8-27-08Merced Sun-StarExperts doubt income increase actually happened in Merced CountySampling error blamed in a study that says salaries jumped in county...J.N. SBRANTI, The Modesto Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/421105.htmlIncomes soared in Merced County last year, far outpacing state and national gains, according to Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday, but those stats sound fishy to local analysts who suspect sampling errors.The Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey showed that median family incomes jumped 9.2 percent in Merced County and 7.2 percent in Stanislaus County.Compare that with the 4.5 percent family income gains for California and the country as a whole."There's something strange about these results," said Roy Childs, research director for University of the Pacific's Jacoby Center for Public Service and Civic Leadership.Considering the region's declining economy, increasing unemployment and soaring foreclosure rates, Childs said, "it suggests there's some form of sampling error."That's possible because the statistics come from a yearlong government "survey," not the once-a-decade, door-to-door canvas for which the census bureau is famous, he said..."There's quite a big margin of error in this survey. That's very likely what's going on here," said Randy Svedbeck, research manager for the Stanislaus Economic Development & Workforce Alliance. "We kind of live or die by the statistics, but we know they're not perfect. It's hard to get perfect."But it's easy to see something is amiss in this latest set of economic stats, he said...County commits to cleanup of toxic soilSouth Merced neighborhood, contaminated decades ago, moves closer to solution...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/421120.htmlThe state water board has ordered Merced County to come up with a long-range schedule to remove cancer-causing chemicals from the soil and groundwater in a South Merced neighborhood.The county also must hire a toxicologist to evaluate the health risks posed for residents living above the diesel and gasoline-contaminated ground, according to a California Regional Water Quality Board letter the county received Monday.Decades ago, fuel leaked from underground tanks at a county yard, as well as from the former Leonard Truck Repair site, now Merced Truck & Trailer, leaving petroleum residue and metals in the soil and water. The subterranean pear-shaped plume covers the Canal and Seventh streets area......county spokeswoman Katie Albertson said there's hasn't been any evidence that the contamination poses health risks for the residents.Workers will begin removing contaminated topsoil in about two weeks. However, much more work, such as cleaning the groundwater and evaluating the health risks, will need to be done. The entire cleanup project should be done in three to five years, she said. "We're taking the responsibility for the contamination," she said. "The county is committed to the complete cleanup of the site."It's spent $140,000 so far in testing and studies, she said. The county plans to apply to the state reimbursements, payments that can go as high as $3 million. The county's polluting tanks were removed in the mid- to late-1980s, though residents believe they're still buried in the ground because of the concentration of petroleum residue.The county, unable to produce paperwork to verify the removal, drilled where the tanks would have been and couldn't find evidence they were still there, Albertson said... Merced makes the Big Times...Mike Tharp, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/merced_makes_the_big_timesBoth the New York Times and the Financial Times.In the past two weeks.Both stories covered the local, regional and national foreclosure/real estate crisis, using Merced as a metaphor for the problems.I thought both reporters presented the situation here fairly and reasonably thoroughly. David Streitfeld, the NYT guy, used to work for the LA Times and may have visited our area before, so his long story was informed with local voices and scenes.Some Mercedians may not like our community pinpointed and highlighted by the national and international press about a negative. But that's the way this business works, folks. You may recall I've written before in this space about bias in the press--worried about the groupthink that plagues too many journalists on certain social issues. But I also worry about the emphasis--indeed, the need--of the press to focus on 1)conflict; and 2)the negative. Those will be tougher to moderate, let alone overcome, than journalists adopting a herd mentality about some issues. That's because our audiences are drawn to both--you ever slowed down or even pulled over to look at a car wreck? Same mindset's at work when negative news or artificial conflict is portrayed in the press. You have to stop and read or take a look.And we behind the notebooks and cameras know that.Back to the Times' coverage: the value for us, as a community and as a news organization, is that we get a gut-check from outsiders' views of us. Regardless of how uncomfortable it may feel, there's value in that.Remember Scottish poet Robert Burns' lines: 'O wad some Power the giftie gie usTo see oursels as ithers see us!'To see ourselves as others see us.Let's use those impressions constructively in Merced. Acknowledging the problem is the start of solving it.Any thoughts?Wind turbines make bat lungs explode, If bats are killed could have consequences for ecosystems...Submitted by Starters_mom, The Sunspothttp://sunspot.mercedsunstar.com/?q=node/4763http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn14593-wind-turbines-make-bat-lungs-explode.html?DCMP=ILC-hmts&nsref=news1_head_dn14593Wind turbines make bat lungs explode...17:00 25 August 2008 NewScientist.com news service...Catherine Brahic "Beware: exploding lungs"NewScientist EnvironmentWind turbines make bat lungs explode...Catherine Brahic...8-25-08http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/dn14593-wind-turbines-make-bat-lungs-explode.html"Beware: exploding lungs" is not a sign one would expect to see at a wind farm. But a new study suggests this is the main reason bats die in large numbers around wind turbines.The risk that wind turbines pose to birds is well known and has dogged debates over wind energy. In fact, several studies have suggested the risk to bats is greater. In May 2007, the US National Research Council published the results of a survey of US wind farms showing that two bat species accounted for 60% of winged animals killed. Migrating birds, meanwhile, appear to steer clear of the turbines.Why bats - who echolocate moving objects - are killed by turbines has remained a mystery until now. The research council thought the high-frequency noise from the turbines' gears and blades could be disrupting the bats' echolocation systems.In fact, a new study shows that the moving blades cause a drop in pressure that makes the delicate lungs of bats suddenly expand, bursting the tissue's blood vessels. This is known as a barotrauma, and is well-known to scuba divers."While searching for bat carcasses under wind turbines, we noticed that many of the carcasses had no external injuries or no visible cause of death," says Erin Baerwald of the University of Calgary in Canada.Internal injuriesBaerwald and colleagues collected 188 dead bats from wind farms across southern Alberta, and determined their cause of death. They found that 90% of the bats had signs of internal haemorrhaging, but only half showed any signs of direct contact with the windmill blades. Only 8% had signs of external injuries but no internal injuries...Baerwald and her colleagues believe that birds do not suffer the same fate as bats...their lungs are more rigid than those of bats and therefore more resistant to sudden changes in pressure.Bats eat nocturnal insects including agricultural pests, so if wind turbines affected their population levels, this could affect the rest of the local ecosystems. And the effects could even be international. "The species being killed are migrants," says Baerwald. "If bats are killed in Canada that could have consequences for ecosystems as far away as Mexico."Windy dayOne solution could be to increase the minimum wind speed needed to set the blades in motion. Most bats are more active in low wind.The study was funded by a number of bat conservation groups together with energy companies with a financial interest in wind energy, such as Shell Canada and Alberta Wind Energy.Journal reference: Current Biology (vol 18 p R696)Endangered species - Learn more about the conservation battle in our comprehensive special report.Energy and Fuels - Learn more about the looming energy crisis in our comprehensive special report.Planada Farmworker Housing Project DOA as LAFCo considers its annexation into Planada Community Services District...Submitted by Ohitson...The Sunspot http://sunspot.mercedsunstar.com/?q=node/4765Bryant Owens2683 South Plainsburg Road (209) 7xx-xxxxMerced, CA 95341-9550 firstname.lastname@example.org Tuesday, August 26, 2008To:Local Agency Formation Commission2222 M StreetMerced, CA 95340Re: Planada Community Services District Sphere of Influence LAFCO SOI File No. 1055 C Continued from the June 26th, 2008 meeting, andPlanada Community Services District Annexation- LAFCO File No. 0645 continued from the June 26th, 2008 meeting.Commissioners, Thank you for the opportunity to comment further on this PROJECT. It is a basic tenet of CEQA Law that a project is defined as the whole of an action. Staff has, in this current report, overtly proposed an illegal ‘piecemeal-ing’ of this project in order to allow time for further study of the Bear Creek portion of the annexation proposal. This violates the spirit and letter of the laws under which you make decisions as an appointed body. It is a sad state of affairs when the public is required to know chapter and verse of