Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rain to return Thursday, stay for weekend

From the National Weather Service:
Wet Weather Returns Late Thursday through Sunday

Impacts

Travel hazards due to slick roads, especially over Sierra passes
Urban and small stream flooding possible
Slight potential for debris flows near burn scars
Slight chance for thunderstorms (Friday afternoon)
Areas of fog...some dense(Wednesday-Thursday mornings)

Forecast Confidence
High
Low confidence in debris flows near recent burn scars

Timing and Strength
Arrives late Thursday...a few heavy precipitation bands possible through Sunday.
Snow and Rain: See Graphics.
Snow levels above 7000 feet Friday falling to 4000 feet Saturday night.

Weather Summary
A winter storm will move through northern California late Thursday through Sunday. Initially high snow levels will fall rapidly Saturday. Expect travel delays into the weekend, please refer to attached graphics for detailed information.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sierra Pacific Industries to close mill in Arcata

From Sierra Pacific Industries:
Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) today announced it will close its sawmill in Arcata, CA.

“This is a particularly sad day for Sierra Pacific and for my family” said A.A. “Red” Emmerson, Chairman and President Emeritus of SPI. “Our company started in the Arcata area when my father and I leased our first mill there in 1949 near Jacoby Creek.”

“We went on to build the Arcata mill on the Samoa Peninsula, which we’ve run steady since 1951” he noted.

About 123 crew members will be affected by the closure. According to SPI, reduced harvests of suitable timber and regulatory burdens are the primary reason for the closure. That, combined with a difficult lumber market have profoundly impacted operations in Arcata.

“A fall-off in the amount of suitable timber for sale in this area, coupled with flat home construction in the U.S., and increased lumber imports from Canada have all played a role in our decision to close the mill” said SPI spokesman Mark Pawlicki.

“But, make no mistake, the largest factor was that the type and size of logs that this mill cuts are simply not available in ample supply to continue to run the mill” he added. “When combined, these factors leave us no choice but to close the plant” said Pawlicki.

In an effort to keep the Arcata mill running, SPI has been transporting logs from the interior of California, and has barged logs from British Columbia and Washington. However, those efforts proved to be uneconomical.

Sierra Pacific is a strong, growing company and has job openings at other locations. Crew members are being encouraged to consider opportunities at these locations, and relocation assistance will be offered for each person who is approved to transfer.

Sierra Pacific Industries is a third-generation family-owned forest products company based in Anderson, California employing over 4,500 crew members. The company owns and manages 1.9 million acres of timberland in California and Washington, and is among largest lumber producers in the U.S. Sierra Pacific has 13 other sawmills operating in California and Washington, and has started construction of a new mill in Shelton, WA. The company also has window, renewable power, sales, and lumber remanufacturing facilities in operation in multiple states.

Sierra Pacific is committed to managing its lands in a responsible and sustainable manner to protect the environment while providing quality wood products for consumers.

Friday, January 15, 2016

'Parade of storms' aimed at Northern California

The raindrops and snowflakes just keep coming. From the National Weather Service:
Parade of Storms Impacting Northern California

Impacts

Urban/street flooding from clogged storm drains/culverts
Travel delays mountains, snow levels 5000 rising to above 7000 feet
Debris flow possible over Lake County burn scars

Forecast Confidence

High for rain and mountain snow
Medium for burn scar flooding
Medium for exact timing and precipitation amounts of each system

Timing and Strength
Tonight-Saturday
Light snow above 5000 feet after midnight...snow levels rising to above 6500 Saturday morning...accumulations 2-5 inches
Sunday - Monday
High snow levels above 6500 ft...accumulations 4-8 inches up to pass level, a foot over peaks
Hazardous travel over highest elevations
Heaviest precipitation Sunday...especially for Lake County burn scars.
Next week - Wet weather likely, but timing details still uncertain

