Friday, October 20, 2017

ICE responds to Sonoma officials on suspected arsonist

Yesterday I emailed the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement media office to get reaction after Sonoma County officials dismissed acting director Tom Homan's criticism of their handling of arson suspect Jesus Gonzales.

I received this statement attributed to Homan from James Schwab, a spokesman in ICE's San Francisco office:

"As the Sheriff's office knows, there is currently no legal barrier that restricts their ability to simply call ICE to provide notice of the release of a criminal alien such as Gonzalez, which they failed to do following his previous multiple arrests on felony and misdemeanor charges. Doing so would have allowed ICE to remove a public safety threat from the community and prevented the diversion of limited resources to an avoidable crime when they should be focused on fire recovery."

Pumpkin pickings abundant at Historic Hawes Farms

Today I went to Hawes Farms in Anderson, whose attractions draw about 8,000 schoolchildren, parents and teachers for field trips each year, to check out the pumpkin harvest. In the photos, general manager Carl Hawkins is showing me the abundance of this year's crop, which Greg Hawes tells me is the best he's seen in years.

The farm hosts numerous events leading up to Halloween. This weekend, it will be honoring local heroes.

I'm checking with other pumpkin farms around California to see how their season is going. Look for my story at soon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sonoma officials dismiss ICE criticism on arson suspect

A Sonoma County Sheriff's Department spokesman dismissed criticism from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's acting director over previous releases of an illegal immigrant currently being held for allegedly starting an illegal campfire in a public park.

ICE acting director Tom Homan issued a statement late yesterday saying Sonoma County ignored federal detainer requests on four occasions and released suspect Jesus Gonzales after arrests on various felony and misdemeanor charges.

But Sonoma sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Crum brushed aside Homan's remarks.

"We have a department policy that works for our community," Crum told me today, referring to Sonoma's status as a sanctuary county for illegal immigrants. "We're not going to comment on someone from Washington making statements on what we do here in Sonoma County."

The 29-year-old Gonzales is being held on $100,000 bail after he was arrested Sunday on one count of arson, Crum said. Homan said the arrest was "especially troubling in light of the wildfires already devastating the region," but local officials have said they have no reason to suspect Gonzales was behind the other fires.

Gonzales is awaiting trial in Sonoma County Courts, which are set to resume Tuesday after having been shut down because of evacuations. Crum said he will then be returned to Ventura County, where he has an outstanding warrant.

Homan has been vocal about Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of legislation to make California a sanctuary state, issuing this statement earlier this month:
Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to sign SB54 and make California a sanctuary state for illegal aliens – including those who have committed crimes – will undermine public safety and hinder ICE from performing its federally mandated mission. The governor is simply wrong when he claims otherwise.

SB54 will negatively impact ICE operations in California by nearly eliminating all cooperation and communication with our law enforcement partners in the state, voiding the delegated authority that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has under the 287g program, and prohibiting local law enforcement from contracting with the federal government to house detainees.

ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community. ICE will also likely have to detain individuals arrested in California in detention facilities outside of the state, far from any family they may have in California.

Ultimately, SB54 helps shield removable aliens from immigration enforcement and creates another magnet for more illegal immigration, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people it purports to protect.

Despite the severe challenges that this law creates for ICE, we remain committed to our public safety mission and we will continue to do our sworn duty to seek out dangerous criminal aliens and other immigration violators. ICE seeks straightforward cooperation with all sheriffs and local elected officials. This misguided legislation will severely undermine those efforts.
ICE has not immediately returned my email seeking additional information and comments. When they do, I'll pass it along.

Again, look for our comprehensive coverage of the wine country fires and their fallout at

Weak La Nina portends winter of uncertainty in California

National Weather Service

This morning the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) sent out an update to the ENSO phase forecast. The gist of the update was that Sea Surface Temperatures (SST's) are currently in the cool Weak La Niña phase (remaining in -0.5 to -1.0 degree C range) and are most likely to remain in that phase through the first half of Winter of 2018. The climate models CPC utilizes to predict future SST's have been hinting that the ocean temperatures will warm slightly by the end of the winter trending upward toward Neutral conditions . It is the ENSO phase during the heavier precipitation months (Dec-Jan-Feb) of the winter that count for California.

See the full technical discussion here.

The current ENSO plume forecast show's La Niña conditions continuing through the winter.

Below are the outlooks for the upcoming winter season. As you can see from the precipitation graphics, once again, there are no strong atmospheric signals to indicate strong correlations to winter conditions. i.e. get the dart board out as the seasonal outlooks for precipitation will be Equal Chances (EC) of 33.3% of below, 33.3% of above and 33.3% of normal precipitation. What about temperatures? Well, given that the past few years temperatures have trended toward above normal and the outlooks are looking the same, looks like we are favoring temperatures continuing to trendi slightly above average.

Below we are showing you the Weak La Niña and Neutral ENSO, including last year's precipitation outcomes. Of the 10 Weak La Niña episodes, what we found is there was a wide range of precipitation outcomes across the state. Everything from well below average to near average to well above average. The main point here is, just like last year, past events do not guarantee a future outcome! Remember: Winter season is flood season. Flooding is dependent upon individual storms, and the seasonal outlooks will not capture this potential.

It is also worth noting that our current reservoir levels are much above what they were last year at this time. Reservoirs are making elevated releases to lower the lake levels down to flood control levels, the red lines on the graphs below. Last year we entered the flood season well below those red lines, which gave us an additional buffer to mitigate downstream flooding. This year we could see reservoir releases sooner since we are starting with higher reservoir levels.

Messages for this upcoming winter season:

1. California needs to prepare for flooding during every winter season, regardless of the ENSO phase
2. California flooding is typically storm dependent
1. Any one storm (Atmospheric River) or a series of storms can result in flooding of small watersheds or communities or regions
3. California reservoirs are at higher levels than they were last fall. Last year we entered the season with lower reservoir levels, which acted as an additional buffer of space to catch flood waters.
1. We could see minor to moderate flood control releases from the reservoirs much early this winter.
1. Portions of Southern California remains in a drought.

ICE director blasts Sonoma County's handling of suspect

The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued a statement criticizing Sonoma County authorities for their handling of an illegal immigrant who was arrested this week on suspicion of arson on a single property.