the laws under which staff makes its recommendations to you in order to keep them honest and for you to get a full description of the pros and cons of a particular project. The mitigation measures imposed on the Bear Creek project, by LAFCo in 1993, were clearly intended to restrict the ‘growth inducing impacts’ resulting from running a sewer line so far outside of district boundaries (as described in the questions and answers that are transcribed and on file with regard to that project). It defies logic to propose reducing the scope of this annexation solely to the portion that will impose the most severe residential growth effects and only then to do further study on the mitigation measures of a prior and related project; measures that were intended to prevent that very residential growth. There seems to be a double standard with regard to the impact of projects in this vicinity on Prime Farmland, Important Farmland and Unique Farmland... To declare the environmental review of the Felix Torres Project to be fully and finally approved is absolute sophistry. The Local Agency Formation Commission is not obligated in any way to rely on an environmental review which is blatantly faulty and still dependant, for its implementation, on the decisions of two other Land Use Authorities...The decision to allow additional hookups to an existing sewer line, which is currently outside of the Planada sewer district for much of its length, is under the purview of LAFCo and the County of Merced and the Planada CSD. To defer to the environmental review of the HACM because enforcing the mitigation measures, previously imposed by LAFCo on the Planada CSD, has become inconvenient is without question a dereliction of LAFCo’s duty and responsibility under the law; irrespective of the chimera of goals and policies in support of this annexation proposal fabricated in bits and pieces from County Zoning Code, rather than based on the tenets of the Cortese Knox Hertzberg Act of 2000, for this morning’s staff report. You the commissioners are clearly under no obligation to approve this project in any form if there are any questions with regard to the environmental review that remain unanswered, to your satisfaction...Because of the recent legal disagreement and settlement between HACM and Ashwood Construction, the general contractor on the Felix Torres Project for the last 3 years, HACM is without a general contractor. Deadlines have passed for substantial portions of the financing of this project, and now the HACM Executive Director has fired Don Borgwart, the project manager...The Planada CSD has not completed a valid EIR with regard to the effects of running its current facility at 99.6% of capacity for the duration of such time as it will take to accomplish the proposed expansion to 900,000 gallons/day capacity. The district has presented no contingency plan for dealing with situations of over capacity inflows...The issue of this projects’ relationship to the 4,000 home Villages of Geneva at Planada Project has been dismissed by staff as irrelevant because of that projects’ rejection by the Board of Supervisors. What is pertinent though about the interdependence of the two projects with regard to this annexation proposal is that Des Johnston, (former county planner) approached County Planning AFTER THAT REJECTION on behalf of the principle land owner and developer Tom Nevis and requested that the Villages of Geneva be considered within the context of the County’s General Plan Update because Pacific Holt wished to maintain a low profile and bring the project back up when market conditions have improved...Please deny this project at this time and insist that all the pertinent portions of this project be reviewed together under the auspices of a single competent Lead Agency. Thank you, Bryant Owens – original signed and submitted in personBryant OwensThe Planada Community Association Fresno BeeGovernor gives in on rail bill...E.J. Schultzhttp://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/824845.htmlSACRAMENTO -- Breaking his "no budget-no bills" pledge, Gov. Schwarzenegger on Tuesday signed legislation meant to improve the chances of a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. The reversal comes three weeks after the governor vowed to ignore any bills sent his way until lawmakers agree on a state budget, now 58 days late. He even said "some good bills will fail." He changed his mind because "the governor believes that just because the Legislature is over two months late in doing their job, that should not keep Californians from voting on these important measures," said his press secretary, Aaron McLear.In a letter to legislative leaders, the governor urged quick action on four ballot-related measures, but only one of them -- the high-speed rail bill -- was ready for his signature...Schwarzenegger on Monday told The Fresno Bee editorial board that he planned to sign ballot-connected bills because it was the right thing to do for the state. But Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former Republican legislative aide, said the governor's reversal makes him look weak. "You don't make a threat if you're not able to keep it," he said. "I think [lawmakers] all knew if he really needed the bill, he would sign it." Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, mocked the governor's reversal in a two-word statement tinged with sarcasm: "I'm shocked!"...The old bond, Prop. 1, will still appear in the main voter guide sent to voters. Under the bill, Prop. 1a will be described in a supplemental voter guide, which could cost an estimated $4 million to $11.7 million in taxpayer money. Only Prop. 1a will appear on the ballot, according to Galgiani's office. Rail supporters had thought the ballot deadline passed Sunday. But the Governor's Office believes there at least are a few more days. However, adding measures this late could cause logistical challenges for counties, which will soon send ballots to printers. Some counties might have to print two ballots, said Rebecca Martinez, Madera County's clerk/registrar and president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials...The route flexibility in Prop. 1a could give the "yes" campaign a wider voter audience, presumably making it easier to pass. But the changes won't sway the rail's most-well known opponent, the anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The association says the state can't afford the rail project, estimated to cost at least $45 billion. Rail supporters hope to lure money from private sources and the federal government, but no firm commitments have been made. Valley counties still rank among the poorest in the United StatesBut Kings County shows a surprising drop in its poverty rate...Russell Clemingshttp://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/824848.htmlIn good economic times or bad, the story never changes in the central San Joaquin Valley -- on average, its residents are among the poorest in California and the nation. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau drove that point home Tuesday.In 2007, the bureau's American Community Survey listed Tulare County as having a higher percentage of people living in poverty than any other California county of the 40 for which data were available. Almost 24% of that county's residents lived in households where the income was below poverty level. Second worse in the state was Imperial County, with nearly 22%...Other Valley counties fared little better in the state rankings. Fresno County was in fourth place, with 20% of its people -- one in five -- living in poverty last year.Merced's rate was 19.4% and Madera was 14.5%. The one bright spot in the data was Kings County, where the estimated poverty rate dropped from 21.3% in 2005 to 15.1% last year...Local housing: boom to bustFresno is 12th in the nation in decline with prices falling 17.7%...Sanford Naxhttp://www.fresnobee.com/business/v-printerfriendly/story/824624.htmlThree years ago, housing prices were climbing so fast that Fresno was officially declared a boom marketToday, it's a bust. Tuesday, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which tracks appreciation and depreciation rates, said Fresno ranked 12th in price decline nationwide, falling 17.7% over one year and 8.26% for the quarter. Merced, Stockton and Modesto had the dubious distinction of topping the worst list, with values plummeting 34.5%, 31.7% and 28.5%, respectively, over 12 months. It is not coincidence that those cities in the North Valley also make up the nation's foreclosure capital.The places with the highest price declines also have the most foreclosures, which are priced for quick sale. "It's a perfect match," said Sean O'Toole, president of Discovery Bay-based ForeclosureRadar, which tracks defaults... Sacramento BeeCaples Lake trout play hard to get for state rescuers...Chris Bowmanhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1188631.htmlKIRKWOOD, Alpine County – Any angler who has been skunked at Caples Lake would have netted some consolation Tuesday watching dozens of state Fish and Game workers trying to catch the High Sierra trout.The olive-uniformed fishing crews had all the toys and none of the rules: eight motor boats, sonar fish finders, satellite-based navigation systems, gill nets, trammel nets, hoop nets and electro-shock generators that leave no fish unturned.By noon, after three hours of casting about, the crew had bagged all of one fish – a 23-inch rainbow. That was when a school of press photographers converged on the lonesome quarry to chronicle the start of an all-out fish rescue.The lake's owner, the El Dorado Irrigation District, is draining the 600-acre reservoir as fast as it can to repair the outlets of the 85-year-old dam. The district's governing board declared an emergency after discovering that the sliding gates are in danger of failing, which could result in uncontrolled releases or a plugged dam