- Dry Air
- Dark Carnival
- Outage Notes
- Disaster Observations
- PG&E Perks
- Public Utility
- Disaster Comments
- Micro Grids
- Sheriff Realist
- Little Inverter
- New Normal
- Human Disdain
- Food Pantry
- Exhibit Delayed
- California Crisis
- New-Age Jacobins
- Delta Smelt
- Found Object
MOSTLY SUNNY SKIES with lighter winds are expected through the weekend as high pressure provides a very dry airmass and light offshore flow over the region. The dry air will also promote cold morning temperatures both at the coast and over the interior for the next few days. No rain is expected for the foreseeable future. (National Weather Service)
We want to let everyone know that The Dark Carnival is happening tomorrow night at the Anderson Valley Grange, power or no power. Generators are being put into place now in anticipation of the power still being out. A great crew of people has been working all week, sometimes with headlamps, to bring you this event from Secret Knock Productions. Please come on down with your dancing shoes!
Tickets are $10 at the door
Doors open at 6pm, music starts at 7pm
Kid's activities from 6 to 7pm
Tacos from Lizzy's Mexican Restaurant available for purchase
No Host Bar
On Stage theatrics, including movies!
Music by The Coffin Bangerz at 7 followed by electroswing jazz band The High Step Society out of Eugene, Oregon
Join us Thursday night from 6pm to 11pm!
OUTAGE NOTES, 10/30
by Mark Scaramella
MOST MENDOLANDERS were still without power Wednesday at noon. Overly optimistic hopes that power would be restored on Wednesday were undermined by what one Mendo official said about PG&E: “You can’t count on anything they say.”
CURRENT EXPECTATIONS of power restoration range from Wednesday to Friday or perhaps even later. Odds for later rather than earlier went up Wednesday morning when Supervisor Ted Williams said that PG&E was having “voltage stabilization issues.”
BUT UKIAH was back on Wednesday afternoon as was Redwood Valley, but Potter Valley, Fort Bragg and Willits and Point Arena were still off as of 3pm. And County officials were still saying that “most of the rest of the County” should have power before the end of the day Wednesday.
AN EMS/AMBULANCE SURGE in 911 calls in the Highway 101 corridor was handled without much trouble, reportedly, in spite of the fact that the inland ambulance services are famous fragile and have limited capacity. A praiseworthy performance, no doubt about it.
ANDERSON VALLEY SCHOOLS announced Wednesday afternoon that they’d given up for the entire week and will resume (hopefully) by next Monday.
THE WILLITS COMMUNITY CENTER had to cook up over $6,000 worth of food that was nearing its end of life and made a LOT of stew then put a sign out front saying “FREE FOOD.”
HARSH WORDS FROM CEO ANGELO:
“I don’t believe anything PGE reports right now. Everything they told us was inaccurate. They have good staff (Alison Talbot) as liaisons but they don’t empower or inform their liaisons. PGE is creating a public health emergency for the people in Northern California. Something MUST be done before someone dies due to PSPS.”
PG&E’s credibility has gone down as fast as their stock value. Many people are starting to talk about what to do about PG&E and what reforms or changes should be pursued — most of it sounds somewhere between way off in the future and completely impractical to us.
FOR THE SHORT TERM, something needs to be done about the credibility problem. If nobody believes PG&E on anything related to planned shut offs, restoration, maintenance or equipment, then their statements about the next outage and or power distribution problem will be useless as people throw their non-believability in their face — on top of the myriad of other previous complaints — and whatever planning might be possible will collapse on a rotting corpse of distrust.
THE STATE and/or Governor need to at least set up an independent authority to oversee PG&E’s day to day operations and to be a credible conduit to local authorities and the public. A group of elite retired military disaster relief officers with electrical power experience should be assigned to PG&E’s operational hq to make all decisions when public safety power shut offs are anticipated. They should also be charged with keeping local officials and the state reliably and frequently updated like Calfire does on a daily or even hourly basis.
A WORRISOME STIFF BREEZE whipped through Anderson Valley Wednesday afternoon causing concern among local firefighters. Dry conditions persist and even a 10 or 20 mph wind in these conditions could blow a small spark into a raging fire in minutes.
SURPRISINGLY, we have not heard any reports of generators causing fires — so far. This was one of the big worries as the shut-offs approached. Everyone’s keeping fingers and toes crossed.
NO RAIN in sight though. So dry, warmish, windy conditions will continue off and on into winter. We have not seen anything official, but the kind of significant rain that would end the fire season could still be months off. Nobody thinks this will be the last shut off this year.
WE CAN ONLY HOPE that either PG&E or an oversight board of some kind — not the PUC, PLEASE! — can at least restore some confidence in the communications area. As it is, we don’t even know what we don’t know. If Mendo Sheriff’s Lieutenant Shannon Barney is reduced to Facebook posts for power shutoff info, we’re in a sorry, sorry state.
EVER OPTIMISTIC, Mendocino County has established a “complaint line” for people to report problems associated with the shut off: 234-6300. We’re supposed to believe that if we tell them that the outage caused this or that problem, something will be done about it for the next outage. But if it’s PG&E that needs to do something, as they said before, “Don’t count on it.”
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS also wants people to inform him of any local price gouging they come across. County number: 972-3993, home phone, 937-3500.