Here is the statement from ICE Acting Director Tom Homan:
“Once again, a non-cooperative jurisdiction has left their community vulnerable to dangerous individuals and preventable crimes. ICE lodged a detainer against Jesus Gonzalez with Sonoma County jail officials on October 16, following his arrest on felony charges for maliciously setting fire to a property. This is especially troubling in light of the massive wildfires already devastating the region. Over the past year, ICE has lodged detainers against Mr. Gonzalez after four separate arrests by Sonoma County on various felony and misdemeanor charges. ICE was never notified of Mr. Gonzalez’ various releases. Additionally, Mr. Gonzales has been returned to his home country of Mexico on two separate occasions. The residents of Sonoma County, and the state of California, deserve better than policies that expose them to avoidable dangers. Non-cooperation policies – now enshrined in California state law – ensure only one thing: criminals who would otherwise be deported will be released and left free to reoffend as they please.”
It's easy to see how this could be blown out of proportion in the debate over sanctuary jurisdictions. But it's interesting that some newspaper articles published online yesterday blasting Breitbart and others' reporting on the Gonzales arrest didn't bother to mention Homan's statement, which was issued yesterday. The fact is that if it weren't for independent outlets like Breitbart, people might not know about this.

We're checking on this, and will report anything we find. Keep up with our comprehensive reporting on the wine country fires at

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oroville project just 14 days away from Nov. 1 milestone

From a news release:
Today the Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided an update on construction work on the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project.

Construction on the Main Spillway
--DWR remains focused on meeting the primary objective of the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project to repair and reconstruct the 3,000-foot gated flood control spillway, also known as the main spillway, to handle flows of 100,000 cubic-feet per second by Nov. 1.
--There are 14 days left on the construction timeline to reconstruct 2,270 feet of main spillway this year:
--Placement of reinforced, structural concrete in the upper and lower chutes is 90 percent complete. By Nov. 1 structural concrete will be placed on 870 feet of the upper chute of the spillway and 350 on the lower chute of the spillway.
--Crews have also installed 2,877 slab anchors to date in the upper and lower chutes – 100 percent of what is required for 2017.
--The 1,050-foot middle section of the spillway chute, including filling in the two scour holes, is now 90 percent complete, with approximately 315,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete placed. This middle section will be completed to final design with a top layer of structural concrete in 2018.
--The 730 feet of main spillway leading to the radial gates will be patched, reinforced and left in place this year. It will be removed and reconstructed with structural concrete in 2018.

Construction at the Emergency Spillway
--Work at the emergency spillway is also on schedule to complete construction of the secant pile wall, or cut-off wall, in late December 2017 or early January 2018.
--Crews have completed 40 percent of the secant pile wall.

Other Updates
--The independent Board of Consultants will meet for the 13th time with DWR on Oct. 19 and 20. DWR will post the BOC’s memo recapping this meeting to its website when it is received. Last week, DWR posted the BOC’s memo recapping the 12th meeting in September.
Watch for my update at

Survey finds distrust of DWR maintenance of Oroville Dam

A survey of residents downriver from the Oroville Dam found that most are skeptical of the state Department of Water Resources' ability to inspect and maintain the earthen structure. Assemblyman James Gallagher, whose office did the survey, wrote on Facebook:
This first comprehensive survey of those affected by the Oroville Dam failure shows that we still have a lot of work to do. There is a strong distrust of DWR, people are frustrated by a lack of transparency, and they know this disaster could have been avoided. These results should serve as a wakeup call to state and federal agencies involved that they cannot simply fix the spillway and move on. The downstream impacts need to be addressed and long-term reforms are necessary. The status quo is no longer acceptable. [...]

On February 11, 1957 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued DWR a 50-year license to construct and operate the Oroville Dam facilities. The original license expired on January 31, 2007. Since 2005, DWR has been working to secure a new 50-year license. The timing and terms of the license renewal has now been put into question following the February spillway crisis.

Nearly all residents (85.1%) living downstream of Oroville Dam say that DWR should not be issued a new 50-year license to operate the dam until the cause of the spillway collapse has been identified, operations at the dam have been modified to address safety concerns and downstream impacts are addressed.

In August, a coalition of downstream stakeholders urged FERC to delay the issuance of the new license under certain conditions are met and outstanding mitigation needs are dealt with.
DWR officials were asked about the survey today during a media call on the Oroville reconstruction project and mostly defended their stewardship. For details, watch for my update on Oroville -- including a discussion of the recently released flood season operations plan -- at soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dahle bill to expand rural broadband signed into law

From a news release:
Today, Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle (Bieber) announced that his bill to expand high-speed internet access in rural California was signed into law. Assembly Bill 1665 will strengthen the California Advanced Services Fund, which supports modern communications infrastructure in underserved areas.

“For too long, rural Californians haven’t had the same internet options the rest of the state enjoys,” said Dahle. “This bill will help close that gap and connect more people to the internet’s healthcare, education, and employment resources.”

AB 1665 sets a goal of providing broadband access to 98 percent of California households. To reach that goal, the California Public Utilities Commission will work with internet providers and communities to fund cost-effective projects to expand high-speed internet options.

Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle serves the 1st district.

DWR posts 2017-18 Oroville flood season operations plan

From a news release:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released the operations plan for Lake Oroville during the 2017-18 rainy season to protect public safety while construction continues on the reservoir’s main and emergency spillways.

The plan, which will guide reservoir operations between November 1 and April 2018, calls for DWR to maintain lower-than-average lake levels during the winter months to provide space for inflows and manage releases from the substantially reconstructed main spillway.

“This plan puts public safety first, while also meeting our water supply and environmental obligations as we repair and rebuild the Lake Oroville spillways,” said DWR Director Grant Davis. “We will operate Lake Oroville conservatively until construction on both spillways is complete in late 2018, early 2019.”

The plan calls for DWR to lower the lake level to an elevation of 700 feet by November 1, compared to the average 780 feet elevation maintained on that date in prior years. The lower level will provide more than 2.2 million acre-feet of flood reserve storage to accommodate inflows during the rainy season. The lower lake level, combined with operational contingencies, should allow DWR to keep releases from the mostly reconstructed main spillway at 100,000 cubic-feet per second (cfs) or less over the winter and ensure lake levels remain below 901 feet, the level that would require use of the emergency spillway, which is still undergoing construction.

Work to repair and reconstruct the main spillway has been underway since April. By November 1, the main spillway will be prepared to handle releases of up to 100,000 cfs. By next season, it will be fully reconstructed to handle the original design capacity of 270,000 cfs. Releases from the main spillway have never been above 160,000 cfs.

In the event the reservoir rises quickly during the winter months, the operations plan identifies certain elevations at which DWR will increase outflows through the Hyatt Powerplant, the river valve outlets or the main spillway to safely manage lake levels.

DWR consulted with the United States Army Corps of Engineers during development of the plan and has shared it with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and California’s Division of Safety of Dams for additional input. During this consultation, DWR shared data showing that Lake Oroville operations would be able to manage storm events such as those in 1997 and 2017 without flows greater than 100,000 cfs over the main spillway and without using the emergency spillway.

