Public Health and Safety

UC Merced bobcatflaksters now flogging disease-of-the-week

Submitted: Jul 06, 2007
UC Merced Now Home To The Only Animal Research Facility In The Valley
...Roy Hoglund, lab animal resource center director, says "after 4 weeks, the animals are sent to U.C. Davis, the comparative pathology for rodent health diagnostic testing."
...But faculty members also realize animal research labs are often the source of controversy. Just last week, the FBI was called to UCLA ...Ana Nelson Shaw says "we certainly support the right of everyone to have and express their opinion in a safe and legal way. As soon as anybody crosses that line, we will take every step to protect our researchers and of the animals in our facility."
-- ABC30.com, July 3, 2007

...Although UC Merced officials say they haven't received any comments or concerns from animal rights advocates about the vivarium, that does not mean they are not taking precautions. -- Merced Sun-Star, July 4, 2007

The UC Merced Bobcatflaksters have got to spin this lab to a fare-thee-well and so, of course, they sought the help of the obliging media.

UC Merced is not the home of the only animal research facility in the Valley. UC Davis has been conducting animal research for many decades and UC Davis is located in the Valley. There is probably other animal research going on in the Valley and it has probably been going on for a long time.

Both stories focus on the animal-activist threat, akin to Supervisor Nelson's "socialist" threat and the "asthma terrorist" threat other public officials see in air-pollution activists exercising their Constitutional rights to speak and demonstrate.

The threat the Bobcatflaksters have gently but firmly guided the dim-witted reporters and their cowardly editors away from seeing is the threat of the lab to the population. It's a slick piece of work, worthy of the great, bygone era when Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor, ruled the grounds of the former municipal golf course, ably assisted by Larry Salinas, her quick-witted, sawed-off sidekick in cowboy boots.

Students of the profoundly corrupt boondoggle known as UC Merced scent a quickening of the breeze, a new purpose to the bobcatflak, a new theme. Since it cannot be undergraduate education for the San Joaquin Valley, the campus having admitted it is now a junior college for transferring the able few on to real UC campuses, we look to the only viable academic credential UC Merced has, its memorandum of understanding with UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Lab is now contending with a few other sites to put a biowarfare laboratory (one at the highest level of danger to the public) near Tracy, on its Site 300 bomb-testing range.

The proposed bio-facility is slated to cover 500,000 square feet, the size of 5 Wal-Marts. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity. Biosafety Level-3s experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to accommodate large animals, according to the agency's request for proposals in the federal register. -- TriValleyCAREs, April 16, 2007

The question that the local media lacks the courage to ask is the only question the public needs an honest answer to: what is the biodanger level of the UC Merced animal lab now? What sorts of diseases will be brought to Merced to inject into the laboratory animals? What could happen to students on the campus and the public beyond the campus if these diseases get out? What are the safety measures? What are the procedures if there is an accident?

Local government is utterly dominated by finance, insurance and real estate special interests (FIRE). To make matters worse for the purposes of public safety, the huge speculative real estate boom induced by the UC Merced campus has crashed, leaving the county, along with Stanislaus and San Joaquin, leading the nation per capita in mortage foreclosures. The promise UC Merced dangles before these hapless tools of outside interests is that a medical school will soon arrive. Miraculously, doctors and nurses and laboratory scientists and their assistants will fill the vacant homes whose values are now falling below the cost of their construction. It's the new campaign. The bobcatflaksters providing cover, the boosters can again step onto the bandwagon and off Merced goes, once again, to a glorious future. It hasn't quite arrived yet, (as always), but "we're on our way." Meanwhile, watch carefully for the agents of espionage and sabotage and forget about the agents of arbitrage.

Epidemiologically speaking, our FIRE special interests are playing host to diseases that are not good for public health and safety. As plans for the Site 300 biowarfare lab mature, it is likely the diseases will become more dangerous.

A responsible local government would be demanding to know what the level of biodanger is now and what the plans of the UC Merced animal lab are. Neither our local government nor our media have the wit or the guts to even ask the question of UC Merced.

This isn't leadership; it's depravity.

Bill Hatch
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07/03/2007
UC Merced Now Home To The Only Animal Research Facility In The Valley
By Sara Sandrik
ABC30.com
http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=local&id=5447581

- Animal testing usually comes with controversy, and U.C. Merced is preparing for that possibility. The new lab is equipped with security cameras and requires key card access. Officials say it's to protect the animals and the researchers.
Eight white mice are the first of thousands of rodents and a few rabbits that could eventually inhabit U.C. Merced. They're here to make sure the university's new laboratory animal research center is safe and sterile.
Roy Hoglund, lab animal resource center director, says "after 4 weeks, the animals are sent to U.C. Davis, the comparative pathology for rodent health diagnostic testing."
If these mice pass the test, more animals will soon be on the way. Researchers will use them to study a variety of conditions that affect humans, including diabetes and asthma.
Lab Director Roy Hoglund says stem cell research is also a possibility. "Most of the work that's going to be done here is going to be studying mechanisms of disease" says Hoglund.
The facility includes 9 animal rooms and 2 surgical suites. University officials say it's is an important step toward bringing a proposed medical school to the campus.
Ana Nelson Shaw, UC Merced, says "our plans for our medical school are dependent on biomedical research and very much of that depends on research that works with animals."
But faculty members also realize animal research labs are often the source of controversy. Just last week, the FBI was called to UCLA after animal rights extremists claimed responsibility for an explosive device found under a professor's car.
Ana Nelson Shaw says "we certainly support the right of everyone to have and express their opinion in a safe and legal way. As soon as anybody crosses that line, we will take every step to protect our researchers and of the animals in our facility."
And Hoglund says there are strict rules and regulations to protect the animals during testing. "Quality animal care equates to quality research and quality science" says Hoglund.
Along with federal guidelines, there is also a local committee that must approve all animal research before it's conducted here at the university.

7-4-07
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced vivarium's first residents move in...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13755205p-14338127c.html

The university has received the first eight mice for its vivarium -- a 5,000-square-foot facility where mice, rats and rabbits will be kept for laboratory observation...animals will be used for a variety of research purposes, including study of infectious diseases of the immune system and stem-cell research. Roy Hoglund, UC Merced's director of animal research services, said the facility is the Central Valley's first vivarium. Before it was built, UC Merced researchers had to travel nearly two hours to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area to conduct research on rodents. Hoglund said although research on animal tissues and cells have occurred at the facility, actual animal testing may not begin for several weeks. Reporters with the Sun-Star and other media were allowed Tuesday to tour the facility, located in an underground area of the school's Science and Engineering Building. Hoglund said UC Merced staff spent weeks sterilizing the entire vivarium, which includes nine storage rooms for animals, four procedure rooms and two surgical suites. Visitors to the facility will be asked to wear sterile covering for their shoes in order to keep micro-organisms from entering the building. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore will help provide oversight and review during the vivarium's first year of operation. UC Merced has set up an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee composed of faculty, a veterinarian and member of the community unaffiliated with the university to provide additional oversight and review and approve research activities. The school will also seek to have the facility approved by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Lab Animal Care International -- a private nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of lab animals through a voluntary accreditation and assessment program. Although UC Merced officials say they haven't received any comments or concerns from animal rights advocates about the vivarium, that does not mean they are not taking precautions. During a media tour of the vivarium, camera operators were asked not to photograph the numbers on doors or exit signs inside of the building -- in order to not give away the specific location of the facility. With the completion of UC Merced's vivarium, all campuses in the University of California system now have vivarium programs, according to Jennifer Ward, UC Office of the President spokesperson.

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Extinction no solution to water pollution -- Felix Smith

Submitted: Jul 04, 2007

When one looks seriously at the probable extinction of the Delta Smelt, the only thread in the history is the one most denied in the San Joaquin Valley: the systematic, long-range, politically rigged destruction of Public Trust law and natural resources by agribusiness lords and by the aggressions of water agencies led by Wetlands Water District. The entire violation of public trust exploded in Merced County in 1983 at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, where it was discovered that agricultural drainage piped from the south San Joaquin Valley with its highly concentrated amounts of Selenium, sickened, deformed and killed living beings -- people, livestock, and aquatic and avian species. Through more than 20 years of government propaganda denying it, coverups, harassment of government staff, ranchers, farmers, environmentalists and journalists that have told and continue to tell the truth, the destruction has continued to unfold.

Badlands is honored to publish these remarks sent to us by former US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, Felix Smith, before a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on July 2 in Vallejo on the Delta. Smith has never stopped doing his duty as a federal wildlife biologist by speaking the uncomfortable, officially denied truth, since at Kesterson he held the first deformed bird in his hands. The best account in book form of what Smith and others went through to reveal this painful truth, describe its origins and predict its consequences, is available in Tom Harris' Death in the Marsh. Other books include Reisner's Cadillac Desert and The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman. The best reporter and commentator on the subject is Lloyd Carter.

The worst newspaper coverage of the Kesterson disaster was by the Merced Sun-Star, on top of the story but, judging by its archives from the time, running away from it as fast as it could.

Badlands editorial staff
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House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power,

Hearing on

“Extinction is Not Sustainable Water Policy: the Bay-Delta Crisis

and

Implications for California Water Management”,

July 2, 2007 at Vallejo, California.

To Chairwoman-Representative Napolitano and other members of this subcommittee.

My name is Felix E. Smith. I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments. Please include these comments into the record of this hearing.

I held the first deformed migratory bird, an American coot hatchling, found at Kesterson NWR in 1983. At that time I was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist recently assigned to look into the emerging issues involving agricultural drainage and wastewater. That experience impacted my life. Some of my concerns regarding Selenium contamination of the lands and waters and associated resources, uses and values are described in my article, “The Kesterson Effect: Reasonable Use of Water and the Public Trust”, published in the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review, Volume 6, Number 1 - 1996. I submit this article for the hearing record by this reference.

Water is the environment in which fish and other aquatic resources must carry on all their life processes. Such resources, associated uses and values are inextricably tied to the physical, chemical and biological aspects of that aquatic environment. Healthy and diverse aquatic populations are indicative of good water quality conditions (flow, temperature, oxygen and chemical parameters). Good water quality allows for near optimum use of water as an M & I supply, an irrigation supply and as an environment for fish and other aquatic life. For healthy and sustainable fish populations to exist (also wildlife populations), the total aquatic environment (the water, the bed, the riparian vegetation and associated insect life, the food web) all interact and therefore must be suitable for aquatic life at the individual, population and community levels.

The Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, and the Public Trust embrace affirmatively and positively that the people are to be protected against all unwise and unreasonable uses of Federal and State waters. Uses of water can be considered unreasonable because they pollute; because they offend our sense of aesthetics or natural beauty; because they interfere with the right of the public to enjoy a natural resource of state or national significance; because they threaten in a harmful way to upset the ecological balance of nature, or because to allow this unreasonable use confers a valuable privilege which is inconsistent with protecting the public trust.

Agencies like the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s EPA were established to protect the public interest and quality of the Nation’s lands and waters. Such agencies are not to squander clean air, allow the pollution of our rivers, streams and groundwater, allow the pollution or other degradation of our land leaving a degraded legacy for our grandchildren or allow the pollution of the body’s of our children, our fish and wildlife resources or our food supply. These same agencies should not look like shills for corporate farms or massive water districts (Boswells Farms, Westland Water District).

