8-22-08Badlands Journal105 Citizen Groups Criticize Anti-Democratic RulemakingBush Administration to Cripple Endangered Species Act with Little Public Input, Oversight...Badlands Journal editorial board...Press Release...8-21-08http://www.badlandsjournal.com/node/518For Immediate ReleaseAugust 21, 2008Contact: Jon Hunter, Endangered Species Coalition (202) 476-0669   Tara Thornton, Endangered Species Coalition (207)  268-2108    WASHINGTON-- Today, representatives from 105 conservation and scientific organizations representing millions of American’s submitted a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez calling for increased transparency and opportunities for public participation on a new rule proposal. The rule, published by the Bush administration in the federal register last week, would radically weaken the Endangered Species Act. The administration is only accepting public comment for 30 days.“Rather than a narrow tweaking of the regulations, the proposal represents a back-door attack on the Endangered Species Act. The American people deserve and expect a full public process to vet such far-reaching changes to this landmark conservation law,” said Leda Huta, Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.The administration is also refusing to accept e-mail comments or hold public hearings on the proposed rule. Instead, comments will be accepted by mail, or through a government Web site that warns reviewers their personal information will be posted on the internet for public dissemination.“It appears as if the administration is doing whatever it can to discourage participation in the democratic process,” said John Kostyack, of the National Wildlife Federation. “I think we can expect more sneaky assaults like this on our public land and wildlife laws as this Administration heads for the exits.”The Associated Press, reporting on leaked documents, revealed last week that the Bush administration plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act. The proposed changes are intended to eliminate the requirement that federal agencies consult with independent wildlife experts and to prohibit consideration of the impacts of global warming on wildlife...The proposed regulatory changes came out in the eleventh hour of the Bush administration. The abbreviated timeline and restrictive commenting options raise serious concerns that the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce is attempting to rewrite a bedrock environmental statute without allowing for adequate public involvement.The proposed regulatory changes were published August 15, 2008, while Congress was out for recess and many Americans were enjoying the summer holiday...Sean Cosgrove with the Conservation Law Foundation agrees, “For one of our nation’s most important and successful environmental laws, the thirty-day comment period is woefully inadequate for the public to review and comment on this critical proposal.” The coalition is urging DOI and DOC to extend the comment period to 120 days, allowing the public adequate time to address the breadth and depth that these changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations will have on protecting our most imperiled wildlife. ---------------------------------------------------August 21, 2008Honorable Dirk KempthorneSecretary, Department of the Interior1849 C St., NWWashington, DC 20240 Honorable Carlos M. GutierrezSecretary, Department of Commerce1401 Constitution Ave., NWWashington, DC 20230RE: Request extension for public commentDear Secretary Kempthorne and Secretary Gutierrez,On behalf of the millions of members our organizations represent, we are deeply concerned by the process being used to collect public comments on the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations. We plan to submit comments on the more substantive issues in the proposed regulations at a later date, but are writing today to address concerns with the timing and process for submitting public comments. The abbreviated timeline and restrictive commenting options raise serious concerns that the Department of the Interior is attempting to rewrite a bedrock environmental statute without allowing for adequate public involvement...The proposed regulatory changes were published August 15, 2008, while Congress was out for recess and many Americans were enjoying the summer holiday. For one of our nation’s most important and successful environmental laws, the thirty-day comment period is woefully inadequate for the public to review and comment on this critical proposal. We urge you to extend the comment period to one hundred and twenty days, allowing the public adequate time to address the breadth and depth that these changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations will have on protecting our most imperiled wildlife.  In addition, the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce should increase the public’s opportunities to comment. The agencies should hold field hearings around the country, thus giving citizens the opportunity to learn, understand and comment on the proposed changes directly. Finally, toallow more of the public to provide input on this far reaching proposal,we request you also make it easier to submit comments by allowing for e-mail and fax submissions.The proposed regulation changes may have a profound effect on how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The American people need the appropriate length of time and means of opportunity to comment on them.Sincerely, ...Note: List of 105 Citizen Groups on Badlands Journal at http://www.badlandsjournal.com/node/518Merced Sun-StarAttachment:  County of Merced Public NoticePublic Hearing to consider Certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report for the re-establishment of the Enterprise Zone in Merced County and to solicit citizen inputC8  Friday, August 22, 2008            CLASSIFIEDS        Merced Sun-Star, Merced, CalifA Public Hearing will be held by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Merced, State of California, on Tuesday, September 2, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in the Board room, Third Floor, County Administration Building 2222 "M" Street, Merced, California to consider Certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report for the re-establishment of the Enterprise Zone in Merced County and to solicit citizen input.Silver lining: Homes affordable for more people...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/412043.htmlMerced ranks as the 25th most affordable place to buy a home on the West Coast, the highest the city's scored in eight years.Almost half the houses sold in 2008's second quarter could be bought by families earning $47,400, the city's median income, according to a study released this week by the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo.Home prices have ratcheted down from the high Sierra and back within the reach of Merced's residents -- a positive note in an otherwise gloomy economy and market...The study compares median home prices and median incomes to come up with a housing-opportunity index. Merced home affordability has increased 40 percentage points since 2007's last quarter and even more sharply since the height of the housing boom. At the market's peak, only 2.5 percent of the homes sold were within reach of residents with a median income. That figure is now up to 48.6 percent. The sharp increase in the eligibility of local renters to become homeowners is due to the plummeting cost of houses for the past two years. The median price for a home in 2006 was $376,000. It's now at $174,000...Los Banos bypass broken into partsThe move to three phases is seen as a way to make the project's funding more achievable...CORINNE REILLYhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/412061.htmlMore than 40 years have passed since leaders in Los Banos began looking for a way to build a freeway bypass around their city, but Highway 152 still runs through it. Plans for the bypass project were drawn up years ago. Finding a way to pay for it has left those plans on paper and on hold.Now a team of agencies working to change that says it's found a new way to make sure another 40 years don't go by before something is built. The team recently revised plans for the bypass, breaking the $450 million project into three separate phases. They hope the move will make paying for it more manageable."We finally realized there was just no way to fund the whole thing all at once in a reasonable time frame," said Marjie Kirn, deputy executive director of the Merced County Association of Governments, one of a handful of agencies working on the project. "So we're taking it a piece at a time."