Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Comments from the recent Bay Delta Conservation Plan Workshop, part 1

We had a workshop recently about the economic impact of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan on our residents, and compared it to not doing the project.  This is only tentative analysis so far, but it's still helpful. Here's one comment I left on the State Water Project property tax (to see the whole thing, go here, scroll to December 9, and it's about 3 hours into the video):

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Obviously we'll need to deal with this issue in the future.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Opposition to logging legislation AB 904 that could be bad for the Bay Area

I'm glad to see that staff are recommending an "Oppose Unless Amended" position on AB 904, a piece of logging legislation that might be okay for large rural areas but not in the more urbanized Bay Area (to see the staff report, click here, scroll to July 23 2013 and look for Item 6.1).

Staff's taken a similar position to the one I suggested a month ago in the memo below. I plan to copy all my memos to this blog and am behind right now, but will catch up. Here's one of the latest:

Board of Directors and Staff
Brian Schmidt

Item 6.1, recommendation to adopt “Oppose Unless Amended” position on AB 904
June 23, 2013



In addition to the legislative positions proposed by staff, I encourage the District Board to adopt an “Oppose Unless Amended” position on AB 904 (Chesbro), a bill for a proposed new logging designation that environmental groups generally consider detrimental to our area. The District should communicate to the Legislature that it should be amended to exclude our area of the state, which is different from more undeveloped areas and has much more logging on a rural-urban interface.

AB 904 creates a new logging designation similar to the existing Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) process for a permanent authorization to log property in perpetuity. NTMPs are limited to 2500 acres but the new designation expands the size of the property eligible for similar logging authorization by 600%, to 15000 acres. NTMPs have been very controversial in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties in part because of their permanence. In its favor, AB 904 includes certain environmental safeguards not present statewide but these are already present in our area, designated the Southern Subdistrict (SSD). The potential exists for poorly-supervised logging to increase sedimentation, decrease water quality and harm watersheds, as well as to increase a fire risk that the logging is ostensibly supposed to reduce.

I have communicated my concern about AB 904 to staff.

In addition to the discussion below, I refer the Board to the attached Op-Ed from the Sunday San Jose Mercury News.


AB 904 (Chesbro) Forest Practices:  working forest management plans
Position Recommendation:  Oppose unless amended
Priority:  1 or 2

(The following information in this paragraph was provided by staff.) The bill creates a Working Forest Management Plan, which is a long-term forest management plan for nonindustrial landowners with less than 15,000 acres of timberlands if the landowner commits to uneven aged management and sustained yield.  Specifically, this newly amended bill now (1) creates a modified WFMP for very small nonindustrial landowners with 160 or fewer acres of timberlands in the Central Forest District and 320 acres of timberlands in the Northern Forest District or Southern Forest District; and (2) Allows landowners with Nonindustrial Timber Management Plans (NTMP) to expand total timberland ownership to 2,500 acres or more and transition into an expanded WFMP through an amendment to the plan; and (3) Requires the Board of Forestry to adopt regulations to tailor the modified WFMP to incentivize small landowners to develop to develop modified small working forest management plans; and (4) Precludes denial of a restoration grant application submitted by a WFMP or NTMP landowner on the sole grounds that the restoration work is a condition of an approved harvesting plan.

Importance to the District

The expansion of from NTMPs to WFMPs would allow landowners with much larger properties in the County, previously only allowed to log via temporary Timber Harvest Plans, to have permanent authorization to log.

Pros in favor of AB 904

·         Clear-cutting, which is allowed in other parts of California but not here, could happen less often in those parts of the state and be replaced by uneven aged management.

Cons in opposition to AB 904

·         The District in past years has expressed significant concerns about the environmental and water quality impact in past years regarding the use of the NTMP process in our local area, and this legislation increases the possibility of more logging authorized in a similar matter to the NTMP process that had raised concerns.

·         Environmental benefits to other parts of the state do not apply locally.

·         Decreases local land use control with potential effects on water quality and watersheds.

Attachment:  Guest Op-Ed from San Jose Mercury News

Monday, July 8, 2013

Water and climate, Obama edition

Climate change is a huge issue for us locally, so I'm glad to see Obama reacting to it and have written so elsewhere. A climate denialist commentator, Charles Krauthammer has never had much anything useful to say about climate change, so I responded to his column with this letter in the San Jose Mercury News:
Obama's climate policy is good for region

Charles Krauthammer's diatribe (Opinion, July 5) against President Obama for confronting climate change is a disingenuous insult to our region, where we face tremendous problems from warming.

Krauthammer misleads on the Pew survey, where 28 percent of respondents made climate change a top priority -- not bad for a problem whose worst effects are yet to come. His cherry-picked information leads to wrong or misleading conclusions.