overwhelmed with the inflow of snowmelt.Fish and Game officials said the sight of thousands of stranded and dying trophy-sized trout flopping about in shallow pools is politically unacceptable...The district began drawing down Caples Lake in mid-July...Amid downturn, discount grocers see business grow...Jim Downinghttp://www.sacbee.com/103/v-print/story/1188997.htmlSandra Henderson has shopped for groceries at Raley's for 30 years. So what was she doing wheeling a cart into the West Sacramento Wal-Mart Supercenter on Tuesday?"It's the economy," she said.Wal-Mart's giant discount stores posted by far the biggest gain in market share of any grocery chain in the four-county capital region through the first half of the year, according to new data from Trade Dimensions Inc., a market research firm.Meanwhile, West Sacramento-based Raley's, the region's largest supermarket chain, continued to bleed business, according to the report.Nationwide, conventional supermarkets are losing shoppers to big discounters – a trend that has accelerated as the economy flags and more shoppers feel worried about their financial future."Raley's might have very high customer satisfaction, but people still might not come back because they're hedging against (financial) risk," said Ashwin Aravindakshan, a University of California, Davis, professor of marketing.Nonetheless, the No. 2 local grocer, Safeway, has been adding customers, a performance analysts credited to the chain's big investment in upgrading its stores. Save Mart, the third-largest player in the market, slipped slightly.Arkansas-based Wal-Mart opened its first Supercenter – a hybrid supermarket and discount store – in the Sacramento region less than three years ago. Today, its five Supercenters own 8.3 percent of the local market, with each store bringing in more than twice the grocery business of an average Safeway or Raley's location, according to Trade Dimension figures.Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said the company has plans for three more Supercenters in the region – a new store on Florin Road, an expansion of the existing Folsom Wal-Mart and a new store in Galt.Wal-Mart has grown to be the nation's largest grocer with a low-prices pitch that has consistently lured shoppers from more service-oriented supermarket chains.Nationwide, Supercenter-type stores are gaining about one point of market share annually, while traditional supermarkets are losing share at about the same rate, according to a recent report by the consulting firm Willard Bishop.Over the past 18 months, Raley's has lost 2.4 percentage points of market share, leaving it with slightly more than a third of the local grocery business. Each share point in our region is worth about $35 million in annual sales...Stockton RecordCouncil tables General Plan...David Sidershttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080827/A_NEWS/808270331/-1/A_NEWSSTOCKTON - The City Council, which appeared Friday to be near to settling its dispute with environmentalists and state Attorney General Jerry Brown over Stockton's landmark General Plan, voted Tuesday to defer the matter, cheering builders and developers who said environmental provisions of the deal required additional review.Special Assistant Attorney General Clifford Rechtschaffen said the settlement's tabling involves "enormous risk" that it will unravel.City Manager Gordon Palmer and City Attorney Ren Nosky had recommended a settlement requiring the council to consider green building standards and otherwise reduce the environmental impact of the General Plan, a document that calls for subdivisions at the city limits and for Stockton's population to about double by 2035.Their proposal followed months of negotiations with Brown, D-Oakland, who had threatened to join the Sierra Club in a lawsuit attempting to undo the plan. The club said the plan, adopted in December, blessed sprawl and would harm the environment and the economic standing of downtown - claims the city denied.The council voted 4-2 to defer the matter until Sept...The proposed settlement would require the council to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to consider forcing the construction of new homes to meet green building standards and to consider amending the General Plan to ensure suburban development is not "out of balance" with infill development.Builders and developers told the council Tuesday that retailers would withdraw plans to build in Stockton and that homes would become more expensive to build were the settlement approved. How the deal would be implemented - and its economic impact - remained uncertain, they said."There's no hurry to proceed tonight," said Steve Herum, an attorney for developer A.G. Spanos Cos. "The costs are absolutely unknown."The proposed settlement was agreed to by the Sierra Club and Brown and would have resolved that litigation. It would not have settled a lawsuit by the Morada Area Association to block the General Plan, which remains in litigation.Sierra trout rescue missionEffort made to catch thousands of fish before Caples Lake drained...Dana M. Nicholshttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080827/A_NEWS/808270333/-1/A_NEWSKIRKWOOD - The fish in Caples Lake had not yet realized Tuesday morning that the folks stringing nets across the water and zapping the lake with bolts of fish-shocking electrical current actually meant them well.Only seven or eight fish - including one 24-inch rainbow trout - had been caught and transferred to holding pens by noon. Most fish, thousands of them by California Department of Fish and Game estimates, were taking mid-day siestas in deep spots, refusing to get tangled or shocked...The fish face death because Caples Lake is being lowered for emergency repairs to the dam's outlet gates, and the water could freeze solid this winter, said Stafford Lehr, a senior environmental scientist for the Department of Fish and Game."We had the potential for a total fish kill during the winter," Lehr said....anglers were dismayed to learn recently that the entire Caples Lake fish population was in jeopardy and that El Dorado Irrigation District, which operates the dam, had known for months that it needed urgent repairs.It was March when irrigation district staff notified federal regulators that they were having problems opening and closing the dam's gates. The gates are crucial not only to control water for irrigation use and to prevent floods, but also to control flows needed for trout fisheries below the dam in Caples Creek.On June 10 and 11, divers went underwater and discovered that the rusted gate mechanisms were on the verge of failure, said George Osborne, president of the El Dorado Irrigation District board. The board declared an emergency on July 1.But it wasn't until much more recently that it was clear repairing the gates would require lowering the lake until as little as 6 feet of water was left, making a solid freeze possible, Lehr said. "This whole operation has come together in about 21/2 weeks," he said...Tracy PressEnergy policy linked to Delta’s futureHis Voice writer says the way we use energy will affect the Delta, and it is our job to find out how...Wes Rolley, Morgan Hillhttp://tracypress.com/content/view/15601/2244/Between now and November, we will hear more than we want about energy and the Delta. While seemingly very different issues, they have a lot in common — not the least being that the only problem most politicians are trying to solve is the one of staying in office.The fate of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and U.S. energy policy are part of the discussion of global warming. Both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are trying to appease voters by saying that they will lower the price of gasoline. Yet, if either is successful, the result may be catastrophic for the Delta. The more gasoline we burn, the more we make greenhouse gases. That, ultimately, will raise ocean levels, change climate, extend our drought and threaten the livelihood of all who make their living from the waters of the Delta. Finding the right solution for both will not be easy, but finding the wrong one for energy use may mean that the Delta is doomed, no matter what we do. It is all going to depend on what problem we are trying to solve. The recent Public Policy Institute of California study had mixed reviews, including one by the Tracy Press (Our Voice, July 23, “More info needed for new look at Delta canal”). The PPIC asked, “Which water management strategies best meet the goals of environmental sustainability and water supply reliability?” The way the question was framed left the only solution to be the construction of a peripheral canal, a solution that will change the Delta forever. Had the PPIC asked how we might ensure that our children, until the seventh generation, could have the life that we now enjoy, the answer would surely have been different. It may actually have said that the most important thing we can do is to first address our energy use. Wes Rolley describes himself as an artist and concerned citizen in Morgan Hill. He writes often about the Delta.San Francisco ChronicleGovernor signs rail bill to get it on ballot...Matthew Yihttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/27/MN7S12ILOR.DTL&type=printableGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who promised not to sign any bills until lawmakers reach a budget deal, reversed his position Tuesday and signed a measure for a statewide bullet train system that he strongly supports.The governor also wants to make exceptions for three other proposals he has been promoting: budget reform; changing the state lottery to allow California to borrow against future ticket sales; and a bond for water infrastructure.The high-speed rail legislation will replace a $10 billion bond measure on the November ballot with a revised version of the proposal that makes the bullet train system more appealing to voters statewide.The legislation, AB3034, adds more specific oversight and spending rules to the plan, which calls for a 700-mile rail system that moves trains between San Francisco and Southern California at speeds of up to 220 mph. Priority is the budget... New proposal... They want detailsRepublican leaders said while they agree in principle that the state needs budget reform and a water bond, they would need to see the details of any proposal that comes up for a vote in the Legislature...What is changed in bond proposalAB3034, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Tuesday, would change the language of the high-speed rail bond measure to:-- Keep the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles segment as the first priority for bond revenue but add Anaheim to that segment. It would also allow money to be spent on other segments as long as that did not delay construction of the main line.