DWR will assess the operations plan for the remainder of the year in April, when hydrologic and snowpack conditions are clearer, to guide operations through the completion of construction on Lake Oroville’s main and emergency spillways. After construction is complete in early 2019, DWR, in consultation with the USACE, plans to begin working on a long-term operations plan, which will involve extensive public engagement.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Napa and Sonoma fires: An update on the wine industry

From the San Francisco-based Wine Institute:
Below is a brief update of the current situation:

--Steady progress is being made to bring the fires under control, evacuations are being lifted and cooler weather and rain are forecast this week.

--Of the approximately 1,200 wineries in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties, the regions most impacted, it is reported that less than ten have been destroyed or heavily damaged.

--Five vineyard properties totaling about 200 acres in Potter Valley area of Mendocino are reported damaged. Because many areas were evacuated, some winery owners do not have access to their properties to assess the status, so the situation remains fluid.

--Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma represent about 12 percent of overall California winegrape production combined. California accounts for 85% of U.S. wine production and is the fourth leading wine producer in the world.

--Due to heat in late August and early September the majority (90% reported in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, 75% in Mendocino County) of the 2017 harvest was completed prior to the start of the fires. Remaining on the vines are primarily late-ripening red grapes, mostly the tough-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon, which vintners believe can withstand smoke in the short term. It is premature to discuss smoke taint on grapes remaining on vines. Vineyard owners with remaining grapes are picking when they can and will assess quality.

--It’s been reported that vineyards have not been burning and are helping to save structures near or surrounded by vineyards. In previous fire incidents, vineyards have acted as firebreaks. Some vineyards have been damaged in areas where the speed and intensity of the fire were greatest.

--Restricted access to properties and power outages remain obstacles with wineries using back-up generators and available staff to complete fermentations and other tasks. Power is expected to be restored by late Monday (10/16) to all areas that are able to receive it, evacuations are being lifted and controlled access is being allowed in some areas. Smoke is not an issue for wine that is fermenting or has already been bottled.

--It is too early to have details about the economic impact on the affected regions. Fires have destroyed or damaged a reported 5,700 structures — mainly homes, and many belonging to people who work in the California wine industry — but loss and damage to wineries and vineyards has not been widespread.

--Many wineries and vineyards in impacted regions are operating despite the challenging conditions to finish harvest and fermentations. The wine communities in these regions will soon emerge stronger and more connected than ever. The vintners in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma will make outstanding wines from the 2017 vintage, which enjoyed an excellent growing season.

Below is the most recent information available on the economic impact of California wine and grapes statewide and for Napa and Sonoma counties.


Here is a brief list of resources and information for wineries impacted by the fires.

How to Help
Support, assistance, donations and fund-raising efforts have been initiated by wineries, regions and others far and wide. Please see this list of ways to help.
I am working on an update on the fires' impacts on agriculture and on relief efforts that are already underway. Watch for my story at

Forest Service plays key role in California fire response

From a news release:
Alongside its local, State and Federal partners, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service remains actively involved in response to wildfires in California. While these fires are not on National Forest System lands, the Forest Service provides additional firefighting personnel, incident management teams, and equipment resources to support the State of California and other federal agencies whose resources are challenged by the size, numbers, and severity of these fatal fires.

“The people of California are not in this alone. This is a unified effort that involves the dedication of the whole firefighting community,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. “The Forest Service has boots on the ground and is providing other critical resources in California, as well as other parts of the American West, and we will remain as long as necessary.”

While Cal Fire is leading overall operations, as of Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 the Forest Service has committed over 1,500 firefighters to the effort. Forest Service firefighting resources currently supporting state and local fires include: 12 Type 1 Interagency Hotshot Crews specially trained in wildfire suppression tactics; 103 Type 2 crews; 285 engines; 5 dozers; 1 water tender; 55 support vehicles; 23 fixed wing aircraft (includes air tankers, water scoopers, lead planes and air attack); and 8 helicopters (Type 1 and Type 2).

Additionally, over $6.6 million worth of supplies and equipment have so far been mobilized by agency cache warehouses for such items as: water handling equipment, hoses, nozzles, fittings, foam, folding portable water tanks, batteries, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), etc. Additional crews, equipment and aircraft are on order.

Currently, the Forest Service also has 15 large air tankers committed, 2 DC-10 very large Air tankers, 2 C-130s with air tanker modules, 34 helicopters and 3 scooper aircraft for water drops.

Firefighters are working to keep dozens of new fires small and of shorter duration, limiting damage and reducing costs and exposure to firefighters and the public.

The public is encouraged to continue following the guidance of local officials and stay informed. Information about wildfires is available on an interagency website, Inciweb:

“The U.S. Forest Service has an enduring history of supporting wildfire response and we continue to work with cooperators, partners, communities and the American public to reduce the risk of wildfire in the nation.” Chief Tooke said. “Our commitment to our local, State and Federal partners in California is steadfast, and we are dedicated in our mission of caring for the land and serving people.”
For continuing coverage of the fires and their fallout, check

NWS: 'Major change' to a wet pattern later this week

The season's first significant storm appears to be on the way. From the National Weather Service:
Models continue to show a major pattern change towards the end of this week, with the first widespread rain event of the season and cooler temperatures. Exact timing and strength are still uncertain this far out, but current projections have rain starting Thursday and continuing through Friday, with the heaviest precipitation Thursday night into early Friday. Snow levels look to be above major pass levels (Donner Pass and Echo Summit) initially, but may lower to pass levels Friday morning to bring some accumulating snow.

Slick roads from first widespread rain
Increase chance of vehicle accidents
Clogged gutters & drains from falling leaves

Forecast Confidence
High for pattern change
Medium on details

Timing and Strength
Widespread rain possible, starting Thursday and continuing through Friday
Rainfall amounts potentially 1-2" mountains, 1/4" to 1" Valley
Snow levels initially above major pass levels, snow accumulation possible at passes by Friday
Cooler temperatures: Valley highs in the 60s Friday, Valley lows in the 40s, with 20s and 30s in the mountains Saturday

Friday, October 13, 2017

Groups contribute funds to wine country fire recovery

While the crisis in the wine country is still ongoing, farm groups and companies are already starting to raise and donate money for what is likely to be a massive and daunting recovery effort.

From the Community Alliance with Family Farmers:
Dear friends and farmers,

This week we face devastating fires in Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa Counties, fires which have so far taken dozens of lives, destroyed hundreds of homes, burned several of our beloved farms to the ground and scorched nearly 150,000 acres of this place we all love.

In response, we've joined a coalition of North Bay organizations to establish a Fire Recovery Fund, channeling our collective resources to help families and individuals recover, as well as to support grassroots initiatives that build resilience in the face of future catastrophe. We hope you'll join us by making a donation, however big or small, to all those in need.

Funds will be provided to victims, including to our family farms, farmworkers and those suffering losses not covered by insurance or served by traditional relief services as well as to help us better prepare for the future.

Thank you​. And stay safe.

