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Environment

Gov. Newsom’s New $15 Billion Climate Change Program Includes Grants for Communities

Across the state, the effects of climate change have decimated over 1.9 million acres of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Some experts believe this is due to California’s severe drought this year.

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Vigorous ecology activist in respiratory mask striking to save the environment showing a Save the Planet poster on mountain top. Eco-action. Pandemic. Climate change.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a historic $15 billion climate change package on September 23. The initiative has funds in it to combat the state’s current environmental crisis as well as to help communities prepare for and prevent any disasters that may result from shifting weather patterns and changing global temperatures.

It is the largest investment of its kind in the history of the state.

“At the KNP fire today, while the realities of climate change surrounded us, we signed into law a $15 BILLION package that will help California tackle the climate crisis — from record heat waves, to extreme drought, to massive wildfires,” Newsom tweeted after the press conference he held in regard to this investment.

The governor was referring to a range of wildfires authorities have designated the KNP (Kings Canyon National Park) complex that has been burning since September 9 in that park and in the adjacent Sequoia National Park. As of Sunday, that wildfire had burned nearly 46,000 acres of land.

Across the state, the effects of climate change have decimated over 1.9 million acres of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Some experts believe this is due to California’s severe drought this year.

As is the case with many other crises in the United States, communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change.

This climate package hopes to change that by providing grants to help communities plan for climate change, as well as bolstering fire and drought prevention and response through program funding.

“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis head-on while protecting the hardest-hit communities,” said Newsom.

“We’re deploying a comprehensive approach to meet the sobering challenges of the extreme weather patterns that imperil our way of life and the Golden State as we know it, including the largest investment in state history to bolster wildfire resilience, funding to tackle the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience, and strategic investments across the spectrum to protect communities from extreme heat, sea level rise and other climate risks that endanger the most vulnerable among us,” he explained.

The state has not yet announced a schedule for release of the funding to communities or at how it will be dispersed. California Black Media will be following that process.

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Advice

Keep Safety in Mind for That Winter Walk at East Bay Regional Parks

Public safety personnel and equipment may not be able to respond easily to emergencies due to road and trail conditions, The Richmond Standard reported. The majority of East Bay Regional Parks have been closed since Jan. 4 due to recent storms and conditions. Only some shoreline and delta parks are currently open. See list at EBParks.org. 

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Photo courtesy of EBRPD.
Photo courtesy of EBRPD.

PARK IT

By Ned MacKay

Because of the series of heavy storms that have battered the region in recent days, this is a good time to emphasize winter season safety measures for park visitors.

According to the Richmond Standard, the East Bay Regional Parks District is urging the public not to enter closed parks or areas with caution tape due to storm-caused safety hazards such as downed trees, falling branches, flooding and mudslides.

Public safety personnel and equipment may not be able to respond easily to emergencies due to road and trail conditions, The Richmond Standard reported. The majority of East Bay Regional Parks have been closed since Jan. 4 due to recent storms and conditions. Only some shoreline and delta parks are currently open. See list at EBParks.org.

Entering closed parks not only risks your safety, but also those of first responders.

“Help keep yourself and first responders safe by staying out of closed parks,” East Bay Regional Park District Fire Chief Aileen Theile told The Richmond Standard. “It may not seem unsafe, but the dangers and the potential for injury or loss of life are real.”

Anyone entering Regional Parks when closed is subject to citation or arrest for violation of the Park District’s Ordinance 38.

Here are some safety tips for winter activity in the parks:

  • Check the weather before you go. And go with a friend, so someone can seek help if there’s an emergency. If you go alone, be sure to tell a responsible person where you are going and when you will be back. Then inform them when you have returned. In an emergency, call 911 or 510-881-1121, 24 hours a day.
  • Be prepared for changeable weather. Dress in layers, carry extra warm clothing, and wear sturdy footgear. It’s better to carry clothing you may not need than it is to need clothing you do not have.
  • Bring a map and stay on the official trails. Don’t take shortcuts on unmarked paths. Maps can be downloaded from the park district website, www.ebparks.org.