FROM SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS (Wednesday morning):
PG&E notified us of re-energization “up to Gualala.” I’m asking residents to confirm and help us understand what "up to" means in terms of boundaries. Voltage stabilization issues impeded multiple attempts to bring up Point Arena. New estimate is mid-day. The 115kv transmission line from Lake County to north of Lake Mendocino will progress after an “all clear” and approximately three hours of inspections starting around day light. The 60kv lines to Anderson Valley and the coast are expected to move forward concurrently at a similar pace.
After hearing of Comptche running out of fuel and missing deliveries, I reached out to CEO Carmel Angelo who assigned Deputy CEO Steve Dunnicliff. Steve had a face to face with the distributor and gained a commitment of delivery today. Thanks to those who notified us about the situation and to Steve for quick remedy.
County Department or Transportation is using maintenance trucks to maintain the Little River Airport generator until a delivery arrives.
State Senator Mike McGuire showed support for our landline concern and it’s appreciated. “We’re working a land line telephone outage in some areas of coastal Mendocino County. According to @ATT, some batteries at their landline facilities have run out of power. We also know that some North Coast cell towers are impacted due to power issues. The California Office of Emergency Services is aware of the outage and is working with telecom companies to bring in additional power generators. @ATT has told the state that these generators will be deployed to the region this morning.”
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins of Sonoma County, covering the coast south of our 5th district, is following our effort to query residents about failing landlines. We’re stronger together — chronicling landline failure and working with our neighbors will force better coordination next round. Please continue to share data-points with me.
Burris Fire off Potter Valley Rd and Hwy 20, east of Calpella in Mendocino County is 350 acres and 75% contained.
The Kincade Fire is now visible from the Sutro Tower In San Francisco. Observed sustained wind and gust speeds from across the region this night are attached in photo. The strongest winds were in the North Bay in vicinity of the Kincade Fire. Mount St. Helena recorded 50 mph winds with 57 mph gusts, Pine Flat Road recorded 40 mph winds and 54 mph gusts, and the Healdsburg Hills saw 30 mph hour winds and 46 mph gusts. Winds were forecasted to peak around midnight, gradually weaken this morning. The fire grew slightly over the course of Tuesday, adding just 723 acres at final report, for a total acreage of 76,138 acres. All eyes await the morning acreage report. Containment increased to 15 percent on Tuesday, but ember spread remains a key concern while the wind continues. 9 strike teams coordinated by the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal are assisting along with 911 dispatchers from Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Vacaville, Elk Grove Police, Mountain View San Jose Police Departments.
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS, 11AM WEDNESDAY:
Private message reports of power shutoff related price gouging (during declared State emergency) and I promise we will follow up post incident.
No credible restoration timelines have been received by the county. We know alerts from PG&E have provided estimates, but it's unclear whether there is validity.
Sonoma's Supervisor Lynda Hopkins shared: "Ted Williams their website is not accurate. We have had the same issue down here. No one is restored, but website says it's restored. In my town, we now have an anticipated restoration time of 8pm Halloween, but it says only 412 customers are out of power, which is a bad joke!"
Gualala has fuel. Albion is still awaiting the delivery truck.
Reports of PG&E helicopters in Albion (Leslie Anne): "Copter went over my house about 10 minutes ago. Following the power lines. Looks like PG&E checking lines." Mendocino (Shanti Bischop) "PGE helicopter just flew over transmission lines from Mendocino Little Lake Road power station if that is of any significance" Ukiah/Hopland (Jim Mastin) "This morning helicopters have been checking high voltage lines between Hopland & Ukiah."
Marin is reported to be 95% restored today and some reports are trickling in about Sonoma restoration, including Annapolis.
Landlines are out on Road 409. We have AT&T moving on powering the remote terminal.
Burris fire: Determined to be 703 acres after mapping 85% contained.
Kincade: More than 270 Oregon firefighters are in California helping respond to the Burris fire in Mendocino County and Kincade fire in Sonoma County.
Private message reports of power shutoff related price gouging (during declared State emergency) and I promise we will follow up post incident.
County Courts: "Both Ukiah and Fort Bragg courthouses will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday October 30. If you have a court date, it will be rescheduled. Filing deadlines will be extended if impacted. We are hopeful that we will reopen on Thursday, October 31st. Check back for updates Wednesday evening."
Healdsburg, Windsor, West Santa Rosa, and the lower River are expected to be heavily impacted by smoke today. According to Fire Weather Program lead meteorologist John Pendergrast, "A strong morning inversion in the lower slopes and valleys will not lift until early this afternoon. The most significant smoke will persist over west Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, and Guerneville.
NOTE: Supervisor Williams' has consistently provided timely, accurate and useful outage information.
MENDO EMERGENGY COORDINATOR Shannon Barney told his colleagues Wednesday afternoon that the County will probably prepare “one of the longest after action reports in history to address the obvious problems with PG&E.”
AND WE HAVEN’T EVEN BEGUN to talk about the economic impact of all of this, both direct and indirect.
