9-3-08Merced Sun-StarMerced County supervisors approve largest-ever home developmentVillages of Laguna San Luis would add 16,000 homes, 45,000 people...CORINNE REILLYhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/433290.htmlThe Merced County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to accept plans for the largest housing development ever proposed in Merced County.Dubbed the Villages of Laguna San Luis, the plan effectively creates a new town on the county's Westside.If it's built as envisioned, Laguna San Luis would add 16,000 homes and 45,000 people during the next three decades to the area just west of Los Banos and south of Santa Nella.A group of landowners pushing the project first proposed it nearly 20 years ago.On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to approve a broad plan for Laguna San Luis, with District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey casting the lone nay.Though the OK is a major step forward for the dozens of landowners and developers behind the project, they still must secure several more approvals to break ground...During a public hearing before the board's vote, a handful of people spoke against the project.Most cited concerns over the Westside's dwindling water supply, saying that farmers in the largely agricultural region are already fighting for water to irrigate their land and continue their way of life. They questioned why the county would consider building more houses when countless homes already stand empty here and dozens of subdivisions sit half-built and basically abandoned in the wake of an unprecedented market meltdown."For the last 20 years, and especially the last 10, our collective elected officials have brought a colossal housing bust that has made national and international headlines," said Bill Thompson, secretary-treasurer of the Merced County Farm Bureau. "Why are we planning for more people when there is no clear and present need?"...The county Planning Commission voted 4 to 1 in favor of the project in July. Even without any snags, Laguna San Luis would take decades to reach build-out. Three other massive housing developments are also in the works on the county's Westside. Two -- Santa Nella and Fox Hills -- have been approved by the supervisors, though neither has made much visible progress so far. One other, dubbed Agua Fria, is still under review.Most of Laguna San Luis' site consists of dry farm and pasture land zoned for agricultural uses.To approve the project, the Board of Supervisors also had to amend the county's general plan and approve removing 4,400 acres from the county's agricultural preserve...Merced council cancels plans for 125-home developmentThe city is allowing the subdivision's construction to be postponed until the market recovers...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/433314.htmlPlans to build 125 homes on 19 acres in North Merced were trashed Tuesday night by the City Council.At the request of developer Taylor Morrison Inc., the council converted the second phase of University Park II, an unbuilt subdivision at Highway 59 and Yosemite Avenue, into one piece of land.The decision marks the first time in 20 years or more that a developer has reversed course on a fully approved housing project, planning manager Kim Espinosa told the council...The reversal is another symbol of the fallout from Merced's housing market crash and a sign that at least one developer doesn't expect it to improve soon.No other builders have asked the city to scrap plans, Espinosa said, which can only be done when little or no work has been done to the land. Many subdivisions across the city have been partly built...The City Council approved plans for the second phase of University Park II in February 2007, just as home sales began cooling, but before the number of foreclosures skyrocketed.As part of the subdivision, the developer paid $72,000 in inspection and water fees that will now be refunded. It will be charged about $7,000 for the staff time it took to process the reversal, Espinosa said.The council voted 5 to 1 to throw the plans in the garbage...The decision puts the builder back at step one, Espinosa explained.With a fully approved map and development agreement, the builder is required to construct the homes and make any improvements, such as adding bike paths, within two years. If they don't, the city can hold them accountable through the bonds they carry.The developer wasn't planning to build the second phase of University Park II by February 2009 as required by the contracts.The council's move allows the developer to wait until the housing market recovers before building more homes."They don't think the market will turn around in two years," Espinosa noted.Nevertheless, the developer won't be caught off-guard should it happen sooner than expected. It's already resubmitted the same map just ripped up by the council. It will probably go before the Planning Commission in October...Our View: Cleaning up housing messMerced County is in the unfortunate position of being in the foreclosure spotlight but time will heal the wounds.http://www.mercedsunstar.com/181/story/433315.htmlMerced is in the worldwide spotlight but it's not necessarily a good thing. Our ongoing foreclosure mess is bringing plenty of attention from faraway sources. The London-based Financial Times recently published a story about our struggles.The Los Angeles Times has written several stories on the subject over the past few years.The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine all have focused attention on Merced.Our town was the subject of a lengthy Sunday New York Times story recently. It's true, we're in dire straits, but it's mostly a one-dimensional portrait that's being painted of our Valley.The stories seem to focus on home buyers who've been left homeless after losing the house to a bank.Given short shrift are those buyers who bought as investments who had no intention of living in the house.Many believe these investors are the underlying cause of the mess. Merced is still a small town and we often get little attention here in the Valley with bigger cities to the north and south. Our plight deserves attention, but we're all a little weary of the headlines.In the past, when the spotlight has shined on us, we've been described in almost all of those newspaper stories and TV reports as a "sleepy farm town" or "dusty farm town." Our place in the world is changing. We're waking up to new opportunities every day.The UC campus is slowly changing our image.We're struggling but so is a vast majority of the rest of the nation. Our town isn't anywhere near dying; to the contrary, our long-term prospects are bright. The recent attention and real estate prices that have fallen 50 percent in recent years could bring another wave of speculators who are looking for a great investment. We don't need that. We need families buying houses who plan on living and working here. Jobs are always important.We can't snap our fingers and make it all go