Last Week: February 24-March 2


Sacramento Bee
Editorial: Ending federal funding for levees is a reckless idea
Should the federal government end its historic role in helping state and local governments pay for upgrades to flood control levees, including those that are part of federal flood control projects?
If Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, had his way, that tradition would end.
McClintock says it's unfair for people living on high ground to subsidize "those who freely choose to live in floodplains." He'd require that any federal assistance be in the form of loans, as opposed to the current cost-share arrangement involving local, state and federal funds.
The 100,000 people who live in Natomas should take notice. They've been paying higher flood insurance rates and levee assessments since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – a federal agency – determined that Natomas needed extensive levee upgrades following the Hurricane Katrina inundation of New Orleans. Local money has covered nearly a third of the $400 million in levee upgrades that have been completed because of the Corps mandates, with state bond money covering the rest.
If McClintock had his way, Natomas property owners would pick up the tab for the remaining $410 million in work that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to perform.
People who live in Roseville – which, unlike Natomas, sits in McClintock's 4th Congressional District – should also take notice. Part of Roseville flooded in 2005. Since then, the city has spent $20 million in flood control improvements, with roughly half the money coming from the federal government.
If Roseville were to need further federal support for flood control, would McClintock require that it be in the form of a loan, instead of a cost share?

We should label this Natomas Squabble as SQ#1 for the great Sacramento Area Council of Governments region. Natomas should never have been built. It was built because developers and the local land use jurisdiction that approved the projects that compose Natomas gambled that the US Army Corps of Engineers would do the right thing, as it has done since 1928. But the project was a provocation and the Corps dragged its feet with a little help from a pair of upstream congressmen.
The other side of this issue is the carpetbagger from Ventura County, Rep. Tom McClintock, who, one imagines as part of the deal with the Placer County Republican machine, has picked up the cudgel from the defrocked former Rep. John Doolittle and is beating an old drum for the Auburn Dam. We know and the Sacramento Bee editorial board certainly knows better that all McClintock’s objections to the Corps building levees to protect Natomas will evaporate like water in the Yolo Bypass in summer when the Corps changes its sensible negative views on construction of an Auburn Dam on the American River.

Viewpoints: Cordova Hills will cost the entire region…Christopher Cabaldon and Tom Stallard. Christopher Cabaldon is the mayor of West Sacramento. Tom Stallard is vice mayor of Woodland. Steve Miklos is the mayor of Folsom…2-24-13
In approving the Cordova Hills mega development project, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors dropped a whole new city into a rural part of the region that was intended to be protected from the bulldozers of sprawl…Our 50-year land use strategy, called the Blueprint, won more than a dozen awards and established a national model. It put Sacramento on the map in planning circles.

This might be called SQ#2 in the SACOG area, so exceedingly proud of itself on so very many levels. The only problem with the famous flak called the “Blueprint” was that was toothless. Developers and the banks and investors behind them do not care about the common good. They never did. They never will. They care about profit, first, last and always. So traipsing along to the pipes of the Hun, our former governor, on his Blueprint and his San Joaquin Valley Partnership tunes was the sort of waste of time that city, county and state planning officials are paid by the public very well to do.

Capital Public Radio

Courts for CEQA Proposed…Amy Quinton…Audi

Lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA are often criticized for delaying projects. One lawmaker has introduced a bill that he says might speed up the judicial process.

(Sacramento, CA)
Democratic Assemblymember Roger Dickinson has introduced a bill that would create CEQA courts in Northern and Southern California.
The courts would have exclusive jurisdiction over any CEQA litigation.
He says under the law, judicial review can take too long and end up with courts applying the law inconsistently.
Dickinson says he doesn't think his measure would increase costs for the court system, which is already struggling under budget cuts.
"I think this could actually save the courts money," says Dickinson. "It will shorten the time that courts are working with cases. It will concentrate expertise, which means you'll have uniformity and consistency in decisions."
Under the bill, any appeals would go directly to the California Supreme Court.
The legislature is considering changes to CEQA this session

Another brilliant idea emanates from an impeccably liberal and ambitious politician from the SACOG region, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a former four-term Sacramento County supervisor. He follows in a line of  liberal Sacramento politicians like Phil Isenberg and Darrell Steinberg, people who talk green and remove obstacles in the way of development. The reason some developers and their legislative pets would prefer a panel of judges in a tall buildings in cities north and south rather than in small, local, mostly rural courts where the environmental damage is worst because there is where there is the most natural habitat left is because CEQA has sort of worked that way. There are just too many judges to bribe in this great big state. Narrow it down to a handful in one or two cities, given the general drift of government and the courts, and the environment loses more faster. And sometimes local judges actually enjoy the open space in their counties. They are hunters and fishermen. Some even fly airplanes, which gives anyone who knows the landscape beneath the best of all views of what’s happening to the environment.
So, nice try, Dickinson, but it’s a bad idea, about as bad an idea as the Delta commission with no members on it who live on the Delta, but that’s Isenberg’s world. Steinberg’s world is orchestrating the gutting of CEQA in the Legislature and making it look like improvement. Presumably Dickinson’s bill is one prong of the attack.


