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Valentines for WWII vet

Marine Maj. Bill White served in World War II, including the Battle of Iwo Jima. He’s now age 104!  According to ABC30, he spends most of his time scrapbooking and with Valentine’s Day coming up, he’d like to add to his story with a collection of cards and well-wishes.

Maj. Bill White/ABC30 Action News

YLOA encourages our community to drop a card in the mail and thank this long-lived veteran for his service.

He receives mail at: The Oaks at Inglewood, 6725 Inglewood Ave., Stockton, CA 95207.

Active shooter response training

The Madera County Sheriff’s Department is scheduled to conduct an ‘active shooter’ training session at the clubhouse 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. 

The program, open to the public, lasts about an hour with another hour for Q&A. The training is intended to help you protect yourself during an active-shooter event.

Refreshments will be provided.

The bluebird

Western bluebirds at watering hole.

The bluebird is very blue, as blue as a brilliant lake. Many moons ago the bluebird used to be white. One day he was flying and came upon a lake and saw how blue and beautiful it was. He stopped and asked Grandfather, “Grandfather, can I be as blue as that lake?” So Grandfather gave him a song to sing. He told him what to do. Every morning for five mornings the bluebird would dive down into the lake singing the song taught to him by Grandfather, then come back up… On the fifth day, the bluebird dove into the lake, and when he came back out, he was as blue as he is today…

-Native American Legend (Pima, Cherokee)

Western bluebird in flight.
Mountain bluebird in flight.

Bluebirds have long been celebrated as a symbol of renewal, prosperity, and happiness through oral tradition, literature, and song. In this post, bluebirds are celebrated with vibrant pixels.

The bird we know as “bluebird” is one of three blue-headed thrushes found only in North America: Eastern, Western, and Mountain. At first glance, male Eastern and Western bluebirds appear similar: both have have blue heads, wings and backs, with orange breasts. But, the Eastern bluebird has an orange throat and white belly, while the Western bluebird has a blue throat and blue belly. Got it? Those are the two key distinguishing field marks.

The Mountain bluebird stands alone with its beautiful, turquoise blue plumage across its head, back and wings. Rain or shine, it is a stunner. You may find them in western North America at elevations above 7,000 feet.

As a child, I learned about bluebirds via the Disney film, “Song of the South.” “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah,” the theme song, rings strong in my memory. Just the thought of it brings a broad smile to my face. You know the lyrics:

Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder.
It’s the truth.
It’s actual.
Ev’rything is satisfactual.”

Unlike acorn woodpeckers and swallows that snatch flying insects out of the sky, bluebirds drop down to the ground from a low perch to snag caterpillars, spiders, crickets and other insects. They are voracious insect eaters, so much so that before pesticides, farmers used to install nesting boxes near their fields to protect crops.

Bluebird eating large, winged insect.

In winter, when insect populations are reduced, bluebirds rely on fruit bearing plants such as poison oak, elderberry, and coffee berry to supplement their diet. Mistletoe, in particular, attracts bluebirds for the fruit and shelter it provides. Control studies have shown that eradication of mistletoe in an oak woodland ecosystem radically affects the family structure of Western bluebirds, with sons of a breeding pair abandoning the family instead of remaining to help with new broods.

Western bluebird feasting on berries.

While living in central New Mexico, I often hiked to a nearby pond and livestock water tank to photograph the wildlife that came there to drink. One winter, I observed flocks of 100+ birds, including Western and Mountain bluebirds, American robins, finches and cedar waxwings that had morning gatherings there. Watching so many birds simultaneously in flight, or drinking from the rim of the tank, was indeed an enthralling experience.

Western bluebirds on rim of stock tank.

Last spring, I installed a nest box with high hopes of soon observing nesting Western bluebirds. Sure enough, one day a male arrived and inspected the box. He seemed happy with it. During the next few days he danced around a bit with twigs and pine needles in his beak to attract a female. Indeed, a female did arrive.

Female Western bluebird with nesting material at nest box. 

She, too, brought some nesting material, but ultimately decided this was not the place for her. Both bluebirds departed, and the nest box remained empty. Hopefully, this year I’ll have better luck with the nest box in a different tree, and lower to the ground.