Any effort at maintaining sustainable water quality, agriculture and wetland ecosystems (fish and wildlife resources) must involve an understanding of the interaction between the soil and the flow of water over, through, and under the soil well beyond the point of application. Preserving soil fertility is critical to sustaining its productivity. Preserving and maintaining water quality is critical to the productivity of water as an ecosystem and as a commodity for domestic and industrial uses. Unlike soil, which can be built up over time, water can’t be built or enhanced. A river can be lost to a farmer; to a species of fish or to fish resources; lost as a place to recreate or as a water supply. It can be diverted, polluted, misused or over appropriated. Aldo Leopold’s Round River makes the principles of ecology clear and vivid, suggesting that nature is a “Round River”, like a stream flowing into itself, going round and round in an unceasing circuit, going through all the soils, the flora and fauna of the earth while supporting many resources, beneficial uses and values. Destroying one part can destroy it all and all its benefits to society.

A use of the lands and waters of a watershed that so degrades the sustainability of a downstream ecosystem or a component of that ecosystem to make it unsuitable for sustaining viable agriculture, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life, or which makes fish unsuitable for human consumption, or which is a hazard to other fish and wildlife, or which degrades ecological, aesthetic, recreational uses, small craft navigation, and scenic values, is inconsistent with public trust protection, the reasonable use of water is therefore a nuisance. When chemicals enter the bodies of children, or enter the domestic or wildlife food supply to toxic levels without our consent, it is a trespass.

Here is an example brought to you in part by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Central Valley Project.

It was known for a long time that the soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley were derived from parent material formed in an old seabed. The California Department of Water Resources Bulletin No. 89, Lower San Joaquin Valley Water Quality Investigation – 1960, discusses concerns about the chemicals and various salts in the soils and drainage from the area. The soils and parent material extend throughout the Westside, south to the end of the Valley. The sodium ion was a major concern along with a variety of sulfates, boron and numerous trace elements. Even at that time drainage was believed to be a serious and emerging problem. Drainage from the Panoche area was highly concentrated from a quality standpoint and “unusable for beneficial purposes” (see pg. 95 of DWR –Bull. No 89). At that time the San Joaquin River was already seriously polluted from agricultural drainage and wastewater.

The observation “that the drainage was highly concentrated from a quality standpoint and unusable for beneficial purposes”, sparked little attention. With the application of vast quantities of Bureau of Reclamation water to the highly saline / seleniferious soils, the need for drainage works quickly become apparent. Surface waters and the San Joaquin River showed additional evidence of pollution.

By 1982 some people, including a few Grassland duck club owners, believed that something was wrong in the northern Grasslands. They had noticed sick and dead birds in 1981 and 82. In 1983 the first deformed young of migratory birds were found on Kesterson NWR by researchers from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Kesterson Reservoir (NWR) was the then terminus of the San Luis Drain. People were disturbed by the pictures of dead and grossly deformed waterfowl and shorebirds obtained from Kesterson Evaporation Ponds that were appearing on the nightly television news at dinnertime. Selenium (Se) in the agricultural drainage accumulated via the food chain to high levels in their tissues resulted in dead adults, dead and deformed young. Several species of fish had elevated Se levels in their tissues.

In September 1984, California’s State Board, in its Agricultural Water Management Guidelines for Water Purveyors, stated, “Failure to take appropriate measures to minimize excess application, excess incidental losses, or degradation of water quality constitutes unreasonable use of water” (Emphasis added).

The State Board followed with its Order WQ 85-1(February 1985). The State Board found that agricultural drainage and wastewater reaching Kesterson Reservoir “is creating and threatening to create conditions of pollution and nuisance” (Emphases added). The Order then warned “If the Bureau closes Kesterson Reservoir and continues to supply irrigation water to Westlands Water District without implementing an adequate disposal option, continued irrigation in the affected area of Westlands Water District could constitute an unreasonable use of water” (Emphasis added).

From 1986 to today (2007), Selenium contamination is sufficient to cause deformities and threaten reproduction of key species within the area of the greater Grasslands, in the San Joaquin River to the Bay-Delta estuary. Deformed migratory birds have been found in every year field investigations were conducted for such evidence. Selenium concentration was also high in eggs that were sampled, which in turn could have lead to deformities. Fish resources continue to show high levels of Se because of a Se -contaminated food chain. Selenium has been found in what is usually called edible tissues and in reproductive organs of birds and fish.

Human health advisories have been issued against consuming Se contaminated edible tissues of fish (bluegill and largemouth bass) and of migratory birds (ducks and coots). Women of childbearing age and children are cautioned against eating such tissues. State Board reports indicate that in the Bay-Delta, surf scoter, greater and lesser scaup and particularly white sturgeon appear to be the most at risk to Se toxicity because they feed on filter feeders (i.e. bivalves). Concentrations Se found in 62 white sturgeon muscle samples and 42 liver samples far exceed tissue thresholds for reproductive effects. Recent findings add the Sacramento splittail to the list of species exhibiting elevated Se levels.

The USGS report (Report) ”Forecasting Selenium Discharges to the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary; Ecological Effects of a Proposed San Luis Drain Extension” by Drs. Samuel N. Luoma and Theresa S. Presser –2000), indicates that the reservoir of Se on the Westside of San Joaquin Valley is sufficient to provide loading at an annual rate of about 42,500 pounds of Se to the Bay-Delta disposal point for 63 to 304 years at the lower range of its projection. This is with the influx of Se from the Coast Range curtailed.

Selenium bioaccumulation is a major water quality problem. The combination of California’s climate, hydrology, Se loading, Se reactivity, and Se bioavailability poses a significant threat to the aquatic ecosystem of the Lower San Joaquin River and Bay-Delta. Selenium contamination is damaging beneficial uses, degrading food sources of humans and wildlife, aesthetic, recreation and ecological values. Risks to fish and bird reproduction could lead to extinction via contamination of the invertebrate food supply. Filter feeders are great concentrators of Se. Aquatic insects were the primary food item of shore birds. The Report concludes that bivalves appear to be the most sensitive indicator of Se contamination in the Bay-Delta. In the Bay-Delta and the lower San Joaquin River tidal action will increase the resident time of Se, exposing all aquatic organisms and increasing the ability of food organisms to accumulate greater amounts of Se and pass it up the food chain to predators.

Studies indicate that the highest concentrations of Se (12 to 23 ppb) were measured in green sunfish (lepomis cyanellus) from the San Luis Drain where seleniferous drainage is most concentrated. The second highest concentrations of Se (7.6 to 17 ppb) were measured in green sunfish (lepomis cyanellus) and 14 to 18 ppb Se in bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) taken from North Mud Slough. The high levels (body burden) of Se could be related to the Se sequestered in the sediments and benthic organisms that is mobilized by the detritus–based food chain. (USGS, Biological Resources Division “Effects of an Agricultural Drainwater Bypass on Fishes Inhibiting the Grassland Water District and the Lower San Joaquin River, California” by Saiki, Michael J., Barbara A. Martin, Steven E. Schwarzbach, and Thomas W. May. In North American Journal of Fisheries Management, Vol. 21:624-635, 2001.

One can conclude that water borne Se is the single most predictor of pollution, that it can and continues to have an adverse affect on the aquatic ecosystem, associated fish and wildlife resources, uses and values (Saiki, et al-2001)

The bottom line is that saline / seleniferious soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley contain a reservoir of Se, other trace elements and a variety of salts, that with irrigation, will continue to leach from the soils to the shallow groundwater for years and years to come. This Se leachate / drainage will continue to degrade down slope lands, surface and groundwater, fish and wildlife habitats and other beneficial uses of the receiving waters including the San Joaquin River and Delta.

Today we have the longest Selenium hazardous waste site know to man, extending from at least the Mendota pool and the Grasslands (near Los Banos), downstream via the San Joaquin River to the Delta, Suisun Bay and adjacent marshes. This involves 130 miles of San Joaquin River, miles of waterways in the Delta and 1,000s upon 1,000s of acres of San Joaquin Valley lands and aquatic ecosystems.

With the above information one could allege that the continued irrigation of saline / seleniferious soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley and Se contaminated discharges to the San Joaquin River constitute a waste and unreasonable use of the State’s water, and a nuisance.

This Committee or a court should review the drainage issue and associated impacts to determine if such a use of water is both beneficial and reasonable within the context of continuing shortage of water, the broadened meaning of beneficial use of Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 and the contemporary equal priority setting of CVPIA, Section 3406 (a) (3) and the Clean Water Act, as amended.

To me this irrigation use of water, associated drainage, Selenium and other impacts is just as inconsistent with reasonable use and public trust protection as is the filling of tidelands (Mark v. Whitney 6 Cal, 3d 251 -1971); as is allowing mining waste and debris that impacted water quality and impede navigation (Woodruff v North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Co. (Fed Rpt. Vol. 12 – 1884) and People v Gold Run Ditch and Mining Co. (4 Pac Rpt at 1152 – 1884); as is a ranch or farm which allows animal wastes and other filth to contaminate the waters of a stream which impacts the water supply and beneficial uses of downstream users (People ex rel Ricks Water Co. v Elk River Mill and Lumber Co. (40 Pac Rpt 486 –1895); as is the deposition of mill wastes and other debris which destroys aquatic life and a fishery ( People v Truckee Lumber Co.(16 Cal 397, 48 Pac 347 - 1897) , and as is the diversion of water which destroys numerous uses and values protected by the public trust reaffirmed or clarified in Audubon (National Audubon Society v Department of Water and Power, City of Los Angeles (33 Cal 3d 419, 658 P 2d 709, 189 Cal Rpt.346; cert denied 464 U.S. 977 – 1983).

The point made by the Elk River Court that if the conformation of the defendant’s land is such that he cannot carry on a dairy without putting such filth directly into the water, then he must find some other use for the land (emphases added). This rational thinking of over 110 years ago is particularly relevant to today’s Se, salt, drainage and wastewater issues associated with the irrigation of selected lands in the San Joaquin Valley. Following the thinking of the Elk River Court, if the Westside farmers cannot carry on their operations without polluting the local ground and surface waters, then they must find some other use for the land. And there is no taking issue for a use that is deemed unreasonable and a nuisance (Audubon).

Some Suggested Actions

Control of agricultural pollution also might be achieved by instituting best management practices, land retirement, and by economic incentives (substantial fines, forfeiture of all or a portion of appropriated water rights or contract allotments). Land retirement is an important option. Removing Federal irrigation water from being use on the Se source lands. Taking the land out of production that is the source of the majority of the salt and selenium problems should have quick and positive results and many public benefits. This can be attained by direct purchase of land or the irrigation rights, leasing land, purchasing the irrigation water allotment to such lands while prohibiting the use of groundwater on those lands.

Retiring lands containing significant levels of selenium or other toxic materials would have just a one time cost. A long term lease might also work, for there would be little if any maintenance costs. Land not needed for conservation purposes such as restoring native grasslands and related fauna of the San Joaquin Valley, could be sold, with title restrictions, for selected compatible uses such as dry land farming, grazing, etc. Within the Westlands Water District problem soils have been estimated at 100,000 to 275,000 acres (USBR, April 1991).

At a cost of $1,000.00 per acre it would cost $100,000,000.00 to retire 100,000 acres or $275,000,000.00 for the 275,000 acres. Lands acquired should be purchased with today's realities in mind. This includes limited or poor ground water, extensive selenium and sodium sulfate problems. Any value added to the price of land should not be based on speculation, the availability of Federally subsidized water, or on the potential construction of a Federal drainage facilities. A reality is that problem soils without water are just about worthless.

For each acre of irrigated land retired, there would be commensurate saving of about 2.0 to 3.5 acre feet of water per acre (depending on crop) or about 200,000 to 350,000 acre feet for each 100,000 acres taken out of irrigation. This water is firm yield water imported from northern California. For each irrigated acre taken out of production there would be a reduction of 20 to 60 pound of pesticides (active ingredients) plus 80 to 250 pounds of carrier materials, (oils, etc.) not applied to the soils. There would be a reduction of the amount of drainage and wastewater generated of about .6 to .8 acre feet per acre of land retired or 60,000 to 80,000 acre-feet for each 100,000 acres retired. There would be a saving in electrical energy by not having to pump water from the Delta. There should be benefits to fish resources and associated fisheries as up to 600,000 to 900,000 acre-feet would not have to be pumped from the Delta.

The water savings could be used to restore or otherwise benefit fish resources and fisheries throughout the waters of the Bay-Delta watershed. Any remaining water could be sold for municipal uses.

Economic incentives may be effective because of the existence and potential threat of law suits using the public trust doctrine, waste and unreasonable use, and the State's enforcement powers. A finding of a waste and unreasonable use of water by a court or the State Board or a finding based on the public trust could bind all entities discharging selenium, boron and sodium sulfate laden drainage and wastewater in to state waters.

Based on the State Board's 1984 (Agricultural Water Management Guidelines for Water Purveyors) and 1985 State Board Order WQ 85-1 definition of what constitutes an unreasonable use of water, the effects from irrigating saline, seleniferious soils are such that this use must be considered a waste and unreasonable use of water and the resultant drainage and wastewater a nuisance. This violates Article X, Section 2, of the State Constitution. The premise of the Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, is violated. The impacts violate Section 8 of the 1902 Reclamation Act, which requires compliance with State laws. Section 8 also says; Provided, That the right to the use of water acquired under the provisions of this Act shall be appurtenant to the land irrigated, and beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure and the limit of the right.

Thank you.

Felix E. Smith

4720 Talus Way

Carmichael, CA 95608

MillerHearofJuly22007

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Hun fires CARB chairman, appoints another

Submitted: Jul 03, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger probably didn't fire California Air Resources Board Chairman Robert F. Sawyer because Valley citizens spent the last several months looking for win-win, public-private solutions to air pollution in the Valley while the regional board voted to extend the deadline for air cleanup 11 more years. The governor probably didn't fire Sawyer because local anti-pollution activists had followed the advice of Merced County supervisors who say the public should come to them as politely as developer lobbyists, or Merced City Councilman Rick Osorio, who says anti-WalMart Distribution Center activists should not come to council meetings and wag fingers in the faces of council members, but should -- as Councilman Carl Pollard recommends -- go out into the community and raise consciousness. In other words, go anywhere but where the decisions are made.

The governor probably fired Sawyer, whose board approved the Valley regional air board decision, because the public went to both regional and state air board hearings and protested this outrage against public health and protested the blatant lies told by the regional board executive director. He may also have listened to state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter on the subject of Valley air pollution and the witless corruption of the regional air board. The governor may also have been influenced by a large number of honest expressions of disgust with the regional air board in letters to the editor in Valley newspapers, as well as editorials including a blunt one in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nope. The chances are better that the governor responded to old-fashioned political pressure from the public, which faces intimidating slurs like "asthma terrorists" and "socialists" from public officials when they testify.

Developers and their bought local legislatures in the San Joaquin Valley have mounted a massive campaign, including much subtle propaganda, to convince the Valley public that professionally facilitated "value-free" consensus groups spouting a brand of niceness that would make the Buddha puke, will find a plan to create a slurbocracy and gain all the federal highway funds developers and public officials desire, while simultaneously cleaning up the air quality in the worst pollution region in the nation.

These are the same business and political leaders that have caused a financial hemorrhage in mortgage defaults that currently leads the nation on a per capita basis as the speculative housing boom continues to bust.

Locally, the boom was more accentuated due to the presence of our anchor tenant, UC Merced, which came to the Valley to give us all college educations. One of the curious sociological facts that emerge among a population below the national and state norms for college degrees is the touchingly sweet belief that UC tells the truth.

UC does not tell the truth and it hasn't, possibly since it began work on the Atomic Bomb. UC Merced has a memorandum of understanding with UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which now appears to be in the final running as a site for a biodanger-level 3 and 4 biowarfare laboratory near Tracy that will study the most infectious diseases on earth, including those for which there are no cures yet available. The UC flak on this biowarfare facility is that it will be primarily devoted to animal diseases and might replace Plum Island NY Animal Disease Laboratory, which also engages in expert propaganda about its defensive intent.

These labs aren't secure and cannot be made secure.

Three infectious germs, Bb (Lyme Disease), West Nile virus, and duck enteritis virus -- all foreign germs -- have infiltrated the American landscape. All three emerged from the same geographic locus. All three occurred in the vicinity of a high-hazard, high-containment foreign germ laboratory with demonstrably faulty facilities and pitiable biological safety practices -- flaws that cause proven germ outbreaks in the past, and infections amongs its employees. The public is asked to accept that none of these three outbreaks is connected to Plum Island.
That's what one calls blind faith...
Lab 257, Michael Christopher Carroll, p. 38.

UC flak is already busy guiding our blind faith in public-private, win-win partnerships between lethal animal pathogens and agricultural industries. Among the blindly faithful, according to UC's "agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation," is the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms.

On July 3, the Hun appointed Mary Nichols to become the new chairperson of the California Air Resources Board to appease the clamor of the same environmental groups that worked so hard to replace Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, with Rep. Jerry "HiTech" McWarpork.

Presumably, the Hun and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez can once again sit on a Capitol balcony puffing cigars in peace like two Boston lawyers.

However, the northern San Joaquin Valley public is not made restful by the Hun's most political choice. We remember Nichols as secretary of the state Resources Agency in the Gov. Gray Davis administration, where she played the role of top conductor in the orchestration to steamroll any and all state and federal environmental law and regulation that stood in the way of the UC Merced permitting process. Whatever Nichols might have done elsewhere on behalf of state natural resources, here in the former Condit Country she corrupted the law and her agency's duties.

From Nichols, we look for smooth flak on Valley air pollution and no action. Nor do we look for any help from her regarding the Livermore Lab's program to accelerate bomb testing eight-fold, vastly increasing the amount of radioactive waste, where the biowarfare lab is proposed.

Badlands editorial staff
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6-29-07
Fresno Bee
State air board chief is let go...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureau
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/72738.html

Gov. Schwarzenegger on Thursday fired the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, days after the governor criticized the board for agreeing to delay a clean-air deadline for the San Joaquin Valley. Robert Sawyer, a Democrat and former university professor, was forced out after an 18-month reign in a signal that the governor isn't happy with the board's direction. Environmentalists came to his defense, saying he was a scapegoat. "We think that the board as a whole and its staff need to be more aggressive," said Bill Magavern, senior representative for Sierra Club California. "Sawyer wasn't the problem." Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, also termed Sawyer's dismissal "disappointing."..."From our industry's perspective, we've long advocated a science-based approach to air regulation," Marsh said. "It's just disappointing that a scientist with that kind of prestige, who reviewed issues and used a science-based approach, won't be on the board any more. If you're going to have a meaningful reduction in smog and ozone, you have to follow the science. You can't just make stuff up."

7-3-07
Fresno Bee
ARB official quits in air rift...E.J. Schultz
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/75973.html

The executive director of the California Air Resources Board quit Monday -- and on her way out the door accused Gov. Schwarzenegger's top aides of blocking efforts to clean the air and fight global warming. "I believe the governor cares deeply about air quality, but no one in his inner circle does," Catherine Witherspoon said in an interview with The Bee. Witherspoon's departure comes less than a week after Schwarzenegger fired air board Chairman Robert Sawyer.... Witherspoon said that was a "cover-up." In reality, she said, Schwarzenegger's aides were worried that Sawyer was moving too aggressively on rules to implement the state's new global warming law, known as AB 32. "The real reason for firing him was climate-change policy," she said. Sawyer "sought to adopt more early-action measures than the Governor's Office wanted."

7-2-07
Contra Costa Times
Thousands of cancer-stricken nuclear workers' claims languish...AP
http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_6277685

A government program designed to compensate cancer-stricken nuclear workers has paid only 38 percent of the thousands of claims is has received since 2001...vast majority of the 148,181 claims filed by the terminally or seriously ill have languished or been denied since the government started the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, The Contra Costa Times reported. The program was created to provide money, medical expenses and lost wages to Cold War-era workers exposed to radioactive or toxic materials while on the job...the government initially thought it would cover more than 3,000 workers at a cost of $13 million a year for a decade. To date, $2.8 billion has been paid to claimants, and millions more have been spent on administrative costs. Former Sandia/California National Laboratories employee Gerry Giovacchini applied for compensation in 2002 after learning he had tumors in his neck, arm, eyes and spinal column. Five years later he is still waiting to see if he'll be paid. For 14 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Tom Chatmon oversaw the transport of plutonium, uranium and other radioactive materials. He developed multiple myeloma, a cancer linked to radiation exposure. His claim was denied in November. "At the time, I didn't know anything about plutonium or uranium," said Chatmon. "We were told we weren't dealing with anything dangerous." Seventy-three percent of compensation decisions for former employees of Lawrence Livermore Lab have been denials. At Lawrence Berkeley Lab, its 76 percent denials. Giovacchini and other have also dealt with the labs' inability to locate key medical and other records so that they can prove their cases.

6-29-07
UC Merced cancer research gets a boost...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13739491p-14323632c.html

Researchers at UC Merced say two recently awarded seed grants will help jump-start the campus' much-anticipated cancer research program. The grants, which total $90,000, were awarded last week to UC Merced by the UC Cancer Research Coordinating Committee and will fund the research for one year, according to Maria Pallavicini, dean of UC Merced's School of Natural Sciences. Pallavicini was the recipient of a $40,000 grant, which will be used to study how stem cells change in the formation of cancerous tumors. Pallavicini and Manilay's research will be conducted in labs on UC Merced's campus and could shed light on how stem cells are altered in cancer. UC Merced Professor Jennifer Manilay received a $50,000 grant to study the role of hormone and receptor pairs in the development of T-cells. The grants are the first UC Merced has received to fund cancer research... The grants are the first UC Merced has received to fund cancer research. UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang said in May that a business plan and economic impact study for the new medical school will likely be submitted to University of California's Office of the President sometime this summer...a price tag of $200 million and could be completed by 2013.

1-24-07
Tracy Press
Supes vote to back bio-lab…John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/7317/2/

Acting on the advice of its agricultural committee, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to support an anti-biological terrorism laboratory that could be built southwest of Tracy to research incurable fatal diseases that affect both animals and people. Superintendent Steven Gutierrez voted against his colleagues, saying it was too early to determine whether the research activities would help safeguard and support the general public. “What research activity” Gutierrez said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do.” The Department of Homeland Security and Lawrence Livermore have not yet announced what types of diseases will be studied at the bio-lab, how the pathogens will be shipped in and out of the bio-lab, or whether accidents will be publicly reported. The Tracy City Council is expected to vote on whether it supports the bio-lab proposal at its meeting Feb. 6. Lawrence Livermore is managed by the University of California. The university’s agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation, said after the meeting that the agricultural industry strongly supports the proposed bio-lab. He said the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms support the bio-lab …

7-3-07
Capitol Notes
Former, And Future, Air Board Chair
http://www.kqed.org/weblog/capitalnotes/2007/07/former-and-future-air-board-chair.jsp

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, seeking to end the controversy over his administration's interaction with the California Air Resources Board, today named a new leader of the agency... the same person who led the agency under former Governor Jerry Brown. At a news conference this afternoon, the governor announced that he has appointed Mary Nichols to be the chairperson of the ARB, replacing Robert Sawyer, whom Schwarzenegger fired last week.
Nichols has a long tenure in and out of state and federal government, last serving as secretary for Resources under former Governor Gray Davis. Environmental groups quickly praised the selection of Nichols. And it seems likely that she will quell some of the enviro groups' anger that surfaced this week about the alleged relationship between the governor's inner circle and ARB officials. In particular, the last few days have brought to light allegations that the governor's top advisers have attempted to micromanage, and slow down, the ARB as it makes its initial decisions on reducing greenhouse gases under AB 32...

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People with passion and people who babble about it

Submitted: Jul 03, 2007
Mr. Carter will give us the BIG picture on the Merced River - where it comes from and where it goes - as well as the importance of the river to our communities. Lloyd Carter is very knowledgeable about water issues and will also be speaking at the later in the day...Lloyd Carter continues his exploration of water and river issues in the San Joaquin Valley context. 1.5 hour talk at Heartland Festival/River Fair, Riverdance Farm, 2007.

At the public meeting of the East Merced Resources Conservation District on June 20, held at the Golden Bi-Product Tire Recycling Co. offices, Glenn Anderson, a district director, made an interesting comment about a speaker at the recent Heartland Festival/River Fair, held at the farm of another director, Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook. The EMRCD was the main sponsor of the River Fair.

Anderson described Lloyd Carter, the best natural resources journalist the San Joaquin Valley has ever had, as "not positive or forward-looking." Anderson, not really attending the speech but overhearing it while waiting for a ride to another part of the farm, said Carter sounded like he was on a "rant."

Lashbrook noted that Carter's talk was the best attended of the day, and that a little controversy is OK. The term she used was a "pepper of controversy." Perhaps a small slice of jalapeno in a salad of old green jeans in what she meant. One is never sure.

These are the sort of people who use the word "passion" like the T shirt they bought at their last workshop on "organics and global warming."

Lloyd Carter's passion for the truth about agribusiness, subsidized water, the death of the San Joaquin River, the wildlife tragedy of the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge and in Boswell's Tulare Lake, selenium and other heavy metals, crooked Valley politicians, state and federal water policy and US Fish and Wildlife Service whistleblowers was stronger than his desire for a steady job in the newspaper business. And so he does something else now for a living instead of the journalism at which he excelled magnificently, and we only get to read him rarely in opinion pieces and letters to the editor, mostly in the Fresno Bee.

Researching an article on another topic that Carter knows a lot about, we found this following piece written by him in 1999 for a national audience. Readers will learn and enjoy this fine writer on the beat he has paid dearly to cover because, unlike the T-shirt passion set, Lloyd Carter speaks the truth to the most powerful people in our Valley -- with real passion.

Badlands editorial staff
----------------

The destruction of the American West -- starring big agribusiness and the government that supports it
By L. G. Carter
Penthouse Magazine, January 1999
Reprinted without permission
http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~rakerman/articles/ph-Destruct_USA_West.html

Way out West the big farmers fly Lear jets, have private airstrips on gargantuan factory farms, control politicians in both major parties, and harvest barrelfuls of taxpayer subsidy money. They also dry up rivers, pollute aquifers, and conscript an army of Third World families to bring in the crops at below-povertyline wages. Grotesque deformities in ducks and geese, poisoned national wildlife refuges, massive fish kills, and pesticide-sprayed fields littered with thousands of dead birds are common, and unpunished, depredations in California's agricultural heartland, despite numerous state and federal wildlife-protection laws.

Meanwhile, the small farmers, whom Thomas Jefferson called the backbone of democracy, continue to disappear from the American landscape at a rate of more than 100,000 a year as a result of governmental and banking policies and the greed of food processors and exporters.

By 1989 only 1.9 percent of Americans lived on farms (compared to 90 percent in 1900), and the 1989 figure is misleading at that because the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists as a "farm" anyplace selling as little as $1,000 worth of agricultural products.

The capital of America's Agropolis is California's San Joaquin Valley, a cornucopia of more than 200 crops that generates $14 billion a year in gross farm income. And the uncrowned king of Agropolis is J. G. Boswell II, a reclusive, unassuming man who calls himself a simple cowboy. In fact he grows more cotton than any other individual in the world. No one knows how rich he is, but his power is vividly illustrated by some of his "accomplishments" during the past half century:

Along with a handful of other big growers, he got the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (funded, of course, by the American taxpayer) to build four "flood control" dams on rivers flowing out of the Sierra Nevada so Boswell et al. could safely farm the bottom of what was once the biggest body of water west of the Mississippi River, the legendary Tulare Lake. Boswell now controls rights to public water that could well be worth nearly $1 billion. His property in California alone is estimated at 250,000 acres.
When big-rainfall winters reflood the old Tulare Lake Basin, Boswell collects millions of dollars in federal subsidies for not growing crops on the bottom of a natural lake bed.
Boswell persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to let the richest grower with the most land in a California water district--namely, himself--control district water policy, creating what Justice William 0. Douglas called a "corporate kingdom undreamed of by those who wrote our Constitution."
Boswell got his lawyers to set up a trust for his employees in 1989 to evade federal acreage limitations for cheap federal irrigation supplies in the Westlands Water District, reaping an extra $2 million a year in water subsidies, according to a General Accounting Office study.
In 1982 Boswell was instrumental in blocking a "peripheral canal" to shunt fresh northern California water around the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region in order to retain possible future access to north-coast California rivers.
As the U.S. Justice Department looks the other way, his 3,000-acre Tulare Basin evaporation ponds for toxic farm drainage water are triggering deformities in migratory ducks and shore birds supposedly protected by federal law.
Boswell has so far not taken any responsibility for a massive fish and wildlife kill on a 25 mile stretch of canal in h is cotton kingdom that in the late summer of 1997 destroyed 100 million fish and thousands of birds.
This sad spectacle is what is known as agribusiness.

Boswell has plenty of company in irrigation country out West, where growers have industrialized the fields and gained control of entire rivers. These corporate farmers usually don't live down on the farm. In California they often live in mansions in the city. One zip code in an exclusive neighborhood in Fresno--the nation's farm capital--receives more farm-subsidy checks than anywhere else. Fresno was the top farm-subsidy city in America between 1985 and 1995, with area residents receiving 22,419 checks totaling $103.4 million in taxpayer farm subsidies.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just six percent of our farms--the so-called megafarms--produce 59 percent of the crops in America. Eighty percent of the beef slaughter in America is controlled by just four meatpacking conglomerates, which more than doubled their market share in the past 18 years.

Boswell's domain is the Tulare Lake Basin, comprising parts of Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties in central California. His water rights are a real gusher, all granted from the public: They are equivalent to the needs of a city of three million people and are worth nearly $1 billion, more than twice the value of the land, according to a 1989 article in Forbes magazine, thus placing Boswell in the billionaire club. He also has extensive cotton lands in Arizona, pioneered the cotton industry in Australia, and has long been involved in urban development and real estate in Southern California and Arizona.

Boswell, who helped launch the political careers of three governors--Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Ronald Reagan, and Pete Wilson--is legendary for his behind-the-scenes ability to avoid legal problems or get water laws either interpreted liberally or simply rewritten.

In 1969, when heavy rains hit California and the old Tulare Lake bed began to fill up, Boswell, as the largest landowner in the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, shunted floodwater away from a planned district overflow area because he wanted to plant that area to cotton. Instead the water flowed into the lake, flooding his land and that of other nearby landowners, including the Salyer brothers, the second-largest growers in the lake basin. The Salyer Corporation sued the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District over an existing California water-code section that allowed one vote for every acre--in other words, giving the largest landowner the most votes and control of district policy and elections. Boswell simply used his acreage-based votes to direct the water-district board to flood out his neighbors' fields and keep the planned floodwater storage basin dry.

The Salyer suit finally worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1973 a young Nixon High Court appointee named William Rehnquist, fresh from a law firm in Phoenix, wrote the majority decision, which in effect ruled for the Boswell corporation, arguing that even though water districts were political subdivisions of the state of California, the one-man, one-vote rule should not apply because the largest landholders had the most at stake during flood situations. Constitutional-law textbooks now refer to this decision as an "anomaly" in the American franchise system based upon the hallowed democratic tradition that corporations do not get to vote--and one person, no matter how rich, gets only one vote.

Justice Douglas castigated the Rehnquist ruling in a strongly worded dissent: "It is indeed grotesque to think of corporations voting within the framework of political representation of people," he wrote. "One corporation can outvote 77 individuals in this district."

Boswell, who has escaped major media attention for decades despite his enormous wealth and influence in agriculture, is famous for reaping government windfalls while decrying government support programs. When the rivers of the Southern Sierra flooded the Tulare Lake Basin, as they had done from time immemorial, Boswell collected more than $10 million in federal flood-relief money because his canals and water-delivery systems and cotton fields--located on the lake bed--had been flooded out or damaged. In addition, according to the Washington Post, Boswell got $3.7 million worth of grain from the controversial payment-in-kind program "for idling land that was under floodwater and could not have been planted."

In 1982 Congress, prodded by Western-state lawmakers, "reformed" the 1902 Reclamation Law, which President Theodore Roosevelt had pushed through Congress to put "family farmers" onto the Western deserts. The 1982 bill (1) eliminated the residency requirement, which had never been enforced (so the big growers can continue living in their mansions in town) and (2) raised the acreage limitation for receiving cheap federally subsidized water from 160 acres (which was routinely circumvented) to 960 acres. Even 960 acres wasn't enough for Big Ag. The loopholes in the 1982 "reform" law were large enough to drive John Deere tractors through, and Boswell and the other big Western growers promptly found ways to evade the 960-acre limitation, primarily through leasing arrangements and complex trusts.

In 1989 the U.S. General Accounting Office said Boswell had set up a trust for 326 salaried employees to evade the 960-acre cheap-water cap on his 23,238 acres in the Westlands. Those acres continued to be farmed as one unit by Boswell, who has managed to reap $2 million a year in water subsidies alone from the trust arrangement.

Boswell doesn't have to worry about wildlife laws either. Routine botulism outbreaks in the Tulare Basin, which can kill tens of thousands of migratory birds at a time, are usually attributable to agricultural and irrigation activities, yet enforcement actions are rarely undertaken by the California Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In September 1997 an estimated 100 million fish and 2,300 federally protected birds died in an unexplained disaster along a 25-mile canal on the Boswell holdings. Local game wardens said they could not remember a bigger wildlife die-off in the valley. Crime investigators from the federal and state wildlife agencies were quoted in local newspapers as saying they would uncover the source of the deaths (one potential cause was pesticides) and prosecute those responsible. Nearly a year later no action had been taken.

Boswell has now retired to Ketchum, Idaho, and his son James runs the cotton empire from his home in suburban Los Angeles, although it is believed the elder Boswell still holds the reins.

While Boswell has escaped media scrutiny, he and his cohorts face an ominous threat, which, fittingly enough, they brought upon themselves. Irrigated agriculture on millions of acres of unsuitable soils in the American West is destroying aquifers, salting up land, and poisoning wildlife that once filled the rivers and wetlands west of the Mississippi.

A trace element called selenium, leached from the soil by flood irrigation and dissolved in drainage water flowing from the big irrigation projects, is moving into downstream food chains and causing deformities in migratory birds at--of all places--national wildlife refuges throughout the West. And selenium isn't the only problem. Depending on the soils being drained, the drainwater can also contain dangerous levels of dissolved boron, molybdenum, mercury, arsenic, lead, vanadium, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, sulfates, and even uranium.

Drainage water from irrigated agriculture is created because searing summertime temperatures in California and Western desert lands bring salts, trace elements, and heavy metals to the surface on ancient-seabed shale soils. This witch's brew of chemicals slowly rises into the root zone of crops, threatening productivity. Irrigation waters imported from other areas carry more salts. Flood irrigation in areas with subterranean clay layers further exacerbates the problem of shallow salty groundwater. Agricultural scientists have known for decades that the only way to keep crop production up is to lower the water table below the root zone by pumping the toxic wastewaters out of the ground and sending them somewhere else.