RANDOM DISASTER OBSERVATIONS
by Bruce Anderson
MENDOCINO COUNTY got the clear implicit message over nearly five power-free days that we're a low priority population, there being relatively few of us at about 90,000. A longer power outage, with us restored like whenever, would convert the low intensity panic we've seen in the scramble for fuel, batteries, booze (booze running a strong third in out of stock commodities in the larger population concentrations), water, and canned foods. The lesson we've drawn at the ava bunker from "the new normal" is that we should be prepared to go it alone for a month. At least. We'd debated investing in a generator, but the NO's won on the assumption that our captors, the PG&E monopoly, would free us after a day or two. Well into Day 5, and an entire week's work put on hold, generator here we come. I think most of us have drawn the only conclusion available — next time we'll be ready, if not completely ready at least prepared for a week removed from Western Civ.
WE'RE IMMENSELY GRATEFUL to the Anderson Valley Fire Station and personnel who graciously made room for us to rejoin cyber-communications long enough to post a few items of, hopefully, general interest. Chief Avila and Assistant Chief Angela Dewitt, apart from keeping an eye open for local emergencies, also found time to answer emergency related questions.
THE NEW NORMAL, intelligent opinion agrees, is longer, hotter summers, shorter, wetter winters. We're getting a generator, a camp stove, a month's worth of MRE's (much improved over the C-Rations of my youth), batteries, and maybe a couple extra boxes of shotgun shells.
IN BETWEEN power notices, all of which said nothing specific and recommended the PG&E website and call-in phone numbers that were unavailable, we relied on Facebook messages — avail only when we powered up at the Boonville Fire Station — from our tireless Supervisor, Mr. Williams and, when we could reach it, MendocinoSportsPlus. KZYX's hourly updates were comprehensive but repetitive and invariably behind MSP and our hyper-vigilant Supervisor.
IT DOESN'T SEEM to have gotten the attention it deserves, but Sheriff Allman's praise for the firefighters who kept Burris/Cold Creek Compost Fire from jumping Highway 20 to burn south was well-deserved. From all accounts the blaze came close to blowing up into a much larger conflagration save the valiant efforts of a relative handful of firefighters.
KUDOS also are due Congressman Huffman on persuading ICE to lighten up on Mexicans who taken refuge at Sonoma County shelters.
HAVING RETREATED to Marin on the safe assumption the influential suburb would likely see power restored prior to orphaned Mendo, which turned out to be the case, the first news I heard was Trump bellowing about the death of Al Big Daddy. For a second there I thought Trump had personally dispatched Al out on the White House lawn.
ARRIVING IN MARIN Tuesday about noon, I drove past three closed service stations. At the San Anselmo Safeway people were lined up to the rear of the store at the Starbucks kiosk. Southbound traffic was heavy from Novato all the way to the GG Bridge as Marin people headed to Frisco to gas up and re-supply, meaning many thousands of suburbanites were unprepared for emergencies. If SF had been gridless, then what?
MINUS THE EXIGENCIES of the global village, I had time to read two slender books of successful poetry by a Ukiah guy, Mark McGovern. I like the hell out of this guy's stuff:
CULL CANYON ROAD
If I close my eyes I can readily recall
A happy time when I was young and
Riding my motorcycle on
Cull Canyon Road
October leaves of yellow and gold
Swirled and danced in my wake
With the wind in my hair
I was all of nineteen years old
I had money in my pocket
A place of my own
A blonde haired beauty
Held on to my tight
"I love you" she yelled over
The roar of my bike
I felt free and alive and I thought
Man, it just doesn't get any better than this
And wouldn't you know it
It never did.
— Mark McGovern
FRUSTRATED IN BOONVILLE: Just got a notification….it will be friggin FRIDAY for us. What gives here? We’re not even in the line of the new winds. I’m feeling a lot pissed at PG&E. I knew we would be the last to get power back. Too small a county with few people….we have no status.
The good thing is …..the propane company came so I will make it through Friday with hot water, heat and a frig that works! Feeling extremely lucky. I think 5 or 6 people are coming over to take showers the next few days. Everyone will need at least a small generator from now on to keep their frig and water going. This situation will not improve.
I’m going to write a letter to the Governor. Everyone should. PG&E was in bed with PUC for years….and this is what we get. Power lines that cannot be monitored in this day and age is crazy. A company who has neglected maintaining and upgrading the system since day one. As I am sure you are following, PG&E has a big hand in all of these fires. All of them, including Santa Rosa and Paradise. It’s not the wind!!! the wind just did their bidding. You neglect things to this extent, is brings disaster. It’s not the drought. It’s not climate change. The main factor is a greedy utility company who does not do their job and more worried about the stock price than safety. Oh how PG&E loved to raise rates on Solar customers like me a few years ago. And the PUC just went right along with it.
PG&E needs to be broken up into smaller utility companies that are not investor owned.
ON LINE DISASTER COMMENTS
Spent 12 years in the Marines. I can tell you for a fact no foreign country even has close to enough firepower to attack us on mainland. Not because we have guns, because other than a nuclear strike (which your guns arnt going to do shit against that) our Military will stop that shit fast.
So what’s next. Our government and military turning against us? Most likely not going to happen because we are obligated to follow LAWFUL direct orders. Taking over our own populace is not lawful. Ok so you say well they will follow orders no matter what. If that was a case, and as a Honorably Discharged United States Marine, if we were told to do that and we chose to do so and follow those orders, there isnt shit you bon up in the hills with 40 rifles is going to do. US military has been in urban combat against un uniformed combatants for so long no one in the US other than other Veterans would stand a remote chance of stopping that. This whole I need guns is bullshit, what you need is non corrupt leadership throughout this country to stop this gun bullshit before it turns us into another Iraq or Syria.
