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Parks And Politics: What You Need To Know About Propositions 68 And 70

What to make of the propositions on California’s June 5 ballot? As ever, the issues span the political spectrum. But two address the environment, one asking voters to shell out billions to improve it and another that could make it more difficult for the state to spend billions on helpful projects. Taken together, these measures would provide money to shore up crumbling levees, give kids more places to play and help clean the air—albeit at a price—and affect how the state spends proceeds of the cap-and-trade system that California uses to reduce greenhouse gases. Let’s unpack.

NASA Study Says Freshwater Shortages Will Be Biggest Challenge Of This Century

Researchers have examined data collected by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)  satellite mission during the period 2002 to 2016 to track freshwater trends worldwide. In a new report, they claim that data shows access to freshwater will be the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century. The GRACE data made it possible for the researchers to track changes in freshwater resources around the world even in areas where local data has been scarce or unavailable, according to a report in The Guardian.

We All Want Water Storage, Here Is An Innovative Pitch That’s Succeeding

In the heart of the drought, reservoirs were getting sucked dry and the immediate concern was that we would not have enough water for everybody. These were stressful, dramatic days and in 2014, California residents voted to spend billions of dollars to fend off the next drought. The Prop 1 Water Bond was passed by 66 percent of voters and the long road to build water storage, and conservation, were underway.

The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy Reservoir In Judges’ Hands

The battle to drain the reservoir in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley reignited Wednesday as critics of the historic dam told a panel of judges in Fresno that their legal case to raze it should proceed, despite an earlier decision to dismiss the suit. In California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, attorneys for the group Restore Hetch Hetchy reiterated their longtime argument that San Francisco should not be operating a reservoir in a national park because it violates a provision of the state Constitution requiring reasonable water use.

Price Of Water 2018: Utilities Revise Household Water Rate Formulas

In contrast to the federal government’s chronic underinvestment in the pipes, pumps, and plants that supply and treat the nation’s drinking water, America’s large cities are forging ahead with fresh spending to modernize their systems. One result is that all the work to repair municipal water systems is raising the cost of service. In its latest annual survey of water price trends in 30 large U.S. cities Circle of Blue found that the average price of residential drinking water for a family of four using 100 gallons per person per day rose 3.3 percent last year.

Illicit Pot Growers Are Polluting State, Even With New Law

The legalization of cannabis in California has done almost nothing to halt illegal marijuana growing by Mexican drug cartels, which are laying bare large swaths of national forest in California, poisoning wildlife, and siphoning precious water out of creeks and rivers, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said Tuesday. The situation is so dire that federal, state and local law enforcement officials are using $2.5 million from the Trump administration this year to crack down on illegal growers, who Scott said have been brazenly setting booby traps, confronting hikers and attacking federal drug-sniffing dogs with knives.

Farrell Wants Agencies To Use Less Water

San Francisco is hoping to better prepare for the next drought. Though the city’s government agencies were good at cutting water use during the recent dry years, easily meeting a self-imposed goal of reducing consumption 10 percent between 2014 and 2017 and often conserving more, Mayor Mark Farrell wants to pick it up a notch. Farrell is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve an ordinance that would require the five city departments that use the most water to develop plans for trimming water use 20 percent.

Feds Push To Raise Shasta Dam, But Would It Ease California Water Woes?

Officials with the federal government seem determined to realize a controversial proposal to raise Shasta Dam and increase the storage capacity of the reservoir behind it – despite objections from fish and wildlife agencies and California law that technically forbids such a project. In January, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the dam, received a $20 million appropriation from Congress to begin design and preconstruction work – and, with the support of water agencies in the San Joaquin Valley, the bureau has announced plans to begin construction as early as the end of 2019.

Bobby Bonds Jr. on his great grandfather's tractor. Photo: Courtesy Bobby Bonds, Jr.

Backhoe the Perfect Ride for ‘Roadeo’ Champ

Bobby Bond Jr. was born to run a backhoe.

His father, Robert Sr., owns a backhoe dealership in Riverside County and put his son atop a backhoe as a toddler. At age 12, the younger Bond dug a septic tank and leach lines for a new home. He operated heavy equipment like a pro for years before getting his driver’s license.

“Don’t tell your mom,” laughs Bond Jr., recalling his dad’s advice.

With decades of experience – including the past five years at the San Diego County Water Authority – Bond Jr. took top honors in backhoe skills at the Maintenance Supervisors Association of San Diego Backhoe “Roadeo” Competition last summer. That earned him the right to represent San Diego County at the first American Public Works Association National Backhoe “Roadeo” in Orlando, Fla.

While Bond Jr. didn’t take home the gold at the national meet, he’s determined to return this summer.

Tuning Out Distractions Key To Winning Results

Held at the City of Carlsbad Maintenance Yard, the local equipment “Roadeo” event last summer involved a variety of unusual skill tests – wheelbarrow skills, sign assembly and backhoe operation.

Backhoe operators had to remove tennis balls from atop five safety cones in the backhoe swing area and place a pipe lift pin into holes on top of three safety cones. Bond Jr. won with a time of 2 minutes and 25 seconds.

