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Off The Record (Jan 2, 2014)

WATER WORRIES. If winter doesn't reappear soon, inland Mendocino County, from Redwood Valley to Healdsburg, is in serious trouble. The Sonoma County Water Authority, out of necessity, and having drained Lake Mendocino, whose waters it mostly owns, is finally prepared to tap into its virtually untapped reserves at Lake Sonoma. Lake Sonoma can supply Santa Rosa and points south, but for how long?

IF THE RAINS stay away, the precarious water link from the Eel where it's diverted at Potter Valley, upon which more than a million downstream consumers depend, will have gone from precarious to, presumably, temporarily dry. Before Lake Mendocino, the upper Russian went dry every summer. Since Lake Mendocino replaced the Indian rancheria in the middle 1950s, the upper Russian — Redwood Valley to Healdsburg — is kept alive by timely releases of lake water. If it doesn't rain between now and May to replenish the lake, the upper Russian River will die.

SUPERVISOR PINCHES has warned us that this day might come (, and it seems to have arrived. Years ago when Pinches suggested that some of the winter flow from the Eel at Dos Rios be stored for Mendocino County's emergency use, he was widely denounced as an enemy of Wild and Scenic Rivers. And just this year when Pinches lobbied his colleagues to revisit the entire water arrangement with Sonoma County, he was ignored. And here we are looking at a severe drought with no reserves and no fallback plan.

PINCHES was also correct in his lobbying for an expansion of the Boy Scout Lake at Willits. Willits could have used another reliable source of agua.

LINDA WILLIAMS of The Willits News reports: “The City of Willits is poised to call for water rationing at its Jan. 8 city council meeting. Willits water reservoirs were at 389 acre feet last week with usage at 2.5 acre feet being used by Willits water customers each day for the past two weeks, according to Willits City Manager Adrienne Moore. Water usage this December is up by about 1 acre-foot per day compared with December 2012. With the anticipated declaration of a phase three emergency, each household will be limited to a maximum water usage of 250 gallons per day or 10 units per month...

“BETWEEN Oct. 1 and Dec. 23 the Willits area has received only 2.88 inches of rain. Last year during the same period the area received 31.04 inches....

“MAKING THE SITUATION even worse are concerns about whether the estimated amount of water remaining in the two reservoirs serving Willits is accurate. The amount of silt which has accumulated in Morris Reservoir during the last 20 plus years is unknown. There is an estimated 339 acre-feet of the water in Morris reservoir without adjusting for this siltation.”

ACCORDING TO THE SONOMA COUNTY WATER AGENCY, the Ukiah area has received only 7.67 inches of rain since Jan. 1, 2013, which is only 22% of the average of 34.18 inches, making 2013 the “lowest rainfall year on record in 120 years.” Here in Mendo, we get much of our water info from Sonoma County because Sonoma County owns most of the water in Lake Mendocino. As a result of the “severely low rainfall,” the water supply level in Lake Mendocino was only 28,457 acre-feet on Dec. 18, which is considered “critical.”

WITH NO SIGNIFICANT RAIN in the foreseeable future, the SCWA predicts that the lake will have only 26,000 acre-feet of water by Dec. 31, which is now. Today. That amount is significantly less than the low level recorded in 2009, which was 33,137 acre-feet.

TO PRESERVE THE WATER SUPPLY, the SCWA is asking the State Water Resources Control Board to change how it measures how much water is available to the Russian River system.

CURRENTLY, the state uses “cumulative inflow into Lake Pillsbury” to determine the water supply and how much water can be released. However, the SCWA is asking that the state use the actual amount of water in Lake Mendocino as its gauge instead. According to the SCWA, the cumulative inflow into Lake Pillsbury on Dec. 18 — 4,010 acre-feet — deems conditions in the area as dry, while actual conditions in the Russian River system “remain very dry.”

IF THE CURRENT GAUGE IS USED, “this will require (maintaining) higher minimum instream flows in the Upper Russian River than Lake Mendocino can reliably sustain. If storage in Lake Mendocino is depleted, then water will not be available to maintain ... flows during the spring, summer and fall of 2014 that are necessary to support threatened and endangered species, agriculture and domestic and municipal water supplies.”

