News

Sacramento may allow Artificial Turf in Front Yards August 18 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —In a city full of brown and dying front lawns, a new alternative could soon emerge -- green lawns, though fake, are up for consideration by Sacramento leaders.

At a meeting Thursday, members of the city's planning and design commission are expected to vote on whether or not to allow artificial turf in front yards.

According to the current ordinance, when it comes to front yard landscaping, "Only living vegetation may be used as a primary ground cover; no cement, brick, artificial turf, or other non-vegetative products ... may be used for this purpose."

The new ordinance would allow turf as long as it meets a 1.25 inch minimum height requirement.

The change was first suggested by councilman Jeff Harris who sees the potential upside.

"It's not going to solve the drought's problems, but there are areas where it can be aesthetically pleasing, save water, save the air from the exhaust from lawn mowers," Harris said.

In a memo to the planning and design commission, city staff recommend the changes get approved and passed along to the City Council for a vote. The memo cites the ongoing drought and Sacramento's need to reduce water use by 28 percent, the amount mandated by the state.

At Artificial Grass Liquidators in Rancho Cordova, general manager Tony Skelnik held a piece of turf nearly indistinguishable from grass. The height is the same, as are the colors and texture.

"It's just as comfortable and looks and feels and acts like the same thing," Skelnik said. "They're keeping cooler, they're bi-color blades with hollow stems in them, dual-color thatch and things of that nature. The technology has really brought it into the future."

He acknowledged a change in the ordinance would be good for business, but notes it'd help conserve water too.

"Obviously we're saving a lot of water," Skelnik said. "You're looking at about 8 gallons a month per square foot."

Sacramento city officials have looked into what other nearby cities allow turf, and found they're alone in their explicit ban.

Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Roseville and unincorporated Sacramento County all allow artificial turf. Elk Grove allows it as long as it adequately drains water runoff. Rocklin and West Sacramento have no specific ban on artificial turf in their city codes.


World's First Luxury Animal Terminal July 21 2015

An airport terminal with a swimming pool, suites equipped with flat-screen TVs, customized departure lounges and around-the-clock medical care sounds like a dream come true for airline passengers.

Sorry, human frequent fliers, this one is for animals.

Horses, birds, pets and livestock arriving at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport will sit in the lap of luxury when the airport's state-of-the-art animal terminal opens in 2016.

The $48 million, 178,000-square-foot facility, called the Ark at JFK, is billed by developer Racebrook Capital as the "world's only privately owned animal terminal and USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock."

Construction of the new terminal is under way on the former site of Cargo Building 78, which has been vacant at JFK for nearly a decade. Organizers have signed a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"The animal terminal will set new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services," Ark founder and Racebrook Chairman John J. Cuticelli Jr. said in a statement.

    Among the new terminal's offerings:

    • A large animal departure lounge offering stalls, food and water for horses

    • Individual climate-controlled units for horses, equipped with bedding and natural light

    • LifeCare veterinary hospital offering general and emergency care including surgery and advanced diagnostics

    • A 24-hour Paradise 4 Paws pet resort featuring a bone-shaped dog pool, pet suites with a flat-screen TV option and a jungle gym for cats

    • Paradise 4 Paws grooming, obedience training and pet massage therapy

    • A livestock export handling system


    Southern California saying goodbye to lawns May 27 2015

    LOS ANGELES — When Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to reduce urban water use by 25 percent, he declared war on the ubiquitous manicured lawn that — more than palm trees or pools — has for more than half a century been the beloved badge of Southland suburbia.

    Among the early casualties is the expanse of green turf that Tom Beck and his wife planted around their Arcadia home 26 years ago.

    "I have mixed emotions," Beck said recently as he watched a gardening crew scrape up the grass in his backyard and cart it to a truck headed for the green waste dump.

    The Becks' four children grew up playing on the lawn. Their dogs romped on it. They hosted garden parties on it. But "times have changed," Beck said. Now the Arcadia city councilman is re-landscaping his spacious lot to cut his water-guzzling lawn in half.

