. As the state Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) dryly noted in April, “project proponents seeking to conduct activities to improve the health of California’s forests indicate that in some cases, state regulatory requirements can be excessively duplicative, lengthy, and costly.”

One problem for landowners is disposing of deadwood. Dozens of biomass facilities that burn tree parts that can’t be used for lumber have closed due to emissions regulations and competition from subsidized renewables and cheap natural gas.

To burn leaves and tree limbs, landowners must obtain air-quality permits from “local air districts, burn permits from local fire agencies, and potentially other permits depending on the location, size, and type of burn,” the LAO explained. “Permits restrict the size of burn piles and vegetation that can be burned, the hours available for burns, and the allowable moisture levels in the material.”

The LAO recommended that California prune its regulations, facilitate timber sales and ease permitting for burning biomass. Environmentalists oppose this, but one irony is that destruction from fires imperils species far more than does regulated tree-clearing.

Retrieved November 13, 2018 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/californias-paradise-lost-1542068600

 

Posted in Environmentalism, Politics

Global Super Tanker

This is the ultimate fire-fighting weapon and, considering the cost of lives and property loss from California fires over the past decades, and the difficulty firefighters on the ground have accessing mountainous areas where some of the worst fires seem to be, one wonders why a bunch of these aren’t on the State of California’s call 24/7.

Human beings have created incredible technology but seem to resist using it when needed.

But one of the Global Super Tankers was called in, late, to the Camp Fire as this story from Daily Mall reports.

An excerpt.

The Global SuperTanker, a Boeing 747 modified for fire suppression drops, has arrived in Northern California to fight the Camp Fire.

The privately-owned SuperTanker arrived in Sacramento on Friday and has flown at least five sorties over the Camp Fire since then, according to flight records.

The SuperTanker has almost twice the capacity of the next largest aerial tanker. It can deliver 19,200 gallons in one drop or segmented drops and has a top speed of 600mph.

The tanker system is approved for retardant, gel, foam and water drops or the combination of any two of these agents. G

Ground servicing for another sortie takes approximately 30-35 minutes.

Retrieved November 11, 2018 from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6376321/California-wildfires-death-toll-rises-25-110-missing.html

And there is more info on the plane from Wikipedia, read at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/747_Supertanker

Posted in Government, Technology

California’s Oil

It has more than anyone else in the country, but by choosing not to extract it, billions of dollars are sent out yearly to purchase oil, as this article from New Geography cites.

An excerpt.

California is home to the largest crude oil reserves in America, but the States’ choice to not drill for that oil requires in-state manufacturers to “export” billions of dollars annually to oil rich foreign countries to import their oil to meet the state’s energy demands.

The subject of energy for the world’s fifth-largest economy is about finding a workable, sustainable balance across equally important concerns for our economy, our shared sense of social equality, our impact on the environment, and a truly sustainable energy future.

The state’s daily need to support its 145 airports (inclusive of 33 military, 10 major, and more than 100 general aviation) is 13 million gallons a day of aviation fuels. In addition, for the 35 million registered vehicles of which 90 percent are NOT EV’s are consuming DAILY: 10 million gallons a day of diesel and 42 million gallons a day of gasoline.

The USA is now a net exporter of crude oil, with crude oil exports exceeding imports. This oil boom coming from Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Colorado, is beneficial to 49 states, but not to California. The insurmountable condition of no pipelines over the Sierra Nevada Mountains results in California having no easy access to the over- supply of USA crude oil east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The American shale boom has important security implications as well, as America is now less dependent on crude oil from the turbulent Middle East, again, except for California.

California is an “energy island” to roughly 40 million citizens, bordered between the Pacific Ocean and the Arizona/Nevada Stateline with no pipelines over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To access the oil shale boom from the rest of the country for California, that oil must to go through the Panama Canal to reach California ports. There are other options of crude oil by trucks, or by railroads, but both have been overwhelmingly ruled out environmentally.

Additionally, the crude oil is needed in California to support the other “stuff” of chemicals and by-products from crude oil that are the basis of 6,000 products from petroleum that are part of every infrastructure and virtually everything in our daily and leisurely lifestyles.

Many in California are working hard to produce hydrocarbon energy efficiently, reliably, and safely, and many others are working hard to develop alternative energy sources that will efficiently, reliably, and safely produce carbon neutral energy, but despite those appreciative efforts, our energy needs continue to grow with the growing populations of people, vehicles, and businesses.

Both California’s in-state oil production, and Alaskan oil imports are both in-decline to meet the States’ energy needs. Shockingly, California increased crude oil imports from foreign countries from 5% in 1992 to 56% in 2017.