“When I competed in the county competition, there were a few hundred people screaming at me, trying to distract me,” recalls Bond Jr. “I have four kids (ages 2, 4, 7, and 9), so I know how to tune out distractions.”

He said the ability to focus is key to good results – not only in competition but in his everyday role with the Water Authority overseeing crews who perform ongoing maintenance on roads and pipelines. It’s not fun and games when public safety is at stake.

“You must stay focused,” explained Bond Jr. “When you are running the backhoe, a lot of time you’re digging around live utilities … I’ve worked with some people who get frustrated easily, and it can cause you to pull a lever too fast.”

Running a Backhoe With Help From Nintendo

Modern backhoes use joystick controls instead of the foot controls common on older models for extending the backhoe’s boom in and out. While the modern backhoe is more precise, its controls are far more sensitive.

“You don’t feel the flow – the old ones would give you more pressure … You need to be smooth, you can’t be too fast or too jerky,” said Bond Jr.

In addition to decades of experience, Bond Jr. credits playing classic Nintendo video games with helping hone his hand-eye coordination.

While that experience didn’t add up to a win on the national level, Bond Jr. promises he’ll be back to defend his local title in May in hopes of earning another trip to the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., in late August.


MSA San Diego/APWA 2017 Equipment ‘Roadeo’ Full Results

Backhoe Competition

From left to right: APWA President Pedro Orso-Delgado, MSA President Rudy Cancio, Backhoe Champion Bobby Bond, MSA Vice President Tony Ulloa.

Wheel Barrow Course Skills Competition

1st Place: Ryan Kincade, Vallecitos Water District, 59 seconds
2nd Place: Russell Delmar, City of Carlsbad, 1 minute, 2 seconds
3rd Place: Margarito Corado Hidalgo, City of Chula Vista, 1 minute, 5 seconds

Sign Assembly Skills Competition

1st Place: (Tie) Michael Espudo, City of Carlsbad, and Alberto Gonzales, City of San Diego, 3 minutes, 9 seconds
2nd Place, Jerry Condron, City of Encinitas, 3 minutes, 21 seconds
3rd Place: Jesse Gonzales, City of Poway, 3 minutes, 23 seconds

Backhoe Pin Lift and Tennis Ball Skills Competition

1st Place: Bobby Bond Jr., San Diego County Water Authority, 2 minutes, 50 seconds
2nd Place: Matt Paxon, City of Encinitas, 3 minutes, 14 seconds
3rd Place: Matt Hollingsworth, City of Carlsbad, 3 minutes, 26 seconds

Overall “Roadeo” Competition Team Champions

1st Place: City of Carlsbad, 7 minutes 39 seconds
2nd Place: City of Encinitas, 7 minutes, 41 seconds
3rd Place: City of San Diego, 8 minutes, 3 seconds

Three things are required for optimal garden soil: OWL, or oxygen, water, and life. Photo: SDCWA

Gardening Like A Wise Old OWL

Your landscaping soil needs three things to feed the billions of microbes within it that can transform brick-hard, lifeless dirt into healthy, living soil: Oxygen, Water, and Life. Or in shorthand: OWL. 

Oxygen Lets Microbes Breathe Free 

Oxygen is needed by plant roots and soil organisms. Healthy soil has lots of tiny pockets of air. When soils are eroded, graded, or disturbed, their structure becomes compacted and hard. Compaction takes place when air and water bubbles are squeezed out of the soil. This kills the healthy microbes that replenish soil. Microbes can be killed by fertilizers, pesticides, or even heavy traffic from people or vehicles. 

Water For Your Microbes and Your Plants 

Microbes and plants need water to live. But too much water in your soil will displace oxygen by saturating the soil. This creates an anaerobic condition — and unhealthy microbes like bacteria, viruses, or parasites prefer anaerobic soil. If this condition persists, diseases may develop that endanger the health of your garden.   

Water is constantly moving through the soil. Water in the soil needs to be replenished as plants use it, as it evaporates from the soil surface, and as gravity pulls it down past the root zone of your plants. 

Bring Your Soil To Life  

Life in the soil includes all the bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and fungi, the food they eat, the excretions they make, and the root systems they sustain. Living microbes are most quickly incorporated into your soil by adding high-quality compost.  

Plants attract microbes to their roots by feeding them carbon. Bacteria and fungi hold the soil together with microscopic glues and binders. The microbes consume organic matter, and then they are consumed by bigger creatures (worms, ants, slugs, centipedes, larvae, etc.), which are consumed in turn by creatures further up the food chain.  

Carbon and other nutrients cycle through these many life forms, creating healthy living soil, no matter what the soil type.  

Without these three elements, landscaping will not thrive. Organic matter, planning and some labor may be involved, but creating healthy soil using the OWL method will pay off in reduced maintenance, reduced inputs, reduced pollution on land and in our waterways, and the beauty of your thriving, healthy landscape.   

 Get Your Free Sustainable Lanscapes Program Guidebook

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at Hardcopies are available free of charge at the Water Authority’s headquarters, 4677 Overland Ave., Kearny Mesa. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at