    Big droughts leave their stamp on California. The 1976-77 drought helped launch the move to low-flow plumbing fixtures. This one may be the beginning of the end of that standard of Southern California, the lush lawn.

    "The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day — that's going to be a thing of the past," the governor said when he issued his April 1 directive.

    The Southland is expected to tear out the equivalent of more than 2,100 football fields of grass — or more than twice the turf removal goal Brown set for the entire state in his emergency drought order.

    "I think people will look back 10 years from now (and say) that was the period when Southern California started moving away from lawns," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

    Demand for turf removal rebates has exploded since Brown's order. In a single week this month, Metropolitan received nearly $49 million worth of requests for conservation rebates, most of them for cash-for-grass subsidies. The board is considering pumping an additional $150 million into the program and is likely to set new rebate limits to stretch the funding. But that clearly won't be enough, and the agency is warning rebate applicants there is no guarantee of approval.

    Metropolitan, which supplies the region with water from Northern California and the Colorado River, isn't just trying to get through one of the worst droughts in the state record. It's attempting to permanently alter the climate-defying face of the Southland.

    "We need to be leading a change in behavior," said Deven Upadhyay, Metropolitan's water resource manager.

    Water in the Southland — first from the Owens Valley, then from the Colorado and from Northern California — was for most of the 20th century cheap and plentiful. Easterners and Midwesterners who streamed into the region could create yards even lusher than those they left behind, oblivious to the fact that they lived in the drought-prone, semiarid West.

    "One of the first sounds I associated with waking up in the morning was the clickity-click-whoosh, clickity-click-whoosh of overhead sprinklers watering lawns and gardens," Southern California gardening guru Pat Welsh wrote, recalling her family's 1944 move to Los Angeles on her blog last year. "There was something empty and slightly sad about all these abundant gardens with their over-irrigated lawns. Los Angeles didn't feel real."

    Brent Haddad, director of the Center for Integrated Water Research at the University of California at Santa Cruz, grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Back in the 1970s, he said, Los Angeles could be described as an urban wetland. "I remember fog so thick in the mornings that I couldn't see my hand in front of my body when I was walking to school — blinding fog that was evaporation of all the irrigation in the morning," he said.


    The Drought Will Put Major Strain On The Western U.S. Power Grid May 19 2015

    Drought and extreme heat may significantly increase the risk of power shortages in the Western U.S. unless its utilities adopt “climate-proofing” measures, according to new research.

    Western regions in the United States are particularly susceptible to climate change. Extreme heat and drought are expected to bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperature, air density, and humidity. To beat the heat, residents and businesses will become increasingly dependent on electricity. And lots of it.

    As reported by Bobby Magill in Climate Change Central, the ensuing demand for energy will dramatically constrain the ability of utilities in the 11 Western states to produce electricity. That is, unless they start to climate proof their power grid with renewables and conservation measures. Such are the findings of a new study published in Nature Climate Change by Arizona State researchers Matthew Bartos and Mikhail Chester. Magill explains:

    For nearly half of the West’s existing power plants, climate change could reduce their ability to produce electricity by up to 3 percent during an average summer and possibly up to nearly 9 percent during a decade-long drought...Coal-fired power plants in Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and Colorado are especially vulnerable, the study says.

    Indeed, scientists are still trying to figure out the various ways that climate change will influence energy consumption. Air conditioners set to full blast will most certainly tax the grid, but so too will efforts to cool water for use in coal-fired power plants. There’s also population growth to consider.

    “Often when we think about the effects of hotter temperatures on electricity provision we focus on the demand side as people consume more electricity for air conditioning,” Chester said. “Our results show that climate change can be expected to impact the electricity supply side as well ultimately raising questions about our ability to meet this growing demand with the current mix.”

    Alarmingly, the scientists say that power providers aren’t accounting for climate impacts in their plans, “meaning that they could be overestimating their ability to meet future electricity needs.”

    Bartos and Chester are recommending that power providers strengthen their transmission capacities and apply conservation strategies. They also recommend climate constraints and investing in more resilient renewable energy sources.

