Thinning Forest Means More Snowpack

Interesting study reported from The Tahoe Daily Tribune.

An excerpt.

“The Sierra Nevada forest is an important resource for the surrounding communities in Nevada and California.

“Thinning the forest by removing trees by hand or using heavy machinery is one of the few tools available to manage forests. However, finding the best way to thin forests by removing select trees to maximize the forest’s benefits for water quantity, water quality, wildfire risk and wildlife habitat remains a challenge for resource managers.

“The U.S. Forest Service is leading an effort to balance all these challenges in landscape-scale forest restoration planning as part of the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership. As part of this effort, University of Nevada, Reno’s Adrian Harpold recently led a team in developing a modeling tool to focus on the issue of water quantity.

“The tool predicts how different approaches to thinning the forest impact snowpack accumulation in Lake Tahoe, which controls how much water is available for downstream communities such as Reno.

“The snowpack we’ve relied upon is under pressure from years of fire suppression that increased tree density, combined with the effects of climate change and warming temperatures,” Harpold, natural resources & environmental science assistant professor with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, said. He explained that too many trees means less snow reaches the ground. In addition, when many trees are clumped together, they warm up and release heat, which can melt the snow on the ground.

“However, too few trees means the snowpack is less protected from the sun and wind, which also melt snow. The tool, developed with funding from the College’s Experiment Station and the U.S. Forest Service, was built to specifically model the west shore of Lake Tahoe, which the team felt was a good sample of the Sierra Nevada forest.

“The team initially created a small-scale high-resolution model using data collected with 3D laser scanners, called “LiDAR.” “The LiDAR data lets us see individual trees, which we use to ‘virtually thin’ the forest by taking trees out of the model,” he said. “As such, it lets us create a thinning experiment that’s realistic. We can then represent different management actions, such as removing trees below certain heights.”

“His team, including the post-doctoral scholar Sebastian Krogh, graduate student Devon Eckberg, undergraduate students Makenzie Kohler and Gary Sterle, the College’s Associate Professor of Remote Sensing Jonathan Greenberg and University of Arizona’s Patrick Broxton, tested the model’s accuracy by conducting thinning experiments and comparing the predictions to measurements in the real forest.

“Results were discussed in a recently published article on the proof-of-concept for using high-resolution modeling to predict the effect of forest thinning for snow, for which Harpold was the lead author.

“Once the team determined the model was working correctly, they increased the model size to represent Lake Tahoe’s western shore. Results are discussed in another recently published article on using the model to predict the effects of forest thinning on the northern Sierra Nevada snowpack, led by Krogh with Harpold, Broxton and the Forest Service’s Patricia Manley as co-authors. Their experiments showed that overall, more trees removed means more snow maintained. However, there are beneficial ways and detrimental ways to remove trees.

“The method that appeared to be most effective was removing dense trees that had many leaves and branches and were shorter than about 50 feet, leaving behind taller trees. There were also differences in effectiveness depending on the elevation, the slope and the direction the slope was facing. Harpold plans to continue expanding the model, testing to see if it will work for Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore and in the American River Basin, with the ultimate goal of providing a tool for Forest Service decision-makers and others to inform their forest-thinning plans.”

Retrieved May 8, 2020 from https://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/prediction-tool-shows-how-forest-thinning-may-increase-sierra-nevada-snowpack/

Be well Everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism, Water

The Virus & Inductive Reasoning

This article from City Journal shows the connection.

An excerpt.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the struggle to find effective treatments and cures. When most people speak of the science of medicine, they are referring to a process of deduction, whereby investigators propose and test hypotheses to reach a factual conclusion. Perhaps the best known and understood example of the deductive method in medicine is the randomized controlled trial that scientists use to test new drugs, as in the case of remdesivir, the drug that the FDA has just approved for emergency use in severely ill hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

“Randomized clinical trials are what people mean when they say that a drug has been “tested,” and such trials remain the scientific gold standard. In many cases, though, bedside observation or laboratory serendipity has led us to effective treatments and cures. In the case of medicine, inductive reasoning starts with observation and eventually moves to new recommendations or guidelines for standards of care.