You think I’m full of shit but that’s how those places get started. Divide the population and then conquer it. It’s not going to happen like the old days. It’s going to be slow and covertly, dividing this United States, and then wait till our differences tear us apart, then come in with no weapons and end it there.
Stop being divided over shit, unite throw out corruption. Put our country back on track or we are Syria 2021.
I appreciate your input but I think your hoo-rah Marine attitude is superceding your “levelheaded”-ness.
You’re looking thorough a lense of current events and time and place. No one can say what the State will be like in 20, 40, 100 years. To assume everything will remain hunky dory is naive.
I don’t think the US population will ever have to take to arms against the US military… after all the US military is us: our friends, neighbors, family.
But, the people are a bulwark, and not an offensive force. To presume a well entrenched and well armed populace can’t hold their own is to ignore the USA’s escapades in Vietnam and the Soviets in Afghanistan. A large percentage of the 100 million armed US citizens are former military. Granted, if nukes are used the whole thing is moot. Nukes win. (Sort of… everybody loses) But every other armed conflict has been decided by small arms.
I was down in San Diego in the early 90’s when an official survey circulated around Camp Pendleton asking if soldiers would shoot US citizens under direct orders. I don’t know the purpose.
Regardless, the armed citizenry, the militia, in the united States outnumbers the largest military in the world (China) 25:1.
I don’t have any fantasies about an armed revolt or armed resistance, but I sure as hell won’t let anyone take a means of defense from me or from my children.
The Sheriff is a Realist
by Fred Gardner
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said something America needed to hear on '60 Minutes' last Sunday (October 27). The segment, entitled "Growing Pains for Legal Weed," was making the point that unlicensed growers are taking business away from growers who obtained the required licenses after California legalized marijuana for adult use in 2016. Which raises the implicit question: why doesn't law enforcement bust all the unlicensed growers?
Allman explained to narrator Sharon Alfonsi, "If I took someone in front of a jury for growing 1,000 plants illegally, no permits, no anything, I am telling you there is no way in hell I'm gonna get a conviction on cultivation of marijuana. Marijuana on its face is part of our social fabric. But if that same grower was stealing water and using pesticides and rodenticides and taking water from the river, that jury's going to hang them."
Allman's tone was matter-of-fact, neither approving nor disapproving of his constituents' priorities. He has spent many years dealing with marijuana growers and the media, and his confidence is impressive. Some of his law enforcement colleagues in far-flung jurisdictions must have been infuriated by Allman's calm acceptance of unlicensed growers who are otherwise law abiding; but others would have appreciated him for extending the boundaries of acceptable attitudes for people in their line of work.
The segment began with Alfonsi interviewing CEO Mikey Steinmetz at the Flow Kana factory, where tons of marijuana from licensed growers get processed for distribution to retail outlets throughout the state. Impressed, Alfonsi tells us "Forget those stereotypes about stoners, some of his workers came from Apple and Google. They precisely weigh joints, inspect buds like gems and package it to look more like high end cosmetics than cannabis." (You've come a long way, baby.)
Steinmetz asks Alfonsi to confirm that "Pineapple Wonder" really smells like pineapple and she does. She laments on his behalf, "Steinmetz raised $175 million in just one year to get this off the ground, but despite all that, all along the supply chain we found it's been far from a gold rush."
Her next stop was a tastefully appointed retail outlet where Alfonsi asks the manager (who we recognized as Chelsea Lucich of Emerald Pharms) to describe her customers.
Lucich: Our demographic is over 60.
Alfonsi: Are they old hippies or are they grandparents with joint pain?
Lucich (smiling): I would say they're both.
Alfonsi (narrating): But there's not enough stores like this that sell marijuana legally and there's way too much of it being grown. California grows 11 million more pounds than it can consume a year. Prices have crashed and made things even more difficult for legal businesses like Flow Kana.
The 60 Minutes perspective is unabashedly that of the ganjapreneurs who could afford to get licensed. Prices don't seem too low to consumers paying $200 for an ounce of dried flowers that a skilled organic farmer can produce for about $10 (as explained in this interview with Bob Cannard.)
Alfonsi visits a small family farm where Casey O'Neill is growing 45 plants and making no profit after having spent some $50,000 getting legal. He expresses disdain for some of the regs:
O'Neill (ironically): I must take all of the leaf that comes off the plant. I must weigh it. I must record the weight and I must put it in a locked compost facility… Big Brother has some funny ideas.
Alfonsi reiterates: "Unlicensed shops don't have to pay for state and local permits and can sell marijuana much cheaper because they don't charge customers marijuana taxes. Which can reach as high as 45 percent. So it's cheaper and easier to buy pot on the black market, which is three times larger than the legal one."
Sheriff Allman's appearance is preceded by an exterior shot of a helicopter and the obligatory pun to show that the narrator is hip. The view then alternates between close shots of Allman and Alfonsi talking in the chopper and long aerial shots of green hills dotted with off-white rectangles.
Alfonsi: To see the roots of the black market in the Emerald Triangle, it helps to get high. Our guide was Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. He's been chasing marijuana growers for 35 years.
Alfonsi: Wow, this is a big operation.
Allman: Oh my goodness this guy is going to make millions of dollars.