Diane Del Signore, Evan Wiig & the whole CAFF & Farmers Guild Team
Here is where you can donate.

Among the early contributors has been the Modesto-based E&J Gallo Winery. From a news release:
Joseph E. Gallo, chief executive officer of the E. & J. Gallo Winery, announced today that the family-owned company is donating $1 million to aid the fire recovery effort. The money will be divided among the American Red Cross California Wildfires Relief Fund, the Community Foundation of Sonoma and the Napa Valley Community Foundation. In addition, Gallo will match employee donations two-for-one.

“It is devastating to learn that our colleagues, friends, growers and neighbors have suffered such great losses. We hope they are given the strength, fortitude, and endurance to deal with these adversities,” said Gallo.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Some crews resume grape harvests as fire fights continue

The latest from Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers:
“Today, the fires continue to burn out of control, power and cell service is spotty and access around Sonoma County is still highly restricted. With more than 90% of the winegrape harvest completed in Sonoma County, many growers in safe zones are heading out today to begin picking the remainder of their crops provided they can get their grapes to their winery destination. In fact, some Chardonnay, likely the last to be picked in Sonoma County this year, was harvested this morning in the Russian River Valley and I am pleased to report the grapes were of excellent quality and were able to get to a winery in Napa Valley. On a positive note, given how late it is in the season, the concern of smoke taint on the grapes currently on the vine is low. This assessment would be much different had the fires occurred in late July or early August.

We have only confirmed that Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa has been destroyed. We have been unable to obtain accurate updates from Sonoma Valley as most of that area is still under evacuation orders. Please know that the Sonoma County wine community has been overwhelmed with the positive thoughts, prayers and support we have received from across the county and around the world. It gives us the strength to stand strong and know our communities will survive.”
Here is my report on the fires from earlier today. Again, watch for updates at

Welcome back, drought? Very little rain on horizon

As Californians yearn for relief from fires and smoke, very little in the form of rainfall appears on the horizon. According to AccuWeather's long-range forecast, the first serious chance of rain that the Redding area will see is on Oct. 19, then showers could return on Nov. 1. But these don't appear to be big storms, and long-range forecasting is iffy in any event.

Here's the latest outlook from the National Weather Service:
A cool upper low system will continue a downward trend of temperatures through Thursday. Gusty north winds will increase today continue through Thursday over the Valley, but will not be as strong as seen with the past weekend event. Dry conditions and the northerly winds will bring critical fire weather conditions from this afternoon through Thursday afternoon, so a Red Flag Warning is in effect for that period. Northerly winds will occur at times through the weekend creating continued fire concerns, most likely Friday night into Saturday.

Rapid spread of fire
Gusty winds will blow debris and loose objects today & Thursday
Smoke will bring local visibility and air quality issues

Forecast Confidence
High for dry conditions
High for late week temperature change
High for return of gusty north winds on Wednesday & Thursday

Timing and Strength
Red Flag Warning for a large portion of interior Northern California this afternoon through Thursday
Winds not as strong as the Sunday event
Cooling temperature trend through Thursday
Northerly winds increasing in the Valley and surrounding foothills, peaking late today, breezy through Thursday
10-20 mph with gusts to 35 mph
My story on the Napa and Sonoma fires' impact on the wine industry is up. For further updates on the fires, keep checking

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sonoma wineries report damage from 'devastating' wildfire

Here is a statement I just received from Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers:
“It has been a devastating fire. At this time, we are still assessing the specific damage to Sonoma County vineyards as well as to our communities and neighbors. Reports of fire damage to wineries, businesses and homes continues to grow. While 90% of the winegrapes have been harvested, there were still grapes in the vineyards that were scheduled to be picked in the next ten days. At this time we have no information on specific crop damage. Our top priority right now is the health and safety of our first responders, families, employees, volunteers and everyone impacted by these wildfires. We are continuing to closely monitor the situation, but we are very proud of how our community is already coming together to support each other in this time of crisis.”
Here is the updated story from AP. The San Francisco Chronicle has a report on the wine industry specifically. For further updates on the fires and their impacts on agriculture, check back at

Fire weather critical as eight California counties burn

From the National Weather Service:
Dry conditions and north winds will continue to bring critical fire weather conditions to much of interior Northern California today. Winds will decrease throughout the day today. A large upper low system will continue a downward trend of temperatures through late this week. Gusty north winds will return Wednesday & Thursday over the valley. Dry conditions will remain through the week creating possible return of fire concerns with the increased winds.

Rapid spread of fire
Gusty winds will blow debris and loose objects Wednesday & Thursday

Forecast Confidence
High for dry conditions
High for late week temperature change
Medium for return of gusty north winds on Wednesday & Thursday

Timing and Strength
Red Flag Warning for a large portion of interior Northern California today
Many fire starts overnight
Cooling temperature trend today through next Friday
Northerly winds increasing in the valley Wednesday & Thursday
10-25 mph with gusts to 35 mph
The weather update comes as over 57,000 acres in eight counties are burning after high winds ignited fires last night. I have about a dozen calls and emails out to check agricultural impacts, particularly in Napa and Sonoma counties, where fires have burned through resorts, million-dollar homes and shopping centers. The wine industry there is in the middle of harvest, so evacuations would halt their operations.

State officials don't yet know the extent to which the fires have affected vineyards or other agriculture, Office of Emergency Services spokesman Shawn Boyd told me moments ago.

"We do know that this is a huge part of the California economy, and that is something that we always take into consideration whenever we're being strategic in how we mobilize staff, equipment and firefighters," Boyd said. "It is definitely a priority."

For updated coverage of impacts to agriculture, keep watch at

Friday, October 6, 2017

Harvest Moon Liberty Fest to feature vendors, live music

The Harvest Moon Liberty Fest will be held tomorrow at Anderson River Park beginning at noon. The free event will include live music beginning at 2 p.m., local food, craft vendors and other attractions.

Here is the flier.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Water meeting in Redding to discuss permits on fed lands

Regional water officials will have an outreach meeting in Redding on Nov. 2 to discuss the imposition of non-point source pollution permits on users of federal lands.

From the California Cattlemen's Association:
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (Lahontan Water Board) and Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board) are pursuing development of Nonpoint Source (NPS) permits "to ensure regulatory compliance and water quality protection" on US Forest Service and BLM managed lands within the Central Valley and Lahontan Water Board regions.

As a first step in this process, the two regional boards will hold the following public outreach meetings:

Oct. 24 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm at the Susanville City Hall, 66 N. Lassen St. in Susanville
Nov. 2 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm at the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Headquarters, 3644 Avtech Parkway in Redding
Nov. 8 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm at the City of Bishop Council Chambers, 377 W. Line St. in Bishop
Nov. 28 from 1:00-4:00 p at the Central Valley Water Board, 11020 Sun Ctr. Dr. in Rancho Cordova
Nov. 30 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Hall, 808 4th St. in Clovis
Dec. 5 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm at the Mojave Water Agency, 13846 Conference Center Dr. in Apple Valley

CCA encourages members who would be impacted by the proposed NPS permits to attend the meetings to learn more information and air their concerns.