“The discovery of the smallpox vaccine is a good example of a medical discovery made through inductive reasoning. Declared eradicated worldwide in 1980, smallpox was a viral disease with a 30 percent mortality rate. The U.S. stopped vaccinating children in 1972; those of us born before that time have a small scar on our shoulders from this vaccination. The inventor of the smallpox vaccine, British physician Edward Jenner, observed at the end of the eighteenth century that individuals who milked cows and were exposed to cows suffering from cowpox were immune to human smallpox infection. He correctly reasoned from this observation that a vaccine (from the Latin vacca, for “cow”) made from smallpox lesions could be protective.

“Modern antibiotics were discovered when someone left a bacterial culture near an open window in a London laboratory, and mold spores landed in the petri dish, inhibiting the growth of the bacteria. Alexander Fleming noticed this phenomenon, cultured the mold, and thus discovered penicillin. This wonder drug was developed using a combination of inductive and deductive processes, both of which fell under the name of “science.”

“Inductive reasoning and bedside observations have led to several advancements in our treatment of moderate to severely ill Covid-19 patients, who have provided physicians with the unfortunate opportunity to make and confirm observations about the progression of the disease and ways to ameliorate it. Physicians then share these observations with their peers through discussions, scientific presentations, or published case reports. It is in this way that the care of severely ill Covid-19 patients has improved, absent any lab-tested therapies.

“One such inductive therapeutic discovery has to do with how physicians treat dangerously low blood-oxygen levels. Many symptomatic Covid patients suffer from a dry cough, difficulty breathing, fever, and fatigue, and their chest x-rays come back abnormal. Some have low blood oxygen and need extra support. In extreme cases, patients are put on a mechanical ventilator, which requires admission to an intensive-care unit and the insertion of a breathing tube into the windpipe and lungs. While mechanical ventilation can be helpful, it has its own complications for patients and taxes the resources of the hospital. New information has emerged that may change the standard of care. Emergency-room physicians in Chicago observed that if they administered pure oxygen to these patients through the nose and laid them on their belly, they could forgo mechanical ventilation and its complications.

“Another observation that has led to new treatment guidelines is related to the increased risk for blood clots in patients with moderate to severe Covid-19 infection. Some Covid-19 patients develop blood clots in their legs, brains, and lungs, and suffer significant complications, including strokes. Many physicians are now recommending that all moderate to severe hospitalized patients receive blood thinners.”

Retrieved May 8, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/inductive-reasoning-medical-science

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Posted in History, Public Safety

Downtown Building Projects During the Virus

An excellent article from Sacramento News & Review exploring this.

An excerpt.

“It took years of hard work and persuasion for tourism boosters and arts lovers to get the Sacramento Convention Center expanded and the Community Center Theater renovated.

“And the timing seemed right for a city on the rise—to bring bigger and better meetings and shows, and to boost downtown Sacramento as a place to work, live and play.

“Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

“When the new buildings open late this year or early next year, the world will look very different from when the City Council gave the go-ahead in September 2018 to borrow $285 million for the two projects.

“It’s unclear when stay-at-home orders will be fully lifted and business and life can resume anywhere close to normal. Sacramento’s major arts groups had to cancel their seasons, and until there’s an effective vaccine for the deadly virus, theatergoers may not be rushing to attend live performances. And with many major companies and organizations canceling travel, who knows when the convention business will come back.

“On Tuesday, May 5, the City Council is scheduled to approve the latest change orders to the contracts for the Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center and the Safe Credit Union Convention Center, a name that has taken on new significance (the credit union is paying nearly $23 million over 25 years for naming rights). The item is on the consent agenda, so it’s supposed to be routine.

“There’s no mention of the pandemic in the staff report. And a lot could change, for better or worse, by the end of the year. Still, it’s not too soon for someone on the council to ask some tough questions. For instance:

“What are other potential uses for the convention center if major meetings don’t happen?

