Trail Work Commences Along Folsom Lake

California State Parks is performing brush removal along the American River Parkway Trail between Beals Point and Negro Bar in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area from Feb. 17 through early March. The trail will remain open during the work, but there may be brief delays to trail traffic as crews remove trees and larger limbs that lean across the trail.

This project will im-prove the safety of park visitors by increasing sight distances and cleaning up trail shoulders which provides a wider trail surface and an alternative to the paved surface for pedestrians and equestrians.

“This heavily used section of trail is enjoyed by pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians and we understand that this work may result in a slight inconvenience for many of our park visitors,” said Superintendent Rich Preston. “We ask for the public’s cooperation by slowing down when approaching the work areas and follow the directions of the staff on site.”

The California Conservation Corps will be assisting State Parks in this project by removing brush and other vegetation that is growing adjacent to and in some cases encroaching on the paved trail.

The Folsom Lake State Recreation Area administers approximately 15 miles of the paved American River Parkway trail between Hazel Bridge and Beals Point, including both the north and south sides of Lake Natoma.

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County Officials To Declutter American River Parkway

You’ve probably seen them while jogging or biking along the American River Parkway. Old, battered, barely readable signs posted along the 23-mile stretch. Many of those signs are now planned to be replaced or just taken down all together.

It is part of an effort by Sacramento County to declutter the parkway and make signs easier to read and understandable.

There are over 1,500 signs saying everything from where it’s okay to bike to making sure you pick up after your dog. However, over the years, many of them are left scratched, worn out or even knocked down.

The plan is to have the signs grouped together near parkway access areas and recreational sites within the parkway.

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Placer County Sherrif Is Working To Stop Bridge Catwalk Trespassing

Illegally trespassing on the Foresthill Bridge catwalk in Auburn has become a social media trend; a potentially deadly trend that the Placer County Sheriff’s Office is working to stop.

It is a misdemeanor to trespass on the county-owned bridge’s catwalk, and deputies are actively patrolling and citing violators. Ten people, mostly from the Sacramento area, were cited early Sunday and 24 more were encountered there later Sunday.

Not only is it illegal to enter the gated catwalk area, it is extremely dangerous. There is a zero percent chance of survival if someone falls to the American River canyon, 730 feet below the metal structure. Various social media sites are promoting the bridge as a place to “girder hang,” which entails trespassing onto the bridge, then hanging from girders without safety restraints.

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Folsom Lake Levels Nearly Double What They Were In 2014

Folsom Lake has nearly double the water it had at the same time last year, and people are already out enjoying it. But things could quickly change. What could this mean for recreation on the lake this summer?

It’s a far cry from more than a year ago when people were walking on the lake’s floor. Today is a milestone of sorts as lake levels are actually right where they’re supposed to be.

“It’s beautiful to see water instead of dry rock and the Old Folsom town,” said lake visitor Cher Connor.

For Connor and her friend, it’s a far cry from the Folsom Lake they saw last time.

“When we were here about a year and a half ago, we walked all the way to the middle of the dam. It was so dry. So we came out today because we wanted to see what it looked like,” said Connor.

And it’s looking good. In fact, today Folsom lake hit a level it hasn’t in two years: The lake is at about 100 percent of normal, meaning the lake levels are where they should be, despite the ongoing drought.

“Inflows are up and storage is up as well. We’ve been up maybe about nine feet since the beginning of the rain event last week,” said Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Doug Lessard.

Despite the rain last week, officials are not quite ready to change tactics by keeping as much water in the lake as possible – even with more snow melt on its way.

“We’re still in active management for conservation. I think we’re still well in a drought situation here for the Central Valley,” said Lessard.

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American River Parkway Advocates Ask Sacramento County For More Money

Nonprofit leaders concerned about the decline of the American River Parkway and other Sacramento County amenities made a pitch Wednesday for a portion of $4 million in hotel tax revenue.

In the past seven years, the county’s “transient occupancy tax,” a 12 percent fee on hotel rooms, has declined from almost $7 million to just under $4 million. The recession reduced other county funds, which led county supervisors to tap the hotel tax for services once funded by other means.