Weather Summary
After a brief break in the wet pattern today, a weak Pacific system will move through NorCal Tonight and Saturday with only light rain/snow. A much stronger system will move in Sunday with heavy rain especially over Lake County, where burn scar flooding is possible and a Flash Flood Watch has been issued for Sunday morning through Monday morning. Most of the accumulating snow with this system will be 7000 feet and above. Numerous weather systems are expected next week, but the details are uncertain. Stay tuned for further updates.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cattle groups urge House to disapprove 'Waters' rule

From the NCBA:
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council, along with 42 state affiliate organizations, today sent a letter to the House of Representatives urging support of Senate Joint Resolution 22, disapproval of the EPA and Army Corps’ “waters of the United States” rule. NCBA President Philip Ellis, said withdrawal or defunding of WOTUS remains a top priority for cattlemen.

“The WOTUS rule is one of the most onerous land grabs undertaken by any regulator,” said Ellis. “The WOTUS rule extends beyond Congressional intent and would affect not only ranchers, but every land use stakeholder nationwide. This rule is not about preserving our nation’s resources, it’s about an overzealous regulatory administration.”

In November, the Senate voted in 53-44 in bi-partisan support of S.J.Res. 22. Since that time, the Government Accountability Office released their legal opinion finding that the EPA violated federal law by engaging in covert propaganda and grassroots lobbying in support of the WOTUS rule.

“Both chambers of Congress have acted in a bi-partisan way to block the WOTUS rule,” said Ellis. “With the GAO’s confirmation of the flaws in the rulemaking process and illegal actions by the EPA, it is time to withdraw this rule. Ranchers have been spared from the effect of this rule through a temporary stay by the courts, but it’s time for Congress to act.”

Friday, January 8, 2016

Wages drop in so-called 'blistering' economy

One of the more insidious ways the federal government coordinates agenda-driven stories with some news organizations is with the monthly jobs report, which are really estimates designed to elicit breathless headlines of a booming economy even as millions of Americans have sat unemployed for years. How do you manufacture 5 percent unemployment? By not counting people who can't find jobs.

Today's Labor Department report that the economy added 292,000 jobs in December achieved its intended outcome, with one local headline bellowing that companies are hiring "at a blistering pace." However, Mike Flynn of Breitbart News adds some context that's always missing from the state-influenced media accounts.
Average hourly wages in December actually fell to $25.24, down a penny from November. The average number of hours worked was also unchanged. To use a technical term, these are weird results. Average hours worked and wages ordinarily rise in the face of strong job growth, as a tightening labor market forces employers to increase pay or get more work out of existing workers.

Part of the explanation could be that while the economy added 2.7 million jobs in all of 2015, this is down considerably from the 3.1 million added in 2014. The labor force participation rate, i.e. the number of adults with a job or looking for work is still at an historically low rate of 62.6 percent.

Another part of the explanation is that job growth doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Every year, the adult population of the country increases, requiring strong job growth simply to keep pace with population change. In 2015, the adult population in the U.S. grew by 2.9 million people. The 2.7 million jobs the Labor Department said were added last year, then, didn’t keep pace with the growth of the population.

This suggests there is still a lot of weakness in the labor market. The economy is gaining jobs, but not faster than the population is growing, so there isn’t pressure to lift wages or increase hours. The net result is that average weekly take-home pay in the month of December actually fell slightly. [...]

The Labor Department reported that the manufacturing sector gained just 30k jobs in all of 2015, down considerably from the 215k jobs gained in 2014. Most of the job gains reported Friday, in fact, were in temporary services, construction, leisure and hospitality and health care.

There is another note of caution in Friday’s jobs report. In December 2014, the economy gained around 330k jobs. Even though this year’s gain was higher than expected, it was still down from the year before.
So failing to provide enough jobs to keep up with population growth is akin to "hiring at a blistering pace"? Only in certain newsrooms when a Democrat is in the White House and his would-be successor is struggling in the polls.

Nielsen praises governor's proposed budget

The north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen, the state Senate's budget vice chairman, is praising Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal as "prudent."

Here is his statement:

“The Governor should be applauded for proposing a prudent budget.

“With over $5 billion in surplus money, there is no need for new or extended taxes.

“We can continue to pay down the state’s debt, increase the state’s savings account for a rainy day and fund existing programs that help California’s most vulnerable, particularly services for people with developmental disabilities.”

I'm working on a follow-up story on how the proposal would impact agencies that work with agriculture. Watch for it at CapitalPress.com.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dispelling the AP's '15 inches in 16 days' rumor

Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Sacramento who's one of my key sources on long-range weather outlook stories, emailed reporters and others on her mailing list today with a story that might seem rather familiar to anyone who's dealt with the Associated Press.

She wrote:
You may have seen the AP story, or heard on the national news that forecasters are saying northern CA could see 15 inches of rain in 16 days.

On Monday we received a call from the SF AP asking if we could confirm a forecast she'd been seeing on SM [social media] about Northern CA getting 15 inches in 16 days. (There were some SM posts from non NWS meteorologists highlighting one of the solutions from one of the global models that advertised ridiculous precipitation forecasts out to 16 days with over 12 inches of rain).

The forecaster she spoke to told her, No, and that we do [not] forecast out to 16 days. She then asked about the current weather system moving into Northern CA and the forecaster confirmed that the northern Sierra would see 12 to 15 inches of snow with up to 2 feet of snow in the higher peaks.

What was quoted in the AP article is as follows: "As much as 15 inches of rain could fall in the next 16 days in Northern California, with about 2 feet of snow expected in the highest points of the Sierra Nevada, said Johnny Powell, a forecaster with the National Weather Service."

I have a call into the AP to get this quote corrected. However, I wanted to let you all know that we did not make that forecast. Any opportunity you have to help us correct this information would be appreciated.
So the weather service got the call on Monday, the story with the erroneous quote was posted that day, a later version that we posted on our website yesterday morning still contained the erroneous quote, and as of today the NWS still couldn't get the AP to correct the misinformation, so Michelle had to resort to sending the rest of us an email warning us not to trust the AP's account. Great.

We use the AP, largely because we cover such a big geographical area that it comes in handy to have a wire service with reporters in places we can't get to right away. We mainly use it on our website for breaking news, then follow up with our own staff stories if the situation warrants it. But the fact remains that the AP has a major credibility problem, particularly with its political and environmental coverage. And aside from their more obvious agenda-driven reporting, there is a culture at AP that is unwilling to change or correct errors or misinformation that they have published, even amid loud calls by their would-be ideological allies for them to do so.

Two summers ago, the press office at the State Water Resources Control Board spent more than five weeks trying to get the AP to retract or correct its bogus assertion that senior water rights holders are exempt from drought-related restrictions, to no avail. In 2009, the AP was one of the last news organizations to continue to refer to H1N1 as swine flu, even after pointed remarks by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack that calling it swine flu was factually incorrect. During this past year's drought, the AP joined environmental groups in calling out almond producers and other farmers for what they saw as an over-use of water, even after state officials urged that there be no finger-pointing and after a UC study found that almond production had a lighter carbon footprint than other crops.

This reporter was going to write "15 inches in 16 days" for the AP's "Dynamic Stories" feed and not let facts stand in her way. That's why if you're reading newspapers that rely on AP for any more than filling in gaps, you're probably not getting a very accurate view of the world.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Walden: 'Overzealous' officials caused Oregon occupation

The Oregon congressman whose district includes the Burns area where armed protesters have taken over the headquarters of a national wildlife refuge said in an impassioned floor speech last night that mismanagement of federal lands and the actions of "overzealous bureaucrats" who "go beyond the law and clamp down on people" led to the protest.

Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican, said he doesn't condone the takeover but called on Congress to understand the frustrations of ranchers and other rural residents.

A video of his speech is here. Oregon Public Broadcasting's account of his speech is here.