LAKE MENDOCINO provides drinking water for the cities of Ukiah, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Hopland, and water releases from Lake Mendocino into the upper Russian River are crucial to already scarce Chinook salmon and steelhead trout during the fall and winter seasons.

REDWOOD VALLEY draws its water directly from Lake Mendocino, which is presently down to maybe two baths and a bottle of mud. That lake is basically drained, gone. Redwood Valley, even in the wettest years, still isn't allowed enough water to build out its many empty parcels. They'll soon have to go to rationing soon in Redwood Valley.

A READER wonders why the Ukiah Valley's several water districts and the City of Ukiah haven't activated their water conservation programs, which include both voluntary and mandatory measures. “I am surprised they haven't done something already,” she says.

SISTER YAZ WRITES: "Dear Radio Lovers and Lovers of Justice: You must become a member of KZYX/Z by 5pm on Tuesday, December 31st in order to be able to VOTE in the 2014 election, which might be a crucial one in democratizing our station, at long last. There is a “Simple Living” membership for $25, if you so desire to pledge at this level. So, please do consider pledging to our community radio station for $25 before 5pm on Tuesday, December 31st (New Year's Eve) by calling the station at 895-2324, and you may also pledge online at Folks, please don't sleep on this. We need all hands on deck for the 2014 election, so we can finally have a real Grass Roots, Community Radio Station, with justice, transparency and The Voice of We The People in programming! Happy Holidays to all and I thank you. DJ Sister Yasmin, 884-4703

* * *

SISTER YASMIN'S BELATED PLEA ignores Mendo demographics and the organization of the station itself. The only way to reform the institution would be to somehow lure 300-400 new members who would vote in a new board of directors. The present station membership, most of it anyway, is heavy on financially secure people for whom the soft liberalism of NPR programming serves as a kind of audio soma — it reassures them that all's right with the world, and what isn't right can be repaired by registered Democrats like them. Plus you get all those cool-cooing interviews with non-verbal movie stars and musicians. An NPR person doesn't want leftwingers shrieking at them. I'm sure conservative liberal radios all over Mendocino County snap off when Democracy Now's atonal bonk-bang-cronk music alerts the NPR people that Amy Goodman is upon them.

I HAVEN'T listened to KZYX in years. If it offered smart local news and talk, I'd listen, but smart and local has never been synonymous with Mendocino County, has it? The Major sometimes tunes in KZYX, but we get most of our info from print, not radio, not television, not the gd internet.

OUR BEEF WITH KZYX is the utter absence of local news and discussion of same, but even when there was at least the pretense of local, the self-certified “progressives” who presented it were so poorly informed, so inarticulate, so cringing before local bureaucrats, local was no better than local government press releases which, in fact, the news shows were.

KZYX'S membership includes a large bloc of station programmers, many of them in place since the station first went on the air. These people want no change. They support management no matter how incompetent, how sleazy because their sole interest is music, and them playing it on the radio. Combine the programmers bloc with the NPR bloc and there's Public Radio Mendocino County.

UNLIKE KMUD a few miles north of us, KZYX was organized by a private individual, a Republican named Sean Donovan. Donovan stuffed the ruling apparatus with dope and music-focused hippies from Anderson Valley, people unlikely to do or say anything distressing to the dominant stoner-NPR axis that was and is KZYX. The original stoner dudes and dude-ettes are music people. Take away their tunes and their bud and they might interest their sloth-like selves in matters beyond their turntables and their bongs, but it's unlikely.

BY CONTRAST, KMUD arose out of a series of community meetings in Southern Humboldt. Enthusiasm for KMUD has always been strong because it has always been directly accountable to its listeners and members. It is not an NPR station, not that the choice has to be between NPR and lively coverage of local matters; sophisticated management does both.

