Water Equity

The recent News Release from the Bureau of Reclamation is long overdue and very welcomed.

The Release.

“Reclamation ends decades of financial uncertainty for water and power users of the Central Valley Project

“Media Contact: Shane Hunt, 916-978-5100, mppublicaffairs@usbr.gov

“For Release: January 14, 2020

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Bureau of Reclamation today released the Central Valley Project Final Cost Allocation Study, which determines how to distribute costs of the multipurpose CVP facilities to project beneficiaries.

“Extending 400 miles through central California, the CVP is a multiuse water resources project that brings reliable water and power to farms and communities of the Central Valley and portions of the Bay Area. Like other Reclamation projects, the infrastructure investment made by Congress to build the CVP is to be repaid by the project beneficiaries. The CVP creates benefits for water supply, flood control, navigation, power, fish and wildlife, recreation, and water quality needs.

“The CVP’s current and interim cost allocation was completed in 1970, with a minor update in 1975. Reclamation was directed by Congress to complete this Final Cost Allocation Study in 1986. This final cost allocation study will replace the 1975 interim allocation to reflect additional project construction, as well as regulatory, operational, legal and ecological changes that have taken place over the last half century.

“This CVP Final Cost Allocation Study marks a huge accomplishment, many years in the making, bringing financial certainty to water and power pricing,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “The Central Valley Project provides water to irrigate approximately one-third of the agricultural land in California. In economic terms, the total value of water supplies, hydropower production, flood control and water quality benefits generated from the CVP is nearly $2 billion annually. I’m proud of Reclamation’s incredible work to ensure the project continues to provide reliable water to California farms and communities.”

“The Cost Allocation Study will be reflected in rates for 2021 so that irrigation contractors, municipal and industrial contractors, and commercial power contractors have time to plan construction repayment costs due in 2030.

“For decades, farmers and communities have faced uncertainty about future costs of water and power. Completion of this important study will provide CVP contractors with certainty in their financial planning,” said California-Great-Basin Regional Director Ernest Conant. “Years of diligent effort and collaboration with our partner agencies, organizations and stakeholders helped determine a cost allocation that depicts the current project benefits.”

“Reclamation began the process to develop a new cost allocation for the CVP in 2010, working with stakeholders and incorporating public comments to ensure it reflects the best available information through a fully transparent process.

“Reclamation worked closely with other federal agencies to complete the study, including the Western Area Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Along the way, Reclamation hosted approximately 30 public meetings to solicit input and present information regarding cost allocation methodology and initial results and findings.

“Information on the study and how to obtain the report can be found on the project website at: https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvp/cvp-cost-allocation.html.

# # #

“Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.”

Retrieved January 16, 2020 from https://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=69163


Posted in Water

Suburbs Rule!, Still

Still growing faster than urban areas—because the suburbs are where most people want to live—as reported by New Geography, complete with the charts and graphs for which they are renowned.

An excerpt.

“The suburbs and exurbs continue to dominate population growth in the nation’s 53 major metropolitan areas, according to a City Sector Model (Note 1 and Figure 9) analysis. We traced growth between the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey 5-year data, from samples taken over the period of 2014 to 2018. The middle-year was 2016.

“Population Growth by City Sector

“In the years since the 2010 Census, the ACS 2014/2018 estimates indicate that the suburbs and exurbs attracted 91.8% of major metropolitan area population growth, while 8.2% of the growth was in the urban core.

“Among the five city sectors (defined in Figure 9), the three suburban and exurban sectors each had considerably more population growth than either of the two urban core sectors. Exurban areas, added more than twice the population as the two urban core sector combined (18.3% versus 8.2%). The Later Suburbs sector (generally outer suburbs) accounted for nearly one-half of the population growth (48.2%), while the Earlier Suburbs (generally inner suburbs) had 25.5% of the growth.

“As a result, the share of the population living in suburban and exurban areas increased to 85.6% in 2014/2018, (Figure 2) up from the 85.3% in the 2010 Census.

“Comparing Growth Rates with 2010 Population Shares by Sector

“The distribution of population growth over the period illustrates the continuing, if unheralded shift of population from the urban core to the suburbs and exurbs. Both urban core sectors enjoyed proportional growth less than their 2010 share of the population, while each of the suburban and exurban sectors gained at a rate more than their 2010 share.

