10-14-09

 

10-14-09   
Our View: A final farewell to a visionary
Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey's determination put the University of California in Merced.
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/181/v-print/story/1112385.html
Dear Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey,
It's too late for you to read this thank-you letter yourself, but we want your family, friends and all Mercedians to know how the Sun-Star feels about your contributions to our community.
We thank you for bringing UC Merced to Merced. It's clear from all the people talking about you after you died from breast cancer last week that you played an enormous role in one of the biggest and best episodes in our community's history.
"I don't think there would be a UC Merced today if someone else had been in her role," says Joe Kieta, former editor of the Sun-Star and now editor of the Utica, N.Y., Observer-Dispatch. "She was a brilliant academic who learned to play politics."
Matthew Lyons, a member of UC Merced's first class after graduating from high school in 2005, and his class's gift coordinator, wrote in an e-mail that "TK," as she was widely known, "didn't just embody the triumph of passion and labor that has become UC Merced. Carol was UC Merced."
Mayor Ellie Wooten called her a friend and enjoyed their cups of coffee together. "She was a strong lady and a gentle lady," she says. "I miss her."
Bob Smith, director of special projects for Merced County, was an instrumental player in dealing with the many complex issues facing folks who wanted to build the campus here.
"She wasn't unnecessarily encumbered by the overwhelming technological and environmental obstacles," he recalls. "What impressed me was her ability to step over the obstacles and keep her eyes on the prize."
Heather Orrell was also a member of that first class who's now working on a doctorate in cardiological physiology at UC Merced and coaches the softball team. She remembers TK meeting her, on crutches, after Orrell tore up her knee playing softball. "Are you OK?" she asked the student, flexing her way down some stairs. Orrell said she was fine.
Later in a speech, the chancellor cited Orrell's perseverance as a sign that UC Merced would prevail.
"She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer about the development of UC Merced," says Bill Cahill, assistant city manager of Merced. "The vision she had from the beginning was that, like all UC campuses, this one would be world class and would do things in a world-class way."
Dr. TK, in 10 or 15 or 20 years, the community of Merced will be a much different place than it is now, or from when you first lobbied for the UC campus here. It will be bigger. It will be better. So many of us will benefit, directly and indirectly, from a dynamic institution.
Our health care in the Valley will be better because of the medical school, which should be up and running by then. All of us will profit from the growing presence of UC Merced graduates, faculty, staff and students. We'll see more stores and shops. More entertainment venues. Even better cultural events.
Town and gown will together form a vibrant whole. Together -- with Merced College -- we'll grow in a renaissance of learning, enterprise and community.
This letter of appreciation and gratitude is not only for you and yours today. We hope that the generation of leaders now spreading their wings at UC Merced, Merced College and our high schools may read this when they're grownups.
And we hope they'll then appreciate, at least in part, all you did for them. And for all of us.
Modesto Bee
Speakers blast North County Corridor...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-print/story/892661.html
OAKDALE -- While a storm raged outside Tuesday night, the mood inside seemed just as nasty.
Concerned, fearful and angry people marched to the microphone one after another to berate the idea of a new freeway stretching across northern Stanislaus County. Many of them own homes, farms or both in the way.
"So many of the people working on this project don't know that people really live out there. They do," said Gary Darpinian, who farms north of Modesto.
About 200 people took advantage of their first official opportunity to register comments for the formal public record on the North County Corridor, stretching from north McHenry Avenue to Highway 108 east of Oakdale, which could break ground in five years. A later leg to the west would extend the expressway to Highway 99 in Salida.
California Department of Transportation officials won't settle on a route for a couple more years. In the meantime, they're studying areas shown on maps in corridors 2,000 to 4,000 feet wide, though the freeway's width requires only about 300 feet.
Many in Tuesday's audience wore lapel stickers urging transportation officials to beef up roads already there rather than compromise their property with a new freeway, in some places eight lanes wide.
"I firmly contend that any expressway needs to be placed along existing traffic corridors," said Mark Meissner, to much applause. "Stay off prime ag land."
An information poster said the North County Corridor "may convert 4,600 acres of farmland" to something else.
Deann Dalrymple said rich farmland is consistently turned into housing subdivisions, many of them now pocked with empty, bank-owned homes.
"You're talking about taking a six-lane freeway to my doorstep," she said. "You're putting a hold on the lives of people for the next 30 years."
Others agreed that trying to sell would be hard with a future freeway nearby.