...Under the new, phased plan, about half the bypass would be built first. It would stretch from the Santa Fe Grade west to Highway 165. The agencies involved are now in the process of buying the land to build that stretch, on which they hope to break ground in 2013. The second half of the bypass, which would stretch from 165 west to Volta Road, would be built later. The third phase would involve building three overpasses along the bypass so drivers wouldn't have to stop at traffic signals. Until the third phase is done, the intersections would keep their signals... The new plan doesn't just make the bypass more manageable to fund, said Ram Gupta, a project manager with Caltrans, another agency involved. It will also help ease congestion along 152 sooner because the phases would open to drivers as soon as they're finished."There is no way we can fund it all together," Gupta said. "This way we can get started, and the public can see the progress and start using it." The first phase alone would mean far less traffic on 152 by providing an alternate route, he said.Even with the new plan, however, officials admit that funding the project will be incredibly difficult...Hwy. 99 may become I-7 or I-9 for only $1BPlanners think they can get most requirements waived, lowering costs...RUSSELL CLEMINGS, The Fresno Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/412042.htmlState highway officials now believe they could get interstate highway standards waived for most of Highway 99 if the San Joaquin Valley's main artery were converted to an interstate highway.Estimates from 2005 said $14 billion to $19 billion would be needed to widen shoulders and raise bridges to interstate standards. But after discussions with the Federal Highway Administration, state officials now think they can win waivers for all but about $1 billion of those fixes.D. Alan McCuen, San Joaquin Valley coordinator for Caltrans district planning office, said $1 billion is "our best judgment," but the agency is confident it could get "a significant number" of waivers approved...The $1 billion would come on top of an estimated $6 billion in improvements that Caltrans is planning regardless of the interstate status question.Some of those projects are now under way, such as the current widening in the Fairmead area of Madera County. Others are to be funded by Proposition 1B, approved in 2006.McCuen's statements came during a meeting of local officials called by two Valley congressmen, Democrat Jim Costa and Republican Devin Nunes, to rekindle support for the interstate conversion...McCuen said that a consultant is expected to finish work next month on a report gauging the cost-effectiveness of a conversion, which would most likely change Highway 99 to either Interstate 7 or Interstate 9. FDA approves irradiation to kill E. coli on spinach, iceberg lettuce...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureauhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/412051.htmlWASHINGTON -- Federal food-safety regulators now will allow producers to irradiate spinach and iceberg lettuce to protect consumers from disease.The Food and Drug Administration is set to give the green light Friday to a practice that officials have concluded is safe. The long-awaited decision comes in the wake of high-profile bacterial outbreaks involving tainted greens."FDA concludes that irradiation of iceberg lettuce and spinach conducted in accordance with good manufacturing practices will reduce or eliminate bacterial populations," the agency says."I hope we will see a reduction in the number of food-borne illnesses," Dr. Robert Brackett, chief scientist with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said Thursday. "It gives the industry another tool to increase food safety."The FDA's decision is spelled out in a 25-page document that will be published Friday in the Federal Register and that emphasizes the safety of food irradiation. "There is no reason to suspect a toxicological hazard due to consumption of an irradiated food," the FDA says.The decision adds leafy greens to the menu of foods that can be irradiated, including spices, dried vegetables and ground beef...The request to irradiate leafy greens, however, came from higher up in the food chain: the food processors, instead of the farmers.The FDA's decision comes nine years after what was then called the National Food Processors Association requested approval for the use of radiation. The trade organization's 95-page petition filed in August 1999 asked for an "expedited" decision, covering multiple foods.That didn't happen, as the notion of bathing food with X-rays alarmed some consumer advocates. After the 2006 spinach episode, however, industry officials with what's now called the Grocery Manufacturers Association pressed for at least a quicker decision on leafy greens...Loose Lips: Extra! Extra! Mayor makes the Gray Ladyhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/412055.htmlA ll three astute Lips readers may recall the recent media blitz by Andy Krotik, former Atwater city councilman and Realtor-about-town. Besides his regular ink in the Sun-Star, he managed to get play this summer in the Los Angeles Times and on National Public Radio about the tsunami of foreclosures.But that's old news, barely fit to print.Besides, there's a new lady in town -- the Gray Lady.Lips learned that a New York Times reporter and photographer trailed Mayor Ellie Wooten last week to get a look at this little hometown drama we've come to call the housing meltdown. Maybe you've heard of it.Wooten is already promising to rub in her media "get" to Krotik. Sources tell her the story will run this week in the 4-pound Sunday edition, which will reach 1,476,400 readers. Quotable Krotik only went out to 773,884 subscribers...But wait! Isn't this bad news? Don't we want to keep this real estate fiasco a secret?Not so, Wooten said. Showcasing the devastation is the best way to put Merced on the map. The government's doling out $2.3 billion to mop up the mess. "I want a chunk for Merced," Wooten said. "If we're not visible and we need the help, then what's it about?"Wooten spent six hours with the reporter, taking him to a $1.3 million home -- they're still building! -- before going to the city's Ground Zero: bank-owned homes.They also went by UC Merced -- yes, there's a university! -- before ending the drive along the boulevard of broken dreams.She left him off with a woman who's lost her home to get a firsthand account of the crash, then took him back to City Hall so he could be on his way. And what did he think of Merced? "There's no fresh food," Wooten recalled him griping.Huh? Maybe that's a good reason to put the brakes on this whole growth fad. We used to be known as America's breadbasket.Our View: Has Merced outgrown rail?Undercrossing on G and 23rd streets could create more traffic problems once it's finished.http://www.mercedsunstar.com/177/story/412036.htmlThe traffic mess two weeks ago caused by a stopped freight train is only the latest incident in Merced's long history of frustrations with the railroad. The good news -- that state funding may allow an undercrossing at G Street at 23rd Street to open by 2011 -- would be better if there were also plans in place for similar measures at Merced's other thoroughfares.While we applaud the steps that have been taken to move this necessary project forward, we can't help but worry about the traffic load that will be diverted to G Street once the underpass is complete.The city will find out next week if it will receive $9 million in state funding -- half the cost of construction.If Merced wins the money, work would begin in 2010, with the project completed the following year. It should be obvious that when the roadway is reopened, drivers seeking an unimpeded route will flock to G Street. The traffic volume on this road will reach annoying levels, to say the least...The G Street underpass is a good quick fix, but it certainly isn't the final answer...So, considering the amount of time that it has taken just to get an underpass on G Street, planning needs to begin now for additional underpasses at M Street, R Street, Highway 59 and eventually a crossing at Parsons AvenueThis isn't something the city can tackle on its own. We'll need financial help from regional agencies and legislators. There should also be more incentive placed on the railroad -- in this case, BNSF -- to kick in additional funding when operations impact a city's ability to function...Merced, like most Central Valley towns, may have grown up around the railroad, but that shouldn't mean we're perpetually handicapped by it. Breaking Bad in real life?...Scott Jason, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/breaking_bad_in_real_lifeIt's either life mirroring art or art mirroring life. I received a voice mail message from an unidentified man alerting me to his startling discovery: Jason West, the UC Merced graduate student deputies say was making meth, got his idea from a TV show. The man, who I suspect may have been smoking some stimulants himself, couldn't remember the name of the show, except that it was about a high school teacher in New Mexico and on channel 63. He repeated those facts for about three minutes.A Google search of "tv show cancer chemist new mexico" led me to "Breaking Bad," a show on AMC about a high school chemistry teacher who gets lung cancer and turns to making methamphetamine. It premiered in January 2008."It's amazing," the caller said. "I didn't know anyone would take it seriously."Planada's Measure O is Legal and Good for Kids!...Steve Gomes, Superintendent. Planada Elementary School Districthttp://sunspot.mercedsunstar.com/?q=node/4739Dear Editor:I find it necessary to respond to the August 18, 2008, letter to the editor with respect to the $2.9 million Measure O bond election of the Planada Elementary School District on the November 4th ballot. The letter made two claims which are untrue: (1) the election documents submitted to the Merced County Elections office specify a 55% affirmative vote instead of a 2/3 affirmative vote