California Water: Salmon Summit Menu

salmon menu.PNG

Someone at the Environmental Defense Fund sent this to me at KQED after chatting me up about the Salmon Summit in San Francisco tomorrow (what’s the Salmon Summit? See below). I don’t know whether it’s on the level–is all that fish really going to be served? If so–cool! But obviously the real point is about water and fisheries in California.  

And as far as the summit goes: It’s a meeting organized by fishing and environmental groups to highlight the impact of both the drought and California’s water policy on salmon and other fish, and to counter the message from agriculture and water interests that 1) California is in the midst of a “regulatory” drought and 2) that California agriculture is being sacrificed to the interests of a minnow (the delta smelt).

The fishing/environmental folks (some style themselves “the salmon community”) really began this campaign last month. That’s when one of our senators, Dianne Feinstein, began pushing for a bill to guarantee water deliveries to the drought-stricken western side of the San Joaquin Valley. Her legislation would have set aside restrictions on water shipments from Northern to Southern California imposed to protect salmon and smelt.

The salmon community and allies pointed out that salmon fishing has been shut down for two years in a row because of a crash in chinook populations. They produced an economic analysis (from a Florida outfit called Southwick Associates) that calculated the cost of the salmon fishing shutdown: 23,000 jobs and perhaps billions of dollars in “lost economic opportunity” (I haven’t seen the analysis myself). Eleven members of Congress wrote Feinstein that her effort was ignoring the impact of our water problems on the salmon community and asked her to back off. (Ultimately, the Department of the Interior, parent of the Bureau of Reclamation, which delivers water to the west side through the facilities of the Central Valley Project, stepped in and is trying to broker increased water deliveries.)

So far, then, the summit sounds like a recap of what we’ve heard already. The question is what new actions the salmon community might want their legislators to take to help bring their fish back. I’m hoping to hear an answer to that tomorrow.

Long-Distance Cycling: Behind-the-Windshield View

We drove up to Mendocino over the weekend using the easy route from the East Bay: U.S. 101 through Marin and Sonoma counties to Highway 128 in Cloverdale, out 128 to the coast and Highway 1, then up 1.

We weren’t in a big hurry, so we decided to stop in Cloverdale, the last town in Sonoma before you reach the Mendocino County line. The last several times I’ve been up there, I’ve either been on a bicycle or have been supporting someone else’s ride. In 2007, I remember going through Cloverdale twice: late at night near the northern end of a 400-kilometer brevet, shepherding a semi-lost and semi-lightless rider, then again passing through both ways on a rainy 600-kilometer brevet (I got doused on the way north; by the time I came back the next morning, the weather had turned and it was sunny and warm and a big tailwind was building–I smile just thinking of it).

All by way of saying that when we spotted several bikes at the gas station/convenience mart at the south end of town, it took me about five seconds to figure out I was looking at people on a brevet (the combination of the gear on the bikes and some of the jerseys–a California Triple Crown and a San Francisco Randonneurs–tipped me off). I asked and found that the riders were about nine hours out on a 400-kilometer brevet from the Golden Gate Bridge up to Hopland. From where I met them they had something like 30 kilometers to the turnaround point and several hours of beautiful March weather to enjoy before the night leg back to San Francisco. On the way out of town and all the way up the long climb on 128 to Mountain House Road–the beautiful (and roughly paved, last time I was there) back-country link to Hopland–we passed riders plugging away in ones and twos.

Did I wish I was out there myself? No–not in my current non-riding shape. But I did have an audio recorder with me and considered for a minute whether I might wait at the top of the grade to talk to the riders coming past. Didn’t do it, though. I did give a wide berth and a wave to all the riders we saw. Bonne route, boys!


Coming back from Mendocino, we made the counter-intuitive move of starting the southward trip by driving north along the coast out of Fort Bragg on Highway 1, then crossing the Coast Range to Leggett, where we could pick up 101 south.

I’ve never ridden this stretch of road, but have driven it three or four times. In my memory, the stretch from the coast had organized itself into a long, straightish section from Fort Bragg to point where you turn east, then a long climb up the mountains and equally long descent to Leggett, an old, broke-looking logging town that boasts a famous massive drive-through redwood tree. What I saw yesterday was a little different from what I remembered. The section north of Fort Bragg was neither as straight nor as level as I remembered. Heading up the highway, you turn inland quite abruptly; as you leave the coast, what look like trackless mountains stretch away to the north, falling straight into the sea. The climb and descent to Leggett turns out to be two ascents and two downhills with a bit of mostly level road between them. Driving it, I was reminded of friends who had done a 24-hour Easter weekend ride back in 2004, starting in Leggett and ending in San Francisco. What a way to start out.

