Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Extreme landscaping

Put away that shovel. A California landscaper may have found a better way to take care of that patch of crab grass. According to the Roselin & Rocklin Today local newspaper, "On Thursday, September 20, 2007, at approximately 1:00 PM a landscaper working in the area of Park Dr. and Lake Tahoe Ct. found a hand grenade wrapped in an old shirt just off the Park Dr. roadway. He summoned police. Rocklin Police Department officers responded, isolated the immediate area, and identified the device as an intact Vietnam-era hand grenade. The Placer County EOD team responded within an hour and a quarter and they detonated the grenade..."

OK, the grenade turned out to be a dud, but I still think it could have been a terrific time saver. — Mike Seuffert

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mystery of the dying frog blog

There's been a lot of finger pointing in California environmental circles regarding declines in the populations of yellow-legged and red-legged frogs and Yosemite toads in the High Sierra. And most of the fingers have been pointing at pesticides that they claim are drifting from farmers, many of them miles from the mountains, as the cause for the frog die-off..
It now looks as if the fingers may have been pointed prematurely.
Scientists have identified one of the main frog-killing culprits, a fungus known as Batrachocytrium dendrobatidis. They say that the waterborne fungus kills frogs by damaging their skin.
There could be (and probably are) other contributing factors, scientists speculate, including an increase in the levels of solar ultraviolet radiation reaching the High Sierra. In fact, nobody is 100% certain exactly why the number of amphibians is decreasing so rapidly. It's premature to lay the blame on one factor, most scientists now recognize as they continue to study the problem. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Dream Act Could Be a Nightmare for H-2B

According to news reports, Congress is supposed to vote on an important bill that will continue to fund our troops fighting overseas. This is exactly the kind of bill that recent extensions to the H-2B program have been attached to. And even though there might be some debate and a few votes against the measure (especially from Democrats currently running for president, which by my count now reaches 174), members of Congress know enough not to vote against the troops while they are in harm's way. Good news for H-2B, right?

Not necessarily. Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, is also planning to try to attach legislation known as the Dream Act to the defense funding. The Dream Act has good intentions. It's designed to help children of illegal immigrants stay in the United States since they're not the ones who broke the law, and hence shouln't be punished for their parents' mistakes. To qualify, they must have been in the country for at least five years, have a high school diploma and meet other requirements. Over the next six years, they would have to spend two years in college or in the military, after which they could become legal permanent residents.

While the H-2B program has been extended numerous times and has bi-partisan support, even if it is widely misunderstood by the general public, the Dream Act is precisely the kind of wedge legislation that divides Congress and the public. On the one hand are children, who nobody wants to vote against; and on the other are illegal immigrants, who just aren't popular with the general public. On top of that, opponents of the Dream Act suggest that it would become a bureaucratic nightmare to implemenl, and way too easy for illegals to forge documents proving they meet the Act's requirements.

Ideally, a 3- to 5-year H-2B extension could have been quietly passed and serve its purpose until broader immigration reform can be accomplished. But I think a proposal like the Dream Act will cause opponents to axe all immigration reform measures together, leaving the Green Industry dangerously short on workers come next spring. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Here's a few links to learn more about the Dream Act:

Democrats in Senate returning to Immigration

Student's hopes rest on federal Dream Act

The return of the American Nightmare, A.K.A. The Dream Act

Foes line up to oppose Dream Act

— Mike Seuffert

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Police to landscaper on stolen truck — Hang on tight!

San Diego landscaper Juan Jara wasn’t about to let a thief steal his truck. When he saw a man start to drive away with his truck, which he had parked on Fourth Avenue one recent morning he immediately called 911 on his cell phone . . . and then he grabbed the rack on the truck and climbed aboard.
Jara got a wild ride into downtown San Diego and onto several local freeways, apparently in the bed of his truck. Many minutes passed (or it seemed like that to Jara) before police finally acknowledged his 911 call and advised him to “hang on tight!"
Eventually police managed to corral the truck and arrest the 22-year-old truck thief and haul him away kicking and cursing. Jara got his truck back undamaged.
There is an article and a viewer video of the arrest on the local NBC afilliate's Web site. Hopefully nbcsandiego.com still has the article and a viewer video. Click on the headline. — Ron Hall

Friday, September 14, 2007

Get paid for installing fake grass

Helix Water District near San Diego is offering rebates to single-family homeowners through its Artificial Turf Rebate Program. Customers of the East County water agency can receive a rebate of $1-per-square-foot up to 1,000 square feet for the purchase and installation of artificial turf.

If you're a homeowner there, here's what you have to do to collect:

The artificial turf must replace existing grass that is currently irrigated.
The artificial turf can be self-installed or installed by a licensed contractor.
Customers must agree to a pre- and post-installation site inspection.

Other water districts in the arid Southwest are offering similar incentives to limit the amount of irrigated turfgrass on home lawns.

Click on the headline to go to the Helix Water District Web site to view its many water conservation projects. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pile of soil costs superintendent her job

A parents' uproar arising from a pile of soil containing pesticides near a school building cost a school superintendent her job this summer.
The pile of soil, which was located near West Brook Middle School, Paramus, NJ, was contaminated with long-banned chlorinated hydrocarbons at levels greatly exceeding state standards. Parents raised a huge fuss when school officials didn’t inform them of the pesticide-laden soil until months after it was tested. Responding to their concerns, officials closed the school in May. It reopened earlier this month following remediation by a contractor.
The school board has been interviewing candidates for the superintendent’s position this September.
Was it the pesticides that caused the superintendent to resign or a lack of communication and decisive action by school officials after the soil was found to be tainted? My bet is on the later. —Ron Hall