What's New on This Site?

The webmaster who has maintained this site for the past ten years or so has retired.  Arrangements are currently being made to maintain this site.  We have found a sponsor who is supporting the site on his server so that the collected material  will continue to be available.  However, mail links to Friends of Lake Merced will not be operative until a new web manager is in charge.

   It seems like only yesterday that we were assured that "significant planning for the future of the Boathouse is underway."  In fact, that was two and one-half years ago.  Laura Kocourek, a local highschool student, and rower at the lake, has reminded us that not much has happened, and that it should!  (Political Action, 5/4/2006)

   In their best 3-D tradition (that's Decide, Describe, and Defend!) the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the City of Daly City have just issued their joint study of the Vista Grande Watershed (March 2006).  They have provided less than a week to read this 240-plus page report prior to their first public meeting to present its contents.  A copy of this report is available on the Daly City Web site. 

Here are some highlights:

  Between $72- and $104-million will be spent drilling a new, larger tunnel so that more fresh rainwater can be poured into the ocean,
  Another $35- to $49-million will be invested in Storm Drain Improvements in order to expedite the flow of fresh rainwater into the new, improved tunnel,
  Nothing will be spent to support Best Management Practices (BMPs) to encourage fresh water conservation. 
For example, no consideration was given a program to disconnect downspouts from the stormwater drains, allowing rain to flow from rooftops into the aquifer just as it did before the houses were built.
  In order to gain environmentalists support, a 5.5 acre constructed wetland will be built just south of Lake Merced, at a cost of $2 million per acre.

The tunnel will be built first, projected completion 2011.  Presumably if there's any money still in the till the other projects, including the constructed wetland, can begin when that's complete. 

Wondermento!   (Plans => Westside Basin, 3/25/06)

           The San Francisco Examiner reports on the lack of public notice of the 'Workshop' called to discuss this proposal.  "Daly City officials did not return calls for comment."  (Press, 3/28/06)

          Dick Allen has written to the Lake Merced Task Force suggesting that they take action to assure that retention of fresh water for the purpose of aquifer recharge is given full consideration.  (Plans, 4/26/06)

   The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering a proposal to devote a significant sum, as much as $35 million, to capital projects in the Recreation and Park Department.  One project to be funded, at about $800,000, is the development of a Master Plan for Lake Merced.  Maybe its time to run out our own vision for Lake Merced that we proposed a couple of years ago when the idea of a Master Plan was first proposed.  (Plans,  3/17/06)

   On February 23 we were invited to present our analysis of the Vista Grande demonstration project data to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.  Attending on behalf of Friends of Lake Merced were David Dawdy, Dick Allen, Mona Cereghino, and John Plummer, who made the presentation.

We demonstrated that there was a significant increase in E-coli bacteria levels during storms in which contaminated water was diverted into the lake (ppt slides), and described the errors in the consultant's analysis that led them to the opposite conclusion.  David Dawdy has prepared a memorandum summarizing this material.

We also requested that the public notice and water quality monitoring  protocols be tightened.  Unfortunately, the project team seems not to be influenced by these findings, and is proceeding with their project as originally designed.  We have written to Patrick Sweetland, Manager of Water and Wastewater Resources for the City of Daly City, asking that this protocol be reviewed.

   The Regional Water Quality Control Board has approved the Year 3 sampling plan for the Vista Grande Canal water diversion project subject to two conditions.  One of those is an agreement to hold a meeting with community representatives, including Friends of Lake Merced, to review the statistical analysis and to determine if adjustments to the sampling plan are called for as a result of this review.  That meeting is now scheduled for February 23 in the RWCB offices.  We will post a summary of the results on this site. 
(Plans => Water, 2/11/06)

   Greg Bartow, PUC water engineer, sent an e-mail to Keith Lichten at the RWQCB confirming his understanding of the conditions under which approval of the sampling plan was to be issued.  (1/24/06)

   Keith Lichten responded with an e-mail approving the sampling plan, but noting several additional areas of concern that need to be addressed by the research team.  (1/26/06)

   The City recently audited the financial and management practices of the Recreation and Park Department.  I'll quote the findings as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle (1/13/06):

"The audit, by Board of Supervisors budget analyst Harvey Rose, looked at overall management of the city Recreation and Park Department and found slipshod fiscal practices, haphazard staffing and unsanitary conditions at pool facilities. It also found that losses at the city's golf courses contributed to an estimated shortfall of $600 million for building upgrades and major park improvement and restoration projects."

   Bleak audit of S.F. public golf courses, by  Becky Bowman, Chronicle staff writer, concentrated on the mismanagement of the golf fund and the major losses incurred at Harding Park.  (Press, 1/13/06)

   A day earlier the Examiner issued a similar report,
Audit slams Rec and Park Department, by Emily Fansher, Examiner staff writer.  (Press, 1/12/06)

Of course, "Recreation and Park General Manager Yomi Agunbiade, who took the helm of the department in 2004 . . . agreed with all but a handful of Rose's recommendations."  C'mon, Yomi's been in charge for 18 months now.  How long does he get away with agreeing with bleak audits while little if anything changes?

   As we noted in our Lake Merced Update for January 2006, the year-end lake level is the highest it has been since December 1986, prior to the extended drought that seriously threatened Lake Merced.  We suggested a number of potential reasons, and suggested better science is needed to explain this increase, and to determine whether it is likely to continue,  (Plans => Updates, 1/9/06)

   David Dawdy, a consulting hydrologist, has responded with what he calls "a rough assessment" of the several factors listed.  Needless to say, David's rough assessment is significantly better than anything we have seen from the Public Utilities Commission, the keepers of the lake.  (Plans => Water, 1/10/06)

   Since I distributed the January 2006 Lake Merced Update the PUC has provided some of the information requested in the PUC report to the Lake Merced Task Force (Plans => Updates, 1/11/06).  David Dawdy has used some of this to prepare an Addendum to his earlier report.  The good  news is that, while it's no sure thing, there is reason to be optimistic that the current lake levels can be sustained without significant additions of imported water. (Plans => Water, 1/14/06)

   Never one to rest, David has added some additional observations to his earlier Addendum. 
(Plans => Water, 1/19/2006)

   Lest one doubt David's credentials, he has provided a copy of his (extensive) resume.  I told him that I doubted this site would produce any revenue for his consultancy.  David replied with the observation many of us share, unless they pay for the advice, the bureaucrats don't listen.  I think they should listen to David. 
(Plans => Water, 1/19/2006)

   We just received the year-end report from the Lake Merced Pumping Station: the water level in Lake Merced is now just a tad less than 23 feet.  This is the highest year-end lake level since 1986, the year before the drought that brought us all, or at least quite a few of us, together.  That's about 4 feet higher than the year-end level that we saw in 2001, just four years agoSee the complete history.  (Data, 1/6/06)

  We don't know why the lake level has increased, but there are several possible explanations.  We suggest that better science is needed to address this question.  (Updates, 1/6/06)

    We close the year 2005 with a feature article in the San Francisco Examiner about our friends, the lake's and the bird's friends as well, Dan and Joan Murphy.  See City couple fills empty nest with love for area birds, by  Bonnie Eslinger, staff writer.  Also, revisit the list of birds found at Lake Merced that Dan contributed to this site a few years ago.  (12/30/05)

   The rainy season is upon us, so it is time to start planning for the 2005-'06 diversion program.  The sponsors of this project issued a "final" plan on December 12.  The program is to get underway this month.  So much for public input.  Here are the relevant documents: (Plans => Water Level, 12/19/2005)

   Water Quality Screening Plan and Operational Guidelines, 2005/06 Wet Season, Lake Merced
Pilot Stormwater Enhancement Project (pdf).
  This is the proposal prepared by EOA Inc., a firm of consulting engineers.  It might be a good proposal.  Unfortunately, however, it is based in major parts on errors made analyzing the data collected during the past two years.  Unless and until the researchers understand the nature of those errors and their implications we don't think that this demonstration project should be allowed to proceed.

   Water Quality Screenng Plan, Comments from Friends of Lake Merced (doc).  We prepared a commentary on the EOA, Inc. proposal that we sent to Keith Lichten at the Regional Water Quality Control Board (12/13/2005).  We asked Keith for an independent, objective and professional review of our position on the issues identified in our commentary.  So far we haven't heard from Keith.

