Sunday, August 03, 2008

What Happens in Vegas... not happenin' lately like it has been across the past 20 years or so. I'll be interested to see the June drop numbers. Recall, the May decline was 16.4%

Below, artist's rendering of the "Echelon" project, which just announced that it is suspending construction operations for an indefinite period, owing to financing problems.

As noted in the Las Vegas Sun:
Ironworker Jerry Ciciliano had been on the job for a couple of hours Friday morning when he discovered that within days — or hours — he’d be out of a job. A friend had just passed on the news that work on Boyd Gaming’s big resort project, Echelon, was being shut down until the economy improves.

Ciciliano’s boss called the story “a bunch of bull,” but a half-hour later, his boss was back on the two-way radio saying the rumors were true. Later, Ciciliano, 59, was nursing a beer at Brando’s, the bar and video poker joint across the street from the job site.
The place was packed with ironworkers, carpenters and laborers, many waiting to collect their final paychecks and trying to make sense of the news. Some said they’d been drinking since 9 a.m., when word of the layoff began to reach the workers.

“It was a shock. It’s hard to believe they’d go that far (with the project) and then quit,” Ciciliano said. Rumors flew about how long the shutdown would last. Boyd Gaming announced Friday morning that the $4.8 billion resort on the Strip, which it had planned to open in 2010, would be delayed for perhaps a year. But some industry analysts think postponement could be extended, depending on when the financial climate improves...

They tore down the Stardust -- and within it my beloved William B's Steakhouse -- for this?

Estimates have it that direct (if "indefinite") Echelon construction job losses will be about 800, which, of course, will have a ripple-out economic multiplier effect. Makes ya have to wonder about other large projects, chief among them the huge MGM "City Center" undertaking.

We also recently awoke to the news of our mega-lush/verdant, mega-upscale Lake Las Vegas Resort going "BK" (Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection). Wow.

It's really very nice, if a totally top-dollar Disney-fied squeaky-clean artifice. I once joked (after having been to Europe a few years ago) that they needed to bring out to LLV some tanker trucks full of really dirty water and high-pressure hose Montelago Village down to get that continental ancien verite look goin'.

They've done a lot of fine cultural stuff out at LLV. In addition to the jazz shows ongoing, recall, e.g., our Jerry Lopez's stunning two-night international flamenco show of last September (blog links here and here):

What an awesome show that was.

Well, as if the mortgage meltdown wasn't enough heartburn, even for the wealthy, BK'd Lake Las Vegas is now reportedly sweatin' a nightmare potential breach in either of the two 7-ft diameter subterranean wash drainage pipes that keep our icky Vegas Wash water out of view of the LLV residents and visitors and out of the Lake itself (Lake Las Vegas water itself comes from Henderson's allotment of Lake Mead water). Were the pipe(s) to rupture (one is reportedly now shut down, and the other in overdue need of multi-million dollar maintenance), the lake could quickly drain dry. You don't need much of an imagination to ponder the eviscerating economic upshot in the wake of that.

Problem is, with LLV in bankruptcy, who will want to step up to do the conduit maintenance/repair work absent an ironclad, enforceable up-front guarantee of payment? (BobbyG hears the distant, as yet faint, (inexorable?) wafting strains of "...taxpayers..." LOL).

Seriously, I hope they can resolve all of this. Privately.

On the subject of water: gaming stocks ain't the only things goin' down. Yesterday I screen-scraped some data off a Bureau of Reclamation website and dumped them into an Excel sheet (click to enlarge):

Wow, man. The garbledygook algebra stuff ("y = -3.5889x...") simply indicates that the estimated annual lake surface level linear decline has been about 3.5 feet a year since the historical high water mark of July 1983. If you re-do the chart to reflect only the past 11 years since the most recent 1998 downward inflection point, the annual loss trend is more like ten feet a year! That more recent steep declining trend may well abate, but with the continuing pressure of population and industrial/agricultural growth in the desert SW more broadly, I don't really see it flattening out or reversing.

Above, our persistent-of-late Lake Mead "bathtub ring." Below, a map of the Colorado River Watershed/Basin.

Hard to see where substantive long-term natural replenishment is gonna come from. Say, for the sake of argument, you could buy and tap some excess Canadian western provinces water, and pipe-dump it into the upper Green River headwaters in Wyoming and let gravity do the rest of the transport work. You're talkin' probably 20 years of Environmental Impact Statements and likely checkmate litigation every step of the way -- e.g., just consider all the acrimonous pushback bedeviling the current Southern Nevada Water District proposal to construct a pipeline to bring in groundwater from our northeastern rural Nevada region.

Which got me to ruminating...hmmmm...OK, how about a "rolling virtual pipeline"? LOL!

OK, lessee...half an acre-foot per year household consumption (conservatively), 162,925 gallons, times 8.35 lbs per gallon, poured into rail tanks cars at 34,500 gallons each...roughly 150 tons each (with the tare weight), brought up from the desal plants in southern California, at, say, $1,500 a half acre-foot for the drinking-quality water they produce, plus ~300 miles transport at five cents per rail freight ton-mile (the closest we could get it from). You'd need maybe 5 rail cars per household per year, on average.

Thousand bucks a month or so for your agua. Hey, we ship virtually everything else in here by truck, train, or plane.

Nahhhh...first of all, we don't have that much rail tank car rolling stock to dedicate to this. Second, it'd outstrip the desal output capacity in California. They currently have seven plants throughout the state, they are all very energy-intensive (large-scale reverse osmosis process), and have significant residual brine effluent liabilities. Finally, only well-heeled peeps like the Lake Las Vegas cohort would be able to fork over that much for water.

Possibly intractable problem (which may account for why they essentially keep kickin' this can down the road). Forecasters say potable water is gonna be the new "oil" problem, worldwide. I saw a recent news report recounting how Barcelona, Spain is now having to bring in water via tanker ships!

Below: The future of Vegas, several hundred years out?


One last thingy. We're all freakin' about the price of gas, yeah (I know it's crimped my style). One factor in the nominal price increase is the decline of the U.S. dollar relative to other major currencies (this is another thing I track). Below, a chart from another of my spreadsheets (chronology of monthly averages). During the first year of the current Bush administration you could buy a Euro for about 90 cents. Today it'll cost ya $1.58 or so. Crude oil is priced in USD. Duh.

The blue line above depicts the rise of the Euro relative to the USD, while the red line is simply the "mirror image," i.e., the fall of the USD against the Euro.

Now that I've brightened y'all's day, see ya at the gig tomorrow night at The Palms. Oh, yeah, BTW, my gig calendar has us dark on the 18th of August. That is no longer the case, we are back on. I gotta update that graphic. We're now scheduled for every Monday through the end of 2008.


Our opening guest guitarist will be Jeff Ray. I first caught him when he was gigging with Rochon over at Hooter's in a group called "Level 8."

From his rap sheet:
Guitarist Jeff Ray presently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, having spent several years living and playing in Harlem, New York. A native of Toledo, Ohio, Ray moved to New York after completing his master's in music at Rutgers University, where he studied with Kenny Barron and Ted Dunbar. Ray earned his bachelor's degree in music from the Ohio State University after a stint at Miami University (Ohio) during which he played both football and baseball. Having taken up guitar at the age of 14, Ray was blown away upon discovering recordings by Dexter Gordon, Kenny Burrell, Wayne Shorter and Grant Green, among others. This exposure proved to be pivotal, driving him in the direction of jazz and improvised music...
Let's give him a great reception. Show starts at 10:30 pm, no cover, no minimum as always.

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