Alfonsi (narrating): Allman told us those white canopies belong to illegal marijuana growers undercutting California's legal pot industry.
Allman: See all those shiny straight things? Those are all marijuana growers.
Alfonsi: How do you know they are not like tomatoes?
Allman (laughing): Because they're hidden in the woods. Look right here, I know those are not tomatoes, okay? There's 12 of them right there. I can guarantee you those are not tomatoes.
Alfonsi (narrating): We were surprised they weren't camouflaged. Allman explained since Prop 64 and the legalization of marijuana, the black market suppliers try to blend in with legal pot farmers sometimes on the same property. (To Allman) So, the backers of Prop 64 said three things, right? First they said, "We're gonna raise a half-billion dollars in tax revenue." Has that happened?
Allman (laughing): No.
Alfonsi: They said, "It's gonna eliminate the black market." Has that happened?
Allman: The black market has greatly increased.
Alfonsi: Has increased.
Alfonsi: And they said that, "This would now allow police officers like you to focus on other things."
Allman: I'm looking forward to that day.
Alfonsi (narrating): Right now his deputies are busy. There's so much illegal weed in areas that are so remote, they have to haul it away by helicopter. Allman says he only has the manpower to get rid of about 10% of it. So what happens to the rest? We learned much of it is being smuggled east to the 39 states where pot is still illegal and prices are three times higher than in California. (To Allman) We've heard these reports from state police that say they're seeing larger shipments of marijuana moving east from California. Have you heard about this?
Allman: So probably once a week we get a call, it's usually some trooper back east, you know, at 3:00 in the morning who stopped a car for not having a tail light. Says, "You won't believe it. You know, we got 35, 40 pounds."
Alfonsi: That's on the low end. Throughout the year we spoke to highway patrols across the center of the country. They shared photos of hundreds of pounds of pot they have intercepted. This 300-pound load was in Missouri, this trailer in Idaho carried 800 pounds, and 3,400 pounds were found in this haul in Texas. Since Prop 64 was implemented, we were told by highway patrols in six states that they have seized up to three times more pot on their roads. (To Allman) Did this all happen too fast?
Allman: Oh, my goodness. Of course it did. It happened way too fast. For the black market it's been a gold rush. I'm not sayin' that the organizers of Prop 64 intended this to happen the way it happened. You know they just wanted to decriminalize marijuana. But people have taken advantage.
Alfonsi: Allman explained that Californians have little appetite to prosecute marijuana crimes. So he's had to get creative to go after the black market.
Allman: If I took someone in front of a jury for growing 1,000 plants illegally, no permits, no anything, I am telling you there is no way in hell I'm gonna get a conviction on cultivation of marijuana. Marijuana on its face is part of our social fabric. But if that same grower was stealing water and using pesticides and rodenticides and taking water from the river, that jury's going to hang them.
Alfonsi (over video of a raided farm): To see that strategy at work, we went on a marijuana raid where agents from the Department of Fish and Wildlife were leading the way. They took us down a dusty, bumpy road deep in the emerald triangle, where agents had been hiding in a forest for days staking out an illegal grow. With their guns out, they went in. As cops questioned two workers, others went row by row chopping down a thousand plants. Scientists checked for illegal pesticides and documented how water was being stolen from a creek. Those violations, which could result in fines up to $40,000 a day, may turn out to be the most effective weapon against black market growers.
Allman: Who would've thought that when we write a search warrant and we go out and serve it we would bring a biologist with us? Now it's as important to us as bringing a gun.
LAWRENCE BULLOCK WRITES:
Some people have been asking about the inverter I bought. Here's a picture. You can find them all over. They're usually about 20 to 40 bucks depending. Mine has come in handy during the outages. It's different from the usual phone chargers as it has two USB ports and two regular electric outlets. Steps up voltage to 110 AC type. Also, you don't have to continuously run the motor for them to work. About 10 minutes every hour you should let the engine run. That orange cord is going to a power strip inside my house where I can charge my laptop. 300 watts won't run heavy amp pulling things like heaters and fridges, though. Don't use it for that or you'll fry the inverter.
And Moby Dick (except this copy) can usually be found at your local library.
THE NEW NORMAL
We will eventually come to the end of this ever-growing fire season. Houses and infrastructure will likely be rebuilt, the power will be restored, people will go home and forget to execute on the ideas they had to ensure their safety in future emergencies. In addition to the grief thousands will endure, rage will boil, blame will fall on PGE, and calls for accountability will flow through the veins of public discourse.
Here is the thing—-there is no doubt California will experience catastrophic fires again and we can be certain millions will be without power for days if not weeks in the coming future. There are over a 149 million dead trees as a result of years of drought, heat, and beetle infestation. 18 million died last year alone, and these trees could be match sticks for a careless person, lightning strike, or wind storm that topples a utility power line. Housing developments will continue to expand into fire prone areas. Yearly averaged temperatures will continue to climb upwards, and droughts will likely become more severe.
Furthermore, PGE operates 106,681 circuit miles of electrical distribution lines and 18,466 miles of interconnected transmission lines. Anyone expecting one of the largest utility companies in the United States to overhaul their aging infrastructure better not hold their breath, especially since PGE has already filed for bankruptcy. It is time for us to take a hard look at this truth in the face. The probability that we will tackle enough of these issues —- climate change, infrastructure, land use policies—in a meaningful way, is low.