for approval of the measure; and (2) the amount of the bonds exceeds 1.25% of the district’s assessed valuation, the statutory limit for an elementary school district.County Elections office, the intent of the district’s Board of Trustees has always been to conduct a bond election with a 2/3 affirmative vote. Financial information regarding the bonds that has been provided to the Board of Trustees in public meetings extending over several months has consistently indicated a 2/3-vote election. Prior to the County’s filing deadline the district discovered that the election documents approved by the Board of Trustees on July 29, 2008, inadvertently contained inconsistent references to the legal requirements for a 2/3-vote election and a 55%-vote election. The documents were revised to correct this oversight and submitted to the County such that all references to the minimum voter plurality consistently indicated a 2/3 affirmative vote. The County received the corrected documents in advance of its election deadline.With respect to the statutory bonding capacity of the district, California Education Code Section 15102 specifies that an elementary school district cannot issue general obligation bonds in an amount exceeding 1.25% of its taxable property as measured by assessed valuation. The amount of bonds that can be sold in any fiscal year is calculated by multiplying the assessed value by 1.25% and then subtracting the amount of any outstanding general obligation bonds. The amount of assessed valuation in the year of the bond election is immaterial to the calculation. The only important factor is the relationship between the assessed valuation and the amount of bonds in the future year in which bonds are to be sold... On behalf of the PESD Board of Trustees and myself, I can assure the citizens of Planada that Measure O is legal and meets all of the statutory requirements... If anyone needs more information or has questions about Measure O, they are welcome to contact me at 382-0756...Modesto BeeSecond wave of losses could prolong crisis...ALAN ZIBEL. THE ASSOCIATED PRESShttp://www.modbee.com/business/v-print/story/402173.htmlIn the mortgage industry, they are called "liar loans" -- mortgages approved without requiring proof of the borrower's income or assets. The worst of them earn the nickname "ninja loans," short for "no income, no job, and (no) assets."The nation's struggling housing market, already awash in subprime foreclosures, is now getting hit with a second wave of losses as homeowners with liar loans default in record numbers. In some parts of the country, the loans are threatening to drag out the mortgage crisis for another two years."Those loans are going to perform very badly," said Thomas Lawler, a Virginia housing economist. "They're heavily concentrated in states where home prices are plummeting" such as California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona.Many homeowners with liar loans are stuck. They can't refinance because housing prices in those markets have nose-dived, and lenders now are demanding full documentation of income and assets.Losses on liar loans could total $100 billion, according to Moody's Economy.com. That's on top of the $400 billion in expected losses from subprime loans.Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation's largest buyers and backers of mortgages, lost a combined $3.1 billion between April and June. Half of their credit losses came from sour liar loans, which officially are called Alternative-A loans (Alt-A for short) because they are seen as a step below A-credit, or prime, borrowers.Many of the lenders that specialized in such loans are now defunct -- banks such as American Home Mortgage, Bear Stearns and IndyMac Bank. More lenders may follow.In it for the profitsThe loans also were immensely profitable for the mortgage industry because they carried higher fees and higher interest rates. A broker who signed up a borrower for a liar loan could reap as much as $15,000 in fees for a $300,000 loan. Traditional lending is far less lucrative, netting brokers around $2,000 to $4,000 in fees for a fixed-rate loan.During the housing boom, liar loans were especially popular among investors seeking to flip properties quickly. They also commonly were paired with "interest only" features that allowed borrowers to pay just the interest and none of the principal for the first several years.Even riskier were "pick-a- payment" or option ARM loans -- adjustable-rate mortgages that gave borrowers the choice to defer some of their interest payments and add them to the principal...The low monthly payments of liar loans helped many afford to purchase in areas of the country where prices were skyrocketing. But they also helped drive up prices by allowing people to buy more than they could truly afford. Case in point: About 40 percent of loans made in California and Nevada in 2005 and 2006 were either interest-only or option ARMs, according to First American CoreLogic...Now that prices have fallen, almost 13 percent of borrowers with liar loans were at least two months behind on their payments in May, nearly four times higher than a year earlier, according to First American CoreLogic.Countrywide Financial Corp., now part of Bank of America Corp., was one of the top pro- viders of liar loans. The com- pany now is paying the price. More than 12 percent of Countrywide's $25.4 billion in pick-a- payment loans are in default, and 83 percent had little or no documentation, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week...Avoiding another meltdown...KEVIN G. HALL, BEE WASHINGTON BUREAUhttp://www.modbee.com/business/v-print/story/402170.htmlWASHINGTON -- Two new books from respected economists are offering provocative solutions to prevent another housing-spawned financial meltdown.In "The Subprime Solution," Yale University economist Robert Shiller -- the coiner of the phrase "irrational exuberance" to describe the financial-market boom of the '90s -- says the origin of today's housing problems is psychological."The crisis was not caused by the impact of a meteor or the explosion of a volcano. Rather it was caused by a failure to anticipate quite obvious risks -- by 'irration- al exuberance' at the prospects for profits, if one bought into the concept of an ever-expanding bubble," Shiller wrote. His other claim to fame is co-founding the Case/Shiller Index, which tracks home prices in major U.S. metropolitan markets.Equally provocative is "Financial Shock," by Mark Zandi, the oft-quoted chief economist for Moody's Economy.com. His book is subtitled "A 360 Degree Look at the Subprime Mortgage Implosion and How to Avoid the Next Financial Crisis."After leading readers through the sordid history of the nation's housing meltdown, he offers 10 proposals to help prevent the next one. Some ideas already are being offered in part by the Treasury Department or Federal Reserve, things such as greater licensing and regulation of mortgage brokers and overhauling financial regulation to meet today's market realities. But others that make sense have received little attention.Today's nationwide housing crisis began with bad adjustable-rate home loans made in 2005 and 2006 to borrowers with weak credit histories. Last August, the holders of fancy financial instruments worth hundreds of billions of dollars backed by these questionable mortgages began losing their shirts, as mortgage-holders couldn't make their payments. The housing problem snowballed into a financial markets problem, and later a U.S. and global economic problem.In an interview, Shiller said he didn't expect the ugly year in credit and housing markets to get much better soon.Like the financial bubble in technology stocks that exploded in 2000, real estate investors acted on unrealistic assumptions that prices could only go up. In the aftermath, Shiller's recommendation to policy-makers is "Mend it, Don't End It."...Zandi lays blame for today's housing meltdown on the doorstep of the Federal Reserve. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan held the view that it wasn't his job to identify asset bubbles such as tech stocks or housing, because markets self-correct...Metered water charges postponed...last updated: August 22, 2008 03:27:32 AMhttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/402347.htmlModesto is postponing its plan to start charging Salida residents a metered water rate instead of a flat charge. Deputy Public Works Director Allen Lagarbo said the delay would give the city's Finance Department more time to adjust, and it would make sure Salidans begin paying on meters during a month when they use less water. People typically use the most water during August and September. Their use drops in the winter when they need less for landscaping. "We're not trying to make enemies out there," Lagarbo said. "We want this to go down as easily as possible." Salida residents were expected to begin paying a metered rate this month. All Modesto water users will pay on meters by 2015, but it isn't clear when specific neighborhoods will make the change.Fresno BeeAre construction costs leveling off? MaybeFor commercial contractors, relief from surging commodity prices may be at hand...Sanford Naxhttp://www.fresnobee.com/business/story/814710.htmlA slowing economy and falling gas prices could stem the skyrocketing cost of construction materials, which are helping squeeze the profit out of home building and making it hard for commercial contractors to formulate bids.But few experts expect costs to revert to levels seen before the past real estate boom and higher gas prices, saying global demand is still too strong."There's no hard proof" that prices will fall, said Mitch Shaw, branch manager of Roofing Supply Group in Fresno, which sells roofing shingles. Prices for roof shingles have tripled in a year, increasing every two weeks since March, he said. The most recent hike was Aug. 1, and another is expected Monday. But, in a hopeful sign, vendors are saying the next hike might not be until October, Shaw said... Nationwide, the Producer Price Index, which tracks prices at the producer level, climbed 7.1% from July 2007 to last month, driven by large increases in cement and steel, said Bernard Markstein, senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders.Soaring worldwide demand, higher petroleum costs and a weaker dollar played a role. But there are signs of change. "All of those have turned around," said Kenneth Simonson, an economist at Associated General Contractors near Washington, D.C. "The dollar strengthened 8% against the euro in the past few weeks, oil has come down, and highway diesel fuel has dropped."