8-29-08Merced Sun-StarG Street underpass at train tracks and Campus Parkway get millions in funding...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/425415.html...The California Transportation Commission approved a $9 million award for the city that will pay half the cost to build a railroad underpass at G Street. The rest of the construction will be funded by the Redevelopment Agency, impact fees paid by developers and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The state commission also OK'd $12 million for the Campus Parkway, which will connect Highway 99 to Yosemite Avenue. The first phase, funded by the award, will go from the Mission Avenue interchange to Childs Avenue.The money depends on the state passing a 2008-2009 budget...Both awards are victories for the county, city and university, which lobbied hard for the funding. The projects will ease traffic congestion, make trips to the burgeoning campus quicker and encourage more growth.The underpass, set to break ground by early 2010 and finish in the fall of 2011...The Campus Parkway project will probably go to bid in November, and construction will start in March, county spokesman Mark Hendrickson said.Trial of UC Merced grad student accused of making meth delayedInvestigators say he stole from school and tried to produce a superdrug....VICTOR A. PATTONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/425401.htmlA UC Merced grad student accused of stealing equipment and chemicals from a university lab to make methamphetamine made an in-person appearance in court Thursday.Dressed in a gray jailhouse jumpsuit, 36-year-old Jason West stood briefly in Merced Superior Court for a preliminary hearing in his case. Commissioner Ralph Cook then rescheduled West's hearing to Sept. 11 to allow defense attorney William Davis more time to review reports in the case.West was arrested earlier this month at his home... Merced County sheriff's investigators said that he had stolen more than $10,000 in chemicals and equipment from UC Merced.The investigation revealed that he improved on a 30-year-old method of making the drug that avoids using ephedrine or pseudoephedrine -- chemicals which are under federal regulation, according to investigators. The regulations help investigators track the people making meth. West remains in jail in lieu of $1,045,000 bail.Legislature approves metal theft bill...E.J. SCHULTZ, The Fresno Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/425407.htmlSACRAMENTO -- Ending two years of debate, the Legislature on Thursday gave final approval to a bill aimed at stopping metal theft, a growing problem in the Valley and elsewhere.Metal theft is an especially troublesome crime in rural areas...Assembly Bill 844 requires junk dealers and recyclers to collect more information from customers that could help with investigations, including thumbprints and photos of the metals being recycled. Also, customers would not get cash payments until three days after they sell the metals. Irregular customers could only be paid by check.The Assembly approved AB 844 with a unanimous vote. Gov. Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the bill, though he has vowed to ignore most bills until lawmakers reach a deal on the state budget, now 60 days late.Assembly Member Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, has been pushing the bill since last year. His goal was to ensure the bill did not override existing -- and in some cases tougher -- rules already in place in several counties. Recyclers resisted, fearing the proposal would open the door for local ordinances that they said would be tough to comply with.A compromise was reached allowing local governments to enact stronger ordinances, but only if two-thirds of a board of supervisors or city council agree...Letter: How to clean up air...KARA MIDDLEBROOKS, Mercedhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/180/story/425422.htmlEditor: Amidst our budget woes, there is still a way the governor can help clean up the Valley's air for free.A year ago. the legislature passed Senate Bill 719 allowing the governor to appoint a physician and scientist to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board.In April, he appointed Fresno cardiologist Dr. John Telles but has yet to fill the post for the scientist seat. This voice is critical to the passage of smart policies aimed at reducing air pollution that causes one in five Valley children to carry asthma inhalers with them to school.I know there are several great minds at UC Merced who would qualify for this seat. It would be a wonderful use of resources to tap someone from our newest University of California as well as allow Merced's voice to be at the table.Letter: Supports Wal-Mart...HENRY XIONG, Mercedhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/180/story/425418.htmlEditor: As a resident of Merced for six years, I have known so many people who have lost their job and their home.Currently, the housing crisis, the cost of gas, food and high unemployment rate are the major problems for Merced residents. In order to resolve this issue, we need more employers and more jobs. So I encourage every resident to support the Wal-Mart distribution center that will bring jobs, economic benefits, tax revenue, money and growth for the county and other future employers.The City Council should support the distribution center because jobs and unemployment is the No. 1 issue in Merced, according to Voter/Consumer Research in May 7-8, 2008. In addition, Wal-Mart's 2007 generation truck fleet will have innovative design features that will reduce fuel consumption and idling.Their environmental goals are simple and straightforward: To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain their resources and the environment.Modesto BeeDiablo Grande has buyer, but no dealResort asks 12 days to close agreement...TIM MORANhttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/411431.htmlSACRAMENTO -- Diablo Grande officials have identified a potential buyer, but still have not completed a sale.The buyer is World International LLC, a corporation reportedly formed by partners who are Mexican nationals with broad experience in resort, hotel and industrial development, with properties in Cancún, Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas.Michael Ahrens, an attorney representing the partnership that owns Diablo Grande, revealed the buyer in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Thursday. He asked the court for an additional 12 days to complete a sale agreement and settlement among the creditors. World International offered $21 million for Diablo Grande....Four bids were received and World International's was the highest, Ahrens said.World International's bid was $5 million less than the minimum bid specified by the Diablo Grande partnership, Ahrens said...Judge Robert S. Bardwil continued to express misgivings about the sale and settlement agreement, which defines how the money from the sale is disbursed among creditors, including an $850,000 pool of money for unsecured creditors. Bardwil said the settlement bypasses the payout process spelled out in bankruptcy codes.The judge said he was concerned about how insiders such as Panoz, Davis and various corporations they control are treated in the settlement. More than $11 million owed to Diablo Grande by insiders is released in the agreement, Bardwil said."It suggests the settlement is made to the benefit of insiders," Bardwil said. "The lack of disclosure is strongly suggestive of insiders trying to pull a fast one."...Ahrens said that wasn't the case and told the judge the deal came together under intense time pressure with hectic telephone negotiations between the major creditors, the partners and the resort... Attorneys for several creditors pleaded with the judge to accept the sale and settlement, saying the alternative was a Chapter 7 liquidation, with disastrous results for homeowners at the resort. A Chapter 7 likely would result in years of litigation, a government takeover of the water system and continued health issues with water quality, attorneys said.Ahrens said that Diablo Grande was running out of money to operate and needed an additional $900,000 to continue through the end of September. He is negotiating with the partners for the money, he said.Bardwil agreed to continue the hearing until Sept. 9 in Sacramento, so the sale agreement can be made final and the settlement payout issues can be resolved.Diablo Grande, first proposed in 1990, survived numerous lawsuits filed by environmentalists over its water sources and impact on the oak-studded valley. The first golf course opened in June 1996, followed by some estate homes and a winery. The hotel, convention center and spa -- part of Panoz's original dream -- never developed. Instead, single-family homes sprang up in the center of the development. The second golf course opened in May 1998.Crisis TestimonyU.S. House banking committee chief will hold hearing on valley foreclosures...J.N. SBRANTIhttp://www.modbee.com/business/story/411233.htmlSTOCKTON -- Testimony on how foreclosures are hurting the Northern San Joaquin Valley will be offered during a House Committee on Financial Services "field hearing" Sept. 6 in Stockton.Valley housing experts and community leaders will share their views with members of Congress.Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, the committee's chairman, will attend the event and gather information on behalf of the full 70-member congressional committee.The public is invited to listen to testimony offered during the hearing, which will start at noon in the Stockton Arena, 248 W. Fremont St....Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, asked Frank to hold the hearing in Stockton.San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties have the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. More than 20,000 homes have been lost to foreclosure in the past year, and the volume of defaults keeps rising.Nearly 12 percent of all mortgages are 90 days or more delinquent in Stanislaus County and more than 15 percent are delinquent in Merced County, according to research firm First American CoreLogic."This is an incredibly serious problem and getting worse," Cardoza said. "For us, this is as devastating as Hurricane Katrina. ... If it had happened in one week, the federal government would have sent in Army troops to help us, but it happened over time" so the impact isn't widely understood.Persuading the Committee on Financial Services, formerly the Banking Committee, to hold a hearing in Stockton is key to raising awareness on how bad the situation has become."We need to make our plight more high-profile," Cardoza said. He wants Frank to better understand the region's fore- closure crisis. "I need someone else to pound the table with me. This hearing is a way to galvanize the attention of Congress as a whole."The hearing's formal title is "The Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis on Neighborhoods in California's Central Valley: Challenges and Solutions."...Although testimony at the Stockton hearing is by invitation only, Cardoza is encouraging people who have been hurt by foreclosures to write to him by Sept. 5. He said he will submit those letters to the committee, and they will be read by its key staff members."The individual cases are compelling, dramatic stories," Cardoza said. Such stories can help document the far-reaching effect of the problem.Letters to Cardoza should be sent to: 137 E. Weber Ave., Stockton, 95202.One conclusion from all the data...J.N. SBRANTIhttp://www.modbee.com/business/story/411235.htmlFour sets of housing data were released recently, all of which show how badly the Northern San Joaquin Valley home market is doing.When it comes to home values for existing houses, Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are the worst in the nation, according to the government's Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.That office's House Price Index, which tracks same-house sales prices and mortgage refinancing over time, calculated that home values dropped 34.5 percent in Merced, 31.7 percent in San Joaquin and 28.5 percent in Stanislaus during the year that ended July 31.By comparison, homes throughout California lost 15.8 percent of their value and U.S. homes lost 1.7 percent.Those who bought homes five or more years ago, however, still are doing OK. Since 2003, the federal office calculates that Stanislaus home values are up 15.2 percent, San Joaquin is up 9.5 percent and Merced is up 8.6 percent. California values rose 34.8 percent and national values rose 41.8 percent in the past five years.A new method for comparing mortgage default rates has been released by First American CoreLogic, a private firm that collects and analyzes mortgage data.In Stanislaus, 11.7 percent of mortgage loans were 90 days or more delinquent this June. The delinquent rate was 15.2 percent in Merced. Compare that to the 4.1 percent loan delinquency rate for the nation as a whole.With so many existing homes losing value or in mortgage default, the region's home building industry is suffering.New housing building permits have plummeted, according to the Construction Industry Research Board. During the first seven months of 2008, 1,278 building permits were issued in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.More than seven times that many permits -- 9,202 -- were issued during the same period in 2005, which was the peak of the region's housing boom.To sell the