Reactionary preparations set in hours leading up to the power shutoffs are not enough. I visited Target, Best Buy and Home Depot to find they were all sold out of small cell phone battery packs, flashlights and people were trickling in to mill through the empty sections. At best, these products will help people maintain an extra day or two of cellphone and flashlight power before they need to be replaced or recharged. Thankfully, most people are still able to drive to packed café to charge their devices, and order takeout food.
Within hours of the shutoff, local gas stations and grocery stores were drained of their ice, batteries, and booze. In my neighborhood, Safeway was letting people shop in a dark store, one at a time, and accompanied by staff, and were not accepting credit cards. How many people actually have the recommended 2 gallons of water per day per person stored? Do people have extra cash, medical prescriptions, a first aid kits that is the base line of preparation? There are plenty of psychological barriers such as discounting the future, that make it hard to really prepare. My sense is people treat their resilience like their earthquake kits—something to knock off the to-do list. And we need so much more.
Non-government organizations, journalists, philanthropists, churches, and motivated citizens are starting to work on these difficult questions. It is time for us to start focusing on what we as individuals, families, and communities can do to increase our resilience and abilities to cope with a challenging future, especially one with limited resources.
Over my battery powered AM/FM radio, I just heard that the winds are expected to pick up [TUESDAY], and a “red flag” warning was just issued over the next few days. It seems likely our power will be off for an extended period of time, and more evacuations were announced. My computer batteries are running low, and it is time to drive somewhere to purchase more ice, if I can find any, and connect to a network to let my family know I am okay.
—Submitted by Steve Heilig
Mendocino Community Food Pantry
We will be open tomorrow Thursday 10/31 from 3-5pm. We are located at Preston Hall on Main Street in the village of Mendocino. General food items available. Bread, peanut butter triscuits, pork&beans, can tuna, bottled water and assorted drinks and juices, pasta, spaghetti sauce, snacks and more. Pre made sandwiches, chips and cookies. Come on by!
NEW EXHIBIT AT MENDOCINO COUNTY MUSEUM DELAYED DUE TO PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFF
Natural Expressions: Art Inspired by Mendocino County
Now Opening November 9
THE FUMES OF FANATICISM
by James Kunstler
Judging by the volume of intemperate emails and angry social media blasts that come my way, the party of impeachment seems to be inhaling way too much gas from the smoking guns it keeps finding in the various star chambers of its inquisition against you-know-who. You’d think that the failure of Mr. Mueller’s extravaganza might have chastened them just a little — a $32 million-dollar effort starring the most vicious partisan lawyers inside-the-Beltway, 2,800 subpoenas issued over two years, 500 search warrants exercised, and finally nothing whatever to pin on Mr. Trump — except the contra-legal assertion that now he must prove his innocence.
When you state just that, these frothing hysterics reply that many background figures — if not the Golden Golem of Greatness himself — were indicted and convicted of crimes by Mr. Mueller’s crew. Oh yes!
The Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency was indicted for spending $400,000 on Facebook ads (and never extradited or tried in a court-of-law). Pretty impressive victory there! The hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails by “Russia”? Still just alleged, never proven, with plenty of shady business around the search for evidence. Paul Manafort, on tax evasion of money earned in Ukraine, 2014? We’ll see about that as the whole filthy business of the 2014 Ukraine regime change op under Mr. Obama gets reviewed in the months ahead. George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI? Stand by on that one, too; still a developing story.
General Michael Flynn, for ditto? You may have noticed that General Flynn’s case is shaping up to be the biggest instance of prosecutorial misconduct since the Dreyfus affair (France, 1894-1906, which badly-educated Americans most certainly know nothing about).
To set the record straight I’m forced to repeat something that these New Age Jacobins seem unable to process: you don’t have to be a Trump cheerleader to be revolted by the behavior of his antagonists, which is a stunning spectacle of bad faith, dishonesty, incompetence, and malice — and is surely way more toxic to the American project than anything the president has done. Every time I entertain the complaints of these angry auditors, I’m forced to remind myself that these are the same people who think that “inclusion” means shutting down free speech, who believe that the US should not have borders, who promote transsexual reading hours in the grammar schools, and who fiercely desire to start a war with Russia.
That’s not a polity I want to be associated with and until it screws its head back on, I will remain the enemy of it. In fact, in early November I’m traveling to New York City, where the Jacobin city council has just made it a crime to utter the phrase illegal alien in a public place, with a $250,000 penalty attached. I challenge their agents to meet me in Penn Station and arrest me when I go to the information kiosk and inquire if they know what is the best place in midtown Manhattan to meet illegal aliens.
The volume of Jacobin hysteria ratcheted up to “11” late last week when the news broke that the Attorney General’s study of RussiaGate’s origins was upgraded to a criminal investigation, and that a voluminous report from the DOJ Inspector General is also about to be released. What do you suppose they’re worried about? Naturally the Jacobins’ bulletin board, a.k.a The New York Times, fired a salvo denouncing William Barr — so expect his reputation to be the next battle zone for these ever more desperate fanatics. Talk of preemptively impeaching him is already crackling through the Twitter channels. That will be an excellent sideshow.
