Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Drinking Water Supply and Climate Change and Other Newsbits

A stray news item caught my attention the other day. The new draft Climate Assessment Report is out for public comment. The chapter on the Pacific Northwest contains this alarming map:

Creeks feeding the Santiam and Willamette Rivers will be low in 2040!
The dry-as-dust caption reads:
Across most of the Northwest, flows during the already low summer flow period would be significantly reduced in the 2040s compared to baseline (1915-2006) conditions under the same scenario (A1B) (Littell et al. 2011). This would put stress on freshwater fish species such as endangered salmon and bull trout and necessitate increasing trade-offs among conflicting users of summer water....annual hydropower production is much more likely to decrease than to increase; economic impacts of hydropower changes could be substantial, on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars per year (Markoff and Cullen 2008).
The report doesn't seem to address drinking water supplies, but those cities in the Willamette Valley that depend on mountain water will surely feel the impact. See that brown and dark brown in the mountains?  The creeks that feed the Santiam River are all in there!  The reservoirs will help manage supply, but it's hard to imagine that we won't be affected.

We all knew this in a vaguely general way already, of course, but to see the dark brown and reductions of up to 80%!  That's a lot of dry and a lot of thirsty in frightening droughty colors.

Couple of Third Bridge Notes

(Some recent developments on bridge maneuvering are of interest, but since facebook is a closed system with limited commenting options, it seemed easier make the observations here with pictures and links.  Apologies for the fragmented conversation.)

The traffic light on Front

Back on the 26th of Dec the No 3rd Bridge advocates posted a note about the traffic light on Front Street where the off-ramp from the Center St Bridge merges onto Front. The matter has come to the fore again in the proposed move to tranfer Riverfront Park property to the City proper from the Urban Renewal Agency.

Traffic Signal at Front from Center St Bridge - N3B
Back in the December note advocates wrote that "The 1998 Bridgehead Study recommended a free-flowing turn lane exiting the Center Street bridge north to Front Street."

Perhaps rhetorically they also observed, "It makes one wonder if the reason for installing the stoplight was to build up pressure to gain public support for a 3rd Bridge. It also makes one wonder what other tricks the City might consider to slow traffic if this ever comes up for a public vote."

Here is the official reason for the stoplight! - which of course may or may not be sincere:

In January of 2010, in a Staff Report to Council on the proposed signal, City Staff wrote, "The 1998 Bridgehead Engineering Study recommended installation of a traffic signal at the Center Street bridge off-ramp and the northbound Front Street intersection as a short-term capacity improvement to extend the capacity of the Center Street bridge."

There may not be an outright contradiction here, but there certainly is tension between the two statements!  Can anyone resolve this?

Riverfront Park transfer

In the discussion of the proposed transfer of Riverfront Park from the Urban Renewal Agency to the City, Walker pointed out that designating the land as Park could limit options to modify or otherwise improve the bridgeheads.  No 3rd Bridge advocates felt this was a strong enough concern that they went to Council to argue against the transfer and prevailed.

It's difficult to know how to assess this without more information.  As I see it, prompted by Walker's comment, the critical piece is the zoning, not the agency/entity who has the deed.  But there are many variables here, and there may well be other factors.  Hopefully someone can chime in with more detail on how ownership by the Urban Renewal Agency is better and offers more flexibility than ownership by the City proper? 


Curt said...

No traffic lights look much better for traffic flow to me:

N3B is such a sweet logo! T-shirts! Stickers! Hats!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

After several backgroundy conversations, here's what seems to be the case.

In the 1998 Willamette River Bridgehead Engineering Study, the signal was identified as a "short-term" fix; the free-flowing off-ramp is a longer-term fix. (See the Executive Summary here, with the recommendations in table E-5 on page 10.) So no contradiction, but it might be clearer for N3B advocates to recognize that the traffic signal was part of the recommendations and not some random, crazy, or nefarious idea by the City!

As for the Park property, it seems like it's a "can't hurt, might help" sort of thing. No one has made it clear that a transfer from Urban Renewal Agency to City of Salem by itself would make it more difficult to work on the bridgehead - but as the first step in a process whose final step would indeed make it more difficult to work on the bridgehead, it could have significance "down the road."

As a matter of emphasis, I worry about putting too much stress on lower-cost ways to pump more car traffic on Front Street, and putting insufficient stress on finding ways to make it easy for people to choose not to make drive-alone trips.

The free-flow off-ramp concept includes adding a third lane to Front Street and taking out the multi-use path on the Center Street Bridge and shifting all walking and biking traffic to the Union St. RR Bridge. For people going west-ish out Edgewater or up Eola Drive, even with lousy connections, many people on bike prefer to use the Center Street Bridge path as it is much more direct. We should be multiplying options, not restricting them!