8-19-08Merced Sun-StarFox makes Merced College jog magical...Victor Patton...Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/fox_makes_merced_college_jog_magicalI was running around the track at Merced College yesterday and a semi-magical moment happened: I had my first close-up glimpse of a wild fox.I know -- a lot of y’all are probably saying, "So what, big deal?"... The fox that I saw yesterday, however, was about six feet away from me, in broad daylight, carrying a gopher or some kind of rodent in its mouth. And it was staring straight at me. It would have been great if I had my camera with me -- but you don't expect these things to happen when you are running laps around the track.I did a tiny bit Googling about the type of fox that I may have seen. Based on the photos online and habitat, I believe what I may have seen was a San Joaquin Kit Fox. But who knows. I could be totally wrong -- because I am far from a fox expert. But the fox I saw looked a lot like this: ...And no, it wasn't a coyote. I saw my fair share of coyotes when I lived in Orange County -- and this specimen was totally different. This creature was slender, kind of a grayish color with a white belly and a long, bushy tail. According to the entry on Wikipedia, the San Joaquin Kit Fox is considered endangered with a 1990 population estimated at 7,000.As I said, I am not a fox expert -- so I would be interested in learning anything I can about the local fox population in this area. Has anyone else had any unique, local fox experiences they would like to share? If so, hit me back with some "fox tales."Farm bill excludes dried fruits, nuts from school snacks...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureauhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/405126.htmlWASHINGTON -- Congress dissed California dried fruits and nuts in the latest farm bill, and growers are feeling ambushed.In a last-minute maneuver that is only now coming to light, farm bill authors cut out dried fruits and nuts from an ambitious school snack program. The action could slam the door on some potentially lucrative markets."This is a real problem with the bill, excluding an entire industry," said Dan Haley, a lobbyist for California specialty crops.It also illustrates how Capitol Hill works, sometimes in the dead of night...Starting Oct. 1, selected schools in all 50 states will be able to partake in the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program. The new farm bill adds some $500 million for the purchases over the next five years."There was a general assumption that nuts and dried fruits would be included in this program; they are considered to be healthy," noted Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno...But after Congress finished the farm bill, apparently, California lawmakers realized the bill and an accompanying 423-page report had been adjusted. In part, this so-called report language limited the reach of the fresh snack program."It is not the intent of the (bill's) managers to allow this program to provide other products, such as nuts, either on their own or co-mingled with other foods, such as in a trail mix," the bill report states.Haley, whose clients include the nut-growing cooperative Diamond of California, said the provision was included "when no one was looking." Senate staffers are thought to have been primarily responsible, California Farm Bureau Federation national affairs director Jack King indicated Monday...Separately, the bill language itself was tweaked to omit dried fruits from the fresh fruit and vegetable snack provision. Until now, dried fruits like raisins, prunes and figs have been acceptable snack components. But under a strict interpretation of the bill, omission of a reference to dried fruits means they can no longer be purchased for the snack program.Costa, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said last week he hadn't heard anything about it, and Haley said other California lawmakers were likewise left in the dark. The Californians could fight back in September, when Congress returns; a spokeswoman for the Senate agriculture panel could not be reached Monday. UC professor receives stem cell funding...Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008http://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/405113.htmlUC Merced Bioengineering professor Kara E. McCloskey, is receiving $1.7 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, school officials said Monday.The money will help fund her efforts to induce stem cells to become heart cells that could be used to help patients whose hearts have been damaged in heart attacks or other cardiac disease incidents.McCloskey aims to generate heart cells from human embryonic stem cells. Her research team believes this can be done by applying combined chemical and electrical signals to stem cells to turn on heart genes that are normally off in stem cells, producing heart cells that could be used in future therapies for heart disease patients. Their approach involves combining the signals in an array for efficient screening to determine which combinations of signals are most effective for generating the desired heart cells.McCloskey has previously received seed grant money from the regenerative institute along with her colleagues, professors Michelle Khine and Wei-Chun Chin, for related research. Khine is collaborating on this grant, along with Professor Ronald Li of UC Davis.UC Merced received a major facilities grant from the institute earlier this year to establish a stem cell instrumentation foundry, which will provide stem cell researchers at UC Merced and throughout California access to advanced instruments, techniques and collaborators for single cell analysis. In total, UC Merced has now received more than $8 million in funding from the institute.Stem cell research at UC Merced is proceeding under the umbrella of the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, which will eventually serve as the research arm of the campus' planned medical school. Modesto BeeMariposa County crews fight erosion on burned landDesperate bid made to prevent disaster...CHARLES McCARTHY, THE FRESNO BEE http://www.modbee.com/local/story/398081.htmlMARIPOSA -- A new battle against the elements is unfolding in the foothills of Mariposa County, where the Telegraph fire has stripped away the natural architecture that holds up the hillsides -- the vast patchwork of grass, brush and trees.With the first autumn rains coming as soon as a month from now, hundreds of workers are scrambling to shore up the ravaged landscape and prevent a runoff disaster.The stakes are high: Heavy runoff could wash soot, ash and bare soil from the burned hillsides into the Merced River and other streams, filling them with silt. Fish could die from lack of oxygen in the water. Clogged waterways could result in widespread floods...Adding to the urgency: The fire season is far from over. The peak fire danger occurs from mid-August until the first rains fall, Hodson said. If another major fire breaks out in the area, most of the crews could be called away, leaving the Mariposa County hillsides precariously fragile.Even after the rains come, the restoration effort will continue. It will take about a year for crews to plant seeds and clear debris across 53 square miles of scorched earth, officials said...Fresno BeeJudge faults study on Wal-Mart Supercenter...Marc Benjamin http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/806144.htmlA proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in north Clovis is being delayed again after a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled the city did not meet state guidelines in studying water impacts and urban decay. In a ruling last week, Judge Wayne Ellison said the city of Clovis complied with state guidelines on a host of other issues raised by opponents of the 491,000-square-foot retail center, which includes Wal-Mart and other stores. But the city needs a revised environmental document that addresses the cumulative effects of urban decay and water availability across a wider area than just Clovis, Ellison ruled. Ellison will now have to decide whether Clovis can make limited revisions to its environmental report, or will be required to prepare a completely new assessment... In 2004, Ellison ordered the city to prepare an environmental report after opponents challenged the project in court. The Clovis City Council certified that environmental report last October, and opponents quickly challenged it in court again. In both the water and urban decay issues, the judge said the city's environmental assessment must analyze projects outside Clovis' city limits. "Unlike other environmental effects, such as noise and traffic, the evaluation of water supplies may demand consideration of a wide geographic range of water users, to avoid potentially disastrous consequences," Ellison's decision said.The consultant that studied urban decay for the environmental report examined the effect the new center would have on stores within Clovis' city limits. In one case, a Vons store in Clovis was evaluated for a loss of business, but a Fresno grocery store the same distance away was not analyzed. The consultant, Ellison said, "offered no practical reasons why those same retailers could not have been included in its market area study."...Sacramento BeeFederal relief available for drought-stricken counties...Niesha Lofinghttp://www.sacbee.com/103/v-print/story/1168712.htmlFive California counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas, and farmers in several others qualify for government programs because of the state's drought conditions.The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Amador, Marin, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties disaster areas late last week. That makes farm operators in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the department's Farm Service Agency, a department news release states.Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their losses, the release states.The counties were designated as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought conditions, which have ongoing for nearly a year.Farm operators in Alpine, Calaveras, El Dorado, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sonoma, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Mariposa, Merced, Tuolumne, Fresno, Inyo, Kern and Kings counties also qualify for natural disaster benefits because their farms are in counties adjacent to those declared primary natural disaster areas, the release states.Stanislaus and Yolo counties also were also added as natural disaster areas due to freezing weather in April, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.Dry conditions have damaged at least 30 percent of farm crops in the affected counties, a farm bureau memo states...California Senate considers bill to protect animal researchers...Daniel Zarchyhttp://www.sacbee.com/111/v-print/story/1167259.htmlThe recent attacks on animal researchers in Santa Cruz have refocused attention on a bill aimed at protecting academic freedom.Assembly Bill 2296 would make it easier for police to cite individuals for trespassing and makes it a crime to post personal information of a researcher with the intent to incite violence..."The most recent attacks brought to everybody's attention that there are real concerns about the safety of academic researchers," said Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco. Mullin wrote the bill with input from the University of California and other universities in the state.Dr. M.R.C. Greenwood, former UC provost and a professor of nutrition at UC Davis, said the measure is a positive step."We need a significant national coalition among scientists and others to try to get these acts recognized for the criminal acts that they are, provide the investigators with the tools they need to investigate them, and prosecute them to the full extent of the law," she said.The American Civil Liberties Union and the Humane Society originally opposed the bill, citing free speech concerns, among others. But both groups are now neutral due to recent amendments, leaving the bill with no stated opposition. Passed by the Assembly in May, the bill is pending in the Senate.Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto,whose district includes Santa Cruz, is carrying the bill in the Senate."There can and should be a vigorous debate about animal research. That debate, however, cannot be allowed to degenerate into physical violence," he said. "At some point we understand that not all forms of speech are protected, particularly in the case of speech that has the potential to threaten the physical safety of the public."Sacramento-area home sales rise for fourth straight month...Jim Wassermanhttp://www.sacbee.com/103/v-print/story/1167214.htmlIt's still a rally.Sacramento-area home sales surged past last year's levels for a fourth straight month in July as 4,126 buyers embraced falling prices and deals on foreclosed homes.July escrow closings were the highest for a month since June 2006, property researcher DataQuick Information Systems reported Monday. The firm's statistics show 1,200 more sales in July than the same time last year.It's not surprising, experts said Monday. Prices have fallen steeply, 30 percent or more in the past year. That's raised a tide of first-time buying by people with good jobs and good credit. Most are again using government-backed financing and 30-year fixed-rate loans, they said...To some analysts, the region's rising sales – mirroring those elsewhere in inland California – suggested a path toward stability that could set in next year. In July, Southern California also posted its first year-over-year sales gains since September 2005, DataQuick reported Monday."I think we're now getting to a point where the prices that are out there are finding a market," said G.U. Krueger, economist at Institutional Housing Partners, an Irvine investor."I think in the Central Valley we're getting closer to the bottom. I still think it's going to be 2009," added Delores Conway, director of the Casden Forecast at the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate in Los Angeles. "But I think prices are bottoming out in Sacramento, the Inland Empire and some areas around Fresno."Caution abounds, however. Much rides on unemployment, which is rising in California, availability of credit, resets on a new wave of troubled loans and the pending loss of down payment assistance gift programs, analysts said...Editorial: Elk Grove: Pause in rush to southhttp://www.sacbee.com/110/v-print/story/1167011.htmlThe housing market has collapsed. Growth pressures? Poof! Yet Elk Grove – or at least a large number of its council members – still continues the curious push to balloon the city's boundaries.Elk Grove is seeking to expand its "sphere of influence" over 10,536 acres south of the city, including parts of the Deer Creek and Cosumnes River floodplains.If the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission were to approve this designation, Elk Grove would be in a position to annex the land, and plan new development on farmland and sensitive habitat that borders these floodplains.Why this push? Why now? It's hard to say. There's no immediate need for Elk Grove to add rooftops. The city has scores of empty houses. What Elk Grove needs is new jobs, centrally located, so the city can evolve into a real city.Yet instead of devoting their time to that goal, Elk Grove council members are embroiled in a fight with Sacramento County, federal wildlife agencies, environmentalists and residents of Wilton over its expansion plans. To date, this confrontation has not be adequately explained.All council members parrot the same line for wanting to expand into an area that is renowned as a unique wildlife habitat. In a column in June, Vice Mayor Pat Hume hinted that Elk Grove could do a better job than the county or other jurisdictions in protecting and enhancing the lands that surround the Cosumnes."There's no intent to build down there," council member Jim Cooper said of the floodplain.The trouble is, LAFCO defines "sphere of influence" as an identification of "probable extent of future urbanization." The designation would give Elk Grove wide latitude to send subdivisions south.Elk Grove also has a weak record of following through on commitments to mitigate impacts on habitat. That's why its current plans are triggering such mistrust.Last week, Mayor Gary Davis said he was open to dropping the floodplain from the city's expansion bid. That's a good start. But what Elk Grove really needs to do is build a partnership with all jurisdictions and conservation groups that have a stake in the Cosumnes. It may be too late for Elk Grove to lead such an effort. But at least it could signal its willingness to be part of it.Stockton RecordReport rough on golf courseBut Trinitas' owner says environmental impact review is good starting point for talks...Dana M. Nicholshttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080819/A_NEWS/808190312/-1/A_NEWSWALLACE - The Trinitas golf course resort - built in an agricultural preserve just east of the San Joaquin County line - will worsen air pollution, disturb American Indian archeological sites and require wider roads and a pipeline to bring water service to the area, according to a revised draft environmental impact report released Monday.The Calaveras County golf course is controversial because it was built between 2001 and 2005 on agricultural preserve land despite repeated protests by neighbors.Normally, environmental impact reports are done before developments are built. But it was not until Trinitas owner Mike Nemee sought to also build a resort lodge and 13 luxury houses that officials drafted an environmental impact report for the 280-acre project.That initial report, completed in 2007, treated the golf course as a "pre-existing condition." It did not consider possible damage caused by its construction, such as the loss of wetlands habitat when creek beds were lined with cobblestones and concrete.In an unusual move, Calaveras supervisors ordered a revised environmental impact report to consider impacts created by construction of the golf course. The revised report also greatly expanded the analysis of issues such as whether the resort's wells would lower the local water table and harm the production of neighboring wells...Nemee said he was not yet ready to discuss whether he can afford all the proposed mitigations. Among those proposals are a requirement that municipal surface-water be piped to the site - possibly from Wallace four miles to the north or from Jenny Lind several miles to the east. Connection to a public water system would be required before Nemee could obtain a permit to build the golf resort lodge.Other proposals would require improvements, including left turn lanes on nearby highways 12 and 26, widening part of Ospital Road, abandoning use of one of the resort's wells and finding 200 acres of farm land nearby to place in a conservation easement in exchange for the farm land lost to the resort...Kathy Mayhew said she was particularly struck by a statement that said golf courses are not legal in agricultural preserves in Calaveras County and that county staff disagrees with the previous report that said county staff had determined that a golf course was legal."That kind of feels like vindication, that it was not done according to the rule book," Mayhew said.But the question of the golf course's zoning likely is to be hotly debated.The executive summary cites a footnote in the county General Plan as justification for creating golf course-friendly recreation zoning within an agricultural preserve. Yet the General Plan says the exception that allows recreation developments in natural lands including preserves is intended for uses such as ski resorts and marinas "to accommodate the location of commercial development which is truly tied to a specific recreation resource, as opposed to all recreation-oriented businesses."...Susan Larson, a former Calaveras County planning official who now serves as a consultant to Nemee, said she is confident that a golf course is the kind of use envisioned by the General Plan for a recreation zone, and that a recreation zone is just fine in an agricultural preserve."And it still allows the agricultural endeavors which are taking place on the property and being expanded to continue," Larson said, referring to the Trinitas olive orchards.Mark Connolly, a Tracy lawyer and land-use expert who is working for Keep It Rural Calaveras, disagreed. "They are really reaching," Connolly said of Larson's interpretation of the General Plan rules on agricultural preserves."This isn't just a golf course. It is a 30-room lodge. It is the snack shop. It is the other special feature," Connolly said. "And the 13 houses as well. You can't just take one part of it and say we are going to designate it as recreational."Publication of the revised draft environmental impact report launches a 45-day public comment period, after which county staff will respond to the comments and schedule project review before the Planning Commission and the county Board of Supervisors.