Central Valley Business Times
California fast-tracks Billion dollar dollars solar project
• To be built in Riverside County
• Eases possible CEQA lawsuits
A solar project is being fast-tracked for judicial and legislative review in California.
The McCoy Solar Project, a billion-dollar renewable solar facility that will be located in Riverside County, is now eligible for expedited review under the Jobs and Economic Improvement Act of 2011.
The legislation sends California Environmental Quality Act litigation for certain large projects directly to the Court of Appeal and requires that decisions on the merits are made in a short timeframe.
The McCoy Solar Project will generate approximately 341 construction, supervisory, support and management jobs over the project’s 46-month construction, and additional operational jobs once completed.
Under the terms of Gov. Jerry Brown’s certification on Monday, McCoy will invest a minimum of $100 million in California during construction. The California Air Resources Board has certified that the project will not generate any additional greenhouse gas emissions during construction.
The project will generate up to 750 megawatts of photovoltaic solar power, enough electricity to power approximately 264,000 homes. It will be sited on 4,315 acres of federal land, 477 acres of private land and include a 15.5 mile long transmission line right-of-way.

One hundred million buys the environmental regulatory process, at least as long as the Great Reflector is in governor’s office again, doing “The Lord’s work.” And people like McCoy and
Brown think this is a victory of some kind. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors this week gave developers the right to hire their own environmental consultants rather than paying for the county’s choice of consultants --. “saving the builder time and money.” This is another more overt way in which developers are buying a public, legal process and essentially privatizing a law, CEQA, designed for the benefit of the public health and safety and the habitat for wildlife. The heady days of the “win-win/public-private partnership” is tending rapidly toward a system of lose-win/private monopoly of the CEQA process. And the Great Reflector in the governor’s office shall lead them.
As no doubt the “community regulated” by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control feel it is a victory to have corrupted that agency so that it does not effectively enforce decent laws that on paper protect communities like against toxic substances.
When will the public just get so tired of Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water District, that he cannot bully politicians and government agencies into his “absurd” positions, like calling a 25-percent opening allotment for his water district “absurd” after the driest January and February on record in a world the warmest in 4,000 years? When will this slick, blowhard California water lawyers go the way of the countless millions of creatures whose slaughter they are responsible for as they would dearly love to be the death of every last Delta smelt left in the world. Why does the public care – or to put it stronger, why doesn’t the public shut down the agribusiness giants of the Alkali Acres out there, quit subsidizing the farming of salt land with Delta water, and turn it, Birmingham and his bosses back to the coyotes and the road runners, the migratory water fowl and some cattle and sheep?
California’s high speed railroad to Nowhere is right on track. They have the money to build a 113-mile section in the San Joaquin Valley but lack the tens of billions from private investors and government to build the rest of this phallic symbol for old white men whose powers are on the wane. . The Great Reflector and his staff are talking about using cap and trade funds for future sections of the train on the fast track to nowhere.
There have been two professors always worth listening to about the problems of the Delta:
Dr. Peter Moyle, UC Davis fish biologist; and Dr. Jeff Michael, University of Pacific economist.

Moyle, outspoken, solutions oriented, in fact a member of the Delta Solutions Team, and frequently writes articles communicating his latest thinking to the public, most recently “Ten realities for managing the Delta.” There is no doubt that he has thoroughly “colonized the problem,” as the saying goes and has made his reputation on scientifically describing the death of the Delta; nevertheless he is not mercenary about it. His 10 realities are: The historical Delta ecosystem cannot be restored; The Delta is not one place; All species are not equal; We know a lot about the Delta; The Delta will change dramatically, no matter what; Island flooding is a mixed bag for native fish; Climate change will alter the Delta ecosystem; Alien species cause major ecosystem changes; A Delta that is variable in time and space will be best for native fish …
These are all excellent talking points. They face the most contentious political issues head on. We quote his last reality in full because, in addition to being a testament to his academic discipline, it is a resounding argument for something Moyle and presumably other learned persons are calling “reconciliation ecology.” We are by no means sure that others more powerful than Moyle and his team are willing to take the responsibility for recognizing the Delta as anything other than a source of fresh water and a series of legal obstacles to providing it to agriculture and urban populations, but it is just faintly possible that it opens a small moral space that hasn’t existed between the warring sides.