   EOA, Inc. prepared a brief response to some of our comments. (doc) 

   Patrick Sweetland, Manager of Water and Wastewater Resources for the City of Daly City, also wrote to Keith Lichten, enclosing a copy of the EOA, Inc. response.  Basically Patrick's argument is that he has paid a lot of high-priced talent to develop this program, that he doesn't need any input from the community, and that he'd much prefer it if the Regional Board just approved his plan without any further review.  Were I trying to defend the positions taken in the proposal I'd rather not have any further review either (or is it too?).

We're right on this one, at least for once.  We hope that we have an opportunity to explain why.

   After more than four months there has been no additional reporting to the community on the progress being made with the Vista Grande watershed study.  However, according to the Examiner (12/1/2005), the SF-PUC and Daly City have decided that the best thing to do is to build a bigger tunnel to enable piping this valuable fresh water into the ocean.  The price for this brilliant solution: $55 million.  Another $37 million in funds not yet designated make this "
the largest public works project in Daly City history," according to Patrick Sweetland, Daly City’s director of water and wastewater.  (Plans=>Westside Basin, 12/6/05)

   This approach stands in sharp contrast to the award-winning program in Orange County.  It seems that the southern Californians care more about the San Francisco / San Juanquin Delta than do our own city officials.  We asked them to talk to some of the folks down south, but our guys know better!

   In a widely distributed e-mail Dick Allen, a San Francisco resident, asks "W
hy does the city want to ship rain water out to sea?"  He continues, "We can no longer afford to do business as usual.  Water is a very precious commodity that needs immediate attention."

   For more information (a lot more!) about the Orange County program visit their web site.  Two numbers of note: the capacity of this system, when completed in 2007, will be 70 million gallons of recycled water each day (mg/d).  Construction cost will be $487 million, or just under $7 million per mg/d capacity.  Compare that with the SF-PUC's current proposal, a $200 million investment for just 4.5 mg/d, or almost $45 million per mg/d capacity.  $200 million for just about enough water to irrigate Golden Gate Park and Harding Golf Course.  We doubt that even the big spenders in San Francisco are willing to support this nonsense.

   The Public Utilities Commission and the City of Daly City have issued a final report on the pilot study of stormwater diversion from the Vista Grande Canal into Lake Merced.  Unfortunately the researchers have made a fundamental error, accepting the finding that no contamination has occurred unless their is less than one chance in twenty that conclusion is correct.  Obviously, that is a silly error, and can readily be corrected.  More important is the fact that government officials, in both San Francisco and Daly City, who are responsible for this study as well as for the quality of the water we use every day, accepted these results even though the problem had been suggested before the final report was released.  The full background is available by clicking here.  (Plans, 10/31/05)

  Final report from the Vista Grande reserch team (pdf file, 10/22/05)

  Comments on the final report from Friends of Lake Merced.  (11/04/05)

Letter to Dr. Robert Cooper, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley School of Public Health. 
Dr. Cooper served as expert advisor to this study. (11/29/05)

   It seems that we have a new neighbor.  Apparently a Red Fox has taken up residence near the Impound Lake.  Read Robert Anderson's report.  (Plans ==>Natural Areas and Habitat, 10/11/05)

   The PGA tournament being held at Harding Park Golf Course provided a marvelous opportunity for city/community cooperation.  Incredible sums have been spent preparing for this event.  Working together, the Recreation and Park Department and community members might have developed a program that both served the PGA's needs and had a lasting impact on Lake Merced.  Unfortunately, the Department again decided to ignore the community; the result is a program that while expensive is almost entirely cosmetic.  Worse, perhaps, the management of this program has been so inept as to anger many of the nearby residents.  Take a look at the comments posted on the LakeWood  Tenants message board.

   The Public Utilities Commission has published a revised Recycled Water Management Plan.  (The Executive Summary is provided in pdf format.)  While we are pleased to see that Lake Merced and Harding Park are at the top of the priority list, we remain disappointed with the modest goals being set on a city-wide basis.  Also, we are happy to see that aquifer injection in order to support lake levels is to be considered in the engineering phase.  (Recycling, 10/04/05)

   More information regarding the PUC's recycled water program can be found on their web site.

