Sunday, February 24, 2019

• Inspection Trip: State Water Project

One of the obligations of a city council member is to get informed on a number of issues (probably closer to "countless issues"), and field trips are a key part of that. I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Sacramento to learn more about the State Water Project.

I left the house on Friday morning around 6am, and returned about 5pm the next day. Other than a chance to sleep for a couple of hours between Friday and Saturday, it was nonstop learning while either on a motorcoach or in a conference room. 

Our first stop was Lundberg Farms. They grow 18 varieties of rice, and also produce many different rice based treats. They are an organic farm that doesn't use pesticides or herbicides. 
I wasn't able to get any photos here. They had strict dress codes to enter the production area, and even stricter photography rules.
It's an interesting balance of flooding the fields early in the grow cycle to kill the grasses, but not the rice. Then drying out the fields to kill the water based weeds, but not the rice. 

We then departed for Oroville Dam. 

This dam is an impressive site in person.
The rebuilt spillway.
An artsy photo taken through the trees as we puttered by in the bus.
You may remember the damage to the spillway from a couple of years ago. 

From Google images.
From Google images.
While in that area we stopped in Maxwell and heard an hour long presentation on The Sites Project by project manager Jim Watson.
I've seen competing estimates of how much water would be in Sites Reservoir.
The hope of the Sites Project is to create an off-stream reservoir that can be used to store more than a million acre feet of water. It will also help keep the water flowing, and at a cooler temp, for salmon swimming upstream.
The Sites Project has been talked about since at least the 1950's and is still being argued over.

Saturday morning started with a 7:30am breakfast and a 90 minute, 110 slide presentation by Curt Schmutte. Below is a video from 2012 and (though far shorter) is nearly a duplicate of the presentation we had seven years later.

It gave a great foundation for the next part of the excursion: seeing [parts of] the Delta up close, including the Delta Cross Channel Gates...
Delta Cross Channel Gates.
These gates are closed much of the year do to issues with endangered species.

Google images of the cross channel and the gates when opened.
...Sacramento Weir and the Yolo Bypass. 

There we met up with Jacob Katz who gave us more information on the ecosystem of the Delta and what they hope to accomplish with the water project
The Sacramento River with the Weir on the right hand side of the image.
The backside of the weir. When the river gets to flood stage, the parts above the concrete are removed to allow water to flow into the bypass, saving Sacramento from surging waters.
Curt Schmutte with the sunglasses on and Jacob Katz with the ranger hat take turns discussing the many competing factors of the Delta and California's water project.
Brief Recap/Thoughts on the trip

We in SoCal need water, but there isn't enough water locally to provide for us all. That means we need imported water. 30% of our imported water comes from the Sacramento Delta region. 

Two-thirds of California's population lives in SoCal, but two-thirds of the water is in the north.

The attitudes of the general population in the north is that they don't want us to have "their" water. Of course, the water belongs to the State as a whole, not to a handful of counties.
The Delta is covered by acre after acre, mile after mile of orchards. Not sure what these saplings are, but if I had to guess, I'd say almonds.
It wasn't easy to tell what these were as we passed at 60 mph, but again, I'd guess almonds. There were some trees already in bloom, and those were thought to be cherry.
Over the years, the locals up there have looked for one excuse or another to block the export of water to the rest of the state that needs it. 

Back in the '80s they came upon a species of fish called The Delta Smelt and weaponized it against any that wanted to change the way the State's water allocations were made.
The almighty fish of NoCal
AKA the Delta Smelt.
During the trip I learned that it doesn't take many Delta Smelt to stop the pumping process. The stat of 100 fish a year —A YEAR— is all that they discover getting into the pumps.

That's just one every three days

I asked Curt if I heard the stat correctly or not. The answer I got was that for each fish found, it's assumed that 4 fish were somewhere in the pumping system.

Let's get this straight... on a yearly basis, 400 two inch fish find their way into a system that pumps millions of acre-feet of water a year and that's enough to turn off the pumps that service over 25,000,000 people?

If you guessed "yes" you guessed correctly.
It's only about science when it furthers their aims.
To circumvent the over hyped goldfish wannabes (can you tell my SoCal bias with that description?), twin tunnels that bypass the Delta (and its super fish) have been suggested, and approved by former Governor Brown.