    “We’re finding that some power generation technologies may be more climate-resilient than others,” noted Chester in an NSF release. “Renewable energy sources are generally less susceptible to climate change effects. More use of renewable sources may contribute to a better climate-proofed power infrastructure.”


    Drone Footage Reveals Deep Impact of California Drought May 15 2015

    OROVILLE, California— The view from Lake Oroville, nestled in the foothills of Northern California, is stunning.

    The massive reservoir has 167 miles of snaking shoreline. In many areas the lake is hundreds of feet deep, capable of holding 3.5 million acre-feet of water.

    But what may be most astonishing is what you don't see here: The water level has plummeted nearly 200 feet in some areas. Vast hills and rolling valleys of brown, which used to be covered in water, now tower out of the lake bed.

    It's a troubling sign for all of California, and symbolic of the devastating drought in the West. Oroville is the second largest reservoir in the region, supplying cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles with water used for drinking, irrigation, and even fighting fires.

    Scientists say it would take 11 trillion gallons of water the pull the state out of this crippling drought, and when you see Oroville — especially with a drone's perspective — you can see how big of a hole the region is in.

     In all there are 12 major reservoirs scattered across the Golden state. Each one plays a critical role in water supply and distribution. But the water levels at each one sit well below the historic average for this time of the year. Some of the largest reservoirs are operating at just a small fraction of capacity.

    California won't run out of water anytime soon — but, with many experts saying there's no sign the drought will quickly — what we see at reservoirs is an indicator the region is in serious trouble.

    Governor Jerry Brown as already declared a state of emergency in California — and he's ordered everyone in the state to cut their water used by 25 percent. But that goal hasn't been meet. And in the meantime water levels continue to sink at reservoirs.

    Oroville, like many of the other lakes in the region, is feed two ways: 1) by melting snow pack … 2) by major storms. But with a dismal snow season, and hot, dry weather in the forecast, there is little relief on the horizon.

    Covering this historic drought for the last 4 years, I've seen some dramatic images emblematic of the West's current crisis. With a drone the view is both breath taking — and alarming. California looks to be in serious trouble.

     

    Drought ended the Maya empire. Is California next? May 12 2015

    Once upon a time, the Mesoamerican lowlands of Mexico and Guatemala belonged to the classical Maya empire, a civilization on par with what we now call Ancient Greece — which is to say, pretty damn civilized. The Maya built major cities for tens of thousands of people, established complex political systems, industrialized agriculture, and erected two-hundred-foot-tall pyramids and elaborately be-fripperied temples; they knew more about the movements of the stars than their contemporaries in Europe, and they operated a highly organized political administration of offices, tariffs, laws, and punishments that would make any modern bureaucrat proud. (They also practiced regular human sacrifice — but at least they had a lotta heart, amirite?)

    And then everything changed. Around 900 AD, the empire collapsed, and their splendid city-states faded into ruin. By the time Europeans made it across the pond, the Aztecs were the new kids on the block and the Maya glory days were a distant memory.

    What happened? In a word: drought.

    Well, it was probably not just drought — political instability and the odd conquering army may have played a part — but new research is making connections between the Maya collapse and the 200-year-long dry spell in which it took place. And seeing as much of the American Southwest is caught in the grips of the biggest drought it’s seen in decades … well, let’s just say we’re paying attention.

    The tricky work of recreating past climates falls to paleoclimatologists, whose job basically combines high-tech chemical analysis and Indiana Jones bushwacking. In one recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month, lead authors Mark Pagani and Peter Douglas looked for clues to the Maya’s changing climate in the sediment from two lakes in two regions where the ancient Americans lived: one in the historically arid north of the empire, and one in the wetter and more heavily populated south.

    Specifically, the researchers sifted through centuries’ worth of digested plant matter layered at the lakes’ bottoms in search of the preserved molecules of ancient, dried-out leaves. Plants lose water through their foliage, and they recoup it through their roots — except in times of drought, when more water evaporates than can be recovered. As such, the waxy molecules of leaves leftover from times of drought look markedly different than those from well-watered ones.