While you are on the trails, watch for rockslides, fallen trees and any other hazards. The rangers try to keep on top of these situations, but there are many trails and there’s likely to be considerable storm damage. Abide by any signs warning of closure or dangers and cooperate with instructions from park district staff.

  • Take a snack for an energy boost. A thermos full of a hot beverage works well, too.
  • Trails will likely be muddy. Leave a pair of dry shoes in the car, along with a cardboard box for those muddy boots.
  • For up-to-date information on park hazards and closures, click on “Visit a Park” at the top of the home page, then click again on “Alerts & Closures.”

With the new year comes the 30th annual outing of the East Bay Regional Park District’s always-popular Trails Challenge program. It’s free of charge, fun for all ages and levels of ability, and easy to join.

The goal is to complete any five Trails Challenge trails or 26.2 miles (same distance as a marathon) of non-challenge trails. Record the trail names and distances and submit your log to reservations@ebparks.org by Dec. 1, 2023. You’ll be rewarded with a 2023 Trails Challenge pin, while supplies last.

The program is a great way to become reacquainted with familiar regional parks or explore new ones. It’s also an incentive for enjoyable and healthy outdoor exercise.

You can download the Trails Challenge guidebook at ebparks.org/TC. It contains a list of 20 trails, graded as easy, moderate or challenging. There are trails open to hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and dog walkers. Trails Challenge 2023 also offers increased accessibility, with trails that are usable by people with mobility limitations.

Here are some examples. There are easy hikes listed for Bay Point Regional Shoreline in Bay Point and Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro.

For a moderate hike, there’s a trail at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County, and one at Lake Chabot near Castro Valley.

Challenging hikes include trails at Morgan Territory north of Livermore and Wildcat Canyon in Richmond.

Besides the detailed trail descriptions, the Trails Challenge guidebook contains useful information about trail safety, etiquette, and essential equipment.

The 30th Anniversary Trails Challenge program is made possible by support from Kaiser Permanente and the Regional Parks Foundation.

The cultural history of the Ohlone Peoples is the theme of a program from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in the visitor center at Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve with naturalist Kristina Parkison.

Drop by the Ohlone cultures informational table to learn about the rich culture and thriving present-day lifestyle of the first people who lived in what is now the park.

Sunol Regional Wilderness is at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road, about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; the program is free of charge. For information, call 510-544-3249.

With the rains come mushrooms and other fungi. Learn more during a naturalist-led “Funky Fungi” program from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.

Find out why mushrooms grow in circles, why mushroom rings have been historically associated with fairies, and other mushroom lore. Then make your own fairy craft.

The program is free of charge and registration is not required. Ardenwood admission fees apply.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84. For information, call 510-544-2797.

“Old Skool Skillz” is the title of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley with naturalist Anthony Fisher.

Make an elderberry flute and gain appreciation for the accomplishments of the first people to inhabit the lands of the East Bay and beyond.

The center is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, accessible via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Topics related to the ecology of the Delta will be explored during a hands-on, naturalist-led “Afternoon Adventure” program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, at Big Break Regional Shoreline near Oakley. The program is free, and registration is not necessary.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. For information, call 510-544-3050.

It’s a good idea to check the park district website before heading out, to be sure your park is open. And stay safe when out enjoying the parks. For a full list of activities and programs planned in the regional parks, visit www.ebparks.org/things-to-do.

The Richmond Standard contributed to this report.

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Activism

Volunteers Needed on the Greenway for MLK Day of Service

A whole host of partners are involved in the event, including Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides’ Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway and Pogo Park. 

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Photo contributed to Richmond Standard.
Photo contributed to Richmond Standard.

By Kathy Chouteau

Urban Tilth welcomes the community to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by improving the Richmond Greenway Trail, Mon., Jan. 16, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the 16th Annual MLK Jr. National Day of Service.

Projects that day will include making many improvements along the Richmond Greenway Trail and a memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. Refreshments for volunteers will be served and local speakers, a DJ and children’s activities will be on hand.