...Steel, cement and fuel have experienced some of the largest price increases, but gypsum and lumber have tapered off with the housing bust. Manufacturers of gypsum, which is used in wall board, indicated they would increase rates in August and September, but stalling home construction could negate that.The worldwide demand may be abating. An economist for Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. said a slowing global economy will ease the pressure, especially on commercial contractors... Home builders also are getting relief in the form of lower labor costs. The slump in construction has flooded the marketplace with workers. But housing prices have fallen 16% in just the past year in Fresno County, which puts builders in a tough spot. Going forward, developers will see lower land prices. But many builders, especially those who entered the Fresno area at the peak of the real estate boom, are sitting on land they paid top dollar for and can't sell... That means lowering prices. To do that, builders are constructing smaller homes, including fewer frills and accepting little or no profit. Sacramento BeeSupervisors accused of ignoring water-project study...Cathy Lockehttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1177178.htmlEl Dorado County supervisors were accused of failing to review the environmental study for a water storage and power project proposed by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.Camino residents urged the board and county staff to analyze the study for the proposed Iowa Hill pumped-storage facility.Jim Summers of Camino said the details and scope of the project were not known when the county, as a member of El Dorado County Water and Power Authority, agreed to support federal relicensing of the Upper American River Project.SMUD has operated the system of 11 reservoirs and eight hydroelectric plants in the county for 50 years. As part of the 2005 agreement, water agencies in El Dorado County will be allowed to use SMUD facilities for water delivery and drought storage.Supervisor Jack Sweeney said he sat on the Iowa Hill Joint Advisory Committee, which had about a dozen meetings and submitted about 170 comments on the environmental impacts."The appearance that I've ignored these folks I don't think is quite true," he said.Editorial: Water bond? Not if it's hurriedVOTERS ARE LIKELY TO BE SKEPTICAL OF RUSHED PLAN FOR BILLIONS IN DEBThttp://www.sacbee.com/110/v-print/story/1176527.htmlWill we have a water bond this year? It's an important question, but not the only one that should be swirling around the Capitol these days.Others are: Should lawmakers pass a multibillion-dollar water bond with so much borrowing already on the November ballot? Can they overcome missed deadlines for getting it on the ballot?If the answers are yes, then other questions arise: Can such a proposal get any form of public vetting before law- makers approve it? If not, why should taxpayers believe they will be investing in cost-effective solutions to the state's water challenges?These latter questions are important because, as the impasse over the budget drags out, it is increasingly likely that a water deal will become grease for a budget deal.Republican votes are needed to pass a budget, and many – including the GOP leadership in the Assembly and Senate – come from the water-short San Joaquin Valley. There, the farm industry has lost water because of court decisions, light snowpack this year and the fact that some growers have junior water rights. There's a strong sense of entitlement among farmers there that the government "owes" them water because environmental laws have limited what they can use for irrigation.Earlier this week, the Capitol witnessed the spectacle of Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, proudly being evicted from her office because she insisted on a water deal to buy her budget vote. Yet it's doubtful Parra is the only lawmaker playing this card. She's just been the most public one.Does this mean lawmakers should dither in the face of drought and hardships faced by certain communities? Hardly. But a new bond issue isn't the only response. Right now, there's hundreds of millions of dollars available from Proposition 84 and other past bonds that could be used to allocate more water from existing reservoirs, resolve conflicts in the Delta and assure greater reliability of water in 2009. That money should be targeted on immediate solutions, not held hostage for a larger deal.There's also a strong argument for waiting until next year to assemble a comprehensive water bond proposal that will win wide support. By then, we'll have numbers on the costs and benefits of Temperance Flat, Sites reservoir and other storage projects that proponents want taxpayers to help finance. We'll also have final recommendations from the governor's Delta Vision panel. Those reform proposals must be coupled with investments, or the reforms will not happen.It's understandable that lawmakers want to do something – anything – in response to dry conditions. But billion-dollar decisions that could affect water rights, fisheries and the state's debt load shouldn't be hatched in the dead of night.If they are, this page will not support them. Neither, we suspect, will a majority of California voters.My View: A wider U.S. 50 would only worsen matters...Glenda Marshhttp://www.sacbee.com/110/v-print/story/1176517.htmlHow do we improve travel time and convenience, and best spend public money along the Highway 50 corridor so it can serve everyone far into the future? By working together for the best projects.Believe it or not, improving Highway 50's capacity is something neighborhood groups, transportation advocates and environmental groups in the Sacramento region want to achieve.And right now, an important opportunity is knocking.Recently, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the California Department of Transportation must redo its environmental analysis for its proposal to widen Highway 50, one possible, albeit temporary, solution to vehicle congestion. The ruling gives people who are concerned about transportation, quality of life, and climate and environment, a critical opportunity to push for top-notch transportation alternatives that will give us freedom of movement far into the future, without the negatives that come with widening the freeway...How many of us in our region have wanted an alternative as gas prices have climbed, but cursed because we've failed to invest in multiple types of transportation over the years? Covering our bases is what we do in California already. Municipalities, water districts and state agencies are required to develop regional water plans that include investing money in different kinds of water-supply strategies to make sure water keeps flowing from our taps no matter what happens. Why not in transportation?Neighbors Advocating Sustainable Transportation, or NAST, and the Environmental Council of Sacramento, ECOS, seek sustainable, long-term freeway capacity to reduce vehicle congestion along Highway 50, without resorting to freeway widening.Our goal is shared by many: Improve quality of life in our region's cities and neighborhoods. In this case, Caltrans is proposing to widen the freeway, portraying the project as a high-occupancy vehicle/carpool lane project.Widening a freeway is a major construction project with significant environmental impacts. There are not only construction-related impacts, however. The most important impact comes from increasing the capacity of Highway 50 to carry more vehicles – 20 percent to 25 percent more, according to Caltrans' environmental impact report. More vehicles mean more air pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to climate change. In our region, people are very interested in addressing air pollution and climate change, including in the suburban communities.Widening the freeway, even with HOV lanes, allows more vehicles to get on the freeway, and we'll be back where we started – intolerable congestion requiring ever-greater expense to relieve it. There are ways to increase the carrying capacity of any freeway, keep