Can California’s Leaders Wake Up About Water Policy?

An excellent editorial from the San Diego Union.


A defining quality of California’s state government is sluggishness. It’s common for audits of state agencies to note that problems identified in previous audits remain unresolved.

Now Californians are witnessing an especially egregious example of this state trait. Forty months after state voters reacted to a brutal drought by lopsidedly approving a $7.5 billion water bond, none of the $2.7 billion the measure set aside for water storage projects has been appropriated by the California Water Commission. And as George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times noted in a recent column, local water agencies are frustrated because they don’t have a clear sense of what the commission wants before it is willing to commit to local projects.

Water officials insist this is not another shifty power play by influential environmentalists to block new dams, which they see as an affront to nature and as likely to spur more growth. Instead, delays are blamed on wanting to make sure projects are properly vetted before sending taxpayer dollars out the door.

But the sad twist is that when water storage projects finally do get funded, it might come after a brutal new state drought is already under way. UCLA postdoctoral researcher Daniel Swain reports on his California Weather Blog that the past three months have seen the same ridge of high-pressure air off the coast blocking storms from reaching shore that was seen throughout the 2012-16 drought, which was the worst in the state’s history.

Maybe the next drought finally will create a sense of urgency about water storage among what-me-worry state officials. Or maybe not.

Retrieved February 21, 2018 from


Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam, Water

Homeless Tough Love

That it is needed is the conclusion of this CNN writer in the OC Register; a conclusion I agree with.

An excerpt.

For years California voters have been nothing but compassionate towards the state’s homeless population, repeatedly voting to tax ourselves to provide more resources for affordable housing, mental health services, public transportation and addiction treatment facilities. In return, we’ve lost control of park space, rivers, public transit systems, downtown commercial hubs, and even residential neighborhoods. It seems today like we have somehow traded the California paradise we remember for something more akin to a zombie apocalypse movie.

And the problems we’ve been trying to solve are only getting worse.

Politicians, advocates for the homeless and the courts have to understand that compassion is a two-way street. Their institutional lack of empathy, care or concern for the residents who are forced to suffer the consequences, as well as pay the bills, for their failed programs is beyond appalling.

How about some concern for the elderly woman who wants to go for a walk without being punched in the face for no reason? Or the single mom who just wants to pump her own gas without being harassed and physically intimidated by a junkie? Or a kid who wants to ride his bike along the Santa Ana River, but can’t because of the hypodermic needles and human waste? Or the young family who has to turn their house into a fortress to keep transients from defecating on their doorstep?

The powers that be seem to have nothing but scorn for those people. They want you to shut up, keep paying your rising tax bill and check your privilege.

But I for one have had it with their faux compassion and moral superiority. It’s time that they take responsibility for the trainwreck that they and their disastrous policies created. It’s not compassionate to allow addicts and the mentally ill to live life on the streets, and it’s not compassionate to expect the public to deal with the dangerous situations this creates.

In just the last couple of weeks, we’ve learned the following:

Over the last six years the number of those living in the streets and shelters of the city of Los Angeles and most of the county surged 75 percent.

If you take out Los Angeles, national homelessness would have dropped last year for the first time since the recession, proving that the homeless crisis is either just a California problem — or that we’re attracting them from other parts of the nation.

After it was determined that December’s Skirball Fire, which destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others in the process, was started by a fire at a homeless encampment in nearby brush, the Los Angeles Fire Department conducted a study which found nearly 200 similar encampments pose a high fire risk to their surrounding communities. The problematic encampments include some in Eagle Rock, Elysian Park near Dodger Stadium and the hills around the Hollywood Bowl.

Along the Santa Ana River, about 62 tons of debris and 400 pounds of “human waste” was removed from January 22 to January 26, in addition to 34 arrests….

If this is where “compassionate” policies have left us, maybe it’s time to try some ‘tough love’, instead.

Retrieved February 17, 2018 from

Posted in Homelessness

New Study Shows Cloud Seeding Works

That’s what this article from Water Deeply says and that is really great news.