"Since the 1930s an army of government scientists has provided a plethora of disturbing hard facts about selenium," says Joe Skorupa, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who investigated the bird deformities at Boswell's pond. "Unlike other major pollution problems, however, such as acid rain, oil spills, or smog, the government has not only failed to move an inch toward protecting the American public and a wide diversity of public-trust resources, but, incomprehensibly, actually continues to completely exempt agricultural pollution from the Clean Water Act. In the San Joaquin Valley alone, every year of inaction adds the equivalent of about 13,000 Exxon Valdez spills of selenium-tainted wastewater to the legacy of runaway pollution that our children and grandchildren one day will despise today's spineless federal government for."

Skorupa, a fierce critic of the Department of the Interior's alleged selenium policy, adds, "The truly tragic public-policy aspect of all this is that most of the selenium pollution is as economically senseless as it is environmentally senseless, and those facts have been documented in excruciating detail by the federal government's own General Accounting Office. What may amount to America's biggest dirty little secret has been impervious to rational policymaking for more than 60 years, and counting."

The West's selenium trouble, like many problems in irrigated agriculture, is magnified in the western San Joaquin Valley, where Boswell and other growers in the Westlands have successfully evaded any serious federal efforts at a cleanup or prosecution under wildlife laws.

For more than a decade, attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department, under pressure from elected officials who are under pressure from their agribusiness patrons, have simply refused to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a tough bird-protection law with penalties that include both prison time and stiff fines. The treaty has been invoked only once, in 1985, against the federal government itself, to close down farm-drainwater evaporation ponds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in central California, scene of the first confirmed bird deformities from selenium, discovered in 1983.

Boswell and the other big growers have also managed to avoid paying for the mess their drainage water created. In 1995 the Interior Department's Inspector General's Office also reported that Westlands Water District growers (Boswell has 23,000 acres in the Westlands) had managed to evade the $110 million tab for the Kesterson cleanup and related drainage studies. The $110 million bill was accumulating interest at the rate of $7 million a year, with the taxpayers picking up the tab.

But the Kesterson cleanup tab pales in comparison to the boondoggle desalinization plant in Yuma, Arizona, where Reclamation Bureau engineers have tried without success for decades to pull the farm-pollution toxins and salts from the Colorado River, which is tainted by agricultural return flow. Another Interior Inspector General's report, issued in 1993, said $660 million had been spent on the Yuma desalting plant with no success, and the bureau planned to spend another $1.5 billion by the year 2010, with no guarantee of any success.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been impotent to stop the farm-drainage pollution of rivers and wetlands because farm runoff was exempted from the Clean Water Act in 1977, including the highly toxic end-of-the-pipe subsurface drainage loaded with selenium as well as surface runoff. Indeed, as the Stockton (California) Record reported on June 19, 1998, the E.P.A.--siding with agribusiness--now wants to set standards for selenium and other trace elements and heavy metals in California that officials of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service contend will not protect many species of fish in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and his four immediate predecessors--Manuel Lujan, Donald Hodel, William Clark, and James Watt--have tried to cover up the Western drainage problem (Watt), to exercise benign neglect (Clark and Hodel), to claim ignorance (Lujan), or just to leave it for the next guy (Babbitt), because the only economically viable solution seems to be to retire the badlands being irrigated. And that solution is political suicide in farm country.

Only Hodel, who, ironically, is an oilman, tried to do the right thing in 1985 when he ordered Kesterson closed because his attorneys told him that Reclamation Bureau officials might be breaking criminal laws operating the Kesterson ponds. But even Hodel quickly experienced an agribusiness backlash and soon fell silent, allowing Kesterson to stay open another 18 months.

No wildlife refuge receiving toxic farm-drainage water in the West has been closed to the inflow of poisons since the Kesterson debacle 15 years ago, although selenium levels high enough to cause deformities have been confirmed at numerous wildlife refuges in several Western states and at a number of evaporation facilities operated by either local water districts (like Boswell's) or private corporations.

Interior Secretary Lujan, in an August 1991 visit to Yosemite National Park, claimed he was unaware of the bird killings and deformities, which by then had been documented for eight years and were confirmed in several states. Lujan said he did not know why aides would not keep him informed.

Environmentalists say the continued bird deformities and government paralysis or inability to halt the aquatic and avian food-chain poisoning demonstrates the still-potent clout of California agribusiness, which produced some $24.5 billion worth of food and fiber in 1996, but today represents less than three percent of the trillion-dollar annual California economy, which is nowadays primarily fueled by computers and electronics, defense, banking, and tourism.

Marc Reisner explained the Alice in Wonderland quality of California agribusiness this way in a 1993 revised version of his book Cadillac Desert: "Enough water for greater Los Angeles was still being used, in 1986, to raise irrigated pasture for livestock. A roughly equal amount--enough for 20 million people at home, at play, and at work--was used that year to raise alfalfa, also for horses, sheep, and (mainly) cows.... In 1985, however, the pasture crop was worth about $100 million, while Southern California's economy was worth $300 billion, but irrigated pasture used more water than Los Angeles and San Diego combined. When you added cotton (a price-supported crop worth about $900 million that year) to alfalfa and pasture, you had a livestock industry and a cotton industry consuming much more water than everyone in urban California--and producing [only] as much wealth in a year as the urban economy rings up in three or four days."

Not only are huge tonnages of California's river water required to grow cotton and food for dairy and beef cows raised in the central California desert, a 1997 Pacific Gas & Electric Company report on the 450-mile-long Central Valley (Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys combined) estimated that agricultural groundwater overdraft (extracting more than can be replenished annually) totals 15 percent of the entire state's annual net groundwater use. At current agricultural extraction rates, the San Joaquin Valley's groundwater supply will disappear in the next few decades.

To make matters worse, the Central Valley now has 1,600 dairies, the vast majority in the San Joaquin Valley, and the 850,000 cows on those dairies create as much natural waste as a city of 21 million people. There are only three state regulators to oversee disposal of this mountain of manure and river of cow urine, which is either kept in leaky lagoons that pollute the aquifer with nitrates or dumped into the San Joaquin River, which runs down the center of the valley The San Joaquin River is often called the most-abused river in the U.S., and in 1997 was named one of the nation's ten most-endangered rivers by American Rivers, a Washington-based advocacy group.

A May 1998 U.S. Geological Survey Report on San Joaquin Valley groundwater supplies, serving more than 2.5 million valley residents, said San Joaquin groundwater is among the poorest in quality in the U.S. The report said 25 percent of valley wells had nitrate levels--probably from fertilizers--that violated national drinking-water standards, and more than half the wells tested positive for pesticides, many of which don't have drinking-water standards.

While ripping off the liquid gold of California's rivers has been an agribusiness specialty for decades, scientists say current methods of disposing of farm drainage may be the final environmental insult that ruins not only aquifers and rivers, and destroys wildlife, but also ruins the very farms that are creating the toxic effluent.

A February 1998 federal-state study of the drainage problem in the western San Joaquin Valley noted 869,000 acres would have a shallow-groundwater problem by the year 2000, and more than 410,000 acres would have salinity and boron problems "sufficiently high to limit agriculture."

To combat the salty-groundwater problem, California growers in the past four decades have installed 33,000 miles of subsurface drainpipes to collect these shallow saline groundwaters and pump them somewhere else--to the nearest river, a public or private evaporation pond, or a low-lying national wildlife wetlands refuge. This "solution" has been bad for the receiving waters and fish and wildlife in every case.

Although estimates of present and future "problem water" are hard to nail down in an atmosphere of nonregulation, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Theresa Presser, who has been studying the selenium problem in California for nearly two decades, estimates that 150 billion gallons of toxic farm subsurface drainage water is generated annually in the Golden State. While the farm wastewater from the San Joaquin Valley flows north into the San Joaquin River or festers in evaporation ponds, the drainage from the Coachella and Imperial valleys at the southern end of the state enters the polluted Salton Sea. Huge fish and bird die-offs are a regular occurrence there, and biologists say the Salton could become utterly lifeless in the near future as the continued influx of salts and toxins in the drainage overwhelms all aquatic species.

While birds were dying by the thousands at Kesterson, Boswell had the audacity in the summer of 1984 to send California Water Commission members on a tour of his 3,165-acre evaporation pond complex and have his drainage district manager, Steve Hall, claim that selenium had not been found in the Tulare Basin soils or evaporation ponds. This, of course, could not have been true, as the bird deformities at the Boswell ponds (first tested and confirmed in 1987) turned out to be far worse than at Kesterson. Hall could only have meant there hadn't been any selenium tests yet of Boswell's drainage. In the manner of other Boswell employees who have moved on to bigger and better things in Water World, Hall is now executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, where he continues to espouse western San Joaquin Valley agriculture's views on water issues.

Throughout 1984 the Kesterson problem continued to worsen. By early 1985 neighboring cattle ranchers Jim and Karen Claus had won a State Water Resources Control Board cleanup order for Kesterson. A CBS "60 Minutes" segment aired on March 10, 1985, showing the ugly ducklings at Kesterson and embarrassed Reclamation officials fumbling to explain the debacle.

Interior Secretary Hodel had enough when advisers told him local Bureau of Reclamation officials might be violating the criminal provisions of the Migratory Treaty Act by keeping Kesterson open. On the Ides of March 1985 he announced that he was closing Kesterson. The announcement sent shock waves through irrigated agriculture that are still felt to this day.

By 1986 the Kesterson ponds had been dried out and Interior scientists looking around the West were discovering selenium contamination in Boswell's local water-district drainwater evaporation ponds in the Tulare Basin, at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California, at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada (in combination with mercury), and at dozens of other national wildlife refuges around the West. While federal officials began the process of endless studies, no action was taken to halt the selenium poisoning of the wildlife-refuge system, which continues to this day.

A national blue-ribbon 26-member panel of wildlife experts issued a scathing report in August 1991, charging directors of the nation's premier wildlife research center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, with harassing field-level biologists and attempting to downplay the threat of the growing selenium pollution problem. The report, obviously referring to federal biologist Harry Ohlendorf (who'd discovered the deformities at Kesterson), pesticide researchers Chuck Henny and Larry Blus, and Joe Skorupa (who had investigated the bird deformities at the Boswell ponds), said government scientists "had paid a personal price for upholding good science in the face of heavy political, bureaucratic, and social pressures." Felix Smith, the federal biologist who first blew the whistle at the Kesterson refuge, was named in news reports as being hounded into early retirement for trying to protect migratory birds.

In a 1994 Audubon magazine article reporter Ted Williams discussed harassment of field-level federal biologists and quoted Felix Smith as saying that the day Fish and Wildlife Service officials agreed to take drainage at Kesterson "was the day we made a bargain with the devil."

When Kesterson erupted in the news in the summer of 1984, President Reagan's old California friend Bill Clark had just taken over as secretary of the Interior; he promised that a solution to the drainage disposal problem was near, adopting the time-honored political tactic of ordering a lengthy state-federal study. His ploy worked. A $50-million state-federal study commenced in 1985 with much fanfare, and ended in 1990 with a whimper. It was full of good recommendations, including one for retiring hundreds of thousands of acres of bad land. It was also promptly shelved.

The Reclamation Bureau has finally launched a modest program to retire the first 12,000 acres of high-selenium soils in the Westlands. At that pace it will take 200 years to retire all the bad land just in the 600,000-acre Westlands. No one even talks about the millions of acres of high-selenium farmland all around the West that should be taken out of production.

Congress passed another reclamation reform bill in 1992 to put more federal irrigation water back into California's depleted rivers and the San Francisco Bay-Delta to help revive the moribund salmon runs, but Westland growers, backed by valley politicians, have been working ceaselessly to rescind or weaken that law.