away. The marketplace has to run its own course and time will heal these wounds.Impatience, everyone seeming to need to buy a house in Merced at the same time, is what got us into this mess and patience, things should slowly get back to normal, is what's needed now.What do you think? Comment on this editorial by going to www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion, then click on the editorial. CommentHow can the county clean up its mess when it keeps approving things like the Laguna project? Should we look forward to being the laughing stock of the nation if not the world? It appears that certain developers still run the Board of Supervisors. :: 09/03/08 6:39am - Joan EPA to settle 2004 lawsuit on valley ozone standards...MARC BENJAMIN, The Fresno Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/433546.htmlThe federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to settle a lawsuit about ozone standards in the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles air basins.The lawsuit dates to 2004, when ozone plans were proposed by the two air districts. The EPA never accepted or rejected the plans because it invoked a newer, more stringent standard, EPA officials say.The lawsuit, filed by the Association of Irritated Residents and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sought a decision from the EPA on the less- stringent one-hour ozone standard.The EPA had a year to accept or reject the ozone plans after the districts approved them in 2004, but did not, said Brent Newell, a lawyer and director of the San Joaquin Air Quality Project.The valley district was able to reduce pollution more than was required under the one-hour standard, said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.The district approved use of the eight-hour standard last year, Sadredin said.The EPA felt the eight-hour standard offered more health protection, said Kerry Drake, associate director in EPA's air division in San Francisco.A one-hour standard requires air quality not to exceed a certain level of pollutants for any one hour of a day. The eight-hour standard requires that pollution not exceed pollutant levels for an eight-hour period.In settling the lawsuit, Drake said, the EPA determined that it needs to address the one-hour standard from the 2004 plan.A decision is expected by January. Cardoza Bar B Que...by MyTown, The Sunspothttp://sunspot.mercedsunstar.com/?q=node/4826I was wondering about the location of the Dennis Cardoza BarBQue... I guess it won't be at his home, since he moved his family to the East Coast it'd be a little difficult to get there...Nice call Dennis... You'll represent Us; As long as you don't have to Live with Us...See at the Polls...UC offers discount to Merced College studentsThe institutions hope the deal will encourage more transfers and help ease the transition...DANIELLE GAINEShttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/433289.htmlMerced College trustees approved an agreement Tuesday that allows Merced College students to enroll in one course per semester at UC Merced while paying Merced College tuition rates.One goal of the agreement is to expose Merced College students to the university environment and coursework before they transfer. "Sometimes our students think that all students in the University of California system are geniuses and they get intimidated," said Anne Newins, Merced College's vice president of student personnel services. "They are plugging away at school themselves and just don't realize their ability. We hope this program allows them to do that."While students can only take advantage of one course per semester, it comes at significant savings. Tuition and fees for full-time students at UC Merced are $3,875 each semester.Newins said she also hopes the program will increase the number of Merced College students transferring to the university...The option to enroll in UC Merced courses will be open next semester to all Merced College students who have completed one semester and 12 units of coursework, have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0, and have taken all prerequisites...Modesto BeeWhat we learned from Diablo Grande: DeMartini's OpinionDevelopers less likely to take risk of building so big a project...JIM DeMARTINI, Stanislaus County supervisor representing the West Side, including the Diablo Grande area http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/415660.htmlWith so much focus on preserving prime agricultural lands, one might expect that the development of new communities in the foothills and on other nonprime soils would be an ideal solution to address our inevitable population growth. What we have discovered, however, is that even with the best of intentions, these projects may be destined for failure, as environmental and regulatory issues can delay a project and cause significant cost overruns.Diablo Grande is an excellent example of a project that seemed to have all of the ingredients required for success — strong financial backing, a location that did not compete with agriculture and an excellent development plan.Unfortunately, the project has not lived up to its potential. The project was initially hindered by environmental concerns, struggled through the development of sustainable water, storm water and sewer systems, worked through numerous infrastructure issues, and ultimately failed in an unanticipated housing market collapse. While Diablo Grande may ultimately prove to be the resortlike setting it was designed to be, it is unlikely to happen any time soon.Lessons learned: Existing regulatory and environmental requirements make it unlikely that the establishment of a new community can be successful, at least not to the initial investors. Given the obstacles to a successful project, private developers are less likely to invest in a project such as Diablo Grande when they can build in the cities and avoid much of the infrastructure risk. Key to a successful project includes the ability to address both environmental concerns and infrastructure requirements, neither of which is a sure thing.What we learned from Diablo Grande: Zoslocki's OpinionA few environmentalists with an agenda can ruin your day...BILL ZOSLOCKI, a longtime Modesto builder, is a former president of the Building Industry Association of Central California http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/415624.htmlDiablo Grande is a new community developed off prime farm ground, away from existing traffic-congested roads in a more rural, quiet setting without crime. With two golf courses and miles of open space for a future hotel and conference center, it could have been a future template for start-up cities in California. One would think because of the many growth related problems solved by Diablo Grande, most everyone would support it.Unfortunately, a few unreasonable environmental activists exploited the California Environmental Quality Act to delay Diablo Grande to the point that missed its unique niche in the market. The project attempted to put forward a responsible plan to protect the environment, so only the environmental groups that attacked the project can answer why they so strenuously fought the project.To be fair, Diablo Grande had issues other than those challenged by environmentalists, but nothing insurmountable. Had Diablo Grande been encouraged and supported as an example of a better type of growth, the development might have been better positioned to take advantage of the boom years and sold more homes. With more people, better economies of scale and better profits, its present-day problems would have been minimized.I've come to know and work with responsible and reasonable members of the environmental community. They do not believe everything is resolved through project delay and litigation. They would rather look for reasoned solutions, rather than to create delays for the sake of delay. One might ask what was the goal the more unreasonable environmental groups were attempting to achieve? To stop Diablo Grande? They didn't. To improve the development? They didn't. What, then, was their goal? The outcome now will likely dash the hopes of a master-planned community developer ever considering another community that would be off the prime farming ground and surrounded by open space. How sad.For the betterment of regional planning, perhaps others can learn from this and more reasoned voices will rise in the future.Farmer campaigns against Schwarzenegger water plan...JUDY LINAssociated Press Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/v-print/story/416112.htmlDino Cortopassi is a wealthy farmer who grew up in California's fertile delta region and, as he tells it, is passionate about protecting it.In recent weeks, he has channeled that passion into an expensive and highly negative advertising campaign against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.Through the ad blitz, which has cost him at least $100,000 and is centered on the capital's media market, Cortopassi has emerged as an outspoken critic of one of the governor's main policy initiatives - upgrading the state's water delivery system...In an interview, Cortopassi said he is convinced that Schwarzenegger, Southern California water districts and agricultural interests that farm land south of his in the Central Valley are conspiring to build a canal that would pipe fresh water around the delta.He said doing so would irreparably harm the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's ecosystem, which he says is just as important to the state as the water it provides for cities and farmers. Sensing a political threat to the region he calls home, Cortopassi moved to attack Schwarzenegger's proposal even before it has been placed before voters......he has a lifelong interest in the delta's wildlife and has created a 750-acre bird habitat. In part, it was that interest he said prompted him to act when he learned that Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein were proposing a $9.3 billion revamping of the state's water system.Their proposal doesn't specifically allocate money for a peripheral canal, but Cortopassi said it would give the state a virtual "blank check" that the administration could use for the project.He accuses the governor of supporting a peripheral canal as a quid pro quo with Republican lawmakers who represent farmers south of the delta. In exchange for supporting the canal, Cortopassi reasons, Schwarzenegger would get their votes for a tax increase as a way to end the state's budget stalemate. The state has been operating without a budget since July 1...The better option, he said, is to create more reservoirs and increase underground water storage. The Schwarzenegger-Feinstein plan promotes both approaches...His campaign against the water proposal has incensed other farmers, some of whom have responded with ads of their own.It's disingenuous for Cortopassi to fight the canal when part of his own wealth came from processing tomatoes grown by farmers that receive water from the delta and would benefit from a peripheral canal, said Thomas Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District, which supplies water to 600,000 acres of farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties.He suggested Cortopassi is merely trying to protect his own land in the delta by attempting to keep the state's focus on flood protection."One of the questions Mr. Cortopassi needs to answer is why is he so opposed to a peripheral canal," Birmingham said. "Farmers in the delta, including Cortopassi, want people to pay for restoration of levees to protect their farmland."Cortopassi said he pays for levee maintenance out of his own pocket.Fresno BeeDeal reached to help Kootenai sturgeon spawn...NICHOLAS K. GERANIOShttp://www.fresnobee.com/640/story/838744.htmlThe government and environmentalists have reached an agreement to help the endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon spawn for the first time since the 1970s, the parties say. The deal will end six years of litigation over efforts to save the largest freshwater fish in North America. The sturgeon, which can grow to 19 feet long, are found only in northern Idaho, northwest Montana and southeast British Columbia. "We hope this leads to recovery," Noah Greenwald, science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Tuesday. "This historic agreement helps give the sturgeon a shot at survival." The deal involves the center, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the state of Montana, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration. It has been submitted to a federal judge in Missoula, Mont., for his approval.Kootenai sturgeon have not successfully spawned since the mid-1970s, when the Libby Dam was completed. The sturgeon were listed as endangered in 1994 because of operations of the dam, plus water quality degradation and loss of habitat...Under the agreement, the corps will continue to operate Libby Dam flows in a way to mimic ideal conditions for sturgeon spawning. If those measures are not successful, the corps will increase the flows. In the longer term, the parties agreed to support a project intended to restore habitat so it is conducive to sturgeon recovery. The Kootenai Tribe, with funding from the federal agencies, will carry out that project. Sacramento BeePublic input sought on changes in fish programs...Matt Weiserhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1205636.htmlThe public will get a chance to comment about fish hatchery practices in California.The state Department of Fish and Game has bred and planted millions of trout, salmon and other species in California waterways for more than 100 years to bolster recreational fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also operates a more limited program.Now the agencies are preparing an environmental impact study on hatchery programs to examine negative effects and possible changes.Hatcheries have come under increased scrutiny as the science on aquatic