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.


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


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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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

St. Petersburg Times
Imperiled Glades cut from watch list
A U.N. committee downgrades the park, despite concerns ...CRAIG PITTMAN
Published July 31, 2007

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."

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

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...
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. ..

The Center for Public Integrity
Did Taxpayers Lose on Deal For Oil Field?
Elk Hills Timeline -- Josey Ballenger, Nathaniel Heller and Knut Royce

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

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...
Al Gore: The Other Oil Candidate ...Bill Mesler, Special to CorpWatch

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

Merced Sun-Star
Governor in county to float $5.9B water bond...Michael G. Mooney, Modesto Bee

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
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."

| »

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

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

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.

Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner

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

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."

Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews

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
The Kansas City Star

“…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

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" ...

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
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
Lee, Danielle
Miller, George


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.


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
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.



Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

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

Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge

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.

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

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

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.

Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record

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...

| »

Rancho Cordova/Tsakopoulos lose vernal pool case

Submitted: Jul 09, 2007

Sacramento Bee
Rancho Cordova stymied
Worried about vernal pools, judge overturns OK of the Preserve housing project.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga

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

Fresno Bee
LLOYD CARTER: Selenium poisoning is still a threat today

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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Extinction no solution to water pollution -- Felix Smith

Submitted: Jul 04, 2007

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

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

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

Badlands editorial staff

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power,

Hearing on

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


Implications for California Water Management”,

July 2, 2007 at Vallejo, California.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Suggested Actions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Felix E. Smith

4720 Talus Way

Carmichael, CA 95608


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People with passion and people who babble about it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badlands editorial staff

The destruction of the American West -- starring big agribusiness and the government that supports it
By L. G. Carter
Penthouse Magazine, January 1999
Reprinted without permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinosaurs swing big tails going down.

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