CCA has opposed similar efforts by the regional water boards in the past because they are duplicative of existing regulatory schemes and needlessly increase the regulatory burdens upon federal lands permittees. Likewise, CCA will continue to oppose the present effort.

For more information, visit this website or contact the CCA office.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

First phase of Oroville project enters home stretch

From a news release:
Today the Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided an update on construction work on the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project.

Construction on the Main Spillway
· DWR remains focused on meeting the primary objective of the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project to repair and reconstruct the 3,000-foot gated flood control spillway, also known as the main spillway, to handle flows of 100,000 cubic feet per second by November 1.

· There are 28 days left on the construction timeline to reconstruct 2,270 feet of main spillway this year:
o Placement of reinforced, structural concrete in the upper and lower chutes is 60 percent complete. By November 1 structural concrete will be placed on 870 feet of the upper chute of the spillway and 350 feet on the lower chute of the spillway.
o Crews have installed more than 2,500 slab anchors to date in the upper and lower chutes – 80 percent of what is required for 2017.
o The 1,050-foot middle section of the spillway chute, including filling in the two scour holes, is now 70 percent complete, with approximately 230,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete placed. This middle section will be completed to final design with a top layer of structural concrete in 2018.
· The 730 feet of main spillway leading to the radial gates will be patched, reinforced and left in place this year. It will be removed and reconstructed with structural concrete in 2018.
* A conceptual graphic of main spillway construction is available here.

Construction at the Emergency Spillway
· Work at the emergency spillway is also on schedule to complete construction of the secant pile wall, or cut-off wall, in late December 2017 or early January 2018.
· Crews have completed 30 percent of the secant pile wall.

Other Updates
· Work to re-route transmission lines around the main and emergency spillways is complete. The new permanent transmission lines are now in place and do not cross any part of the main or emergency spillways. The temporary lines that crossed over construction of the secant pile cut-off wall were removed on September 24.
· The independent Board of Consultants met for the 12th time with DWR on September 21 and 22. DWR will post the BOC’s memo recapping this meeting to its website when it is received.

To view photos and video of the Lake Oroville Spillways construction, visit DWR’s Oroville Spillway photo gallery and YouTube channel.

Report: La Nina snow to bury northwest but not Calif.

AccuWeather is predicting that La Nina atmospheric conditions will lead to heavy snowfall in the Pacific Northwest but a drier, less snowy winter in California. From their report:
AccuWeather reports some chilly winter weather is in store for the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, with January threatening to bring the coldest air of the season. Although however cold, low temperatures will pale in comparison to those in the northern Plains where the mercury is set to dip to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit at times.

Meanwhile, the southern Plains, Southwest and California can expect a milder and drier winter than last season.
In the West:
Abundant snowfall to bury Northwest, Rockies
With a weak La Niña predicted to develop this winter, the Northwest and the Rockies are set to receive an abundance of precipitation.

"I think the Bitterroot chain all the way down to the Wasatch region in the central and northern Rockies has a good shot to be above normal on snowfall this season," [AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul] Pastelok said.

The Cascades are also predicted to benefit from abundant snowfall.

"It's a good area to head out to if you're a big skier," Pastelok said.

Drier, less snowy season in the offing for California
After a big season for snowfall in central and Northern California last year, both regions are predicted to be less wet and snowy in the upcoming months.

However, it won't spell bad news for ski season.

Ski resorts will receive enough snowfall to create good conditions, but not so much that people struggle to get to them, he said.

In the Southwest, drier and warmer weather will dominate.

According to Pastelok, warmth will bookend the winter with temperatures capable of reaching into the 90s by early 2018.
The report comes as the state Department of Water Resources also points to uncertainties for the upcoming water year. I'm working on a story on what this could mean for agriculture. Watch for it at

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

State agency points to uncertainty in 2017-18 water year

From the state Department of Water Resources:
After five years of drought, the 2017 water year brought unexpectedly heavy precipitation, ranking second only to 1983 as California’s wettest year for statewide runoff. The dramatic swing in water conditions highlights the need to develop better long-range weather forecasting to cope with the state’s highly variable annual precipitation.

DWR begins water year 2018 intent on narrowing the forecasting gap with improved sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) forecasting. Working with researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, DWR is developing innovative technology to forecast land-falling atmospheric rivers.

“Current short-term forecasting for seven days out is 70 percent accurate, while the 14-day forecast is only seven percent accurate,” said DWR Director Grant Davis. “That isn’t adequate for water management. Advancing accurate, even longer-range forecasting is critical for our ability to plan for California’s highly variable weather.”

The water year that ended September 30 saw an extraordinary number of atmospheric rivers that created high water conditions throughout the state. The Feather River watershed received record runoff in January and February, which led to some of the highest inflows into Lake Oroville ever recorded. More accurate forecasting would have helped DWR manage reservoir levels to deal with significant inflow in the days following the February 7 discovery of erosion on the main spillway at Lake Oroville. Better forecasting also would help inform the spillway’s reconstruction timeline based on predicted precipitation.

The record-setting precipitation in Northern California and above-average rainfall elsewhere contributed to flooding in several river systems. Fifty-two counties declared states of emergency due to the January storm sequence, and flood fight materials and specialists were pre-positioned in Merced, Butte, Stanislaus, Fresno, and San Joaquin counties based on the forecasts in anticipation that local agencies would request support.

Despite record-breaking rainfall in Northern California in water year 2017, drought impacts still linger. Governor Edmund Brown Jr. issued an executive order in April to end the statewide drought emergency, but maintained a state of emergency for the counties of Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Tuolumne, where homes with dry or contaminated private wells continue to receive emergency drinking water deliveries.

One success story stemming from the drought is the East Porterville Emergency Water Project, which will see 756 unincorporated East Porterville homes connected to the City of Porterville’s municipal water supply by the end of 2017. Similar projects are underway in the communities of Okieville, Monson, and Seville-Yettem to connect an additional 195 homes to a sustainable water supply.

Another highlight of the 2017 water year was the announcement that 99 percent of the state’s high- and medium-priority groundwater basins met a key deadline to form local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014. California depends on groundwater for a major portion of its annual water supply, particularly during times of drought. The long-term planning required by SGMA will reduce the impacts of groundwater overdraft, including subsidence, and provide a buffer against drought and climate change.

Although a wet 2017 minimized the risk of subsidence in historically affected parts of the San Joaquin Valley, DWR continues to fund satellite- and aircraft-based radar monitoring of subsidence by NASA to support local implementation of SGMA.

