Earlier this week, KCBX reported water reservoirs on the Central Coast have been getting a much-needed recharge from the past month’s rainstorms.

Several reservoirs, like Lopez Lake and Lake Nacimiento, have increased by many acre feet. Lopez has seen a rise of six feet in elevation since the fourth of January. Nacimiento rose 23 feet in that same amount of time and 12 feet in just the past three days.

However, reservoirs on the southern Central Coast haven’t been receiving nearly as much of a refill. Specifically, Lake Cachuma, which serves the Santa Ynez Valley, Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria.

KCBX spoke with Tom Fayram with the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department. Fayram says the atmospheric rivers hitting Northern California hard just haven’t been as intense for the southern Central Coast.

“They got the focus of the rain,” Fayram said. “We just haven’t had things lined up, necessarily our way, so far this year to take advantage of that.”

Fayram said places like the Nacimiento Reservoir have received around 12 inches of rain in a period of 24 hours.

“And we don’t even have 12 inches on the ground for the season here behind Cachuma,” he said.

It’s still early in the winter season and the next couple of months are, on average years, Fayram said, when the rain starts to pour into the lake.

“We have a lot of our winter ahead of us,” Fayram said. “Which is different this year than other past years. With the drought we were always hoping to scratch out a little bit of water at the very end of our winter.”

Fayram said despite the low amount of elevation rise for Cachuma, it is currently receiving 125 percent of what the area normally receives for rainfall.

“So that’s the first time we’ve been in a position where we’ve been ahead of the normal,” Fayram said.

Looking into the future, Fayram said it’s difficult to guess whether or not we will get to see any reservoirs fill to capacity or spill over. But he’s hopeful.

“That’s like asking will the stock market go up or down,” he said. “Because it really matters on what the weather does. We’ve seen years in the past where we could fill Lake Cachuma very easily in one year.”

He said it’s beneficial to see back-to-back storms, even if they are relatively milder for Santa Barbara County than Northern California.

Heading up north, Robert Johnson from the Monterey County Water Resources Agency said even with heavier amounts of rainfall in those areas, it’s difficult to predict whether or not the reservoirs up on the northern Central Coast are going to fill to capacity, either.

“That’s challenging to guesstimate or forecast because we don’t know what the storms are coming. It doesn’t fill every year,” Johnson said.

You can find current reservoir data for San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties here:

San Luis Obispo County Water Resources

Monterey County Water Resource Agency

Santa Barbara County Flood Control District

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After two days of heavy rain and strong winds, another round of stormy weather is on its way to the Monterey Bay area. That could mean more rockslides, downed trees and power lines and flooding. We visited went to Santa Cruz County where homeowners are cleaning up, and getting ready for round two.

Paula McGill lives in a neighborhood just outside of Watsonville.  Her cul-de-sac sits across from Corralitos Creek, which now looks more like a fast flowing river.

“We got flooded bad, so every one of the neighbors here pulled together and we sandbagged each other’s yards. And we blocked off the entrance to Anderson Drive. The other side of the circle was open for emergency vehicles,” says McGill.

She says she spent six hours sandbagging in the rain Sunday – work that saved the inside of her house from flood waters.

“You couldn’t even see our sidewalks,” McGill says.

On Monday, water rushed down the storm drain on her cul-de-sac, making those sidewalks visible. Monday is all about cleanup: firefighters checking on residents, public works removing downed trees and clearing mudslides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, PG&E workers restoring power – all just in time for another storm.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Brian Garcia says another significant storm arrives Monday night and will last through Wednesday morning, the heaviest rain coming Tuesday.

“Some more landslides, rockslides, flooded roads, flooded creeks and streams,” Garcia says.  

It won’t be as big as the weekend storm, but it will fall on already saturated ground.  

“So while the rain amounts don’t look like anything significant per say in and of itself, it’s probably going to be decently significant because of the conditions that have already preceded it,” Garcia says.

