Last Week: February 10-16, 2013

Merced water management group eyes state funding 2-11-13

You bet it does! But there are two reasons the Merced Integrated Regional WAter Management Plan group meets. The IRWMP, pronounced "Ear-Wimp" meets because the state Department of Water Resources has bond money to spend and entities like the Merced Irrigation District, the City of Merced and Merced County have the desire and the credentials to qualify to spend it.
The decision making group consists of those entities. The rest of the group, known as "advisors" or "stakeholders," are the usual group of powerless members of the public who come because on the one hand they are invited as democratic window dressing and to keep tabs on what the big shots are saying.
Having decided flood control was important, MID has proposed some flood control projects and dam automation for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Disadavantaged communities are so important to the state that the Planada Community Services District has proposed water metering, always a boon for la gente. Actually the entire area of the "Mear-Wimp," basically equivalent to the MID district boundaries -- the east side of the county -- qualifies as one grand disadvantaged community, another kudo for the wealthe distribution created by American agribusiness. Curiously Stevinson, described by one of its illustrious
citizens as a place 'where every house is on wheels and every car on jacks" is actually not as statistically poor as it looks due to a few plutocrats living in is statistical zone. Then there is something about 400 roosters.

CLARK: A giant step toward ag land preservation in Hughson…Thom Clark. Clark is the community development director of Hughson…2-10-13

So, in this gloriously self-congratulatory document, the planning director of the City of Hughson proclaims hsi vision and its current political success. But he can't even toot his own horn to make a coherent tune.

The Hughson City Council took a giant step toward farmland preservation on Jan. 28 with the adoption of a Farmland Preservation Program. The program requires that any land converted to residential use in Hughson will preserve two acres of farmland in perpetuity for every acre converted.
We will accomplish this by using voluntary conservation easements to protect the land, or by other approved means.
Unlike many other cities within Stanislaus County, Hughson is completely surrounded by prime farmland: "prime" being the highest rating for soils as determined by the California Department of Conservation. Prime farmland, as well as our unique climate, can support the cultivation of more than 215 different types of crops. In comparison, nearby foothills land can support only about six different crops.

" voluntary conservation easements ... or by other approved mean"??? What on earth could this possibly mean? An answer: this is just a way to extort developers into paying "in-lieu fees" into a city fund. It would also seem to be triggered strictly by expansion of the city limits of Hughson, which would appear to be being contemplated by this slick planner, because where else would the residential growth (assuming there is to be any) go but in the surrounding prime farmland? No doubt the chief planner of Hughson believes that it is a divine curse on the community that it is not bordered by unirrigated seasonal pasture that "can support only about six different crops." There may be more mono-cropping in almonds going on around Hughson than there may be in the foothills land where there are dairy, beef, orchards, grain and hay operations.

Farm preservation efforts got a good start with the adoption of Stanislaus County's Ag Land Mitigation Program in 2007. That program requires conservation easements at a minimum 1-to-1 ratio. Then in 2012, the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission adopted a policy for annexation requests that make cities preserve farmland on a minimum ratio of 1-to-1 as well.
Hughson's FPP preserves land on a 2-to-1 ratio.
If all the cities in the county develop easement programs at the suggested 1-to-1 ratio, we would preserve only half of the farmland in the county. We, as a society, need to do better. The Hughson City Council has done better. The council has announced its leadership in protecting farmland in the Central Valley.

Preserving farmland is a greatly overrated goal, based on the assumptiona that agriculture doesn't develop land as or more ruinously than residential developers do, using, for example, more water. The other assumption is that agriculture is good for the general economy around it.
It isn't. The counties in California with the highest incomes from agricultural production ahve the highest poverty rates.
Hughson is not supporting this program because of its deep respect for agricultural traditions. Hughson's economy still largely depends on agriculture.

18 miles of Natomas levees rebuilt -- but 24 miles still need fixing…Matt Weiser 2-16-13

Natomas, a floodplain north of Sacramento, now houses 32,000 people behind levees. It should never have been built. The levees wer below snuff but levee funding was caught in a congressional battle over earmarks so the residents, after flood insurance was imposed on them (annual $400), taxed themselves and together with "Sacramento flood control officials" funded the beginning of construction of super levees. The Corps joined in and 18 miles of new levees were built. But 24 miles remain caught in the funding snarl in Washington. However, the one Republican congressman remaining in the area, Rep. Tom
McClintock, apparently supped once too often at the table of the disgraced former Rep. John Doolittle. McClintock won't backa separate bill proposed by both of California's senators, unless it includes funding for... you guessed it, water-follies
lovers of Northern California ... the Auburn Dam, so that Placer County can build yet more housing for commuters to the greatest industry in the region, state government.