    What the scientists found were signs of drought clearly correlated to the timing of the Maya collapse. And where the drought seemed to be most intense, ditto the collapse. While this kind of research — digging into sediment cores or analyzing the chemistry of stalactites — can only track correlations between climate and culture, this study is just one piece of a growing body of evidence that shows how prolonged drought may exacerbate the political instability, war, or population collapse that topples an otherwise robust society.

    “The most advanced society cannot prepare for drought that sustained,” says Pagani, a geologist at Yale University. There’s evidence to suggest that the Maya were advanced enough to adapt to an earlier period of drought by moving their agriculture from a water-intensive slash-and-burn technique to industrial-scale system of irrigation canals in the wetter lowlands, managing to keep growing crops even as their water sources dried up. But when a second serious drought hit harder, there was nothing else to be done.

    “It’s hard to draw direct parallels,” said Douglas, a Caltech researcher who studies ancient drought while living at the center of a modern one. It’s a mandatory caveat coming from a scientist, because when you leave aside the hard science, it’s not that hard to see parallels between the situation of the ancient Maya and the potential future of California. Both places feature a growing population and an industrializing agricultural system. Both saw a few centuries of wetter-than-average climate prior to a number of escalating dry spells — and both places are vulnerable to natural shifts in rainfall that could easily tilt that average back over into drought.

    This is what happened to the Maya: When the drought descended on the region, the areas that had started out drier fared better than the southern population centers, where the drought and the collapse were both more extreme. Douglas compared the two regions of the Maya empire to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Traditionally, the northern Maya settlements (like Los Angeles) saw less precipitation — they were wiped out by the drought, but a few of their cities rebounded afterward. Meanwhile, the more heavily populated south (like San Francisco) had historically worried less about water — so when the drought hit, it knocked most cities out for good.

    Which brings us back to today. Even if California’s drought doesn’t last another few hundred years, as some doom-sayers predict, it will leave a mark. “Two hundred years from now, if I took a sediment core from Tahoe, and if I was able to resolve these last 10 years, it would be a stark change,” said Pagani. Water levels have dropped off steeply, farmers are starting to pump groundwater out of aquifers that will take decades if not centuries to replenish.

    “We are a modern society, we have tools at our disposal,” Pagani said. California in particular is host to a huge tangle of water infrastructure and policies that bring H2O from the north to the southern parts of the state. In any case, no matter what happens next, “everything is going to change.” California will have to change its expectations about housing, growth, agriculture. The rest of the country may have to figure out how to grow some of California’s outsized share of our nation’s produce needs.

    All of this research into ancient and modern drought highlights another fact Pagani notes we’d be wise to pay attention to: When we say that the climate is changing, really we are telling a story about water. He points out that one of the primary differences between a forested state like New Jersey and a desert one like New Mexico is the amount of precipitation both places get. And when temperature increases or decreases, that changes how much water is available, and where.

    If global temperature creeps up another couple of degrees, California’s drought could look like the beginning of a very old, very scary story — one we’ve heard before.


    Californians Getting Mixed Messages During Drought May 11 2015

    AN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — California is adopting unprecedented restrictions on water use, but residents are getting mixed messages from state and local officials.

    As the state is telling residents to cut back on usage during the drought, questions are being asked about new housing developments in the works.

    “If we’re so short on water, why are we putting more people here?” one resident asked.

    In Southern California, cell phone footage captured Caltrans sprinklers watering freeway hillsides in the rain.  Caltrans had an explanation for that, spokesman Patrick Handler saying “there’s a lot of places where the vegetation provides erosion control.”

    But just down the road, a message board warned drivers of the severe drought, saying to limit outdoor watering.

    There has also been social media outrage over the amount of water it takes to produce a single almond.

    State Water Resources Board Chair Felicia Marcus says there has been a misunderstanding about big agriculture.

    “When you talk about this ag/urban misunderstanding, ag has been hit, but ag produces food that people in urban areas eat,” Marcus said.

    There will be winners and losers in the fight to combat the effects of the drought, and each water district is now working to meet tough new standards of up to 36-percent cutbacks.

    “You have communities that have different rules, and what we’re hoping is that everyone will step up their game,” Marcus said.

    If they don’t, the water board approved fines up to $10,000.


