More good news on Lake Tahoe’s clarity

images-16Here’s some upbeat news: The clarity of Lake Tahoe’s waters is holding steady.

The waters were clear to an average depth of 69.9 feet last year, according to UC Davis. The figure is nearly identical to the 2007 average of 70.1 feet.

The results from 2007 also confirmed that lake clarity had not been declining as fast as it once was.

Still, the research showed that lake clarity declined sharply during last summer’s California wildfires — to as little as 36.9 feet in August. This is something I’d warned about at the time.

Last year’s results would have been much better without the fires.

UC Davis scientists have been monitoring the clarity of the lake since 1968. At that time, the measurement was 102.4 feet.

My son and I have regularly seen the research boat from the West Shore of the lake. Scientists lower a white “Secchi disk” into the lake to measure its clarity. It’s cool to watch.

“What 2008 highlighted is the impact that wildfires and other factors outside our direct control can have on Lake Tahoe. While progress is being made in both understanding and addressing the root causes of clarity decline, the path to achieving the desired clarity will not be a straight one,” said Tahoe Environmental Research Center director Geoff Schladow.

Gov. meetings soon being streamed to your PC

images31NCTV is expected to begin Web streaming of local government meetings as early as next month, according to my sources.

The plan, which has been in the works, will let residents watch public meetings on their PCs, not just their TVs. The content also will be available as video on demand.

This is a welcome technological breakthrough in providing access to the government channel content. 

Some of our residents don’t receive cable, so this is a much-anticipated feature.

Many people report to me they like watching the meetings on television from the comfort of their home. They can’t always get to the meetings in person. Some are elderly or disabled.

An “on demand” feature would let people call up the agenda items they are interested in watching and skip the rest — a huge benefit because of drawn-out meetings.

You also could watch the meetings while you’re out of town, a benefit of Web streaming technology.

The meetings could become interactive with home viewers if government agencies were to incorporate a technology such as “twitter.”

Don’t laugh: Twitter use is growing at a staggering 1,382 percent growth rate year-over-year, with millions of unique users per month.

(photo from

Is it time for Congress to return their salaries?

Congress for Kids

I’m not going to defend the AIG bonuses. But I find the criticism in Congress ironic: How about Congress return its six-figure salaries, along with the regulators, for helping to create this god awful situation in the first place, because no one was being a “watchdog”?

This belongs in the “gimme a break” department. Let’s hope the press catches on.

(photo from

How a newspaper tried to invest in Facebook

images30I’m in Silicon Valley this week, meeting with some people about a “new journalism” project.

One “coulda, shoulda, woulda” tale being discussed is how The Washington Post tried (but failed) to invest in Facebook.

Instead, it got aced out by a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Facebook is one hot tamale, generating buzz that newspapers are not.

The Post is not sitting idle, however. It has an award-winning Web site and owns a Webzine, Salon, which it bought from Microsoft.

Why don’t newspapers discuss their troubles?

images11I’ve often wondered why some newspapers aren’t more candid in informing readers about their financial woes. It’s no secret to the readers that their newspapers are struggling — much lighter editions, for example.

Transparency leads to credibility, and credibility leads to a tighter bond between newspapers and their readers.

Having said that, some outsiders jump to conclusions too quickly, assuming that *all* newspapers are folding or *all* newspapers will go online. That’s wrong too: some newspaper’s problems are more dire than others.

The issue is often complex and “gray,” not “black or white.”

Still, being upfront with readers about the woes is the best course of action.

Here’s an article on the subject, written in the Columbia Journalism Review, titled “A tale of two papers: P-I offers reporting; San Francisco Chronicle offers flackery.”

Area private schools get boost with public woes

images28The layoffs and budget cutbacks at our public schools are generating a surge in inquiries for many of our area’s private schools.

They report more parents are calling than usual, inquiring about enrollment next year. Private school tuition here is a relative bargain compared with many larger communities. 

The classroom size is smaller, and teachers have public-school credentials. Many parents also worry that friction between the public school administrators and the teacher’s union — while understandable — is not in the best interest of their children.

Private schools have suffered their own plights, however: the closure of Sierra Christian school in Nevada City in January, for example. 

Declining enrollment will force an ongoing restructuring of our schools. It is the price we play for not diversifying our economy beyond retirement and tourism.

We need to attract more families and higher-paying jobs, as I’ve written many times before. Can we?

Sierra College now puts money where mouth is

images110As I’ve been blogging this month, Sierra College is stepping up efforts to hire local contractors for its campus expansion here. Meetings are ongoing.

The Rood Center also said it wants to learn from Sierra College’s efforts.

In a tangible step a legal notice titled “Request for Qualifications” appears in The Union this morning reading, “The district desires to work with western Nevada County contractors and will give preference to those contractors.”

Proposals are due March 24. The posting, stemming from a voter approved expansion called Measure G, also is online at Sierra College’s Web site. Expect a flood of applicants.

Let’s hope this helps jump start our local economy, putting some more local contractors to work. They are among the largest industries here.

Meanwhile, Obama’s stimulus plan for roadwork and other projects is facing roadblocks in some communities, thanks to red tape and other challenges, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

The county’s wish list for “shovel-ready” projects was blogged here.