Mendocino County Today: Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

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THE OLD COAST HOTEL hearing is on Thursday (today) in Ukiah, 1:15pm, Superior Court. Courtroom E.

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STANDING DEAD TREES: MAJOR FIRE HAZARD

Board of Supervisors Office
Mendocino County
501 Low Gap Road, Room 1090
Ukiah, CA 95482

Dear Supervisors:

I’m writing to you as a rural fire chief concerned about a local forestry practice slipping between the cracks of public oversight. I ask for the issue to be discussed and vetted. I want to work with you and industry to find a reasonable solution.

Our fire district, an area of approximately forty-four square miles situated between the Navarro River and the town of Mendocino, includes a strip of grassland along the coast, but is largely comprised of forest lands. Approximately half the land in our district is zoned for timber and most residential development consists of homes tucked away in forest settings. A considerable segment of our district’s population benefits from just one means of egress. Residents on Albion Ridge Road, Middle Ridge Road and a plethora of adjoining shared driveways all funnel to a single intersection with California State Route 1. Residents in Little River have more options for emergency escape, but demonstrated by the windstorm of February 8, 2015, which completely closed all access roads in Little River, it doesn’t take much for this community to become an unreachable island.

Late last year, I attended an onsite field presentation hosted by Mendocino Redwood Company as part of their 1-14-080 MEN timber harvest plan review. The tour highlighted a number of public safety concerns and inspired me to write to Leslie Markham, Deputy Chief, Forest Practice, CAL FIRE. To date, a response has not been received. Attached you can find my letter, dated Nov 15, 2014, as well as one from my board, dated January 14, 2015, asking that they be treated as a signatory to my letter. During the field walk, John Andersen, Director of Forest Operations for Mendocino Redwood Company, showed us an experimental area on “J Road” in Albion where brush had been pruned by hand crews. Admiring the work, I asked whether this pattern could be executed across the entire plan. He offered cost as the main impediment blocking widespread adoption.

Sitting at the agency table during the CAL FIRE Second Review of 1-14-080 on February 5, 2015, I asked Charlie Martin, Division Chief, CAL FIRE, whether fire risk to the neighboring residents had been studied. He didn’t respond directly to the question, but explained he has participated at nearly every “big fire” in our county over the past two decades. I don’t discount his expertise and we should commend him for his demonstrated commitment to public safety, but for a matter so critical to health and safety, I would prefer his expertise be combined with formal study. I further pressed for an answer: does CAL FIRE have responsibility to study fire risk in the course of evaluating a timber harvest plan? I mean no disrespect to Chief Martin or his staff, but I left frustrated by the lack of clarity on ownership of the domain. If CAL FIRE has authority, the lack of memorialized study should be scrutinized. If this is not within scope of CAL FIRE review, which agency does own the responsibility? Any oversight, at all?

Hack&Squirt

I cannot fault the applicant. Best I can tell, they operate in compliance with applicable law and work in an environment of ever increasing and arguably onerous regulatory creep. In response to the questions I have raised, they’ve even stepped forward to brainstorm evacuation routes, adding credence to a public concern in desperate need of remedy. For this, I am thankful.

I’m also not ready to place culpability in the hands of state regulators. It appears they are diligently following process. Unfortunately, the process, as implemented, seems to omit consideration for public safety, perhaps because forest management methods have outpaced legislative action.

Regulatory process aside, I see the proposed harvest as part and parcel of a much larger scale forest management endeavor. An intense harvest will encourage unwanted species to flourish under what pre-harvest is shaded by a redwood canopy. Unmanaged, tanoak can pose a challenge to foresters who wish to rebalance the forest toward redwood production. Due to bottom line cost analysis, a method known as “hack and squirt” is locally employed to kill off the unwanted species by hacking into the tree trunk and injecting poison.

Herbicide use is outside the scope of fire concern, but I’ve come to understand that the practice involves leaving the dead trees standing. Attached is an aerial photograph of Comptche, showing us just how many dead trees are produced.

I have raised concerns to the Mendocino Unit of CAL FIRE about a predominately dead forest impacting fire risk, but oddly most responses have been of the form “your area is already a high risk” and “dead trees burn the same as live trees”. In my experience, dead, seasoned wood burns more efficiently than green wood. An intentionally dead forest in decay is a fabrication of fuel ladders, a pattern of vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the forest floor into the tree canopy where it is more challenging to suppress. This is the very situation public policy attempts to prevent with California Public Resource Code 4291 as explained by CAL FIRE’s “Defensible Space” brochures.

David Shew, Staff Chief, Planning and Risk Analysis, Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE), wrote in response to my inquiry regarding dead standing timber, “From my education and experience, a forest with dead standing timber can pose additional and different risks versus a healthy forest.” His full letter is attached.

Williams1

Credible research has been conducted and published in respected journals. The most applicable study I have read was coincidentally co-authored by Hugh Scanlon, Unit Chief of Humboldt-Del Norte Unit, CAL FIRE, “Sudden oak death-caused changes to surface fuel loading and potential fire behavior in Douglas-fir-tanoak forests.”

I strongly encourage you to read the full report. Of particular interest to this discussion, the researchers used our geographic area with our forest species as their study plot:

“Our study area encompassed Douglas-fir-tanoak forests across three counties in northwestern California: Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt…”

And further, they focused on trees killed using both the ‘hack and squirt’ method and the exact poison (Imazapyr) that we see in our area:

“Tanoak trees in the study sites were killed via ‘hack and squirt’ injections of either glyphosate or imazapyr (DiTomaso et al., 2004) so that dead trees were killed while standing, as in the situation with P. ramorum2. It has been observed that the pattern of tanoak mortality across the landscape in many herbicide treatment areas strongly resembles that caused by P. ramorum.”

They discovered a twofold in downed debris:

“…total weight of downed woody debris (all size classes) approximately doubled with the herbicide treatment…”

And concluded:

“Fuel models based on the observed surface fuel accumulations in herbicide-treated and diseased plots predict that for some early-to-midphase (2–8 years) herbicide-treated forests, and for late-phase (8 years plus) diseased forests, rates of spread, flame lengths, and fire line intensities could increase significantly over the baseline, challenging effective firefighter response.”

One of the co-authors of the above study is J. Morgan Varner, a professor who specializes in fire ecology. Parallels in fire behavior have been observed between trees killed by Sudden Oak Death and those killed by herbicides. In an article, “HSU Scientists Pinpoint Acute Forest Fire ThreatHumboldt State Now (May 06, 2010), Varner described fire behavior of dead tanoak trees:

“The energy released is so great you can’t combat [crown fires] with standard firefighting practices,” Varner said. “You just have to move back, and let them die down. You could never imagine attacking this thing.”

“Once the tree turns brown, we know it has really low foliage moisture content and it is ready to be ignited.”

Varner was again quoted in 2012 “Scientists warn of disease-borne North Coast fire threatNorthern California Society of American Foresters:

“These unnatural fuel arrangements can lead to fires so intense that you can’t combat them with standard, ground-based fire-fighting tactics”

In a time of severe drought we desperately need all parties to cooperate on a path towards improved fire safety. Governance should not allow private industry to create a public nuisance, certainly not one which jeopardizes life and loss of property. Private property rights must be protected, but fire does not respect property boundaries. By its nature, a fire hazard on one property adversely affects the rights of adjoining owners to use and enjoy their property, in this case impacting the health and safety of a community at large. While it’s true that our residents freely chose to live in and against a forest, I do not believe anyone contemplated the practice of intentional dead standing timber. Property rights on both sides of the line and totality of the circumstances must be considered.

Our entire district overlaps with State Responsibility Area, where the State of California has primary financial responsibility for the prevention and suppression of wildland fires, but this does not preclude our involvement in forest fires. In fact, due to the placement and only seasonal staffing of the nearest CAL FIRE station, my fire department typically arrives first on scene. We were first on scene to our portion of the June, 2008 Lightning Complex fires and have a history of containing forest fires in the early stages. Firefighters accept the risks inherent in combating nature. They should not assume additional man made risks that could otherwise be mitigated. The perils created by intentional dead standing timber will harm our volunteer firefighters' ability to confidently contain small fires.

This predicament could be a consequence of a deficiency in public policy described by the Grand Jury in, “SEVEN FIRE DISTRICTS OF RURAL MENDOCINO COUNTY” (June 28, 2005). The Jury’s report touched on two shortcomings pertinent to fire safety: inadequate district funding and lack of a county fire prevention program. In response to the funding concern, last year voters in my district passed Measure M, significantly increasing their special assessment. The second deficiency, “Mendocino County does not have a program of fire prevention, as opposed to fire suppression. The Mendocino Board of Supervisors has the authority to adopt a more stringent fire safety code that would incorporate a fire prevention program” has not been addressed despite a finding of agreement. “The Board of Supervisors agrees with this finding if it pertains to County Government.”

