Feds Should Build Dams

Any dam of substantial size or threatening communities should be built by the federal government, as they are the only ones with the expertise and resources to ensure a good and safe build.

This article from the Los Angeles Times is about dams in trouble and it seems most are not federally built.

An excerpt.

“On a cold morning last March, Kenny Angel got a frantic knock on his door. Two workers from a utility company in northern Nebraska had come with a stark warning: Get out of your house.

“Just a little over a quarter-mile upstream, the 92-year-old Spencer Dam was straining to contain the swollen, ice-covered Niobrara River after an unusually intense snow and rainstorm. The workers had tried but failed to force open the dam’s frozen wooden spillway gates. So, fearing the worst, they fled in their truck, stopping to warn Angel before driving away without him.

“Minutes later, the dam came crashing down, unleashing a wave of water carrying ice chunks the size of cars. Angel’s home was wiped away; his body was never found.

“He had about a five-minute notice, with no prior warning the day before,” said Scott Angel, one of Kenny’s brothers.

“State inspectors had given the dam a “fair” rating less than a year earlier. Until it failed, it looked little different from thousands of others across the U.S. — and that could portend a problem.

“A more than two-year investigation by the Associated Press has found scores of dams nationwide in even worse condition, and in equally dangerous locations. They loom over homes, businesses, highways or entire communities that could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold.

“A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and Puerto Rico. The actual number is almost certainly higher: Some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, claiming exemptions to public record requests. Others simply haven’t rated all their dams due to lack of funding, staffing or authority to do so.

“In California, six high-hazard dams were rated as poor or unsatisfactory, including Oroville, which failed in 2017 and prompted mass evacuations downstream. Crews have since been repairing the dam and it is now listed in “fair” condition, according to California inspectors. The other dams were Kelley Hot Spring in Modoc County; North Fork in Santa Clara County; Misselbeck in Shasta County; Moccasin Lower in Tuolumne County; and Matilija, a dam in Ventura County slated for removal.

To read the rest of the article retrieved November 12, 2019, go here, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-11-12/dams-failure-flood-risk-oroville


Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam

Poll Finds Strong Support for Caring for Parkway and Addressing Homelessness

Excellent results for the Parkway from this recent Countywide Survey, read at http://sacta.org/pdf/agendas/2019/111419/111419-07AT2.pdf

Posted in Homelessness, Parks

Sound Advice on California Wildfires

Excellent article from California Globe.

An excerpt.

“Nobody knew how the fire started. It took hold in the dry chaparral and grasslands and quickly spread up the sides of the canyon. Propelled by winds gusting over 40 miles per hour and extremely dry air (humidity below 25 percent), the fire spread over the ridge and into the town below. Overwhelmed firefighters could not contain the blaze as it swept through the streets, immolating homes by the hundreds. Even brick homes with slate roofs were not spared. Before it finally was brought under control, 640 structures including 584 homes had been reduced to ashes. Over 4,000 people were left homeless.

“Does this sound like the “new normal?” Maybe so, but this description is of the Berkeley fire of 1923. In its time, with barely 4 million people living in California, the Berkeley fire was a catastrophe on par with the fires we see today.

“When evaluating what happened in nearly a century since this fire, two stories emerge. The story coming from California’s politicians emphasizes climate change. From former Governor Jerry Brown: “In less than five years, even the worst skeptics will be believers.” From current Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking on the threat of wildfires in the state: “If anyone is wondering if climate change is real, come to California.”

“The other story, which comes from professional foresters, emphasizes how different forest management practices might have made many of the recent fires far less severe, if not avoided entirely. Specifically, California’s misguided forest management practices included several decades of successful fire suppression, combined with a failure to remove all the undergrowth that results when natural fires aren’t allowed to burn.

“Back in 1923, forest fire suppression was in its infancy. But techniques and technologies improved apace with firefighting budgets, until by the second half of the 20th century, an army of firefighters coped, overall, very effectively with California’s wildfires. The result is excessive undergrowth which not only creates fuel for catastrophic and unmanageable super fires, but these excessive trees and shrubs compete with mature trees. This is the real reason why California’s forests are not only tinderboxes, but also filled with dying trees. Now Californians confront nearly 20 million acres of overgrown forests. Behind the climate change rhetoric and political posturing, a consensus has quietly formed that California’s forests need to be thinned.