-- Prohibit construction of a station between Gilroy and Merced, a point of concern among environmentalists.-- Place limits on spending, including the amount spent on studies and plans, administration and purchase of right of way.-- Place limits on spending, including the amount spent on studies and plans, administration and purchase of right of way.-- Require a detailed funding plan for any segment before funds can be requested.-- Require the High Speed Rail Authority to complete an updated business plan by Oct. 1.-- Create a committee of experts to review planning, engineering, financing and other plans prepared by the authority.Up against a deadlineProposals that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to see on the November ballot:High-speed rail bond: Amends the existing $10 billion bullet train bond measure to make it more appealing to voters throughout the state. The Legislature has approved AB3034, and the governor signed it Tuesday.Budget reform: The governor wants a rainy-day fund to limit spending, and the authority to make midyear cuts in spending.Lottery: The governor wants to be able to borrow against future state lottery sales.Water bond: The governor and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have proposed a $9.3 billion measure that includes protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, expanding water storage and promoting conservation. Assembly Democrats have a similar plan.Judge backs UC stadium, not oak supporters...Carolyn Joneshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/27/BAP412J2GF.DTL&type=printableBerkeley - -- A judge capped a 20-month legal battle on Tuesday by lifting an order preventing UC Berkeley from building a sports training center next to Memorial Stadium.In her final judgment issued late Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller wrote that the university had complied with the outstanding legal issues and could begin construction at the stadium's adjacent oak grove, where a handful of tree-sitting protesters have been roosting since December 2006.The judgment allows the plaintiffs, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill neighborhood group, two days to appeal the ruling. The university has said it will not begin construction until the state Court of Appeal rules on the case, which could be as soon as next week.The plaintiffs' attorney, Stephan Volker, said he would ask the appeals court to reverse Miller's decision and reinstate the injunction that prevents the university from constructing the sports facility.The $125 million project violates state earthquake and environmental laws and must be resubmitted to the UC regents before being built, Volker wrote in his appeal...Miller sided with the university on most issues. The university offered to drop two points she objected to: construction of a grade beam supporting the stadium's west wall and plans to host more non-football events at the 85-year-old landmark stadium.Alaska voters decide mining over fish...MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/08/27/politics/p035218D64.DTL&type=printableAlaskans were given an option when voting for an initiative in their primary election: mining or fish.They chose mining.With more than 84 percent of votes tallied early Wednesday, the measure was declared dead with more than 57 percent of voters rejecting it.The ballot measure would have imposed two water quality standards on any new large-scale mines in Alaska. Had it passed, it would have restricted large, new mines from releasing toxic pollutants into water that would adversely affect the health of humans or salmon.Opponents of the initiative say if it had passed, it would have killed large-scale mining in Alaska.Supporters said the initiative was needed to save wild salmon streams from the Pebble Mine, a huge copper and gold deposit poised for development near Bristol Bay...Opponents claimed that the initiative posed a serious threat to Alaska's economy. They say mining accounts for over 5,500 jobs and nearly $200 million a year in state and local tax revenues.Supporters said the bigger threat is to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, which they say provides over 12,000 jobs and contributes over $250 million annually to Alaska's economy.Inside Bay AreaJudge lifts order blocking Berkeley sports center...Associated Presshttp://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_10312268?IADID=Search-www.insidebayarea.com-www.insidebayarea.comBERKELEY — An Alameda County judge has lifted an order blocking the University of California from building a sports center that has been the focus of an impassioned tree-sitting protest. Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller's final ruling Tuesday clears the way for UC Berkeley to begin constructing an athletic training facility where several dozen oak trees now stand. Opponents of the project say they plan to appeal. University officials said they have promised construction will not begin until the state appeals court has ruled. At the same time, the university is set to begin work on the center immediately if the higher court does not reinstate an injunction blocking construction, UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said... Campus officials have a separate court order allowing them to boot the sitters and have stepped up their eviction efforts in recent weeks. A handful still remain in the trees. Miller first blocked construction in January 2007, issuing an injunction while lawsuits seeking to halt the project were pending. Following a trial, Miller in June sided with the university on most points but said she had remaining questions about a few aspects of the project. Campus lawyers responded by eliminating the items Miller questioned... Mercury NewsFeds identify thousands of acres in San Mateo, Santa Clara counties as habitat for butterfly...Shaun Bishop, Bay Area News Grouphttp://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_10314369?nclick_check=1Federal authorities Tuesday identified more than 18,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties as critical habitat for the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly. The move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates areas where the insect with a two-inch wingspan can survive. Native to the Bay Area, the checkerspot butterfly lives where soil lacks nutrients and only a few select plants grow, including dwarf plantain, purple owl's clover and exserted paintbrush. Its larvae feed on those plant species, which in some places have been crowded out by invasive plants. The wildlife service identified 16,601 acres of habitat in Santa Clara County, mostly in the hills east of Highway 101 from Yerba Buena Road to Anderson Lake and in patches between the city of Santa Clara and Highway 152. In San Mateo County, the service designated 1,692 acres, mostly in Edgewood Park and Pulgas Ridge in the Redwood City hills, Jasper Ridge in Portola Valley and San Bruno Mountain. Federal agencies must now consult with the wildlife service if they propose any activities that could harm the critical habitat for the butterfly, noted for its orange, white and black-spotted wings. In practical terms, though, the habitat designation is mostly a bureaucratic move required by the Endangered Species Act, which first listed the checkerspot in 1987, said Al Donner, assistant field supervisor for the wildlife service. "The basic protection for a species comes when we list it" as endangered or threatened, Donner said. "When you do critical habitat, that draws a line on the map, but it doesn't add any additional protections." Donner said federal agencies are already "pretty sensitive to the basic prohibition under the Endangered Species Act, which is don't harm the species." Otherwise, the habitat identification doesn't establish any new restrictions for private property owners or state agencies, he said. The designation also ends a legal battle dating to 2001, when the wildlife service first identified areas it considered critical habitat in the Bay Area.The Home Builders Association of California challenged the service's findings, saying it had failed to analyze the economic impacts of the decision.A consultant's further studies found that the designation will cost no more than $750,000 over the next 22 years, which mostly pays for basic management of the habitat, Donner said. Still, as a result of the court battle, the wildlife service eliminated 5,610 acres from its original proposal. Donner said most of the excluded territory was either developed or had ecology that could not support the checkerspot. Just because the habitat has been identified doesn't mean that the butterfly will thrive. An attempt to reintroduce the butterfly to Edgewood Park last year was apparently unsuccessful, said Bill Korbholz, president of the conservation group Friends of Edgewood. That leaves Santa Clara County as the only place where the butterfly is still known to live, according to federal reports. "You learn