Rafters get creative during Memorial Day alcohol ban

Sunday is the warmest day this month and hundreds of people are cooling off along the American River.

Sacramento County park rangers are busy enforcing a strict ban on booze. Despite plenty of signage, some people tried sneaking in beer, wine and even non-alcoholic glass bottles — all of which are not allowed.

“People can get very creative when they hide the alcohol,” said Chris Kemp, a park ranger sergeant. “We’ve had them in coolers with false bottoms. We’ve had them hidden in backpacks, inside of Camelback pouches on their bodies in various places in different types of containers so we know what to look for,” Kemp said.

Partygoers caught in the act were given the option of taking their contraband back to their cars or watching rangers pour it out. Getting caught with booze this weekend could lead to a $100 citation.

The 10 rangers on patrol were determined to keep people on the American River safe from drowning and vigilant in enforcing the message that alcohol and water just don’t mix.

“Yeah, I think it’s probably a good thing to keep everybody safe out here,” said Andrew Ray, a kayaker from San Francisco.

For Billy Balogh of Roseville, the no-alcohol rule makes for a better family experience for his 8-year-old daughter Alexandra.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Balogh said. “Nobody’s going to fall in the water. People are going to be more aware and keep an eye on things going on in the water. And it’s just safe overall for everybody.”

But not everybody is enamored with the ban on booze.

“I mean I feel I can handle myself responsibly, drinking a couple of beers on a hot Memorial Day weekend,” said Diana Takla, a rafter from Walnut Creek. “I don’t know what the problem is.”
“With alcohol intoxication it lowers your threshold for tolerating hypothermia,” Kemp said. ”

“People when they drink a lot of alcohol, they can hit the water and become very disoriented and very hypothermic, and it leads to a lot more drownings. And we don’t want to see that out here,” Kemp said.

Meanwhile rafters on the American River are enjoying higher water flows, thanks to bigger releases from Folsom Lake.

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Water release from Folsom Lake designed to help Delta

The Bureau of Reclamation increased water flows from Folsom Dam early Wednesday morning.

The wind, tides and lack of water in the Delta have become a concern for the Bureau.

“All of those things have come to a head right now and there are salinity issues in the Delta that need to be managed by increasing the releases out of Folsom,” said Erin Curtis, the spokesperson for the Bureau’s Mid-Pacific Region. “The important place to make the releases right now is Folsom.”

The Bureau increased the flow from 1,250 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 1,500 CFS.

By releasing more water from Folsom Lake into the river system, the river has a better ability to keep the salinity out of the Delta.

But the increased flows mean Folsom Lake is dropping fast.

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A Short Run for Some California Whitewater Rivers This Season

Justin Butchert drops bags of ice into huge coolers and lifts them onto his pickup truck.

“This is our only form of refrigeration up there,” says Butchert, owner of Kings River Expeditions.

He’s referring to his company’s base camp on the Kings River, east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada. The outfit has run overnight trips, complete with cookouts and goofy campfire skits, for more than 30 years.

But this is the first time in 25 years he’s packed the food.

“You know I just do everything now,” he says. “We used to have a full staff doing this and we don’t have that anymore.”

He has the same number of employees, but they’re working fewer hours. In the best of years, his company stays open until Sept. 1 and guides about 6,000 folks down miles of roaring rapids.

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County prepares American River Parkway for busy fire season

Sacramento County is preparing the American River Parkway for what could be a busy fire season.

Park staff are mapping, painting and testing all the fire hydrants in the parkway. Fire breaks are being cleared and the trees trimmed to improve access for fire vehicles.

The staff is also mapping and painting all the gates to their parks.

It’s all an effort to help manage the fire risk.

“The quicker we can access it the quicker we can get water on the fire or start putting a line around the fire, to control it earlier,” said Michelle Eidam, a captain with Sac Metro Fire.

“If a fire is growing quickly and it’s moving fast, it’s putting the people and homes around here in huge danger,” Eidam said. “Every second really counts to get to the fire get contained and get in check before it does reach homes or businesses.”

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Mosquito Bridge replacement project on track for 2020

You could buy a new Mosquito Road Bridge for a mere $32 million, or maybe it will cost $53 million with approach roads and such. El Dorado County Division of Transportation has a number of alternatives for replacing the current bridge that in one incarnation or another has been in place for over 150 years. It is 9 feet wide and has a 140-foot span that crosses the South Fork of the American River. Emergency vehicles are restricted by its width and the steep, hairpin turns on each side of the canyon. DOT documents state that the bridge is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

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See A Feathery Dozen Near The American River

With its bike trails, horse trails and footpaths through unspoiled forests and parkland and along stretches of both rocky and sandy riverbanks, the American River Parkway is an inspired choice to walk, run, fish and ride your bike for miles and miles in natural surroundings.

But it’s also a great place to simply slow down and look around, taking stock of the natural world in many ways.

Wildlife to see includes graceful deer, cunning coyotes, industrious beavers, pesky ground squirrels and, yes, cold-blooded rattlesnakes that slither through rocks and grasses – and occasionally across the bike trail – in search of a pint-sized, warm-blooded meal.

Every so often, a mountain lion creates a stir by wandering onto the property and, more often than not, just as quickly disappearing into more remote areas.

In many ways, however, it is the vibrant, eclectic bird life that defines the parkway with music and color. Some birds forage. Some hunt. Some are hunted. They come in small, medium, large and extra large. They are cute and scary. They whistle. They sing. They honk. They squawk.

What follows is a list of 12 birds to go see and appreciate. Argue if you will about which birds we didn’t include. There is no better time to get out there and see the birds. The weather is not yet hot. The days are long. And many of the birds are mating and nesting.