Ideally, the fire community should remain isolated from political debates about forest practice and use of economic poisons, but this relatively new radical practice of generating dead standing timber combined with drought conditions and unprecedented climate change demands evenhanded and responsible action. Unchecked by public oversight, it poses life safety risks to both residents and firefighters.

To be clear, I am not advocating specific action, but rather suggesting we apply precaution and treat fire prevention as a core government health and safety function, while minimizing the impact on industry. Sudden Oak Death is an unfortunate natural hazard. Actually creating such conditions during a severe drought as means to increase profit should only be allowed under careful review.

I am obligated to express this concern now rather than waiting until after a major fire has occurred. While I respect the timber companies’ profit seeking goals and private property rights, we must all work together to avert what is potentially calamitous.

Let’s coordinate?

Sincerely,

Ted R. Williams

Chief, Albion Little River Fire Protection District

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UKIAH TO REVISIT FOOD WASTE CONTRACT. FINALLY.

http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/general-news/20150325/another-vote-planned-for-food-waste-collection-in-ukiah

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CATCH OF THE DAY, March 25, 2015

Bill, Castaneda, Elliott, Fletcher
Bill, Castaneda, Elliott, Fletcher

WYATT BILL, Covelo. Battery, under influence of controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia.

THERRESSA CASTANEDA, Ukiah. DUI.

LONNY ELLIOTT, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

JASON FLETCHER, Ukiah. Resisting arrest.

Johnson, Little, Lucido, Smith
Johnson, Little, Lucido, Smith

ALEXANDER JOHNSON, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance possession for sale.

JAMES LITTLE, Ukiah. DUI.

BRADLEY LUCIDO, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, probation revocation.

JACQUELINE SMITH, Fort Bragg. Meth sales, failure to appear.

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REDWOOD REGION LOGGING CONFERENCE 2015

by Katy Tahja

The Redwood Region Logging Conference in March in Eureka was a celebration for the timber industry. It’s a great family event, it’s educational, and while the glory days of logging are behind us these folks are still a hardworking proud part of the North Coast community.

For 77 years representatives of the timber industry and all the folks who work in support industries gather to pat themselves on the back for surviving, socialize, and look towards the future. Thousands of people of all ages arrive to look, learn, and marvel at equipment old and new.

Thursday over 1,600 grammar school kids toured the Redwood Acres Fairground. Timber industry professionals shared short presentations on topics ranging from woodland biology to fisheries to land management with the kids. The planners realize these kids and their high school counterparts will be the future generation of loggers, truckers, and management.

The students see a show of “Wild Things” featuring rehabilitated wild animals that can’t survive back in the woods and have become animal ambassadors that kids can look at and learn about up close.

Humboldt State University’s Logging Sports teams demonstrate Lumberjack and Jill competitions like spar tree climbing. Train rides are offered behind a tiny Gypsy locomotive on a track laid around the fairground for this event. Watching chainsaw carvers form creatures out of logs is a popular viewing activity along with old time photo displays.

Friday is Career Day for high school students who arrive from all over northern California. Diverse career opportunities are discussed for secondary students while professional timber workers can take classes on topics like utility pole manufacturing, CHP new rules and regulations, and sustainable forestry certification programs. High School students have their own competitions in forestry skills and also enjoy the wildlife show.

Saturday is for forest worker families and the public to see what’s new and old at the fairgrounds. Touring equipment displays and exhibits in the exhibit hall, watching contests in log truck loading and wrapper throwing and munching food, popcorn and beer keep everyone happy. Ax throwing contests are exciting anytime you watch one. Add in the Wild Things show and it’s a day of education and fun for everyone.

Representing Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino I was one of the exhibitors. Our shop has always had a large display of books recognizing our logging heritage. Mendocino as a tourist destination wouldn’t exist were it not for the town’s start with a sawmill in 1852. My selection of books on logging history and nature sold well all weekend. (Want a book on woodpeckers, or banana slugs? I had them.)

On one side of my booth I had a Cummins 360hp engine, clean and shiny, six feet big in every dimension. Folks walked around it admiring its size. On the other side of my booth was Madeline Melo and the Jerry Melo Foundation’s “Take Back Our Forest” campaign. These folks made visitors aware of their efforts to eliminate the impacts of illegal marijuana grows on woodlands.

The exhibit hall is always a multi media display of what keeps the timber industry going. Logging rigging and wire rope, chainsaws, lubricants, fuels and tires are featured. Truck dealers, tractors and heavy equipment line the pathways outside. Insurance companies and professional support groups, communication companies and finance and legal services all have booth space.