Looking ahead, DWR is preparing for the uncertainty of water year 2018 and beyond:

· In August, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board adopted the 2017 update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, prepared by DWR, which recommends long-term multi-benefit actions to improve flood risk management.
· This past year DWR awarded more than $4.2 million in Delta Flood Emergency Response grants to improve Delta flood response and increase public safety.
· In the past five years, DWR has awarded 46 grants totaling $25 million to develop and update flood safety plans, and increase coordination, training, and flood fight supplies for local agencies across the state.
· Ongoing SGMA implementation will bring overdrafted groundwater basins into balance to protect our water supply against the impacts of prolonged drought and climate change.
· California WaterFix will upgrade California’s water supply infrastructure to more reliably transport water through the Delta, protecting against the impacts of natural disasters and climate change. The project provides a more flexible and environmentally-responsible way to convey water during significant precipitation events for use in dry years. Construction could begin in 2018, pending support from public water agencies.
· The first phase of reconstruction on the Lake Oroville spillways will be completed by November 1, 2017, ensuring the spillway can handle 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) this water year. Phase 2, which will be completed by end of 2018/early 2019, will bring the spillway to final design with a capacity of 270,000 cfs. The emergency spillway will be reinforced with several erosion-prevention features, including a cutoff wall to prevent head-cutting erosion.

In the face of California’s highly variable weather patterns, DWR and our local, state, and federal partners are working together to ensure that Californians are prepared. Infrastructure improvements and advances in accurate, long-term forecasting are critical to public safety and sustainability. When it comes to water, California must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Read more about water year 2017 in the report “What a Difference a Year Makes.”
These issues will surely come up tomorrow as the DWR provides another update on the Oroville project. Watch for our ongoing coverage of California water.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas massacre: Keep the TV news off and read

Last night saw one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history. And even if it turns out to be just one guy with a machine gun, that's still terrorism.

LifeZette offers a pretty good rundown of what we know so far. A snippet:
Casualties. More than 50 people died, and more than 400 have been injured. Some 406 victims have been taken to emergency rooms.

Was it terrorism? SITE Intel Group said the Islamic State terrorist organization, through its Amaq news agency, claimed responsibility for the shooting. But U.S. authorities have offered no confirmation. [...]

What weapon did Paddock use? The New York Times reported that automatic gunfire interrupted the performance of singer Jason Aldean. If it is confirmed that Paddock used a fully automatic weapon, that would be significant. Those kinds of guns rarely are used in mass shootings in the United States because their possession is highly restricted by law.

Lombardo told reporters that police found more than 10 rifles when they entered Paddock's room.
Machine guns are essentially illegal in the United States, and have been for decades. Fox News explains:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives defines a rifle as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.”

The ATF defines a machine gun as: “Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

Enacted in 1934, the National Firearms Act imposed taxes and regulations on certain firearms. A 1986 amendment prohibited the transfer or possession of machine guns made after 1986 – with government agencies an exception.

The law also regulates the possession of rifles with a barrel of less than 16 inches in length or shotguns with a barrel of less than 18 inches.
Also, the Route 91 Harvest Festival was designated as a gun-free zone, which I would have expected.

I drew some friendly fire the last time I said this online, but mass shootings such as this are exciting times in corporate-owned newsrooms across the country because they're seen as a political opportunity. You can see the spring in their step and feel the buzz in the room. It's really quite bizarre to experience it firsthand. They don't even wait until bodies are cold to start politicizing the event. But they'll never in a million years examine their own role in creating a culture that makes it fashionable to attack country music fans and other "deplorables."

That's why you pretty much have to ignore 95-98 percent of what is reported by major outlets today, look for raw video feeds of such events as police updates and find a news website or two that you trust that doesn't shout, but just reports facts as they come in. Also take note of how a crisis such as this brings out the good in most people who are outside of media and organized political groups. We're already seeing it in Las Vegas.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Former RS editor drops newspaper subscription

Tom King, who hired me at the Record Searchlight in 1998 and was its editor until 2003 before moving back to Tennessee, wrote a column this week about why he canceled his subscription to the Knoxville News Sentinel, "where I once worked when it was a real newspaper". His explanation might have an eerie ring of familiarity for many residents elsewhere, including the north state.

He writes:
So, you wonder, why did I cancel our subscription? I shall tread lightly here – I still have people I call my friends working downtown at the KNS. Those new owners, Gannett, are ruining this newspaper along with others around the country that it now owns in its quest to please shareholders and struggle against the online media world. It’s a nasty business these days and the ugliness is just starting.

I probably look at the newspaper from a different perspective than the average reader. I see the decline daily, the mistakes, the lack of local content, duplicate stories in different sections, the political bias that drives both news coverage and story emphasis, the disdain this company has for readers and subscribers and yes, advertisers – and even for the employees. It stings. Our once proud KNS has become what we once called USA Today – the McPaper. Put plainly, the KNS of today is not worth my time or my money. Extract the comics and the obituaries and there’s not much fat on the bone. I feel deeply for my buddies still trying to do their jobs.
Some of Tom's old buddies are also still at the Record Searchlight. In fact, even after two of their reporters were recently laid off, they still have nearly 100 years of combined local experience in their newsroom. That's a century, put together, of experience writing and editing stories in Redding. But their stories are often relegated to the back pages, behind all the USA Today content. And the current editor, Silas Lyons, is also editor of the papers in Salinas and Visalia/Tulare.

Tom is among most of my former bosses who are now out of the newspaper business entirely. For instance, my last publisher at the RS, Shanna Cannon, is now director of operations at Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County. We haven't spoken and I don't know the particulars, but she left the Ventura County Star last fall around the time Gannett was handing out pink slips to 2 percent of its employees while trying to acquire the company that owns the Los Angeles Times. One of her successor's first acts was to put the VC Star's main office building up for sale.

In my opinion, USA Today has become one of the most dishonest news organizations in the country, and Gannett has long had a reputation within the industry for gutting newspapers. In contrast, Scripps was once considered to be the gold standard among newspaper companies. But to be fair to Gannett, the declines in readership started well before they started acquiring all these local papers. Tom has the distinction of having presided over the Searchlight at the time of its highest circulation -- nearly 42,000. But it had gone down from there before he left, and its decline -- along with the circulations of most other corporate-owned daily newspapers in the country -- has gone unabated.