species has evolved. Research shows hatchery fish may weaken wild-breeding fish populations. And when planted in remote lakes, hatchery fish may wipe out native frogs and other amphibians.The meeting will be 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St. The open-house type meeting is a chance to learn about the study and comment on potential hatchery changes.Workshop set on flood control, storm drainage...Loretta Kalbhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1205640.htmlResidents interested in flood control can attend the first in a series of quarterly public workshops about the city's Flood Control and Storm Drainage Master Plan at 6 p.m. today.Participants will have a chance to weigh in on proposed flood-control measures and possible water-quality issues tied to existing and planned development.Discussion also will include possible drainage effects downstream, including at Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.The meeting will be in the City Council chambers, 8400 Laguna Palms Way.For information, call Fernando Duenas at (916) 627-3434 or e-mail him at email@example.com.State, federal pacts called key to expanding preserve...Cathy Lockehttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1205639.htmlEl Dorado County officials say they are interested in adding a key piece of land to a rare-plant preserve but will not authorize its purchase until they reach an agreement with state and federal agencies.The supervisors also said the 20-acre Carriage Hill property, north of Highway 50 and east of Cameron Park Drive in Cameron Park, is overpriced at $3.32 million.Supervisor Ron Briggs last week asked the board to authorize the American River Conservancy to purchase the property using funds collected from developers to offset the loss of rare plants. The four 5-acre parcels would be added to Pine Hill Ecological Preserve.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the Carriage Hill property as a priority for acquisition because it contains five of eight rare-plant species that grow in the area's gabbro soils.The supervisors agreed to postpone action until an agreement is reached with the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Fish and Game defining their responsibilities and county regarding administration, use and maintenance of the preserve.Tracy PressCouncil says no to canal...Eric FirpoIn a symbolic move, the City Council voted to oppose possible construction of a canal that would ship water around the Delta and sent it to Southern California.http://tracypress.com/content/view/15672/2242/The Tracy City Council voted Tuesday to join other government agencies in and around the San Joaquin Delta to oppose a proposed canal that would deliver water to Southern California. The vote is the latest installment of a decades-old fight between those who live in water-abundant Northern California and their brethren in Southern California deserts. A plan to build a peripheral canal died at the hands of voters in 1982, but has been revived by a panel appointed by the governor called the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force...Supporters say a canal that would steer water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta toward Southern California would not only improve water quality, but also help restore a teetering ecosystem that seems near its deathbed. But that’s not how many people around the Delta see it. The city councils of Stockton, Lodi and Manteca have joined the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to oppose the canal, as Tracy’s did Tuesday night. Five counties around the Delta have also banded together as peripheral canal opponents... Under control?...Jennifer Wadsworth Delta College is still under scrutiny for allegedly mishandling taxpayer money, with the State Controller's Office taking its turn looking through the microscope. http://tracypress.com/content/view/15668/2242/San Joaquin Delta College this week will be the subject of yet another investigation into how it handled — or mishandled — public money. State Controller John Chiang’s office will on Thursday begin an investigation into the community college’s spending practices, according to a letter sent last week to the Stockton school’s vice president of business services, Jon Stephens. Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden, urged the state office to conduct the investigation weeks ago. Because of his request, the letter states, the audit will look into how the school has managed $250 million of Measure L bond money, a measure approved by voters in 2004 to pay for new construction and satellite campuses. Auditors will also investigate how the college has used its $30 million share of Proposition 1D, a $20 billion statewide school improvement bond that voters approved in 2006 to pay for new construction to ease overcrowding in public schools.... The controller’s audit will be the third investigation this year into the college’s spending and leadership, which has come under criticism from the San Joaquin County civil grand jury and The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges... The two previous investigations have concluded that the board of trustees and managers indeed mismanaged several millions of dollars in voter-approved debt. The four-member audit team will have a conference at 10 a.m. Thursday at the college. San Francisco ChronicleMerced County backs 16,000-home development...Information from: Merced Sun-Star, www.mercedsun-star.comhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/09/03/state/n103803D90.DTL&hw=merced&sn=001&sc=1000Merced, CA (AP) -- Despite concerns about water shortages and high foreclosure rates, Merced County is allowing plans for a 16,000-home development to move forward. Developers say the new community of Laguna San Luis west of Los Banos would take 30 years to complete and would ultimately house 45,000 people.The Merced County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to accept plans for the development. The project must still pass environmental reviews before it receives final approval.Critics say the development would create pressure on farmers' dwindling water supplies and cause real estate values to decline in one of the regions hardest hit by the country's subprime mortgage crisis.The planned housing development is the largest ever proposed in Merced County.Engineered alfalfa ban upheld on appeal...Bob Egelko, Bernadette Tanseyhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/03/BUCQ12MSKQ.DTL&hw=environment&sn=012&sc=720A federal appeals court upheld a nationwide ban on the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa Tuesday until the government completes a study on whether the altered seeds would contaminate other farmers' alfalfa crops.In a 2-1 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a federal judge's decision that halted the planting of Monsanto Co.'s herbicide-resistant strain of alfalfa on March 30, 2007. The suit was filed by alfalfa farmers who feared that the Monsanto product, spread by winds and bees, would pollinate their crops and take over their fields.The ruling was "a major victory for farmers, both conventional and organic, for consumers and for the environment," said attorney George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, which represented the plaintiffs. He said it helps consumers who don't want dairy products from cattle that forage on altered alfalfa and protects growers who want to export crops to Japan, which bans genetically modified alfalfa...It was the second victory in a week for opponents of genetically modified food. The state Legislature passed a bill last week that would shield California farmers from lawsuits by companies such as Monsanto when patented pollen and seed drift onto their land.The bill, AB541, was a response to patent infringement suits by biotech companies against farmers who grew genetically altered crops because of uninvited pollination. The measure would protect farmers who acquired such crops unknowingly and had minimal levels of patented seeds on their land. Tuesday's ruling involved Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, so named because it is designed to withstand applications of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Alfalfa, used for hay and cattle feed, is grown on 23 million acres and is the nation's fourth-largest crop. California, with 1 million acres, is the leading producer.The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the Monsanto alfalfa in 2005, saying buffer zones around organic farms would protect them from unwanted pollination.But U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco rejected the USDA's assurances last year and ruled that the department had failed to conduct a thorough study of the product's safety and environmental effects.Saying some crops had already been contaminated despite buffer zones, Breyer allowed farmers who had already bought Roundup Ready alfalfa to plant and harvest it, but prohibited further sales and planting until the government studied the possibility of effects on other crops and on human health. It was the first-ever injunction against a genetically altered, government-approved commercial crop, said the Center for Food Safety, which represented the plaintiffs.The appeals court upheld Breyer's ruling on Tuesday, saying the USDA and Monsanto have now conceded that the government approved the product without conducting the required study.Breyer reasonably concluded that, "while agricultural biotechnology has social value," Monsanto's alfalfa should be banned while its impact is studied, "because failing to do so could potentially eliminate the availability of non-genetically engineered alfalfa," said Judge Mary Schroeder in the majority opinion.Judge Randy Smith dissented, saying Breyer should have held an additional hearing and listened to Monsanto's witnesses before issuing a nationwide injunction with "severe economic consequences" for the company and its customers.Monterey HeraldNew version of EIR ready for releasePublic now gets 45 days to comment on document...LARRY PARSONS http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_10369340?nclick_check=1This week, county officials vow, the next thick document in the long-running revamp of the general plan revision will be in the mitts of county residents. The draft environmental impact report on the fifth version of the proposed 20-year growth plan — better known as GPU5 — should be released by Friday, said Alana Knaster, deputy director of the Resource Management Agency... The county will make the environmental report available in hard copies, CDs and on the county's Web site. The report's release starts a 45-day period for the public to comment on the environmental document, which addresses development-related policies and land uses in the proposed general plan. In July, the most recent spat took place between pro- and slow-growthers at odds throughout the near decade-old battle over the general plan. Slow-growth advocates wanted county supervisors to extend the comment period on the draft EIR to 60 days. But supervisors sided with pro-growth forces who wanted it for only 45 days... The new environmental report will have several significant changes, including a "fairly extensive" state-mandated section on global warming. Knaster aid. The document will project impacts beyond the traditional 20-year scope of a general plan, she said. The report reflects a legal settlement that scaled back projected development in the Rancho San Juan area north of Salinas to the smaller Butterfly Village project area. It considers the supervisors' decisions to limit new subdivisions in the Toro, North County and greater Salinas areas, and to trim the number of proposed rural centers for growth. Los Angeles TimesParks workers ignore 'drought buster' lawEmployees hose down tennis courts despite conservation campaign. Officials say measure is vague, while union representatives blame lack of communication. Video...Rich ConnellVideo...http://www.latimes.com/video/?slug=la-me-water4-vid(The video you are trying to view is unavailable)http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-water4-2008sep03,0,1073772.storyhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-water4-2008sep03,0,5983467,print.story PrintTwo weeks after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pointedly reminded all city agencies that they must toe the line on new water conservation measures, workers in Griffith Park were following an old routine: using an industrial-grade hose and countless gallons of water to wash down a row of public tennis courts.As one man sloshed a layer of dirt forward, another squeegeed the excess water onto a walkway, then along a gutter to a ditch, where it spilled across a parking lot.Officials couldn't say whether the water use on display last week at a picturesque Vermont Canyon complex has been common elsewhere in the city's network of 287 tennis courts. "We trying very hard to make sure it's not happening elsewhere," said Jane Kolb, a Department of Recreation and Parks spokeswoman.But the scene highlighted the challenges that one of the city's largest agencies faces getting legions of frontline workers to drop habits that now can bring their departments citations and fines, just as they would for homeowners and businesses banned from hosing down dusty driveways..."It's sets a bad example when the city is so flagrantly extravagant with water at the same time there are ads in the paper saying, 'Save. Don't Water,' " Campbell said.Still, conflicting responses to the inquiries and differing interpretations of how Los Angeles' new "drought buster" law applies to city parks, suggests that the City Hall bureaucracy -- like residents -- is still trying to fully understand and adapt to the mayor's ambitious water conservation plan...The tennis court wash downs had continued for more than a year after the mayor began calling on the public to curtail water usage because of persistent drought conditions. Stepping up that campaign, Villaraigosa signed an ordinance Aug. 14 that doubles penalties for residents and businesses that hose down sidewalks and other hard surfaces, or water landscaping between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Enforcement of the new law is scheduled to begin this month.The day the law was signed, The Times posted a website video showing facilities managed by Recreation and Parks and the Department of Water and Power soaking sidewalks with misaligned sprinklers during the day. Upset by the images, the mayor summoned department heads to his office and bluntly ordered all city agencies to abide by the new water use restrictions...San Diego Union-TribuneFalse documents used in applications, audit finds...Sherry Saavedra http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/education/20080903-9999-1m3audit.htmlLA JOLLA – At least 13 percent of emergency loans granted through a special program for UC San Diego employees were based in part on fraudulent documents, according to a campus audit that looked at lending over a one-year period.Employees with unanticipated expenses or emergencies who were turned down for a loan elsewhere can apply to borrow up to $1,000 through the UCSD Employee Emergency Loan Fund and may receive better-than-market rates. At least 17 of 131 loans approved between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007, were granted based on fraudulent documents prepared by a UCSD supervisor, the audit found.Two of the 17 applications were withdrawn during or after the audit. In all, $15,000 in questionable loans were made to university employees who may not have been qualified to receive them. The applicants were unaware of any subterfuge, according to the audit obtained in a public records request by The San Diego Union-Tribune, and some may have been victims. There is no application fee, but one UCSD employee appears to have solicited $45 to $50 in unauthorized processing fees from applicants. Only one person admitted to paying a fee... As a result of the audit, the union representative was referred for “corrective action,” though university officials declined to specify the discipline because it is a personnel matter. The other employee involved, a registration supervisor who prepared and submitted fraudulent supporting documents, was placed on investigatory leave on Oct. 15, 2007, and decided to retire in January. No criminal charges were filed against either employee...“Because the loans reviewed were either in repayment via payroll deduction or repaid, the financial risk to the university is minimal,” according to the audit. However, the result of the fraud was that loans that may not otherwise have been granted were given to employees from a university fund, according to the audit...The short-term loan program has existed since 1970 throughout the University of California system as a benefit for those with emergencies or financial hardship who were turned down for at least one loan from a bank or credit union. The loans are issued from a UC fund, and the interest rates – which change quarterly – are equivalent to the rate of return the UC earns on its short-term investments, Brainerd said. Staff and faculty who have completed their probationary period and have an overall performance rating of solid or better are eligible to apply. UCSD receives roughly 160 applications a year. The investigation began after a manager spotted two suspect loan applications in the registration supervisor's office, and related documents that appeared to be forgeries or templates used to create forgeries. Fraudulent documents involved loan denial letters and car repair estimates. .The registration supervisor admitted only to completing one fraudulent estimate to “help someone who was in need of a loan.” But the audit determined she had been involved with many more, after they were delivered to her by the union representative. Two applications were never submitted. As a result of the fraud, UCSD has put safeguards in place. Applicants are required to provide original documents supporting their loan request at the time that they sign the promissory note. A designated official in each applicant's department is now required to approve all emergency loans, in addition to the assistant director of Student Business Services. And if any loan is given under false pretenses, a clause now gives UCSD the right to assess penalties of up to 20 percent of the loan amount or 1.5 times the original loan rate. Claim dropped against cop in dog's death...Gregory Gross http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080903-9999-1m3hubka.htmlSAN DIEGO – City Attorney Michael Aguirre has dismissed his office's claim for civil damages against San Diego police Officer Paul Hubka, whose police dog died of heatstroke in June after Hubka left him in the back of his police vehicle for seven hours at his Alpine home in triple-digit heat...In a statement, Aguirre said the decision was made to drop the civil claim after Hubka expressed remorse and promised to help raise money to reimburse the Police Department for the purchase of $36,000 worth of heat alarms for its canine patrol cars... 9-3-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…September 3, 2008 1. Top Item - Farmer campaigns against Schwarzenegger water planThe Associated Press- 9/3/08…By JUDY LIN, Associated Press Writer A wealthy farmer who once gave lavishly to promote Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political fortunes and spent time with him smoking cigars has become one of his most outspoken critics. Dino Cortopassi has spent at least $100,000 bankrolling an ad blitz targeting one of the governor's main policy initiatives — upgrading the state's water delivery system. In an interview, Cortopassi said he's convinced that Schwarzenegger, Southern California water districts and agricultural interests that farm land south of his in the Central Valley are conspiring to build a canal that would pipe fresh water around California's fertile delta region, the heart of California's water system. He said doing so would irreparably harm the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's ecosystem, which he says is just as important to the state as the water it provides for cities and farmers. Sensing a political threat to the region he calls home, Cortopassi moved to attack Schwarzenegger's proposal even before it has been placed before voters. "I love it," Cortopassi said of the place he has lived all of his life. "I build habitats with my own money. It's a magnificent place." Cortopassi, 71, has built an agricultural empire that ranges from olive oil production to agribusiness lending. He also said he has a lifelong interest in the delta's wildlife and has created a 750-acre bird habitat. He accuses the governor of supporting a canal as part of a quid pro quo with Republican lawmakers who represent farmers south of the delta. In exchange for supporting the canal, Cortopassi reasons, Schwarzenegger would get their votes for a tax increase as a way to end the state's budget stalemate. The state has been operating without a budget since July 1. He has taken out full-page ads in The Sacramento Bee — the latest on Tuesday — and placed commercials on local television and radio stations. An ad that appeared earlier this month in the Bee features shattered glass over the Republican governor's face. It outlines a list of Schwarzenegger's broken promises since taking office after the 2003 recall election, including his pledges to reinvent government, stop the influence of special interests, eliminate waste and improve levees. "He's trying to jam through an 11th-hour scheme to build a peripheral canal — a plan to ship Northern California water to his Southern California cronies," the ad stated. The delta is the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and is the main conduit for sending water to nearly two-thirds of Californians. The massive pumps that send the water south also are blamed for killing fish, prompting courts to severely restrict water allocations to cities and farms. Advocates of a canal say it is needed to ensure an adequate water supply to most of the state, since it would route fresh river water around the fragile ecosystem. Opponents such as Cortopassi say it would leave the delta too salty, further endangering the ecosystem.The better option, he said, is to create more reservoirs and increase underground water storage. The plan by Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein promotes both approaches. It has gone nowhere since the two introduced it last month, in part because the state Legislature continues to be mired in unproductive budget negotiations. The earliest any water bond could go before voters would be next year, and even then only if Schwarzenegger called a special election. Schwarzenegger denied any backroom deal with lawmakers of his own party and said water issues do not come up in direct budget negotiations. "We don't trade water for the budget or vice versa," the governor said in an interview with The Associated Press. Cortopassi's crusade marks a sharp turn for the former Schwarzenegger fan. Campaign records show he and his wife have contributed a total of $369,600 to Schwarzenegger's election campaigns. Cortopassi said he has dined with Schwarzenegger and smoked stogies him. The governor's office confirmed that Cortopassi was a guest at a 2005 fundraiser.#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/09/02/financial/f144520D75.DTL&type=politics 2. Supply – Council says no to canal: In a symbolic move, the City Council voted to oppose possible construction of a canal that would ship water around the Delta and sent it to Southern California. - The Tracy Press- 9/2/08 Lake Oroville seeing fewer visitors: Labor Day weekend lake traffic down a third due to low water - Chico Enterprise Record- 9/2/08 Council says no to canal: In a symbolic move, the City Council voted to oppose possible construction of a canal that would ship water around the Delta and sent it to Southern California. The Tracy Press- 9/2/08…By Eric Firpo The Tracy City Council voted Tuesday to join other government agencies in and around the San Joaquin Delta to oppose a proposed canal that would deliver water to Southern California. The vote is the latest installment of a decades-old fight between those who live in water-abundant Northern California and their brethren in Southern California deserts. A plan to build a peripheral canal died at the hands of voters in 1982, but has been revived by a panel appointed by the governor called the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. Supporters say a canal that would steer water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta toward Southern California would not only improve water quality, but also help restore a teetering ecosystem that seems near its deathbed. But that’s not how many people around the Delta see it. The city councils of Stockton, Lodi and Manteca have joined the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to oppose the canal, as Tracy’s did Tuesday night. Five counties around the Delta have also banded together as peripheral canal opponents. County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas of Tracy was at Tuesday’s meeting to urge the council to oppose the canal What bothers Ornellas as much as the canal itself is a proposal for what he called "new governance" for the Delta that could take decisions that impact Delta waterways out of the hands of locals and put it into the hands of others. He said dry washes and other seasonal creeks in Tracy sit in a sort of secondary zone bordering the Delta that the "new governance" would oversee. "Southern California interests are very supportive of this plan," Ornellas said. The supervisor predicted that if the canal is built, "The Delta will become just a salty marsh." Mel Lytle, a water expert with the county’s public works department and who lives in Tracy, also warned the blue ribbon panel will consider re-writing water rights. The state’s department of water resources has already sent letters to 1,000 landowners in the Delta to tell them of a plan to survey their land. Not everyone at Tuesday’s meeting opposed the canal, though. Tom Benigno, Ornellas’ opponent in this year’s primary election for county supervisor, said the canal is a good idea because it would put a lot of people to work building it and help San Joaquin County’s economy.#http://tracypress.com/content/view/15672/2242/ Lake Oroville seeing fewer visitors: Labor Day weekend lake traffic down a third due to low waterChico Enterprise Record- 9/2/08…By TONI SCOTT, Staff WriterLabor Day weekend proved to local state park officials that low levels on Lake Oroville are taking a toll on the number of visitors they see. Bob Foster, district superintendent for the California State Parks, said the campgrounds and marinas on Lake Oroville saw at least one-third less visitors than last year. "The biggest single factor to that would be the low water level," Foster said. The lake is currently at 682 feet, a record low. Foster said there are no permanent boat launches that operate below 695 feet in elevation, and without boat access, the lake's popularity is quickly dwindling. "With decreased access we are seeing lower numbers," Foster said, adding that the park typically has six operating boat launches at this time of the year. Foster said that the Department of Water Resources did provide the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area with two aircraft landing mats that have served as temporary boat launches at the Bidwell Marina and the spillway. Still, Foster said the locations of both of the mats require visitors to have four-wheel drive capability on their vehicles as they are on dirt roads. In addition to the low lake level, Foster also credited the summer's wildfires for their decreased attendance numbers. "A lot of people canceled their reservations early on after all the fires," Foster said. Foster said he expects this past weekend's low turnout to carry on into the rest of the year. "We are usually busy in the fall, but that will be down too," Foster said. Still, Lake Oroville has the potential to see more visitors if plans to install a new low-water boat launch are brought to fruition. The launch is expected to be installed this fall by the Department of Water Resources, Foster said. Foster did stipulate, however, that the launch will only operate to 650 feet of elevation. The lake is projected to go as low as 630 feet by the end of the year.