----------------------------------------THE RIDGE AT TRINITASSee the revised draft environmental impact report for the golf course resort online by going to ccwstor.co.calaveras.ca.us/A 45-day public comment period will expire at the begginning of October. Send comments by email to email@example.com or by mail to Robert Sellman, planning director, Calaveras County Community Development Agency, 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas, CA 95249Housing starts dip to lowest level since March ’91 (8:57 a.m.)http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080819/A_NEWS/80819005/-1/A_NEWSWASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of homes and apartments fell in July to the lowest level in more than 17 years, but some economists said the drop could aid the slumping housing sector by helping reduce a glut of unsold properties. The Commerce Department today said builders broke ground on 965,000 housing units on an annualized basis, down from a pace of 1.08 million in June and the weakest showing since March 1991...The report showed that July construction of single-family homes fell by 2.9 percent from the previous month to a pace of 641,000. That was the lowest since January 1991, when the economy also was in distress. Economists said the drop could help reduce the glut of unsold homes, a step toward turning around the slumping real estate market. Homebuilders are competing with foreclosed homes selling at steep price discounts...Last month, the Commerce Department said unsold new homes declined to a 10-month supply in June, down from a peak supply of 11.2 months in March, but still significantly above historic norms. Inventories of existing homes, meanwhile, equaled an 11.1-month supply in June, the second highest level in 24 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. Housing permits also fell steeply in today’s report, a sign that housing starts likely will continue to decline, economists said...New home construction last month was down a steep 39.2 percent compared with July 2007, illustrating how much ground the housing market has lost in the past year... San Francisco ChronicleLawsuit seeks EPA pesticide data...Jane Kayhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/19/MNKR12DBPO.DTL&hw=epa&sn=001&sc=1000The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to disclose records about a new class of pesticides that could be playing a role in the disappearance of millions of honeybees in the United States, a lawsuit filed Monday charges.The Natural Resources Defense Council wants to see the studies that the EPA required when it approved a pesticide made by Bayer CropScience five years ago. The environmental group filed the suit as part of an effort to find out how diligently the EPA is protecting honeybees from dangerous pesticides, said Aaron Colangelo, a lawyer for the group in Washington.In the last two years, beekeepers have reported unexplained losses of hives - 30 percent and upward - leading to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Scientists believe that the decline in bees is linked to an onslaught of pesticides, mites, parasites and viruses, as well as a loss of habitat and food. $15 billion in crops...Clothianidin is the pesticide at the center of controversy. It is used to coat corn, sugar beet and sorghum seeds and is part of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. The pesticide was blamed for bee deaths in France and Germany, which also is dealing with a colony collapse. Those two countries have suspended its use until further study. An EPA fact sheet from 2003 says clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other pollinators, through residues in nectar and pollen. The EPA granted conditional registration for clothianidin in 2003 and at the same time required that Bayer CropScience submit studies on chronic exposure to honeybees, including a complete worker bee lifecycle study as well as an evaluation of exposure and effects to the queen, the group said. The queen, necessary for a colony, lives a few years; the workers live only six weeks, but there is no honey without them."The public has no idea whether those studies have been submitted to the EPA or not and, if so, what they show. Maybe they never came in. Maybe they came in, and they show a real problem for bees. Maybe they're poorly conducted studies that don't satisfy EPA's requirement," Colangelo said.Request for recordsOn July 17, after getting no response from the EPA about securing the studies, the environmental group filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which requires the records within 20 business days absent unusual circumstances. When the federal agency missed the August deadline, the group filed the lawsuit, asking the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to force the EPA to turn over the records.Unusual circumstances... Colony collapse... More info-- The Environmental Protection Agency: links.sfgate.com/ZEOF-- U.S. EPA fact sheet on the pesticide clothianidin: links.sfgate.com/ZEOI-- The Natural Resources Defense Council: links.sfgate.com/ZEOGWater conservation a California necessity...Timothy F. Brick, William PatzertTimothy F. Brick is chairman of the Board of Ddirectors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. William Patzert is a climatologist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/19/EDNT12C19R.DTL&hw=conservation&sn=004&sc=1000At the beginning of March in the Sierra Nevada, the snowfall seemed to hold the promise of a typical year: The white snowpack contained an average amount of moisture; cycles of storms were broken by periods of sun; everything seemed on track for an unremarkable weather year for California.Then the storms stopped.Changes in ocean temperature patterns, a condition known as La Niña, helped to create high-pressure area that blocked the spring storms from reaching California. At least a third of the moisture in that snowpack vanished, either evaporating into the atmosphere or soaking into a drying Sierra soil. By June, California had experienced the driest spring in recorded history. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an official drought. And water districts across the state, from San Francisco to San Diego, began encouraging residents to conserve. The rapid transition from an average year to a dangerously dry one may seem abnormal. But it is precisely the kind of weather pattern that is widely predicted for our future. For long-time Californians in particular, our gut instincts about weather need to begin changing. And so must our policies relating to water. Future water policies must be based on the weather we have, not what we historically have had. In the short term, we are struggling to cope with weather-induced water shortages without all of the necessary tools to efficiently capture and use the available supplies.Our weather is indisputably changing...As the temperature goes up, so does the demand for water, particularly for outdoor landscapes that mimic an English garden more than what is suited to our frequently arid Mediterranean climate. Up to 70 percent of residential water use takes place outdoors. Despite new plumbing codes for low-flow toilets and new front-loading washing machines, using water efficiently indoors cannot make up for wasting water outdoors.In terms of water supplies, big challenges lie ahead in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where the state's major rivers merge before heading west to San Francisco Bay. About 70 percent of the water that sustains the Bay Area economy comes from the delta watershed. For Southern California, about 30 percent of the overall supply comes from the delta (the rest comes from local supplies and the Colorado River). The equivalent of a four-year supply of water for San Francisco was not diverted this year by the delta's water projects because the courts ordered more water to stay in the delta to address the estuary's declining ecosystem. The delta needs a water system that is far more compatible to a recovering ecosystem. The natural water movements in a tidal delta estuary are different in timing and direction than the movement of delta water supplies to run the state economy. We will need to find the physical changes to make the delta's water system function more in harmony with the ecosystem.Yet even if water leaders to do everything right in finding a workable balance between the needs of Californians and the environment, the weather is changing and the state's population is growing (in Southern California, two-thirds of growth is simply from local births, not immigration).The Legislature is debating a bill that would aim to reduce the per capita use of water by 20 percent by the year 2020. It is an ambitious goal. But it is only the start. The governor's delta task force is recommending a 40 percent reduction in per-capita water use by 2050, and more after that. Conservation is no longer just a civic virtue. It is fast emerging as a statewide necessity. There is no longer the assurance that a healthy snowpack in March means a healthy water supply come May.Los Angeles TimesLos Angeles River may get protection through the Clean Water ActThe EPA will define 'traditional navigable waters' for the waterway, which could affect development in some hillside and mountain areas...Kenneth R. Weisshttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-river19-2008aug19,0,592399,print.storyThe Los Angeles River, the urban waterway often besmirched by graffiti, pollution and Hollywood car chases, has finally gotten a break: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stepped up as its protector.In an unusual move, the EPA has told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it is stepping into an obscure debate over whether the river and its tributary streams are "traditional navigable waters."The bureaucratic designation helps determine whether the upper reaches of the river's watershed in the foothills around Los Angeles deserve protection under the federal Clean Water Act."It's import for us to protect urban rivers and waterways around the country," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, an EPA assistant administrator for water. "We are stepping up to ensure that the Clean Water Act tools are applied consistently and fairly and we all work together to protect the L.A. River."Grumbles sent a letter Sunday to the Corps of Engineers, explaining that his agency would make the final determination of what are navigable waters in the L.A. River and in the Santa Cruz River in Arizona.The issue, he said, has become important since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Clean Water Act protections against pollution would apply to a stream or wetland if it had a "significant nexus" with "traditional navigable waters."That has been an issue on the L.A. River since a rancher wanted to fill some stream beds in the Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth.The rancher's request prompted the Corps of Engineers to review the entire river and determine that just a few of its 50-plus miles could be considered navigable.The Corps' determination would make it easier to develop portions of foothills and mountains that shed water into the L.A. River because developments would not need certain federal permits.The EPA agrees with the Corps' designation that some of the miles are navigable, Grumbles said. "We think it's important to look at the rest of the river."He also said the EPA was stepping in to clarify issues raised by the Supreme Court decision and figure out what "navigable" means in the arid West, where rivers typically flow only during wet seasons or when filled with treated water from sewage plants.Grumbles declined to prejudge a final decision on how much of the river might be considered navigable, and therefore on how much of its 834-square-mile watershed should be protected.He expected the EPA's review to be completed in coming months.Environmental groups, which have been critical of the EPA over clean-water rules, view the EPA's move as a hopeful sign."The bottom line is that more protection is coming for the L.A. River," said David Beckman, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program. "It's very good for the city's restoration efforts."Interior starts counting off 30-day comment period on Endangered Species act...Julie Cart, GreenSpace...7:41 PM, August 18, 2008http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/The clock has started ticking down for anyone who wants to comment on the Department of Interior's proposed overhaul of the Endangered Species Act, which could cut out the independent reviews of whether a government decision will affect species in danger of extinction. The notice was posted in the Federal Register on Friday, giving anyone who wants to weigh in on the changes until Sept. 15. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will accept comments through the eRulemaking portal but won't accept e-mail or faxes. Independent scientific reviews have been a mainstay of the Endangered Species Act and are meant to provide more input into policy decisions and avoid conflict-of-interest charges that might occur when an agency appears to rubber stamp its own decision. Interior says the changes are narrow and procedural, but most observers think the agency is looking to circumvent attempts by environmentalists to use the act as a tool to fight projects that contribute to global warming. From the notice: "We also propose these regulatory changes in response to new challenges we face with regard to global warming and climate change." There's more than a metaphoric 800-pound bear lurking in the room, though. In May, the polar bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act as "threatened" with extinction because of melting arctic ice -- the first species to get such a designation purely on global-warming grounds.Public comment periods are often extended on controversial issues. But the federal government's reluctance to accept e-mail comments has itself engendered controversy. Federal officials say they can be inundated with mass mailings from well-organized interest groups. In the past, land management officials have gone so far as to say they give greater consideration individual letters and discount campaign e-mails and letters. Ultimately, however, the public comment period can just operate as a pro-forma waiting period before the new rule takes effect. As much as public officials say they want to hear from the public about their policies, they often say of their decisions: "It's not a democracy."San Diego Union-TribuneRevenue flattens after rapid growth...Onell R. Soto http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080819-9999-1m19casino.htmlIndian tribes are finding that gambling isn't as recession-proof as once thought.Two new reports indicate that some of the same forces causing problems for retailers and manufacturers are hitting casinos as well. “Native American casino operators are not immune,” Jacques Ouazana, a financial analyst for Moody's Investors Service, wrote in a report released last week.The business experienced astronomical growth rates this decade as new casinos opened, but has reached a plateau, according to figures compiled by economist Alan Meister from casino operators. California tribal casinos collected $7.8 billion from gamblers last year, just 1.6 percent more than in 2006, according to a report that Meister's Los Angeles-based company, the Analysis Group, is releasing today along with industry publication Casino City Press. By contrast, gambling revenue at Indian casinos statewide grew 9.2 percent in 2006 and 19.5 percent in 2007. Some casinos, including those at Viejas and Pechanga, have laid off workers. Many are stepping up their promotions and marketing efforts to deal with the challenges brought on by high gas prices and a sluggish economy... Washington PostEndangered ProcessProposed rule changes to the Endangered Species Act could do lasting harm in the natural world…Editorialhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/18/AR2008081802053_pf.htmlIN MAY, the Bush administration reluctantly listed the polar bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The facts left it with little choice: the bear's Arctic Sea ice habitat is melting because of global warming. But the administration wasn't happy, because the Endangered Species Act was never intended to be an instrument for coping with climate change. Our sympathy was limited, since President Bush spent his entire time in office resisting the adoption of laws that would have been better suited to combating greenhouse gas emissions. But we agreed that the Endangered Species Act was the wrong tool for the problem.Now, however, in what is ostensibly an attempt to deal with this polar bear mismatch, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has proposed a rules change that would undermine the law's fundamental work. Mr. Kempthorne suggests far-reaching changes to the consultation process between the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies. The changes would render the process meaningless and put all protected species at risk. Currently, an agency building a highway has to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the project is "likely to adversely affect" a listed species. If a determination is made that such harm is likely, the service conducts a more rigorous review of the project and issues a detailed opinion on its effects. It is in this give-and-take between the various agencies and services that modifications are made that allow projects to go forward while minimizing the harm to animals and to trees and other plants.Under Mr. Kempthorne's plan, agencies would be able to decide for themselves whether a project is likely to harm a species, and not just polar bears. If an agency decided to consult on the possible impact, the Fish and Wildlife Service would have 60 days (with the possibility of a 60-day extension) to issue an opinion. If it didn't meet that deadline, the other agency could end the consultation and proceed. The Fish and Wildlife Service already can't meet the deadlines established in the Endangered Species Act and is practically being run by judges and lawyers because of litigation stemming from blown deadlines. So we don't hold out much hope that Mr. Kempthorne's new deadlines would be met, either. The impact could be devastating.The department contends that other government agencies have had years of experience with the law and know as much as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service about how to protect listed species. This is doubtful. The services are there for a reason -- to safeguard threatened and endangered species and to act as a check against the ambitions of agencies that want to complete projects. The rigor that the current consultation process fosters would be lost.A 30-day comment period on the new rules has begun. So, here's our comment: Reissue the proposed regulations with a specific, targeted policy on how greenhouse gas emissions should be taken into account on federal projects under the Endangered Species Act. Gutting the consultation process, with all the unintended consequences of such an action, could be avoided.Anti-Regulation Aide to Cheney Is Up for Energy Post...Juliet Eilperinhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/18/AR2008081801994_pf.htmlA senior aide to Vice President Cheney is the leading contender to become a top official at the Energy Department, according to several current and former administration officials, a promotion that would put one of the administration's most ardent opponents of environmental regulation in charge of forming department policies on climate change.F. Chase Hutto III has played a prominent behind-the-scenes role in shaping the administration's environmental policies for several years, the officials said, helping to rewrite rules affecting the air that Americans breathe and the waters that oil tankers traverse. In every instance, according to both his allies and opponents, he has challenged proposals that would place additional regulations on industry.The move to elevate the domestic policy adviser to the post of assistant secretary for policy and international affairs signals the administration's determination to resist new environmental protections, environmentalists said.The assistant secretary is the "primary advisor to the Secretary and the Department on energy and technology policy development," conducts overseas negotiations on energy issues such as climate change, performs environmental analyses, and "leads the Department's international energy initiatives," according to the agency's Web site...Francesca Grifo -- who directs the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group -- said that if Hutto takes the helm of the Energy Department's climate policy office, the impact could last well beyond Bush's term in office."It's not surprising that the Bush administration is considering a candidate who has a track record of putting politics ahead of science. Over and over again, appointments like this one have damaged the government's ability to protect the environment and public health," Grifo said, adding that in the coming months, Hutto could make policy decisions that the next administration would find difficult to reverse quickly.New York TimesInterior’s Proposed Rules...Dirk Kempthorne http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/19/opinion/l19interior.html?_r=1&sq=endangered%20species&st=cse&oref=slogin&scp=4&pagewanted=printTo the Editor:In “An Endangered Act” (editorial, Aug. 13), you suggest that the regulatory changes proposed recently under the Endangered Species Act would eliminate all scientific review of projects undertaken by federal agencies to ensure that they don’t harm imperiled species. That is not the case.Agencies would still be required to engage in consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service if a proposed action is expected to cause death or injury to a threatened or endangered species. Furthermore, federal agencies are responsible under the act for protecting listed species, and their officials would continue to face criminal and civil penalties if their actions harm them.The act does not define consultation or what triggers it. Congress left the crafting of the consultation process to the executive branch. The purpose of the proposal is to clarify that consultation is not necessary in cases when an action would result either in no significant effect on a threatened or endangered species or when the effect cannot possibly be determined. This would reduce unnecessary paperwork and free up wildlife biologists to do work that actually helps conserve and recover the species.If an agency, for example, decides to build a fish ladder to allow endangered fish to get by a dam so that they can spawn upstream, this obviously does not jeopardize the species. The proposed regulations clarify that consultation is not required in such cases. Dirk Kempthorne Secretary of the InteriorWashington, Aug. 14, 2008 Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…August 19, 2008 1. Top Items -Parra booted from office - and the Capitol - The Sacramento Bee- 8/18/08Parra booted from Capitol office - The Bakersfield Californian- 8/18/08Assembly Member Nicole Parra a pariah in fight over state budget: Hanford Democrat is cast out of her Capitol office for withholding vote. - The Fresno Bee- 8/18/08Editorial Speaker’s retaliation against Parra is misplaced frustration: It was the GOP caucus that blocked the Democrats’ spending plan. - The Fresno Bee- 8/18/08Reservoir levels plummet; rationing seen on horizon: Northern California reservoir is nearing its lowest point in 3 decades. - The Orange County Register- 8/19/08Water conservation a California necessity - The San Francisco Chronicle- 8/19/08 Parra booted from office - and the CapitolThe Sacramento Bee- 8/18/08…By Shane Goldmacher In the latest episode of Capitol punishment, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass tossed Assemblywoman Nicole Parra from her office on Monday morning after the Central Valley Democrat failed to vote for the budget on Sunday. In a twist, Parra hasn't been reassigned to more cramped quarters in the Capitol itself - but booted straight across the street to the Legislative Office Building. She will be the only member of the Legislature whose office is not housed in the Capitol. "I knew going in Sunday that if I didn't support the budget, something was going to happen," Parra, D-Hanford, said in an interview shortly after receiving the news. The budget, now 49 days late, failed 45-30, with 54 votes needed for passage. The state Assembly's chief administrative officer informed Parra of the change shortly before noon and gave her staff until late afternoon to clear out of the office, she said. "Boxes have been delivered," said Parra, who added that she was unhappy she would be unable to pack her "personal stuff" because the Assembly was in session and she was on the floor. Her staff will be divided between her new office and a side office on the fifth floor of the Capitol. Parra told Speaker Bass in a letter at the end of July that she would not support a budget until a "solution to the Central Valley's water supply" - in the form of a water bond - was passed by the Assembly. She said Monday she stood by her decision - despite the consequences. "Is it worth it? Yes," Parra said. "If there's no future for water, then let's pave over the Central Valley and let's import all our food," she added. Some Democrats, however, were quick to defend Bass' move. "I believe it was done because she went in holding the speaker hostage on voting on this budget," said Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka. "There are two things you do when you are in the majority party when you are in this Assembly. One is vote on your leader and two is vote on the budget, because the budget has been negotiated amongst Democrats and it represents the majority's negotiated budget." Berg added that Assembly Democrats have "spent millions of dollars ensuring that Nicole comes back three times in a row to our caucus." Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, D-Burbank, called it "outrageous that any member, Democrat or Republican, of this Legislature would force the children and the elderly and the disabled people of California to continue to suffer without a budget because of the narrow interests of their own district. We can't let agribusiness corporations hold this state's budget hostage." The punishment is the first meted out by Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat, since she assumed the speakership earlier this year. Moving lawmakers who go against leadership into small offices has a long tradition in the Capitol. In 2007, Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, an outspoken Orange County Republican, was moved to the smallest office in the Capitol after angering former Speaker Fabian Nunez. Spitzer quickly came to Parra's defense on Monday. "I love Nicole Parra," he said, throwing his arm around the Hanford Democrat in front of a TV camera. He said the move by Bass showed "a complete lack of maturity." Parra admitted that though she expected punishment for her non-vote Sunday she was "kind of shocked it would be across the street.""Even Todd Sptizer got an office in the Capitol," she quipped.#http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/1166509.html Parra booted from Capitol officeThe Bakersfield Californian- 8/18/08…By JAMES GELUSO, Staff Writer The broom closet wasn’t small enough for Nicole Parra. Apparently upset about Parra’s decision to withhold her vote on the budget Sunday night, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass Monday exiled Parra from the Capitol entirely. Capitol observers say punishing wayward members by moving them to smaller offices — including one so small it’s dubbed “the broom closet” — is customary. But Parra’s transgression was apparently worse in the eyes of Bass. Parra, D-Hanford, and her staff were given new quarters in the Legislative Office Building, Room 175, across the street from the Capitol — a space about a third the size of the office she was evicted from, said her chief of staff, Derek Chernow, in between packing boxes. Chernow said the order came at 11:30 a.m., and they had until 4 p.m. to get out. Parra was not involved in the packing — she had to stay on the Assembly floor. Parra will be the only legislator without a Capitol office, Chernow said. “That’s the most severe punishment I’ve ever heard of,” said Vic Pollard, who covered the Capitol for The Californian until last year. Parra was the only Democrat who didn’t vote on the budget Sunday night. The budget proposal got 45 votes and needed 54 to pass, according to the Sacramento Bee. “I knew going in Sunday that if I didn't support the budget, something was going to happen,” Parra told the Bee shortly after receiving the news. Her staff will be divided between her new office and a side office on the fifth floor of the Capitol, the Bee said. Parra has pledged to only vote for the budget if a water bond is passed by the Assembly. “She is committed to seeing a vote on the water bond,” Chernow said. And that’s exactly the problem, said Assemblyman Hector de la Torre, D-South Gate. “It wasn’t the vote itself,” he said. “It was the way she went about it, making her vote conditional.” While Parra is casting her move as standing up for her district, in reality she has become so isolated from her colleagues that she won’t be able to accomplish anything, he said. Danny Gilmore, the Republican running to succeed the termed-out Parra, said he supports her. “Good for her,” he said. “She’s doing what she should be doing, representing her district.” State Sen. Dean Florez — whose mother, Fran, is running against Gilmore — took the opposite view. “Creating ultimatums for a budget vote is one of the main reasons why we don’t have a budget on time. It’s a terrible form of vote trading that voters don’t necessarily appreciate,” Florez, D-Shafter, said in an e-mailed statement. “The funny thing is the fact that she’s sat in office for six years and now, during the last few hours that she’s in office, on her political deathbed, she’s found the religion of water bonds.” Political analyst Allan Hoffenblum said it’s a foolish move on the part of Bass. “I don’t know what’s going on except this attitude that they work for the leadership and not for the voters who elected them,” he said.Parra’s 30th District office leans Republican, so her demand for the water bond is good politics, he said. “She has to say she got some kind of quid pro quo,” he said. But the exile will push Parra closer to the Republicans, make it harder for Bass to round up the votes and could Gilmore win in November, Hoffenblum said.#http://www.bakersfield.com/hourly_news/story/527026.html Assembly Member Nicole Parra a pariah in fight over state budget: Hanford Democrat is cast out of her Capitol office for withholding vote.The Fresno Bee- 8/18/08…By E.J. Schultz Hanford Democrat Nicole Parra was booted from her Assembly office Monday, a punishment for bucking her party on Sunday night's budget vote. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass sent Parra packing not to smaller Capitol digs -- the usual reprimand for rebellious members -- but out of the building entirely. Parra landed across the street in a legislative office building where no other lawmakers are quartered. Parra has vowed to not vote for the state budget unless lawmakers also agree to put a water bond on the November ballot -- a priority of the farmers in her district who have long pushed for new dams. On Sunday she kept her pledge and was the only Democrat present who abstained on a Democratic budget proposal that was never expected to pass. The budget bill requires a super majority and failed because no Republicans voted yes. Hours later, on Monday morning, Parra's staff was already packing up. "I knew that I would be punished some way, somehow," Parra said. But she said Valley residents should be "disgusted" at the way she was punished. "I represent the same amount of people the speaker represents," she said. "Why should my constituents, because I'm fighting for them, not have access to me in my office in the Capitol building?" Parra also said leaders have refused to put her bills up for a vote. Bass, D-Los Angeles, declined to comment, calling Parra's move an "internal caucus matter." Other Democrats said Parra was taking the state "hostage" with her water demand. "It's outrageous that any member, Democrat or Republican, of this Legislature, would force the children and the elderly and the disabled people of California to continue to suffer without a budget because of the narrow interests of their own district," said Assembly Member Paul Krekorian, D-Burbank. Gov. Schwarzenegger has been pushing a $9.3 billion bond for water supply and conservation. But water talks have taken a back seat to the budget, now 50 days late. Without Parra's vote, it will take seven, not six, Assembly GOP votes to pass a budget, assuming all other Democrats vote yes. Parra's water demand is her latest run-in with the Democratic establishment. She has angered many in her party by openly praising Republican Danny Gilmore, a candidate to fill Parra's Assembly seat when she terms out at the end of the year. She conveyed her water demand to Bass in a letter in late July and reasserted it publicly at a recent Capitol water rally. Parra won three Assembly elections by appealing to Republicans in the South Valley district, one of the few districts in the state where one party does not dominate. But Parra has also relied on campaign contributions from the California Democratic Party and other Democratic lawmakers -- a fact that her colleagues aren't letting her forget. "We have spent millions of dollars ensuring that Nicole comes back three times in a row," said Assembly Member Patty Berg, D-Eureka. "The way it's done here is that if you are in the majority party, and you are a Democrat, you vote on the budget." It's not unprecedented for leaders to move members to smaller offices to assert their will. But the last time a lawmaker ended up across the street was nearly 30 years ago when then-Democratic Assembly Member Walter Ingalls of Riverside left the Capitol building, according to Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Jon Waldie. Two years ago Assembly Member Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, got into trouble with leaders when he did not vote on a public works bond package because it did not include money for dams. Then-speaker Fabian Núñez sent Arambula packing into the smallest office in the Capitol, known as the "doghouse." Arambula declined to comment on Parra's situation but said water and budget talks should not be linked. Indeed, it seemed the only lawmakers coming to Parra's defense were Republicans. Assembly Member Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, who currently resides in the doghouse, said Bass is "beyond frustrated on the budget" and "is trying to exert her influence and power in a way that I think makes her look, actually, out of control." #http://www.fresnobee.com/270/story/806117.html Editorial Speaker’s retaliation against Parra is misplaced frustration: It was the GOP caucus that blocked the Democrats’ spending plan.The Fresno Bee- 8/18/08 Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, unable to get Republicans to agree to a budget deal, has turned her frustration on Valley Democrat Nicole Parra, tossing the Hanford lawmaker out of her Capitol office. Parra’s crime was taking a pass on an Assembly budget vote Sunday night. But it was the GOP caucus that blocked the Democrats’ spending plan, and Bass’ reaction shows how little control she has over Assembly operations. On Monday, Bass told Parra that her new office would be across the street from the Capitol in a legislative office building. Parra refused to vote for the budget unless legislators also put a water bond on the November ballot. They haven’t, so Parra abstained Sunday night in a vote that never had a chance of passage anyway. Bass huddled with her advisers and decided to teach Parra a lesson. It was a little like a frustrated child getting whooped on the playground so she went home and punched her kid sister. The speaker would have been better served figuring out common ground with the Republicans on the budget. The final budget vote was 45-30, nine votes short of the 54-votes needed to pass a budget. No Republicans supported the Democratic plan and Parra was the only Democrat at the session that abstained. The remaining Assembly members did not attend the session. We support putting a water bond on the November ballot, although we aren’t ready to oppose the budget if a water deal falls through. The state is 50 days into the fiscal year and Democrats and Republicans have ducked their responsibility. Bass should toss the entire Assembly out of the Capitol if she wants to punish people who have failed Californians. But if Republicans can vote against the budget because of their opposition to tax increases, Parra surely can abstain on the budget because she thinks her constituents deserve a solution to the water crisis. Bass’ reaction to Parra revealed more about her weaknesses as speaker than it did about the Hanford Democrat not being a team player.#http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/805819.html Reservoir levels plummet; rationing seen on horizon: Northern California reservoir is nearing its lowest point in 3 decades.The Orange County Register- 8/19/08…By PAT BRENNAN An important California reservoir is nearing its lowest level in 30 years, and other state reservoirs also are very low – more evidence of a gathering water crisis that could lead to mandatory rationing in Southern California by next year, state officials say. The Oroville Reservoir in Northern California, a major supply reservoir for water that eventually flows into the Southern California region, is down to 38 percent of its capacity, according to the state Department of Water Resources. By Sept. 30, Oroville, about 75 miles north of Sacramento, is expected to hit its lowest level since 1977, and by year's end, the lowest level since records have been kept, said Wendy Martin, the statewide drought coordinator. The agency's Web site says precipitation statewide was 30 percent of average in April, May and June, the sixth driest of 114 years on record – powerfully affecting the Sierra snow pack, which melts and drains into Oroville. "I think it is unusual to have such a large facility so low, with the number of people who depend on that facility," Martin said. "One of the concerns that we have as water managers is people not recognizing the severity of the conditions." Other important reservoirs are down as well, including Shasta, which is at 45 percent. Lester Snow, the director of Water Resources, will address the Metropolitan Water District board in Los Angeles Tuesday about the low reservoir levels and the need for further conservation. One topic of discussion might be creation of a "drought water bank," as was done in the early 1990s, which would bring buyers and sellers of water together to balance supplies, said Metropolitan assistant general manager Roger Patterson. Much depends on how much rain the state receives during the coming winter months. "It's going to be an ongoing story here over the next several months, kind of no matter how it plays out," Patterson said. "Either there is going to be widespread rationing around the state, or we dodge the bullet and it gets wet." Although the latest low numbers will not trigger any formal alerts, water agencies and state officials have been warning Californians for months about severe shortages to come. In June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought, and a state of emergency in nine central California counties. In Orange County, water agencies, including the Municipal Water District of Orange County, have been urging residents to reduce their water use. Tightened supplies are likely to drive up water rates, water agency officials say. And if the coming winter is relatively dry, local water agencies could impose rationing next year, said Karl Seckel, assistant general manager for the Municipal Water District. "We're laying the groundwork for mandatory rationing in 2009 – meetings, plans are being laid, so if we have to implement it, we can flip the switch and go to mandatory," he said.#http://www.ocregister.com/articles/water-state-california-2129414-rationing-reservoir Water conservation a California necessityThe San Francisco Chronicle- 8/19/08…By Timothy F. Brick and William Patzert At the beginning of March in the Sierra Nevada, the snowfall seemed to hold the promise of a typical year: The white snowpack contained an average amount of moisture; cycles of storms were broken by periods of sun; everything seemed on track for an unremarkable weather year for California. Then the storms stopped. Changes in ocean temperature patterns, a condition known as La Niña, helped to create high-pressure area that blocked the spring storms from reaching California. At least a third of the moisture in that snowpack vanished, either evaporating into the atmosphere or soaking into a drying Sierra soil. By June, California had experienced the driest spring in recorded history. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an official drought. And water districts across the state, from San Francisco to San Diego, began encouraging residents to conserve. The rapid transition from an average year to a dangerously dry one may seem abnormal. But it is precisely the kind of weather pattern that is widely predicted for our future. For long-time Californians in particular, our gut instincts about weather need to begin changing. And so must our policies relating to water. Future water policies must be based on the weather we have, not what we historically have had. In the short term, we are struggling to cope with weather-induced water shortages without all of the necessary tools to efficiently capture and use the available supplies. Our weather is indisputably changing. In downtown Los Angeles, for another example, the temperature exceeded 90 degrees only an average of three times in the summers following 1900. In recent summers, however, the thermostat has hit 90 degrees and above an average of 23 times in recent summers. Heat waves lasting six days did not happen during the first half of the last century. Since the 1970s, they have been regular events in Southern California. In July 2006, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees in the San Fernando Valley for 21 straight days. As the temperature goes up, so does the demand for water, particularly for outdoor landscapes that mimic an English garden more than what is suited to our frequently arid Mediterranean climate. Up to 70 percent of residential water use takes place outdoors. Despite new plumbing codes for low-flow toilets and new front-loading washing machines, using water efficiently indoors cannot make up for wasting water outdoors. In terms of water supplies, big challenges lie ahead in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where the state's major rivers merge before heading west to San Francisco Bay. About 70 percent of the water that sustains the Bay Area economy comes from the delta watershed. For Southern California, about 30 percent of the overall supply comes from the delta (the rest comes from local supplies and the Colorado River). The equivalent of a four-year supply of water for San Francisco was not diverted this year by the delta's water projects because the courts ordered more water to stay in the delta to address the estuary's declining ecosystem. The delta needs a water system that is far more compatible to a recovering ecosystem. The natural water movements in a tidal delta estuary are different in timing and direction than the movement of delta water supplies to run the state economy. We will need to find the physical changes to make the delta's water system function more in harmony with the ecosystem. Yet even if water leaders to do everything right in finding a workable balance between the needs of Californians and the environment, the weather is changing and the state's population is growing (in Southern California, two-thirds of growth is simply from local births, not immigration). The Legislature is debating a bill that would aim to reduce the per capita use of water by 20 percent by the year 2020. It is an ambitious goal. But it is only the start. The governor's delta task force is recommending a 40 percent reduction in per-capita water use by 2050, and more after that. Conservation is no longer just a civic virtue. It is fast emerging as a statewide necessity. There is no longer the assurance that a healthy snowpack in March means a healthy water supply come May. Timothy F. Brick is chairman of the Board of Ddirectors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. William Patzert is a climatologist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/18/EDNT12C19R.DTL 2. Supply – Conserve or we'll do it for you, state says: Gov.'s panel gives tough warning.North County Times- 8/18/08…By BRADLEY J. FIKES, Staff Writer Conserve water or the government will do it for you.That's the blunt message of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan for improving California's water supply, which went on the road for a series of community meetings Monday."Conservation ---- boring as it is," alone can provide rapid results, said Phil Isenberg, chairman of the governor's group studying the issue. He spoke in a Monday morning conference call before that evening's meeting in San Diego on the governor's Delta Vision Strategic Plan.The plan calls for environmental improvements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, source of much of California's water. Water shipments from the Delta have been cut because of threats to an endangered fish, the delta smelt. The pumps used to move water south are believed to suck in the fish's young, killing them.And the whole Delta ---- filled with wet, unstable land ---- is vulnerable to an earthquake that could totally cut off water supplies.Conservation can buy time to make the needed fixes to the Delta, Isenberg said.Getting people to step up conservation may take some persuading. So far, state and local water officials have relied mainly on persuasion to reduce water consumption and eliminate waste. But more reductions in water use are needed.In North County, farmers already are living with strict water restrictions ---- cuts as large as 30 percent.But so far, other businesses and homeowners mostly have been unaffected by mandatory measures.Business responses to warnings of a water supply crisis differ by industry.San Diego County's large biotech and biomedical industry is solidly behind the call for conservation, said Joe Panetta, president and chief executive of the trade group Biocom. That industry has long maintained that a reliable water supply is vital, and is willing to accept increased water rates in exchange for reliability.Biocom met with the governor a year ago in San Diego and endorsed his stance on water supply, Panetta said, including a state bond to pay for improvements."Water is of supreme importance to the industry," Panetta said. "Without water, there wouldn't be a biotech industry in San Diego."Some industries however, shrug at the warnings.While tourism-related businesses understand that San Diego's water has to be imported and supplies are strained, "it's not yet hit that urgent status," said Bob Rauch, chair of the San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau.Isenberg said water managers, especially in Southern California, are running out of options to voluntary measures because of the growing severity of the shortage.Schwarzenegger has called for the state to reduce per-person water consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020, Isenberg noted."It's the first time in history, I believe, that any governor has said anything like it," Isenberg said.For more information on the plan, visit http://deltavision.ca.gov.#http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/08/19/business/zc8d1942ddd5896eb882574a9005627f6.txt 3. Watersheds –Restoring Watsonville wetlands - Register Pajaronia- 8/19/08Protecting fishing resources on the West Coast -Napa Valley Register- 8/19/08 Restoring Watsonville wetlandsRegister Pajaronia- 8/19/08…BY: TODD GUILD A group of workers, picks and shovels in hand, was busy Monday in the wetlands of Watsonville, engaged in an epic battle with a host of well-entrenched invaders.The enemies — stands of hearty, invasive weeds — provided little fight. A little digging and pulling typically freed their roots from the ground. The true battle came in the sheer numbers of the invader plants pampas grass, fennel and about two dozen others have firmly established themselves in many areas of the wetlands. In this, the California Conservation Corps workers had their hands full.“It’s a huge undertaking, but we’re trying to get the wetlands to go back to their native state,” said Michelle Templeton, wetlands program coordinator for the City of Watsonville. Replacing the native plants serves several purposes, Templeton said. It offers food and shelter for the hundreds of species of birds and other animals that call the sloughs home.Additionally, the willow, coyote brush and other native plants provide greater water filtration and retention than the invasive species.Even after the invasive weeds have been removed and the native plants have been established, the work cannot stop — the weeds will quickly reestablish themselves if not monitored.To help with these efforts, Watsonville will eventually be seeking volunteers to help with the plant restoration and eradication efforts.It’s not the only volunteer opportunity for those who wish to help with wetlands restoration — Watsonville Wetlands Watch holds a volunteer day on the fourth Saturday of every month. “One of the best reasons for folks to come out and spend their time volunteering is that it is such a great opportunity to get to know the local wetlands,” said Jonathan Pilch, restoration specialist with Watsonville Wetlands Watch. “Volunteers get a chance to see some of the most beautiful natural places around Watsonville and see some of the rarely seen wildlife.” In addition to plant removal, work crews have spent the past four years clearing invasive plants and creating a fire safety zone along along the six-mile system of trails that winds its way through the wetlands — a parkland of glimmering waterways and wooded areas that provide a serene respite from the city that lies just a few hundred feet away.The Watsonville wetlands are among of the largest freshwater wetlands left on the Central Coast. More than 95 percent of California’s wetlands have been paved over and drained to make way for new construction, Templeton said.The project is funded by a series of grants, and also by a requirement that any development project adjacent to the slough add to the existing trail system, Templeton said.“We wanted to make sure the community is aware of the treasure that’s available to them here,” she said.The trail project was inspired when organizers noticed nearby residents making their own trails over the fragile wetland areas. Fearing the increased traffic would damage the sloughs, the organizers decided to use the existing pathways and make a few of their own to form a series of trails.“We were providing something for the community to be proud of and enjoy,” Templeton said.The Monterey Bay Birding Festival, which will be held on Sept. 26, 27 and 28, draws visitors from around the world to the Watsonville area.“We’re on the radar on an international level,” Templeton said.•••For information on the Watsonville Wetlands Program, call 768-1622.For information on volunteering with Watsonville Wetlands Watch restoration projects, call 728-4106, or visit www.watsonvillewetlandswatch.org.#http://www.register-pajaronian.com/V2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=5368&page=72 Protecting fishing resources on the West CoastNapa Valley Register- 8/19/08…By Vern Goehring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently joined the governors of Oregon and Washington in announcing ambitious goals to safeguard critical marine resources along the West Coast.Among other things, the plan calls for cleaning up coastal waters, restoring fisheries, combating climate change, reducing the impacts of offshore development and fostering economic development in coastal communities. These are all laudable ambitions that, if done correctly, can make a real difference to protect the Pacific Ocean off these state’s coasts and sustain marine resources.But protecting these important resources will take more than an announcement from three governors. We’ve heard these bold statements and goals before, but the follow-through has always fallen short. Rather than looking at the full range of impacts on the ocean, officials have singled out one thing or another in adopting new, narrow regulations. Usually it’s the thing of least benefit and least resistance. These piecemeal approaches certainly give the appearance of progress but don’t do the real work of identifying and equitably addressing the problems facing the Pacific.Coastal development and the many other things that deliver pollution to our ocean from land have been largely ignored; for example, California is far behind where it should be in enforcing the Clean Water Act. Instead, the focus has largely been on closing off parts of the ocean to fishing — recreational and family-run fishing businesses alike. Sometimes this is done as a needless precaution, many times, however, it is done as a last-ditch effort to cover up a failure to address the real problems; remember the extreme closures of Klamath River and Sacramento River salmon fishing in recent years.Ironically, fishing already is one of the most highly regulated activities involving the ocean. New regulations imposed recently add one thing — redundancy — but bring little environmental benefit. People who spend every day on the ocean waters and who study and know our oceans find their input rejected out of hand by decision-makers with little real world experience.What’s more, communities that depend on fishing and tourism suffer under unbalanced regulations. Since the enactment of ocean closures along the central coast of California, commerce and tourism in places like Morro Bay are down significantly.Local families who fish for themselves or provide fresh seafood to California’s citizens are not the problem and shouldn’t bear the brunt of any short-sighted policies that provide an illusion of protection and let the real culprits off the hook. The vibrancy of our coastal harbor and beach communities and thousands of family jobs depend on a balanced approach and timely protections.Recent polls show that most people strongly agree.A 2007 poll for the Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries shows that two-thirds of Californians support small, independent fishermen and recreational fishing activities. Californians don’t think fishing is the primary threat to our oceans. Instead, they support allowing fishing throughout the State, backed up with science-based limits to ensure sustainable harvest.Californians want smart management of marine ecosystems and fish resources, not total ocean closures that simply hurt local economies without delivering real environmental benefits.The three governors’ ocean announcement can be a new beginning for our ocean waters and the communities that depend on clean oceans and clean beaches.California leaders involved in this important effort should commit themselves to evaluating all the impacts on our ocean waters and crafting fair, equitable solutions that preserve a balance: healthy oceans, sustainable seafood resources and economically strong coastal and harbor communities.We’ve been given a chance to make history rather than repeat failed attempts to equitably look at the real problems facing our ocean.If we fail again, we may forever harm our ocean and everyone that depends on clean ocean waters and abundant marine resources. If we succeed, we will deliver a cleaner ocean for future generations and thriving ocean communities as well.#http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2008/08/19/opinion/commentary/doc48a8f4c67bf74603106302.txt 4. Water Quality– Los Angeles River may get protection through the Clean Water Act: The EPA will define 'traditional navigable waters' for the waterway, which could affect development in some hillside and mountain areas.The Los Angeles Times- 8/19/08 - By Kenneth R. Weiss, Staff Writer The Los Angeles River, the urban waterway often besmirched by graffiti, pollution and Hollywood car chases, has finally gotten a break: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stepped up as its protector.In an unusual move, the EPA has told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it is stepping into an obscure debate over whether the river and its tributary streams are "traditional navigable waters." The bureaucratic designation helps determine whether the upper reaches of the river's watershed in the foothills around Los Angeles deserve protection under the federal Clean Water Act."It's import for us to protect urban rivers and waterways around the country," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, an EPA assistant administrator for water. "We are stepping up to ensure that the Clean Water Act tools are applied consistently and fairly and we all work together to protect the L.A. River."Grumbles sent a letter Sunday to the Corps of Engineers, explaining that his agency would make the final determination of what are navigable waters in the L.A. River and in the Santa Cruz River in Arizona. The issue, he said, has become important since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Clean Water Act protections against pollution would apply to a stream or wetland if it had a "significant nexus" with "traditional navigable waters."That has been an issue on the L.A. River since a rancher wanted to fill some stream beds in the Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth.The rancher's request prompted the Corps of Engineers to review the entire river and determine that just a few of its 50-plus miles could be considered navigable.The Corps' determination would make it easier to develop portions of foothills and mountains that shed water into the L.A. River because developments would not need certain federal permits.The EPA agrees with the Corps' designation that some of the miles are navigable, Grumbles said. "We think it's important to look at the rest of the river."He also said the EPA was stepping in to clarify issues raised by the Supreme Court decision and figure out what "navigable" means in the arid West, where rivers typically flow only during wet seasons or when filled with treated water from sewage plants.Grumbles declined to prejudge a final decision on how much of the river might be considered navigable, and therefore on how much of its 834-square-mile watershed should be protected.He expected the EPA's review to be completed in coming months.Environmental groups, which have been critical of the EPA over clean-water rules, view the EPA's move as a hopeful sign."The bottom line is that more protection is coming for the L.A. River," said David Beckman, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program. "It's very good for the city's restoration efforts."#http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-river19-2008aug19,0,3574743.story?track=rss 5. Agencies, Programs, People – Thirsty Utah aims to conserve water: Landscape tinkering can help state, water districts reach goalThe Salt Lake Tribune- 8/18/08…By Brandon Loomis The front lawn kept bleaching beige under the high-desert sun's August assaults. They opened the nozzles, flushing more of the Wasatch Mountains' limited snowmelt through sprinkler heads and onto the bluegrass and the hot sidewalk, holding their ground in an east-side Salt Lake Valley neighborhood of chemically enhanced greens. It took hoses and watering cans to slake the nagging brown splotches. No wonder Utah is second only to Nevada in per-person water use. Bob Grant and Marilyn Smith stopped fighting. "We just could not throw enough water onto it," Grant said of their Millcreek burden. Time for a radical lawnectomy. The retired couple called a xeriscaping firm in 2001 and set in motion a makeover that substituted arid grasses, native desert shrubs, fruits, flowers and trees. They blew Utah's per-person conservation goals out of the water while creating a hummingbird haven that they prefer anyway. "Our neighbor is always on his knees," working his turf, Smith said. "I tell him: 'You're praying to the sprinkler god.' " It's all in fun - until Utah runs out of water. Here in the state's largest metropolitan valley, 1 million Utahns have about 11 years until H2O judgment day. At current watering rates and with projected population growth, that's when Salt Lake County's biggest water district either must enforce water rationing or spend $1 billion on new supplies, including a pipeline from the sensitive Bear River, northern Utah's migratory-bird oasis. The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District wants to push back the Bear River expense until about 2035 by getting everyone to cut back 25 percent on the water they averaged in 2000. That's also the state's goal for 2050. Jordan Valley is trying to get there by 2025. In Utah's dry climate, the elixir of life falls as snow in the mountains and then melts to reload canyon streams and reservoirs. Building new pipelines spreads big costs among all users. Jordan Valley customers comprise more than half the Salt Lake Valley's population. They would have to pay $100 more in today's dollars per home every year to fund new water projects if they don't meet the conservation goal by 2025, district assistant general manager Bart Forsyth said. That's about a 25 percent bump for most. Delaying the Bear River project saves on financing and spreads the costs to a future suburban Jordan Valley district population that the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget expects to grow from 550,000 today to 1.1 million in 2050. It doesn't take war on lawns to reach the conservation goal. In fact, Salt Lake City water conservation coordinator Stephanie Duer said most people can get there with modest tinkering. Some plant just a few drought-tolerant plants along side yards. An irrigation timer that detects the weather prevents unnecessary watering after rains. And the state's "Slow the Flow" educational campaign advises Utahns to water every two or three days in July, less in other months. People should start with a leak inspection, Duer said. If a sprinkler head is bubbling water nonstop, it means a valve is stuck. A free utility-meter check can unveil any hidden plumbing leaks. Households that fix leaks can cut 13 percent of their water. "No matter what you want to do with your landscape, or what you want to put on it," Duer said, "you can always do better with water." Capital residents and industries have dropped peak summertime demand from 214 million gallons a day in 2000 to 181 million gallons during this month's peak. Summertime use is now about five times winter use, a ratio Duer wants to trim to 3-to-1. The state is counting on conservation to cover at least two-thirds of the new demand for the next 50 years, Utah Division of Water Resources Director Dennis Strong said. That conservation ethic is slow-growing, but it is growing. Utah measures per-capita daily water use every five years and saw a reduction from 295 gallons in 2000 to 260 in 2005, Strong said. Two-thirds of Utah's culinary water feeds outdoor landscaping, and many people are watering less often or more efficiently. "Utahns in general have caught on to the conservation ethic," he said. They still need to get to 220 gallons a day, though. Jordan Valley's per-capita watering plunged from 255 gallons in 2000 to 207 during the drought warnings of 2005. Since then, through heat that crisped ornamentals a year ago, the chart has rebounded like a cardiogram. The average resident used 228 gallons a day in 2006, and 251 last year. That sounds like a relapse, but Forsyth, the district official, will take it. Last year's heat required more watering. With a weather reprieve, conservation ads are resonating again. "We can say with a straight face that we still achieved conservation in 2007," Forsyth said. Bob Grant and Marilyn Smith sprinted way ahead of conservation goals when they ripped up their Millcreek turf. Bees dodge around the lavender and orange blanket flowers in their front yard, between little granite boulders and shady pines. Three hairy yuccas send up pink flowers from their spiked crowns every spring. In the middle was a leftover patch of lawn little bigger than a kiddie pool, but that kept on browning because the couple sometimes forgot they still had to water something. This summer they ripped it out and sprinkled a hardier seed mix. Around back there's buffalo grass - a mat that takes longer to green up in spring but rarely needs water or mowing. Around it are peach trees, clumps of 3-foot-tall blue mist spirea, showers of blue penstemon and spears of pink gaura. A buried grid of irrigation pipes delivers occasional water to the roots instead of spraying it into the air. "I wasn't trying to give an Arizona look to the yard," Smith said, adoring the colors and the restrained abundance of it all. Results: Average annual water savings of 80 percent. It was not cheap. Counting a custom design and professional help installing plants, the pair spent about $10,000 to alter nearly 2,000 square feet and build an irrigation system. It's grander than most people need. The average Utahn can beat the conservation goal at a fraction of that cost. Most won't have to swap out a single blade of grass. Duer paid $300 for new sprinkler controls at her father's home to water shrubs, trees and the lawn separately. Half that money came back in a utility rebate. Her father now uses half the water he once did.#http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_10240624 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 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. DWR operates and maintains the State Water Project, provides dam safety and flood control and inspection services, assists local water districts in water management and water conservation planning, and plans for future statewide water needs. Inclusion of materials is not to be construed as an endorsement of any programs, projects, or viewpoints by the Department or the State of California. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORKMISSION STATEMENTCentral Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political,and religious groups, and other stakeholders.