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Morning Lookout: Drought, looming water restrictions & and event you don’t want to miss

Good Morning! It’s Friday, April 9, and we’ll see intermittent clouds and a high of 65.

We’re waking up to breaking news that the United Kingdom and its royal family are in mourning after Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s consort and companion for 73 years, died today at the age of 99.

Back at home — facing what could be the fourth driest year on record — the Santa Cruz water commission has recommended water restrictions that city council members will vote on next week. Ahead of that vote, we talk with the city’s water director about whether climate change is going to make water unaffordable here.

Meanwhile, following the devastating wildfires of last year and the current drought conditions, state lawmakers are unveiling a sweeping half-billion-dollar wildfire prevention plan to get ahead of the coming season.

Speaking of wildfires, that will be one among the topics our Wallace Baine will discuss with Rep. Jimmy Panetta tonight in an exclusive hourlong Zoom interview. I hope you’ll join us at 5 p.m. for this free event. To register, click here.

Let’s start with major news for Santa Cruz County kids and parents:

Many Santa Cruz County schools to allow full-time return to classrooms in matter of days

Don Lundy picks up his kindergarten grandkids from Gault Elementary School
Don Lundy picks up his kindergarten grandkids from Gault Elementary School in Santa Cruz last month. They and other elementary schoolers might soon be in class five days a week.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A number of Santa Cruz County school districts are preparing to allow elementary students back into classrooms five days a week later this month — and at least two are planning to fully reopen secondary schools. This is a major change in course as just a few weeks back, the idea of a full return to classrooms seemed impossible given the ebbing, but still prevalent, presence of COVID-19. The county’s largest district, Pajaro Valley Unified, remains the biggest asterisk. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

RELATED: How much aid is your district getting? Range for Santa Cruz County schools goes from $1K to $5K per student

ALSO: What to know about UCSC’s plans for a mostly in-person fall

JOIN US TONIGHT: A fireside zoom with Congressman Jimmy Panetta

With another odd year — one of transition and recovery — ahead of us, our Wallace Baine will be sitting down with Rep. Jimmy Panetta tonight for an hourlong live interview to discuss wildfire mitigation, immigration, infrastructure development and more. If you’re one of Panetta’s constituents in Santa Cruz or Monterey counties, you will not want to miss this exclusive event … and it’s free.

When: 5 p.m.
Where: Zoom
To register, click here.

WATCH: Rep. Jimmy Panetta and Asian American leaders talk anti-discrimination strategies

Congressman Jimmy Panetta and Central Coast AAPI leaders talk about discrimination on Zoom on Wednesday.
(Rep. Jimmy Panetta’s office)

With discrimination and violence against Asian Americans continuing to be in the national spotlight, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta this week assembled leading members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the Central Coast to share their experiences and brainstorm about strategies to stop it. Community members discussed their fears, the dirty looks and verbal harrassment they’d become accustomed to and more. You can read more about what was discussed and watch the event in this story by Laurel Bushman.

Will climate change make water unaffordable in Santa Cruz? The city’s water director weighs in

The Loch Lomond reservoir in 2019.
(Via Santa Cruz City Water Department)

Santa Cruz is facing a daunting scenario: Not only does the city rely on its own precious and fluctuating water supply, but it also has aging infrastructure that needs fixing at a time when many residents are already cost-burdened by ever-increasing utility bills. This year is shaping up to be among the four driest on record and in response, officials recommended water restrictions in a meeting this week which city council members will vote on next week. Our Mallory Pickett and Isabella Cueto dive in to all this with Rosemary Menard, the city’s longtime water director, to discuss climate change and the need for investment in water infrastructure here and throughout the state. Read Menard’s take on the situation here.

California unveils sweeping wildfire prevention plan amid record fire losses and drought

(Via Pixabay)

After the worst fire season in California history and as drought conditions raise fears of what’s to come, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders will unveil a $536 million proposal to boost efforts at firefighting and a variety of prevention measures, including vegetation management and the construction of fire-resistant structures across the state. The package also includes $25 million for fortifying older homes that weren’t built using fire-resistance methods. Read more from our partners at the LA Times here.

Highway 1 to reopen south of Monterey by April 30, two months ahead of schedule

The gap in Highway 1 after the collapse in January . . .
(via Caltrans)

After a late January mudslide washed out 150 feet of Highway 1, closing the iconic roadway at Rat Creek south of Monterey near Big Sur, the ribbon of pavement is set to reopen by April 30 — about two months ahead of its target date, Caltrans announced yesterday. The reopening will allow traffic to flow unimpeded along the coast between the Bay Area and Southern California. See how the construction progressed in the photos with our story here.

The Joy Truck Club: Tandy Beal leads caravan of free performance art to Santa Cruz’s neighborhood parks

The clowning and comedy duo Coventry & Kaluza were the first participants in the "Keep on Truckin'" series in early April.
The clowning and comedy duo Coventry & Kaluza were the first participants in the “Keep on Truckin’” series in early April.
(Courtesy Tandy Beal & Co.)

Tandy Beal, the luminous dancer/choreographer and guiding light behind the Santa Cruz-based Tandy Beal & Co., has called in many of her staggering roster of friends in the performing arts for a uniquely community-friendly project called Keep On Truckin’. On weekends, for the next couple of months, Beal and her production collaborator Rebecca Blair will be bringing a 16-foot rented truck to a series of neighborhood parks throughout Santa Cruz. Read more about the lineup and where to go to watch the performances from our Wallace Baine here.

Around the county…

UPDATE: Santa Cruz police arrest Super Silver jewelry heist suspect after getting community help (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Bad Animal to award 500 books to local student with new Rhoads Prize (Good Times)

Monterey Bay Aquarium to host job fair before reopening (KSBW-TV)

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor