8-25-08Merced Sun-StarUC Merced student injured after second-story fallUniversity officials say 18-year-old student had been drinking...VICTOR A. PATTONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/417068.htmlAn 18-year-old UC Merced student was injured late Sunday night in a fall that university officials said happened after she had been drinking alcohol.Sydney Hickman, 18, of Fresno, fell 10 to 12 feet from a banister in Stanislaus Hall, a dormitory, on campus around 9:45 p.m., according to Patti Waid Istas, UC Merced spokeswoman.Hickman complained of head pain but was conscious, Waid Istas said... ...Hickman was transported to a makeshift landing area near Bellevue and Lake roads and flown by helicopter around 10:30 p.m. to a regional hospital.Waid Istas said the university will conduct an investigation to see who supplied the alcohol to the teen... The injury at the school comes in the wake of last year's alcohol-related death of a UC Merced student, who was killed after falling and hitting his head.Hector Hugo Barrera-Barraza, 18, died on March 17 last year after falling and hitting his head on a concrete slab outside of a dorm building at the campus, following a night of partying, according to UC Merced police investigators.His blood alcohol content was 0.20 percent at the time of his death and his body was discovered by two students.UC Merced and Merced College sign agreement on international studentsMC's international students are guaranteed admission to university...VICTOR A. PATTONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/417064.htmlMerced College President Benjamin Duran and UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang are scheduled to solidify an agreement today between the schools geared toward retaining international students who come to the region.Kang and Duran are expected to sign a "transfer agreement guarantee" during a brief ceremony at 10 a.m. inside Merced College's Learning Resources Center. Duran said the role of the agreement is to inform newly arrived international students at Merced College about their options to transfer to UC Merced.Duran said the agreement allows staff at both campuses to make the transfer of international students from the community college to UC Merced a smooth one. "What we hope, as a result of this agreement, is that UC Merced will start to recruit our international students as soon as they get to us," Duran said. "Ultimately what we hope is that after they finish their undergraduate degree at UC Merced, some of them may stick around and become graduate students."Patti Waid Istas, UC Merced spokeswoman, said the agreement is parallel with the university's ambitions of increasing the number of international students...Merced College's population of international students has nearly doubled with the past five years, Duran said. There are currently about 150 international students at Merced College...Waid Istas said there are currently about 100 students who have come from the international studies office at UC Merced.With the growth of UC Merced and its majors over the years, however, Duran said he's hopeful the number of international students transferring to university will increase...Merced College reported a student population of about 10,000 full-time students during the fall semester, Duran said.UC Merced is expecting a student population between 2,600 and 2,700 students during the fall semester, which begins Tuesday, Waid Istas said.New bus route will connect three key education institutions...Victor A. Pattonhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/417081.htmlA new bus route to connect UC Merced, the Tri-College Center and Merced College will begin operation Tuesday, Merced County Transit announced recently. The new route, called Route 21, will be a shuttle that will run Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with 30 minute service at each location, according to transit officials."We are always looking for opportunities to expand public transit in ways that will benefit the public," Larry Shankland, Merced County Transit Manager, said in a statement. "With this new route, we are able to connect the college and the University and assist students, faculty and visitors to both campuses."Route 21 and bus routes and timetables are available online at www.mercedthebus.com/ and more information is also available by phone at (209) 725-3813. Attachment:Decades Later, Peripheral Canal At Forefront Of Water Talks...Russell Clemings and Dennis Pollock, Fresno BeeMerced Sun-Star Front Page Monday, August 25, 2008California voters rose up by a 3-to-2 margin in 1982 and torpedoed the most contentious water project in state history -- the Peripheral Canal.The 42-mile ditch would have linked the Sacramento River to pumps near Stockton that send water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to thirsty Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. But rejection of Proposition 9 didn't settle anything. Instead, it locked state water politics, which revolve around the delta, into a chronic stalemate.More than a quarter-century later, advocates for cities, farms and wildlife routinely duke it out in courtrooms and legislative halls. Crops on the San Joaquin Valley's west side die for lack of water. Fishing boats wait out a ban on salmon. No one is winning.Today, some think only one thing may break the delta deadlock: an epic disaster.Now, the Delta Vision task force is working on a new effort to repair the broken delta. Its biggest problem could be that every conceivable solution has its avid supporters, but also its bitter critics. New dams, aggressive water conservation and farmland retirement are all on the table. So, again, is the Peripheral Canal...In a series of rulings late last year in cases brought by environmental advocates, a Fresno federal judge required state and federal water project operators to take several steps to protect the smelt. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger set restrictions on flows in two channels, Old River and Middle River, during months when the pumps tend to pull smelt into their intakes. Next month, in a second case resulting from an environmental lawsuit, Wanger will hear evidence about water project operations and their effects on two Chinook salmon runs and one type of steelhead.A Peripheral Canal, new dams, court interventions and good old conservation. The quarter-century of debate has yielded no progress toward ending the impasse...Russell Clemings and Dennis Pollock, Fresno Bee...Delta deadlock...8-23-08http://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/817658.htmlAttachment:Mello-Roos Districts In County Struggling...J.N. SBRANTI, Modesto BeeMerced Sun-Star Front Page Monday, August 25, 2008The housing market downturn isn't posing big problems for California's Mello-Roos special property taxing districts, except for several in Stanislaus and Merced counties.Mello-Roos bonds issued for Merced and Diablo Grande in western Stanislaus County might be in financial trouble, and Patterson bonds have had financing problems in recent years, according to a California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission report...Only 10 bonds in California have gotten into financial trouble this year, but they include two Merced community facilities districts and four in Diablo Grande's Western Hills Water District...When collections fall short, districts can draw funds from reserves to make payments.The Merced districts used $192,000 in reserves in October and $105,000 in March to repay debts, the report shows.Diablo Grande pulled $359,058 from reserves in March to make payments on four of its bonds. But that's not the resort community's only problem: It filed for bankruptcy protection in March, claiming more than $54 million in debts..."Districts with high rates of mortgage foreclosures, such as may be experienced in Merced and Stanislaus counties, will want to monitor the number of draws on reserves," said John Decker, executive director of the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission... Most Mello-Roos districts aren't struggling to keep up...J.N. SBRANTI, Modesto Bee...8-22-08http://www.modbee.com/local/story/402332.htmlLetter: Time to act on Wal-Mart distribution center...ED WALTERS, Merced http://www.mercedsunstar.com/180/story/417072.htmlEditor: One of the most beautiful things about our United States is the diversity of opinion.In Merced County, there are those who want to avoid growth and keep our area quaint, simple and agriculturally based. I respect that. We need strong, intelligent, creative leadership.We need the tax dollars to build sewer and water facilities; we need new roads and old ones repaired; we will need new power plants. We need new businesses that bring both diversity and quality in commercial enterprise.We need to add to our agricultural base and bring all jobs from distribution to white-collar jobs. We need the Wal-Mart distribution center.The arguments concerning pollution, traffic and poor-paying jobs have been addressed, and there are differences of opinion. But what are the people opposed to this project offering as an alternative? It is my opinion we need to proceed, knowing full well that no matter what decision is made someone will disagreeCommentsThe good: 900 new jobs paying $10 an hourThe bad: 24000 deaths annually linked to air pollution in California (California Air Resources Board).Merced has one of the highest childhood asthma rate in the nation (EPA).Housing prices in SE Merced will take a hit (like they can afford it).Yeah, I can cleary see the good outweighs the bad. Morons. :: 08/25/08 9:37am - samwalton ---------------------------------------- Well said Mr. Walters. The goods out weigh the bad and you will NEVER please everyone!:: 08/25/08 8:03am - Inked Modesto BeeUS colleges moving to retire cafeteria trays...JOHN RABY, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/business/story/405508.htmlGLENVILLE, W.Va. — ...Glenville State has joined an increasing number of colleges and universities that have shed their cafeteria trays.In drought-stricken Georgia and North Carolina, the goal is to conserve water by lightening the load on dishwashers. Other schools are trying to cut down on wasted food and conserve energy. Proponents, including major food vendors, say it also reduces the use of water-polluting detergents....students all over the country might have to get used to it.Fifty to 60 percent of Philadelphia-based Aramark's 500 campus partners and 230 of the 600 colleges and universities served by Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo are expected to dump their trays, company officials said.At least 23 of the 625 schools belonging to the Okemos, Mich.