Category Archives: News

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring The Yolo Bypass

Various ditches convey water from one part of the Area to another.

By Thomas Farley

If you want to get outdoors but don’t have much time, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is a perfect place to go. It is essentially the entire area visible from the Yolo Causeway and its main entrance is only three miles from West Sacramento. You’ll see birds of all kinds, an unusual, intensely managed landscape, and you’ll experience a relaxing break from city pressure. The noise of Interstate 80 barely registers, and you’ll soon find yourself lost in exploration.
The bypass has three main roles.

The first and most important is flood control. To relieve pressure on Sacramento River levees in heavy rain years, the 16,700 acre bypass is allowed to flood.

The second role is to encourage wildlife and habitat. After water recedes in the bypass, or whenever the ground is dry, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the property. Rice is planted, seasonal and permanent wetlands are maintained, and grasslands are cultivated, all to increase the numbers of waterfowl and other birds.

The third role is education and recreational use. Fish and Wildlife partners with groups like The Yolo Basin Foundation to promote that end.

Heidi Satter is the Foundation’s Education Coordinator. Each year she helps to organize and conduct dozens of field trips to the Bypass for schoolchildren across our region. What better way for them to experience wildlife and wetlands so close to home?

Take the signed auto tour route to experience the many elements of the bypass. It makes a complete loop of open areas, along with interesting side roads. Bring binoculars, water, and a day pack; you may be tempted to park your car to investigate the many foot trails. Annual flooding of ponds is now occurring in preparation for waterfowl season. Located in the heart of the Great Pacific Flyway, the Yolo Bypass will soon play host to countless thousands of birds as they migrate from north to south. Dove season is currently running until Sept. 15, so certain areas may be closed. (Hunting remains an activity as it has for decades, however, this use is controlled and permitted only in specific areas.) Guided monthly tours start on Oct. 10, from 9 a.m. to noon. But you are welcome to drive the bypass roads yourself at nearly any time of year.

Going? Check the information boards posted at the site since not all areas are open at all times. Downloading a map is highly recommended. Dogs are only permitted in the bypass from the causeway to the railroad tracks. Hours are dawn to dusk year round. To get to the bypass, go west on Interstate 80, take the first exit, turn right at the stop sign, and then loop underneath the highway on East Chiles Road toward the signs. The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters is located 1.9 miles further down on Chile’s. It’s past Yolo Farmstand and the soccer fields at 45211 County Rd 32B. Open weekdays.

West Sacramento’s port is on a path of profitability

Shown here is a length of dock at the port. Although idle now, two to four ships visit each month.

By Thomas Farley

Has the Port of West Sacramento’s ship come in? Or is it still at sea? The landmark facility alongside Industrial Boulevard has struggled for years to keep afloat financially, but new practices suggest that a more buoyant future lies ahead.

The Port made a renewed effort toward profitability after reorganizing its business in July, 2013. At that time, seeking cost reductions and greater efficiencies, the City of West Sacramento turned over shipping management to a private company.

SSA Marine, a worldwide port operator, now leases and manages the Port’s North Terminal cargo facilities. SSA in previous years moved everything at the Port from wood chips to windmills. Frank Patalano is the Terminal Manager for SSA Pacific. He talked about their recent two-year anniversary at the Port, saying that progress is good so far and that one of their challenges turned out to be educational; SSA is learning to become a port administrator, not just a terminal operator. They are now tasked with, among other things, fulfilling various permits and complying with California Air Resources Board requirements. Patalano says that this experience is proving valuable to him as a manager and to SSA Pacific as a company.

Patalano reflects, “One of our biggest accomplishments in the last two years is maintaining the business we have always had, the leader in exporting rice to Japan, as well as building on that current business and adding to it, through the global marketing team that SSA possesses. We are confident. We’re continuing to export rice, we import cement, we’re importing grains like corn and soybeans from around the world.”
The other part of the port equation is the City of West Sacramento, which acts as a landlord to SSA Pacific and some 30 other businesses operating on the sprawling port property. Although SSA is by far the largest tenant, other lessees include a log yard operator, a dredging company, four boat clubs, two transportation and supply companies, a cell tower tenant, and even a beekeeper.

Rick Toft is the Port Business Manager for the City of West Sacramento. He says the Port is also actively seeking development of 300 acres it owns on its south side. Called Seaway, the land is currently rented to a farmer. And like any landlord, the Port must manage its property and sometimes clean up after former residents. A small group of abandoned and derelict vessels floats idle in port. The boats have been made environmentally safe at the cost of millions of dollars but it may be some years before they are completely removed from the water.

Since the City handed off shipping responsibilities the Port is more stable financially. Revenue is modest but in the black. As Toft puts it, “The Port is a positive story in that its been a profitable enterprise since 2013.” Perhaps the Port’s ship has indeed come in. But in the form of an ocean going cargo ship, to be filled with rice and put back to sea.