Some supervisors would like to see a dedicated amount of the hotel tax revenue set aside for specific uses, such as civic amenities and economic development. The board held a workshop Wednesday to discuss funding possibilities but could not agree on how much should be dedicated for specific uses.

Most organizations seeking funding Wednesday are connected to the American River Parkway or advocate for its improvement. They also emphasized the need to improve existing county resources, instead of spending money on developing new amenities.

Specifically, the Save the American River Association and other groups criticized the county for dedicating $100,000 a year for the Powerhouse Science Center. The county plans to pay that amount over 20 years for the museum planned for Sacramento’s riverfront.

SARA representatives want the county to spend more money maintaining the parkway, “the crown jewel of Sacramento.” While the organization did not submit a spending proposal, representatives said it was a good use of hotel tax revenue.

Two nonprofits running county property also asked for assistance. Shawn Harrison, founder and co-director of Soil Born Farms, said the organization needs help maintaining the American River Ranch. The urban farming organization is based on the historic 55-acre ranch owned by the county and located on the parkway in Rancho Cordova.

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American River Parkway Trail In Folsom Area To Get A Trimming

Park officials are asking the public to go slow along a heavily-used American River Parkway trail between the town of Folsom and Folsom Lake during tree and brush removal.

California State Parks crews will be tidying up the trail between Negro Bar and Beals Point from Feb. 17 through early March.

During that time, crews will be removing trees and larger limbs that lean across the trail and cutting back brush along the bike trail. The project will increase the distance a rider or walker can see down the trail and make a wider trail for pedestrians and equestrians.

The trail will remain open during the work but there may be brief delays during the removal of big limbs.

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NorCal Reservoirs Expected To Get Boost From Storm

Reservoirs in Northern California are expected to rise as much as 10 percent during a wet and powerful storm that began impacting the state Thursday, state officials said.

As dark clouds rolled over Lake Oroville, people pulling their boats from the water said they were hopeful about the storm’s effect on the reservoir.

“If it comes up a little more, that would be great. It would be great. It would be great,” said Salley Rainey, of Yuba City. “We need more rain.”

Officials at the California Department of Water Resources said unfortunately, the storm is expected to be quite warm and will drop more rain than snow.

However, it is hitting a region where the state is most equipped to capture the runoff.

“On the positive side, we’re receiving rain at our biggest reservoir in the state,” said Boone Lek, a state hydrologist. “That’s Lake Shasta.”

Lek said Shasta is expected to rise from 44 percent to 53 percent of capacity.

He said Lake Oroville will rise from 41 percent to 48 percent full and Folsom Lake from 46 percent to 53 percent full.

“We’ll take what we can,” Lek said. “We went through such a dry January. This is going to be a good start to the month of February.”

However, people in the Butte County town of Palermo said they are worried the storm could be a repeat of one they saw in December.

Heavy rain caused a creek to spill over its banks and flooded the town center, including a post office and a convenience store.

“It was fast,” resident Shari Atkison said. “I was here (at the store) and then I went up to the fire station. And some guys helped me load some (sand)bags and came back. And it was over my boots.”

At the post office, sandbags are still piled near the front door.

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Costs Put Lake Clementine Power Plant Development Plan On Hold

Plans to develop a hydroelectric project at LakeClementine are on hold, according to a Kruger Energy spokesman.

The Canadian energy company has been working through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process but project manager Daniel Parker said that costs associated with interconnecting with Pacific Gas & Electric’s power network in Christian Valley didn’t pencil out.

Because Kruger is the lone applicant on the FERC licensing initiative as Lake Clementine Hydro LLC it would have to shoulder the costs for the infrastructure to connect its hydropower line from the North Fork Dam site on the American River, Parker said.

“We can’t say we’re stopping the project,” Parker said.

Instead, Kruger has obligations to complete some of its work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FERC as part of its preliminary permit, he said.

“We’ve put development of the project on hold,” Parker said.