-based National Association of College & University Food Services have adopted the idea so far...It's too soon to measure cost savings nationwide. But five times more energy and water are consumed in dining halls than any other square foot on college campuses, said Sodexo spokeswoman Monica Zimmer."So if a college is looking to go 'green,' they need to start looking in the dining facility," Zimmer said.Georgia Tech, enrollment 18,000, has saved 3,000 gallons of water per day without trays, she said.The 50,000-student University of Florida estimates it will save 470,000 gallons annually. At the 2,000-student University of Maine at Farmington, which went trayless in February 2007, the tally is 288,000 gallons, said Aramark spokesman Dave Gargione...Realtors say existing home sales rose in July...ALAN ZIBEL , AP Business Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/reports/realestate/story/405587.htmlWASHINGTON — Sales of existing homes rose 3.1 percent in July, surpassing expectations, as buyers snapped up deeply discounted properties in parts of the country hit hardest by the housing bust.However, the number of unsold properties hit an all-time high, the latest indication that the worst housing slump in decades is far from over. Prices nationwide are not expected to hit bottom until early next year...Despite the third monthly sales increase this year, the number of unsold single-family homes and condominiums rose to 4.67 million, the highest number since 1968, when the Realtors group started tracking the data.That represented a 11.2-month supply at the July sales pace, matching the all-time high set in April.Until the inventory level is reduced to more normal levels, analysts say, the housing slump is likely to persist. The inventory level is being driven higher by a massive wave of mortgage foreclosures.Between 33 and 40 percent of sales activity is coming from foreclosures or other distressed properties...While buyers are pouncing on lower prices - especially in places like California, Florida and Nevada - sales are sluggish in formerly stable states like Texas...One key unknown is the future ability of mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to supply money for loans. The two government-sponsored companies have dramatically cut back the availability of mortgages as they cope with mounting losses from foreclosures....Even with government help, nearly 2.8 million U.S. households will either face foreclosure, turn over their homes to their lender or sell the properties for less than their mortgage's value by the end of next year, predicts Moody's Economy.com.Fresno BeeDesert tortoise numbers continue to decline…MIKE STARKhttp://www.fresnobee.com/641/story/818778.htmlIt's been 18 years since the federal government decided to protect the shy, slow-moving Mojave desert tortoise, and wildlife officials fear little has been accomplished. "We know for a fact a lot of localized populations have suffered dramatic declines," said Roy Averill-Murray, desert tortoise recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "From that, it's probably not too big a leap to think it's probably at least somewhat true across the board."The long list of threats - urbanization, predators, wildfire, disease - isn't letting up. And that says nothing of the predicted shift toward higher temperatures and less precipitation that could jeopardize the tortoise's food supplies. "The biggest challenge and unanswered question is the effects of climate change," Averill-Murray said. "That is the wild card for sure."The agency is proposing to tweak its tortoise recovery plan, mainly by focusing on a more coordinated approach between dozens of state, federal and local agencies that control tortoise habitat. But some environmentalists complain that the plan is too weak and too vague. "To me it's a plan that says they're going to do more planning," said Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity.The agency's new proposal, unveiled earlier this month, waters down important measures from a 1994 plan that tried to protect tortoise habitat from disruptions like grazing or off-road vehicle use, she said.Time to see progress on Measure CIn economic downturn, county can use the jobs…Editorialhttp://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/817750.htmlIt's been almost two years since Fresno County voters passed an extension of Measure C to fund road, transit and other transportation needs. There hasn't been much progress, and a Fresno City Council member is asking why. We'd like to know the answer, too...We understand that there are many hoops planners and engineers must jump through on such projects -- engineering studies, environmental reviews and the like. But we also understand that we're not talking major innovations here. Nothing has to be invented to build modern roads -- we've been doing it for decades. The technology is as off-the-shelf as it gets.Nor should funding the various mass transit projects envisioned in Measure C be an epic task. There's a real risk here. Voters in this area have shown repeatedly that they're willing to tax themselves when the purpose is clear, the benefits of the tax are enumerated specifically and the promises are kept. We've seen that now twice with Measure C, twice with a library tax and with the zoo tax county voters passed in 2004. But if government agencies charged with gathering and spending those taxes are seen as failing to keep promises -- well, forget going to that well again...FRANKIE TRULL: Terrorism in name of animals...Frankie Trull, president of the Washington-based Foundation for Biomedical Research, which supports the humane and responsible use of animals in medical and scientific research, wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/wo/story/818688.htmlThe firebombings of the car and home of two researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, earlier this month reveal an unwelcome reality: Animal-rights extremism is getting worse. Over the past several years, militants have shifted their focus from breaking into research labs and institutions to targeting researchers and their families at home. In the past, they protested against scientists who work with higher species, such as nonhuman primates and dogs; now, they are even targeting researchers who use fruit flies. These attacks, considered domestic terrorism and attempted homicide, should be a wake-up call to law enforcement. Congress recognized the danger that animal-rights militants pose when it passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006. This law gave the FBI additional tools to pursue animal-rights extremism and increased penalties for crimes related to it.The FBI has not apprehended anyone since the law was passed. It needs to give these crimes a higher priority. The Santa Cruz bombings are just the latest instances of animal-rights terrorism, a nationwide problem, although there seems to be a particularly active group of extremists in California...These extremists have chosen to circumvent the legal system and use fear and terror as their primary weapons. In the past two years, the severity of home attacks has been alarming...Animal-rights groups sensationalize animal research by portraying scientists as violent animal torturers. In fact, researchers who use animals in their quest for new drugs and medical breakthroughs are human beings who dedicate their lives to alleviating the pain and suffering of people and animals. Animal research is done humanely and only when necessary; it is highly regulated by the federal government; and it is the foundation for almost every medical breakthrough of the last century...Terrorist attacks like the ones in Santa Cruz have significant implications for the future of science in this country. Who knows what research might be curtailed by this terrorism? It's time for law enforcement to send a message to animal-rights extremists by making a more concerted effort to apprehend those involved. Sacramento BeeFeds launch second fish rescue effort on Prospect Island...Matt Weiserhttp://www.sacbee.com/378/v-print/story/1182565.htmlFederal officials today plan to