Wednesday, May 27, 2020

And now Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Siskiyou get an Extreme Drought to deal with?

What it means to us in Northern California:

Livestock need expensive supplemental feed, cattle and horses are sold; producers find it difficult to maintain organic meat requirements

Fruit trees bud early; producers begin irrigating in the winter

Federal water is not adequate to meet irrigation contracts; extracting supplemental groundwater is expensive

Dairy operations close

Marijuana growers illegally tap water out of rivers

Fire season lasts year-round; fires occur in typically wet parts of state; burn bans are implemented

Ski and rafting business is low, mountain communities suffer

Orchard removal and well drilling company business increase; panning for gold increases

Low river levels impede fish migration and cause lower survival rates

Wildlife encroach on developed areas; little native food and water is available for bears, which hibernate less

Water sanitation is a concern, reservoir levels drop significantly, surface water nearly dry, flows are very low; water theft occurs

Wells and aquifer levels decrease; homeowners drill new wells

Water conservation rebate programs increase; water use restrictions are implemented; water transfers increase

Water is inadequate for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs; reservoirs are extremely low; hydropower is restricted

Buckle up. Tough times ahead folks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

SMART to take over Freight Service in Marin and Sonoma. The Great Redwood Trail inches forward.

Chronology of NCRA & SMART
     In 1989, the California Legislature enacted legislation creating the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) to ensure the continuation of freight rail service on the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad line from the national interchange south of Napa to the Port of Humboldt Bay.
     In 1992, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) authorized the NCRA to utilize $6.1 million in Proposition 116 Bond funds to purchase the northern end of the rail line from Willits to Samoa and branch lines in Carlotta, and Areata to Blue Lake.
     In 1996, the CTC authorized NCRA and SMART'S predecessor, The Northwestern Pacific Railroad Authority (NWPRA), to utilize $42 mil. in state and federal funds to acquire the rail line south of Willits in 3 segments:
1.   The Willits segment from Willits to Healdsburg was acquired by NCRA;
2.   The Healdsburg segment from Healdsburg to Novato/Hwy 37 was acquired by NWPRA (SMART);
3.   The Lombard segment from Novato/Hwy 37 to the national rail interchange south of Napa was acquired by NWPRA (SMART).
          NCRA became the fee owner of the Willits segment and granted NWPRA (SMART) an exclusive passenger rail easement to operate commuter trains from Healdsburg to Willits. Conversely, NWPRA (SMART) became the fee owner of the Healdsburg and Lombard segments and granted NCRA an exclusive freight rail casement to operate freight trains from Healdsburg to Novato/Hwy 37 and east to the national rail interchange Lombard/Napa Junction.
          In 1998, following devastating floods, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued Emergency Order 21 which shut down the entire railroad from Humboldt County to the Napa Junction until the line could be repaired to meet FRA safety standards.
          In 2002, the California legislature enacted AB 2224 (Nation) which, among other things, created the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART) to replace the NWPRA and set the ground rules for SMART and NCRA in terms of the shared use of a single track in Marin and Sonoma Counties.
          In 2006, the NCRA selected the NWP Co. to be its freight operator for the Russian River Division from Napa Junction to Willits.
          In 2008, SMART'S measure Q, imposing a 1/4 % cent sales tax in Sonoma and Marin Counties for SMART commuter service from San Rafael to Cloverdale was adopted.
          2006-201 1, NCRA used $60 mil. in state and federal capital grants, and a federal RRIF loan to repair the track way, bridges and crossing signals from the national railroad interchange (Napa Junction) to Novato/Hwy 37, and north to Windsor. The FRA inspected this 62-mile section of track and subsequently lifted Emergency Order 21, thereby authorizing 25-40 mph freight rail service on this section of track.
          In 2011, the NWP Co. began operating freight service under its 2006 contact with NCRA to run freight trains on the Russian River Division from Napa Junction to Willits. NWP Co. has continued its freight operations between Napa Junction and Windsor, under a 2011 Operating and Coordination Agreement Amended in Dec. 2017) between SMART and NCRA. In the meantime, SMART upgrades to the shared track were completed in 2017 to accommodate 79 mph commuter trains, and SMART revenue service from San Rafael to Airport Blvd. in Sonoma County began in August 2017.
Senator McGuire’s SB 1029
             In 2018, the California legislature enacted SB 1029 (McGuire) which requires the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and the State Resources Agency to conduct an assessment to determine the most appropriate way to dissolve the NCRA and to dispense with its assets and liabilities. The bill requires  these state cabinet level agencies to complete their findings and report back to the legislature no later than July 1, 2020.The NCRA is required to cooperate with the assessment and to provide access to all NCRA records requested by the state agencies conducting the assessment. SB 1029 (McGuire) also includes Section 17 which reads:

"The sum of $4 mil. is hereby appropriated to the State Transportation Agency from the Public Transportation Account for rail improvements on the corridor owned by SMART and NCRA. These moneys shall be allocated to SMART for the acquisition of freight rights and equipment from NWP Co. to ensure efficient provision of goods movement requirements in the corridor in the context of growing passenger service. Following a signed baseline agreement between the State Transportation Agency and SMART that articulates deliverables, the anticipated expenditure schedule, and reporting requirements, the Secretary of Transportation may transfer these monies to SMART pursuant to the provisions of the baseline agreement. These monies shall not be transferred to SMART for the acquisition of freight rights and equipment from NWP Co. unless the terms and conditions of the baseline agreement have been approved by both the Secretary of Transportation and the Director of Finance. If these moneys are not transferred to SMART within two-years of the chaptering of this act, these moneys shall be returned to the Public Transportation Account."

SMART Board Implementation of Section 17 of SB 1029
• On May 20, 2020, the SMART Board of Directors took action to implement Section 1 7 of SB 1029 (McGuire) by adopting the following staff recommendations:
1.   Approve the concept of SMART becoming a Common Carrier and Freight service provider (directly or through a contract) with the understanding of all of its privileges, opportunities and obligations from Sonoma-Mendocino County line south and east to Napa River.
2.   Accept the additional right-of-way from Downtown Healdsburg to Sonoma-Mendocino County Line (20.8 miles).
3.   Authorize the General Manager to execute the "Asset Transfer Agreement" between SMART and NWP Co. in substantially the form attached hereto as (Attachment 2).
4.   Authorize the General Manager to execute the Baseline Agreement between State of California and SMART in substantially the form attached hereto as (Attachment 3).
5.   Direct the Chair of the Board and General Manager to work with Senator McGuire, other State Legislators, Governor, and his/her administration to secure the funding needed for the ongoing maintenance and capital project of the freight area.
6.   Authorize General Manager to file required documents with the Surface Transportation Board authorizing SMART to acquire railroad right-of-way and transferring common freight carrier rail operations authority to SMART for all freight services south of Mile Post 89.
7.   Authorize General Manager to issue a Request for Proposal to seek a freight consultant who would perform Economic Feasibility Study of the entire SMAR 1 owned area and analysis for the options to provide freight services in the future.
8.   Authorize General Manager to negotiate and execute an agreement with NWP Co. to provide interim service to the existing freight customers until the Board has made a permanent decision.
9.   Request the Chair of the Board to assign a number of Board members and the General Manager to meet with officials from County of Sonoma, Town of Sonoma, First Responders and the affected Community regarding the future of the existing practice of storage of Liquidated Petroleum Gasoline (LPG) and report back to the Board in a future public meeting.
Several of the actions authorized by SMART'S Board on May 20, 2020 will require cooperation by NCRA to be completed. Initially, staff recommends the Board support the proposed SMART/NWP Co. transaction, contemplated by S.B. 1029, by taking all steps necessary at this time to allow completion of that transaction by confirming its approval thereof in the manner required by the 2006 contract with NWP Co. Additional steps by NCRA will likely be needed to assist SMART in fulfilling the above-described goals, particularly in light of the information and recommendations expected to be communicated by the State of California upon the completion of its analysis of NCRA's present and future, currently under way. Accordingly, staff further recommends the Board direct staff to undertake discussion and negotiation with SMART regarding additional actions in furtherance of the goal of SMART becoming the Common Carrier and Freight service provider from Sonoma-Mendocino County line south and east to Napa River.
At this time, staff recommends that the board take the following actions:
1) Authorize the Executive Director, on behalf of the Board of Directors, to grant permission to NWP Co., pursuant to Section Vll(B) of the 2006 Lease, to make such applications to the STB regarding modification or termination of service as necessary or prudent to complete the transfer of rights from NWP Co. to SMART with respect to all operations and rights south of Mile Post 89

Monday, May 11, 2020

When will Adult Softballers take the field? Seniors?

Softball Guys:

Here is what is happening with a little luck and hope around us in the softball world in Northern California:

Fortuna: Starting middle of July if allowed.

Eureka: No adult softball league in 2020. Canceled season!

Blue Lake: Canceled until further notice. 

McKinleyville: Mid August start for CO-ED if allowed. 

Arcata: Closed until further notice. League is doubtful. 

