8-28-08Merced Sun-StarEven before new law, Merced's medical offices keep a tight lid on records...CAROL REITERhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/423338.htmlKeeping medical records private just got a boost from California legislators.And local health providers say their files are already as close to snoop-free as they can make them.On Tuesday, the state Senate approved a measure that would require hospitals to draft a plan that would keep patients' records private. The measure said providers who fail to keep records confidential could be fined up to $250,000 for both providers and employees of hospitals or medical centers.The "safeguarding" bill emerged because employees of hospitals in Southern California accessed some celebrities' records. One employee at UCLA viewed those records more than 900 times.In Merced, keeping patients' medical records confidential has been the norm for years.At Golden Valley Health Centers, the administration is working on moving files from paper to electronic. In the meantime, there are strict rules allowing only certain people to access a record...At Mercy Cancer Center, there may not be any "celebrities," but there are people at the center who are treated like one. For instance, if a prisoner is being treated at the center, the records are kept strictly confidential."We have a code on the patient's file that makes the patient a VIP," said June Brown, director of the cancer center. If someone tries to break into that file, the file looks as if there was no one with that name at the center."The cancer center has electronic medical records. Brown said the files are all encrypted, and no data are ever stored on a hard drive. So if a person took the computer home, no access would be available.Another way the cancer center keeps snoopers out is that if a person is on a computer longer than five minutes, the computer will lock out.Mercy Medical Center Merced said it insists on strict policies and procedures to keep records private. Joe Lombardi, vice president of human resources at the hospital, said to look at records, the patient must give permission...The only exceptions to the rule about records is if either state or federal agencies come to do a review, the records must be open to them...Report: One in five Merced County residents living in povertyValley counties still rank among the poorest in the United States...Russell Clemings, The Fresno Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/421747.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%.Only five U.S. counties with 250,000 or more people ranked higher in poverty. Three were along the border between Texas and Mexico, one was the Bronx in New York City, and the fifth was Philadelphia County, Pa.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...Wells Fargo senior economist Gary Schlossberg said the bleak numbers may simply reflect the region's mix of jobs, which tend to be low-paying, and its labor force, which is less likely to consist of U.S. citizens or other legal residents...The caller reponds...Brandon, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/the_caller_repondsWhen I read the New York Times' story about the Merced housing crisis, I knew it would be a matter of time before we heard from the woman on the other end of Mayor Ellie Wooten's phone call.Sure enough, the woman responded in the comments section of a follow-up story that was published in Tuesday's Sun-Star.Here's what she had to say:I must wonder just how much attention she was paying to me when I called her and asked for her help (after all she is the one who planned this "Workshop" back in April inviting the whole town to come and she as well as other Assembly/Council members were on hand to "Help" homeowners.I resent the fact that she may have shrugged her shoulders and said, "Did she not know that her daughter was turning 18? Why didn't she plan ahead?" I can tell you that I did plan ahead.... I started working on this back in December 2007 trying to get some resolve and help. I was on the phone almost everyday on my lunch hour with my lender as well as countless other people, and got no where... Since that meeting in April I have made COUNTLESS phone calls to Cathleen Galgiani's office and my calls were finally returned after several weeks, only to be told that we are still working on it. I finally got fed up and then contacted the Mayor hoping that she was a step above. I have contacted her by phone on 4 occations (I always have to call her she never returns my calls) My last conversation with her was on August 5th at that time she informed me that she was going to e-mail me some papers to fill out, I asked her why I needed to fill out more papers, I had filled all the paperwork out back in April, She told me that the "rules have changed". As of today August 26th I have never received those papers via e-mail nor has she called me back. I did call Cathleen Galgiani's office and left a message that I was so fed up with this whole idea of help that has never come to pass that I was ready to call the Sun-Star and talk to a reporter about printing a story just asking who if anyone has been helped out by the Mayor and her "Workshop"?A few days after I left that message I did get a phone call from their office and was informed that he would speak to Ellie and ask her what papers I was to get and why I have not received them, he was also going to contact my lender once again and see what he could do, again I have not heard ONE word from them. Instead I got a phone call from a reporter from the New York Times wanting to interview me, which I gladly complied, I just wish more of what I said had been printed. Also I was saddened to see the article looked like I bought into one of these brand new homes and I am now at a point that I can't make my payment...I did not buy any new home, my house was built in 1962...I have lived and raised my children in it for the past 10 years, I have never missed one payment and am currently not behind on my payments, there in lies the problem, since I am not behind my lender will not even talk to me...Like I said I have spent COUNTLESS hours on the phone with my lender, Cathleen's office and you and have gotten no closer to any kind of help. If anyone out there attended one of these "Workshops" I'd love to know if and how you got help. This has been a frustrating 8 1/2 months.UC Merced gets grant for laser...DANIELLE GAINEShttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/423325.htmlNine UC Merced professors have been awarded a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to buy a high-tech laser system.The equipment, comprised of four lasers and other components, is flexible and can be set up for use in several fields, such as physics, chemistry, nanoscience and biophysics. "It is a very sophisticated system, but considering its capacity, surprisingly simple to operate," said Sayantani Ghosh, a professor who led the grant-writing team. "It's one of the most versatile and useful systems available."The university expects the new equipment to attract new faculty members over the next few years.Some students will also be able to work directly with the system. A nanotechnology major is planned for the fall 2009 semester. Other upper-level students might also get to work with the system. "They can get hands-on experience on an expensive and intricate system, something that's very hard to come by at other universities," Ghosh said. "Everybody knows about laser pointers and weapons in movies, but it's great for science students to realize that we use lasers to investigate fundamental scientific processes."Sacramento BeeFolsom mandates tough water-saving rules...Matt Weiserhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1192150.htmlFolsom on Wednesday ordered the Sacramento region's toughest water conservation yet to deal with a worsening drought: mandatory rules to cut water use by 20 percent.The measures are the most drastic Folsom has adopted since at least the last statewide drought, in the early 1990s, and perhaps even longer. And they reflect a growing sense that the drought now gripping California will get much worse before it eases.Folsom has about 19,500 customers and is entirely dependent on water stored in Folsom Lake. On July 25, city officials learned that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would cut deliveries from the shrinking lake by 25 percent.And since Folsom water customers did not respond well to calls this summer for voluntary conservation, "we clearly need to step it up" with mandatory action, City Manager Kerry Miller