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CBashore / Cody Bashore, Arizona Daily Sun file 

Northern Arizona head coach Loree Payne demonstrates a drill at practice during the summer in Rolle Activity Center.

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Flagstaff main library gets new layout, checkout system, bathrooms

The Flagstaff library patrons are being treated to a new look and soon a more efficient experience at the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library on Aspen Avenue.

Claudine Taillac, the volunteer service and training librarian, said the library recently did some minor and major renovations. New carpeting was installed throughout the building and the circulation desk was moved to provide more open space at the front of the library.

Both of the restrooms at the entrance to the library were also completely remodeled to provide larger stalls, new tile and accessibility for all patrons.

The library is also in the process of installing a radio-frequency identification system that will make it easier to check out, return, and sort books and other library materials. The library currently uses a barcode system where each item has to be scanned, sorted and shelved by hand.

Each library item under the new system will receive a RFID tag that allows library staff to keep track of who checked out a book and when. Around 45 volunteers are currently working on tagging more than 300,000 items in preparation for the change.

The new system will also help with sorting materials when they’re returned. Each returned item is deposited on a conveyor belt that rolls the item through a scanner that reads the tag and then sorts the item into a bin with a label for the shelf where the items are supposed to go. It makes it a lot easier and faster to re-shelve items, which means that patrons will have faster access to that book or movie they’ve been waiting to read or watch.

Taillac said no one at the library will lose their job once the new system is installed; it will simply make staff’s jobs easier and faster. According to Flagstaff City Council meeting minutes, the system was approved by Council in November 2016 and costs about $450,000. The library had already saved most of the money for the project and only needed an additional $7,735 from the city’s general fund to purchase the system.

The library’s digital collections also continue to grow, Taillac said. Patrons can not only reserve and renew books online but read e-books, e-magazines and listen to audio books for free.

The library’s website includes access to stream movies through InstantFlix. Most of the movies available on InstantFlix are shorts, documentaries and indie films that you might find at a film festival. In order to use the movie streaming service, patrons have to come into the library to sign up for an account. But the e-books, magazines and audio books can all be checked out for free through the library website and a handful of smartphone or tablet apps.

For those who may not be quite so tech savvy, the library offers free one-on-one technology instruction.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

By relocating the main checkout desk in the downtown Flagstaff Public Library, the entrance now has a far more open feel.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Each of the fireplaces in the downtown Flagstaff Public Library has a new handmade screen created by a different local artist.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

The new steel sign outside the main branch of the Flagstaff Public Library is the most outward evidence of recent renovations to the library.

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Climate change skeptic faces tough questions at nomination hearing

WASHINGTON — Kathleen Hartnett White, a climate change skeptic and former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, faced tough questions from Democrats on Wednesday during her nomination hearing for a top environmental post.

Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works grilled White about remarks she’s made in her role as a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin. They pressed White, who President Donald Trump nominated to head the Council on Environmental Quality, on her views over climate change, particulate matter and the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.

“It seems to me you don’t believe climate change is real,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said to White. “You’re not a scientist, are you?”

“No,” White replied. “But in my personal capacity, I have questions that remain unanswered,” adding that scientists need to have a more precise understanding of how much human activity impacts climate change.

Andrew Wheeler, a coal and nuclear lobbyist, was also part of Wednesday’s hearing for his nomination to be deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. However, much of the three-hour hearing was focused on White.

Despite the tough questions she faced from Democrats, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the committee, said he expects the committee will approve her nomination. After the committee’s approval, White must be confirmed by the full Senate.

White’s comments have also concerned environmental advocates, who sounded the alarm over her nomination to head the federal office that coordinates between agencies. Nearly 50 groups signed a letter Tuesday urging the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to reject her nomination.

“Ms. White has been a consistent science denier regarding the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-fueled climate change, making her unfit to lead an office charged with coordinating how the federal government analyzes and discloses climate change impacts in environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act,” says the letter, addressed to Barrasso and Tom Carper of Delaware, the committee’s top Democrat.

If nominated, White will join a number of Trump administration officials who doubt the scientific consensus behind human-caused climate change. On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told USA Today that a newly released government report blaming human activity for the rise of global temperatures does not impact his decision to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., used that report while questioning White, asking her to tell the committee which bar was the tallest in a chart showing the primary drivers of recent global temperature rise. The chart showed that “human activity” vastly outweighed “solar” and “volcanic” drivers to increased global temperatures.

Her comments on climate change didn’t seem to sway Republicans on the committee. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., shrugged off Democrats, saying “all they want to talk about on the other side is global warming.”

Carper blasted the president’s nomination of White and other “climate deniers” the night before the hearing.

“While the rest of the world acts on climate change, @POTUS nominates climate deniers to top environmental jobs,” he tweeted Tuesday.

White was appointed to TCEQ by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001. She had previously been considered to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Throughout her career Kathleen has served Texans as a strong leader, in particular by ensuring that Texans have the energy and natural resources they need to prosper,” Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a prepared statement after her nomination was announced in October. “We at TPPF congratulate Kathleen on this important opportunity and know she will serve our nation with the same thoughtfulness, determination and common sense that have been her hallmarks in Texas.”

Since her departure from TCEQ, White has pushed back against the federal Endangered Species Act. In a paper for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, White called the act “antiquated” and “economically harmful without substantial environmental benefit” for Texas.