“The Urban Core: Central Business District, which garners much fawning media attention grew 1.2%, slightly slower than its 1.3% of the 2010 population. The Urban Core: Inner Ring accounted for 7.0% of the growth, little more than one-half of its 2010 population share. The Earlier Suburbs had 25.9% of the growth, about 40% less than its2010 population share of 41.9%. The Later Suburbs added 48.2% to their population, nearly 80% greater than their 2010 population share of 26.9%. The Exurbs added 18.1% in population, somewhat above their 16.4% 2010 population share.” Retrieved January 15, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006527-population-growth-concentrated-auto-oriented-suburbs-and-metropolitan-areas



Posted in demographics

California’s Housing Issues

Another take from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Legislature and the state’s bureaucracy claim to be addressing the state’s much discussed “housing crisis.” But rather than improve the state’s awful affordability crisis, the policies being enacted are precisely the wrong medicine, more akin to witch-doctoring than a scientific curative.

“The list of newish blunders, built upon nearly thirty years of disastrous policies, include such things as new rent control measures, mandates for “zero emissions” homes and mandatory solar installations. Worse yet, and soon to be strengthened, are attempts to block development in outlying areas, where land costs are cheaper, in favor of dense development in already expensive, dense urban areas.

“The idea that these policies will encourage home-building could only be appreciated by a fantasist. Since California began its ratcheting of regulation, house prices have more than tripled relative to household incomes, the result of which is that in the major metropolitan areas, most middle-class households cannot afford the median priced house. Housing production has fallen because most households have simply been priced out of the market.

“Tragically home ownership is declining, particularly among minorities and millennials, and rents now exceed that of any state other than Hawaii. It is not surprising that the latest Census Bureau population estimates, released on the last day of 2019, show that more than 200,000 more people moved to other states than moved into California. California’s net outmigration exceeded that of New York for the first time in over a decade.

“Sacramento’s dystopic vision

“In the past, California addressed demand for housing by allowing construction to take place in areas with lower land costs. The state’s developers built, for the most part, the single-family or townhome construction preferred by most Americans, including Californians. Even today in state’s six largest metropolitan areas (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose) at least 90 percent of population growth takes place in the suburbs and exurbs, a pattern that continues in the rest of the country.

“Over the past decade, California government has decided to revoke these preferences, in large part to create a “greener” and denser housing environment. They seek to replace single-family housing with dense multi-family units, which developers indicate can cost up to 7.5 times that of single-family dwellings per square foot. These measures, particularly in urban areas, are widely opposed in stable, middle class urban neighborhoods.

“Sacramento seems to think that all of California needs to look more like San Francisco and less like Lakewood, Foster City or Irvine. For the rich, and transient hipsters, San Francisco, or its pale cousins like downtown LA, may indeed be an ideal, but it’s doubtful most California families would like to live amidst the dystopic reality of mass homelessness, filth and rampant inequality that increasingly characterize these urban cores.

“New state regulations targeting vehicle miles traveled or VMT will worsen things, forcing growth only into those few areas that have considerable transit shares, largely restricted to a few locales like San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles. This approach was demonstrated by recent decisions by the Southern California Association of Governments to steer new housing development to urban “in fill” areas with better transit connections as opposed to more affordable locations on the periphery.

“Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who favors higher density, insists this is all part of our “growing up” and dismisses the notion that more development in already congested areas might cause legitimate concerns about traffic and instead boost transit ridership. Yet most Californians instinctively know this notion is nothing short of chimerical.

“The vast majority of Californians drive alone to work, two million more today than in 2010. Dealers continue to sell autos at a nearly two million unit annual rate. For most, getting to work by bus or rail vastly increases travel times and limits the number of jobs available to workers, especially for low-income workers. Ironically, transit’s share of commuting has dropped 15 percent since 1990, before the extensive Metro and Metrolink rail networks were opened.

“Under this policy virtually any improvement in road infrastructure, including such things as synchronizing traffic signals, can be seen as “traffic inducing.” So too would any large-scale economic development — say an aerospace factory or office park — that would bring jobs closer to places where people can afford to live such as the Inland Empire, Bakersfield or the San Joaquin Valley largely out of business in terms of new development.

“What kind of California are we building?

“Rather than lead to more residential production, the state’s regulations have served to reduce new housing. In a state that promises to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 the reality is that we are building little —only 97,000 houses, condos and apartments were permitted in 2019 through November, fewer than over the same period in both 2018 and 2017 At the current rate it would require more than 30 years to meet the state’s stated goal.

“Apologists for the state effort to increase density often cite the need to meet population growth, although the state now has the lowest growth in memory, so much so that the state could lose a congressional seat for the first time since joining the union.

“Ironically the very urban areas favored by state planners are experiencing some of the slowest population growth. Los Angeles is already losing population and the trends in the Bay Area, with mounting out-migration, may be heading in the same direction. Recent polls show that one-third of all San Francisco residents, and half of millennials, plan to leave the Baghdad by the Bay.