We had no traffic behind us all the way across the climbs, so I didn’t have to push my speed or pull over. When we had descended nearly to Leggett and it had started to rain, we spotted a single cyclist starting up the grade. I slowed to encourage him, and he stopped to talk. I wished I’d gotten his name: He was loaded for a tour down to San Francisco and was figuring on doing 60 miles a day to get there. He looked like he was prepared for weather, and I think he’ll see some this week with a series of storms expected on the coast.

Did I wish I was out there? Kind of, though my last long ride in the rain isn’t filled with fond memories. Instead of pondering that, we drove home. Total mileage for the weekend, about 29 hours on the road, was 380 miles. I did reflect briefly that during that 600-kilometer ride in 2007, I rode 375 miles in about 36 hours — including six hours off the road to eat and sleep in Fort Bragg. I’ll probably remember that weekend, at least the road part, longer than I remember the driving I did this time around.

Coast Highway

highwayone032810.jpgQuick trip: Saturday afternoon from Berkeley up to Mendocino, by way of U.S. 101 and state Highways 128 and 1. We met East Coast friends up there, spent the night, hung out a little this morning in Fort Bragg, then drove home by continuing north, crossing the Coast Range to Leggett, then coming home on 101. There was some weather coming in when we reached this point, about 10 or 15 miles north of Fort Bragg. It rained as we crossed the range, but by the time we were back in the Bay Area, about an hour before sunset, it was mostly clear again. Too fast a trip, but then again I honestly can’t remember an occasion where we had much time just to sit and take in the coast. Sometime. Sometime soon.  

Potrero Door


See the larger sizes (click on the image) for more detail on the messages in the Easter eggs. On Potrero Avenue near 18th Street.

I Hear America Braying

Today’s leading contenders for the Rep. Devin Nunes “Totalitarianism Drives Me Crazy” Award: Callers to Rep. Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Michigan Democrat who played a key role in getting the health-care bill passed the other day. It’s a nice mix of men and women, and almost makes you feel like it’s time to update Walt Whitman’s paean to American voices. These are all filled with such venom that I kind of wonder what part of “pro-life” they (or I) don’t understand. Here’s the CBS News clip on the Stupak calls:

For the record, Stupak said in an interview with the Michigan news site that he’s gotten dozens of threats since the vote. And MSNBC reports at least half a dozen other Democrats have been on the receiving end of similar attentions.

I Hear America Braying

Today’s leading contenders for the Rep. Devin Nunes “Totalitarianism Drives Me Crazy” Award: Callers to Rep. Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Michigan Democrat who played a key role in getting the health-care bill passed the other day. It’s a nice mix of men and women, and almost makes you feel like it’s time to update Walt Whitman’s paean to American voices. These are all filled with such venom that I kind of wonder what part of “pro-life” they (or I) don’t understand. Here’s the CBS News clip on the Stupak calls:

For the record, Stupak said in an interview with the Michigan news site that he’s gotten dozens of threats since the vote. And MSNBC reports at least half a dozen other Democrats have been on the receiving end of similar attentions.

Out of Season

March night, Christmas lights
Framing a springtime door. Seasons
Strung one to the next.

Spring moon, night waning.
A door framed in Christmas lights,
Too late to take them down.

March night, Christmas lights
Frame a faded springtime door.
I’d leave them up, too.

‘Crazy Totalitarian Tactics’

I’ve only recently become acquainted with Representative Devin Nunes, who hails from California’s 21st Congressional District, in the southeastern corner of the Central Valley–big pieces of Fresno and Tulare counties. Nunes came to my attention for his authorship of a bill that would ban cutbacks in federal water shipments from Northern California to his part of the state. The cutbacks he targeted are designed to save endangered fish species, and Nunes’s proposal would allow limits to preserve the fish only if the amount of water shipped south equaled or exceeded the historical maximum. A nice Orwellian touch.

Nunes showed up on our television screen today when we started flipping channels between the NCAA basketball tournament and the C-SPAN coverage of the House health-care vote. During one such channel-changing excursion, Nunes was featured talking about the issue of the day. I just went back and played the online video version of the interview he did, and I guess it’s good to know in a way that his on-the-fringe tactics on water are matched by extremist views on other issues.

During the course of the 29-minute interview, he matter-of-factly declared four times that Democrats were using “totalitarian tactics” (or “crazy totalitarian tactics”) to not just enact health-care legislation but to “usher in a new era of socialism.” Early on, the rather milquetoast-y interviewer asked Nunes about incidents Saturday in which demonstrators opposed to the legislation hurled anti-gay and racist epithets at Democratic congressmen.

Nunes’s response? As the Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn, among others, noted:

Q. Can you give us a sense of the flavor of the debate on the floor and what you’re hearing? A lot of angry comments yesterday aimed at a couple of your colleagues including Barney Frank and Congressman John Lewis using the N-word as some of the protesters jeered at him as he walked through the halls of the Capitol.

A. Well, I think that when you, when you use totalitarian tactics people begin to act crazy. I think there’s people that have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it–it’s not appropriate–and I think I’d stop short of characterizing the 20,000 people who were protesting that all of them were doing that. … I think the left loves to play up a couple incidents here or there, anything to draw attention away from what they are really doing.

Nunes got off a couple of other beauties during the interview. To one veteran who said he loved having government-run health care to cope with his health issues, Nunes essentially said care for veterans is too expensive and the guy shouldn’t expect to be taken care of. He also hews to the ultra-right GOP rhetoric that suggests if big government would just get out of the way, state and local governments could take care of people the way God and the Founding Fathers intended (note to the congressman: Be careful what you wish for. Where do you think all those water projects your folks depend on came from? Also: Have you checked on the condition of the state and local governments recently? They’re begging Washington for help.)

It all made me wonder who this guy represents and what in the world they’re thinking when they send someone like this to Washington. How is it that he feels so safe to so complacently utter such on-the-edge beliefs?

A little quick research on the 21st District:

–For the years 2006-08, the Census Bureau estimates that 19.1 percent of the district’s residents have income that places them below the federal poverty level. (California as a whole:  12.9 percent.)

–In January, California had a statewide unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. That’s low compared to Nunes’s district. Fresno County had an 18.2 percent rate for the month; Tulare County was at 18.3 percent. Here’s the jobless rate percentage for some of the bigger towns in the 21st District:
Clovis: 10.0
Dinuba: 26.4
Lindsay: 22.1
Porterville: 16.9
Reedley: 33.6
Tulare: 15.8
Visalia: 11.6

–The district is 71 percent white, 2.4 percent black. Maybe that’s why it’s no big deal for people to blow off steam using the “N-word.” Here’s a stat that puts the “white” number in perspective, though: 48.5 percent of the residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and more than 90 percent of that group is of Mexican ancestry. Just 40.6 percent identify themselves as “white only.”

–20 percent of the district’s population is foreign-born, and one-third of that group are naturalized U.S. citizens.

–About 57 percent of the 18-and-over population is registered–though because of the high number of foreign-born in the district, that’s not necessarily a reflection of eligible registrations. Voter registration is 46.6 percent Republican, 34.8 percent Democrat.

None of these numbers explain this guy. More reading into the Nunes files later.

Finding Your Own Work ‘Blank, Suspicious, Meagre’

“The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious;
My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?”

Walt Whitman

I notice a week’s absence from this place. I notice it every night at about 11:45 when I realize I’ve got nothing new to post, or nothing that I want to hurry and post, and that I need to be up at 6 in the morning.

At work meantime–at one of the local public radio stations–I’ve been busy. And I suppose I have something to show for that. To wit:

–A blog post on the latest federal water allocations in the Central Valley. “Federal water allocations” sounds like a topict only a mother could love, but alas, it has no mother. The post is here, on KQED’s Climate Watch blog: California Water: A Mostly Adequate Year.

–Another blog post on a major development for California’s endangered coho salmon–a recovery plan from the National Marine Fisheries Service. The post is on KQED’s Quest Science blog: ‘Condor Time’ for California’s Coho.

–And then this: a radio appearance Friday during which I was “debriefed” on a new scientific review of plans to save fish by Stephanie Martin, our local news anchor for the day: New Chapter in Battle to Save Endangered Fish.

So what’s with the introductory quote? I’ve been a big fan of the poem in which those lines appear, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” ever since I first read it. I guess I take heart that someone like Walt Whitman experienced his moments of doubt even at the point he was at the peak of his creative powers. For me, I’m aware more and more of how much I do not get done, how far short my work sometimes falls of what it might be or at least what I wish it to be. This issue arises around all the fish and water topics I’ve taken an interest in. There’s an amazing amount to tell and little time to tell it well; I don’t have the feeling I’m getting it done. That’s largely a function of divided time and attention; my day-to-day work having to think of other things as an editor gets in the way. My conclusion, for now: Try to focus on what I really want to do and on how to make it happen.