said...The Sacramento region has been largely immune to severe water cutbacks adopted this summer in other parts of the state.The Bay Area and Los Angeles face additional limits on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where court rulings have restricted water diversions to protect fish. Many water utilities in those areas have also struggled with voluntary conservation targets and have moved to mandates.But the capital area could see further restrictions as the drought continues, said John Woodling, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority.The state Department of Water Resources previously indicated that even normal weather this winter will not completely refill California reservoirs, meaning prudence may be needed for some time...Long-range predictions by the National Weather Service, based on computer modeling, show no evidence of a wet winter. There also is no suggestion of either El Niño or La Niña conditions, which often bring drenching rains...Folsom Lake held 308,000 acre-feet on Wednesday. That's about 30 percent of capacity and about half of the historical average for August.Over the past month, the lake has lost about 45,000 acre-feet and dropped in elevation by 7 feet due to demand...Caples Lake fish rescue improves after slow start...Chris Bowmanhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1192116.htmlThe difference was apparently night and day.State Fish and Game crews racing to transplant all the trout they can net from fast-draining Caples Lake dramatically improved their catch in the dark Wednesday from midnight to 4 a.m., officials said.The graveyard shift hauled 3,000 fish by tanker truck to nearby Silver and Red lakes in the tiny High Sierra county of Alpine. The day crew, by comparison, nabbed fewer than 100 on Tuesday, the start of a nonstop 72-hour fish rescue.Fish and Game workers with no shortage of volunteers hope to capture thousands more trout today and Friday as the El Dorado Irrigation District drains Caples for repair of the dam gates this fall...Stockton RecordPublic can weigh in at today's meeting about future of Delta...The Recordhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/A_NEWS/808280327/-1/A_NEWSSTOCKTON - The public has yet another chance to weigh in on the future of the Delta when state officials come to town this afternoon.The meeting will focus on the Delta Vision strategic plan, which includes the possibility of building a canal to funnel at least some of the Sacramento River's flows around the estuary rather than through it.One member of the governor's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force will be present to hear what the public has to say. The task force is due to make final recommendations to the governor by October.Today's meeting is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 33 W. Alpine Ave. in StocktonFixing fragile riverbank could cost Lodi $1.6MLake's nature area perilously close to catastrophic flood...Daniel Thigpenhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/A_NEWS/808280334/-1/A_NEWSLODI - The tranquil and expansive Lodi Lake Nature Area is home to acre upon acre of lush vegetation, miles of trails, an abundance of birds, an occasional deer sighting and a killer view of the Mokelumne River.Should the fragile riverbank protecting the 58-acre jewel give way - and it is perilously close to crumbling - it could send the river flooding into the forest, drowning one of Lodi's most storied attractions...City officials have known this for some time. Now they know how much it would cost to fix the problem, according to a city consultant's engineering report compiled earlier this month.The good news: There might be enough money for a temporary fix, estimated at as much as $25,000.The bad news: To stabilize the riverbank permanently, the cost could be a staggering $1.6 million. That does not include the cost of navigating the bureaucratic maze required to complete such work...Here's the problem: Erosion is at critical levels along a 500-foot stretch of riverbank that protects the park and its wildlife from the river, a strip separating the Mokelumne and a small body of water called Pig's Lake.In some spots, there are only several feet of bank left between the river and lake.Erosion is natural in this spot, where the river waters accelerate along a tight curve, pushing hard against the riverbank and gradually tearing it apart...The Aug. 13 report, compiled by the Stockton-based engineering firm Kjeldsen, Sinnock & Neudeck Inc., suggests a few options to slow erosion temporarily while a permanent fix is studied.They include reducing boating speed limits along the river - an idea that city leaders rejected earlier this year - and placing plastic sheets and sandbags over the bank or lining it with layers of rock.More permanent - and expensive - options include pile-driving the riverbank or studying a way to divert the flow of water on that section of the river...Delta College consultant to tackle bond messServices could be needed into 2012-13...Alex Breitlerhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/A_NEWS/808280323/-1/A_NEWSSTOCKTON - Salvaging what's left of San Joaquin Delta College's $250 million bond will not be easy - or cheap.Trustees this week approved a one-year, $259,514 contract for a Sacramento-based consultant to help stop the bleeding and steer the bond back on course.Kathy Roach is the lone consultant on a new bond team made up mostly of Delta administrators. The college has blamed past consultants for giving them bad estimates on some voter-approved Measure L projects. As a result, there is not enough money to pay for everything that originally was planned.Roach's job is to straighten out the mess......At $185 an hour, her base pay for the year would exceed even that of Delta College President Raul Rodriguez.Roach's services might be needed as far forward as 2012-13, as the college works on a satellite campus in Mountain House and possibly Lodi and Manteca, according to documents provided to the board...San Francisco ChronicleInvasive mussel forces boat quarantine at Tahoe...Reno Gazette-Journal, www.rgj.comhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/08/28/state/n085843D94.DTL&hw=conservation&sn=001&sc=313A 32-foot cabin cruiser was quarantined at Lake Tahoe after a harbor master spotted invasive mussels encrusted on its stern as it was about to be hoisted into the water.Wildlife and environmental experts describe the incident as a close call.The harbor master at Tahoe Keys Marina in South Lake Tahoe spotted the mussels on the boat Friday.Experts later confirmed the mollusks were quagga mussels, which apparently attached to the vessel while in Lake Mead in late July, said Ted Thayer, a natural resource specialist with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency...The incident, Thayer said, highlights the danger posed by mussel-infested boats and underscores the importance of detection programs."This tells us boats do come from Mead and there may be live mussels on board," Thayer told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It is both scary and encouraging at the same time."...Quagga mussels, previously found only in the Midwest and Northeast, were first discovered in Lake Mead in early 2007 and have since spread to other parts of Nevada, Arizona and Southern California.In January, zebra mussels — a close cousin of the quagga — turned up in a California reservoir 250 miles from Lake Tahoe.Both types of mussels could cause widespread problems if they were to become established in Lake Tahoe. The rapidly reproducing mollusks could quickly disrupt the lake's ecosystem, clog drinking water intakes, encrust boats, foul docks and litter beaches with sharp and stinking shells...Contra Costa TimesBerkeley police to crack down on student drinking...Doug Oakley http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_10321739?nclick_check=1Berkeley police announced the annual crackdown on underage drinking around UC Berkeley this week, courtesy of an $89,000 grant from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.UC Berkeley Police reported a young woman was hospitalized Monday night after being hit in the head by a brick while attending a fraternity party on Piedmont Avenue where alcohol was being served.The woman received stitches for a head laceration, and she chipped a tooth, Berkeley police spokeswoman Mary Kusmiss said. She was knocked down during an altercation in which one of two uninvited guests threw the brick at a group of people standing on the porch of the Phi Gamma Delta house, Kusmiss said. Police searched the area for the two men but made no arrests."At the beginning of the school year, we tend to see a lot of alcohol abuse and it has a significant impact on emergency services," Kusmiss said. "You have young people who fall down or get into fights, and people get alcohol poisoning." Berkeley Police said they will kick off their enforcement program today Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. by checking identification at the doors of bars and by using underage decoys to ask adults to buy them alcohol at local stores.And in a departure from past years, UC Berkeley Police probably won't be joining Berkeley Police because it did not send in paperwork required to get a grant that pays for the enforcement, UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya said in May."Thus far, we have not heard whether they are going to allocate any officers on any of the programs or do any operations of their own," said Kusmiss. "It's disappointing because a large majority of the enforcement involves the college age community."... Kusmiss said this year is the sixth year in a row the Berkeley Police have received the state grant to do alcohol enforcement. Last year, the department made 22 arrests and issued 425 citations, Kusmiss said. Its program has been so successful that it is now training officers from other departments, she said. This weekend, Berkeley will host officers from South San Francisco, Petaluma, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park.Smart growth measure fights greenhouse gas emissions...MediaNews editorialhttp://www.contracostatimes.com/opinion/ci_10321497TWO YEARS AGO, California made a precedent-setting commitment to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That's when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed landmark legislation aimed at cutting the emissions 25 percent by 2020.It is an ambitious goal that, if reached, would result in cleaner air, a reduction in fossil fuel use and less dependence on imported oil. However, cutting back on greenhouse gases is particularly challenging in a state with a population that is expected to grow from about 37 million today to more than 42 million by 2020.Any successful attempt to reduce greenhouse gases must include ways to cut back on fuel consumption by passenger cars, which account for 30 percent of emissions.Technology will play a major role as hybrid and other high-mileage cars replace less efficient vehicles. But more must be done if California is to meet its goals. Less driving and greater fuel efficiency is needed.That is where Senate Bill 375 by Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, comes in. The measure's supporters understand that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is best accomplished with a comprehensive plan that includes land use as well as transportation strategies.The measure requires the California Air Resources Board to set vehicle emission reduction targets for different regions of the state by 2010. Then, each of the state's 17 metropolitan planning associations would devise a plan to meet the goals.One of the key strategies of SB375 is to reduce suburban sprawl by linking transportation money to "smart growth" planning. Cities and counties could continue to approve developments. However, only those that are built near transit or clustered near current developments would be eligible for a share of state transportation money.If new residential and commercial growth is directed toward transit villages and infill projects that are nearer to jobs, shopping and mass transportation, people are likely to drive significantly less. The alternative is more suburban sprawl that requires more driving miles and reduces open space and agricultural land.What makes SB375 so appealing is its lack of draconian measures to force people out of their cars. Instead, it uses positive inducements for developers to build intelligently. The bill also exempts qualified "smart growth" developments from the California Environmental Quality Act requirements.This exemption saves builders from the considerable time and expense of what can be a tedious CEQA process.The proactive, positive approach of SB375 has earned the bill the support of the California Building Industry Association. The measure still does not have the support of some business groups and those fearful of losing local control over land use. But there is no way to successfully cut greenhouse gas emissions or the wasteful use of nonrenewable fossil fuels and imported oil without regional planning that curbs suburban sprawl.It is far better to act now, using positive incentives, to help Californians drive less without imposing higher fuel taxes, registration fees or driving restrictions. We are confident that Californians can significantly cut back on their consumption of fossil fuels with new technology and intelligent development that results in less driving. SB375 is an important part of that strategy and merits bipartisan support in the Legislature and the governor's signature.Los Angeles TimesU.S. bankruptcy filings rise 28.9%Nearly 1 million individuals and businesses sought protection in the 12 months ended June 30...From the Associated Presshttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-economy28-2008aug28,0,3473583,print.storyNEW YORK — Nearly 1 million individuals and businesses filed bankruptcy in the 12 months ended June 30, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court data released Wednesday.There were 967,831 bankruptcy cases filed since July 1, 2007, up 28.9% from the prior 12 months, when cases totaled 751,056.The largest percentage increase, 60.9%, was in the court system's ninth district, which includes California, Arizona and Nevada, states where the housing meltdown has been especially severe.Filings spiked to 276,510 in the three months ended June 30 to the highest level of quarterly filings since late 2006. Of those, 266,767, or 96.5%, were individual filings, and 9,743, or 3.5%, were business filings.Nonbusiness filings made up 96.5% of the bankruptcies nationwide, totaling 934,009. Of those cases 592,376 were Chapter 7 filings, which involve liquidation of nonprotected assets, such as family homes. The total also included 340,852 filings for Chapter 13 protection, which allows individuals to reorganize their finances and pay down their debt. An additional 780 individuals filed for Chapter 11, which is normally used for businesses but can apply to individuals who are reorganizing but have more debt than allowed under Chapter 13.By region, the highest number of combined filings was in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court's 6th District, which encompasses Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The total came to 167,561, up 21.2% in the last year.Another economic report Wednesday found that U.S. thrifts lost $5.4 billion in the second quarter and set aside a record amount to cover losses from bad mortgages and other loans.Data from the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision showed federally insured savings and loans posted their second-largest quarterly loss ever in the April-June period, after the $8.8-billion loss in the fourth quarter of last year. Heavily focused on mortgage lending, thrifts have been stung by mounting home-loan defaults.The $5.4-billion quarterly loss compared with net profits of $3.8 billion in the year-earlier period, and a loss of $627 million in the first quarter.The 829 thrifts also set aside a record $14 billion to cover losses from bad mortgages and other loans.California bill attacks sprawlThe groundbreaking legislation would help meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through smarter regional planning...Editorialhttp://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-planning28-2008aug28,0,165826,print.storyThe number of miles Californians drive is growing almost twice as fast as the state's population, as housing developments sprout farther and farther from commercial centers. Not only does this urban sprawl put upward pressure on gasoline prices, it creates freeway gridlock, worsens air pollution and makes fighting global warming next to impossible. California lawmakers have tried and failed for decades to bring sprawl under control, but they may finally be on the verge of success.SB 375 from Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who last week was elected the next president pro tem of the state Senate, marks the first time any state has attempted to tie greenhouse gas reduction to transportation funding and regional land-use