traffic moving and reduce commuters' frustration, and do it for the long term...NAST and ECOS advocate spending transportation dollars first on transit, pedestrian, and bicycle transportation capacity along our roadways, precisely so that we can continue to use our cars.The court's decision requires Caltrans to analyze the obvious congestion-relief alternatives that it failed to analyze, such as other types of transit configurations that could achieve the same goal. This is important public accountability for spending scarce transportation dollars and deciding how to increase capacity for everyone along the 50 corridor.Transportation is opportunity. In a fair and equitable society, transportation needs to be available to everyone so each can take advantage of something we cherish as a basic right – opportunity... As vehicle owners and drivers, we must examine our attitudes about not supporting transit because we don't need it or don't like using it. We must all demand great transit. Let's work together to keep people and traffic moving, without the negative results – and lost opportunities – of widening freeways.Tracy PressFlight plan A mayoral candidate and Tracy Municipal Airport advocates pressed city officials Thursday to back the airport rather than homebuilding for the sake of the Tracy's economy...Eric Firpo     http://tracypress.com/content/view/15566/2242/Supporters painted a picture of the Tracy Municipal Airport on Thursday as a gold mine in the making — if only city officials would throw support behind the airport instead of a proposed subdivision and water park nearby.For Skyview Aviation owner Richard Ortenheim, it was a chance to outline a business plan that he believes could one day generate tens of millions of dollars a year in taxable sales for the city, as well as create 40 or 50 jobs. And for mayoral candidate Celeste Garamendi, who organized the meeting that drew about 40 people into Skyview’s hangar, it was an opportunity to argue the airport is an economic asset that needs to be nurtured. She also criticized elected officials, who she says have chose to back houses over jobs in recent years...“The jets are where the money is,” said Denny Pressley, an airport advocate who talked about the airport’s history and warned of development’s creeping encroachment.Garamendi suggested the city has slowly choked the airport that once had plans on the drawing board for a 6,000-foot runway. Pressley and Garamendi also suggested the city has moved recently to shrink the airport’s safety zone to lessen conflicts with new building, such as the Ellis subdivision and water park proposed by developer Les Serpa, who was in attendance... San Francisco ChronicleDelta force...Kelly Zito, Village Green...8-21-08http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=50&entry_id=29328So. California is in a drought. Certain fish populations are crashing. Climate change seems to be making the state even drier; sea levels are predicted to rise. Sitting in the middle of this is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the faucet through which about 25 million Californians get their water. You may have heard of it.A member of the panel appointed by Gov Schwarzenegger, the Delta Vision Task Force, came to Oakland Wednesday to talk about a plan to solve the estuary's problems and to hear feedback from the public.Task force member Raymond Seed, a civil engineering professor at UC-Berkeley, made it clear the panel is taking a holistic approach to the state's water system. It's not just about the Delta, Seed said, but about a system built around 150-year-old thinkingSpecifically, panel members have discussed the idea of rejiggering the state's complicated and controversial system of water rights.Put simply, state laws "provide the highest priority to the earliest water users," according to the state Water Resource Board. Also known as the "Doctrine of Prior Appropriation", or "first in time, first in right" (Whew. The law/policy portion of this entry is nearly over). That means that if you landed here during the Gold Rush and starting drawing water from a local stream, you're water rights are pretty solid, and you're more likely than others to receive your full water allotment.However, the task force is wondering whether that model fits the water needs of 21st century California. According to a recent task force report, research shows "the state... has substantial ability to reallocate water when necessary to prevent unreasonable use, achieve water quality, protect the public trust, avoid public nuisance and respond to emergency situations."For those water wonks who have hung with me this far, that's kind of a big deal. Water rights in California are considered sacred and untouchable. If you want to start a big water fight, bring up the word "reallocation" to a Central Valley farmer whose rights date back 100 years.Big changes and big waves appear to be ahead. 8-22-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…August 22, 2008 1.  Top Items -Editorial: Water bond? Not if it's hurried: VOTERS ARE LIKELY TO BE SKEPTICAL OF RUSHED PLAN FOR BILLIONS IN DEBT - The Sacramento Bee- 8/22/08 EditorialCalifornia can't afford to wait on the water bond - The Desert Sun- 8/22/08Conservation plan gets underway - The Antioch Press- 8/21/08 Editorial: Water bond? Not if it's hurried: VOTERS ARE LIKELY TO BE SKEPTICAL OF RUSHED PLAN FOR BILLIONS IN DEBTThe Sacramento Bee- 8/22/08 Will we have a water bond this year? It's an important question, but not the only one that should be swirling around the Capitol these days. Others are: Should lawmakers pass a multibillion-dollar water bond with so much borrowing already on the November ballot? Can they overcome missed deadlines for getting it on the ballot? If the answers are yes, then other questions arise: Can such a proposal get any form of public vetting before law- makers approve it? If not, why should taxpayers believe they will be investing in cost-effective solutions to the state's water challenges? These latter questions are important because, as the impasse over the budget drags out, it is increasingly likely that a water deal will become grease for a budget deal. Republican votes are needed to pass a budget, and many – including the GOP leadership in the Assembly and Senate – come from the water-short San Joaquin Valley. There, the farm industry has lost water because of court decisions, light snowpack this year and the fact that some growers have junior water rights. There's a strong sense of entitlement among farmers there that the government "owes" them water because environmental laws have limited what they can use for irrigation. Earlier this week, the Capitol witnessed the spectacle of Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, proudly being evicted from her office because she insisted on a water deal to buy her budget vote. Yet it's doubtful Parra is the only lawmaker playing this card. She's just been the most public one. Does this mean lawmakers should dither in the face of drought and hardships faced by certain communities? Hardly. But a new bond issue isn't the only response. Right now, there's hundreds of millions of dollars available from Proposition 84 and other past bonds that could be used to allocate more water from existing reservoirs, resolve conflicts in the Delta and assure greater reliability of water in 2009.  That money should be targeted on immediate solutions, not held hostage for a larger deal. There's also a strong argument for waiting until next year to assemble a comprehensive water bond proposal that will win wide support.  By then, we'll have numbers on the costs and benefits of Temperance Flat, Sites reservoir and other storage projects that proponents want taxpayers to help finance. We'll also have final recommendations from the governor's Delta Vision panel. Those reform proposals must be coupled with investments, or the reforms will not happen. It's understandable that lawmakers want to do something – anything – in response to dry conditions. But billion-dollar decisions that could affect water rights, fisheries and the state's debt load shouldn't be hatched in the dead of night. If they are, this page will not support them. Neither, we suspect, will a majority of California voters.#http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/1176527.html EditorialCalifornia can't afford to wait on the water bondThe Desert Sun- 8/22/08 California is in a water crisis. Our population is growing, but global warming is affecting our snowpack. For the last two years, runoff into our reservoirs has subsided considerably. We need to store water during wet years, so we have enough during dry years. We need above-ground water storage. We need to replenish underground aquifers and we need to do a much better job conserving water. It's only going to happen if lawmakers show the political courage and put a water bond on the November ballot. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein unveiled a $9.3 billion water bond that would help: Provide more water storage, including reservoirs and groundwater storage. Improve water quality and quantity. Restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Improve rivers and watersheds, including the Salton Sea. Clean up contaminated underground reservoirs. Increase conservation programs. The plan deserves serious consideration. But stiff opposition over the proposed dams and spending is mounting and threatens the plan. A canal around the Sacramento delta will be a sticking point. While the bond doesn't provide construction funds to build the canal, it would fund programs to clear a path. Water users would pay to build the canal, which is needed to protect the delta. The delta provides two-thirds of the state's drinking water and is facing severe environmental problems associated with protected fish and invading plant and animal species. Legislative Democrats will likely hold up the process because they haven't had time to come up with an alternative plan. This has angered Feinstein, a senior Democrat, who has demanded they get on board. Also, everyone has been focused lately on not coming up with a budget. Nevertheless, time is running out. Saturday is the deadline for placing measures on the ballot. We strongly urge lawmakers to place the water bond on the November ballot. Ongoing drought conditions and environmental impacts to the delta should be enough to make lawmakers put the question before voters.  We hope it is. But if not, consider this: California's water crisis is also a threat to our economy. “Farmers are fallowing prime agricultural lands, building permits have been put on hold and thousands of jobs in both urban and rural areas are being lost,” Schwarzenegger and Feinstein have warned lawmakers. Given the budget shortfall, Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, said now may be a bad time to put this plan before the voters.  She suggested 2010 as a more suitable time to pass a major water bond. But others disagree. Officials of both local water districts, the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District, say polls show the plan has voter buy-in and it should be moved forward now. “We need the water bond to go through, so the economic engine can go through,” said Peter Nelson, CVWD board president. Some political experts predict a special election on the water bond. Because the state is facing a $16 billion shortfall and we're nearly two months into a new fiscal year without a budget, their instincts may be correct. But that scenario would be unfortunate. A special election will cost the state more money it obviously doesn't have and will move the start date for a water plan further into the future. California must increase its water supply and action must be taken now. Even if, by some miraculous feat, the bond issue makes it to the November ballot and voters pass it, it will still take somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen years to acquire some of the water storage that is needed.#http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080822/OPINION01/808220353/1026/news12 Conservation plan gets underwayThe Antioch Press- 8/21/08…By Dave Roberts A study to save the Delta’s ecosystem while still providing water to 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland is about to kick into high gear, a process that could eventually lead to construction of a peripheral canal. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is the latest attempt to find the best compromise between thirsty water agencies seeking an abundant, quality water supply and environmental groups and others seeking to ensure the health of a fragile, troubled Delta ecosystem. The plan might call for the construction of a peripheral canal that takes fresh water from the Sacramento River in the north Delta and conveys it south along the east side of the Delta. That possibility worries local officials, who fear it would lead to a worsening of water quality, including an increase in salinity. The first step in putting together the plan is the preparation of environmental impact studies that will identify the most environmentally friendly option or options. Officials from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) traveled to Antioch last week to meet with Delta landowners to let them know that they might be seeking permission to go onto their land to conduct some of the studies beginning in early 2009. DWR Deputy Director Richard Sanchez kicked off the Aug. 14 meeting in the flower hall at the county fairgrounds, which was as steamy as a greenhouse. “We are here to work with you,” he said. “We are very concerned with the Delta. There’s various issues: whether it’s water supply reliability, ecosystem restoration; fishery counts are down; flood protection is an issue. We are here to work with you on solutions. “We have a lot of study areas we are looking at. There’s also a lot of gaps. We have to fill those gaps with additional information, whether biological, engineering, surveying. We want to minimize those impacts (to your property) when we get that data. We are open to your suggestions.” DWR Deputy Director Jerry Johns provided the context for the launching of the conservation plan for the Delta, a body of water that supports about $400 billion of California’s $1 trillion economy. “In 2005, the fish agencies said, ‘The fish are not doing as well as we thought. We are not happy.’ We said we are not happy as well,” said Johns. “We need to do something different related to the Endangered Species Act. It’s the trigger regulating activities in the Delta one species at a time. “We need something that’s much more realistic; look at the Delta, look at the ecosystem and develop a holistic plan. We recommended that we do a habitat conservation plan … focusing on the aquatic ecosystem and the things the fish need to support their habitat.” One of the biggest determinants in supporting that habitat is figuring out the best way to take water from the Delta. The current system, to avoid sucking fish into pumps south of Byron, results in a daily fish taxi service from Byron to Sacramento. “We do that several times a day – every day,” said Johns. “Some of the fish like this ride. Some aren’t crazy about the ride. Some get eaten. And that’s a concern. The fisheries were designed in the ’40s and ’50s. We have better technology today.” A new water conveyance system is needed to better protect fish, he said. The Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force has recommended a dual conveyance system with a peripheral canal in order to ensure the quality of the water heading to central and southern California, even if there’s a levee failure in the Delta. “This is not anything that’s rocket science,” said Johns. “It’s based on the risks. We haven’t had a levee failure due to earthquake. It is basically a flip of the coin when we will have an earthquake where we will lose levees in the next 20 to 30 years. We have got to do something. And we can do something.” And that something is the conservation plan, which is expected to be completed in mid-to-late 2010. So far, there is not a preferred conveyance alternative, whether an isolated peripheral canal, dual conveyance from both the north and south Delta or continued conveyance through the Delta but in an improved system. David Gutierrez, a DWR director for the FloodSafe program, said nearly $750 million is planned to be spent on improving Delta levees, many of which were built 100 years ago and with much cruder materials than today’s levees. “There is a potential for risk associated with failure of those levees, and there always will be,” said Gutierrez. “We want to understand from the experts exactly how the levees behave. Hopefully, that will lead to improving the levees and figuring out the best way to improve these levees.” To deal with levee failures and other emergencies, the DWR is leading the effort to prepare the Delta Emergency Preparedness Plan, which is scheduled for completion in mid-2010. For more information on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, go online to www.resources.ca.gov/bdcp.#http://antiochpress.com/article.cfm?articleID=20237 2. Supply –  Water woes only getting worseThe Press Democrat- 8/21/08…By Howard Yune A dry year has left California's reservoirs emptier and without a wet winter, Mid-Valley farms and water districts could face restrictions. Reservoirs in the state were at a combined 52 percent of their capacity on Thursday, 22 points below the average level for that date, according to the state Department of Water Resources. The agency also predicted Lake Oroville, a feeder in the state's water network, would draw down this winter to its lowest level since the construction of Oroville Dam began more than 40 years ago. Mid-Valley farms and water districts have not endured the heavier reductions seen farther south, and larger groundwater supplies also provided some cushion. But state officials said the low reservoir levels are cause for concern in 2009. "The risk isn't that high, but it is there," said Maury Roos, hydrologist for the water resources department. A shortage of rain since late winter combined with a scanty snow melt in the Sierra Nevada — crucial to replenishing water supplies — to shrink water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. This year, the southern Central Valley and Southern California, which largely rely on North State water pumped south, have borne the heaviest burden of tightening water supplies. Farmers idled farmland in Fresno County as local water districts had their annual water allotments cut to 35 percent of their usual shares.  