I am always fascinated by the unusual booths in any exhibit hall. One woman bought a mechanical embroidery machine and would sew your name on a new shirt. Mendocino County Black Tail Deer Association offered information on habitat improvement. The Old Photo Guy had just that…old photos for sale…and a great book of photos of the 1964 flood in Humboldt County.

The Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor folks had a lawn full of little antique gas engines chugging and pop-popping away. How many kids have ever seen a Maytag Washing Machine powered by a gas engine? One was there. The Junior Barn Company took a log, turned it into lumber, put up walls and had a small barn done by the end of the show.

In my Gallery Bookshop booth the best selling book was the most expensive one I exhibited at $49.95. “High Climbers & Tree Fallers” by Gerry Beranek features logging shows and crews over 20 years because the woodsman author took his camera to work every day. It’s a beautiful big coffee table book and logging crews, their worksites, the trucks, even the dogs, are all identified. I sold a stack of them.

Woods workers joked they liked the books of old photos, like “Glory Days of Logging” because there was lots to look at and not a lot of words. Old timers came up to comment on posters of photos from a book I wrote “Logging Railroads of Humboldt & Mendocino Counties.” Ninety year olds were telling me stories of watching steam engines go by with huge loads of logs, and shared tales of Eureka’s red light district.

Little kids came up to accept a free sticker and practice saying “Thank You” to a stranger. I saw several Mennonite families with Dad the logger, and wife and daughters in long modest pastel cotton dresses with Mom wearing a lace cap. Outside I noticed very, very few people smoking though the beer booths seemed to be doing a booming business. Everyone was having fun.

Next year in March the Redwood Region Logging Conference will be at the Ukiah Fairgrounds. The event is always good old fashioned family fun, like the County Fair only educational. You get to look at neat stuff, watch wild animals, eat caramel kettle corn and watch loggers compete in sports. It’s a great way to spend the day. Don’t miss it.

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CALIFORNIA DROUGHT LEGISLATION MUST TARGET AGRIBUSINESS AND BIG OIL

by Dan Bacher

Governor Jerry Brown and lawmakers touted the introduction of drought legislation in the Legislature on March 19, while leaders of environmental and corporate watchdog groups urged Brown to put real limits on the “most egregious” water users – corporate agribusiness and big oil companies – to really address the drought.

Brown joined Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin to unveil legislation that they claimed will “help local communities cope with the ongoing, devastating drought.”

A statement from the Governor’s Office said the package will expedite bond funding to “make the state more resilient to the disastrous effects of climate change and help ensure that all Californians have access to local water supplies.”

“This unprecedented drought continues with no signs yet of letting up,” said Governor Brown. “The programs funded by the actions announced today will provide direct relief to workers and communities most impacted by these historic dry conditions.”

The Governor’s Office said the legislation includes more than $1 billion for local drought relief and infrastructure projects to make the state’s water infrastructure “more resilient to extreme weather events.”

The package also “accelerates” $128 million in expenditures from the Governor’s budget to provide direct assistance to workers and communities impacted by drought and to implement the Water Action Plan.

It also includes $272 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling and accelerates $660 million from the Proposition 1 for “flood protection” in urban and rural areas.

“I want to thank the Governor, the pro Tem and the Speaker for inviting us today,” said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff. “We were briefed on this proposal just this morning, and so far it sounds like a good approach. We need to review the legislation in detail but it seems like a reasonable start.”

For more details, go here.

Food & Water Watch, a national non-profit organization that advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water, said the emergency drought package focuses on the “wrong solutions” to the state’s mounting water problems.

“Spending one billion dollars will not create new water for California. In order to address the drought crisis, Governor Brown must place real limits on the State’s most egregious water users – the agriculture and oil industries,” said Adam Scow, Food & Water Watch California Director.

“Governor Brown is penalizing Californians for their water use, but is giving a free pass to agriculture and oil corporations that are over-pumping and polluting our State’s dwindling groundwater supply. Agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water while urban and residential uses account for less than 15 percent,” he said.

Scow pointed out the use of large amounts of water by agribusiness, particularly that used by water-intensive almonds.

“It’s time to place limits on the growing almond empire in the desert-like conditions on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Scow. “These almond operations are over-pumping vast amounts of groundwater and will mostly be exported overseas. Last year the Westlands Water District pumped over 600,000 acre feet of groundwater-more water than all of Los Angeles used that year. The Governor needs to direct the State Water Board to manage California’s groundwater as a public resource and not allow corporate interests to deplete our dwindling groundwater.”

