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A guide leads a horseback tour in the Badlands near Medora, North Dakota.


Local
environment
Low-draft excursion boat to ply Napa River waters from downtown dock

As Napa seeks millions of federal dollars to re-dredge its namesake river – where winter storms two years ago undid much of a recently completed waterway clearance project – the company operating the city’s downtown dock plans to introduce a new boat to cope with shallower waters.

Tideline Marine Group will debut the Kestrel catamaran in March, weather permitting, as a weekend excursion boat plying the Napa River, according to Danielle Weerth, the company’s director of business development. Trips on the 20-passenger boat will begin and end at the city dock at Napa’s Riverfront, where Tideline oversees commercial operations such as kayak rentals and tours and gondola trips.

Two open houses are planned aboard the Kestrel, which is currently in San Rafael, before its Napa River debut, according to Tideline.

Kestrel’s arrival will mark the first regularly scheduled passenger service from the Napa dock, which opened in 2013 but was slow to gain business due to years of silting that left its waterway too shallow for deeper-draft boats to navigate. The choice of a catamaran instead of a single-hull boat allows Tideline to keep to a schedule during low as well as high tides even when coping with shallow portions of the river, Weerth said last week.

Tideline’s leisure-oriented boat run will be licensed to serve wine, liquor and beer on board and will be targeted at those visiting Napa for its wineries and restaurants “so that people can have a different experience than driving and cycling for wine tasting,” she said. Ahead of the Kestrel’s Napa debut, the company is seeking partnerships with local restaurants and winemakers, Weerth added.

Passenger service from the downtown dock began in 2018 with charter journeys to San Francisco in July and November – one a floating birthday party and the other a corporate event – on 40-passenger vessels. However, the aftereffects of storms in early 2017 – starting within weeks of the river’s first federally funded dredging work since 1998 – have slowed Tideline’s planned expansion of boat service out of Napa.

A 2016 project had removed shoals from a 17-mile section from Vallejo to the Riverfront, the north end of the navigable channel, creating a minimum 9-foot depth for watercraft. But a pair of storms in January and February 2017 deposited more than 23,000 cubic yards of new sediment in the Napa River, the city Public Works department reported at the time.

An Army Corps of Engineers survey revealed that storm-driven silting downstream of the Napa River Inn would require about $3.5 million of re-dredging work to remove, according to Rick Thomasser, operations manager of the Napa County Flood Control and Conservation District. City and flood district officials are working with U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, to request fresh dredging funds, and Thompson in December wrote the assistant secretary of the Army requesting unallocated Corps funds for the work.


Local
Education
Napa students get real about money at New Technology High

How much money should I budget each month for rent, transportation, food and other needs? Can I afford a high-end cellphone plan and still pay my utilities?

Those are the types of questions that seniors at New Technology High School tackled at a Mad City Money personal finance simulation, presented by Travis Credit Union.

Using the Bite of Reality 2 app, students were randomly assigned a job, a monthly salary, obligations such as medical copays and credit card or student loan debt. Next, they made choices about expenses such as child care, groceries and dining, shopping, debt, clothing, household needs, entertainment and transportation.

At one station, senior Ileanna Cambero was deciding how much to spend each month on groceries.

“I’m considering all my monthly costs and credit card bills and everything,” she said.

NVUSD Board trustee David T. Gracia participated in the simulation along with the seniors. He ran down his list of choices, including using grandma for child care for his hypothetical 3-year-old son Hector and opting for the most expensive groceries and very little dining out.

The expense of commuting required another accommodation. “Transportation was $150 because I was running out of money and so I got bus passes for myself and my spouse!” he said, laughing.

Financial algebra teacher Dorothea McFarland organized the simulation.

“My goal in life is to make my class ‘Everything You Should Have Learned in High School,’ so we go over mortgages, credit cards, everything,” she said. “We do this two-hour event with Travis Credit Union so we can hit all the seniors.”

McFarland also recruited community volunteers to assist, namely her husband, Jim Collins, who is the chief financial officer for JaM Cellars, and four of his fellow Rotarians, including David Anderson, Brian Dodd, Justin Gomez and Doug Roberts.

Collins staffed the ‘household needs’ table, doing his best to entice the students to spend more money by emphasizing “if you spend more, this will be higher quality, it will be cheaper in the long run, give me the money now.”

The app also generated random occurrences for each player, like a unexpected car repair or medical bill, or a refund check or gift of money.

When the simulation was over, the Travis staff asked the students to reflect on what mistakes they made, what strategies they used to make decisions and how the simulation relates to real life.

“I didn’t make the big payments first and I ran out of money,” one student said. Another reflected that she could spend the bare minimum on things that didn’t matter as much to her.

In a summation, credit union staff outlined some suggested percentages for categories of expenses and discussed good debt, such as education loans, versus bad debt, like consumer credit cards.

Travis staff emphasized that the simulation is solicitation-free, with no invitation or pressure to join the credit union. John Evalle, military affairs officer at Travis Credit Union, said, “We do this to make a positive difference in these young people’s lives as they start to make financial decisions that are going to have significant impacts for them. We want them to have good habits that will last a lifetime.”