few homes that have been built during the past year, builders have had to drastically slash prices, new statistics from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence show.The median new home price plunged to $299,990 in Stanislaus this June. That's a one-year drop of 30.2 percent. Merced prices fell to $279,990, down 12.5 percent, and San Joaquin fell to $328,865, down 29.7 percent. New home prices statewide were $365,000, down 16.5 percent.Bay Area real estate investors get dose of Merced reality...YVONNE HOLThttp://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/411197.htmlThe duplex across the street went into foreclosure Monday. I met the owner when she bought the building -- a nice woman looking to invest in Merced with the hopes of providing a place for her son to live as he attended Merced College and then transferred to the University of California at Merced. But the transfer fell through and her son moved out.She's been renting both units to two reliable renters ever since, but many problems have compounded to force this foreclosure.First, she bought the building when the market was at its peak. She paid, I believe, around $390,000 for a duplex in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood. A common friend tried to tell her that she was paying too much, but she was sure that property values would only increase with the growth of UC Merced.My friend and I did the math. The mortgage payment alone would have been more than $3,500 a month. To meet the mortgage, she would have to charge more than $1,500 a month rent. But in this low-income neighborhood, my friend and I knew she could never get such high rents. Average rents for the block had already increased by a few hundred dollars, but had settled at around $900 a month... The owner had a problem with her first tenants... She moved in her son and another tenant, who were good at paying rent -- so long as it was $900 a month... But she had to take a second job to make up the difference in the mortgage payment. Then she took a well-deserved but ill-advised vacation that caused her to miss a mortgage payment. Now the duplex is being auctioned off.Her story is common to many investors in my neighborhood. A swarm of Bay Area people bought duplexes and apartment buildings in anticipation of the new UC Merced growing, and promptly raised rents to meet their mortgage payments. Unfortunately, they didn't factor in the reality that salaries and wages here in Merced are among the lowest in the region. The apartments down the street are an illustration of poor planning on the part of real estate investors. The minute the owner raised the rents, low-income tenants started moving out...The owner of the building next door has the same problem -- neither can attract higher-income tenants to the neighborhood due to the unfortunate existence of gang activity. ...this unit could end up in foreclosure, too.One unfortunate result of all that investment during the peak market is that it keeps rents high. The owners can't lower rents as they try to make high mortgage payments. Renters can't afford them because their incomes are fixed. So the apartments and rentals will remain empty.Foreclosure green lien program to keep lawns lush...The Press-Enterprise, http://www.pe.comhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/411526.html...The Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District program approved Thursday allows banks, lenders and owners of foreclosed properties to place a lien on foreclosed properties to keep the water meters on.Bills would be repaid when the home is sold. The program ends Dec. 31, 2009.The water agency estimates there are 2,500 homes in some stage of foreclosure in the 96,000-square-mile district.UCLA official accuses school of illegal admissions...The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.comhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/411164.htmlA UCLA professor resigned from an admissions committee Thursday, saying he suspects officials are cheating to illegally admit more black students but have blocked access to data that would prove it.Political science professor Tim Groseclose said he was concerned because "applicants often reveal their own race in the essay portion of the application," according to an Orange County Register story.University officials said admissions evaluators don't see the names, race or ethnicity of applicants and that they're following the law. They also said privacy concerns prevent them from giving Groseclose the data he wants.California's public universities are banned from using race as an admissions criteria, but campus officials have been under intense pressure to increase numbers of black students...Groseclose said there's "circumstantial evidence to suggest some back door racial preferences are going on."Groseclose wanted to use statistical analysis to examine whether students were being admitted by race. He asked for 1,000 student files, including essays, with the names removed, which officials refused because of privacy issues.Groseclose said he resigned from the admissions committee because of the "lack of transparency" in the process, but supports offering preferences to recruit and admit more black students.After a furor over black enrollment in 2006, UCLA adopted what officials call an "holistic" admissions system...Yucca Mountain opponents send petition...Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.comhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/411575.htmlOpponents to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository have delivered a petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.The petition urges the nuclear safety agency to reject a Department of Energy application to build the nuclear waste complex 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.Sen. Harry Reid initiated the drive earlier this summer with other members of the state's delegation. His office says the petition had about 4,000 signatures.Energy Department officials are seeking permission to build a below-ground repository and aboveground waste handling complex for 77,000 tons of radioactive spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants and government-generated nuclear waste.Legislators: Dry up or water supply will...Editorialhttp://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/411200.htmlHow long have Sacramento's politicians been arguing over a water bond? A year? A decade? Or does it just feel like forever?As the politicians go round and round without budging, it's only natural to come full circle. And so we have. A couple of months ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed a $9.3 billion water bond -- his second try for such a bond in two years. On Aug. 15, Assembly Democrats proposed a $9.8 billion water bond, their second try in two years.After looking at the two very similar ideas, it's clear we've been here before. And the same issue that kept our elected officials from getting a bond onto the ballot in 2007 is likely to kill it again in 2008...Now it's August 2008, and it's déjà vu all over again. We have competing water bond proposals with very similar elements. The most significant difference is in how to allocate the money.Fresno Assemblyman Juan Arambula is the leading proponent for the Democrats' effort. He says his bill is a good compromise -- except that it isn't, because it still contains the "annual allocation."Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, is leading the charge for the governor's proposal (originally carried by Sen. Dave Cogdill). Berryhill has guaranteed that not one Republican will vote for a plan that includes annual appropriations because such annual review provides too many "offramps" for the money.So we're back to the same old debate, and we're likely to get the same old result. The deadline for putting a water bond on the Nov. 4 ballot probably is Monday. Meanwhile, after two years of drought, cities up and down the state are restricting water use by 10 percent or 20 percent.Arguing over water can be thirsty business. We just hope the politicians' mouths run dry before the state does.Sacramento BeeWater authority wins grant for meters, appliances...Matt Weiserhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1195240.htmlThe Regional Water Authority has won a nearly $2 million state grant to help local agencies install water meters and expand rebates for efficient appliances.The California Department of Water Resources grant announced Wednesday is one of 52 totaling $17 million that comes from Proposition 50 passed by voters in 2002.The water authority will make half of its $1.97 million grant available to urban water agencies in the metro area to subsidize water meter installations. Most of the region is unmetered, but state law requires meter installation by 2013 or 2025, depending on water source.Stockton RecordCanal foes: Delta promises brokenFarmers, anglers say health of estuary neglected...Alex Breitlerhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080829/A_NEWS/808290337/-1/A_NEWSThe government should keep its promises.So said farmers, anglers and water lawyers who got one last chance Thursday to protest a plan proposing a peripheral canal as the "linchpin" of the state's future water system.The canal would take water from the Sacramento River near Hood and skirt it around the central Delta to state and federal pumps near Tracy, and from there to farms and cities as far south as San Diego.One problem, critics say: The government historically promised that the Delta's needs would come first. Only surplus water would be shipped south."What is currently conveyed to the south is already too much water, and the Delta tells us so," said Dave Scatena, a fisherman.In Stockton to hear his angst was retired environmental attorney Richard Frank, one of seven members of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force.The team has written a report to be made final by the end of October. That report will go to the governor and help shape legislation next year to tackle the Delta's numerous problems, at an estimated cost of $12 billion to $24 billion over the next 15 years.While Thursday's meeting was their last chance to publicly condemn the draft report, canal opponents vowed they would continue to fight. And many are seasoned veterans...Many observers, however, say they feel the whole thing is a done deal.While the report says the environment and water supply should be treated as "co-equals," and while a canal would be only part of the proposed solution, critics note that the report fails so quantify how much fresh water will be needed to keep the Delta healthy. Indeed, that answer might never be known, according to the report.What the government did know as far back as 20 years is that it would eventually need more water, said Stockton lawyer Dante Nomellini, who represents Delta farmers.Millions of acre-feet of water were supposed to come from rivers on California's north coast - rivers that were deemed wild and scenic and could not be tapped.Even though that water never materialized, exports from the Delta soared."You people have bought into this idea of co-equality" of the environment and water supplies, Nomellini told Frank. "That turns upside-down the whole promise ... that the needs of Northern California come first."Nomellini said he expects a decade-long court battle.Frank said Thursday's arguments were "well thought out" and that he'd share them with the rest of the task force."We have absolutely no power" in the ultimate outcome, he said. ...but it will be up to the lawmakers after that.And perhaps the judges.A telling quote...Alex Breitler's bloghttp://blogs.recordnet.com/sr-abreitlerOpponents of a peripheral canal rest much of their argument upon past promises by the government -- promises that the Delta's needs would come before those of the water exporters.Consider these words, spoken by Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug on Oct. 12, 1948:"Let me state, clearly and finally, the Interior Department is fully and completely committed to the policy that no water which is needed in the Sacramento Valley will be sent out of it."Sacramento Valley = Delta, since most of the fresh water flowing into the Delta comes from the Sacramento.Words to ponder for your Friday morning.San Francisco ChronicleWater logjam...Kelly Zito, Village Greenhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=50&entry_id=29595I've researched California's water crisis in lots of different ways: Watching a well drilling rig bore into the ground near a golf tee, listening to a San Leandro couple explain how they collect water "scraps" and standing in a parched almond grove where you could almost hear the leaves shriveling.This week, it was time to travel to another setting -- the one that matters most. Sacramento. On Tuesday (originally it was scheduled for Monday. Go figure!), Assembly members on the special committee on water met to talk about various plans to fix the state's water supply problems. A few proposals are on the table, and they're competing for a place on November's ballot.Gov. Schwarzenegger's water bond calls for $9.3 billion, more "surface storage" (read: dams and reservoirs) and a specially appointed group to dole out the money. A Republican water bill that came out a day later is similar to Schwarzenegger's plan, but it totals nearly $10 billion.The Democrats appeared to use the governor's plan as a template -- with several important differences. Their bond calls for $9.8 billion, leaves appropriation powers with the legislature and earmarks $250 million for water recycling projects. The plan also stipulates no bond money could pay for a peripheral canal -- a 1980s era (leg warmers, synth pop and peripheral canals are so in!) solution to repair the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by funneling water around the estuary.During Tuesday's information hearing on the Democrats' bond proposal, the two sides alternately seemed close to a compromise plan, and far, far apart. Department of Water Resources chief Lester Snow noted that the differences between the Administration and Democrats comprised a very short list. With the deadline for the November ballot looming and water managers increasingly worried about water stores heading into fall, we may learn within days just how short that list is.Water board sues U.S. over mothball fleet...Kelly Zitohttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/29/BA3R12K9BU.DTL&type=printableA regional water board is readying a lawsuit against the U.S. Maritime Administration claiming federal authorities have allowed toxic chemicals and metals from the mothball fleet to continue to leach into Suisun Bay.The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board contends the 50-plus decrepit ships - some cargo ships dating to World War II - have dumped asbestos, used oil and as much as 19 tons of mercury, lead and copper from their hulls and pose hazards to water quality, commercial and sport fishing, fish migration and endangered species.Unless federal maritime officials halt the pollution discharges in 60 days, the water board plans to file suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento under the Clean Water Act.Last fall, three environmental organizations sued to force the Maritime Administration to remove the ships from Suisun Bay. That case is winding its way through the federal court in Sacramento and is on track for a September 2009 trial date. Meantime, the ships remain - about 57 considered badly corroded.Despite ongoing complaints, maritime officials said the water board's move was disappointing and highlights the agency's rock-and-a-hard-place position in the Bay Area.In essence, the Maritime Administration said it cannot move the ships without first cleaning them, according to a U.S. Coast Guard requirement under the National Invasive Species Act. Cleaning the ships, however, can release more toxic substances into the water, thereby violating the Clean Water Act...Industry groups file lawsuit over polar bear rule...DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/08/28/national/w115753D86.DTL&type=printableFive industry groups have sued the Interior Department over a rule to protect the polar bear that they say unfairly singles out business operations in Alaska for their contribution to global warming.Groups representing the oil and gas, mining, and manufacturing industries asked a federal judge Wednesday to ensure that laws designed to protect the bear, which was recently designated a threatened species, are not used to block projects that release heat-trapping gases in the state.The American Petroleum Institute was joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Iron and Steel Institute in the lawsuit, which explicitly challenges three words — except in Alaska — that appear in a 62-page rule issued in May.That's when the polar bear became the first species with a population that the government has classified as threatened by global warming. The bear depends on sea ice, which is expected to melt as temperatures climb, for survival.The Bush administration made clear that it did not want the polar bear's status to become a tool of environmentalists seeking to regulate the gases blamed for global warming.On the day it announced the polar bear as a threatened species, which bars harm to the bear or its habitat, the administration also issued a special rule limiting the types of projects that could be evaluated.To further block attempts to use endangered species law to control greenhouse gas emissions, it exempted projects in all states but Alaska from undergoing reviews.The groups say the three words — which they refer to as The Alaska Gap — are unlawful and run counter to the administration's belief that it is impossible to link emissions from a single project to the increasing temperatures that threaten the polar bear...The lawsuit filed Thursday is the latest to target the polar bear. Environmentalists and the state of Alaska have also sued the Interior Department over the polar bear's protection.In the meantime, energy companies have paid billions for the right to explore for oil and natural gas in polar bear habitat.The Interior Department would not comment on the lawsuit.Brendan Cummings, the oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which is challenging the rule in court on the grounds that it is illegal, said Thursday that the lawsuit brought by industry is another attempt to "make the polar bear's protections more meaningless than they already are."Private management of S.F. golf courses urged...Marisa Lagoshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/29/BADQ12K9AM.DTL&type=printableSan Francisco's five public golf courses should be operated by private management firms, according to a city-commissioned report that immediately drew heat from opponents of privatization.The report, obtained Thursday by The Chronicle, advises the city to enter 15- to 20-year lease agreements with private management firms, and says that the leases should require the new operators to make much-needed capital improvements to the aging parks and share gross revenues from the courses with the city... The 93-page document found that golf is so popular in the Bay Area that the city's courses would be profitable if they were improved and marketed properly. But it recommends cutting the 18-hole Lincoln Golf Course to nine holes to allow for other recreational opportunities.The report drew fire from a number of parks advocates, including Nancy Wurfel, who accused the city's Recreation and Park Department, which oversees the courses, of stacking the deck for privatization."This is a fait accompli to give away as much public land as possible," Wurfel said...The city has been struggling for years over how to manage its golf courses, most of which are in need of millions of dollars of repairs and upgrades...Study disappoints someThe study was finished in July but not released in its entirety until Wednesday, after several members of the task force in recent weeks submitted public records requests to the park department. The final version was apparently altered after park department employees reviewed a draft... A city wary of privatizationThe park department did not comment on the complaints, but Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who agreed with the recommendations, scoffed at the accusation that the report was influenced by the park department...Another task force member, Brent Plater, said the report's recommendations for Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica - restoring the course to its original design - could leave the city open to civil and criminal penalties. The course is located adjacent to a lagoon and is the habitat of an endangered species, the San Francisco garter snake, which is protected under state and federal laws; restoring the original design would jeopardize that species, he said."The parks department wants to divest themselves of the problem," by contracting out the management, he said, "but they can't escape liability for killing an endangered species."...UC overtime up 12.4% to $135 million in '07...Tanya Schevitzhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/29/BALA12IR1D.DTL&type=printableThree nurses in the University of California system earned more than $90,000 in overtime last year. A police officer at UC Irvine earned almost $65,000 for extra work.And 60 UC employees made more than $50,000 each in overtime pay during 2007, up from 43 employees the year before. The annual overtime pay throughout the 10-campus UC system rose by 12.4 percent to a total of $135 million. It was shared among 49,218 employees, according to an analysis of UC's $8.9 billion annual payroll... "We need to monitor all our personnel-related costs to make sure we are managing our resources well," said UC President Mark Yudof. "At the same time, overtime in many cases is required to ensure the continuity of our service to the public, such as dealing with hospital or safety emergencies, or other situations where it makes more sense economically to pay someone overtime than to hire additional permanent staff."The majority of the top 100 overtime earners across the system in 2007 were nurses or other health care workers, such as ultrasound technologists.UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said overtime is often needed when permanent positions are unfilled because of budget constraints, turnover or labor shortages. Overtime is also used to cover the work of employees on vacation or maternity leaves, he said.Among the 10 campuses, UCLA paid out the most overtime, $41.5 million. However, it had 53,228 employees on its payroll - more than any other campus - and it has a major hospital operation... University of California overtimeA total of $135 million in overtime was paid out systemwide, a 12.4 percent increase.CampusOvertime 2007Employees 2007Change in overtimeBerkeley$4,768,58231,881 12.4%Davis27,482,98836,841 10.0Irvine17,272,02623,939 11.4Los Angeles 41,536,05453,228 14.3Merced310,5201,489 27.9Riverside1,469,41411,325 13.2San Diego19,909,64933,945 8.0San Francisco20,424,27626,306 19.4Santa Barbara910,75915,639 9.9Santa Cruz1,257,96411,696- 9.7Source: University of California Look up UC's top overtime earners at sfgate.com/ZEQZ.Tree supporters appeal ruling on UC stadium plan...Carolyn Joneshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/29/BAKG12KE7C.DTL&type=printableTwo days before the football season starts at UC Berkeley, a group of oak tree supporters and Memorial Stadium neighbors filed an appeal to stop the university from building an athletic training center next to the 75,000-seat bowl.The appeal, filed Thursday with the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco, comes two days after an Alameda County trial judge lifted an order preventing the university from beginning construction on the $125 million project."There are some basic legal and procedural issues we'd like to see resolved by a higher court," said Michael Kelly, president of the Panoramic Hill Association, representing the stadium's neighbors. "It's not surprising we had to go to the appeals court - the university has never lost in the lower courts in Alameda County."The plaintiffs, who filed suit in December 2006, want the project scrapped because of its proximity to the Hayward Fault and the planned removal of 38 oak trees next to the stadium.The court is expected to decide next week whether to lift the injunction preventing the university from beginning construction. If the court decides to hear the appeal, the injunction could be extended for a year or so, attorneys for both sides have said...Keep the drinking age at 21...Robert A. Corrigan, president of San Francisco State Universityhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/29/ED5V12JHGR.DTL&type=printableUniversities exist to improve lives. Faculty, administrators and staff devote their careers to helping people - many of them young people - to fulfill their promise.Nothing is more difficult for us to bear than the loss of a student, cut down in his or her prime because of an accident, illness or poor choice. And we know, from years of experience, that one major path toward making poor choices is excessive consumption of alcohol.Yes, college is an important time to learn lessons not only about history, science, literature and art, but about life. There simply are some lessons that 18-to-20-year-olds - away from home and parental supervision for the first time in their lives - simply should not have to master: accompanying a classmate to the ER for treatment of an alcohol overdose; waking to a partner in bed and no recollection of what transpired there; grieving for a friend killed in an auto accident where alcohol was involved. If our nation reduces the drinking age from 21 to 18, as a coalition of university leaders has proposed, we will turn our campuses into the wrong kind of learning labs...The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates lowering the drinking age to 18 will increase fatalities by 10 percent. The American Medical Association reports that the brains of adolescents are so vulnerable that even short-term or moderate drinking can impair memory, learning, information recall and socialization - some of the very reasons for which we send our youth to college.We take a strong stand against underage drinking at S.F. State, as do all 23 campuses in the California State University system. Our trustees adopted a comprehensive alcohol policy in 2001 that applies to students of all ages. It is considered the most comprehensive alcohol policy of any university system in the country - and it works.Since the policy was adopted, campuses report a decrease in students driving after consuming alcohol and DUIs; fewer incidents of alcohol-related misconduct; reduced underage drinking and reduced binge drinking... Despite our efforts, and a drinking age of 21, we still have occasions where students drink excessively and make