A whole host of partners are involved in the event, including Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides’ Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway and Pogo Park.

Volunteer time will be from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and projects will take place along the Richmond Greenway between Second street and 22nd street. Volunteers should go to the project location listed on the sign-up link. From 12 noon-1:00 p.m., there will be time set aside for a Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

To sign up for a volunteer activity, click here or go to https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c094da8ac28aaf4c61-2023#/ and scroll down the page. For more info, contact Arleide Santos of Urban Tilth at greenway@urbantilth.org.

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Bay Area

Proposed Legislation Wants to Turn Parking Lots into Solar Energy Farms

The office of State Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), estimates that creating solar canopies above 400 square miles of parking lots in the state could provide 26 gigawatts of power, which is enough energy to power 6.5 million homes. For context, the state estimates it needs 110 gigawatts of solar power in order to turn 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2045.

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The minutes before sunrise cast a blue hue through the four PowerParasol solar structures at Arizona State's Lot 59. Over five acres of parking lot is now protected from the harsh Arizona sun and provides a venue for tailgating and large events. (Michael Nothum/U.S. Department of Energy via Bay City News)
The minutes before sunrise cast a blue hue through the four PowerParasol solar structures at Arizona State's Lot 59. Over five acres of parking lot is now protected from the harsh Arizona sun and provides a venue for tailgating and large events. (Michael Nothum/U.S. Department of Energy via Bay City News)

By Olivia Wynkoop | Bay City News Foundation

Newly proposed state legislation seeks to motivate companies to turn their parking lots into functional-use solar farms.

Senate Bill 49, announced during the first day of California’s new legislative session, would create a tax incentive for commercial building owners to build “solar canopies” — overhanging solar panel structures — above their large parking lots.

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, author of the legislation, hopes SB 49 will create more local clean energy in cities and suburbs by taking advantage of spaces capable of having solar panels above them, rather than seeking out rare and expensive plots of undeveloped land.

“That’s what makes the solar canopy concept so appealing, because it wouldn’t require any more land, it would just give parking lot owners an incentive to make dual use of their lots by essentially putting a miniature power plant above all those cars,” Becker said in a press release.

The bill would also prevent the need for large-consuming regions to outsource their clean power sources to rural areas, which not only requires installing expensive, lengthy transmission lines, but partly inhibits agricultural areas from using their land for food and livestock production.

In a nation hoping to wean itself off of its dependency on fossil fuels, cheap and quick clean energy is critical, which is why most solar farms across the nation are built on open, undeveloped spaces like deserts, croplands and grasslands and forests, according to a global inventory published in the science journal Nature.

Compared to building thousands of small solar farms in urban spaces, large rural energy farms are technically cheaper, easier to manage and ultimately more efficient to harvest a big quantity of energy from.

But following this summer’s strained energy grid scare, legislators are getting creative to find new ways to provide clean energy to Californians in any way possible.

In one experiment, the state is funding a $20 million project to test the effectiveness of solar canopies above unprotected irrigation canal systems, called “Project Nexus”. The hope is to simultaneously reduce water evaporation and generate clean energy.

Becker’s office estimates that creating solar canopies above 400 square miles of parking lots in the state could provide 26 gigawatts of power, which is enough energy to power 6.5 million homes. For context, the state estimates it needs 110 gigawatts of solar power in order to turn 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2045.

“This is one of the many tools we’re going to need to use to hit our targets of using 90% clean energy by 2035 and achieving 100% carbon neutrality by 2045,” Becker said. “In my view, this is relatively low-hanging fruit. We’ve got the land available — now the challenge is to make better use of it.”

Just last month, the French Senate passed a policy that requires all parking lots with more than 80 spaces to install solar canopies. The French government said this legislation has the potential to generate 10 nuclear reactors worth of energy.

And in March, Washington state allowed businesses to pay off their sales and use taxes from buying solar canopy equipment over an eight-year period.

An assigned Senate policy committee will review SB 49 in early 2023.

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