planning. The bill's details are complex -- primarily because in the two years Steinberg has been trying to get it through the Legislature, he has rewritten it five times in an attempt to overcome opposition from builders and municipal governments -- but its main thrust is to provide incentives for regional planners to impose "smart growth." That means building denser housing close to urban centers and public transportation corridors, so people don't have to commute as far.The bill has the backing of environmental groups, builders and municipal governments. It's opposed by some California business groups and many Republican lawmakers, who claim that it would limit choices for consumers who would rather live in suburban ranch houses than urban condominiums. They couldn't be more wrong. The bill wouldn't eliminate suburbs or do away with single-family homes with big backyards, but it would provide more choices for people who are forced to live far from their workplaces because they can't afford a home in the city.It would do this by directing metropolitan planning organizations (there are 17 in California, including the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which covers Los Angeles and five surrounding counties) to meet targets set by state air regulators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To hit these targets, they would have to draw up transportation and land-use plans that encourage smart growth. Local governments could still approve any new development they wanted, but those meeting the regional group's smart-growth seal of approval would be first in line for state transportation funds and be exempt from a lot of regulatory red tape.The bill has been passed by both houses of the Legislature and now awaits a housekeeping vote in the Senate. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should sign it once it lands on his desk.Why I signed on to AmethystWhittier College's president calls for a more coolheaded discussion on revisiting drinking-age laws...Sharon Herzberger, president of Whittier College.http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oew-herzberger28-2008aug28,0,960253,print.storyIn many ways, the Quakers have it right. This thought has crossed my mind many times in the last three years as president of Quaker-founded Whittier College, but no time more forcefully than in the last few days.I am one of 100 college and university presidents who signed the Amethyst Initiative, a movement that addresses the ongoing crisis concerning underage drinking and calls for a reexamination of related national policies and state laws. The initiative has stirred its share of controversy: An Aug. 21 Times editorial reacted coolly to the idea of lowering the drinking age, and an Aug. 27 Op-Ed article called those of us who signed the initiative a "well-intentioned but misguided group of college and university presidents."I, like many of the signatories, do not claim to know what the "magic" legal drinking age should be nor if a change in the drinking age will lead to more responsible conduct. What I do know, however, as a president and as a parent of recent college graduates, is that our laws and policies regarding alcohol use by young people are simply not working.Let me offer an unpopular reality check. Despite legal consequences for underage drinking, decades of public-service marketing for restraint and a law implemented 24 years ago that may -- or may not -- have been a contributing factor in the statistical decline of related drunk-driving accidents, we continue to have a national crisis. Although it is perhaps more visible on college campuses, this crisis is in no way exclusive to college students. Underage drinking and related irresponsible or unhealthy behavior happens everywhere and anywhere.Clearly, we have two choices: We can continue shutting our eyes to the problem, or we can begin to discuss solutions. As president of an institution that teaches students to do the latter, I know I must lead by example.So I have joined the Amethyst Initiative and have been vocal about calling for reasoned discussion, a full analysis of evidence from studies in this country and abroad, and the benefit of expert opinion from those who deal with the challenge of alcohol use and abuse on a regular basis. After this discussion, we as a nation can decide whether the current law, while flawed in its outcomes, is the best we can expect or whether change is in order.However, a few days ago, news about the Amethyst Initiative hit the media, and anything but reasoned discussion has occurred. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an organization I admire, has warned parents that they should not send their students to colleges whose presidents signed the initiative for fear that such presidents will not enforce the drinking laws. MADD's warnings are certainly not true. A Times blogger headlined a post, "Whittier College prez wants to lower drinking law." Also not true. And reporter after reporter has questioned me on my stand, trying to elicit controversy to sell headlines rather than promote wide-ranging, intelligent debate.So, again, I say: The Quakers have it right. Those familiar with this minority religion will know that the Quakers (or Friends, as they are often called) value serious discussion and respect for people offering differing points of view. Although consensus is not a required outcome of such discussions, Quakers urge at least an attempt to find common ground. Most important, perhaps, Quakers often start meetings in silent contemplation. Silence allows them to listen to the small voice within that promotes good and reminds them to prepare to listen to others...We don't have to be Quakers to think well, but we can all learn from their practices. As we renew our national discussion about this important matter of public policy and health, let's pause, listen and try to find some common and higher ground.Washington PostSmall Banks, Tight CreditReliance on Souring Development Loans Is Leading To a Cash Crunch, Limiting Funds for Other Businesses...Binyamin Appelbaum and David Chohttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/26/AR2008082603327_pf.htmlLate loan payments and defaults by commercial and residential developers have soared to the highest levels since the early 1990s, threatening the health of some small banks, regulators said yesterday.The delinquency rate on construction and development loans hit 8.1 percent at the end of June, the highest rate for any category of bank loans, according to new data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The rate has more than tripled from 2.4 percent at the end of June last year.The missed payments are forcing banks to hoard money against possible losses and to tighten lending standards. Some chastened banks have even curtailed lending to new customers in order to conserve available funds for existing customers.Small banks are hardest hit. Many concentrated in construction and development lending during the real estate boom, and they have less financial padding to absorb losses. Regulators said they had added 27 names to a list of troubled institutions in the second quarter, a 30 percent increase, largely because of problems with development loans.Nine banks have failed this year, none in the Washington region...The downturn that began with homeowner defaults has now spread through developers and their banks to reach businesses as far removed from suburban foreclosures as a shoe store in Columbia Heights...The rise in delinquent development loans follows a spike in home foreclosures that is unprecedented since the Great Depression...Many small banks focused on construction lending because it was one of the few areas where they could compete with larger banks...But construction lending was an area where smaller banks could compete by cultivating relationships with developers and embracing risk. And during the real estate boom, it was immensely profitable, leading, among other things, to the founding of many new banks, some of which appeared to be functioning essentially as real estate investment clubs.Now the tide appears to be turning.The profit margins of small banks that focused on construction lending shrank below the margins for other small banks in the first quarter of 2008 for the first time since the real estate boom began, according to an analysis by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.Just as larger banks have struggled with defaults on loans to homeowners, smaller banks are now struggling with defaults on loans to home builders."We are starting to see the