dangerous choices. Consider that half of the sexual assaults reported on our campus last year involved excessive alcohol consumption by victims under 21. Consider that we still witness alcohol overdoses, still break up parties where legal IDs are in short supply, still catch an occasional driver who can't pass one of college's most important tests - a sobriety test. A change in federal law that enlarges the pool of college students who can legally drink simply won't help.Discussing the drinking ageThe Amethyst Initiative, a proposal to debate lowering the drinking age to 18 from 21, was signed by about 100 college presidents across the country. They say laws encourage binge drinking on college campuses, where alcohol abuse is a problem.To learn more: www.amethystinitiative.orgWhere do Bay Area college and university presidents stand:St. Mary's College - no position.San Francisco State University - opposed.Stanford University - no position.UC Berkeley - no position.University of San Francisco - law addressing age is the wrong approach.University of Santa Clara - signed initiative.Inside Bay AreaPort's anti-pollution plan falls short, critics sayState, regional air boards say they want more specifics...Denis Cuffhttp://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_10327887The Port of Oakland's long-awaited proposal to cut diesel air pollution — and the higher cancer risk it brings to neighbors miles away — is inadequate because it lacks details and deadlines, environmental regulators and groups say.The plan has taken on added sensitivity because a state report in March concluded that West Oakland residents face a cancer risk four times higher than the general Bay Area population because of diesel pollution from trucks, ships, railroads and equipment. The port pollution also elevates cancer risks to a much lesser degree in communities miles away in western Alameda and Contra Costa counties, state officials said.In releasing the Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan last month, port managers said it would cut the elevated cancer risk in West Oakland by 85 percent through a mix of cleaner fuels and vehicles, and installation of pollution filters in vehicles and equipment.The Bay Area and California air pollution boards, however, lead a chorus of groups saying the plan fails to spell out who would do what, by when, to cut pollution — and who would foot the bill."The draft plan does not provide clear and sufficient commitments to meet the goal, nor does it convey a sense of urgency to do so expeditiously," said Jack Broadbent, chief executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. "It needs to be beefed up to assure greater protection of public health."...Los Angeles TimesAssembly Democrats prevail on water billWith three days left in the session, legislators also vote to ban dogs on drivers' laps and put warnings on 'alcopops.'...Nancy Vogelhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-legis29-2008aug29,0,2250196,print.storySACRAMENTO — In a heated debate Thursday, Assembly Republicans and Democrats agreed that California needs more reliable water supplies.But Republicans voted against spending $820 million from voter-approved water bonds because, they said, Democrats had not consulted them and too much of the money was dedicated to studies instead of construction."I'm studied out," said Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-San Diego). "What my constituents want is brick and mortar."But the dominant Democrats overrode Republicans' objections and passed a bill to spend $820 million from four water bonds. The money would go toward preparing for an earthquake in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, from which most of the state's drinking and irrigation water is pumped; finding supplies for rural communities with contaminated aquifers; and projects around the state for conservation, recycling and groundwater cleanup."This is about putting to work money the voters want us to put to work," said Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D-San Diego).With three days remaining to approve or reject bills, the Legislature also acted to ban dogs in drivers' laps, improve patients' access to information on end-of-life care, adjust laws on abandoned newborns and put warning labels on fruity drinks called "alcopops."The water measure, SB 1XX by Senate President Don Perata (D-Oakland), passed 43 to 25 and goes next to the Senate for approval of amendments.Of the $18.5 billion California voters have agreed to borrow since 1996 for water projects, nearly $11 billion has been spent...Orange County judge keeps storm-drain runoff standards in place for nowAn earlier ruling against the rules had frozen them, preventing builders from getting necessary California state permits. A Los Angeles regional board must review the standards...Jean Merlhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-water29-2008aug29,0,7483889,print.storyA judge ruled Thursday that water quality standards designed to protect the region's beaches from polluted storm-drain runoff will remain in place, at least for the time being.Orange County Superior Court Judge Thierry Patrick Colaw granted a request from a coalition of environmental groups that sought to keep the standards in place while the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board complied with the judge's order to review its runoff standards.This summer, Colaw had ruled in favor of a consortium of local inland cities and a building industry association that had filed a lawsuit -- against the state Water Resources Control Board and the local board -- seeking to overturn the regulations.The local board said the ruling, which applied to most cities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, left regulators without a major tool to deal with storm water runoff into the ocean.Builders could not get the necessary permits from the state board because the standards had been frozen."The court's decision provides much-needed relief and just in time for our Labor Day celebration," Francine Diamond, chairwoman of the local board, said Thursday.David Beckman, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council representing environmentalists, also hailed the ruling."If you drink water or like to swim in the ocean, today was a very good day," Beckman said, adding that the environmental groups would still probably appeal the judge's ruling that the standards be reviewed and modified.The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the local board had failed to consider whether the standards could be reasonably met and what economic effect they would have. The disputed standards were imposed to try to end bacterial contamination at local beaches, some of which are among the most polluted in the state. Pathogens flowing from storm drains into the surf can cause rashes, ear infections and other maladies.Court: US can block mad cow testing...From the Associated Presshttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-madcow30-2008aug30,0,4982005,print.storyWASHINGTON -- The Bush administration can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday.The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the rareness of the disease. Mad cow disease has been linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Great Britain. Only three cases have been reported in the U.S., all involving cows, not humans.A federal judge ruled last year that Creekstone must be allowed to conduct the test because the Agriculture Department can only regulate disease "treatment." Since there is no cure for mad cow disease and the test is performed on dead animals, the judge ruled, the test is not a treatment.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that ruling, saying diagnosis can be considered part of treatment."And we owe USDA a considerable degree of deference in its interpretation of the term," Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote.The case was sent back to the district court, where Creekstone can make other arguments. Concerns remain as salmonella outbreak comes to an endThe produce industry says the search for the source by the FDA, which shifted suspicion from tomatoes to jalapeno and serrano peppers, shattered consumer confidence and cost it millions...Tiffany Hsuhttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-fi-salmonella29-2008aug29,0,5030380,print.storyFour months after an outbreak of salmonella hospitalized hundreds, forced groceries to toss out tomatoes and peppers by the thousands, infuriated fruit and vegetable growers and puzzled consumers, health authorities said Thursday that the epidemic was about over.Officials said the number of cases from the nation's largest epidemic of food-borne illness had slid to non-outbreak levels in early August and there had been no clusters of victims since early July.The produce industry and its customers felt a prolonged -- and often crippling -- burden lift."Unquestionably, we're relieved," said Tom Nassif, chief executive of the Irvine-based Western Growers Assn., whose members cultivate about half of the nation's produce. "But we don't want this thing swept under the rug. We still have a lot of people out there hurting."The industry response is estimated to have cost between $130 million and $250 million, and workers who lost jobs and growers who planted a smaller crop this year will continue to feel the aftershocks.Several produce executives accused the Food and Drug Administration of running a lengthy, uncertain investigation that shifted suspicion from tomatoes to jalapeno and serrano peppers, shattering consumer confidence.Infections were first reported in mid-April, leading the FDA to issue a warning against certain tomatoes in early June. By the time the advisory was lifted in mid-July, many retailers had removed all tomatoes from shelves.Weeks later, the FDA fingered Mexican jalapeno peppers after contaminated samples were found in a victim's home and a Texas distribution center. Soon after, the agency said it discovered salmonella in a serrano pepper and irrigation water on a Mexican farm. Mexican officials said tests by their investigators cleared the farm as the source.American produce executives griped that at the beginning of the investigation health officials zeroed in too quickly on domestic tomatoes and refused to consider other possible sources. The FDA also shunned offers by produce producers to supply information that could have helped narrow the trace-back, they said. Still, in a conference call with reporters Thursday, federal health officials suggested that there would be no tidy finale to the outbreak drama...Officials also said they could not be sure they had the final or only origin of the outbreak.San Diego Union-TribuneAgency seeks changes on bighornsheep habitat...7:25 a.m. August 29, 2008 http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080829-0725-1bo29bighorn.htmlThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week issued its economic analysis of proposed changes to protections for bighorn sheep and announced two public hearings about the issue. The agency might reduce the federally designated “critical habitat” area for the sheep from 815,000 acres to roughly 400,000. It said some of the current land is already protected by other conservation programs or isn't really critical habitat. Conservationists said the agency's plan lacks adequate safeguards for the species. Over the next 20 years, the Fish and Wildlife study projects, the revised critical habitat program would cost about $411,000 to manage. To read the analysis, go to www.regulations.gov and search for “bighorn sheep economic analysis.” Hearings on the proposed habitat area will be at 1 and 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at The Living Desert zoo, 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. Written comments should be sent to Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN1018-AV09, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203. –M.L. Officer gets probation in death of police dog...Dana Littlefield and Kristina Davis http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080829-9999-1m29hubka.htmlA San Diego police officer charged in the death of his canine partner pleaded no contest yesterday to a misdemeanor charge of animal endangerment and was ordered to pay for the dog. Paul Hubka, who was not at the hearing, was placed on three years' probation and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service at any nonprofit agency within six months. San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said yesterday that the officer will no longer work with canines. San Diego Superior Court Judge Dwayne Moring also ordered Hubka to pay the department $5,000 for the dog. The amount was outlined in a memo issued by Lansdowne and referenced in court...The officer, a 22-year veteran of the department, is accused of leaving the dog in a police cruiser with the windows rolled up on a day when East County temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. Washington PostCalif. farmers use guns, poison to safeguard crops...TRACIE CONE, The Associated Presshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/29/AR2008082902119_pf.htmlFRESNO, Calif. -- Farmers in "America's Salad Bowl" are turning into hunters _ stalking wild pigs, rabbits and deer _ to keep E. coli and other harmful bacteria out of their fields.It's part of an intense effort to prevent another disaster like the 2006 spinach contamination that killed three people, sickened 200 and cost the industry $80 million in lost sales.The exact source of the contamination was never discovered, but scientists suspect that cattle, feral pigs, or other wildlife may have spread the E. coli by defecating near crops.The pressure to safeguard crops comes from the companies that buy fresh greens. In response, some farmers are taking gun-safety classes to learn how to shoot animals that could carry the bacteria. Others are uprooting native trees and plants and erecting fences to make their land inhospitable to wildlife.Spinach grower Bob Martin has even poisoned ponds with copper sulfate to kill frogs that might get caught in harvesting machinery or carry salmonella on their webbed feet...But some officials have questioned whether such drastic measures are necessary based on limited evidence...Concern over contamination is most pronounced in the Salinas River Valley, where valuable farmland and sensitive wildlife have coexisted for centuries. The lush valley, described in John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" and nicknamed "America's Salad Bowl," grows 60 percent of the nation's lettuce.The nonprofit Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, which works with landowners to sustain wildlife habitat, surveyed 181 leafy greens growers who manage more than 140,000 acres. The survey showed that more than 30,000 acres had been affected by trapping, poisoning, fencing or removal of natural habitat.The survey also indicated that 32 percent of respondents were convinced by corporate food-safety auditors to remove non-crop vegetation. More than 47 percent had been asked to "remove" wildlife, and 40.7 percent of those surveyed complied.Growers, packers and shippers adopted new food-safety standards last year for farms, including a requirement that farmers establish 30-foot buffers between their fields and grazing land for cattle, which are known carriers of E. coli.The standards acknowledged that wildlife could also carry the bacteria, but they had no requirement for buffers between wildlife habitat and fields."I think there's a little brinksmanship going on," said Hank Giclas of Western Growers, who was part of the committee who wrote the standards. He worries that processors are exceeding the rules to gain a sales advantage without good science...Industry representatives defend their above-and-beyond restrictions.Fresh Express, with 41 percent of the bagged greens market, demands a mile between farm fields and feedlots for cattle instead of the agreement's recommended 400 feet. The company also requires that a field intruded on by a wild pig be kept idle for two years...Earthbound Farms also exceeds regulations in many areas, especially in seed and water testing and its one-mile requirement between farms and feedlots. But the company views fencing and removal of natural habitat as a counterintuitive last resort.Habitat is what animals want. "If you remove it, they will go into the field," said Will Daniels, Earthbound's vice president of quality, food safety and organic integrity.Fresh Express has funded a $2 million study into methods of potential E. coli transmission. Results are due next month.The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security is conducting a separate study funded by the federal government. It plans to analyze carcasses and anal swabs from 7,000 birds, wild pigs, cattle and other animals collected by state officials. Hunters are being asked to turn in deer colons for the research.Officials are also collecting 13,000 soil, water and plant samples in the hope that the study will rule out wildlife as risks and ease buyers' fears."We have two extraordinary resources in this area: wildlife and our agricultural community," said Terry Palmassno, a senior wildlife biologist at the California Department of Fish and Game. "It's our position that you don't need to destroy one in order to save the other, and that's what we're working on doing."New York TimesCalifornia Moves on Bill to Curb Sprawl and Emissions...Felicity Barringerhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29sprawl.html?sq=conservation&st=cse&scp=5&pagewanted=printSAN FRANCISCO — California, known for its far-ranging suburbs and jam-packed traffic, is close to adopting a law intended to slow the increase in emissions of heat-trapping gases by encouraging housing close to job sites, rail lines and bus stops to shorten the time people spend in their cars. The measure, which the State Assembly passed on Monday and awaits final approval by the Senate, would be the nation’s most comprehensive effort to reduce sprawl. It would loosely tie tens of billions of dollars in state and federal transportation subsidies to cities’ and counties’ compliance with efforts to slow the inexorable increase in driving. The goal is to encourage housing near current development and to reduce commutes to work. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has not said whether he will sign the bill.The number of miles driven in California has increased at a rate 50 percent faster than the rate of population growth for the past two decades. Passenger vehicles, which produce about 30 percent of the state’s heat-trapping gases, are the single greatest source of such emissions.The fragile coalition behind the measure includes some longtime antagonists, in particular homebuilders and leading environmental groups in California. Both called the measure historic.“What California is doing for the first time,” said Ed Manning, a lobbyist who represents the state’s 25 largest homebuilding companies, “is planning for housing needs, transportation needs and climate-change needs all at the same time.”Thomas Adams, the board president of California’s League of Conservation Voters, said the changes were “all going to support a development pattern that will help the state meet its climate goals.” The bill yokes three regulatory and permit processes. One focuses on regional planning: how land use should be split among industry, agriculture, homes, open space and commercial centers. Another governs where roads and bridges are built. A third sets out housing needs and responsibilities — for instance, how much affordable housing a community must allow.Under the pending measure, the three regulatory and permit processes must be synchronized to meet new goals, set by the state’s Air Resources Board, to reduce heat-trapping gases. Seventeen regional planning groups from across the state will submit their land-use, transportation and housing plans to the board. If the board rules that a plan will fall short of its emissions targets, then an alternative blueprint for meeting the goals must be developed.Once state approval is granted, or an alternative plan submitted, billions of dollars in state and federal transportation subsidies can be awarded. The law would allow the money to be distributed even if an alternative plan fails to pass muster.State Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said in an interview that he expected the Senate to approve the bill soon... Environmentalists have long blamed profit-driven land-use planning around the country for creating the expansive, sometimes redundant network of roads that have carved up farmland near urban areas. They have also praised regional planners in Portland, Ore., for that city’s clustered growth and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly communities.The tools Portland planners have used are called urban growth boundaries, efforts to control sprawl by encouraging higher density development within an area and largely prohibiting it outside. These boundaries have gained little traction in California, where developers have seen them as too restrictive and local governments have been jealous of their own planning powers.Sacramento and San Diego have recently tried to build coalitions to support clustered development. Most environmental groups strongly support the pending bill. Among them is the Natural Resources Defense Council, a major force in the development two years ago of the landmark state law to limit heat-trapping emissions from all sectors of the economy. But some groups have expressed reservations, objecting to the relaxation of some existing environmental constraints on developers...Communities that take part in the process will be able to revise their housing plans every eight years instead of five; developers working with a state-approved plan will have to do less extensive environmental reviews of their projects...Because there is no assurance that regions would lose transportation dollars if their plans fail to win state approval, a few environmental groups stayed in a neutral corner.But Mr. Adams, with the League of Conservation Voters, said that “a land-use bill of this magnitude had not been successful since the 1976 passage of the California Coastal Act.” 8-29-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…August 29, 2008 1. Top Item -Assembly Democrats prevail on water bill: With three days left in the session, legislators also vote to ban dogs on drivers' laps and put warnings on 'alcopops.' - The Los Angeles Times- 8/29/08Assembly approves plan to invest in urgent water needs - The California Chronicle- 8/29/08Canal foes: Delta promises broken: Farmers, anglers say health of estuary neglected - The Stockton Record- 8/29/08Water bill divides county's reps: Malfa, Wolk disagree on climate change, effects of analyzing it - The Woodland Daily Democrat- 8/28/08 Assembly Democrats prevail on water bill: With three days left in the session, legislators also vote to ban dogs on drivers' laps and put warnings on 'alcopops.'The Los Angeles Times- 8/29/08…By Nancy Vogel, Staff WriterIn a heated debate Thursday, Assembly Republicans and Democrats agreed that California needs more reliable water supplies.But Republicans voted against spending $820 million from voter-approved water bonds because, they said, Democrats had not consulted them and too much of the money was dedicated to studies instead of construction."I'm studied out," said Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-San Diego). "What my constituents want is brick and mortar."But the dominant Democrats overrode Republicans' objections and passed a bill to spend $820 million from four water bonds. The money would go toward preparing for an earthquake in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, from which most of the state's drinking and irrigation water is pumped; finding supplies for rural communities with contaminated aquifers; and projects around the state for conservation, recycling and groundwater cleanup."This is about putting to work money the voters want us to put to work," said Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D-San Diego).With three days remaining to approve or reject bills, the Legislature also acted to ban dogs in drivers' laps, improve patients' access to information on end-of-life care, adjust laws on abandoned newborns and put warning labels on fruity drinks called "alcopops."The water measure, SB 1XX by Senate President Don Perata (D-Oakland), passed 43 to 25 and goes next to the Senate for approval of amendments.Of the $18.5 billion California voters have agreed to borrow since 1996 for water projects, nearly $11 billion has been spent.The measure to help terminally ill people received final passage in the Assembly on Thursday. It would require doctors and nurses to describe all legal end-of-life options for them, such as hospice care at home and the right to refuse treatment.Republicans rejected the bill as a "slippery slope" that could encourage a sick person to seek death rather than burden family with their care."Life is precious and given by God," said Assemblyman Ted Gaines (R-Roseville), "so why are we looking for an opportunity to end life early?"Democratic Assemblywoman Patty Berg of Eureka, author of the measure, AB 2747, said it was "built on a simple premise that better information leads to better outcomes." The measure passed 42 to 33.The Assembly also passed bills that would ban people from driving with pets in their arms or on their laps starting next July and require makers of flavored alcoholic drinks -- often packaged to look like lemonade, cola or fruit drinks -- to put the uppercase phrase "Contains Alcohol" on each bottle.The pet bill, AB 2233 by Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia), and the "alcopops" bill, AB 346 by Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr. (D-San Jose), have not been sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because he has threatened to veto any non-budget bill sent to him before the Legislature approves a spending plan. The budget is 60 days overdue.Meanwhile, in the state Senate, lawmakers approved a measure that would extend from 72 hours to seven days the period during which a newborn may be safely surrendered to a fire station or hospital with no prosecution for abandonment.In L.A. County, where parents have a 72-hour amnesty period, four babies have been safely surrendered since January. County supervisors, saying existing law was adequate, opposed the bill. Still, AB 2262 by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) passed 33 to 3 and returns to the Assembly for final approval.Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.