The attitude of arrogance and superiority that infected most major newsrooms -- and all the decisions that came with it -- was the catalyst that prompted more and more readers to seek other sources of information. The internet only hastened the declines by making it easy for people with more limited resources to compete with the old-guard media. Now those independent sources are the future of journalism. When you're done reading Tom's column, click on the Home button. This site, and thousands of other little niche sites like it, is where we're all headed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cattlemen pleased with proposal's death tax repeal

From a news release:
Craig Uden, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, today released the following statement in response to the “Unified Framework” for comprehensive tax reform legislation:

“Our Nation’s cattle producers are very pleased that President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have maintained their long-standing commitment to American agriculture by including a full repeal of the onerous death tax in the Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code. We look forward to working with the Administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill as pen meets paper on tax legislation, and will continue to demonstrate how the death tax and its associated costs adversely affect family-owned operations and the rural communities they support.

“Also, current provisions in the tax code that help livestock producers maintain economically viable businesses and support the success of future generations of farmers and ranchers must be preserved. Stepped-up basis, cash accounting, like-kind exchanges, cost recovery, and the deductibility of interest payments are just a handful of the provisions that allow agricultural producers to survive despite the many challenges we face, from market volatility and fluctuating input prices, to droughts, wildfires, and floods, to the challenge of generational transfers. We’ll closely monitor these provisions as more details on legislative language become available, and intend to fight tooth and nail for a tax code that supports America’s beef producers.”

Throughout September, NCBA has executed an extensive online media campaign to promote comprehensive tax reform. The group yesterday released the campaign's fourth video, which has collected more than 57,000 views in less than 24 hours. As the end of the campaign draws to a close, the videos featuring beef producers have already been viewed a combined 317,000 times and have reached more than 590,000 people on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Group: Support of NFL kneeling will cost corporations

From a news release:
The politicization of professional sports, starkly apparent to all after several players took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem last weekend, is an issue the National Center for Public Policy Research has been addressing at the corporate level for years. Through its Free Enterprise Project (FEP), the National Center has been engaging in shareholder activism to promote objectivity and freedom of expression at companies such as Nike and ESPN (owned by the Walt Disney Company) that have been the enablers of such radicalism.

"Many Americans are shocked and appalled to see so many players - and even entire teams – showing disrespect for our nation by not participating in the National Anthem and presentation of our flag. Several of these players are undoubtedly encouraged because they have been cheered on by the likes of ESPN and Nike," said National Center Vice President David W. Almasi. "If this continues, it's at further risk to professional football's fan support and viewership. As it affects the NFL, it will also impact the companies enabling it. We've confronted Nike, ESPN and others about their radicalism, so they can't say they weren't warned when the backlash hurts their bottom line."

FEP representatives use shareholder meetings to question corporate leaders about their overt support for left-wing causes that can put their companies at both a reputational risk with consumers as well as create workplace environments that can demand groupthink and might endanger the careers of those with differing views. FEP has participated in 21 different shareholder meetings in 2017 - and over 100 since 2014 - in defense of the free market and the principles of free speech and free expression that guided America's founding.

Just last week, FEP criticized Nike at its shareholder meeting for failing to address whether its conservative and libertarian employees are safe from workplace retribution for personal political beliefs. FEP cited Nike CEO Mark Parker's staff memo opposing the Trump Administration's January executive order on immigration and travel that referenced "our values" and that "we don't support" the policy as a company. Nike investor relations staff would not allow FEP's full question to be asked at the September 21 shareholder meeting, and Parker would only say he was "proud" of the company's positions and "we value the opinions of all of our employees." In light of high-profile dismissals of employees at other companies for their personal political beliefs, Parker did not address if those "valued" opinions would be protected at Nike.

Since the shareholder meeting, and in the wake of the many incidents of kneeling at NFL games, Nike issued a statement saying the company "supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society." Nike currently makes all NFL uniforms.

FEP also addressed liberal bias at ESPN at the Disney shareholder meeting in March. CEO Bob Iger, angered at the suggestion of bias at the network, called FEP's assertions "completely exaggerated." Yet the network later instituted new rules for on-air commentary and social media. After host Jemele Hill recently called President Donald Trump a white supremacist in a tweet, ESPN President John Skipper sent out a memo to staff to remind them that "ESPN is about sports" and "not a political organization."

This past Monday, ESPN ran nearly constant coverage and commentary about the kneeling at NFL games and President Trump's reaction to it – most of it critical of the President.

"FEP is the only organization that has taken up the issue of bias directly with the CEOs of Nike and of ESPN's parent company, Disney. Others are content to sit on the sidelines and complain about these issues while we take our concerns right to the top. As a long-term investor, FEP knows that rampant anti-conservative bias is not a winning corporate strategy," said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq. "Corporations often take liberal positions to try and appeal to millennials and curry favor with the mainstream media. In the same way, many companies take conservatives for granted because right-wing folk tend to avoid protests and boycotts. There is ample evidence, however, that this corporate strategy is no longer working.

"For example, after Target threw its support behind open-bathroom policies that allow grown men to use the same store facilities as young girls, millions of conservative Christians boycotted and the company's stock plummeted," noted Danhof. "After Starbucks came out against President Trump's initial executive order on immigration and travel, Business Insider reported that the company's brand had 'taken a beating.' And ESPN is bleeding viewers, with strong evidence suggesting its rampant liberal bias is to blame. The company's support for its employee who calls the President a 'white supremacist' and its wall-to-wall Trump-bashing will only ensure more people change the channel from the once-great sports network."

Almasi added: "When it comes to sports reporting and athletic apparel, people have lots of choices. Half of American voters supported President Trump and probably support his policies today. When they discover that ESPN and Nike are stoking the protests against him, their preferences as a consumer will likely be affected. Both companies are already posting losses. They are now doubling-down on stupid."

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project focuses on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Its representatives have used this activism to advance free-market ideals in health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers' rights and other important public policy issues. FEP's Employee Conscience Protection Project strengthened protections of the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations. FEP's questioning of Boeing's and General Electric's support for the Clinton Foundation helped trigger an FBI investigation into the Foundation's activities. Executives put on the spot by FEP at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) meetings acknowledged media bias.

FEP activity this year has been covered by media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Drudge Report, Business Insider, National Public Radio and SiriusXM. FEP's work was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel's 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors.
It's easy to get caught up in the particulars of the current controversy and lose sight of the bigger picture. For a majority of Americans, the reason that this kneeling controversy affected them at a gut level has little to do with the flag itself, or the national anthem, or certainly President Donald Trump. It was a stark, in-your-face, unmistakeable example of how these corporate entities -- the NFL and the media organizations that cover it -- have placed themselves above everything and everyone else -- above their fans and customers and above their country.

Many people say Trump escalated the protests with his comments Friday night, but Trump only said what was on a majority of American football fans' minds and if anything, he arrived late to the party. The NFL crossed a point of no return when Roger Goodell accused the president of the United States of disrespecting the football league. Again, it doesn't matter who the president is. How dare an elected national leader diss a football league. Let that sink in for a minute.