In order to rapidly address the challenge of thinning California’s forests, there are several steps that may be taken simultaneously. For starters, many environmental regulations need to be rewritten. The state is already beginning to grant CEQA exemptions to property owners that want to engage in thinning operations. But half of California’s forests are on federal land. At the federal level, the EPA’s “no action” restrictions, usually based on the “single species management” practice, have led to more than half of California’s national forests being off limits to tree thinning, brush removal, or any other sort of active management.

“Another required change is the U.S. Forest Service guidelines which only permit active forest management, even in the areas that are not off limits, for as little as six weeks per year. While restrictions on when and where forests can be thinned may have sound ecological justifications in some ways, they are making it impossible to thin the forests. “The ecological cost/benefits need to be reassessed. To be effective, thinning operations need to be allowed to run for several months each year, instead of several weeks each year.

“The EPA needs to streamline the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) application process so it is less expensive and time consuming for qualified companies to get permits to extract timber from federal lands. They can also grant waivers to allow thinning projects to bypass NEPA, or at the least, broaden the allowable exemptions.

“The federal government can accelerate granting of long term stewardship contracts whereby qualified companies acquire a minimum 20 year right to extract wood products from federal lands. This will guarantee a steady supply of wood products which, in turn, will make new investment viable in logging equipment, mills, and biomass energy facilities.

“Rules and conditions governing timber exports need revision. The export of raw logs from federal lands in the Western United States is currently prohibited. Lifting this prohibition would help, because sawmill capacity is not capable of handling the increase in volume. Just with the new thinning programs already in place, logs and undergrowth are being burned or put in landfills.

“As it is, California imports around 80 percent of the cut lumber used in its construction industry or sold through retailers to consumers. If there was an assurance of wood supply, which the national forests can certainly offer, investment would be made in expanding mill capacity. Suddenly the money that is being sent to Oregon, Washington and British Colombia to purchase their cut timber would stay here in California, employing thousands of workers in the mills.

“The state or federal government can set up revolving loan funds for investors to build sawmills, as well as biomass energy facilities, as well as chippers and other equipment, that would allow the industry to quickly ramp up operations and capacity.

As California’s forests are thinned, and kept that way, and the annual supply of wood is permanently increased, in-state demand would become increasingly unable to absorb in-state supply, and the surplus could be exported, earning additional profits and supporting additional jobs. Biomass plants, burning carbon neutral wood chips, could profitably generate safe, affordable, distributed electricity to rural markets, employing additional thousands and delivering returns to private investors.

“Finally, California has an opportunity to rehabilitate able-bodied homeless substance abusers by putting them to work thinning the forests. With only modest reforms to California’s criminal code, or perhaps via a state or federal state of emergency, homeless people convicted of drug or minor property crimes could serve their time working on labor crews thinning the forests.

Cal Fire, the California Dept. of Corrections, and the California Conservation Corps are all equipped to train and house people to do this work. It might be the best thing that ever happened to thousands of young homeless Californians who, once they are freed from substance abuse, are sane, able bodied people. Thousands might recover their dignity and their future in this manner, at the same time as they help restore health to California’s forests.

“The Right and Wrong Responses to California Wildfires

“Many of the recommendations here are already in progress. Others should be considered. To make them happen more quickly and effectively, California’s state officials should be working with the Trump administration behind the scenes, even if they savage each other in the public square. But there are other steps California’s policymakers are taking which are harmful to working Californians.

“For example, there is the growing conventional wisdom that people should not be living in the “Urban Wildland Interface” (UWI). While common sense indicates people living in the UWI cannot have the same expectations regarding fire risk as people living in the urban core, it would be a tragic mistake to deny people the ability to escape urban areas and find affordable options in rural areas.

“California’s insurance commissioner, Ricardo Lara, could with a stroke of his pen, allow private insurance companies to pass on the escalating costs of reinsurance for fire prone areas to the customers who live in those areas. Because they can’t do that, private insurers are cancelling policies. California’s state run insurance which remains available to people in fire prone areas is far more expensive, which is driving people out of their homes.