Fish and Wildlife's Skorupa complained in the Audubon article that he took a solid case for criminal acts at the Boswell killing ponds to Justice Department attorneys just before the 1992 election but that the federal prosecutors got cold feet and weak spines.

"We were told we had an excellent case," Skorupa told Audubon's Williams, "that they had every confidence that it was winnable, but that until we went and got someone at least at the secretarial level in Interior to give a clear policy directive, the Justice Department would not pursue it."

Skorupa says that about half of 161 federal irrigation-project drainage sites in the West studied between 1986 and 1993 have selenium levels high enough to trigger embryotoxicity, which can include deformities. What is more depressing is that federal irrigation projects make up only about a quarter of all irrigated agriculture in the Western United States. The other 75 percent of the irrigated land in the West has not even been looked at for selenium poisoning.

Eleven years after the first confirmed selenium-caused bird deformities at the Boswell ponds, the Department of Justice, with Janet Reno presently at the helm, still has taken no action against Boswell, and any possible prosecutions for the bird deaths Skorupa painstakingly documented beginning in 1987 are falling prey to the statute of limitations. An angry Skorupa can only shake his head.

Although the government has had serious warnings about selenium problems in the West for more than 50 years, the Department of the Interior was still claiming in 1997 that selenium had been an "unforeseen consequence of irrigation drainage. That '97 report from the National Irrigation Water Quality Program also claimed that "because complete investigation of every irrigated area in the Western United States is impractical, managers need to be able to predict where selenium contamination is likely."

But it's not impractical at all, insists Theresa Presser, who was one of the first to document the widespread selenium contamination in the western San Joaquin Valley. According to Presser, selenium contamination is also likely not only where soils have selenium ejected from ancient volcanoes during the Cretaceous age, but also where ancient seabed soils have been uplifted by geologic activity over eons, such as California's Coast Range. In other words, human irrigation and export of the resulting drainage water into evaporation ponds or wetlands is doing in a few years what nature took millions of years to do.

It's clear that no one in the Clinton administration is going to make the hard decisions about getting the toxic soils in the West out of production. In late May 1998 the E.P.A. held a conference in Washington, D.C., that was attended almost entirely by big selenium polluters--oil companies, mining companies, major agribusiness, coal-burning utilities. They all argued against any E.P.A. review of the current standards for selenium in rivers, lakes, and marshes, which scientists say is at least twice as high as it should be and which may lead to the extinction of at least 20 species of fish and wildlife.

Boswell and the other agribusiness lords are determined not to become extinct themselves. Last March a consortium of state and federal agencies that dances to the tune of agribusiness announced a new plan to build a peripheral canal around the Delta and import yet more northern California river water to the selenium fields of the western San Joaquin Valley.

In July the Western Water Policy Review Commission, created by Congress in 1992, issued its report, three years behind schedule. The report identified agricultural wastewater as the single largest source of pollution in the West, recommended phasing out federal water subsidies, and specifically suggested that subsurface drainage water, which triggers the bird deformities, be brought under the Clean Water Act and regulated because it is an end-of-the-pipe type of pollution.

The response of the growers was typical. "The sooner this report gets put on a shelf and starts gathering dust the better," said Jason Peltier, manager of the Central Valley Project Water Association.

Dinosaurs swing big tails going down.

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Red Menace over Merced

Submitted: Jun 26, 2007

A rouge pall, like the Delta peat fires of old at twilight, hangs over Merced County.

According to Supervisor Mike Nelson, the "socialists" were out this morning at the supervisors' meeting. A group advocating agricultural preservation were arguing against parcel splits for ranchettes between Gustine and Santa Nella.

And I thought I saw Eugene Debs highballing down the Santa Fe tracks last night.

The Badlands editorial staff investigated, and found at least one ringleader of the agland preservationists has a long history of affiliation with red front groups: the Merced County Chamber of Commerce; American Farmland Trust; the Merced County Farm Bureau; and California Women for Agriculture.

By contrast, Nelson was a union Atwater City fireman for nine years and now draws a public salary from Merced County of over $65,000 a year plus thousands a month in perks, benefits and retirement, beside what the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board pays him to defend special interests from the peril of regulating the worst air pollution in the US. Nelson's wife is a union public school teacher, drawing a public salary, health and retirement benefits.

We suggest Nelson look again at the red menace hanging over the county. If he can see through the merciless rightwing hypocrisy, he will find it is red ink caused by the reckless, uncontrolled growth approved by majorities of the indemnified supervisors and city councils beholden and in some cases directly benefitting from their ties to finance, insurance and real estate special interests that now control local government in Merced lock, stock and barrel.

Badlands editorial staff

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The Hun chastises air board

Submitted: Jun 26, 2007

The Valley seems frozen at the moment, although its credit is leaking from subprime loan foreclosures and the milk price is up so people are buying replacement heifers. Perhaps, the leaders have been shaken somewhat by the consequences of their rapacious land-use decisions, by which local lenders, developers, realtors and landowners gained enormously to the detriment of larger financial institutions that bought so much locally generated bad debt. And to the detriment of so many others, closer by, hung out to dry by the big swindle.

There is no doubt that our Valley is rich in shrewd business people. However, other than making money for themselves, these shrewd business people seem totally useless to their communities.

The recent decisions by the Valley air board are ridiculous abrogations of political responsibility. By extending the deadline to clean up the air and lying about its poor quality, they appear to be betting that Bush-appointed judges will eventually make their problem go away before they will have to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, Valley congressmen voted for a Farm Bill just like the one before it, raising the question of how many more years of this kind of farm policy national agriculture can stand. Costa and Cardoza also cast votes -- we're not sure if they considered these votes "independent," "moderate" or "conservative" -- in favor of keeping the doors of the School of the Americas open. This demonstrates that these two and their 38 fellow real macho Democrats have a Latin American policy frozen in the time. "Launch the dirty wars again! The Arabs whupped us by By God we can still kick ass down South and git their oil!" You bet.

But the Valley isn't actually frozen. Dissent is brewing and every day confidence in government is weakening because the public has found that these local, state and federal officials are dishonest and face their constituents with brazen arrogance, daring the public to get organized to vote them out. Merced County supervisors, fully indemnified against legal costs, passed the Riverside Motorsparts Pork project in December. Fully indemnified, the Merced City Council will likely pass the WalMart distribution center project about a year later -- both in complete contempt for public health and safety, natural resources and agriculture. These are the jobs they promised us for UC Merced? Not one voice among them spoke out loud enough for the public to carry over the din of the flak from UC, and finance, insurance and real estate special interests, endlessly bleated by Sonny Star, the local gigolo press.

The same air board set up a public meeting last week about Site 300 in Tracy but did not properly notice it, so promised another one mid-July, to hear public comment against the UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plan to increase detonation of depleted uranium and other radioactivity there by eightfold. Meanwhile, the rumor is that Site 300 has already made a short list of four finalists to put a biodanger level-4 biowarfare lab on the site. But the Lab has made no public announcement, no doubt for "national security" reasons. Congressman McNerney, in whose district Site 300 is located, has not been able to bring himself to say a word against this atrocity of pollution and danger to people within a 60-mile radius, however has been busy in complex intra-Party dialectics involving his alleged integrity and the purity of the campaign funds he will accept from whose hands.

Government in the Valley is in the hands of a bunch of merciless hypocrites. However, judgment belongs to the Lord, who said to Jonah:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" Jonah 4:11.

Bill Hatch
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6-23-07
California Progress Report
California Air Board Chastised Over Weak Approach on Clean Air by Schwarzenegger and Garamendi; Mixed Reviews on Implementing Global Warming Requirements of AB 32
Frank Russo
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2007/06/california_air_2.html

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

...I was deeply disappointed, however, that the California Air Resources Board voted last week to seek an 11-year delay in enforcement of federal air quality standards in the San Joaquin Valley. Regardless of whether the US EPA's failure to grant California the authority to implement aggressive emissions standards is partly to blame for our inability to meet federal standards, the Air Board let the federal government off the hook by seeking delay.

There are few environmental issues facing Californians that are more important to our children's health, our quality of life, and our economic security than air quality. When one out of six residents in the San Joaquin Valley has been diagnosed with asthma and one in five children carry an inhaler to school, it is a call to action.

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Dude, Denny's got his cliches down!

Submitted: Jun 17, 2007

"In exchange for having a seat at the table, you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page..."That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." --Rep. Dennis "I'm No Nancy Boy" Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced.

It would be funny if this was a script for a baseball comedy film called "Bull Durham." Unfortunately, this guy is our US congressman during the most corrupt moment of political history since the McKinley administration. But Madame McClatchy's dutiful stenographer, Mike Doyle, takes it all down, word for meaningless word.

The Shrimp Slayer (Not A Nancy Boy) is babbling about as coherently today as he was two years ago, when he emerged from a developer luncheon hosted by Fritz Grupe and splitting $50,000 with former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, the man he called "Mr. Chairman." These two crooks went back to Washington to write a bill to kill the Endangered Species Act -- earning the dual sobriquet, the Pomboza, from local farmers who sensed that whatever Pombo and Cardoza were up to, it did not bode well for the future of agriculture in the north San Joaquin Valley.

We don't have to ask Cardoza where he sits on San Joaquin Valley air quality or species crashes in the Delta or on the newly proposed peripheral canal. At the end of the day, he'll be sitting at the table on the same page with finance, insurance and real estate special interests, which does not bode well for the health and safety of humanity or any other species caught in those plans on that page at that table at the end of that day.

We don't mind crooks in the 18th congressional district of the great state of California. Nobody of any integrity could get the money to get elected to represent this district. We know that. But still, within the squalid limits of character permitted an elected official in this region, we still have our standards, however debased they have become by our dismal political experience. And a stone hypocrite, hiding behind the emptiest cliches in the business, is beyond the pale of even our deformed political taste.

Cardoza, our highest elected official, keeps a district office on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. It is evident among the elected officials that decide local land-use planning in the county and its cities, that these cliches are running downhill. This has resulted in a local government culture that is no more than one large hypocritical cliche to hide the fact it has become a financial vortex.

To make matters worse, members of the public intent on conflict-free dialogue continue to meet with the local decision-makers within the context of this large hypocritical cliche, adding to it as they invent grand fables about their political efficacy. Meanwhile, the 18th CD leads the nation in mortgage foreclosures and Valley air quality achieves its own unique designation -- worst of the worst.

When political language ceases to have any meaning at all, politicians are hiding something dangerous. These are times when government regards the public as its top enemy.

Badlands editorial staff
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6-17-07
Fresno Bee
Cardoza's ties divide voters. Democratic congressman often walks a fine line with conservative district....Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/61656.html

Dennis Cardoza wanted a seat at the table, and he got it...the third-term Democratic congressman from Merced is a Capitol insider, setting the rules for House debate. But in a political twist, the very position that grants Cardoza clout could also estrange some San Joaquin Valley voters. A moderate, Cardoza is nonetheless a lieutenant to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has her ear. She, in turn, often has his vote. The result is a fine line to walk for a congressman representing an often-conservative district. "In exchange for having a seat at the table," Cardoza said, "you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page." Cardoza and other members of the House Rules Committee decide how legislation is debated and what amendments can be offered...the 13-member panel shapes every bill considered by the House of Representatives. Rules Committee members have extra leverage with their colleagues, because they have their hands on every bill. Cardoza said the position gives him an opportunity to offer more amendments of his own. On the House floor, Cardoza and other Blue Dogs are generally the Democrats most likely to dissent from the party. But in the confines of the House Rules Committee, which meets on the third floor of the Capitol, Cardoza's voting is uniformly Democratic. Behind the scenes, moreover, Cardoza said the story is even more complex. "If you're on the Rules Committee, you vote with your party," Cardoza said. "That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." Cardoza likened his role to a "canary in a coal mine." In essence, he is a designated liaison to the Democrats' moderate wing. He lets House leaders know what might cause trouble for centrists. In turn, he gives the 47-member Blue Dog caucus an early heads-up on bills.