#http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-legis29-2008aug29,0,1216327.story Assembly approves plan to invest in urgent water needsThe California Chronicle- 8/29/08 Today, during a special legislative session on water, the State Assembly approved a proposal to spend prior voter approved bonds on urgently-needed water storage, reliability, and conservation efforts. Senate Bill 1xx by Senate President pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) appropriates approximately $820 million in funds from bonds including Proposition 84 and Proposition 1E, which voters passed in 2006. "This week, during a hearing of the Special Committee on Water, Californians from throughout the state whose livelihoods depend on adequate water supply urged the state to step up and take the necessary steps to provide for this state´s water needs. Today, the Assembly responded by passing SB 1xx, which allocates funds desperately needed to provide relief from the current drought, help stabilize the failing Sacramento San Joaquin Bay Delta, and invest in water supply quality and reliability," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis), chair of the Assembly´s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and Special Committee on Water, who presented the bill on the Assembly floor. "This measure is a first step to providing Californians throughout the state with a safe, reliable, long-term water supply. It is essential that we allocate these funds immediately in response to the state´s most urgent needs," she said. SB 1xx makes a number of appropriations, most significantly $325 million to help stabilize the Sacramento San Joaquin Bay Delta, which supplies roughly two-thirds of the state with drinking water, and is the heart of California´s water and agricultural system. Funding targeting Delta projects includes: 135 million to the Department of Water Resources for essential emergency preparedness supplies and projects, particularly for projects that protect and improve Delta water quality and drinking water supplies.100 million to prevent catastrophic failure of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees, consistent with the Delta Vision Strategic Plan. Projects would improve the stability of the Delta levee system, reduce subsidence, and assist in restoring the ecosystem of the Delta—giving priority to projects that improve conditions for Delta smelt and other native fish.50 million for drinking water intake projects to improve the quality of drinking water supply from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, including projects within Solano County. Additional funds allocated by the measure include:50 million for drinking water systems for small communities;50.4 million to clean up contaminated groundwater aquifers; and 181 million for integrated regional water management planning and implementation of water projects to help provide Californians long-term, quality, sustainable water supply. "This bill is the first step to addressing California´s long-term water needs," said Senator Perata, in a statement issued when the measure was approved Tuesday by the Special Committee on Water. "SB 1XX gets money out the door so water agencies can tackle the most pressing problems, boost supplies, and improve water reliability for all Californians." Wolk urged her colleagues to put voter approved funds to immediate use. "It has been 22 months since voters approved these bonds funds. We need to get this money into our communities where it can do some good," she said. "This isn´t a partisan issue. It´s not an urban, agricultural, or environmental issue. It´s not a north, south or an east, west issue. This is money for emergency preparedness, for drinking water quality, for groundwater contamination cleanup and other critical projects that water agencies and experts throughout the state have supported and worked very diligently to put to work in communities throughout the state." The measure is supported by a broad coalition of water districts, local governments, business, labor and environmental organizations including the Association of California Water Agencies, Solano County Water Agency, California Alliance for Jobs, Nature Conservancy, California Water Association, and Planning and Conservation League. It now goes to the Senate for approval. This week, the Assembly also plans to take up companion legislation to SB 1xx, AB 7xx by Assemblywoman Wolk. The measure works to prepare the state´s water system for the threats of climate change, by incorporating climate change information into California´s existing water planning efforts.#http://www.californiachronicle.com/articles/72556 Canal foes: Delta promises broken: Farmers, anglers say health of estuary neglectedThe Stockton Record- 8/29/08…By Alex Breitler, Staff Writer The government should keep its promises. So said farmers, anglers and water lawyers who got one last chance Thursday to protest a plan proposing a peripheral canal as the "linchpin" of the state's future water system. The canal would take water from the Sacramento River near Hood and skirt it around the central Delta to state and federal pumps near Tracy, and from there to farms and cities as far south as San Diego. One problem, critics say: The government historically promised that the Delta's needs would come first. Only surplus water would be shipped south. "What is currently conveyed to the south is already too much water, and the Delta tells us so," said Dave Scatena, a fisherman. In Stockton to hear his angst was retired environmental attorney Richard Frank, one of seven members of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. The team has written a report to be made final by the end of October. That report will go to the governor and help shape legislation next year to tackle the Delta's numerous problems, at an estimated cost of $12 billion to $24 billion over the next 15 years. While Thursday's meeting was their last chance to publicly condemn the draft report, canal opponents vowed they would continue to fight. And many are seasoned veterans. Rogene Reynolds, who lives on Roberts Island, brought a blazing red "Stop the Canal" button - a keepsake from the successful 1982 campaign against a similar proposal. "This is a simple rehash of what we had 30 years ago," she said. A Delta Vision spokesman said very little of the report is "in concrete" and that the public comments taken Thursday would help shape the final version. Many observers, however, say they feel the whole thing is a done deal. While the report says the environment and water supply should be treated as "co-equals," and while a canal would be only part of the proposed solution, critics note that the report fails so quantify how much fresh water will be needed to keep the Delta healthy. Indeed, that answer might never be known, according to the report. What the government did know as far back as 20 years is that it would eventually need more water, said Stockton lawyer Dante Nomellini, who represents Delta farmers. Millions of acre-feet of water were supposed to come from rivers on California's north coast - rivers that were deemed wild and scenic and could not be tapped. Even though that water never materialized, exports from the Delta soared. "You people have bought into this idea of co-equality" of the environment and water supplies, Nomellini told Frank. "That turns upside-down the whole promise ... that the needs of Northern California come first." Nomellini said he expects a decade-long court battle. Frank said Thursday's arguments were "well thought out" and that he'd share them with the rest of the task force. "We have absolutely no power" in the ultimate outcome, he said. "We've been asked to hear from folks like you and come up with recommendations," but it will be up to the lawmakers after that. And perhaps the judges.#http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080829/A_NEWS/808290337/-1/A_NEWS Water bill divides county's reps: Malfa, Wolk disagree on climate change, effects of analyzing itThe Woodland Daily Democrat- 8/28/08…By ROBIN HINDERYYolo County's two Assembly representatives clashed Tuesday over legislation that seeks to incorporate climate change prevention into state and local water-planning efforts. The bill, authored by 8th District Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, was approved 8-4 Tuesday by the Assembly Special Committee on Water, of which Wolk is chairwoman. Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, whose 2nd District shares Yolo County with Wolk's district, is also a member of the 12-person committee and voted against the bill, along with the three other Republican members. The bill would require the state Department of Water Resources, or DWR, to include climate change analysis in all of its water management reports and plans, including surface storage feasibility studies and plans related to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. After Jan. 1, 2011, the DWR would be prohibited from approving any integrated regional water management grants for plans that do not include such analysis. To assist local water agencies in sifting through the ever-expanding body of research related to climate change, the DWR would be required to identify the most reliable climate change information. "This bill will be the first comprehensive statute to begin preparing California to adapt to the climate change threat to California water resources," the bill summary states. "Those threats include a reduced Sierra Nevada snowpack and prolonged droughts in the Colorado River basin." Supporters of the measure assert that water use and conveyance are significant contributors of greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. The bill analysis Wolk submitted to the water committee Tuesday cited a 2005 California Energy Commission study that found that water use amounts to 19 percent of California's total electricity usage. LaMalfa, who has long said he does not agree with "the global warming theory," said the bill's efforts to guard against future environmental threats were both "premature" and "wasteful." "This bill is really just a backdoor attempt to hinder the construction of any new surface water storage in California," he said in a press release Tuesday. "If this bill passes, it will mean that no local water agency will receive any state grant funds unless the agency agrees with the author's belief in global warming." In addition to trying to make future water-planning efforts greener, Wolk's bill would also fund a study by the DWR examining how existing water recycling and conservation efforts throughout the state have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some opponents of the bill worry that funding for such efforts would come from the state's overdrawn general fund, but Wolk and other supporters say funding could likely be found elsewhere, such as through Proposition 84, a safe drinking water bond passed in 2006. The bill now moves to the Assembly floor, where it is scheduled to come up for a vote Thursday, according to Wolk spokeswoman Melissa Jones. The deadline to pass bills for the 2008 Legislative session is currently set for Sunday.#http://www.dailydemocrat.com/news/ci_10325295 2. Supply –Editorial: How dry we are! Let's act like it, too - The Sacramento Bee- 8/29/08Perata's Measure to Improve State's Water System Passes Assembly Committee - California Political Desk Editorial: How dry we are! Let's act like it, tooThe Sacramento Bee- 8/29/08 The exposed stumps and shoreline of Folsom Lake tell the story this year. With reservoir levels so low, Californians can't afford to waste a drop. Conservation has to be part of a multi-pronged strategy to stretch supplies and survive droughts. To that end, Assemblyman John Laird is trying to pass a bill that would require a 20 percent reduction in urban per-capita water usage by 2020. Cities and counties would have flexibility in how to reach this target, but they could no longer casually water their sidewalks, as occurs almost every day in Sacramento, Los Angeles and other cities. Laird's legislation, AB 2175, has passed the Assembly but is in trouble in the Senate. Its survival could depend on two local senators – Mike Machado of Linden and Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento. Machado, a farmer, has long had his sights on AB 2175. Originally, the bill included a conservation target for agriculture, the largest consumer of water. Machado and other growers objected to this provision, so Laird weakened it to require just "best management practices" for farmers. Despite that concession, Machado has continued to press for additional amendments. He seems determined to derail the bill. For his part, Steinberg supports AB 2175 but is wavering on serving as its floor jockey in the Senate. With Folsom ordering mandatory cutbacks and the state facing a water crisis, the incoming Senate president needs to be out in front on this important conservation bill. A 20 percent reduction goal is doable. It shouldn't need to wait until next year.#http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/1194414.html Perata's Measure to Improve State's Water System Passes Assembly CommitteeCalifornia Political DeskThe California Chronicle- 8/28/08 Legislation by Senate President pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) that would fund water storage, reliability and conservation efforts with already approved bond money cleared the Assembly Special Committee on Water.SB 1XX (Second Extraordinary Session) appropriates $842 million in Proposition 84 and Proposition 1-E dollars that voters passed in 2006. These funds are desperately needed by water agencies to address the current water drought and fire crisis and to provide immediate investments in water supply reliability."This bill is the first step to addressing California´s long-term water needs," Perata said. "SB 1XX gets money out the door immediately so water agencies can tackle the most pressing problems, boost supplies and improve water reliability for all Californians."The legislation includes $200 million to help stabilize the Sacramento San Joaquin Bay Delta, the fulcrum of the state´s water supply system. The funding will help prevent catastrophic failure of the Delta´s levees and accommodate pumping restrictions mandated by a federal court ruling.In addition, SB 1XX provides $100 million to help clean up ground water basins in Southern California that can store more water than the entire volume of Lake Tahoe.A summary of the measure is below. Outline of SB 1xx (Perata)Total Appropriation: $842,457,000Proposition 1E: $285,000,000 1. State System of Flood Control/levee improvement program: $135,000,000 to DWR for acquisition/design/construction of Delta emergency preparedness supplies/projects2. Stormwater Flood Management program: $150,000,000 to DWR for stormwater flood management projectsa. At least $100,000,000 to address immediate public health and safety needsb. $20,000,000 to local agencies for combined municipal sewer/stormwater systemsc. $20,000,000 available for SF Bay watersheds. Proposition 84: $552,975,000 1. Small community drinking water: $50,000,000 to DPH for grants2. Groundwater clean-up: $50,400,000 to DPH for contamination prevention/clean-up projects a. up to $10,000,000 for projects on DTSC or National Priorities lists. b. $2,000,000 for Tulare Basin and Salinas Valley pilot projects.3. Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM): $213,275,000 to DWR:a. $100,000,000 for implementation, including not less than $20 million for water conservation projects necessary to meet a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by the year 2020.b. $47,000,000 for planning and local groundwater assistance.c. $35,575,000 for interregional projectsd. $20,700,000 for program delivery costs4. Delta water quality: $95,000,000 to DWRa. $55,000,000 to DWR for Delta water intake facilities projectsb. $40,000,000 for water quality projects5. Delta sustainability early actions: $100,000,000 to DWR for restoration of Delta islands6. Statewide water planning: $37,000,000 to DWR:a. $12,000,000 for CalFed surface storage planning/feasibility studiesb. $15,000,000 for flood/water system re-operation pilot projectsc. $10,000,000 for update of Water Plan, including climate change impact evaluations7. Protection of rivers and streams: $17,300,000:a. $10,000,000 to the State Coastal Conservancy for Santa Ana River Parkwayb. $7,300,000 to DWR for Urban Streams Restoration ProgramProposition 50: $3,760,000CalFed surface storage studies: $3,760,000 to DWR Proposition 13: $5,722,0001. $2,272,000 to DWR for Sac River Hamilton City Area Flood Control Damage Reduction2. $3,450,000 to DWR for CalFed Drinking Water Quality Program: Franks Tract Pilot ProjectPolicy: Integrated Regional Water Management GuidelinesSB 1xx will incorporate IRWM guideline development concepts and language currently in AB 1654 (Huffman).#http://www.californiachronicle.com/articles/72536 3. Watersheds – Nothing Significant 4. Water Quality – Water board sues U.S. over mothball fleetThe San Francisco Chronicle- 8/29/08…Kelly Zito, Staff Writer A regional water board is readying a lawsuit against the U.S. Maritime Administration claiming federal authorities have allowed toxic chemicals and metals from the mothball fleet to continue to leach into Suisun Bay. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board contends the 50-plus decrepit ships - some cargo ships dating to World War II - have dumped asbestos, used oil and as much as 19 tons of mercury, lead and copper from their hulls and pose hazards to water quality, commercial and sport fishing, fish migration and endangered species.Unless federal maritime officials halt the pollution discharges in 60 days, the water board plans to file suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento under the Clean Water Act.Last fall, three environmental organizations sued to force the Maritime Administration to remove the ships from Suisun Bay. That case is winding its way through the federal court in Sacramento and is on track for a September 2009 trial date. Meantime, the ships remain - about 57 considered badly corroded.Despite ongoing complaints, maritime officials said the water board's move was disappointing and highlights the agency's rock-and-a-hard-place position in the Bay Area.In essence, the Maritime Administration said it cannot move the ships without first cleaning them, according to a U.S. Coast Guard requirement under the National Invasive Species Act. Cleaning the ships, however, can release more toxic substances into the water, thereby violating the Clean Water Act.Public affairs Director Shannon Russell said her agency complied with the water board's January 2007 request to stop moving ships out of Suisun Bay for fear of water contamination and environmental damage. Working with the water board over the last two years, the federal agency attempted to create technology that would contain up to 90 percent of pollutants discharged from cleaning the ships' hulls.Russell said the water board was not satisfied with the technology.Meanwhile, the Maritime Administration disposed of more than a dozen obsolete and decaying ships from Virginia and Texas, all of which were in better shape than the vessels in Suisun Bay."Other states have concluded that it is better for the environment to remove these vessels in a timely manner," Russell said in an interview.But Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the cleaning technology was less than convincing. More importantly, he said, maritime officials have dragged their feet on painting the ships and removing debris - measures that would help stem the noxious flow of chemicals and metals.Recently, the Maritime Administration offered to move four ships to Mare Island in Vallejo for dismantling, Wolfe said. Still, Wolfe complained that maritime officials are not moving fast enough."That leaves over 50 ships out there," Wolfe said. "And there are so many problems it's obvious they're going to be there for a while. They need to take aggressive action to maintain those ships."Wolfe suggested that the ships be sent to dry dock to be patched together and repainted. However, there are concerns that the ships may be too fragile to be raised out of the water.#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/29/BA3R12K9BU.DTL 5. Agencies, Programs, People –Editorial Legislators: Dry up or water supply will - The Modesto Bee- 8/28/08Orange County judge keeps storm-drain runoff standards in place for now: earlier ruling against the rules had frozen them, preventing builders from getting necessary California state permits. A Los Angeles regional board must review the standards. - The Los Angeles Times- 8/29/08A fearful New Orleans prepares for a potential Hurricane Gustav: The tropical storm is about five days away from possible landfall in Louisiana and is predicted to build to a Category 3 hurricane. Three years after Katrina, the mayor and other politicians are decis - The Los Angeles Times- 8/29/08Eastern Municipal Water District has own 'cop' chasing down water wasters - Riverside Press- Enterprise- 8/28/08 Editorial Legislators: Dry up or water supply willThe Modesto Bee- 8/28/08 How long have Sacramento's politicians been arguing over a water bond? A year? A decade? Or does it just feel like forever? As the politicians go round and round without budging, it's only natural to come full circle. And so we have. A couple of months ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed a $9.3 billion water bond -- his second try for such a bond in two years. On Aug. 15, Assembly Democrats proposed a $9.8 billion water bond, their second try in two years. After looking at the two very similar ideas, it's clear we've been here before. And the same issue that kept our elected officials from getting a bond onto the ballot in 2007 is likely to kill it again in 2008. In 2007, Schwarzenegger proposed a $9.1 billion water infrastructure package with a down payment on two dams (Temperance Flat near Fresno and Sites Reservoir west of Sacramento), an improved "conveyance" (call it anything except a peripheral canal) and conservation programs. Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, countered with a $6.8 billion proposal, but his figures went up. When they did, the plans became similar in all ways but one: how the money would be allocated. The governor's proposal was based on a "continuing" allocation, meaning once projects were approved there would be only regulatory oversight in spending the money. Perata's proposal required an "annual allocation" by the Legislature, which meant projects would be subject to annual review before the money to build them would be released. Political principles can be adjusted, but divvying up money allows for no compromise. So the water bond never reached the ballot and Californians never got the opportunity to secure their liquid future. Now it's August 2008, and it's déjà vu all over again. We have competing water bond proposals with very similar elements. The most significant difference is in how to allocate the money. Fresno Assemblyman Juan Arambula is the leading proponent for the Democrats' effort. He says his bill is a good compromise -- except that it isn't, because it still contains the "annual allocation." Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, is leading the charge for the governor's proposal (originally carried by Sen. Dave Cogdill). Berryhill has guaranteed that not one Republican will vote for a plan that includes annual appropriations because such annual review provides too many "offramps" for the money. So we're back to the same old debate, and we're likely to get the same old result. The deadline for putting a water bond on the Nov. 4 ballot probably is Monday. Meanwhile, after two years of drought, cities up and down the state are restricting water use by 10 percent or 20 percent. Arguing over water can be thirsty business. We just hope the politicians' mouths run dry before the state does.#http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/411200.html Orange County judge keeps storm-drain runoff standards in place for now: earlier ruling against the rules had frozen them, preventing builders from getting necessary California state permits. A Los Angeles regional board must review the standards.The Los Angeles Times- 8/29/08…By Jean Merl, Staff Writer A judge ruled Thursday that water quality standards designed to protect the region's beaches from polluted storm-drain runoff will remain in place, at least for the time being.Orange County Superior Court Judge Thierry Patrick Colaw granted a request from a coalition of environmental groups that sought to keep the standards in place while the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board complied with the judge's order to review its runoff standards.This summer, Colaw had ruled in favor of a consortium of local inland cities and a building industry association that had filed a lawsuit -- against the state Water Resources Control Board and the local board -- seeking to overturn the regulations.The local board said the ruling, which applied to most cities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, left regulators without a major tool to deal with storm water runoff into the ocean.Builders could not get the necessary permits from the state board because the standards had been frozen."The court's decision provides much-needed relief and just in time for our Labor Day celebration," Francine Diamond, chairwoman of the local board, said Thursday.David Beckman, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council representing environmentalists, also hailed the ruling."If you drink water or like to swim in the ocean, today was a very good day," Beckman said, adding that the environmental groups would still probably appeal the judge's ruling that the standards be reviewed and modified.The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the local board had failed to consider whether the standards could be reasonably met and what economic effect they would have. The disputed standards were imposed to try to end bacterial contamination at local beaches, some of which are among the most polluted in the state. Pathogens flowing from storm drains into the surf can cause rashes, ear infections and other maladies.