State Government

Points of Order concerning the East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007

Submitted: Sep 25, 2007

To: East Merced Resource Conservation District Board of Directors

From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center; Protect Our Water; San Joaquin Valley Conservancy; Merced River Valley Association; Planada Association; Planada Community Development Co.; Le Grand Association; Stanislaus Natural Heritage

Re: Points of Order concerning the East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007

Date: Sept. 24, 2007

East Merced RCD Board of Directors: Via: email and Hand Delivered

POINTS OF ORDER

The East Merced RCD is not the Merced River Stakeholders, which are having its meeting at Washington School at this moment. The East Merced RCD is one Merced River stakeholder among many. In holding of this meeting at UC Merced, the East Merced RCD has greatly exceeded its statutory status as a legislative body and has illegally asserted authority over the Merced River Stakeholders. The East Merced RCD has no legal authority to hold a meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders. Gwen Huff, East Merced RCD staff/Merced Alliance Lower Merced River Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders facilitator, was not authorized by the Merced River Stakeholders to convene this meeting here at UC Merced while the stakeholders are meeting at the Washington School.

The meeting we are attending is an East Merced RCD meeting. The East Merced RCD board of directors is presently illegally constituted under CARCD Guidebook.

The East Merced RCD is a legislative body, whose board members are appointed by the county Board of Supervisors. According to the California CARCD Guidebook, the East Merced RCD is subject to the Ralph Brown Act governing public meetings.

The Merced River Stakeholders group, meeting presently at Washington School, is not a
legislative body, by agreement among stakeholders after years of discussion of governance.

This East Merced RCD meeting is violating the Brown Act in the following ways:

1. There are more than two board members of the RCD in attendance; the RCD board meeting agenda of September 26 contains action items concerning the Merced River Stakeholders; the combination of RCD board members attending this meeting under the false claim that it is a Merced River Stakeholders meeting and the action items these board members will vote on in two days, is a major violation of the Brown Act. This pattern, which has been going on for some time, constitutes a continual violation by the East Merced RCD of the Brown Act;

2. This East Merced RCD meeting we are now attending was improperly noticed: it was not posted at the RCD office; it was not posted on the Merced River Stakeholders website or the East Merced RCD website or the Merced River Alliance website;

3. This East Merced RCD meeting agenda is inadequately descriptive under the Brown Act for a public agency agenda;

4. The East Merced RCD facilitator has no authority to unilaterally decide on the
location for a Merced River Stakeholder meeting in the face of stakeholder opposition;

5. The East Merced RCD had no authority to vote in its last meeting to suppress public
documents produced by Merced River Stakeholders because that suppression violated the
state RCD Guidelines and constituted several violations of the Brown Act;

6. The East Merced RCD is making decisions about the Merced River Stakeholders at their monthly board meetings in multiple violations of the Brown Act;

7. It is our understanding from the RCD board meeting of August 15, that an item will be
introduced into this evening's RCD meeting by RCD board member, Cathy Weber, to protest the heading of a recent letter that successfully protested an RCD grant proposal. This agenda item would be illegal on its face because the RCD board, at the same meeting, voted unanimously on an item not on its agenda, to suppress distribution of this public letter to members of the Merced River Stakeholders for their next meeting. It is illegal because it violates multiple Brown Act provisions for agenda formation.

The Merced River Stakeholders now meeting at Washington School openly participated in the process surrounding the denied grant proposal, sharing our concerns and openly distributing material expressing our opposition. The East Merced RCD, the Lower Merced River Watershed coordinator and the Merced River Alliance continually suppressed public information and public documents concerning not just the grant proposal but the future of river itself.

For the record, Merced River Stakeholders will deal with violations of the California Law on Conflict-of-Interest at a later date.

Because this meeting is not legally compliant, it should adjourn now.

Agendas of East Merced RCD and Merced River Stakeholder meetings and e-mails pertaining to the unlawful topics discussed in this letter are included below:

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 12:07 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Greetings Stakeholders –

As the current facilitator of the Merced River Stakeholders (funded through current grants to the East Merced Resource Conservation District [EMRCD]), I am sending out a message from the EMRCD Board of Directors. Information for this message was compiled by me, as the MRS facilitator and staff of EMRCD, and reviewed and approved by those EMRCD directors present at the May EMRCD Board Meeting, and other EMRCD staff.

Sincerely,
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

The purpose of this letter is to clarify some logistics in the writing and submitting of our grant proposal to develop a Lower Merced River Watershed Management Plan. A summary of that proposal, in narrative form, is attached to this email.

While we have had a very strong measure of support throughout the community, the response from regular attendees at the Merced River Stakeholders group has been mixed. The members in opposition feel very strongly about certain points, which will be addressed further down, while others are very supportive. The EMRCD is at the service of all stakeholders in Eastern Merced County, and while we appreciate that not everyone is in agreement about this grant proposal, we feel that it will be valuable for our community and that there is ample support to justify proceeding with the submission of a full proposal.

At our regular Board meeting Wednesday May 23rd, at which the following Board members were present, Glenn Anderson, Cathy Weber, Karen Barstow and Bernard Wade, the Board unanimously passed the following resolution, with comments:

RESOLUTION OF THE EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT TO SUBMIT WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN GRANT APPLICATION
Cathy Weber I support this grant because there have been gaps of information to make recommendations and “full-picture” choices for the Merced River Watershed. I see a need for this plan to help decision makers and citizens make informed decisions about conservation issues in the watershed.
Karen Barstow I’m a farmer and landowner and I support the proposal because it is in line with State expectations of bringing all of us together on an issue that is vital to all of us; California’s most critical issue-water.
Glenn Anderson I’m a 72 year-old farmer, landowner, life-long appreciator of the river, and someone who has watched the abuse of the river. Our district has now begun a journey of community appreciation of this river and we need to continue this work to expand our community involvement.
Bernie Wade I’m submitting my support of this proposal. It is the imperative continuation to preserve, conserve and enhance the Merced Watershed. It is important that we continue scientific studies and analysis to preserve this natural resource.
Glenn Anderson moved to adopt resolution 2007-02 to submit the Watershed Management Plan grant application.
Cathy Weber seconded motion. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.

We would like to include here the Mission and Purpose, Goals and Objectives of the Merced River Stakeholders (MRS), as stated in the Merced River Stakeholders Group Charter, adopted January 27, 2003.

Mission and Purpose
Provide a collaborative forum for coordination and gathering and sharing of information about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action. Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

Goals and Objectives
Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance. Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

Additionally, from MRS meeting minutes of April 23, 2003;
The Governance Committee gave a report in which they stated that they are not in agreement that a formalized voting mechanism is necessary to conduct stakeholder meetings.

The EMRCD is a strong supporter of the Merced River Stakeholders, as evidenced by board member participation in MRS meetings, as well as long-term financial support to facilitate these meetings. We also recognize that the MRS has no mechanism for voting and cannot, as a group, support or oppose any item brought before them. They may, however, provide input. Indeed, MRS input can greatly improve projects that are within the watershed.

It is in this spirit that EMRCD has sought input from the MRS group on the development of the Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan. We have also sought input from other stakeholders within the watershed that do not attend the MRS meetings.

Regarding concerns from those in opposition:
MRS not notified before concept proposal submitted
We would like to acknowledge that earlier notification of the grant opportunity to the MRS would have been possible. At the January MRS meeting the grant opportunity was unknown to EMRCD and, therefore, could not have been communicated at that meeting. When this information was known February 13th, between MRS meetings, communication could have been made to stakeholders notifying them of the funder’s priorities, the deadline for grant submission and the intent of EMRCD to develop a concept proposal. No formal endorsement could have been gained - as the MRS has no mechanism for this. But input on direction could have been sought at that time. However, the MRS group was first informed of the process at the March 19th meeting. At which point a concept proposal had been developed and submitted by the deadline of March 16th, three days prior to the MRS meeting.

As there was allowance for modification from the concept proposal to the final proposal (should the EMRCD be invited to advance to a full proposal), the intention was to gain input from the stakeholders on what modifications could be made to improve the direction and content of the proposal. There was a constraint on what changes could be made. CalFed (the funder) had identified the Merced River as a high priority for developing a Watershed Management Plan for this particular round of funding. Therefore, the proposal needed to retain the basic direction of developing a management plan. But input on modifying the concept proposal, before writing and submitting a final proposal, was sought of MRS. As there are many stakeholders in the watershed beyond those who meet at the regular MRS meeting, and the EMRCD is at the service of all in Eastern Merced County, EMRCD was soliciting input from the MRS at this point, not asking for approval or endorsement, as there is no mechanism for that. We regret that not informing the MRS of the grant opportunity in February has caused some to feel excluded from the process. In the future, as long as EMRCD and MRS continue to have a working relationship, the EMRCD will inform the MRS before a concept proposal is submitted, with every effort to allow time to gather input for developing the proposal.

Staff Positions
The EMRCD acknowledges that neither job descriptions nor applicant qualifications were drafted for the concept proposal. This was not a requirement for submission of the proposal. However, these job descriptions will be in place before the final proposal is submitted. Additionally, posting of job opportunities with the EMRCD will be made if awarded the grant and as they become available.

Conflict of Interest?
An EMRCD associate director (who, in this case, is on the planning commission) has no voting rights and as such cannot vote to support or oppose any grant. There is no impropriety in an EMRCD board member, whether full or associate, being on the planning commission. Nor is there any impropriety in an EMRCD associate board member taking a staff position with the EMRCD.

Most, if not all, entities that rely on grant funding to further their mission and goals, pursue funding with their staff time, in order to bring the funds to their organization. Such is the case for EMRCD. The grant funds that are brought in are obligated to be spent on specific tasks laid out in the contract with the funding agency. The funding agency reviews, very closely, the progress of the grant and how the funds are spent. Members of the EMRCD board serve as such without any monetary compensation, and would receive none should the Watershed Management Plan be funded. There is no conflict of interest.

For more information on the authority under which the resource conservation districts operate, you may go to the following website: http://www.carcd.org/yourdistrict/div-9.htm

We thank you for your interest in resource issues of Eastern Merced County and look forward to continuing to work with you on watershed conservation issues.

Sincerely,
EMRCD Board of Directors

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Lydia Miller' ; brwade@aol.com ; 'Gail Bettencourt'
Cc: sdragovich@santafeaggregates.com
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:01 AM
Subject: RE: Proposed Meeting

Thank you very much, Pat, for the invitation to your home and for organizing the points of discussion. I believe they are well laid out. I would also like to suggest inviting Cathy Weber, as she has been an active stakeholder as well as a board member of EMRCD. Two board members may be present and not violate the Brown Act.

My availability is somewhat limited mid-September, but I am available September 9, 10, 11 and possibly the 12th. The next day I am leaving for a wedding in New York and will return on Monday the 17th.

Gwen
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'SJRRC' ; 'Raptorctr' ; 'Bernard Wade' ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Sharon Dragovich'
Cc: 'Teri Murrison'
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:55 PM
Subject: RE: MRS Agenda

Pat –

Yes – the agenda item “MRS and Grant Development” is intended to encompass any aspect of this whole issue. I hope that the amount of time will be adequate. Also, we can - and probably will –discuss expectations of a facilitator to convey the perspective of stakeholders to the EMRCD and other organizations.

Cathy Weber requested that at least some of the discussion happen in the first 45 minutes of the meeting because she has a conflict in her schedule with another important meeting. Since Cathy has been so involved with the stakeholders, I would like to honor that request. It is a bit awkward, breaking it up that way, though.

Regarding your offer to cover printing costs of the Raptor Center’s letter, thank you. However, we can cover those expenses. Since the meeting is dedicated almost completely to related MRS issues, I can bring copies to the meeting. The board has directed me not to distribute the letter with the meeting announcement, but it can certainly be available at the meeting. And you are free to circulate it before hand, if you wish. Please let me know if you plan on bringing copies so that we do not duplicate our work.

Lastly, we will be meeting in a conference room at UC Merced that holds 50 people. That should do. And thanks for refreshments.

Gwen
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Cathy Weber
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: Brwade@aol.com ; Pat Ferrigno ; Karen L Whipp ; Lydia Miller
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:01 PM
Subject: MRS meeting

Dear Gwen,

I just returned home and have found many messages on my email. I'm very sorry if I, as an individual and not the EMRCD, have added to problems within the MRS member community.

Please set the agenda in a way that is best for all the members to deal with important issues. I am sorry that I won't be at the full meeting; but as a member of the Library Advisory Commission, I have a greater obligation to attend a 7:00 meeting in downtown Merced. In my request that the agenda item dealing with the MRS and EMRCD roles be placed early, I had no idea that it would create any type of problem.

I will come to the first part of the meeting and hope I have the opportunity to make one comment before I need to leave, a comment that is separate from the agenda item discussion. I know we have allowed other members to do so. But, please, place the agenda item at whatever time on the agenda that will make it most effective.

I am sorry that I won't be there for what I think is a very important discussion. I believe I have some perspective, being a member of both the MRS and the EMRCD. I care about both organizations deeply. I was always in favor of the MRS having more autonomy and decision making power with a process for it. I wanted to develop a plan for that through the governance committee process.

I am deeply concerned and saddened by what I feel is a misunderstanding. I know the EMRCD board members care a great deal about the resources of the river within our job of caring for and educating about all the resources of eastern Merced County. I feel that we have, unwittingly, been made villains when we thought that what we were doing all along was above-board and for the benefit of the County.

Please don't let the Board take the blame for the agenda item placement, or you for honoring my request. The fault for that is all mine. Again, I made my request, because I care about the whole discussion. I do hope these building misunderstandings can be cleared so we can meet together and support river restoration.

Cathy Weber

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 6:03 PM
Subject: MRS Meeting Reminder at UC Merced

Dear Stakeholders -

You may have recently received an email from SJRRC (San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center), Lydia Miller's organization, with a meeting announcement for the Merced River Stakeholders this Monday, Sept 24th at Washington School. That meeting is not sponsored by the East Merced Resource Conservation District and the announcement was not forwarded by me, as facilitator. I am the current facilitator, hired by the EMRCD to conduct the regular Merced River Stakeholders meeting on the 24th at UC Merced. The proposed presenters at the Washington School meeting have not been contacted by Ms. Miller and neither Karen Whipp, Cindy Lashbrook, Cathy Weber, Nancy McConnell nor I will be there. We will be attending the Merced River Stakeholders meeting at UC Merced. You will find the agenda below.

We have been told we can use the parking lot up at the top of the hill, very close to the library where we are meeting. Parking will be free in that lot after 5pm. Detailed directions are at the bottom of the agenda.

It is regretful that you are subject to the confusion generated by the disagreements between a few members of the Merced River Stakeholders, myself and the EMRCD. At our Sept 24th meeting we will be discussing future facilitation of the MRS, as the EMRCD funding to do this will be finished this calendar year. I hope that you will be able to attend this important meeting. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
Merced River Stakeholders
September 24, 2007
6:00PM-8:30PM
Kolligian Library, Room 232, UC Merced
Nearby and Free Parking

DRAFT AGENDA

6:00 Introductions, Minutes Approval, Agenda Review

6:10 Updates
Merced Irrigation District

6:20 Merced River Stakeholders Facilitation
Group Discussion

7:10 BREAK

7:25 Merced River Stakeholders and Grant Development
Group Discussion

7:50 Merced County Planning Department Jeff Wilson
Jeff will provide us with an overview of balancing gravel mining with other natural resource interests in Merced County.

8:15 Announcements

8:25 Schedule Next meeting and wrap up
(Plus/Delta, next meeting speakers, refreshments)

For more information, please contact Gwen Huff at
(559) 497-5033 or gwenhuff@comcast.net

DIRECTIONS
From Highway 99, take the “G” Street exit and cross town to Yosemite Avenue and turn right onto Yosemite. Turn left on Lake Road and proceed approximately one mile to the campus. Turn right into the first campus entry (Scholars Lane) and take this up the hill to the end of the road. Make a left by the Round-A-Bout. The library and its parking lot are here. Park anywhere there are available stalls. Here is a link to a campus map https://www.ucmerced.edu/maps/campus/ Once you’ve entered the library, take the elevator to the second floor – we will be meeting in room 232.

Past meeting minutes can be found at www.emrcd.org/stakeholders

NOTICE OF REGULAR MEETING

OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

USDA Office
Conference Room
2135 W. Wardrobe Avenue
Merced, CA 95340

Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Visit us on the web at www.emrcd.org
Call EMRCD for more information 209-723-6755
Fax EMRCD for more information 209-723-0880
To be added to the EMRCD agenda mailing list, please send a letter to the RCD at the above address by the 3rd day of the month preceding the meeting.

1. INTRODUCTION

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

ITEM PRESENTER

* 4. Consent Agenda

# a. Minutes of the July 18, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
# b. Treasury Report (July and August ‘07)
# c. DOC II and Prop 13 Grant Updates

5. Correspondence/Information Only

a. Letters
1. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
# b. Meeting Notices and Reports
1. CSDA e-NEWS July 23, 2007
2. CSDA e-NEWS July 30, 2007
3. California Watershed e-News July 30, 2007
c. Newsletters and Flyers (available to review at meeting)
1. CSDA Alliance Brochure
2. CSDA Conference Oct 1-4 2007
3. San Joaquin River Restoration Program
4. NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee Agenda
5. NACD Forestry Notes (June 2007)
6. NACD Forestry Notes (July 2007)
7. MED&R-Merced Developments (Winter 2007)
8. Shell Pipeline Company LP Safety Information
d. Office Election Resolution Ballet Information for Insurance Board

For information only.

6. Written and Oral Updates

a. NRCS Update Malia Hildebrandt
b. Watershed Coordinator Update (DOC II) Gwen Huff/
Cindy Lashbrook

c. Merced River Alliance (Prop 13) Update Karen Whipp

* 7. Planning for Annexation

For discussion and possible action.

8. Board Member Participation with Merced County Landuse
Issues and General Plan Updates

Board members come prepared to discuss current land use
issues and ways to be involved.