Reality No. 10: Accomplishing “coequal’ goals in the Delta means greatly improving conditions for fish. The 2009 Delta Reform Act mandates that the state achieve the “coequal goals” of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.
The reality is that the water priorities for people and fish and have never been anything approaching equal. The environment has always gotten the short end of the stick.
So achieving coequal goals should mean greatly improving conditions for fish, first, and then figuring out how to share the water better. It means we should give far greater consideration to native and other desirable species in the way we release water from dams and move it through the Delta.
In my gloomier days, I think “co-equal goals” really means just slowing the native fishes’ slide towards extinction, so we can say, “Well, we tried.” But fundamentally I am an optimist. I like to think of a rosier future for the Delta ecosystem under the rubric of “reconciliation ecology”
This means we accept the fact that all species live in human-dominated ecosystems, and that we must make those systems as welcoming as possible for the desirable (mostly native) species. This means greater integration of natural processes into the management of all areas, whether cities, farms, wildlands or waterways.
This will not be easy. But I love to think of the Delta as the first place in California where reconciliation ecology is applied on a large scale.


But why not go all the way and call it “Truth and Reconciliation Ecology?
Jeff Michael is from UOP, which is in Stockton, an inland seaport in the heart of the Delta. It is the historic center of Delta commerce, which is most threatened by various proposals to streamline the exportation of Delta water. Delta residents, businesses and political representatives are not in favor of tunnels shipping water from the Sacramento River around the Delta to the two huge canals going south. They are in favor of a much more modest, tried and true technique for managing the Delta: improving the levee system. Michael is a watchdog for the residents of the Delta. For example,
One Delta economist, however, said Tuesday that the study is too narrow.
The University of the Pacific's Jeff Michael, who has frequently been critical of the state's analysis of the tunnels plan, said the study fails to look at job impacts under other alternatives.
For example, Delta advocates have called for strengthening levees, but the state has not evaluated how many jobs that alternative might create.
"The study doesn't look at jobs lost by the $14 billion pulled out of people's wallets to pay for this thing (the tunnels)," Michael said. "That's the net impact you have to look at.
"It's just frustrating to me because a report like this adds no value to the question of whether or not this is a good project that the state should do," Michael said. "It's strictly a promotional piece so they can try to reduce the opposition." – Alex Breiter, The Record, Feb. 27, 2013.

“From the start, (Governor) Andrew Cuomo has tried to have it both ways on hydrofracking: simultaneously appeasing his radical environmentalist base while ostensibly appearing business-friendly,” said state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, who sits on the board of oil-and-gas company Noble Energy.
“But by allowing politics to dominate what should have been a business decision, Andrew Cuomo has killed the competitive development of New York’s natural gas reserves.” – Jon Campbell, Politics on the Hudson, Feb. 27, 2013

We love comments like this because it shows just how irresponsible, inaccurate and dishonest opponents of fracking are. If Andrew Cuomo’s base in the Empire State was really composed of “radical environmentalists” we think it unlikely he could win any public office. It is exactly by not allowing politics to dominate – choosing science instead – that he has sensibly delayed lighting up the tap water in upstate New York to appease Wall Street banks and hedge funds. The latter is the most important constituency for any statewide official in New York – the equivalent of the political importance of casinos in Nevada.
You can’t fault mighty little Livingston for the quality of its flak. Consider the Foster Farms red chicken situation.

Merced Sun-Star
Discolored water disrupts production at Foster Farms…MIKE NORTH
LIVINGSTON Tainted water disrupted poultry production at Foster Farms last week, and city officials are trying to find out what caused it.
City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez described the situation as an "aesthetic issue," rather than a health concern. He said iron and manganese turned the water red.
"Whenever you have that kind of an aesthetic issue, the chickens can actually turn red and things of that nature," he said. "It's become a little bit of a bigger problem lately, so we're working to address the issue” …

What the press is not emphasizing enough in the Michael Rubio situation is his education at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Decades of experience in Valley politics has persuaded the editorial board of Badlands Journal that graduates of the school ought to be legally barred from holding any public office on the grounds that their education has stripped them of any aptitude for government but raw ambition, now wrapped in Harvard crimson. On the other hand, Rubio also frankly begs the lie of a term limited legislature. A seat in the California state Legislature today is nothing more than a resume item for a future career in corporate lobbying.
Speaks for itself.


California foreclosures were 38% of sales…Mark Glover
Foreclosure sales accounted for more than 38 percent of all residential sales in California in 2012, according to a report being released today by Irvine-based housing market tracker RealtyTrac.
While that led the nation, RealtyTrac also noted that it was down from 44 percent in 2011 and 49 percent in 2010.
RealtyTrac's 2012 U.S. Foreclosure & Short Sales Report says 947,995 U.S. properties in some stage of foreclosure were sold last year, a decrease of 6 percent from 2011 and down from 11 percent from 2010.
Nationwide foreclosure-related sales accounted for 21 percent of all U.S. residential sales during the year, down from 23 percent in 2011 and 28 percent in 2010. Properties not in foreclosure that sold as short sales in 2012 accounted for an estimated 22 percent of all U.S. residential sales last year.