Some, including landowners squarely in study areas, said they learned about North County Corridor plans from neighbors or the newspaper and never received formal notification from the government.
"It doesn't sound like we were welcome," said Richard Meissner. He added, "Tax bills don't have any trouble getting to us."
A draft environmental document predicts traffic delays increasing 500 percent in 20 years without the North County Corridor.
But Ann Absher of Oakdale noted traffic projections showing minimal improvement at various points, and questioned whether spending $1.2 billion is worth the trouble.
And Darpinian quoted from another section where experts based predictions on assumptions showing Modesto adding 58,000 people from this year to next. "It seems like someone forgot to tell you we're in a recession," he said, calling some data "clearly flawed."
The draft document says the east leg could force out 670 people living in 124 homes and 266 workers in nine stores, 27 industrial buildings and 37 farm buildings.
Tuesday's hearing was limited to the freeway's segment east of McHenry, but some people from Salida spoke up, too.
"You're going to have majorly p------ off people at that end, you might as well know that right now," Powell told a panel of transportation officials.
The panel members answered questions in the first part of Tuesday's open house. Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson said officials dropped the concept of an Oakdale bypass to the city's north, in play since 1955, because Oakdale would have grown north and would have been bisected by the Stanislaus River. The North County Corridor will help drive economic development because motorists will see the city from the freeway and exit for services, Jackson said.
The panel later was restricted to listening after the official public hearing formally began.
Christine Cox-Kovacevich, Caltrans' central region office chief, made an exception when she confirmed that a group of landowners have proposed a northward shift in a study area just south of Oakdale, to align with Lexington Road and its future extension to the east. She said Caltrans will consider that idea even though the area is outside an area already being considered.
The last public hearing on draft environmental studies is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 22 in the Riverbank Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe St.
Caine: Will it be a Blue Dog vs. a Red Dog? Stay tuned...Eric Caine
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/v-print/story/892547.html
What are the odds Dennis Cardoza is worried? When Republican Mike Berryhill announced he would run against the incumbent Democrat, Cardoza got a boost from House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, who toured the San Joaquin Valley extolling Cardoza's political virtues and lamenting the lack of government support for a region in dire need help from Washington.
The following weekend, Bee editor Mark Vasché wrote that what Cardoza does "in terms of not just identifying solutions but getting Hoyer and the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House to provide the resources to implement them will determine how he fares when election time rolls around next year."
The message seems to be that Cardoza's political future might depend on how much federal aid he can deliver to his valley constituents, who have long been on the short end of government assistance.
The threat of a name-brand opponent would give any politician reason for concern, and the Berryhill name carries plenty of clout. Berryhill's uncle, Clare Berryhill, served in both the California Assembly and Senate. Clare's sons, Bill and Tom, currently serve in the Assembly.
Mike Berryhill, however, faces a formidable obstacle in the form of the valley's longtime schizophrenic political identity. On the one hand, valley residents have tended to avow strong conservative values and old-fashioned Republican virtues.
They've been especially anti-government and anti-regulation.
On the other hand, the valley's agricultural economy has long relied on state and federal assistance. Everything from water delivery to water subsidies to water allocations depends on government money, and that's just the beginning of a long list of government aid.
Longtime valley residents remember John McFall and Tony Coelho fondly because both delivered plenty of federal assistance to their constituents. Coelho's clout stemmed from his position as Democratic whip and his genius for fund-raising.
Among his many feats of government legerdemain, he was able to get dairymen federal assistance for going out of business and slaughtering cattle.
The current solution to the valley's split political personality is the Blue Dog Democrat guise adopted by both Cardoza and his disgraced predecessor, Gary Condit. Blue Dogs avoid the despised "liberal" label by bucking the party line on some issues while at the same time trying to live up to Coelho's and McFall's standards by delivering government money to a region far-removed from the path of the federal gravy train.
Berryhill's other problem is the current state of the Republican Party, which has been on life support since the presidential election. Traditionally, Republicans oppose government assistance. That stance won't do Berryhill much good in a region begging for assistance of any kind. Berryhill must find a way to promise even more than Cardoza does and then he must convince voters he can deliver.
The lesson is that one man's pork is another man's entitlement. No one is happy with politicians these days, but it may take more than a name-brand candidate to threaten an incumbent member of the party in power. Berryhill may find he needs to re-invent his party label so it fits the local political preference for big spenders in small government clothing: Anyone for a Red Dog Republican?