New Governor Newsome said he favors a single tunnel option. Which isn't supported by science. The science (the way I heard it) favors a two tunnel option.

The local opposition, which is generally comprised of farmers and environmentalists, oppose any tunnels for a variety of reasons, but they can be boiled down to the following options(with number 4 being the real reason - money)

1) NoCal doesn't like SoCal
2) It's our water, go find your own
3) This fix, which will be paid by rate payers, not tax money, makes the Delta Smelt practically insignificant in state politics once again.
4) With the Delta water issues settled, that would mean maintaining the Delta waterways would fall back on the locals. 

Currently more than 80% of the costs to keep a failing system working falls on the taxpayers throughout the state. Once SoCal finishes with the tunnel(s), the Delta infrastructure will revert back to a local (or regional) issue. Which will cost them a lot of money that we currently are subsidising with our tax dollars.
Summing up the 36 hour trip.
Freeport Bridge.
Water issues in California are a long way from being agreed on or settled, but it was a very good trip to see some of the key components of the discussion up close. If you ever get an opportunity to be part of such a fact finding mission, I suggest taking it.

That said, I'm sure that I'd get an entirely different slant if the rolling schoolhouse (the bus that would not stop) had been piloted by those against the State Water Project fix.

Here is a link I found that came up when I looked for opposing views to the twin tunnel fix.

•                •                •

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Wildomar Rap is the drop of water that you can drink to your heart's content. 

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

• City Council Meeting February 2019

Highlights from the February 13th city council meeting.

There were several presentations

One by Mr. Hoffman of Wildomar Elementary highlighting the current happenings at his school, and he gave mention to Mikayla L's Bronze Award project on his campus (link to blog about it).

David Pereyea, senior at Elsinore High School, was honored for completing his Eagle Scout project. It involved cleaning and organizing the hundreds of trophies that the EHS music department has earned over many years. 
Starting on the left is Glenn Miller of Senator Jeff Stone's office, then a representative of Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez's office, Brenda Dennstedt of Congressman Calvert's office, David Pereyea, Council Member Bridgette Moore and Mayor Marsha Swanson.
We also said goodbye to both our Fire Chief (Todd Phillips) and Police Chief (Dan Anne). The new top cop in Wildomar is Captain Michael Lujan, and the current title of Wildomar Fire Chief is unfilled.
Two good guys that will be missed. Good luck in your new digs, fellas.
There were several public comments on non agenda items, please take a look at the video at the bottom of the blog to see them as they were spoken, but I'm only going to highlight one of the comments here.

5th grader Indiana Purkiss, of Ronald Reagan Elementary, spoke to the council about her desire to clean up and reopen an abandoned park near her home. Her cheerful attitude was very endearing.
An aerial view of the spot she is referring to.
Her closing comments were:

"A lot of kids live here and we would love a place to run around and play. It would be really great if you would consider letting us build up this abandoned park into a useable space for us kids to play."           —Indiana Purkiss, February 13, 2019
Indiana "Indy" Purkiss addresses Wildomar City Council.
1.5 Vacancy on the Planning Commission
This meeting had the appointment of a new planning commissioner (Item 3.3, Eric Filar by Joseph Morabito) as it was announcing another opening. 

Last time (December) we had only three qualified candidates. There are many things to consider when applying for the position, and residency is a bare bones minimum of 12 full months (in common parlance, a year... sorry, but rounding up isn't allowed).

2.1 The Village at Monte Vista
This is a mixed use project that will come with 80 single family homes, 136,000sf commercial/business park and a 76,000sf - 4 story - 155 room hotel. 

This was approved 5-0. 

I had walked the site the day before. It's where the infamous "graffiti house" used to be. This area would never be confused for the Santa Rosa Plateau when discussing its environment.
I found this area to be anything but "natural".
This development will be a tremendous improvement and feather in the cap of Wildomar.
If you watch the video
you'll hear how bad my
voice was. 
My characterization of the area is that it looks like an abandoned motocross track, that was also used as an illegal dumping ground by scofflaws (I would have said all that if I didn't have laryngitis and sounded like Froggy from The Little Rascals).