With nesting season still a few months off, I look forward to my bluebirds chasing winter doldrums away, and celebrating the arrival of spring. If one happened to land on my shoulder, well, then, I’d be happy as a lark.

Western bluebird landing in snow.

May bluebirds visit you often in the year to come.

Keep birding,

Robert Groos

For more from Robert Groos, visit:

Robert Groos is a published photographer and keen observer of nature who lives in Yosemite Lakes Park. He shares some of his outstanding images of our local feathered friends along with some tidbits of interesting facts about each. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Previous posts:
Talking turkey
The secret world of the phainopepla
Acorn woodpecker 
Oak titmouse
White-breasted nuthatch
California quail
Bald eagle
Western kingbird
The turkey vulture

YSPUC budget for 2020

The Yosemite Spring Park Utility Co. Board of Directors meeting on on Dec. 29 approved a new budget for 2020. Following is a overview written by General Manager Jonathan Penrose.

FROM: YLOA/YSPUC General Manager Jonathan Penrose
TO: YSPUC Board of Directors and customers
DATE: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019

Attached is the approved 2020 budget for YSPUC.

The budget is based on our current rates, though we do expect approval of an increase as a result of our general rate filing.

As discussed last year, while we have been showing positive cash flow from operations, we are running negative when you factor in the capital investments that are needed to maintain our plant.

In the short term, our cash position is good, but our present rates are not sufficient to maintain the system over the long run.

To do that, we need to be reinvesting to offset depreciation.

We are proposing minimal cap ex expenditures this year as we have several previously funded projects that are still in process.

Capex projects for this year total $84,000 to repair/replace pumps on well 1e and well 42e, which are currently not functioning and to upgrade/install cathodic protection on booster 3e and tank 2.

Fortunately our tanks are in good shape – though keeping them that way is a high priority.

In addition we have the already approved projects for SCADA, well 49a and ac and roof replacement for the new building.

The purchase of the new building has been a positive, with rent from other tenants offsetting the building operating costs and saving us an additional $18k/year in rent.

Based on the purchase price, the investment in the building is giving us a better than 7% return on investment – which is very good in the present market.


There are 2 significant increases projected in COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) this year.

1) According to the PGE general rate filing with the PUC (which has not yet been approved) 2020 electric rates are expected to increase 7.7% next year. If the changes are approved, they will be retroactive to January 1.

The increase over last year’s budget is $52,000 (and the increase based on 2019 actual production is about $30k)

Electricity rates are projected to increase again in 2021, based on PG&E’s tariff filing.

It is also possible that that PUC will approve even larger increases based on the losses PG&E incurred this year – but that generally takes some time to filter through.

2) This year we have 10 wells which require Title 22 testing (at approximately $2k/well)

Taken together this is a roughly 13% increase in cost of production – and a 30% increase in projected costs over the 2018 budget.

Unfortunately, these costs are largely outside our control – and give greater importance to exploring options like solar.


For the last few years our labor expenses have been significantly less than budget, primarily due to unfilled positions – also until 2019, the outsourcing of admin functions to YLOA did not adequately cover the actual admin costs.

In 2019, per PUC direction, we increased the admin funding based on actual labor costs of YLOA.

We have also shared labor between YLOA and YSPUC for meter reading and aerobics inspections – with 1 FT position funded by YSPUC and 2 PT positions funded by YLOA.

This year I am proposing that we combine those positions in one reporting structure under YLOA – which largely explains the increased admin fee in the proposed budget.

Our investment in SCADA will reduce the overall long term staffing needs of YSPUC – in addition to providing much better operational data – which enables us to make better, more efficient use of our plant.

Taken together, the proposed labor budget for 2020 is actually LESS than what it should have been in 2018 (when factoring in what the YLOA admin fee should have been to cover actual costs) and is about 4% higher than the 2019 budget.

As last year, the YLOA admin fee does not include administrative overhead like office space, utilities or equipment – though this year, it does include a pro-rata share of expected systems software costs.

Finally, we are instituting a requirement that all YSPUC field staff hold appropriate certifications before the end of the calendar year.