“There are three layers of protection against fires for people living in the UWI. The first, forest thinning, needs to involve multiple agencies cooperating based on community needs and land topography, rather than stopping at arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries. “The second layer of protection requires removing combustible material along access roads, ensuring safe evacuation routes. Roads need to be wide enough to allow cars to evacuate one way at the same time as oncoming firefighting vehicles pass in the other direction. Third, homes themselves need to be hardened against embers, with brush and other combustible materials cleared away from the structures. With these conditions met, insurance against fires can be affordable, even if it still costs more than fire insurance outside of the UWI.

“The threat of wildfires is not only being used to amplify panic over climate change, it is being used to justify and accelerate policies designed to combat climate change. Many of these policies are misguided and extreme. The example of prohibiting new construction in rural areas based on the wildfire threat is one of them. Another is the fast tracking of legislation aimed at achieving the 2030 targets for California’s aggregate greenhouse gas emissions.

“One of the latest bits of pending legislation pursuant to California hitting its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target is the intention to charge automobile owners based in their “vehicle miles traveled.” If one reflects on who will be impacted by a law of this sort, it is revealed as one of the most misanthropic, regressive laws ever proposed in California. The people who live on the outskirts of cities and have super-commutes, the people who are gone from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m. every day so they can keep their family under a roof, will now have to pay extra for the privilege of enduring that super-commute.”

To finish the rest of this article, retrieved November 8, 2019 go here, https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/long-term-solutions-for-california-wildfire-prevention/


Posted in Environmentalism, History, Parkway Fires

Housing the Homeless

We have in the past favored the scattered site approach—before moving to strong support of the Haven for Hope Model—discussed in this article from Sacramento News & Review, which seems to come with its own problems.

In our area, a strategy helping the homeless (and local residents and business who suffer the impacts) needs to be developed that is capable of safely sheltering up to 2 or 3 thousand homeless folks a night safely distant from residential neighborhoods and business—with available transformational services—and San Antonio’s Haven for Hope program, especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers, seems to offer an answer; which you can read about from their brochure at http://www.havenforhope.org/downloads/docs/H4H%20Brochure%2010-31-2016.pdf   and you can read more about Haven for Hope applicability in our area from our news release of October 26, 2018 on our News Page at http://arpps.org/news.html

An excerpt from the Sacramento News & Review article.

“A City Hall discussion about expanding homeless shelter services led to an unexpected debate—again—about how the local housing authority distributes housing vouchers.

“On Oct. 22, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby unveiled a new proposal to significantly expand “scattered site” shelters in Natomas and South Sacramento as a way of augmenting the new shelter inside the Capitol Park Hotel and two planned shelters in Oak Park and Meadowview. In her scenario, the city would administer the program through the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, or SHRA.

“Scattered-site shelters are low-income apartments that SHRA would rent to families experiencing homelessness through a master-leasing program and by offering financial incentives to landlords. Ashby said she favors this approach because it’s ideal for mothers and domestic violence survivors. Her proposal would house roughly 300 individuals over two years while offering them re-housing services.

“But Councilman Steve Hansen wanted more information from SHRA about the potential unintended consequences of launching an aggressive master-leasing program at a time when so few landlords accept its Housing Choice vouchers, more commonly known as Section 8. Hansen also noted that, during a joint City Council-Board of Supervisors meeting three years ago, both ordered SHRA to change a policy that excluded homeless Sacramentans from even qualifying for housing vouchers. During the same meeting, Supervisor Patrick Kennedy was highly critical of SHRA’s overall transparency.

“On a similar note, Hansen said that SHRA has not provided the city with any updates since the policy change.

“SHRA executive director La Shelle Dozier responded that the policy change allowed for roughly 300 vouchers to go to those on the streets since the start of 2017.

“Hansen then said that he was hearing from constituents with housing vouchers who claimed they couldn’t compete with Bay Area renters moving here with their own vouchers, which are priced at that region’s fair market value—essentially allowing them to out-bid local renters.

“Dozier told Hansen the voucher program does not work that way.

“Maybe it’s changed, but that’s contradictory to the information I’ve gotten before,” Hansen said.

“Well, I run the program,” Dozier shot back, drawing a reaction from the audience. “So I think I would know.”