A federal court ruling last year to protect endangered smelt in the Sacramento delta forced further curbs in water pumping from the delta to points south. The state's first estimates of winter precipitation and reservoir levels are not expected to be released until early October, according to Wendy Martin, drought coordinator for the state water department. But levels at Lake Oroville are far enough below average that she predicted only an especially rainy winter could restore the balance by spring. "Even if we have wet conditions, unless it's a total gully washer, we'd expect water to be short next year," said Martin.#http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/water_67808___article.html/state_winter.html 3. Watersheds – Concerns surface over marsh project The Brentwood Press- 8/21/08…By Dave Roberts A plan to convert the old Emerson dairy and nearby properties into a tidal marsh might become a vital step in saving endangered Delta fish and would provide a large waterfront park, but it also has the potential to increase salinity, carbon and toxic mercury in local drinking water. That was the mixed news in a report to the Oakley City Council last week by Patty Quickert, who is heading up the Dutch Slough Restoration Project for the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). Council members are looking forward to the 65-acre park with trails along the Delta, ball fields, boat launching and other recreation. But they are concerned about the potential mercury toxicity that could result from breaching the levee and flooding much of the 1,166-acre property south of Dutch Slough between Big Break and Jersey Island Road. “As you all probably know, there’s a great deal of mercury in the Delta system,” Quickert told the council on Aug. 12. “It washed downstream during the Gold Rush. And it comes from the mines in the area that are leeching it to the system. “Most of that mercury is elemental mercury – it’s fairly inert. Mercury is mostly harmful to people when you breathe the gas, like when you break a fluorescent tube. That’s mercury vapor, and it’s really harmful. Most of the mercury that’s in the sediments of the Delta is not harmful in the state that it’s in. “However, when you have a tidal marsh project, an area that is under water, the mercury in the sediments can react with bacteria and it can form methyl mercury, which can be toxic. That’s when you hear these warnings about eating fish – it’s because the fish contains mercury, and when you eat the fish the mercury stays in your body and can be potentially toxic. “The Dutch Slough area has actually one of the lowest levels of mercury in the Delta area. We don’t know how the tidal marsh will affect the methylation and the potential toxicity of the mercury. Tidal marshes do export methyl mercury. “But in some cases they are also known to decrease the amount of mercury. Because not only do bacteria create the methyl mercury but other bacteria can break it down back into mercury. This is something that we will be monitoring very closely to see how much mercury is being exported from the site.” Councilman Brad Nix said that after the council approved the Dutch Slough project several years ago, scientists expressed concerns “about how serious the mercury problem was with this type of restoration. We’ve been sort of waiting for somebody to come back to us and tell us that the problem has been solved here and a consensus reached. Are the … scientists now on board saying it’s OK and it’s safe?” Quickert responded, “The most recent research shows that tidal marshes are not a primary producer of methyl mercury. Some tidal marshes actually reduce the amount of mercury. There are studies being done to try to figure out what aspects of the different areas make it have less mercury or more mercury. But none of the tidal marshes have produced toxic levels of methyl mercury. They do produce some but not nearly as much as flood plains do.” Nix replied, “Well, some poison may not be good.” “It’s definitely a very difficult problem,” acknowledged Quickert. “We at the Department of Water Resources are being told from many different directions that we need to do these tidal marsh projects because the pumps are having impacts to Delta smelt and other species and we need to improve the ecosystem. Tidal marsh restoration is kind of the best hope for ecosystem improvement. “But you’re right: the mercury is an issue. It’s like so many things in life. It’s like you get one thing and have to give up something else.”There are three separate parcels – once belonging to the Emerson, Gilbert and Burroughs families – that will be converted to marshland one at a time.Councilwoman Carol Rios asked Quickert, “As you’re doing the project and find there is a problem with methyl mercury, how would you correct it? Once you breach, there’s no going back? If you found it really is a problem, how would you deal with that? “We will do a phased approach,” replied Quickert. “If we breach one parcel and there’s a problem, we would probably do something different with the other parcels. But you’re right: once it’s breached, you can’t do a whole lot.” Nix is also concerned about saltier water pouring into the Delta when the levee is breached, “which would, of course, impact our water intake.”Quickert responded, “Right, because you’re opening up a whole new volume that will essentially, to use a really crass term, suck water from the Bay, because that’s the larger volume of water. I’ve worked with an engineer at DWR that has done a lot of this kind of modeling. What his modeling has shown is that at this location, it should not have an appreciable increase in salinity. “We have studies that show the numbers. It actually decreases the salinity at some tidal stations. It increases it like a hundredth of a part per thousand. So it’s negligible. So we are not expecting that to be an appreciable effect, but it’s one of the things we will be monitoring.” There will also be an increase in carbon in the water when the nutrients in the marsh break down. “That will be an issue that we will monitor prior to doing the restoration and after the restoration is done to manage the amount of carbon that’s going in the water,” said Quickert. An environmental impact report scheduled to be released in the next month or two will provide more detail on the potential impacts of the project and the mitigation measures that could be taken to minimize those impacts.In order to create an appropriate land level for the marsh, about a half-million cubic yards of dirt that have been irrigated with secondary effluent from the Ironhouse Sanitary District will be hauled across Marsh Creek to the Dutch Slough project area. The Burroughs parcel on the east will probably be converted last to marshland, if at all, because a levee would need to be built along Jersey Island Road to prevent flooding of the road and the planned developments to the east. DWR currently does not have the several million dollars it will take to build that levee.#http://www.brentwoodpress.com/article.cfm?articleID=20223 4. Water Quality –Nothing Significant 5. Agencies, Programs, People –Locals claim water district's pumping operation is drying up wells - The Hanford Sentinel- 8/21/08 Meeting to field questions on river use - Mojave Daily News- 8/22/08Thermalito district has a new manager and a new name - Chico Enterprise Record- 8/22/08 Locals claim water district's pumping operation is drying up wellsThe Hanford Sentinel- 8/21/08…By Seth Nidever They stood elbow to elbow, they spilled out into the hall and they meant business.Worried farmers and property owners inundated an office room at Hanford's Netto Ag Inc. on Wednesday, and there was one overriding reason -- dropping water well levels they blame on the Kings County Water District.A newly-formed organization called the Kings River Area Property Owners, with Netto CEO James Netto as its chairman, hosted the meeting, which was a preliminary attempt to figure out what to do about the district operation they say is responsible.Called the Apex Conjunctive Use Project, the district's operation is pumping water out of a recharge area near the Kings River close to Burris Park and sending it into the People's Ditch system and the Settlers Ditch system, where it is transported and sold to thirsty farmers throughout northeastern Kings County.The operation is designed to bank water during wet years, floods and off-season flows for pumping during the summer months. "We're saving water, getting extra water during flood releases," said Don Mills, general manager for the district.But while the project may be benefiting some users, it's sticking in the craw of landowners closer to the river.According to James Netto, four district pumps came on a couple of months ago to suck as much as 15,000 gallons per minute out of the ground.Since then, he said, two residential wells and four farm wells in the area have gone dry."Everything was supposed to be really fine. (But) we have wells going dry," Netto said.Netto is worried that the district is planning to increase its pumping operation."We don't have the first (impact) figured out yet," he said.The packed room of farmers and private well users Wednesday provided evidence many others are also concerned.So much so, that many signed up to give $10 per acre of land they own to the Kings River Area Property Owners to fund possible legal action against the district.One of the most eager to sign up was Joe Elliott, who owns three acres of land on Elder Avenue that depend on wells.Elliott said one of his wells went dry early Tuesday morning.And he's convinced that the Apex Project is the culprit.Brad Johns, president of Hugh Johns Inc., which farms 620 acres in the Burris Park area, went so far as to call for the firing of Mills and the replacement of all the members of the district's board of directors.Netto said that's not what the organization is seeking."We want to preserve the watershed along the Kings River," Netto said.Netto said he is concerned that the district is pumping too much water out of the area.Netto said he's in favor of the project if it's a "win-win" for everybody, but not if it comes at the expense of Kings River Area Property owners, which he says now numbers some 60 property owners.With possibly more on the way.People like Mike Kuckenbaker, who owns 20 acres on Elgin Avenue near Lemoore Naval Air Station.Kuckenbaker said he wants to "find out what's happening.""I've got a domestic well that's only got a little bit of water in the bottom of it," he said.Mills said in a phone interview that the district is working with the Kings River Area Property Owners to determine if the drop in their well levels is due to drought or is directly connected to pumping."If some of it is our fault, then we're going to address that," Mills said.