ANOTHER DIFFERENCE between Mendocino and Humboldt counties is that Humboldt's population is much more attentive to and passionate about local affairs. There's a varied and lively media in Humboldt, which is reinforced by lots of blogs focused solely on local matters. Mendo? No blogs, a corporate-bland media, and the AVA, the last a virtual oasis of sanity in the wacky Mendo sea. (Thank you, thank you. That's enough applause. Please. Really. Thank you.) No one really cares that KZYX doesn't do local. If KMUD didn't do local it would die. There's your difference.

WHY IS MENDOCINO so culturally retro, so institutionally wacky? One reason is government employment, which is where the good jobs are. And Mendocino County is a small, nepotistic, nay incestuous, place. Get yourself a dissident rep and you're not going to get on with a school district or the County or the many state and federal agencies with a Mendo presence. People with secure employment, government people, tend, overwhelmingly, to be lib labs of the registered Democrat type, hence KZYX, hence the fear of candid talk about local matters.

BY THE WAY, Sister Yasmin called to demand an apology from me for something or other. I had a hard time separating out what exactly I'd said to offend her in the torrent of abuse she unleashed on me. Call me a masochist, but when the old girl gets her ire on she's very, very funny. She wanted it made clear that she had not called KZYX to urge that the general manager, Señor Coate, be defenestrated. Sorry for the misunderstanding, Yaz.

THE SHERIFF'S LOG for arrests made on 19 December 2013, lists Ed Christensen, 41, of Point Arena who is accused of two felony charges of elder abuse. Some 15 years ago, Christensen was arrested for shooting at people participating in a Friends of the Garcia River float.

WATCH THOSE SNEAKER WAVES! The eerie endless summer is drawing many people to the sea shore where, as the National Weather Service puts it, “If you are planning on heading to the beach, avoid dangerous locations such as steep beaches, exposed rocky areas, and jetties. Sneaker waves appear suddenly and can be deadly if you are not paying attention.”

A FORMER Sacramento man, successfully prosecuted for imprisoning and assaulting another man, and torturing a cat at a Fort Bragg residence, has been sentenced to state prison. Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman sentenced Shawn Michael Lane, 24, to 56 months in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for assaulting Jesse Wayne Gibson, age 25, with a cane, falsely imprisoning Gibson, and torturing a cat. A Mendocino County jury sitting in Ukiah returned these three guilty verdicts back on Oct. 3. Gibson testified in June that Lane had invited him to stay at a house Lane shared with other men on Oak Street in Fort Bragg. Lane at one point scraped Gibson’s arm with a knife to initiate Gibson into a “brotherhood” from which Gibson was told he could not leave. Lane later hit Gibson in the head with a cane for not “following rules,” causing extensive bleeding. Lane also told Gibson he could not leave the apartment without Lane’s permission. Another witness testified that after Lane was clawed by a cat, Lane beat the cat and then nearly decapitated the animal before burying it. Judge Moorman said sending Lane to prison was a difficult decision because of obvious “serious mental health issues.” She said she could not overlook, however, the vulnerability of the victim, the danger posed by the defendant to others in the community, and the fact that the defendant was on probation at the time he committed the felonies for which he stands convicted. The judge did issue a recommendation to state prison officials, however, that Lane be placed in a prison-run dual diagnosis treatment program, a program that provides treatment for mentally ill prison inmates... (District Attorney press release.)

TRANSLATION OF THE ABOVE: A crazy Fort Bragg guy captured a couple of retarded guys, torturing a cat to scare the retarded guys into believing that it could happen to them which, given the crazy guy's craziness, it could. In return for the crazy guy's leadership, the retarded guys gave him all their money.

CANDLESTICK'S finale featured a truly memorable football game as the Niners dramatically squeezed past Atlanta and into playoffs and perhaps another shot at the Super Bowl. The ceremonial parts of the evening were ho-hum in the way mass sentimentality is, but nevertheless moving for all us sports fans who, over the years, enjoyed many, many ball games at the Stick. But the biggest story on the night was mentioned only in whispers, and then in vague references to “disputes.” The story? Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott were not present. The two guys synonymous with the rebirth of the Bill Walsh 49ers chose not to attend Candlestick's last night, the place of their heroics. Will we know why? Given the givens of Bay Area media, we doubt it. All we know so far is that both Montana and Lott have beefs with Niner management over money making things at the new stadium in Santa Clara, the brand new venue with no parking, another big story.