My colleague Mateusz Perkowski is putting the finishing touches on a story on how environmental lawsuits and other land-related conflicts in that region have contributed to the discord in recent years. Watch for his story and other coverage of the occupation at CapitalPress.com.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

LaMalfa to work to 'limit' Obama gun control edict

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa will work with others in Congress to "examine the legality" of President Barack Obama's gun control edict and "limit it in every way," he said today.

Here is his full statement:

“Rather than improving public safety, the most significant outcome of the President’s plan is to force more law-abiding Americans to pay government fees to exercise their Constitutional rights. If that isn’t emblematic of the entire Obama administration, I don’t know what is.

“We’ve seen time and time again that impeding the rights of law-abiding citizens doesn’t deter criminals and terrorists from breaking our laws. Limiting Americans’ ability to protect their families will embolden criminals, and areas with the most restrictions on firearms consistently have higher crime rates than areas in which citizens may defend themselves. For example, one would think the President would know that in Washington, D.C, where it is extremely difficult to legally purchase a firearm, the murder rate rose 54% last year due to criminals who acquire firearms illegally.

“If the President truly wants to improve public safety, he should recognize that new requirements do little when the government doesn’t enforce laws already on the books. In California, for example, Attorney General Kamala Harris was given $25 million to seize guns from convicted felons who are prohibited from owning firearms. After a year, the Attorney General had spent 40% of the funds to address just 17% of the problem.

“I’ll be working with my colleagues in the House to examine the legality of the President’s plan and limit it in every way. As the President has so often stated, he can’t change the law without action from Congress.”

Will the big snowpack last the winter?

The short answer is: It depends.

This week's storms are expected to bring snow levels as low as 3,500 feet, according to the National Weather Service. But if storms warm up as El Nino takes hold and only drop snow above 7,000 feet, the snowpack could still be in long-term trouble.

"If it's 5,000 feet, that's still safe" for maintaining healthy snowpack levels, said Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Sacramento. "It's really going to be individual storm dependent."

One or two warm storms wouldn't be enough to wipe out the snowpack, Mead told me. The snow acts as a sponge and absorbs water that falls as rain until it's saturated, then it begins to melt.

"We do have a pretty good snowpack up there now," she said. "It's still at or just above average."

But warmer rainfall and temperatures typically start to melt the snow in the spring, which keeps the reservoirs flush with water in the summer months. If the snow melts earlier than normal, there may not be enough water left over this summer.

"With an El Nino year, we can't for sure say when that will happen," Mead said, referring to snow melt.

My full story at CapitalPress.com is here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Oregon militia occupation: what it's all about

If you want to get up to speed about the protesters' occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in central Oregon, here are the basic facts, courtesy of Newsmax.

The article by reporter Mike Garcia begins:
An estimated 300 peaceful marchers demonstrated Saturday on behalf of two Oregon ranchers set to report to prison this week and, soon thereafter, a militia group took control of a federal wildlife building.

The occupation was staged without violence, but the militia said it plans to stay at the facility to protest "overreach" by the federal government for years to come.
Garcia proceeds to list 12 things the media may or may not be telling you about the occupation, including that two ranchers were convicted and sent to prison -- and now are being sent back -- for burning invasive weeds on land on which they had grazing rights. Meanwhile, Breitbart News offers a not-always-flattering primer on the Bundy family, which is at the center of the controversy.

My colleagues Eric Mortensen and Mateusz Perkowski, the Capital Press' Oregon reporters, are preparing a comprehensive package of reports on the protest and its fallout. It's times like these when publications like the Capital Press provide an invaluable public service, giving perspective and context when much of the establishment media thinks any rancher who dares to question what the government does is akin to a militia member or terrorist. Some of these outlets will flat-out make stuff up, as BuzzFeed got caught doing with a bogus story trying to link Cliven Bundy with Donald Trump.

For comprehensive, even-handed and truthful coverage of the situation, keep checking CapitalPress.com.