how hard it is to make positive changes," Korbholz said. Monterey HeraldFight to save water credits Customers want to make deal with property owner...KEVIN HOWEhttp://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_10314369?nclick_check=1Pacific Grove water customers on a waiting list hope they can make a deal with a property owner who claims rights to 2.5 acre-feet of water a year for his businesses but hasn't used most of it. Tibor Rudas, owner of a commercial building at 610 Lighthouse Ave. that once housed a movie theater, obtained the allocation from the city in 1996 for construction of a 125-seat restaurant. He built and operated a 50-seat restaurant for some years and has used .93 acre feet per year, said City Attorney David Laredo, but has not produced a project to use the remaining water. The city is worried, he said, that it faces a use-it-or-lose-it situation with the state Water Resources Control Board, which may implement a draft cease-and-desist order on overpumping of the Carmel River aquifer by the end of this year, an action that could erase unused water credits. That order would compel California American Water to reduce its take from the Carmel River immediately by 15 percent, eventually reducing it by 50 percent during the next seven years. Even that level of reduction would allow Cal Am to divert more river water than the state says it has legal rights to, according to Order 95-10 issued by the state water board in 1995. The order says Cal Am has rights to only 3,376 acre-feet of water per year from the aquifer. Since then, the state has allowed Cal Am to continue drawing more than that to meet public needs until it can find a new source...Pacific Grove has a waiting list of applicants seeking permits to build new homes or businesses or add bathrooms or other water-using facilities. Last Wednesday, the Pacific Grove City Council approved a resolution that requires Rudas to submit a building permit application and complete it within 60 days, and to assign the unused 1.57 acre-feet of water for his property to members of the water waiting list. Monterey attorney Dave Swaggert, representing Rudas, said the city acted improperly and without notice to take away a vested property right held by his client. The resolution specifically targets Rudas and his building at 610 Lighthouse, he said, and termed it an "ambush" of his client. The notice for last week's meeting did not name a specific individual or property being looked at. "No one else is getting the same treatment," he said. Rudas is required to submit a permit "deemed complete" in 60 days, Swaggert said, adding, "nobody in the history of Pacific Grove does that in 60 days. It's not an option for my client." But, Swaggert said, his client does want to work out the issue with the city... Los Angeles TimesWhen the 'foreclosure price' becomes the market price...Peter Viles, L.A. Land...8-23-08http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laland/2008/08/when-the-forecl.htmlThis lengthy update on the housing price collapse in Merced, written by the New York Times' David Streitfeld, is worthwhile weekend reading. As with all good writing about the housing bubble and bust, the story, in the end, is pretty simple: In Merced, planners, developers, lenders and buyers were blinded by the bubble -- they expensive houses that the area's economy ultimately could not absorb:Hardly anyone in Merced planned very far ahead. Not the city, which enthusiastically approved the creation of dozens of new neighborhoods without pausing to wonder if it could absorb the growth. Certainly not the developers. They built 4,397 new homes in those neighborhoods, somecosting half a million dollars, without asking who in a city of only 80,000 could afford to buy them all.... And, sadly, not the local folk who moved up and took on more debt than they could afford. They believed — because who was telling them differently? — that the good times would be endless.You know the rest of the story: a tidal wave of foreclosures, driving median sales prices down 50%. The "foreclosure price" -- set by banks eager to unload distressed inventory -- has become the market price; other sellers must compete by dropping their prices. A downward spiral in prices.A typical foreclosure price progression: "In November 2005, the house sold for $126,000. The bank, which took it back last spring, is asking $59,000. The Seattle man (a prospective buyer) offers $40,000."Another foreclosure scenario: "The owners, who owe $350,000, can no longer make their mortgage payments. Mr. Seivert is negotiating to buy the house for $170,000 and then rent it back to the couple, who have jobs in the area. They will pay $1,100 instead of their current $2,600 a month."...CommentsGood story. Try this: look at a Zillow market value chart for zip code 95340 for the last 10 years in terms of % change. From 1999 to 2006 it goesfrom 0 to 250% and from 2006 to today it falls from 250% to 75%. Wow. And the banks looked at this and thought, yea, this makes sense.Posted by: anon1137 | August 23, 2008 at 12:05 PM -------------------------------------------------------------Did anyone read the article in whole? Here are some choice quotes: "But Merced’s per capita income of $23,864 ranks among the lowest for metropolitan areas in the country""...city of only 80,000""...working-class agricultural city ranked by the American Lung Association as having some of the worst air in the nation""Businesses in Merced are struggling. Downtown buildings are festooned with “for lease” signs. Unemployment, consistently high here, rose to 12.1 percent in July."Sound like $170,000 is 2x too much for a house there in my opinion...Posted by: LA Land Fan | August 24, 2008 at 09:39 PM -------------------------------------------------------------It should be noted that Merced was being touted as a "bedroom community" for the SF Bay Area, where property values skyrocketed. But since some of this Merced housing was over $500K, I'm not sure it would make it attractive for a three hour commute each way to San Francisco or San Jose. The whole argument of "more house for the money" falls flat if you spend that much time on the road (and there are closer-in cheaper long commutes in Tracy and Modesto, which are nicer towns than Merced). There was also the lure of it becoming a "college town," which so far has not panned out. So, people invested there for the potential instead of the reality, that maybe the lure of relatively cheap housing for Bay Area workers and the new UC campus would cause rural gentrification.Posted by: Mary C. | August 25, 2008 at 01:01 AM -------------------------------------------------------------According to the article, this summer the Merced County Planning Commission voted to approve a plan for the eventual construction of a city of 16,000 houses called the Villages of Laguna San Luis on the western edge of Merced County. Even though they don't have enough jobs or water to support the project. What are they thinking?Posted by: Maggie Knowles | August 25, 2008 at 06:34 AM Colleges' misguided plan for drinkingCollege presidents are wrong. Data clearly show the damage done by letting 18- to 20 year-olds drink...Robert Nash Parker, professor of sociology and co-director of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at UC Riversidehttp://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-parker27-2008aug27,0,6375611,print.storyAwell-intentioned but misguided group of college and university presidents has been in the news recently for suggesting that we revisit the drinking age and asserting that 21 "is not working." Called the Amethyst Initiative, their proposal would have received a failing grade in my sociology classroom for its faulty logic and how unmindful it is of the history of alcohol policy in this country.During the 1960s and 1970s, most states lowered the drinking age from 21 to 18 or 19. Arguments about the draft were cited -- "old enough to fight, but not to drink" -- and in the general liberal climate of those times, good policy gave way to popular sentiment. The 128 college presidents who have signed on to the Amethyst Initiative apparently are unaware of the extensive research that documented the decade of carnage that followed -- not just on our highways but in our bars, streets and neighborhoods. Rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths soared. Rates of alcohol-related violence among those 18 to 20 increased. And as alcohol got more accessible to teens, more 12- and 13-year-olds started drinking. Beginning in the late 1970s, the states, led by Minnesota, restored the drinking age to 21, and they saw corresponding drops in alcohol-related car accidents and crash-related deaths. There also eventually were reductions in youth homicide, which resulted in part from the decreased access to alcohol, both within the 18- to 20-year-old group and those under 18. The college presidents claim that research does not, however, support the conclusion that the drinking age spurred these changes. And although there are many different studies with inconclusive results, in 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did an analysis of 49 studies. Looking at them together, the CDC found that increasing the drinking age was an effective intervention that had significantly reduced harm and death among young people.On the website of Choose Responsibility, the umbrella organization that spearheaded the Amethyst Initiative, the arguments against the drinking age of 21 are particularly flawed. Here, they contend that accidents and deaths dropped simply because the size of the teenage population went down. But they make an error that my undergraduate research-methods students are taught to avoid: They present raw numbers instead of the risk ratio, or the number of negative outcomes divided by the population at risk. Between 1982 and 1991, when most states had raised the drinking age, the number of deaths