Fresno Bee
Activists ask EPA for tougher pesticide rules...The Associated Press
http://www.fresnobee.com/state/v-print/story/1673548.html
FRESNO, Calif. A coalition of nonprofit groups is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to write stronger regulations to protect children from exposure to farm chemicals sprayed near thousands of schools.
The petition filed Wednesday by public interest law firms Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice also requests that the agency set up no-spray buffer zones around schools, parks, hospitals and day-care centers for some of the most dangerous airborne pesticides.
No specific federal laws currently prohibit spraying near schools. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency would evaluate the new petition and take action to ensure public health was protected.
In California, state figures show there were 590 pesticide-related illnesses at schools from 1996 to 2005.
Sacramento Bee
EPA releases finding on greenhouse gases suppressed by Bush administration...JIM TANKERSLEY AND ALEXANDER C. HART, Tribune Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/702/v-print/story/2252231.html
WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a copy of a long-suppressed report by officials in the George W. Bush administration concluding that, based on the science, the government should begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions because global warming posed serious risks to the country.
The report, technically known as an "endangerment finding," was prepared in 2007 but the Bush White House refused to make it public because the administration opposed new government efforts to regulate the gases most scientists see as the major cause of global warming.
The existence of the finding - and the refusal of the Bush White House to make it public - were previously known. But no copy of the document had been released until Tuesday.
The document "demonstrates that in 2007 the science was as clear as it is today," said Adora Andy, an EPA spokeswoman. "The conclusions reached then by EPA scientists should have been made public and should have been considered."
The Bush EPA draft was released in response to a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act.
A finding that greenhouse gases and global warming pose serious risks to the nation is a necessary step in the process of instituting government regulation. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing for major climate legislation, but if Congress fails to act, the administration has raised the possibility that it would use an EPA finding to move toward regulation on its own.
In April, the administration released its own proposal for an endangerment finding. The newly released document from the Bush EPA shows that much of the Obama document embraced the earlier, suppressed finding word for word.
"Both reach the same conclusion - that the public is endangered and regulation is required," said Jason Burnett, a former associate deputy administrator who resigned from the EPA in June 2008 amid frustration over the Bush administration's inaction on climate change. "Science and the law transcend politics."
The 2007 draft offers an unequivocal endorsement of the prevailing views among climate scientists. It includes a declaration that the "U.S. and the rest of the world are experiencing the effects of climate change now" and warns that in the United States, those effects could lead to drought, more frequent hurricanes and other extreme weather events, increased respiratory disease and a rise in heat-related deaths.
The Obama version of the finding has gone through a required process of hearings and public comments. Now, the EPA is working out a final version of the finding, which is expected to be released in the near future.
While the 2007 Bush EPA finding and the 2009 Obama finding are nearly identical in their conclusions about climate change and the scientific foundations of the problem, the Bush version is far less detailed.
A current EPA official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said the sparse descriptions of the 2007 version suggest that the EPA officials who signed off on the finding had been worried about how the White House would respond.
"They honed it down to the essential language to explain an endangerment finding," the official said. "In 2009, those constraints are removed. ... You don't see those same linguistic gymnastics."
California Legislature plans hearings on water bills...Matt Weiser
http://www.sacbee.com/capitolandcalifornia/v-print/story/2251899.html
Legislative leaders say they intend to hold hearings on controversial water bills next week, a move that should appease complaints that the process has been too secret.
A special legislative session on the subject is technically under way now, after being called Sunday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jim Evans, spokesman for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, said legislative staff is drafting bill language based on discussions held so far.
"We plan on public hearings next week and hopefully a vote on the floor of each respective house next week as well," Evans said.
Management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta remains a major focus. Lawmakers aim to create a streamlined government structure to manage the estuary, build major new plumbing to improve water deliveries and restore thousands of acres of habitat.
The estuary is a transit point for water diversions to Southern California and a nursery for several of the state's most important and imperiled fish species.
Major differences continue to block a bipartisan package:
� Democrats want monitoring and regulation of groundwater resources. California is unique in that it does not require this. Republicans are wary of imposing this on farmers suffering from drought.
� Republicans want billions of dollars included in a proposed bond measure to build dams, saying only new surface storage can resolve shortages. Democrats say aggressive conservation and groundwater storage can do the job.
� Both sides want the price of a bond measure whittled down. At one point it stood at $12 billion.
� Northern California water agencies want assurances they won't have to give up water for a controversial canal proposed to divert Sacramento River water across the Delta.