New West Sac water restrictions allow for watering just once a week


The West Sacramento City Council has given City Manager Martin Tuttle authority to declare a stage 3 Water Shortage Contingency Plan in order to reach the mandatory 28% water use reduction required by the State Water Board. As the drought continues, this means increased water restrictions for the City’s residents, businesses and City of West Sacramento government operations.

New regulations under the Stage 3 plan go into effect on May 15, 2015. They include the following:

  • Outdoor watering of lawns and ornamental plants limited to one day per week. Customers with street addresses that end in an odd number may only irrigate on Saturdays. Customers with street addresses that end in an even number may only irrigate on Sundays. No watering is permitted Monday through Friday, except in food producing gardens and farms.
  • Using potable water to fill or refill swimming pools or artificial ponds or lakes in prohibited. Maintaining water levels in existing pools and ponds is still permissible.
  • Usable potable water in ornamental fountains or ponds is prohibited.

“The City will take the lead protecting essential surfaces in parks and playfields, but non-essential landscaping in these public locations will not be watered,” said City Manager Tuttle. “Residents growing food and urban farmers are advised to use water wisely. By working together we can have healthy gardens, protect our trees and meet the 28 percent goal.”

Current City water use restrictions also remain in effect, including the following:

The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures is prohibited.

No application of potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.

No serving of drinking water other than upon request in eating or drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, bars, or other public places where food or drink are served and/or purchased.

Operators of hotels and motels shall provide guess with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily. Hotels and motels shall prominently display notice of this option in each guestroom using clear and easily understood language.

Under State 3, the City of West Sacramento is adding staff to work with businesses and residents to promote water conservation, and asking all city employees to report water use violations.

In addition, the City encourages citizens to report water waste by calling the Water Hotline at 916-617-4545.

“State of the City” Address: Continued growth, innovative partnerships making West Sac “magical”


In his annual keynote address to a dinner crowd of 270 inside City Hall on May 5, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon both touted several current achievements and announced some new initiatives and projects, while celebrating West Sacramento as a city with strong civic engagement.

state of the city 3

Community Leadership Recipients – Mayor Cabaldon meets Community Leadership honorees during the 2015 State of the City program. Pictured, left to right, Mayor Cabaldon, Brown Construction’s Ron Brown (“Prosperity”), WSCX’s Matt Hargrove (“Service”), and Wicked West Pizza’s owner Michelle Van De Heetkamp (“Community”). (The “Pride” winner, West Sac Veggie Trike, was unable to attend the program.)

Cabaldon opened the speech with an impressive list of recent accolades bestowed on the city, among them an acknowledgment by President Obama in December as being one of seven leading cities delivering early learning to children. West Sacramento was also named a top city for commuting and one of the top five suburbs in the region (tied with Rocklin), and received a national award for gardens and green spaces for its work on the urban farm at 5th and C Streets in Broderick. Further, West Sacramento won the U.S. Conference of Mayors award for “most livable city,” along with New Orleans. “People around our community have known forever that this is a great place to live,” said the mayor, “but now we’re noticed.”

West Sacramento’s growth spurt continues inward, with additional urban development along the riverfront and the “Bridge District” north of the freeway. In March, ground broke on “The Barn,” a structure that will serve as an artistic centerpiece to the Bridge District while housing new restaurants playing host to events and concerts. Plans to work on the upper deck of the I Street bridge are underway. Between new development and projects launched by “visionary entrepreneurs like the Broderick Roadhouse,” the mayor said, the cores of West Sacramento’s original community, Broderick and Bryte, are flourishing. “Broderick is happening,” Cabaldon said, “and the magic is happening in every part of our town.”

The mayor expressed his enthusiasm over what will be the “newest part of the magic kingdom,” a large, Tom Sawyer-themed playground at Bryte Park slated for construction on May 31 with the help of over 400 community volunteers. The ambitious project is the result of a partnership between the city, Disneyland Resort and KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization. Cabaldon used the story of how the project came together as an example of what he called “the West Sac way” – “the combination of passion and heart” in a community with a quick-acting government that is organized “to accomplish real things when the opportunity strikes.”

Other new initiatives on the horizon include:

  • A partnership with Code for America, an organization that connects city governments and web professionals through a fellowship program with the purpose of using “civic technology” to help governments solve civic problems.
  • A partnership with “Cities of Learning,” an initiative first launched in Chicago that assists young people with documenting achievements made in the community through a validated system of digital badges. The mayor sees this project as a way of tackling “high enduring unemployment rates in communities like ours,” as it offers a way for individuals to demonstrate accomplishments that go beyond test scores or resumes.
  • Membership in AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities, with work on adopting features and services that help communities prepare for rapid population aging.
  • A proposed partnership with the City of Sacramento on development of a downtown streetcar to help grow the urban core.