California’s almond orchards use about 3.5 million acre feet of water, nearly 9 percent of the state’s agricultural water supply. That is enough water to supply the domestic needs of the Los Angeles Basin and metropolitan San Diego combined, approximately 75 percent of the state’s population, according to Carolee Krieger, Executive Director of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN).

Scow also urged the Governor to issue a moratorium on the controversial practice of fracking that has resulted in the pollution of many aquifers in the Central Valley with oil industry wastewater.

“If the Governor was serious about protecting our water he would issue a moratorium on fracking to stop the ongoing pollution of 2 million gallons per day of fresh water and stop the ongoing dumping of oil wastewater into our aquifers. California’s aquifers are crucial and must be protected in order to save and store water for the future,” said Scow.

“If the bill doesn’t include a ban on new plantings of permanent crops in areas with groundwater overdraft and interruptible water supplies, then it is not a comprehensive solution to our ongoing drought,” said Tom Stokely, Water Policy Analyst/Media Contact, California Water Impact Network.

Meanwhile, the Governor continues to fast-track the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. The $67 billion water grab would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, great sturgeon and other fish species. It would also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

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GEE, OFFICER KRUPKE

Hey you!

 

Who me, Officer Krupke?

 

Yeah you! Gimme one good reason for not dragging

You down the station house, ya punk.

 

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, you gotta understand --

It's just our bringin' up-ke that gets us out of hand

Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks

Golly Moses -- naturally we're punks.

 

Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;

We never had the love that every child oughta get.

We ain't no delinquents, we're misunderstood.

Deep down inside us there is good!

 

There is good!

 

There is good, there is good,

There is untapped good.

Like inside, the worst of us is good.

 

That's a touching good story.

 

Lemme tell it to the world!

 

Just tell it to the Judge.

 

Dear kindly Judge, your Honor, my parents treat me rough.

With all their marijuana, they won't give me a puff.

They didn't wanna have me, but somehow I was had.

Leapin' lizards -- that's why I'm so bad!

 

Right! Officer Krupke, you're really a square;

This boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care!

It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed --

He's psychologically disturbed.

 

I'm disturbed!

 

We're disturbed, we're disturbed,

We're the most disturbed,

Like we're psychologically disturbed.

 

Hear ye, hear ye! In the opinion

Of this court this child is depraved

On account he ain't had a normal home.

 

Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived!

 

So take him to a headshrinker

 

My daddy beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me.

My grandpa is a commie, my grandma pushes tea.

My sister wears a mustache, my brother wears a dress.

Goodness gracious -- that's why I'm a mess!

 

Yes! Officer Krupke, he shouldn't be here.

This boy don't need a couch, he needs a useful career.

Society's played him a terrible trick,

And sociologically he's sick!

 

I am sick!

 

We are sick, we are sick,

We are sick, sick, sick,

Like we're sociologically sick!

 

In my opinion, this child does not need

To have his head shrunk at all.

Juvenile delinquency

Is purely a social disease.

 

Hey, I got a social disease!

 

So take him to a social worker!

 

Dear kindly social worker, they tell me get a job,

Like be a soda jerker, which means like be a slob.

It's not I'm antisocial, I'm only anti-work.

Glory Osky -- that's why I'm a jerk!

 

Eek! Officer Krupke, you've done it again.

This boy don't need a job, he needs a year in the pen.

It ain't just a question of misunderstood;

Deep down inside him, he's no good!

 

I'm no good!

 

We're no good, we're no good,

We're no earthly good,

Like the best of us is no damn good!

 

The trouble is he's lazy, the trouble is he drinks.

The trouble is he's crazy, the trouble is he stinks.

The trouble is he's growing, the trouble is he's grown!

 

Krupke, we've got troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Krupke,

We're down on our knees.

'Cause no one wants a fella

With a social disease.

Gee, Officer Krupke,

What are we to do?

Gee, Officer Krupke,

Krup you!

— Stephen Sondheim

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Buland

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CALIFORNIA’S EPIC DROUGHT: ONE YEAR OF WATER LEFT

by Ellen Brown

Wars over California’s limited water supply have been going on for at least a century. Water wars have been the subject of some vintage movies, including the 1958 hit The Big Country starring Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood’s 1985 Pale Rider, 1995’s Waterworld with Kevin Costner, and the 2005 film Batman Begins. Most acclaimed was the 1975 Academy Award winner Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, involving a plot between a corrupt Los Angeles politician and land speculators to fabricate the 1937 drought in order to force farmers to sell their land at low prices. The plot was rooted in historical fact, reflecting battles between Owens Valley farmers and Los Angeles urbanites over water rights.