from alcohol-related traffic crashes among youth went down, as did the population of young people. However, the rate of deaths dropped from 16.9 per 100,000 young people to 11.1 per 100,000, a drop of 34%; the population declined only 6.5%. Between 1993 and 2004, the population of young people increased, but the number of deaths didn't go up. In fact, the rate dropped from 7.77 deaths per 100,000 to 7.0 per 100,000. The assertion that deaths from alcohol-related crashes are shaped by the number of young people is simply wrong.So what really has happened since the drinking age was raised? About 26,000 people who would have died when they were 18 to 20 years old are alive because fewer alcohol-related crashes occurred.Data from the University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future study of behavior trends among children show that under the higher drinking age, the proportion of 18-year-olds who drink has declined 14% since 1991; for those age 16, the decline is 23%; and for those age 12, the decline is a significant 38%. Research on underage purchases of alcohol shows that places where alcohol is readily sold to minors also have higher rates of youth violence.To be sure, the college presidents appear most concerned about the growth in binge drinking, a problem that may disproportionately affect their campuses. But it's not rocket science to figure out what would happen if the college presidents have their way with the drinking age -- hundreds more dead young people each year. Sexual assaults, alcohol-related fights and other injuries would also increase. Also, it's worth noting that alcohol-related deaths among young people not enrolled in college currently exceed those among students, so even more deaths and injuries would occur away from campuses. It is ironic that these campus leaders call for 18- to 20-year-olds to "choose responsibility," when it is these college presidents who have shirked their responsibility to counter the dangerous binge-drinking culture that has developed on campuses. Research sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has shown that there are effective strategies that will reduce student binge drinking. Instead, the presidents seem to have settled on approaches that will increase profits for alcohol companies at the expense of young people's lives and health. Until they do their homework, they get an F in public policy.New oversight, stiffer penalties approved for snooping into patient recordsCalifornia Senate moves to clamp hospital files shut following breaches of celebrities' confidential files...Patrick McGreevyhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-legis27-2008aug27,0,7366601,print.storySACRAMENTO — Alarmed by breaches in which UCLA Medical Center employees snooped in the confidential records of celebrities including Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and California First Lady Maria Shriver, state lawmakers moved Tuesday to clamp hospital files shut with new oversight and stiffer penalties.Legislators also approved a bid to extend healthcare coverage to those with preexisting medical conditions.The Assembly did not meet Tuesday. But the state Senate approved a measure that would require hospitals to draft a plan to safeguard patient information and set up a new state Office of Health Information Integrity with power to review plans and violations and assess fines of up to $250,000 against people who violate patient privacy.A companion bill, which the Senate has yet to act on, would allow fines of up to $250,000 against healthcare providers in case of breaches."Our current system of protecting patient privacy has not served as a sufficient deterrent to stop repeated and damaging breaches of patient confidentiality," said Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), author of the companion bill.Alquist noted that one person at UCLA viewed confidential patient information more than 900 times.A companion bill, which the Senate has yet to act on, would allow fines of up to $250,000 against healthcare providers in case of breaches."Our current system of protecting patient privacy has not served as a sufficient deterrent to stop repeated and damaging breaches of patient confidentiality," said Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), author of the companion bill.Alquist noted that one person at UCLA viewed confidential patient information more than 900 times...More bank failures may be on the way, FDIC warnsThe agency's list of 'problem' banks grows to its highest level in five years...Jim Puzzanghera and E. Scott Reckardhttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-banks27-2008aug27,0,35737,print.storyWASHINGTON — Federal regulators Tuesday boosted to $8.9 billion the estimated cost of IndyMac Bank's failure and prepared the public for more collapses, reporting that the number of troubled U.S. banks shot up 30% in just three months.The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said that on June 30 there were 117 institutions on its "problem list," up from 90 on March 31 and the highest level in five years. The disclosures were part of a bleak portrait of the banking industry painted by the agency, which said earnings at commercial banks and savings and loans plunged 87% to $5 billion in the second quarter as institutions scrambled to cover bad mortgages and other loans."Quite frankly, the results were pretty dismal," FDIC Chairwoman Sheila C. Bair said at a news conference. Aside from the fourth quarter of 2007, bank earnings were at their lowest since 1991.Historically, about 13% of banks on the problem list fail. But Bair predicted the list would grow. "We don't think this credit cycle's bottomed out yet," she said. This year nine banks with total assets of $40 billion have failed, according to the FDIC. Although the banking industry is clearly under stress, the size of the list shouldn't be alarming, said Michael M. Heller, president of Veribanc Inc., an independent bank rating firm in Woonsocket, R.I.Even in 2005 and 2006, years when no banks failed, there were 40 to 50 institutions on the FDIC's problem list, Heller said."Are we in a tough time for the industry?" he said. "Yes, absolutely. But is it panic time like in the late '80s and early '90s? No way."At the end of 1992, toward the end of the savings and loan crisis, 1,063 institutions were on the list... 8-27-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…August 27, 2008 1. Top Item - Legislators debate water bond that could include dam: Committee member says they are near a compromise - Visalia Times- Delta- 8/27/08IID is still unhappy with Senate bill - Imperial Valley Press- 8/26/08 Legislators debate water bond that could include dam: Committee member says they are near a compromiseVisalia Times- Delta- 8/27/08…By Jake Henshaw SACRAMENTO — Legislators debated, but didn't agree on, a water bond Tuesday that could build a new dam at Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River and help clean up contaminated groundwater in Tulare County and elsewhere. The Special Committee on Water focused primarily on a $9.8 billion bond co-authored by Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, a proposal that represented a new formal effort by Assembly Democrats. "It's a work in progress," Caballero said, "but we've moved closer to a consensus product than has ever been achieved." Republicans criticized the Democratic proposal and, more specifically, the Democrats for refusing to include a $9.98 billion GOP water bond in the hearing. "I think that is a [Democratic] leadership issue," Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, committee chair, said of any hearing on the GOP plan. "It's not there yet," Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, vice chairman of the committee, said in an interview about a water bond compromise. The hearing represented the latest chapter in a three-year effort by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some legislators to place a major water bond on the ballot that includes new dams. Earlier this summer the governor and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, proposed a $9.3 billion water bond. The Legislature is set to end its regular session this year Sunday, but the water bond is being considered in a special session that could continue.#http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080827/NEWS01/808270323/1002 IID is still unhappy with Senate billImperial Valley Press- 8/26/08…By BRIANNA LUSK Questions continue to linger for Imperial Irrigation District board members about the language of a Senate bill involving the Salton Sea and whether the water transfer agreement is being breached.Senate Bill 187 cleared the state Senate last week and will distribute $47 million for the first phase of habitat restoration and studies on air and water quality at the Salton Sea.But some IID board members said that without a spelled-out reference to the Salton Searestoration’s ties to the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement, the state continues to circumvent its liability at the plagued inland sump that was once an oasis in the desert.“This is not substantive language,” said IID Legal Counsel Jeff Garber. “It doesn’t change anything.”At a special meeting to discuss the issue Tuesday, the board reviewed the impact the change could have on the QSA — a 75-year agreement that transfers water from Imperial County to the coast. Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, who authored SB 187, said IID officials not only knew about the change but were part of the water districts that requested it.The omissions make direct reference to the Salton Sea noting “restoration of the Salton Sea is an essential element of the Quantification Settlement Agreement.”IID Director Mike Abatti said if the language is insignificant there should be no problem putting it back in.