� The five Delta counties are concerned about how the canal will be approved, how thousands of acres of proposed restoration lands will be managed, and whether they'll have an adequate role in both.
Even majority-party leaders have expressed concern that the bills have so far been negotiated in secret meetings among the top two lawmakers from each house and the governor � the so-called "Big 5." No specific bill language has been made public since the regular legislative session ended.
In a move toward greater openness, party leaders met with their respective caucuses Tuesday to brief them.
"It certainly has the feel of a very, very bizarre negotiating dynamic to me, and it makes me uncomfortable," said Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, chairman of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. "This is a 50- or 100-year solution, so certainly taking a few weeks to make sure that (legislative) members are informed, to make sure the right questions are asked, is warranted."
Stockton Record
Delta counties want voices heard on water bill…Zachary K. Johnson
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091014/A_NEWS/910140317/-1/A_NEWS#STS=g0sigjgh.1l9o
STOCKTON - It's been more than a month since the clock ran out on the regular legislative session before lawmakers could pass legislation to overhaul the state's water system, and in the past week, leaders in Sacramento at times seemed close to hammering out a deal that would go up for a vote in a special session.
And because the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta figures large in any talk about the state's water future, San Joaquin County has a keen interest in what plans are being made for the estuary.
On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors got an update on the state's water wars from the county's point of view.
"A lot of things have transpired, and nothing has happened," said Terry Dermody, the county's water attorney at the board's meeting Tuesday morning.
Along with four other counties around the Delta, San Joaquin County has been pushing for consideration of people living around the body of water used by most of the state for irrigation and drinking water.
It would be "problematic" if the Legislature moves to vote before the counties and the public at large can adequately review the bill, Dermody said.
In the past week, representatives from the Delta counties have been meeting with newspaper editorial boards, legislators and their staffs to reassert the counties' positions. These include that any proposed bond includes money for Calaveras, Stanislaus and Mokulumne river watersheds and that any Delta plan be based on "sound science," he said.
The idea of directing water flows around, rather than through, the Delta remains in the separate Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.
One such conveyance - the peripheral canal - has been adamantly opposed by county supervisors. The concern is that other areas of the state receiving Delta water are pushing for a canal.
"Anyone south of Fresno County has one agenda, ... and that is to build a peripheral canal or some other kind of conveyance," Chairman Leroy Ornellas said. "They want the canal. Period."
Against this background, San Joaquin County is hosting the San Joaquin Valley Regional Association of California Counties conference today and Thursday at the Stockton Hilton. About 20 supervisors from nine counties are expected to attend.
The focus is on water and agriculture, and the guests will hear presentations from local water experts talking about the water history of the Delta, a peripheral canal and an idea for regional self-sufficiency when it comes to water.
It shows part of the range of options to address the state's water problems that the county can support. "A lot of folks are solidly behind one solution; we are behind many solutions," Ruhstaller said.
He has no illusions that the two-day seminar will change the minds of people with different views on water.
"At least we can show them we shouldn't be in a civil war," Ruhstaller said.
San Francisco Chronicle
Wal-Mart to pay $11M to settle Iowa workers' case...AP
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/10/13/financial/f175638D50.DTL&type=printable
Clinton, Iowa (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $11 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 97,000 current and former workers in Iowa over allegations that they were forced to skip breaks or work off the clock.
Clinton County District Court Judge David Sivright gave final approval for the deal Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2001, claimed the company failed to compensate workers for off-the-clock work and overtime, altered employee time records and prevented employees from taking lunch and rest breaks.
As part of the Iowa settlement, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart did not admit any wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart announced in December it would pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits across the country over wage and hour violations.
After storm, Calif reservoirs up 1-foot and rising...AP
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/10/14/state/n123627D27.DTL&type=printable
Fresno, Calif. (AP) -- Northern California's biggest storm in October since 1962 is raising water levels in the state's reservoirs, but not enough to ease the drought conditions that have plagued the state for three years.
Officials at a meeting in Fresno Wednesday said Lakes Shasta and Oroville in Northern California each had risen by a full foot by late Tuesday night as they continued to see runoff from the storm.
Keith Coolidge, acting chief deputy director of the joint state and federal water agency, CALFED, said the Sacramento River, which had been flowing at 6,500 cubic feet per second, was rushing at 18,000 Wednesday. The amounts are equal to a like number of basketballs passing a fixed point each second.