Retrieved November 8, 2019 from https://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/scattered-approach/content?oid=29211396


Posted in ARPPS, Homelessness

American Psychosis

That is the title of a very important book describing how so many mentally ill people wound up homeless—with so many camping in the Parkway—and/or in prison, and the subtitle gives the main reason: “How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental illness Treatment Center

This review from the website of the book on Amazon says it all.

The Review:

“In 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered an historic speech on mental illness and retardation. He described sweeping new programs to replace “the shabby treatment of the many millions of the mentally disabled in custodial institutions” with treatment in community mental health centers. This movement, later referred to as “deinstitutionalization,” continues to impact mental health care. Though he never publicly acknowledged it, the program was a tribute to Kennedy’s sister Rosemary, who was born mildly retarded and developed a schizophrenia-like illness. Terrified she’d become pregnant, Joseph Kennedy arranged for his daughter to receive a lobotomy, which was a disaster and left her severely retarded.

“Fifty years after Kennedy’s speech, E. Fuller Torrey’s book provides an inside perspective on the birth of the federal mental health program. On staff at the National Institute of Mental Health when the program was being developed and implemented, Torrey draws on his own first-hand account of the creation and launch of the program, extensive research, one-on-one interviews with people involved, and recently unearthed audiotapes of interviews with major figures involved in the legislation. As such, this book provides historical material previously unavailable to the public. Torrey examines the Kennedys’ involvement in the policy, the role of major players, the responsibility of the state versus the federal government in caring for the mentally ill, the political maneuverings required to pass the legislation, and how closing institutions resulted not in better care – as was the aim – but in underfunded programs, neglect, and higher rates of community violence. Many now wonder why public mental illness services are so ineffective. At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.”

Retrieved November 5, 2019 from https://www.amazon.com/American-Psychosis-Government-Destroyed-Treatment/dp/0199988714



Posted in Government, Homelessness

Olmsted, the Parkway and English Parks

Frederick Law Olmsted was the founder of the American Landscape Architectural profession and the designer of Central Park—our model of how the Parkway should look and be governed—and the greatest influence on him was the English Park.

One of his students John Nolen, drew out the first plans for the American River Parkway in December of 1913.

This superb article from the New York Times reports on Olmsted’s love of English Parks.

An excerpt.

“When Frederick Law Olmsted stepped off a ship in Liverpool in 1850, he was a gentleman farmer on Staten Island and intellectual, eager to embark on a walking tour of England. When he left, he had the makings of perhaps the greatest American landscape architect of all time.

“Several years later, he would take an undistinguished plot of land — the future Central Park — and sculpt meadows, knolls, ponds and waterfalls, winning international praise. Central Park, which he designed with Calvert Vaux, was soon followed by Prospect Park in Brooklyn and dozens of other commissions, from Chicago to Boston.

“But his vision of landscape design had its stirrings in England, a country he first visited with his brother. The tour of the English countryside took them from one charming village to another. Importantly for Olmsted’s career, the trip also led them to Birkenhead Park outside Liverpool, the first public park in England to be built with taxpayer money.

“Like Central Park, Birkenhead started as a blank slate. But a landscape architect named Joseph Paxton, who would prove hugely influential for Olmsted, had coaxed ponds and rock gardens, cricket fields and serpentine paths from the homely turf. Olmsted, whose politics leaned sharply left, saw in Birkenhead Park a radical civic experiment, a place where commoners and aristocrats could rub elbows.

“In his travel memoir “Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England,” he exclaimed: “Five minutes of admiration, and a few more spent in studying the manner in which art had been employed to obtain from nature so much beauty, and I was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People’s Garden.”

“If Birkenhead Park set Olmsted musing about the democratizing power of parks, Chirk Castle, which he visited on the same trip, had the opposite effect. Set in northern Wales, on the English border, the medieval castle had belonged to the same noble family for centuries when Olmsted climbed its long drive.

“In his travelogue, he observed that the stone pile was in the “midst of the finest park and largest trees we have seen.” But he also voiced doubts about its privileged perch: “Is it right and best that this should be for the few, the very few of us?”