onset of a second round of effects primarily concentrated in residential and commercial development lending that affects more institutions and probably will play out over a longer period of time," FDIC officials said during a news conference yesterday.A list of troubled banks kept by federal regulators included 117 names at the end of June, up from 90 institutions at the end of March. Those troubled institutions had total assets of $78.3 billion, up from $26.3 billion in March. The June numbers include some banks that have since failed, including IndyMac Bancorp, which had assets of $32 billion.Further increasing the pressure on banks, FDIC officials confirmed that they will discuss in early October an increase in the insurance premium banks are required to pay on deposits to replenish the insurance fund after the expenses of recent failures.Regulators and industry officials emphasized that the vast majority of banks remain in strong health. James Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association, noted that total lending volume rose in the second quarter."The industry as a whole remains well-positioned to meet the credit needs of local communities," Chessen said...James Williams, executive vice president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, said banks are hurting builders by tightening lending standards unnecessarily, such as requiring larger down payments or an assurance that homes will sell faster, allowing the loan to be repaid more quickly.The new requirements feed a vicious cycle, he said. Builders can't borrow money, so their businesses struggle. That, in turn, makes it harder for them to meet their payments on outstanding loans."It's the action of the banks, not the performance of the builders," Williams said. "The builders are performing okay in general, but what the banks have done is changed the rules."But the lending drought could have an upside for the industry in the long run by giving builders time to sell off the excess inventory of homes, office space and storefronts.CNN MoneyWhat the 'problem bank' list doesn't sayMore banks are in trouble nowadays, but some experts wonder just how accurate a picture the FDIC's list paints of the industry...David Ellishttp://money.cnn.com/2008/08/28/news/companies/fdic_banks/index.htm?postversion=2008082813NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The government's latest assessment of the nation's financial system showed that many more small banks are in trouble. But what the report didn't say may speak volumes.On Tuesday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. revealed that the number of institutions on its so-called "problem bank" list jumped to 117 during the second quarter, up from 90 just three months earlier.That list has gained greater attention lately as many banks continue to suffer losses stemming from the deteriorating housing market and slowdown in the broader economy. Nine banks have failed so far this year, including IndyMac, a California-based mortgage lender with assets of $32 billion at the time of its collapse.But experts contend that the list is a lagging indicator and, as a result, may not provide an accurate picture of the current health of U.S. banking industry.Typically, the list is published some 8 weeks after all of the nation's banks have reported their latest quarterly results.What's more, notes Mark J. Flannery, a professor of finance at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration, regulators base their decision on what banks tell them. And since current accounting standards give banks some discretion about when they recognize bad news, they may want to put it off as long as possible.Exactly how bank regulators determine which institution is worthy for the "problem list" remains a process shrouded in secrecy.But what is known is that the health of a bank tends to be based on several factors including the amount of capital an institution has on hand to protect against losses, the quality of its assets, its management, and its earnings, liquidity and sensitivity to market risk.Bank regulators - which in addition to the FDIC include the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) - then give the banks a report card, assigning a composite rating based on the bank's performance in each category. Those that receive a rating of 4 or 5 are put on the list.A selective list?Since the failure of IndyMac in mid-July, however, speculation has emerged that regulators may have exercised some discretion about which institutions they put on the confidential list.The FDIC's first-quarter problem list, released at the end of May, clearly did not have IndyMac on it. That's because the FDIC reported that the 90 banks on the list had a combined $26.3 billion in assets - less than the size of IndyMac. That suggested that the only problem banks at the time were smaller community banks. Experts say that if IndyMac had been on the list, the total asset size of troubled banks would have been much higher. That might have prompted a witch hunt of sorts, with the market looking for which bank was in trouble and possibly causing a run on that institution...Others pointed out that bank failures, as a rule, don't happen to be overnight phenomena.Tim Yeager, a professor of finance at the University of Arkansas' Walton College of Business who previously worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said regulators probably knew about the state of IndyMac for some time even though it wasn't on the first-quarter problem list...If it ain't broke....Those who keep a close eye on the nation's banking industry argue that the nearly 30-year-old bank monitoring system, commonly referred to as CAMELS (which stands for Capital adequacy, Asset quality, Management, Earnings, Liquidity and Sensitivity to market risk) remains quite effective at gauging a bank's health.In recent years, there have been calls for regulators to take into greater account the wisdom of the market, most notably a bank's stock price or the yield a company's debt is trading at.As innovative a solution that may be, the lion's share of the nation's banks are not publicly traded. What's more, those indicators aren't always reliable, note experts such as Flannery.Stock prices, for example, can be affected by broader gyrations in the market and may not accurately predict if a bank will go bust or is even on the verge of failure."I think there are times when the CAMELS system is more informative and times when the market price is more informative," said Flannery. "There is no general rule."If regulators are at a disadvantage, it is determining just how many banks could fail as a result of the current credit crisis. While regulators are working hard to stay ahead of the problems faced by banks, their forecasting models have not endured a credit or mortgage crisis of this magnitude before and, as a result, have no way of telling how deep the impact will be."You can look at this and say they are missing the problems, but this business cycle is different from others," said Yeager. "You need to go through this to be able to update the model - it is really a Catch-22." 8-28-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…August 28, 2008 1. Top Item - Folsom mandates tough water-saving rulesSacramento Bee – 8/28/08…By Matt Weiser – staff writer Folsom on Wednesday ordered the Sacramento region's toughest water conservation yet to deal with a worsening drought: mandatory rules to cut water use by 20 percent. The measures are the most drastic Folsom has adopted since at least the last statewide drought, in the early 1990s, and perhaps even longer. And they reflect a growing sense that the drought now gripping California will get much worse before it eases. Folsom has about 19,500 customers and is entirely dependent on water stored in Folsom Lake. On July 25, city officials learned that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would cut deliveries from the shrinking lake by 25 percent. And since Folsom water customers did not respond well to calls this summer for voluntary conservation, "we clearly need to step it up" with mandatory action, City Manager Kerry Miller said. Starting Sept. 5, Folsom customers may water landscaping only on alternate days: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday for even street numbers, and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for odd number addresses. No irrigation is allowed on Mondays, and automatic sprinklers cannot be used between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Penalties will be issued to those allowing water to