Merced car parts supplier may feel impacts of Toyota plant closure...Ken Thomas, The Associated Press. Sun-Star reporter Danielle Gaines and Modesto Bee reports contributed to this article.
WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor Corp. plans to end production in March 2010 at a California joint venture where it has built vehicles with General Motors, the company said Thursday.
The decision would mean the shutdown of the sole auto assembly plant on the West Coast if no other carmaker emerges to keep it going.
Toyota's board voted early Thursday to end the company's production contract at the Fremont-based New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., spokeswoman Cindy Knight confirmed
The board’s decision calls into serious question the future of car part maker Arvin Sango’s Merced plant.
Arvin Sango opened its 63,000-square foot Merced facility in December 1995, according to the company Web site. The Cooper Avenue plant employs 53 people, after 15 were laid off in April.
Employees at the plant said that they were unable to comment about Toyota’s decision Thursday afternoon. “Due to the circumstances, I really can’t comment right now,” one employee said.
Officials at the Arvin Sango main plant in Madison, Ind. could not be reached for comment.
Arvin Sango customers listed on the company Web site are eight Toyota outfits, Subaru Indiana, Nissan North America and DMAX.
The NUMMI closure in Fremont could have a far-flung effect on the struggling San Joaquin Valley economy. About 1,150 people work in north valley plants that supply parts to NUMMI, mostly in San Joaquin County.
Toyota had said previously that it was moving toward liquidating its stake in the California facility after the plant's fate was thrown into question in June when GM announced it was withdrawing from the 50-50 joint venture. General Motors Co. emerged from bankruptcy and the company's stake in NUMMI is now part of Motors Liquidation Co. — also known as Old GM — where it will be liquidated under court supervision.
The NUMMI plant, established in 1984, employs 4,600 workers. Toyota builds the Corolla compact car and the Tacoma pickup truck at the plant and until recently GM built the Pontiac Vibe station wagon there.
Two Merced mayor candidates in financial trouble...SCOTT JASON
One Merced mayor's candidate filed for bankruptcy in May and another is paying off a state tax lien, though neither thinks the financial troubles will materially hurt their chances during the election.
Rick Osorio, a former council member, filed for Chapter 7 protection May 8 because his business, Osorio Financial Services, was hammered during the economic meltdown last year.
"I had no choice but to close the doors," Osorio said Thursday. "It's traumatic. You don't go into business to fail."
He said he emerged from bankruptcy this week.
City Councilwoman Michele Gabriault-Acosta, also running for mayor, said a friend preparing her 2007 taxes made a mistake, resulting in her believing she didn't owe any money. The state caught it, and on May 27 put a lien against the house where she's living. She's been paying it off since.
Gabriault-Acosta, 57, and Osorio, 63, are in a race with Councilman Bill Spriggs, 58, for the mayor's seat, which will be open with Ellie Wooten terming out. Election Day is Nov. 3.
For 20 years, Osorio said, his financial services business did well. There were two main sectors.
One service was finding loans for businesses that needed a small amount of cash or ones that otherwise couldn't get a loan directly from a bank. The money was typically for expansions or new equipment.
Osorio said he had a network of investors who could offer loans. He would take a one percent loan-origination fee, which he received once the loan was paid off.
The other part of the business was insuring commercial businesses, most often his loan clients.
During the economic collapse, new clients were hard to find. Many of those he had went out of business and never paid him. Osorio declined to name any of his customers. He said he didn't go after them for nonpayment. "You don't want someone to kick you when you're down," he said, adding they could be clients once again when the economy improves.
To keep his business going, Osorio said he tapped and ultimately exhausted his personal lines of credit. Osorio declined to discuss specifics, but his filing show $209,000 worth of unsecured debt, mainly from credit cards and accounts with major financial institutions.
He owed $24,616 on a Bank of America line of credit. A credit card from that institution also had $16,619 charged to it.
By summer, he realized bankruptcy might be the only option. In January, he began lining up paperwork.
Under the bankruptcy, Osorio said he'll be able to keep his Merced home as long as he keeps making the mortgage payment. He's getting by on his wife's income and hoping to find work as a financial consultant.
The recent bankruptcy is Osorio's second. He said his identity was stolen in the early 1990s. He helped some people start a business. Those people learned one of his credit card numbers and then began taking out more lines of credit.
Osorio said the bankruptcy makes him understand the challenges Merced residents face. "I know what people are going through," he said. "I struggle for the person that's losing their house," he said. "I care for the person who lost their job."
Roughly 1,000 people in Merced County filed for bankruptcy between March 2008 and March 2009, according to a report by the federal courts system.
He acknowledged that some residents may shy away from voting for him because of his bankruptcy. Nevertheless, he still feels as if he can connect with voters.
Two years ago, a friend prepared Gabriault-Acosta's taxes. It appeared she wouldn't owe or have to pay.
She later learned she owed just under $4,000. She's been paying off the tax lien in installments. The balance is down to about $800 and it should be paid off by January.
Gabriault-Acosta said she was included in a bankruptcy when she was going through a divorce in the 1980s. She could either be included on the filing or be responsible for her ex-husband's debts.
While elected officials hold power, it's the city budget officials who prepare and manage the city budget. She said personal financial problems don't affect someone's ability to lead a city, which is governed by seven elected council members.
"It's not just one of us making decisions," she said, adding, "No one's doing it for financial gain."
Council members are paid a $70 monthly stipend. The mayor gets $100.
A public records search on Spriggs doesn't turn up any liens or bankruptcies. He also confirmed he's free from such financial problems.
He wasn't sure how voters would respond to Osorio's bankruptcy or Gabriault-Acosta's lien. "Times are tough out there right now," he said. "It happens at all levels."
Campaign is already interesting
It's gonna be a real contest.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, will be challenged in his 2010 bid for re-election, providing a year's worth of fodder for this column.
Just last week Lips heard people suggesting he may not even run. His press rep scotched that rumor and suggested we look beyond the beauty parlor for our tips.
Though that one proved false, the sentiment against Cardoza is galvanizing, if only into aluminum foil.
A couple of secret meetings to vent about him were held in Merced and Modesto in the past month or so.
Now there's a rather obscure Republican challenger preparing for next year's election. Mike Berryhill, a Turlock Irrigation District board member, announced his candidacy Monday. Just last year, Cardoza ran unopposed.
Does Berryhill stand a chance? Perhaps not. His endorsement page online is empty. Will he make Cardoza take the race seriously? Please make checks payable to "Friends of Cardoza."
We figure much depends on the country's sentiment next year. Will Merced recover? Will Dems still be in favor?
Earlier in the week, Cardoza was tromping around the district with Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, who also happens to be the most powerful person in the House after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Hoyer ran the show during an editorial board with the Sun-Star and The Modesto Bee. Cardoza, for the most part, stuck to his talking points, even pulling out his oft-used Katrina analogy to describe Merced's foreclosure woes.
Come next year, Berryhill will be the one hoping to kick Cardoza out of the House.
Ivory tower throw-down
It always seems like family spats boil to the surface when guests are around.
Last week, there was an argument over which school is better -- UC Merced or Merced College.
Juan Sepúlveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, was explaining his program and identified Ben Duran as UC Merced's president.
Before he could start the next sentence, a man interrupted to say that Duran was president of Merced College.
Sepúlveda, embarrassed, apologized for the gaffe and praised community colleges. Just as the awkward moment was concluding, another man emphasized UC Merced's importance to the area and pointed out its chancellor, Steve Kang, who was at the meeting.
If the schools went head-to-head, we'd have to take the community college. Its student body is more than twice as large as the university and has a vast alumni network.
But like any parent with two kids, can't we just love them equally? And at least wait until the company leaves before we start arguing?
Letter: Return the favor...PETE ROBINSON, Atwater
Editor: This is so unfair. On the front page of Wednesday's Sun-Star, our Maryland-domiciled Rep. Dennis Cardoza has a picture of him getting to have a face-to-face meeting with his Maryland congressman.
Why not return the favor, and give the same opportunity for us, Dennis -- your constituents of the 18th Congressional District -- you know, of California ... not Maryland.
Letter: Face the voters...DEBORAH JOHNSTON, Atwater
Editor: Your recent article Wednesday on Rep. Dennis Cardoza said, "Cardoza said no one he's spoken with has asked him to hold a town hall meeting."
With whom is he speaking? I personally called his Merced office. Of course, no one he has spoken with has asked for a town hall meeting ... he isn't speaking to "the people," he is speaking with the press.
I have read much of House Resolution 3200 (America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009) and I have questions. If Cardoza supports this bill, he should be able to give informed answers. By not having an open forum to discuss issues, it makes me think that he either can't answer pointed questions regarding this bill or he just doesn't want to face his constituency.
What a shame.
Letter: No satisfaction...LINDA PLYMALE, Atwater
Editor: I have been in touch with Rep. Dennis Cardoza's offices many times over the past several months about issues involving veteran's benefits, TRICARE (medical insurance program for military retirees and their dependents), the Social Security Administration and President Obama's health care reform plan.
Every time I have called any of his offices I have received absolutely no satisfaction.
Apathy runs rampant throughout all of his offices, from Merced to Modesto to Washington, D.C. congressmen Gary Condit and Tony Coelho may have had their faults, but they never ignored me.
I did receive a letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein inviting me to come to her office in San Francisco and discuss the matter with her. I also received an invitation to the online question and answer that President Obama held last week.
I am a lifelong Democrat, but I am thoroughly ashamed that I have been so supportive of Cardoza for so many years. I would like to see a Democrat who actually cares step up and challenge him in the next primary.
Let's not give Dennis Cardoza another free ride to Washington.
UC Merced, city sharing tourism boom...Danielle Gaines
MERCED — Vidhi Karanath, a high school senior from San Jose, arrived in Merced with her father Monday morning on the last leg of a weeklong tour of college campuses.
Merced made the travel itinerary because it was handy, father and daughter said.
"I just like the UC system and this is close to home," Vidhi said before embarking on an hourlong tour of campus.
The Karanaths represent one small portion of visitors to UC Merced since Sept. 1.
"We're getting lots of interest. And we're actually drawing a fair number of prospective students through the county and the city," said Kevin Browne, assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management.
The number of visitors — more than 22,000, Browne said — rounds out to eight per student enrolled last academic year. That doesn't include 12,000 visitors for first lady Michelle Obama's commencement address in May.
Browne said the numbers are an economic boon to the area, with prospective students and parents asking about restaurants, hotels and places to live.
Karen Baker, director of the city's visitors service, said her office has seen a lot of interest from UC visitors.
"When they are interested in UC Merced, we encourage them to visit all of our area attractions, to look at our whole area, see what we have to offer and fall in love with the community," she said.
And while the city encourages visitors to head out to the campus, UC Merced reciprocates.
"We're trying to tell folks what else there is to do in Merced that day," Browne said. "Our goal is for students to figure out whether they will be happy in Merced."
Vidhi said the tour encouraged her to apply.
"When we first arrived I thought, 'This is in the middle of nowhere,' " she said. "But now I like the campus. It is very nice, new."
No appreciation...Sandy Nax
The federal government released the newest home-value rankings this week and Merced fared the worst. Its 27.1% plunge in prices in the 12-month period ending June 30 led the nation.
Over five years, the decline was 36.1%.
Las Vegas, Vallejo-Fairfield, Miami and Modesto had the dubious distinction of being in the top (or should we say, bottom) five.
Madera came in ninth, with a one-year dip of almost 21%, although the five-year decline was only 5%. Fresno was 15th, with a one-year decline of 18.6% and 5.8% slip over the last half decade.
Old American Dams Quietly Become a Multibillion-Dollar Threat...Alexis Madrigal
Last week, a Siberian hydroelectric dam failed when an explosion rocked the site’s turbine room, killing dozens and taking 6,000 megawatts of electricity offline.
While the tragedy’s ultimate causes are unclear, Russian media has been questioning the state of the aging Soviet-made infrastructure. Dams are getting older in the United States, too. The average age of America’s 80,000 dams is 51 years. More than 2,000 dams near population centers are in need of repair, according to statistics released this month by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
Last year, 140 dams were fixed, but inspectors discovered 368 more that need help. That’s why the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our dams a grade of “D” in its 2009 report on the nation’s infrastructure. There are just too many aging dams and too few safety inspectors.
“With the huge number of dams getting older every day, it’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem,” said Larry Roth, deputy executive director of the ASCE. “The policing of maintenance and filing of inspection records is relatively haphazard, not because of lack of focus or knowledge of significance, but they just don’t have the monetary resources to do it.”
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimate that $16 billion would be needed to fix all high-hazard dams. The total for all state dam-safety budgets is less than $60 million. The current maintenance budget doesn’t match the scale of America’s long-term modifications of its watersheds.
While dams have been built in this country for a couple hundred years, the first half of the 20th century saw a building boom. Large dams were built for hydroelectric power, smaller dams to provide water for industrial concerns or irrigation. There was little state or Federal regulation, particularly of the little dams in small watersheds, until the 1970s, when five major dam failures took hundreds of lives and caused almost $1.5 billion in damage. The Carter administration began to put safeguards in place, but the inspections continue to be carried out at the state level.
In some places, like California, that works pretty well, Roth said. But other states haven’t put much money toward dam safety, and Alabama hasn’t allocated any cash at all. State dam inspectors have to look after an average of 160 structures.
Worse still, more people are moving into risky areas. As the American population grows, dams that once could have failed without major repercussions are now upstream of cities and development. That’s why the number of high-hazard dams has increased from less than 9,000 in 2001 to more than 10,000 now.
The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages a portfolio of more than 350 dams, has a team of close to 50. That’s the big reason the government-managed facilities are less of an issue.
“Most of the dams that are hydroelectric are generally well-inspected and well-maintained,” Roth said. “It would be safe to say that most of our hydroelectric dams are safe in the U.S.”
The rigorous process that Reclamation requires catches problems. Brian Becker, chief of the Dam Safety Office at the Bureau said they’ve modified 70 dams to reduce their risk failure.
“If dams are properly operated and maintained, the useful life of a dam can be very long,” Becker said. “There are dams that are centuries old.”
But not all dams will make that it that long. Many privately owned dams are not receiving the proper attention to keep them from failing.
“They are not being maintained and they are getting older and the conditions around the dams are often changing,” Roth said.
In some cases, the owner of the dam isn’t known. The businesses that built most 75- or 90-year-old dams are long gone. Without an owner of record, it’s hard to find someone to pay for necessary repairs. Even if an owner can be found, they sometimes don’t have — or claim they don’t have — the money to fix the old earthenwork or concrete dams.
State officials are forced into a tough spot. They can’t afford to rebuild dams themselves, but they also can’t afford to get rid of them either. Removing a dam that’s been around for 50 years isn’t easy, and it could actually negatively impact the flora and fauna that have adapted to the reservoir.
“Not only do you have to be very careful taking it down, but you could cause some serious environmental reversal,” Roth said. “It’s a man-created environment but it becomes an environmental issue to alter it.”
So, we’re stuck with thousands of dams needing repairs and no money to make those repairs or get rid of them. It’s probably only a matter of time before another disaster like the Kaloko dam failure in Hawaii in 2006.
“That was just the worst-case scenario: An owner who didn’t understand his responsibility and didn’t listen to the state regulators, and a state regulation system that was lacking in funds to enforce the code,” said Lori Spragens, executive director of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. “Then that dam failed and killed seven people.”
Not even the federal stimulus package directed any money to this particular set of shovel-ready projects. By her organization’s count, Spragens said very little cash from the Recovery Act was going to repair the nation’s dams.
Combined with the deplorable state of the nation’s bridges, it goes to show that the Russians don’t have a monopoly on dysfunctional political systems that let a nation’s infrastructure crumble.
San Francisco Chronicle
Lawmakers kill bill limiting UC, CSU exec pay...Nanette Asimov
California lawmakers killed a bill Thursday that would have kept public universities from raising executives' pay in hard economic times - even though it would have meant "significant savings" of several million dollars, according to a state analysis.
The issue of executive pay at the University of California and California State University is controversial at a time when both school systems are reducing courses, raising fees, cutting faculty pay and laying off staff.
Senate Bill 217 was supposed to force thousands of executives earning more than $200,000 "to share the burden during difficult budget years," said its author, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.
The state Senate supported the bill on a vote of 35 to 3 in May, but as the bill moved forward, lobbyists for UC and CSU got busy trying to defeat it.
They told the Assembly Education Committee that capping pay would actually cost the university millions of dollars because many executives would quit, forcing the schools to spend more on recruitment.
Furthermore, any pay cap would make it harder to compete for top executives, and would inspire recruits to demand even higher starting salaries, they said.
Finally, they said, they should be in charge of salaries. The Assembly Appropriations Committee's analysis of the bill shows that, in the end, it was that argument that persuaded committee Chairman Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, to bury the bill without a vote.
Felix 'Public Trust' Smith Urges No Vote on Delta Bills...Dan Bacher
"I held the first deformed migratory bird, an American coot hatchling, found at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in 1983. At that time I was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist recently assigned to look into the emerging issues involving agricultural drainage and wastewater. That experience impacted my life," says Felix Smith, board member of the Save the American River Association (SARA).
Below is Smith's letter to the Legislature criticizing SB-1 (Simitian), AB-1 (Huffman) and SB-3 (Wolk) for weakening the Public Trust Doctrine. The bill package serves as a road map to the construction of the peripheral canal by creating a Delta Stewardship Council of which 4 out of 7 members would be appointed by the Governor. Schwarzenegger wants to build a peripheral canal, so he is expected to appoint panel members that support a canal.
A letter to the California Legislature from Felix Smith on the Public Trust and our loss in the Delta Bill Package:
August 24, 2009 -- To the California Legislature -- I am writing to express my concerns about the rush to judgment of several bills being discussed by the State Assembly and State Senate. The Bills are SB-1 (Simitan), AB –1 (Huffman) and SB-3 (Wolk). Some of the language will expressly change the meaning / interpretation of the Public Trust Doctrine and the duties of the State administrators under that Doctrine.
The Public Trust Doctrine and the protection of the Public Trust has persisted in European, English and American law throughout history. Its roots trace back to Roman times. The Institutes of Justinian in the Sixth Century A.D. stated: “by the law of nature these things are common to mankind —-the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea”. These resources belonging to all the people are therefore held in trust by governments. As a resource management tool, the Public Trust Doctrine predates California’s water right, and waste discharge permits for air and water and land use laws and regulations since it goes back to the Sixth Century A.D.
The Public Trust Doctrine makes government agencies the trustee of our air, lakes, rivers, and streams and associated resources, uses, and ecological values and other assets of significant public use and value. This trusteeship is for the benefit of people. Public Trust assets are not held primarily for sale or conversion into money. In simple terms Public Trust assets, associated uses, and ecological values should be devoted to fulfilling the purposes of the trust, i.e., in the service of the people.
This trusteeship fixes the responsibility for the day-to-day, as well as long-term management of public trust assets. State agency administrators, as trustees, have a high fiduciary duty and responsibility to manage such assets for the long-term public interest. The obligations of a trustee are to protect trust assets from decline and to increase trust assets in numbers and value for use by the public. The duties of a trustee extend far beyond custodial activities. It requires prudent management. A trustee must be aware of potential adverse impacts; seek out opportunities for resource improvement, and act upon them appropriately consistent with its stewardship duties and responsibilities.
The heart of the Public Trust Doctrine is that it imposes limits and obligations upon government administrators, on behalf of all the people. That obligation is that the State as trustee, is not to impair the resources, uses, or ecological values even if private interests are involved. This strengthens the people’s hand to share trust assets so long as the corpus of the trust is protected. There may be times that the corpus of the trust maybe impaired. However the State must bear in mind its duty as trustee to consider the effect of the taking (in this instance water) on the public trust and to preserve so far as is consistent with the public interest, the uses, resources and values protect by the public trust. To destroy public trust assets to benefit of one aspect of society at the expense of the larger society is wrong, because it penalizes future users of such resources, uses, and values and is inconsistent with the long-term public interest.
The key case regarding the Public Trust Doctrine and the allocation of trust resources is Illinois Central R.R. v. State of Illinois, (146 U.S. 387 – 1892). In this case, the U. S. Supreme Court said that it may be reasonable for the State of Illinois to grant to the Illinois Central Railroad some of the Chicago waterfront and lands underlying Lake Michigan for public trust purposes. However, it was the “wholesale giveaway” of the Chicago - Lake Michigan waterfront and its submerged lands to a private corporation for seemingly private purposes that was unreasonable and illegal. A grant to use a resource held in trust is subject to revocation according to Illinois Central case.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Illinois, held “The state can no more abdicate its trust over property in which the whole people are interested, like navigable waters and soils under them, so as to leave them entirely under the use and control of private parties, except in the instances of parcels mentioned for improvement of the navigation and use of the waters and when parcels can be disposed of without impairment of the public interest in what remains, than it can abdicate its police power in the administration of government and preservation of peace.”
The U.S. Supreme Court held that the State of Illinois did not have the authority to make wholesale grants of public resources held in trust, because to do so violated the trust under which such resources are held. The giveaway of the entire Chicago – Lake Michigan waterfront by the State was ruled illegal. The outcome was that the Chicago – Lake Michigan waterfront did not pass to the Illinois Central Railroad, but was preserved for diverse public uses that include commercial navigation, fishing, recreation, and other public interests.
The U.S. Supreme Court relied on the Public Trust Doctrine to limit the actions of the Illinois State legislature. From this case, one can conclude that the State cannot make wholesale grants of public trust assets to benefit one aspect of society at the expense of the larger society, because it penalizes future generations of such resources, associated uses and values. Such a give-away was deemed inconsistent with the long-term public interest.
A logical extension of the Illinois Central case and the Public Trust Doctrine is that the State can only issue permits to appropriate an amount of water from a lake, river or stream that does not abrogate the State’s public trust responsibilities to the stream, its resources, uses and values. It can be stated that the stream flow and water quality needed to protect fish, other aquatic resources, and the dependent ecosystem, were not and never were transferable by a water right allocation. If there are impacts to resources, uses, and ecological values, the permit to use that amount of water violates the trust under which such assets are held. Therefore the permit is revocable.
The National Audubon (National Audubon Society v. Superior Court, 33 Cal. 3d 419-1983) case verified findings of Illinois Central. A key point made by Audubon was “the public trust is more than the affirmation of State powers to use public property for public purposes. It is an affirmation of duty of the State to protect the people’s common heritage of streams, lakes, marshlands and tidelands, surrendering that right of protection only in rare cases when abandonment of that right is consistent with the purposes of the trust” (Audubon at 360-361, underlining added for emphasis).
The Audubon Court tied the protection of the public trust assets to the maintenance of natural resources for their innate value and not to private beneficial uses of water. The same can be said for the Illinois Central case. The Illinois Court protected the lands and waters of the Chicago / Lake Michigan waterfront for the benefit of all the people and future generations.
Adolph Moskovitz, an old time water lawyer and involved in the Audubon case, speaking to the Sacramento Area Water Forum described the Public Trust Doctrine as multi-faceted involving many resources, uses, and ecological values. Protecting the public trust is not just another use co-equal with irrigation, power production, an industrial use, or leaching salt from soils, etc. Protecting the public trust, including the preservation and enhancement of fish, wildlife, and other aquatic resources, occupies an exalted position in any judicial and administrative determination of water resource allocation (March 3, 1994).
I urge you to vote no on these bills. These are flawed bills. The State Board must review all its previously water right allocation because it has given away much more water than actually exists. The end result is that the long-term public interest and the State’s aquatic environments (rivers and wetlands) have gotten screwed over by water extractors and polluters in the name of economic gain for the extractors and the polluters. We do not need a rush to judgment for that will surely engender years of costly litigation. What we need is good science, and a clear and deliberate discussion of the merits of each bill in the sunshine, not behind closed doors. There is too much at stake for the future of California and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta –Estuary.
Felix E. Smith
Peripheral Canal Would Cost $23 to $53.8 Billion!...Dan Bacher
The Million Boat Float from Antioch to Sacramento last week dramatized the need to save the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, and to stop Governor Schwarzenegger's peripheral canal. The absurdity of the Governor and Legislature's plans to build a canal became even more clear this week with the release of a report that estimates the construction costs for the canal and related facilities would range from $23 billion to $53.8 billion depending upon conveyance facility.
A draft economic report by Steven Kasower of the Strategic Economic Applications Company, released to the California Legislature Tuesday, reveals that the costs for the construction of a peripheral canal around the California Delta or a tunnel under the estuary would be much higher than previously estimated, ranging from $23 billion to $53.8 billion depending upon the conveyance facility.
The $23 billion estimate includes $4.2 billion for "isolated conveyance" - a peripheral canal- through the eastern Delta, $9.8 billion for through Delta conveyance, $4 billion for mitigation, $4 billion for restoration and $5 billion for off-stream storage. The $53.8 billion estimate is based on a combination of $33 billion for a conveyance tunnel and $9.8 billion for through Delta conveyance, in addition to $2 billion for mitigation, $4 billion for restoration, and $5 billion for off-stream storage.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan processes have advocated building "dual conveyance" facilities, a combination of "isolated conveyance" - the peripheral canal - and through Delta conveyance where the water would flow through shored up levees in existing river channels. More recently, the California Department of Water Resources has suggested building a massive 35 mile tunnel, rather than a canal, through the Delta.
The peripheral canal, designed to export more northern California water to Central Valley corporate agribusiness and southern California, would be a monumental project approximating the Panama Canal in width and length. The canal, designed to carry 15,000 cfs of Sacramento River water, would be 500 to 700 feet wide and 48 to 49 miles long, based on an engineering report completed in August 2006 by Washington Group International for the State Water Contractors. By comparison, the Panama Canal is 500 to 1000 feet wide and 50 miles long.
To develop the costs for the tunnel under the Delta, Kasower substituted as "reasonably equivalent" the costs for a comparable construction project, the London-Paris Channel or "Chunnel." The Chunnel is 31 miles long and cost $21 billion in 1994. By adjusting the $21 billion into 2009 dollars, Kasower came up with the $33 billion figure.
Regardless of whether the canal or tunnel alternative is proposed as the solution to meeting the "co-equal goals" of water supply and ecosystem restoration, the California debt servicing would be enormous. Kosower estimates it would range from $1.5 to $3.4 billion annually - and only $6.5 billion would be financed through General Obligation Bonds.
"The financing would incur a $416 million annual debt service while Delta water users would shoulder the rest," said Kasower. "For citizens unlucky to live in the Delta service area, they would pay for both the beneficiary financing as well as the general obligations encumbered for restoration and their share of the off-stream storage reservoirs."
Kasower noted that almost no information is available on mitigation and restoration costs do not exist at all for the controversial project. "The project economics have not been accomplished to date. There is little information on what benefits in terms of long-term yield or project implementation timelines," he stated.
He concluded, "There is not enough substantive engineering, economic and thus financial information at this point to consider any Delta solution policy other than serious investment in answers. A rush to solution will result in no progress and no solution."
Kasower posed a series of questions and recommendations to policy makers, including investigating the possibility of developing Delta-free self reliance water supplies in southern California, studying whether or not the San Joaquin Valley can survive with no Delta diversions, and exploring what restoration and mitigation the Delta would require if no Delta diversions occurred. Other recommendations include investigating whether Bay Area diverters could survive on local projects and programs and studying the new role that stormwater reuse and aggressive recycling could play in a sustainable California economy.
In spite of the intensive campaign for the construction of the canal by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his allies, canal opponents emphasize that the proposed government pork barrel boondoggle wouldn't create any new water - it would only take water from senior water rights holders to be delivered to junior water rights holders on the San Joaquin Valley's west side. And in spite of the claims of its proponents that the canal will result in “ecosystem restoration," Delta advocates say the canal will only exacerbate the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail, American shad, striped bass and other California Delta fish populations by removing more water from the imperiled estuary.
Does it make any sense for the state of California to build a giant canal that will destroy Delta fisheries and Delta farmland while indebting Californians for decades to come?
Million Boat Float Protests Plans for Budget-Busting Peripheral Canal
On August 16 and 17, in anticipation of the hearings held on a package of five water bills in the Legislature on August 18, August 25, August 26, and August 27, boaters and fishermen from throughout the Delta converged on Sacramento in the first-ever Million Boat Float in an effort to dramatize the need to save the California Delta and stop the peripheral canal.
The Delta boaters floated to Sacramento to express their concerns over the legislative water package, including SB 229-Pavley, SB 12-Simitian, AB 39-Huffman and SB 458-Wolk (The numbers of the bills have changed since the protest). The package includes several contentious water issues including the governance structure of the Bay-Delta region and water storage and provides the framework for a recycled version of the multi-billion dollar peripheral canal that was overwhelmingly voted down by California voters in 1982.
Bruce Connelley, an Oakley City Councilman, organized the two-day flotilla to show that boaters, fishermen and Delta residents are united in the defense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta against plans by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Legislators to build the peripheral canal.
“We organized this flotilla because we felt it was time for the people to speak and have their voices heard,” said Connelley. “Legislators here in Sacramento seem determined to push through this legislation that will destroy the greatest estuary in the western hemisphere.”
The event started with a float up the Sacramento River from Antioch on Sunday, August 17, at 8 a.m. Yachts, small boats and one commercial salmon troller/crab fisherman, Larry Colllins, joined the fleet from different staging points as it moved up the river. As the boats were making their way upriver, Connelley, Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Alliance, Steve Evans, conservation director of Friends of the River, and Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, spoke at a 1 p.m. press conference at the Robert Matsui Waterfront Park in Sacramento.
After the boats arrived, the organizers held a riverside rally at the Delta King in Old Sacramento at 7:00 pm. The event continued the following day with a parade around the capitol by boaters trailering their boats and with a rally on the West Steps of the Capitol featuring speakers from the Legislature and a broad coalition of fishing, boating, environmental and environmental justice organizations.
“Friends of the River stands with sport anglers and Delta residents to oppose the controversial, outrageously expensive, environmentally destructive and unneeded Peripheral Canal,” said Steve Evans. “The canal will be used to suck every last drop of water from this beleaguered estuary for delivery to large corporate farms in the southern Central Valley and southern California developers.”
“To Our Governor and many in southern California, the Delta is merely an obstacle in the way of more water being shipped south,” said Bill Jennings. “But to us, the Delta is our home.”
SB 12, the bill sponsored by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), will set up a Delta Stewardship Council consisting of seven members - four appointed by the Governor and one each by the Senate and the Assembly, with the seventh being the chairperson of the Delta Protection Commission. Jennings slammed the proposal.
“In an astonishing abdication of oversight and due diligence, the legislature proposes to allow the Governor to appoint the majority of a council that has authority to fund and construct a water conveyance system before they even know what will be proposed,” said Jennings.
The bill package was developed with no public input and Delta advocates fear that the bills will be rushed through during the last three weeks of the legislative session.
“The Legislature is having a hearing on these and they have had virtually no input from the public, including those most impacted by the project - Delta residents,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “We are all here today to show the Legislature that we should have a voice in the process and we will be heard.”
As the bill proceeds through the Legislature, the Department of Water Resources is planning to begin drilling at 16 locations on the Sacramento, Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers for possible intakes for the canal.
Feds to consider protections for desert tortoise...FELICIA FONSECA, The Associated Press
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The federal government has agreed to consider whether the Sonoran desert tortoise, a Southwest icon whose population has declined by half in the past 20 years, warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Two environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the tortoise, found in southwest Arizona and northern Mexico, as a distinct population. The agency said Friday it would review the status of the tortoise and any threats to its habitat.
"We expect that the service's detailed scientific review will show that listing is required to conserve these icons of the desert Southwest," said Michael Connor of the Western Watersheds Project, which along with WildEarth Guardians filed the petition.
The tortoise is among 13 species and plants that environmentalists sought protection for with a series of petitions filed last fall as part of their "Western Ark" project.
Lawsuits followed in many of the cases for the species, whose ranges span more than a dozen states and stretch into Mexico and Canada. The latest was filed in Texas this week over six freshwater mussels found in the U.S. southeast.
Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians said the group has received a number of positive findings as a result of the petitions and subsequent lawsuits. Those include federal wildlife officials' decision to study the Jemez Mountain salamander, an elusive white-sided jackrabbit and the tortoise.
"With today's finding, the tortoise has drawn even with the hare in the race to avoid extinction," she said.
Since taking office, President Barack Obama has distanced himself from several Bush administration policies on the environment and vowed to help restore science at the Interior Department on issues including endangered species.
"We appreciate that, and we think that the Fish and Wildlife Service is doing a very good job of looking at the science, in really examining a whole suite of assaults that are facing this dwindling tortoise," Rosmarino said.
Environmentalists estimate the tortoise's population has fallen by 3.5 percent each year - a total of 51 percent - since 1987, but their exact number is unknown. The estimate is based on a sampling of tortoises in Arizona.
Wildlife officials said the environmentalists' petition presented substantial information that might warrant listing the species as threatened or endangered. Threats include urban sprawl, off-road vehicle use and livestock grazing. The tortoises' range includes 8.4 million acres of federal public land in Arizona. Livestock grazing is permitted on more than half that land.
The tortoise also is a popular pet, although Arizona Fish and Wildlife prohibits taking them from the desert or returning them because of concerns over the spread of disease or how it could affect genetics. Jeff Humphrey, a spokesman for the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Service, noted that during the 1950s and 60s, some gasoline stations gave away a desert tortoise with every fill-up. He said tens of thousands of desert tortoises call someone's backyard home.
The Sonoran population lives mostly on rocky hillsides and take cover for much of the year. They are different from their flatland Mojave cousins found west of the Colorado River, which have been federally protected since 1989, Humphrey said.
Environmentalists, believing some of the Mojave population crossed the river at some point, petitioned the federal government to protect those found in the Black Mountains of northern Arizona as well.
A decision on the listing will follow a 12-month review. Since half of the range of the Sonoran tortoise is in Mexico, where the desert tortoise is listed as threatened, Humphrey said "we're especially keen" to receiving information on their status there.
On the Net:
Western Watersheds Project,http://www.westernwatersheds.org
Fish and Wildlife, Arizona Ecological Services,http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona/
Anti Corruption Republican
Kevin Ring Exhibits: PETER EVICH
UPDATE (9:25 a.m. CDT): The ACR Blog began drafting this post on Tuesday, August 25, 2009. At that time, Van Scoyoc Associates Inc. had a profile page for Mr. Evich on its website (See: Google Cache). Van Scoyoc Associates has since taken that page down.
FURTHER UPDATE (10:48 a.m. CDT): Van Scoyoc Associates has put the profile page for Mr. Evich back out.
When the ACR Blog ran its series of posts examining the Kevin Ring Indictment this spring, we noticed that the Legislative Director (LD) of former Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) earned a lot of ink. While we were comfortable enough to name David Lopez as the Doolittle Chief of Staff mentioned in the indictment, we just couldn't identify the Doolittle LD to our satisfaction.
Since we've been able to examine the Kevin Ring Exhibit List, though, the mystery of the Doolittle LD became a little bit clearer. Two individuals, Peter Evich and Greg Orlando, held the position of Legislative Director during the period of time covered by the indictment. We are now confident enough to describe what the evidences shows these two men did.
First, we'll look at the exhibits related to Peter Evich. According to Legistorm, Mr. Evich served as Mr. Doolittle's LD until January 5, 2003. Today, Mr. Evich is a lobbyist at Van Scoyoc Associates Inc.
EXHIBIT 305: 02/02/2000 Email from Abramoff to Ring, "RE: letter re: Carmencita"
Mr. Ring reported to Mr. Abramoff that Mr. Evich had been calling the INS seeking a response to a letter Mr. Doolittle had sent to the INS. Mr. Doolittle's letter called for an investigation into the immigration status of Carmencita Abad, a woman who advocated for a minimum wage and other labor reforms in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). To learn more about Carmencita Abad, read this post at Unheard No More! The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 309: 04/05/2000 Email from Abramoff to Ring, "RE: Reconnaissance Studies request"
In this email chain, the ACR Blog believes that Mr. Evich told Mr. Ring that Mr. Doolittle had asked another U.S. Representative to write a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers in support of several appropriations requests for the CNMI. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 310: 04/24/2000 Email from Abramoff to Ralston, "RE: Sun, June 11"
The ACR Blog believes that this email chain shows that Mr. Ring gave Mr. Evich four club-level seats to a June 11, 2000 Baltimore Orioles baseball game. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 325: 07/13/2000 Email from Ring to Abramoff, "FW: HELP" and attachment
We believe that in this email chain, Mr. Ring sent a draft of a "Dear Colleague" letter to Mr. Evich and David Lopez, Mr. Doolittle's Chief of Staff. The "Dear Colleague" letter opposed an anti-gambling bill that adversely affected an internet gambling client of Mr. Ring's. Mr. Ring wanted one more congressman to sign the letter. Mr. Ring wrote, "DO YOU THINK [JOHN DOOLITTLE] COULD DO THIS LAST FAVOR (WE HOPE)". The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 330: 09/12/2000 Email from Abramoff to Ring, "RE: Doolittle/HR 1814"
The ACR Blog believes that in this email chain, Mr. Ring justified to Mr. Abramoff why Mr. Evich deserved tickets to an October 30, 2000 Washington Redskins game. Mr. Ring wrote, "As he is an enormous help, I hope we can accommodate him." Mr. Evich got two suite tickets. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 352: 06/22/2001 Ring calendar entry re: lunch with Pete and Greg at the Capital Grille
The ACR Blog believes that the "Greg" mentioned in this exhibit is Greg Orlando. Mr. Orlando was a Legislative Assistant at the time of this lunch. He became Mr. Doolittle's LD after Mr. Evich left Doolittle's office in January 2003. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 357: 08/30/2001 Email from Ring to Evich, "port funding"
Mr. Ring asked Mr. Evich to encourage a committee staffer to put funding for a CNMI port project in an appropriations request. We don't know if Mr. Evich actually had this conversation or if the committee staffer acted on Mr. Evich's request. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 368: 12/16/2001 Redskins vs. Philadelphia FedEx Field event roster
Mr. Evich received three tickets to this game. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 371: 01/20/2002 Elton John/Billy Joel MCI Center Concert event roster
We believe that Mr. Evich received two tickets to this concert. At least Mr. Evich has good taste in music, unlike other scandal participants. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 381: 08/13/2002 Email from Abramoff to Ring, "RE: Skins"
Mr. Ring had asked Mr. Abramoff for three tickets to a September 16, 2002 Washington Redskins for Mr. Evich and, we believe, Mr. Orlando. The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 386: 09/16/2002 Email from Abramoff to Ring, "RE: Mistake?"
Mr. Evich complained that alcohol was not available in the suite for the September 16, 2002 Washington Redskins game. Mr. Evich also complained that he was "in a really low box in the end zone. View is obviously not very good." The defense did not object to this exhibit. RESULT: Admissible
The ACR Blog knows that former Doolittle staffer David Lopez has received immunity. We don't know if Mr. Evich has also received immunity. Without a doubt, though, Doolittle staffers were extremely involved in advancing the interests of Team Abramoff's clients. They also got to attend a lot of sporting events and concerts on Team Abramoff's nickel, too.
It will be interesting to see if Mr. Evich testifies at Mr. Ring's trial (if there is one). Because Mr. Evich figures so prominently in Mr. Ring's indictment, if he does not testify at the trial, it will suggest to us that Mr. Evich may be an uncooperative co-conspirator.