“I believe it was a key component of this bill,” he said.IID General Manager Brian Brady said the change was apparently approved by former interim General Manager Elston Grubaugh last year when the bill was stalled in an appropriations committee. Board members say they were never informed of the change, however, the district lobbyist did agree to the language deletion.“There is no question that this matter should have been brought to the IID board and the fact that it wasn’t, frankly, is unacceptable,” Brady said.Brady said he shares the board’s misgivings on the state’s intention to restore the Salton Sea.Gary Wyatt, Salton Sea Authority board member and chairman of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, said the authority reluctantly agreed to the change. “Our feeling is that it does no harm and it in fact does some good. It moves some money,” Wyatt said.Wyatt said the SSA remains vigilant about the state’s duty to restore the Salton Sea.“I would like to join you in that effort to push the state to live up to their responsibility,” said IID Director Anthony Sanchez.Abatti said with other bills in the works such as SB 1256 that would establish a Salton Sea Restoration Council, there appears to be a legislative first step in amending the QSA. SB 1256 failed to make it out of the Senate for lack of a vote and Ducheny has said she would like to resurrect the bill next year.If the state ever neglected its responsibility at the sea, said IID Director James Hanks, he would consider it to be a breach of the QSA.“It looks to me like there are encroachments (on the agreement) that are lining up. It has all the indications of going that way,” Hanks said.Garber said regardless of political language in the bill, the money funneled to the sea is important.“If it means the difference between getting $47 million or getting nothing, take the $47 million,” Garber said.Brawley resident Rusty Jordan said the state has taken long enough to start spending money for its liability at the Salton Sea.“They’re going to have a hard time getting it funded each year. You’re going to have this conversation with them for a long time,” Jordan said.#http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2008/08/27/local_news/news04.txt 2. Supply –Nothing Significant 3. Watersheds – Sierra trout rescue mission: Effort made to catch thousands of fish before Caples Lake drained The Stockton Record- 8/27/08…By Dana M. Nichols, Staff Writer KIRKWOOD - The fish in Caples Lake had not yet realized Tuesday morning that the folks stringing nets across the water and zapping the lake with bolts of fish-shocking electrical current actually meant them well. Only seven or eight fish - including one 24-inch rainbow trout - had been caught and transferred to holding pens by noon. Most fish, thousands of them by California Department of Fish and Game estimates, were taking mid-day siestas in deep spots, refusing to get tangled or shocked. But the brown trout, rainbows, brook trout and lake trout of Caples have everything to gain by cooperating with what authorities say is an unusual three-day rescue operation. Instead of sizzling in frying pans or on grills, the fish will be trucked to Silver Lake, seven miles away, in an effort to save them from likely death. The fish face death because Caples Lake is being lowered for emergency repairs to the dam's outlet gates, and the water could freeze solid this winter, said Stafford Lehr, a senior environmental scientist for the Department of Fish and Game. "We had the potential for a total fish kill during the winter," Lehr said. The lake is beloved by anglers because it is stunningly beautiful, and some of the trout live in the lake for years, allowing them to grow large. Fish 18 to 20 inches long are caught frequently. The lake also contains some 20-year-old fish that reach 3 feet in length, Lehr said. So anglers were dismayed to learn recently that the entire Caples Lake fish population was in jeopardy and that El Dorado Irrigation District, which operates the dam, had known for months that it needed urgent repairs. "The (California Sportfishing Protection Alliance) does think it took a little long to discover the problem," said Chris Shutes, a spokesman for the Alliance. It was March when irrigation district staff notified federal regulators that they were having problems opening and closing the dam's gates. The gates are crucial not only to control water for irrigation use and to prevent floods, but also to control flows needed for trout fisheries below the dam in Caples Creek. On June 10 and 11, divers went underwater and discovered that the rusted gate mechanisms were on the verge of failure, said George Osborne, president of the El Dorado Irrigation District board. The board declared an emergency on July 1. But it wasn't until much more recently that it was clear repairing the gates would require lowering the lake until as little as 6 feet of water was left, making a solid freeze possible, Lehr said. "This whole operation has come together in about 21/2 weeks," he said. The more than 100 people working in the rescue include 80 volunteers from CSPA, Trout Unlimited and other fishing groups. One of them was Steve Dexter of Minden, Nev., a member of the High Sierra Fly Casters who was helping staff one of three electro-shocking boats and was thrilled to help place an 18-inch brown trout into the boat's live-fish tank. The state Fish and Game staff and volunteers are working around the clock, taking 12-hour shifts. Lehr said they are using three methods to catch the fish: » Three electro-shock boats that can send a charge 8 or 10 feet deep. Once stunned, a fish turns belly up, so it can be netted and placed in he boat's tank, where it revives. » Using gill nets and trammel nets, which are like walls of netting stretched from the lake surface to its bottom. Fish get caught in the nets and will die unless the nets are checked every few hours. » Using hoop nets, sort of a one-way trap that allows a fish to swim in but not out. Once enough fish accumulate in the holding pens, then they are transferred to a tank truck for the trip to Silver Lake. Lehr said he expected the fishing to improve late Tuesday and again early today. As anglers know, fish are most active at dawn and dusk. And fish are much easier to catch when they are moving. Meanwhile, the lake is dropping 8 to 10 inches a day, and irrigation district officials hope to make the gate repairs in September and October. The district is paying roughly $150,000 for the rescue, about two-thirds of that for state Fish and Game staff and equipment and the rest to provide meals to volunteers. Next spring, district officials plan to spend another $229,000 restocking the lake with admittedly much smaller fish. Some of that money will come from area businesses that depend on the recreation economy, including nearby Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Irrigation district board president Osborne understands how important a vibrant Caples Lake fishery is to the region. "Every year there are a bunch of us old firefighters that fish this lake for a week in the fall," Osborne said. He looked at a rocky outcropping on the lake's far shore and remembered a day almost two years ago. "I caught a real nice 19-inch rainbow." Frying pans are not large enough for a fish that size, but it was not a problem for Osborne. "I always barbecue it," he said.#http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080827/A_NEWS/808270333 4. Water Quality – Stuff in Sacramento River is algae, not human wasteChico Enterprise Record- 8/27/08…By BARBARA ARRIGONI, Staff WriterHAMILTON CITY -- Like some kind of April Fool's joke in August, nature had the last laugh with Glenn County and state officials who momentarily worried Tuesday that the stuff floating down the Sacramento River might be human waste — at least two miles of it. Though it turned out to be a form of algae that State Park Ranger Tim Davis said indeed does look like feces. Officials initially took the call as a health hazard, accentuated by the annual Labor Day float is just days away. Still, for all the worry, the situation also elicited a round of chuckles and puns from more than one person before the reality was clarified. As Davis recounted, it all began around 2 p.m. when a fisherman reported seeing a "clumpy brown material" that looked like waste in the water near the boat ramp at Irvine Finch River Access, south of the Highway 32 Sacramento River bridge. The fisherman — who is a river guide — also reported what appeared to be toilet paper, was stuck to and dried on the bottom of his boat. Though Davis said he was fairly certain the stuff was not human waste, he gingerly went ahead and physically checked the clumps out, just to be sure. "It felt like algae, but it certainly looks like the material it was thought to be," Davis said with a hint of laughter in his voice. He said there is no smell to the algae and added, when it dries, the algae does resemble toilet paper. Meanwhile, the substance did more than wash downriver: it rippled from agency to agency as the fisherman's report was routed via a state park ranger to Glenn County Sheriff's Office. Taking seriously the threat of a big "effluent" spill and toilet paper fouling the public waterway, the Sheriff's Office in turn notified county health officials and the state Department of Fish and Game, said sheriff's Lt. Phil Revolinsky. There was even concern about the potential of closing the river, but Revolinsky said that would have ultimately been up to the Fish and Game authorities. As an immediate precaution, the boat ramp at Irvine Finch River Access was closed for nearly an hour until officials could positively identify the substance. Davis said the algae bloom was seen floating in "islands" north of the bridge and stretching at least two miles downriver from the boat ramp. Glenn County Health Services Director Scott Gruendl said later Tuesday that Environmental Health specialist Kevin Backus went to the river and confirmed the suspect material was an algae bloom. Gruendl said its commonly found in the river. "It's the right time of year," he said. Before hearing from Backus, Gruendl also acted on the possible presence of raw sewage by calling the Regional Water Quality Control Board. He said the largest sewage source anyone could think of that could cause a spill into t he river would be the city of Corning. He also said he and others thought perhaps someone was dumping waste in the river. There was also a health concern about sending any personnel out onto the river to check the situation, he added. Gruendl said he was relieved when it turned out to be algae bloom because the first question raised by the Regional Water Quality Control Board was how the substance would be "captured and removed" from the river. That would have taken equipment Glenn County doesn't have. "It would have been a monumental task," Gruendl said. While it turned out to be a false alarm, the incident activated several local and state agencies, with sheriff's deputies and volunteers from Hamilton City Fire Department among the county and health officials. "It was good practice," Davis said. Davis added that people who go out on the river shouldn't be alarmed if they see the ugly looking stuff in the days ahead. "It is algae — even though it doesn't look like it," he said.