Category Archives: Issues

LAFCO, SPECIAL DISTRICTS & PLUMAS COUNTY

LAFCO – 1

Many residents have never heard of LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) and have no idea the level of control and power this organization has over local government.  Plumas County Board of Supervisors and Portola City Council will be presented with an argument to change the way Plumas LAFCO has been funded potentially shifting a larger share of the cost to the County and away from the City of Portola.  Before those discussions and decisions take place seems like a good time to explain a little of who and what LAFCO is.

WHAT IS LAFCO?  LAFCO is an intra-local agency that was created by state legislation to ensure that changes in governmental organization occur in a manner that provides efficient and quality services and preserves open space land resources.

LAFCO was created as a legislative response to actions of local jurisdictions in the 1940’s and 50’s.  At the time local governments incorporated/annexed large, irregular portion of land that resulted in irrational urban boundaries with isolated populations and without efficient services or no services at all.  In 1963 the Legislature established a LAFCO in each county and gave them regulatory authority over local agency boundary changes. 

Over a period of years the Legislature has added to and refined the authority of the LAFCOs.  1985 saw the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act which consolidated all statutes relative to local government changes of organization under Government Code 56000, et.seq.  The Legislature formed a Commission on Local Governance in the 21st Century which came up recommendations which were based on the following presumptions: (1) The future will be marked by continued phenomenal growth, (2) California lacks a plan to accommodate growth, (3) local government is plagued by fiscal insecurity, and (4) the public is not engaged.

With the passage of the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000, effective in 2001, LAFCO powers were consolidated.  They now have specific authority to review, approve or disapprove:

Annexations to or detachments from cities or special districts

Formation or dissolution of special districts

Incorporation or Disincorporation of cities

Consolidation, merger or reorganizations of cities or special districts

Development of, amendments to Spheres of Influence

Extensions of service beyond an agency’s (district’s) jurisdiction

Provision of new or different services by special districts

Conduct Municipal Service Reviews of services, update Spheres of Influence and Sphere Horizons at least once every five years.

As you can see LAFCO has tremendous authority as well as direct and profound impact on land use, provision of services and the overall quality of life in Plumas County.  In my next blog I will discuss Plumas LAFCO in more detail and talk about some of the issues that will be in the news very soon regarding LAFCO and its funding base.

 

WATER, WATER, WATER ~ 2

Tracking Change

We have all heard panic in the voices of news casters, politicians, and our neighbors as they discuss drought conditions and the dire future predicted for this next year.  I think it is important to remember that weather in California tends to cycle fairly regularly between periods of dry years followed by severe flood conditions.  Reaction to these cyclical phenomena tends to be of a knee jerk variety.  We have experienced a relatively benign climate in the past century and tend to forget alternating periods of drought and flood in our past.  It pays to take a look at these changes over a period of years; and to educate ourselves as to the history of California in terms of climate, population settlement and growth.

The California Water & Environment Modeling Forum report of 23 April 2013 has valuable information, charts and graphs tracking precipitation, snow levels and temperature for periods of years.  Take a look; I think you will find there is a pattern to what appears to have no pattern.

Another interesting source is the California Water Blog showing a photo of Folsom Lake in 1976 with an excellent discussion of water issues faced by California.

I highly recommend two books providing Cadillac Desertgreat insight to water and the part it has played in early California settlement, more recent developments and a glimpse into the future.  The first is “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Reisner.  First published in 1986, revised and updated in 1993, the work was considered the “definitive work on the West’s water crisis” (Newsweek).

The second book I highly recommend is “The West Without Water” by B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam.  B. Lynn Ingram is aWest Without Water Professor of Earth and Planetary Science and Geography at the University of California, Berkeley.  Frances Malamud-Roam is Associate Environmental Planner and Biologist at Caltrans and a visiting scholar in the above Department at Berkeley.  This book takes a look at our current water crisis from a paleoclimatologist (climate history) point of view.  It provides a look at climate and weather of the past and, more importantly, looks into the future of water in California.

We have just experienced two days of fairly heavy rain with more predicted in the next week.  Yesterday there were flood warnings in parts of the valley and our neighboring communities.  Who can predict what the rest of February and March will bring???

WATER, WATER, WATER ~ 1

WATER, WATER, WATER or the lack thereof is a major concern in California.  The Governor’s Declaration of a State of Emergency on 17 Jan 14 triggered reactions supposedly designed to address drought issues at every level of government.  Our Congressmen and Legislative representatives seem to be in a competition to determine who can be first to get legislation passed to save us from this terrible drought.

We cannot control our weather and there is no doubt that thus far we have seen a number of dry years.  California climatic conditions have been tracked and studied for over a century.  The collected data shows that for the most part California is an arid region prone to sometimes lengthy periods of drought punctuated with intense storms giving rise to severe flooding.  Over the years we have managed to dam most of our rivers, create diversion canals and do just about everything known to man to control and impound every available drop of surface water.

However, most of the water flowing into California reservoirs comes from a very few watershed areas.  When those areas experience dry periods the reservoirs will not fill.  Sounds fairly basic; yet we continue to periods of panic every few years as these reservoirs do not fill. It is interesting to note that most of our reservoirs were actually constructed as flood control projects and perhaps a benefit to this period of intense activity will be the realization that we need to build some redundancy into our water control systems.

BEWARE!  My deepest concern is government’s propensity for overreaction. Regulations and legislation passed in a panic situation rarely result in good outcomes and frequently have far reaching unanticipated consequences.  With the State of Emergency Declaration legislation will be passed, safeguards will be waived, rights will be abrogated and another level of bureaucracy will be created.  A quote from Winston Churchill seems appropriate; “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.  An example is Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) reaction to our drought.  In their letter of 6 Feb 14, FERC offers, among other things, the following:  “In order to assist the licensees of hydropower projects in responding to the drought conditions, staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is prepared to act swiftly to review requests to amend licenses on a temporary or longer-term basis, as appropriate, in order to conserve water resources at FERC-licensed hydroelectric projects.”  (read more)  So….Does this mean all the agreements and regulations put in place during a relicensing project don’t count?  Who knows?  FERC’s action could have benefits to Lake Almanor and the 2105 Project or it could produce harmful results.

Plumas County has formed a Drought Task Force to address the current situation as it impacts Plumas County.  Supervisor Terry Swofford and I are the Board of Supervisors representatives on this task force.  I volunteered to participate in this effort because I want to be sure any actions Plumas County takes are well thought out and address real problems.  Our first meeting is scheduled for Monday (10 Feb 14).  As I write it is snowing with snow and rain predicted for the next 10 days.  I am remembering February & March 2011; February Snow perhaps we will need to be shoveling snow and/or looking at flood conditions?  Remember, dry periods and flooding periods are all part of the normal cycle in beautiful California!

Stay tuned for information as our task force moves forward.

WATER?

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state drought emergency for California last week – California Governor Declares Drought.  So far we are experiencing one of the driest winters on record following two dry years resulting in depleted reservoirs state wide.  State officials were ordered to take all necessary actions to prepare for drought conditions.  Gov. Brown called on all residents to reduce water usage by 20%.

As water becomes scarce issues of water rights will become more prominent.  I have posted an excellent article by Brian Morris, Siskiyou County Council, and previously Plumas County Flood Control District Manager – WATER RIGHTS – Brian Morris.  This article provides an excellent overview of water rights, who has them and what could preempt them.

Direct impacts of the drought and the Governor’s declaration on Plumas County and the Almanor Basin are as yet unknown.  I will be posting information regarding water issues as they develop in the coming months.

Check The Almanor Post often for the latest news!