“If seating capacity in the theater must be limited for social distancing, would the city subsidize tickets to keep prices affordable while making up lost revenue for arts groups?

“What’s the back-up financing plan if the number of visitors to Sacramento doesn’t meet projections?

“Are the economic impact projections even valid? The city had predicted at least $22 million a year return on its investment. Visit Sacramento says that meetings and conventions rang up an economic impact of $121 million in 2017.

“The $196 million convention center expansion includes more exhibit space, meeting rooms and lobby space, plus a new ballroom and kitchen. The first conventions aren’t until December and January, but city and Visit Sacramento officials are already discussing the longer-term impact of COVID-19.

“If the meetings aren’t canceled, they could be smaller, says Mike Testa, president and CEO of Visit Sacramento. He also says that the time before opening will be used to incorporate the guidance of health experts to keep delegates safe. For instance, sessions could be spread out beyond the center to nearby hotels and other venues and they could incorporate more live streaming from the home office.

“Still, Testa said he believes that conventions will survive.

“I don’t think that this pandemic will create permanent changes that will dismantle the tourism industry forever,” he said via email. “I believe that business will always be best done face-to-face, that people still want to travel to other cities for experiences that their hometown doesn’t offer and that our curious nature as humans won’t go away because of a fear of getting sick. There will be a vaccine or other significant change that will remove the risk and fear and, until then, we will all adapt as best we can.”

“At the theater, the $86 million renovation includes better acoustics, a nicer lobby and improved (and legally required) access for disabled patrons. The work was scheduled to be finished in mid-December, but could be delayed because the coronavirus crisis has affected the operations of some small specialty companies, said Fran Halbakken, the city’s project manager.

“Dennis Mangers, a strategic adviser in Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s office who focuses on the arts, said there are already intense discussions among city officials and local and national theater leaders about how to safely put on performances. For example, patrons may have their temperatures tested before entering and be required to enter and exit in smaller groups. There might be no intermissions to prevent people from congregating.

“But he said that reducing seating capacity to keep at least six feet between theatergoers wouldn’t work because ticket revenue wouldn’t cover production costs.

“While Mangers said much depends on whether there’s a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall and winter, he’s confident that the leaders of Broadway Sacramento and other arts groups will make “sensible decisions.”

“And despite the pandemic, Mangers said, the convention center and theater projects will pay off in the long run.

“I still believe these were smart, strategic investments for the city,” he told me.”

Retrieved May 4, 2020 from https://sacblog.newsreview.com/2020/05/04/is-sacramentos-big-bet-badly-timed/?utm

Be well Everyone!

Posted in demographics, Economy, Government

Homeless Program Cleaning Parkway Failed

And here is why, from the Newsletter of Sue Frost, surely one of the best local politicians we have.

The Post.

“Sacramento County Homeless Program

“While I know COVID-19 is on all our minds right now, I wanted to share some news with you about a homeless program that I spearheaded that I have been writing about over the past two years.

“In March 2018 I wrote on this facebook page outlining why I thought Sacramento County was in need of a work program for people who are homeless. In March 2019 I put theory into reality and officially rolled out a one-year trial program that would not only employ people who are homeless but also work to beautify Sacramento County at the same time. I promised you that after the trial was completed, I would report back on how effective the program was.

“I am sad to report that the program ended largely in failure – but we did learn some important lessons. I want to take this opportunity to explain to you why it failed, and what we learned. But before that, I want to give you a refresher on exactly how the program functioned.

“40 homeless people were planned to be identified who were both willing to work and be clean from drugs and alcohol. Shelter would be secured for them, and they would clean the American River Parkway for minimum wage pay in the morning, and go through a job training program in the construction industry in the afternoon. After leaving the program they would then get help in finding employment by getting introduced to employers, being placed in internships, and receiving certificates that enable them to earn more than minimum wage.