Cabaldon also spoke to some of the city’s ongoing challenges, including homelessness and the drought.

Progress was seen with the “Bridge to Housing” pilot program, in which an entire homeless camp based along the riverbank was moved into local housing and received intensive supports with the help of countless community organizations and volunteers. “We’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work,” said the mayor. While acknowledging that there is still a long way to go toward solving the problem of homelessness, “for these individuals, we know it made a difference,” he said, noting that 80% of the individuals who participated in the program now have CalFresh benefits, 90% have health insurance, and many now have a source of income.

Despite the fact that West Sacramento is one of the top water conserving cities in the region and in the state, the ongoing drought presents a challenge to the city’s plans as a “global food hub that’s anchored with local urban farms,” a major city initiative. The mayor stressed the need for all individuals to do their part toward a goal of a 28 percent reduction in water use. “We are working with the governor and the state to try and resolve these issues,” he said, “and we’re making a lot of progress in order to make sure we can protect our conservation and protect the fundamentals of our regional and local economy.”

Included in the “State of the City” program was the presentation of civic leadership awards to Brown Construction, Inc., Matt Hargrove/WSCX, West Sac Veggie Trike and Wicked West Pizza & BBQ.

The event was sponsored by the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. Full video of the address can be viewed at the city’s website,

Steven Keith Marschke Obituary

imageMARSCHKE, Steven Keith Steve Marschke of Davis died April 8, 2015 after a short illness. Steve was born in Santa Monica and graduated from UC Davis. Professionally he enjoyed his career as publisher and editor of West Sacramento’s local newspaper, the News-Ledger.

In his personal life, Steve embraced the role of stepfather to two girls and raised them as his own: he played the role of coach, teacher and chef extraordinaire while still delivering a healthy dose of teasing, which the girls, as well as his nieces and nephew, loved. Preceded in death by his loving wife Cynthia Seaman, he is survived by his two stepdaughters Sarah Jane (husband Roberto) and Laura (partner Kevin); parents Gerald and Joyce Marschke, brother Jerry Marschke (wife Patty), sister Susan Marschke, brother Craig Marschke, the entire Marschke family and his beloved Seaman in-laws. Steve enjoyed many hobbies, particularly rowing, learning French and woodworking. He also enjoyed traveling, especially with his wife Cindy (to Point Reyes, S.F. and Boston). Steve loved discovering new foods he could prepare at home, brewing beer, sailing, playing the guitar, gardening (particularly growing bonsai) and enjoying time with his friends from crew and work. He loved kids and invested in his community. Steve was intelligent, quick-witted and devoted to his family; he looked forward to every family reunion. His humor, creativity and fun-loving nature are missed. There was a lot more he wanted to do with us, and we wanted to do with him.

Steve’s family wishes to thank his devoted friends for their support and to express deep gratitude to all the staff at Kaiser Permanente Hospital, especially to Dr. Jerry Wang and Dr. Duong. In lieu of flowers, memorials requested to the River City Rowing Club. For information on Memorial Services please visit:

Heilman to return as fire chief

JOHN HEILMANN: chosen as West Sacramento's next fire chief. The chief is a Bay Area native with a sociology degree from Sonoma State who initially joined West Sacramento's department as a firefighter in 1998 after serving the Marinwood Community Service District. (courtesy photo)

JOHN HEILMANN: chosen as West Sacramento’s next fire chief. The chief is a Bay Area native with a sociology degree from Sonoma State who initially joined West Sacramento’s department as a firefighter in 1998 after serving the Marinwood Community Service District. (courtesy photo)


John Heilmann, a former firefighter, engineer and captain for the West Sacramento Fire Department, will return beginning April 17 to take over from Rick Martinez as the city’s fire chief.

Heilmann has recently served as deputy fire chief of the operations division at UC Davis and the City of Davis fire departments, reports the West Sacramento City Manager’s office.

“John is a West Sacramento success story,” said City Manager Martin Tuttle in a press statement. “He spent 15 years with the city fire department, became a leader at UC Davis, and we’re delighted to welcome him as our new fire chief.

“Heilmann was instrumental in the origination of the West Valley Regional Fire Training Consortium, which coordinates training among UC Davis, City of Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento fire departments,” added the city manager’s office.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Heilmann was quoted in the press statement. “I look forward to returning to West Sacramento and building on the great work of Fire Chief Rick Martinez.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2015


Taste some Jackrabbit microbrew, support Southport park play structure


Preview the new Jackrabbit Brewing Company in a fundraiser to help raise money for a new play structure at Bridgeway Lake Park. The “Red, White & Brew” event on Sat., March 21, will feature tastings of Jackrabbit brews and Barefoot Wines. Sponsored by the Bridgeway Play Committee.

The event will run from 6-9 p.m. at 1315 Terminal Street. Tickets are $50 ($90/couple) and you must be over 21 to attend. Call 581-2210 or email

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015