Meanwhile, how is Rep, Adam Schiff’s secret proceeding going? Last week he put out a narrative that US Chargé d’Affaires to Ukraine Bill Taylor fired a gun-that-smoked fer sure in testimony. Except, of course, as per Mr. Schiff’s usual practice, he refused to issue any actual transcript of the interview in evidence, while there are plenty of indications that Mr. Taylor’s second-hand gossip was roundly refuted under counter-questioning by the non-Jacobin minority members of the House intel Committee. Mr. Schiff’s pattern lo these many months of strife has been to claim ultimate proof of wrongdoing only to have it blow up in his face. It’s a face that many Americans are sick of seeing and hearing from, and I am serenely confident that before this colossal scandal is resolved, the Congressman from Hollywood will be fatally disgraced, as was his role-model, Senator Joseph McCarthy, before him.
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WHEN JUSTICE DELAYED MEANS EXTINCTION: THE CASE OF THE DELTA SMELT
by Bill Hatch
The signature event of the 2019 California Water Year is the arrival of extinction for the Delta smelt, a two-inch, nearly transparent fish at the bottom of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta food chain. The smelt’s demise signals critical dangers for two species of Coho salmon, one species of Steelhead and resident killer whales that feed on them.
But the event is a cause for celebration among users of Delta water and their financial, political and media supporters, who will be happy when the smelt is extirpated off the Endangered Species, banished from sight forevermore.
The only way the Delta smelt stands any chance is with a hatchery program and we don’t think the government will spend what will be required to restore a survivable community of a fish whose right to live at all has been denounced and denied for years by some of the most powerful economic and political forces in the state and nation – from the California Water Coalition to the president.
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness, metropolitan water districts, politicians and their collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor that has permitted this crisis is contemptible. There never was any point in environmental activists trying to negotiate with these special interests and the government staff who obey them.
The compromises made in those offices are between economic interests and the reputations of state and national environmental groups, not primarily about the species at all.
Lawsuits resulting in the settlements that have enabled this extinction are just another part of the sordid “deal.”
The Delta smelt was extirpated by federal and state government, the very entities that for decades have been in charge of “fixing” the Delta around the balanced aims of providing fresh water for agriculture, drinking water and environmental protection for fish and wildlife.
It’s not hard to imagine that there is a great whirlpool in the Delta just downstream from the state and federal pumps drawing water into southbound canals headed for agribusiness and Los Angeles. It is pointless and unkind to name individuals among the flotsam and jetsam disappearing down the vortex of this whirlpool of extinction, but one notices types; irrigation districts, farm-commodity groups, media, local, state and federal elected officials, political appointees and staff of state and federal resource agencies, ironic university scientists – almost everyone who was anyone in California environmental politics has had a hand in the Delta “fix” in the last 25 years. The little fish at the bottom of it all just slipped between their self-important fingers.
But, after all, the smelt never really achieved the level of an actual commodity.
The extinction of a species is an accusation against the pretense of decency that props up the entire hypocritical society composed of all these special interests but rife with laws protecting wildlife that it only selectively honors and enforces. The eagle is safe for the moment; but a two-inch, transparent smelt that can’t make it in polluted, salty water?
Only 11 listed species have gone extinct since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. More than 80 percent of the people support the act, but their political will has been severely damaged by the Citizens United decision, providing unlimited, anonymous money to political campaigns.
Today, attorney generals of a number of states including California are fighting the continued weakening of the ESA under the Trump administration, led by David Bernhardt, former top lobbyist for Westlands Water District, largest consumer of federal water in the state.
Efforts continue in California as elsewhere to fight the plutocracy, united it its hysterical hatred of environmental law and regulation. So, we won’t name the individuals behind the deal that reduced the amount of Colorado River water coming here, which created the additional demand on Delta water that has brought such damage.
A curious recent event put this squalor in perspective, something the extraordinarily voluminous reports of committees past and present fail to do. It is especially curious because it was a powerful action taken by the former chair of the state Water Resources Quality Control Board, Felicia Marcus, in the waning days of the last Jerry Brown gubernatorial administration. I would like to think that the failure to find any Delta smelt in a routine survey persuaded Marcus to propose and get board approval for an order to leave 40-percent of the natural flow of the three largest tributaries to the San Joaquin River in the river, flowing to the Delta in winter and spring. Environmentalists said it wasn’t enough to dilute the pollution and salt in the Delta but it was a good start.
We have faced Marcus through several of her high-level appointments. As the western-states administrator for the EPA during the UC Merced siting and environmental approval process, we found her decisions less than “environmental.” She was a puppet for San Joaquin Valley congressmen and the developers, banks and landowners behind them who saw UC Merced as the biggest magnet for growth since the invention of asphalt.
But here Marcus was, acknowledging the crisis to aquatic life in the Delta and ordering a good start at a solution — more clean water. Frankly, we believed that she either knew she would be fired by the new governor or else she was having health problems. These are the two situations that can cause come-to-Jesus moments among those with power over endangered species.
The mission statement for the state water board might have offered some guidance if any member of that board ever consulted it:
“To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.”
It’s “for the benefit of the whole present and future generations,” and “for the protection of the environment” (which would include the environment for fish), not for the will of the governor and his special interest cronies.
It says nothing about allowing species to go extinct. The mission is “To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources …” and there is no more important water resource in this state than the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The whole intent of the mission statement is toward improvement — granting the complexity of water management — an intent to redeem the whole after generations of exploitation, not to kiss the ass of whoever sits in the governor’s office.