flood sidewalks and gutters. Also, restaurants can serve water only by request. The Sacramento region has been largely immune to severe water cutbacks adopted this summer in other parts of the state. The Bay Area and Los Angeles face additional limits on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where court rulings have restricted water diversions to protect fish. Many water utilities in those areas have also struggled with voluntary conservation targets and have moved to mandates. But the capital area could see further restrictions as the drought continues, said John Woodling, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority.The state Department of Water Resources previously indicated that even normal weather this winter will not completely refill California reservoirs, meaning prudence may be needed for some time. "Without a wet winter, we'll be seeing a lot more of this next year and more stringent conditions," Woodling said. There's little reason, so far, to expect relief this winter. Long-range predictions by the National Weather Service, based on computer modeling, show no evidence of a wet winter. There also is no suggestion of either El Niño or La Niña conditions, which often bring drenching rains. "It looks like the prognosticators are afraid to touch California right now," said Kelly Redmond, deputy director of the weather service's Western Regional Climate Center in Reno. "It's too darn difficult." Folsom Lake held 308,000 acre-feet on Wednesday. That's about 30 percent of capacity and about half of the historical average for August.Over the past month, the lake has lost about 45,000 acre-feet and dropped in elevation by 7 feet due to demand. Folsom buys its water – about 27,000 acre-feet per year – from the Bureau of Reclamation via Folsom Lake. The city learned in July it would be unable to tap into an additional 3,000 acre-feet from the lake. In June Folsom urged customers to voluntarily save water. They did well at first, Miller said, but in July consumption returned to normal.Mandatory conservation will last into winter, at least until rainfall patterns cause demand to drop off. Ken Payne, Folsom utilities director, said the city's normal summer water demand is about 40 million gallons per day. In winter it drops to between 12 million and 14 million gallons per day. Most of the summer demand is driven by a desire to keep lawns green. All but 5,400 of Folsom's water customers have had water meters installed, but all customers are still billed a flat rate. The city faces a 2012 legal deadline to meter the rest of the city and begin billing according to consumption. The city will unleash "water waster" patrols to watch for watering violators, Payne said. "We're not going to take a heavy hand, but where we have chronic violators, we will have measures in place to cite violators," said Miller. First offenders will get warnings. For another violation, that customer will begin getting billed on a metered rate, Payne said. If that customer doesn't yet have a meter, one will be installed and metered billing will begin. Folsom has the second-greatest per capita water consumption in the capital region: 381 gallons per day. That's more than double the statewide per capita average of 164 gallons per day. Folsom residents can request a water consumption audit by calling (916) 355-7252. Customers of other area utilities can request an audit via the Regional Water Authority at (888) WTR-TIPS.#http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1192150.html 2. Supply – EDITORIAL: Desalination plant should be first of manyOUR VIEW: OK of water conversion plant right stepBy: North County Times Opinion staff With the governmental challenges cleared, we look forward to the beginning of construction of North County's first desalination plant and offer our hopes it will not be the last.On Friday, the California State Lands Commission gave its blessing to the proposed $300 million project advanced by Poseidon Resources for Carlsbad's Agua Hedionda Lagoon, adjacent to the existing Encina power plant. The lands-panel's approval was the last regulatory OK needed for construction to begin.Poseidon hopes to break ground within months and has a tentative date of 2011 to have the plant converting seawater into drinking water at a rate of about 50 million gallons a day; about 9 percent of the county's current needs.Legal challenges are being threatened by some environmental groups; the Carlsbad plant is the first of several proposed at Southern California sites, including San Onofre and Dana Point. While desalination is relatively new to California, according to Reuters there are 22,000 such plants in 120 countries worldwide producing about 3 billion gallons of drinking water a day.Water, food and energy are the challenges that await us all as we look at what kind of a world we will leave our children. And our area's lack of water is self-evident.Innovative ideas should be welcomed, and converting seawater to fresh drinking water should be embraced within them. Thus we trust any lawsuits will be quickly dispatched.The lands commission's action was the right decision at the right time.All residents should look forward to seeing the Carlsbad facility in full operation; and we hope it is rapidly joined with other similar conversion plants.#http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/08/27/opinion/editorials/doc48b5841a99098674917789.txt 3. Watersheds –Wreckage on the riverSacramento Delta has abandonment issues - Sacramento News and ReviewState plans weekend enforcement to stop invasive mussels - Lake County RecordMussel found on boat hull at South Lake Tahoe - Reno Gazette JournalCaples Lake fish rescue improves after slow start - Sacramento Bee Wreckage on the riverSacramento Delta has abandonment issuesSacramento News and Review – 8/28/08…By Sena Christian Government officials touring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in July gasped when they saw the wreckage. They’d heard of the problem with abandoned boats sinking and polluting our waterways, but most had not seen for themselves the extent of the trash. They gasped loudest in Fisherman’s Cut, off Franks Tract State Recreation Area, a place local fisherman call “The Shipyard,” where roughly a dozen vessels languish, including a few barges and tugboats and, strangely, a vessel that once served as a floating schoolhouse with two classrooms, now half-sunken in the blue water. Inside some of these vessels may be lead-acid batteries, gasoline, lead paint, asbestos, antifreeze, plastic items, appliances and refrigerants from air-conditioning units. And when boats sink, these hazardous materials go straight into the water, affecting sensitive surrounding habitat, wetlands, protected wildlife and levees.The 40 people toured the Delta as part of a five-hour workshop to examine ecological obstacles faced by the Delta, a water system that supplies two-thirds of the state’s population, or roughly 23 million people, with drinking water. This supply is already difficult to treat for municipal use, and the California Bay-Delta Authority and others predict the challenge will worsen as water quality degrades with future population growth and development along the Delta. As if we don’t have enough to worry about with mercury-carrying fish, declining fish populations and invasive plant species, plastic debris, subsiding islands, eroding levees and sea-level rise, the eco-tour highlighted the longstanding concern with irresponsible boating on the Delta—including boat abandonment. “People are becoming more and more aware that these [abandoned] boats aren’t only an eyesore but also an environmental hazard,” said Denise Peterson, boating law-enforcement manager for the California Department of Boating and Waterways. California currently pays for the abatement of abandoned boats through the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund, which appropriates $500,000 annually statewide for this purpose. The money may be used only for recreational vessels and requires a 10 percent match by local governments. Existing law holds the registered owner of an abandoned vehicle responsible for the costs of abatement and disposal; oftentimes, an unregistered owner takes off and never ends up paying. The state instituted AWAF in 1997 to help mitigate the high cost counties spend removing vessels and reducing related health hazards, such as oil leaks. But these funds aren’t enough. “People live on a boat until it starts sinking and then don’t know what to do with it,” said Contra Costa County Marine Patrol Sgt. Doug Powell during