Samoa: Field is unplayable until Pine Tree rounds and wood removed. The Samoa Fire Department will be removing the wood for Samoa residents in phases. I will be doing some of the hauling to needy residents. The field will need lots of elbow grease but will be in the best shape ever thanks to Tom Marking! League in July I feel in the earliest.

Crescent City: They plan on playing league in early July if restrictions lifted.

Medford: US Cellular will be opened when the appropriate phase lifting their ban. Oregon Governor Kate Brown says at least until September! 

Now including Senior reality check: 

It looks like our senior softball league is going to be phased in at the 4th stage. We are just entering the 2nd phase and there are many bumps and bruises along that way. 

Phase 3 will allow church and other social distancing events that are not athletic. I will predict that this phase will start in about a month from now. Note that many of these phases have medical monitoring associated that will affect the timelines.

Phase 4 is basically back to real life and the allowed competitive athletics portion. This will probably not happen until the fall I am afraid.  

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Updated Humboldt COVID Chart Simplified.

Here is the updated chart for Humboldt COVID cases and here are some facts:

1. By Month there was: 1 recorded case in February, 20 in March, 33 in April, 3 in May.

2. Out of the 57 total 54 have recovered, 3 are active and 5 had to hospitalized.

3. There have been 3,043 Humboldt Residents tested. 2.24% of the Population. Public health has tested 1,190 and other lab tests accounted for 1,053.

4. Out of the 3,043 tested, a total of 1.87% were positive. They were traced to 20 by Travel, 24 contacted by people with virus, 11 Community contact and 2 under Investigation.

Let us hope we keep the numbers minimal through these phased return process.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

COVID causes Arcata to cut back $300,000 on one Construction project. How many jobs can the economy lose?

I work for the Construction Industry Force Account Council (CIFAC). (CIFAC) is a non-profit coalition of concerned construction industry associations, contractors and labor unions that works to ensure State and local governments’ compliance with the Public Contract Code (PCC). As a Regional Compliance Manager I make sure that State and local governments comply with the PCC to promote job opportunities, fair bidding and transparency.

The City of Arcata had a grind out and paving bid that was to be awarded to a contractor for $348,186 but the actual low bid was $609,000. Arcata decided to rebid the job with a new scope of work to match their budget. The city had lost revenue from gas tax shortfalls. Arcata staff asked me this, “Is CIFAC coming across this very much in other city and counties where COVID related revenue reductions are affecting construction jobs and bidding process?” I contacted my fellow Regional Compliance managers around the state and they said they were experiencing the same. I am now tracking the loses. 

Here is a comment from a Southern California Compliance Manager, "Some of the effects of COVID-19 will be silent, meaning that some agencies will just be postponing putting out projects for bidding right now. The downward loss of City revenue from local taxes and gas tax for transportation projects, will be effected, however, there is still some funding earmarked to be spent, that will happen for the balance on the 2020 year, some tied to grants, matching funds, federal funding, SB-1, etc., those projects will be completed, but going forward, agencies will be revising their budgets for the 2021 year, so I don’t believe that we will see the real effects of the COVID-19 until 2021!" That is a scary forecast!

California lost 11,600 construction jobs to COVID in March of 2020. This bounces through the each communities economy and has caused much financial damage. How much? That is all for the future to decide. 

Sunday, May 03, 2020

No Buffets? Now that is the last straw! Or piece of pizza if you will. Best past Eureka buffets.

No Buffets! You have got to be kidding me! What am I supposed to look forward to in the future. No softball. No hoops. No gathering of buddies and now this? I hate you COVID-19! Here are my favorite past Eureka buffets. It was good knowing ya!

1. Hometown Buffet-Oh I knew ye well. Stack that meatloaf on the potatoes and fish! Go back just one more time! 

2. Jalisco's-If you never had a chance to go there, you were missing the best quantity of Mexican food around! 

3. Kings Table-My son Jordan would grab his favorite Jello food group color only, but it didn't matter! Cheap grub and lots of it!

4. Angelo's Pizza-Say it aint so Angelo's! Just one more wing before I go hit up the cinnamon rolls!

5. Yin Cheng-Long gone but not forgotten.

6. Round Table-Even if I have to endure the heartburn afterward. It was worth it! 

7. Red Lion Sundays-I think it was the only time that anyone went to their restaurant. 

8. Sizzler-May not have been that great, but lots of it!

9. Kentucky Fried Chicken-You mean I could have the Crispy and the original? And any amounts of gravy and biscuits? Bring it back! Bring it Back!

10. Sweetriver Saloon-This was high living for us Marks family. No jello here Jordan! Go for the solid food! Pile it on Jake! You mean they will make my omelet to order? Whoa. Heaven on earth! 

Which on was your favorite?