    Spanish Fort Could Spend 700 Thousand on Artificial Turf May 08 2015

    Spanish Fort, Alabama -There's no doubt Spanish Fort has one of the most impressive high school football stadiums in the state. "The Hill"- as it's known to locals, already rivals some junior college facilities.

    Now, the football field could soon get a pretty expensive facelift.

    The city, not the school system, could spend more than half a million dollars and install artificial turf at the stadium. One estimate was quoted at 700-thousand dollars.

    Supporters say it costs about 50-thousand a year to maintain the grass field and tell News 5 the field is used more than 85 times a year for multiple events and groups, including youth football.

    The mayor and city council will discuss the project at a work session next week.


    Tightening the Tap: Water districts study how to meet state's now-official water conservation targets May 07 2015

    Now that California has officially mandated major cuts in urban water use, hundreds of local water agencies must figure out how to make them work.

    June 1 marks the formal beginning of the reductions ordered Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board, carrying out Gov. Jerry Brown’s order to reduce water use by 25 percent statewide.

    The agencies must work with the needs of their customers, some of who will doubtless claim hardship or invoke exceptional circumstances. They must also decide which practices deemed wasteful to curtail or ban outright, and what incentives or encouragement will best result in cooperation.

    There is a financial hammer, if needed. Water districts in San Diego County and the rest of the state must report monthly to the state water board. Districts that fail to meet their assigned percentage cuts to potable water use face heavy fines — up to $10,000 per day — from the state water board. Districts will ultimately pay those fines with money from their customers.

    The cuts range from 8 percent to 36 percent of residential per-capita use, compared to the corresponding month of 2013, starting in June. Agencies whose residential customers use more water are faced with heavier cuts, because their residents presumably are using more water for optional uses, such as for outdoor landscaping.

    The reductions will be tough, even for the agencies that have cut back the most. The Sweetwater Authority faces a 12 percent reduction — the lowest in the county — but it won’t be easy to meet. The agency's customers use an average of just 66 gallons per person daily. The county average is 150 gallons daily.

    “Now you’re getting into basics,” said Ron Morrison, mayor of National City, which is in the Sweetwater district. “I no longer have a lawn in my front yard or back yard. Most of my outdoor irrigation is done from graywater off of my showers and such. There’s a lot of brown lawns, a lot of cutback here.”

    There are exceptions. Since the cuts are limited to potable water, landscaping or other uses with recycled “purple pipe” water not meant for drinking are not restricted. Graywater, from sources such as laundry or kitchen wastewater, can likewise be used outdoors.

    For its part, the state water board said at Tuesday’s meeting that it doesn’t want to play the heavy. Districts that find themselves falling short of their conservation target are encouraged to contact the water board quickly, and develop a plan to come back into compliance.

    Some things are not subject to discussion. The water board has already prohibited the following:

    • Using potable water to wash sidewalks and driveways

    • Creating runoff when irrigating with potable water

    • Using hoses without shut-off nozzles to wash cars

    • Using potable water in decorative water features that do not recirculate the water

    • Using outdoor irrigation during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation

    San Diego County faces a special challenge in meeting the conservation mandates. Its residents have already performed considerable conservation, reducing per-capita use about 30 percent from 1990. And the region is not allowed to deduct from the mandates the water soon to be produced from the $1 billion Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad, which has the capacity to make 50 million gallons of drinking water daily from ocean water.

    The county’s retail water districts face cuts running nearly the gamut of possibilities. Sweetwater Authority in the South Bay area must cut 12 percent; the city of San Diego must cut 16 percent, while some districts must cut the 36 percent maximum, including Valley Center Municipal Water District and the Santa Fe Irrigation District.

    Waiting for instructions

    At the largely agricultural Valley Center Municipal Water District, customers are being told to rely on official instructions, which will be mailed to them by the end of May, said Gary Arant, the general manager.

    “We’ve been telling customers to sit tight and wait until all the dust settles,” Arant said. “We’ve been telling them they’ll have to deal with mandatory use restrictions such as two days a week watering, not letting your water run off the property, and we’ve also been telling them to think of more ways to conserve water.”