the tour. But once a vehicle starts sinking, removal costs about $200 per square foot, he said, which means larger vessels can take hundreds of thousands of dollars each.A Contra Costa County ordinance prevents boaters from mooring up and staying put indefinitely. The problem, though, is that when Contra Costa cracked down, boaters simply moved to adjacent jurisdictions. Sacramento County is currently developing a similar ordinance, Peterson said. Although Powell’s county has removed more than 300 derelict vessels in the last two decades, restrictions on state funding make it hard for the five Delta counties (Sacramento, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo) to do more, he said. His hope lies in Assembly Bill 1950, which would change the law to authorize abatement of willingly surrendered vessels prior to abandonment; currently, boats can only be removed after they’re abandoned; removing a boat before it sinks would make the process much less costly. The bill was authored by Assemblyman Ted Lieu and should land on the governor’s desk after the state budget is resolved. The legislation would also allow local governments to use money from AWAF to dispose of commercial vessels and not only recreational ones. The eco-tour was sponsored by the Keep the Delta Clean program, a collaboration of local governments, state agencies and private industry that formed to implement a pollution-prevention infrastructure for the Delta. Before this program, “Recreational boating issues had never been addressed,” said program director Tonya Redfield. Although local governments have long-recognized pollution concerns tied to recreational activities on the Delta—as well as those caused by abandoned boats—a unified effort to educate boaters about how to be more environmentally responsible didn’t exist, nor did the supportive infrastructure. Keep the Delta Clean partnered with marinas and yacht clubs in 2004 to identify boaters’ needs. And there were plenty. Some boaters spill toxic cleaning products on the docks, which seep through cracks into the water beneath. Or boaters may fail to clean out their boat’s engines, and dirty engines leak fuel and oil into water that is eventually pumped overboard. Oil-recycling centers, oil-absorbent exchange centers, fishing-line recycling stations and pet-waste stations were installed this summer to address these problems and others. “This is a shared benefit and shared responsibility,” Redfield said, pointing out that when it comes to waterways and boating, jurisdictional boundaries don’t matter. #http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/Content?oid=770189 State plans weekend enforcement to stop invasive mussels Lake County Record – 8/28/08…Written by Elizabeth Larson State officials say they're planning to keep a close eye on the thousands of boats entering California this Labor Day weekend in an effort to thwart the introduction of invasive zebra and quagga mussels to any new bodies of water. The California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) border stations will inspect watercraft at six border stations along the Nevada and Arizona borders: Truckee, Needles, Winterhaven, Blythe, Yermo and Vidal. “This is a good beginning to a more complete program of boat inspections within the state,” said Sen. Pat Wiggins, who chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, which deals with invasive species as well as other issues. “Until every boater knows the serious, potential threat of quagga mussels invading our precious lakes, waterways and pipelines, inspections are a necessary inconvenience.” Funding for the inspections was granted to CDFA after quagga mussels were discovered in the Colorado River last year, the agency reported. Since early 2007, CDFA has intercepted 200 mussel-infested watercraft from among the 150,000 watercraft it has inspected. In addition, 14,000 watercraft were cleaned and/or drained of all water that could harbor the mussels. This weekend an estimated 4,000 watercraft will enter California, some of which CDFA estimates will have quaggas and zebras along as hitchhikers. The mussels have infested several Southern California lakes and waterways, but so far have not been found in Northern California or in Clear Lake, as Lake County News has reported. The quaggas are particularly invasive in lakes with low acidity, such as Clear Lake, Wiggins noted. “Entry of even a few quaggas into Clear Lake, the largest body of water in the Coast Range, could permanently upset the lake’s benefits that so many people enjoy,” Wiggins added. The mussels attach themselves to boat hulls or may be free-swimming larvae in trapped water in boat bilges, live wells, and other places capable of harboring water while boats are in transit, CDFA reported. CDFA reported that when its inspectors find the exotic mussels on watercraft, the vessels are cleaned and the owners issued a quarantine notice prohibiting the craft from entering California waters until a final inspection is conducted by the California Department of Fish and Game. The dangerous pests can alter habitat and water chemistry, making waterways uninhabitable to native species, officials reported. They've caused serious environmental and economic impacts for infested areas such as the Great Lakes. In a July Chicago Tribune report, it was noted that the quagga mussel – which invaded Lake Michigan 20 years ago – has had a population explosion in recent years and now is popping up across the lake's floor. That is part of an ecological domino effect that is rapidly changing the lake's ecosystem. In an effort to protect the county's water bodies from the mussels, earlier this year the Board of Supervisors adopted and ordinance that made Lake County's one of the first governments in the state to set up an invasive species inspection program. All boats entering the county's lakes must have an inspection sticker after completing a screening and, if necessary, a full inspection to certify they are mussel-free, as Lake County News has reported. Any vessels that don't pass inspection will not be allowed to launch until after they've been decontaminated and reinspected. The quagga and zebra mussels are believed to have traveled from their native Ukraine to the United States through means such as the ballast water in oceangoing ships. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that a bill to set federal cleanup standards for such ships is deadlocked in Congress, because Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). Part of the disagreement centers on Boxer's concern that the federal law could preempt California's stronger standards, according to the Associated Press. She also wants the Clean Water Act to be partially responsible for governing the program, while the Coast Guard would remain in charge of the program according to Inouye's legislation. In order to keep quagga and zebra mussels from spreading to Clear Lake and other bodies of water where they've not been detected, state and local officials advise following these steps. – Boaters should inspect all exposed surfaces, wash boat hulls thoroughly, remove all plants from boat and trailer, drain all water, including lower outboard units, clean and dry livewells and bait buckets and dispose of baitfish in the trash. – Watercraft should be dried for at least five days between launches in different fresh bodies of water. – Have boats and other watercraft inspected as part of the Lake County Invasive Species Inspection Program. For information or to find the nearest inspection location, visit the Lake County Mussel Web site at www.co.lake.ca.us/mussels, or call the Lake County Mussel Hotline at 707-263-2556.