#http://www.chicoer.com/news/ci_10313859?source=rv 5. Agencies, Programs, People –Energy policy linked to Delta’s Future: His Voice writer says the way we use energy will affect the Delta, and it is our job to find out how. - The Tracy Press- 8/26/08WATER AUTHORITY: Tax deal benefits rural area: White Pine property crucial to large groundwater project - Las Vegas Review- Journal- 8/27/08Vegas water board offers to pay White Pine County - The Fresno Bee- 8/27/08 Energy policy linked to Delta’s Future: His Voice writer says the way we use energy will affect the Delta, and it is our job to find out how. The Tracy Press- 8/26/08…By Wes Rolley Between now and November, we will hear more than we want about energy and the Delta. While seemingly very different issues, they have a lot in common — not the least being that the only problem most politicians are trying to solve is the one of staying in office. The fate of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and U.S. energy policy are part of the discussion of global warming. Both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are trying to appease voters by saying that they will lower the price of gasoline. Yet, if either is successful, the result may be catastrophic for the Delta. The more gasoline we burn, the more we make greenhouse gases. That, ultimately, will raise ocean levels, change climate, extend our drought and threaten the livelihood of all who make their living from the waters of the Delta. Finding the right solution for both will not be easy, but finding the wrong one for energy use may mean that the Delta is doomed, no matter what we do. It is all going to depend on what problem we are trying to solve. The recent Public Policy Institute of California study had mixed reviews, including one by the Tracy Press (Our Voice, July 23, “More info needed for new look at Delta canal”). The PPIC asked, “Which water management strategies best meet the goals of environmental sustainability and water supply reliability?” The way the question was framed left the only solution to be the construction of a peripheral canal, a solution that will change the Delta forever. Had the PPIC asked how we might ensure that our children, until the seventh generation, could have the life that we now enjoy, the answer would surely have been different. It may actually have said that the most important thing we can do is to first address our energy use. Wes Rolley describes himself as an artist and concerned citizen in Morgan Hill. He writes often about the Delta.#http://tracypress.com/content/view/15601/2244/ WATER AUTHORITY: Tax deal benefits rural area: White Pine property crucial to large groundwater projectLas Vegas Review- Journal- 8/27/08…By HENRY BREAN After more than a year of talks, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has reached an agreement to pay property taxes and other levies associated with its ranch property in White Pine County. Though it is exempt from such taxes, the authority agreed to pay $156,400 this year and an additional $45,000 annually in what amounts to a good-will gesture toward the cash-strapped rural county. Since 2006, the authority has acquired seven ranches and more than 23,000 acres in White Pine County to support the agency's plan to tap groundwater across eastern Nevada. All of the property is located in Spring Valley, which authority officials consider the "anchor basin" for the groundwater project. Water authority board members signed off on the in-lieu payments last week, roughly 14 months after General Manager Pat Mulroy first floated the idea. The White Pine County Commission is scheduled to consider the agreement today. Dick Wimmer, deputy general manager for the water authority, said he would be surprised if the deal failed to go through. "They want to be compensated for these things, and we're willing to do it. We're not asking for anything else," Wimmer said. "This is so they don't get harmed." Just don't mistake an agreement on in-lieu payments as a county endorsement of the water authority's pipeline project. County Commissioner RaLeene Makley, who served on the committee that negotiated the payments from the authority, said the county's stance against the water grab has not changed. The agreement itself is very specific on that point, noting that by signing the document, the county and the authority "do not compromise or concede their respective positions on any other issue or in any other matter." "I don't think we're going to have too many people disagree with this," Makley said of the agreement. "There are probably some people who think it (the payments) should be more, but taxes are what they are." The initial payment of $156,400 includes $69,500 in property taxes that would have been assessed over the past three years and $76,900 in property transfer taxes that would have come due had a private entity bought the land instead. The remaining $10,000 is to cover any sales, use or privilege taxes the county might have collected from private farms or ranches on the property. The authority has also agreed to make future payments of $10,000, plus whatever property taxes would have been owed, each year at the end of August. Some county officials think the $10,000 figure should be more like $33,000, but Wimmer said the smaller number is based on the authority's current ranching operations in Spring Valley. "It wasn't taken out of thin air." The agreement calls for the annual payments to increase if the authority buys more property or the assessed value goes up on the land it owns already. White Pine County can certainly use the money. Since declaring a fiscal emergency in 2005, the county's finances have been under the control of the Nevada Department of Taxation. The authority's initial payment of $156,400 represents just over 1 percent of the county's general fund budget of about $11.6 million. It took two negotiating sessions -- one in May, the other early this month -- to hammer out the details of the in-lieu payment agreement. "These were very good discussions. They were very open, and they were very honest," Wimmer said. The prospect of the authority buying up ranch land and taking it off the tax rolls has been "a real issue" with county residents for a long time, he said, but he thinks this agreement should put all that to rest. "It just recognizes their concerns," Wimmer said. "It's fair, and it's the right thing to do."#http://www.lvrj.com/news/27521319.html Vegas water board offers to pay White Pine CountyThe Fresno Bee- 8/27/08 Lawmakers in White Pine County are considering whether to accept in-lieu payments from the Southern Nevada Water Authority for ranches the authority owns in east-central Nevada. The Las Vegas-based water authority is exempt from taxes, but officials say they've agreed after more than a year of negotiations to pay $156,400 this year and $45,000 annually in what amount to goodwill payments to the cash-strapped rural county. White Pine County commissioners were due to consider the deal Wednesday. The water authority board signed off on the proposal last week, some 14 months after General Manager Pat Mulroy first floated the idea. The water authority has since 2006 acquired seven ranches and more than 23,000 acres in White Pine County, with water rights, to support a plan to pump groundwater and pipe it some 250 miles to Las Vegas. White Pine County Commissioner RaLeene Makley, who helped negotiate the payments, said her county remained opposed to a water authority pump-and-pipe proposal. But she said she expected approval for the deal. The agreement specifies that White Pine County and the Southern Nevada Water Authority "do not compromise or concede their respective positions on any other issue." The initial $156,400 represents just over 1 percent of the general fund budget of about $11.6 million for White Pine County, which declared a fiscal emergency in 2005 and remains under state Department of Taxation control. The water district ranches are in Spring Valley, which authority officials see as the start point for the $2 billion-plus pipeline project. The water authority hopes to begin delivering rural groundwater to Las Vegas by 2015, eventually supplying more than 230,000 homes. The agency now supplies about 400,000 customers. The Las Vegas area currently gets almost all its water from the drought-stricken Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River.#http://www.fresnobee.com/552/story/826364.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. 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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.