In 2017, California imported crude oil from foreign countries at the rate of 354,119,000 barrels annually from oil rich foreign countries, costing California more than $26.6 billion annually at the Brent Average Crude Oil Spot Price which was recently $75.36 per barrel for September 2018. . This equates to “exporting” more than $73,000,000 per day on a daily basis from California to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Columbia, Iraq, Kuwait, Brazil, and Mexico and others for the crude oil energy needs of California.

The latest data from the California Energy Commission (CEC), shows that California fuel consumption is at the highest level since 2009, thus continuation of the state’s dependency on foreign countries for the states’ energy needs seems to be the states future.

Retrieved November 6, 2018 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006133-california-supports-foreign-big-oil

 

Posted in Economy, Environmentalism

Zoo to Old Kings Arena Site

This is a wonderful idea, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

What we really like about the Sacramento Zoo is that it’s an example of how well a nonprofit can manage, in contract with the city, a priceless public heritage; as we feel the Parkway should be managed.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Could the former home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings one day be home to lions, tigers and bears?

It’s possible, said the Sacramento Zoo’s director, Jason Jacobs, who wants to move the beloved Land Park institution to more spacious digs elsewhere in the city.

The zoo has “looked at” property that housed Arco Arena, later called Sleep Train Arena, Jacobs said. The site fits some of the criteria that the zoo wants for its new home, including 180 acres for animals and exhibits and ample parking for visitors, he said.

Architectural renderings of the potential new zoo show a campus that includes a “drive-through African safari,” a hippo habitat and an “Australasia” feature.

The zoo has not contacted the Kings, who own the property in Natomas, nor determined what it would cost to demolish the arena and build a new zoo with a plethora of new structures and animals, said Jacobs.

“There is no agreement. We haven’t met with the owners of the land. We have looked at the site, but it doesn’t mean we’re moving there,” he said.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said on Monday he likes the concept of creating an “iconic” wildlife park in the city, and said the Natomas site is worth exploring.

“While there’s a lot of work ahead to develop a solid finance plan, the idea deserves a full exploration,” Steinberg said. “The Kings themselves may have their own ideas. I look forward to considering those fully as well. The main thing is: Let’s get started on creating something great for Natomas, the city and the region.”

Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who represents North Natomas, also said she thinks the zoo idea has merit.

“I think it has the potential for a very exciting reuse, a fantastic opportunity for the city on many levels,” she said.

Ashby has pushed the Kings to assure that the massive, now largely unused site in the center of North Natomas be redeveloped in a way that adds value and interest to the community.

The councilwoman said the Kings “appear to be open to a conversation” and “have a pretty open mind” about various potential reuses for the site.

Kings officials did not immediately respond to Bee requests for comment Monday. In a recent email to The Bee, team principal Vivek Ranadive hinted a development breakthrough may be near at the site.

Retrieved November 6, 2018 from https://www.sacbee.com/entertainment/living/family/article221160195.html

Posted in Nonprofit Management

Why Feds Need to Build & Manage Major Dams.

This article from the Sacramento Bee makes the point clearly that the states do not have the money or expertise needed to do the job right.

Excerpts.

Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a mega-flood.

Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in the federal warning is far greater than anything ever experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly repercussions for California. The public agencies that store water in Lake Oroville may be forced to spend millions of dollars upgrading the dam.

State dam operators at the Department of Water Resources also could be forced to store less water in the lake to ensure there’s more room to capture flood waters. Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir, is a key source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of Californians.

The warning came late last month in a letter from FERC. It was sent just as $1.1 billion in repairs are wrapping up on the dam’s two spillways following the February 2017 crisis at the dam that triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people.

The FERC letter shows that the near catastrophe in 2017 has made the federal government less likely to trust the state’s claims that the 50-year-old dam is as safe as it can possibly be, said J. David Rogers, a dam-safety expert at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“Given that track record, you’ve got to err on the side of what your safety culture is going to be. Are you going to be at the vanguard of safety?” Rogers said. “That’s a big a facility to play with. That’s the highest dam in the United States. You have to be a little more conservative.”

In the 2017 crisis, a massive crater formed in the dam’s main flood-control spillway. To limit it from growing in size, DWR’s dam operators let water flow over the adjacent emergency spillway for the first time since the dam was completed in 1968.

Although the flows were relatively modest, the earthen hillside below the spillway started to wash away. Fearing the concrete spillway would crumble and release a “wall of water,” officials ordered a frantic evacuation of 188,000 Sacramento Valley residents.

In the 21 months since, construction crews have spent $1.1 billion on emergency repairs and rebuilding and upgrading the two battered structures. DWR officials have said they’re confident the rebuilt spillways can handle this winter’s rains.

DWR officials said the work has left the spillways stronger than ever — and capable of withstanding what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers the worst storm that can be reasonably expected. “The newly rebuilt main spillway can easily do this, without using the emergency spillway,” DWR spokeswoman Erin Mellon said in an email.