An excerpt.

Cloud seeding has become big business worldwide as a means to boost water supplies. Utilities and governments spend tens of millions of dollars on the process, which is especially common in Western states that rely on winter snowpack to meet year-round water demand.

The basic process involves spraying silver iodide from a plane as it flies through storm clouds. The silver iodide induces moisture in the cloud to form ice crystals, which then (hopefully) fall out as snow.

Some studies have estimated cloud seeding can boost snowfall by between 8 and 15 percent. This figure was derived by comparing snow depth on mountains beneath clouds that were seeded, compared to nearby mountains in unseeded areas affected by the same storm. And it was deduced that seeding made the difference.

But amazingly, the basic physical process believed to occur during cloud seeding has never been conclusively proven. No scientist has ever verified that silver iodide causes ice to form in a cloud, and that the artificially created ice then reaches the ground as snowfall.

Until now. In a new study, a team of scientists led by Jeffrey French at the University of Wyoming in Laramie has proven the entire chain of events, from ice formation in the cloud to snow accumulating on the ground as a direct result.

The study does more than simply prove conventional wisdom. French, an assistant professor of atmospheric science, tells Water Deeply that dissecting and verifying the process will help make cloud seeding more effective.

Water Deeply: What did you prove in this study, exactly?

Jeffrey French: What we showed was that in certain conditions, when you add silver iodide to a cloud, you can get the cloud to nucleate ice particles that otherwise would not. So you’re freezing some of the supercooled liquid that otherwise would remain a supercooled liquid, in conditions that would then allow those newly formed ice crystals to grow through a variety of natural cloud processes to a point that they are large enough to then fall out of the cloud and land on the surface of a mountain as snow.

We were able to document that entire process, and that’s never actually been done before. Nobody has ever been able to probe into it repeatedly with time and look at the evolution of the cloud particles. And that’s what we were able to do.

Water Deeply: Why is it important to verify this process?

French: It’s important to be able to evaluate whether cloud seeding is really having an impact. The big question is, at the end of day, are you putting more snow on the ground in any significant amount? It’s a statistical question and it’s an area question. It’s done through looking at correlations, between times when you seed and how much snow falls and times when you don’t and how much snow falls. The problem with that approach is that there is so much natural variability in the world that you can have what appears to be a positive signal, but it may come up just by pure chance or there may be other impacts that cause you to have more snow at these times versus other times.

Retrieved February 16, 2018 from

Posted in Water

Getting Bureaucrats Closer to the Action

As the stated intent of this new reorganization of the Department of Interior, as reported by Capital Press, it sounds worthwhile and long overdue.

An excerpt.

DENVER (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is pressing ahead with a massive overhaul of his department, despite growing opposition to his proposal to move hundreds of public employees out of Washington and create a new organizational map that largely ignores state boundaries.

Zinke wants to divide most of the department’s 70,000 employees and their responsibilities into 13 regions based on rivers and ecosystems, instead of the current map based mostly on state lines.

The proposal would relocate many of the Interior Department’s top decision-makers from Washington to still-undisclosed cities in the West. The headquarters of some of its major bureaus also would move to the West.

The concept — supported in principle by many Western politicians from both parties — is to get top officials closer to the natural resources and cultural sites they manage. The Interior Department oversees a vast expanse of public lands, mainly in the West, that are rich in wildlife, parks, archaeological and historic sites, oil and gas, coal and grazing ranges.

It also oversees huge dams and reservoirs that are vital to some of the West’s largest cities and most productive agricultural land.

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, suspects the plan is an attempt to undercut the department by pressuring senior employees to quit rather than relocating, leaving positions unfilled and creating confusion about who regulates what.

“I think it’s a very thinly disguised attempt to gut the Department of Interior and its bureaus,” he said.

Grijalva also questioned the value of moving more department employees West, saying more than 90 percent are already in field offices outside Washington.