This whole episode and its fallout is a shining example of how and why we as a society are in the midst of a total reorganization in which old institutions are being replaced with new ones and old political ideologies and alliances are being replaced with new ones. That shrill noise you hear is the old order being displaced and not liking it one bit.

I've posted quite a bit on the NFL controversy in the past few days and you can read it all here. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts -- about the NFL and the larger picture -- in the coming days.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cattlemen take aim at state water regulations

The California Cattlemen's Association claims that it has made some headway in terms of easing the regulatory burden on ranchers who access water. First, the legislation. From a CCA legislative bulletin:
CCA-sponsored AB 589 by Assemblymember Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals) was enrolled for the Governor's signature yesterday (9-14-2017) after passing both houses of the legislature. If signed by Governor Brown, AB 589 will provide significant cost savings for ranchers who divert more than 100 acre-feet of water per year. Current State Water Resources Control Board regulations require those diverters to hire a licensed engineer to install a water-measurement device or implement an alternative measurement method, often at exorbitant costs.

AB 589 will allow diverters to instead install their own devices or implement their own measurement method upon completion of a course offered and taught by the University of California Cooperative Extension. The Governor will have until October 15, 2017 to sign or veto legislation, and CCA is strongly urging the Governor to promptly sign the bill into law. If the Governor signs the bill, it will be enacted January 1, 2018.
On Tuesday, CCA succeeded in defeating a proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board which would have increased fees for small domestic use registrations and livestock stock pond registrations (which are both capped at 10 acre-feet per year) by 400% and would have increased fees for small irrigation use registrations (which are capped at 20 acre-feet per year) by 650%.

Under the current fee structure, registration holders submit an initial $250 fee and a renewal fee of $100 every five years. Under the proposed fee increase, the initial fee for small domestic use and livestock stock pond registrations would have doubled to $500 with an annual fee of $100. For small irrigation use registrations, the initial fee would have been raised to $750, with an annual fee of $150.

CCA was particularly concerned with the impacts that a fee increase would have upon diverters with numerous stock ponds registered on their ranch or ranches, and the cumulative annual fees could prove overwhelming. Additionally, for especially small ponds, CCA was concerned that the annual fee could exceed the value of water impounded in the stock ponds.

Based on CCA's written comments and concerns raised at Tuesday's Board meeting, the Water Board rejected the proposed fee increase for the three classes of registrations, and directed Water Board staff to work with CCA and other agricultural stakeholders to develop a more reasonable fee proposal for registrations, which the Board will likely consider in 2018.
I have calls into the organization to discuss these items further. Watch for my continuing coverage of these issues at

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Resources chief: Westlands vote didn't doom WaterFix

From a news release:
California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird issued the following statement regarding [Tuesday's] decision by the Westlands Water District to decline participation in the California WaterFix project.
“There is one thing on which everyone agrees: Our aging water infrastructure needs to be modernized. Failing to act puts future water supply reliability at risk. This vote, while disappointing, in no way signals the end of WaterFix.”

Oroville crews still focused on meeting Nov. 1 deadline

From a news release:
Today the Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided an update on construction work on the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project.

Continued Construction on the Main Spillway
· DWR remains focused on meeting its primary objective of repairing and reconstructing the main spillway by November 1 to handle flows of 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).
· Work will continue well past November on both the main spillway and emergency spillway. The state’s contract with Kiewit Infrastructure West is currently until January 2019.
· This year, 730 feet of main spillway leading to the radial gates will be patched, reinforced and left in place. It will be removed and reconstructed with structural concrete in 2018.
· There are 42 days left until November 1:
o Placement of reinforced, structural concrete is 30 percent complete. By November 1 there will be 1,220 feet of spillway chute with structural concrete – 870 feet on the upper chute of the spillway and 350 on the lower chute of the spillway.
o The 1,050-foot middle section of the spillway chute, including filling in the two scour holes, is now 50 percent complete, with approximately 170,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete placed. This year, there will be an estimated 350,000 cubic yards of RCC placed. In 2018, this middle section will be completed to final design with structural concrete.
o On September 17, crews placed 3,143 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete on the middle section of the spillway chute, a record amount for a single 12-hour shift.
o Crews have installed 1,725 slab anchors to date in the structural concrete sections – nearly 60 percent of what is needed for 2017.

Construction at the Emergency Spillway
· DWR continues to make progress at the emergency spillway, and is on schedule to complete construction of the secant pile wall, or cut-off wall, in December 2017 or January 2018.
· Crews have completed 22 percent of the secant pile wall.

Other Updates
· The independent Board of Consultants will meet for the twelfth time with DWR on September 21 and 22. DWR has posted the BOC’s eleventh memo to its website, which contains the BOC’s statement that it agrees with DWR’s findings that the cause of the vegetation area on the face of the Oroville Dam does not pose a threat to the integrity of the dam.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Prune producers wrapping up harvest of big crop

From the California Dried Plum Board:
The 2017 California prune harvest is projected to reach 105,000 tons (95,254 metric tonnes), according to forecasts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The projected harvest will yield a 99-percent increase over the unusually light 2016 harvest of 52,851 tons (47,946 metric tonnes). USDA and NASS estimates are based on surveys among California prune growers.

“California prunes consistently represent the world’s finest quality fruit,” said Donn Zea, Executive Director, California Dried Plum Board. “This year, the industry is returning to a normal size harvest that will help meet consumer and trade demand.” The 2017 harvest started slightly later than usual and will likely conclude by mid-September. Zea adds that growers are reporting healthy trees that have rebounded from the weather-related challenges of recent years.

“We are on track for a good year for California prunes,” said John Taylor,
Vice President/Owner, Taylor Brothers Farms. “We are seeing strong, highly productive orchards and delicious, premium caliber fruit that sets the global gold standard for prunes.”

California is the world’s largest producer of prunes providing approximately 40 percent of the world’s supply and almost all of the U.S. supply. The French prune variety accounts for virtually all of the dried plum acreage grown in California.
Here is my recent article on the prune harvest. Watch for continuing coverage of prunes and other commodities at

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nielsen laments no Oroville money in state parks bond

From the north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen:
Sacramento legislators passed Senate Bill 5, the so-called “California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018,” which will issue a $4 billion bond for parks and water. Oroville’s State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) issued the following statement:

“There is not a dime for Oroville Dam or the connecting levees in this bond measure.

“The Feather and the Sacramento Rivers, which bring water to Southern California from Oroville Dam, are in terrible condition as a result of the Oroville Dam Spillway failure. Without improvements made to this critical water infrastructure, we will face more catastrophic failures.

“Let’s prioritize and add funding to fix the levees that bring water to Central Valley farms and millions of Californians.”
The proposed parks bond may be one of two new water-related bond proposals heading for future California ballots as proponents try to augment money from Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond that passed overwhelmingly in 2014. For more on this, look for my story at soon.