“The call for more density, the summum bonum of state policy, will do little improve affordability or address the needs of young families. Due to the higher land costs and the higher costs of apartment construction, most new housing will likely be more expensive, largely restricted to smaller units that appeal mostly to singles and childless couples, not families. Once the incubator of youth culture, California is now aging considerably faster than the rest of the country according to Census Bureau data.” Retrieved January 14, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006526-californias-inept-central-planners



Posted in demographics, Environmentalism, Government

Save Don’t Pave Video

An important video showing the many homeless encampments along the American River Parkway has been produced by Save Don’t Pave, who are trying to protect their part of the Parkway—the unpaved trail bordering the River Park neighborhood—from being paved.

The video is part of the January 10, 2020 update and can be accessed here, https://savedontpave.wordpress.com/updates/




Posted in Homelessness

Salmon in the American River

So far, this is a very good year, according to this report from ACWA.

An excerpt.

“Kat Perkins, a scientist with the Sacramento Water Forum, poured over an aerial image of the lower American River near Sailor Bar in Fair Oaks, looking for redds—underwater depressions or “nests” created by female salmon to lay their eggs. Part of an annual ritual to systematically count redds first by inspecting aerial imagery and then in person, last year she found zero. This year was a different story—the area teamed with redds—more than 345 this time around.

“The difference? A new habitat restoration effort completed in fall to protect salmon and steelhead in the lower American River, spearheaded by the Water Forum in partnership with Sacramento County Parks, Sacramento County Water Agency and local water providers, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local agencies. Over three weeks in September, the project placed more than 14,000 cubic yards of cleaned and sorted gravel into the river and carved out a new side channel to help fish spawn and rear their young.

“The results are gratifying,” said Tom Gohring, Executive Director of the Water Forum, a nearly 20-year-old organization that represents a diverse group of local water providers such as Sacramento County Water Agency, environmental organizations and governments focused on safeguarding the lower American River for both drinking water and wildlife. “Salmon were here long before we were. Nurturing their survival is not only important to sustaining a species but to also sustaining our region’s identify and quality of life.”

“The lower American River is home to 43 fish species, including struggling fall-run Chinook salmon and federally threatened Central Valley steelhead, and is a major water supply source for nearly 2 million people. The river and parkway, which runs 23 miles along the river’s shores, hosts up to 8 million visitors and brings $364 million into the economy each year.

“The restoration project at Sailor Bar is part of the Water Forum’s ongoing science program that uses cutting-edge techniques to further understand how to improve the river’s environment for fish survival. Over the past several years Water Forum studies have produced detailed information about the conditions salmon and steelhead find ideal for spawning and rearing their young, including:

  1. Detailed underwater maps of the lower American River to identify the best locations for enhancing habitat that also won’t impact flood safety.
  2. The ideal size of gravel and river flow for spawning.
  3. How long it takes for salmon to use a restoration site after construction, and how long they continue to use the site.
  4. How cover (woody material, branches or tree roots) in a side channel improves survival for juvenile fish.

“This year’s effort at Sailor Bar was the region’s ninth project restoring fish spawning gravel beds and improving juvenile fish rearing habitat on the lower American River. Since 2008, the Water Forum and its partners have invested more than $7 million to create over 30 acres of spawning beds and 1.2 miles of side channels.” Retrieved January 9, 2020 from https://www.acwa.com/news/new-habitat-restoration-project-nurtures-record-number-of-salmon-nests/


Posted in Environmentalism, Hatcheries

Bringing the Salmon Back

Interesting and controversial (only because the salmon, because of hatcheries, are doing fine) article from the East Bay Express about this.

An excerpt.

“Mike Hudson began commercially fishing about 25 years ago. Fishing was productive enough that he paid off his boat and made some decent money — especially from his primary target, Chinook salmon, the most valuable seafood from local waters.

“I was able to turn this into a pretty hopping little business,” said Hudson, who has sold his fish for years at the Berkeley and El Cerrito farmers markets.

“But a little more than ten years ago, the Chinook population collapsed — the outcome of unproductive ocean conditions combined with excessive water diversions from the Central Valley rivers the salmon spawn in.

“The salmon fishing season in California and Oregon was closed for 2008 and 2009 while fishermen sought federal disaster relief. Eventually, salmon numbers rebounded, and fishing resumed. “But then the numbers started dropping again,” Hudson said.

“By 2016, 2017, and 2018, fishing was so poor that it barely paid Hudson’s gas bill. 2019’s season was “decent,” he said, but he fears another drop in salmon numbers will force him to sell his boat.