#http://lakeconews.com/content/view/5445/764/ Mussel found on boat hull at South Lake TahoeReno Gazette Journal – 8/28/08…By Jeff DeLong A boat encrusted with invasive mussels and about to be launched into Lake Tahoe was stopped in what officials describe as a first-of-its-kind close call.The harbor master at South Lake Tahoe's Tahoe Keys Marina first saw mussels on the stern of a 32-foot cabin cruiser as it was about to be hoisted into the water Friday. Experts later confirmed the mollusks were quagga mussels, which apparently attached to the vessel while in Lake Mead in late July, said Ted Thayer, natural resource and science team leader for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The boat remains under quarantine as ordered by wardens with the California Department of Fish and Game. "This is the first one we've actually found that actually had mussels on it," said Jenny Francis of the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, which is leading inspection efforts at the lake. The incident, Thayer said, makes clear the danger posed by mussel-infested boats and the importance of mounting a program to detect any before they are put into the lake. "This tells us boats do come from Mead and there may be live mussels on board," Thayer said. "It is both scary and encouraging at the same time."The vessel owner said it was decontaminated when it left Lake Mead. The area where the mussels were found were near the boat's out-drive sprayed with hot water, Thayer said. That, combined with the time the vessel was out of the water, could mean the mussels were dead when discovered at the Tahoe Keys."They could have already been dead, but we decided: better safe than sorry," Thayer said of the decision to put the boat under quarantine. Biologists plan to recheck the vessel Sept. 3 to ensure it is clean and can be released to its owner, he said. Quagga mussels, previously found only in the Midwest and Northeast, were first discovered in Lake Mead in early 2007 and have since spread to other parts of Nevada, Arizona and Southern California. In January, zebra mussels -- a close cousin of the quagga -- turned up in a California reservoir 250 miles from Lake Tahoe.Both types of mussels could cause widespread problems if they were to become established in Lake Tahoe. The rapidly reproducing mollusks could quickly disrupt the lake's ecosystem, clog drinking water intakes, encrust boats, foul docks and litter beaches with sharp and stinking shells. In June, the TRPA board approved regulations requiring mandatory inspections of boats being launched into the lake in effort to prevent introduction of mussels.More inspectors are being trained, with the boat launch in Incline Village, for example, covered seven days a week. Some launches still don't have inspectors available every day, leading officials early this month to ask marina operators to close boat ramps when no inspectors are available. "We need to do everything we possibly can to make sure they don't get in the lake," said Mara Bresnick, chairwoman of the TRPA governing board.#http://www.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/NEWS04/808280342/1321/NEWS Caples Lake fish rescue improves after slow startSacramento Bee – 8/28/08…By Chris Bowman The difference was apparently night and day. State Fish and Game crews racing to transplant all the trout they can net from fast-draining Caples Lake dramatically improved their catch in the dark Wednesday from midnight to 4 a.m., officials said. The graveyard shift hauled 3,000 fish by tanker truck to nearby Silver and Red lakes in the tiny High Sierra county of Alpine. The day crew, by comparison, nabbed fewer than 100 on Tuesday, the start of a nonstop 72-hour fish rescue. Fish and Game workers with no shortage of volunteers hope to capture thousands more trout today and Friday as the El Dorado Irrigation District drains Caples for repair of the dam gates this fall. Officials are not surprised by their nighttime success. In daylight, especially on cloudless hot days, larger fish hang in the protective shadows of big boulders and tree stumps on the cool lake bottom. Come nightfall, when the surface waters darken and cool, the trophy-size trout start working the shores for insects. That's where Fish and Game's "shock boats" are dispersing electric currents of 1,000 to 1,500 volts to stun fish for easy netting. "We scoop them up as soon as they roll," said Harry Morse, a spokesman for the agency, which regularly stocks the lake with rainbows, brooks, browns and Mackinaws. The three shock boats far outdid the five vessels trolling with gill nets. "As soon as we saw what was happening, we called in four more electro-shock boats to really get hot and heavy at it tonight," Morse said Wednesday.Few fish have died in captivity, he said. One of them happened to be a 33-inch-long, 18.5-pound brown snagged in a gill net, the largest fish yet caught.Biologists necropsied it to determine its age. Morse wished he'd photographed it as proof to anglers that Caples truly does harbor lunkers.#http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1192116.html 4. Water Quality – WATER SOFTENER BANBy Associated Press SACRAMENTO (AP) — California lawmakers have voted to allow local governments to ban salt-producing water softeners to help the state meet its water-recycling goal. The state Assembly gave the bill by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, final approval with a 45-17 vote.The vote adopted amendments made in the Senate. Supporters say high levels of salt in wastewater makes recycling more difficult. The state has set a goal of using one million acre-feet of recycled water by 2010. Cities would have to get approval from a regional water quality control board before imposing restrictions on the use of water softeners. They also would have to compensate homeowners who would be required to remove softeners.#http://www.santaynezvalleyjournal.com/archive/6/35/2680/ 5. Agencies, Programs, People – Editorial: Let region chart its water futureChico Enterprise-Record – 8/28/08 While there's plenty to be concerned about in the latest effort to solve California's water problems, history suggests the concerns will be short-lived. While it was encouraging that Delta Vision, a self-proclaimed "blue ribbon task force," came to the north valley this week, all we can do is wonder how long this latest flavor-of-the-month approach to water will last. Delta Vision comes on the heels of the expensive, failed Cal-Fed bureaucracy that accomplished little except wasting money. That was followed by an exalted plan pushed by the Northern California Water Association that advocated regional cooperation and protection of Northern California water rights. Butte County signed on to that regional water plan a little more than a year ago. Now comes the Delta Vision task force, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's handpicked group that was chosen 18 months ago to make recommendations about how to fix the problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the linchpin in any water debate. The Delta Vision group is working on its third draft of a plan that it hopes to send to the governor by October, after which Schwarzenegger will try to find a legislator to sponsor a package of bills that includes water recommendations. And then there's the matter of finding a few billion dollars to implement them. Delta Vision sounds quite different from the regional plan. Instead of letting locals decide their water future, Delta Vision uses the same approach as Cal-Fed — a bunch of top-down mandates rather than locally focused solutions. The Butte County Board of Supervisors has many concerns. In a four-page letter to the chair of the Delta Vision task force, the supervisors agreed that the delta — both the levees and the fisheries — is in dire need of repair. But the county is concerned that the state is ignoring local cooperation and area-of-origin water rights. While the state task force is focused on the delta and improving the way of life for that unique region, it seems to be unaware that depleting resources from our unique region isn't the way to do it. "Revitalizing the delta ecosystem must not come at the expense of other equally valuable ecosystems," the supervisors wrote. Local people have a right to be concerned. Can the state say that the needs of the south and urban areas are more important than our needs? Can the state decide, in effect, that delta smelt are more important that Butte Creek's spring-run salmon, therefore the delta will get more water? Will the state pump our aquifers? Will the state say the inexpensive water our farmers get from century-old water rights is too inexpensive? Does the state realize that, just like the delta way of life, ours would be forever harmed if our lakes were depleted, our streams ran dry and the rivers were channeled? Does the state know that rivers and lakes are more to us than just a water delivery system? We're thrilled that somebody is looking closely at the environment and the state's water supply. We worry, however, that our region's lack of political clout will mean we get flattened by larger regions to the south. We hope they remember that while we don't have clout, we do have water, and we deserve a bigger voice in the future of our most important natural resource.#http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/ci_10323346 ------------------------------------------------------------- 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.