#http://www.hanfordsentinel.com/articles/2008/08/21/news/doc48adab49d0e75098772019.txt Meeting to field questions on river useMojave Daily News- 8/22/08…By JIM SECKLER LAUGHLIN - Well owners will get a chance Monday to get information on a federal attempt to further regulate Tri-state well water.The Bureau of Reclamation will hold a meeting Monday in Laughlin to answer public questions on a proposed rule concerning the use of the Colorado River. The meeting will be held from 1-3 p.m. Monday in the Taos 1 and Taos 2 conference rooms at the Edgewater Casino, 2020 S. Casino Drive in Laughlin. Other meetings will be held Wednesday and Thursday in Parker, Blythe and Yuma. The rule would determine which wells in the lower Colorado River are pumping river water. There will also be options for illegal well users to legitimize their use of Colorado River water. The accounting surface involved in the rules stretches along the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to the Mexico border south of Yuma. In the Bullhead City area, the area involves the Colorado River aquifer from Davis Dam to Parker Dam.BOR's lower Colorado Region Director Lorri Gray said the primary goal is to legalize the use of well water so it can be accounted for.  BOR estimates there are 9,000 to 15,000 acre feet of water being unlawfully used. Most of that can be legalized through new contracts between the well owners and the BOR, Gray said.BOR spokeswoman Ruth Thayer said there are about 5,900 wells so far that have been inventoried by the BOR with the inventory about 80 percent complete. Most of those wells would be considered illegal by the proposed rule. The department stills needs to gather information in the Mohave Valley and Yuma areas.BOR estimates there are about 16,000 total wells from Hoover Dam to the Mexico border, but many are abandoned or closed. BOR will work with irrigation and water districts to include well owners into the entitlement program.District 2 Sup. Tom Sockwell said there was already a study done about eight years ago to determine whether the water in the aquifer is considered groundwater or part of the Colorado River. The BOR did not consider the water as groundwater.Property owners already must get permits from the Arizona Department of Water Resources to drill a well. If the well produces more than 35 gallons a minute that well must be recorded with the state, Sockwell said.State Rep. Nancy McLain of Bullhead City said she had more questions than answers, including if there are additional costs to the well owner.BOR has not determined what the fees would be for well owners in Arizona or Nevada. Well owners within a water or irrigation district may or may not be charged depending on the district. Well owners in California outside a water district will pay a one-time fee of $408 and an annual fee of about $50, Thayer said.The department will gather public comments for 60 days before finalizing the rule. The four meetings next week are informational only. The process could take months if not years, Thayer said.Written comments can be submitted to the BOR by Sept. 15 by e-mail or through the regular mail. To submit e-mails go to the Web site www.regulations.gov and use docket ID. BOR-2008-0001. Comments can also be mailed to the BOR, Attn: BC00-1000, P.O. Box 61470, Boulder City, NV., 89006-1470.Copies of the map and other information on the proposed rule can be found on the BOR Web site at www.usbr.gov/lc/ region/programs/ unlawfuluse .html.# http://www.mohavedailynews.com/articles/2008/08/22/news/top_story/top1.txt Thermalito district has a new manager and a new nameChico Enterprise Record- 8/22/08…By MARY WESTON, Staff Writer THERMALITO -- With a new name and a new manager, Thermalito Irrigation District tackles the old issues of providing water and sewer service in a growing community, and new issues of cleaning up after the fire in Concow.  Jayme Boucher became general manager after Gary Alt retired at the end of June. Along with promoting a new manager, the board changed the district's name to Thermalito Water and Sewer District.  Boucher has worked at the district for 16 years, first part time as a senior at Las Plumas High School and a freshman at Butte College.  When he was offered a full-time job, Boucher accepted, and he has been there ever since. He worked his way from laborer to beginning and senior utility worker, to treatment plant operator, to general foreman and finally to general manager.  Along the way, Boucher acquired all the certifications and attended all the training needed by providers of water and sewer service.  His goal as general manager sounds simple -- to successfully manage TWSD while continuing to provide the people of Thermalito with high quality domestic water and wastewater services.  "I am confident in my ability of achieving my goal as general manager, but I will not be solely responsible for the achievements I am yet to bring to the district," Boucher said.  Boucher said he had a great mentor in former manager Gary Alt, and he has good staff and board members to support him.  The new name Thermalito Water and Sewer District better reflects the services the district now offers, Boucher said, as the district no longer provides irrigation.  Boucher outlined some priority projects, but since he came on board, the fire in Concow has created new issues.  Recently, Boucher has been working on a plan to clean up the district-owned property around Lake Concow that was burned in the Camp Fire.  The lake stores up to 8,200 acre-feet of water for the district, which is piped into Lake Oroville. The district retrieves the water from the lake.  Some of the district's 275 acres of land around the lake burned, and now they are embarking on a cleanup plan. They are working with Soper Wheeler Inc. to log the burned areas. Boucher said the burned trees can be used for lumber now, but if left too long, the trees will decompose or be damaged by insects.  Boucher said they have also been working with nearby property owners who were affected by the fires.  "TWSD wants to do our part to help in the cleanup of the fires," Boucher said.  Other district priorities include working on a sewer master plan and continuing work on inflows and infiltrations into district sewer pipes.  TWSD is one of three water and sewer districts that belong to the joint powers authority served by the local wastewater treatment plant -- Sewerage Commission-Oroville Region.  The city of Oroville and Lake Oroville Public Utilities District also belong to the JPA and share the SCOR treatment plant and infrastructure.  Inflows and infiltrations (I/Is) are breaks or broken areas in infrastructure where surface water or ground water can enter the sewer system.  All older sewer systems have I/Is, but the extra water takes up capacity in sewer lines and at sewage treatment plants. I/Is have become an issue with the JPA as the sewer plant operates close to capacity, and new growth is slated.  The Thermalito district has been working three to four days a week with a camera truck and device that photographs the inside of sewer lines, Boucher said. They identify places where water can enter the system and repair them.  Boucher said he would like to build cooperative relationships between all the members of the JPA and other entities involved in providing water and sewer service in the area.  "I appreciate the opportunity I have been given, and I look forward for years to come to being part of Thermalito Water and Sewer District, " Boucher said.  Boucher and his wife Shareen have two children, Kaylee, 7, and Braydon, 3.#http://www.chicoer.com/news/oroville/ci_10273052  ------------------------------------------------------------ DWR's California Water News is distributed to California Department of Water Resources management and staff, for information purposes, by the DWR Public Affairs Office. For reader's services, including new subscriptions, temporary cancellations and address changes, please use the online page: http://listhost2.water.ca.gov/mailman/listinfo/water_news. 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