MOST PEOPLE ARE INSECURE, and with good reason. Not me. This is probably because I've had to think about who I am and who I'm not, which is something your average person generally doesn't have to do. Your average person has a pair of parents, or at least a mother, or at least knows roughly where they fit into all that family business in a way that I, for better or worse, don't. — Iain Banks

WE HAVE LEARNED that Dannie ‘Red Hog’ Martin has died. Many of you will remember Martin from his column in the San Francisco Chronicle, the first by a prison inmate to appear regularly in a major American newspaper. Some of you may also remember the writer from his letters to the AVA describing life in the federal pen he was confined to at the time for a bank robbery. His columns and letters so annoyed prison authorities they tried to shut Martin down, but the public outcry was so great they were forced to back off.

HEADLINE IN THURSDAY’S PRESS DEMOCRAT: “Cloverdale mayor optimistic about town, SMART…”

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO the mayor of Cloverdale was just as optimistic. The town seems to have done all right, but the spiffy train station erected at Cloverdale a quarter century ago in anticipation of rail service has yet to see a train. And is unlikely to see one any time soon, the usual cheerleading from the PD and the town's mayor aside.

SMART stands for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit. It's an unfortunate acronym. A hundred years ago, a small group of private investors got a railroad up and running between Sausalito and Eureka in less than ten years, and they kept it running with two trains a day both ways much of that time with, for a while, a connecting train serving Fort Bragg. The line was more or less viable until the late 1960s.

BY 2014, which is next Wednesday, SMART'S passenger train was supposed to be up and running between Cloverdale and Larkspur Landing. The “economic downturn” of 2008, also known as Wall Street's looting of the American economy, put SMART behind schedule, way behind schedule. But now that the economy has “rebounded,” as the PD describes the fiscal bounce visible to no one but them and SMART'S directors, there are more complications again delaying the long anticipated arrival at the Cloverdale station.

SMART has now announced that it has dropped Cloverdale as a viable destination for, like, whenever, and we are told that the train will now run between Santa Rosa and San Rafael maybe three years from now.

“OUR GOAL is to make sure we are up and running by Christmas 2016,” SMART’s boss, Farhad Mansourian told the Press Democrat. “If it's the first half of 2016, I'm going to surprise everyone, but I don't want to get pinned down to that simply because there are many moving wheels. There are 15 state, regional and federal agencies that control many things that we do. We are operating a train that does not exist. We are building it from scratch,” Mansourian said.

MEANWHILE, SMART has ordered the engines and cars and works on track upgrades for a rail line to Santa Rosa from San Rafael, a pair of destinations — especially Santa Rosa — where few people will want to go.

LET'S SAY you get on the train from San Rafael where the depot is at least placed near the shops and restaurants of 4th Street. Off you go to the north for a ride through suburban backyards to the train station on the unappealing west side of the Rose City. Where there is nothing other than a Snoopy statue and a coffee shop. You can foot it a quarter mile or so east through a urine-soaked 101 underpass until you arrive at a big brick mall beyond which there is… well, many square miles of architectural desolation all the way to the town of Sonoma.

WITH ANOTHER and more devastating economic “downturn” coming right up, SMART seems not so…

FRANK BARDACKE, a serious book guy, writes:

Here are my ten, leaving out the already listed Moby Dick, Madame Bovary, and Huckleberry Finn. They are in no particular order, except for Number 1 which was my first love.

1. Ring Lardner, You Know Me, Al

2. The Collected Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

3. Conrad, Lord Jim

4. B. Traven, The Death Ship

5. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

6. Leslie Marmom Silko, Ceremony

7. Isaac Deutscher's three volume biography of Trotsky

8. Philip Roth, Operation Shylock

9. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold

10. Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution

MORE THAN 1 MILLION AMERICANS are losing their extended federal unemployment benefits. The end of the federal government's “emergency unemployment compensation” means the loss of an average monthly stipend of $1,166 to those many. Some 214,000 Californians will lose their payments, a figure expected to rise to more than a half-million by June, the Labor Department said. In the last 12 months, Californians received $4.5 billion in federal jobless benefits, much of it plowed back into the local economy.