China and India have both committed to never have the same per-capita emission levels as the United States -- Obama should be applauded for trying to accelerate their commitments on climate.

As a director of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, I'm keenly aware of the millions that we are spending and will spend to adjust to new flooding, new water demand, and reduced water supplies in the Sierra snowpack. What Obama is doing is good for us locally, but I believe that what Krauthammer wrote is anything but good.

Brian A. Schmidt
Director, District 7 Santa Clara Valley Water District

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hoping to get signs announcing the creek name at every residential street crossing in the County

A memo that we submitted for the Board meeting this Tuesday:

Board of Directors and Staff
Brian Schmidt, Richard Santos, Nai Hsueh

Directing research to place creek signs on all residential street crossings in the County
June 7, 2013


Using the model of the well-known and popular signage for storm drains, “Don’t dump – drains to Bay,” we request that the Board direct staff to research and return with a proposal to put into place either plastic sign, metal sign, or painted stencil-style identification of the creek name, for every residential street creek crossing in Santa Clara County, with the goal of completing the entire program Countywide by end of Fiscal Year 2015.

Creek and watershed identification are critical to community support for District initiatives to enhance our local watersheds. Many residents don’t know that even a trapezoid, concrete channel in their neighborhood could be a once and future living creek ecosystem. Identifying the creeks by name will help people realize what they have now, help them understand the upstream and downstream connections, and motivate them to support enhancing their watershed.

Plastic and metal signs are clearly preferable to stencils and may be appropriate for more prominent crossings than residential street crossings. While we consider plastic and metal signs preferable to stencils, we suggest that all three be researched for identifying creek crossings for cost-comparison purposes.

Many prominent, beautiful, and more expensive alternatives exist compared to stenciling creek names on crossings. We suggest stenciling only for residential streets, not bigger arterial roads that deserve more prominent signage. Staff research on this should consider offering cities and the County a chance to provide matching funding if they wish to enhance the signage in their jurisdiction – for example, funding covering the cost differential between stenciling and metal signs, or between metal signs and other signage proposed by a city or the County.

Staff research should consider signage being either just the creek name, creek and watershed name, or a short additional message – for example “Don’t litter, this is AAA Creek”. Research should determine the program’s cost for either stenciling or metal signs. Research should consider the process of obtaining permission from cities and the County to place signage on the bridge structures, or consider signage adjacent to the bridges on District-owned access gates.

This proposal follows upon Director Santos’ Board Member Request on the issue. The Board and the District has a longstanding interest in signage and community awareness, and we urge the Board to begin the research that can make this happen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I guess I'll accept the compliment

The Mercury News reported in it's "offbeat" column about the Water District Board decision to adopt my motion to switch to night meetings, something that I've advocated for since I first ran for the office:
Looking for something to do at night, now that "American Idol" is over for the year? Fear not! There's new evening entertainment coming soon to Silicon Valley. Board members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, in an uncharacteristically close 4-3 vote earlier this month, decided to move the agency's twice-monthly board meeting times from 9 o'clock every other Tuesday morning to 6 o'clock every other Tuesday evening. 
The goal? Copy most city councils in the area to try to get more people to attend meetings and encourage people with day jobs to run for board seats. James Madison cheers!

Usually, the audience is nearly empty, despite the fact that the water district, which provides water and flood control to 1.8 million people in Santa Clara County, is one of the county's largest government agencies and votes on everything from water rates to dam safety to trails to cleaning up after vagrants who trash Silicon Valley's creeks.

Yet as an attraction, "The Golden Spigot" hardly has lacked for drama. After all, it's the San Jose agency that has drawn attention and ridicule from the county grand jury, state lawmakers and the press in recent years for questionable spending, lavish staff salaries, gerrymandering schemes and other shenanigans.

But the agency's fortunes may be slowly turning around. In November, voters approved a $543 million parcel tax extension for the district by a landslide 74-26 percent. The tax currently costs $54 a home and funds dam upgrades, water treatment, trails and other projects. Millions in construction projects are already being planned.

And a new board is flexing its muscle. On the night meetings issue, the four votes came from reformers, all elected or appointed in the past three years: Linda LeZotte, Brian Schmidt, Barbara Keegan and chairwoman Nai Hsueh.
While I definitely support reform as needed, I think some criticisms are overblown. Still this column was about as close as the Merc could come to sincerely encouraging people to attend our meetings, so thanks!

The vote on the motion is below. If the video doesn't load, click here, find the May 14 2013 meeting, and scroll down to Item 9.3
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Seven generations is a shared perspective with emergency planning

As part of my Water District work, I've started expanding my policy focus to emergency/disaster planning, or "resilience" as the current buzzword goes. Taking the long view seems as necessary in disaster planning as it does for the environment - planning for a 100 year flood means many areas will go 200 years or longer before the event you've planned for finally happens. I sure wish we could do climate planning in anticipation of what things could be like in the year 2213.