launch a second fish rescue on Prospect Island, the Delta tract where thousands of fish died last year after a levee repair project.They're going back because many fish were left behind the first time, and the island has begun to dry out in the August heat.Prospect Island, at the southern end of the Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel, is a tract of farmland owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Floods breached the island's levees in two places in 2006, and thousands of fish swam onto the flooded tract.In 2007, the bureau hired a contractor to fix the levees, then pump out the island. But no plans were made for the fish. Thousands died...Stockton RecordRace fans await Stockton 99 Speedway's comeback...Editorialhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080825/A_OPINION01/808250310/-1/A_OPINIONIt looks like there will be more cars circling the quarter mile track at the old 99 Speedway.A French Camp couple, Tony and Carol Noceti, say they're ready to apply ample TLC and whatever it takes of a $1 million budget to bring the roar of engines back to the track.First opened in 1947, the 99 Speedway shut down two years ago, victim of the times. The times in this case involved a booming real estate market. A Bay Area group planned a housing development on the 20-acre site. But the deal fell through as the real estate market fell away.Now property owners Bob Hunefeld and Ken Clapp confirm that they are near a 5-year-lease deal with the Nocetis.If it comes to fruition, it will mean a lot of hard work for Tony Noceti, a farmer, weed abatement contractor and avid race fan and driver.He's always wanted to own a track, his wife said. It's been his dream.Noceti's dream could come true, a dream not unlike the dream of many 99 Speedway fans who over the 60 years the track operated enjoyed many summer Saturdays at the Stockton attraction.San Francisco ChronicleJudge promises to rule soon on UC Berkeley tree issue...Carolyn Joneshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/25/BAEK12HVVG.DTL&hw=uc&sn=001&sc=636A judge today said she would rule "promptly" on UC Berkeley's plan to build a sports training facility in an oak grove next to Memorial Stadium.Almost a year after the trial began, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller said during a brief hearing she would soon issue her final judgment, which could allow the plaintiffs to proceed with their intended appeal to stop the university from building the $140 million training center.Both sides agreed to shorten the length of time for the plaintiffs to file their appeal to two days. An appeal would trigger a 20-day extension of the court order that prevents the university from beginning construction, although the state Court of Appeal could decide to lift the order and allow construction to proceed while the appeal is heard.The Court of Appeal could decide as soon as next week whether to lift the injunction...Drunken UC Merced student falls from dorm...Merced Sun-Star, www.mercedsun-star.comhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/08/25/state/n121058D36.DTL&hw=uc&sn=002&sc=695An 18-year-old student at the University of California, Merced is recovering from injuries sustained when she fell from a second-story dorm.Eighteen-year-old Sydney Hickman of Fresno fell 10 to 12 feet from Stanislaus Hall around 9 p.m. Sunday night. She complained of head injuries but was conscious as she was transported by helicopter to the hospital.University officials say she had been drinking.Last year, an 18-year-old UC Merced student died in a fall from a dorm building after a night of drinking.University officials are investigating to determine who supplied alcohol to Hickman.Washington PostProtecting Species When Necessary...LYLE LAVERTY, Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks...Department of the Interior, Washingtonhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/24/AR2008082401656_pf.htmlWe welcome The Post's call for targeted changes to the Endangered Species Act on the grounds that the law is "the wrong tool" for coping with climate change ["Endangered Process; Proposed rule changes to the Endangered Species Act could do lasting harm in the natural world," editorial, Aug. 19].The rules we recently proposed would achieve that targeted goal. There is no basis for concern that they will "undermine the law's fundamental work."We maintain all current protections against actions that would harm endangered species. Only where scientists tell us it is not possible to establish a causal connection between a particular action and harm to a species -- such as a carbon dioxide emission from an individual plant in Idaho hurting polar bears in Alaska -- will we make small common-sense modifications to the law's rules.Our regulation clarifies that for projects that have no effects on listed species, insignificant effects or wholly beneficial effects, an agency may choose not to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.In all but a small number of cases, consultation will continue as usual. And federal agencies will still face criminal and civil penalties if their actions harm endangered species. But where there is no direct harm, our biologists will be freed up -- so they can concentrate on conserving and recovering rare animals and plants.Alaska Vote Pits Fisheries Against Mines...By Kari Lydersenhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/24/AR2008082401674_pf.htmlHOMER, Alaska -- Salmon and gold mining. Both are, inarguably, very Alaskan.But on Tuesday, Alaskans will vote on a ballot measure that is being framed as a choice between the two industries and portrayed by both sides as striking at the heart of what it means to be Alaskan.The initiative was drafted to block the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive operation that would extract gold, copper and molybdenum from the tundra surrounding Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska, one of the world's most lucrative wild salmon fisheries. The measure would prohibit any new large metal mines from polluting salmon streams or drinking-water sources. Proponents acknowledge that they drafted the measure to block the Pebble Mine, which they say will poison two major streams where salmon come to spawn.Opponents of the measure say state and federal laws already protect water quality and the mine will not harm salmon. They argue that the ballot measure could reach far beyond Pebble Mine, freezing the industry and forcing mines to close. Their lawn signs say "Pro-Mining, Pro-Alaska," and radio spots refer to the initiative as "un-Alaskan."Opponents have made much of the fact that one of the major funders of the ballot initiative, the group Americans for Job Security, is based in Washington. Proponents of the measure respond that the companies developing the mine are foreign: the London-based multinational mining giant Anglo American and Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals...At the Salty Dawg Saloon, a tiny tavern on the sandy spit of Homer, fishermen lining the bar during the annual Salmon Derby passionately voiced support for the ballot measure. Rick Burnett, a former Bristol Bay commercial fisherman who lives on his boat in Homer, said jobs are needed in the region because the fishing industry is seasonal and highly regulated and does not always provide a good living."My friends up there are scared about this winter, especially with the gas prices up," said Burnett, 46. "Most of the year they just shoot a moose and a bear and wait for the [state oil] dividends. They need jobs; everything's ailing." But he said he does not think the mine is the answer...."These are foreign companies who want to exploit our materials," he said. "Are we going to benefit as the state of Alaska?" 8-25-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…August 25, 2008 1. Top Item - Delta deadlockA Peripheral Canal, new dams, court interventions and good old conservation. The quarter-century of debate has yielded no progress toward ending the impasse.The Fresno Bee – 8/23/08…By Russell Clemings and Dennis Pollock California voters rose up by a 3-to-2 margin in 1982 and torpedoed the most contentious water project in state history -- the Peripheral Canal. The 42-mile ditch would have linked the Sacramento River to pumps near Stockton that send water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to thirsty Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. But rejection of Proposition 9 didn't settle anything. Instead, it locked state water politics, which revolve around the delta, into a chronic stalemate. More than a quarter-century later, advocates for cities, farms and wildlife routinely duke it out in courtrooms and legislative halls. Crops on the San Joaquin Valley's west side die for lack of water. Fishing boats wait out a ban on salmon. No one is winning. Today, some think only one thing may break the delta deadlock: an epic disaster. The potential for such an event grows every year. Century-old levees within the delta grow ever weaker, raising prospects of a Hurricane Katrina-like catastrophe -- a flood of salty water that would submerge hundreds of square miles of farmland and historic towns like Isleton and Locke. It might happen after an earthquake. Or it might happen as a result of erosion as sea levels rise amid global warming. No one knows when the delta will reach that tipping point. That it eventually