Marcus ordered more water remain in three tributary rivers: the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced. The irrigation districts that draw from these rivers are the South San Joaquin, the Oakdale, Modesto, Turlock and Merced, along with the City and County of San Francisco.
The lesser McClatchy Co. outlets servicing this area squeaked riot and let slip hairless Chihuahuas of water war.
Then we found the meaning of this grand civilization based on irrigated agriculture, claiming to “feed the world” (all the almonds, powdered milk, commodity cheese, wine grapes, radicchio, asparagus, melons, pistachios and marijuana it can ingest). This festering feudal agribusiness culture that has replaced American agriculture is a long way from the democratic unity of small to middling farmers that created those irrigation districts. Encrusted with subsidies, exemptions to tariffs and high-priced crop insurance protecting the incomes of the largest, richest agribusiness, this export-led industry has been well protected from harm. Between Washington DC and California agribusiness, the corrupt lead the corrupt down the path of destruction of natural resources, incidentally creating a region the Congressional Research Service described in 2005 (at the height of the real estate boom) as having a lower per capita income than Appalachia.
Marcus was not given a new term by the new governor, Glamourous Gavin of Frisco. He replaced her by one of the weakest members on the board, a man with a bachelor’s degree in English, neither a lawyer, a biologist nor a hydrology engineer yet a major leader in decisions regarding the largest, most severely polluted estuary on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean. He was chosen to be the governor’s own water creature. The creature of agribusiness on the board is Vice Chair Dorene “Dee Dee” d’Adamo, wife of Berj Moosekian of the melon Moosekians of Turlock. She is the voice of agriculture, not the voice:
“To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses …
D’Adamo’s consistent aim through a long career of public advocacy has been the protection, enhancement and increase of irrigated agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley, with particular attention to melons, without which human life would once again be nasty, brutish and short, according to the melon people. Others whisper that before Iceberg lettuce and Radicchio arrived on the American salad dish, the nation was only a few red cells away from scurvy. Without almonds, the Mother Goose of nuts, we would all be so stupid that the nation would lose our technological edge. Humanity, of course, cannot live without subsidized cotton. Milo Minderbender long ago stepped off the pages of Catch-22 into a position of influence in the US Department of Agriculture. He doesn’t cover cotton with chocolate anymore; he uses taxpayer funds – in the words of a Fresno cotton merchant, “to support and maintain a viable American cotton industry,”– from subsidized water to subsidized prices and crop insurance to subsidized shipping to Asian textile mills.
And, of course, California must be worshipped for turning so much water into wine.
The subject of how much American taxpayers are ripped off by the yeoman agribusiness corporations, domestic and transnational, in league with the USDA, is admirably covered by the Environmental Working Group on its excellent Farm Subsidy Data Base, which has been tabulating farm subsidies since 1995, with particular attention in recent years to the highly subsidized crop insurance programs that make so much money for finance, insurance and real estate (agribusiness) special interests in this nation.
But, all of this corrupt effort to get more water to agriculture so that agribusiness can continue to grow is brought to naught by salts, advancing steadily across the entire region of Central California irrigated agriculture in the coastal valleys and the Central Valley. And what salt isn’t pushing in from the sea or washing down along with heavy metals from the Coast Range into the former alkali flats onto the recently flourishing orchards of the west side of the San Joaquin, is coming south from the Delta as sea water relentlessly pushes farther upstream. The less fresh water that is available in the Delta, the farther the salt water intrudes. This is damaging farming on the superb Delta soils with their high peat content to deliver water to the politically potent alkali flats of the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The Center for Investigative Reporting did an interesting video called Salt in the Fields in 2012, featuring Berj Moosekian, d’Adamo’s husband, demonstrating just how inedible a cantaloupe irrigated with salty water is. Not exactly an argument against adding more water to the Delta but California water wars reach a level of total incoherence beyond the early mile markers of logic.
To return to the state water board soap opera, the urge to keep 40-percent of the natural flow in the three tributaries in winter and spring, didn’t outlast Marcus’s term, even though she had a majority behind her. The board has gone back to sleep and sweet dreams replace the unpleasant duties described in its mission statement. Conflict would muss the governor’s pompadour.
Several days ago, the US Fish & Wildlife Service issued a group of biological opinions that permitted more, not less pumping of Delta water to the south.
The mission statement of the Service is:
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
But David Bernhardt is the Secretary of the Department of Interior, which oversees the Service. Extending his work in the private sector, Bernhardt directs the Service to facilitate the delivery of as much water to Westlands from the Delta as it can and hopes the administration can stack the courts before the lawsuits come to trial.
Last week the state water board approved a plan to allow farmers 35 years (with 10-year extensions on request) to stop their farms from discharging runoff full of nitrates and salts.
Courthouse News reported:
“Water board vice chair Dorene D’Adamo argued the board shouldn’t be setting a timeline without knowing whether it is achievable. She added that she was worried the plan could be another burdensome regulation for California farmers, who are currently planning for the upcoming launch of a landmark groundwater-monitoring law.” – Cahill, Courthouse News, Oct. 16, 2019.
And this is how farmworkers who live near those farms get sick and their children don’t grow right or do so well in school.
And corporate agribusiness and its corrupted dependents will go on and on in a mad, destructive gyre, sucking species after species into the vortex of extinction.