FERC, though, is warning about damage that could be expected from a “probable maximum flood,” a storm that would be magnitudes greater. In its letter to DWR last month, the federal agency said the hillside beneath the emergency spillway could face “substantial” erosion if such a storm ever hit — and told the state that the structure might need to be fortified….

Critics of the Department of Water Resources also have long complained that state officials have been reluctant to spend the money to upgrade Oroville, and they say those decisions played a key role in the 2017 emergency.

For instance, engineers had known for decades that if water ever spilled over Oroville’s emergency spillway, it would cause serious erosion, possibly compromising the earthen structure that holds back the reservoir and threatening communities downstream.

But California water districts known as the State Water Contractors that helped pay for Oroville resisted calls to armor the structure, which would have required construction outlays in the tens of millions of dollars.

Critics say the FERC letter represents a victory after years of having their concerns brushed aside.

“The handwriting is on the wall that they’re going to have to confront these issues,” said Ron Stork of the Sacramento environmental group Friends of the River, which has criticized safety issues at Oroville. “The contractors are either going to have to pay for a better dam or accept that the dam doesn’t deliver them as much water.”

Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Early this year, the independent forensic team led by France heavily criticized California officials, saying the state did a poor job of designing, building and maintaining the structure and neglected safety while focusing on the “water delivery needs” of the water districts who keep water in Oroville.

The forensic team described the festering problems at Oroville as a “long-term systemic failure.”

Retrieved November 2, 2018 from https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article220959620.html

 

Posted in Government, Shasta Auburn Dam

Why Does California Have a Housing Crisis?

Well answered in this New Geography article.

An excerpt.

The homeownership rate in California equaled the national rate from 1950 well into the 1960s. Yet, by 2005, California’s homeownership rate was 13.3 percent below the national average and the 49th lowest in the nation. In the second quarter of 2018, the homeownership rate in California was 54.3 percent, the third lowest in the nation, and 10 percent below the national average of 64.3 percent.

Yet, 86 percent of California families want to live in a single-family home, according to a 2006 poll.

Housing Affordability

Median single-family home prices in California equaled the national average as late as 1970. The median price is the point where half the homes sell for more and half for less. As more constraints were placed on development in California, median homes prices began to increasingly exceed the national average. In October 2018, the median home price in California was $535,000, compared to the national average of $275,000.

A home is deemed affordable if rent or house payments are 30 percent or less of a household’s gross income.

Only 26 percent of California households earning the statewide median income could afford to buy California’s median-priced single-family home, in the second quarter of 2018, a 10-year low, and down from 29 percent a year earlier.

California remains among the nation’s least affordable markets for housing. California homeowners spent an average of 21.9 percent of their household income on housing costs, the 49th worst in the nation in 2016, while renters spent 32.8 percent, the 48th worst.

Housing affordability is decreasing. Families with a median income of $61,200 needed to allocate 22.7 percent to pay for principal, interest, and taxes on a median-priced, $293,2000 home in 2016, compared to 12.7 percent in 2009.

Progressivism in Land Use Policies

The widening disparity between California and national homeownership rates and home prices originates from Progressive legislation and court rulings in the 1970s that placed increasing numbers of constraints on new home development in California.

For example, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), was enacted in 1970. The Friends of Mammoth decision by the California Supreme Court in 1972 mandates environmental review of private projects. CEQA was applied to housing developments. This decision compels state and local agencies to consider the possible adverse effects of housing projects on the environment. The decision does not consider the benefits of housing.

CEQA increases the time, cost, and uncertainty involved in getting housing projects approved. California’s 10 largest cities averaged 2 ½ years to approve housing projects that required a CEQA Environmental Impact Report, according to a March 2015 report by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Only four other states have comparable requirements.

CEQA encourages litigation against homebuilders and developers. Growth opponents, often called NIMBYs, an acronym for Not In My Backyard, often use CEQA lawsuits to derail projects. As a result of CEQA lawsuits, many proposed housing projects are abandoned or scaled back, resulting in fewer new homes being built, and higher costs for the homes that are built.

The federal Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973, has resulted in millions of acres nationwide being removed from the available developable land of growing metropolitan areas, thus restricting home development, and substantially driving up land prices.

Government, beholden to environmental activists, has taken ownership of vast areas, reducing the supply of developable land. California protected areas administered by public agencies and non-profits have a total area of 49,253,020 acres, or 47 percent of the total area of California. More than 3.7 million acres in California have been covered by regional Habitat Conservation Plans, resulting in more than 1.5 million acres of conserved and managed habitats. An additional 29 million acres are in the process of being regulated through regional HCP/NCCPs.

Retrieved November 2, 2018 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006128-the-causes-californias-housing-crisis

 

Posted in demographics, Environmentalism, Government