Grijalva and Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia, also a member of the Natural Resources Committee, on Wednesday accused Zinke of withholding key information from lawmakers and trying to implement the plan piecemeal while avoiding full scrutiny from Congress.

Congress has the final say over the proposal.

And a bipartisan group of Western governors complained to Zinke two weeks ago that he shut them out of the planning for the reorganization. The Republican-dominated Western Governors Association expressed concern that organizing the department around natural features instead of state lines would weaken their states’ influence on department decisions.

Zinke’s spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said Wednesday that moving more Interior Department employees to the West has received overwhelming backing from Congress and state governments, and that managing by ecosystems, instead of state borders, has “a lot of support.”

Six Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee told Zinke last month they support the reorganization. They said it would improve agency efficiency and responsiveness.

Retrieved February 16, 2018 from

Posted in Environmentalism, Government

Homeless Housing

Part of the strategy of housing the homeless (or in Sacramento, getting them off the Parkway)  is increasing the development of below market housing and this article from New Geography notes the problems Portland faces in that regard.

An excerpt.

As the price of housing continues to rise in many cities, one popular progressive policy idea to address it is inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning requires that a certain percentage of units in a building be priced at below market, targeted at people who earn some fraction of the area median income. Often this set aside is required in exchange for density bonuses or other things the developer might want.

Portland passed one of these, and according to a report in the Portland Mercury, construction fell off a cliff:

A year ago, Portland City Council enacted “Inclusionary Housing” (IH), a new policy requiring any apartment building of 20 units or more to rent a portion of them below market rates—from 30 to 80 percent of the city’s median family income, depending on the option a developer selects.

When the city implemented the policy, detractors warned the new rules would simply ensure developers stopped building here. City officials argued IH would force the private market to create much-needed affordable units in Portland’s building boom.

A year into the policy, the detractors seem to be winning. Apartment construction in Portland has fallen off a cliff, though there’s still ambiguity as to whether IH or other market forces are the key reason. Meanwhile, Mayor Ted Wheeler is planning to sweeten the deals that the city offers developers to convince them to build.

So far, IH’s results are underwhelming. According to the city’s Bureau of Development Services, 12 qualifying buildings with a total of 682 units have applied for permits since the IH policy went into effect on February 1, 2017. Under IH, those projects could bring in anywhere from 55 to 170 below-market units, depending on the options their owners select (not all developers have decided, so an actual number of affordable units isn’t clear).

Whatever the case, 682 is a huge drop off for a housing market that from 2013 to 2017 typically built between 3,000 and 6,000 new units per year. And the number doesn’t give the complete picture.

“We’ve seen the spigot turned off so completely, so fast,” says Kurt Schultz, a principal at SERA Architects, who notes that his clients who’ve worked with similar policies in other cities often blanch when told of Portland’s strict IH rules. “I’ve never seen it turned off so fast before, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”

I don’t have any real analysis to give on this, but the reporting is pretty stark. Click through to read the whole thing.

Retrieved February 16, 2018 from


Posted in Homelessness

Bureaucracy, the Homeless & North Sacramento

This Sacramento Bee article reminds us of why bureaucracy is so often despised, but, as James Q. Wilson notes about the constraints of bureaucracy:

“The key constraints are three in number. To a much greater extent than is true of private bureaucracies, government agencies (1) cannot lawfully retain and devote to the private benefit of their members the earnings of the organization, (2) cannot allocate the factors of production in accordance with the preference of the organization’s administrators, and (3) must serve goals not of the organization’s own choosing. Control over revenues, productive factors, and agency goals is all vested to an important degree in entities external to the organization—legislatures, courts, politicians, and interest groups. Given this, agency managers must attend to the demands of these external entities. As a result, government management tends to be driven by the constraints on the organization, not the tasks of the organization. To say the same thing in other words, whereas business management focuses on the “bottom line” (that is, profits), government management focuses on the “top line” (that is, constraints). Because government managers are not as strongly motivated as private ones to define the tasks of their subordinates, these tasks are often shaped by the factors described in the preceding four chapters.” (p. 115) James Q. Wilson. (1989). Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It, Basic Books, Inc., Publishers: New York.

Excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

City leaders are strongly considering extending the controversial North Sacramento winter homeless shelter beyond its planned closing date of March 31, officials confirmed Thursday.

The shelter, on Railroad Drive near Del Paso Boulevard, was presented at community meetings as a temporary place to allow homeless men and women to escape the cold weather. A second, more permanent shelter has been under discussion for a different location less than a mile away.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the city had hoped to have a permanent shelter at the nearby Royal Oaks light-rail station open by the time the Railroad Drive facility closed, allowing for a smooth transition for those seeking shelter in the area. But that appears unlikely, and the mayor said a timing gap between the facilities would be “unacceptable.”

“I am guided by one principle: Under no circumstances will we allow 200 human beings to return to homelessness and desperation,” Steinberg said. “We are considering all options to meet that principle.”

The City Council will discuss the shelter operation at its Feb. 27 meeting.

Councilman Allen Warren, who represents the residential neighborhoods near the shelter, has scheduled a March 1 community meeting in his North Sacramento district to discuss the possibility of the shelter remaining open.

Warren said he is open to extending the shelter’s run, “but I want to make sure our community is given due consideration” because keeping the facility open beyond March “was not what was sold to the community.”

“I don’t want to walk into the March 1 meeting with a decision already made,” he said. “I want to have a comprehensive discussion before I make a decision.”

The large “triage” shelter, the first of its kind in Sacramento, has a maximum capacity of 200 people. It opened in early December despite concerns from neighborhood residents who said they feared it would bring more problems to a neighborhood already plagued by poverty and homelessness. Residents also said all neighborhoods should share the burden of housing homeless people.

As of last week, 197 people were living at the shelter, along with dozens of pets. More than 260 men and women have spent time in the program since its opening, said Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator. The facility is open for 24 hours a day, and provides residents with showers, meals, veterinary services, and help in locating housing and social services.

Some residents have said the shelter has attracted more homeless people to the area, and complained of a lack of promised transparency by city officials.

“I’m truly disappointed in the city,” said David Plag, executive director of the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership. “The city stated to the entire North Sacramento community that this shelter would close at the end of March. I envisioned that people living at this shelter would be transferred to the permanent facility” at another location. “Now, it looks like this shelter will stay open indefinitely.”

Larry Glover-Meade of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association called the development “shocking and infuriating.”

“It’s very frustrating that the city hasn’t communicated this at all to nearby community members,” he said. “I think many who live nearby could have supported keeping it open, but the city didn’t talk with us at all. After countless reassurances that the winter shelter would definitely close, it’s pretty frustrating that they aren’t fulfilling their promises.”

Retrieved February 16, 2018 from

Posted in Government, Homelessness

Homeless Cleaning up

This program noted by Sacramento CBS is a good one.

We suggested it 13 years ago, glad to see its finally being done, see our report at (pp. 34-36)

An excerpt from the Sacramento CBS article.

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new program sponsored by the city of Sacramento is seeing success by encouraging the homeless to help clean up abandoned encampments of trash and debris.

A clean-up crew hitting the Del Paso Heights area is made up of volunteers that are part of a new group called the Downtown Streets Team.

Most of them also share something else in common: nearly all have been or currently are homeless.

Willie says the team has helped him and others in getting a new lease on life.

“Picking up cigarette butts and paper can change your life, give you some direction, give you some motivation that you’re doing something. Then you start doing a little more.”

Robert has been homeless on and off for the past 20 years.
“Yes it does lift my spirits, I’m doing something good for the city, something good for the people.”

Rachel Davidson is the team’s project manager.

“They go into the encampments up-and-down Del Paso Boulevard and other neighborhoods, cleaning up litter and debris,” she said.

The city implemented the program in January as a way to mitigate potential impacts from the North Sacramento Triage Center.

The volunteers don’t get paid, but they do get a stipend.

Retrieved February 14 2018 from


Posted in Homelessness