Water

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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Work in progress

Submitted: Aug 12, 2007

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

Argh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch, for the Badlands Journal editorial board

Non-fiction:

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

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

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

Fiction, Poetry, Drama

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

Additions since posting:

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

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Pombusho

Submitted: Aug 01, 2007
The National Park Service's top scientist says politics drove the decision...Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Todd Willens was the leader of the U.S. delegation who made the motion to take the Everglades off the list. Until last fall, Willens was a top aide to former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., a frequent critic of environmental laws and environmental groups. -- St. Petersburg Times, Craig Pittman, July 31, 2007

The president's brother, Jeb, as readers may recall from the Florida 2000 election, is governor of Florida, site of the Everglades and of developers as voracious as those in the former region of Pombozastan, now suffering the highest per capita rate of mortgage foreclosure in the nation. Even as top political appointees to the Department of Interior were toppling in investigations, the Bush administration appointed the defeated Pombo's top aide to a top role in Interior.

This sort of fin de regime move smacks of Al Gore's sale of the Elk Hills Naval Oil Reserve (south San Joaquin Valley) to Occidental Petroleum in the days of stained blue dresses, impeachment and bombs over Kosovo.

Another late Bush-regime move to be alert for would be the sale of the San Luis Reservoir to Westlands Water Districts. Investigations by representatives Nick Rahall (chairman of the Natural Resources Committee) and George Miller into the activities of Jason Peltier, a high Department of Interior official until he announced he was leaving government to become a high official with Westlands, may turn up the trail leading to this outrageous gift to agribusiness and its imperial water agency.

We are grateful to the Frog for catching the relationship between the UN decision on the Everglades and former Pombo staffer, Willens.

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

7-31-07
St. Petersburg Times
Imperiled Glades cut from watch list
A U.N. committee downgrades the park, despite concerns ...CRAIG PITTMAN
Published July 31, 2007
www.sptimes.com/2007/07/31/Worldandnation/Imperiled_Glades_cut_.shtml

Last month, the U.N. World Heritage Committee made headlines when it took Everglades National Park off its list of endangered sites.
The committee, charged with protecting irreplaceable landmarks of outstanding universal significance, hailed the progress the United States had made toward Everglades restoration. This, even though a report released a week later showed that the billion-dollar restoration project already had fallen years behind schedule.
The committee's decision went against the National Park Service's own recommendation and the U.N. committee's science advisers.
"We said it should stay on the danger list because further work needed to be done," said David Sheppard, who heads the Programme on Protected Areas for the Switzerland-based Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which goes by the initials IUCN.
However, Sheppard said, "the head of the U.S. delegation made the comment that it should come off (the list) because of the progress they had made," and the committee went along with that.
The National Park Service's top scientist says politics drove the decision.
"There's always been a kind of pressure from the Washington level to say, 'Okay, we've got a plan, now take us off the list,' " said Robert Johnson, director of the South Florida Natural Resources Center at Everglades National Park since 1995. "I think for the Bush administration, it was seen as a black eye to be on that list."
Being taken off the list "gives people the impression that things are going well," when the restoration is actually decades away from achieving its goals, he said.
For the past four years it has been the only American site listed as being in danger. Being on the list "focuses more international attention on what we do," Johnson said.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Todd Willens was the leader of the U.S. delegation who made the motion to take the Everglades off the list. Until last fall, Willens was a top aide to former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., a frequent critic of environmental laws and environmental groups.
Willens said that making the change was not the result of some political agenda. In fact, it wasn't even his idea, he said. Instead, he said, before the meeting, representatives from some of the 21 other countries on the committee told him they wanted the Everglades off the list because of the 7-year-old restoration project.
So even though the National Park Service's own report recommended keeping the Everglades on the danger list, "I changed the last sentence of our report and said we wanted to be taken off," Willens said.
He said he made the motion before any other country could jump in, because "the U.S. should be fully in charge of its own sites."
The committee is the governing body of the 176-nation World Heritage Convention, set up under a treaty initiated by President Richard Nixon. In 1973, the United States became the first nation to ratify it.
The committee takes inventory of all major world landmarks. It compiled a list of 380 World Heritage sites, including Stonehenge and China's Great Wall. In 1996, when a Polish company proposed building a shopping center near Auschwitz, its World Heritage Site status helped spur international opposition.
Twenty U.S. sites are on the overall list, including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. Everglades National Park has been listed as a World Heritage site since 1979.
When the committee puts a site on its danger list, the goal is to call attention to the threats facing the site. For instance, the Galapagos Islands are being invaded by exotic species, and Jerusalem's Old City is imperiled by Mideast unrest.
The committee put Everglades National Park on the danger list in 1993 when it was beset with threats from encroaching development, water pollution and damage from Hurricane Andrew.
In 2000, Congress and the state Legislature approved a complex plan to restore the River of Grass. Some of its crucial elements are six years behind schedule and the cost has ballooned to nearly $20-billion, according to a Government Accountability Office report made public this month.
Last year, on behalf of the U.N. committee, Sheppard of the IUCN visited Everglades National Park to check on progress.
"I thought the site, although there had been significant progress, still faced significant threats," he said. That's why the IUCN recommended the committee keep the Everglades on the danger list for at least two more years.
Meanwhile, Johnson said, the park staff "put a lot of work into" creating a list of benchmarks that could be used to gauge their progress on dealing with the threats, such as curtailing the phosphorous pollution flowing into the park.
But the committee's own staff noted this month that there are still concerns about water pollution in the park and urban development creeping closer to the park boundaries.
"Various sources have emphasized that restoration is progressing very slowly," the committee's staff wrote in a recommendation to keep the Everglades on the list.
But when the committee heard Willens' motion, it went along with it. There was no formal vote, Willens and Sheppard said, and no dissent. Willens said that's because other sites on the list are in far worse shape than the Everglades, such as one in Iraq.
"Some of the other sites are in war zones," he said. "This way the Everglades doesn't take a lot of attention away from them."
---------

8-1-07
Sacramento Bee
Talks continue grinding forward to reach water deal
The proposed transfer to Westlands still faces major obstacles ...Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau and Dennis Pollock, Fresno Bee
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/302589.html

WASHINGTON -- Negotiators are pressing forward today on what some are calling the biggest water transfer in the nation's history, hoping to end a Central Valley irrigation dispute that's defied solution for several decades.
The sprawling Westlands Water District would gain control of the water stored in San Luis Reservoir, under the revised proposal expected on Capitol Hill. Westlands could be free of the federal acreage limits meant to preserve small family farms, and would stop repaying the government for building the reservoir and associated canals.
In return, the Rhode Island-sized water district and several others would assume responsibility for cleaning up a multibillion-dollar irrigation drainage mess. So far, the districts haven't specified exactly how they might solve the drainage problem...
---------
8-1-07
Farmers ready to take big drink; CALIFORNIA: May get huge water grant while cities conserve -- Garance Burke (AP)

FRESNO, Calif. -- The U.S. government appears poised to turn over the rights to billions of gallons of water to a politically connected group of farmers in California, where most people are being asked to conserve.
Landowners in the Westlands Water District would gain the rights to 1 million acre feet of water under a proposed settlement federal regulators are likely to present today. An acre foot translates to the amount needed to cover one acre with a foot of water.
That's 15 percent of the federally controlled water in California -- the largest grant to irrigators since 1903. ..

10-27-2000
The Center for Public Integrity
Did Taxpayers Lose on Deal For Oil Field?
Elk Hills Timeline -- Josey Ballenger, Nathaniel Heller and Knut Royce
http://www.publicintegrity.net/report.aspx?aid=457

WASHINGTON, October 27, 2000 — 1912: Out of concern for the long-term availability of oil supplies for naval ships, President Taft establishes Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 1 near Bakersfield, Calif. Over the next few years, his administration adds two more oil and three oil shale reserves in the West to the program. They remain essentially undeveloped until 1976.

1922: NPR-1, informally known as Elk Hills, is part of the "Teapot Dome Scandal" in which oil barons bribed Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall for secret oil drilling leases during the Harding administration.

1976: During President Carter's term, the Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974 leads Congress to pass the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act to open NPR-1 and 3 for production on July 3. The law required that the reserves be operated at maximum efficient rates. From 1976 to its transfer to Occidental in February 1998, Elk Hills alone generated $17.1 billion in revenue for the U.S. Treasury, against expenses of $3.3 billion.

1985-1994: In every year but one, the White House's Office of Management and Budget proposes the sale or lease of Elk Hills under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, but each time, the Democrat-controlled Congress shoots the proposal down.

July 1993: The Senate Armed Services Committee requests that the Department of Energy utilize the National Academy of Public Administration to study management alternatives for the Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, including the concept of corporatization, or turning the property over to a government corporation.

May 1994: The NAPA report recommends turning Elk Hills and the other Reserve properties into a wholly owned, for-profit government corporation.

Nov. 23, 1994: A memo appears on the desk of Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary asking her concurrence to have Elk Hills, by far the most lucrative Naval Reserve, run by a public corporation. All assistant secretaries have signed off on the proposal.

Dec. 2, 1994: Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Patricia Godley meets with Deputy Secretary Bill White, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Reserves Captain Ernest Hunter and OMB Associate Director T.J. Glauthier to discuss corporatization. DOE memos indicate that "OMB continues to favor immediate privatization of the Reserves as the preferred option."

Dec. 19, 1994: At a news conference with President Clinton and Vice President Gore on the "Middle Class Bill of Rights" and "Reinventing Government," Deputy Energy Secretary White announces the administration's intent to sell Elk Hills.

Sept. 7, 1995: On the second anniversary of "Reinventing Government," Vice President Al Gore presents a report by the National Performance Review, an interagency task force that made recommendations for more than 180 specific cuts in government. President Clinton says these cuts will save more than $70 billion in the next five years. One of the recommendations is to sell Elk Hills.

Feb. 10, 1996: The Defense Authorization Act of 1996, which spells out the procedure for selling Elk Hills within two years, is signed into law.

Oct. 1, 1997: The deadline for all bids on Elk Hills to be submitted, at noon in Houston.

Oct. 6, 1997: DOE announces Occidental Petroleum Corp. is the high bidder on Elk Hills, at $3.65 billion. DOE does not divulge, to this day, the other bidders' names or offer amounts.

Feb. 10, 1998: Occidental takes over control of Elk Hills from the U.S. government.
------------
July 2000
The Nation
Al Gore's Teapot Dome....by COCKBURN, ALEXANDER
www.questia.com/library/encyclopedia/101273888

Al Gore succeeded where the Administration of Warren Harding failed. He privatized Elk Hills, the huge oilfield outside Bakersfield, California, set aside long ago as a strategic reserve for the Navy. Back in the Harding days, Interior Secretary Albert Fall went to jail for taking a $100,000 bribe to approve lease of the field to Edward Doheny. For seventy years, lingering recollections of Teapot Dome remained strong enough to stymie attempted raids on the military's largest strategic fuel reserve. Nixon tried to sell it, and so did Reagan; each time Congress beat them back...
---------------
8-29-00
Al Gore: The Other Oil Candidate ...Bill Mesler, Special to CorpWatch
www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=468

For thousands of years, the Kitanemuk Indians made their home in the Elk Hills of central California. Come February 2001, the last of the 100 burial grounds, holy places and other archaeological sites of the Kitanemuks will be obliterated by the oil drilling of Occidental Petroleum Company. Oxy's plans will "destroy forever the evidence that we once existed on this land," according to Dee Dominguez, a Kitanemuk whose great grandfather was a signatory to the 1851 treaty that surrendered the Elk Hills.
Occidental's planned drilling of the Elk Hills doesn't only threaten the memory of the Kitanemuk. Environmentalists say a rare species of fox, lizard and the kangaroo rat would also be threatened by Oxy's plans. A lawsuit has been filed under the Endangered Species Act. But none of that has given pause to Occidental or the politician who helped engineer the sale of the drilling rights to the federally-owned Elk Hills. That politician is Al Gore.
Gore recommended that the Elk Hills be sold as part of his 1995 "Reinventing Government" National Performance Review program. Gore-confidant (and former campaign manager) Tony Cohelo served on the board of directors of the private company hired to assess the sale's environmental consequences. The sale was a windfall for Oxy. Within weeks of the announced purchase Occidental stock rose ten percent.
That was good news for Gore. Despite controversy over Dick Cheney's plans to keep stock options if elected, most Americans don't know that we already have a vice president with oil company stocks. Before the Elk Hills sale, Al Gore controlled between $250,000-$500,000 of Occidental stock (he is executor of a trust that he says goes only to his mother, but will revert to him upon her death). After the sale, Gore began disclosing between $500,000 and $1 million of his significantly more valuable stock.
Nowhere is Al Gore's environmental hypocrisy more glaring than when it comes to his relationship with Occidental. While on the one hand talking tough about his "big oil" opponents and waxing poetic about indigenous peoples in his 1992 book "Earth in the Balance," the Elk Hills sale and other deals show that money has always been more important to Al Gore than ideals...

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California Sportfishing Protection Alliance lashes Valley agricultural pollution

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

Water Board Report Shows that Irrigated Agriculture Has Polluted the Delta and Most Central Valley Waterways

For immediate release:
25 July 2007

(Stockton, CA) The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) has released a landmark draft report presenting the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Data collected from some 313 sites throughout the Central Valley reveals that: 1) toxicity to aquatic life was present at 63% of the monitored sites (50% were toxic to more than one species), 2) pesticide water quality standards were exceeded at 54% of sites (many for multiple pesticides), 3) one or more metals violated criteria at 66% of the sites, 4) human health standards for bacteria were violated at 87% of monitored sites and 5) more than 80% of the locations reported exceedances of general parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, salt, TSS). While the adequacy of monitoring (i.e., frequency and comprehensiveness) of monitoring varied dramatically from site to site, the report presents a
dramatic panorama of the epidemic of pollution caused by the uncontrolled discharge of agricultural wastes.

The report is posted on the Regional Board’s website at:

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/programs/irrigated_lands/index.html#Monitoring A brief review of the report including a zone-by-zone description of many of the monitoring results is attached at the bottom of this advisory.

“The report is a searing indictment of the Schwarzenegger Administration’s failure to regulate polluted discharges from irrigated agriculture,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). “Allowing farmers to dispose of toxic wastes in our waterways without effective regulation has destroyed the biological integrity of streams, rivers and the Delta,” he said adding, “Collapsing fish populations are a direct result of failing to require agriculture to comply with routine pollution control requirements applicable to virtually every other segment society, from municipalities and industry to mom-and-pop businesses.”

California’s ambient monitoring program and scientists from the University of California at Davis collected data from 53% of the sites. The remaining sites were monitored by agricultural coalitions or individual water agencies, pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Waivers program.

Discharges of agricultural pollutants are allowable under waivers of waste discharge requirements issued by the Regional Board in 2003 and renewed in 2006. Those waivers are being contested in a lawsuit filed by CSPA and Baykeeper against the Regional Board on 18 June 2007.

The waivers require farmers to join coalitions and conduct limited water quality monitoring. However, requirements to implement pollutant control measures are voluntary. Unfortunately, the structure of the waivers precludes the Regional Board from learning the identity of specific dischargers, actual discharge locations, the constituents being discharged, the volume and concentration of discharged pollutants, whether or not BMPs have been implemented or if implemented BMPs are effective. Consequently, the Regional Board cannot document a single specific source of pollution, the implementation and effectiveness of a single control measure or a single pound of pollution that has actually been prevented from entering waterways.

Since the coalitions are legally fictitious entities shielding actual dischargers, the Regional Board is unable to employ its traditional regulatory enforcement powers against dischargers to compel compliance with the conditions of the waiver. As a result, no enforcement actions have been taken for the failure of the coalition’s to comply with the waiver’s explicit monitoring and reporting requirements. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has effectively been delegated to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. Such an approach has never worked in the past and is not likely be successful in the future.

“The report puts to rest the repeated claims by farmers that agricultural pollution is not a problem in the Central Valley,” said Jennings, “and it graphically chronicles the bankruptcy of the Regional Board’s approach to controlling agricultural wastes.” “We cannot begin to restore the Delta and Central Valley waterways until we begin to control the massive discharge of toxic pollutants from agriculture.”

CSPA reviewed the draft report and found that it was confusing and understates the consequences of the data. Principle defects were: 1) lack of a unified framework (formats, tables and discussion rationales are different for each zone), 2) comparison of toxicity and specific constituents to total sites monitored, regardless of whether they were monitored at a particular site; 3) failure to address spatial and temporal variability in comparing water quality exceedances to total collected samples, and 4) failure to discuss the ecological and statistical significance of criteria exceedance. Despite these shortcomings, the report is the first attempt to define the extent of agricultural pollution and it presents an appalling picture of the state of Central Valley waterways.

One of the more disturbing findings in the report is the pervasiveness of long-banned pesticides like DDT and it’s degradates, DDE and DDD, that are either being remobilized by present farming practices or illegally applied. DDT is still legal in Mexico and a number of individuals have questioned whether DDT is being illegally smuggled into the state. A number of other “prohibited” pesticides were also identified at various monitoring sites.

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

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA)
A Brief Overview of the Draft 2007 Review of Monitoring Data, Irrigated Lands Conditional Waiver Program, 17 June 2007
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff posted the Revised Draft of the 2007 Review of Monitoring Data for the Irrigated Lands Conditional Waiver Program (Report) on 13 July 2007. It is posted on the Regional Board’s web site at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/programs/irrigated_lands/index.html#Monitoring

The Report divides the Central Valley into four zones:
1. Zone 1 includes the Sacramento River Watershed.
2. Zone 2 includes the Delta Region and portions of the San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras and Mokelumne watersheds.
3. Zone 3 includes the San Joaquin River Watershed.
4. Zone 4 includes the Tulare Lake Basin.

The Report presents the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Monitoring data collected from some 313 sites is identified in the Report. The irrigated lands agricultural coalitions or individual water agencies enrolled under the waiver monitored 148 sites or 47% of the total. The state’s ambient water monitoring program (SWAMP), UC Davis (under contract to the Regional Board) and others monitored the remaining 165 sites.

Monitored constituents included toxicity (fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton and sediment), pesticides (standard suites plus legacy organochlorines), metals (arsenic, boron, copper, lead, nickel and zinc), bacteria/pathogens (E. coli), field parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, total dissolved solids and/or electrical conductivity) and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen containing compounds including phosphate, nitrate and ammonia).

Notwithstanding the structural deficiencies, inaccuracies and bias of the Report (discussed below), it is welcome first step toward identifying and quantifying the impacts of discharges from irrigated lands. It presents an astonishing and depressing mosaic of the pervasive water quality problems in the Central Valley caused by irrigated agriculture. It is a searing indictment of the Regional Board’s failed policy of exempting irrigated agriculture from water quality regulations applicable to virtually every other segment of society.

The frequency and comprehensiveness of monitoring varied significantly from site to site. Where monitored:
1. Toxicity was identified at 63% of the sites and 50% of the sites experienced toxicity to two or more species.
2. Pesticide criterion was exceeded for one or more pesticides at 54% of the sites.
3. One or more metals exceeded water quality criteria in 66% of the monitored sites.
4. Human health criteria for bacteria were exceeded in 87% of the monitored sites.
5. More than 80% of the monitored sites exceeded water quality criteria for general parameters.

The pervasiveness of identified problems is disheartening. For example, 60 of 61 monitoring sites in the San Joaquin Watershed (Zone 3) exceeded at least one parameter. Many sites reported exceedances in virtually all parameters (toxicity, bacteria, metals, pesticides and general parameters). The single site that reported no exceedances in Zone 3 was only monitored a single time for two parameters.

While the Report is a welcome first step in cataloging water quality problems caused be irrigated agriculture, it is needlessly confusing and contains fundamental structural deficiencies and inaccuracies. These include:
1. Lack of a unified and consistent framework for individual zone summaries. Formats, tables and discussion rationales are unique for each zone making it difficult to compare zones.
2. Inconsistency in reported parameters. For example, Zone 2 and 3 summaries reported general parameter exceedances but general parameters were ignored in the Zone 1 and 4 sections. Again, results for metal sampling was discussed in the Zone 2 and 3 summaries but not for Zones 1 and 4. None of the zone summaries discussed nutrient monitoring results.
3. Improperly comparing toxic occurrences at sites to the total number of sites, regardless of whether toxicity was monitored. For example, the Report states that toxicity to algal species was found at 27% of the sites in Zone 1. However, algal toxicity testing in was only conducted at 59 of the 96 monitoring locations in Zone 1. Toxicity to algae was found at 26 of those sites. Consequently, 44.1% of the monitoring sites experienced toxicity to algae, not the 27% incorrectly reported. Another example is sediment toxicity in Zone 2. The Report states that 23% of the sites exhibited sediment toxicity. However, sediment toxicity was only conducted at 31 sites and toxicity was identified at 12 sites, which is actually 38.7% of the sites where sediment toxicity was measured.
4. Improperly comparing the number of exceedances to the total number of tests for a specific parameter in a zone. For example, Zone 1 includes the entire Sacramento Valley. Sampling for dormant spray insecticides would not be expected to result in detections in areas or during periods where they are not applied. Comparing monitoring results of a specific parameter to the total sampling conducted throughout the Sacramento Valley without incorporating temporal and spatial discussions is simply disingenuous. It biases the results and understates potential problems.
5. Failure to discuss the relative importance of water quality criteria exceedances. Aquatic life criteria are established as a not-to-be-exceeded more than once-in-three year standard. More frequent exceedances can result in irreparable harm to the environment. Even a single exceedance of aquatic life criteria for a synthetic or toxic constituent can be statistically significant.
6. The Report ignores sublethal and chronic effects to aquatic ecosystems and the impacts of multiple stressors simultaneously occurring.
7. Failure to place the adequacy of monitoring in context. For example, a number of sites were only monitored a single time for one or few parameters. Results from even the most rigorously monitored sites represent only a brief snapshot of actual ambient conditions. Monitoring six or twelve times a year represents 0.07 % and 0.14% of yearly conditions. Statistically speaking, given minimal monitoring, a single identified exceedance of a synthetic or toxic constituent not naturally occurring in the environment virtually guarantees that numerous undiscovered and undocumented water quality exceedances and/or toxic events actually occurred.
8. Absence of a discussion of whether the agricultural coalitions have complied with mandated requirements of the Irrigated Lands Waiver. The lack of such a discussion prevents any assessment of the adequacy of the monitoring program. For example, none of the coalitions have complied with requirements to monitor all of major drainages, 20% of intermediate drainages on a rotating basis and minor drainages when downstream impacts are identified. Nor does the Report discuss the frequent failure of the coalitions to monitor for all required parameters, comply with data collection protocols and conduct follow up monitoring where water quality exceedances are identified.

Despite these shortcomings, the Report clearly establishes that discharges from agricultural lands are a significant, if not the major contributor, to the shredding to the aquatic biological tapestry throughout the Central Valley. Coupled with the inadequacy of coalition management plans, the Report’s findings chronicle the bankruptcy of the Regional Board’s approach to controlling agricultural pollution. Especially, in light of the fact that the Conditional Waiver precludes the Regional Board from knowing the identity of specific dischargers, actual discharge locations, the constituents being discharged, the volume/concentration of discharged constituents, whether or not BMPs have been implemented or if implemented BMPs are effective. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has been left to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. Such an approach has never worked in the past and is not likely be successful in the future.

Below is a brief summary of the Report’s findings.

Zone 1 (Sacramento River Watershed)
1. Ninety-six (96) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 43 sites. UC Davis (under contract with the Regional Board) or SWAMP (state’s Ambient Monitoring Program) monitored 53 or 55% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 84 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 45 sites or 53.6% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 16 sites or 35.6% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Toxicity tests for fish (Pimephales promelas - fathead minnow) were conducted at 76 sites (many of those had only one or few tests). Toxicity was identified at 6 sites or 7.9% of sites that were monitored for fish toxicity. Report incorrectly states only 6% of sites had fish toxicity.
b. Toxicity tests for zooplankton (Ceriodaphnia dubia - water flea) were conducted at 75 sites (a number of sites only monitored 1 – 3 times). Zooplankton toxicity was identified at 20 sites or 26.6% of the sites that monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 5 or 25% were toxic more than once. Mortality exceeded 50% in 77% of the toxic events. Report incorrectly states 21% of sites had zooplankton toxicity.
c. Toxicity tests for algae (Selenastrum – algal species) were conducted at 59 sites (number of sites only monitored 2 or 3 times). Algal toxicity was identified at 26 sites or 44.1% of sites that actually monitored for algal toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 17 or 65.4% were toxic more than once. Mortality was greater than 50% in 29% of the toxic events. Report incorrectly states 27% of sites had algal toxicity
d. Sediment toxicity tests (Hyalella azteca – sediment amphipod) were conducted at 52 sites (27 monitored once, 14 monitored twice). Sediment toxicity was identified at 13 sites or 25% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity and conducted more than one test, 37.5% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states 13.5% of sites had sediment toxicity
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were monitored at 33 sites (several had only 1, 2 or 4 samples). Public health limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 28 sites or 84.8% of the sites monitored for bacteria.
4. Pesticides were monitored at 57 sites (many with only 1 or 2 samples). Exceedances were identified at 23 sites or 40.4% of the sites that were monitored for pesticides (numerous sites had exceedances for multiple pesticides).
5. Metal (arsenic, boron, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, selenium and zinc) results were not reported for Zone 1 because coalitions failed to report hardness data.
6. General parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, total suspended solids and electrical conductivity) were not reported for Zone 1.
7. The Zone 1 summary contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Zone 2 (Delta Region and portions of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras and Mokelumne watersheds)
1. Fifty-eight (58) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 29 sites and UC Davis or SWAMP monitored the other 29 locations. Twenty-one percent (21%) of the sites had more than 25 cumulative exceedances of metal, toxicity and general parameter criteria.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 52 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 26 sites or 50% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 14 sites or 53.8%% of sites where toxicity was identified (6 sites or 27% were toxic to 3 or more species).
a. Toxicity tests for fish were conducted at 47 sites (many had only one or few tests). Toxicity was identified at 9 sites or 19.1% of sites that monitored for fish toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 33.3% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states that 17% of sites exhibited toxicity.
b. Toxicity tests for zooplankton were conducted at 47 sites (a number of sites were only monitored 3 – 4 times). Zooplankton toxicity was identified at 15 sites or 31.9% of the sites that monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 6 or 42.9% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states 28.8% of sites exhibited toxicity to water flea.
c. Toxicity tests for algae were conducted at 37 sites (a number of sites were only monitored 1, 2 or 4 times). Algal toxicity was identified at 12 sites or 32.4% of sites that actually monitored for algae toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 7 or 58.3% were toxic more than once. Report states that 23% of sites exhibited algae toxicity.
d. Sediment toxicity tests were conducted at 31 sites. Sediment toxicity was identified at 12 sites or 38.7% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 8 or 66.7% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states sediment toxicity occurred in 23% of sites.
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were monitored at 23 sites. Health-based limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 18 sites or 78.3% of the sites monitored for bacteria (of these, 39% were above 1600 MPN/100 mL). Numerous sites exceeded criteria the majority of the time. For example, Grant Line Canal and French Camp Slough both exceeded criteria in 11 of 14 samples and Lone Tree Creek exceeded criteria in 14 of 16 samples.
4. Metals were monitored at 23 sites. One or more metal exceedances were found at 12 sites or 52.2% of the sites monitored for metals. Several sites had multiple exceedances. For example, Pixley Slough exceeded criteria for copper, lead and zinc 8, 20 and 4 times, respectively. Grant Line Canal exceeded arsenic, copper, lead and nickel 2, 3, 3, and 1 time respectively (out of five tests).
5. Pesticides were monitored at least once at 46 sites. Pesticides exceedances were identified at 28 sites or 60.9% of the sites that monitored for pesticides. Several sites had 30 to 40 exceedances and a number of sites had multiple exceedances of multiple pesticides. Pesticides under Basin Plan prohibition (carbofuran, malathion, methyl parathion and thiobencarb) were detected at 9 sites. Dieldrin is illegal in California but was identified at 4 sites. DDT and it’s degradates DDE and DDD continue to be identified in Zone 2.
6. General parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, Total suspended solids, electric conductivity) were monitored at 58 sites. Water quality criteria were exceeded for one or more parameters at 49 sites or 84.5% of the sites monitored for general parameters.
7. The summary contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Zone 3 (San Joaquin River Watershed)
1. Eighty-three (83) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 46 sites and UC Davis or SWAMP monitored 37 or 46% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 62 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 47 sites or 75.8% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 34 sites or 72.3%% of sites where toxicity was identified (16 sites or 34% toxic to 3 or more species).
a. Fish toxicity tests were conducted at 58 sites. Toxicity to fish was identified at 11 sites or 19% of sites monitored for toxicity (Coalition only data shows toxicity at 24.4% of sites). Of the sites that identified toxicity, 2 or 18.1% were toxic more than once.
b. Zooplankton toxicity was analyzed at 58 sites. Toxicity to zooplankton was identified at 34 sites or 59% of the sites monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Complete mortality of 100% was frequent (36 of 61 toxic samples) and the magnitude of toxicity was as high as 22 toxic units. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 15 or 44.1% were toxic more than once.
c. Algal toxicity testing was conducted at 56 sites. Toxicity to algae was identified at 24 sites or 43% of the sites that monitored algal toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 10 or 41.7% were toxic more than once.
d. Sediment toxicity was analyzed at 51 sites. Toxicity in sediment was identified at 29 sites or 57% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 13 or 44.8% were toxic more than once.
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were analyzed at 45 sites. Health-based limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 42 of 45 or 93% of the sites that monitored for bacteria. Of the sites that identified bacteria exceedances, 36 or 85.7% exceeded criteria multiple times.
4. Metal suites were analyzed at 30 sites. Exceedances of one or more criteria occurred at 23 sites or 77% of the sites that monitored for metals.
5. Pesticide suites were analyzed at 44 sites. Exceedances of one or more pesticides were identified at 32 sites or 72.7% of the sites that monitored pesticide suites. Although banned for more than 30 years, DDT was found to be above criteria in 8% of tests and it’s degradates DDE and DDD were identified 14% and 3% of the time, respectively.
6. General Parameters
a. Dissolved oxygen was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of the 7mg/L (cold water) was identified at 49 sites or 80% of the sites monitored for dissolved oxygen.
b. pH was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of criteria was identified at 26 sites or 42.6% of the sites monitored for pH.
c. Electrical conductivity (salt) was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of the 700 µmhos/cm criteria (agricultural goal) was identified at 30 sites or 49% of sites monitored for electrical conductivity.
7. Nutrients were monitored at 62 sites but collected data is neither reported nor discussed.
8. Note: University of California study found measurable concentrations of DDT, DDD or DDE in 90% of sediment samples.

Zone 4 (Tulare Lakes Basin)
1. Seventy-six (76) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 30 sites. UC Davis, SWAMP or others monitored forty-six or 61% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 66 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 49 sites or 77.2% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 20 sites or 40.8%% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Fish toxicity testing conducted at 57 sites. Toxicity to fish identified at 19 sites or 33.3% of sites monitored for fish toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 15.8% were toxic more than once.
b. Zooplankton toxicity testing conducted at 57 sites. Toxicity to zooplankton identified at 8 site or 14% of sites monitored for zooplankton. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 1 or 12.5% were toxic more than once.
c. Algal toxicity testing was conducted at 57 sites. Algal toxicity was identified at 33 sites or 57.9% of sites monitored for algae toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 24 or 72.7% were toxic more than once.
d. Sediment toxicity was analyzed at 39 sites (majority of sites only tested 1 or 2 times). Sediment toxicity was identified at 16 sites or 41% of sites monitored for sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 18.8% were toxic more than once.
3. Pesticides were monitored at 30 sites. Exceedances of one or more pesticide criteria were identified at 13 sites or 43% of sites monitored for pesticides. Prohibited pesticides or DDT/degradates were detected above criteria at 7 sites (23% of monitored sites).
4. There is no information in the Report on bacteria/pathogen monitoring.
5. Metals were monitored at 28 sites. However, results for metal testing were not disclosed in the Report.
6. There is no information presented on general parameters other than the observation that electrical conductivity limits were exceeded at 13 locations.
7. The Report contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Summary: Central Valley

1. There were a total of 313 monitoring sites in the Central Valley. Coalitions monitored 148 locations. UC Davis, SWAMP or others monitored 165 sites or 53% of the total monitored sites.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 264 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 167 sites or 63.3% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 84 sites or 50.3%% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Fish toxicity was identified at 45 of 238 sites or 18.9% of the sites where fish toxicity was monitored.
b. Toxicity to zooplankton was identified at 54 of 237 sites or 22.8% of the sites where zooplankton toxicity was monitored.
c. Toxicity to Algae species was identified at 95 of 209 sites or 45.5% of the sites where algal toxicity was monitored.
d. Sediment toxicity was found at 70 of 173 sites or 40.5% of sites where sediment toxicity was monitored.
3. One or more pesticides exceedances were found at 96 of 177 sites or 54.2% of the sites where pesticide suites were monitored.
4. Metal results were not reported for Zones 1 and 4. Zones 2 and 3 reported metal exceedances at 35 of 53 sites or 66% of the sites where metals were monitored.
5. Exceedance of human health criteria for bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) was identified at 88 of 101 sites or 87% of the sites where bacteria was monitored. Most of the sites had numerous violations.
6. General parameters were not reported for Zones 1 and 4. Zones 2 and 3 reported exceedance of one or more general parameters at 84.5% and 88.5% of sites, respectively.
7. There was no reporting or discussion of nutrient data with the exception Table Z3-1 for Zone 3 that reveals that nutrient monitoring was conducted at 62 sites.

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Hun talks on water

Submitted: Jul 18, 2007
"There's no better place in California to illustrate the water crisis happening right now
in our state," the governor said (standing on the shores of the San Luis Reservoir in
Merced County
) -- Merced Sun-Star, July 17, 2007

No, Governor, the state does not have a water crisis. It has a population crisis: the natural resources -- land, water, air -- can no longer carry the population in a healthy way. Puppet governors like you call it a water crisis in drought years (quite common in California) and an air pollution crisis because of urban sprawl in Central California, particularly the San Joaquin Valley. We also have a financial crisis in the north San Joaquin Valley caused by urban development "led" by local government: the northern three counties now lead the nation in per capita mortgage foreclosures.

The second worst air pollution area in the nation is in the most rapidly growing part of Southern California -- more dependent than ever on water from the San Joaquin Delta.

You cannot fix the levees in the Delta. You can't stop the overpumping from the Delta that is now extirpating aquatic species. You can't control snow and rain. You cannot improve air quality and slow the increase of asthma for children and the elderly. You cannot stop the extinction of wildlife species. You cannot improve the quality or quantity of groundwater.

So, now you propose that the people of California indebt themselves another $6 billion on top of the billions the state has already been indebted by governors and the Legislature since January 2001, when the state had a $12-billion surplus? To build two storage dams and a peripheral canal around the Delta?

You want to build Temperance Flats Dam above the Friant Dam on the San Joaquin, which would wreck the San Joaquin River settlement that would permit the river to once again flow through 60 miles of riverbed that has been dry sand for 50 years? For what? For the developers of Oakhurst? For a new Temperance-Kern Canal? So that Fresno can expand up the Sierra to 7,000 feet?

You come down to the land of subsidized cotton and bemoan the lack of subsidized water, meanwhile proposing to stop the state subvention of Williamson Act contracts for property-tax relief for farmers. Do you have any idea how much land in farming will be sold for real estate if that plan is realized? Probably, you do, and finance, insurance and real estate special interests, whose puppet you are, have told you to break the back of agriculture so that it will no longer compete with municipal and industrial water demand. Incidently, you will destroy what's left of wildlife habitat in the process.

Do you also support selling San Luis Reservoir to Westlands Water District? How about finally building the San Luis Drain so that all the selenium-rich agricultural drainage can flow into the Delta to feed its species and improve its drinking water?

How much Wall Street money does it take to make another snowflake? A peripheral canal around the Delta won't add water. Because the government refuses to fix the levees, you propose to create this bypass to lower the flow of fresh water through the Delta so that Los Angeles can still get fresh water, Southern California can still keep growing and the salt water flows up the Delta to Sacramento?

Finance, insurance and real estate speculators have made fools out of federal government. Increased off-stream water storage in California means -- as do more highways -- more growth, the destruction of more natural resources including air and water, and more risk to public health and safety for residents.

And what is our return for supporting policies designed by finance, insurance and real estate lobbyists? Better education? Better jobs? Better health care? Better quality of life? A better environment? More culture? More leisure? Better government? Cleaner air? More water?

No, but we get more comedy. We get to see another Big Shot from Hollywood make a fool out of himself while trying to make fools out of all of us. If California really is in the weather condition water people are describing as "La Nada" and the drought does continue, we look forward to seeing you trying to seed clouds over the Sierra with Wall Street dollars and the ash from your expensive cigars.

Bill Hatch
---------------------

7-17-07
Merced Sun-Star
Governor in county to float $5.9B water bond...Michael G. Mooney, Modesto Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13796789p-14375417c.html

With a depleted San Luis Reservoir at his back, Gov. Schwarzenegger touted his $5.9 billion comprehensive water plan Monday, saying California must have more storage and new delivery systems. "There's no better place in California to illustrate the water crisis happening right now in our state," the governor said. ...the reservoir, which serves as a giant holding tank for San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta water bound for Central Valley farmers and Southern California city dwellers...state Department of Water Resources, which operates the federally constructed reservoir, said capacity was at 21 percent, or about 424,000 acre feet of water. "That's very low," the spokesman said, "even for this time of year." The reservoir normally is drawn down during summer months to provide irrigation for thousands of acres of farmland, as well as 25 million Californians. This year's draw-down is more problematic, however, because of the dry winter and persistent
droughtlike conditions the state is experiencing. Last month's nine-day shutdown of delta water pumping stations near Tracy exacerbated the situation. Without the pumps pushing water through the California Aqueduct, there was less available to divert into the reservoir — a vital cog in the state's complex water storage and conveyance system. Additionally, water districts in Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties have initiated mandatory water rationing. The governor's plan would provide:
About $4.5 billion to develop new surface and underground water storage.
Another $1 billion to rebuild aging delta levees and new delivery systems such as a new
peripheral canal project.
About $450 million for a variety of projects, including restoration and new conservation
programs.
Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, said he supports putting a bond measure on the 2008 ballot to fund water supply and conveyance projects. But under Perata's plan, the state's different regions would have the authority to select which projects to pursue with the money...the measure would dovetail with legislation already authored by Perata, SB 1002, which would use money from recently approved state bonds to protect the delta and boost groundwater supplies. "Rather than re-living the water wars of the past over false
choices like dams and canals," Perata said in a statement issued Monday, "I have advocated since January for a new water policy that delivers the least expensive, quickest and most flexible solutions to water supply."

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Three pieces of good news

Submitted: Jul 12, 2007
This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan tstand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation ofthese exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs, July 11, 2007

Three pieces of good news:

1) No biowarfare lab for Livermore Lab Site 300 near Tracy. One San Joaquin County reporter said today that he'd heard the decision was actually made in June, as scheduled, but only announced now. Possibly, the consolation warpork prize for Livermore Valley was a head-trauma clinic for Iraq veterans.

2) The House Natural Resources Committee is looking into the revolving door policy at the Department of Interior, by which Jason Peltier, a top water official, is leaving to become assistant general manager of Westlands Water District. Committee questions to Interior Secretary focus on projects Peltier has been involved in that would have benefitted Westlands.

3) Hank Shaw, capital reporter for the Stockton Record, reported yesterday on his blog that Section 123 has been removed from the Farm Bill. The section would have prohibited states or local jurisdictions from banning cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their borders. Four counties in California have such laws and others are working on them at the moment. Shaw said he confirmed the news with several reliable sources among Agriculture Committee members and committee staff. It would appear he's scooped the nation on his blog, but he hasn't written the article for his newspaper yet, nor have either the news services or GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org (the indespensible anti-GMO clipping service) yet picked up the story.
We'll see ...

Bill Hatch
----------------------

7-11-07
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITIES DEFEAT BIO-WARFARE AGENT RESEARCH PROPOSAL
AT LIVERMORE LAB SITE 300
For more information:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner and opposition leader in Tracy, (209) 835-7162
http://www.trivalleycares.org/pressRelease/prjul07.asp

Activists and Business Owners Rejoice as Dept. of Homeland Security Rejects
Livermore Lab Application for National Bio and Agro Defense Facility
(NBAF); Claim Public Opposition Tipped the Scales

TRACY - Following a year of community outreach, meetings with elected officials, neighborhood "house parties", door to door petitioning, Tracy City Council action, and other escalating opposition, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently got the message. There is no "community acceptance" for a bio-warfare agent research facility in Northern California.

Today, elected officials leaked the names of the 5 finalist locations for the Dept. of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF. Livermore Lab's Site 300 is NOT on the list, despite heavy lobbying by the Lab and the University of California, which manages Livermore Lab
and submitted its NBAF application.

The NBAF will be one of the largest and most dangerous biodefense facilities in the world. Reportedly, the "finalist" contenders to house NBAF are located in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Local grassroots organizing carried the day in eliminating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range from consideration. Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, and its allies
generated more than 7,000 calls and letters to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300.

The group collected more than 2,000 paper petitions against the bio-facility, many of them distributed from neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. In addition, the group's members
wrote numerous letters to the editor and spoke out at Tracy City Council and other key meetings.

On Tri-Valley CAREs' behalf, Working Assets Long Distance asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab from locating at Site 300 -- and more than 3,000 did so. Hundreds more made phone calls.

A colleague organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsored an Internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS.

And, following advocacy from community members, the Tracy City Council, Site 300's closest neighbor, voted in January 2007 to oppose the bio-lab. The City of Tracy then sent a letter to DHS announcing its opposition.

According to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, "The community opposition was impressive. So many bright lights came out to oppose this dangerous bio-warfare agent research proposal. I believe it was public outcry that caused Homeland Security to eliminate Site 300 from consideration."

Kelley continued, "I am ecstatic that we were able to achieve this victory and I salute all the community members who spoke out."

The proposed NBAF will cover 520,000 square feet, roughly the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity.

Biosafety Level-3 facilities experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for
which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research at NBAF will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to test on large animals, according to the DHS request for
proposals in the federal register.

Local businessman and resident Bob Sarvey said today, "I am glad that we in Tracy will not be subjected to both increased bomb testing at Site 300 and live anthrax, plague, bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing opposition to further bomb testing with depleted
uranium at the site. The end goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination and safe research at Site 300."

Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 would have meant collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300
would have weakened the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)," stated Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare
research in classified nuclear weapons facilities. I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 by DHS preserves this clear and important distinction."

Miles elaborated, "If the line is ever breached, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This will have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the BWC." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.

Additionally, the NBAF is part of what many community groups are calling an unnecessary and dangerous "biodefense building boom."

Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies have asked Congress and the Bush Administration for a national "needs assessment" to be undertaken. This logical first step would provide the government and the public with an
accurate picture of what biodefense capabilities presently exist in the United States, and what if any additional capability is needed.

Stated Kelley, "It is shocking that no such overarching assessment exists and that each federal agency is moving forward willy-nilly with its own proposals for more labs."

This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan to stand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation of these exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles.

Homeland Security will make the final site selection for NBAF by October 2008. The Environmental Impact Statement process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, is now slated to begin immediately.

7-12-07
Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner
http://tracypress.com/content/view/10137/2242/

Tracy didn’t make the cut to host a $450 million national lab where killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday...the federal government has selected finalists from five other states for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The decision eliminates the potential to bring hundreds of highly skilled jobs to the city but is considered a victory by many residents who were troubled by the secrecy and possible threat posed by the project. When federal officials whittled down the list, it eliminated Tracy, the only bidder west of the Rocky Mountains. The five that are left are Flora Industrial Park in Madison County, Miss.; Texas Research Park in San Antonio, Texas; Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.; Umstead Research Farm in Granville County, N.C.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. It’s likely Tracy didn’t make the cut because of its lack of community acceptance. Earlier this year, the City Council voted to oppose the project. In a Feb. 9 letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Lawrence Livermore officials and other federal officials, City Manager Dan Hobbs cited both the proximity of Site 300 to the city and residents’ public health and environmental concerns. Perhaps equally important was the lack of answers from federal officials about specific testing at the proposed facility, Sarvey said...more than 4,000 signatures and about 2,000 letters were sent to Homeland Security in opposition to the proposed project. Chris Harrington, spokesman for the University of California, which is associated with Lawrence Livermore on the project, said, "The University of California is disappointed that its proposal for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility was not selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for further review and consideration." He also said that while UC’s proposal is no longer under consideration, university officials hope Homeland Security will not rule out options to place a bio- and agro-defense facility in California in the future.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC out of the running for controversial biodefense lab...David Perlman
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/12/BAG61QV3GK1.DTL&hw=uc&sn=003&sc=644

The University of California lost its bid Wednesday to build a huge new biodefense lab where scientists would study highly dangerous microbes at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's property near Tracy, federal officials announced Wednesday. UC officials had lobbied strongly for selection of the Livermore lab as home for the new facility. Livermore scientists had planned to locate the lab at the Site 300 property near Tracy -- well away from the main Livermore campus. But local opposition may have helped derail the plan. Tri-Valley Cares, the activist organization that has long been a thorn in the side of the Livermore lab's nuclear weapons work, vigorously lobbied against locating the new biodefense facility anywhere near Tracy or Livermore. More than 3,000 petitions and 2,000 e-mails from Tracy residents, plus 2,000 paid telephone messages carried by the Working Assets Long Distance phone service, opposed the new lab, according to Marylia Kelley, a leader of the organization formally known as Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment. The Tracy City Council also voted to oppose the lab... The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is planned as a huge, heavily shielded structure covering more than 500,000 square feet -- larger than five average Wal-Mart stores. Within the building, under a variety of high-tech containment labs, scientists and technicians would study the effects of the world's most dangerous microbes on animals and seek new ways to protect both humans and domestic animals against the germs, according to homeland security planners. A statement from UC's Washington office said the university "is disappointed" that it was not selected and added that it is "a leader in the field of biotechnology and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the area of biosecurity research. We will continue to apply our premier scientific and technological expertise to the homeland security work of our nation."

7-11-07
Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews
http://tracypress.com/content/view/10137/2242/

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Tracy was cut from its list of proposed locations for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility.
The list was narrowed from 18 sites to five. The sites under consideration are in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Kansas gears up effort to win bio lab
By JASON GERTZEN
The Kansas City Star
http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/186415.html

“…We can make a very strong case that we are the best possible location.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas officials aim to blend scientific strengths with political savvy after the state emerged Wednesday as a finalist for a $450 million federal biodefense laboratory.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security leaders included a proposed location on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan among spots in five states that now will undergo an intensive review. Officials plan to name a winner by the fall of 2008 for a substantial lab complex that will employ hundreds of scientists and bring a boost to the bioscience prestige and economy of the successful region.
Kansas is vying with Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi for the 500,000-square-foot facility that is to develop new measures for detecting and countering foot and mouth disease, various strains of swine fever and other pathogens with the potential to devastate the nation’s food supply.
Another Kansas site in Leavenworth County and one in Missouri near Columbia were trimmed from 17 locations across the country under consideration for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Federal officials intend to move the scientific work from an animal disease lab at Plum Island, N.Y., that is viewed as inadequate because of its aging facilities.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, viewed Wednesday’s much-anticipated announcement as a big win for his state and said he was optimistic about its prospects.
“There is still much work to be done, but our state can be proud that we are considered one of the premier centers of biological and agricultural research, businesses and education,” Roberts said. “The merits are on our side" ...

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
UGA on short list for national bio-defense facility
By KEN FOSKETT
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2007/07/11/biodefense_0711.html

The University of Georgia is a finalist for a major new bio-defense facility dedicated to combating contagious human and animal diseases.
The state's top university was among five sites chosen Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security as potential homes for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The research facility, part of the national strategy to combat terrorism, is intended to counter threats to the nation's food supply and limit the chances of animal diseases spreading to humans.
The state of Georgia has proposed investing up to $154 million to land the project, including $10 million to attract researchers to the university system and $120 million in new UGA facilities.
"Just being on the short list is a very big win for Georgia," said Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance, which supported UGA's bid. "We're thrilled" ...

7-12-07
Brownfield
M-U no longer finalist for National Bio and Agro-Defense facility
by Julie Harker http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=BAC0E949-CF20-D683-59E70F731A958A2E

The University of Missouri-Columbia has been dropped as a potential site for a new national bio and agro-defense research facility. The Homeland Security Department narrowed its list on Wednesday to five potential sites: in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina.
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association recently came out in opposition to the Columbia location, saying it was too risky to animal and human health to have the level-four facility in such a populated area.
Other ag groups, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Pork Producers Association, supported the location.
----------------------

Rep. Miller News--New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Depart ment
Date:
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
From:
Lee, Danielle
To:
Miller, George

MEMO

To: Interested Parties
From: The office of Congressman George Miller
Date: 6/28/07
Re: New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Department

-- California water
-- Lobbyists / "Revolving Door"
-- Interior Department

Senior members of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the Interior Department today to request information on Administration officials' use of the "revolving door" and its possible impact on federal policymaking. The letter follows below.

For more information, please contact Daniel Weiss at (202)225-2095.

Background

Jason Peltier once ran the Central Valley Project Water Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of federal water contractors in California. He then became one of the Bush Administration's lead officials on Western water policy, apparently overseeing projects and policy decisions that directly affected his former clients. He most recently served as the Interior Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

This week, he accepted a job with the largest irrigation provider in the country and one of the largest water customers of the Interior Department, the Westlands Water District, despite having been directly involved in a number of federal decisions that may impact Westlands.

Mr. Peltier was profiled last year in an article in the New York Times ("For Thirsty Farmers, Old Friends at Interior Dept."), questioning his role in influencing water policy decisions. The Westlands Water District recently revived a lawsuit against the United States charging that the government should be using less water to restore the environment under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

The congressional letter comes at a time when the Bush administration's Interior Department faces increased scrutiny. Yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's political interference led to a decision to withhold water from salmon, leading to a massive fish kill with devastating consequences for the Pacific Northwest ("Leaving No Tracks"). Earlier this week, the former second-ranking official at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Today's letter

The congressional letter sent today calls for an accounting of the decisions Mr. Peltier made as an Interior official that would affect his new employer, and requests an explanation for, and documentation of, the steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in the case, as well as in a similar earlier case.

The request was sent by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Committee.

The full text of the letter to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, is below. The letter was copied to Earl Devany, the Department's Inspector General.

< <20070628MillerRahallDOILetter.pdf>>

***
The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

We write today expressing great concern over the imminent departure of the Department of Interior's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science-Mr. Jason Peltier-who is leaving the Department to become the Chief Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the country and one of the largest customers of the Bureau of Reclamation. While serving at the Department for the past six years, Mr. Peltier has played a major role in a number of California-related water issues that impact his prospective employer.

As members of Congress and Committees with oversight of the Department of Interior and its stewardship of the nation's natural resources, we are deeply troubled by the potential impact Mr. Peltier's use of
the "revolving door" will have on the Department's policymaking.

Although we have been advised that Mr. Peltier may have removed himself from decisions on some California-related water issues, former Secretary Gale Norton once described Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peltier as dealing "frequently with California water issues" on behalf of the Department. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing Mr. Peltier's involvement with California water, the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, and the Westlands Water District, including Mr. Peltier's:
* role in implementing the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the CALFED program;
* participation in the development of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan;
* policymaking role regarding the Central Valley Project, including the renewal and awarding of contracts for Westlands and other CVP water users; and
* involvement in Trinity River matters.

In addition, it is our understanding that Mr. Peltier is actually the second official from the Department of the Interior to have joined the Westlands Water District within the last year. We have learned that Ms. Susan Ramos, the former Assistant Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, presently represents the interests of Westlands in negotiations with her former office, the Bureau of Reclamation.

In light of these facts, we request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in these two cases, especially regarding litigation between Westlands Water District and the United States. Specifically, we request:
1 a full-accounting of Mr. Peltier's and Ms. Ramos' efforts to negotiate their new employment, and an explanation of the actions taken to ensure that their exit plans did not and will not impact federal policymaking;
1 information demonstrating that these former government employees' new positions with Westlands Water District will not violate federal statutes prohibiting conflict of interest or "switching sides," including 18 USC §207; and
* any advice, counsel, or opinions the Department prepared on this matter.

We appreciate your prompt attention to our request, and would appreciate your response by July 27 of this year. Please coordinate the production of the requested information with Jeff Petrich, Chief Counsel, Committee on Natural Resources at (202) 225-XXXX.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER NICK J. RAHALL, II

Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

CC: The Honorable Earl Devany, Inspector General, Department of the Interior
----------------------

8-27-02
Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2002/2002-08-27-09.asp

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 27, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration is dropping its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that environmental groups say could harm a widely supported California water plan.
At stake is the state-federal CalFed plan, which is designed to restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta and improve water supply reliability for California. Congress is now considering legislation to authorize funding for the CalFed plan.

But in February, a federal judge in Fresno ruled that federal regulators improperly allocated water to fish and wildlife. If upheld, the decision will reduce the amount of water available for protecting the environment.

In May, the Department of Interior appealed the judge's ruling, which came in a suit filed by Central Valley agribusiness interests in an attempt to weaken the CalFed plan. Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton withdrew the government's appeal, a decision that environmentalists say undermines the cornerstone of the CalFed plan.

"Secretary Norton is walking away from CalFed, even though she had pledged to support it," said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This is another environmental rollback by the Bush administration, and it has serious consequences for California."

Norton's key staffer on CalFed issues is Jason Peltier, who previously served as a longtime lobbyist for Central Valley agricultural interests. For more than a decade, as the head of the Central Valley Project Water Association, Peltier led efforts to oppose federal water reform.

Despite Peltier's efforts, President George Bush Sr. signed into law the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) in 1992. The CVPIA was a major overhaul of the federal project that delivers water to farmers and other California water users. It guaranteed that water would be made available for environmental protection.

The Department of Interior wrote rules to implement the CVPIA, which serve as the foundation of the CalFed plan.

On October 31, 1992, the day after CVPIA became law, Peltier pledged in the San Francisco Chronicle, "We'll do anything and everything to keep from being harmed. If that means obstructing implementation [of the bill] so be it."

"We call on Secretary Norton to explain the role of former water lobbyist Jason Peltier in this decision to capitulate to his former clients," said Nelson. "If Peltier is behind this, then it means he is finally delivering on his decade old promise to block implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Industry special interests should not be charged with protecting the environment."

NRDC and other environmental groups are appealing the ruling to the Ninth Circuit court of appeals.
-------------------

2-17-07
Water facilities transfer isn't easy
Cleaning up drainage raises complex tangle of legal, finance issues.
By Michael Doyle and Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee
http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/2007/001120.html

Serious political and pragmatic obstacles block a new proposal to shift vast San Joaquin Valley irrigation facilities into farmers' hands.

Capitol Hill skeptics hold key leadership positions. Congress is already booked up with another big Valley water plan to restore the San Joaquin River. Technical solutions are complicated.

And history, if it's any guide, suggests it's extremely hard to transfer federal water projects -- especially ones serving California.

"A proposal like this will always face challenges," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, conceded Friday. "This is not a unanimous consent item."

Costa, nonetheless, said he finds promise in the new notion to deliver into local control the San Luis Reservoir and more than 100 miles of canals and associated pumping plants. He represents much of the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District.

Under the proposal, Westlands would join with the San Luis Water District and other districts in taking over the federal facilities.

The state of California also would play a role.

The water districts would become responsible for resolving the irrigation drainage problems now afflicting almost 400,000 acres of the Valley's west side.

In exchange, the federal government would forgive the districts' $489.6 million construction debt.

"This is an attempt, I think, to think out of the box," Costa said.

Supporters consider the proposal aired this week better than other drainage options estimated to cost as much as $2.6 billion. The government'spreferred drainage option was supposed to be announced Friday, but officials delayed it to discuss the new proposal.

Environmental critics question whether the new idea will really save taxpayer money. If the government remains liable for drainage, irrigation districts would eventually have to repay the federal Bureau of Reclamation for a drainage fix.

Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken responded that taxpayers still would be providing the upfront funds. The government would allow interest-free payback over 50 years. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy.

"The reimbursement wouldn't begin until after the facilities for drainage are complete," McCracken added.

But even the 20-page conceptual paper now circulating on Capitol Hill acknowledges numerous difficulties.

Area lawmakers like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, still must get their potential concerns addressed.

The feds and the farmers, for instance, concede they don't yet agree on the "full scope" of how the government might be shielded from future lawsuits. The farmers originally sued over the government's failure to provide
promised drainage.

Without drainage, selenium-tainted farm runoff has accumulated -- most infamously during the 1980s in the poisoned Kesterson Reservoir in western Merced County.

The written proposal acknowledges other uncertainties, including:

Efforts to understand the financial implications of the transfer are "ongoing," while identifying the dollar value of the water and facilities is "a difficult question to answer."

Farmers and federal officials disagree over the "outstanding" issue of who is responsible for dam safety.

The potential effect on California bond and credit ratings "has not yet been addressed."

Impacts on pumping plant operations are "highly dependent" upon final negotiations.

And then there's the salt.

Many millions of tons of salt have come to the western San Joaquin Valley in irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is where the ocean meets the state's two longest rivers.

"Where will all this salt go?" asked Clovis resident Lloyd Carter, an attorney and environmentalist.

The salt will eventually damage the land unless there is some way to remove it, experts say.

Simply changing the owner won't remove the salt.

"Is this new plan really in the best interest of the taxpayers?" asked Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Miller's skepticism is telling. He is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chief lieutenants. Her chief of staff, John Lawrence, formerly handled Western water issues for Miller. Her chief administrative officer, Dan Beard, likewise worked for Miller and then ran the Bureau of Reclamation during the Clinton administration.

All were around the last time California farmers and their congressional allies tried to seize the Central Valley Project.

In 1995, lawmakers led by Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay, sought to sell the CVP as part of a larger budget bill. That proposal to sell off the entire Redding-to-Bakersfield water network was far more ambitious than the
new idea. Still, its fate is instructive.

One of the big proponents of the 1995 sell-the-CVP idea was Jason Peltier, then representing Central Valley Project customers.

Peltier now is a senior official in the Interior Department, which helped craft this week's proposal.

The 1995 idea eventually died, with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein cautioning then that "there are a lot of points that I think need a major hearing." This week, Feinstein said she needs time to analyze the new
proposal.

Congress this year is already being asked to approve an ambitious plan to restore the San Joaquin River, raising questions of how much California water out-of-state lawmakers are prepared to deal with.
----------------

7-10-07
Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record
http://blogs.recordnet.com/n/blogs/blog.aspx?webtag=sr-hshaw

Lawmakers in Congress will not be debating whether to pre-empt local rules governing genetically modified foods, the consumption of foie gras or other controversial food items in this year's Farm Bill. The original draft included a provision known as Section 123, which barred any locality (i.e., Sonoma or Mendocino) from banning anything already given the vaguely papal gesture of the USDA. This provision had organic farmers in an uproar because they fear that the Monsantos and Syngentas of the world will contaminate their crops with GM crops (this happened in Oregon). Some local governments, mostly in California and New England, have banned farmers from growing these "frankenfoods" as a way to stop their spread.
Adding the GM debate to an already contentious Farm Bill battle was just too much for lawmakers, my sources say. House Agriculture Committee spokeswoman April Slayton said she doesn't know what committee chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, thinks about Section 123. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said last month he was concerned about it, especially since he is the chair of the committee's panel on organic agriculture. Is this Dennis at work? We'll see...

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Rancho Cordova/Tsakopoulos lose vernal pool case

Submitted: Jul 09, 2007

7-7-07
Sacramento Bee
Rancho Cordova stymied
Worried about vernal pools, judge overturns OK of the Preserve housing project.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga
http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/260784.html

A Sacramento judge Friday overturned Rancho Cordova's approval of a proposed development that has put the city at odds with federal environmental agencies.

Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette ruled that the city did not adequately spell out how it would mitigate the loss of vernal pools in the Preserve, a development of 2,700 homes planned for the middle of the Sunrise Douglas Community Plan.

The Rancho Cordova City Council adopted the plan for the Preserve in 2006, but construction remains on hold as the city spars with federal regulators over protection of vernal pools.

The California Native Plant Society sued in September. The group contends that the Preserve -- as designed -- would have a devastating effect on some of the finest vernal pool habitat in the Sacramento region.

Carol Witham, a local leader of the society, called Friday's ruling "a win for what the California Native Plant Society regards as the Yosemite of vernal pools."

Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands that fill in winter, flower in spring and host a variety of endangered plants and animals, including tiny shrimp and plants such as the slender orcutt grass, which in the Sacramento area occurs only in the Sunrise Douglas area, Witham said.

In his ruling, Marlette found that Rancho Cordova had improperly "deferred" the issue of habitat mitigation on the 530-acre Preserve property.

Rancho Cordova's general plan contains a "no net loss" of wetlands policy, yet the plan for the Preserve failed to specify where the proposed off-site mitigation land proposed for the development would be.

Marlette also found that the city also failed to disclose potential impacts of groundwater pumping on fish in the Cosumnes River.

The judge stressed Friday that he was not taking sides in the ongoing fight between Rancho Cordova and federal environmental regulators, who envision a wetlands preserve flowing through the property along a major tributary of Morrison Creek.

Developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos and his partners, who own the land, have received hearty backing from Rancho Cordova to build a tightly packed "town center" on the site and reroute Morrison Creek under a power line corridor.

"It's clear to me that the city wants this, and I'm sure it would be a wonderful plan, but there are rules out there with regard to the sharing of information with people who might have interests other than the City Council," Marlette said.

Federal officials did not formally intervene in the lawsuit. But letters from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the city of Rancho Cordova were used to bolster the native plant society's case.

Under the plan approved by the city, a 92-acre wetlands preserve would be retained in one corner of the site, but it would be less than half of what the federal agencies have endorsed.

Tsakopoulos is proposing to mitigate most of the wetlands lost at an unspecified off-site location.

Rancho Cordova Councilwoman Linda Budge said Friday that she and her colleagues haven't had a chance to discuss whether they will appeal.

"That is one of the most beautifully designed projects that we've had come before us," Budge said. "I find it quite mysterious that there could be anything anyone could object to. ... It is a town center right in the middle of the Sunrise Douglas area."

Witham said she hopes the judge's ruling forces the city of Rancho Cordova to redesign the project so it complies with the wetlands preservation strategy laid out by federal regulators for Sunrise Douglas.

That conceptual strategy, a compromise agreed to by the other Sunrise Douglas property owners, envisions a linear preserve running through the community along the natural alignment of Morrison Creek.

Under this scenario, Tsakopoulos would be required to keep about 220 acres in open space.

"It would take almost half the site in the middle of the city," said his lawyer, Jim Moose.

Even if the city's approval of the Preserve had not been overturned, Tsakopoulos still would have to obtain permits from the federal agencies before he could build. Moose said Friday his client hopes to persuade the federal agencies to modify their stance.

Phil Seymour, a lawyer for the city, downplayed the significance of the preservation strategy endorsed by the federal regulators, saying it had not been formally adopted.

"No environmental study has ever been done on the conceptual plan, no feasibility study has ever been done. It's one step above being written on a cocktail napkin," Seymour said.

The ruling in favor of the California Native Plant Society comes against a backdrop of legal uncertainty surrounding the larger Sunrise Douglas development, which is partially built and eventually will include about 18,000 homes.

In February, the California Supreme Court ruled that the environmental review for Sunrise Douglas was inadequate. Building has continued, however. Ultimately, it will be up to a Sacramento Superior Court judge to decide what additional environmental review is needed -- and whether to order construction to stop.

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Lloyd Carter: The growing selenium threat

Submitted: Jul 06, 2007
Although drainage flows to Kesterson were halted in 1985 following intense media exposure of the problem, selenium-contaminated farm drainage continues to flow to many wildlife refuges in more than a dozen western states, and food chain levels of selenium in those refuges reveal a continuing threat to bird populations. -- Lloyd Carter, Fresno Bee, July 5, 2007

Prominent people in the public affairs of Merced County, home of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge selenium disaster, think you need a grant to do "outreach and education." The grant, goes the logic of its recipients, legitimizes the source of the information.

Fortunately for what's left of the Valley's natural resources, not all people wait for the grants and the blessings of the politicians to do their "outreach and education."

At a recent festival on the Merced River-side ranch of a county planning commissioner, a member of the board of the East Merced Resource Conservation District, described a lecture by author Lloyd Carter on the rivers of the San Joaquin Valley as a negative "rant."

Carter is among those who rose to the emergency of Kesterson, sacrificing his career in journalism to do the honest stories that had to be done. He didn't wait for a grant, a politician's or a publisher's blessing. He reported the truth, based on the facts, and still does.

Lloyd Carter, like Felix Smith, Lydia Miller and a few others, have done the work, do the work and will continue to do the work -- without the grant, the political or editorial kisses.

The editors, publishers, federal and state resource agencies and western agribusiness hope that we will forget. Carter, Smith, Miller and a few others won't let them lead us into amnesia.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------

7-5-07
Fresno Bee
LLOYD CARTER: Selenium poisoning is still a threat today
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/wo/story/77691.html

It has been nearly a quarter of a century since federal scientists discovered that selenium in Western San Joaquin Valley farm drainwater was triggering massive embryo deformities in ducks and shorebirds and killing all the edible fish at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge.

The fish die-off and deformities or embryo deaths in more than half the Kesterson nests were caused by selenium that had been leached from the western Valley soils by irrigation practices and then dissolved in subsurface drainwater funneled to the "refuge." Scientists would rediscover that selenium, while a micro nutrient, is the most toxic of all biologically essential elements in mammals.

Officials of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which built the federal irrigation facilities on the west side, and political appointees at the parent Department of Interior initially claimed the Kesterson selenium poisoning was an isolated problem.

But as investigations spread to other national wildlife refuges, selenium contamination was confirmed in the southern San Joaquin Valley (Tulare basin), Salton Sea, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona and Kansas.

Now 25 years later, with hundreds of millions of dollars on studies and research spent, the Department of Interior still has no selenium safety standards for wildlife, although a committee was appointed in 1989 to adopt such standards. Yet the evidence continues to grow that selenium poisoning, caused by farming, mining, coal burning, oil refining and other industrial activities, is occurring all over America.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site or other Internet scientific sources:

Six horses and between 200 and 300 sheep died from grazing on selenium-laced plants near phosphate mines in Idaho between 1996 and 2003. Phosphate mining of shale soils to make fertilizers generates large amounts of selenium-laced mining wastes, which contaminate waterways and land.

Hay from western states high in selenium is suspected of causing selenium poisoning in horses in Missouri, according to University of Missouri veterinarians.

Fish and ducks in San Francisco Bay have elevated selenium levels.

Cutthroat trout are disappearing from streams along the Idaho-Wyoming border because of selenium contamination from phosphate mining.

Shellfish and birds in the Great Lakes region have elevated selenium levels.

Although drainage flows to Kesterson were halted in 1985 following intense media exposure of the problem, selenium-contaminated farm drainage continues to flow to many wildlife refuges in more than a dozen western states, and food chain levels of selenium in those refuges reveal a continuing threat to bird populations.

Dennis Lemly, of the U.S. Forest Service, who is considered a premier expert in America on selenium poisoning of wildlife, has described the disappearance of fish in southeast Idaho as "an insidious ticking time bomb."

Seventeen of 26 closed phosphate mines in Idaho have been designated Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA officials say not a single closed phosphate mine has ever been cleaned up. The current Secretary of Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, formerly served as a public relations spokesman for one of those phosphate mining companies.

Although Reclamation officials claimed they were surprised at Kesterson, it is only because they did not do their homework. Selenium poisoning of livestock and forage foods had been known for decades in the Dakotas and the southwest. High levels of selenium were confirmed in the Coast Range -- parent soil material of the western San Joaquin Valley -- in 1939.

Time magazine complained in a 1933 article that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was "inclined to silence" about selenium poisoning of cattle fed wheat, corn and alfalfa grown on high selenium soils in the American Southwest dating back to the 19th century.

The late David Love, "grand old man of Rocky Mountain geology," warned in a famous 1949 memorandum, which he later claimed was suppressed by the Department of Agriculture, that farming and irrigating high selenium soils in the American West would create an environmental disaster.

And closer to home the Westlands Water District, which once funneled its selenium-laced waste waters to Kesterson, now faces a drainage disposal problem that may cost in excess of $2 billion. Surrealistically, Interior officials are suggesting the construction of more Kesterson-like evaporation ponds as a "solution" to the farm drainage problem. Federal irrigation districts north of Westlands now drain their selenium-laced waste waters into the polluted lower San Joaquin River and want to continue doing so.

In 2007, with the Kesterson debacle a memory, the federal government is still "inclined to silence" about the extent and seriousness of the selenium problem. You don't hear politicians giving speeches about the selenium threat.

Federal scientists tell me selenium impacts on bird reproductivity are still occurring here in the Valley and elsewhere in America where farming and mining on high selenium soils is slowly but surely contributing to the steady decline of bird and fish populations.
Lloyd Carter, a Fresno lawyer, is director of the California Water Impact Network.

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