“Hudson’s perspective only captures the tail-end of a 150-year decline in salmon abundance in a state where, prior to the Gold Rush, fat, gleaming Chinook in uncountable swarms were perhaps California’s greatest asset. They teemed in coastal ocean waters while mature adults by the millions swam through the Golden Gate and Carquinez Straits each year and into the Central Valley’s rivers, which ran clean and unobstructed by dams and levees. Here, they laid and fertilized their eggs, then died as Pacific salmon naturally do after spawning. Their carcasses nourished wildlife, forests, and their own offspring. The huge volumes of fish impressed early explorers, who often described rivers brimming with three- and four-foot salmon. Meanwhile, for indigenous Californians, salmon was a plentiful year-round staple.

“European Americans and their unsustainable economies changed all this. Gold Rush mining activity filled spawning streams with silt, smothering egg-laying gravel beds. Logging caused similar erosion. Levees dried out riverside habitat, which was converted into farmland and towns. In the 20th century, when California began damming its biggest rivers, salmon lost access to their historic mountain spawning grounds.

“Then, in the 1950s and 60s, water agencies installed powerful pumps at the south edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These pumping facilities suck large volumes of water from the estuary and send it south into the San Joaquin Valley, where vast orchards have grown in recent decades. Those diversions have contributed to the collapse of the Delta’s ecosystem and its native fish.

“Since 2015, the state’s commercial fishermen have reported nearly record-low catches. Fish hatcheries produce most of the salmon caught in California today, and with much of their inland habitat badly degraded, truly wild salmon are scarce.

“But a small circle of biologists and fishermen believe they can revive California’s legendary Chinook to something resembling its historic glory.

“The potential for salmon recovery is massive,” said biologist Rene Henery, who works with the organization Trout Unlimited. “We still have diverse habitat, we still have a ton of water, we still have high-elevation places where we continue to get snowpack, and we still have large floodplains.”

“Floodplains covered with water provide important foraging grounds for young salmon as they migrate downriver to the ocean. However, thousands of miles of levees now separate rivers from adjacent land, turning once productive waterways into narrow, fast-moving, sterilized channels — a terrible environment for young salmon.

“Henery believes that reconnecting floodplains to their rivers could help reboot salmon runs in the Sacramento watershed, in spite of upstream dams like Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom.

“Jacob Katz, a biologist with California Trout, sees the same potential. Katz has been working for more than half a decade on a plan to carve a relatively simple notch into a levee along the lower Sacramento River that will allow river water to flow across 8,000 acres of low-lying land. Rice farmers own much of this property, but the idea is to flood it only during the fallow winter months. Spring and summer farming would not be impacted, and river productivity — magnified by increased surface area, solar exposure, and blooms of nutritious floodplain invertebrates — would surge.

“Combined with other “landscape-scale” projects, Katz believes this work could reenergize the Central Valley’s salmon rivers.” Retrieved January 8, 2020 from https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/californias-salmon-barely-survived-the-20th-century-but-will-they-vanish-before-the-next-one/Content?oid=28373626

Posted in Environmentalism, Hatcheries

Public Transit, the Energy Hog

Cars are more energy efficient, as this story from New Geography reports, who knew!

An excerpt.

“Transit is often touted as a way to save energy. But since 2009 transit has used more energy, per passenger mile, than the average car. Since 2016, transit has used more than the average of cars and light trucks together.

Automobiles and planes are becoming more energy efficient each year. But the annual reports of the National Transit Database reveals that urban transit is moving in the opposite direction, requiring more energy to move each passenger one mile in each of the last four years.

“The reason for this is simple: ridership is declining, but transit agencies aren’t proportionately reducing miles of transit service. As a result, the average occupancies of buses and other transit vehicles has declined in every year since 2013. While transit agencies may be purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles, the increase in average efficiencies per vehicle mile can’t make up for the loss in passengers.

“These numbers are based on the National Transit Database, which reports the number of gallons of Diesel fuel, gasoline, natural gas, and other fuels as well as the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity that are used by transit systems across the country. I’ve converted these numbers to British thermal units (BTUs) using standard factors, such as that a gallon of Diesel fuel has 138,500 BTUs.

“For electricity, I also took into account the fact that two-thirds of the energy used in a power plant is lost in generation and transmission. In other words, in order to deliver 1 kilowatt-hour (3,412 BTUs) of energy to a customer, an electrical system must consume the equivalent of 10,236 BTUs of fossil fuels or other energy at the power plant. Electric motors tend to be more efficient than internal combustion engines, but when the losses from generation and transmission are accounted for, the efficiencies are about the same.

“Energy Consumption by Mode

“The calculations show that ferries and streetcars use huge amounts of energy per passenger mile, as do automated guideways (i.e., people movers), which aren’t shown in the chart but average even more energy per passenger mile than ferries. Buses and light rail are well above the average automobile.”

Retrieved January 7, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006518-urban-transit-is-energy-hog

Posted in Transportation