Parker announced Kruger’s decision Thursday during a meeting of the Auburn Recreation District. The board subsequently approved a letter to be sent to FERC opposing the project, whether it goes ahead in the future or not. The vote was 3-1, with board members Jim Ferris, Gordy Ainsleigh and Jim Gray in favor and Chairman Scott Holbrook against.

Ainsleigh said that despite the project being put on hold by Kruger, the board needed to go ahead with a letter in opposition.

Ainsleigh cited concerns that included potential changes to the 2-mile Clementine Trail from the American River confluence to the lake. Kruger has been considering either the trail or the narrow paved road to the dam as options for access roads during construction. A study plan released in the fall said an access road along the trail could be removed and the site restored or could remain in place to serve another purpose, such as an emergency access or widened recreation trail.

“I’m glad this thing is on hold but I’ve seen all kinds of things resurrected from the dead,” Ainsleigh said, citing various permutations of the long-delayed Auburn dam that have been proposed and then blocked. “I want a few more nails in its coffin.”

Holbrook said his vote against the letter in opposition was more about which letter to send, having been given two choices. But he also stated that there was support in the community for the hydro project, although it didn’t materialize at Thursday’s board meeting.

“I’m far from making a decision one way or another,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook added that a Clementine hydropower project may not be resurrected in his lifetime or those of fellow board members.

“But in our kids’ lifetime, it probably will,” he said.

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Volunteers Step Out for Sacramento County’s Biannual Homeless Count

Hundreds of volunteers joined members of Sacramento Steps Forward on Wednesday night to conduct the area’s biannual “Homeless Count.”

About 400 people, including John Foley of Sacramento Self-Help Housing fanned out across the county to count and learn more about those living without shelter.

“One thing that we found over the last several years were that there were a lot of people who had been homeless for a long time and had various disabilities, particularly mental health issues and substance abuse,” Foley said.

Like 52-year-old Hannah, who’s been homeless for nearly a year. She suffers from ADHD and bi-polar disorder.

“If someone just holds my hand and gets me through my appointments and helps me complete things, that would be a life-changing event for me. Plus psychiatry, because I have to work on the behavior modification,” she said.

She told surveyors she’s grateful for the organizations that provide showers and laundry services.

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Feds Quietly Double Allowable Kill of Endangered Delta Fish

Just days after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported the worst season in history for the federally Endangered delta smelt, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly gave permission in early January for Central Valley water projects to kill more than twice as many smelts at their intake pumps this year.

The state wildlife agency reported January 7 that just eight delta smelt were found in more than 400 fish sampling trawls across the Sacramento Delta in the previous four months, fewer than half the number found in the previous all-time worst year for the smelt, in 2009.

Two days later, USFWS boosted the number of delta smelt it would allow the state and federal water agencies to kill at aqueduct intake pumps in the Delta from 78 to 196 adult smelt. That means those agencies have permission to kill more than 24 times as many delta smelts as the state’s wildlife agency could find last fall.

On January 9, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reported to USFWS that intake pumps for the federal Central Valley Project and for the State Water Project had killed 56 adult smelt during the current Water Year, which started October 1. The USFWS’ Biological Opinion on the smelt for the combined projects allowed “incidental take” of 78 adult fish.

As those projects’ pumps had killed more than half their allowable take of smelts just a third of the way into the water year, the Bureau was obliged under the U.S. Endangered Species Act to request what’s called “reconsultation” with USFWS over the smelt. Otherwise, pumping of all water from the Delta to southern aqueducts could be halted once that 78th smelt of the year died.

It didn’t take long for the Bureau of Reclamation to get a response. USFWS boosted the allowable incidental take for the Bureau, and for the state Department of Water Resources, which operates the State Water Project, the very same day. Those agencies now have an “interim” allowable incidental take more than twice as high as the level specified in the Biological Opinion.

In granting the increase in allowable take, USFWS pointed to criticism of the assumptions behind the earlier take limit’s numbers by an independent review panel, which pointed out that there was no clear way of establishing how big a percentage of the actual total smelt population was being killed at the pumps each year.

In its response to the Bureau, USFWS says it plans to come up with a more accurate way of estimating just what percentage of the delta smelt population is being killed at the pumps.

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