Water

San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement press coverage

Submitted: Sep 28, 2006

Below, you will find a series of abstracts of newsclips about the San Joaquin River Settlement. On Sept. 13, fourteen environmental and recreational organizations and 29 irrigation and water districts and four federal agencies, submitted a settlement agreement to United States District Court, Eastern District of California. The agreement proposes a plan for one of the greatest river restoration projects in American history.

One of the most important laws considered in the federal court's decision, which forced the parties into settlement negotiations, was California Fish and Game Code, Section 5937.

The owner of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to pass through a fishway, or in the absence of a fishway, allow sufficient water to pass over, around or through the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam. During the minimum flow of water in any river or stream, permission may be granted by the department to the owner of any dam to allow sufficient water to pass through a culvert, waste gate, or over or around the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may
be planted or exist below the dam, when, in the judgment of the department, it is impracticable or detrimental to the owner to pass the water through the fishway.

However, much -- though not all -- of the press coverage of the settlement reflects the frontier attitude of a former manager of the Merced Irrigation District:

"The price of a water right is eternal vigilance."

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Sept. 28,2006

Lawmakers settle river dispute...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12785879p-13478049c.html
WASHINGTON -- Exhausted Capitol Hill negotiators agreed Wednesday on legislation to revive the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam. Establishing a new "experimental population" of salmon, while still protecting operations on local dams and water projects, were the keys to the compromise. The next big problem is time... In part, the new deal reassures water agencies that they can renew their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses on the Merced and Tuolumne rivers without additional environmental requirements solely because of the new salmon population...guarantees that federal officials in protecting the salmon "will not impose more than de minimus water supply reductions, additional storage releases or bypass flows" on the water districts...agreed to devote the capital repayment from Friant water customers to the river restoration project for the next 20 years. Even so, some Valley lawmakers voiced dissatisfaction with the haggling that included environmentalists making a last-minute push for an additional concession... Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza, while supporting the final compromise, added that "this process should never be repeated (because) legislating by lawsuit is not the way to do public policy." "I'm pleased with the progress that's been made," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, but "we have to look at this seriously. The Congress has to take its time; we have to hold hearings."

Valley well-represented in river-restoration talks...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12786191p-13478313c.html
In poker, you can't win if you're not at the table. The same thing is true in water negotiations. Fortunately, we had a seat - several, in fact - at the table where a deal to restore the San Joaquin River between Fresno and Merced has been worked out. Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced a deal... Included were some key third-party representatives. Among them was Modesto Irrigation District General Manager Allen Short, who represented the five irrigation districts - Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale, Merced and South San Joaquin - that depend on and manage the San Joaquin's tributary rivers. Joining him was Ken Robbins, a lawyer for Merced Irrigation District, and all five valley members of the House of Representatives. The negotiations on the bill are complete, but this game is not over. Getting this bill passed will require the help of the entire valley congressional delegation...it is doable.

Sept. 27, 2006

Sacramento Bee
River lawsuit ends; will restoration work?...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/29845.html
It took a lawsuit by environmental groups and a sympathetic federal judge in Sacramento named Lawrence Karlton to force a compromise. The question now is how will the salmon regard the settlement? They are the true judges here. And is this legal settlement the last word? Not really. Many affected parties along the river weren't at the negotiating table. Neither was Congress, which is now wrestling with coming up with the money and deciding how a reintroduced salmon population should be regulated under the federal Endangered Species Act. The end of this contentious lawsuit means the beginning of a long and delicate process -- more negotiating, more political arm-twisting and more scrutiny of river ecolology -- with the goal of accomplishing something on a scale that has never been tried before in California. Beware of anyone declaring this mission accomplished. But celebrate an important milestone for a very troubled river.

Sept. 26, 2006

Salmon may be replenished in San Joaquin River...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12777978p-13470708c.html
WASHINGTON -- The negotiators returning to Capitol Hill today hope to finish crafting the legislation needed for the river's restoration. The end result of the haggling in Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's third-floor office eventually could be an estimated 500 or more spring-run chinook salmon back in the now-depleted river...the San Joaquin River salmon would swim in the shadow of the California condor, the Yellowstone area gray wolf and Florida's whooping crane. Like them, the San Joaquin River salmon would be dubbed an experimental population -- a move that can ease regulatory burdens and soften political resistance...it's become apparent that the San Joaquin River fix likely will include declaring the newly reintroduced salmon as a "non-essential experimental population." Under an Endangered Species Act provision known as 10(j), this will set the salmon apart from other protected plants and animals. Property owners wouldn't have to worry about regulators designating their land as "critical habitat," because experimental populations don't get critical habitat. It doesn't impose new regulations on private land, though critics like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, say it can still depress land values. For that reason, the Bush administration sparked anxiety when it designated 450,288 acres as critical habitat for the California red-legged frog and 199,109 acres as critical habitat for the California tiger salamander.

Sept. 25, 2006

Fresno Bee
River worries flood west side...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12774415p-13467443c.html
LOS BANOS - A farm road runs through the shriveled San Joaquin River where chinook salmon are supposed to swim in seven years. This peaceful farming belt may be the stage for the next legal fight over restoring the dammed and dried San Joaquin. Farmers here are afraid a restoration agreement announced this month might wind up ruining some of their land. Their lucrative crop fields butt against the old stream bed. They fear a restored river will waterlog their land and prevent crops from growing. Now their representatives are in Washington, D.C., trying to protect their interests in legislation to restore the river. Among other concerns, west-side farmers want to make sure there is enough money to properly study the effects of a restored water flow in their area. They also would like to see money set aside to pay for property damage in their area. Otherwise, they say they will have to file suit if damages occur. Aside from funding, there is another sensitive question: Will the nearby flood-control channel known as the Eastside Bypass also be used in the restoration?

Sept. 24, 2006

Stockton Record
Flow will be slow...Allen Short, Modesto Irrigation District, San Joaquin Tributary Agencies and Daniel Nelson, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060924/OPED02/609240307&SearchID=73257838248384
After 18 years in the courts, a settlement on restoring the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the Merced River has arrived - but only partly...still must gain the blessing of a federal judge...needs legislation authorizing the expenditure of funds for projects to finalize the settlement. The driving force behind the settlement is restoration of river flows on the San Joaquin River to allow a return of the spring-run Chinook salmon. Specifically, the final settlement resolution must include a reasonable approach to:
» Solve fishery concerns.
» Fully fund infrastructure and mitigation for restoring 142 miles of river habitat.
» Protect water rights, including groundwater, of parties not involved as well as farms, rural communities and cities that rely on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries for water.
» Guarantee that ongoing successful river and chinook salmon restoration on San Joaquin River tributaries aren't adversely impacted.
» Protect all third parties from endangered species penalties regarding reintroduced spring- run salmon.
» Provide an inclusive process for the impacted third parties to have meaningful input into the program.
Legislators and others involved must implement a balanced, long-term solution that is fair to all parties affected by San Joaquin River restoration.

Sept. 23, 2006

How is this a successful river restoration?...Cannon Michael, Los Banos...Guest commentary
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12767877p-13460874c.html
Last week, when the settlement to restore the San Joaquin River was announced...I was surprised to see such positive coverage from local media...it is important for Valley residents to remember: the restoration of the San Joaquin River was not born out of a collaborative desire to bring salmon back to the river, it was brought about by litigation. The environmentalists won their lawsuit and Friant was forced into a settlement that they felt would be better than what Judge Karlton would impose upon them. NRDC has never estimated the number of spring-run Chinook salmon the restoration program would restore... My family farms along a stretch of the San Joaquin River that will be the most difficult and costly to restore, a stretch that has been termed Reach 4-b. The settlement calls for the East Side Bypass to handle some of the initial "pulse flows" required for the restoration while the capacity is increased in Reach 4-b...the bypass would be a far less costly option than creating a new channel in Reach 4-b. I am not against trying to make the restoration work, but I hope that it can be done in a balanced and fiscally responsible way.

Sept. 22, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Politicians get a look at river restoration plan...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12762086p-13456203c.html
WASHINGTON -- Negotiators are still refining an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan, with a tentative agreement this week to classify as "experimental" the salmon that will reclaim the river as its home. "experimental" label would mean the Merced and Modesto irrigation districts have less to fear from federal regulators. It is also a sign that river negotiators...may soon resolve completely how Congress will make the San Joaquin live again. One key solution...involves designating the newly reintroduced San Joaquin River salmon as a "nonessential experimental population." Under a rarely used portion of the Endangered Species Act, this softens the accompanying regulatory burden; for instance, critical habitat would not be designated for the salmon. Separately, negotiators seemingly outflanked a controversy over restoring a 22-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River that ends in Merced County..."upper 4-B" stretch is now depleted, causing doubts about its potential revival. Consequently, negotiators say they have agreed to call for a feasibility study... Remaining sticking points...what to do about federal hydroelectric licenses. The Merced Irrigation District's license for the Merced River Project expires in 2014, and the Modesto and Turlock districts' license for Don Pedro Reservoir expires in 2016. Negotiators must also resolve how to handle salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...

San Francisco Chronicle
San Joaquin River plan stall in House...Kimberly Geiger
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/22/BAGHNLAO5E1.DTL&type=printable
Conservationists and federal water authorities have reached a compromise to end an 18-year dispute over the damming of the San Joaquin River, but House lawmakers who reviewed the agreement Thursday said they will pursue changes to the plan before passing legislation required to complete the deal. The deal laid out a scheduled release of water from the dam to restore the river over the next 20 years -- and required lawmakers by year's end to pass a bill authorizing federal funding and oversight of the project...lawmakers at a House hearing Thursday said the settlement overlooks the effects on farmers and other water agencies that were not included in the negotiations. Lawmakers concluded the hearing with a request that the parties to the settlement negotiate a compromise with third-party interests before legislation goes forward.

Sept. 21, 2006

The cost of victory...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060921&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=609210342&SectionCat=&Template=printart
MODESTO - A resurrected San Joaquin River could prove even more expensive than originally thought - costing perhaps $1 billion - while causing unintended consequences for fish, some downstream water users claim. Flows from Friant Dam near Fresno could be too warm for migrating fall-run chinook salmon, they say. Meanwhile, repairing levees and widening a channel that hasn't seen flows in half a century could require huge investments and the retirement of thousands of acres of farmland. The settlement is not the final chapter...as officials from several water districts are expected to testify before a House of Representatives subcommittee today and ask for federal funds. This week...water districts that also rely heavily on the San Joaquin drainage - but were not a part of the lawsuit - are tempering that enthusiasm. Some have spent millions over the past few decades supporting fall-run chinook populations in tributaries such as the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Also, they fear the sudden reintroduction of spring-run chinook, a threatened species, could mean new water and property-use restrictions under the Endangered Species Act. A summary of the settlement says that the document was tweaked to include the perspectives of others and that no "material adverse impacts" were expected to third parties.

Sept. 20, 2006

Fresno Bee
Reshaping Nature...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/special/150/story/12749797p-13444961c.html
The damming of the San Joaquin helped change the Valley floor, for better and for worse. San Joaquin River was plugged as part of the Central Valley Project, a massive plan to control flooding and provide irrigation water. The sky no longer darkens with millions of ducks and geese, feasting on the river's smorgasbord of insects...the water that no longer feeds the river has helped feed the county's growth through farming and land development. To accommodate farming, swamps and wetlands were drained. The land was leveled. On the west side, large channels were built to funnel the occasional big flows of the river around areas that flooded regularly...agriculture blossomed on 170,000-plus acres in the county as well as on an additional 800,000 acres along the Valley's east side...farming further expanded when the federal Central Valley Project began delivering water from Northern California to the west side. Tinkering with the San Joaquin began long before Friant Dam. In 1911, Southern California Edison began putting together an extensive hydroelectric system in the Sierra... Harold Tokmakian was the Fresno County planning director in the 1960s before becoming a professor at California State University, Fresno...the Valley is being eroded by "lateral expansion" -- also known as sprawl. There are other reasons, too, to value river habitat, said Bob Winter, 81, a Fresno City College biology instructor for more than a half century. For instance, the kangaroo rat might someday help medical science understand kidneys better, he said.

Planting our roots in rich Valley soil...David Mas Masumoto
http://www.fresnobee.com/special/150/story/12749818p-13444972c.html
Generation of farmers of all nationalities have transformed a desert into a garden. Then came the liquid gold from the Sierra: water. They could grow most anything here...So long as they had irrigation water. This liquid treasure, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, gave birth to generations of farmers and their families. Fresno became a magnet for farmers...the land provided a refuge to a variety of crops and farming methods. Cattle ranches and dairies, wheat, cotton, grapes, peaches, plums, nectarines, vegetables, melons, row crops. Each decade brought new seeds of change. For some, the reality did not match their dreams. Nature played no favorites when destroying a harvest. Others found the greed of humans was no different in this Valley than any other place. Years passed and the pressures did not stop. Valley agriculture became part machine, part something else, what was grown in the fields now merely raw products for others to profit from. The old family farm with farmers and their families working to grow, harvest and sell a crop has almost vanished. Or are family farmers being vanquished -- caught between the forces of business and the explosion of growth? Could land be better suited to growing houses than peaches or grapes? They came as pioneers and today still cling to the land. They are desperate to use any means to maintain a way of life. Some call them fools, stubborn individuals refusing to let go of the bounty of this Valley. Most are still dreamers; that's why they still farm.

Sept. 15, 2006

Two parties at odds over San Joquin restoration costs...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12717970p-13413996c.html
WASHINGTON -- Many farmers and environmentalists now agree on restoring the San Joaquin River. They do not, however, agree on how much it will cost. Environmentalists believe $250 million will suffice. Farmers served by Friant Dam think $800 million is more like it. On Thursday, Department official Jason Peltier joined with four members of Congress, myriad staff members and top negotiators for a closed-door, Capitol Hill briefing on the ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan... Radanovich is expressing optimism, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, exited the briefing Thursday as angry as ever...insists there's a lot more concern bubbling beneath the public surface. Representatives of the Merced Irrigation District and the so-called "exchange contractors" from the San Joaquin Valley's West Side are crafting alternative proposals in Washington this week. They hope to modify the proposed legislation that's needed to implement the river restoration plan; for instance, to protect them from further Endangered Species Act obligations when the salmon is reintroduced. The big gap in cost estimates, for instance, stems largely from uncertainty over what standards new levees will have to meet. State regulators could get the final say, as they will eventually set the levee standards.

Sept. 14, 2006

9-14-06
NRDC Press Release...9-13-06
Attachment:
Peter Moyle, Professor of Fisheries Biology, University of California Davis..."Bringing the San Joaquin River back to life will be one of the greatest restoration projects ever undertaken in the United States. Over 150 miles of river will once again provide vital habitat for not only salmon but for a wide array of other native fish, plants and wildlife. Restoring one of California's long lost salmon runs will be a strong symbol of our willingness to make California a better place for both wildlife and people. I also anticipate that restoring flows to the river will have a positive effect on the Delta, an ecosystem in crisis. This monumental restoration effort could not come at a better time."
Zeke Grader, Executive Director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association..."Over the past century, West Coast salmon rivers have been devastated by water development and other activities. This agreement provides salmon fishermen with a ray of hope...
Dante Nomellini, Manager and Co-Counsel, Central Delta Water Agency..."Drying up the San Joaquin River harmed more than fish...
Philip Atkins-Pattenson, Outside Counsel for the NRDC Coalition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP..."This settlement represents the triumph of optimism and collaboration among the parties...
Gary Bobker, Program Director, The Bay Institute...The San Joaquin River is the missing limb of San Francisco Bay...
Bill Jennings, Executive Director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance..."This is a truly historic settlement that not only breathes life into a dead river but will measurably improve water quality and lessen human health impacts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...
Lydia Miller, President, San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center..."Restoring the San Joaquin River will benefit salmon and numerous other native wildlife species, and it will improve the natural habitat along much of the river. It will also improve the quality of life for Valley residents and provide recreational opportunities."
Walt Shubin, Fresno County Raisin Farmer..."As a farmer who grew up on the San Joaquin River, I know that salmon and farming can coexist - I've seen it...
Chuck Bonham, Senior Attorney, California Director, Trout Unlimited..."This settlement shows the remarkable things that people can accomplish when they work together to restore damaged ecosystems...

Merced Sun-Star
River plan needs support in D.C...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12713171p-13409800c.html
WASHINGTON -- The political headwaters for the San Joaquin River now shift to Capitol Hill, where Congress is supposed to turn a river restoration plan into reality...ambitious river plan formally rolled out Wednesday relies on quick congressional action... Theoretically, the new San Joaquin River settlement could collapse if Congress doesn't act by Dec. 31. Ken Robbins, an attorney for the Merced Irrigation District, and other California water professionals will be listening closely on Capitol Hill today as negotiators brief lawmakers about the deal that until Wednesday remained under tight wraps. The Merced Irrigation District, for instance, is a "third party," because it was not part of the lawsuit. Robbins said the district worries about sufficient funding for river channel improvements, and new Endangered Species Act burdens resulting from the reintroduction of the threatened spring-run salmon by 2013. "It poses some enormous problems," Robbins said, adding that "we're going to propose some changes to (the bill.) ...This raises other problems, though, because the settlement agreement requires that the legislation be approved "substantially in the form" that it's been proposed by the original negotiators. On Capitol Hill, congressional staffers expect some changes, and suggest neither farmers nor environmentalists will be too quick to back out. Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced, while applauding the work done on the settlement, cautioned that he could not support a deal if it comes "at the expense of those not party to the legislation." Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, characterized the proposed legislation as a "gun to the head" of Congress.

Fresno Bee
Accord pumps new life into river...Mark Grossi and E.J. Schultz
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12713238p-13409904c.html
The historic deal is finally done, and the San Joaquin River - barring unforeseen snags - will flow freely again...a settlement that will launch what could be the largest river restoration in the history of the American West. The deal, announced in front of a federal courthouse in Sacramento, ends an 18-year-old federal lawsuit... Environmentalists heralded the agreement as the beginning of a new era, not only for the state's second-longest river but also for the state's vast waterways. "This agreement provides that once again the San Joaquin will flow from its headwaters in the High Sierra all the way to San Francisco Bay," said Hal Candee, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the lead plaintiff in the case. The San Joaquin Valley River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, representing west-side farmers, wants to make sure there is enough money to buy land and rebuild the river where it has not existed for decades. A hydrologist for the Bay Institute, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the water used for restoration could be pumped back to farmers for use in the fields after it travels through the river. Once river water reaches the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pumps, it can be sent back through canals to farmers. "We've done it already in tests, and it works," said hydrologist Peter Vorster...

A river shall run through it...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/12713227p-13409910c.html
A marathon legal battle over the fate of the San Joaquin River inched closer to a settlement Wednesday... If the deal is finally done, over time it will change the face of the Valley — and for the better, we believe. Federal funds and state bond money would be tapped to pay for the costs of the restoration, as part of a "San Joaquin River Restoration Fund" created under the deal. There are obstacles...a particular concern downstream...settlement language apparently includes a guarantee that land will be purchased only from "willing sellers... Another touchy subject is language in the settlement that appears to place a year-end deadline on Congress to pass the necessary enabling legislation. Here's hoping this deal turns out to be a model for future compromises, rather than an ephemeral aberration.

Stockton Record
Parties agree to go with the flow...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060914/NEWS01/609140344/1001
SACRAMENTO - Described by conservationists as the "missing limb" of San Francisco Bay, the San Joaquin River will again flow... The resurrected river will flush out pollutants and improve water quality in Stockton and San Joaquin County, conservationists say. Fish will return, followed by recreation and tourism dollars. And the algae blooms that often turn the river's waters a sickly pea green may be diminished. Wednesday's agreement among farmers, environmentalists and the federal government ends nearly two decades of courtroom clashes over water diversions at Friant Dam... The San Joaquin will become "a living ecosystem instead of a contaminated drainage ditch," said Hal Candee, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which first filed suit against the federal government and agricultural water users in 1988. "The federal government for years took a callous attitude toward the river," said Dante Nomellini, a Stockton water attorney who represents water users through the Central Delta Water Agency. While some farmers were praising the restoration plan, concerns remain over how much water they will lose...plan includes several strategies to make up for that loss, including bolstering groundwater supplies during wet years, transferring water from other groups and, when possible, recirculating any excess water from the Delta. "In many respects, the litigation has been the cork in the bottle for restoration efforts on the river," said Lester Snow, director of the California Department of Water Resources. "While that litigation was pending, it's been very difficult to pursue restoration. "We can now move forward."

Sept. 13, 2006

Restoring the San Joaquin...Michael Doyle, Bee Staff Writer and Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12708691p-13405707c.html
WASHINGTON - More water should start flowing down the San Joaquin River by 2009 under a long-awaited settlement... Farmers and environmentalists have worked out the details during months of negotiations. The agreement will be presented to a federal judge in Sacramento this morning, in hopes of settling an 18-year-old lawsuit...agreement includes an apparent deadline for Congress to approve by Dec. 31. Feinstein will introduce the legislation to authorize the river fixes. Outside parties not allowed to sue...draft of the legislation authorizes the federal government to buy land from "willing sellers." All environmental laws must be complied with - a blow to some water agencies hoping for exemptions. Outside parties - such as the Merced Irrigation District - can't sue if they're unhappy with how the settlement works. The proposed legislation establishes a "San Joaquin River Restoration Fund... The agreement will not automatically dissolve if the legislation strays beyond the deadline, said Friant Water Users Authority lawyer Dan Dooley.

Irrigation districts worried about costs, loss of water...Michael G. Mooney, Bee Staff writer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12708700p-13405719c.html
Stanislaus and Merced water agencies are voicing concern about an agreement to restore a 153-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River. The $1 billion plan - assuming it wins congressional approval - will be one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation's history... would send more water through the San Joaquin River by 2009 and reintroduce salmon by 2013. "We believe there should be a settlement," Garith Krause of the Merced Irrigation District said Monday, "but that settlement shouldn't add additional burdens to those of us downstream." The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts have questioned the settlement pact, as have the Westlands Water District, San Joaquin River Exchange and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. Key concerns include:... Allen Short, general manager of the Modesto Irrigation District, and the others will lobby for legislation that will:... If the legislation substantively differs from what negotiators agreed to, at least one lawmaker said, the deal could fall apart.

Stockton Record
Agreement reached on river restoration (11:05 a.m.)...The Record
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060913&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=60913002&SectionCat=&Template=printart
A historic agreement to restore water flows for salmon in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam near Fresno while undertaking one of the West’s largest river restoration efforts was announced today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friant Water Users Authority and U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce...settlement, filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, ends an 18-year legal dispute over the operation of Friant Dam and resolves longstanding legal claims brought by a coalition of conservation and fishing groups led by NRDC.

San Francisco Chronicle
Settlement will restore San Joaquin River...Glen Martin
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/13/BAGG9L4KHQ1.DTL&type=printable
The San Joaquin Rive will be restored under a settlement announced today...be announced at news conferences in Sacramento and near Fresno, is the result of years of negotiations over a lawsuit filed in 1988 by environmental groups and fishing advocates. Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a federal gag order, told The Chronicle that the settlement between water users and environmental groups requires that Friant Dam release between 364,000 and 462,000 acre-feet of water in normal years to help restore spring and fall salmon runs. One acre-foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons, or roughly enough to meet the annual needs of five people. Kole Upton, a farmer and chairman of the Friant Water Users Authority, said the judge's decision required everyone involved to compromise. "If you have a judgment inflicted from above, you can end up feeling like the Germans after the Treaty of Versailles." "The important thing here is that we now have a partners in restoration and mitigation, not adversaries. That makes all the difference."

Sept. 12, 2006

Modesto Bee
Be careful about restoring San Joaquin River...Allen Short, general manager of Modesto Irrigation District and represents the San Joaquin Tributary Agencies
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12704925p-13402258c.html
After 18 years in the courts...a settlement of the San Joaquin River...but only partly. The driving force behind the settlement is restoration of river flows to allow a return of the spring run Chinook salmon. Millions of dollars have been expended and more than 500,000 acre-feet of water released by irrigation districts and water agencies to provide conditions in the tributaries to improve and sustain the fall run. These efforts might be severely jeopardized if water temperatures exceed safe limits for fall run salmon fry. This could happen if sufficient Friant water does not flow through the existing shallow San Joaquin River channel upstream (south) of the Merced River on its way to the delta. These efforts must be recognized and protected from any negative effects as a result of the court and legislative action needed to complete the settlement. Specifically, the final settlement resolution must include reasonable approaches to:... Now is the time to support our representatives' efforts to obtain authorizing legislation that will complete the settlement process. Legislators and others involved must be careful to implement a balanced, long-term solution that is fair to all parties affected by San Joaquin River restoration activities.

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Historic settlement on the San Joaquin River

Submitted: Sep 13, 2006

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Friant Water Users Authority reached an unprecedented settlement agreement Wednesday to restore the flow of the San Joaquin River. NRDC, representing a number of local, state and federal environmental groups, and the FWUA had been at war in court for 18 years.

"Bringing the San Joaquin River back to life will be one of the greatest restoration projects ever undertaken in the United States,” said Peter Moyle, professor of Fisheries biology at UC Davis.

A 60-miles stretch of the river in western Fresno County has been dry since the dam was built in the late 1940s due to irrigation diversions south in the Friant-Kern Canal and north in the Madera Canal.

The settlement agreement documents were handed at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to the court of Judge Stanley Karlton, United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division.

It is anticipated that the increased flows to the river will be enough to provide for both spring and fall runs of Chinook salmon. Before the Friant Dam was constructed, creating Lake Millerton at the base of the Sierra foothills east of the City of Fresno, the San Joaquin River was the southernmost range of the Chinook.

“As a farmer who grew up on the San Joaquin River, I know that salmon and farming can coexist-I’ve seen it,” said Walt Shubin, Fresno County raisin farmer.

Between now and 2026, between 15-20 percent of the water formerly flowing to long-term Friant irrigators will go to restoring the river. A number of financial devises, which the settlement agreement suggests in draft federal legislation should be under the control of the secretary of the Department of Interior, will pay for restoration of the river channel and flood control downstream of the Friant Dam. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, chairman of the House Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water and Power, has already scheduled in hearing to hear this suggested legislation. Both sides expressed optimism Wednesday that the House could pass it before the end of the year. According to the settlement, the agreement is void-able if the resources committee – chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy – does not approve the bill.

Kole Upton, representing the 15,000 farmers on about one million acres and a number of towns in FWUA, already experienced in conjunctive use techniques, expressed optimism that the irrigators would find the right combination of recirculation, recapture, reuse and exchange or transfer programs to continue farming. He said the irrigators needed certainty about the amounts of water they would receive, which the settlement gives them.

The settlement proposes that about $11 million per year in fees currently paid by the irrigators will be dedicated to river improvement; the proposed legislation (part of the agreement) could produce an additional $250 million in federal funds, either through bonding, guaranteed loans or other financing. The settlement also anticipates financial participation by the state of California. Greg Wilkerson, attorney for FWUA, said the $5.4 billion Clean Water and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Prop. 84) contains $100 million earmarked for San Joaquin River restoration.

After the press conference, Hal Candee, lead attorney for NRDC, released an orphaned Red-Tailed Hawk, raised by the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center before a crowd of about 50 people from the media and parties to the lawsuit.

What people are saying about the settlement agreement:

Restoring the San Joaquin River will benefit salmon and numerous other native wildlife species and it will improve the natural habitat along much of the river. It will also improve the quality of life for Valley residents and provide recreational opportunities. – Lydia Miller, president, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

… Over 150 mile4s of river will once again provide vital habitat for not only salmon but for a wide array of other nativ3 fish, plants and wildlife. Restoring one of California’s long lost salmon runs will be strong symbol of our willingness to make California a better place for both wildlife and people. I also anticipate that restoring flows to the river will have a positive effect on the Delta, an ecosystem in crisis. This monumental restoration effort could not come at a better time. – Peter Moyle, professor of fisheries biology, UC Davis.

Over the past century, West Coast salmon rivers have been devastated by water development and other activities. This agreement provides salmon fishermen with a ray of hope. A restored San Joaquin River will literally bring back to life one of California’s greatest salmon rivers. Our fishing communities deserve a little good news. – Zeke Grader, executive director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association

Drying up the San Joaquin River harmed more than fish. It virtually destroyed the water supply for farmers in the Delta. Restoring the San Joaquin River will help rectify a national disgrace by restoring fisheries and improving water quality, benefiting farmers along the San Joaquin River and in the Delta. Restoring the river is good for farmers, the Delta and all of California. – Dante Nomellini, manager and co-counsel, Central Delta Water Agency.

This settlement represents the triumph of optimism and collaboration among the parties. A jointly supported restoration plan is the best outcome for all. It reverses a historic wrong by reviving a living San Joaquin River for the California public, which owns this important resource. This agreement also demonstrates that the laws protecting the public’s rivers are alive and well. – Philip Atkins-Patterson, outside counsel for the NRDC Coalition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP

The San Joaquin River is the missing limb of San Francisco Bay. Dewatering the river severed the connection between the Bay and a critical part of its watershed. Restoring flows and salmon to the San Joaquin will not only revive a great river but also improve water quality and habitat conditions in the Bay, at a time when it is facing unprecedented threats. – Gary Bobker, program director, The Bay Institute

This is a truly historic settlement that not only breathes life into a dead river but will measurably improve water quality and lessen human health impacts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State and federal agencies would do well to consider the elements of this settlement as they begin to fashion a vision for the future of the Bay-Delta estuary. – Bill Jennings, executive director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

…this agreement to restore the San Joaquin can bring back this important part of our natural heritage. In fact, restoring flows for salmon could be the best thing to happen to our overdrafted aquifer in Fresno and Madera counties in 60 years. Walt Shubin, Fresno County raisin grower

The settlement shows the remarkable things that people can accomplish when they work together to restore damaged ecosystems. Trout Unlimited and its 15,000 California members are thrilled that this historic agreement puts California on a course to bringing salmon back to this once-mighty river. – Chuck Bonham, senior attorney, California director, Trout Unlimited.

Some irrigation districts north of Fresno, who unsuccessfully tried to enter the settlement meetings before the agreement was reached, have expressed concerns about its impacts on them and are lobbying for a say in decisions during the implementation stage of the agreement.

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Peltier, water, and the cold hard cash

Submitted: Aug 18, 2006

by Chico del los Pozos

I have concluded over the years that when writing about the complexities of California’s byzantine water world, it is easiest to write about water in terms of cold hard cash. A flowing, living river has aesthetic value to environmentalists and preservationists while a river of dollar bills appeals to a different set of values that even the most apathetic taxpayer can understand.

The dry statistics are that an acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or enough to cover 93 percent of a football field a foot deep. It will meet the domestic needs of two families of five for a year, if used wisely. At this point, readers usually start getting glassy-eyed and losing interest in any further discussion of water. However, if you equate all those gallons to cash, reader interest perks back up.

Does a $25 billion federal taxpayer gift to a few hundred people pique your interest? Read on.

Depending on where you are in the bucket line, California’s river water stored behind dams can be: (1) free; (2) cheap; (3) well below true retail value; (4) expensive; or (5) in the case of bottled water, extremely expensive. Public water that goes to farmers for free or at subsidized rates as small as $20 to $75 an acre-foot, when placed in plastic bottles with scenic labels and treated slightly, can go for up to $2 million or more when sold by the pint or liter in the grocery store or fancy restaurant. For comparison purposes, that $2 million acre-foot of bottled water can also be sold via ditch to Fresno Irrigation District growers for $12-15 an acre-foot.

Thus, it is understandable that deal-making in California’s changing water world, particularly for irrigation water, is usually done behind closed doors and out of the public spotlight. A glaring example is the current secretive negotiations between Fresno County’s Westlands Water District and the United States Department of Interior. A key negotiator for the Department of Interior - and supposedly the general public’s advocate - is Jason Peltier, named assistant Secretary for Water and Science in July.

Peltier’s previous job was as a lobbyist for the Central Valley Project Contractors’ Association, which represents the irrigation water interests of growers from Redding to Bakersfield. Westlands, not surprisingly, is the largest water district in the Contractors’ Association. Here’s how the spinmasters in the Department of Interior, in a recent press release, explained Peltier’s 13-year stint as a lobbyist.

“As manager of California’s Central Valley Project Water Association from 1988 through 2001, Peltier directed the public education and advocacy efforts of this not-for-profit membership organization,” the press release said.

The New York Times, in a March 3, 2006, article, described Peltier much differently. The Times reported, “Mr. Peltier's role influencing decisions that could have a direct financial impact on his former employer is part of a pattern at the Interior Department over the last five years, critics say, with a revolving door between managers on the government side, and the people who buy or lease federal water, land or forests on the other side.”

Peltier told the Times that when he first came to the Bush administration in 2001, he recused himself from some decisions involving the water district he used to represent, but he said he was granted an exemption because of his expertise in California water issues.

''I was given dispensation early on because of my knowledge of these issues,'' Peltier said, adding, ''I have not had the strict bar of separation on certain issues, but I've been very mindful of the appearance of a conflict and operated accordingly.'' Dispensation? Did the Pope grant that?

Interior officials told the Times Peltier had “cleared” his activities with the ethics office. Assistant Secretary Mark Limbaugh, Peltier's boss, claims Peltier's role is only “advisory.” Peltier '”provides background, insight and advice. He is not in a position to make the ultimate decisions,'' Limbaugh told the Times.

In other words, the fox can guard the henhouse as long as the fox is “very mindful” of the “appearance of a conflict.” At least it’s a family affair. Peltier’s wife, Jean-Mari Peltier, a former lobbyist for citrus growers, served as special adviser on pesticide issues at the EPA during the first Bush administration term before returning to being an Ag lobbyist.

Westlands, with their former employee on the other side of the table, is now putting the finishing touches on a new water delivery contract that could bring the 600,000-acre district of 400 to 600 growers as much as one million acre-feet of water a year for the next 50 years (a 25-year water delivery contract with a virtually automatic renewal for another 25 years).

Do the math.

The water, which comes from hundreds of miles away on Northern California’s Trinity River, is worth up to $500 an acre-foot for urban developers in Central and Southern California. Five hundred million dollars a year of water for 50 years = $25 billion. That averages out to almost $42 million worth of retail water on average over 50 years for each of the 600 growers (less the purchase price which will be under 20 percent of retail value). Expensive water bought cheap and used in some cases to grow subsidized crops like cotton. And under current law the Westlands is free to sell any excess water to the highest urban bidder. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is definitely interested.

The water delivery contract negotiations are being concluded as part of an overall settlement of the Westlands growers’ lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for failure to provide a drainage system. Bureau officials recently unveiled a drainage “solution” for the Westlands’ selenium-laced problem farm lands that could cost taxpayers another $1 billion.

The proposed drainage “solution” has provoked an outcry from national environmental groups who contend it is merely a re-creation of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge disaster in early 1980s when Westlands toxic agricultural drainage poisoned the food chain at the Merced County refuge, where the tainted water was funneled to evaporate in deadly ponds.

The Los Angeles Times reported July 8 that the proposed solution, including building over 3,000 acres of new evaporation ponds, has raised fears of another Kesterson-like environmental catastrophe.

“My God,” Ed Imhoff, a retired Department of Interior officials who headed a five-year, $50 million study of the western San Joaquin Valley drainage problem in the late 1980s, told the LA Times. “Why would we be replicating something that caused all the deaths and deformities at Kesterson? Why would we do that?”

When Imhoff’s study group released their final report in 1990, it recommended, among other water-saving measures, idling all the high selenium lands in the Westlands that were generating the poisonous drainage water - up to 300,000 acres.

Jason Peltier, who was then a lobbyist for the Westlands, told the media at that time, “The sooner this report gets put on a shelf and starts gathering dust the better.”

Under an earlier proposal as part of the drainage plan, Interior would have bought out the badlands and idled them. Westlands and Peltier see if differently. The last proposal calls for Interior to merely buy the federal irrigation rights to the badlands. In other words, Westlands growers will get to keep their high selenium lands and will be give well over three-quarters of a billion dollars to simply stop irrigation with federal water. However, they will still be able to use that land for other purposes, including irrigating with non-federal water.

When asked by the Los Angeles Times if this could be true, Kirk Rodgers, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, responded, “No decisions have been made on that.”

One thing is certain. America’s most expensive irrigation project in the middle of a salty desert is about to get a lot more expensive.
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West side tractor drivers know Chico de los Pozos as a tall man in a huge sombrero riding a camel, backlit by the setting son on the ridges of the western hills.

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COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

Submitted: Aug 14, 2006

Members of the San Joaquin Valley public would like to invite you to the first annual UC Pombozastan Pot Luck.

We’ve got the barrel; you bring the pork.

Public/private partnerships get preferential picnic tables behind gated, straw-bale walls, just like they did it at the old-time Condit Country extravaganzas.

The Valley public would like to invite you all to Merced to help us get this UC Merced 900-acre expansion past them damn federal environmental regulators. Our largest developer, the University of California Board of Regents, is having trouble getting a pesky little Clean Water Act permit out of the Army Corps of Engineers so they can build on land in a ESA designated critical habitat area containing the richest fields in the state of vernal pools, environment for 15 endangered species of flora and fauna, for which one cannot help but think a responsible, institution of public higher education would have secured a permit before commencing construction. The UC Regents are at least not supposed to be typical California fly-by-night developers.

But, who cares? COME ON DOWN! Bring the People’s Money, we’ll run it through UC and it will pick up your tab. Stay anywhere, pay as much as you want for breakfast, lunch and dinner, rent only the most expensive cars – if you need further instructions we can refer you to UC consultants, who can teach you also how to add that absolutely mandatory 10-20 percent on every expense chit.

COME ON DOWN and see UC Merced, which the last state Senate Pro Tem called the “biggest boondoggle ever.” – New campus still faces obstacles, William Trombley, Spring 2004, National CrossTalk, a publication of National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, http://www.highereducation.org/crosstalk/ct0204/news0204-obstacles.shtml

"I don't know why anyone would be surprised," said Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which has offices in San Jose and Washington, D.C. "It was just the wrong campus in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was pork-barrel politics and institutional arrogance that led us to this. There was a belief at UC that you could just hang a UC shingle out and that would attract students."

-- Merced: Some students at brand-new UC campus say they want out, Tanya Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2006, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/17/BAGOLK0B6M1.DTL

And, hey, be sure to bring the People’s Money with you, because UC Merced wants all of it. UC’s talented team of tax-paid flaks and lobbyists can give you all the details. The effort will no doubt be headed by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. Surely, you know the Shrimp Slayer – he’s the guy who’s making Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy’s war against the Endangered Species Act “bipartisan,” on behalf of a few developers, large landowners, financial institutions and realtors in their adjoining districts. Down here we call them the “Pomboza.”

WASHINGTON — ... On Tuesday, Cardoza and Pombo split roughly $50,000 raised at a bipartisan fund-raiser sponsored by prominent developer Greenlaw "Fritz" Grupe. Grupe is active in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, with subdivisions underway in Modesto, Turlock, Hughson, Waterford and Stockton.
Grupe also favors the kind of collaborative work Cardoza and Pombo have done on the Endangered Species Act and other issues. While agreeing the joint fund-raiser held at the developer's Lodi ranch was "rather unique," Cardoza said it sent the right kind of signal.
"Frankly, if we cooperated more aggressively, we would all be better off," Cardoza said.

--Valley political bonds strong, Oakland Tribune, Apr 1, 2005 by Michael Doyle, MODESTO BEE http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20050401/ai_n14615689

What Cardoza calls aggressive cooperation, we call the Pombozation of the San Joaquin Valley.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and watch Pombo and Cardoza pombozate the West’s federal resource agencies.

COME ON DOWN and bring us the People’s Money. We don’t have enough of it. You’ve no doubt read the Congressional report about how the San Joaquin Valley is poorer in some ways than Appalachia. We appreciate our subsidized water, our subsidized cotton, dairy and cattle industries, and all the health and human services aid you’ve been sending. But we need more of it, more and more and more of it. We can’t make it without more and more of the People’s Money down here in Pombozastan, the former San Joaquin Valley. And if we don’t get it, we’re going to pave over the largest, richest agricultural valley in the West.

So there!

COME ON DOWN!

Listen to the UC Merced Chancellor (until she quits at the end of the month)! We need a UC Merced research medical school down here to specialize in respiratory illnesses, cancer clusters, pesticide related diseases, diseases related to contaminated ground water, drug addictions, rural mental illnesses and disorders arising from bovine flatulence here in the epicenter of the dairy industry in the nation’s top dairy state. Pledge the People’s Money to build out UC Merced, which will stimulate a tremendous amount of growth because it will be the anchor tenant for development down the east side of the Valley from Sacramento to Kern counties along a planned eastside Highway 65 and an Eastside Canal.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and help replace Valley life with mega-dairy subdivisions-in-waiting and slurbocracy. And while you’re at it, explain why you’re doing it, because we really don’t know and the Pomboza won’t tell. Nevertheless, Cardoza provides thoughtful continuity for the slurbocracy from his top floor offices in the Merced County Administration Building.

COME ON DOWN! We know this all sounds a little grim, but we want to assure you that the Valley is a really funny place. We’ve got comedians galore here in Merced. Consider the UC Chancellor Until the End of the Month, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, for example. She had the whole Valley rolling on the floor in helpless mirth this week, when she told the McClatchy chain reporter:

"I needed to make (congressmen) aware that this is the beginning of the process," Tomlinson-Keasey said. "People speak out all the time and say their opinion, (but) I have talked with the Corps, and they have assured me they will play by the rules."

Choking back life-threatening guffaws, members of the public asked: “What rules could she possibly be talking about?”

Surely, she could not be talking about local, state or federal environmental law and regulation. Beyond urging the Pomboza onward to alter it to suit UC’s needs in eastern Merced County, she has no tolerance for it.

Surely, she could not be talking about the rules of good taste, whose university campus sponsors a yearly Fairy Shrimp Festival, hosted in its inaugural year by the unemployable son of a recently ousted provost.

Surely, she could not be talking about those rules of candor said to govern testimony before legislative committees.

Surely, she could not be talking about regulations governing the rehabilitation of wildlife, when she purloined a bobcat for the UC Merced mascot that should have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Surely, she must be speaking about the UC RULE: UC is sovereign and gets what it wants.

Another great Merced comedian is the businessman Mr. UC Merced, Bob Carpenter, who appeared in the pages of the Los Angeles Times this morning:

So why didn't the university secure permission to build the entire campus before beginning work? "It's easy to criticize after the fact," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced resident who has helped with university planning for 18 years. "But you could argue that if you wait until all the I's are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, probably no projects would ever get done."

But then, the chancellor, not to be trumped in the comedy game by a mere UC Merced booster, even if Carpenter could be called, justly, The UC Merced Booster, concludes:

She expects the Merced campus to infuse the area with a smart-growth population and jobs. "We're contributing enormously to the community."
"We believe we deserve an Olympic gold medal, and not have every bump being foreseen as some Mt. Everest to climb."

An Olympic gold medal, some would say, requires a sports team of some sort. The UCM Golden Bobcats are undefeated so far, but they remain in smoky backrooms rather than taking the field in any sport in which they would have to play by any rules other than their own.

UC built the first phase of the Merced campus without getting a Clean Water Act permit. They spent millions in state public funds on conservation easements to mitigate for wetlands habitat, as the result of backroom deals in the state Capitol between the governor, congressmen, state legislators vying to see who was the Biggest Mr. UC Merced of them all, state and federal resource agency officials, The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society and other prominent state and national level environmental sluts. Yet, today, when federal agencies look at these easements, they discover many of them aren’t on the right land and have no financial mechanism for monitoring. In some cases, landowners are under the impression they can take millions in public funds for easements yet refuse to let resource officials on the land to monitor the condition of the natural habitat.

COME ON DOWN! The pombozated federal resource agencies are holding a raffle on our remaining natural resources, wildlife habitat and wetlands – piece by fragmented piece.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN! Watch the Developer Dutch Auction on San Joaquin Valley land-use planning.

COME ON DOWN! Watch the sales-tax increase sweepstakes so that the Valley can match funds with the federal government on new freeways, highways and loop roads to stimulate even more growth, as the rural county roads crumble before your eyes. Come on down and watch them fill the potholes in front of the Merced County Association of Governments office!

COME ON DOWN and learn the mystical process of making plans to make plans to make plans to make plans and get public funds to do it.

COME ON DOWN and listen to some whoppers about the Merced County water supply plan, which ain’t, but they all say it is.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and observe, first hand, the latest design in up-scale yuppie labor camps – zero lot lines, no yards, parks and play areas closer to the freeway than to the home. Watch childhood asthma develop before your very eyes as you are stalled in freeway traffic.

COME ON DOWN and join the fun, if you want to play by the rules UC, the Pomboza, the developers and our wise, far-seeing local governments make up as they go along for the benefit of themselves and their families.

COME ON DOWN! We got a lake to sell you full of Anglo rowing teams.

COME ON DOWN! Maybe you can be an early student in UC Merced’s Coelho Institute of Honest Graft (and public policy), or the McClatchy/Singleton School of Conglomerate Media Management, or study the nanotechnology of nuclear weapons triggers. If you’re lucky and everything goes right, you might get a joint appointment with UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to study Ebola and Anthrax in a genuine safety level 4 biowarfare lab.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

We got the barrel; you bring the pork.

Badlands editorial staff
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Notes:

Los Angeles Times
Wetlands give UC Merced growing pains...Tanya Caldwell
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-merced13aug13,1,7214931,print.story
University of California Merced - which cost more than $500 million and took nearly 20 years to plan - still lacks federal permission to build on wetlands near the fledgling campus. UC Merced is developing 105 acres as part of Phase I of the campus and plans to build Phase II on 805 adjoining acres it purchased near Lake Yosemite...that second parcel includes 86 acres of federally protected wetlands. Now, university officials are hoping for an environmental permit to destroy the vernal pools on those wetlands and build, among other things, institutes to study the environment and energy. So why didn't the university secure permission to build the entire campus before beginning work? "It's easy to criticize after the fact," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced resident who has helped with university planning for 18 years. "But you could argue that if you wait until all the I's are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, probably no projects would ever get done." That's true especially in the era of the federal Clean Water Act, which demands permits before wetlands can be destroyed, said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "I think we've shown that this is a very reasonable site." The Corps released - and then swiftly rescinded - a draft environmental impact statement detailing concerns about losing the vernal pools. Corps officials said the draft was incomplete and had been released prematurely. They expect to issue an official draft in a few months. But the draft has already created a buzz in Merced, where the Merced Sun-Star and Fresno Bee ran stories July 29 in which a Corps official said a permit for the university's preferred expansion plan "will not likely be granted." Kevin Roukey, the Corps' senior project manager...quoted in the Sun-Star...the site's vernal pools have "basically been determined to be the best in the state, and maybe even the country." Some local environmentalists, such as Carol Witham, have threatened to sue if the Corps grants the permit despite what she calls the university's "flagrant disregard for federally protected land." "They assumed that by having the campus there, that they can force their way into building the rest of the site," Witham, founder of the website vernalpools.org, said of university officials. "We advised them early on that they should've done all of their permits ahead of time. They're essentially gambling with the taxpayers' money." Saturday - the chancellor released a statement saying that Roukey's evaluations "represent the personal opinions of a single individual" and don't foretell the Corps' final decision. Corps officials later agreed and said it was too early to predict what would happen at UC Merced. They added that concerns found in the report wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker for the university's proposals. For years, the chancellor said, the Central Valley has been "underserved." She expects the Merced campus to infuse the area with a smart-growth population and jobs. "We're contributing enormously to the community."
"We believe we deserve an Olympic gold medal, and not have every bump being foreseen as some Mt. Everest to climb."

Sacramento Bee
Comments...Pressure's on for UC campus expansion
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/nation/story/14292794p-15132061c.html
Should have located it at Castle...blindman at 3:37 PM PST Friday, August 11, 2006 wrote:
The infrastructure for a new community exists near Merced - it's the abandoned Castle AFB. As usual, UC administrators demostrate that those in ivory towers have little practical sense. A castle location would have been cheaper, and demostrated better overall stewardship of open space.

Stockton Record
Let's get serious...Editorial
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060813&Category=OPED01&ArtNo=608130306&SectionCat=&Template=printart
More Californians are classified as being poor than at any time in the state's history. Only the Great Depression of the 1930s compares. One of every two public-school students is from a family that qualifies for federal aid. That's a staggering 50 percent. Poverty isn't an ethnic problem. It knows no skin color. It's not confined by geography. People can't build enough gated communities. Poverty crosses every line and creeps into every area of life. Those mired in poverty struggle through each day trying just to survive, unable to do anything meaningful to elevate themselves or their families. Too many leaders...consider progress to be more houses and businesses without adequately accounting for a deterioration in the quality of life for those unable to participate fully in that growth. Obviously, it's difficult to develop a truly meaningful blueprint for change, but we have to try. It's even harder to convince the comfortable and affluent that breaking the cycle of poverty is in their best interest, too. If we don't, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor will reshape California and San Joaquin County in regrettable and regressive ways.

Inside Bay Area
UC, lab, want to build huge biodefense lab...Ian Hoffman
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_4176406
On rolling, grassy hills between the Bay Area's cities and the farms of the Central Valley, the University of California and scientists of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory see a sprawling biodefense lab as large as two Wal-Mart Supercenters. The University of California and Lawrence Livermore lab are proposing construction in the middle of the lab's Site 300, a once-remote explosives testing area. University officials have rounded up endorsements from the mayor of Livermore to U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, and from the state Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura to the California cattlemen's and poultry associations. Much of the new lab would operate at Biosafety Level 3, a category of biocontainment used for plague and tularemia. But some of the lab, perhaps a fifth or more, would operate at Biosafety Level 4, the highest level of biocontainment. BSL4 is reserved for diseases having no known vaccine such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, foot and mouth disease or avian flu and requiring researchers to wear "moonsuits" inside airlocked labs. Federal officials have not elaborated on exactly which microorganisms would be studied in the new lab and the degree to which those germs would be modified. The university rejected a request by Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, a Livermore lab watchdog group, for a copy of its proposal. Twenty-nine teams, mostly led by U.S. universities, leaped to make proposals. On Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department narrowed the list to 18 teams in 11 states. A smaller list of semi-finalists will be visited by federal officials in October, and the finalists will be evaluated in a full, environmental impact study over the next year, with a final decision in July 2008 and operations in 2013.

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Tensions mount over USCS growth...Shanna McCord
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/August/13/local/stories/01local.htm
The battle to stop UC Santa Cruz from expanding student enrollment by nearly 50 percent to 21,000 in the next 15 years, along with 2,000 new faculty and staff members, came to a head this week. The University of California threatened to sue the city unless two measures were pulled off the November ballot that seek to stop growth identified in the long-range development plan without UCSC paying its share of impacts on city services such as water, housing and transportation. Almost in the same breath, UC last week offered the city a proposal if the ballot measures were halted. Details of the proposal were not released publicly. The City Council, during a special closed-session meeting Wednesday, unanimously rejected the University of California's proposal and agreed to move forward with the ballot measures even if that means a lawsuit looms. It won't be known exactly how much the city is seeking from UCSC for mitigation costs until a final environmental impact report for the long-range development plan is certified. Since UCSC's long-range development plan of 1988 was written, the university has paid the city roughly $1.2 million to help cover off-campus impacts on infrastructure, including water pump upgrades, a new traffic signal, new turn lane and widening Mission Street. Looking at UCSC's projected water use in the future shows increased demand of 500,000 gallons a day, bringing total daily use at the campus to 2.5 million gallons, which Kocher says the city doesn't have the capacity to provide. To meet the increased water demand, Kocher said UCSC would be forced to rely on the proposed $40 million desalination plant. The additional 500,000 gallons a day for UCSC represents about one-fifth of the desalination plant's estimated capacity, which Kocher said would mean the university should contribute one-fifth of the cost - $8 million - toward its construction and operation. City and county leaders won confidence that the Santa Cruz ballot measures would be less at risk of drawing a lawsuit after the state Supreme Court recently ruled that California State University can't skirt its obligation to pay for off-campus impacts associated with growth.

8-10-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced seeks aid of lawmakers. University looks to Congress to allow expansion plans...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12569266p-13279371c.html
WASHINGTON -- UC Merced advocates are turning the political dials to avoid permit problems with the Army Corps of Engineers...university's chancellor is calling members of Congress. Lawmakers are leaning on the Corps...all in hopes of salvaging a 900-acre expansion plan favored by the university. "This project is too important to face setbacks over communication," Jennifer Walsh, chief of staff for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced... The joint university and congressional maneuvering follows a warning - since disputed - that UC Merced's preferred expansion plan probably won't get a permit... Tomlinson-Keasey stressed that Roukey's comments should be considered personal and not a foreshadowing of the final Corps decision. "I needed to make (congressmen) aware that this is the beginning of the process." "People speak out all the time and say their opinion, (but) I have talked with the Corps, and they have assured me they will play by the rules." One San Joaquin Valley congressional tactic now is to ensure that officials more senior than Roukey are engaged in the project, one congressional staffer explained. This entails enlisting officials both at Corps headquarters in Washington and California. "Political pressure has driven a lot of this project from the start," said Carol Witham, founder of the Sacramento-based organization called VernalPools.org. "The draft as originally written would not have withstood a legal test,..."but I think they were under pressure by the university." The university's stated position is that the alternative campus sites are "not reasonably available, obtainable or practical because they would require the acquisition of dozens of new tracts of land, in contiguous parcels, from many different owners, at a cost of more than $100 million in new taxpayer outlays."

8-4-06
San Francisco Chronicle
UC barred from deciding pay packages in private...Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/04/BAGENKB8LT1.DTL&type=printable
An Alameda County judge has given The Chronicle a partial victory in a lawsuit by ruling that a committee of the UC Board of Regents cannot decide behind closed doors whether to recommend pay packages for top officials...said the University of California's regent committees cannot make "a collective decision'' in closed session on possible future action to be taken concerning compensation matters. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith ruled against The Chronicle, however, on other elements of the newspaper's lawsuit, which sought to force the regents' compensation committee to meet in public when it discusses pay for its top 20 officials...said discussion of compensation in closed meetings is legal under state law if no action is taken. She also declined to order UC to tape future meetings of its Committee on Finance and Special Committee on Compensation...also rejected The Chronicle's request that UC be compelled to divulge minutes and other records from previous committee meetings that dealt with compensation. Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill, AB775, that would require UC to open its compensation meetings. The bill -- opposed by UC officials -- passed the state Senate Education Committee, and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.

City officials blast UC development proposal...Rick DelVecchio
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/04/BAG2AKB7KU1.DTL&type=printable
UC Berkeley's planning for a new sports and academic complex is flawed because it doesn't deal with the impact of a major disaster in a remote part of campus split by the Hayward Fault and fails to seriously look at alternatives... Cal's draft environmental impact report describing the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects should be redone because it lacks detail on the impact of the developments described in it and on possible alternatives, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said in a letter to campus planners. Despite the university's name for the plan, the projects aren't really integrated and are being presented in a way that's against the spirit of state law requiring detailed environmental review, Kamlarz said.

7-21-06
San Diego Union-Tribune
UC regents retroactively approve lucrative compensation packages … Eleanor Yang Su
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060721/news_1n21uc.html
SAN FRANCISCO – University of California regents retroactively approved lucrative benefits and payouts yesterday to dozens of UC executives whose compensation had been criticized in recent months as being in violation of university policy.
In one instance, regents decided to not only retroactively approve but also continue a monthly payment to UC San Diego Medical School Dean Edward Holmes, whose case was highlighted in a state audit in May as problematic.
The state audit had found that Holmes had been overcompensated $128,649 since 2002 because he had received an extra $5,000 per month to offset money he paid to UC San Diego for earnings from his external board service.
UC policy requires certain health science employees who receive stock from corporate boards to provide a percentage of the value of the stock to the university. Even after Holmes fulfilled his percentage, UCSD continued to pay him the additional money per month, according to the audit.
Yesterday, regents defended their decision to continue paying Holmes and many others, stating that they are underpaid compared to their peers at other universities.
“What happened here was not that someone received money that they should not have received,” said Regent Judith Hopkinson. “What happened was there was money that was approved at a level that didn't include regent approval.”
Hopkinson added that in Holmes' case, he was promised that the extra income would be part of his permanent salary. His current annual salary is $453,400.
“He was entitled to it,” Hopkinson said. “It was the honorable thing to do because he was represented that this, in fact, was his new salary.”
Regents, however, have decided to seek repayment in at least two situations. Regents authorized the university to negotiate some repayment by UCSD Senior Vice Chancellor Marsha Chandler for an $8,916 auto allowance she inappropriately received while on sabbatical in the 2004-05 fiscal year. The allowance was paid in violation of UC policy, according to the regents item …

8-10-06
Merced Sun-Star
Sheriff's brother evaded DUI jail time...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12569265p-13279409c.html
When Sheriff Mark Pazin's brother showed up to court in March to be sentenced for a drunken- driving arrest last year, a judge told him he had to pay a fine and take a class. It turns out that despite a policy to almost always bring DUI offenders to jail -- or at least fingerprint and photograph them -- after they are arrested, Merced police decided to forego that procedure with Pazin, the Sun-Star has learned. Instead, police reports show, an officer called the sheriff on a December night and told him to pick up his intoxicated brother. Booking information would have been sent to the state Department of Justice, said David LaBahn, who heads the California District Attorney's Association. In this case, Richard Pazin's arrest file will be "incomplete" and without a photo and fingerprint -- leaving open the possibility that his 2005 DUI conviction could be challenged if he was caught driving drunk again, LaBahn said.

Maneuvers on measures reveal who pulls strings...John Michael Flint
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12569317p-13279474c.html
Item 1 — Our Board of Supervisors recently made sure the "Stamp Out Sprawl" measure would not appear on the November ballot. The maneuver, though sleazy and cynical, was entirely legal — and it produced an outpouring of shock, outrage and criticism. What do the following have in common: Bruce Frohman, Denny Jackman, Balvino Irizarry, Carmen Sabatino? All faced opposition from candidates funded by real-estate developers. All were handily defeated
Item 2 — A week after derailing the sprawl measure, the supervisors voted to put the long-awaited road tax (Measure K) on the November ballot, and anyone who tells you this isn't a cost of growth is shining you on. It will be promoted relentlessly - by the Chamber of Commerce, the real-estate industry and this newspaper... Also answered, as if it weren't already obvious, will be the question of who really pulls the strings hereabouts.

Modesto Bee
Officials seeking help with growth...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12569320p-13279458c.html
Stanislaus County's mayors and county supervisors say they want to wrestle control of the county's future from big developers, but they need to hire someone to help them do that. The mayors and supervisors have been meeting to develop a blueprint for what the county should look like in 50 years — where it should and shouldn't grow and what kinds of public facilities will be needed to handle that growth. Supervisor Jim DeMartini said such plans need to protect farmland from developers. "The problem is, some developer comes in from out of town, options a bunch of land, and pressures the council to grow another way … They really only care about the land they control," DeMartini said. "We really need to work together."

Tracy Press
Bioterror...Eric Firpo
http://www.tracypress.com/local/2006-08-10-Bioterror.php
A bomb test site in the hills upwind of Tracy has made the “short list” of 18 spots where a research laboratory might be built to help protect against bioterrorism, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday. Homeland Security is looking for a spot to build a 500,000-square-foot research lab to replace a similar, but antiquated, laboratory at Plum Island in New York, which was built in the 1950s. The University of California asked to run the new lab at Site 300, 7,000 acres in the hills west of Tracy that’s part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Homeland Security said the UC has made the first cut, along with 17 other applicants in 11 states. Now that Site 300 has cleared its first hurdle, the anti-nuclear group Tri-Valley CAREs is launching an effort to prevent it from being built west of Tracy...group fears the new lab will research bioweapons, since it will have Level 3 and Level 4 labs...says a nuclear laboratory is no place for a biological laboratory because it sends a message that the lab will be used to develop offensive bioagents instead of trying to defend against them.

8-9-06
Merced Sun-Star
Director of university dining hall out of job...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12564634p-13275230c.html
UC Merced's director of dining and retail services has resigned following an investigation by UC auditors that determined he used university vehicles for personal business, purchased food for his private catering business using UC credit accounts and regularly took food from the university without payment. Prompted by a whistleblower complaint, the university began examining possible policy violations by Thomas Welton in April. Welton told investigators he was unaware of a university policy that prohibited personal use of university cars, used university credit accounts to purchase nearly $2,500 in merchandise, much of which he used for his private catering business, investigators found. Vendor records showed that Welton's wife -- who isn't employed at UC Merced -- signed for some of the purchases. While Welton eventually paid vendors for the purchases, he used university credit to delay personal payment, and only made the payments after the university's investigation began.

8-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
County violating sell-back policy...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12560598p-13271482c.html
An investigation that the Merced County Retirement Board launched last month to look into the legality of new perks given to the county's CEO has found something even more troubling: The county has been overpaying 25 retired employees -- mostly top-level managers and elected officials -- by thousands of dollars each year... inquiry found that the county has been violating the terms of a 2000 legal settlement -- known as the Ventura Agreement -- that limits the number of vacation hours county employees can "sell back" to boost their pensions. San Francisco attorney, Ashley Dunning said in an interview that the Ventura Agreement "could not be clearer" in limiting how many sold-back vacation hours can count toward pensions. Kathleen Crookham, who is the only supervisor who sits on the retirement board and voted to give Tatum the extra sell-back hours, said she also is OK with the retirement board's legal findings. "I guess if that's the legal opinion, you know what, I support it," she said.

8-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Pension policy rips off taxpayers...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12579690p-1328813
...Merced County has decided to cut back the pensions of 25 retirees that were inflated by a complex vacation "sell-back" that boosted their final year's salary, which is used to calculate the pension payouts they earn every month for the rest of their lives. Instead of being able to sell back 240 hours upon retirement -- or even more for CEO Dee Tatum, who has a separate contract with the board -- the new limit will be 160 hours. But why stop there? We don't think county employees should be able to boost their retirements at all with this bogus vacation "sell-back," which is mandated by something called the "Ventura Agreement." It's the gift that keeps on giving -- all at taxpayer expense. And our local politicians wonder why voters turn down tax increase measures.
Sheriff wasn't involved...Michael H. Sofranek, Catheys Valley...2nd letter
I retired from the Merced County Sheriff's Department's Corrections Division. Knowing the system and knowing how the system works, I do believe the sheriff would not interfere with the process, but I do not believe that the sheriff was not aware that his brother slipped through the cracks in serving his jail time.
Sell-back hours ridiculous...Phil McDaniels, Merced...3rd letter
Let me see if I have this right: The county retirement board increases the sell-back vacation hours for the county CEO, Dee Tatum. Then, as the stink from this rises, the board decides to get a legal opinion and hire outside counsel...investigation shows... they've been committing a no-no since 2000. The first question...how much of an overpayment are we talking about and how does the board plan on getting it back? Secondly, couldn't some common sense be used next time and get a legal opinion first?

March 10, 2006
Badlandsjournal.com: Merced County Development Rodeo: Ranchwood Event

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and other members of the concerned public always wondered how developers in Merced County rode roughshod over local, state and federal environmental laws, regulations, agencies and its own public. But, rarely have they been granted the insight provided by this telephone message, recorded on Feb. 3, 2006.
Badlands has blocked out the last two numbers of the telephones the developer left for return calls from the supervisor he thought he’d called as a courtesy to the developer.
Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ...

Consult Badlandsjournal.com for a number of posts on government in Merced County, for example: Byrd sues on civil rights violations, July 28, 2006, which includes a brief filed in federal court against the county DA, the Sheriff and other county notables, and notes, including the news clips cited below:

7-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
Amid turmoil, Spencer quits…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12456073p-13175492c.html
After a tumultuous week that included a dramatic car crash, a concussion, calls from the Board of Supervisors to step down, and continuing criminal investigations by the state Attorney General’s Office, District Attorney Gordon Spencer said on Friday he will resign immediately. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said his agency will continue to investigate Spencer.

7-14-06
Merced Sun-Star
County workers get brush up on ethics…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12450025p-13170424c.html
Amid investigations by the state Attorney General’s Office and growing questions about government accountability, county officials got an earful from Graham and other ethics speakers this week. All county department heads and elected officials, as well as middle managers, were required to go to Graham’s session on Monday. Elected officials and top-level employees also had to go to a two-hour course Tuesday taught by a Sacramento law firm that reviewed accepted guidelines for government openness and accountability. But not everyone attended…four officials, including Spencer, didn’t go to Monday’s meeting… Spencer, who was in the hospital Tuesday after a car accident Monday, didn’t attend Tuesday’s session. The four no-shows Monday — Spencer, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, Human Services Agency Director Ana Pagan and County Counsel Ruben Castillo — must go to Graham’s Aug. 24 course for low-level managers if they want to keep their allowances. Morris said Kelsey had a family emergency and Pagan had a medical emergency Monday. He said he didn’t know why Spencer and Castillo didn’t attend. Supervisor Kathleen Crookham…felt Hedlund’s session was “dull,” she was glad to attend the ethics courses. “It reinforces the kind of things we should remember,” Crookham said.

Correction…Last Updated: July 14, 2006, 02:51:25 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12450026p-13170466c.html
• A headline on Page A1 of Thursday’s Sun-Star about District Attorney Gordon Spencer was incorrect. No representative from the hospital said Mr. Spencer suffered a head injury.

7-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
D.A. still in hospital…Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439963p-13161488c.html
The Merced County district attorney remained in the hospital Tuesday night with short-term memory loss after a rollover crash Monday night, his attorney said. The California Highway Patrol is continuing its investigation into the crash, though it doesn’t look like any charges or citations will be filed, Public Information Officer Shane Ferriera said. Spencer called his wife from Smith’s phone, and she took him to the hospital… The investigating officer interviewed Spencer at the hospital and tested him for driving under the influence…said the test includes looking for the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or red, watery eyes. Ferriera said he did not know if Spencer was given a breathalyzer test.

Panel may ask Spencer to resign from his post…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439964p-13161513c.html
Merced County Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said Tuesday that embattled District Attorney Gordon Spencer should resign immediately to help restore the District Attorney’s Office from months of “turmoil.” O’Banion told supervisors at their meeting Tuesday that he wants the board to vote sometime soon on whether Spencer should resign. He later said the vote will be at the supervisors’ next meeting on Tuesday. “I’m not going to take any action until we have the attorney general’s report,” Kelsey said…”I’m not going to let the newspaper tell me what to do and I’m not going to grandstand for the public or for the newspaper.” “We don’t have all the facts.” O’Banion brushed aside Kelsey’s accusations
…”I don’t look at it as grandstanding, I look at it as a responsibility we have to take back a department that is in turmoil.” Supervisor Mike Nelson…when asked if Spencer should resign, he replied. “It would be nice if he would do that, yeah.”

Police chief secrecy isn’t right way…Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439980p-13161532c.html
Plenty of mystery surrounds the disappearance and alleged kidnapping of Kou Xiong, the Merced Police Department officer who was missing for two days before being located in the Madera County foothills. Now, after an internal affairs investigation by the police department, we’re told Xiong is no longer on the force. But that’s it as far as any official accounting of what may have taken place. The public deserves more of an explanation than that…police officials should divulge some reason for Xiong’s termination.

Letters to the editor:
Spencer should step down
…Mark Seivert, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439981p-13161523c.html
Editor: How many investigations need to be done on our district attorney from the state Attorney General’s Office before we demand he step down? I think three in one year should be more than enough for anyone.
Pazin’s actions a let-down…Phil McDaniels, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439957p-13161493c.html
Editor: With Gordon Spencer involved in Cellphonegate and SUVgate, it is not surprising to find him involved in yet another scheme as nefarious as the purchase of land of a jailed man. What is surprising is the behavior and attitude of one of his partners, the sheriff of Merced County… Sheriff Mark Pazin admits to knowing who the seller of the land was in the “final stages of the deal.” …the sheriff let the chase for big bucks place a cloud over his name and the office of sheriff of Merced County.

7-11-06
Merced Sun-Star
District Attorney Spencer injured in creek car crash…Scott Jason — Chris Collins; — Mike De La Cruz; — The Associated Press
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12435800p-13157709c.html
The Merced County district attorney was taken to the hospital Monday night after he rolled his Ford pickup truck into Bear Creek, a California Highway Patrol officer said. For unknown reasons, Spencer let the Ford F-150 pickup truck drift off the road and into the creek, he said. …CHP Web site said the victim in the crash had minor injuries.

7-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Spencer purchased land from jailed man…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12425122p-13147572c.html
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney’s Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer’s potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was “absolutely impermissible” by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. “There was a conflict of interest. ” Dougherty, the county’s presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd’s attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd’s land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county’s biggest developers to buy the land.

7-5-06
Merced Sun-Star
Tatum had a smorgasbord…Phil McDaniels, Merced…Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12409089p-13133720c.html
Editor: Many thanks to City Editor Mike Fitzgerald for putting in words how many voters feel about the Merced County Board of Supervisors and its constant giveaway of our money to the hierarchy of county government. For someone who flew low under the radar during the Gordon Spencer matter AND the department heads’ perks matter, County Executive Officer Dee Tatum surfaced long enough for another feast at the public trough. The board members have been in office too long and have lost sight of who they work for and who their decisions should benefit.

6-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
County supervisors clarify management policies…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12347503p-13077932c.html
Board of Supervisors approved sweeping changes on Tuesday to Merced County’s policies on car and phone allowances given to top-level employees…also set new ethics training requirements and accountability standards for elected officials and department managers. It was the first official action the supervisors have taken in response to District Attorney Gordon Spencer’s misuse of government equipment…county Auditor Stephen Jones said that the county’s attorney, Ruben Castillo, had advised him that a state law giving district attorneys and sheriffs the right to charge business expenses to the county may also give Spencer legal grounds for getting both a county phone and an allowance. The revised policy means:
• The 33 “A-level managers” in the county, which includes department heads, supervisors and other elected officials, must now sign a new form each year that says they will use their own car and phone for their jobs if they choose to receive monthly allowances as reimbursements.
• The state-mandated conflict-of-interest disclosure forms that county department heads and elected officials fill out each year will now be frequently audited by an outside firm.
• All department heads and elected officials must now attend an ethics training course once a year or lose out on their phone and car allowances.

6-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
Valley politicians report lands sales, wealth…Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12321524p-13054529c.html
WASHINGTON — San Joaquin Valley lawmakers are a diversified lot, especially when it comes to their personal finances. They own land, though not necessarily as much as they used to. They own stocks. Several have spouses pulling political salaries. Cardoza reported that, last October, he sold 6.2 acres in Atwater. The land at the intersection of Bellevue Road and Redwood Avenue brought the Cardoza & Cardoza Landholding Partnership between $500,001 and $1 million. Cardoza turned to stocks. He reported purchasing some 32 different stocks in November and December. Cardoza’s wife works as a physician in Merced.

Crookham is off the mark…Lorraine Dawson, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12321534p-13054545c.html
Editor: Some Merced County supervisors dismissed concerns that their allowances were excessive. Supervisor Kathleen Crookham said she was frustrated that questions were being asked about her pay. “It’s really unfortunate when this kind of scrutiny takes place.” “And then it’s really unfortunate when no one wants to run for office because they come under that type of scrutiny.” “Does the rest of the world have to justify what they spend? No. This is a thankless job and one you don’t get rich on.” Mercedians have a right to know where the tax revenue is spent and why. Then there was this comment in a May 2 Sun-Star story: “Supervisor Kathleen Crookham said she’s known for the past few months that (District Attorney Gordon) Spencer has been using a county vehicle while receiving a car allowance at the same time, but she said she doesn’t think it’s a serious violation.” Look no further than comments like these as to why Measure A was not passed.

6-13-06
Merced Sun-Star
OES faults Spencer over grant…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12312342p-13045915c.html
The state Office of Emergency Services says it will closely scrutinize Merced County’s use of grant funds in the future after a report it released Monday concluded that District Attorney Gordon Spencer violated the terms of an OES grant. State will monitor county closely but funds won’t have to be repaid. The report also found that the District Attorney’s Office misled OES when it said it would assign a full-time deputy district attorney to prosecuting people who committed rural crimes. The OES report found three other grant violations:… There is no set deadline for when the attorney general’s report will conclude.

Letters to the Editor…Last Updated: June 13, 2006, 01:52:58 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12312355p-13045923c.html
County wears blindfold…James V. Haslouer, Merced…1st letter
Editor: So let me see if I understand this correctly. If you are a county employee and you jeopardize a state- funded program for your own personal pocket stuffing and accept false cell phone and vehicle reimbursements (embezzlement), you can then use those monies to compute and enhance your retirement! …who was signing the vouchers that District Attorney Gordon Spencer was submitting for five years or perhaps even longer? Pay Spencer more than $150K a year for what? His disdain for the law is obvious.Supervisors, stand up for your constituents and do the right thing.

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star

Spencer violated Grant…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12270485p-13006930c.html
District Attorney Gordon Spencer violated the terms of a grant by driving a $27,000 SUV that he was never supposed to use, a report by a private auditing firm has found…conducted by Sacramento-based Macias, Gini and Co. The SUV, a 2005 Ford Expedition, was purchased a year ago with money from a state grant and was intended for Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Morse. Instead, the vehicle was “assigned solely to the County’s District Attorney,” the report concluded…”could jeopardize eligibility of the vehicle” and future funding from the grant. “It basically reinforces the fact that the car was not supposed to be used by the individual who was using it,” county Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said. Last month, the state Attorney General’s Office launched an embezzlement investigation into Spencer’s use of county-owned equipment. The Office of Emergency Services is making its own inquiry into Spencer’s actions. Both investigations are ongoing.

July 16, 2006
http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=local&id=4372012
ABC Action News 30
Fire Damages Offices at Merced County Courthouse
July 16, 2006 - A scandal forced their boss to leave and now there's a new struggle for Merced County prosecutors after fire tore through their offices over the weekend.
Investigators will begin digging out the five offices on Monday, hoping to find out what started the fire. For now, they are breathing a sigh of relief after rescuing a very important case file from the burned building.
Once the smoke cleared, investigators and county leaders got a glimpse of the damage.
"The intensity of the fire was severe. It had buckled a lot of the metal, windows had been blown out, desks, chairs and such were absolutely melted to the ground," said Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin.
Fire officials say the west portion of the building suffered the worst damage. Four district attorneys offices are ruined, two others damaged by smoke and water and two courtrooms unusable because of the intense heat.
"At the height of the firefight operations, we actually had flames I would estimate to 50 to 60 feet in the air above the building. Very major major operation," said Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten.
The fire came just two days after District Attorney Gordon Spencer resigned in the middle of three separate investigations by the attorney general's office. His office was not in the building that caught fire and officials do not believe there is any relation between the two sudden events.
Incoming district attorney Larry Morse left the building just three and a half hours before the blaze began.
"I'm sure I was the last one to leave this building. It was close to 2:00am when I left. I didn't see anything remotely suspicious. I've been in the office until one or two for the last seven or eight days, as you are during trials," said Morse.
Morse says one of the files that burned in a felony office is the case against Tao Rivera. Police say he's the Merced gang member who gunned down police officer Stephan Grey. Luckily, Morse found a copy that was spared in his office. He has now moved it to a safe location.
He says many other criminal cases also went up in smoke, but he doesn't think any accusers are off the hook, because multiple copies are usually made on each case.
Despite the damaged courtrooms, court will go on as scheduled. Those cases set for the affected courtrooms will be moved to other buildings in the complex.
Fire damages are about $750,000

November 17, 2005
Modesto Bee
UC regents increase fees by 8 percent…Michelle Locke, AP
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11490731p-12229564c.html
Cost of going to university has going up 89% since ‘01. The vote came amid heightened criticism of the UC’s spending after reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that the UC has paid millions in bonuses and pay hikes to top executives. …students were not happy with the hikes, demonstrating their opposition by chanting “Education, not corporation!”

Merced Sun-Star
UC tuition fees going up again…Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11491100p-12229815c.html
Students will pay about $500 more per year. UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said she knows some students are struggling with educational costs, but the fee increases are needed right now. “We certainly don’t want to exacerbate that,” Tomlinson-Keasey said of student financial woes. About 80 percent of UC Merced’s inaugural class applied for and received financial aid, and 64 percent of those students qualified for need-based financial assistance, according to campus records.

Sacramento Bee
Fifth fee hike since ‘02 gets UC regent OK…Leslie A. Maxwell
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/california/story/13870111p-14709573c.html
UC officials said the fee increases - part of a $2.9 billion budget that they will request from the Legislature for next year - were necessary to maintain their “compact” with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, argued for the board to hold off on the hikes until Schwarzenegger unveils his new state budget proposal in early January. Much of the audience also was angry about recent news reports that hundreds of UC’s senior-level employees received generous housing allowances, bonuses and other perks during a budget crunch.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC president promises increased disclosure about pay packages. Task force also will consider further policy changes…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/BAGVTFPO5L1.DTL&type=printable
After facing days of withering criticism, University of California leaders promised Wednesday to disclose more information about how much they pay employees. ” Dynes promised that UC would: … — Provide regents with a summary of UC leaders’ total compensation once a year, including outside income. Dynes said he wasn’t sure whether that information would be released to the public. There is a dark cloud over the university that we really have to reckon with, and it speaks to the question of transparency and honesty,” Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, an ex-officio regent, said. “There is a lot of outrage,” said Bruce Fuller, professor of public policy and education at UC Berkeley. “Is the quality of the university really tied to attracting managers, or is it tied to attracting top faculty?”

Zero hour for Los Alamos. UC has run the nation’s top weapons lab for six decades.
Will it all end this week?…Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/MNGQ9FPOD81.DTL&type=printable
Los Alamos National Lab…climax of a four-year saga: a decision that will determine who runs the world’s most glamorous and controversial nuclear weapons lab and that also could end the University of California’s unchallenged six-decade domination of the U.S. weapons program. An announcement could come soon, perhaps even Friday. UC and its industrial partners, including San Francisco-based Bechtel National Inc., are competing for the contract against aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. and its allies — the huge University of Texas system, several New Mexico universities and various industrial partners. Loss of the contract by UC would be a crushing blow to the university system’s reputation and, perhaps, to the state of California, which owes much of its international economic clout and attractiveness to investors’ perception of the state as the Nobel laureate-packed front line of scientific and technological advances. …the Lockheed-Texas team has benefited from continued leaks of bad news from Los Alamos. The latest case involved an “Occurrence Report,” which came to light late last month concerning an incident in October 2003…

UC regents boost next year’s student fees…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/BAGVTFPETK1.DTL&type=printable
Hours after the University of California Board of Regents voted Wednesday to impose steep fee increases on students, a regents’ committee recommended that hundreds of top university administrators get pay raises. The proposed “annual merit” salary increases, … average about 3 percent. “Even with this year’s merit increases, the salaries of many senior UC managers still significantly fall below market,” according to the statement. A recent study by Mercer Consulting found that UC offers lower salaries than other prestigious universities, though UC pay is comparable when retirement and other benefits are factored in. However, the Mercer study did not include all forms of compensation used by UC, leaving it unclear whether UC employees are paid better or worse than the average pay of their counterparts elsewhere. …Wednesday, the regents disregarded assurances from state Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez that the Legislature would likely allocate enough money to make the higher fees unnecessary

November 16, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
Outrage in Capitol at UC pay revelations…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/16/BAG1RFP4R61.DTL&type=printable
State lawmakers demanded Tuesday that University of California leaders answer questions about UC’s growing payroll, hidden compensation and a rising inequity between low-paid employees and senior administrators and faculty. Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who sits on the Senate Education Committee, “I’m not going to allow UC to become the Wal-Mart of education. The university’s money is public money. They have to be very careful. Before we do anything more with salaries, we have to have transparency.” “This is outrageous,” Denham said. “While students face rate increases every year and UC rank and file workers face salary freezes, the top UC administrators will be getting secret salary hikes. The regents should postpone their vote and let the public see the documents.”

UC’s hidden pay…Editorial
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/16/EDGODFOD701.DTL&type=printable
FOR AN institution devoted to openness and truth, the University of California is falling short. It refuses to speak plainly about the eye-popping compensation packages for its top leaders. The timing for the new salary increases couldn’t be worse. …regents are due to vote on a plan to raise student fees by 8 percent. …after fees have nearly doubled in four years. UC must explain its compensation policies more fully. It isn’t showing the openness that taxpayers expect and deserve from a public university.

Fresno Bee
UC gets $8 million to study San Joaquin Valley’s bad air…AP
http://www.fresnobee.com/state_wire/v-printerfriendly/story/11479672p-12219067c.html
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The University of California, Davis, will receive an $8 million federal grant to study the effects of one of the country’s most polluted air basins on public health.

11-14-05
San Francisco Chronicle…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years.

Merced Sun-Star
Famers say UC helps rivals too…Olivia Munoz, AP
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/business/ag/story/11478748p-12218475c.html
UC President Robert C. Dynes met with about 35 growers… San Joaquin Valley growers expressed frustration Thursday that research they help the University of California conduct ends up helping their rivals in the global agriculture market. …also concerned that the system’s budget cuts were affecting the extension office program.

San Francisco Chronicle
Free mansions for people of means…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO0JJ1.DTL&type=printable
For all the attention paid to university salaries, some of the biggest perks at the university are noncash items, such as free housing. At UC, the system spends about $1 million a year to maintain spacious homes for Dynes and the 10 campus chancellors. I think taxpayers would be outraged to discover the nature of this extraordinary perk,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association. Schwartz…said the homes are important to help chancellors cover the high cost of living in California, where many chancellors otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford homes on their university salaries. Public records show that many of the chancellors already own their homes, sometimes close to campus. And at least two chancellors earned tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual income by moving into university-owned residences and renting out their own nearby homes. In addition, records show hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on maintaining some of the estates.. “I suspect this will make it in our 2005 piglet book” of examples of government waste, Coupal said. “This is the kind of stuff that shows that at some point (government leaders sometimes) lose touch with reality.”

Services cut for students as high-pay jobs boom…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years. Payroll records show that 2,275 university employees earned more than $200,000 last fiscal year, up 30 percent over two years. The number of employees making at least $300,000 annually climbed 54 percent to 496 last year. Some employees got raises. Others were hired or promoted to new posts with increased salaries. Still, the boom in top salaries comes at a time when UC leaders say they have been forced to raise student fees 79 percent over four years, increase class sizes and curtail student services to cope with cuts in state funding. “This is not something you want the Legislature to learn about,” said Velma Montoya, who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. “It is unfair and impolitic.”

The home used by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Chronicle photo by Mark Costantini
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/14/mn_a9_uc00_156_mc.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable

More higher-paid employees on UC payroll
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/14/mn_higher_paid.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable

Monterey Herald
The teacher pay UC doesn’t discuss…System shells out millions while claiming poverty…San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/news/state/13163302.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Despite complaints from University of California officials that the system has suffered severe cuts in state funding, prompting tuition and fee increases, many faculty members and administrators get paid thousands more than is publicly reported. ‘’We should be comparing full compensation, including the perks, not just the salary, because when you look across the country, you shouldn’t be comparing apples to oranges,'’ said Velma Montoya, an economist who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. ‘’It’s ludicrous to increase student fees… when you’re talking about executive officers making this much money, and no one knowing about it,'’ said Anu Joshi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and president of the systemwide UC Student Association.

11-13-05
UC’s higher profile…Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/11476112p-12215740c.html
The recent visit to Fresno by the president of the University of California underscores how the landscape has changed in higher education for Valley students in just a few years. For decades, the Valley was given short shrift by UC. Higher education was left in the hands of California State University campuses, such as Fresno State. Now UC Merced has opened, creating a new opportunity for Valley students. …the UC system is working much harder to spread the word about UC among Valley students and their families. That’s what brought UC President Robert Dynes to Fresno on Thursday…

San Francisco Chronicle
UC piling extra cash on top of pay…Tanya Schevitz, Tod Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&type=printable
Despite UC’s complaints that it has been squeezed by cuts in state funding and forced to raise student fees, many university faculty members and administrators get paid far more than is publicly reported. In addition to salaries and overtime, payroll records obtained by The Chronicle show that employees received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year. That was more than enough to cover the 79 percent hike in student fees that UC has imposed over the past few years. The bulk of the last year’s extra compensation, roughly $599 million, went to more than 8,500 employees who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries. And that doesn’t include an impressive array of other perks for selected top administrators, ranging from free housing to concert tickets.

Bringing in the big bucks
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/13/mn_big_bucks.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&type=printable
Here are UC’s highest-paid employees based ontotal compensation. Base salary is a small fraction of their total pay.

Overall payroll
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&o=1&type=printable
Over the last few years there has been an increase in the UC’s payroll…2002 – 2005

Other perks include parties, gifts, travel…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGQPFJ9DJ26.DTL&type=printable
In addition to their cash compensation, many senior UC employees receive significant fringe benefits. A partial list includes:
– Housing: Some employees receive free or subsidized housing near campus, including spacious homes (and in some cases, mansions) reserved for chancellors. UC also issued thousands of low-interest mortgages to administrators and faculty…3 percent interest rate. — Jobs: — Entertainment: Gifts:– Travel: Parties: Expensive parties are common.
Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education…”This is not a slush fund,'’ Callan said. “Every dollar that the university gets is public. It is a public institution. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Livermore Lab’s future tied to risky laser project…Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNG1AFNKRE1.DTL&type=printable
The fate of a super-laser — a multibillion-dollar project under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is in serious doubt, despite Congress’ decision to grant it a reprieve. …eight years after the facility’s groundbreaking at Livermore lab, the project has cost taxpayers more than $3 billion, at least three times the projected cost, and the tab should exceed $4 billion between now and the projected completion in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, only a small percentage of the projected 192 lasers have been installed and tested. Worst of all, there is serious scientific doubt whether the laser will achieve its near-mythic goal: ignition, the holy grail of nuclear physics. ..recent study by top Pentagon advisory panel cites many technical obstacles and says there’s no assurance the project will work. The group, known as “Jason,” pointed out in a recent report that the project is rife with technical problems. This is an embarrassment that UC can ill afford at a time when federal officials are close to making a crucial decision on another one of the university system’s vital relationships with the Department of Energy.

11-12-05
Fundraiser helps MC students get to UC…Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11472660p-12212399c.html
With the rising cost to earn a bachelor’s degree, students need scholarship support more than ever. The Merced College Foundation wants to make sure its transferring students have all the help they can get to attend the newest University of California campus. Currently, full-time equivalent Merced College students pay a total of about $800 per school year including campus fees. UC Merced undergraduate students pay about $7,000 in tuition per school year. But that doesn’t include housing costs that range from $14,000 to $20,000 annually.

Anxiety marks Los Alamos mood ahead of lab contract announcement…Heather Clark, AP
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/11472441p-12212115c.html
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Many people in this isolated mesa-top community are anxious or fearful about who will win a contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory. The main contenders for the contract are two limited liability corporations, one headed by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas and the other led by Bechtel Corp. and the University of California… …contract worth up to $79 million. The announcement of the winner is expected by Dec. 1. Six percent of the lab’s work force resigned, up from a 4 percent annual norm over the last decade. …poor business practices at the lab led to a purchasing scandal and a series of embarrassing security and safety lapses that culminated in a seven-month shutdown, which the Department of Energy estimated cost about $367 million. UC put the cost at $110 million.

7-3-06
Contra Costa Times
A feeling of 'siege'...Julia Prodis Sulek
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/14952474.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Sixteen months ago, when Denton started as chancellor, she seemed like a perfect fit. If any community would welcome this openly gay academic who overcame discrimination from her earliest days in a small Texas town, who became nationally renowned for her commitment to women in science and social justice, surely it would be the progressive seaside town of Santa Cruz. Instead, she told friends, ``I'm under constant siege.'' She arrived at the university already trailed by controversy and, during her short tenure, endured unrelenting attacks. ``It wasn't any single story or any single cartoon, but it was a continuing, rolling, unending set of stories and set of cartoons; it was the continuing everyday assault,'' said Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the chancellor of UC-Merced. When a new chancellor arrives in Santa Cruz, the community very nearly holds its breath. In this city of 55,000, the chancellor carries more prestige than the mayor or state legislators. But just weeks before her Feb. 14, 2005, start date, Denton's name was linked with scandal. The timing couldn't have been worse. While the UC president's office acknowledged it should have disclosed the deal from the start, it was Denton who took the heat in Santa Cruz. If Denton had more serious mental health issues, or her medication wasn't right, or she had other personal problems, no one is saying. But Tomlinson-Keasey knows that the problems in Santa Cruz weighed heavily.

8-2-06
Sacramento Bee
Tragedy looms over wildland debate...David Whitney, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/14285230p-15098739c.htmlhttp://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14285230p-15098739c.html
WASHINGTON -- Nearly 15 months after the manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument killed herself after months of frustration on the job, the federal Bureau of Land Management is reviving the process of creating a management plan for the 250,000-acre grasslands preserve that will be forever associated with Marlene Braun's tragic death. The backdrop for the battles was more political than personal. Created by presidential proclamation just hours before President Clinton left office in 2001, the Carrizo Plain had become a battleground over cattle grazing on public lands -- an issue on which the BLM typically found itself siding with cattlemen. ... public lands, on the border between Kern and San Luis Obispo counties, are the last big patch of wild grasslands left in California and the home of the largest concentration of endangered species in the state. Some, like the giant kangaroo rat, are in direct competition with cattle. Braun had openly complained that she felt efforts to curtail grazing were being resisted at higher pay grades in the agency, and that she was suffering the fallout. Posthumously, Braun prevailed.

4-1-05

CRS Report for Congress: California’s San Joaquin Valley: A Region in Transition, Dec. 12, 2005, Tadlock Cowan, Coordinator, Analyst in Rural and Regional Development Policy, Resources, Science and Industry Division

Honest Graft: Big Money and the American Political Process, Brooks Jackson, 1990

“This is the tragic story of one of the most fascinating characters in recent Washington history, Congressman Tony Coelho of California (D-Merced) … He rose to power in the house by collecting millions of political dollars for the Democratic party from whatever sources were at hand, creating a modern political machine in which money and pork-barrel legislation replaced the old Tammany Hall patronage …” p. 3

As Coelho himself says, “the system buys you out.” The system doesn’t require bad motives to produce bad government. P. 320

Italics added.

| »

Sierra snowpack problem

Submitted: Jul 12, 2006

Viewing Al “the former next president” Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” at the State Theater in Modesto the other night reminded me of the political disaster of the last six years and taught me that the velocity of climate change is faster than I had imagined. The installation of the Bush regime by the US Supreme Court in 2001 inaugurated a period of pure destruction in the US, a rampage of injustice, imperialism and greed, an orgy of lawless aggression by the wealthy against the rest of us few if any living Americans have ever seen. One casualty of the war of the Bush regime against the world was any concern for the environment. Fortunately, there were a number of wise laws in place and although they have been attacked and weakened greatly, and although enforcement of them has been savaged by this regime, most of them are still in place.

One has to wonder how this purely destructive policy over the last six years has contributed to the increased velocity of global warming, in view of the fact that the US is the world’s top producer of greenhouse gases. Perhaps if Gore had been chosen by the high court instead of Bush, we might be watching a decline in greenhouse gases; perhaps the US would be trying to do its duty, trying to be responsible, trying to help, instead of merely destroying everything on behalf of a plutocracy in favor of the government.

When we come to the problem of the decrease in the Sierra snowpack, however, we must consider that the closest contributor to the conditions causing it is the Central Valley between Sacramento and Fresno. Rampant, uncontrolled, irresponsible growth in this region has roofed over and paved over hundreds of thousands of acres of farm and ranch land that absorbed heat rather than radiating it. Yet, despite the research, all the state seems to be able to conclude from it is that our water supply will change – there will be less water stored for shorter periods as snow and more flooding from rain. Practically speaking, all this means in the near term is that the Great California Water War will continue and become more fierce because, clearly, we are all victims of each other and, of course, the fish or the laws that protect them.

We will think and say absolutely anything to avoid responsibility for our profound and growing contribution to melting the snowpack that provides most of our water. There is no malefactor too bogus to attract the enmity of our leaders, whose fingers are resolutely pointed outward. This is because the Central Valley, particularly the San Joaquin Valley, has clawed its way up from being a large, wet horse pasture to the verge of becoming the next San Fernando Valley, almost entirely as a result of the willingness of government to make the investment in irrigation systems that converted the Valley into an agricultural marvel. People in Bangor, ME, Mobile AL, Chicago, Beaumont TX, Helena MT, Las Truchas NM – people from all over the US contributed taxes to create the federal water projects that got the Valley past the horse-pasture stage. As they contributed to the construction of the railroad before the water.

As a result of this government largesse, our leaders believe that everything is nothing but another deal. But if Gore and the abundant responsible science behind him are correct, global warming cannot be solved by another political deal. Even the perpetually gullible, generous federal government cannot bail us out of this one.

The irresponsibility of the lastest speculative building boom, induced locally by the arrival of UC Merced, is reduced by the local McClatchy chain outlet to a story of how a DA and a sheriff ripped off a prisoner in a land deal. While it is evidence of the general stupidity, venality and political corruption occurring during any huge speculation, and “personalizes” the story, it diverts our attention from the problem. The public did not protect itself from its politicians. The public did not stand up for its own interests against the small, powerful cabal of businessmen, landowners, investors, politicians and their obedient propagandists. The public did not stand up against the awesome, amoral authority of the University of California and its edifice complex. The public in this region, contributing so much greenhouse gas to the Sierra, no longer seems capable of critical thought, can be bullied by two-bit frauds in office, accepts the lies of the local media at face value, is effortlessly intimidated by any authority, and is losing power economically, socially and politically the larger its population grows because no population anywhere near this size was ever intended to live in this place and support itself.

The only real question in the minds of our leaders today is how can the federal and state government fix the Sierra snowpack problem. They will rally prominent citizens and go to Washington and Sacramento and make their Big Whine again. It’s their one tune and it is getting more ridiculous by the year. Our leaders want clean air, more clean water, a healthy environment and, most of all, more growth. Now that we have the UC among us, ghoulishly planning medical research into lung disease with such a growing population of subjects, we are told that through the magic of UC marvelous technological inventions, it will all soon be OK again, we can become the new San Fernando Valley with a wonderful environment.

Our leaders have created a perfect set of mirrors to conceal reality and to admire themselves.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------------------------
Notes:

Sacramento Bee
Climate report sees a thirsty future...Matt Weiser
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/v-print/story/14276733p-15086051c.html
As global warming continues and California's mountain snowpack decreases, the state can expect to see a drastic drop in its drinking and farm water supplies, as well as more frequent winter flooding...findings in a report released Monday by the state Department of Water Resources...338-page study, offers the most detailed look yet at how climate change could affect California water supplies. Average deliveries to cities and farms from state and federal water systems could shrink by more than 10 percent, according to the report. Called "Progress on Incorporating Climate Change into Management of California's Water Resources," the report employs two climate-change models and two emissions scenarios, one involving rapid growth and the other presenting a slower, more sustainable growth pattern. The results were not ready to be included in the California Water Plan Update, a report released last year that helps plan the state's growth. But Kelly said it offers a vital message for local governments.

Merced Sun-Star
Spencer purchased land from jailed man...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12425122p-13147572c.html
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney's Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer's potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was "absolutely impermissible" by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. "There was a conflict of interest. " Dougherty, the county's presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd's attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd's land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county's biggest developers to buy the land.

Modesto Bee
Valley's environmental problems don't get fair hearing...Brad Baker
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12409164p-13133834c.html
Are you ready for the equivalent of 10 new Fresnos? That's how many new people are expected in the San Joaquin Valley by 2040, according to experts from the Great Valley Center.... it's time to update the old cliché, "Growth is inevitable." Here are the replacements: Soul-sucking monstrous growth is inevitable. Don't like that one? How about: Cookie-cutter developments covering the most productive farmland in the history of the world are inevitable. Or maybe: Growth that is extremely unhealthy for children and other living things is inevitable. Which is your favorite? I moseyed down to Fresno last week for the Blueprint Summit. I hope for a fair presentation of the environmental perspective; I'm always disappointed. A token environmentalist often is included in the program...the "environmentalist" was a river runner from ElDorado County. His remarks avoided the most pressing environmental issues of the valley: air quality, sprawl, farmland preservation and the influence of the building industry on local politics. Sprawlocrats rule. In local elections, our only choices are the candidates who seem least likely to receive text-message instructions from the building industry during public meetings.

Los Angeles Times
Repeat of tragedy feared in San Joaquin Drainage Plan. Proposal for tainted San Joaquin drainage raises concerns about causing a new ecological disaster....Bettina Boxall
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-kesterson8jul08,1,3140367,print.story
LOS BANOS, Calif. — More than two decades after toxic farm drainage emptying into a small wildlife refuge stilled the chatter of migrating waterfowl with death and deformity, the federal government is on the verge of deciding what to do with vast amounts of tainted irrigation water still produced by San Joaquin Valley croplands. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is under court order to do something about the drainage problem. But its proposed solutions — which involve treating the tainted water and taking a huge chunk of farmland out of production — have raised alarms that they could wreak more environmental havoc while costing federal taxpayers a potentially enormous sum. Now, the Bureau of Reclamation's proposal to create at least 1,270 acres of evaporation ponds as part of the drainage treatment has again raised the specter of Kesterson. A final decision is expected this summer.

Stockton Record
Delta salt battle intensifies...Warren Lutz
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060709/NEWS01/607090319/1001
STOCKTON - The fight over salt in the Delta appears headed to court. Several groups, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, have filed lawsuits against state water officials over new salt standards. And the Department of Water Resources, the other main supplier of drinking water to 23 million Californians, is considering the same. They are not the first legal actions involving Delta salt levels, which plague local farmers with lower crop yields. But they are the first since the state Water Resources Control Board ordered water exporters to meet a new salt standard or risk losing permits that allow them to control the bulk of the state's water. Agencies that buy Delta water also are suing the water board. One of them, the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, claims the water exporters are not the only ones responsible for high salt in the Delta. Several lawsuits were filed against the state Water Resources Control Board on June 15 in Sacramento County Superior Court. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also has filed a federal lawsuit, a water board spokeswoman said.

Modesto Bee
We're ready for next step to improve valley air...Seyed Saredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12432034p-13154335c.html
The San Joaquin Valley's severe air-quality problems present an opportunity for the valley to shine. Success will require bold, innovative actions by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District; the public's willingness to make air-friendly behavioral changes; better land-use decisions and design for communities that will minimize vehicle travel; and continued investment by valley businesses in technology and pollution control...we will need the state and federal governments to do their share through funding and regulatory assistance to reduce emissions from cars, trucks and locomotives. Ours was the first region in the nation to take steps to regulate emissions from on-field agricultural operations and dairies; to require mitigation from new commercial, residential and industrial developments; and to control emissions from large wineries. The San Joaquin Valley air district was the first in the state voluntarily to expand Smog Check II, a model now used to check Bay Area vehicles for emissions compliance. We have successfully implemented some of the toughest air regulations in the nation, while offering businesses reasonable operational flexibility. Over the next year, the district will formulate a plan to meet new standards. We will hold town hall meetings... The first meetings are July26 in Bakersfield and Delano, July27 in Fresno and Huron, and July28 in Modesto and Stockton. Please visit www.valleyair.org for more information.

There's plenty of water -- we just need to manage it intelligently...Dan Walters
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/state/walters/story/14277088p-15086272c.html
All Californians should know that their water doesn't come from a faucet, but is collected, stored and distributed through monumental arrays of dams, reservoirs, canals and pipelines that supplement nature's own impressive water systems. It's an imperfect system, to be certain, but it has worked admirably... California must expand and refine its waterworks. To do nothing in the face of that change is to move backward. The governor's warning about potential flood peril was underscored by the 338-page Department of Water Resources report on potential effects of global warming... DWR also noted that as the weather warms, California may receive more of its water in the form of rain and less in the form of snow, which could heighten winter flood dangers and reduce the natural reservoirs of mountain snowpacks. In truth, California has lots of water, more than enough to satisfy all reasonable demands for human and natural uses, if it's managed intelligently and with users paying its full, unsubsidized costs. We do not need to radically change our lifestyles or adopt doomsday scenarios. Even if the effects of global warming seen in the DWR report come true, stronger winter flows can be converted into better summer supplies, if we do what's needed and stop circular debates that serve other ideological agendas.

Sacramento Bee
Water's coming battle...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14277040p-15086253c.html
A new report warning of global warming's effect on California highlights the different approaches for solving the problem of a shrinking water supply. When it comes to calibrating water supply and demand, two opposing political philosophies rule. There is the concrete crowd that wants to increase supply. And there is a conservation crowd that seeks to lower the demand. The singular political fixation on reservoirs as good or evil creates a set of false choices. On the supply side, there is groundwater storage or better groundwater management... The right mix of solutions depends on the specific circumstances and terrain. The wrong solution is to think concrete or conservation alone can solve all our problems.

Stockton Record
Smelt still at record lows...Warren Lutz
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060712/NEWS01/607120330/1001
STOCKTON - The Delta smelt are hanging on, but just barely. The endangered fish that are used to gauge the overall condition of the Delta remain at record lows, according to the latest survey. Meanwhile, scientists studying the decline are being asked increasingly how to reverse the trend. Last week, the federal government said it would re-examine the effects of pumping Delta water, but there has been no formal discussion about changing the way the pumps are run, said Louis Moore, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman. The California Department of Water Resources, the other agency responsible for exporting Delta water, will draft a Delta smelt action plan by October. Johns agreed scientists are under pressure for answers, not just data.

Los Angeles Times
Schwarzenegger acts to guard State Wilderness. The governor will ask federal officials to ban new roads for mining and other development in 4.4 million acres of national forest...Robert Salladay
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-roads12jul12,0,7373545,print.story?coll=la-home-local
SACRAMENTO — Ending one of his remaining fights with environmentalists, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will ask the federal government today to protect 4.4 million acres of national forests from any new roads for timber, oil or gas exploration or other development. If approved, the Schwarzenegger plan would allay environmentalists' fears that national forest land in California would be opened to development, endangering fish and wildlife. The governor's request was in response to a controversial Bush administration rule that opened millions of "roadless" areas nationwide.
Seabird slaughter in a 'Safe' Harbor. Could the deaths of thousands of terns in Long Beach have been prevented?...Kimball L. Garrett and Kathy C. Molina
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-garrett12jul12,0,5232993,print.story?coll=la-home-commentary
IT SHOULD SURPRISE no one that the coast of Southern California is a difficult place for wildlife to make a living. Tens of millions of people, busy ports, toxic urban and agricultural runoff, overexploitation of marine resources and the relentless destruction of rivers and estuaries make it astonishing and somehow reassuringly life-affirming that thousands of terns - slim seabirds related to gulls - manage to nest along our shores. But the events of last week - when the bodies of several hundred young Caspian and elegant terns were found littering the Long Beach Harbor shore, and the nesting efforts of perhaps 2,000 adult terns on two barges in the port were carelessly erased - underscore the clumsiness of our wildlife-protection efforts and the tenuous threads that sustain our remaining natural heritage. "Terngate" also points to a fundamental problem: Our management of wildlife is disproportionately centered on the protection of the few species that have met the proper political tests to earn and keep an "endangered" or "threatened" designation. The only tern colony site in Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor that has received protective management is for the California least tern, listed by the state and federal agencies as endangered. That's insufficient when species such as the Caspian and elegant terns are kept on the run.

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Who does the Pomboza think it is, anyway?

Submitted: Jul 05, 2006

Given the money at stake, it's highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. FEMA had planned to release the maps in October, weeks before the November election. -- Sacramento Bee editorial, July 2, 2006
--------------

That Pomboza is up and galloping through the countryside again, all four legs working together as it tries to stomp those new FEMA flood maps somewhere far beyond the sunshine of timely public review. But as the ugly beast runs along the levees of the Delta, note well the rigging that control its coordinated movements. You are watching political corruption in action right before your very eyes, selling out public health and safety to developers.

The Pomboza's mumbled protests of innocence are unintelligible absurdities. All that happened here was that the Pomboza got caught. All we hear is the sound of wind whistling through the rigging, the clop-clop-clop of the Pomboza's hoofs upon the levee road, and the plop-plop-plop of one more sell-out of the public to special interests.

Who does the Pomboza think it is, anyway? The public better pay attention to this beast because it means no good to anyone but itself, it has expensive tastes, and it does not believe the public has a sense of smell.

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

7-3-06
Sacramento Bee
Reality bites...Editorial...7-2-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14273956p-15083900c.html
Delaying release of FEMA maps would help politicians, not communities at risk. Egged on by developers and local politicians seeking re-election, several Central Valley congressmen are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the release of updated maps that will provide homeowners and businesses a more accurate picture of flood risks. FEMA should resist this pressure. The government hasn't updated most of these maps for 20 years, despite several damaging -- and revealing -- floods during that period. The problem is that new maps frighten local officials... Given the money at stake, it's highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. As Cardoza notes, these FEMA maps are preliminary. The reason for releasing them is so communities can review them, debate them and understand how they might affect insurance and land-use plans before any final versions are approved. FEMA recently bowed to pressure in remapping flood plains in New Orleans, putting thousands at risk. It shouldn't do the same here -- especially not for a handful of politicians who would rather enhance their re-election chances than face the realities of floods.
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Tracy Press
Delaying the inevitable?...Phil Hayworth
http://www.tracypress.com/local/2006-07-03-Delay.php
Many people living along California's 1,600-mile levee system are living in a flood plain, but government maps often don't designate the area as such...new federal flood insurance maps coming out in October could put many more businesses and homes in the designated flood plain, forcing cities to spend millions on repairing local levees and homeowners to spend roughly $1,200 a year on mandatory flood insurance. A group of California lawmakers led by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is hoping to stall the release of the new maps - some think at least until the November election. "This information is critical and must be calculated correctly," Pombo said...along with 17 other California congressional representatives... Jeffrey Mount, a U.C. Davis geology professor and former state reclamation board member..."Don't you want to let the people who live behind the levees know what the level of risk is?" Mount and others think the lawmakers are trying to stall the release of the maps because they will bring more -- perhaps many more -- areas into the flood plain that weren't in it on the old maps. That scenario will certainly cost people and the building industry -- and possibly cost the lawmakers at the polls in November. Mount figures new development will get the lion's share because that's where the money is.

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Saving the edges of the Central Valley

Submitted: Jul 05, 2006

Throughout the borders of the Central Valley where cattle graze, although the great fields of vernal pools in pasturelands are being illegally taken, individuals and groups are finding positive ways to work together to try to stop the destruction of this unique ecology, home to a number of endangered and threatened species, essential for groundwater storage, open space that does not contribute to air pollution, and productive cattle land.

We include a several pieces:

"Easy on the land," by Glen Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, July 2, 2006;

The California Rangeland Resolution, an unprecedented agreement among local ranchers and their industry groups, farmers and their industry groups, state and federal resources agencies and local, state and national environmental groups, that this land must be saved. There is even one local land-use authority, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors;

A US Fish & Wildlife Service white paper, “Wetlands Creation in existing vernal pool landscapes.”

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

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/07/02/MNGOQJO6P41.DTL

EASY ON THE LAND
Ranchers and farmers, spurred by the growing market for natural foods, are finding a silver lining in the conservation cloud
Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Darrell Wood drove slowly across his land near Chico, a battered cowboy hat pulled down over his forehead, his eyes darting back and forth as he sized up the Black Angus cattle grazing nearby. In the back of his truck, three border collies stood at attention, ready to work.

The cattle looked in prime shape as they stood in lush pasturage dotted with sapphire vernal pools. Large flocks of northern pintails dabbled in the water, while white-tailed kites hovered overhead and red-winged blackbirds called from the sedges along the pools.

"This ecosystem is like anything else," said Wood, gesturing across the gently rolling plain that stretches all the way to the foothills of the Sierra. "Properly managed, it flourishes. Improperly managed, things start falling apart. We're doing everything we can to manage it properly."

Not too many years ago, that kind of talk might have sounded strange coming from a cattleman. But Wood represents a new breed of rancher. He and hundreds of other ranchers and farmers in California and across the nation are part of a growing private initiative that "embeds" wildlife habitat into the working agricultural landscape.

The trend is driven more by market incentives than bunny-hugging sentiments: The natural and organic food business is now a multibillion-dollar industry. But farmers and ranchers who produce for this market find they also have the opportunity to improve or create wildlife habitat on their land.

Adding to the incentive for wildlife-friendly agriculture are conservation easements -- essentially, cash payouts by government agencies or private conservancies in voluntary exchange for future development rights. The trend for such easements is bullish. In the last 20 years, about 260,000 acres of land have been protected in California through conservation easements --Â with 85 percent of that land set aside in the last decade.

Increasingly, environmentalists see easements and similar management tools -- and the ranchers like Wood who utilize them -- as key elements in 21st century conservation efforts.

"To a large degree, our society has become reluctant to fund large-scale national park and wildlife refuge acquisitions," said Dawit Zeleke, the Central Valley eco-regional director for the Nature Conservancy's California program.

Wood and his family own 10,000 acres and lease 100,000 acres from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management near the Lassen County town of Susanville, which they use as summer pasturage for their stock. They also own 2,700 acres and lease 10,000 acres from the Nature Conservancy on the Vina Plains near Highway 99 between Red Bluff in Tehama County and Chico in Butte County.

The area is considered a top priority by environmentalists because of its vernal pools -- seasonal wetlands that support several native plants and animals. The conservancy requires ranchers to pay fair market value for leased land. In the Vina Plains area, that averages about $12 an acre, said a spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen's Association.

Wood said he manages his stock to mimic the way tule elk once grazed the land.

"We allow the cattle to graze very intensively for short periods, then move them off," he said. "When the elk came through, they did essentially the same thing -- they ate everything and moved on. That keeps all the indigenous vegetation in the system. It's adapted to that kind of cycle."

When the land was managed more traditionally -- with cattle allowed to graze moderately, rotated off when the grass got shorter and moved back on when the grass grew back -- the vernal pool ecosystems suffered, Wood said: Noxious nonnative plant species, such as yellow star thistle and Medusa head, took over.

Wood's family has been ranching in Northern California since the 1860s, but in recent years he found it tough making a profit by raising and selling his cattle in the standard ways.

"Several years ago, cattle prices were at all-time lows, and I didn't know if we were going to survive," he said. "A guy approached me and asked if I was interested in raising natural grass-fed beef -- no hormones, no grain or antibiotics. I went for it. Right from the start, we got better prices than we did for standard beef."

The natural beef business has steadily expanded since 2000, and Wood's production has grown with it. He has enlisted neighboring ranchers into his operation, and the partnership now ships 130 to 160 cattle weekly, mostly to Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe's, but also to several restaurants.

While Wood allowed he isn't getting rich, the future looks brighter than it has in some time. But if you're going to make it with natural beef, he said, profits must come from conservation easements and grants as well as cattle sales.

In addition to the Vina Plains programs, Wood's family is restoring wetlands, riparian corridors and upland sage-hen habitat on their property in Susanville, east of Mount Lassen, with funding from the National Resource Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Environmentalists have long criticized the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service for allowing excessive livestock grazing on federal lands. But grazing levels are about a third of what they were in the 1950s, said Ralph Mauck, a rangeland management specialist for the bureau's Eagle Lake district office, which manages about 1 million acres of rangeland near Susanville.

The district allows about 9,000 cattle and 5,000 sheep on its range, and ranchers are paying the district assessments of about $85,000 this year, Mauck said. Federal wildlife habitat can be improved by improving cattle range, he added.

"If it's done right, when you do one, you do the other," Mauck said. He said his agency is emphasizing management policies that incorporate wildlife values -- fencing off sensitive habitat areas, reseeding range to native plants and protecting riparian zones.

While ranching naturally lends itself to habitat restoration because the landscape is left more or less intact, intensive farming -- the cultivation of grains, vegetables or fruit -- is another matter.

To grow these crops, the face of the land must be changed radically, and usually little room is left for critters. In California's Sacramento Valley, there is one exception to this broad rule: rice lands. They can provide vast expanses of prime seasonal habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and raptors. Environmental impacts can be further reduced by growing the grain organically, or with minimal fertilizer and pesticide applications.

Lundberg Family Farms in Butte County has been a prime mover in the promotion of eco-friendly rice farming. The company and its contract growers cultivate about 12,000 acres of rice around the crossroads hamlet of Richvale, and markets a wide array of products, from organic brown rice to rice cakes, rice syrup, rice chips and rice milk.

The Lundbergs don't have any acres in true conservation easements, said the company's board chairwoman, Jessica Lundberg, but they participate in a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative known as the conservation security program. Under the program, farmers are paid an incentive to maintain and improve environmental soil and water standards on their lands over a 10-year period.

The Lundbergs enrolled 3,500 acres, comprising their core family holdings, into the program and received $45,000.

The enterprise's patriarch, Albert Lundberg, came to California with his wife, Frances, in 1937, having fled the dust bowl in Nebraska, said CEO Grant Lundberg, the grandson of the founders.

"The complete environmental collapse they witnessed in the Midwest was due mainly to terrible farming practices, and it made a tremendous impression on them," he said. "When they came out here, they were determined to improve the condition of the land, not degrade it."

The Lundbergs were at the forefront of organic grain production in California, obtaining certification for organic rice production in 1980. Today, about 9,000 acres of rice land under the family's control is certified, with the remainder managed for "natural" rice produced with minimal pesticides and artificial fertilizer.

Organic and natural rice fetch higher prices than standard rice. Another attraction, Jessica Lundberg said, is that the land fares better under organic production. The regular use of cover crops for fertilizer improves the tilth and net fertility of the soil, she said, and shunning chemicals and artificial fertilizers saves money -- and is a boon to wild creatures.

During a recent tour of the Lundberg fields, wildlife was omnipresent. Pheasants burst from ditch side coverts, and scores of ducks and shorebirds foraged in the soggy fields.

The Lundbergs also pioneered post-harvest field flooding. Throughout most of the last century, Sacramento Valley rice farmers burned their rice stubble after harvest to dispose of the straw and reduce disease pathogens. But the family always felt flooding was a better way, said Jessica Lundberg.

Such "decomp" rice flooding is now standard for the industry. It wasn't wildlife concerns that drove the trend -- rather, stringent air quality standards in the 1980s and 1990s required an alternative to stubble burning. But birds and other wildlife have been major beneficiaries of the practice.

"It attracts all the ducks and geese that over-winter in the valley," she said. "They eat the waste rice, trample the stubble down, incorporate it into the soil where it degrades. That gets rid of the straw and increases the volume of organic matter in our soil -- makes it richer and healthier."

The Sacramento Valley's flooded rice fields now amount to hundreds of thousands of acres of seasonal wetlands, said Greg Mensik, the deputy refuge manager for the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which administers six refuges in the Sacramento Valley.

Zeleke of the Nature Conservancy said educating American city dwellers about private conservation efforts will be the next great challenge for the movement.

"As the population becomes more and more urbanized, people lose touch with the essential qualities of sustainable, wildlife-friendly ranching and farming," he said. "But I think we'll see increased public access to these properties -- guided tours, fishing and camping, maybe even some new variations of the classic dude ranch. We have to get people out there so they can understand the stakes."
-------------------

The California Rangeland Resolution

The undersigned recognize the critical importance of California’s privately owned rangelands, particularly that significant portion that encircles the Central Valley and includes the adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands, including the Sierra foothills and the interior coast ranges. These lands support important ecosystems and are the foundation for the ranching industry that owns them.

WHEREAS, these rangelands include a rich and varied landscape of grasslands, oak woodlands, vernal pools, riparian areas and wetlands, which support numerous imperiled species, many native plants once common in the Central Valley, and are home to the highest diversity and density of wintering raptors anywhere in North America;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are often located in California’s fastest-growing counties and are at significant risk of conversion to development and other uses;

WHEREAS, these rangelands, and the species that rely on these habitats, largely persist today due to the positive and experienced grazing and other land stewardship practices of the ranchers that have owned and managed these lands and are committed to a healthy future for their working landscapes;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are a critical foundation of the economic and social fabric of California’s ranching industry and rural communities, and will only continue to provide this important working landscape for California’s plants, fish and wildlife if private rangelands remain in ranching;

THEREFORE, we declare that it is our goal to collaboratively work together to protect and enhance the rangeland landscape that encircles California’s Central Valley and includes adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands by:

Keeping common species common on private working landscapes;

Working to recover imperiled species and enhancing habitat on rangelands while seeking to minimize regulations on private lands and streamline processes;

Supporting the long-term viability of the ranching industry and its culture by providing economic, social and other incentives and by reducing burdens to proactive stewardship on private ranchlands;

Increasing private, state and federal funding, technical expertise and other assistance to continue and expand the ranching community’s beneficial land stewardship practices that benefit sensitive species and are fully compatible with normal ranching practices;

Encouraging voluntary, collaborative and locally-led conservation that has proven to be very effective in maintaining and enhancing working landscapes;

Educating the public about the benefits of grazing and ranching in these rangelands.

Current signers of the California Rangeland Resolution include the following:

Alameda County RCD
Alameda County Board of Supervisors
American Land Conservancy
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Resources Agency
California Wildlife Foundation
Central Valley Land Trust Council
Bureau Land Management
Defenders of Wildlife
Butte Environmental Council
Environmental Defense
California Audubon Society
Institute for Ecological Health
California Cattlemen’s Association
Natural Resources Conservation Service
California Dept of Fish and Game
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
California Dept of Food and Ag
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
California Farm Bureau Federation
Sierra Foothills Audubon Society
California Native Grasslands Association
The Nature Conservancy
California Native Plant Society
Trust for Public Land
California Oak Foundation
US Fish and Wildlife Service
California Rangeland Trust
US Forest Service
California Resource Conservation Districts
VernalPools.org
Wildlife Conservation Board
----------------

US Fish & Wildlife Service white paper

Wetlands Creation in existing vernal pool landscapes
04/02/2006

For the past couple of years (and probably before) we have been reviewing
and accepting the creation of vernal pool features/wetlands within existing
vernal pool landscapes as a means to address the no net loss of wetlands
policy. Specifically I am talking about the practice of creating vernal
pools in existing vernal pool landscapes where none occurred previously (as
opposed to restoring or re-creating vernal pools where it can be determined
they did occur previously). Each time we are asked to accept this practice
we have difficulty determining that this mechanical ground disturbing
activity does not significantly affect the function and value of existing
vernal pools landscapes (uplands as well as wetlands) and also result in
adverse impacts to listed species like plants, salamanders and shrimp.
Each time I see another one of these creation proposals, the densities go
up and the project seems more like the creation of a Frankenstein type
creature than "enhancing" or complimenting the processes of a natural and
dynamic ecosystem

The only compelling reason I can see for these types of creation proposals
are that this is the most cost effective approach for the regulated
community. That is, credit can be given for preserving existing vernal
pools (which are difficult and costly to develop on in the first place) and
creation can be accomplished without purchasing additional ground.

I can see no real biological benefits of this approach that do not outweigh
the impacts, nor do I see any credible scientific evidence that this is an
appropriate approach for vernal pool conservation. In fact the more and
more we analyze and discuss this issue in the scientific and academic
community, the more and more evidence is presented that we are likely
causing great harm to an existing functioning landscape. Impacts to upland
components/habitat for listed plants, pollinators, salamanders and kit fox,
hydrology, water chemistry, microclimate, etc are just a few of the impacts
that have been brought to my attention.

I know there will continue to be great debate about the pros and cons of
this practice, and we should continue have this discussion in the
academic/scientific community. It is just getting very difficult to have
this debate in the regulatory process.

Thus, my thoughts for the day. We are reviewing several of these types of
actions in the office now and we will continue to work with the proponents
to minimize the impacts to listed species and if necessary to suggest the
appropriate compensation to avoid significant impacts and likely have to
prepare additional biological opinions on the proposals.

However, in the future, my strong recommendation is to look for
restoration/creation sites that are not within existing vernal pool
landscapes. There are numerous areas where vernal pools have been lost or
impacted due to agricultural or other practices that are prime candidates
for creation/restoration. If we are asked to evaluate the creation of new
vernal pools in existing landscapes that have impacts to listed species it
will be very difficult to justify these proposals on biological grounds
without out considerable analysis of effects to uplands, wetlands,
hydrology, etc. Please, consider looking away from existing vernal pools
for your creation component. thanks

Ken Sanchez
Assistant Field Supervisor
Endangered Species
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office
2800 Cottage Way-Suite W-2605
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 414-6671

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Friant settlement reached Friday

Submitted: Jun 30, 2006

AP Newsbreak: Deal reached to restore salmon in San Joaquin River

By JULIANA BARBASSA, Associated Press Writer
fresnobee.com-- June 30, 2006, 6:55 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A settlement was reached Friday in an 18-year-old court battle over how much water should be allowed to flow from a dam on the San Joaquin River to restore the salmon population, attorneys said.

Terms of the settlement won't be released, and the agreement won't take effect, until all parties - environmental and fishing organizations, farming interests and irrigation districts, federal agencies and the court - approve them, attorneys said.

When Friant Dam started operating in 1949, it transformed San Joaquin Valley's main artery from a river thick with salmon into an irrigation powerhouse that nourishes more than a million acres of farmland in some of the country's highest-grossing agricultural fields.

But the 314-foot barrier also dried up long stretches of the river below the dam, making it a more likely home for tumbleweeds and lizards than spawning salmon.

In 2004, Sacramento U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton agreed with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which claimed the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that built and maintains Friant Dam, had broken the law by not letting enough water flow down the river to sustain the salmon that once lived there.

Since then, environmentalists, federal water authorities and the farm interest that depend on that water had been trying to come to a mutually acceptable settlement and avoid a court-ordered solution.

"We're very encouraged that all these parties were able to work diligently over the last nine months to come to a place that seems to be a reasonable compromise," said Ron Jacobsma, general manager with the Friant Water Users Authority, a party in the case. The irrigation district distributes San Joaquin River water to thousands of farms in the valley.

Kate Poole, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the approval process for the settlement will take up to six weeks.

"We are hopeful that these approvals will be obtained rapidly, and that the parties to this historic settlement can begin a new chapter - working together to restore the San Joaquin River in a manner that will benefit not just the environment, but millions of people around the state, including Northern California salmon fishermen, Delta farmers and Southern Californians who will drink cleaner Delta water," she said in a statement.

Among the sticking points in negotiations were how much water should be sent down the river, and how to finance and carry out what will likely be one of the most ambitious and expensive river restoration projects in the country, parties said.

"What we're trying to do is provide the conditions for salmon to return above the Merced River without sacrificing the country's most productive agricultural economy," said Gregory Wilkinson, attorney for the Friant Water Users Authority.

Legislators and state officials who have played an important role in pushing for this resolution likely will be important actors in the financing and implementation of the settlement, according to the court document filed in Sacramento Superior Court announcing the deal Friday.

The state's participation is key, since it's responsible for maintenance of some levees that hold back the San Joaquin River as it flows into the delta, and out into the San Francisco Bay, said Jeff McCracken, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Earlier this year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger became the first governor to intervene in this water fight when he wrote Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, encouraging the federal agency to join in the settlement.

The governor's letter expressed his "strong support for this potential settlement to restore the San Joaquin River in a reasonable and practical manner."

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein also played a key role in bringing the parties back to the table for this final round of negotiations.

The court document filed Friday said the settlement includes proposed legislation that will be presented to Congress.

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Bravo, Rose Burroughs

Submitted: Jun 29, 2006

When, in the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, the state Reclamation Board began to take a hard look at building on flood plains along the Sacramento River and the Delta, as it has the authority to do, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired them all in September 2005.

Nearly a quarter of the governor's campaign financing, about $17.25 million, had come from developers by the time the board began to act to protect the levees and residents alongside them.

Judging from the odd comment by out-going board members, developers have big plans for the levees. One example was this from Jeffrey F. Mount, fired board member and chairman of the UC Davis department of geology.

In an interview several months ago, Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees."

Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory.

"Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry."

The violence building industry lobbyists and spokespeople do to the truth of the destruction they are causing to public resources, public health and to the environment was brought home yesterday at a round table where a BIA official from Bakersfield insisted air quality is better there now than it was 20 years ago. The statement echoed one made by a Fresno BIA flak last summer, claiming there was no speculation going on in the Valley housing market.

These people will lie to the public -- and they are paid well to lie -- whenever their greedy interests and desire to exploit the environment are challenged in whatever forum. Many of them, we imagine, have never had an experience of earning an honest living and in their hearts lying and earning are inextricably combined.

This week the new, all-Hun board, approved

a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.

The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer is British, the Cambay Group, so presumably the atop-new-levee estates will be suitably classy for whatever elite-of-the-week the Bay Area is creating when they go on sale.

Putting aside the environmental and aesthetic destruction of this project, it is another example of colonization of the San Joaquin Valley by global capital groups. Other examples, just in Merced County, include a German aggregate-mining corporation and a Canadian development corporation, alongside all the national home-building corporations, WalMart distribution centers in the nation's top or second worst air pollution basin and the NASCAR track proposed for Atwater.

Let them breathe diesel! say the Walton heiresses.

What made life bearable for generations of low-wage workers in the San Joaquin Valley was access to nature, to the "country." The Bay Area has extruded gated pods of rich, "active seniors" to settle on what was once fairly open, accessible land for recreation in the huge, greedy rush to privatize everything, seal it off, patrol and protect it, warping the life of the older community around it.

Developers have the state over a barrel in California as the result of a court decision that charged the state for damages caused by a levee break several years ago. So the main concern of the board seemed to be how to make sure the new, British-built levee won't break, conveniently forgetting that this folly could depend on what might break well above the new "super levee" adorned with chateaux de silicon. But, before levees are strengthened along the Delta, Cambay and its bankers must build their project, or the global economic system will doubtless crumble.

Federal water runs between state levees, without which Cambay could not build their super levee in the first place. Our Hun, in thrall to developers as every politician in California, fires a board for questioning the wisdom of building on flood plains behind state levees channeling federal water. Then, after the dramatic spring floodwaters recede, here comes the project again. It arrives and is approved as if to remind us that California is now so over-built, over-crowded, its population so beyond the carrying capacity of its resources that coal-fired power plants pollute the Arizona and New Mexico to power California desert air conditioners, and its politicians and courts are so completely in development's pockets that when a levee breaks and floods houses on flood plains behind it, the state pays for the damage.

But -- Sell it and ruin it, it's only the Valley! is the battle cry of our hard-right decision-makers. Their political leader in San Joaquin County is Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and scion on the Pombo Real Estate Farms clan. They call it the "courage" to stand against reason, ethics, economic sanity, environmental law and regulation, and the future possibilities of agriculture in the richest, most productive agricultural valley in the world. Their kind of courage is to sell off the Public Trust, subsidize the damage and endanger public health, approve subdivisions on farmland, then enthusiastically support University of California plans for a research medical school at Merced. According to some statistics, the Valley is short of physicians. UC hopes to attract research physicians specializing in pediatric and geriatric respiratory diseases to this evolving research bonanza of gasping victims of the San Joaquin Valley slurbocracy, which features all the pollution of Los Angeles plus pesticides, along with a derelict levee system.

But the board was not unanimous. Merced County's Rose Burroughs opposed the decision.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said.

Bravo, Rose! May many elected and appointed officials follow her lead and vote their conscience, common sense and environmental awareness.

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

ttp://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/14272102p-15082546c.html

Homes approved near river with 'superlevee' protection
State board satisfied with barrier guarding San Joaquin project
By Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff Writer
June 27, 2006

State flood-control officials gave a green light Monday to a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.
The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer, British-owned Cambay Group, plans to build 224 of those homes on top of a new 300-foot-wide "superlevee" overlooking the San Joaquin River.

The Reclamation Board approved an encroachment permit that determines where private structures can be built on the levee. It reserves 60 feet of space inland from the San Joaquin River for levee maintenance.
But critics said it could open the door to more development in the Delta and expose thousands more people to flood risk.

"I believe they have insulted the public, and I believe they have permitted projects that are injurious to the public," said Tom Foley, president of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Growth, a Marysville-based group that opposes the project.

Susan Dell'Osso, River Islands project director, said the levee gives her project some of the highest flood protection in California.

"We think the proposal before you today treats us the same as other applicants," she told the board. "In fact, it's a little harsher on us, yet it's something we can live with."

The board voted 4-1 to approve the permit. RoseMarie Burroughs cast the only "no" vote.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said. "Building homes on levees makes the hair stand up on my back with fear."

River Islands has already received approval from the city of Lathrop to build the homes on Stewart Tract.

The city also granted a grading permit that allowed River Islands to build a new private ring levee inside part of the existing federal levees on Stewart Tract. About 2,400 homes will be built inside this new levee during the first phase of construction.

The Reclamation Board has the right to review any levee alterations on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers systems.

On June 16, the Reclamation Board gave the Cambay Group approval to fill in the space between the new and old levees on Stewart Tract to create the new levee.

Monday's vote determined how much of that levee must be left accessible for maintenance and repairs.

The Reclamation Board effectively decided that only the old federal levee needs to be accessed for long-term maintenance, even though it will be partially buried by the new levee.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed with that conclusion.

As a result, Monday's action excludes private development extending 60 feet back from the San Joaquin River's edge. The rest of the levee will be open to construction of private homes, swimming pools and outbuildings.

The Reclamation Board also reserved an "excavation easement" over an additional sliver of private land up to 25 feet wide. This allows the state to access backyards to dig a trench down to the original federal levee in case repairs are required.

It will have no legal right to access the rest of the massive levee.

Les Harder, deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources, said it is unlikely levee problems would develop farther back on the levee, such as underneath new homes.

He also said that since it is likely housing will be built on Stewart Tract regardless of any Reclamation Board actions, a "superlevee" may be a good idea.

"It's my sense that this superlevee would be far better protection than anything else you have in the valley," he said.

The permit also allows River Islands to make public improvements for a recreational parkway in the 60-foot easement, subject to staff approval. This could include planting trees and building public structures like restrooms.

Board member Butch Hodgkins said this would help ensure that private structures are not eventually built across the levee, which would impede access for flood control.

"There is a common interest between flood control and public use and open space," Hodgkins said.
---------------------------

http://www.calcoast.org/news/cpr0050928.html

Schwarzenegger fires flood control panel
The state Reclamation Board had begun resisting development along vulnerable levees

Nancy Vogel
The Los Angeles Times
September 28, 2005

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday fired all six members of the state Reclamation Board, an agency that oversees flood control along California's two biggest rivers and had recently become more aggressive about slowing development on flood plains.

The Republican governor replaced the members — who serve indefinite terms at the governor's pleasure — with seven of his own appointees, most with ties to agriculture and the engineering profession. One board seat had been vacant since spring.

Five of the fired members had been appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and one had first been appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, then reappointed by Davis.

Fired board member Jeffrey F. Mount, chairman of the UC Davis geology department, said he was given no explanation for his dismissal. It was not completely unexpected, he said.

"It's perfectly reasonable for a governor to want to have his own people who represent his policies on flood control," Mount said. He added, "All I know is, we made a lot of people unhappy."

When Hurricane Katrina breached levees and flooded New Orleans a month ago, the board voted to review all urban development plans proposed for Central Valley flood plains — a power it has long held but only occasionally used.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said the appointments had been in the works for "quite some time to ensure the most qualified individuals were chosen."

"The appointees are representative of the valley and experts in engineering and water issues," she said.

In a prepared statement earlier Tuesday, the governor made no mention of the former board members but praised their replacements.

"California faces significant flood challenges," Schwarzenegger said. "To protect our communities, economy and keep Californians safe we need a comprehensive and ongoing effort to reduce these risks with better planning, new investments and improved flood infrastructure." He added that "each one of these individuals shares my commitment to ensuring these lifesaving efforts are not ignored or postponed."

State law gives the Reclamation Board substantial power to review development in the extensive flood plains along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries. The board can make recommendations that local governments cannot ignore without legal findings that justify their plans. Until the last few years, that power was rarely used.

The board had recently begun to challenge local governments' development plans. Along the Feather River south of Marysville, for example, the board balked at Yuba County's plans to build subdivisions in an area that had been flooded by a 1997 break in a levee the state was responsible for.

The state recently agreed to pay more than 600 victims $45 million as a result of that flood.

The Reclamation Board eventually reached an agreement with Yuba County to limit construction to 800 homes in the area this year. The county also agreed to waive the state's liability for future flood damages in the area, known as Arboga.

Mount and other members of the fired board have argued for tougher restrictions on home building near levees. Many stretches of Central Valley levees were built decades ago to protect farmland; they are now aging and weakening at the same time they are being expected to protect thousands of new homes.

In an interview several months ago, Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees."

Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory.

"Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry."

Outgoing board members said Tuesday they had heard rumors that Schwarzenegger was contemplating changes and understood that he has a right to make his own appointments. But they were surprised that he removed an experienced board when the state faces important decisions about the safety of its levees.

"It is not a good time for a change," said fired member Anthony J. Cusenza, a retired dentist from Modesto. "There is so much going on right now with these issues."

One of the biggest challenges for the new board, he said, is reviewing flood plain development. "We were pretty tough on developers," he said. "We are not in the land use [business.] Our concern was levees. The heat we were getting was — we were adamant about not putting people in harm's way."

Outgoing board President Betsy A. Marchand, a former Yolo County supervisor, said the timing of the board's replacement "does surprise me because this board was very active…. I guess I was thinking that perhaps they were going to let us continue with our program of bringing these issues to the forefront."

Former Sacramento city manager and board member William H. Edgar said the board was also very concerned about home building where levees had not been upgraded. He said it would be difficult for the new board to catch up and address such issues now, "but we wish them well."

In the recently ended Legislative session, the Schwarzenegger administration sponsored a bill that would have created a new Central Valley authority to assess property owners for better flood control. The bill was amended to require simply a study of levee strength and repair priorities, but it still failed, in part for lack of GOP support.

Schwarzenegger's budget this year boosted levee maintenance by $26 million, reversing cuts made in the last several years. This month, he called on California's congressional delegation to seek more than $90 million to pay for strengthening Central Valley levees.

But the governor also has strong ties to the building industry. A Times analysis of Schwarzenegger's donors shows that at least 23% of the $75 million he has raised since 2002 has come from businesses or individuals involved in residential or industrial construction, development and real estate.

The California Building Industry Assn., which represents home builders, and its members are among his biggest donors. The trade group has given the governor's campaigns $180,000.

The others terminated Tuesday are retired Stockton school administrator Floyd H. Weaver and former Tehama County supervisor Burton Bundy.

The new members are Cheryl Bly-Chester, owner of a Roseville engineering firm; Rose Burroughs, owner of a livestock company in Denair; Benjamin Carter, a Colusa farmer; Maureen Doherty, a Maxwell rancher; Francis "Butch" Hodgkins, former executive director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency; Emma Suarez, a Folsom attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation; and Teri Rie, a Contra Costa County civil engineer.

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Vote No on Measure A Tax

Submitted: Jun 03, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Saturday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.

We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
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VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because development doesn’t pay for itself.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it doesn’t fix the problems. It adds to them! The intent of this tax measure to improve highways 99, 152, 59, and 33, and to build the Mission Ave. Interchange, is to attract more urban growth, not to fix local potholes. The only “economic engine” helped here is the profits of developers who want you to pay for the impacts of their projects while they plant the last crop in the San Joaquin Valley- subdivisions!

VOTE NO on Measure A because the county General Plan is an absurdly outdated, non-compliant hodge-podge of amendments and conflicting goals and policies. About 20 citizens’ groups petitioned the Merced County Board of Supervisors to slow growth until county and city general plans and community plans are legally compliant. Special interests – not the public – are controlling the Merced County planning process. Use your vote to send a message to government highway funders that these special interests do not speak for us!

VOTE NO on Measure A because UC won’t pay more than $350,000 to cover the $200 million cost of it’s impacts to local streets, parks and schools. Measure A will be used to finance the Mission Ave. Interchange off Hwy 99, the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced and west to Atwater. This will hasten sprawl and will eat away productive agricultural land. This UC beltway will draw business away from downtown Merced. The Mission Ave Interchange will become the location of a Wal-Mart Distribution Center, bringing in about a thousand diesel trucks a day to increase our air pollution.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it is a matching fund gimmick created by special interests. Your supervisors have used your tax dollars to create a lobbying group called the One Voice Committee that speaks for special interests, not for you. VOTE NO on Measure A to tell state and federal highway funders “One Voice” speaks for special interest, not for you.

VOTE NO on Measure A because the sand and gravel trucks supplying these proposed highway projects tear down our county roads and degrade our waterways. Spending dollars on new roadways instead of for maintenance and repair of existing county roads and city streets is a misappropriation of public funds for special interests.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you’re tired of government by and for special interests – from UC Merced to local, national and international development corporations – making land deals for their profits and your losses. An estimated 100,000 new homes are already in the planning process in Merced County.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you will have no vote on the projects it will fund. Special interests have already decided how that money will be spent and will continue to decide how it will be spent.

VOTE NO on Measure A now and you may prevent Measure Z later, as special interests continue to pile on special taxes for schools, water, sewer, electricity, parks and recreation, libraries, solid waste, emergency services, police and fire protection – like Measures S, M and H, and the Merced City Hotel Tax for a UC Olympic-size swimming pool.

PAID FOR BY MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS AGAINST MEASURE A
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VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,

Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units, Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,

Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,

Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.

Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.

San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,

The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,

San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2

Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.

Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls

….and the list goes on!

Measure A gives the green light to all this proposed new residential and commercial development!

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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Notes:
(1) http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072554096/student_view0/chapter_15/economic_naturalist_exercises.html
Sales taxes are regressive taxes. This means that the proportion of income paid in taxes declines as income rises. That is, people with low incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than people with high incomes. But what makes a sales tax regressive?
People with low incomes tend to spend a high percentage of the income they receive. At higher income levels, people begin to save (not spend) larger parts of their income. A person is able to save (not spend) part of their income only after they are able to take care of buying necessities like food, housing, clothing, and medical care. Therefore, low-income consumers will spend most of their income while higher income consumers can begin to save more and more.
Since a sales tax falls on income that consumers spend, and low income people spend a larger part of their income, the sales tax falls more heavily on low income consumers. This makes the tax regressive ...

(2) http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income
Merced ranks 54th in per capita income among California's 58 counties. Only four counties have lower per capita incomes.

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK

MISSION STATEMENT

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

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341

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