9. Old Business

a. Board Member Recruitment
b. Other Old Business

* 10. Priority Action Topic for Next EMRCD Agenda

For discussion and possible action.

11. Next EMRCD Board Meeting

The next EMRCD Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, Sept 19, 2007 in the USDA Office Conference Room,
2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA.

* 12. Adjournment of the Regular EMRCD Board Meeting, August 15, 2007

* Action
# Attachment
+ Enclosure
IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, IF SPECIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT STAFF AT 209-723-6755. NOTIFICATION OF 48 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING WILL ENABLE THE STAFF TO MAKE REASONABLE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE ACCESSIBILITY TO THIS MEETING.

Date Agenda Posted August 10, 2007
Please remove after August 16, 2007__

Meeting Minutes of the
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT
BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGULAR MEETING
Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Conference Room, 2135 W. Wardrobe Ave., Merced, CA 95340
Call EMRCD for more information (209-723-6755)

Directors Present: Cathy Weber, Glenn Anderson, Bernard Wade, Bob Bliss
Directors Absent: Karen Barstow, Tony Azevedo
Others Present: Karen Whipp, EMRCD contract personnel
Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD contract personnel and associate director (non-voting member)
Gwen Huff, EMRCD contract personnel
Malia Hildebrandt, NRCS staff
Ken Leap, Interested Citizen
Bill Hatch, Interested Citizen

Item #
President Bernie Wade called meeting to order at 1:20 pm.

1. INTRODUCTIONS
Done.

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS
None.

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA
None.

4 CONSENT AGENDA
Minutes of the July 18, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
Treasury Report June and July
DOC and Prop 13 Updates
Cathy Weber moved to approve the consent agenda.
Bob Bliss seconded the motion.
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

5. CORRESPONDENCE/INFORMATION ONLY
Letters
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
b. Meeting Notices and Reports
CSDA e-NEWS July 23, 2007
CSDA e-NEWS July 30, 2007
California Watershed e-News July 30, 2007
c. Newsletters (available to review at the meeting)
CSDA Alliance Brochure
CSDA Conference October 1-4, 2007
NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee Agenda
NACD Forestry Notes (June 2007)
NACD Forestry Notes (July 2007)
MED&R-Merced Developments (Winter 2007)
Shell Pipeline Company LP Safety Information
d. Office Election Resolution Ballet Information for Insurance Board
So noted.

Following the review of the information items, Cathy Weber moved to have the September EMRCD Board meeting on September 26, 2007.
Seconded by Glenn Anderson.
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

6. WRITTEN AND ORAL REPORTS
Natural Resources Conservation Service Report, Malia Hildebrandt (A written report was submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting)
Watershed Coordinator--DOC Report, Gwen Huff (A written report was submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting)

During the report Gwen Huff stated that Lydia Miller asked her to send a rebuttal letter against the DWR grant proposal to all of the Merced River Stakeholders.
Bob Bliss moved that Gwen Huff contract is with the East Merced Resource Conservation District is not authorized to send the letter.
Seconded by Glenn Anderson
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

Merced River Alliance--Prop 13 Report, Karen Whipp and Cindy Lashbrook (Written reports were submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting.)

7. PLANNING FOR ANNEXATION
An oral report was given.

8. BOARD MEMBER PARTICIPATION WITH MERCED COUNTY LANDUSE ISSUES AND GENERAL PLAN UPDATES
There was board member discussion.

9. OLD BUSINESS
a. Board recruitment: There was brief discussion
b. Other business: no discussion
10. PRIORITY ACTION TOPICS FOR THE NEXT EMRCD AGENDA
The Priority Topic for next month will be to discuss mechanism for immediate calls to action, discussions for funding sources and review the Strategic Plan.

11. NEXT MEETING
The next EMRCD is scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 1:00 pm in the USDA Office Conference Room, 2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA

12. THE MEETING OF THE EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS WAS ADJOURED AT 4:00 P. M.

/S/
KAREN L. WHIPP
EMRCD BOARD CLERK

NOTICE OF REGULAR MEETING

OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

UC Cooperative Extension
Classroom
2145 W. Wardrobe Avenue
Merced, CA 95340

Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Visit us on the web at www.emrcd.org
Call EMRCD for more information 209-723-6755
Fax EMRCD for more information 209-723-0880
To be added to the EMRCD agenda mailing list, please send a letter to the RCD at the above address by the 3rd day of the month preceding the meeting.

1. INTRODUCTION

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

ITEM # PRESENTER

* 4. Consent Agenda

# a. Minutes of the August 15, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
# b. Treasury Report
# c. DOC II and Prop 13 Grant Updates

5. Correspondence/Information Only

a. Letters
1. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
# b. Meeting Notices and Reports
1. CSDA e-NEWS September 4, 2007
2. CSDA e-NEWS September 10, 2007
3. CSDA e-NEWS September 17, 2007
4. US Department of the Interior Submittal of
Fiscal Year 2008 Program Proposals
5. California Association of Resource Conservation
Districts – San Joaquin Valley Agenda for the Fall
Area Meeting
6. Understanding the Ralph M. Brown Act
c. Newsletters and Flyers (available to review at meeting)
1. CSDA July – August 2007 Magazine
2. National Woodlands Magazine
3. Noxious Times
4. Forestry Notes
5. Great Valley News
6. Conservation Connection
7. EcoAnalysts
8. NACD News and Views
9. Forestland Steward
10. Water Conservation News

For information only.

6. Written and Oral Updates

a. NRCS Update Malia Hildebrandt
b. Watershed Coordinator Update (DOC II) Gwen Huff/
Cindy Lashbrook
c. Merced River Alliance (Prop 13) Update Karen Whipp

* 7 Recording EMRCD Board Meetings Cathy Weber
action.
For discussion and possible

*# 8. Procedures for Requesting Public Information Karen Whipp

Recommend the EMRCD Board adopt procedures
for requesting public information.

*# 9. CAL-Card Contract Addendum Merced, CA 95340 Karen Whipp

Recommend the EMRCD Board authorize the EMRCD
Board President to sign the contract addendum and resolution.

* 10. Response letter to Department of Water Resources in Karen Barstow
Regard to Letters of Opposition of Grant Proposal

For discussion and possible action.

* 11. Future Relationship Between EMRCD and Merced
River Stakeholders

For discussion and possible action.

* 12. Mechanism for Immediate Calls to Action

For discussion and possible action.

* 13. Potential Funding Sources

For discussion and possible action.

14. Old Business

a. Planning of Annexation
b. Board Member Recruitment
c. Other Old Business

* 15. Priority Action Topic for Next EMRCD Agenda

Review the EMRCD Strategic Plan.

16. Next EMRCD Board Meeting

The next EMRCD Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 in the USDA Office Conference Room,
2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA.

* 17. Adjournment of the Regular EMRCD Board Meeting, September 26, 2007

* Action
# Attachment
+ Enclosure
IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, IF SPECIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT STAFF AT 209-723-6755. NOTIFICATION OF 48 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING WILL ENABLE THE STAFF TO MAKE REASONABLE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE ACCESSIBILITY TO THIS MEETING.

Date Agenda Posted September 21, 2007
Please remove after September 26, 2007__
-----------------------

ORAL STATEMENT ON ITEM #1 OF THE AGENDA
East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007, 6 p.m.

POINTS OF ORDER

I am Bryant Owens, speaking on behalf of the Planada Community Association, and other signatories to the suppressed letter of opposition Merced River Stakeholders filed against the recent East Merced RCD grant proposal

I am summarizing a letter I am submitting to make the legal record.

The meeting we are now attending is illegal and should be adjourned and any river stakeholders present should go to the Merced River Stakeholders meeting sponsored by the Bettencourt Family and other river property owners at Washington School.

For these reasons and others, the meeting we are attending is illegal:

1. The East Merced RCD is a member of the Merced River Stakeholders group, not its leader
in any sense;

2. The East Merced RCD has no authority to decide on the agenda or location of a Merced River Stakeholders meeting, except as the stakeholders agree. The Merced River Stakeholders disagree and are at this moment holding their meeting at the Washington
School;

3. The East Merced RCD board of directors, appointed by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, is at present an illegally constituted legislative body;

4. The Merced River Stakeholders is not a legislative body, by common stakeholder decision after several years of discussion on its governance;

5. This illegally constituted legislative body has committed multiple violations of the California Association of RCD Guidebook and the Ralph Brown Act in the past, including the calling of this meeting and future actions already agendized on the next East Merced RCD board meeting;

6. Several individuals representing the East Merced RCD present at this meeting are committing violations of the California Law of Conflict of Interest.

To make the legal record, I am submitting our full letter and supporting documents to the East Merced RCD on the illegality of the meeting we are presently attending.

We urge the East Merced RCD board to adjourn this meeting.
----------------------------

PROTEST AGAINST APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF JULY MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS MEETING
East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007, 6 p.m.

David Corser, Planada Community Association, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, et al. and representing other Merced River Stakeholders

The minutes of the July Merced River Stakeholders meeting cannot be approved here tonight because:

1. The only body authorized to approve Merced River Stakeholders minutes is the Merced River Stakeholders, meeting at this moment at Washington School.
2. This is an East Merced RCD meeting, not a Merced River Stakeholders meeting.
3. East Merced RCD is a legislative body governed by the Brown Act.
4. It must include in these minutes the minutes of the last East Merced RCD meeting, which does not include any reference to this unlawful meeting here.
5. It must also include its agenda and minutes pertaining to Item #6 in its last meeting, during which it took an unlawful vote to suppress a public letter of protest from Merced River Stakeholders to an East Merced RCD grant proposal, which the state agency rejected because of that and other letters and petitions from Merced River Stakeholders against it.
6. If East Merced RCD board members and staff and staff of the Merced River Alliance assert that they constitute a subcommittee of the East Merced RCD that has unlawfully convened this present meeting, they must show in East Merced RCD minutes how their authority was generated by board action.
7. They cannot do this because the board explicitly tabled discussion of establishing a subcommittee at its last meeting. East Merced RCD August meeting notes clearly shows this.
8. Therefore, we are attending a meeting unlawfully convened by the East Merced RCD pretending to be a Merced River Stakeholders meeting (when that meeting is going on simultaneously at the Washington School) and the East Merced RCD cannot even justify this meeting in terms of its own authority because it has not authorized “subcommittees” or the like of the board to act between its regular meetings.
9. By convening this meeting at UC Merced against the express wishes of the largest group of stakeholders, the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator has abdicated her authority as the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator.
10. Why have East Merced RCD staff and board members been harassing Merced River stakeholders with a barrage of emails and phone calls to attend this unlawful meeting? Because this is a naked power play by disgruntled East Merced RCD board members and staff and the Merced River Alliance to silence the Merced River Stakeholders.
11. To defend the health of the Lower Merced River, Merccd River Stakeholders wrote publicly to oppose the East Merced RCD grant proposal. Although the best evidence of spiteful reaction is convening this unlawful meeting, there is other evidence: the Merced River Alliance newsletter no longer includes any mention of the Merced River Stakeholders; and the Stakeholders’ independent website was discontinued and its domain is up for sale.
We recommend this unlawful meeting be adjourned immediately.
----------------------

From: gwenhuff@comcast.net
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net
Subject: Moving on
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 12:18:58 -0700

Dear Stakeholders -

For those of you not at last nights meeting at UC Merced, I would like to let you know that I am moving to Sacramento and will be resigning from the East Merced RCD and as facilitator of the Merced River Stakeholders group.

The East Merced RCD has funding to facilitate one more MRS meeting, to be held November 19th. After that time, current funding from EMRCD grants to facilitate the stakeholders will cease. At the November meeting you will have the opportunity to set a course for the stakeholders and decide how you would like to move forward with this change of circumstances. I hope that you will be able to attend this important meeting. At the direction of the MRS, we are seeking a facilitator for that meeting and the meeting notification will be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, some members of the MRS have decided to form a separate organization and are using the name Merced River Stakeholders. This will, no doubt, be causing some confusion with meeting notifications. Please note that communications from the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) and it's staff (Cindy Lashbrook and Karen Whipp) will relate to the MRS meetings that are facilitated by the EMRCD.

It has been a pleasure working with you for the last year and half. The MRS is a very special and important group. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734

| »

Merced River Stakeholders protest letter to East Merced Resource Conservation District grant proposal and a chonology of e-mails

Submitted: Sep 19, 2007

Stefan Lorenzato
Watershed Program Manager
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9617
(916) 651-9607 fax
stefanl@water.ca.gov

Kristyne Miller, Grant Manager
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9621
kmiller@water.ca.gov

Megan Fidell, Watershed Program Staff
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9619
mfidell@water.ca.gov
Dan Wermiel, Watershed Program Staff
Resources Agency - CALFED Watershed Program June 4, 2007
(916) 445-5398
dwermiel@calwater.ca.gov Via :Email & Fax
Re: Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan grant proposal submitted by East Merced Resource Conservation District

Dear Mr. Lorenzato, Ms. Miller, Ms. Fidell and Mr. Wermiel,

We are writing, as members of the Merced River Stakeholders, to protest a proposal submitted by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) called “Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan.”

This letter includes:

1) Objections to the substance of the conceptual application;
2) Objections to the process by which the EMRCD, a public agency, bypassed the Merced River Stakeholders in drafting and approving this grant against significant opposition;
3) A statement of the next steps stakeholders will take should this grant be approved;
4) Attached Merced River Stakeholders’ chronology of correspondence on this proposal.

1. Objections to the substance of the conceptual application

· Where are the traditional partners that have been involved in every Merced River project and application to date: Merced Irrigation District, Merced River Stakeholders, California Department of Fish and Game, for example?

· “…and a consultant (as yet to be selected) experienced in facilitation and the Central Valley Blueprint process – a process similar to the development of this plan.” It is highly probable a consultant has already been selected, so why the mystery?

· The proposal states that a plan will be developed to address recreational opportunities. The Merced watershed is almost completely privately owned (and those owners are well represented on the Merced River Stakeholders.) “Recreational opportunity” is a very contentious issue on the Lower Merced River.

· How can this grant fund a management plan for the Merced River Watershed and manage lands outside that watershed? The vast majority of vernal pool habitat in Eastern Merced County is NOT in the Merced River Watershed. This fact is well known to watershed owners and to Merced Irrigation District (not a partner to this grant proposal). This problem may be addressed by another grant EMRCD is proposing, to NFWF, as part of their match. But, this is not clear.

· If the Merced River Stakeholders are as the proposal presents us, an unduplicated model of consistent public/private interaction, why aren’t the stakeholders partners in the grant?

· Six thousand dollars sounds like an inflated amount to publish a plan.

· Some stakeholders, even after reading the concept proposal, were misled by EMRCD communications into thinking the proposal submitted on June 1 was not the final proposal and that it could be changed later to reflect stakeholders' concerns. EMRCD made no copies of the June 1 proposal available to stakeholders prior to submission. Merced River Stakeholders that aren't members of the EMRCD board do not know what proposal the EMRCD voted unanimously to support. If it was the concept proposal, stakeholders raised numerous objections to it and some told EMRCD they would strenuously oppose it.

· “And many involved will have the authority to implement parts of the plan, such as federal, state and local agencies or Municipal Advisory Councils.” EMRCD staff evidently does not know that MACs have no authority. They are appointed in unincorporated towns by their district supervisors to serve strictly as advisory groups. This is a strange blank spot in EMRCD staff knowledge, considering that the EMRCD board president serves on one MAC and an EMRCD associate director is a county planning commissioner.

· “The success of this project will dependant upon connections with other projects, the academic and scientific community and agencies in the watershed. The management team will devote a significant amount of time to gathering data on existing conditions within the watershed in order to provide baseline information to the work groups.” Hasn’t this been done in the literature review in the MRS Restoration Plan? It just needs updating to add the studies completed since 2002. Why will it take a significant amount of time? Existing conditions are part of the Merced River Restoration Plan. Beyond the watershed, we doubt if that work has been done (in the vernal pools area). However, a great deal of mapping of vernal
pools has also been done by agencies such as the University of California and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

· Items in the budget section:

o data collection: 650 hrs collecting and compiling background data for the Plan. @ $40 hr =$26,000. That would be EMRCD… for all the projects we have seen, Stillwater has compiled an extensive inventory of existing studies through 2002. What other data has to be collected?
o Purchase1 laptop computer ($1,500).

o Scientific Consultant will compile and synthesize data $22,547 What does this mean? If EMRCD collects and compiles it, why does Scientific Consultant then compile it again (and synthesize it)?

o Training: Attend facilitation & technical training workshops and conferences. 2 EMRCD personnel x 2 trainings ea per year = 12 trainings X 20 hrs pr workshop/conference = 240 hrs @ $40 hr = $9,600. Plus registration $1,400, meals $360, mileage $2,000 and lodging $1,200. Elsewhere in the proposal, it is mentioned a professional facilitator was going to be used.

· “The management team will gather and synthesize existing information on the watershed – including, but not limited to Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan, Merced Alliance Biological Assessment, USFWS Endangered Species Recovery Program, ongoing fish and water supply studies by Merced Irrigation District, TMDLs, Wildlife and Rare Plant Ecology of Eastern Merced County’s Vernal Pool Grasslands, DWR and UC Merced information on climate change.” The last we knew, the Merced doesn’t have a TMDL. Stillwater should have all the data noted above except Vernal Pools and maybe UC Merced data. They should have a good idea of what DWR has. Again, this grant is for the Merced watershed unless they expand it (or unless they don’t get called on it).

· UC Merced and the Upper Merced River Watershed Council/Mariposa Resource Conservation District both submitted concept proposals to CALFED in this funding cycle. Neither were accepted. In this context, the EMRCD proposal is fragmentary, is straying out of the Lower Merced River Watershed into Eastern Merced vernal pool land that is not in the river watershed, and cannot result in a comprehensive watershed planning tool because it relied on other conceptual proposals that weren't accepted.

· What is the need for watershed coordinator, grant manager, and education/outreach coordinator?