The Santa Cruz County Emergency Operations Center remains activated, ready to send reverse 911 calls to the community and coordinate crews working out in the field. Emergency Services Manager Rosemary Anderson says one area they’re keeping an eye on is the Pajaro Levee.

“The main issues that we worry about with the levees is really about debris flow and we have crews out there on 12 hour shifts making sure that the culverts are cleaned out, that the rivers are free of debris so that the flow through that area is as good as it can be,” says Anderson.

Anderson says while they’re ready to respond, residents must be ready too.

“It’s the self-preparedness and self-resilience that helps everybody,” Anderson says.

Back near Watsonville, Paula McGill gets ready to fill more sandbags before Monday night. She has a fresh pile sitting on the hood of her car.  

“That’s the hard part, it’s exhausting. But when you know you’re going to get hit with it, you start preparing and by that you make sure your cars are gassed, you’ve got plenty of food, water in your home in case you lose power. I’m prepared with briquettes and lighter fluid… that will be how I’m going to cook,” says McGill.

On top of the rain, California King Tides could also increase the risk of coastal flooding Tuesday through Thursday.

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The future of 5,800 acres north of Santa Cruz now rests with President Obama and his final days in office. At issue is a proposed national monument that has divided a Central Coast community. Supporters feel highly optimistic Obama will create the monument, but opponents worry if that happens, the incoming Congress will do nothing to support it.

In his eight years in office, President Obama has expanded three monuments and created 26 new ones — more than any other president.

“Teddy Roosevelt has been said had America’s best idea when he talked about preserving our incredible natural heritage and for me to be able to add to that heritage is greatly appreciated,” Obama said in 2015 while creating three national monuments with the stroke of his pen.

In 1906, Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, which gave presidents the executive power to designate national monuments. National monuments add a layer of federal preservation and protect the land from mining and mineral leasing.

More than a century later and across the country, land on the North Coast of Santa Cruz County near Davenport could be next.

Steve Reed describes the land east of Highway 1 as transforming from rolling hills with ocean views to steep canyons and thin ridges.

“From here on a clear day, to the south, you can easily see Lovers Point in Pacific Grove and down to Big Sur. It’s one of a kind,” Reed says.

For about two years, Reed has been managing the campaign to make the land the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument. His salary is partly paid by the Sempervirens Fund, a non-profit leading the charge. Now the push is to add the land to an expansion of the California Coastal National Monument, which already includes 1,100 miles of offshore rocks and islands along the coastline plus some onshore areas.

“And so this California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act takes a number of different properties in Humboldt County, this Cotoni-Coast National Monument, Piedras Blancas down by San Simeon and a small portion of Orange county offshore rocks and islands,” says Reed.

Reed feels confident President Obama will expand the monument, adding if it doesn’t happen now, it likely never will.

“I don’t think there’s any prospect of getting a Trump administration re-engaged in anything California or Coastal California that involved, you know, sort of the public access,” Reed says.

Historically, national monuments have had bipartisan support, but they’ve also been controversial.

In late December, President Obama created two new national monuments, including one called Bears Ears in Utah. Republican leaders there are already are calling on President-Elect Trump to repeal the executive order.

John Freemuth, Professor of Environmental Policy at Boise State University in Idaho says, “There’s no seeming precedent for anything like that.”

Freemuth, a former national parks ranger, has spent a lot of time studying the Antiquities Act.

“The Antiquities Act itself has no reference to another president repealing the actions of an earlier president, but it’s never been tested in court. Most legal scholars don’t think it’s possible,” says Freemuth.

A president could, however, change the size of a national monument. Congress could also undo the action, or limit funding. They’ve done it before.

“But that’s not an effective way to deal with the issue in the long-term because Congress gets itself into a box in terms of yes, they’re making a political statement by saying we’re not going to fund it, but at the same time they gave the president the power to create the monument in the first place,” says Freemuth.

Noel Garin-Bock has lived in Davenport for about 30 years. The small community is right next to the proposed monument expansion. She’s worried about funding.