    Valley Center customers have been sometimes confused by inaccurate or outdated information in the media, said Gary Arant, the district's general manager. For example, growers were warned by a publication called the Times-Advocate, Valley Center Edition, that they face cuts of 36 percent along with residential users. But a short time later, a revised conservation proposal from the state water board exempted the growers.

    The Valley Center water district posted a notice to customers about the article on its website.

    However, local growers aren’t entirely off the hook. They are likely to be hit with a 15 percent cutback, Arant said. That cut will be voted on next week at a May 14 board meeting of the San Diego County Water Authority. The proposed cut applies only to growers taking part in a program that provides discounted water rates, in return for agreeing to take less water during shortages.

    The proposed agricultural cut matches a 15 percent reduction in water delivered to the Water Authority from Metropolitan Water District, which supplies about half of the county’s imported water, including all the discounted agricultural water. Metropolitan, which supplies most of Southern California’s, voted for that reduction at its April meeting.

    Arant said his district is waiting until after the Water Authority acts, so enough information is available to develop specific plans. On May 18, the district’s board is scheduled to meet to decide on how to meet the mandate.

    Enforcement boosted

    The city of San Diego stepped up conservation measures early in April, days after the governor’s order. The city is now boosting enforcement against water waste, said Halla Razak, the city’s director of public utilities.

    “We have 17 staff members that are out there investigating water waste complaints, and will be issuing notices of violation initially,” Razak said. “If the infractions are not corrected, they will be followed by citations.”

    Citation costs depend on the infraction, Razak said, and will range from about $100 to $500.

    San Diego gives more information on its website at www.sandiego.gov/water. A complete list of prohibited or restricted water uses is available at utsandiego.com/sdcitywatercuts.

    The Santa Fe Irrigation District, which includes Rancho Santa Fe, is looking at ways of tightening up existing rules, said spokeswoman Jessica Parks. Rancho Santa Fe’s high per capita use is caused by the predominance of luxury homes on large parcels with profuse landscaping. Because the region is lightly populated, the landscaping boosts per capita use.

    “We’ve been in mandatory water use restrictions for the past eight months,” Parks said. “We’ve been making our customers have been aware of this and in compliance.”

     


    Glendale resident urges city council to allow artificial turf May 06 2015

    With California's record drought in mind, Glendale resident Katherine Alvarez tore out her front lawn. She was about to install artificial turf, when her contractor told her she could be fined $1,000 by doing so.

    Glendale does not allow fake grass in front lawns.

    "I thought it was crazy! We're in a drought!" Alvarez said.

    Alvarez is raising four grandchildren at her home and says drought-tolerant plants don't make sense for her.

    "If I go with the rock, the gravel, the mulch, it's not a soft and friendly environment for children to play on and that would mean they're playing in the street, which I do not want," Alvarez said.

    Gov. Jerry Brown's office says cities and homeowners associations currently have the right to regulate artificial turf.

    Glendale spokesman Tom Lorenz said the Glendale City Council adopted its rule long ago.

    "It has to do with the front yard, drought scape that you have and whether it's living and green," Lorenz said.

    Alvarez urged the city council Tuesday to amend the rule.

    "I've talked to all my neighbors and they have said they want to do artificial grass," Alvarez said.

    Mayor Ara Najarian said he supported bringing the issue up for discussion.

    "I would like this to be brought forward as quickly as possible for no other reason than we are in the midst of a drought," Najarian said.

    Antioch getting new football field, track for 2015-2016 school year April 29 2015

    Work is in full swing and in slightly more than three months, Antioch is going to open its 2015 home football season with a Week 2 game against Moline.

    What the Sequoit fans will see that night — besides what should be a very good football team led by star running back Griffin Hill — is a new artificial turf football field, surrounded by a new eight-lane track.

    What those fans see right now — huge piles of dirt — is the reason that the Lakes athletic complex, four miles to the southeast, is home away from home this spring for Antioch's girls soccer team and its boys and girls track teams.

    Nevertheless, construction is well under way at Antioch's football field, and athletic director Steve Schoenfelder said the project "is right on schedule," which means the football home opener will indeed be played at home.

