Public Health and Safety

The Pomboza, now an Agency

Submitted: Aug 26, 2007

They're still at it! The inseparable couple of wannabe Endangered Species Act
extirpators, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy (reborn as a lobbyist) have teamed up on a scheme to defeat an evil plot by the federal government to make San Joaquin County homeowners living in flood plains pay flood insurance. The Pomboza has so far obstructed updates of FEMA flood-plain maps but time in running out. It is very hard to tell from the stingy reports on this plan what the deal really is, but it seems to be something like this: municipalities
along the river and developers will put up funding for levee work and hope the feds will generously match the money.

On August 3, the Stockton Record editorialized that, although as chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo did exactly nothing for Delta levees after the Jones Island break and after Katrina, as a lobbyist, he is proposing a win-win, public-private partnership called Central Valley Resources Agency to lobby for federal flood funds and, one imagines, gut the FEMA flood plain maps, at least in San Joaquin County. Pombo has already signed lobbying contracts with Stockton and Manteca but was rebuffed recently by his hometown city council in Tracy.

It seems like a strange way to run a government in the face of a potential problem that could endanger the drinking water supplies for 23 million people, but levees, as has been noted, are strange jurisdictional creatures, mostly private, so perhaps it is the only way the Pomboza can proceed. The state has expressed itself as tired of the idea that it must pay for flood damage along the Delta as the result of legislation brought to life by the artful state Capitol management of developer lobbyists.

The area we call Pombozastan is but a province -- including all its local governments -- of a larger win-win, public-private partnership designated in 2005 by the Hun, our governor, as the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. Stretching through interlocking watersheds from the San Joaquin Delta to the Kern River, encompassing subdivisions on flood plains in Stockton to the immense prison/megadairy complex of Kings and Kern counties, it ain't no ecotopia. It's got the worst air quality in the nation and it is the Number One target in California for urban growth. It remains the most productive farming valley in the US, probably in the world, but agriculture's days are numbered in the San Joaquin Valley. We are calling it today the dual monarchy of GrupeSpanopolis and the Fresno Catastrophe, an internal empire of developers who control all levels of its government. the Pomboza is merely its northern-most province.

The Record reports today, Congressman Cardoza is calling for a "regional group to tackle levee problems." Cardoza was sworn into his seat in the state Assembly when a levee break had put about half his district under water in early 1997.

Now let brave souls make wild surmises: this Central Valley Resources Agency will find its way into the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley plan because its co-chairman is Fritz Grupe, Stockton's largest developer. Due to the essentially private nature of this "agency," the public probably won't see much of the Pomboza Plan before it is sprung as part of the Valley partnership. We'd probably have to bribe a little bird to monitor the Hun's famous Cigar Porch to get an accurate report of the doings of the Central Valley Resources Agency.

The remorselessly consistent Pombo, has left the "Natural" out of his agency's title. But's he's happy he's chairman of a new Resource Agency. Now an employee of a powerful Western lobbying group, Portland-based Pac/West, flaks for our beloved Northwest timber interests, in alliance with the cutting edge of modern agribusiness thinking on private property rights, Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, and funded by developers, the Pomboza agency would appear to be omnipotent. The people who actually live here now would appear to have about the same chance for decent quality of life as a Chinook salmon smolt or a Delta smelt.

Pombo was defeated for reelection to his eighth term by the present Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. McNerney, the soul of political ambition and yet as timid as a "cautious twerp" of the sort manufactured en masse by the state and national environmental groups that defeated Pombo, is absent from debate on the formation of the Central Valley Resources Agency, although he represents at least as much Valley flood plain as Cardoza does. One imagines the conversation:

"But Dennis, I need some press on water issues in my own district."
To which Cardoza replies with one name: "Andal," McNerney's probable opponent in 2008, a former state Assemblyman, state Franchise Tax Board member and developer in Cardoza's district.

McNerney sneaks off over the Altamont to his stronghold in Bay Area suburbia, far from those tacky Delta water wars. Perhaps he is being advised to do so by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-SF, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA (SF). Who knows what their developer husbands are invested in around here? Too bad, because the people need a voice, which they ain't going to get with either end of the win-win, public-private beast we call The Pomboza Agency and its owners and trainers.

We hope to be surprised by sudden lurches of political evolution not yet in evidence. Meanwhile,the public is in a theological pickle: to pray for rain for drinking and irrigation water, or to pray for continued drought so the levees don't break -- that is the question.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Dozens hash out levee accreditation...The Record
Dozens of local, state and federal officials met Thursday to hash out a levee
accreditation process that could end with thousands of residents forced to pay flood insurance as soon as 2009. San Joaquin County officials say they're being required by the federal government to make levee improvements that have not been defined and that they haven't been given enough direction from FEMA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, asked cities and counties if they'd like to form a regional group to tackle levee problems. Cardoza recently visited New Orleans and called Thursday's meeting to give all the parties a better understanding of the remapping

The voice of Pombo...Editorial
Finding a common voice among San Joaquin County officials and residents regarding flood protection is common sense. Even if they're a decade or more behind Sacramento County, Stockton officials have done the right thing by pledging $100,000 in startup funding for just such an endeavor. It's very ironic they would hire former Rep. Richard Pombo, the Republican from Tracy, to help. Pombo spent 14 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he had an ideal platform from which to encourage and support that kind of unity. He couldn't formally lead it, but he had every opportunity to help persuade county and city leaders to establish a public-private collaboration. Pombo - who had become chairman of the House Resources Committee - had other priorities. Now he works for Pac/West Communications, an Oregon-based business that has been commissioned to set up a mechanism for lobbying state and federal officials for flood-protection funds. Now, uniting the county's leaders is a priority in Pombo's new job. This public-private partnership, to be known as the Central Valley Resources Agency, still is in the formative stages. Pombo will know who the key decision-makers are in Washington, D.C. He probably will prove to be an effective advocate.

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Work in progress

Submitted: Aug 12, 2007

I was recently asked to produce a bibliography of "essential books" on the San Joaquin Valley.


A dozen favorites leapt to mind; a few days later a dozen more; and the pleasant task began to turn into a real project destined for certain failure and remorse. It turns out not to be so easy to remember the books of a lifetime and each dive into the Internet provides more that look very useful but I haven't had time to read yet.

When one gets to a certain age it becomes difficult to remember the heroes because they are all gone and it is harder to recall that I met some of them a time or two, here and there -- for example, Fred Ross, a slim, serious man, perpetually moving purposefully around the Delano headquarters of the UFWOC; the wise, friendly Larry Itliong; or Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel on the phone correcting the spelling of her name in an article I'd written; or the voice of Art Coelho, poet and publisher of our Valley voices, from Montana, talking about burning up cowboy boots on big cats disking the west side and years wandering the West as an itinerant poet composing the best list of country poets in the West.

I remembered a call about a great farm labor leader in farmworkers rest home in Delano leading a seminar on Lenin to fellow octogenarians from the fields. We dreamed of that moment when those workers would confront St. Peter and demand to know: "What is to be done?"

I remember the face of the great, betrayed C. Al Green, director of the multi-racial AFL-CIO Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a victim, like Chavez, of liberal perfidity that has resulted in indebted servitude in the fields today. All the political thieves of San Francisco have ever wanted from the Valley was agribusiness campaign cash, any way they could get it. "Migrants don't vote," they said. These days, it's "Illegal immigrants don't vote."

The longer I worked on it, the more holes I saw in the vista of written material on the San Joaquin Valley that stretched out before me like a vast battlefield of a war that has been going on since before the great Yojuts leader Estanislao defeated the young Lt. Mariano Vallejo. Looking at water rights issues today, sometimes it seems as if the ghosts of heroes and villains rising off the battlefield are pulling the strings of the living in a never-ending feud we call our "Valley way of life." Another way to look at it is that bioregions matter.

Every reader will find something missing in this bibliography. For example, I am frantically digging in book boxes for a good one on the Chinese in California I know I have somewhere but cannot remember the title of. Can't find it, have nothing on their enormous contribution except in various general histories like Bean's superb California: An Interpretive History.

Everyone I have talked to has added a book I've forgotten or never knew about.

So, this is a work in progress and I invite anyone to write us at, gleefully to announce what a knucklehead I was to forget their favorite, indispensible books about the Valley.

Meanwhile, apologies to the people who originally requested the bibliography -- we'll let you know when it's done.

Bill Hatch, for the Badlands Journal editorial board


Garden of the Sun, Wallace Smith (the only history to date strictly about the SJV)
Handbook of the Yokuts Indians, Frank Latta
The Stanislaus Indian Wars, Thorne P. Gray
The Destruction of the California Indians, Robert F. Heizer
Saints or Oppressors: The Franciscan Missionaries of California; In The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide, Rupert and Jeannette Costa
Flooding the Courtrooms: Law and Water in the Far West, by Mary Catherine Miller (a legal biography of the Miller&Lux cattle company)
Empires in the Sun, Peter Wiley, Robert Gottlieb (development of power utilities in the West)
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (DDT)
Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner
Death in the Marsh, Tom Harris (the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge ecological disaster caused by agricultural drainage containing heavy metals)
Fruits of Natural Advantage, Steven Stoll (the self-destructive economics of agribusiness)
The New California, Dan Walters
Works of Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange: Taylor was one of the first academics (UC Berkeley economist) to study farm labor, both Mexican and Dust Bowl immigrants; Lange's photographs of migrants stand alongside Walker Evans' work with James Agee as testimony to the destruction and poverty of the Depression
Factories in the Fields, Carey McWilliams
Farm workers and agri-business in California, 1947-1960, Ernesto Galarza
Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa, Jacques E. Levy
United Farm Workers website, history section
Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, Craig Scharlin
Articles on 160-acre limitation by E. Phillip Leveen (have to do Google search for them, Leveen was the top spokesman for the 160-acre limitation for federal water during the last great war over it in the late 70s; an agricultural economist at the time, he was trained as an historian and gives the history of the whole federal water/land fraud in the Valley)
Articles by Don Villarejo, founder of the California Institute for Rural Studies, list available at (nearly 50 years of thought and research on the Valley balancing social, economic and environmental justice claims)
California Institute of Rural Studies publication catalogue
Isao Fujimoto, UC Davis emeritus, has published a number of studies on different aspects of the Central Valley -- from farm labor to environmental issues
The King Of California: JG Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax,Rick Wartzman
Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, by David Mas Masumoto
BORDER CORRESPONDENT, Selected Writings, 1955-1970, Ruben Salazar
Mean Justice, by Ed Hume
California: An Interpretive History, Walton Bean
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), (the Florida front line of current farm-labor organizing)

Legal and administrative decisions and discussion: The San Joaquin Valley has produced major legal contests on an array of natural resource issues; these sources will lead the reader into essential topics in Valley history; others are dealt with in the non-fiction section

Public Trust Doctrine
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Mono Lake Decision
San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center
Monterery Accord decision: PCL v. DWR
Kesterson Wildlife Refuge
San Joaquin River Settlement
Rapanos Decision
CEQA decisions (law firm blogs like Abbott and Kinderman Land Use Law blog offer reviews of recent decisions: San Joaquin Raptor v. County of Merced, Woodward Park Homeowners Association, Inc. v. City of Fresno, Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth Inc. v City of Rancho Cordova, Hayward Area Planning Association v. City of Hayward, City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University, etc. provides current news on lawsuits, administrative decisions, essays and articles on resource law

Fiction, Poetry, Drama

Poetry of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (the greatest Dust Bowl poet, still writing about her people until shortly before she died this April)
Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, by John Steinbeck
The Octopus, Frank Norris
The Ford, Mary Austin
Art Coehlo (Cuelho) and Seven Buffaloes Press
Gerald Haslam's works, short stories and Workin' Man's Blues (memoirs of youth in Oildale and the development of "Nashville West," Bakersfield.
Plays of Luis Valdez ("Zoot Suit," "La Bamba").
Luis is the farmworkers' Bertold Brecht.
Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley, edited by Stan Yogi, Gayle Mak, and Patricia Wakida
Fat City, Leonard Gardner

Additions since posting:

New Roots for Agriculture, Wes Jackson
Topsoil and Civilization, Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale
The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

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Central Valley Safe Environment Network reply to a Merced County Planning Commissioner

Submitted: Jul 10, 2007

A number of local eco-justice advocates would like to thank Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook for providing a public opportunity to discuss the place of the eco-justice movement in Merced County. Veteran local organizers understand better than the commissioner does that she is just a messenger for the special interests doing business through a combination of propaganda and political coercion to promote urban sprawl and environmental destruction in the San Joaquin Valley. Nevertheless, they appreciate her letter of July 2, in which she complained about criticism from eco-justice advocates and offered an essay on right livelihood, a Buddhist theme, by a Christian eco-justice theologian, to chastise local advocates for their lack of spiritual attainment and point to her own. (See Central Valley Safe Environment Network Mission Statement, Lashbrook’s letter, and Matthew Fox essay, Right Livelihood, below.)

In doing a little soul-searching on why this type of energy is coming my way…, Lashbrook begins.

Merced veteran eco-justice advocates don’t need to do any soul-searching about the type of energy coming at them from Commissioner Lashbrook. In a statement at a teleconference public meeting of the East Merced Resource Conservation District in mid-June, Lashbrook declared “war” on the local eco-justice movement in Merced County and on any who collaborate with it.

Her reasons require some history.

In late May, the commissioner tried to steamroll the Merced Stakeholders group into approval of a grant proposal (claiming in advance of anyone seeing the proposal that the stakeholders supported it). There are stakeholders who believe this proposal involves unnecessary studies and is little more than a front for the commissioner's self-promoting and self-dealing financial enrichment. Eco-justice advocates are among the opponents to the grant: ergo the commissioner declared war in public.

I have been working on cultural solutions for environmental problems for decades, Lashbrook continued.

Organizers who have been working for 30 years – three decades – vaguely remember the planning commissioner’s rare contributions to opposing environmentally destructive projects. For several years, she has been working her way up the political pecking order through memberships and positions in various farm groups whose record on cultural solutions for environmental problems is spotty. However, Lashbrook has sporadically testified against some projects.

Merced eco-justice advocates believe quite deeply that it is possible to have an ethical career in environmental work. They have proved it for many years and will continue to prove it. From decades of experience with grant writing and reviewing grants at a local, state and national level, they know there is an ethical protocol to write a grant proposal and that the grant writers, including, Lashbrook, didn’t follow it.

The question the commissioner puts:

Do you believe that it is unethical to have careers in the fields that we have a passion

is bogus and self-pitying. The commissioner is a publicly appointed official of the County of Merced, sitting on the most important commission in this uncontrollably growing county. What’s ethical about a passion for political self-promotion and financial self-dealing in grant proposals for public funds? What's ethical about taking credit for financial gain for the Merced County eco-justice movement’s work over 30 years, while simultaneously denying the existence of this movement? She is a follower of the politicians’ version of county history: it didn’t exist before UC Merced and its induced speculative growth boom got here. Now, politicians like Lashbrook must exert every propaganda effort to denying the consequences of this “new beginning.”

As for her next plaintive inquiry:

Is there anyone trying to work within the system that you admire that I could learn from?

the answer is yes, right here in Merced.

The lecture the commissioner sent is an essay written by an Episcopal priest, Matthew Fox. In the mid-1980s, when Rev. Dr. Robert Ryland was founding Sierra Presbyterian Church and co-founding the Merced Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice from which the Central Valley Safe Environment Network (CVSEN) evolved, he attended a week-long seminar with Fox. At that time, Fox was a Dominican priest in trouble with his Catholic order because his theology had expanded beyond the order’s doctrines.

Fox and Ryland spent a great deal of time talking about justice, particularly the relationships between social, environmental and economic justice. Ryland later wrote a letter to the Dominicans’ headquarters in the Vatican on behalf of Fox. Eventually Fox was driven out of his order and became an Episcopalian associated with Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and has continued to expand his thought and practice, giving the environment a much greater place in Christian theology at a moment when much contemporary, fundamentalist theology is restricting the place of the creation.

Rev. Dr. Ryland has certainly worked "within the system" -- for about six decades. The commissioner could benefit greatly from his insights as have a number of veteran advocates in Merced County, who have been on the frontline of eco-justice work beside Rev. Dr. Ryland in the nation and beyond “for decades.” They have not been afraid of conflict, and government officials, agencies or private special interests have not intimidated them. They have not sought political appointments to pro-growth planning commissions and aren’t impressed by planning commissioners and elected officials who declare war on them. One night at a Sacramento restaurant, then Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza declared war on Merced eco-justice activists, quietly eating their dinners. Their campaigns include hundreds of projects locally, statewide, nationally and globally, starting with the rehabilitation of wildlife, United Technologies rocket-engine plant, to Riverside Motorsports Park.

Rev. Dr. Ryland was the producer of “Three Parables, (1989)” a documentary on Kesterson, the Valdez oil spill, and the pollution of the Mississippi River in New Orleans. “These were three earthly stories with Heavenly meaning, contemporary parables,” Ryland explained. Rev. Dr. Ryland sat on National Council of Churches grant review committees. He also attended workshops in organizing led by Saul Alinksy, whose organizational techniques Central Valley Safe Environment Network rely upon heavily to this day. Other Merced eco-justice advocates reviewed grants with the National Council of Churches. Nobody in the country does eco-justice work at the depth CVSEN does.

NOTICE: Before viewing this video, “Three Parables, please read this statement.

The intent of this video, “Three Parables,” is to place the viewer between the Good News of the Gospel and the bad news of technological disasters.

My prayer is that the results will be an ecumenical affirmation of faith on a global scale uniting us all in an urgent concern for the future of the planet. Now is the time to build a network of faith communities that can reduce and stop the increase of technological disasters.

Now is the time God has given us to combine the unique diversity and the spiritual power of our unity of faith in God. Hear those who will be speaking to you in this video. Feel with them the impact of technological disasters in their lives. They are not unique. The ultimate reality is WE ARE THEY!!

We need idea people, activists and those who compile statistics. But, the passion and the pain are learned from those who are the victims. Listen to the Spirit speaking to us through our brothers and sisters.

Res est sacra miser.
(A sufferer is a sacred thing.)

Dr. Robert E. Ryland

CVSEN has had a long history of empowering local groups and leaving them with adequate resources to continue to work. CVSEN has always worked on private, non-profit funds.

Throughout this work, eco-justice advocates frequently have had to go to court to defend environmental law, environmental regulation, public trust and public health and safety issues, the preservation and mitigation of agricultural land, and to defend public access -- frequently denied by elected and appointed officials in Merced County and their staff. Among the violators of public processes has been the county Planning Commission, in addition to the county Board of Supervisors, which appoints the planning commissioners. For the last three decades eco-justice advocates in Merced County have made a positive difference through public participation and legal challenges.

Eco-justice advocates, with the aid of a number of Merced River landowners, recently had to defend the collaborative public processes of another group they helped found, the Merced River Stakeholders, against the self-dealing depredations of the commissioner. When the commissioner encountered their opposition, her response was to ram the grant through without any further consultation with the stakeholders – while continuing to claim to the grant funders that she had Merced River stakeholder support, which she doesn’t have because only a handful of stakeholders even read it before it was submitted to state and federal public funding agencies.

The commissioner did all this under the auspices of the East Merced Resource Conservation District, on whose board she sits. Another board member regards his appointment as a license to snarl at eco-justice advocates on sight. A third regards his position as a license to call them negative ranters. The RCD directors went along with the deal trying, as usual, to isolate veteran eco-justice advocates as obstructionists for insisting on the agreed upon rules of process within the stakeholders group.

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, eco-justice advocates were joined in this resistance to a boondoggle grant by a farm/mining ownership. The farmer/mining family also deeply resented the attempt to overthrow rules of process that the group -- composed of interests quite divided at times -- had painstakingly developed over more than a decade of meetings. Many river stakeholders understand clearly that these procedures are their only protection.

Lashbrook’s response to stakeholder opposition to her grant proposal was to announce she didn’t need them. She could find other landowners to support her grant. Stakeholders who own land on the river replied they hoped her grant did not include the need for access to the river because she would have none.

Stakeholders opposed to the grant offered to meet further to try to resolve their issues with the grant proposal. The commissioner refused the offer. The logical person to have brokered a meeting, because she represents much of the river area, was Supervisor Diedre Kelsey. During an email exchange about the grant, Kelsey, who appointed Lashbrook to the planning commission and to the RCD board, offered this note by way of "leadership:"

5/23/07 4:17 PM
Diedre Kelsey here. I have just today been made aware of the problems with the grant application not being reviewed by the Merced River Stakeholder group. As the Board of Supervisor member who represents the Merced River within Merced County, and who helped launch the Stakeholder process years ago, I am concerned about these problems. I have asked to speak with Gwen Huff and expect she will call me soon. (Huff receives an RCD grant to facilitate Merced River Stakeholders’ meetings and would also have directly benefited from the grant.) I must correct Ms. Miller's assertion that I am "conflicted' on river issues or have no political voice".
This untrue statement, which apparently has been repeated at previous MRS meeting, is misleading and again, is untrue. The future of the river as a resource for our county is what is important. I have helped on many watershed and river related or fishery related issues in the past and I am ready to help with this problem or any other that affects my district and the County of Merced.

(Although Kelsey rarely attends stakeholders’ meetings, “apparently” nothing said at them goes unreported to her, by Lashbrook and other political minions.)

Kelsey's long habit of recusing herself on river issues is a matter of public record. She is a sponsor of this grant proposal, she recused herself here, too. Did her private interests stand to benefit from the grant? So, in lieu of political leadership, the public got one more attack on a veteran Merced eco-justice advocate for upholding the rules of public process developed by the river stakeholders against depredations by politicians, now including Lashbrook. However, Lashbrook is simultaneously a board member of the EMRCD, which sponsored the grant, and a paid staff member of the Merced River Alliance, a grant recipient.

Merced Sun-Star
Kelsey gets OK to vote on local mining issues...Corinne Reilly

Supervisor had previously recused herself from voting on the topic because her family is active in the mining business. But under a recently-issued opinion from the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Kelsey can participate in mining votes as long as they don't involve her own property, property within 500 feet of it, or decisions that have a "reasonably foreseeable" financial consequence for Kelsey. Commission spokesman Roman Porter said the FPPC's opinion is only informal advice based on general information that Kelsey provided about her family's business interests. Kelsey said she responded to a request for information from the grand jury several months ago...hired an attorney at her own expense after she learned of the investigation. Kelsey was also investigated by the grand jury in 2002 for a conflict of interest related to her family's mining company. She said she's excused herself from a participating in some mining decisions in the past, including one vote on a mining operation near her family's Snelling company. On most mining decisions, Kelsey has participated, she said. Kelsey also excused herself from a number of votes related to UC Merced's development, after a university subcontractor purchased gravel from her family's company several years ago. She said she regrets not participating in discussions over the December mining vote...board approved a general plan amendment and zoning change to allow Black Diamond Aggregates, Inc. to expand its operations.

I am sad that people that seem to have similar visions can't find ways to enhance each others' work, Lashbrook concludes, sounding more and more like the perpetually “troubled” Congressman Cardoza.

Local eco-justice veterans are skeptical about the similarity of their vision and the commissioner's. This skepticism has been aroused by rude and contemptuous behavior toward them from the commissioner on a numerous occasions.

Members of CVSEN doubt that anyone who understands Matthew Fox could continue to berate them publicly and declare “war.” Probably, Lashbrook sent the Fox essay to wrap herself in a Buddhist robe and flourish a cross to ward off what she considers the evil spirit of eco-justice that might damage her political career and another chance for financial gain.

Rev. Dr. Ryland was consulted for his interpretation of Lashbrook’s letter and how it related to Fox’s essay.

Rev. Dr. Ryland replied:

The item and the letter from Living Farms is the oldest yet new use of a spin attempt to sound like the same , but the actions of the person do not support the work of Matthew Fox. The use of spiritual and negative energy etc. makes her sound like she is using your words to appear a true environmentalist . Coming from commissioner, viewed together with her actions, this is the latest in using words without any definition. Words like democracy and freedom by the present administration are other good examples.
I am reading the article by Fox and we can talk later.

We did talk later. Rev. Dr. Ryland asked,

"What in the world is this commissioner doing by trying to outdo the eco-justice movement in the county. There are no terms that are sacred anymore. Anyone who objects to a decision by the board or the council is labeled an ‘environmental terrorist.’ So people don't know who's right. This is just a way to neutralize the fine work eco-justice work that has been done in Merced County for 30 years. This kind of spin has never been as blatant as it is right now. It's like ‘justice’ according to Bush, which means ‘just us.’”

Commissioner Lashbrook, with the encouragement of Supervisor Kelsey and others, is working ceaselessly, in public and private, to deny the efforts and successes of those who have been in the eco-justice movement in the county for decades, establish herself as a spokeswoman for environmentalists in the San Joaquin Valley, without a clue to the work. She is positioning herself as an authority, establishing her word as authoritative within the numerous public groups where she serves as officer or paid staff. These groups imagine they'll get special treatment now that Lashbrook has become a planning commissioner. Outside the county, she is riding on an eco-justice history she had nothing to do with.

Judging from her behavior in her declared war against CVSEN, it seems that Commissioner Lashbrook is being promoted by elected officials and the finance, insurance and real estate special interests behind them, certainly including UC Merced and the UC/Great Valley Center, as a substitute for the steady, well-documented, effective legal work and public participation of local advocates for many years.

Eco-justice veterans in Merced are aware that there are lobbyists and propagandists in the pay of public and private special interests intent on turning the San Joaquin Valley into the new San Fernando Valley. If local elected officials appear frequently incapable of strategy, these hirelings – of city halls, county seats, the state Capitol, Washington and of financial capitals around the world – are capable of strategy and tactics and do wish to deny the distinguished history of eco-justice activism in Merced and surrounding Valley counties carried out by the Central Valley Safe Environment Network and its collaborating groups.

Merced Sun-Star
Think California is crowded now? Just wait until 2050...Judy Lin, McClatchy Newspapers

By the year 2050, California's largely white baby boomers will have passed on, giving way to younger, second or third-generation Latino families. Latinos are forecast to make up 52 percent of the state's population by midcentury, compared to 26 percent white, 13 percent Asian, 5 percent black, 2 percent multiracial and 1 percent American Indian or Pacific islander. The projections also showed California will add more than 25 million people by 2050, bringing the state population to just under 60 million. According to state statistics, the Golden State is projected to hit the 40 million mark in 2012 and 50 million by 2032. The California State Department of Finance projects the Merced County's population at 266,700 in 2010, 292,400 in 2015 and 322,700 in 2020. The Merced County Association of Governments projects the county's population in 2030, the furthest out it has made such a projection, at 417,200.

The commissioner seems to be involved with several groups, many of whose members are attending staff-directed General Plan Update focus groups from which veteran participants have been barred. Lashbrook and her associates establish their legitimacy with local politicians by declaring their lack of affiliation with the well- established, well-recognized and highly effective eco-justice movement in Merced County.

Lashbrook is just the latest version of the California political line wherever land-use policy is found: Every interest is a special interest; the public interest is not the common good or the public trust, but the special interest of any land-use authority. Participants in public processes are lectured to by politicians being told to be as nice as developers and their lobbyists. Politicians also instruct members of the public to come up with solutions to environmentally destructive development they had no part in planning and that land-use authorities are approving.

Eco-justice work is the cultural solution to environmental problems. It is not self-promoting propaganda that twists a vocabulary created by years of environmental struggle into self-dealing verbiage in search of public grant funds and political advancement.

There is a crisis of legitimacy today in government among elected and appointed officials from Merced County to Washington – from county planning commissioners to congressional representatives. They are in the pockets of finance, insurance and real estate special interests from phony environmentalists on the planning commissioners to “Blue Dog” Democrats in Congress. The eco-justice movement in Merced County has no crisis of legitimacy. It has a long, distinguished record of accomplishment defending environmental, economic and social justice.

Spouting the latest environmental buzzwords is not the same thing as a record of 30 years of hard eco-justice work. In fact, apropos of the present letter, people who spout the latest eco-buzz will not in any way be able to understand the words of Matthew Fox because they have had no experience with the struggle of faith, integrity and sacrifice from which Fox writes. But, there is a group of people in Merced who have long practiced what Fox preaches “within the system.” Lashbrook’s inability to find them suggests a condition of blindness brought on by her political connivance with the corruption of local government and its horrific financial consequences.

Speaking from within the Buddhist tradition, which the commissioner is using as her whip on the backs of eco-justice advocates this week, eco-justice workers agree with the 12th century Soto Zen priest, Dogen, who said that – from mistake to mistake, one continuous mistake is also a path. Enlightenment by this path comes from the consequences of the mistakes, or the sound of one hand slapping, over and over again.

Rev. Dr. Ryland suggested that Lashbrook and her followers, simultaneously at war with eco-justice while writing grant proposals in its name, simply couldn’t produce a proposal honest enough to pass the smell test. He reflects on years of grant reading:

Just some things to think about when reading any request for money.

1. Follow the money and to whom does the money go to carry out the proposal.
2. Who are the primary actors and what is their track record in relationship to the purpose of the goals in the mission statement? What is their history before this new proposal was written?
3. What positions are mentioned in the budget and what are the qualifications listed?
4. Who is pushing this proposal the most??
5. Would you do this work if not for these public funds?
Words used today do not have the same meaning to everyone, even when English is used. Words like “rural,” “environment,” “development,” and “concern for the river” need to be defined in the acts of those using the terms.
Just listen to the words used by elected officials and those running for office.
As we have conversations with others we realize they live in very different realities and terms we use and understand are twisted and come back to bite us.
I am sure this is old stuff to you: the people may change and the words may be the same, but the motive and history of those involved is always there. If they look like skunks and smell like skunks, they usually are skunks. (a Ryland truism)
Rev. Dr. Bob Ryland


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.


Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
Stanislaus Natural Heritage Project
Subject: Minutes of June 14, 2007 East Merced Resource Conservation District Meeting by Telephone

Gwen Huff said letters were written to legislators by Pat Ferrigno. The Farm Bureau and Diedre Kelsey were OK with the grant. Huff asked that an emergency item (4a) be placed on the agenda because Ferrigno had written to the legislators, calling for a response from the EMRCD to Ferrigno’s letter.

They took a roll call vote.

On the call at this time: Gwen Huff, Cathy Weber, Karen Barstow, Glenn Anderson, Cindy Lashbrook Karen Whipp, Tony Azevedo, and Lydia Miller. Miller was never asked if a public member was on the phone.

Attempts were made by email and fax to get Bernie Wade on the call. Wade had called the wrong number and was put on indefinite hold. He joined the meeting late.

The purpose of the special meeting was a letter of support for the 4-H Wells Project.

Lashbrook, having just checked her email, brought up the need for EMRCD to sign on to the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition letter to the Governor about the Williamson Act. Sign on deadline was the next day. Weber said the board would like to see the letter.

Wade finally got on the call, requiring a briefing of all that had already happened.

After Huff told Wade about the need for a letter to the legislators to reply to Ferrigno’s letter, Wade asked, “When is this going to end?”

Lashbrook replied: “We’re at war.”

There was a discussion about the ingratitude of the Merced River Stakeholders. Wade recommended that the stakeholders should be cut out.

The board authorized the letter on the 4-H Wells Project, but didn’t authorize either a letter to legislators in reply to Ferrigno’s letter or the letter to the governor on the Williamson Act. Wade and Weber expressed irritation with being presented with 11th-hour decisions (referring to the Williamson Act letter).

Lashbrook brought up the idea of a means to streamline the authority process.

The board decided on an agenda item to ask the stakeholders how they wished to be involved with the EMRCD in the future.

Azevedo said he would be out of town for the board meeting on June 20. It was to be held at Golden Bi-Products Tire Recycling Co.. Barstow said the company had teleconferencing capability.

Submitted July 17, 2007
By Lydia Miller, president
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 10:50 AM
Subject: [POSSIBLE SPAM] Right Livelihood

This article - Right Livelihood - has been sent to you by
Dear Lydia, In doing a little soul-searching on why this type of energy is coming my way, I ran across this article. The spiritual part makes me a little uncomfortable, which probably means it is time to approach it. I do know that you know, or could if you wanted, that I have been working on cultural solutions for environmental problems for decades, and always vowed that when my kids didn't need much of my time, anymore, that I would do more community work. Do you b elieve that it is unethical to have careers in the fields that we have a passion in? Is there anyone trying to work within the system that you admire that I could learn from?I also know that I tend to criticize others for those traits that I see, but don't like, in myself (Human Nature...Ugh!!?!).I am sad that people that seem to have similar visions can't find ways to enhance each others' work.Later, Cindy

Spring 2001 Issue: Working for Life
Right Livelihood
by Matthew Fox

Any discussion of right livelihood has to address the following question: Is the work we
are doing good for the Earth and its inhabitants now and for seven generations into the

Much of our work today would flunk that test. The despoiling of the Earth's health by laying waste to forests, soil, waters, other species, ozone, diversity of plants - all this spells disaster for our species and most of the others with whom we share this amazing home we call Earth. Likewise, the despoiling of souls that goes on in many of our work places does not bode well for a sustainable future. Furthermore, the gap between the haves and have-nots has never been greater, and unemployment is a species-wide disgrace at a time when so much good work needs doing.

What is our work doing to the world? What is it doing to our souls? How can we make things better?

To make work into right livelihood, we must pay attention to just who we are as a species - our strengths and our weaknesses - for it all displays itself in our work. Consider, for example, that today's science is teaching us that each human has been given three brains: a reptilian brain, a mammalian brain, and an intellectual/creative brain.

The reptilian brain, what I call our crocodile brain, is by far the oldest. Crocodiles are win/lose creatures. The crocodile brain gives us our action/response quickness and operates our sexuality and our respiratory system as well. The worst expression of crocodile brain on the planet today has to be the global corporate consciousness that is willing to swallow whole the future of planet and citizens alike in a win/lose scenario
of corporate profit taking. This happens because our ancient crocodile brain is so closely linked to our most recent and most powerful intellectual/creative brain. This brain, so new on the planet, distinguishes us from other creatures. It is the reason our mothers suffered so in bringing us into the world: our brain is too big for the birth canal. This brain can choose to serve the heart or it can choose to serve greed and rapaciousness. With this brain we can create symphonies or we can create gas ovens to make our evil impulses more efficient.

What to do? It is time to tame the crocodile brain. Curiously, in the West, we have myths of killing the crocodile, such as St. George or St. Martin de Tours slaying the dragon. In the East there is a tradition of honoring the dragon, dancing with it, and giving it its due. Dancing with the dragon means befriending the reptilian brain, learning to pet it. This is done by ritual and also by meditation practices. Meditation teaches us to be at home with solitude, and solitude is a reptilian thing - reptiles like being alone, they do not bond. Every human has to learn to be at home with solitude, and this is learned by meditation practices.

The gift of compassion

Our second task is to couple the intellectual/creative brain more with the mammal brain than the reptile brain. Why the mammal brain? This brain is our brain for bonding. Mammals bond; reptiles do not. Mammals have breasts and uteruses; interestingly, the Hebrew word for compassion comes from the word for womb. Mammals introduced compassion to the planet. But of a limited kind. Dian Fossey, who lived among gorillas, never observed gorillas showing compassion to any non-gorilla. The same holds for Jane Goodall, who lived among chimpanzees. She found that chimpanzee compassion was limited to the chimpanzee nation alone.

We humans, who are part chimpanzee and mammal, are here to broaden the practice of compassion on this planet. Does this not explain why so many of our spiritual leaders - from Isaiah to Jesus, from Buddha to Lao Tzu, from Gandhi to Black Elk, from Chief Seattle to Martin Luther King, from Dorothy Day to Mother Theresa - were instructing us in one thing: How to be compassionate?

To be compassionate is to live out the truth of our interdependence. Compassion is not about feeling sorry for another. It is about so identifying with others that their joy is my joy and their pain is my pain, and consequently we do something about both. Compassion therefore leads to celebration on the one hand and to relieving pain and suffering on the other. "Compassion means justice," Meister Eckhart said six centuries ago, and he was right.

There will be no compassion if we cannot tame the reptilian brain. There will only be more win/lose energy, more greed and violence. Gandhi and King are examples of people who, in their nonviolent strategy, committed themselves to recycling the hatred of reptilian brain into love and awareness.

(The political monkey business that went on recently in Florida was less monkey than it was crocodile energy. The high voltage of win/lose energy being released there in the shadow of the Everglades with its morphic resonance of reptilian energy, seemed a very logical place for a political crocodile game to play itself out. And crocodiles they were, all over CNN and network TV.)

How do humans tame their crocodile brains? Meditation is probably the most effective way.

Two stories have come my way recently, both having to do with the workplace. Prison is the place where we generally dump the "losers" in the high-stakes game of win/lose capitalism; the prison-industrial complex is growing like no other industry these days. Two years ago, I learned about something remarkable happening at the biggest youth prison in America, one located outside of Los Angeles. The place had been a hell hole for years, with 600 prisoners in their late teens driven by gang violence within the prison and without. In desperation, I am told, the warden invited three Buddhist monks to teach the prisoners to meditate. At the time, 99 percent of the prisoners were Baptist or Roman Catholic (meaning probably Black or Hispanic) and they didn't know what a Buddhist monk was or what meditation meant. Gradually, however, they settled down to the experience and the energy of the entire place changed from being violent, us-versus-them, and win/lose to being a place of human respect. What did this change in a workplace cost?

Probably three bowls of rice daily for the Buddhist monks teaching meditation.

Meditation calms the reptilian brain, turning the crocodile into a kind of pet within us.

Don't underestimate the power of meditation.

I know a professor of engineering at a major US university who was despairing of academia's pathologies until he entered our university and got in touch with his own "right brain" through exposure to spiritual traditions and practices. Now he is organizing a conference for engineers in which they can rediscover their connection to mysticism, awe, and aesthetics. He has also chosen to go to tribes in the Amazon to help
them construct wells powered by solar energy.

So we can change even our most violent work places, called prisons, into humane places of existence through a practice called meditation. This practice calms the killer instincts in us and allows our more compassionate, communitarian, and bonding selves to emerge.

What if this kind of change in the work world were to spread to businesses, academia, politics, economic institutions, utilities, religions - in short to wherever humans work?

Such training ought to begin in grade schools. Education ought to acknowledge that we have three brains, not just an intellectual one. It ought to make room for creativity, and the essence of education ought to be the proper disciplining and releasing of our creative brains. Compassion begins in the heart with bonding (the mammal brain), but compassion extends to all beings with the help of the uniquely human
intellectual/creative brain.

Instead, in all the political posturing I have listened to about education, there seems to be one criteria: Who can promise the most exams for our kids. Exams do not train the mind for creativity. Education will not be renewed by more exams but by more focus on that which is uniquely human - our capacity for creativity. The crocodile brain, among other factors, is holding us back from our creativity. We must tame it to get to both compassion and creativity.

Education for life
We have to speak about education when we speak about right livelihood because educated people are destroying the Earth. Thomas Berry says most of the destruction of the planet is being accomplished by people with PhDs. Mahatma Gandhi, when his dream of freedom for his country was achieved, responded to the question, "What do you fear most?" with this answer: "The cold hearts of the educated citizens."

Has contemporary, post-modern academia made any strides in educating the cold heart and warming and melting it since Gandhi spoke these words over 50 years ago? I am afraid not.

The crocodile brain is alive and well in most of academia - uncriticized and unchecked.

The education industry seems incapable of critiquing itself. It needs alternative models.

This is why we started a new university in downtown Oakland five years ago, one that is committed to bringing "universe" back to university (i.e., cosmology as the center of the university) and bringing creativity alive in the students. Our doctor of ministry program focuses on bringing spirituality to the workplace. The 370 students who have joined the program in less than three years all feel a common lack in their previous training.

Whether they are engineers, business people, scientists, mental health workers, therapists, clergy, or artists, all are seeking spiritual practice and training. The most radical and indispensable way to achieve right livelihood is to change the way we train people for work. In our culture we call that education.

It is not enough to find peace. One must also make peace, and this cannot be done without justice. Spiritual practice and ethics must go together. The purpose of meditation is not to make the slavemaster more efficient, but to set in motion strategies and alliances of equality.

Right livelihood came home to me in Salina, Kansas, this past year, where I was visiting the Land Institute directed by farmer Wes Jackson. What I love so much about Wes Jackson is that behind that Methodist farmer's smile and sweet drawl there lies a wily, radical, and committed prophet of a farmer. He believes that we have been doing farming wrong for 10,000 years. Instead of turning the soil over every year and thereby inviting erosion and loss of soil, he is demonstrating that we could be farming by imitating the prairie, which creates soil rather than destroying it.

Wes' critique of his own livelihood gives me - and I hope the rest of us - permission to critique ours in an equally radical manner. I ask: Have we been doing education wrong for 10,000 years? Have we been doing religion wrong for 10,000 years? Have we been doing business wrong for 10,000 years? How about journalism and the media? In short, have we been doing work wrong for a long, long time?

Isn't it time to wake up? Time is running out. Our species will not survive if we do not commit to sustainability in its many forms - not only solar-driven energy sources but also solar-driven (as distinct from reptilian-driven) consciousness. We need to learn to breathe in and out the gift of healthy sunlight (which is literally the air we breathe) and not take it for granted. We need to ground ourselves, connecting to the Earth from which we come and to which we shall all return.

The despoiling of the Earth is not only ecocide; it is also suicide. The distractions we are fed daily by advertisers do not substitute for laying out an agenda of needed work as distinct from work that feeds greed and unsustainable consumerism. As Gandhi warned us, "there is enough for everyone's need, not for everyone's greed." Right livelihood begins with need. It ends with celebration.

Matthew Fox is founder and president of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California, co-chair of the Naropa University master's program in creation spirituality, and author of several books, including The Reinvention of Work.

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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."
--, 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

UC Merced Now Home To The Only Animal Research Facility In The Valley
By Sara Sandrik

- 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.

Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced vivarium's first residents move in...Victor A. Patton

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

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power,

Hearing on

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


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


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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

Fresno Bee
State air board chief is let go...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureau

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."

Fresno Bee
ARB official quits in air rift...E.J. Schultz

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."

Contra Costa Times
Thousands of cancer-stricken nuclear workers' claims languish...AP

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.

UC Merced cancer research gets a boost...Victor A. Patton

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.

Tracy Press
Supes vote to back bio-lab…John Upton

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 …

Capitol Notes
Former, And Future, Air Board Chair

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

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

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

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

Fresno Bee
Cardoza's ties divide voters. Democratic congressman often walks a fine line with conservative district....Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau

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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