will is viewed as certain. "Major changes in the Delta and in California's use of Delta resources are inevitable," said a December report by Delta Vision, a two-year-old task force created by Gov. Schwarzenegger to find ways to avert a water disaster. "Current patterns of use are unsustainable, and catastrophic events, such as an earthquake, could cause dramatic changes in minutes." The quarter-century of debate over the delta's fate since the Peripheral Canal vote has yielded no discernible progress toward a solution. Farms and urban water users regularly face cuts in their supplies to protect rare fish from the effects of pumping. About 10,000 acres of crops in the Westlands Water District were abandoned this spring after planting. But the cuts haven't helped. Populations of salmon and delta smelt have crashed despite multiple court interventions. This year's California salmon season was closed even before it started. The Peripheral Canal succumbed to fears that it would cost a fortune and suck the delta dry. But since its rejection, pumping from the delta to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California has risen more than one-third anyway. In 2004, just as the fish decline became apparent, pumping reached its highest level. The last effort to solve the delta's problems, called CalFed, took almost a decade and collapsed when Congress and the Legislature balked at writing blank checks for solutions designed to keep everyone happy. Now, the Delta Vision task force is working on a new effort to repair the broken delta. Its biggest problem could be that every conceivable solution has its avid supporters, but also its bitter critics. New dams, aggressive water conservation and farmland retirement are all on the table. So, again, is the Peripheral Canal. Prime habitat for fish For almost a century, the central focus of California's development strategy has been moving water from the north, where it is plentiful, to the south, where it is scarce. Between north and south, at the headwaters of San Francisco Bay, is the delta. Once, it was an inland marsh bigger than Rhode Island. Now, it is a maze of channels and low islands that would be flooded if not for 1,300 miles of levees. Even in this altered state, the delta remains prime habitat for many fish species and a major migratory route for salmon. Once, their fry could count on being swept to sea by strong river currents. Now, they're as likely to be confused and diverted by suction from the water project pumps. Water users who rely on those pumps aren't doing much better. Even as overall water exports have risen steadily, supplies for some San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities have faced temporary court-ordered curbs to protect threatened fish that can die in the delta pumps. The Delta Vision task force has begun work on strategies for dual goals of improving the delta ecosystem and making water supplies more reliable. Hopes are high. But so were hopes for CalFed, a joint state-federal program launched in 1994, when the state was still shaking off its worst drought since the late 1970s. In 2000, CalFed proposed an $8.6 billion program of water storage and improved conservation. Beset by bureaucratic rivalries and competing interests, the plans languished, even though they avoided the contentious Peripheral Canal. Now, CalFed's collapse is a rare point of consensus among quarrelling parties. "There isn't any doubt about the failure of the CalFed program," said Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District, one of the state's biggest farm water users. No approach perfect Simple solutions can be hard to resist. * Courts stepping in because rare species are being harmed? Weaken their protections. * Too much water being used by farms and cities south of the delta? Make them conserve. * An inefficient system lets huge amounts of water flow into the sea in wet years? Build more dams to capture and store it. A closer look reveals that each approach has obstacles. Farmers and other major water users sometimes question the intrinsic value of a fish, whether it is a prized wild salmon or the lowly minnowlike delta smelt. They talk about balancing the needs of wildlife with those of humans. To Zeke Grader, the two are the same. Grader is executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. His members have sat out this year's salmon season, not by choice, but because federal fisheries managers banned salmon fishing off California this year after record low numbers returned to spawn last fall in the Sacramento River. Some boats that fished for salmon switched to albacore. Others doubled down on crab. Neither is a good alternative. "They'd rather be fishing for salmon," Grader said. "That's been the anchor fishery for our fleet all along the coast of California." Diners who want to order wild salmon are paying a high price. So are taxpayers in general. In the farm bill passed by Congress early this year, they ponied up $170 million in disaster assistance for those affected by the ban. Exactly why salmon populations have collapsed is open to debate. But Grader is convinced that it has to do with the recent rise in water exports from the delta. Flows of fresh water through the delta, he said, are needed to help salmon find their way from their Sacramento River spawning grounds to the ocean and back. "That fresh water going out to the ocean was the key thing for maintaining the estuary," he said. "If you start reducing the amount of water to that estuary, you're killing it." The delta smelt is less glamorous than the salmon. But it is officially listed as a threatened species. It appears to be just as sensitive to increased pumping. And its sorry state has led to court-ordered cuts in water exports. In a series of rulings late last year in cases brought by environmental advocates, a Fresno federal judge required state and federal water project operators to take several steps to protect the smelt. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger set restrictions on flows in two channels, Old River and Middle River, during months when the pumps tend to pull smelt into their intakes. Next month, in a second case resulting from an environmental lawsuit, Wanger will hear evidence about water project operations and their effects on two Chinook salmon runs and one type of steelhead. Some urge conservation One way to live with reduced pumping is to use less water. Some environmental advocates argue that California's cities and farms could do much more there. In fact, more water could be gleaned from conservation than what is currently pumped from the delta, says Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "We call it the virtual river," he said. In recent reports, the Oakland-based Pacific Institute has estimated how much could be conserved. One conclusion: Urban areas could cut use by 30%, saving 2.3 million acre-feet annually. That's about half what the two big projects have pumped in an average year over the past two decades. "The savings that are available through water conservation and efficiency are as great as some of the water supply projects, and they can be achieved with much lower economic and environmental costs," said Heather Cooley, a senior research associate at the institute. Most of the institute's work focuses on things like requiring more efficient plumbing fixtures, and using tiered pricing to penalize the biggest water users. A second report will make recommendations for farm water users. "Those who are wasting water should be sent a very strong price signal," Cooley said. Some of the institute's proposals represent major changes. Lawn sizes could be limited. Homeowners could be forced to replace inefficient plumbing when they sell. To the extent that such measures aren't widely adopted, the institute's estimates may be high. Similarly, some farmers question how much room there is for further conservation in their operations. Westlands grower John Diener has spent nearly a million dollars in the past five years on systems that use less water. He scoffs at the suggestion that he and his fellow farmers could do more. "If that were the case, they would already have done it," he said. "It's not in our economic interest to waste water." One large local irrigation supplier, the Israeli firm Netafim, says it has supplied Westlands growers with micro-irrigation and drip systems for 160,000 acres this decade. In an even more drastic move, Westlands has bought out growers on about 100,000 acres and shifted their water to other land. But having shaky water supplies makes that increasingly difficult. "At some point, it's unaffordable to retire land," Westlands grower Mark Borba said. "It requires investors who purchase a bond, and they look at the collateral and say that is not a good investment." Retiring land from farming also harms small towns that rise and fall with the farm economy. And Birmingham says retiring farmland does not even cut delta water exports if the saved water is used elsewhere, as in Westlands. Others want new dams Among water users, talk about the delta often turns to increasing the water supply, or at least increasing the reliability of existing supplies. Often, that means new dams. When it issued its 2000 report, the CalFed program identified a dozen dam sites. Eight years later, Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein are promoting a $9.3 billion state water bond, of which $3 billion would go to storage and $2 billion to improving efficiency. If recent history is any guide, new dams will face many obstacles. Since completion of the 2.4 million acre-feet New Melones Dam in 1979 on the Stanislaus River, the only new dams built in California have been smaller, with reservoirs one-third that size or less. As a result, the water bond faces uncertain prospects despite its bipartisan backers. Since its introduction in July, it has made no progress toward the November ballot, as the Legislature has struggled to pass a state budget. The long-maligned Peripheral Canal would face similar hurdles. Once politically radioactive -- Prop. 9 was opposed by more than 90% of voters in some Northern California counties and by more than 70% even in the central San Joaquin Valley -- the canal has gained traction in recent months as a possible solution. Advocates say it would help fish by separating the pumps from the delta and help water users by creating a direct connection between the pumps and Northern California's rivers. But estimates of its costs range as high as $20 billion, and suspicions linger that it would open the door to further pumping increases without any lasting benefit to the delta's fish or their habitat. Canal backers such as Birmingham are optimistic anyway. Last month, the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit center based in San Francisco, issued a report endorsing a Peripheral Canal. Among other things, the report gauged the canal's cost to be in the same range as expected damages from a catastrophic failure of delta levees. Birmingham and other water users embraced the report enthusiastically. "The handwriting is on the wall," he said. "If we are going to conserve fish in the delta, improve the delta ecology and sustain the economy of California, we're going to have to completely change the way we convey water from north of the delta to south of the delta." Birmingham said that water users would even be willing to pay for a Peripheral Canal themselves. Environmental advocates are skeptical of that. In any case, they say any delta fix must deal first with the crash in fish populations and other ecological damage. "What we've said about a Peripheral Canal is the same thing we've said about more surface storage," Nelson said. "Show us a proposal and we'll look at it carefully." After the Public Policy Institute report, five congressional Democrats from Northern California -- George Miller, Ellen Tauscher, Doris Matsui, Mike Thompson and Jerry McNerney -- quickly issued a joint statement expressing doubts about the Peripheral Canal's proposed resurrection. On the other side, the Delta Vision task force's latest draft recommendations say a Peripheral Canal-like "isolated facility" is "the linchpin to managing Delta water supply and ecosystem functions." Tom Graff, senior counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, was an opponent of the 1982 Peripheral Canal vote. His group still says fisheries must be taken care of first. But he says the institute's report, in particular, has "actually moved the ball somewhat in the direction of a canal." It's not the first time observers of California's water wars have sensed change. Breakthroughs are forever just around the corner. CalFed was the great hope of the previous decade. Delta Vision is the great hope for this decade. Will the second succeed where the first and its predecessors failed? What will it take for the warring sides to reach consensus, rescue the delta's ecology, save its beleaguered levees and stabilize supplies for water users? "That's the great unanswered question," Nelson said. "Is California up to addressing what is clearly the greatest water management challenge of the last half-century in the absence of a disaster? Or is it going to take a catastrophe?" #http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/817658.html 2. Supply –Assembly GOP dismisses Dems' water bond measure - Fresno BeeSilicon Valley's water bank: underground storage in Central Valley - San Jose Mercury News Assembly GOP dismisses Dems' water bond measureFresno Bee – 8/23/08…By E.J. Schultz Assembly Democrats on Friday unveiled a $9.8 billion water bond proposal, but Republicans immediately rejected the plan, and time is running out to get a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. The plan is similar to the $9.3 billion bond pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been trying to broker a water deal for two years.Both include $3 billion for storage – possibly including dams – and money for conservation, recycling and ecosystem improvements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But there's at least one key difference. Democrats want to be able to oversee water-storage spending yearly. Republicans, fearing that Democrats will pull the money for dams, are seeking a continuous appropriation, which is included in the governor's plan."They don't have a vote in the Republican caucus for this kind of a water plan, that's a guarantee," said Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, one of the lead water negotiators for Republicans. But Assemblyman Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, who unlike most other Democrats has supported money for dams, said the plan is a good compromise, "the best that we have seen to date." The latest deadline to get the bond on the Nov. 4 ballot is Sunday. However, some lawmakers believe that, in reality, they may have all of next week to strike a water deal. The Democratic plan will be given an informational hearing Monday. No vote is scheduled. "If we finish work and are able to get it on the ballot this year we will," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles. "But if not, we will continue to work diligently and hopefully get on a subsequent ballot."#http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/1179654.html Silicon Valley's water bank: underground storage in Central ValleySan Jose Mercury News – 8/23/08…By Paul Rogers WASCO - This farm community 25 miles north of Bakersfield, where billboards advertise new homes for $119,000 and almond trees stretch from dusty roads to the horizon, is a world away from Silicon Valley. But one thing ties them together: water. In an innovative arrangement that may become more common as California struggles to quench the thirst of its growing population, Silicon Valley has been using the hardscrabble ground of Kern County, 200 miles south, as a giant subterranean piggy bank to store water. For more than a decade, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has been steadily transferring its excess water during wet seasons to underground aquifers east of Interstate 5. It has built a considerable aquatic balance: 86 billion gallons - enough for 1.3 million people for a year. But now, facing a dry year, the agency that provides South Bay residents their water has made its first withdrawal - and plans to make another this fall. "It's like any bank. You put money in, then take it out when you need it," said Will Boschman, general manager of the Semitropic Water Storage District, which manages the aquifers near Wasco. The agency is made up of about 300 farmers who grow almonds, alfalfa and cotton on 220,000 acres. Lucky geology Boschman's agency benefits from serendipitous geology. It is located in a giant basin, where huge amounts of water can be stored in sand and gravel below the surface. That water is kept in place by thick layers of clay and rock. "The whole valley is like a bathtub," he said. "And we're at the bottom." To manage it, Boschman runs a system of canals, percolation ponds, pumps and pipes, some 10 feet in diameter, to put water in the Semitropic aquifers 250 feet deep and lower and pump it out again. Five other water districts, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, also have contracts to collectively store 1 million acre-feet in the ground here. If that amount were stored above ground, it would rank among the state's 10 largest reservoirs, as big as the lake behind Folsom Dam. A study last year by the Environmental Defense Fund found that since 1990, California had added at least 5 million acre-feet of new storage capacity in underground water banks. That's roughly the amount of water that 25 million people use in a year. "Projects like Semitropic are part of an absolute explosion in new water storage that we've seen in the last 15 years," said Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a San Francisco environmental group. As Sacramento politicians deadlock again this year on whether to spend billions of dollars building new dams, backers of groundwater banks note it is cheaper to store water underground. The water doesn't evaporate. To be sure, there have been skeptics in some farm communities who are uncomfortable with transferring water stored in local aquifers to other places. But storing water underground almost never sparks the environmental battles - over endangered species and lost habitat - that can tie up dam projects for decades. "This is a place where there is remarkable agreement," Nelson said. District's decision Silicon Valley's decision to take the plunge was simple. The Santa Clara Valley Water District provides water to 1.8 million people in San Jose and surrounding communities. Half comes from local wells. The other half comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. In wet years, all 10 of the district's local reservoirs fill up. Yet the agency often has rights to more delta water under its contracts with the state and federal governments. "We have all this water in wet years that we can't use," said Larry Wilson, a board member of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. "The important thing for us is how can we level it out and have a water supply that will be available for us in dry years? We had to find some place to put it so we could use it later." By the mid-1990s, the district considered building a new reservoir somewhere south of San Jose. It would have cost $500 million or more and sparked long environmental battles. Buying into the Semitropic project cost $46 million in capital costs. After paying pumping fees, delta charges and other expenses, Santa Clara pays about $450 an acre-foot for Semitropic water. That's still cheaper than building a new reservoir, desalination plant or recycled water plant. There's no way to pump water north from Bakersfield to San Jose. So in wet years, the Santa Clara Valley district sends some of its delta water down the California Aqueduct, a canal that runs along I-5, to Wasco. There, it is either put in percolation ponds to seep in the ground, or given to Semitropic farmers who consume it instead of pumping groundwater, thus allowing the water table to rise over time. When it's dry When it's time to make a withdrawal, the Santa Clara Valley Water District takes water from the delta that would have otherwise gone to Semitropic. Wilson stressed that his agency still may one day propose a new dam in Santa Clara County. But he said of the underground deal: "It's a good value, and I feel really good about where we are." In December, the district requested 20,000 acre-feet from the water bank - about 5 percent of the South Bay's annual need. The district has asked for an additional 10,000 acre-feet this fall. Farmers were initially uncomfortable with the idea of transferring water from under their fields to other places, said Boschman of Semitropic. But the extra water that has been stored in their aquifers has raised the water table 50 feet, reducing their PG&E bills for pumping, he said, and now they are supportive. There are downsides. Underground water stored far away could be stranded if an earthquake or lawsuit disrupts delta pumping. Although Semitropic monitors the 265,000 acre-feet that Santa Clara Valley banks underground, there are few statewide rules regulating groundwater pumping. "In places like Kern County where they have been doing this for years, they have worked out agreements with their neighbors as to how fast they'll draw water out," said Mark Cowin, deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources. "They are pretty sophisticated. But in other areas, these concerns still have to be solved." Wilson said he can envision Silicon Valley - and other California communities - storing more of their water in underground water banks in the years ahead. "These days, water districts have to be more creative," he said.#http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10283776?nclick_check=1 3. Watersheds –Feds launch second fish rescue effort on Prospect Island - Sacramento BeeMonster bass won't be counted as a world record - San Francisco ChronicleSierra dam repairs necessitate fish rescue - Associated Press Feds launch second fish rescue effort on Prospect IslandSacramento Bee – 8/25/08…By Matt Weiser Federal officials today plan to launch a second fish rescue on Prospect Island, the Delta tract where thousands of fish died last year after a levee repair project.They're going back because many fish were left behind the first time, and the island has begun to dry out in the August heat. Prospect Island, at the southern end of the Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel, is a tract of farmland owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Floods breached the island's levees in two places in 2006, and thousands of fish swam onto the flooded tract. In 2007, the bureau hired a contractor to fix the levees, then pump out the island. But no plans were made for the fish. Thousands died. Outraged fishermen pressured the bureau to rescue the survivors in November, and an estimated 10,000 fish were saved – mostly carp, catfish and bluegill.But many more have apparently survived ever since in the shallow water left behind. That water has gotten ever shallower, and the bureau wants to save the rest before it has a bigger crisis on its hands in the form of thousands of rotting carcasses. "We've been keeping an eye on it, and we could see from one week to the next the evaporation was pretty serious," said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Louis Moore. "As the water diminishes, they're going to get less oxygen and just create more problems." Federal officials will work with the California Department of Fish and Game to rescue the fish, Moore said. Starting at 10 a.m. today, the team will use equipment to stun the fish, then load them into containers that will be floated to the levee, then carried over the levee and dumped back into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The agencies are looking for additional volunteers from the public, and they've called on Bob McDaris to help. McDaris, owner of Cliff's Marina in Freeport, led the campaign to save the Prospect Island fish last time, rounding up equipment and dozens of volunteers for that effort. In the midst of a vacation in New Mexico, he has gotten to work lining up volunteers for an encore performance.He said he was pleased to be asked to help this time. "I think it's great," McDaris said. "Everybody's got the right attitude."Anyone interested in helping can call Moore at (916) 335-9755, or call Cliff's Marina at (916) 665-1611."We really want to do a good job and get as many fish out of there as we can," Moore said.#http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1182565.html Monster bass won't be counted as a world recordSan Francisco Chronicle – 8/24/08…Tom Stienstra, Staff Writer (08-23) 16:51 PDT -- A 52-inch, 70-pound striped bass, the largest ever caught in California and a potential world record for a lake, will not be certified as a state or world record, according to the bait shop that verified it. The striper was caught at O'Neill Forebay near San Luis Reservoir on Highway 152 by Frank Ualat of Gilroy. The fish was then taken to Coyote Discount Bait near Morgan Hill, where longtime field scout Denise Bradford then weighed, measured and photographed it. But the scale at the shop was not certified and Bradford said Ualat appeared to have no interest in records, and a few days later, told her that he cut the fish up and was eating it. In addition, two of Ualat's friends apparently helped him land the fish, which would violate rules by the International Game Fish Association, which certifies fishing world records. The state record striped bass is 67 pounds, 8 ounces, caught in 1992 from O'Neill Forebay. That catch is also the current world record for landlocked striped bass.#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/24/SPFR12G8I2.DTL Sierra dam repairs necessitate fish rescueAssociated Press – 8/23/08…Brendan Riley, AP More than 100 people have volunteered to help save thousands of fish, including many trophy-size lunkers, in a scenic Sierra lake that's being lowered from about 55 feet to just 11 feet so that dam repairs can be made. Caples Lake, along Highway 88 in rugged mountains about 30 miles south of Lake Tahoe, is being lowered to allow crews to replace two aging gates on the lake's main dam. The lake's level stood at about 39 feet on Friday, and is dropping at a rate of several inches a day. Harry Morse, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said thousands of fish will be netted over three days starting Tuesday, and will be quickly transferred, via trucks used for fish planting, to Silver Lake 7 miles to the west. "It should be a good gathering of people, all working toward an excellent thing, and that's to move, relocate and rescue the fish," Morse said of the volunteer effort. "There really is the potential for saving thousands of fish." Representatives of Trout Unlimited and the California Sportfishing Alliance organized the volunteer effort after learning of the drawdown and concerns that many Mackinaw, brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout might be lost. Fish and Game also is borrowing some nets from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, to add to its own nets, boats and fish-planting trucks. While critics of the drawdown previously had expressed concern about the Caples Lake fishery being destroyed without a big salvage effort, El Dorado Irrigation District officials have insisted they were trying their best to mitigate adverse effects. The district, which purchased rights to Caples Lake from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in 1999, plans to continue the drawdown into September to allow repairs to be completed this fall. The lake will shrink from more than 18,000 acre-feet of water to as little as 1,000 acre- feet. After discovery of the gate problems in June, the irrigation district board declared an emergency, saying a gate failure could cause a release of the entire lake. The project could cost the district as much as $2 million, including about $400,000 for the fish transfer.#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/23/BAQC12H49P.DTL&hw=caples&sn=002&sc=833 4. Water Quality – A toxic peek beneath S.J. CountyAnalysis of state's detailed database reveals 250 investigations into potential hot spotsStockton Record – 8/24/08…By Alex Breitler, staff writer Oil drums leaking. Pesticides seeping. Heavy metals draining into our waterways. Per capita, San Joaquin County has seen more state investigations of potential toxic hot spots than most of its neighboring counties - more, in fact, than the statewide average. While some of these cases are decades old and were resolved long ago, more than two dozen sites still are being cleaned up - and it can take many years.Such are the findings of a Record analysis of a state database detailing 250 such investigations in the county and nearly 9,000 statewide. The database is available to anyone who wonders what dangers might hide in the soil or groundwater of his or her neighborhood. San Joaquin County is home to three or four federal Superfund sites. These are the worst of the worst, notorious stay-away zones that are well-known in most communities. Not as well-known is the sheer quantity of smaller-scale investigations launched by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, the agency charged with coordinating cleanup of sites that aren't deemed dangerous enough for federal enforcement. Investigations have been launched practically anywhere you look in the county, from rural farmland in the Delta to the heart of downtown Stockton. Even the new ballpark and arena sit on land that has a history of petroleum and heavy metal contamination, thanks to a former shipyard, fuel station and the railroad. To the south, officials investigated a World War II-era prisoner of war camp near Vernalis, worried that the soil might be polluted with sewage, paint, hospital waste, oil and even pesticides that were used to treat prisoners' head lice. In Stockton, three dry cleaning businesses fouled the groundwater aquifer beneath Lincoln Center in the 1970s and 80s, a mess that, as of February 2008, still required pumping up and treating the groundwater, reports say. In the far eastern portion of the city, you might stumble on the former Stockton Wrecking Yard, which closed more than a decade ago but left a toxic legacy in the form of lead in the soil. A voluntary cleanup agreement has been reached with the property owners, and heavy machinery parked there indicates something is happening.The lot is bordered on three sides by homes. Road worker Jose Larios, 48, lives next door; his family's minivan and a chain-link fence is all that separates them from their toxic neighbor. "When I bought the house four years ago, they didn't tell me," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I would have asked a few more questions before buying if I'd known." Of course, guessing whether the old Stockton Wrecking Yard or any of these sites could jeopardize your health is problematic. A good number of the state's investigations on record were routine inspections, such as when schools are proposed for construction on farmland where pesticides were once used. In most of these cases, inspectors found nothing hazardous. Some of the other investigations on record are just plain old. They were referred to other agencies a decade or longer ago, with the ultimate outcome unclear.Still other cases are listed as needing further evaluation years after they were first documented. Shortcomings notwithstanding, the database can teach us about toxic trends in our own communities, as well as generate some broad regional comparisons.San Joaquin County, for example, has about 3.6 toxic site investigations per 10,000 residents, compared with California's overall 2.3 sites per 10,000.Neighbors Stanislaus, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties also have lower rates, as well as Los Angeles County. Sparsely populated Calaveras County has a higher rate of 4.0 sites per 10,000 residents. Likely factors for our higher number of investigations are the military defense facilities in Lathrop and Tracy, as well as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory lands, the former Navy facilities at Rough and Ready Island and major petroleum transmission lines through the area, said Laurie Cotulla, assistant director of the county's Environmental Health Department. She said the county has aggressively pursued hazardous waste cleanups, also helping to explain the higher number of cases here."Probably it's a good thing that they're all on this list," Cotulla said. "That shows that we know about them and that they have been eliminated."Nan Ballot, a local Sierra Club leader, was not surprised when she heard San Joaquin's standing in the toxics database. "I'm aware of it," she said. "You just have to wonder how much of our health problems, not just human but the health of the Delta, too, are related to it."#http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080824/A_NEWS/808240322 4. Water Quality – A toxic peek beneath S.J. CountyAnalysis of state's detailed database reveals 250 investigations into potential hot spotsStockton Record – 8/24/08…By Alex Breitler, staff writer Oil drums leaking. Pesticides seeping. Heavy metals draining into our waterways. Per capita, San Joaquin County has seen more state investigations of potential toxic hot spots than most of its neighboring counties - more, in fact, than the statewide average. While some of these cases are decades old and were resolved long ago, more than two dozen sites still are being cleaned up - and it can take many years.Such are the findings of a Record analysis of a state database detailing 250 such investigations in the county and nearly 9,000 statewide. The database is available to anyone who wonders what dangers might hide in the soil or groundwater of his or her neighborhood. San Joaquin County is home to three or four federal Superfund sites. These are the worst of the worst, notorious stay-away zones that are well-known in most communities. Not as well-known is the sheer quantity of smaller-scale investigations launched by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, the agency charged with coordinating cleanup of sites that aren't deemed dangerous enough for federal enforcement. Investigations have been launched practically anywhere you look in the county, from rural farmland in the Delta to the heart of downtown Stockton. Even the new ballpark and arena sit on land that has a history of petroleum and heavy metal contamination, thanks to a former shipyard, fuel station and the railroad. To the south, officials investigated a World War II-era prisoner of war camp near Vernalis, worried that the soil might be polluted with sewage, paint, hospital waste, oil and even pesticides that were used to treat prisoners' head lice. In Stockton, three dry cleaning businesses fouled the groundwater aquifer beneath Lincoln Center in the 1970s and 80s, a mess that, as of February 2008, still required pumping up and treating the groundwater, reports say. In the far eastern portion of the city, you might stumble on the former Stockton Wrecking Yard, which closed more than a decade ago but left a toxic legacy in the form of lead in the soil. A voluntary cleanup agreement has been reached with the property owners, and heavy machinery parked there indicates something is happening.The lot is bordered on three sides by homes. Road worker Jose Larios, 48, lives next door; his family's minivan and a chain-link fence is all that separates them from their toxic neighbor. "When I bought the house four years ago, they didn't tell me," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I would have asked a few more questions before buying if I'd known." Of course, guessing whether the old Stockton Wrecking Yard or any of these sites could jeopardize your health is problematic. A good number of the state's investigations on record were routine inspections, such as when schools are proposed for construction on farmland where pesticides were once used. In most of these cases, inspectors found nothing hazardous. Some of the other investigations on record are just plain old. They were referred to other agencies a decade or longer ago, with the ultimate outcome unclear.Still other cases are listed as needing further evaluation years after they were first documented. Shortcomings notwithstanding, the database can teach us about toxic trends in our own communities, as well as generate some broad regional comparisons.San Joaquin County, for example, has about 3.6 toxic site investigations per 10,000 residents, compared with California's overall 2.3 sites per 10,000.Neighbors Stanislaus, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties also have lower rates, as well as Los Angeles County. Sparsely populated Calaveras County has a higher rate of 4.0 sites per 10,000 residents. Likely factors for our higher number of investigations are the military defense facilities in Lathrop and Tracy, as well as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory lands, the former Navy facilities at Rough and Ready Island and major petroleum transmission lines through the area, said Laurie Cotulla, assistant director of the county's Environmental Health Department. She said the county has aggressively pursued hazardous waste cleanups, also helping to explain the higher number of cases here."Probably it's a good thing that they're all on this list," Cotulla said. "That shows that we know about them and that they have been eliminated."Nan Ballot, a local Sierra Club leader, was not surprised when she heard San Joaquin's standing in the toxics database. "I'm aware of it," she said. "You just have to wonder how much of our health problems, not just human but the health of the Delta, too, are related to it."