Just last weekend we spotted the first mother goose of the season leading her family of fuzzy little goslings across the bike trail. In the days ahead, you’re apt to witness the same thing with wild turkeys and, in a much different and speedier way, California quail.

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New Study Identifies Roadkill Hotspots In Sacramento Region

A detailed inventory of animals killed on area roads has identified 22 areas in the Sacramento region where drivers are most likely to encounter wildlife crossing a roadway.

The release of the report on roadkill hotspots is considered a crucial tool to help drivers avoid possible fatal accidents and is being seen as a guide for scientists and agencies who seek to protect endangered species and other wildlife that cross roads and freeways.

The report, authored by Fraser Shilling of the UC Davis Road Ecology Center, culled volunteer observer reports of such incidents from 2009-2014 to establish where collisions between cars and animals were occurring.

The region’s hotspots include several points along Interstate 80 and and I-5. One is a stretch of I-80 over the Yolo Bypass where bird strikes are common.

Another is a stretch of I-80 where the freeway and Highway 49 converge in Auburn near the American River, “where there is no opportunity to go under the highway,” said Shilling, “so wildlife will go over it.”

Between April 1, 2010, and March 30, 2013, there were 365 crashes involving wildlife, livestock and other animals in the state Department of Transportation’s District 3, said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger. The district includes Sacramento and 11 Northern California counties, covering I-80 from Davis to the California/Nevada state line and I-5 from north of Stockton to north of Orland.

Statewide, Caltrans inventoried 3,126 reported collisions involving animals, Dinger said.

One human fatality in Sacramento County has been attributed to a wildlife collision since 2006.

Shilling said the roadkill report was compiled with the help of 1,100 volunteer observers throughout the state, including himself. The survey is the most extensive database documenting animal and vehicle collisions in California.

“Last year it seems like there has been an increase in rate of deer getting hit,” said Shilling. He said observation of deer hit by autos more than doubled last year.

He speculates that the drought may have something to do with it.

“They’re moving around more,” said Shilling. “They get moisture from vegetation, and they were probably having a hard time getting enough to eat.”

Despite the increase in deer mortality, roadkill observations overall have gone down slightly this year, said Shilling.

He believes the decline is not reflective of animals avoiding roadways. Instead he believes that roadways are decreasing wildlife populations, resulting in fewer roadkill observations.

The roadway hotspot with the most animal deaths is State Route 70 near Portola Valley. That stretch of road had 343 animals from 25 species killed in the roadway.

Shilling said that the numbers are deceptive, as the large majority of encounters between cars and animals go unreported.

The actual mortality on freeways and highways and streets is “much, much higher than this report represents,” said Doug Long, one the most prolific observers contributing to the database, with more than 3,000 roadkill observations logged since the effort began six years ago. Long is professor of ecology and biology at St. Mary’s College.

During a drive from Riverside to Oakland, Long used a special application on his phone to log 80 different species of roadkill he encountered on the drive. These include a wide variety of species – from snakes to birds, he said.

“You have to remember that the data points in the report have been collected by people (who) represent a very small fraction of all the people in California,” said Long.

Long said it is likely that 99 percent of encounters between wildlife and vehicles are never recorded.

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American River Parkway Spring Clean Up Is Set For This Saturday

There’s still time to volunteer to work at The Annual American River Parkway Spring Clean Up.

For the 9th year in a row, a spring clean-up of the 23-mile American River Parkway will happen this Saturday, April 11.

“With the water levels so low we have access to so much of the riverbed where so much trash is and if we can help remove that when it does rain and we get a normal precipitation the waterways will not be dirty.”-Dianna Poggetto with the American River Parkway Foundation says.

Poggetto says it goes from 9 to Noon and they’ll provide food and water:

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Governor Issues Mandatory Water Cuts As California Snowpack Hits Record Low

Standing in a dry brown meadow that typically would be buried in snow this time of year, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered the first mandatory water cutbacks in California history, a directive that will affect cities and towns statewide.

With new measurements showing the state’s mountain snowpack at a record low, officials said California’s drought is entering uncharted territory and certain to extend into a fourth straight year. As a result, Brown issued sweeping new directives to reduce water consumption by state residents, including a mandatory 25 percent cut in urban water use.

On Wednesday, Brown attended a routine snow survey at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada, near Echo Summit on Highway 50 along the road to Lake Tahoe. The April 1 survey is an annual ritual, marking the end of the winter season, in which automated sensors and technicians in the field strive to measure how much water the state’s farms and cities will receive from snowmelt.

The measurements showed the snowpack at just 5 percent of average for April 1, well below the previous record low of 25 percent, which was reached last year and in 1977.

California’s mountain snowpack is crucial to determining summer supplies, normally accounting for at least 30 percent of total fresh water available statewide. The poor snowpack means California reservoirs likely already have reached peak storage and will receive little additional runoff from snowmelt, an unusual situation.

“We’re standing on dry grass, and we should be standing in five feet of snow,” Brown said. “We’re in an historic drought, and that demands unprecedented action.”

Brown’s executive order directs California’s more than 3,000 urban water providers to collectively cut their water use by 25 percent compared with 2013. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to impose the new restrictions by mid-May, setting a different target for each agency depending on how much water its customers use per capita and conservation progress since last year.

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American River Parkway Life Vest Stations Open Two Months Early

The Sacramento region’s current run of unseasonably warm weather has prompted the American River Parkway Foundation to launch its Kids Don’t Float life vest program two months early.

The foundation announced that it began providing life vest stations at several locations along the parkway Monday.

The Kids Don’t Float program allows individuals to borrow a life jacket while enjoying the Sacramento area’s waterways. In 2008, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance requiring life preservers to access public waters within the county. The ordinance specifies that it is unlawful for parents to permit children younger than 13 years old to enter public waters unless the child is wearing a life preserver. Violation of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of $500 and/or six months in jail.

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