#http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-water29-2008aug29,0,7708109.story?track=rss A fearful New Orleans prepares for a potential Hurricane Gustav: The tropical storm is about five days away from possible landfall in Louisiana and is predicted to build to a Category 3 hurricane. Three years after Katrina, the mayor and other politicians are decisThe Los Angeles Times- 8/29/08…By Miguel Bustillo, Staff WriterNEW ORLEANS — Fear and foreboding gripped this still-mending city Thursday as a potential Category 3 hurricane whirled toward the Gulf Coast on the eve of Hurricane Katrina's three-year anniversary.Tropical Storm Gustav, which was lashing Jamaica after Haitian officials said it had killed 51 people there, was still almost five days away from the Crescent City, according to the National Hurricane Center. Projections varied greatly, putting its path anywhere from the Florida panhandle to southeastern Texas by Tuesday.But Louisiana seemed the most likely place for Gustav to make landfall, and politicians here were acting decisively to prepare for the worst -- a sharp contrast from the response to Katrina, which was widely criticized as disorganized and sluggish. New Orleans avoided a direct hit from Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, but flooding after it came ashore led to levee breaks that inundated four-fifths of the city, killing more than 1,500 people in Louisiana.New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin left the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday and announced that he would order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans if a Category 3 storm got within 60 hours of his city. Meteorologists predict Gustav will swell into a Category 3 hurricane, defined as a storm with winds between 111 mph and 130 mph."Ladies and gentlemen, in my estimation I feel we are ready for this threat," Nagin said Thursday during a City Hall news conference. He added that he did not expect an evacuation until Saturday.Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, activated the National Guard and triggered a government contract that allowed him to bring up to 700 buses to the hurricane zone to help with evacuations. The rising GOP star also said he was prepared to skip next week's Republican National Convention, where he is scheduled to speak."We have to take this storm seriously," Jindal said during a news conference in the capital, Baton Rouge. He added that state and federal authorities would ensure no looting occurred following an evacuation. "We want people to know their property will be safe."Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison also traveled to Louisiana on Thursday to coordinate disaster response. Chertoff said during a news conference with Jindal that search-and-rescue teams and other emergency personnel were already mobilizing.Officials' biggest fear by far was a direct hit to New Orleans, where post-Katrina rebuilding remains a work in progress. Roughly two-thirds of the population has returned and countless homeowners have used their savings to fix up their properties. But many homes still lie in disrepair, and the byzantine system of canals, pumps and levees that is supposed to protect the city from flooding remains incomplete."Although we have made strong strides in rebuilding our infrastructure, the levees have not been fully repaired and we have an $800-million budget gap to complete our sewage and water systems," Nagin said earlier in a statement.Tourists nonchalantly strolled through the French Quarter on Thursday afternoon, and restaurants were filled with diners eating shrimp po' boys and catfish almondine as usual. But the city canceled some of the events it had planned for the third anniversary of Katrina, including a jazz funeral, and in neighborhoods hit hard by Katrina locals were apprehensively watching the Weather Channel. A report published Thursday found that almost half of the deaths from Hurricane Katrina were people 75 or older, and drowning was the leading cause. Elderly residents may have disregarded warnings, feared abandoning their homes to possible looting, or simply didn't want to leave familiar surroundings, according to the study, which was published online and will appear in the October print edition of the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.Everyone was making plans to get out of town this time -- so much so that hotel rooms were already impossible to find in Baton Rouge. Some New Orleanians reported having to search as far as Arkansas to find emergency lodging."I'm going to tell you right now -- this time I'll be going," said Tom Allen, 46, as he helped rebuild a house on a concrete slab in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood devastated by Katrina that is still largely vacant. Last time, Allen admitted, he thought he could brave it out. He had to rescue his elderly neighbors when floodwaters rose and wound up with thousands of others inside the fetid Louisiana Superdome."No use lyin' to you: I've got no faith in these levees," added Allen's work partner, Leonard Jacobs, 75, who had recently rebuilt his own home in the neighborhood. "We're in a soup bowl right here."The threat of Gustav had already caused oil companies to evacuate more than 1,300 workers from offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, driving the price of crude past $120 a barrel by Thursday afternoon. Another threat, Tropical Storm Hanna, also emerged Thursday, posing a potential threat to the Southeastern U.S.In Chalmette, a city outside New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish that was also overwhelmed by floodwaters three years ago, neighbors watched Gustav's motions with squeamish stomachs.A year ago, much of the area was still empty, and many vowed they would not return. There were still a fair number of damaged homes, including one still shrouded with a big blue roof tarp, but many residents had decided to rebuild after all, discovering that they missed the close-knit world of "Da Parish." Lonney Sciortino leaned over his pickup truck, talking to neighbor Frank Lewis about how he was planning to take a gun with him during the evacuation, in case chaos ensued on the highway.Both thought about boarding up their homes before deciding there was no use. Chalmette's potential problem, they agreed, would be flooding from failing levees, which is what inundated homes with more than 7 feet of water here after Katrina and after Hurricane Betsy four decades before."A lot of people were proud they rebuilt here a few days ago, but right now, it's a different mood," said Sciortino, 57, who lamented that his children, who used to live down the street, were now living in Gulfport, Miss., and Abita Springs, La. "If we get hit here one more time, we're done. Chalmette will be abandoned."#http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-usgustav29-2008aug29,0,3546049.story?track=ntothtml Eastern Municipal Water District has own 'cop' chasing down water wastersRiverside Press- Enterprise- 8/28/08…By JENNIFER BOWLES The sun is just rising over the Inland region and Bill Stephens is on his cop beat, chasing down abusers. Water abusers, that is. Perhaps the region's first and only water cop, he arms himself with a camera looking for over-saturated lawns across a vast area of western Riverside County from Moreno Valley to Murrieta that is served by Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District. "I just saw a spot back there," he said, bringing his van to an abrupt halt. He jumps out to check a broken sprinkler head outside a large commercial facility in Perris. The leaking water drenched the sidewalk and gushed down the curb to the road. "That's running pretty good, I'd say a good six to seven gallons per minute," Stephens said. Although Stephens scours the region only for runoff outside commercial and industrial complexes, the district's employees will start looking at residential yards for similar violations starting Monday. Fines beginning at $100 will be assessed if two warnings go unheeded. "Pretty much anywhere that water leaves the property over the sidewalk and into the gutter, we're going to look for, taking pictures," he said. Bill Stephens, a conservation program specialist with the Eastern Municipal Water District, has additional duties these days. He checks out signs of water runoff at commercial and industrial complexes. After two warnings, a fine will be issued. In a time of drought and court-ordered restrictions on Northern California water that have reduced deliveries by at least 30 percent, agencies are taking a stronger look at the biggest water hog -- outdoor lawns. Lawns can account for 60 to 80 percent of a home's total water use. The $100 fine assessed by Eastern will show up on a customer's water bill if a third violation occurs within 12 months of the first warning. The fine jumps to $200 and $300 for the fourth and fifth violations, respectively, and never goes beyond $300. People won't be penalized for runoff if they are washing their cars, the district said. Like the commercial and industrial offenders, residents will have 14 days to fix the problem. Stephens takes note of the offense outside the commercial facility, snaps a few photos and, like throwing a dart, tosses down his calling card on the soggy earth: a gray flag that reminds folks to "Use water wisely. Stop runoff." "We don't want to collect the money. We want to get their attention," Stephens said. The Water BeatSince November, Stephens has been driving by schools, city parks, warehouses and other commercial properties in Perris, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, San Jacinto or Hemet. Normally a conservation program specialist for the district, he tracks streams of water cascading over sidewalks and onto streets. Sometimes the stained asphalt reveals a repeat offender. Other times, he has to crouch below bushes to find the culprit, whether it is a broken sprinkler head or an overactive irrigation system. "This water is coming from somewhere," he says as he follows the trail to the front of a housing development. There, water from the sprinklers arcs over patches of browning grass, and instead waters the sidewalk and creates a canal at the bottom of the slope. Stephens explains that the problem can be as simple as fixing the nozzle. "It needs to be fine-tuned so you get that curtain of water, and so it picks up the brown spots," he said. Other water agencies in the Inland region have talked about the idea of employing a water cop like Stephens but have yet to do it. Still, many Inland water agencies in the last couple of years have promoted drought-resistant plants and efficient sprinkler systems to homeowners as a way to reduce the amount of water used on landscaping. Considering Hot LinesDennis Mahr, a spokesman with the Coachella Valley Water District, said desert cities have considered developing joint hot lines that would allow neighbors to report runoff. At Eastern Municipal, which serves about 660,000 people, the water district has set up an e-mail account for residents to report overwatering. In Long Beach, more than 3,000 reports of overwatering and other water-use violations have been logged in the last year on a city-run hot line, e-mail and Web site, said Ryan Alsop, a spokesman for the Long Beach Water Department. It is part of a major campaign that has helped the coastal city set 10-year record lows in seven of the last 10 months, he said. Violation Means LetterAfter a water violation report, the city sends a letter to remind people of the dire water-supply situation, but there is no fine, Alsop said. Eastern's board approved the runoff fines for their residential customers in May as part of an update to its overall water-use efficiency plan. Melanie Nieman, a district spokeswoman, said she hoped that once customers get a warning about runoff, they will call the district to get more information or request a water audit, where a district specialist would help them pinpoint their problem spots inside and outside the home. She said recommendations may be as simple as turning down the irrigation system to fewer minutes or fewer days of the week. "It's something that people can do without sacrificing their quality of life," she said. Board member Randy Record, a San Jacinto farmer, said although he voted for the plan, he believes a tiered rate structure that would charge more for those who use more water than allocated would provide a stronger incentive. The district is working on that pricing system, which will start as early as spring. "I'm going to reiterate to staff that that is the last resort," Record said of residential fines. Record said he prefers the program to continuing to scrutinize large public landscaped areas that sit outside commercial and industrial venues. He said he still comes across vast amounts of runoff at a major intersection in San Jacinto, most likely coming from a gas station and a fast-food restaurant. "Until we get those kind of situations resolved, I don't want to go after homeowners," he said. Still, Record said, he doesn't think the public understands the depth of the water-supply problem. Water rationing could be in the region's near future, he said. "If it doesn't rain this winter," he said, "it's going to be really serious." #http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_watercop28.47b28b7.html ------------------------------------------------------------- DWR's California Water News is distributed to California Department of Water Resources management and staff, for information purposes, by the DWR Public Affairs Office. For reader's services, including new subscriptions, temporary cancellations and address changes, please use the online page: http://listhost2.water.ca.gov/mailman/listinfo/water_news. DWR operates and maintains the State Water Project, provides dam safety and flood control and inspection services, assists local water districts in water management and water conservation planning, and plans for future statewide water needs. Inclusion of materials is not to be construed as an endorsement of any programs, projects, or viewpoints by the Department or the State of California. -------------------------------------------------------------CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORKMISSION STATEMENTCentral Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political,and religious groups, and other stakeholders.