“This is a Republican House and a Republican Senate, is there really going to be more money? I don’t think so. I would not have any faith at all that any money is coming this way for open space at all. No,” says Garin-Bock.

Two years into this debate, there are still signs not everyone supports the idea; signs staked in front yards. They read – STOP THE MONUMENT.

Garin-Bock chairs the Davenport North Coast Association, the closest thing this unincorporated community has to a city government. She says the land around Davenport is already well protected through deed restrictions. Her concern is that Davenport is not ready to handle the influx of visitors that naturally comes with national monuments.

“More visitors means more traffic and so we need to make sure that we have services for more visitors. And as we’ve said many times, emergency services up here are slim to none,” Garin-Bock says.

In the neighboring community of Bonny Doon, Ted Benhari is worried the land could be loved to death. He’s on the steering committee for the Friends of the North Coast, which has been working with the Davenport North Coast Association to voice concerns.

“If we have to wait another four years to make it a national monument, or eight, it’s not important. We have to look at the big picture and the long run because this is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world and we don’t want to do anything to ruin that,” Benhari says.

At the very least, Benhari and Garin-Bock hope the proclamation Obama may sign includes language written up by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. That language includes conditions such as limited access until a management plan is in place.

“We met with the Department of the Interior, we met with the Council on Environmental Quality and we met with the White House to ask that it be included. So we’ve tried to do everything we can to make sure it’s in there, but at the end of the day, it’s the president and his advisors that make the final decision,” says Supervisor Ryan Coonerty says.

The board supports the national monument, but only if it’s manage properly.

President Obama has two weeks left in office to make the decision on the future of this land in Santa Cruz County.

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Tyrus Wong, who arrived at Angel Island as a 10-year-old immigrant from China in 1920 and went on to a career as one of the California’s most important modern painters, has died at age 106.

The Los Angeles Times reports Wong died Friday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.

Late in life, Wong became widely known for his landmark work on Walt Disney’s 1942 animated feature “Bambi.” He was also recognized in Hollywood for his contributions to other landmark films, including “Rebel Without a Cause” and “The Wild Bunch.”

Wong’s career received wider public recognition in recent years. That was due in part to belated attention from the Disney Co., which led to a 2013-14 retrospective of his work at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Wong was also in the spotlight because of the 2015 documentary “Tyrus,” by Los Angeles filmmaker Pamela Tom (see the trailer above).

As recounted in Tom’s film, Wong rose in California’s art world despite the many obstacles — both those written into law and those woven into daily life by a society that had long viewed Chinese immigrants with disdain and hostility — that he encountered upon his arrival as a child.

As detailed in The New York Times obituary by Margalit Fox, the first hurdle Wong had to get over were the barriers imposed by the federal Chinese Exclusion Act, an 1880s-era law that sought to shut off Chinese immigration.

In 1920, seeking better economic prospects, Gen Yeo and his father embarked for the United States, leaving his mother and sister behind. Gen Yeo would never see his mother again.

They were obliged to travel under false identities — a state of affairs known among Chinese immigrants as being a “paper son” — in the hope of circumventing the Chinese Exclusion Act …

… United States immigration officials put Chinese arrivals through a formidable inquisition to ensure they were who they claimed to be.

The questions came like gunfire: In which direction does your village face? How many windows are in your house? Where in the house is the rice bin? How wide is your well? How deep? Are there trees in your village? Are there lakes? What shops can you name?

The sponsoring relative was interrogated separately, and the answers had to match. For the new arrival, a major mistake, or a series of smaller ones, could mean deportation.

To stand a chance of passing, aspirants memorized rigorous dossiers known as coaching papers. The ensuing interrogation was hard enough for adults. Ten-year-old Gen Yeo would undergo it alone.

On Dec. 30, 1920, after a month at sea, the Wongs landed at Angel Island Immigration Station. The elder Mr. Wong was traveling as a merchant named Look Get; his son as Look Tai Yow….