“As Central Park neared completion, Olmsted returned to England, touring more parks there, as well as on the European continent. Funded by the park’s board of commissioners, the trip was part reward and part temporary banishment. The pressures of Central Park were fraying Olmsted’s nerves, while his budget overruns were vexing the board.

“The second trip proved even more critical for Olmsted’s developing aesthetic. In surveying various landscapes, Olmsted was drawn to the natural style of the English country garden over the more formal, geometric look of French estates. For Olmsted, an effective park was not unlike a good parlor trick in its ability to transport city dwellers from their noisy, crowded surroundings to a man-made Eden.

“In an 1861 article for the New American Cyclopaedia, in which Olmsted traced the history of public spaces from ancient times, he wrote that European gardeners were “often faultless” in their execution of what he called “close scenery.” But, he concluded, the creation of entire landscapes, “all in imitation of nature, is to this day the peculiar art of England.”

“Together, the tours would shape the look of American public spaces for generations.

“The thing about Olmsted is that nothing was ever wasted with him,” said Justin Martin, author of “Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted.” “He would visit some place and years later draw on something that he saw.”

“A number of the British parks and gardens Olmsted visited are still open. Five of them — Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Derby Arboretum, Chatsworth, Birkenhead Park and Chirk Castle — form a wide loop through northwestern England (and a sliver of Wales), taking in both cityscapes and magnificent countryside.” Retrieved November 4, 2019 from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/30/travel/footsteps-frederick-law-olmsted-parks.html?


Posted in ARPPS, Environmentalism, History, Parks

Raise Shasta Dam

That is the message of this superb article from the Orange County Register; and it makes very good sense to increase the height of a dam originally engineered to be 200 feet higher (it is currently 602 feet high) , by 18 feet, as Wikipedia notes: “The expansion is considered feasible because the dam’s foundations were originally built to carry the weight of a 800-foot (240 m) structure, but resources shortages at the onset of World War II prevented completing it to its final height.” Retrieved October 29, 2019 from the Future Expansion section at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shasta_Dam

An excerpt.

“The Public Policy Institute of California, one of the most respected, neutral research institutes in our state, reports that more than a third of all the water that falls on California in the form of rain or snow flows to the Pacific Ocean.

“This constitutes a greater percentage of our water than agriculture, industrial and urban uses combined. The next largest destination for California’s water is environmental, which also exceeds all that is consumed by agriculture, industrial and urban use combined. Together, water going to environmental uses and water flowing to the ocean make up two-thirds of all California’s water.

“Last year, California ended its drought. Meteorologists predict this rainy season will also be plentiful.  In our state, however, drought is always just a few years away. In 1952, California’s greatest chronicler, John Steinbeck, commented that, “During the dry years, the people forgot about the rich years, and when the wet years returned, they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”

“Sixty-seven years later, perhaps California can finally become far-sighted. During an extra rainy year, California could put some of the water that would otherwise flow to the ocean in storage against the next drought.

“The effects of the last drought are still obvious in California’s agricultural belt.

“Making a map of the 20 counties of California whose unemployment exceeds the statewide average is to draw the outline of our state’s agricultural region. In an unbroken thread north of Sacramento almost to the Oregon line, Sutter, Glenn and Tehama counties all exceed the state’s unemployment average. Going south from Sacramento to Los Angeles, San Joaquin, Stansilaus, Merced, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties form a continuous strip of above-average unemployment. All are agricultural counties.

“The drought forced farmers to fallow fields of row crops and to uproot almond and fruit trees. Farmers are hesitant to replant, uncertain about the restoration of water supplies. Those who suffer most live at the edges of the economy of agriculture: those who plant the crops, harvest them, sell the feed, fuel and farm supplies to furnish the most productive farm land in the world, if there is water.

“From this perspective, the federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River, is both sensible and compassionate.

“The project is feasible because the dam was constructed in 1945 in such a way as to allow for raising its height, in response to the need for water that was foreseen to grow, a project tremendously easier than building a new dam in a different location. Heightening the Shasta Dam would not impede any of California’ free-flowing streams, as new storage projects might. The higher dam will increase Lake Shasta’s available water by 14%.”

To read the rest of the article, retrieved October 29, 2019, go to: https://www.ocregister.com/2019/10/28/californians-should-favor-dam-expansion-plan-tom-campbell/

Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam