Merced Sun-Star
EPA to grant delay in Central Valley ozone cleanup
Local air districts will now have until 2024 to meet requirements of campaign...MARK GROSSI, The Fresno Bee
FRESNO -- Ending years of debate, federal officials are about to grant an 11-year delay for the San Joaquin Valley's ozone cleanup campaign.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to publish its proposed approval in the Federal Register in the next few days, and it will become official by the end of September.
The action pushes the deadline to 2024, an extension the local air district requested more than two years ago after stormy public discussions with activists.
Officials said it was impossible to clean up the air so quickly in one of the nation's most fouled air basins.
But more could have been done for residents, who must suffer more than a decade longer than they should have, said Kathryn Phillips of the Environmental Defense Fund in Sacramento.
"I'm disappointed and feel especially heartbroken for the people, especially children and elderly, who have compromised health already and will have to endure even more years of bad air in the Valley," she said.
Officials at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said the EPA should have blessed the 2024 deadline years ago.
Executive director Seyed Sadredin said the agency set an unrealistically early deadline of 2013 to dodge a fight with activists.
"The EPA did it this way for political convenience," he said.
Federal officials responded that the Clean Air Act directs them to assign deadlines by using a formula based on concentrations of ozone.
Officials this week said they will agree to the extension in the next few months because the district has proved that it cannot hit the 2013 target.
"It's up to the state and the district to figure out how to achieve the standard in the shortest time possible," said Kerry Drake, associate director of the EPA's regional air division, based in San Francisco. "If they find they can't do it, then they ask for an extension."
The extension comes with strings. New and expanding businesses will spend more money now on air-quality permits. Several hundred smaller farms must now begin paying permit fees and accounting for pollution.
The EPA took more than two years to answer the request, Drake said, because the agency also was studying the same issue for other California districts.
The EPA will grant delays for other California air districts, including South Coast, Coachella Valley and Sacramento.
The delays range from four to 11 years.
The state has the worst ozone problem in the nation. Ozone is a corrosive gas that forms on warm days in sunlight as vehicle exhaust combines with fumes from such sources as dairies, paint and gasoline.
Ozone triggers lung problems, including asthma and bronchitis.
In 2008, the Valley led the nation in ozone violations.
Because of the health problems, Valley activists pushed hard to keep the 2013 deadline in place. Air officials said that even if all Valley businesses were closed, the deadline could not be met.
The biggest hurdle is replacement of diesel trucks, which could cost billions of dollars over the next decade.
Diesel engines are the largest source of nitrogen oxides, a primary building block of ozone.
The local air district has little control over the engines, which are regulated by the California Air Resources Board.
But activists said the air district could have required high-tech add-on devices to control diesel pollution, rather than relying on replacing engines over time.
Activists also suggested more stringent rules, such as prohibiting the use of older farm tractors, trucks and vehicles on bad-air days.
Letter: A clever move by Cardoza...RICHARD H. LEWIS, Merced
Editor: What a brave soul we have in Dennis Cardoza. He actually brought House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to meet with two of his most ardent supporters in the editors of the Sun-Star and The Modesto Bee.
The story on page one Wednesday quoted him as saying that no one he has spoken with during his visit has asked him to have a town hall meeting to discuss health care reform. Really? No one? Not even you, Mr. Editor?
The story also said he did not invite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to come with him as it might have "tarnished his reputation as a Blue Dog -- fiscally conservative -- Democrat."
No worries there. Dennis Cardoza is not a conservative.
I guess it is just as well there has been no town hall meeting.
Heaven forbid someone might actually question Cardoza's behavior in Washington or his decision to vote for all things Pelosi.
There can be no doubt that he is clever, as his fearless decision to evade those he claims to represent is a masterpiece of bait and switch. I am so proud.
Modesto Bee
Noninvasive search set for pioneer cemetery...Garth Stapley
Scientists are scheduled Sept. 21 to start searching for pioneer graves — without poking underground — near Crows Landing on a former Navy airfield designated for a proposed 4,800-acre business and industrial park.
Developer Gerry Kamilos of West Park LLC said he's paying Long Beach-based Earth Tech Inc., owned by AECOM Technology Corp., "because it's the right thing to do. I think we have an ethical and moral obligation to find out what's there; and if it's there, we have to respect it."
He said it will cost $25,000 to $30,000, depending upon how much time it takes the scientists to do their work.
If Earth Tech finds the estimated 25 graves, some as old as 130 years, West Park would not disturb them and may develop a "historical interpretive component" to the project, Kamilos said.
Brian Damiata, an Earth Tech consultant and research associate with UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, talked recently with The Bee.
Q: Please describe the process.
A: It's called ground-penetrating radar, or GPR. It's similar to air traffic control except microwave energy is forced into the ground. When it encounters changes in electrical properties it's reflected back.
We're not trying to detect bones, but ground disturbance, or trench-and-fill activity. Once you remove earth, there are air pockets, and you can never get it back exactly how mother nature had it.
Q: How does it work in the field?
A: I set up a grid and collect a radar scan every 20 or 25 centimeters. We collect data in an orderly way, plot it up in a pseudo 3-D image and slice it into a horizontal plane. With animation, strong reflectors and other things show up. The software brings up very subtle changes in shapes and patterns.
Q: Do you expect to find the graves?
A: You never know. With the former military activity, there might have been a lot of trench-and-fill activity not associated with the cemetery. There are no guarantees on this. We do our best.
Q: How long will it take?
A: I hope to be there three or four days. It's not instantaneous recognition in the field, though. We take it all back to the office, combine data sets, process them and make a determination. You have to be trained because it's very difficult to interpret. It's not straightforward.
Q: Where have you done projects?
A: All over the world — Greece, Albania, China, Turkey. There is not a lot of Old World stuff in the United States. In Europe, it's not necessarily graves but building foundations or fireplaces.
I just got back from Iceland where we were looking at Viking sites. In a 10th-century churchyard we found seven or eight graves, dug up one and found a Viking with a deformed right arm, probably broken when he was a child and the elbow never formed properly.
This is a standard method for trying to find graves and unmarked burial sites, called shallow geophysics. Some people use it for oil, environmental or industrial purposes, maybe to find buried 55-gallon drums with contaminants.
Q: How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been in geophysics for 30 years. I started out in hazardous waste and environmental issues, looking for buried drums. Ten years ago I switched to archaeogeophysics, which is mostly graves. In archaeogeophysics, we go back to the Bronze Age easily, finding hearths or old fireplaces 2,000 or 3,000 years old.
One project in the San Fernando Valley is a pioneer cemetery with 600 graves and only 13 headstones remaining. I teach a course at UCLA every couple of years and each time I take students out there to look for unmarked burials.
Sacramento Bee
Delta levee projects must now prepare for rising sea level...Matt Weiser
Levee projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will have to account for rising sea levels under a new federal policy aimed at shoring up the region's main line of defense against climate change.
It's the first comprehensive policy by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require that projects under its jurisdiction be designed with higher sea levels in mind.
Many low-lying areas on the edges of the Delta would be under water given the higher seawater levels predicted by the end of this century. Fragile Delta levees also could be overtopped, especially when high tides and storm surges are added into the mix.
"Regardless of what you think the reason is, sea level is rising worldwide and it will continue to rise in the future," said Kevin Knuuti, chief of the engineering division at the Army Corps' Sacramento District and lead author of the new policy. "I think the bigger victory is really increasing awareness. We recognize we have a better job to do with that, and that's why we have come out with this policy."
One of the oldest sea level monitors on the West Coast, at the Golden Gate Bridge, has recorded a sea level increase of about 2 centimeters per decade during the 1900s. This rate is expected to continue due to human consumption of fossil fuels, which scientists believe is gradually warming the Earth's climate.
Failure to consider this increase in new levees and coastal structures – such as buildings, water intakes and wastewater outfalls – could mean these investments are jeopardized later, or that people are put at risk.
"The question we have is, how do we incorporate that future rise into our planning and design of projects so they can be sustainable into the future?" Knuuti said.
The Army Corps has had a policy since 1986 requiring engineers to consider sea level rise in project designs. It was updated in 2000, but remained buried in a much larger document and was rarely heeded, Knuuti said.
The new policy is a stand-alone document that describes how engineers should design for sea level rise. The authors included scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Geological Survey.
The policy does not specify a water depth. It lays out a procedure engineers must follow to estimate low, medium and high sea level projections for their area. Officials will use those estimates to decide how to build the project.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 estimated the upper range of sea level rise at about 2 feet by 2100. This did not include the effect of melting ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, which is under way.
California scientists considered this uncertainty and, in 2008, urged officials to plan for 4.5 feet of sea level rise.
UC Davis geology professor Jeffrey Mount was one of those scientists. A frequent critic of state and federal flood-control policy, he praised the new Army Corps rules.
"I don't compliment the Corps often. This is a major breakthrough. I'm actually quite pleased," Mount said. "What they're really trying to say is, if you think this (project) is vulnerable to sea level rise, you need a big safety factor."
Knuuti said the policy won't necessarily require a structure to accommodate the greatest sea level prediction. But it might require the builder to buy more land up front, or build the foundation differently so it can be made taller and stronger later.
"Sure, this will increase project costs," said Will Travis, director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. "But it means you will be designing and building projects … that are resilient and sustainable rather than something you will have to repair, replace or abandon later."
Knuuti said Sacramento levees have not typically accounted for sea level rise, because the effects inland have been poorly understood.
Now they will have to consider it, he said. They also must consider how tidal pulses change with higher sea levels. High tides that now change water levels only a few inches in Sacramento could become much bigger in the future.
The new policy is likely to have a bigger impact in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, especially for major projects to secure the freshwater supply that serves 23 million Californians.
Joe Countryman, president of MBK Engineers in Sacramento, said the policy helps levee districts plan for gradually changing sea levels, a more practical approach than using "worst-case" estimates.
"We could not go out there today and raise all the levees 2 feet, because the foundations just can't handle it," Countryman said. "But if we have 50 years, we can do it."
Timothy F. Brick: History should be a guide for Delta's future. Timothy F. Brick is chairman of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California...8-30-09
Burt Wilson's Aug. 23 Forum article – "A peripheral canal won't make any more water; it will just send more of it from north to south" – brought home the fundamental challenge the Legislature faces as it takes on the most important water debate in a generation. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is in crisis. There is widespread agreement that action is needed. Yet there is fear in changing the water system, fear of doing more harm than good, fear of a "water grab."
My friend Burt and I shared that concern 27 years ago as we helped lead the fight in Southern California against the so-called peripheral canal. That proposal to move water supplies around the Delta truly was a supply-side solution to a perceived water problem. Voters defeated the canal in 1982. And Southern California's importer of Delta water, the Metropolitan Water District, got the message.
The old water strategy – find new supplies from somewhere else – was jettisoned for a better, local approach. Metropolitan's long-term water plan does not rely on more water from the Delta to meet the challenges of growth. Conservation, recycling and seawater desalination are among the emerging tools to fill the gap. As an example, in June water use in the city of Los Angeles was no greater than what it was 32 years ago.
In the Delta, however, a political culture of fear and indecision has persisted. The water systems, pulling water south, are among many stressors that have caused the ecosystem's collapse. As fish populations have declined, restrictions on water supplies have increased. The status quo threatens the Delta environment and the economy.
A comprehensive solution has emerged through a state-federal process known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The evidence is overwhelming that a new conveyance system – a canal, tunnel or some combination – is essential. Movements of water need to be separated from the Delta so that it can regain its function as a natural tidal estuary. A real solution also requires thousands of acres of restored wetlands habitat. And local communities need to be recognized as valued, important partners in managing the Delta.
The conservation plan, along with a package of complementary governance and water management reforms by the Legislature, would transform the Delta and all of California water policy in a new, sustainable and reliable direction. While fears and memories persist, we must learn the lessons of Delta history rather than be forever prisoners of it.
San Francisco Chronicle
Fight continues over fate of Sharp Park course...John King
The phrase "historic landscape" conjures up visions of cobblestoned streets or revered public grounds, a la Golden Gate Park.
A determined band of golfers want landmark status applied to something quite different: a golf course in Pacifica, with a highway on one side and a seawall on the other.
Known as Sharp Park Golf Course, the facility that opened in 1932 was designed by Alister MacKenzie, who also designed such fabled courses as Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach. His client was John McLaren, the legendary superintendent of San Francisco's parks from 1890 until his death in 1943.
That lineage has golfers petitioning the city of Pacifica to declare the course a historic landmark - a designation aimed in part at environmental activists who want the site off Highway 1 converted into habitat for the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog.
"Outside of Cypress, it's one of MacKenzie's most spectacular designs," said Bo Links, an attorney and self-described "golf architecture guru" who testified to the course's merit at a recent hearing of the Pacifica Planning Commission. "I might not worry about it so much if there weren't people trying to get rid of it."
The golfers are no more ardent than the critics who, at the very least, want the course reduced from 18 to nine holes as part of a wetland-restoration process. Their position is that the endangered snake and the threatened frog take precedence over the rarity of a public golf course by a renowned designer.
Threat to sue S.F.
The biggest club is wielded by the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group that, in 2008, threatened to sue the owner, the city of San Francisco, for conditions that allow garter snakes and frogs to be harmed or killed. The most vocal critic is a former attorney for the center whose all-fronts assault includes an attack on the layout of the links.
"Alister MacKenzie designed some great golf courses, but Sharp Park was his biggest mistake," said Brent Plater, who now teaches at San Francisco State University and wants Sharp Park recast with boardwalks and enlarged lagoons, the clubhouse turned into a visitors' center. "If it becomes a historic landmark, we are undermining his legacy."
McLaren hired MacKenzie to shape land given to San Francisco by sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels. The few pre-course photographs that exist show a procession of sand dunes leading to the ocean, with an inland lake and few trees.
What debuted in 1932 was a course with 18 holes encircling the lake and draped across extremely rearranged dunes. Nature had other ideas. In 1941, four holes were abandoned with new ones added to the east. A seawall was added to protect the course.
Plater holds up the changes as proof that the course has no historic integrity. He faults the original design as well, because the leveling of dunes violated such MacKenzie maxims as "on a seaside course ... the most important thing is to make the fullest possible use of existing features."
"There is no question this is the worst of his golf courses," proclaimed the self-described "former caddy."
That isn't the view held by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, a national organization that, in July, declared the course a "landscape at risk." As for Links and other boosters, the loss of four holes doesn't undermine what remains - 14 fairways bordered by thick Monterey pines with the ambling undulations that were a MacKenzie trademark.
"He was, at the time, the leading golf architect in the world," Links said. "He combined all these features that are found in snippets somewhere else."
Vote delayed
Pacifica's planning commission has delayed a vote on landmark status at least until September. That's also when San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department might release a Sharp Park restoration plan.
The request for the plan came from Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, a member of the Green Party. It requires options that include a nine-hole course and no course at all.
Golfers and their Pacifica supporters - including Mayor Julie Lancelle - argue that restoration can be done so the golf course thrives. A piped stretch of water could be opened and fringed by native landscaping. Clogged drainage could be brought to modern standards.
The opponents don't want to stop there.
"It seems to us the best solution is to close the golf course" and engineer a restructured landscape of freshwater marshes and upland areas, said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. "There aren't a lot of places where the San Francisco garter snake occurs."
One is the area around San Francisco International Airport - an environment where the snake's losses have been far more severe.
Miller was asked if the center has considered litigation to shrink the airport's footprint to create new habitat.
"We're not going to sue to close SFO," Miller said. "You've got to pick a battle that makes sense and that you can win."
MacKenzie courses
Notable golf courses by Sharp Park designer Alister MacKenzie:
Augusta National Golf Club,Augusta, Ga.
Cypress Point Club,Pebble Beach
Pasatiempo Golf Club,Santa Cruz
Crystal Downs Country Club, Frankfurt, Mich.
Animals in question
Endangered: San Francisco garter snake, left
Threatened:California red-legged frog, right
Save Our State, Stop the Canal...Dan Bacher...8-30-09
Here is a link to today's S.F. Chronicle editorial, "A $54 billion water bill," and my response. 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 range from $23 billion to $53.8 billion depending upon the conveyance facility.
Today's S.F. Chronicle editorial: A $54 billion water bill:
My Letter in Response:
Save Our State, Stop the Canal
It is absurd for the state to authorize a water project that could cost up to $54 billion (editorial, August 30) at a time when our state parks, teachers and childrens’ health care are in great jeopardy because of budget cuts.
I find it appalling that Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) are sponsoring legislation that serves as a road map to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's peripheral canal. This proposed government 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.
In spite of the Governor’s claim that the canal will result in “ecosystem restoration," this dangerous bill package 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 to build a giant canal that will destroy Delta fisheries and Delta farmland while indebting Californians for decades to come? For action alerts, go to http://www.calsport.org.
DAN BACHER, Sacramento
New York Times
Wolves Are Set to Become Fair Game in the West...WILLIAM YARDLEY
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/science/earth/31wolves.html?_r=1&sq=endangered species&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=print
A wolf hunt is set to begin in Idaho on Tuesday if a federal judge does not stop it. It would be the first time in decades that hunters have been allowed to pursue the gray wolf, an animal that has come to symbolize tensions over how people interact with wilderness in the West.
On Monday, the judge, Donald W. Molloy of Federal District Court, will hold a hearing to determine whether to issue an injunction sought by wildlife advocates against the hunt and reopen the question of returning the wolf to the endangered list.
Gray wolves were taken off the list five months ago, after being protected under federal law for more than 30 years. More than 6,000 hunters in Idaho have bought licenses for the chance to participate in the hunt, in which wildlife officials will allow 220 wolves to be killed. In 2008, the population stood at about 850. Montana will allow 75 animals to be killed, starting Sept. 15.
The states’ hunts will be over when the limit is reached or when the season ends, which is Dec. 31 in most areas.
“The first day is the best day when it comes to an animal as smart as a wolf,” said Nate Helm, president of Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.
The resurgence of the wolf population, rooted in a federal effort to reintroduce the animals to the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s, has long angered deer and elk hunters and cattle and sheep ranchers who say the wolves are depleting game and killing livestock. Federal wildlife officials said that in 2008 a record 264 wolves were killed in the region for the legal reason of protecting livestock.
The clash illustrates a persistent divide in the West, where environmentalists and wildlife conservationists have long gone to court to fight laws they say favor powerful groups like hunters, ranchers and others. Wolves have been one of the most tangled issues of late, including in front of Judge Molloy.
In March, the Obama administration announced it would remove wolves from the endangered list. The Bush administration made a similar decision the year before, but Judge Molloy, in a lawsuit by plaintiffs including Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, ordered wolves returned to the list last fall.
In the years since they were reintroduced to parts of the Northern Rockies, including Yellowstone National Park, the wolf population had risen to more than 1,640 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming as of 2008. Federal officials say the population has recovered and no longer needs protection as if it were endangered.
Idaho and Montana game officials say their hunts will keep the population from growing and eventually reduce it, while the limits will make sure enough animals endure to keep them from becoming endangered. Idaho game officials say they would like to have a little more than 500 wolves in the state, though the official plan calls for at least 150.
Wildlife advocates cite several reasons for wanting to stop the hunt. They say that the state plans do not have enough protections, that hunting will prevent the wolves from roaming the Northern Rockies freely enough to preserve genetic diversity and maintain access to the proper habitat.
Part of the claim is rooted in the federal government’s continuing effort to protect wolves in Wyoming because it has not come to terms with that state on a management plan.
“It’s a matter of whether we’re going to have a healthy recovered population or isolated animals that are always struggling to survive,” said Suzanne Stone, the Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, one of the parties seeking the injunction.
Doug Honnold, the lead lawyer for the environmentalists in the case, said, “Our vision of recovery is 2,000 to 5,000 wolves in a connected population and with a legal safety net to keep them there.”
State and federal wildlife officials overseeing the wolf population say the number of wolves is more than enough and that multiple studies, including those on genetic diversity, have established that the animals are roaming widely and intermingling with others elsewhere.
“Clearly, wolves are restored in the Rocky Mountains,” said Ed Bangs, the wolf recovery coordinator for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont. “They’re always going to be here, and nobody is talking about getting rid of all the wolves. That’s never going to happen. The population is doing great. There are not genetic problems. There are not connectivity problems.”
Mr. Bangs added, “But they’re starting to cause a lot of problems, and the question is what’s the best tool for the future management of wolves.”
He said the wolves had caused about $1 million in livestock losses and other damage.