HOME INVASION? 10am is a peculiar time of day to try one, especially with a replica gun, but a Lake County man named Maurice Watts was found dead Christmas morning of at least one handgun wound outside the Upper Lake home of James Michael Jean and his wife Nora Katherine Jean. Watts allegedly tried to rob the couple of cash and 980 pounds of marijuana. Deputies confiscated the cash, the dope, 17 guns and Mr. and Mrs. Jean, placing them under arrest on numerous charges, including, it seems, a strong suspicion they'd murdered Watts. The case remains under investigation.

FLU SEASON is upon us, and this year the doctors say we can again blame it on the pigs or, if you prefer, the swine who last infected us the winter of 2009. The symptoms: fevers, body aches and general lethargy — not much different than what most of us feel anyway, especially the lethargy. Best way to avoid flu, I've found, is to avoid winter crowds and keep huggers at arm's length. (By the way, when did the hugging epidemic set in? I don't remember strangers, or even familiars, embracing me as a form of greeting until when, the early 1980s? I always find it awkward and mildly repellent, frankly, and can honestly say I have never initiated a hug with anybody outside my immediate family, and even with them only the little ones. It seems to have come on suddenly, all this huggsie-wuggsies. To ward off close body contact, I suggest shooting out a pre-emptive handshake.

LAST YEAR I didn't get the flu shot and I didn't get the flu. Years past I got the shot and I got the flu. This year, everyone's on my case because of the grandchildren. “You can croak if you want, but we don't want the kids getting sick.” Off I go to Safeway then, of all places, a place I don't associate with preventive medicine or even a particularly healthy diet, to get my flu shot.

THE SWINE FLU — known as Type A, subtype H1N1 — has shown up in more than 90% of positive influenza tests so far this season. But the H1N1 strain actually never went all the way away since it popped up in 2009. But this year it's resurfacing as the primary source of flu, at least so far.

WHEN H1N1 — a strain that once mostly affected pigs, thus the informal “swine flu” designation — first began infecting people, public health officials were concerned that it could be much more serious and deadlier than other flu strains. But over time, it's turned out to be about as severe as most other strains.

For most of us, what's the diff? Symptoms vary a little, but if you're reasonably healthy, you'll be fine.

MY GOD, the suburbs! They encircled the city's boundaries like enemy territory and we thought of them as a loss of privacy, a cesspool of conformity and a life of indescribable dreariness in some split-level village where the place name appeared in The New York Times only when some bored housewife blew off her head with a shotgun. — John Cheever

GUN NUT NATION — Adam Lanza as an infant.


PHILOLOGIST Adam Jacot de Boinod has released his annual list of words creeping into newspapers, broadcasts and on electronic and social media over the past 12 months; they include phubbing, facekini and on the bubble. Here are just some of the dozens of additions to the English language he identified, a legacy for which future generations may or may not be grateful...

Push ring: A ring that a man presents to his partner after she has given birth.

Underbrag: Admitting failings in a way that proves you are confident enough not to care.

Brass ceiling: The difficulty that women face in rising to high positions in the military.

Faitheist: An atheist who is tolerant of religions.

Bankster: A banker whose actions are illegal.

@Pontifex: The Twitter name of Pope Francis.

Prancercise: A form of exercise that mimics horse moves.

Listicle: An article based on a list of points.

Caxirola: Instrument created for the World Cup in Brazil.

Phubbing: The act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.

Doorer: A person who causes a cyclist to fall by opening a car door.

Boil the ocean: To undertake something over-ambitious.

Buffling: Speaking off-the-point in a business context.

Facekini: A facemask worn on the beach to avoid tanning.

On the bubble: At a point where success or failure will be decided.

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