Despite the early storm, state officials are planning for a dry 2010.
EBMUD board votes to boost water supply...Kelly Zito
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/10/14/MNEQ1A59MO.DTL&type=printable
The East Bay's largest water utility voted 4-2 Tuesday evening to approve a plan to boost its long-term water supply, including a controversial proposal to expand the Pardee Reservoir on the Mokelumne River.
After hearing from scores of local and Sierra Nevada foothills residents who oppose enlarging the reservoir, the EBMUD board threw out the biggest expansion option.
The board, meeting in Oakland, also pledged to work with environmental groups to have some of the Mokelumne designated "wild and scenic," a federal term that affords high levels of environmental protection.
Opponents of the Pardee project urged EBMUD officials to abandon proposals to enlarge the reservoir, which is on the Mokelumne along the border of Amador and Calaveras counties.
In voting against the water plan, board Director Andy Katz said, "This is a plan that is going to damage the environment."
Citing ecological harm, the loss of recreational activities and destruction of the community's social fabric, opponents of the proposed Pardee Reservoir expansion instead encouraged the district to embrace broader water recycling, conservation and new efficiency technologies.
EBMUD, which serves 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is weighing a long-term plan to increase its water supply to 280 million gallons per day by 2040, up from about 200 million gallons today.
In addition to conservation and recycling targets, a regional desalination plant and increased underground water storage, the plan includes enlarging the reservoir. The largest expansion option would have inundated about 2 miles of the Mokelumne in a section popular with kayakers, fishermen and picnickers. The next largest option would inundate about 1.4 miles.
Tuesday's action did not offer the final word on the expansion. Officially, the EBMUD board was considering the approval of the long-range plan's environmental review. Individual projects, such as Pardee's enlargement, would be subjected to a more detailed environmental study. But opponents of the Pardee option see the environmental review as tacit approval of a project that would sever the main artery of the community.
"Expanding Pardee is like cutting off our community's and our water's right arm," said Katherine Evatt, president of the Foothill Conservancy. "You have other options for water. We don't have other options for our river."
Population and water. 1...Dr. Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/detail?entry_id=49461
Population discussions raise lots of hackles. And they bring the crazies out of the woodwork like termites when the Orkin Man appears. But I hope to post a series of pieces on population and water because we must stop ignoring the role of population in our environmental and water problems.
The amount of water on Earth is fixed. We're not losing it to space and we're not getting more (with negligible exceptions). The amount of water in a river basin or watershed is fixed. It goes up and down with natural variability, and it may change over time due to climate changes, but water is a renewable resources and our use of it does not affect the amount we get next year.
But population is not fixed. It is growing, and growing rapidly in some places. As a result, the amount of water available per person ("per capita") is declining. Here is a simple example: assume that the average flow of water in a river basin is 10 million acre-feet per year and the population using that water is 20 million people. Then on average, the water available for use is around 450 gallons per person per day, if you could use it all (which would, of course, destroy the river ecosystem, but that's another topic). If the population of the basin doubles to 40 million, the water availability per person drops in half, to around 225 gallons per person per day. If the population doubles again, water availability drops to just over 100 gallons per person per day. The math is easy, but the consequences can be severe: abundance can become shortage. In simple terms, addressing water problems in the face of population growth come down to three choices: (1) increase the water supply, (2) decrease the water demand per person, or (3) change the number of people. Water policy in the past century focused only on increasing supply. Most of the work of the Pacific Institute has focused on the second because we believe the options for new supply in most places are increasingly limited, expensive, and environmentally damaging, and we see enormous potential for reducing demand. Almost no discussion, anywhere, focuses on the third choice. But the failure to address population in the long run will be disastrous. And the "long-run" is no longer so far away.Water (Population) Numbers: While total water availability remains fixed, the population of the United States has grown from around 150 million in 1950 to over 305 million today. The population of California in 1950 was 10.5 million; today it is around 37 million. The population of the state of Georgia in 1950 was under 4 million; today it is approaching 10 million. The population of Jordan in 1960 was around a million; today it is 6 million. The population of Israel in 1960 was just over 2 million; today it exceeds 7 million. The population of Iraq in 1960 was around 7.3 million; today it exceeds 31 million.
Is it any wonder that California's, or Georgia's, or the Middle East's water problems have worsened?