“Unfortunately, we were only able to get 8 people out of a goal of 40 enrolled in the program, with even less graduated. By far the biggest reason for this failure was because the people in our program could not stay off drugs. Not only could they not stay clean, but we couldn’t even find people who wanted to try getting clean. And we aren’t talking just about drugs like marijuana, we are talking about extremely dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and crack cocaine. There were other problems with the program as well, such as showing up to work on time and a hesitance to work specifically in the construction industry. But those problems paled in comparison to the drug abuse.

“The last official homeless count done less than a year ago showed that Sacramento County has over 5,500 homeless people living within our borders. And out of those 5,500, we could only find 8 who were willing to be drug-free. This is a startling statistic and one that has caused me to learn two important lessons from this endeavor.

“The first lesson I learned is that we must solve the underlying problems that homeless people have before we can work on job training. It is a wasted effort and a drain on the taxpayers for no benefit. We have to solve their drug and alcohol dependence before we can expect them to responsibly hold down a job.

“The other lesson I learned is that the data we receive from the federally mandated point-in-time homeless survey cannot be trusted. In the most recent iteration of that survey from 2019, the data told us that only 9% of homeless people claim alcohol or drugs prevents them from keeping a job or maintaining stable housing. An article in one Sacramento paper even claimed this data proves it is a “Myth” that homeless people all use drugs. At the time I severely questioned this data, but now I know for certain that it is faulty.

“Even though this program itself was not successful, I am still glad that we did it and think there is great value to learning the lessons that we have. I also take great personal issue with new government programs that are started and turn out to be ineffective, yet get funded for eternity – so I am happy that we have quickly changed directions once we found out things weren’t working.

“I still believe that finding jobs for people who are homeless is an important piece to this overall problem that we are not looking close enough at. But I now realize with much greater clarity that there are bigger problems we have to get a handle on first.”

Retrieved May 1, 2020 from https://mailchi.mp/saccounty.net/supervisor-frost-countywide-may20-newsletter?e=35eff0cfcc

Be well Everyone!

Posted in Homelessness, Politics

Is California Doing Ok?

Yes, health wise, but not so good politically, according to this article from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“On Wednesday, Bay Area health officials extended shelter-in-place orders through May, bringing their duration to 11 weeks. The new orders very minimally loosen restrictions to allow construction and some outdoor shops and activities, but most businesses remain closed. The announcement comes as California’s Covid-19 situation is looking better, in terms of infections, while the economic, social, and even health repercussions of its stay-at-home orders mounts. A rational cost-benefit analysis of the public-health response should encourage California and the Bay Area to begin a phased reopening.

“The health situation in the Bay Area, and California as a whole, appears far from dire. Data on new Covid-19 cases show a clear flattening of the curve. The number of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in the Bay Area has dropped almost every day for a week. According to the website rt.live, the effective reproduction number (known as Rt or Re) in California, and in almost every other state, is below 1, indicating a decline in infections. The seven-day average for new infections in the Bay Area is the lowest in a month. California’s 16 northernmost counties, with a population of more than 1 million, have seen only 181 confirmed cases—a lower known infection rate than South Korea’s.

“Meantime, some 26 million people have filed for unemployment nationally over the past month, including 3.2 million in California, a crushing tide of layoffs that dwarfs prior job-loss records. Almost one-third of Americans did not pay their rent this month. “Businesses everywhere are struggling, with small businesses faring the worst and museums and nonprofits in jeopardy, too. Transit agencies face enormous financial losses because of lost riders. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell has said that the economy is deteriorating “with alarming speed.” In a tragic irony, hospitals that worried about an overflow of Covid-19 patients are now laying off workers due to cancellation of elective surgeries and also, perhaps, sick people avoiding treatment for fear of infection. Lines at food banks are staggering. People talk openly not just of recession but depression.

“Luckily, recovery should be easier than from a typical recession, since this one is a forced abnormality. Millions of people could have their jobs back tomorrow if shelter-in-place orders were eased—and as the impact of the virus wanes, it makes sense to begin lifting them, as European nations such as Norway and Austria are doing, and as Texas has begun to do. Even New York, far harder hit than California, has tentatively scheduled an end to its statewide “pause” on May 15.

“Yet California shows no inclination to ease up. The statewide order has no end date. Governor Gavin Newsom refuses to set one, saying only that the end is “weeks away.” Newsom has outlined criteria to lift the order, but some of his requirements—such as sufficient hospital capacity and progress toward a treatment—are unnecessary or unrealistic. The state’s 5,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations represent a small fraction of its approximately 75,000 staffed beds. A vaccine could be more than a year away and like the swine flu virus, Covid-19 may never even get a silver-bullet cure. Neither the Bay Area nor California have put together a clear plan for reopening.

“Newsom is not the only one taking a hard line. Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has stated that there “is no cost that is too high to save any one precious life.” Some infectious-disease specialists argue that restrictions should remain in place until the infection rate is nearly zero. These are impossible standards to meet, and not applied to any other danger or disease. Governor Murphy has never ordered streets and highways closed despite more than one life lost each day in New Jersey car crashes. According to the CDC, swine flu has continued to kill about 7,500 Americans each year since the outbreak in 2009. We must accept that Covid-19 will probably never go away entirely.

“For some observers, the idea of quantifying human life in economic terms sounds heartless. Yet we perform such cost-benefit analyses all the time, both as individuals—when we choose between riding a motorcycle or a station wagon—and as societies—when we choose whether to put more money into cancer research or into studies of rarer diseases. Every developed nation maintains value of statistical life (VSL) measures, for use in planning, transportation, and health policies.

“There are social as well as economic costs. The effects of job losses and recession fall hardest on the poor and working class. People living paycheck-to-paycheck, or without savings, are suffering most. As the economy sinks, it takes with it the livelihoods and aspirations of tens of millions of Californians. It is reasonable to argue that we cannot destroy the economy trying to stop every possible Covid-19 death. When people can’t eat, that’s a health problem, too.

“There are even direct health reasons to reopen. After six weeks of shelter-in-place, cracks are appearing in California. San Francisco police broke up an illegal nightclub, surely not the only infraction. More people are circulating outside, and the size of the groups suggests that it’s no longer just roommates walking together. People are more likely to take risks the longer their confinement lasts. Far better to begin a gradual reopening, with a highly publicized campaign to encourage mitigation measures, such as wearing masks.”

Retrieved May 1, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/california-bay-area-extends-lockdown

Be well Everyone!

Posted in demographics, Economy, History, Politics

California’s Water Wars

A lot going on right now, here’s a good recap from Bloomberg News.

An excerpt.

“Water contractors in California are suing the state over its new permit that authorizes water deliveries, the result of a conflict with the Trump administration’s policies.

“The groups suing California supply water to nearly 75% of the state’s population, 4 million acres of farmland, and many hundreds of thousands acres of critical habitats.

“The complaints, filed in Superior Court in Fresno County, have to do with California’s complex water delivery system, which is shared between federal authorities and the state.

“State Water Contractors, which represent 27 public water suppliers that get their water from state facilities, sued Wednesday, saying new state water permits impose rules that exceed California’s protections for endangered species.

“The rule limits water supplies based on inadequate justification, will increase costs by $22 million annually, and causes conflicts between state and federal water management, according to the complaint.

“The permit “has left us with no other choice than to file litigation that could and should have been avoided,” State Water Contractors General Manager Jennifer Pierre said in a news release.

“Shared Jurisdiction

“More than two-thirds of the state’s precipitation falls in the north, and a complex series of levees, rivers, reservoirs, pumping stations, and other facilities divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to elsewhere in the state, including thirsty southern California.

“The California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operate those facilities. In the past, they used to work together.

“But in March, the state obtained an operations permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife because it no longer agreed with the Trump administration’s philosophy over endangered species.

“California disagreed with new water use policies implemented by the Trump administration, saying the new guidelines weren’t backed by science and failed to ensure fish wouldn’t be hurt by operations such as the use of pumps to draw water out of rivers.