This item didn't meet much resistance. 
Speaking for myself, I told the developer that I liked the project, but I had a problem with the traffic issues it would cause, especially at the Bundy Canyon/Monte Vista intersection. (Council Member Bridgette Moore also voiced concerns about traffic, but I'm not going to be covering meetings where I quote all the council members anymore. It's labor intensive, and I don't want to step on their toes by mistake).
Just to the north of the blue star is a new development of 70 homes, already under construction.
Through my nearly inaudible voice I said that I would prefer a signal at Monte Vista and Bundy Canyon to be a precondition for the entire project, being that there are already 70 homes going in directly to the north, but, that I'd be willing to compromise if the the traffic signal was a precondition for the opening of the hotel.

The developer thought about it for a moment, and then agreed. The language was read into the resolutions (or was it the ordinances?) and approved. 

That doesn't mean a traffic signal can't go in before the hotel (which is a long way off), but it will work as a fail safe in the event that one hasn't been installed by the time the hotel is ready for business (whew... that seemed confusing).

This item begins around the 57:00 mark of the video, with council discussion beginning at about 1:20:00 mark.

2.2 Zoning Ordinance Amendment
This was necessary because there was no previous provision for craft fairs/open air markets. The fun part about government is that if something isn't specifically permitted, it's not allowed until it is specified in writing.

The first thing you need to know is that the actual costs to the city to process the paperwork for a temporary event is between $661 and $725. 

There are several departments that must sign off on it before it's a go... seems like a lot of money (I almost fainted when I first read the raw figures), but that's the type of unanticipated collateral damage that comes from a litigious society.
Here are the fees as I remember them. The graphic used wasn't in the agenda packet.
The fees established were reasonable, and so were the number of times an event can happen within the year (6).

There was one sticking point when it came to this item, and it revolved around the discounts for the non profits. 

Resident Kenny Mayes suggested that if a non profit were going to get a discount, that they should also be in compliance with the State Attorney General, having all their paperwork up to date. 

I concurred and wanted that to be part of the ordinance amendment, Councilmember Dustin Nigg agreed too.

Item 2.2 was approved except for the part about non-profits, that part will come back to council later with more clarification.

You can bet I have a lot of opinions about this, but our friend "The Brown Act" is keeping me from sharing them here. ☺

Skip to the 1:29:00 mark of the video for this item.

3.1 Wildomar Little League Ball Field Modifications at Marna O'Brien
This was a tricky item for me. Like I tried to squeak out at the meeting, I'm a long time baseball and softball player, having played baseball well into my forties, and last played softball in 2010 (I was on the championship team that Winter)

I played all levels of youth baseball, and managed or coached several Little League teams between the early '90s and the mid '00s. Plus, I know and like the leaders of Wildomar Little League.

That said, we only have one legitimate park in Wildomar, Marna O'Brien Park, and a 60/90 baseball field (one that adults can play on) simply is a mismatch for the spot suggested. 

I would love to have high end baseball fields —of all sizes— in Wildomar, but I'm not in favor of closing off portions of our only park to all others when a game or practice is going on... and that's what it would take to ensure other park goer's safety.

This was tabled, so I will reserve more opinions for the next time it comes back to council. 

To see the discussion, go to the 1:50:30 mark of the video.

3.2 Establishment of Measure AA Oversight Committee
Applications for this committee will start to be accepted in March (after the next city council meeting). If you're interested in being on this committee, then email the city clerk, Debbie Lee ( at that time.

3.3 Panning Commissioner Appointment
This is where I nominated Eric Filar to serve on the commission. I tried to introduce him, but my raspy voice was hard to hear so I invited him to the podium to speak for himself. 

After a few questions from council, a couple about his relation to the President of Wildomar, he was unanimously approved. (If "the President of Wildomar" has to be explained, chat me up in person next time we meet) 

Item 3.3 picks up at the 2:13:30 mark of the video. 

•                •                •

If you burn your neighbors house down, it doesn't make your house look any better.
– Lou Holtz

If you say patently false things about Wildomar Rap or its writer, it doesn't make your weak point any stronger.