In a recent paper, Richard Seager of Columbia and his colleagues analyzed the recent drought in the southeastern United States. This drought led to water use restrictions, depleted flows in the major river basins of the region, and growing political tensions over water sharing between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The authors of this paper concluded that the recent drought in the Southeast was not climatologically different from past droughts, but was felt more severely largely due to the growth in population in the region. In July, a Federal judge ruled that Atlanta had to fundamentally change the way it obtains its water, and noted that
"Too often, state, local, and even national government actors do not consider the long-term consequences of their decisions. Local governments allow unchecked growth because it increases tax revenue, but these same governments do not sufficiently plan for the resources such unchecked growth will require. Nor do individual citizens consider frequently enough their consumption of our scarce resources, absent a crisis situation such as that experienced in the ACF basin in the last few years. The problems faced in the ACF basin will continue to be repeated throughout this country, as the population grows and more undeveloped land is developed. Only by cooperating, planning, and conserving can we avoid the situations that gave rise to this litigation." (emphasis added)
Climate change is going to cause serious impacts on water resources, but even without it, we are running up against water constraints that will worsen if we continue to ignore the population elephant in the room.
More to come.
Contra Costa Times
Raising Sierra dam an option for East Bay water district...Mike Taugher
http://www.contracostatimes.com/environment/ci_13556263?nclick_check=1
The East Bay's largest water district backed a long-term water supply plan Tuesday that includes the possibility of raising a dam in the Sierra foothills.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District approved a $6 million, 32-month study laying out a variety of options but concluded that in order to endure droughts with no more than 10 percent rationing the district would either have to build a major desalination plant with other Bay Area agencies or increase the height of Pardee Dam, a Great Depression-era structure on the Mokelumne River that was the tallest dam in the world when it was built.
The vote was 4-2, with directors Andy Katz and Doug Linney opposed. Director Frank Mellon was absent.
The board eliminated from consideration the largest reservoir expansion option, but left in others.
A decision on which route to choose is still at least a decade away, but dozens of speakers urged the board to drop the dam-raising alternative now. Environmental groups hinted strongly they would sue over the plan in order to preserve their ability to challenge the dam in the future.
Critics of the plan said the board could require greater water-use efficiency, accept the need to cut water use deeper in droughts or buy into the Contra Costa Water District's plan to enlarge Los Vaqueros Reservoir near Brentwood.
Former EBMUD board member Danny Wan said the plan amounted to an environmental injustice.
"You are passing on the environmental cost to somebody else," he said.
Santa Cruz Sentinel
UCSC water needs can be met during normal rain years according to city study...ADAM HARJU
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_13557742
SANTA CRUZ -- The city, during normal rain years, has enough water to meet the needs of an expansion project at UC Santa Cruz, according to an independent water supply report presented at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
During drought years, however, there is not enough water to meet the needs of the city regardless of whether the university project goes through, according to the report.
The City Council decided to delay a decision on whether to accept the report analyzing the city's water supply that would be a part of the environmental assessment for the expansion project at UCSC, in part because members of the public asked for more time to assess the findings.
"The resolution that is before the council says the city of Santa Cruz has independently analyzed the report, but the public hasn't had enough time since last Friday to analyze this," political watchdog Reed Searle said. "It is incumbent upon the council to hear any concerns they have."
Water officials said the report does not allow for the supply of water to UCSC as it seeks to grow from 15,000 students to 19,000 students by the year 2020, it merely analyzes whether the water system can meet the increased demand.
"There is no obligation to do anything with this report. It is simply an analysis of the water supply," said Bill Kocher, head of the Water Department.
Councilman Ryan Coonerty said, "The report would go into the EIR so that when [the Local Agency Formation Commission] goes to make a decision, they have this outside study that comes to this conclusion."
Growth at UCSC has been a community concern for years. In the summer of 2008, a deal was signed by the city, county, university and many who had fought university expansion that was thought would resolve many of the disputes.
The agreement specifies that UCSC will house 68 percent of new students on campus, instead of 50 percent; increase water conservation; and pay to help pave roads and fill potholes. In return, Santa Cruz will provide UCSC the water and services it needs to expand from 15,000 to 19,000 students by 2020. As part of the agreement, UCSC has said it will cap undergraduate enrollment despite the fact that a 1962 agreement allows the school unlimited water and up to 30,000 students.
The deal was hailed by many as a fair solution to the issue of university growth and demand on city resources.
Yet some are unhappy with the solution. The Community Water Coalition, headed by former county supervisor and environmental lawyer Gary Patton, recently stated legal action would be taken if the city agrees to supply the water to UCSC.