Today the water wars continue, on a larger scale with new players. It’s no longer just the farmers against the ranchers or the urbanites. It’s the people against the new “water barons” – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Monsanto, the Bush family, and their ilk – who are buying up water all over the world at an unprecedented pace.

A Drought of Epic Proportions

At a news conference on March 19, 2015, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon warned, “There is no greater crisis facing our state today than our lack of water.”

Jay Famiglietti, a scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, wrote in the Los Angeles Times on March 12th:

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Maps indicate that the areas of California hardest hit by the mega-drought are those that grow a large percentage of America’s food. California supplies 50% of the nation’s food and more organic food than any other state. Western Growers estimates that last year 500,000 acres of farmland were left unplanted, an amount that could increase by 40% this year. The trade group pegs farm job losses at 17,000 last year and more in 2015.

Farmers with contracts from the Central Valley Project, a large federal irrigation system, will receive no water for the second consecutive year, according to preliminary forecasts. Cities and industries will get 25 percent of their full contract allocation, to ensure sufficient water for human health and safety. Besides shortages, there is the problem of toxic waste dumped into water supplies by oil company fracking. Economists estimate the cost of the drought in 2014 at $2.2 billion.

No Contingency Plan

The massive Delta water tunnel project, designed to fix Southern California’s water supply problems by siphoning water from the north, was delayed last August due to complaints from Delta residents and landowners. The project remains stalled, as the California Department of Water Resources reviews some 30,000 comments. When or if the project is finally implemented, it will take years to complete, at an estimated cost of about $60 billion including financing costs.

Meanwhile, alternatives for increasing the water supply rather than fighting over limited groundwater resources are not being pursued. Why not? Skeptical observers note that water is being called the next commodity boom. Christina Sarich, writing on NationOfChange.org, asserts:

Numerous companies are poised to take advantage of the water crisis. Instead of protecting existing water supplies, implementing stricter regulations, and coming up with novel ways to capture rainwater, or desalinizing seawater, the corporate agenda is ready, like a snake coiled, to make trillions off your thirst.

These coiled snakes include Monsanto and other biotech companies, which are developing drought-resistant and aluminum-resistant seeds set to take over when the organic farmers throw in the towel. Organic dairy farmers and ranchers have been the hardest hit by the drought, since the certified organic pasture on which their cows must be fed is dwindling fast.

Some critics suggest that, as in Chinatown, the drought itself is man-made, triggered not only by unprecedented carbon emissions but by “geo-engineering” – spraying the skies with aluminum and other particulates, ostensibly to shield the earth from global warming (though there may be other motives). On February 15, 2015, noted climate scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute for Science at Stanford asserted that geo-engineering was the only way to rapidly cool the earth. He said:

A small fleet of airplanes could do what large volcanos do — create a layer of small particles high in the atmosphere that scatters incoming sunlight back to space. Cooling the Earth this way, could be fast, cheap and easy.

That technique also suppresses rainfall. According to U.S. patent #6315213, filed by the US military on November 13, 2002:

The polymer is dispersed into the cloud and the wind of the storm agitates the mixture causing the polymer to absorb the rain. This reaction forms a gelatinous substance which precipitate to the surface below. Thus, diminishing the cloud’s ability to rain.

Suspicious observers ask whether this is all part of a larger plan. Christina Sarich notes that while the state thirsts for water, alternatives for increasing the water supply go untapped:

Chemical Engineers at MIT have indeed figured out how to desalinate water – electrodialysis having the potential to make seawater potable quickly and cheaply without removing other contaminants such as dirt and bacteria, and there are inexpensive nanotech filters that can clean hazardous microbes and chemicals from drinking water. Designer Arturo Vittori believes the solution to the water catastrophe lies not in high technology but in a giant basket that collects clean drinking water from condensation in the air.

Tapping Underground Seas

Another untapped resource is California’s own “primary” water — water newly produced by chemical processes within the earth that has never been part of the surface hydrological cycle. Created when conditions are right to allow oxygen to combine with hydrogen, this water is continually being pushed up under great pressure from deep within the earth and finds its way toward the surface where there are fissures or faults. This water can be located everywhere on the planet. It is the water flowing in wells in oases in the desert, where there is neither rainfall nor mountain run-off to feed them.

A study reported in Scientific American in March 2014 documented the presence of vast quantities of water locked far beneath the earth’s surface, generated not by surface rainfall but from pressures deep within. The study confirmed “that there is a very, very large amount of water that’s trapped in a really distinct layer in the deep Earth… approaching the sort of mass of water that’s present in all the world’s oceans.”

In December 2014, BBC News reported the results of a study presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which researchers estimate there is more water locked deep in the earth’s crust than in all its rivers, swamps and lakes together. Japanese researchers reported in Science in March 2002 that the earth’s lower mantle may store about five times more water than its surface oceans.

Dramatic evidence that earthquakes can release water from deep within the earth was demonstrated last August, when Napa was hit with a 6.0 quake. Solano County suddenly enjoyed a massive new flow of water in local creeks, including a reported 200,000 gallons per day just from Wild Horse Creek. These increased flows are still ongoing, puzzling researchers who have visited the area.

Where did this enormous waterflow come from? If it were being released from a shallow aquifer, something would have to replace that volume of withdrawal, which was occurring at the rate of over 1,000 gallons per minute – over 10 times the pre-quake flow. Massive sinkholes or subsidence would be expected, but there were no such reports. Evidently these new waters were coming from much deeper sources, released through crevices created by the quake.

So states Pal Pauer of the Primary Water Institute, one of the world’s leading experts in tapping primary water. After decades of primary water studies and successful drilling projects, Pauer has demonstrated that this abundant water source can be accessed to supplement our current water supply. Primary water may be tapped directly, or it may be found commingled with secondary water (e.g. aquifers) fed from atmospheric sources. New sophisticated techniques using airborne geophysical and satellite data allow groundwater and primary water to be located in rock through a process called “fracture trace mapping,” in which large fractures are identified by thorough analysis of the airborne and satellite data for exploratory drilling.

Pauer maintains that a well sufficient to service an entire community could be dug and generating great volumes of water in a mere two or three days, at a cost of about $100,000. The entire state of California could be serviced for about $800 million – less than 2% of the cost of the very controversial Delta water tunnels – and this feat could be accomplished without robbing the North to feed the South.

The Water Wars Continue

California officials have been unresponsive to such proposals. Instead, the state has undertaken to regulate underground water. In September, a trio of bills were signed establishing a framework for statewide regulation of California’s underground water sources, marking the first time in the state’s history that groundwater will be managed on a large scale. Water has until now been considered a property right. The Los Angeles Times reported:

[M]any agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the bill. Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the bills “may come to be seen as ‘historic’ for all the wrong reasons” by drastically harming food production.

. . . “There’s really going to be a wrestling match over who’s going to get the water,” [Fresno Assemblyman] Patterson said, predicting the regulation plans will bring a rash of lawsuits.

And so the saga of the water wars continues. The World Bank recently adopted a policy of water privatization and full-cost water pricing. One of its former directors, Ismail Serageldin, stated, “The wars of the 21st century will be fought over water.”

In the movie Chinatown, the corrupt oligarchs won. The message seemed to be that right is no match against might. But armed with that powerful 21st century tool the Internet, which can generate mass awareness and coordinated action, right may yet prevail.

(Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.)

* * *

CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN URGES POSTMASTER GENERAL NOT TO CLOSE EUREKA PROCESSING CENTER

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today sent a letter to the new Postmaster General reiterating his strong opposition to the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) plan to close both the North Bay Processing and Distribution Center in Petaluma and the Eureka Customer Service Mail Processing Center.

Huffman has routinely opposed the USPS’ plan and strongly criticized them for their lack of transparency throughout this process, disregard for public input, and ambivalence to the impacts reduced service standards will have on local communities. Huffman previously opposed the consolidation plan when it was first proposed in 2011, citing that this plan would cause disruption of mail delivery, cause job loss, and damage local economies.

“I continue to be frustrated with the USPS’s refusal to provide my office with requested information and the lack of interest in fully explaining these changes to the public,” Huffman wrote. “I do not believe it is wise to move forward with a plan to consolidate operations without knowing the full financial and service impact of such a change, and I ask that you halt this change until your analysis is complete and the public has had time to review the new data and provide comments.”

Huffman also noted that “The road connecting Eureka and Medford is frequently closed due to inclement weather, which could effectively isolate my constituents on the north coast of California from vital services.”