"Bull Durham" (1988)

Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

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The silence of the Lamb

Submitted: Jun 15, 2007

It will happen this way, now that the news cycle is over. One day, probably on a weekend this month, the Department of Homeland Security will announce that the UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory proposal to place a biodanger level-4 lab near Tracy at Site 300, an LLNL bombing range already laced with depleted uranium and tritium, will make the short list for biowarfare pork. LLNL also recently announced that it will be releasing eight times as much radioactivity in bomb tests this year on Site 300.

But never you mind, public, it’s all perfectly safe under UC and Bechtel management, just like security is perfect at Los Alamos National Laboratory, managed by the same win-win, public-private partnership.

Meanwhile, the congressman for the district, Jerry “The Lamb” McNerney, has been on about a veterans hospital out of his district in Livermore, signing a pledge to make his earmarks public information, and opining that lobbyists shouldn’t be on PACs contributing money, at least to Himself, the Lamb. His ardent supporters out in the blogosphere have been defending him for these radically moral stands, because the Lamb is not Pombo. One assumes he did not do his graduate work in the higher mathematics of political money. Failing to provide any leadership in opposition of the biowarfare lab, which might have energized his core supporters in the 11th CD, the Lamb has probably been terribly impressed by those fine academic minds at the LLNL, just his sort of people, unlike the people in the district he represents.

And, of course, the biowarfare lab security will be perfect and there is no problem, whatsoever, about studying diseases lethal to poultry and cattle upwind from the greatest concentration of poultry and cattle in California. None, whatsoever. The biodanger level-4 designation is for the most deadly pathogens known on the planet. But these will be no problem for the citizens living near the biowarfare lab. None, whatsoever, because the security in these labs is perfect, which was explained so articulately in Michael Carroll’s Lab 257, about Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory.

Nevertheless, Marylia Kelley, executive director of Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, reminded us today that occasionally security breaches occur, even at LLNL, where the new generation of nuclear warheads is being designed. In recent years, employees have lost keys to secure areas and have not informed top management sometimes for months, during which access to these high security areas could have been compromised. The Lab left open a four-lane gate for a weekend. The Department of Energy Inspector General recently reported that a significant number of LLNL former employees still have their security badges and their names still appear on rosters, “which is a huge security risk,” Kelley said.

“The Livermore lab has a history of major security breaches,” she added.

The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly said that it would take into account local opposition to the biowarfare lab. In Kelley’s view, there is no support for the biowarfare lab or the increase in radioactive explosives at Site 300 among the citizens of Tracy or nearby areas.

“Even where the lab has gotten official organizations for agriculture and elsewhere to support the biolab project,” Kelley said, “polls of the families those organizations represent would show significant opposition.”

“McNerney would do well to campaign against the biolab,” she said.

But Jerry the Lamb says nothing and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, says even less. If it is possible to be even less sensitive to the dangers of lethal war pork than the Lamb and the Shrimp Slayer, try the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District, which promises to hold a public hearing on the increase in radioactive explosives at the Tracy City Council chambers on June 26, at 7:30 p.m. This is the air board that approved a plan Thursday to put the San Joaquin Valley air basin in the worst air pollution category the federal government has a name for, in order to extend deadlines for cleaning up pollution so that the flow of federal highway funds will not be halted as a penalty for not attaining its air quality goals. Presumably, by 2026, the nation will have yet another category named to which the Valley can apply for further extensions and more growth-inducing highways. Perhaps it could be called the Radioactive Pathogenic WalMart Distribution Center/NASCAR level of non-attainment. Or simply, the San Joaquin Valley Level.

Dean Andal has announced he’s running against McNerney. It has been discovered that Andal is listed as a principle in Gerry Kamilos’ company, currently proposing to redevelop the former Naval Air Station at Crows Landing, downwind from Site 300, into a business park with a short-haul railroad. Andal, although a ferociously righwing ideologue, might have the brains to oppose the biowarfare lab and the radioactive bombing increases for simple self-preservation as well as self-enrichment. If Andal did oppose the Site 300 projects, he might find constituencies of support unique in his long, reactionary political career.

Yo, Dean, think Reinvention! A coalition awaits, and hey, maybe even Tsakopoulos O Megas would throw a few bucks your way.

Meanwhile, over the hill, the Lamb lives pleasantly in Pleasanton, breaking pencils over PACs full of lobbyists.

Badlands editorial staff
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6-15-07
San Francisco Chronicle
Lab managers accused of security breach...Deborah Baker and Jennifer Talhelm, AP
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/06/15/national/a054059D54.DTL&hw=livermore+lab&sn=001&sc=1000

Officials with the contractor that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory sent top-secret data regarding nuclear weapons through open e-mail networks, the latest potentially dangerous security breach to come to light at the birthplace of the atomic bomb, two congressmen said...breach was investigated by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which rounded up laptop computers from Los Alamos National Security LLC's board members and sanitized them. But NNSA and lab officials who subsequently appeared before a congressional committee investigating security problems at the nuclear weapons lab never mentioned it, according to a letter the congressmen sent Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who heads the panel's oversight subcommittee, called that "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation. "This facility's mind-bogglingly poor track record makes me repeat my question: What do we do at Los Alamos that we cannot do elsewhere?" Stupak said Thursday. LANS, which took over the lab's operation, is made up of the lab's former manager, the University of California; Bechtel Corp.; and two other companies. The e-mail case, the latest to come to light, was reported to NNSA by a University of California official on Jan. 19, according to the congressmen. The breach occurred when a consultant to the LANS board, Harold Smith, sent an e-mail containing highly classified, non-encrypted nuclear weapons information to several board members, who forwarded it to other members, according to a Washington aide familiar with the investigation who asked not to be named because the information is sensitive. The notice went out that there had been a breach, an official was pulled out of a White House meeting and told, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory flew a team across California and recovered the laptops within six hours... Lawmakers were assured no damage was caused, according to the aide.

6-16-07
Los Alamos National Laboratory. Energy Dept. acknowledges lab's e-mail security lapse...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/06/16/BAGG3QGHF01.DTL&hw=uc&sn=003&sc=793

The latest security breach was acknowledged Friday by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman after it was revealed by two congressmen. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who chairs the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called the latest security lapse a fresh example of Los Alamos' "mind-bogglingly poor track record" on security issues. The scandal comes less than two years after the Energy Department awarded a consortium led by the University of California and Bechtel Corp. a new contract to run Los Alamos partly in order to prevent a repeat of numerous scandals involving the security of weapons information at the lab. The consortium operates under the name Los Alamos National Security LLC. A similar managerial consortium -- one that is also dominated by UC and Bechtel -- was selected May 8 to manage the nation's other nuclear weapons design lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore. "The UC-Bechtel consortium at Los Alamos has taken what was a bad managerial situation and made it a lot worse," said Marylia Kelley, head of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, which is based in Livermore. "As long as the United States continues to design and develop new nuclear weapons, some of that information can and will leak out. ... Better management cannot solve that deeper problem." After the news leaked out, Dingell and Stupak wrote Bodman demanding to know why the breach wasn't reported to Congress for six months, even though an unidentified UC official informed the National Nuclear Security Administration of the breach on Jan. 19. The timing delay raises the question of whether another scandal is being covered up -- in effect, the possibility that authorities dragged their feet for almost six months investigating the security breach so that UC and Bechtel could win their joint bid for the Livermore contract without suffering any taint of scandal.

Fresno Bee
Critics unimpressed by smog-plan reform...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/60000.html

State air officials on Thursday approved a much-criticized smog cleanup plan with a 2024 completion target for the San Joaquin Valley -- but they offered a concession to those who want a quicker fix. In the next six months, the California Air Resources Board will intensely study other pollution-cutting ideas for the Valley, such as banning older vehicles during dirty-air days. Based on the findings, the state air governing board may add more rules to speed up the cleanup. The critics...were not impressed. The state will send the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which also is expected to approve it. EPA approval would remove the threat of federal sanctions for the Valley, such as the delay of $2 billion in road-building funds. In addition, the Valley would become the first place in the nation to be classified in a category reserved for the worst smog offenders, based on how long a cleanup would take.

5-14-07
Monterey Herald
Nuke weapons workers denied...Michael Alison Chandler and Joby Warrick...Washington Post
http://www.montereyherald.com/health/ci_5891631

Hidden costs...Since its inception in 2000, the compensation program has cut more than 20,000 checks and given long-delayed recognition to workers whose illnesses were hidden costs of the Cold War's military buildup...of the 72,000 cases processed, more than 60 percent have been denied. Thousands of other applicants have been waiting for years for an answer. Overall, only 21 percent of applicants have received checks. Even as the nation continues to close and dismantle many nuclear weapons sites, a growing number of those who helped build the bombs are turning to lawyers and legislators to argue they are being treated unfairly. Many complain that the compensation process is slow, frustrating, even insulting. "You get exposed to something that's so bad you have to leave your clothes behind," McKenzie said, "then they try to tell you it's not their fault that you got sick." Feds call program a success...Some evidence suggests the government has tried to limit payouts for budget reasons. Internal memos obtained by congressional investigators show the Bush administration chafing over the program's rising costs and fighting to block measures that would increase workers' chances of compensation. Labor Department officials who oversee the program say it has been successful, pointing to the large sums distributed: about $2.6 billion in payments in five years, far more than some early estimates. Missing or unreliable records and the murkiness of cancer science, the officials say, make it difficult to satisfy all the claimants. 'Normal beans'...Still, Labor's management of the program has drawn bipartisan, and often fierce, criticism from members of Congress. Former congressman John Hostettler, an Indiana Republican who chaired a House subcommittee overseeing the program, said at a hearing last December that Labor Department memos reflect a "culture of disdain" toward workers and raise questions about whether the department exceeded its authority by using "legalistic interpretations" to limit eligible workers. Scant records...The estimates are based largely on personnel files and historical radiation measurements at the plants. But the records are often so incomplete and unreliable that it can be impossible to determine a worker's true exposure. "At every site, you hear stories about workers being told to put their badges in their lockers," said Mark Griffon, a radiation-safety expert who advises the government on worker exposure. "If workers wore their badges and ended up exceeding their quarterly radiation limit, they could be laid off or put in a different job." Another obstacle is that records are becoming harder to track as plants are dismantled. The compensation program does provide a path for the government to help workers if records are lost or questionable. But critics say officials are reluctant to pursue it. No special status...So far, groups of workers from 18 sites have been added to the special exposure cohort, and petitions are pending for workers from a dozen other sites. The process can be difficult... Denver site...plant gone, many workers are struggling to re-create what happened. Many applicants who were denied blame missing or inadequate records and petitioned two years ago for special cohort status.

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An open financial wound of unknown consequence

Submitted: Jun 13, 2007

The north San Joaquin Valley has gained another first. No doubt, Modesto-based UC/Great Valley Center is ecstatic to see that its "smart growth" agenda has been so hugely successful. Our area is now the nation's leader in mortgage foreclosures as the San Joaquin Valley bids to surpass Los Angeles as the worst air pollution region in the nation. The north San Joaquin Valley is now a suppurating financial wound for finance, insurance and real estate special interests. Who knows how far the infection will spread?

Our region was so convulsed by greed in a speculative housing boom that the Pomboza (representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced and former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy), backed by cash raised by Fritz Grupe, Stockton's preeminent developer and the active co-chair of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, were determined to break the back of the Endangered Species Act in order to build out on all those seasonal pastures that provide the existing residents of the Valley with their watersheds and what clean air still exists.

Who do you blame?

Let's start with who you can't quite blame. You can't blame a realtor for doing her job. You can't blame a mortgage lender for selling another subprime mortgage, and you can't blame a family for getting in on the American Dream of Home Ownership even if they can't pay for it or understand the mortgage that enables it. You cannot blame the Silicon Valley retirees for taking the advice of their financial consultants to roll over their 401Ks in the hottest real estate market in America. You'd be unwise to blame the flippers, because, hey, there was a market that encouraged flipping.

But, you can blame government that is supposed to look out for the common good, despite the cynical claim that the concept of the common good no longer exists. If the government doesn't look out for the common good, the common people are going to have to rise again, somehow, in a disciplined political movement intent on one aim: Throwing the bums out.

Government in Merced County cannot deny it was told. It cannot deny that critical, well informed, citizens spoke in public hearings on development for the last eight years, starting with UC Merced, the anchor tenant for this whole real estate feeding frenzy that has ended as a national disgrace to American financial prudence. Government, local land-use authorities, and only local land-use authorities, had the duty and the power to resist this obscene greed fest. And the governance of elected officials at the federal, state and local levels abdicated the dignity of their offices and enabled the addiction to real estate speculation that has produced this.

Local land-use authorities cannot deny that they have been presented documents filled with substantial arguments against the path they took. They cannot deny they have been sued by their own public on numerous occasions -- and sued more often successfully than not -- on these issues. Elected officials of local land-use authorities have been well and fully warned of the consequences of their decisions.

But, these warnings were delivered largely by environmentalists. Due to their psychotic hatred for environmentalists, elected officials did not listen, could not hear, other warnings. Finance, insurance and real estate special interests charged forward, enthused with their own mythology, and government rolled over, sold out and abdicated its regulatory function. A land-use authority is supposed to regulate land use. These bums opened the doors to a frenzy of speculation.

We aren't talking about a lack of wisdom here. We are talking about a lack of the most elemental common sense.

Below, find one of our more recent cautionary letters to the Merced County Board of Supervisors. Below the letter, you will find the latest report on the shameful irresponsibility of government in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties, all lying within the district of Cardoza, the rear end of the Pomboza. Now that Pombo has become a lobbyist in Cardoza's district, no one can say the Pomboza is dead. Electoral defeat has only encouraged the beast.

Reckless, wholesale destruction of natural resources, at least in the San Joaquin Valley, is a recipe for financial destruction as well. John Muir's refrain haunts the boardrooms: "All things hang together."

Badlands editorial board
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To: Opponents of the Riverside Motorsports Park
From: Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Date: Nov. 10, 2006
Re: Join us in calling for a moratorium on projects like RMP, Wal-Mart, the UC Community Plan, the UC Parkway and other growth, destructive to agriculture, communities and the environment, until Merced County has fully and legally updated its General Plan.
Calling for a moratorium on growth is a drastic step. However, we ask you to join the 16 groups that have already called for it, for the following reasons:
· Merced County has been amending its General Plan, approved before UC Merced was conceived, to make way for every project developers, County planning commissioners and the Board of Supervisors desire. Although there is an update process working now, despite a public call to halt development until the process was completed three of the largest, highest impact projects will receive county approval before a new general plan is in place – RMP, Wal-Mart, the UC Community Plan, and the UC Parkway and others.
· Meanwhile, a mile-long, 42-inch sewer trunk line heading south out of Livingston, lies buried, uninspected and unpermitted in County jurisdiction awaiting subdivisions on prime farmland to serve.
· Meanwhile, thousands of acres of seasonal pasture containing federally listed endangered species have been deep-ripped without any permits and put into orchards and vineyards to hold for future subdivisions.
· Meanwhile, cities and communities update their general plans, expand their sewers and spheres of influence without reference to a coherent county General Plan.
· Meanwhile, the Merced County Association of Governments – despite its third defeat in trying to get residents to hike their sales taxes to pay for more growth-inducing roads – goes on furiously planning more roads.
· Meanwhile, by the ceaseless political meddling of the Great Valley Center in partnership with UC Merced, there is a whole parallel state planning drive, called variously the San Joaquin Valley Partnership and/or Blueprint.
· Meanwhile, the San Joaquin Valley air basin continues to be in severe non-attainment of its quality goals and is today the worst air-polluted farming area in America.
· Meanwhile, our officials ceaselessly blabber about the “inevitability of growth.”

Special interests are in the process of creating a planning map for Merced County created out of continual overlays. The purpose is to create a GIS planning map from Hell to provide a perpetual motion machine of non-accountability for the growth of slurb.
So, why not try something new and comprehensible: Just say NO to more growth until our leaders produce a fully legally compliant county General Plan to guide future growth in Merced County?
Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County General Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.
The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.
We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.
Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority — city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county’s infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge
VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of “Eco-Justice” — the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.
P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341

6-13-07
Modesto Bee
Foreclosures: Valley leads nation
By J.N. SBRANTI
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-dp_morning/story/13684201p-14274141c.html

We're worst in the nation. That's what home mortgage foreclosure statistics reveal for the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The region's foreclosure rates were nearly seven times higher than the national average in May, according to data gathered by RealtyTrac.

San Joaquin County had the highest percentage of properties in default on their mortgages. Merced County was second-highest. Stanislaus County was third.

"I'm surprised at how high your foreclosure numbers are. They've really jumped," said Daren Blomquist, spokesman for RealtyTrac, which publishes a national database of properties facing foreclosure. "You've got an exponential increase."

That's for sure.

Just two years ago, foreclosures in the valley were virtually unheard of. Now they're a daily occurrence.

For example: In Stanislaus County during May 2005 there were just 78foreclosure filings, most of which were notices of default, which is the first step in the process. This May, those filings skyrocketed to 1,278. That's more than 16 times higher than two years ago.

Merced County foreclosure filings are a whopping 31 times higher, rising from 22 two years ago to 688 last month.

San Joaquin County filings are 18 times higher, rising from 120 to 2,157.

By comparison, nationwide foreclosure filings are 2.4 times higher than two years ago.

The vast majority of homeowners who enter the foreclosure process traditionally have been able to get out of it without losing everything. They could refinance their mortgages or sell their homes before the bank took over.

That's no longer the case. Statistics from RealtyTrac show massive jumps in the number of homes being repossessed by lenders.

"People have gotten into home mortgages that stretch them too thin," Blomquist said. "They were anticipating home values continuing to go up, so they could bail themselves out by selling or refinancing. But the market is not cooperating now."

Homeowners these days often owe more than their homes are worth, so there's no easy way to escape their mortgage burden. As a result, increasing numbers of homeowners who fall behind on payments are having their homes taken over by lenders.

Last month in Stanislaus County, 162 homes were repossessed. In May 2006, no homes were lost that way.

Lenders have taken over so many homes, in fact, that they're flooding the resale housing market with so-called distressed properties.

Forty-seven of those lender-owned homes will be put up for auction June 25 in Modesto, with starting bids as low as $89,000. That auction, by the Real Estate Disposition Corp., has many starting prices at less than half the home's previous value.

"Those auctions are an indication that lenders are more desperate to get rid of those (repossessed) homes," Blomquist said. He said buyers are getting harder to find. "A lot of investors are very gun-shy about getting into this market right now."

Homeowners are having a hard time finding any kind of buyer.

Only 774 homes have been sold in Modesto this year compared with 1,548 at the same time last year, according to the Central Valley Association of Realtors.

New home sales also have plummeted. In Stanislaus County, only 82 new houses sold this April compared with 212 in April 2006, according to the California Building Industry Association.

And home values continue to fall.

The Realtors association reports that the median-priced Modesto home sold for $325,000. That's $18,000 less than at this time last year.

In Stanislaus County, new homes in April sold for a base price of $429,990, which was $16,000 less than last year, the building association reported.

Another sign of the real estate market's troubles is the rising rate of delinquent property taxes.

In Stanislaus County, nearly 7.7 percent of landowners have yet to pay their 2006-2007 property taxes, which were due in April. Tax Collector Gordon Ford said that delinquency rate is on track to set a record.

Many of the region's real estate woes are expected to be discussed today at the Valley Real Estate & Economics Conference at the DoubleTree Hotel in Modesto.

That conference will include sessions on what's ahead for the region's real estate market and investment opportunities. The event starts at 7:30 a.m.; tickets are $50 at the door.

staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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FEMA floodplain maps redux

Submitted: Jun 02, 2007

On June 1, the Lathrop Sun-Post reported that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced paid the Lathrop City Council a visit on May 29 to warn Lathropians that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "is in the process of redrawing flood-plain maps and casting more stringent levee requirements in a post-Hurricane Katrina, climate-changing world ..."

Alarming them with pictures of immanent catastrophe, Cardoza urged the council to participate in a "regional approach" to ensure flood protection.
The Sun-Post goes on to mention that former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy just signed a $100,000 contract with Stockton to lobby for state and federal flood-protection funds.

When we hear about the "regional approach," our minds instantly turn to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. This "regional" commission, appointed two years ago by the governor, is co-chaired by Fritz Grupe, Stockton's premiere developer. Several months before Grupe was appointed to lead this regional planning effort, he hosted a fund-raising luncheon for Pombo and Cardoza. The two split about $50,000 in developer contributions and launched their next assault on the Endangered Species Act before the end of that year. They also earned the name "Pomboza" to connote their "aggressive
bipartisanship on the House Resources Committee. Since the Democratic Party took over Congress last year, the committee's earlier title, Natural Resources, has been restored.

However, another part of the mysterious political movements of the Pomboza and the regional Mr. Grupe was the successful July 2006 move by Pombo and Cardoza to block the new FEMA flood plain maps on the Delta area, at least until after the November 2006 election.

7-3-06
Sacramento Bee
Reality bites…Editorial…7-2-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14273956p-15083900c.html

Delaying release of FEMA maps would help politicians, not communities at risk. Egged onby developers and local politicians seeking re-election, several Central Valley congressmen are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the release of updated maps that will provide homeowners and businesses a more accurate picture of flood risks. FEMA should resist this pressure. The government hasn’t updated most of these maps for 20 years, despite several damaging — and revealing — floods during that period. The
problem is that new maps frighten local officials… Given the money at stake, it’s highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. As Cardoza notes, these FEMA maps are preliminary. The reason for releasing them is so communities can review them, debate them and understand how they might affect insurance and land-use plans before any final versions are approved. FEMA recently bowed to pressure in remapping flood plains in New Orleans, putting thousands at risk. It shouldn’t do the
same here — especially not for a handful of politicians who would rather enhance their
re-election chances than face the realities of floods.

Lurching back to the present, Grupe Investments, AG Spanos Construction and the Delta Building Industry Association are suing the City of Stockton, claiming that the city is discriminating against developers by demanding they pay fees to preserve farm land at a 1:1 mitigation ratio. This reminds us that the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley is really simply a partnership between developers and politicians for more irresponsible urban development in the Valley.

To wrap it up, Cardoza, acting on behalf of Pombo, Grupe, Spanos and other developers in San Joaquin County, scares the bejeezuz out of the Lathrop City Council about those dreaded FEMA floodplain maps that cannot fail to discourage more development on the Delta. (At least Lathrop is in Cardoza's district, which we misreported as being in McNerney's yesterday.)Meanwhile, McNerney jumped to Rep. Ellen Tauscher's district to talk up a VA hospital in Livermore.

None of these Congress persons are saying a word in opposition to the biowarfare lab that UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to build on Site 300, the bomb-testing range outside Tracy. Perhaps, when the proposal makes the short list this month, the Pomboza, McNerney and Tauscher can all join hands and declare a Valley War Pork Month.

Badlands editorial staff

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