“California Natural Resources Agency spokeswoman Lisa Lien-Mager said the state couldn’t comment on litigation but stands behind its permit and water management operations. Species protection is more important in light of federal opinions, she said.

“The state’s permit strikes a necessary balance by providing much-needed environmental protection while advancing smarter operations that support the water needs of California communities and agriculture,” Lien-Mager said in an email.

“Claims Rules Aren’t Science-Based

“The water contractors’ suit claims violations of the state Environmental Quality and Endangered Species acts.

“The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to agencies serving 1 in 17 Americans, also sued over the state permit on Tuesday, on similar grounds.

“A lengthy legal battle will not produce a sound solution for the Delta ecosystem,” General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said in a statement. “We need a state permit that uses the best available science to address the environmental impact of operations and strikes a balance in providing water supply to California’s farms and cities.”

“Suppliers that get their water from federal facilities also filed a lawsuit. Those suppliers include the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, Friant Water Authority, and several Sacramento River settlement contractors.

“That complaint, which claims violations of the state Environmental Quality Act, said the new state permit could cause water delivery disruptions, and stall negotiations on agreements to restore habitat while protecting water resources.”

Retrieved April 30, 2020 from https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/california-water-wars-heat-up-with-suits-from-state-contractors

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Posted in Government, Politics, Water

Helping the Homeless During the Virus

A good article from KCRA about the details.

An excerpt.

“A $15.1 million COVID-19 homeless response plan is unfolding in the city and county of Sacramento.

“The plan is largely a combination of reimbursable state and federal emergency funding, specifically tied to the COVID-19 response for those experiencing homelessness.

“It was approved by city and county leaders earlier this month, but some question what is taking so long for people to get access to the new 990 temporary beds.

“According to data from the county updated on Friday, 128 people have utilized new trailers and motel rooms established as part of the plan.

“Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg hosted a Facebook Live on Monday with Lisa Bates, the CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward, a nonprofit working to end homelessness.

“I believe we should leave none of these beds, none of these rooms, unused during this period,” Steinberg said.

“But, he also said it’s not that simple.

“In order to be reimbursed, certain criteria must be met before people can be allowed to stay in the housing spaces.

“Here’s what you need to know:

“What is the money being used for?

“The $15.1 million is divided into three parts:

  • $100,000 to keep existing shelters open and safe
  • $13,767,300 to open motel rooms for those most vulnerable to the virus and medical trailers to those who have tested positive or are waiting for test results
  • $1,251,427 to spend on encampment outreach

“Where do the 990 new beds come from?

“The isolation quarantine shelters are broken down into three categories:

  • 80 beds added to existing shelters
  • 60 FEMA trailers to be used as medical isolation spaces at Cal Expo for those who test positive for the virus or are awaiting results
  • 850 motel units for those who are 55 years or older and/or have underlying health conditions

“How many people have gotten into the new beds?

“According to data from the county, 128 people have utilized news beds at motels and medical trailers. That data shows 125 people have been placed in motel rooms and three have been placed in the medical trailers.

“Bates estimated about 20 people have come into existing shelters. She said the shelter numbers continue to rise.

“Why haven’t more people been able to use the trailers?

“State and federal reimbursable funds cover much of the $15.1 million plan. Certain criteria must be met before someone can stay in one of the new beds.

“The medical trailers are specifically available for people who have been tested and confirmed to have COVID-19 or are awaiting test results.

“Bates said health officials have just started testing people in city and county shelters for the virus. Results are expected later this week.

“This idea is that we need to have medically isolated places in the event that we do see an increase in the number of people who are testing positive or who are under investigation,” Bates said.

“Why haven’t more people been able to use the motel rooms?

“At this time, those beds are available only to the most at-risk populations, including those who are 55 or older or have preexisting, chronic health conditions.”

Retrieved April 28, 2020 from https://www.kcra.com/article/why-hundreds-of-beds-for-sacramento-homeless-remain-open-amid-pandemic/32296326

Be well Everyone!

Posted in Government, Homelessness