But environmentalists rejected the report. Stephanie Kurose, endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said White has “no qualms about letting wildlife go extinct” in a statement Tuesday.

“White is yet another Trump nominee for an environmental protection office who fanatically opposes protecting the environment,” Kurose said. “In this post she could do incredible harm to our nation’s natural heritage.”

In other articles for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, White questioned human-fueled climate change and claimed carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

In a 2014 report, she asserted that “carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant” and that calling it one “is absurd.” White later praised carbon dioxide in a 2015 video, saying there are “beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.”

She also has criticized renewable energy sources as “unreliable and parasitic” and EPA reports on the health benefits associated with reduced pollution as “statistical fiction.”

“To confirm White for one of the highest environmental posts in our government would be deeply irresponsible,” Kurose said. “Senate Republicans shouldn’t rubber-stamp an industry puppet for such an important job.”

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Study: Without forest treatment, wildfire above Fort Valley means inundation

The scenario is far from unlikely: a wildfire rips through the forest that covers the southwest flank of the San Francisco Peaks above Fort Valley and Baderville. Soon after that, heavy monsoon rains sweep through the area, causing a 100-year flood event.

What would happen to the homes and buildings at the foot of the Peaks?

A new study prepared for Coconino County and published this year provides an answer.

According to the study’s modeling, flows in the Rio de Flag downstream of Fort Valley would be up to four times higher than if the same amount of rain fell on unburned forest. Fort Valley homes would see flooding levels increase by up to three feet and an estimated 222 structures would see more than a foot of floodwater, compared to 87 structures if the heavy rains fell under current forest conditions.

The study contained equally striking results for the city of Williams if the forest on Bill Williams Mountain sees wildfire in its current, unthinned state.

In large portions of the city's downtown, flood depths in a 100-year precipitation event could increase by one to two feet compared to the same amount of rain falling on unburned forest in the city’s watershed, the report said. Flows in Cataract Creek at the south end of Williams could increase by up to five times while 515 structures could get more than a foot of flooding, compared to 147 structures with current forest conditions.

The study focused on Fort Valley and Williams, aiming to determine the extent of flooding both communities would see if nearby forests burned and then were hit with heavy rains. Then, the modeling was shifted to gauge the potential for forest treatment operations to reduce post-wildfire flooding impacts.

The authors produced projections for a handful of scenarios: first, if the forest remains unburned; second, if the forest is treated with tree thinning and prescribed fire and then sees wildfire; and third, if the forest remains untreated and burns in a wildfire.

Those scenarios show forest treatment makes a big difference.

Thinning trees and using prescribed fire over the entire Fort Valley watershed, including the portion that lies above 9,500 feet within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, could reduce post-fire flooding in a 100-year precipitation event by 58 percent, the study found.

In Williams, the modeling shows that completing forest treatments in the city’s watershed would reduce post-wildfire flood discharges by nearly half in the event of a 100-year precipitation event, which has a 1 percent chance of occurring every year.

The study is important for county residents to understand the realities of living in this landscape as well as for those planning forest restoration projects in the region, said Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott, whose district covers Fort Valley.

“It’s a critical component to making smart decisions and influencing how the Forest Service prioritizes certain areas that have high risk and high vulnerability,” Babbott said of the study.

The results also provide useful information related to wildfire risk in wilderness areas, Babbott said.

In its Fort Valley scenario, the study found that forest treatment throughout the whole watershed could reduce post-fire flooding by 58 percent. But if the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, which encompasses the higher elevations of the San Francisco Peaks, isn’t treated, post-fire flooding would only be reduced by 28 percent.

“It begs the question, does it make sense to restore thousands of acres on the lower level without having some way to improve the forest health in the upper elevations?” Babbott said.

Wilderness regulations, such as prohibitions on the use of motorized and mechanized equipment, limit the type of restoration work that can be done there, but this study suggests a strong need for that type of work, Babbott said.

“We may have some very hard discussions about wilderness area treatments down the road,” he said.

The county has initiated conversations with the Coconino and Kaibab national forests to see how information from the flooding scenarios could be aligned with their forest restoration efforts, said Matt Ryan, the Coconino County supervisor whose district includes Williams.


The findings about flood risk in Williams are “pretty much common sense,” though the study “brings into clearer perspective what we’re looking at,” Mayor John Moore said.

From the Forest Service’s perspective, the agency knew about the risks associated with a high severity fire on Bill Williams Mountain, but it hadn’t studied the magnitude of that risk to the community and to infrastructure, said Kit MacDonald, watershed program manager for both Kaibab and Coconino national forests.

Even before the study came out, the Forest Service had put a priority on thinning Bill Williams Mountain, said Kendall Cikanek, a deputy district ranger with the Kaibab. A total of 15,000 acres on the mountain are slated for thinning and prescribed fire and another 9,000 acres have seen similar work over the past two decades, according to Jackie Banks, spokeswoman with the Kaibab.

The study helps the Forest Service explain the need for forest restoration in the area, Banks said.

The analysis also served as the impetus for an effort to create a pre-disaster plan for the city of Williams. The plan would include elements like safe evacuation routes and city infrastructure protection if wildfire does burn forests in the city’s watershed.

A Forest Service advisory committee recently awarded the project, which includes forest health components as well, a $104,000 grant to support the work.