The budget for expenses in 2020 is about 4% less than in 2019. This is primarily due to reducing the budget for contingencies, even though other expenses are projected to increase.

Due to the pipeline project, we are continuing to see a reduction in main breaks as we prioritize the most fragile portions of our pipeline infrastructure.

Further, (YSPUC Company Manager and Chief Operator) Ken (Harrington) and I have discussed ways to reduce pipe buildup by providing for internal pipe maintenance (via ‘pigs’ or robots) as we move forward with that project. This will help us reduce the incidence of ‘brown water’ that is largely the result of natural iron deposits in portions of the park and the reaction of manganese with chlorine used for water treatment.

Budgets always represent tradeoffs as we can rarely do all that we want to – in the short term – there are additional projects that we need to accomplish and additional equipment that is needed, however we will present those once the general rate filing is complete and the PUC determines the appropriate rates and funding to maintain our vital water infrastructure.

We also want to make the board aware of a potential need to install filtering equipment on the well on Long Hollow. This is still being evaluated and the scope and cost information is not sufficiently developed to provide estimates at this time – though we will keep the board informed as new data comes to light.

Finally, we are implementing new financial and billing software in January. We will initially run the systems in parallel to confirm that everything operates properly. When completed, this will enhance the invoicing and payment processing – which will be more efficient, provide better customer information and improve the customer experience.

New YLOA rules OK’d

The YLOA Board of Directors on Sunday, Dec. 29, approved new Membership Meeting and Voting Rules to comply with new California law governing homeowner associations.

Most noteworthy changes are:

  • Every homeowner, even those who have not paid their dues, hava a right to vote in the annual elections.
  • YLOA board members MUST now be property owners.


Diving into YLP’s water

Did you know that, a few weeks ago, we had men swimming around inside YLP’s many water tanks?

What are they doing in MY water, you ask?

Keeping it clean, says YSPUC Manager Ken Harrington.

Crews from Liquid Engineering of Billings, Mont., were here with scuba gear and underwater vacuum cleaners removing sludge that accumulates in the bottom of our water company’s tanks, be they 1 million gallons or something smaller.

It’s a necessary task that Harrington makes sure is done every other year on the 11 tanks.

The divers use special wet suits and helmets outfitted with cameras, and their every move is monitored via cables in a high-tech trailer next to the tank.

Th divers remove accumulated sediment and along the way inspect walls and seams for corrosion, and they can even make minor repairs.

“It keeps the tank in service, and nobody’s out of water,” Harrington said. And that’s his mantra — keeping the water flowing to Yosemite Lakes Park’s 2,000-plus homes around the clock.

You’re invited to view the video below highlighting the process. It begins with a diver entering the 1 million gallon tank high atop Lilley Mountain, goes into the trailer next to the tank to get a diver’s-eye view of the cleaning, and ends up with a diver emerging from a smaller tank near the Maintenance Department sheds off Long Hollow Drive.

Our thanks to Ken Harrington and the experienced divers and employees of Liquid Engineering!

Important notes for YLOA members

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Recent changes in CA laws governing HOAs require that we provide all YLOA members with an opportunity to update their mailing address. To do that, you may print out this form, complete and return to YLOA as instructed.

Please also note, that beginning on January 1, 2020, that we are required to release your email address to other owners who request it. You have the option to opt out of this provision by returning this opt-out form. As above, you may print out this form, complete and return to YLOA as instructed.

You also have the option to receive communications from the Association via email. This will save considerable time and administrative expense and we encourage you to use electronic communication if possible. An electronic mail consent form is available for download, printing and returning to YLOA as instructed.

We are presently updating our operations software for both YLOA and YSPUC. The new software will enhance our electronic communications and improve our ability to process on-line payments. It will also enable us to automate many manual processes for improved efficiency and consistency.

The first modules to be updated will be the invoicing and payment processing for YSPUC. We will provide further communication as we complete testing and implementation in the first quarter of next year.


Jonathan Penrose
General Manager

Trucks’ new logo

Look for the new YLP labels on our trucks — they replace the old YLOA letters and makes them more easily recognizable as belonging to YOUR association!