What got me started on this post is a presentation I saw yesterday - I'm the Water District rep to a regional planning organization for emergencies, and the presentation was on the role of local ham radio. We have over 7000 licensed radio operators in our county of nearly 2 million, and about 700 have taken additional training in emergency communication. Another 100 or so maintain emergency kits so they can travel to a site and start communication even if all power, phone, cellular, and internet access is down. They have a separate non-profit and work closely with government emergency services, and it's all volunteer with minimal (but some) governmental funding. It's a great backup system.

Resilience in response to changes is an emergency planning concept as well as environmental concept - a healthy ecosystem and climate can absorb challenges and still function. If we push things to the edge, then maybe not.

UPDATE:  forgot to note an important psychological difference. Emergency planning is all about training so that much of what you do is rote and you only improvise as little as needed. The quasi-military, hierarchical culture is obviously a different world.

(Note:  this is a repost from one of my other blogs.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Memo on disclosure of compensation to directors

I contacted Directors Lezotte and Estremera and got their support for the memo below.  It will be considered later this month, with action (if any) sometime to follow.

Board of Directors and Staff
Directors Estremera, Lezotte, and Schmidt

Item 10.1, Future Agenda Item for a Proposed New Policy on Disclosures
February 7, 2013


The Water District has a stellar record on disclosure and openness, something we know from direct experience and from feedback we have received from the press.  Still, we look for opportunities to make that openness even better.  We suggest that an appropriate point in the near future, that the Board consider a discussion of a variety of options for a new Ends Policy regarding potential disclosure of agreements between the District and Directors, including former Directors, when the agreements involve monetary payments or benefits conferred upon the Directors by the District.  One option is listed below to begin the discussion, which we suggest staff consider and report on how other agencies handle disclosure of similar agreements.

As a general matter, confidentiality in settlements of disputes with employees may often be necessary and in the public’s best interest, but dealings with Directors are a special situation where the public has a special interest in understanding what has happened.  We emphasize that the potential disclosure under discussion here is regarding the special case only of Directors and former Directors.

Even in the case of dealing with Directors, the negotiation process often needs to proceed in a confidential manner, but upon finalization, the public’s interest in knowing the outcome that occurred between the District and the Directors that the public elected should be considered.

In lieu of drafting specific language, we suggest the principles below and look to staff to develop them further and to the Board for potential modification and adoption:

Alternative requiring disclosure (new policy would include all of the following):
1.    Agreements regarding monetary compensation or benefits for Directors shall be disclosed in the same manner as other compensation to Directors.
2.    Agreements regarding monetary compensation or benefits for Directors shall not include confidentiality provisions binding upon the District.
3.    Copies of agreements regarding monetary compensation or benefits for Directors shall be provided to all upon request.
4.    Notice of agreements regarding monetary compensation or benefits for Directors shall be provided to all who have requested notice of such agreements in general, and not require specific request of the specific agreement in order to be given notice.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Documenting the passage of Safe Clean Water Measure B

I should have done this a while back, but on November 20th of last year the Board reviewed the successful passage of Safe Clean Water Measure B, with 74% of the vote representing a possible new record for approval.

The whole discussion was 20 minutes long, watchable here (click through to November 20th, 2012, and then click to Item 9.3.)  I did want to pull out a place where my colleagues congratulated my work of bringing the environmental groups together with business support for the voter initiative:
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Everyone involved can share the credit for its passage, of course.  And as I said earlier in the video, the challenge is now to make sure we deliver.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The two views on Permanente flood control project

The Water District decided today to keep working on the Permanente Creek flood control project together with Mountain View, despite the disagreement last December about what should be done with McKelvey Park.  Below I tried to lay out what I think may be the perspectives of the City Council and the perspectives of the District Board, why they differ and how we can move forward to reach a common perspective.  It's the first two and a half minutes of the video:

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Comments on Permanente on January 8

I had trouble posting this video earlier, I'm hoping it will work better as a separate blog post:

Challenges with Permanente flood control project

Just putting this in for future reference:  a brief discussion between Director Estremera and myself about the future of the Permanente flood control project, which has run into many delays and now most recently faced some concerns from Mountain View City Council about one aspect of it, the McKelvey Park flood detention basin:

(UPDATE:  if the first video below isn't loading well, try clicking here or at the link below.)
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Video here, Click on January 8 2013, Item 5.1, starting at 2:24:00

This is the follow-up I did, speaking to the Mountain View City Council:
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Video here, January 15th, Item 5, starting at 00:05:00