Friday’s Briefing: Sudden Oak Death May Have Fueled NorCal Fires; Oroville Dam Repair Costs Nearly Double

Plus, Oakland gets a new fire chief.


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Stories you shouldn’t miss for Oct. 20, 2017:

1. The rapid spread of sudden oak death disease may have fueled the North Bay fires, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle, citing new research from UC Berkeley. Dead and dying trees make wildfires burn hotter, and researchers found that 37 percent of the trees studied in eastern Sonoma County were infected by sudden oak death — ten times as much as just two years ago. Dead oaks are highly flammable, while live ones are fire resistant.

2. The cost to repair Oroville Dam’s badly damaged spillway has nearly doubled, jumping from $275 million to more than $500 million, reports Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee$. Private contractor Kiewit attributed the cost increase to the need to pour much more concrete than originally anticipated. Although the construction work on the state’s second largest reservoir won’t be completed for another year, the spillway is expected to be ready for this winter’s rains.

3. Oakland has a new fire chief: Darin White, a longtime Oakland firefighter who has been serving as interim chief for the past several months, the East Bay Times$ reports. City Administrator Sabrina Landreth and Mayor Libby Schaaf announced White’s appointment on Thursday. Their first choice for the job, Los Angeles Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Butler, turned it down because it would have required him to take a $50,000-a-year pay cut.

4. Alameda Vice Mayor Malia Vella said she welcomes an investigation into the hiring of the Island’s new fire chief and said she’s confident she will be exonerated from any wrongdoing, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. Vella and Councilmember Jim Oddie have been accused of improperly interfering in City Manager Jill Keimach’s decision to hire a new chief. But Vella and Oddie say they were wrongly accused, and both voted to hire an independent investigator to look into the matter.

5. The Richmond City Council launched the process of possibly annexing the community of North Richmond into the city, reports Tom Lochner of the East Bay Times$. Residents of North Richmond, an unincorporated area of Contra Costa County, will likely vote on whether they want to join the city next November.

6. Oakland and Richmond are part of a multi-city effort in the Bay Area to attract a new Amazon headquarters, reports Roland Li of the San Francisco Business Times$. The bid, led by the Bay Area Council, a business group, includes a proposal for Amazon office space at the Oakland Coliseum property and shoreline space in Richmond where UC Berkeley had planned to build a research campus.

7. A San Francisco appeals court indicated that it might allow a challenge to California’s anti-sex work law to move forward, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. Former sex workers filed suit, challenging the state’s prostitution law, contending that it unconstitutionally violates the rights of adults to have consensual sex.

8. And the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate approved a plan that could pave the way for large tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations and for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding, The New York Times$ reports.

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