… Because Mr. Wong’s father had previously lived in the United States as Look Get, he was able to clear Immigration quickly. But as a new arrival, Gen Yeo was detained on the island for nearly a month, the only child among the immigrants being held there.

“I was scared half to death; I just cried,” Mr. Wong recalled in “Tyrus,” an award-winning documentary directed by Pamela Tom, which premiered in 2015. “Every day is just miserable — miserable. I hated that place.”

On Jan. 27, 1921, in the presence of an interpreter and a stenographer, young Gen Yeo, posing as Look Tai Yow, was interrogated by three inspectors. His father had already been questioned.

Gen Yeo was well prepared and answered without error. In Sacramento, where he joined his father, a schoolteacher Americanized “Tai Yow” to “Tyrus,” and he was known as Tyrus Wong ever after.

The Wongs eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where Tyrus Wong began his formal training as an artist. In the mid-1930s, Wong joined the Federal Arts Project, a publicly funded agency that employed artists to create paintings and murals for public buildings. In 1938, Disney’s studio hired him as an “in-betweener,” someone whose job was essentially to create visual filler in animated films. The Times’ Margalit Fox takes up the story from there:

Asians were then a novelty at Hollywood studios, and Mr. Wong was made keenly aware of the fact, first at Disney and later at Warner Brothers. One co-worker flung a racial epithet at him. Another assumed on sight that he worked in the company cafeteria.

Then there was the affront of the in-betweener’s job itself: Painstaking, repetitive and for Mr. Wong quickly soul-numbing, it is the assembly-line work of animation. …

… A reprieve came in the late 1930s, when Mr. Wong learned that Disney was adapting “Bambi, a Life in the Woods,” the 1923 novel by the Austrian writer Felix Salten about a fawn whose mother is killed by a hunter.

In trying to animate the book, Disney had reached an impasse. The studio had enjoyed great success in 1937 with its animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” a baroque production in which every detail of the backgrounds — every petal on every flower, every leaf on every tree — was meticulously represented.

In an attempt to use a similar style for “Bambi,” it found that the ornate backgrounds camouflaged the deer and other forest creatures on which the narrative centered.

Mr. Wong spied his chance.

“I said, ‘Gee, this is all outdoor scenery,’” he recalled in a video interview years afterward, adding: “I said, ‘Gee, I’m a landscape painter!’”

Invoking the exquisite landscape paintings of the Song dynasty (A.D. 960–1279), he rendered in watercolors and pastels a series of nature scenes that were moody, lyrical and atmospheric — at once lush and spare — with backgrounds subtly suggested by a stroke or two of the brush.

“Walt Disney went crazy over them,” said John Canemaker, who wrote about Mr. Wong in his book “Before the Animation Begins: The Art and Lives of Disney Inspirational Sketch Artists” (1996). “He said, ‘I love this indefinite quality, the mysterious quality of the forest.’”

Mr. Wong was unofficially promoted to the rank of inspirational sketch artist.

“But he was more than that,” Mr. Canemaker explained. “He was the designer; he was the person they went to when they had questions about the color, about how to lay something out. He even influenced the music and the special effects: Just by the look of the drawings, he inspired people.”

Mr. Wong spent two years painting the illustrations that would inform every aspect of “Bambi.” Throughout the finished film — lent a brooding quality by its stark landscapes; misty, desaturated palette; and figures often seen in silhouette — his influence is unmistakable.

Disney fired Wong in 1941 after a strike at the studio. He went to work at Warner Brothers, retired in 1968. Amid many other accomplishments, Wong became known as a creator of kites. From the L.A. Times obit:

In Wong’s last decades he was known for the magnificent kites he made at home in Sunland and flew on the beach to the delight of passers-by.

“You get a certain satisfaction in making them, and you get a certain satisfaction flying them,” Wong said in a 1995 interview with The Times. “Some are attention-getters, but that’s not what I’m after. I used to go fishing a lot, and I love fishing. This is just like fishing, except in fishing you look down. Kite flying, you look up.”

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