The full text of the letter can be found HERE or below:

March 25, 2015

Megan J. Brennan

Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer

United States Postal Service

475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW

Washington, DC 20260

Dear Postmaster General Brennan:

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Postmaster General. I look forward to working with you as the United States Postal Service (USPS) modernizes operations to remain a global competitor in the 21st Century.

I write today to reiterate my strong opposition to the Postal Service’s plan to consolidate mail processing operations from both the North Bay Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Petaluma, CA, and the Eureka Customer Service Mail Processing Center (CSMPC) in Eureka, CA, both of which are in my congressional district. I continue to be frustrated with the USPS’s refusal to provide my office with requested information and the lack of interest in fully explaining these changes to the public.

While I appreciate the letter that Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman sent me on November 10, 2014, the response left several issues unresolved. I understand that your projected cost savings are based on 2012 data from the North Bay and Eureka area mail processing (AMP) workbooks, and understand that you believe that you already have the requisite public comment on the matter. However, as Deputy Postmaster General Stroman acknowledged, the Postal Service is in the process of changing consolidation plans for the North Bay facility to San Francisco instead of Oakland. This change involves different travel distances and facility capacity issues, and has not been subject to public review. In addition, the 2012 AMP workbooks are now several years old and do not accurately reflect the status of mail operations. I do not believe it is wise to move forward with a plan to consolidate operations without knowing the full financial and service impact of such a change, and I ask that you halt this change until your analysis is complete and the public has had time to review the new data and provide comments.

More generally, the Postal Service has stated that there will be only slight changes in national average mail delivery service standards, while ignoring my constituents’ concerns about significant local decreases in service standards. National averages do not reflect the individual impacts of consolidating operations from the Eureka, CA facility to a facility in Medford, Oregon. The road connecting Eureka and Medford is frequently closed due to inclement weather, which could effectively isolate my constituents on the north coast of California from vital services.

Since I remain increasingly skeptical that your reported national averages accurately depict the situation on the ground, and since my constituents in rural communities need to receive postal services in a timely manner like medications and mail-in ballots, I ask the Postal Service to provide my office with a data map and analysis of the change in mail delivery service standards for both mail facilities from fiscal year 2008 compared to fiscal year 2014, documenting the change in scope from 1 day, 2 day, and 3 day delivery. It is my understanding that this information is tracked by the USPS and has already been provided to other members of Congress for their congressional districts.

In addition, I am concerned that recent Postal Service decisions regarding delivery service standards will exacerbate the impacts to my rural constituents. Through 2014, rural communities already tended to see longer delivery times under the 1-3 day standard, so the changes implemented in January 2015 to a 2-3 day standard will likely increase mail delivery times for my constituents. Further, I understand the new rules to mean that any mail not received by a post office before 8:00am will not be counted until the next day, potentially meaning well over 3 days could elapse for rural First Class Mail delivery. As I have mentioned to your predecessor, decreasing service is not the answer to ensuring the Postal Service remains competitive. While I applaud the USPS for thinking creatively on ways to improve your business model and innovate, the proposed “Network Rationalization” is a deeply flawed plan, and from your responses to me thus far it appears to lack sufficient financial or service data to move forward.

By this letter, I request that the Postal Service:

1) Suspend this misguided proposal to consolidate mail processing facilities on California’s North Coast.

2) Provide my office with a change in delivery standards for First Class Mail, in map format, for fiscal years 2008 and 2014 for zip codes (see attached list) within my congressional district.

3) Provide my office and the public the new AMP workbook for the North Bay facility that accounts for moving processing operations to San Francisco, prior to removing operations from the Petaluma facility.

I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

JARED HUFFMAN

Member of Congress

2 Responses to "Mendocino County Today: Thursday, Mar 26, 2015"

  1. Jim Updegraff   March 26, 2015 at 9:51 am

    One year of water left: If drought goes for several more years so long to agriculture that needs large amounts of water (grapes, rice,dairies, cheese, almonds + + +. Lots of forest fires. no grass in yards, golf courses and parks. Kaput to industries that use copious amounts of water.

    Time to leave California for greener pastures.

    Reply
  2. Harvey Reading   March 26, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Compared to welfare, corporate ag, industry uses hardly any water at all. And, the world will survive without California almonds. What people better be worried about is that when petrochemical production peters out and the Ogallala Aquifer is sucked dry, the Midwest, the real breadbasket of the country, will no long be able to grow enough to supply U.S. needs, let alone meet export demand. My guess is that in a locovore setting, the U.S. will be lucky to sustain a population of 30 million, a little more than what the Indigenous population was before genocide was inflicted by our overworshiped predecessors.

    Reply

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