    Those fans at the Moline game also will notice that they aren't sitting in the same location as they have been for so many years. To accommodate the bigger track — eight lanes instead of six — the bleachers will be moved somewhat west and north.

    Schoenfelder explained that the school district stayed in touch with state officials on the new design of the football stadium because it's always possible that somewhere down the line, the state might decide to expand Route 173, which runs east/west directly south of the football field. In other words, a long extra point kick in one direction could, in theory, sail onto the highway.

    But field logistics aside, Schoenfelder feels this improvement is a win-win for the school.

    "In the long run, this is going to save money," he said.

    And here's why. The reason a new facility was needed was because the fields used for soccer and (in the fall) field hockey are on land northeast of the high school that has not held up well. The ground has become bumpy and uneven. Think the Olympic sport of mogul skiing, but without the snow.

    That terrain is neither safe nor desirable for field hockey or soccer, so it either had to be repaired or replaced.

    "It would cost $400,000 to fix it, and there's no guarantee that in two years, it wouldn't happen again," Schoenfelder said.

    So, starting next fall, field hockey and soccer will have quality facilities for home games.

    And maintenance costs will be reduced with the artificial turf, though not eliminated entirely.

    Having artificial turf also benefits other programs, such as Antioch's marching band, which will have a place to practice. Schoenfelder said he even gave the band first call on what day it wanted the field for practice. The halftime shows at home are just a portion of what a school band does. It also competes, and in order to be successful, it needs to be precise in its movements and formations, so logging extra time on the football field will help the Marching Sequoits.

    When Antioch plays football next fall, it will reduce the number of county schools with teams playing on natural grass to six.

    Waukegan, Zion-Benton, North Chicago, Round Lake, Lakes and Lake Forest Academy still need a lawn mower.

    That also means Antioch football players will still need two sets of shoes — one for artificial-turf games and one for road games at Lakes, Round Lake and Zion-Benton.


    Historic California Drought Creates a Hazardous Situation: Year-Round Fire Season April 28 2015

    California is in the death grip of a historic drought, and the situation is only getting worse as fire season is evolving into a year-round event.

    Cal Fire fire captain Mike Mohler told NBC News with the lack of moisture, “You get explosive fire growth.”

     

    The peak for California’s wildfires is usually summer into early fall, intensifying by late-September or October due to Santa Ana and Diablo winds, weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman explained in an earlier story. The threat typically diminishes in the winter, which is considered the region's "wet" time of year, because of growing mountain snowpack and returning moisture. 

    But during the last two winter seasons, the rain and mountain snow totals in the region were well below average. The lack of moisture is no more apparent anywhere else than it is in the California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, where snowpack has plunged to record lows.

    The community of Swall Meadows, nestled in the Eastern Sierra, is one example of the growing hazard of explosive fires, as they experienced a blaze that burned 35 homes and swept over 7,000 acres of land this past winter, San Jose Mercury News reported.

    Dale Schmidt, volunteer fire chief, told Mercury News before the drought became a huge factor, the area where the fire started would normally be covered in snow. “That’s the mental state people were in,” he said, “Winter is not the season for fire danger.”

    The trend of dangerous fires has been growing since 2000, though, Daniel Berlant of Cal Fire said, who revealed higher temperatures are becoming increasingly problematic as create dry vegetation, a catalyst for explosive fire speed.

    Cal Fire has had a busy year on its hands already, responding to almost 850 blazes since Jan. 1.

    Those dangerous blazes are occurring during a wildfire season that has been extended by an average of 70 days, Mercury reports, a stark contrast from 40 years ago.

    To combat and prepare for the looming situation, Berlant unveiled Cal Fire’s new goal to NBC: shifting their focus to prevention work instead of suppression.

    California residents and crews are working to meet this goal by clearing combustible materials, boosting the health of forests, creating defensive zones around homes and using fire resistant materials in construction projects.

    But as Swall Meadows resident Annie Barrett Cashner told Mercury News, “California, brace yourself. From what we’ve seen, it’s coming.”