Patton could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but did e-mail a request to the council to continue the vote on the water analysis to the Oct. 27 meeting.
"We are asking you to continue the item to a future City Council meeting, since the public [including the CWC] has not really had an adequate opportunity to review and comment on this important document," the e-mail states.
The report was made available to the council three weeks ago, but the public first got hold of it Friday.
The environmental assessment is nearly complete for the UCSC growth project, which will require 100 million gallons of water per year by the year 2020, Planning Director Juliana Rebagliati said.
The decision to allow the UCSC expansion, as part of the 2008 agreement, will then be in the hands of LAFCO
Deseret News
Snake Valley water proposal still under scrutiny...Amy Joi O'Donoghue
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/print/705336511/Snake-Valley-water-proposal-still-under-scrutiny.html
Water monitoring is being done, biologists are studying spring snails and spotted frogs, and an advisory council is sifting through a thick binder packed with hundreds of comments.
What remains to be seen, however, is the fate of the Snake Valley draft agreement that proposes to split the water in an aquifer between Nevada and Utah.
Members of the Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council met Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol to hear updates on studies that are being done in Snake Valley, including a complex system of wells that have been measuring water quality as well as fluctuations in ground water levels.
An appropriation two years ago by the Utah Legislature has funded the work by the Utah Geological Survey, and additional money is paying for studies by the state Department of Natural Resources.
That probe is looking at habitat and population concerns regarding the spotted frog and the least chub, as well as three varieties of snails, or mollusks.
Krissy Wilson, who coordinates the native aquatic species program for the department, said the funding and studies have proven extremely helpful in assessing population health, particularly that of the mollusks, which only occur in that west desert area.
The draft agreement, which includes protections for the spotted frog and least chub, is likely to undergo modifications before it is submitted to both governors for possible endorsement.
"We come to the table with some passion," said Snake Valley resident and council member Don Anderson. "Maybe let's put the passion a little bit aside and let's look at the strengths of the agreement."
Teams from both states have been negotiating for several years a water sharing agreement after the Southern Nevada Water Authority applied for water rights in Snake Valley to support a pipeline project.
The $3 billion, 285-mile pipeline would convey up to 50,000 acre-feet of water from Snake Valley to support municipal use in Las Vegas.
Water rights have been granted to the water authority in adjacent valleys in support of the pipeline, but the Nevada State Engineer has yet to sign off on the Snake Valley application.
The draft agreement puts that application on "hold" for 10 years while additional scientific and environmental studies are conducted, so critics of the agreement say there should be no rush to divvy up the water.
Critics are also concerned that too much of the "unallocated" water would end up in Nevada's hands, along with "reserve" water that may or may not exist.
Concerns have also been raised that pumping the aquifer will drop the water table so low that native vegetation will dry up and dust storms will result. Winds could carry that dust as far as the Wasatch Front, which already struggles with elevated pollution levels.
Cheryl Heyring, Utah's air quality director, said it will take between $100,000 and $120,000 to pay for the monitoring station provided for in the agreement, as well as additional money to pay for the personnel to extract data.
Council members wanted to know if the monitoring station would collect Snake Valley-specific data, which it will, but Heyring noted the more monitoring the better, conceding additional stations would help.
With the agreement still pending, council members will now spend the next two weeks reviewing the hundreds of comments and making their own suggestions for changes.
They will also seek "expert" opinions on the possible strengths of the arguments — water rights, environmental protections — to present at their next meeting.
New York Times
Restoring an Ailing River in California...Jeremy Miller, Green Inc.
http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/restoring-and-ailing-river-in-california/?pagemode=print
The Associated Press Inspectors released water from needle valves at the Friant Dam as part of restoration efforts for the San Joaquin River in California.
For the first time in 60 years, water will flow through two long stretches of the San Joaquin River in California, a waterway that has been transformed — and often run dry — by engineering and agricultural, industrial and urban development.
This month, water surges were released from Friant Dam, near Fresno, into the San Joaquin River’s main channel. The releases come after nearly two decades of negotiations between the Natural Resources Defense Council, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Friant Water Users Authority, a group representing agricultural water users in the area.
Local farmers are troubled at the loss of water from the Friant-Kern and Madera canal systems, especially in light of a three-year drought that has ravaged the Central Valley’s croplands. But environmentalists say the releases are a vital first step in an immense restoration plan for the San Joaquin — one with the potential to stimulate the regional economy.