This blog was produced for viewing on a desktop or a laptop. Though it's been optimized for smartphones, the formatting can look odd on a smartphone or if you get this delivered through email (such as missing video links). Link to proper format.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

• Rain, Rain, Rain and More Rain

This will be a picture driven blog. It's been a really wet year so far, and I don't really remember any predictions that we'd be having an El Nino year. If anything, the predictions were that it was going to be a dryer than usual rainy season. 

Oh well, so much for trying to predict the weather six months or a year out.

People have been sharing a ton of photos on Facebook, and as long as I was out this afternoon, I thought I should take a drive around the city. As I was leaving city hall the first shot I got was of the giant American flag at USA Gas. 
The flag was visibly tugging on the flagpole.
I then drove to Hidden Springs Rd and noticed a fair amount of standing water in a couple of places. Especially at the three way intersection at Catt Rd, behind Stater Bros.
This entire intersection was under several inches of water.
Heading west on Catt Rd. The standing water was pretty much to the center of the street.

McVicar Street was closed due to the swollen channel.
Heading north on Palomar just after Frederick.
Heading north on Palomar just before Plowboys/Arnold Lane. There was standing water from the culvert to past the middle of the street on Palomar. Arnold was basically underwater too.
Gruwell was inundated with water too.
This dip on Palomar can get pretty deep during heavy rains.
Heading north on Mission Trail approaching the library. You can see that the standing water began above the curb on the east side of the road and basically extended to the other side.
Another shot of Mission Trail near the library. The water was pretty deep here.
It thinned out a touch as I got closer to the intersection at Canyon.
It was one continuous pond just before the intersection of Canyon and Mission Trail.
This is one of the driveways into the center that has Dominos Pizza. 
The guy in front of me was trying to pass people on this part of Mission Trail until he figured out that hydroplaning wasn't as much fun in real life as it is on paper. He basically stayed in one lane the rest of the way... but only because there wasn't much of an option.
More standing water to the middle of the road as I continued north on Mission Trail.
Sorry if these images are starting to get repetitive... rain swollen streets tend to do that. This shot is taken as I was approaching Vine.
Olive was pretty deep at the intersection.
I went up Olive Street, and there wasn't much water at the time, but it was clear to see the aftermath of the rains.
I turned east on Lemon Street and encountered a mini torrent of water. There was no other traffic on the road as I proceeded another 100 yards or so before turning around. The last thing I was interested in was encountering Lost Road on a rainy day. 
Another look at Lemon as I headed west.
The last few miles of my journey had me going down Porras Road. As you can see, a lot of dirt and debris had been pushed onto the road by the rushing waters. 
As I was driving back down Baxter, on the east side of freeway, there was a fair amount of standing water that crossed the entire street right at the mailbox cluster.
The culvert between Round Up Feed and Central Avenue was filled to the top with storm water. 
I know there had to be hundreds of other great/stunning photos of road conditions throughout Wildomar. I wasn't able to go down Corydon to check out that area, but I heard that it was astonishing.

Thanks to friend of Wildomar Rap, Richard Deskin (a polished photographer in his own right) for letting me use some of the images he took.
The intersection near the westerly most part of the EHS campus.
This was near Elsinore High School on Almond and Walnut area.

This second view of the stranded car shows that the road was clearly marked as flooded. Gladly, no one was hurt.
These pictures were contributed by Gina Castanon. I had to make a collage because the individual files that I received were this actual size.
Last of the "donated" photos come from city council member Ben Benoit. 
Here is another view of the stranded car near EHS.
If you've ever walked the Murrieta Creek Trail from McVicar to Clinton Keith you may recognize this. If you look closely you'll see that there is about a foot and a half between the water and the bottom of the bridge. That's a lot of water right there.

In conclusion... This rainy season has been one of the heavier ones in years and it's still only the middle of February. 
Lot's of rain forecast over the next 10 days.
It's going to take time for our city to respond to all the road issues. You can rest assured that the damage is on the radar of public works, but if you'd like to report some road safety issues please do so at the following webpage.
Use this link to get to the page to report an issue.
In the meantime, please drive like your kids are in the car ahead of you... and if you're the type that doesn't like their own kids, pretend that John Gotti's kids are in the next car and drive like you don't want to end up in the east river like his neighbor did after hitting twelve year old Frank Gotti when he was on his bike.
Choose whichever works best for you.

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