#http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080824/A_NEWS/808240322 5. Agencies, Programs, People –Guest Commentary: Lester SnowArticle about water was misleading - Contra Costa TimesOpinion:Stuart Leavenworth: All of a sudden, new dams don't look quite so attractive - Sacramento BeeFlood warning system unveiled by California water agency - Sacramento Bee Guest Commentary: Lester SnowArticle about water was misleadingContra Costa Times – 8/22/08…By Lester Snow – Director, California Department of Water Resources THIS IS REGARDING your Aug. 10 front-page story "Harvest of cash." The Delta is declining, but this article distorts the truth about the causes and fails to recognize the governor's commitment to finding a solution. There are many Delta stressors, including invasive species, pollution, rising water temperatures and runoff. To assert that the environmental water program contributed to the fishery decline ignores the complexity of the issue. Water purchases made under the Environmental Water Account were according to law and rules established in the CALFED Record of Decision. Operation of the account was assisted by public independent science reviews. Also, water deliveries did not exceed conditions in the federal biological opinions. They do not have a limit on Article 21 deliveries.EWA met its water purchase goals. Fish agencies had enough water for the actions they thought were needed. Purchases made by the EWA from south of Delta water users from 2001 to 2007 were from willing sellers who had stored water in water banks. The purchase price compensated users for the costs of storing this water, maintaining the water bank facilities, and extracting the water.The water bond proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein will increase water reliability and conservation, reduce shortages and restore the Delta. #http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_10281264?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com Opinion:Stuart Leavenworth: All of a sudden, new dams don't look quite so attractiveSacramento Bee – 8/24/08…By Stuart Leavenworth, staff writer The Sierra snowpack is dismal. Lake Oroville is at one-third of its capacity. Over on the Colorado River, Lake Mead has dropped to its lowest level in four decades. The D-word – drought – is on everyone's lips. Given these circumstances, you might think that Southern California would be leading the fight for new reservoirs. It's not. While Central Valley farmers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are all clamoring for state-funded surface storage (that's water community jargon for dams and reservoirs), Southern California has examined the price tag of these projects and said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Largely unnoticed by the state's media, the Southland's reservations about reservoirs are rocking the debate over water investments. In the 1960s, powerful farm industries in the Central Valley teamed up with Southern California to create Lake Oroville and other pieces of the State Water Project. History has shown that, when these groups cooperate, California can make water to flow uphill toward money. But several converging trends are souring Southern California's support for new dams, including those pushed by the governor. Construction costs are skyrocketing, along with prices of energy needed to move water south. Water stored in Northern California has to be shipped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, an increasingly undependable transit point for exports. Add these up, and surface storage becomes a risky, expensive option, according to a draft report released this month by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "From a Southern California perspective, dams in the northern part of the state have to be considered unreliable," said the report, aptly entitled "Where will we get the water?" Prepared for Southern California business leaders, the LAEDC report is significant on several fronts. For one, this is not the work of a think tank with an anti-dam agenda. LAEDC is a group with wide respect in economic development circles. In addition, it has taken a unique, comprehensive look at the Southland's current water options, and the likely costs of those options over 30 years. According to the report, conservation would be the least costly alternative, at $210 per acre-foot of treated water. Capturing storm water would cost about $350 but wouldn't help during a drought; groundwater storage would cost $580; and recycling about $1,000. Ocean desalination would cost more than $1,000 per acre-foot, depending on energy prices. By contrast, surface storage – including proposals such as the Sites Reservoir in Northern California and the Temperance Flat dam near Fresno – would cost $760 to $1,400 per acre-foot. Most of these expenses would come from shipping the water through or around the Delta, "a legally and environmentally tortuous path," the report states. Does this mean that Los Angeles is done financing water projects in Northern California? Don't bet on it. If California were to approve a new peripheral canal, Southern California would likely provide funding, and new storage projects would then become more viable. But for now, diversification is the name of the game in a region where 22 million people are dangerously dependent on water imports."The region needs to undertake an urgent program to secure sufficient, reliable water supplies," the Southern California report states. "The solution will have to incorporate a portfolio of water strategies, since no single strategy will provide a 'silver bullet.' "#http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/1179131.html Flood warning system unveiled by California water agencySacramento Bee – 8/24/08…By Matt Weiser, staff writer Amid a two-year drought, some people might be yearning for a heavy rain. And when high water strikes again, California will be ready with a new color-coded alert system.Borrowing a bit from federal security agencies, the state Department of Water Resources recently unveiled a "flood conditions" warning system to inform the public of the state's level of mobilization to combat flooding. When there are no significant concerns, like today during a typically hot and dry August, the alert level is Floodcon 1 – no significant events. From there it steps up to Floodcon 5, which means land is likely going underwater in multiple locations and multiple emergency teams are deployed. "It's kind of a way for other agencies and the public to see where we're at as far as our readiness," said Sean Mann, chief of DWR's flood operations center.The system is modeled after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's color-coded national security warning system, said Mann. Color codes illustrate the gravity of the threat, ranging from green (take a nap) to red (run and hide.) The federal system, however, has been ridiculed for providing little specific useful information to the public about actual dangers that may exist.It's unclear yet if Floodcon will do any better. Mann said Floodcon is designed only to indicate DWR's state of response. The day's Floodcon color is maintained and described on the Internet at www.water.ca.gov/floodmgmt/. During flood season, from Oct. 15 to April 15, DWR's color will always be no lower than blue – Floodcon 2 – and will turn rosier shades of peril with the weather and flooding events. "Since it's on the Web site, the public, if they're interested, can get a view of what we're doing based on the Floodcon status," Mann said. "In a significant weather event, they obviously want to be in a higher state of awareness and take precautions." The Web site does not provide links to specific flooding problems or weather events related to the color status. It also does not apply unique Floodcon ratings to different areas. The reader might reside in an area immune to flooding, but see that the state's color code says Floodcon status is grave, because it only describes DWR's response level. "Most people will already understand that during times of heavy rain, the risks of flooding are greater," said Jonas Minton former deputy director of flood management at DWR. "What is missing is better information for residents on the flood risk for their areas." Minton, a committee member of Citizens for Flood Safety, which supported a property tax increase for levee improvements in Sacramento last year, said the color ratings also could lure the public into a false sense of security. If DWR displays a safe green Floodcon color in June, he said, it might discourage an uninformed citizen from buying flood insurance or supporting a ballot measure for flood protection that happens to be up for a vote that month. Mann emphasized the system has just been unveiled. He said localized alerts or links to more online information about specific local flooding or weather events could be added in the future if there is enough interest.#http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1181032.html ------------------------------------------------------------- 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.