“The restoration effort will create construction-related jobs, help revive the commercial salmon fishing industry and bring a vital public resource back to life for future generations to enjoy,” said Monty Schmitt, a scientist for the council, in a statement.
In March, $400 million in funds for restoration and flood control work on the San Joaquin were made available with the passage by Congress of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, which also added 2 million acres of land in nine states to the nation’s wilderness areas.
The decline of the San Joaquin began in the late 1930s with the state’s huge Central Valley Project, which resulted in dozens of dams and hydroelectric plants, and hundreds of miles of aqueducts and canals on the valley’s two major watersheds –- the San Joaquin and the Sacramento.
According to Tina Swanson, the executive director of the Bay Institute, this will be the largest river restoration project in the country and will focus on a 150-mile stretch between Friant Dam and its former confluence with the Merced River.
In two reaches totaling 63 miles, the river runs completely dry; in sections where water remains, it is often badly polluted with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals (PDF).
“The project is unprecedented,” Ms. Swanson said. “In essence we are bringing a dead river back to life.”
Environmentalists say that restoring flow to the entire length of the San Joaquin will not only flush out polluted stretches and potentially rejuvenate the region’s historic salmon runs, but will also help stabilize water conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, the river’s natural endpoint and origin of the California Aqueduct, which brings drinking water 450 miles to 22 million residents in Southern California.
Chinook salmon, said Ms. Swanson, are planned for reintroduction to the river in 2013.
“The true measure of success will be the ecosystems,” she said. “If we can bring back a self-sustaining, spawning population of fish, we will have done our job.”
Bloomberg
California Democrats View $9 Billion Water Bond Plan (Update1)...Michael B. Marois...10-13-09
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aMll7osH21Hc
Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- California’s top Democratic lawmakers said their proposal to overhaul the most populous U.S. state’s aging water-delivery system would include asking voters to approve a $9.4 billion bond measure.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, two days ago called lawmakers into a special session to finish the details of an agreement on the proposal after he held nearly around-the- clock talks with legislative leaders over the weekend. All sides said they were closing in on a compromise.
“This will represent the most comprehensive and significant water infrastructure policy since the state water project was established in the 1960s,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass told reporters yesterday. “I think we’ve made amazing progress, but we would be taking it too far to say we have reached a deal.”
California’s elected officials have been talking about ways to modernize and expand the water-delivery system for decades without success because of the politics, including who should pay for repairs. The issue gained momentum amid the state’s budget crisis, as well as three years of drought and court- ordered supply restrictions to protect endangered smelt fish that are withering the $36 billion-a-year agriculture industry.
Resolving Crisis
Schwarzenegger tried to force lawmakers to compromise by threatening to veto many of the 700 bills he intentionally left pending on his desk since the legislative session ended last month. He relented Oct. 11, citing progress during the talks.
“While we still have a few remaining issues to work out, I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement Oct. 11.
The framework for the proposal being considered includes plans to put a $9.4 billion bond measure on the ballot possibly as early as 2010; a state-mandated reduction in water use by 20 percent over the next decade; new rules to let the state monitor property owner pumping of groundwater and a new council to oversee restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which supplies water to two-thirds of the California’s 36.7 million people.
“Water is considered one of the unsolvable issues in this state,” said Senate President Darrel Steinberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles. “We believe we are on the verge of breaking that barrier.”
That debt would come in addition to as much as $15 billion that Treasurer Bill Lockyer said the state may sell by June 30, including refinancing as much as $4 billion of deficit bonds later this month. California already has $67 billion of general fund- supported debt outstanding.
Lockyer, also a Democrat, said in a report Oct. 1 that the state is set to sell as much as $44 billion of already-approved bonds backed by the general fund through the end of 2013 and that lawmakers should consider revenue bonds backed by user fees to pay for some of the water improvements.
Dams, Canals
California, which has the world’s eighth-largest economy and accounts for 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, sold $4.1 billion in bonds last week while possessing a Standard & Poor’s A rating, the lowest among U.S. states.
The final size of the water-bond measure, how much of that money would go toward dams favored by Republicans and whether to build a canal to circumvent the delta to send Los Angeles more of the San Joaquin’s water are issues that still must be resolved.
The bond plan would need approval by two-thirds of the Legislature before going to the voters. If approved, the debt sales would be staggered, possibly over a decade, rather than sold all at once.
Democrats plan to hold hearings on those provisions next week.
 
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