· “Many of the partners and agencies will internalize the ideas and knowledge acquired during the workgroup and planning process, making connections to their institutional strategic plans and budgets.” We would appreciate it if EMRCD staff

· will provide us with their methodology for quantifying the results on this statement.

· “An important component of this project will be the development of concept proposals that would address the needs identified in the plan. With concept proposals in place, landowners, nonprofits and agencies will have the core concepts for implementation ready to use and can more easily acquire funding, permits and/or partners for important work. The business community will become involved stakeholders, recognizing that they have more likely to fund further meetings and projects.” Huh?

· “Many of the concepts introduced during this process may become part of the Merced County General Plan Update currently in process (earliest expected completion date, Spring 2009). Several of Watershed Plan participants are involved in Focus Groups for the County General Plan Update, including EMRCD board members. If the Watershed Plan proposal is funded, the process and the Plan have great potential to influence the County General Plan Update.” Again, we would appreciate the EMRCD staff providing the methodology by which they plan to implement this political fantasy. The Merced River Stakeholders are on record as opposing the Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan being treated as a political policy document locally, regionally or for state or federal use.

· Merced River Stakeholders were denied review of the final proposal. What we see in the concept proposal doesn’t give us a clear picture of the roles or staff, outcomes, or processes by which the tasks will be accomplished. We cannot imagine the CALFED review panel will approve this proposal.

· Finally, our question to CALFED is: Why aren’t the Merced River Stakeholders the preferred vehicle of partnership and consensus at this point?

2) Objections to the process by which the EMRCD, a public agency, bypassed the Merced River Stakeholders in drafting and approving this grant against significant opposition

To: Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) and East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) Board of Directors
From: Lydia Miller, Merced River Stakeholder, and president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Refutation of RCD watershed coordinator’s version of events surrounding two grant proposals
Date: May 23, 2007

This letter will refer to a chain of emails attached below and to notes taken at the March 19 and May 21 MRS during which staff presented two grant proposals for MRS support. Staff’s recollections of events, put forth in her email of May 23, are inaccurate and misleading. Because of the timing, they appear to be last-ditch efforts to influence the RCD board vote this afternoon.

Comments made at the March 19 meeting were not included in the later version of the CalFed grant. Nor were they included in the minutes of the March 19 meeting, which staff admitted at the May 21 meeting.
These comments included:

1) Starting up a Technical Advisory Committee again, after the TAC approach has already proved unsuccessful in the stakeholder process because it separates agencies from other stakeholders and creates a top-down decision-making hierarchy;
2) San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and UC/Great Valley Center experience: there are stakeholders who don’t support either and neither organization has participated in the MRS process;
3) Partners and co-sponsors of these grants have never attended MRS meetings. Staff who created these grants did not recognize local stakeholders except to come to them at the eleventh hour, present them a grant, tell them it couldn’t be changed, and request MRS support;
4) The Merced River has not political voice on the county Board of Supervisors because Supervisor Kelsey recuses herself on all issues involving the river;
5) The California Department of Fish and Game and USFWS Endangered Species Sac. has no involvement in these grants;
6) According to staff, the document to be produced by the CalFed grant will become a part of the Merced County General Plan Update and become planning policy; the partners and co-sponsors on the proposal are not representative of real stakeholders on the river;
7) Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan is not a policy document either, despite repeated attempts of county special interests to make it one; it remains a fluid document;
8) MRS, composed of agencies, landowners, businesses and environmental representatives, has been involved in the stakeholder process since 1999; the partners listed on these grants have not been involved in MRS;
9) MRS did not support the grant concept proposal; MRS will oppose it; it was presented by staff at the March 19 meeting as a done deal in its present form that could not be altered (comments on it weren’t even included in the minutes of the meeting).

At the May 21 meeting of MRS, some new issues were brought out:

1) There at least two grant proposals being submitted and there may be more; they may duplicate tasks; there is no coordination among them – the topic of coordination is mentioned, but not explained;
2) The recipients of funding for staff work are not identified, but it is apparent there will be significant monetary advantage from the grants to RCD, Stillwater, and the Merced River Alliance.
3) The orderly way to proceed on the consultant portion of the grant would be to put the consultant’s tasks out to bid; it appears here that the consultant may have been the primary grant writer;
4) RCD has proving itself on four occasions to be unable to administer past grants; four grants have been frozen due to RCD lack of accountability;
5) Thirty-to-40 concerns were written down by a facilitator who was not invited by MRS at the May 21 meeting; none of these have been incorporated in to the grant nor has their been any attempt to incorporate them into the document the RCD board will be asked to approve today;
Only four stakeholders among the MRS participants had read the grant. None of the four RCD board members had read it. Staff picked and chose who got to see it.

Staff claims the RCD will make all information about tasks in the grants available to the public through its website. RCD staff got off to a bad start: the grant proposals were not posted on its website.
Staff attempts to railroad the MRS have the appearance of corruption.
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and its associated organizations cannot support these grant proposals.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
San Joaquin Raptor / Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

3) A statement of the next steps stakeholders will take should this grant be approved
If approval of this grant proceeds, we request a formal hearing to protest further what we consider to be a misuse of public funds. Considering that public funds are involved and there is substantial controversy about the efficacy, propriety and failure of public process by the applicant public agency contained in this proposal concerning vital natural resources in our county, we suggest that the project, if approved, would require CEQA and NEPA review.

We believe the project is legally actionable and are considering our legal options at this time.
We request notification of your decision on the grant. In the event that you approve the grant, we request that you provide us with all material supporting your reasons for that approval.

4) Attached Merced River Stakeholders’ chronology of correspondence on this proposal. (See attachment “MRS Chronology”)
Respectfully,

Lydia M. Miller Steve Burke
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center Protect Our Water (POW)
P.O. Box 778 3105 Yorkshire Lane
Merced, CA 95341 Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax (209) 523-1391, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net/sjrrc@sbcglobal.net

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
P.O Box 732
Merced, CA 95341
209-723-9283 ph & fax
sjvc@bigvalley.net

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor /Wildlife Rescue Center Protect Our Water
Merced River Valley Association The Stevinson Citizen’s Group
Planada Association Le Grand Association
Planada Community Development Co. Stanislaus Natural Heritage
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT
Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net
cvsen@bigvalley.net
--------------------------------

----- Original Message -----
From: Four Seasons Ag. Consulting, Inc.
To: 'Raptorctr' ; 'Gwen Huff'
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; 'Cathy & Don Weber' ; 'Bernard Wade' ; 'Glenn Anderson' ; 'Whipp' ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com ; 'SJRRC'
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 10:58 PM
Subject: RE: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Dear Lydia,
The grant was finished and sent off to Sacramento at 12:30 pm today, at which time, Gwen, turned her attention to Saturday’s Merced River Fair, which she is responsible for, and the Heartland Festival. Plus she was away from her home computer. I am sure she will send it to you Monday when she is back in her office. There was no slight intended, just the reality of multiple responsibilities.
Hope to see you here, at the Merced River Fair, again this year.
Thanks, Cindy

From: Raptorctr [mailto:Raptorctr@bigvalley.net]
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 1:55 PM
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow'; Cindy Lashbrook; Cathy & Don Weber; Bernard Wade; Glenn Anderson; Whipp; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us; doubletacres@aol.com; SJRRC
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal
Importance: High

To: Board of Directors, East Merced Resource Conservation District
Date: June 1, 2007
Re: Request to review final copy of grant proposal
Members of the Board,

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, EMRCD staff informed stakeholders that changes might be made in the grant proposal that you approved several days later. We have been waiting to view the final document. EMRCD staff has not made it available to stakeholders who have consistently requested to see it.
We are disappointed that the EMRCD board and staff did not give us the opportunity review the proposal before it is submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com ; SJRRC
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 1:55 PM
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal

To: Board of Directors, East Merced Resource Conservation District
Date: June 1, 2007
Re: Request to review final copy of grant proposal
Members of the Board,

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, EMRCD staff informed stakeholders that changes might be made in the grant proposal that you approved several days later. We have been waiting to view the final document. EMRCD staff has not made it available to stakeholders who have consistently requested to see it.
We are disappointed that the EMRCD board and staff did not give us the opportunity review the proposal before it is submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Karen L Whipp
To: Raptorctr ; Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 5:08 PM
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Cindy,

We have names that you can us as contact names to see about getting these letters of support If you want I will email them to you later today! ok.

Karen

Raptorctr wrote:
Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

KL Whipp & Co. Inc.
"providing a voice to those in need"
Karen L. Whipp, President
P.O. Box 1426
Merced, CA 95341-1426
Tel: 209.723.6755
Fax: 209.723.0880
email: kwhipp@klwhippandco.com
website: www.klwhippandco.com

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Jon Kelsey
To: SJRRC ; Gwen Huff ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; Marsh Pitman ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory' ; Whipp ; Glenn Anderson ; Bernard Wade ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Mary Furey ; Cindy Lashbrook ; 'Karen Barstow' ; Malia Hildebrandt ; Merced Farm Bureau ; Mike Pellicano ; Tim Johnson ; watershed@sti.net ; watershededucator@sti.net ; Robbyavilla@aol.com ; Koch ; William Loudermilk ; Madelyn T. Martinez ; Rhonda Reed ; Teri Murrison ; William Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 4:14 PM
Subject: Re: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal

Deidre 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. 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.
Deidre

----- Original Message -----
From: SJRRC
To: Gwen Huff ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; Marsh Pitman ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory' ; Whipp ; Glenn Anderson ; Bernard Wade ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Mary Furey ; Cindy Lashbrook ; 'Karen Barstow' ; Malia Hildebrandt ; Merced Farm Bureau ; Mike Pellicano ; Tim Johnson ; watershed@sti.net ; watershededucator@sti.net ; Robbyavilla@aol.com ; Koch ; William Loudermilk ; Madelyn T. Martinez ; Rhonda Reed ; Teri Murrison ; William Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 1:56 PM
Subject: Re: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal
To: Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) and East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) Board of Directors
From: Lydia Miller, Merced River Stakeholder, and president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Refutation of RCD watershed coordinator’s version of events surrounding two grant proposals
Date: May 23, 2007

This letter will refer to a chain of emails attached below and to notes taken at the March 19 and May 21 MRS during which staff presented a grant proposal for MRS support. Later, we discovered there was a second grant proposal that was never submitted to MRS for review or support. Staff’s recollections of events, put forth in her email of May 23, are inaccurate and misleading. Because of the timing, they appear to be last-ditch efforts to influence the RCD board vote this afternoon. As staff stated in her May 16 email response, staff is presenting MRS as a full participant and supporter of these grant proposals.

Lastly, the idea of substituting the Management Plan process for the MRS meetings was not a good one. I heard that loud and clear. I was happy to get that feedback – it reminded me that the MRS meetings are, indeed, valuable for those who come. So, when changing the concept proposal to the final proposal, we will be adding in the MRS meetings. We cannot add anymore to the budget, so we will just have to work things out to accommodate this. Most probably we will hold the MRS meetings on the same day as we hold the logistics meetings to save on costs and it will most likely change to once a quarter instead of every other month. At the MRS meetings we will be able to summarize progress on the Management Plan, but attendees will have had to do their homework on the website because we will want time for group input, not spending too much time bringing everyone up to speed. At these MRS meetings we will ask the group for feedback on the process and the direction, as well as encouraging continued participation in the workgroups.
Oh – and when the workgroups have finished meeting and a draft plan is put together based on their meetings, this draft plan will be circulated to the stakeholders, as well as all work group participants, to see that it accurately reflects their experience. Review from them will shape the final project. -- Email from Gwen Huff to Lydia Miller, May 16, 2007

This comment by RCD staff ignores the fact that consistent stakeholders, who have been in the process since its beginning in 1999, were not involved in the drafting of the proposals, have basic objections to the proposals and will oppose the funding publicly.

The EMRCD Directors have now been made aware of the lapse in soliciting MRS comments and are resolved to rectify that failing. Canceling the current proposal signals termination of the MRS and continued scientific research on the Merced River. Then we are out of the loop and CalFed can award the money to a candidate regardless of content. Best Regards, Bernie

RCD President Bernie Wade's comment in his May 22 email is irresponsible, inaccurate and typical of what the east Merced public has come to expect from the RCD.

1) RCD cannot rectify the failure to solicit MRS comments in time;
2) Cancelling the current proposal does not signal termination of the MRS or continued scientific research: MRS is a volunteer organization that can dispense with the services of a paid coordinator; and according to the primary grant writer, Maia Singer, (during May 21 MRS meeting) there is other grant money available to implement scientific research on the river.

Comments made at the March 19 meeting were not included in the later version of the CalFed grant. Nor were they included in the minutes of the March 19 meeting, which staff admitted at the May 21 meeting.

Some of these comments included:

1) Starting up a Technical Advisory Committee again, after the TAC approach has already proved unsuccessful in the stakeholder process because it separates agencies from other stakeholders and creates a top-down decision-making hierarchy;
2) San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and UC/Great Valley Center experience: there are stakeholders who don’t support either and neither organization has participated in the MRS process;
3) Partners and co-sponsors of these grants have never attended MRS meetings. Staff who created these grants did not recognize local stakeholders except to come to them at the eleventh hour, present them a grant, tell them it couldn’t be changed, and request MRS support;
4) The Merced River has no political voice on the county Board of Supervisors because Supervisor Kelsey recuses herself on all issues involving the river;
5) The California Department of Fish and Game and USFWS Endangered Species Sac. has no involvement in these grants;
6) According to staff, the document to be produced by the CalFed grant will become a part of the Merced County General Plan Update and become planning policy; the partners and co-sponsors on the proposal are not representative of real stakeholders on the river;
7) Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan is not a policy document either, despite repeated attempts of county special interests to make it one; it remains a fluid document;
8) MRS, composed of agencies, landowners, businesses and environmental representatives, has been involved in the stakeholder process since 1999; the partners listed on these grants have not been involved in MRS;
9) Some MRS members did not support the grant concept proposal; they will oppose it; it was presented by staff at the March 19 meeting as a done deal in its present form that could not be altered (comments on it weren’t even included in the minutes of the meeting).

At the May 21 meeting of MRS, some new issues were brought out:

1) There at least two grant proposals being submitted and there may be more; they may duplicate tasks; there is no coordination among them – the topic of coordination is mentioned, but not explained;
2) The recipients of funding for staff work are not identified, but it is apparent there will be significant monetary advantage from the grants to RCD, Stillwater, and the Merced River Alliance.
3) The orderly way to proceed on the consultant portion of the grant would be to put the consultant’s tasks out to bid; it appears here that the consultant may have been the primary grant writer;
4) RCD has proving itself on four occasions to be unable to administer past grants; four grants have been frozen due to RCD lack of accountability;
5) Thirty-to-40 concerns were written down by a facilitator who was not invited by MRS at the May 21 meeting; none of these have been incorporated in to the grant nor has their been any attempt to incorporate them into the document the RCD board will be asked to approve today;
6) Only four stakeholders among the MRS participants had read the grants. None of the four RCD board members had read them. Staff picked and chose who got to see it.

Staff claims the RCD will make all information about tasks in the grants available to the public through its website. RCD staff got off to a bad start: the grant proposals were not posted on its website.

Staff attempts to railroad the MRS have the appearance of corruption.

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and its associated organizations cannot support these grant proposals because staff has already shown it is ignoring significant critical input by MRS members.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
-----------------

CHRONOLOGY OF E-MAILS

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Lydia Miller' ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory'
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 8:35 AM
Subject: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal

Pat and Bernie –

I just wanted to add a little bit to this discussion on the point about gathering input from stakeholders. The effort may or may not have been adequate in everyone’s opinion, but below you will find my recollections on what was done.

At the March MRS meeting printed copies of the concept proposal were made available, for anyone who cared to have one.

During the meeting a presentation was made outlining the proposed grant and request made for input from stakeholders. Comments were made and incorporated.

Upon notification that we had been asked to submit a full proposal, the following email went out to the entire MRS:

Stakeholders –

Today we received the very good news that our concept proposal was accepted to go to the next, and final round. You may remember we talked about this at the last MRS meeting and you said you wanted to give more input to the final proposal. I will call all the stakeholders who have been frequent attendees and we will go over the project as it now stands and see where we can modify to make it better. If you are not a regular attendee, and you want to participate in this process, please let me know. I will be happy to call you, too.

Also, at the next MRS meeting, May 21, our primary order of business will be to go over the proposed project and get input from the stakeholders as a whole. I hope that you will make an effort to be there. I’ll be sending out more meeting details later.

I am pleased that we were asked to go forward – I think the project has potential to coordinate many of the diverse efforts and interests in the Merced Watershed.

Following this, contact was made with all those who regularly attend stakeholder meetings, soliciting their input. Those contacted by email only were also sent a summary of the concept proposal. The text of such emails is as follows:

As you will remember, at the last MRS meeting we talked about the upcoming grant proposal. I’m attaching a summary of the draft proposal to help jog your memory.

There were some comments that I received that we will be incorporating into the final proposal, they are:

· Keep the Merced River Stakeholders meetings going (we will – may have to go to once a quarter)
· Review the focus areas for the work groups (looking for your input on this)
· Be sure to include more stakeholders so all organizations are working together (any organizations you know of that we should contact?)
· Be careful that the management team isn’t separate from stakeholders (may rename this to the “Logistics Workgroup” rather than “Management Team” as the bulk of work will be compiling and sorting information from the workgroups, and outside sources, as well as setting up and facilitating workgroup meetings. The real work will take place in the workgroups. Additionally, the minutes of the “Logistics Workgroup” will be posted with all other work group meetings on the website that will be set up for this and the meetings will be open to all)

If you would like to talk to me or email me about this issues, or others that come up for you, regarding the grant proposal, I am very anxious to have as much input as possible from every interested (and even not so interested) party.

Remember – this is due in Sacramento by June 1st and the sooner we get any comments, the more likely we will be able to incorporate them. Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

One stakeholder requested the full concept proposal and this was sent. Two stakeholders responded to this request for input, Glenn Anderson who provided suggestions on workgroup content, and Sharon Dragovich stating;

As of now, my family’s position is the same as at the last meeting. We do not believe that this grant is consistent with the direction which the property owners (those who make their living along land contiguous to the river) have supported in the past and we cannot support it.

We believe the appropriate focus of the Merced River Stakeholders Group should be (1) oversight of projects which impact the River and (2) education. We expect to be present and to participate in the discussion on Monday night. The Grants timing is unfortunate for farmers (this is everyone’s busy season) and it is doubtful that we will be able to get them to attend this meeting; we will keep the property owners group up to date on the discussion through 1:1 contact and mailings.

Sharon’s family was contacted (Pat Ferrigno and Mike Bettencourt) by phone and personal visit in order to hear their concerns and attempt to shape the proposal to better represent their interests.

Lastly, the May MRS meeting devoted a significant portion of the time to the concept proposal.

Respectfully submitted - Gwen
------------------

From: Pat Ferrigno [mailto:pferrigno@elite.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 4:16 AM
To: 'Brwade@aol.com'
Subject: RE: May 22nd Update

Bernie: Nothing in our previous comments was meant to impugn your sincerity or good faith in dealing with EMRCD or MRS and I apologize to you if that was your interpretation. The fact that you must book-end meetings with a 125 mile commute is solid evidence of your commitment; I’m not sure how many of us would make that sacrifice.

There is an appearance of impropriety, a sense that the process has become inbred. The entire MRS meeting was agenda-ed as a discussion of the grant application—but a copy of the grant was supplied only to those who specifically requested it (Lydia Miller and Sharon Dragovich). The grant application was written, reviewed, and approved by the same committee and the members of that committee appear to be the direct financial beneficiaries of the grant.

Actually, staff for this project has never been formally identified nor have their qualifications to represent the diverse watershed interests been described. There were no job descriptions nor qualifications outlines included in the grant application we received.

The #1 Project Priority stated in this grant is to “Broaden the participation of Federal, State, or local government agencies with watershed partnerships”. How many of us have had our lives/property improved through participation of the government? With the shortage of water which is looming in the future of California and the upcoming (2012?) change in the MID relationship with the River, we are all very sensitive; several of the identified partners in this grant are already “water shopping”. These groups have never been involved in watershed activities on the Merced; what criteria was used to select partners? What is the objective of the partnership? These are valid questions which were never addressed/answered.

Comments made at the meeting espoused the thesis that MRS has no standing because it is “only” a consensus group; therefore there was no imperative for this grant to be presented to MRS. Does it not seem hypocritical for this project to be excepted from review when we have, as a group, scrutinized and withheld endorsement of other projects?

No one wants MRS to die for lack of funding; if necessary, we will keep it going through purely volunteer efforts until we can identify a funding source. MRS is the only forum for interaction and the exchange of ideas; it provides the opportunity of face-to-face meeting for those who have nothing in common except MRS.

We don’t know the answer to this grant funding cycle dilemma; the copy of the grant which we reviewed at MRS does not represent the views of many of the stakeholders. Does EMRCD have the right to proceed with attempting to obtain grant funding for a project which lacks broadbased grassroots support? Thank you for acknowledging the awareness which EMRCD now has regarding this situation. We no longer feel that it is necessary to submit a formal letter to you.

Best regards,
Pat Ferrigno, Mike Bettencourt, Sharon Dragovich
--------------------------

From: Brwade@aol.com [mailto:Brwade@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 5:08 PM
To: pferrigno@elite.net
Subject: May 22nd Update

Dear Pat, A case well explained. I appreciate your comments and pointing out the consultations we had missed. I thought the MRS had been notified and had received copies of the Grant Proposal. There has never been on my part any attempt to ignore MRS or any other concerned input. I think the Directors saw this as a continuation of River Studies already underway and we were merely complying with the CalFed request for a
Grant Proposal. I know the time limit for submittals has been extremely close. The Vernal Pools Grant proposal had to be submitted in a little over 48 hours.

The EMRCD Directors have now been made aware of the lapse in soliciting MRS comments and are resolved to rectify that failing. Canceling the current proposal signals termination of the MRS and continued scientific research on the Merced River. Then we are out of the loop and CalFed can award the money to a candidate regardless of content. Best Regards, Bernie

PS. Myself, and the Directors I know, have never received any compensation for our
participation in the EMRCD even though we are legally entitled to mileage fees.
In fact, we have contributed out of pocket to make up a short fall.
PPS. Pat, Please feel free to forward to this to the CC: of your letter.

----- Original Message -----
From: Pat Ferrigno
To: Brwade@aol.com
Cc: gwenhuff@comcast.net ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Lydia Miller' ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory'
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:26 PM
Subject: RE: EMRCD

Dear Bernie:

We were very disappointed with the discussion regarding the EMRCD grant application at the Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) meeting on Monday night. The conflict of interests present in the entire situation are disconcerting: the facilitator for MRS is applying for a grant under the auspices of EMRCD which will be reviewed by the EMRCD board which includes the MRS co-facilitator; plus the MRS facilitator did not acknowledge the importance of the MRS reviewing the concept grant before submission even though this is what we have perceived as the role of MRS since its inception. And, the RCD will receive the overhead allocation in this grant by providing oversight, which oversight will be provided by the RCD Board which includes beneficiaries of the grant, which beneficiaries include a member of the Planning Commission.

Bernie, I don’t have to be an attorney to know that this isn’t good; there has to be some Federal statute about the fox guarding the henhouse. I don’t think that is what the regulators have in mind when they talk about transparency!

Our aggregate project went under the microsope of MRS scrutiny for six months of meetings; your tailings project has been on the agenda many times. It is mind-boggling that the facilitator(!) has so little respect for the role of MRS that she chose to simply ignore that forum. The excuse that the time schedule did not allow review is a non-starter: Gwen has made multiple contacts with Lydia Miller and with members of our family by telephone and e-mail (and even an unannounced visit to my brother’s home) in her quest to garner after-the-fact support for this grant; the same avenues were available and would have had more success before the concept proposal was submitted.

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you that we will oppose this grant application with all of the resources available to us.

You will receive our formal letter of opposition prior to the meeting. We would appreciate our position being noted in the minutes.

Thank you.

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Raptorctr'
Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:07 AM
Subject: RE: Merced River Grant Proposal

Hi Lydia –

Thanks for the response and I will answer your questions in order.

What is the role of the Merced River Stakeholders' Group in this East Merced Resource Conservation District proposal?

There are several roles. First would be participation of individual members of the MRS in the work groups. That is where an understanding of topic areas will come from, as well as identifying needs and determining future direction. The fact the stakeholders are willing to come to meetings, demonstrates an active interest in the river and they will be critical to the work group process.

Secondly, all the information from the workgroups, including the logistics planning and background information gathering, will be posted to a website that is interactive. Most people won’t be willing or able to make most meetings, but they can stay current and add in their information through the website. Merced River Stakeholders members will again be really important to have participating in that.

Lastly, the idea of substituting the Management Plan process for the MRS meetings was not a good one. I heard that loud and clear. I was happy to get that feedback – it reminded me that the MRS meetings are, indeed, valuable for those who come. So, when changing the concept proposal to the final proposal, we will be adding in the MRS meetings. We cannot add anymore to the budget, so we will just have to work things out to accommodate this. Most probably we will hold the MRS meetings on the same day as we hold the logistics meetings to save on costs and it will most likely change to once a quarter instead of every other month. At the MRS meetings we will be able to summarize progress on the Management Plan, but attendees will have had to do their homework on the website because we will want time for group input, not spending too much time bringing everyone up to speed. At these MRS meetings we will ask the group for feedback on the process and the direction, as well as encouraging continued participation in the workgroups.

Oh – and when the workgroups have finished meeting and a draft plan is put together based on their meetings, this draft plan will be circulated to the stakeholders, as well as all work group participants, to see that it accurately reflects their experience. Review from them will shape the final project.

How much funding is left for Stakeholders' meetings?

Right now the MRS meetings are funded through our DOC grant, which ends next month. The May meeting will be the last one to be funded by that grant. From then until May of next year the funding will come from the Merced River Alliance Project. Though not specifically named in the grant, there are hours available for “building the Alliance” and the functioning of the MRS is very important for that. Also, there is soon to be another grant proposal out for watershed coordinator work – a continuation of the DOC grant work. We will be applying for it as soon as it is out and we will be asking for continued funding of the stakeholders.

How much money is being budgeted in the proposal for Stakeholders' meetings?

We haven’t gotten that far yet. The concept proposal didn’t have any money budgeted for stakeholder meetings, but that will change when we do the final proposal. We are still working on it, but the thinking is that we will move enough money that way to be sure that there will at LEAST be a quarterly MRS meeting. If we get more funding, we can continue to have meetings every other month.

Would you send a copy of the NFWF grant?
It is attached

Lydia Miller

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 3:04 PM
Subject: Re: Merced River Grant Proposal

Gwen,

What is the role of the Merced River Stakeholders' Group in this East Merced Resource Conservation District proposal? How much funding is left for Stakeholders' meetings?
How much money is being budgeted in the proposal for Stakeholders' meetings?
Would you send a copy of the NFWF grant?

Lydia Miller

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Lydia Miller ; Lydia Miller
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2007 4:16 PM
Subject: Merced River Grant Proposal

Hi Lydia –

I just left you a phone message, and here is the follow-up. As you will remember, at the last MRS meeting we talked about the upcoming grant proposal. I’m attaching a summary of the draft proposal and a full draft as well, to help refresh your memory.

There were some comments that I received that we will be incorporating into the final proposal, they are:

1. Keep the Merced River Stakeholders meetings going (we will – may have to go to once a quarter)
2. Review the focus areas for the work groups (looking for your input on this)
3. Be sure to include more stakeholders so all organizations are working together (any organizations you know of that we should contact?)
4. Be careful that the management team isn’t separate from stakeholders (may rename this to the “Logistics Workgroup” rather than “Management Team” as the bulk of work will be compiling and sorting information from the workgroups, and outside sources, as well as setting up and facilitating workgroup meetings. The real work will take place in the workgroups. Additionally, the minutes of the “Logistics Workgroup” will be posted with all other work group meetings on the website that will be set up for this and the meetings will be open to all)

I would like to talk, or email, about these issues, or others that come up for you, regarding the grant proposal. I am very anxious to have as much input as possible from every interested (and even not-so-interested) party.

Remember – this is due in Sacramento by June 1st and the sooner we get any comments, the more likely we will be able to incorporate them. Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net ; Hicham Eltal ; Jean Kiel ; Jean Okuye ; Jeannie Habbin ; Jeff McLain ; Jeff Wilson ; Jim Genes ; JoAnne Armstrong ; Joanne Karlton ; Joe Mitchell ; John Shelton ; Jon Kelsey ; Kazi Rasheedi ; Ken Jensen ; Kevin Faulkenberry ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; Lydia Miller ; Maia Singer ; Marc Epstein ; Marna Cooper ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; Mary Ward ; Michael Rood ; Michelle Cuningham ; Mike Bettencourt ; Mike Gallo ; Molly Flemate ; Nancy McConnell ; Pam Buford ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; Pat Brantley ; Pat Ferrigno ; Peggy Vejar ; Rob Root ; Ronnie Grisom ; Rudy & Hope Platzek ; Scott Stoddard ; Scott Turner ; Sharon Boyce ; Steve Simmons ; Tami Cosio ; Tom Grave ; Urla Garland ; Virginia Mahacek ; Zooey Diggory
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 10:29 AM
Subject: FW: Merced River Mgt Plan Grant Proposal

Stakeholders –

Today we received the very good news that our concept proposal was accepted to go to the next, and final round. You may remember we talked about this at the last MRS meeting and you said you wanted to give more input to the final proposal. I will call all the stakeholders who have been frequent attendees and we will go over the project as it now stands and see where we can modify to make it better. If you are not a regular attendee, and you want to participate in this process, please let me know. I will be happy to call you, too.

Also, at the next MRS meeting, May 21, our primary order of business will be to go over the proposed project and get input from the stakeholders as a whole. I hope that you will make an effort to be there. I’ll be sending out more meeting details later.

I am pleased that we were asked to go forward – I think the project has potential to coordinate many of the diverse efforts and interests in the Merced Watershed.

See you soon!

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

| »

The real Merced River Stakeholders agenda, time and place

Submitted: Sep 18, 2007

Merced River Stakeholders Meeting

September 24, 2007

6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Washington School

4402 W. Oakdale Road, Winton

AGENDA

6:00 Introductions, Minutes Approval, Agenda Review

6:15 Updates

Merced Irrigation District Ted Selb

Merced County Planning Department Jeff Wilson

Grant Reporting

DOC II: Watershed coordinator update:

Reports from Gwen Huff, Cindy Lashbrook

Prop. 13: Merced River Alliance:

Reports from Cathy Weber, Cindy Lashbrook, Karen Whipp, Nancy McConnell

Props. 50 and 84 if applicable

6:30 Grant Discussion

Protest letters to EMRCD grant proposal (please refer to attachments)
California Public Records Act requests regarding existing grants in which MRS is "partnered"
Letter to suspend public grant-fund releases until relationship with MRS and EMRCD/Merced River Alliance/Watershed Coordinator is clarified
Support/non-support of EMRCD
Continued Facilitation of the Merced River Stakeholders
MRS grant development
EMRCD/MRS website
Merced River Alliance newsletter

Announcements

Next meeting date

Refreshments will be provided by the Bettencourt family and can be accessed at any time during the meeting. There will be no break.

Past meeting minutes can be found at www.emrcd.org/stakeholders

Produced by Stakeholders for Stakeholders

MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS

MISSION STATEMENT

Provide a collaborative forum for coordination, and gathering and sharing of information

about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River Watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems, and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action.

Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

GOALS

Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance.

Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes, and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

| »

Behind the curve

Submitted: Sep 07, 2007

Politics attracts all sorts. In fact the personalities in politics are probably as complicated as a number of the systems in nature. However, politics never resembled a Sunday school class.

One of the many rough distinctions one can make about people in politics is between those who read and those who don't.

The other day I happened to be in a meeting in a distant town in which a small disagreement broke out between someone who reads and someone who doesn't. The one who doesn't read was talking about his long friendly chats with a local land-use official. The fellow who reads documents countered, saying that documents indicate the land-use official has been lying in his teeth for months.

"You're just ahead of the curve," the jawboner replied, dismissively.

The north San Joaquin Valley is now the most notorious region in the nation for foreclosures stemming from our red-hot speculative real estate boom. The nation itself is notorious for having started a world-wide credit crisis, stemming from bad subprime loans. North San Joaquin Valley land-use authorities, cities and counties, were enabling partners in this global scam all the way. If it hadn't been for a few lawsuits, they would have done more.

A whole lot of fine print went unread. But the people who wrote it knew what they were doing.

Now, city, county and state officials, probably under panicked pressure from bankers, plan to do something about it. They are behind the curve. They didn't read the documents. They were told by a number of people who do read documents -- which would not include their newspapers -- that this was going to happen. They were told. They were warned. They arrogantly dismissed all the warnings because they didn't come from the developer bought-and-sold McClatchy Chain.

Now, from so far behind the curve they hope you will not be able to see who they are, they gently nudge the barn door, which will be stuck wide open at least until these individuals are thrown out, some into cells if wheels of justice still grind here.

We are supposed to applaud their responsible reforms? They prey upon the public's belief in government, which is a good belief. They follow the Bush line that any criticism of politicians and policies of the existing government is unpatriotic and anti-government and, of course against "our sacred American Way of Life."

The American Way of Life is not this corrupt, it is not this irresponsible. It does not depend on urban sprawl or even NASCAR. Our government has not always lied to us like this much. Corrupt public officials have been sent to prison. The government did not fall. In fact, it got better. But, government around here is beginning to look like a pork barrel full of bad apples.

Now these same elected officials and "planners," who have profited from the boom, expect the people to believe they can "reform"? What contempt they have for the public they have injured on behalf of a small group of finance, insurance and real estate special interests in these northern San Joaquin Valley counties.

Is it deserved? Perhaps. Even now, groups of the usual suspects representing the usual groups of official citizens, refuse to read documents and continue to allow themselves to be flattered by politicians and planners that meeting and talking makes all the difference, when in fact it has never made any difference in land-use planning around here. These are the professional citizens who live in mortal fear that if they get close enough to "the curve" waves will appear. In this, they are abetted every step of the way by the McClatchy Chain. How can a story involving a policy on commercial development fees to be submitted to a city council five of seven of whose members have real estate licenses be reported with a straight face?

This Merced story looks like a pretty, fallen cottonwood leaf floating on a dairy lagoon. There is not one word about the employment commercial development would bring to a city where unemployment is again rising. In the Modesto story, at least the reader can catch the scent of fear and aggression in the general air.

Badlands editorial board
---------------

9-7-07
Merced Sun-Star
Developer perks may be on the chopping block...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13964798p-14524813c.html

Take your handout requests elsewhere.
That's the message the Merced City Council could soon send to builders if it approves a new policy banning discounts on commercial development fees.
The Planning Commission approved the policy Wednesday night; the City Council is scheduled to consider it Sept. 17.
The policy would "make it clear that the city is not inclined to entertain requests for financial incentives for commercial development and ... refrains from negotiating impact fees on an individual basis."
In other words, no more special deals, discounts, breaks or rebates.

Modesto Bee
Toss book on growth, report urges...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/61359.html

Study would put planning in state lawmakers' hands.
California's air would be cleaner if city and county leaders would stop making bad decisions on where to build houses and stores, according to a new state report.
Poor development decisions also contribute to global warming, according to the California Energy Commission's study.
"The Role of Land Use in Meeting California's Energy and Climate Change Goals" makes the extraordinary recommendation that legislators mandate regional growth plans that could be used to create a statewide growth plan.
That could mean stripping land-use decisions from tunnel-visioned city and county leaders who would lose one of their most important powers.
"There must be a concentrated and collaborative process to identify where, and in what way, long-term growth should and should not occur in the state," the staff report reads. The document also urges new studies on how tax laws facilitate lousy planning.
Proposition 13, embraced by California voters in 1978, holds down property taxes but inadvertently promotes sprawl, the report found.
The same decision-makers during the past three decades introduced the phenomenon of long commutes by providing inexpensive housing far from jobs, according to the report.
Study sounds familiar theme
Carol Whiteside, president of the Modesto-based Great Valley Center, said leaders can craft "back to the future" plans by regularly calling for grocery stores, for instance, within new housing projects. Children chauffeured to school should have the option of walking, she said.
"In many ways, this requires a change of culture," Whiteside said. "A lot of people grew up that way. It's back to the future."
The report is among several technical documents to be compiled in the 2007 Integrated En-ergy Policy Report, scheduled for review in November by en-ergy commissioners. They would send it on to legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger, who would issue a response within three months. The report grew out of a 2005 Schwarzenegger edict and last year's Assembly Bill 32, both of which target emissions reduction.

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Stressors

Submitted: Sep 07, 2007

State officials and water contractors said the pumping reductions would do little to help the 2- to 3-inch-long, silver-colored fish, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
"Clearly the judge is focusing on a particular stressor in the delta," Snow said. "There are so many other stressors in the delta system that we still have to address."
In court, lawyers for the state and federal governments and water contractors argued that water pumping was only a minor part of smelt's record decline. They also pointed to invasive species, toxic runoff, wastewater dumping and an antiquated plumbing system in the delta.But when he made his ruling, Wanger said the "the evidence is uncontradicted" that the pumps hurt the smelt and "the law says something has to be done about it."
...Sacramento Bee, 9-6-07

Yes, it does appear that the "stressors" on the Delta Smelt are not limited to the huge increases in pumping since the 2002 Colorado River agreement and the Colorado Plateau drought have cut back some water from Southern California. However, while the Hydraulic Brotherhood is very good at scattering dots, they are perhaps deliberately bad at connecting them.

For a start, if curtailment of pumping caused less acreage of the selenium-laced west side to be irrigated, that would cause some lessening of toxic wastes that end up draining back into the Delta, at the moment through a ditch formerly known as the San Joaquin River (under another federal court order to restore flows of fresh water below the Friant Dam).

But, when we consider that reducing pumping from the Delta by roughly one third during a state drought of unknown duration would also affect water supplies to urban Southern California, other stressors appear--right in the state Capitol itself. If finance, insurance and real estate special interests (FIRE) are unable to continue to build with impunity and total disregard for the resource carrying capacity of the state, how long could it be before -- like mortgage lenders -- developer lobbyists start losing their jobs and their bosses start losing their stranglehold over state government?

Of course, FIRE lobbyists and their bought politicians are pushing for dams and a Peripheral Canal. That's a gravy train worth climbing onto, particularly when you know perfectly well that FIRE will build out to whatever storage capacity the dams and the canal provide just as quickly as they can sort out the credit fallout from the last speculative real estate boom, whose national epicenter is San Joaquin County, on the Delta. And then they'll want more dams and canals, like one down the east side of the San Joaquin Valley -- and that's another gravy train beckoning in the future.

Development is not inevitable. In fact, it takes continual expert finagling in the halls of government to pull it off in a state like California, where urban sprawl and wasteful agribusiness has long ago stressed the natural resources carrying capacity.

The real work that ought to concern us Californians who live here now -- rather than all those new homebuyers or speculators in our FIRE designed future -- is to fix the Delta levees. Yet, the Hun, our governor and the Legislature propose billions for dams and canals and dole out millions for levee repair. Who knows, maybe next winter will bring floods like the Farmer's Almanac suggests, in early spring. But, levee repair opens immense cans of worms. It involves looking at failure of the Public Trust, neglect of public infrastructure, and a lot of funds committed to restoring public health and safety, which won't instantly translate into new investment opportunities for FIRE. That would be a real commitment to a real population of the public living here right now. Therefore, it is unpopular with FIRE lobbyists. It is remarkable to note that within living memory, the state Legislature seriously debated the dangers of building on flood plains. The FIRE boys and girls, in a campaign of corruption 30 years old, have created a series of special laws that almost entirely exempt developers from the consequences of their deeds -- from construction defects and toxic molds through flood damage and subprime loans with no possibility of payment -- bellowing the virtues of the Free Market all the way while stuffing the coffers of legislative campaigns with contributions.

One of the political stressors at play in the Capitol these days is the terrible thought among FIRE lobbyists that they could lose power if the judiciary can hold the line on decisions concerning our vastly over-committed natural resources. Worse, they may soon be looking at actual reversal of some of the laws they hand-crafted at great expense. One can foresee a day perhaps sooner than later, when developer and agribusiness lobbyists are simply fighting for their own jobs in the Capitol, without regard even for the future of their bosses immense fortunes. Perhaps their day in coming.

We can hope and continue to work for ecojustice -- social, economic and environmental -- for the people that live here now in the existing housing surrounded by abandoned houses of unsuccessful speculators and victims of predatory loans. We can hope and continue to work for an economy in the San Joaquin Valley that is better than the one we now have, in the death grip of a greedy, reckless, and irresponsible plutocracy of financial, insurance and real estate special interests, their agribusiness land suppliers and government lackeys, who view their mission as the retail sale of broken laws for personal gain.

Badlands confidently estimates that 40 percent of the real estate sales in Merced were made to speculators. We eagerly await official, documented refutation (replies gratefully accepted at bill.badlands@gmail.com).

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

9-6-07
Modesto Bee
Schwarzenegger administration promotes new dams as delta fix...Samantha Young, AP
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/60007.html

The Schwarzenegger administration on Wednesday dusted off a failed dam proposal as a way to shore up California water supplies in light of a federal judge's ruling limiting shipments from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. At a Capitol news conference...Aug. 31 ruling by a federal judge in Fresno could cut water flows out of the delta... Both Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman and Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow urged lawmakers to immediately reconsider a $5.9 billion water facilities bond plan that the governor offered in January. A Senate committee rejected Schwarzenegger's plan earlier this year, and it has remained in the background ever since....Assembly Democrats have shown little willingness to consider water facilities legislation...refused Wednesday to go along with a procedural move by Senate President Pro Temp Don Perata, D-Oakland, to advance his own $5 billion dam proposal, which includes $2 billion to help restore the delta. Perata urged Schwarzenegger to convince the Assembly to pass a water bond this year in light of the federal judge's decision...

11-26-07
USA Today
California races to repair levee system...John Ritter
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-11-26-california-levees_x.htm

SACRAMENTO — In satellite photos, California's Central Valley sticks out as one of the planet's most prominent features, a great gouge in the landscape that looks as if a giant fingernail plowed through the center of the state.
The valley is broad and flat and great for agriculture. That also makes it prone to severe flooding, disasters that a century-old maze of levees is supposed to prevent. But California's neglected flood defenses are in such poor shape that voters on Nov. 7 approved nearly $5 billion in borrowing to shore up the USA's largest and most complex levee system outside the Mississippi Valley.That comes on top of $500 million approved by the Legislature after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an emergency in February.
Repairing more than 100 levees deemed "critical" because they protect urban areas is a race against time as winter rains approach."Right now we're putting Band-Aids on the patient," says Jeff Mount, a geology professor at the University of California, Davis. "These repairs are the equivalent of patching a bald tire. We've got to figure out what we're going to do to replace the tire."The state's long-term commitment to redesign and overhaul its levees, using some of the bond money, butts up against a growing population — 17.6 million more people by 2050, the state estimates — and the spread of housing onto flood plains that puts tens of thousands of people at risk. Cities often oppose curbing development to avoid flood risks, and the idea of the state pre-empting local land-use decisions is politically toxic.
Katrina's effects live on
"The problem is everyone wants a high level of protection everywhere," Mount says. "We can't afford that. So how do we connect local land-use decision-making with regional planning for floods? We don't do a very good job of it.Bills to promote coordination between planning and flood control have died in the Legislature in the face of local government, developer and real estate lobbying. "You don't give up simply because it didn't work the first time," says Lester Snow, director of the state's Department of Water Resources. Snow says the "Katrina effect" — fallout from 2005's devastating hurricane in New Orleans — and last winter's costly California storms have created "quite a momentum" for giving the state more authority to regulate development in flood plains. "We intend to continue to keep pounding away at that issue," he says.With good reason. The American Society of Civil Engineers in September gave the state's levees an "F" grade and said they don't offer even minimum protection.
The Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for maintaining some California levees, has urged that a leaky levee protecting the fast-growing Sacramento community of Natomas be "decertified" — below an adequate protection standard. That could mean higher flood-insurance premiums for homeowners, says Frank Mansell, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A major levee failure on the Sacramento River could spread floodwater up to 20 feet deep and engulf more than 11,000 homes, the state estimates. About 300,000 people in metropolitan Sacramento live in the path of potential floods.
In 2004, California's Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that made the state liable for consequences of levee failures, exposing taxpayers to billions of dollars in potential damages. The water resources department acknowledges that metropolitan Sacramento, population 2.04 million, has the skimpiest flood protection of any of America's "river cities," including Tacoma, Wash.; St. Louis; Dallas; Kansas City, Mo.; and New Orleans...
Along the Sacramento River on the west side of this booming state capital, houses stand in the shadow of levees, some whose slopes have dangerously eroded, others weakened by seepage from within or underneath, sometimes from holes bored by rodents.After Schwarzenegger's emergency declaration, engineers identified 104 "critical" erosion sites — those threatening the most people — that could fail on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries the next time rain or snow runoff fills the channels. "It doesn't even dent the overall number of sites," UC Davis' Mount says...

9-7-07
Fresno Bee
Ruling will damage region's water future...Mike Villines, 29th Assembly District in the California Legislature
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/wo/story/131787.html

A recent ruling handed down by a federal judge in Fresno places a significant portion of the water our region receives from the San Joaquin Delta in jeopardy, which could devastate our region's economy and public health. This irresponsible decision will have a very damaging impact on our agriculture industry. Water from the Delta is a critical source of water for hundreds of local farms. Losing this water will hurt production of the California-grown agriculture that feeds the world and employs thousands of workers. Without enough water from the Delta, farmers may be forced to take more farmland out of production or pump lower-quality groundwater that can cause lasting damage to their land. The court's ruling will also threaten the public health of millions of people who live in the Central Valley, who rely upon water from the Delta as their primary source of clean drinking water. Water officials will be forced to tap into limited reserves to make up for the lost water, and could lead to mandatory rationing in communities across the state. Even worse, the ability to transfer water from one part of the state to another will diminish with the pumps slowing down, making California more vulnerable to future droughts. It is very disappointing that state officials would be forced by extreme environmental groups to take such an outlandish step just to protect one species of fish. Protecting the health and well-being of human beings should be the first priority of policymakers and the courts when considering actions that will affect the water supply of our region. While we must take responsible steps to protect the environment and prevent the extinction of endangered species, we must never take any action that could cause such a heavy toll on the health and safety of Californians or the economy. The responsible step is to build more water storage... It's time to get serious about building more above-ground water storage capacity and water conveyance projects across our state... While conservation is an important component of any comprehensive plan for our water future, it is only part of the solution.

Sacramento Bee
Flood protection that doesn't protect enough...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/364788.html

The California Building Industry Association, determined to keep constructing homes in floodplains behind substandard levees, has triumped again. Because of the CBIA's clout, the Assembly yesterday approved a flood control bill that, while strong in many respects, does little to stop the spread of lives and property into dangerous flood zones over the next eight years. Senate Bill 5... while it is an improvement over the status quo - with cities blithely adding homes to floodplains with little awareness about flood risks or planning - it isn't as protective as the situation demands and Californians deserve...the measure does little to prevent cities and counties from adding new homes to floodplains until the year 2015. Asked why he didn't seek building restrictions prior to 2015, Machado said yesterday he wanted to create a "transition period" for local governments that didn't upset their economic development plans. While it is too late to fix SB 5, lawmakers could strengthen it by passing Assembly Bill 70....bill by Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, would require local governments to share liability with the state for new building in the floodplain. Such shared risk could well dampen the enthusiasm of local officials to put more homes in harm's way, even against the relentless pressure of builders and land speculators.

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Hun meets environmental Typhoid Mary

Submitted: Sep 05, 2007

The Hun Our Governor panicked a few weeks back when a bunch of young activists did some demonstrating in front of the Fresno offices of the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control Board, which had just decided to forestall pollution cleanup, accept the worst designation of air quality the federal government has to offer until 2023, to keep its viability with the Federal Highway Authority.
"Rooftops bring retail," goes the mantrum of local planners. "And we pray to the Lord they also bring highway funds," they whisper. Meanwhile, rooftops bring increases in air pollution in our valley with its inversion layer.
The Hun wants to make the history books for being environmentally sensitive and has done some work to that end. But, Valley residents were making themselves heard that the state and regional air quality boards are a disgrace to government and a blemish on the Hun's immaculate image.
He reacted. He tossed out the head of the state air board and hired Mary Nichols, always described as a veteran environmental lawyer and state and federal environmental "leader." Now, we find that Nichols is invested up to her neck in energy stocks, beginning with the largest private coal company in the world and the largest petroleum company in the state. It made a good press release last month. "The Hun does something..."
Now, his hometown newspaper has done some digging and found Nichols' portfolio and its a doozy, if you're into conflicts of interest and perception of corruption.
Environmental lawyer? Whose side was she on?
Environmental leader? As Gov. Gray Davis' resources secretary, she fast-tracked the largest public development at the time in the state, UC Merced, past every mere legal hurdle in its way, and the mess she made has not yet been sorted out. Evidently she knew the law, as a "veteran environmental lawyer," and she clearly broke it in a number of instances surrounding UC Merced. So, whose side was she on?
But the Hun looked down from his cigar porch at the Capitol and said: "Democrat, woman, environmentalist!" nodded once and it was done. It makes him look like a dolt, and he isn't quite that.
So, who on his staff recommended Nichols? Who on his staff knew Nichols, recommended Nichols and either ignored her investments or felt it would be just too tacky to check?
The Hun ought to look down from his porch and give that one the thumb, because whoever that was made a monkey out of him.
There are issues in California that boggle the mind and the term-limited state Legislature has made them all worse. But, this one was relatively simple. The Hun blew it like the political rookie he remains.
He can dump Nichols or stonewall, denying that the mere public perception of conflict of interest really doesn't matter because all state officials maintain the highest ethical standards.
A mere member of the public might imagine the officials meet at their designated watering holes, distressed, and wonder why the public does not trust them. In fact, some will snigger at the Hun's political distress; others will say he must remain strong against the venal press "exaggerating" Nichols' portfolio; some will talk about descending real estate values; and most will talk about the trips they are going to take, because they've all got aces down in the hole.
Bill Hatch
--------------------------

9-05-07
Los Angeles Times
A cloud around the state's air chief...Richard Nemec
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-nemec5sep05,1,2137460.story
...Mary Nichols, a veteran environmental lawyer and federal and state environmental leader, with financial ties that may raise more than a few eyebrows. She holds considerable stock in companies -- such as Chevron Corp. and coal giant Peabody Energy Corp. -- that historically have sat at opposite sides of the table from environmentalists....doubly troubling because Nichols has been appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to head the California Air Resources Board... investments in such corporations raise questions about possible conflicts of interest and also about her credibility as a state official who often must make tough decisions against those industries. With a mandate to implement the state's precedent-setting global warming solutions legislation, the Air Resources Board deals with many of the companies in which Nichols holds large chunks of stock. The friendly Democrat-controlled state Senate should not shrink from asking her about these holdings during her confirmation hearing this month. ...the 84-company portfolio that she and her husband hold includes 13 energy-related firms, one of which is Peabody, the world's largest private-sector coal provider. The Air Resources Board's major focus for the future will be on global warming. The burning of coal is considered to be a major source of the problem. So how can the board's chairwoman hold stock in a huge coal company without giving, at minimum, the perception of a conflict of interest? Nichols's financial report also noted that she holds from $100,000 to $1 million in stock in Chevron, an oil and gas company that has substantial dealings with the Air Resources Board and other parts of state government. ...state senators need to find out how long Nichols has had financial ties to major companies that fall under her new regulatory jurisdiction. In addition, the extensiveness of her portfolio -- particularly among global energy firms -- raises some questions about her priorities at this stage of her career. Nichols' defenders say she has "balanced" her portfolio with green investments, but the commission's documentation doesn't support this contention. Would we typically expect the head of the Air Resources Board to hold interests worth from $10,000 to $100,000 each in Peabody, or Edison International, Southwest Gas Corp., BP,Suncor Energy, Royal Dutch Shell, Northern Border Partners, a natural gas pipeline or Chevron? Together with huge chemical and mining companies in her portfolio, it is the breadth and depth of Nichols' financial interests that is troubling.

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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
------------------------

8-24-07
Dozens hash out levee accreditation...The Record

http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070824/A_NEWS/70823013
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
process.

8-3-07
The voice of Pombo...Editorial

http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070803/A_OPINION01/708030308/-1/A_OPINION
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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Westlands water rustlers' latest job

Submitted: Aug 25, 2007

FURTHER DOWN THE DRAIN
BY LLOYD G. CARTER

“Since pre-Columbian times, the Westlands area was known to be part of the uninhabitable Great California Desert.”
From the history section of the Westlands Water District Website, WWW.WestlandsWater.org

For more than half a century, growers in the fabled Westlands Water District have been the “bad boys” of federal irrigation projects in the American West, ignoring residency and acreage requirements for taxpayer-subsidized water, getting Congress to change laws they didn’t like, seducing both Republicans and Democrat politicians with a river of campaign contributions, and reaping more crop, water and power subsidies, tax breaks, and debt forgiveness than any other group of farmers in America.
Now they are poised to pull off the biggest coup in their controversial history. If they get what they are asking for, 260 billion gallons of publicly-owned water a year for 60 years, they will capture water worth anywhere from $20 to $40 billion - that’s billion with a B - with which they are free to farm tainted soils with, OR resell to urban interests at fantastic profit margins. At the current retail market price of $500-600 an acre-foot in Southern California, the Westlands water, purchased at a fraction of its true valley could be worth $2,000 an acre-foot by 2050, when there could be 60 million Californians. The potential value of 15.6 trillion gallons of water in a drought-stricken climate staggers the imagination.
The catch? Westlands says it will solve a problem being caused by irrigation of its drainage-impaired, highly saline soils, contaminated with the toxic trace element selenium. Westlands makes this promise despite 52 years of federal research and hundreds of millions of dollars in studies that have failed to come up with a wildlife-safe, effective and affordable solution. It gets better. Westlands also wants forgiveness on an already interest free $489 million capital debt for taxpayer construction of its water delivery system it should have already paid off.
But first a little history. After pumping a huge aquifer dry on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in less than 40 years, the patriarchal families of the West Side, the Giffens, the Harrises, the O’Neills, the Dieners, the Wolfsens and a few others, turned to a folksy tire salesman from Texas named B.F. “Bernie” Sisk. They bankrolled Sisk’s try for Congress and in 1955 he landed in the nation’s capitol. Sisk spent the next five years tirelessly promoting a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project to bring Northern California (Trinity River) water to western Fresno County.
In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1959, Sisk promised that if the San Luis Unit (which would have been the last major leg of the Central Valley Project begun in the 1930s) was built, there would 6,000 family farmers on 100-acre ranches on the West Side and peace and prosperity would prevail. It was the first of many misrepresentations Westlands, or its supporters, would make over the next 48 years. Twenty-five years after Sisk’s promise, in 1984, there were still only 240 growers in Westlands and 40 of them, mostly from the original founding families, controlled over half the land and all the politics in the one-acre, one-vote district. Southern Pacific Railroad, Chevron, and cotton king J.G. Boswell were among the major Westlands landholders who influenced and directed district politics.
The late Paul S. Taylor, a University of California economics professor who was a well known critic of Reclamation policies in the mid-20th century wrote a 1964 article in which he quoted Alabama Congressman Oscar Underwood’s1902 speech on the floor of Congress, the year the Reclamation program was created to protect and foster family farming:
“Federal reclamation began as a program to help ‘farm boys’ who ‘want farms of their own’ to obtain them ‘without being driven into the already overcrowded cities to seek employment.’”
Many of the “farm boys” from Westlands would eventually live in multi-million dollar mansions in North Fresno, on the San Joaquin River bluffs or toney Van Ness Extension Avenue, 50 miles from their industrialized farming operations, in a zip code that receives more farm subsidies than any other zip code in America, 93711.
The first thing West Side growers did after the water delivery project was approved by Congress in 1960 was to annex another 200,008 acres known as the West Plains Water Storage into the 400,000-acre Westlands, a move a 1978 Congressional Task Force later concluded was unauthorized by Congress. Ironically, some land in the West Plains district had been designated too salty and unsuitable for irrigation by Bureau engineers in the 1950s when designing the original San Luis project, which included Westlands and three other adjacent small irrigation districts. Irrigation of the upslope West Plains lands, near the Coast Range along Interstate 5, would later worsen salty and selenium-plagued groundwater problems on the low-lying farmland near the trough of the Valley, where the San Joaquin River runs. Congressional funding intended for completing the drainage system was instead diverted to build a water delivery system for West Plains, according to the 1978 Task Force report.
In exchange for bringing cheap subsidized water to the western valley, Westlands growers had agreed to break up the huge estates, including the 106,000 acres owned by Southern Pacific, and the 100,000 acres owned by the Giffen family, after 10 years. The excess land provisions in Reclamation law provided that a husband and wife could own 320 acres but no more than that.
Of course, the Bureau of Reclamation had never enforced the residency requirement or the acreage limitation, which is what drew the wrath of Professor Taylor. When the mid-1970s rolled around, National Land for People, headed by George Ballis, sued to break up the huge ranches and actually give “farm boys” and farmworkers a chance to have ranches of their own. Fat chance.
A celebrated 1977 San Francisco Examiner series titled “The Paper Farmers” chronicled how the big growers were evading the acreage limitations by, in some cases, adding the names of relatives, employees and even unborn children, to land deeds to increase the amount of cheap water they were eligible to receive.
Westlands dragged its feet for several years in the National Land for People case, while the Bureau maintained the status quo on water deliveries, meaning big growers continued to get the cheap water for ranches which often exceeded 5,000 or 10,000 acres. Westlands also went to Congress and Rep. Tony Coelho, who had replaced his mentor Sisk in 1975. Coelho, who would become a powerhouse in the House before resigning following a real estate scandal, helped engineer the so-called “Reclamation Reform Act” in 1982, which didn’t really “reform” anything but did legalize a lot of the outright illegality occurring over the acreage limitation. Coelho was aided by western states congressmen subservient to their own local large growers getting federal water. The Reform Act eliminated the residency requirement and boosted the eligible acreage for the cheap water to 960 acres. It also created an even bigger loophole by allowing growers to get cheap water for lands they leased, rather than owned. As a result, leasing schemes mushroomed overnight and the mega-farms continued to get the cheap water.
Then in 1983-1984, the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge debacle hit, when word leaked out that drainage water from Westlands, being evaporated in 1,280 acres of diked ponds at Kesterson, was poisoning fish, ducks, and shorebirds at the dual purpose ”refuge.” Because of a subterranean clay layer underneath Westlands farmland, salty groundwater accumulated near the root zone. To protect crops the shallow groundwater had to be pumped out and sent somewhere else. The original plan was to funnel the salty drainage through the Delta to the Pacific Ocean. When Bay Area interests objected in the 1970s, Reclamation officials latched on to the risky idea of utilizing evaporation ponds at Kesterson as a stop gap measure while they undertook studies to convince the State Water Resources Control Board the drainwater would not harm the Delta. These studies revealed that much of Westlands’ acreage was riddled with selenium, a trace element which is a micronutrient in very small doses but toxic in slightly higher amounts. Selenium had been washing out of the Coast Range mountains for eons, accumulating in the western valley. Selenium’s toxicity to livestock was well known and Department of Agriculture studies in 1939 had actually detected elevated levels in Fresno County’s western foothills but that information had been overlooked or ignored by Bureau officials eager to build the San Luis Unit.
Many federal scientists saw Kesterson coming although they did not know that it would be selenium, not pesticides, that would cause Kesterson’s Silent Spring. Despite the documented misgivings of field level biologists as early as 1962, the Department of Interior, parent agency of both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, had actually claimed in the late 1970s that the Westlands salty drainage would be good for the Kesterson wetlands. Amazingly, much of the tab for constructing the Kesterson facilities was deducted from the Westlands’ repayment tab because it was designated a benefit to wildlife and the general public.
The wetlands at the 5,900-acre Kesterson refuge adjacent to the San Joaquin River in Merced County were in the middle of the wintering grounds for hundreds of thousands of migratory ducks supposedly protected by an international treaty, the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. When full strength drainwater began flowing to Kesterson in 1981, high levels of selenium dissolved in the drainage water quickly moved into the food chain, killing fish and birds and triggering grotesque deformities in wildlife. Kesterson neighbors Jim and Karen Claus, who watched their cattle die after drinking water seeping from the evaporation ponds, filed a complaint with the regional water board and sounded the alarm.
On March 15, 1985, following a year of intensive media scrutiny, including a segment on CBS’ “60 Minutes” and front page stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post, Secretary of Interior Donald Hodel ordered the Kesterson ponds closed and irrigation water deliveries to Westlands shut off. Hodel said the evaporation ponds were a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
A delegation of Westlands officials and growers, including former California Secretary of State Bill Jones (Jones’ family owned several thousand acres in Westlands), traveled to Washington to lobby Hodel to resume irrigation deliveries. In exchange for the Bureau to continue the flow of Northern California water to Westlands, the water district officials signed an agreement on April 3, 1985 in which they pledged to halt drainage flows to Kesterson even though this would worsen their drainage crisis. In that 1985 agreement, Westlands also assumed any liability for lawsuits from individual Westlands growers.
In 1991, some growers in a 42,000-acre area of Westlands who had originally drained their wastes to Kesterson filed suit against Westlands and the Bureau of Reclamation for damages caused when the drainage system was closed and plugged. The suit was placed on the back burner during the Clinton years, as Reclamation officials plodded along spending tens of millions of dollars on drainage studies, including a $50 million, five-year investigation by a state-federal team. Their report, issued in 1990, concluded the cheapest solution was to take the high selenium lands out of production and drastically reduce the amount of drainage produced.
When George W. Bush came to office, the growers who had filed the lawsuit a decade earlier began pushing it again. A career Justice Department attorney, Yoshinori H.T. Himel, representing the Department of Interior and the Bureau in the grower suit, filed a motion in August of 2002 to get it dismissed. Himel pointed out that Westlands, in the 1985 agreement, had agreed “to design, install, and operate alternative means for disposal of drain water in an efficient and environmentally sound manner.”
Himel then noted that the 1985 Agreement “placed the obligation on Westlands “to design, install and operate alternative means for disposal of drain water from Westlands.” Himel said alternative means included evaporation ponds, salt tolerant crops and recycling.
While Himel acknowledged it could be argued the 1985 agreement may not have required Westlands to assume long-term responsibility for drainage for the entire San Luis Unit he said Westlands assumed, at the minimum, responsibility for solving the drainage problems of the 49,000 acres that had been draining to Kesterson.
Himel added "One thing the Agreement did alter, however, was Westlands' obligation to indemnify the United States for, among other things, 'losses, damages, claims and liabilities' arising from Westlands’ performance or non-performance of the Agreement. The language 'losses, damages, claims and liabilities' indicates money claims, such as Plaintiffs' money claims in this lawsuit . . . Westlands thus undertook at a minimum to indemnify the United States for lawsuits by those who might be dissatisfied with the results of Westlands’ 'alternative means' for drainage."

A federal court rejected this argument but critical issues of apportionment of liability for the drainage mess remained. Of course, we will never know what would have happened had the apportionment of fault issues been decided by a jury or a judge. Bennett Raley, a Colorado attorney who represented irrigation districts and was appointed Assistant Secretary for Water and Science by his Interior Secretary Gale Norton in 2001, made sure that a trial on the merits did not happen. Raley, undoubtedly with the support of Norton and the White House, undercut Himel and other Justice Department career attorneys defending the suit, agreeing to a $139 million settlement in December of 2002, with most of the money coming from U.S. taxpayers, not Westlands. Raley, of course, gained fame in 2002 for allotting water from Oregon's Klamath River to irrigators rather than to endangered fish, leading to a massive salmon die-off. News reports later indicated Vice President Dick Cheney masterminded the Klamath decision. It is unknown if Cheney or former White House advisor mastermind Karl Rove were consulted or involved in the decision to concede victory to the Westlands growers without a court fight.
In an October, 24, 2002 pre-trial order for partial summary judgment in the growers’ suit, U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger noted that there was no dispute the growers continued to irrigate their lands knowing “that their lands would be damaged without drainage.”
Wanger added, “There are multiple issues to address at trial, however, regarding the operative ‘cause’ of damage to plaintiffs’ land, whether that damage constitutes a public or private nuisance, whether federal defendants and Westlands are concurrent tortfeasors, apportionment of any comparative fault of plaintiffs, and whether plaintiffs[] consented to or assumed the risk of a nuisance or trespass by demanding water deliveries to their farmlands, despite the knowledge that no drainage facility existed.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, a jury or a judge may have found the growers knowingly ruined their own lands and might not have awarded them a cent in damages. But Raley, as already noted, pre-empted any jury determination of those issues and, contrary to the Justice Department attorneys’ written arguments, settled.
Under the settlement, the federal government was to pay $107 million to have the farmers' lawsuit dismissed. Westlands had to spend $32 million to settle its part of the case,
buying 34,000 acres of the plaintiff’s ruined land and retiring it.
"We weren't batting a thousand with this court," Raley claimed in a 2002 interview with the Sacramento Bee. "They were claiming that we had damaged them, damages in excess of $400 million." Raley did not mention Westlands officials had signed the April 1985 agreement assuming liability for all such lawsuits or that his own government attorneys thought they had a good case and could win in court.
Rep. George Miller and environmental activists howled at the settlement, which they warned would be used as a precedent for the still unsolved drainage problem facing the Western San Joaquin Valley. Having given away $107 million in taxpayer money, Raley returned to private practice representing water districts in December of 2004.
Following the 2002 settlement (in which the federal government admitted no wrongdoing), Westlands worked on getting a new long-term water delivery contract and pressuring Reclamation to come up with a drainage solution because a district court, and then the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, had ruled Reclamation had a legal obligation to try and complete a drainage system for Westlands.
Westlands growers had a powerful ally in Jason Peltier, a native Californian and deputy secretary at Interior who was the Administration’s point man on western water issues and was a former lobbyist for Westlands and other California federal irrigation districts. Peltier claimed in news interviews he had nothing to do with matters involving Westlands. However, Westlands recently hired Peltier at an undisclosed salary. A former regional Reclamation official, Susan Ramos, has also been hired by Westlands.
Which brings us to the present. Westlands general manager and general counsel Tom Birmingham is now pushing a “global” settlement to the outstanding drainage lawsuits (filed by water districts downslope from Westlands) and Westlands’ desire for a long-term secure water supply. In recent closed door meetings with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Valley congressmen Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa (who represents the Westlands area), Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Hamilton Candee and a few others, the various stakeholders have tried to work out a deal. The news media is not permitted to cover these talks while decisions are made involving billions of taxpayer dollars.
Ed Imhoff, a retired federal scientist who headed a post-Kesterson $50 million, five-year study of the drainage problem from 1985-1990, was also kept out of the talks. Feinstein reportedly insisted “too many” people were in on the talks. Imhoff has been critical of the proposed drainage solutions of both Reclamation and Westlands. His 1990 study, dubbed the “Rainbow Report” noted land retirement was the cheapest option.
In the Central Valley Project, water supplies have always been distributed on a first in time, first in right priority system in which the oldest CVP irrigation districts get the water they need before irrigation districts down the totem pole get their water. Westlands, as the last CVP area to come on line, is at the bottom of the totem pole. This has often meant drastically reduced supplies for Westlands. For example, during the 1987-1992 drought, Westlands, in 1990 and 1991, only got 25 percent of its annual contract amount of 1.15 million acre-feet (an acre-foot is 325,851 gallons). Westlands has tried repeatedly in court to get on the same footing as more senior water contractors but to no avail. The drainage crisis, widely misunderstood and mishandled by both Reclamation and Westlands, has provided the growers an opening.
A few months ago, Westlands announced it could solve the drainage dilemma for less than half of the $2.6 billion Reclamation officials say it will cost to provide reverse osmosis, bio-remediation, recycling, and land retirement. Birmingham said that in exchange for letting the Bureau off the hook on drainage, Westlands wanted the Bureau’s extraordinarily valuable state water permit and operational control of the huge San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos. As anticipated, the audacious claim provoked a hostile response from Rep. Miller, Northern California interests and environmental groups statewide.
Birmingham then abandoned that strategy amid a torrent of negative publicity and, in the first week of August, just prior to another closed door meeting with Feinstein he came up with a revised, but still sketchy, proposal. Birmingham suggested that if the federal government would forgive a $489 million debt the Westlands owes for capital construction costs, and would exempt Westlands and other San Luis Unit water districts from acreage limitations and pricing provisions of federal law, Westlands would take over responsibility for the drainage mess.
In addition, Westlands wants a 60-year water delivery contract with rights of renewal (federal law now prohibits federal water contracts in excess of 25 years) and wants the Bureau to authorize transfer of title to various pumping plants, internal distribution systems, and the Coalinga Canal.
Apparently unmentioned in the Feinstein talks is that Westlands signed a “waiver/indemnity agreement” with Interior back on April 3, 1985, after the Kesterson closure or that the federal government admitted no liability in the 2002 settlement. The claim that the United States is somehow responsible for any damage to the former desert lands and thus should make major concessions on water delivery or drainage issues is simply unproven in a court of law.
Feinstein also seems unclear on the concept that even though the Bureau estimates it may take up to $2.6 billion to produce a drainage program, Westlands is ultimately required under the 1960 legislation to pay for it, albeit over 40 or 50 years and interest free. Neither the district court nor the Ninth Circuit has ever held that Congress must appropriate money to build a drainage system or that Westlands would not have to ultimately pay for it.
Moreover, few people in Washington seem to be questioning why Westlands should get off the hook for the $489 million still owed on the delivery system. If a man builds you a house and a plumbing system and fouls up the pipes underneath the bathroom, you don’t get the house for free. You just get your plumbing fixed.
Following a meeting in her office on Aug.1, Senator Feinstein said of a potential agreement “the devil is in the details.” Environmentalists fear she isn’t really paying attention to the details or looking out for the interests of American taxpayers and especially Californians, who are cutting back usage in urban areas while Westlands’ 500-600 growers could get enough water annually to meet the needs of a city of eight million people, or two cities the size of Los Angeles.
Consider this: If Westlands gets 800,000 acre-feet of water a year, which is what it would like, that translates to 260.68 billion gallons of water a year and 15 trillion, 640 billion gallons over the life of the proposed 60-year contract.
If you calculate the urban retail value of 800,000 acre-feet of water at a conservative $500 an acre-foot (Rep. Grace Napolitano of Los Angeles, new chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources, says its $600 an acre-foot in Southern California) you come up with $400 million a year. Assuming the Westlands pays a generous $100 an acre-foot (they will argue for, and probably get, a cheaper price) that means they will pay $80 million for $400 million worth of water in a given year. Over 60 years, $400 million times 60 turns out to be $24 billion worth of water for a few hundred growers(Westlands claims 600 growers but has never produced a list and critics say it could be as few as 400). And many of those “growers are connected by blood or marriage, or simply entities operating under different corporate names but controlled by the same people. Of course, in my example, they would pay for 20 percent of that water ($100 an acre-foot) which means the retail value of that water delivered over the life of the contract, less what they paid for it, would be $19.2 billion.
Actually, the potential profits of water sale could be much higher. First of all, you can bet that the current urban price of water will be far higher in 60 years, when the western San Joaquin Valley may look like the San Fernando Valley. Water then may be worth $2,000 an acre-foot or even more if climate change produces extended drought.
Although Westlands’ Birmingham contends any guaranteed supply of water is strictly for farming in the district, there is no question it is legally permissible, thanks to a 1992 change in Reclamation law, for Westlands to sell its water on the retail market to the highest bidder, i.e. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has an insatiable thirst. Indeed, several San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts are already selling water to developers or urban interests and some individual Westlands growers have already offered to sell water to Metropolitan. They understand very well that water is the new cash crop.
Westlands’ so-called solution to the drainage problem is (1) conservation, (2) recycling and the most controversial and unproven, (3) use of sprinklers to disperse the tainted drainage water into the air, with the water evaporating and the salts and selenium falling back onto a gravel bed. The technology has never been tried large scale other than on one California Department of Water Resources test plot that was less than the size of a city lot.
Westlands officials have not explained where the millions of tons of salts that would accumulate over the decades would be hauled for disposal. Or what would happen if their scheme did not work. Environmentalists worry the drift of the salty spray from the sprinklers, especially in windy conditions, could damage surrounding fields or further taint groundwater. And sprinklers, or puddling of water would surely draw wildlife to the tainted water. The spray drift zone downwind would be more than two football fields long. If trees were planted for a drift barrier that would created a selenium-charged terrestrial environment. Huge amounts of land for a safety zone around the sprinklers would be required for the amount of drainage Westlands generates. The district hasn’t said how much land.
So if Westlands’ drainage scheme doesn’t work the growers will simply idle the bad lands and keep the very valuable water which they can resell to the highest bidder under the 1992 law. How fortunate.
At Feinstein’s Aug. 1 meeting with Birmingham and others, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientist Joseph Skorupa was not in attendance although Senator Feinstein reportedly asked for him to be there. Skorupa is probably the premier expert in the United States on the impacts of farm drainage water on wildlife, especially birds, and has been studying San Joaquin Valley drainage since the 1980s. Fish and Wildlife managers, under pressure from Bureau officials, told Sen. Feinstein that Skorupa was unable to attend the Aug. 1 Washington meeting. According to sources at Interior, however, this was an outright lie and Skorupa was both willing, and able, to attend the Feinstein meeting.
Ironically, the same day Skorupa was told he could not attend the Feinstein meeting, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall was testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee Hearing regarding Interior’s questionable scientific and policy decisions under the Endangered Species Act and claimed that “Science is the cornerstone of the Service’s work; it is what guides the agency’s decisions.” Unless, of course, Westlands is involved.
Westlands growers have making campaign contributions to Feinstein for years, including nearly $5,000 personally from Birmingham. No one has calculated how much. But they have a lot to gain if Feinstein buys off on their proposal and sponsors legislation.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website, in a recent year the largest 10 percent of the farms in the Central Valley Project - which stretches from Redding to Bakersfield - got 67 percent of the water, and of course, Westlands has the biggest CVP farms of all and uses the most water of any district. Twenty-seven large CVP farms, most in the Westlands, received water subsidies averaging in excess of $1 million annually (i.e. the cost of replacement water). One Westlands farm, Woolf Enterprises, received more water by itself than 70 water districts in the Central Valley Project, for a subsidy worth up to $4.2 million annually at urban prices for water. EWG has also documented that CVP farmers get power subsidies to pump that Delta water uphill into the San Joaquin Valley at rates that are about 1/15th what the average citizen pays for the monthly electricity bill. CVP growers’ water rates are about two percent of Los Angeles residents’ rates.
Fortunately, any deal the Westlands/Bush Administration cabal makes with Feinstein must run the gauntlet of a Democratic Congress, which may not be as solicitous of the Westlands as Feinstein is. Rep. Miller and Rep. Napolitano promise to closely monitor any sweetheart water giveaway. California environmental groups, fishing groups and Northern California Native Americans are also mobilizing to fight the latest Westlands scheme.
One question for Congress to ask is how many billions do American taxpayers owe the few hundred Westlands growers? Kesterson whistleblower Felix Smith, a retired Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who first leaked to the news media the selenium-caused bird deformities, has been writing about the Kesterson debacle for 25 years. He estimates the overall subsidy to the Westlands (cheap water, cheap power, interest free construction costs), per acre, is now well over $6,600 per acre, or $3 billion for the whole district. The per acre subsidy is far more than the land is worth.
More worrisome is that if Westlands is guaranteed an enormous amount of water, it will increase the stress on a Delta that is already on the verge of ecological collapse due to overpumping by the State Water Project as well as the federal pumps.
However, Westlands’ “farm boys” are hoping that public apathy and congressional confusion or ignorance will result in one more very big payday. Over 15.6 trillion gallons of water in the middle of a desert. Think of the riches. Their desert may be uninhabitable but it does rain money.
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If you want to protect your tax dollars and slow down the Westlands express you can go to, and sign the petition at, www.thepetitionsite.com/1/no-more-secret-deals. The Planning and Conservation League is also adding information on the Westlands proposal to its website. It is your tax money and your public water supply that is being given away. The devil is indeed in the details. Stay informed.
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Lloyd Carter has been writing about Westlands water issues for more than 30 years and served as a reporter for United Press International from 1969 to 1984 and again from 1987 to 1990. He spent three years as a reporter at the Fresno Bee from 1984 to 1987. He won the San Francisco Press Club’s Best Environmental Coverage award in 1985 for his stories on the bird deformities at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge caused by selenium-tainted drainage water from Westlands. He is now an attorney in Fresno, CA.

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Merced River Stakeholders public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District board meetings

Submitted: Aug 23, 2007

To:
Gwen Huff, Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator
Karen Whipp, Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator

From:
Members of the Merced River Stakeholders

Re: Merced River Stakeholders public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District meetings

Date: August 22, 2007

Gwen, Thank you for acknowledging and agreeing to send our protest letter to Merced River stakeholders (posted below). At this time, we are requesting that the enclosed attachments also be sent to Merced River stakeholders and EMRCD board members.

The enclosed attachments include two versions of what happened at the June 14, 2007 EMRCD special meeting, held by teleconference: the minutes taken by the EMRCD/Merced Alliance staff; and those dictated from notes from a Merced River Stakeholder on the call. The difference between the two sets of minutes is remarkable and should be noted by the public. As a result of this difference, members of the Merced River Stakeholders have begun attending EMRCD board meetings.

The third attachment is the Merced Stakeholders public minutes of the EMRCD board meeting of August 15, 2007. For the moment, Stakeholder concerns about public funds have been addressed by EMRCD funders, but a lively dispute continues between members of the Merced River Stakeholders and the EMRCD.

For more background on the dispute, we direct the attention of the public to three recent articles appearing on Badlandsjournal.com:

New Merced County Planning Commissioner: fast and loose with public processes, public funds --Friday, June 29th, 2007
Central Valley Safe Environment Network reply to a Merced County Planning Commissioner--Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
Badlands replies to Commissioner Lashbrook’s information and commentary--Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

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Lydia Miller, President San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

Meeting Minutes of the
BOARD OF DIRECTORS SPECIAL MEETING
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Thursday, June 14, 2007, 9:00 a.m.,

Teleconference Location – 1635 Luke Drive, Merced, CA
913 West Yale Avenue, Fresno, CA, 12230 Livingston-Cressey Rd., Livingston, CA, 1658 Scenic View Drive, San Leandro, CA, 6401 Hultberg Road, Hilmar, CA, 3279 Merced Falls Road, Snelling, CA
Call EMRCD for more information (209-723-6755)

Directors Present Per Roll Call:
Glenn Anderson
Tony Azevedo
Karen Barstow
Cathy Weber
Bernard Wade (joined call at 9:30 a.m.)

Directors Absent:
Bob Bliss

Others Present:
Karen Whipp, EMRCD personnel
Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD personnel and associate director
Gwen Huff, EMRCD personnel

Item #
Vice-President Azevedo called meeting to order at 9:10 am.

1. INTRODUCTIONS
Done.

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS
None.

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA
Karen Barstow moved to add item to agenda regarding preparing rebuttal letter for the opposition letter of the submission of the Merced River Management Plan grant Proposal.
Glenn Anderson seconded the motion/
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
MOTION CARRIED.

4. LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR 4H EDUCATION PROJECT
Cathy Weber moved to approve the EMRCD Board submit a letter of support for the 4H Education Project and authorize Board President to sign letter of support.
Tony Azevedo seconded the motion.
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
MOTION CARRIED.

4A. REBUTTAL LETTER OF THE OPPOSITION LETTER OF RECENT GRANT PROPOSAL
Kathy Weber moved to table this item and discuss at the next regular EMRCD Board meeting.
Glenn Anderson seconded the motion.
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
MOTION CARRIED.
Let it be noted that President Bernard Wade joined the conference call at 9:30 am. The board members reviewed the meeting and actions of the board with him.

5. NEXT MEETING: The next EMRCD Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, 2007, 12:00 pm at Golden By Products, Inc., 13000 Newport Road, Ballico, CA.

6. ADJOURNMENT 9:50 a.m.

For more information, contact: East Merced Resource Conservation District, 2135 W. Wardrobe Ave., Suite C, Merced, CA 95340, Phone (209) 723-6755, Fax (209) 723-0880.
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Merced River Stakeholders public minutes

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
-----------------

Public minutes of the East Merced Resource Conservation District (RCD) board meeting, August 15, 2007

Members of the public, in this instance also members of the Merced River Stakeholders, believing that the official minutes of RCD meetings fail to describe the political and economic issues being discussed and decided by the RCD, have begun taking their own public minutes of its meetings. We urge other members of the public, particularly river stakeholders, to begin attending RCD meetings.

The East Merced RCD is a public institution. Its board members are appointed by Merced County supervisors, its books are overseen by Merced County and its funds are derived from grants from public agencies.

Members of the Merced River Stakeholders recently challenged RCD grant proposals amounting to nearly a half-million dollars. This meeting primarily concerns the results and consequences of the grantors’ decisions regarding these proposals and the RCD response.

Participants:
Public: Bill Hatch, Stakeholder

RCD Board:
Bernie Wade, Glenn Anderson, Cathy Weber, Robert Bliss
Associate Board Member, Cindy Lashbrook, Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator

RCD staff:
Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Cindy Lashbrook
Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Gwen Huff
Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Karen Whipp
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staff:
Malia Hildebrandt

Bill Hatch, Stakeholder who prepared these minutes arrived about a half an hour late to the meeting. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, an associate (non-voting) member of the RCD board and a staff member of the Merced Alliance, whose grants are administered by the RCD, was speaking. She said she had signed up the RCD to attend an economic development conference being held by the City of Merced.

Next, Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook mentioned a sign-on letter by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition that she wished the RCD board to sign. She said, as she had said in a previous RCD meeting, that the RCD board should appoint either one person or a small committee to deal with issues signing onto this letter, which occur between meetings.

The public correspondent mentioned that the two groups from Merced that are founders of the CRCC, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and the San Joaquin Valley Conservancy, are not going to sign this particular letter because it was not clear in the letter that the easements CRCC were requesting would be perpetual and the two founders have a firm policy against term easements.

“Land-use decisions can’t wait,” Lashbrook said, stressing the urgency of the coalition letter to Congress, urging it to pass provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill that would fund more land easements.

RCD Board Member Cathy Weber said the board needed more members (four of the six voting members were at the meeting) present before deciding on such a protocol, and asked that the issue be put on the agenda for the next board meeting, September 27.

Malia Hildebrandt, Merced County Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, reported to the board about the latest water discharge order for dairies, stating that the first reports were due December 31, 2007, NRCS would be providing workshops for dairymen in November and December to help them write their plans for manure disposal and discharge pollutant plans. She also said that Merced County Environmental Health Department is applying for grants to pay for a consultant to help prepare the dairy reports. Consultations would cost between $8,000 and $20,000 per dairy. Hildebrandt said there were about 330 dairies in the county. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) would require recipients to file these reports, Hidebrandt said. She added that some dairies were already opting out, but that the program covered all dairies of all sizes and that new dairies or expanded dairies must get individual permits.

In response to a question from the public about the effect of the closure of Hilmar Cheese Co. and the loss of dairies, Hildebrandt said she didn’t know. RCD Board Member Glenn Anderson said he’d heard “there would be no more cows in Hilmar” at some point in the future, either 2020 or 2050 (he wasn’t sure).

Hildebrandt announced that on August 29, Rep. Dennis Cardoza would be holding a “listening” conference on the Farm Bill from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Double Tree in Modesto.

She also mentioned that new dairy lagoons would have to be double-lined with new synthetic, leak-proof liners.

The report of Merced River Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Gwen Huff came next, beginning with a question of whether state Department of Water Resources official, Dan Wermiel, would have to sign off on the next Merced River Alliance newsletter concerning a recent meeting with board members and staff at Henderson Park in Snelling on July 20.

County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook explained that the meeting was a citizen water-quality monitoring event of a sort that will continue “as long as the grant continues.”

A version of the meeting somewhat different than the commissioner’s explanation occurs later in the minutes.

Staff reported that Nancy McConnell, another Merced River Alliance educational coordinator, had written a report on the meeting in Snelling with Wermiel.

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff announced that the RCD had lost both the large and the small vernal pool grant its had applied for. She said she was awaiting comments from CalFed, the granting agency, about why the RCD had failed to get the grants.

Board Member Weber said that Lydia Miller, president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, a Merced River Stakeholder, had sent the RCD a copy of the letter written in opposition to the RCD grants and had asked that the RCD send it out of other stakeholders. Weber and others objected to the heading on the letter, which read: “Merced River Stakeholders,” saying that Miller and a member of the public present at the meeting weren’t the only stakeholders.

There is a header on the top of each page of the protest letter because it was professionally written. The first sentence of the letter reads:

We are writing, as members of the Merced River Stakeholders, to protest a proposal submitted by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) called “Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan.”

Huff said the next meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders was on September 24. Huff, both Merced Alliance/RCD watershed coordinator and facilitator of the stakeholders’ meetings, said that “we won’t spend time on how the grant was developed, but on how the stakeholders should participate” in the future. She added that staff was inviting a regional manager of the state RCDs to attend the meeting to help “RCD/stakeholders’ interface.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said, “We don’t need their (stakeholders’) input.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff outlined RCD board options on how the stakeholders’ should participate in RCD grant applications in the future, prefacing her remarks by saying that Teri Murrison, her predecessor as facilitator for the stakeholders, thought the stakeholders were the most important part of the RCD. “She came to the stakeholders before submitting concept grants,” Huff said. This, Huff said, was Murrison’s first suggestion on RCD relations with the stakeholders. Second, inform the stakeholders. Third, take their comments.

Board Member Weber said that the stakeholders were also independent and that the board should support the idea that stakeholders should be notified and notified better in the future. “But the RCD is also independent,” she added.

RCD Board President Bernie Wade summarized that the board should inform the stakeholders and accept their comments.

Board Member Anderson asked: “Who is to be informed and how? It is a fluid group. Every landowner on the river?”

Actually, in addition to landowners on the river, environmental groups and state and federal agencies have been involved with the Merced River Stakeholders since its inception, facts perhaps forgotten by Anderson.

Lashbrook said that on March 6, 10 days before the concept proposal, “it was mentioned” at a stakeholders’ meeting. “Anyone who cared could have commented.”

Actually, the Merced River Stakeholders meeting was held on March 19.

Karen Whipp, grant administrator for the Merced River Alliance/RCD, said that some Merced River stakeholders don’t open their messages. She keeps a file on those, she added.

RCD Board Member Robert Bliss said that five stakeholders had attended an RCD meeting and they were positive about the two RCD grant proposals.

The board returned to the subject of the Merced River Stakeholders, complaining again that it has no real mechanism for reaching a consensus or for voting.

Commissioner Lashbrook opined that that was because “(Merced River Stakeholders) Lydia Miller and Pat Ferrigno” had rigged the stakeholders’ bylaws so that they would have no mechanism for consensus or voting.

“There has to be a mechanism for support or opposition to a proposal,” one board member said.

Returning to the topic of Lydia Miller’s request that the letter of opposition to the grant be sent to the stakeholders by the Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator and Merced River Stakeholders’ Facilitator, Gwen Huff, Commissioner Lashbrook said: “We don’t have to rub our nose in our failure.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Whipp stated that, “Lydia doesn’t pay Gwen’s salary.”

Huff, Merced River Alliance/RCD watershed coordinator and stakeholders’ facilitator, said that she would like to send out the letter with a preface.

Lashbrook, county planning commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD educational coordinator, said that the RCD needs to write an introduction to the stakeholders’ letter sent by Miller.

Board Member Weber agreed with Huff and suggested an introductory paragraph: “Lydia requested that this be sent out before the next stakeholders’ meeting.

Commissioner Lashbrook and board member Bliss disagreed. Commissioner Lashbrook did not want the letter sent out without a negative introduction by the RCD.

Board Member Anderson suggested: “Lydia has requested …”

Board Member Bliss stated, “Lydia pays the postage.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Stakeholder Facilitator Huff informed Bliss that the letter would be sent by email.

Merced County Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook reminded the board that the action about to be taken was a board action and not a “unilateral staff action.”

“You as a group decided not to publish a rebuttal letter,” Lashbrook said (although at this point the board had decided nothing.)

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook wanted a letter of rebuttal by the RCD to points made in the letter of opposition to the grant the Merced River Stakeholder Miller had requested Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff to distribute to the Merced River Stakeholders before the next meeting. She emphasized that the stakeholders had been notified of the concept grant on March 6. She added that the RCD needed “to make a few points against this crap!”

Board President Wade said: “We send out a letter. It will never end!”

Commissioner Lashbrook said something about “different letters …RCD not defending …”

Board Member Anderson said: “All we can do is move forward. If it requires that the stakeholders organize for making comments …”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that there were stakeholders who didn’t know.

Board Member Weber focused on the header of the letter of opposition to the grant and suggested the RCD send out only the header and the first page.

Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Whipp asked why the RCD was “sending out this scathing letter?”

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook asked: “Why send out our ‘slap down’?”

Board Member Weber then withdrew her motion to send out the letter in opposition to the grant.

Grant Administrator Whipp informed the board that it would have to make some motion, for example, that Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff is not authorized (by the RCD) to do this …”

Huff said she had already promised Miller she would send out the letter.

Board Member Bliss moved that the letter not be sent out because it is “inflammatory.”

Board President Wade suggested “not authorized –the letter is not authorized to be sent by the board or staff.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Huff thanked the board for this resolution, which passed. She then described three new grant opportunities available before the end of the year. One involved Bear Creek, the urban parts of which are not in the RCD. The grants were for a watershed coordinator for the stakeholders, water monitoring, and water pollution. Huff finished her report by asking the board to find a group for her to make her final presentation on the Endangered Species Act (in order to fulfill a grant).

The remaining member of the public asked Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Huff who paid her salary? Huff replied it was paid by the state Department of Conservation at the moment and that will continue until May through the Merced Alliance. At this point, she added, the RCD is looking for new funds from the state Department of Conservation.

Grant Administrator Whipp interjected to explain that the watershed coordinator has a contract with the RCD for the task of facilitating the meetings of the Merced River Stakeholders.

According to Whipp’s logic, Miller as a California taxpayer is paying the watershed coordinator’s salary but evidently the RCD dictates the tasks of stakeholder facilitation.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook, reporting as staff of the Merced Alliance on a grant run through the RCD, said that the Riverfair had gone well however there was some question about where it would be held next year. This year it was held at the commissioner’s ranch.

She expressed surprise that state Department of Water Resources official Dan Wermiel “had said those things” at the Snelling meeting on July 20. She added that she is “not putting up with a lot of shit from people for their own self aggrandizement.” She also said she was “hoping we’ll put in some grants that won’t be misrepresented.” She concluded by saying, “These are trying times. You may just be meeting here and looking at each other …”

The member of the public interpreted these remarks to mean that Commissioner Lashbrook’s “ war” (declared at a special RCD meeting a month earlier) against the Merced River Stakeholders who had opposed her grants was still on, however, things didn’t look good for future grants to the East Merced Resource Conservation District, at least from its usual sources.

Board Member Weber suggested that the RCD go to the stakeholders with ideas for things that can be done without grants and coordinate with the stakeholders on these projects.

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff stated that in California, all RCD funding is by grant.

County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook added that California is the only state that operates its RCD funds this way.

NRCS staff Hildebrandt said that some states have base state funding for RCDs and others don’t.

Commissioner Lashbrook told the board that it needed to look to its strategy “in light of what’s going on.” Funding for RCD staff runs out in March. She quoted DWR official Wermiel as saying that the federal government didn’t contribute to CalFed.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook said that the instructions CalFed gave her and other grant writers were that they needed a broader stakeholder base and a wider watershed to qualify. She said it would have been an “open public process, not steered …” and that “we (the grant writing staff) were set to do a plan for implementation.”

However, she continued, “big negatives drowned that out.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said the granting agency told her nothing would be accepted after the submission date. She added that had she known, she could have gotten 40-60 support letters.

Board President Wade said, “Scandal! Criminal!”

The stakeholders opposed to the grant contacted the granting agency, still unable to get a copy of the grant from after the submission date from either Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff or Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook. The funders instructed them to send their opposition letter early in the week after the submission deadline.

Huff said that the review of the grants from the funders will come and will be shared.

Board members said that DWR official Wermiel had called the meeting on July 20 in Snelling (so it was not really a routine water monitoring meeting). Then a letter from Nancy McConnell, like Commissioner Lashbrook, another Merced Alliance educational coordinator, was read in which McConnell said she was “real sorry the grant didn’t make it.” The McConnell letter continued to say that after the tour, Wermiel said that chances of getting more CalFed money were unlikely. California is very backwards, said McConnell, who lives out of the area. She said, “top managers of the watershed program didn’t buy into the process themselves.” She concluded the letter with a rousing: “Keep the watershed community base faith!”

The board and staff did not discuss the request of Merced River Stakeholders Miller and Pat Ferrigno and RCD Board President Wade’s request to be sent a report on the meeting between Merced Alliance/RCD staff and DWR official Wermiel, nor has it sent her a copy as of the writing of these minutes.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook reported on a Merced County plan to review all “annexations.” RCD, which is a special district and falls under the jurisdiction of the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), will be reviewed and needed to provide a legal description of the district and a man. A new annexation would cost $2,700 and require environmental review and a Notice of Determination.

Members of the board entered into an intense discussion about where the legal description and map might be, which was brought to an end when Huff found them in a filing cabinet behind Planning Commissioner Lashbrook.

Lashbrook reported that the Sierra Club would hold a meeting on the high-speed rail proposal the next day and that Kim Forest, US Fish and Wildlife Service manager of the Grasslands would attend to express her concerns about how the rail proposal would affect west side grasslands. The planning commissioner added that there would be a public hearing on the project at the end of the month – the only hearing on it in the Valley, to be held in Merced.

Board members discussed briefly whether the high speed, electric powered railway would cut down on pollution, some saying yes, others asking how the electric power would be generated.

Board Member Anderson reported on the Valley Land Alliance, a board he also sits on, saying that the Alliance “wants an active role.” Currently, he said the Alliance is proposing a food-and-energy element in the county General Plan Update process.

Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff said that the board should consider using fee-for-service agreements to raise funds as well as grants.

The meeting adjourned.

During the meeting, another member of the public, who had to leave the meeting early, said that when he was in the hallway outside the meeting before it began, Commissioner Lashbrook demanded to know why he was there (at a public meeting discussing public funds). There have been several reliable reports by either eyewitnesses or victims, that Commissioner Lashbrook has threatened people in what has the appearance of a personal vendetta against Merced River Stakeholder Miller for protesting the substance and process in the RCD grant proposals. Commissioner Lashbrook has been reported to say to people that they must choose sides between herself and Merced River Stakeholder Miller and must not communicate with either Miller or anyone associated with her, presumably including all people for the last 30 years who have used the services of or volunteered with the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center or are now or have ever been members of the Central Valley Safe Environment Network as well as people involved with newer organizations. In a previous RCD meeting, Merced Planning Commissioner Lashbrook summed up her attitude toward Merced River Stakeholder Miller: “It’s war.”

Is this the way Merced County citizens want high officials to treat the public?

The question of whether the RCD has a right to obstruct the tasks of the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator, paid public funds to facilitate stakeholders’ meetings, will be taken up at the stakeholders’ meeting in September.

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Water Board Acknowledges It Can’t Protect Water Quality

Submitted: Aug 13, 2007

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
“An Advocate for Fisheries, Habitat and Water Quality”
3536 Rainier Avenue, Stockton, CA 95204
Tel: 209-464-5067, Fax: 209-464-1028, E: deltakeep@aol.com

For immediate release:
9 August 2007

For information:
Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director, 209-464-5067, 209-938-9053 (cell)

Water Board Acknowledges It Can’t Protect Water Quality
Has Less Than A Third Of Staff Necessary To Meet Legal Mandates
Major backsliding in water quality protection

(Stockton, CA) The Executive Officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) has acknowledged that the Board is so understaffed that it can’t meet its core regulatory mission of protecting the State’s water quality. This stunning admission came during Executive Officer Pamela Creedon’s State of the Central Valley Region presentation at the 2 August 2007 meeting of the Board. The Central Valley Region covers nearly 40% of the State’s land area, provides drinking water to two-thirds of the State’s population and includes reservoirs storing nearly 30 million acre feet of water. According to State reports, virtually all of the waterways within the Region are impaired by an astonishing array of pesticides, metals, salts, pathogens, fertilizers and industrial chemicals.

Ms. Creedon admitted that, based upon a needs assessment, the Board has only: a) 12% of the staff necessary to regulate stormwater discharges, b) 16% of those required to regulate dairies, c) 37% necessary to control municipal wastewater discharges, d) 40% of those needed to regulate landfills, e) 26% of those necessary to control discharges of waste to land and f) only 22% of the staff crucial to enforcing conditions of the controversial agricultural waivers. Other Board units are similarly understaffed. For example, the enforcement unit is assigned only 3.5 people, the surface water monitoring and assessment unit has only 2, underground tanks has only 17 of 41 needed, and the Basin Planning unit has only 11 of the 38 necessary to update the Basin Plans that are fundamental to all Board actions. An overview of the staffing shortages is attached at the end of this press release.

“The waterboards have been systematically deprived of staff necessary to protect water quality and it is simply disingenuous for the administration to suggest that our rivers and streams are being protected given these massive shortfalls,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). “Since Governor Schwarzenegger’s election, we’ve witnessed an appalling u-turn in water quality protection: weakened or nonexistent permits, delayed cleanups and lagging enforcement. Consequently, pollutant loads are rising, waterways are increasingly degraded and fisheries are collapsing. The result is a threat to public health and an embezzlement of our legacy of fish and wildlife,” he added.

Illustrative of the Board’s retreat from water quality protection is the backsliding in the more than 200 municipal waste discharge permits, issued pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act. First, federal funds were returned to USEPA so that the majority of permit writing could be out-sourced to Tetra Tech (the Regional Board Executive Director’s former employer). Tetra Tech’s permit writers are located throughout the nation, principally in Virginia and Colorado. These permit writers lack professional engineering registration in California, have not sworn to uphold California laws and are unfamiliar with local conditions. Outsourcing has significantly increased the backlog of unrenewed permits. Second, the Board stopped insisting upon a complete Reports of Waste Discharge (characterization of the waste stream) before processing a permit. Third, fundamental regulatory requirements have been ignored and permit conditions have been weakened in an effort to eliminate costly opposition by dischargers. Fourth, permittees operating in violation of their permits have been provided with extensions of compliance schedules in order to eliminate mandatory penalties and avoid having to initiate enforcement actions. Over the last year, CSPA has appealed some 30 permits to the State Water Board for violations of the most fundamental regulatory requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Without adequate staff, the Regional Board has turned to largely voluntary and predictably less effective alternatives to traditional regulation. For example, the Central Valley Region has over 45% of the state’s harvested timber. With only 9 individuals to cover thousands of timber harvest projects, the Board had no alternative but to turn to conditional waivers of waste discharge requirements and voluntary compliance to address the adverse impacts of logging.

Similarly, waivers were adopted to address waste discharges from irrigated lands. Under the agricultural waiver, coalitions of farmers oversee implementation of waiver conditions. These legally fictitious coalitions have no enforcement authority and cannot require an individual discharger to take any specific action. The Regional Board doesn’t know who is actually discharging, where the discharges are occurring, the constituents being discharged, the volume and concentration of discharged pollutants, whether management measures have been implemented or whether implemented measures are effective. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has effectively been delegated to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. And the result is that virtually every agricultural dominated waterway is seriously polluted.

When the State Legislature eliminated funding of core regulatory functions from the General Fund, they expressly provided the State Water Board with the authority to assess fees to support necessary regulatory activities. However, the Schwarzenegger administration has refused to establish a fee schedule sufficient to comply with the law and protect water quality. Consequently, the waterboards are increasingly relying upon inadequate cookie-cutter permits that ignore regulatory requirements and self-regulatory “stakeholder” driven programs that have never previously been successful in protecting water quality.

“The Governor proclaims himself to globally environmentally concerned but we’re seeing a major retreat by his Administration’s day-to-day implementation of environmental laws and regulations,” said Jennings “rhetoric is meaningless without effective compliance.”

CSPA is a public benefit conservation and research organization established in 1983 for the purpose of conserving, restoring, and enhancing the state’s water quality and fishery resources and their aquatic ecosystems and associated riparian habitats. CSPA has actively promoted the protection of water quality and fisheries throughout California before state and federal agencies, the State Legislature and Congress and regularly participates in administrative and judicial proceedings on behalf of its members to protect, enhance, and restore California’s water quality and fisheries.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA)
A Brief Overview of Staffing Shortages Revealed in The State of the Central Valley Region Presented by Pamela Creedon, Executive Officer, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Regional Board’s 2001/2002 Water Board Needs Assessment

At the 2 August 2007 meeting of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board), Executive Officer Pamela Creedon presented a State of the Central Valley Region. Ms. Creedon’s presentation included an evaluation of the status of major programs and organization-wide issues. Included in the evaluation was a frank assessment of staffing levels and shortfalls based upon a waterboard needs assessment. Below is a compilation, drawn from the State of the Central Valley Region and the 2001/2002 Needs Assessment, of the Regional Board’s present staff levels and the increases in staffing levels that would be necessary for the Region Board to meet its statutory commitments to protect water quality.

The Central Valley Region comprises nearly 40% of the State’s land are, 18% of the State’s population, two-thirds of the State’s drinking water and nearly 30 million acre-feet of reservoir storage.

1. Title 27 Unit (Regulates approximately 265 landfills and numerous surface impoundments and waste piles).
a. Current staff: 21 PYs (person/years)
b. Regional Board has only 40% of staff needed to protect water quality (according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
2. Cleanup Program Unit (Oversees cleanups at Superfund, Brownfield, mines, Department of Defense and other (i.e., Aerojet, Lawrence Livermore Lab/Lehr, etc.) sites
a. Federal Superfund Sites, Department of Defense facilities, Livermore/Lehr sites and Iron Mtn., Sulphur Bank and Lava Cap mines.
i. Current staff: 8 PYs
ii. Need???
b. Underground Storage Tank Cleanups (1,059 cases RB lead; 1,309 cases local agency lead.
i. Current staff: 16.9 PYs.
ii. Regional Board needs 41 additional PYs need to protect water quality according to 01/02 needs assessment.
c. Private Sites (350 SLIC facilities, 20 mines and 40 other cleanup sites.).
i. Current staff: 17 PYs.
ii. Proposed state budget provides 5.3 new PYs.
iii. Need????
3. Waste Discharge Program Unit (Regulates discharges to land from more than 1,500 facilities). Note: Backlogged WDRs have doubled since 2000.
a. Current staff: 25 PYs
b. Regional Board has only 26% of staff needed to protect water quality (according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
4. Dairy Program Unit (Regulates 1,550 existing dairies and more than 400 feedlots, poultry and other confined animal operations)
a. Current staff: 8 PYs (7 new PYs in proposed budget)
b. Regional Board has only 16% of staff needed to protect water quality (according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
5. NPDES Wastewater Unit (Regulates over 200 Permits – 30% of state-wide total – 54 majors/162 minors)
a. Current staff: 17.5 PYs
b. Regional Board has only 37% of staff needed to protect water quality (according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
c. Preparation of most NPDES permits is outsourced to Tetra Tech and permit writers located outside California.
6. NPDES Stormwater Unit (Regulates 7 Phase I MS-4 permits, 86 Phase II MS-4 permits, more than 2,000 industrial permits and more than 5,500 construction permits)
a. Current staff: 11 PYs plus students
b. Regional Board has only 12% of staff needed to protect water quality (according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
7. Water Quality Certification Unit (Regulates projects that threaten wetlands. More 400 certifications processed every year). Note: lack of staff ensures that there are no pre/post inspections of projects, mitigation, monitoring or enforcement.
a. Current staff: 2.6 PYS
b. Regional Board needs 25 additional PYs to protect water quality and wetlands according to 01/02 Water Board needs assessment (130 PYs needed statewide according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
8. Irrigated Lands Waiver Unit (Regulating runoff from more than 5 million acres of irrigated farmland)
a. Current staff: 14.2 PYs
b. Regional Board needs an additional 64 PYs according to 01/02 Water Board needs assessment.
c. Fails to consider staff required to protect groundwater (improperly excluded from waiver).
9. Timber Harvest Waiver Unit (Central Valley Region encompasses approximately 45% of the state’s harvested timber that requires review of thousands of individual timber harvest projects)
a. Current staff: 9.2 PYs
b. Regional Board needs an additional 15 PYs (staff estimate in draft State of the Central Valley Region presentation – deleted in final)
10. TMDL Unit (Develops TMDLs and oversees 300 waterbody/pollutant combinations identified as “impaired”)
a. Current staff: 12.9 PYs TMDL funds; 3 PYs other sources
b. Regional Board needs an additional 10 PYs to implement TMDLs (according to State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director on 2 August 2007).
11. Basin Planning Unit (Sacramento/San Joaquin &Tulare Basin Plans provide the foundation for all Board actions.
a. Current staff: 0.6 PYs, general planning; 9 PYs, TMDL related; 1.75 PYs stakeholders.
b. Regional Board needs an additional 38 PYs to prepare Basin Plan Updates for Triennial Review (according to Draft State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director and 01/02 Needs Assessment – deleted from final presentation).
12. Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program or SWAMP Unit (Responsible for monitoring/assessing surface waters for over 60,000 sq. miles)
a. Current staff: 2 PYs
b. Regional Board needs an additional 2 PYs and $300,000 to meet baseline requirements (according to Draft State of the Central Valley Region presentation by Regional Water Board Executive Director and 01/02 Needs Assessment – deleted from final presentation).
c. NOTE: According to the state’s 305(b) report:
i. Only 3.4% of the rivers and streams, in the Central Valley, have been assessed by the state in terms of supporting aquatic life and only 1.8% has been assessed in terms of supporting swimming.
ii. Of those assessed, only 9% fully support aquatic life and 18% fully support swimming.
iii. The state’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program receives only 3-6% of the funds identified by the state as minimally necessary to evaluate water quality.
13. Grants Unit (Responsible for managing over 80 grants, totaling nearly $70 million, to ensure projects are accomplishing state goals, on task and on time)
a. Current staff: 12.8 PYs – However reduced to 9.2 PYs for FY 07/08
b. Need ????
14. Enforcement Unit (Responsible for evaluating compliance, issuing enforcement orders and assessing penalties).
a. Current staff: 3.4 PYs (20% of State-wide funds)
b. Need????

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