   It's good enough for you, and it's good enough for me, but it's not good enough for the fat-cat golfers.  That's the Boathouse, that Rose Marie Denis, Recreation and Park department spokeswoman, describes in today's Examiner: "The run-down Lake Merced Boathouse will be covered and blocked from view, although Dennis said she didn't know exactly how.  'It will be something more sexy to the eye,' she said. 'The whole area is looking so great we don't want some dilapidated building in the middle of it.'"  Matter of fact, we don't want some dilapidated building in the middle of Lake Merced either.  (Press, 9/22/2005)

   The ordinance that established the Recreation and Park Department Golf Fund called for a six-step distribution ladder for revenues generated by that fund.  The first rung was, of course, maintenance of Harding Park golf course, the second repayment of the money borrowed from the Open Space Fund, and at the bottom of the ladder money for the area around Lake Merced.  In a letter to Gloria Bonilla, President of the Rec & Park Commission, we've requested that the annual report to the public, also required by the golf fund ordinance, reflect this six-tier assignment.  We don't expect to get any money soon (another Rec & Park pipe dream), but we'd like to keep the commitment in front of everyone.  (Political Action, 9/16/2005)

   The San Francisco Examiner has reported on other concerns regarding the Golf Fund's management.  The parks again seem to be getting the short end of the stick.  (Press, 9/21/05)

  A report claiming to describe the success of the Vista Grande stormwater diversion project (pdf) was presented  at the 10th International Conference on Urban Drainage, Copenhagen/Denmark, 21-26 August 2005.  Authors of this paper include M.J. Casteel1, G. Bartow, and S.R. Taylor of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and P. Sweetland of the Daly City water department.  We do not agree with the major findings of this report.  100% of the reduction in coliform counts in stormwater runoff and lake water after diversion of stormwater into the lake is attributed to riparian filtering, with no recognition of the effects of mixing and/or coliform die-off.  It is probable that these factors dominate the observed differences in coliform concentration.  (Plans, 9/14/2005)

   The City of Daly City and the City and County of San Francisco are jointly preparing a study for stormwater management improvements in the Vista Grande watershed.  The purpose of the study is to develop a Strategic Plan for the watershed that will reduce or eliminate flooding, reduce erosion along Lake Merced, and maximize other potential benefits such as groundwater recharge and augmentation of Lake Merced water levels.  As part of this joint study, RMC Water and Environment conducted a workshop on behalf of the City of Daly City and the City and County of San Francisco on July 27, 2005.  A copy of the presentation slides for this workshop is available on the PUC web site.  (Plans, Westside Basin, 8/8/05)

  We have written to Jim Salerno, Environment Manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.  Jim's department collects and publishes the water quality data usually reported bi-monthly by the PUC.  We have noted several trends in this data that seem to have statitical significance, and have asked Jim to comment on their practical significance if any.  We will publish that report here when it is available.  (Data, 7/26/05)

   "It may be tempting to pass off the world’s mounting water woes—from droughts and floods to dried-up rivers and shrinking lakes—to the whims of nature.  But water calamities are increasingly of human origin, the consequences of policies and projects that encourage waste and inefficiency and that work against nature’s water cycles rather than with them."  This begins a very useful essay, Liquidating Our Assets, by Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project Program in Amherst, Massachusetts, and author of  Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems, published by the Worldwatch Institute.   (Plans, 7/25/05)

   Friends of Lake Merced has reviewed the current proposal for development of recycled water in San Francisco, the only urban county in California lacking such a program.  The Public Utilities Commission recently presented the current version of their Integrated Water Resources Plan.  Included is a section on recycled water that falls far short of acceptable performance in several ways.  We have proposed several modifications to this program to bring it in line with State and economic standards.  (Recycling, 7/14/05)

   J. K. Dinnen, Examiner staff writer, shines the spotlight on the poor condition, and apparent lack of any program of recovery, of the Lake Merced Boathouse.  Of course the Recreation and Park Department has $2 million to restore an unused fisihing pier, nestled in the bullrushes in South Lake, not to mention $20 million to restore Harding Park Golf Course, but no money to restore the Boathouse to its original purpose of support for recreation and other community activities.  The PUC to the rescue; again they talk about managing Lake Merced as a watershed, whatever that means.  Not to worry though, Tony Winniker will make sure that any restauranter operating at Lake Merced doesn't throw grease in the lake.  (Press, 7/5/05)

  What now for Boathouse?  Letter to the editor from John Plummer (Press, 7/6/05)