#http://www.chicoer.com/news/oroville/ci_10366848 3. Watersheds – Asian clams another possible threat to Lake TahoeReno Gazette-Journal- 9/3/08…By Jeff Delong With concern mounting that Lake Tahoe could be overrun by invasive mussels, some scientists are considering the possibility that another foreign visitor now living in the lake already be causing problems. The number of Asian clams, first discovered on Tahoe's bottom in 2001, is "far more extensive" than previously thought, scientists said. Clam beds have been found along a swath of Tahoe's southeast shore from South Lake Tahoe northward to the Zephyr Cove area. Researchers are exploring whether the clams might be associated with a bloom of algae in the area this summer.Researchers are exploring whether the clams might be associated with a bloom of algae in the area this summer. Others are concerned that the clams could boost calcium levels in isolated areas of the lake, potentially allowing destructive quagga or zebra mussels to become established. "It might be this existing invader is modifying the bottom environment," said Sudeep Chandra, an environmental science researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno. "One invader can facilitate another." Officials at Lake Tahoe are increasingly concerned that quagga or zebra mussels, already thriving in parts of California and Southern Nevada, could become established in the landmark alpine lake. The quickly reproducing mollusks could profoundly alter the lake's ecosystem, clog water intakes and litter now-pristine beaches with sharp and stinking shells.The threat was magnified in late August, when quagga mussels were discovered on the stern of a cabin cruiser about to be launched at South Lake Tahoe. The mussels apparently attached to the vessel while it was in Lake Mead earlier this summer. "I think it's a pretty serious issue," said Mara Bresnick, chairwoman of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's governing board. "It could wreak havoc." Unknown is whether the lake's waters contain sufficient calcium levels for the mollusks to grow their shells.Chandra recently finished the first phase of a risk assessment into the potential mussel invasion of Tahoe. The work involved taking water samples from 83 locations along Tahoe's shoreline and measuring the water for calcium. The next stage of research will involve laboratory tests to determine if mussels can survive in water taken from Tahoe.Preliminary results of the assessment's first phase, Chandra said, are somewhat encouraging. "There is some variability but overall, calcium levels seem relatively low," Chandra said.But in the few locations where calcium levels were higher also are in some of the same areas where Asian clams are found, Chandra said. That raises the possibility that as the clams grow and die, they leach out calcium into the water. That could pose a danger because quagga or zebra mussels, if introduced in those areas, might find sufficient calcium to gain a toe-hold in the lake. "It creates a little hot bed zone," Chandra said. "Elevated calcium levels could be favorable to the quagga." Scientists from the University of California-Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center are studying whether there might be a connection between Asian clams and the bloom of algae in the waters of Marla Bay just south of Zephyr Cove. Tests have not found a link, UC Davis researcher Brant Allen said. "Visually, the clams and the algae are utilizing the same area of the lake," Allen said.#http://www.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080903/NEWS04/809030422/1321/NEWS 4. Water Quality –Nothing Significant 5. Agencies, Programs, People – Parks workers ignore 'drought buster' lawThe Los Angeles Times- 9/3/08…By Rich Connell, Staff Writer Two weeks after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pointedly reminded all city agencies that they must toe the line on new water conservation measures, workers in Griffith Park were following an old routine: using an industrial-grade hose and countless gallons of water to wash down a row of public tennis courts.As one man sloshed a layer of dirt forward, another squeegeed the excess water onto a walkway, then along a gutter to a ditch, where it spilled across a parking lot. Officials couldn't say whether the water use on display last week at a picturesque Vermont Canyon complex has been common elsewhere in the city's network of 287 tennis courts. "We trying very hard to make sure it's not happening elsewhere," said Jane Kolb, a Department of Recreation and Parks spokeswoman.But the scene highlighted the challenges that one of the city's largest agencies faces getting legions of frontline workers to drop habits that now can bring their departments citations and fines, just as they would for homeowners and businesses banned from hosing down dusty driveways.Watching last week's cleaning ritual at Vermont Canyon was David Campbell, a retired resource economist and one of the regulars at the courts who said they had complained repeatedly about the wash downs, which last hours and involve several courts at a time, every other week. "It's sets a bad example when the city is so flagrantly extravagant with water at the same time there are ads in the paper saying, 'Save. Don't Water,' " Campbell said.Hosing off tennis courts is not allowed and the procedures at Vermont Canyon have been changed, a parks department official told The Times when a reporter said the cleaning had been recorded on videotape. Times videos two weeks ago also showed water being sprayed on an asphalt driveway and sidewalks at other city locations during hours when residents doing the same thing could have faced fines.Still, conflicting responses to the inquiries and differing interpretations of how Los Angeles' new "drought buster" law applies to city parks, suggests that the City Hall bureaucracy -- like residents -- is still trying to fully understand and adapt to the mayor's ambitious water conservation plan.Kolb placed the blame for the improper court washing on the workers."We had a couple of gardeners who weren't following directions," she said. "They were violating our rules." She said workers had been trained in water conservation procedures beginning in November and "they should have known."That explanation drew a sharp rebuff from an employees' union official, who said it was cowardly for the department to blame workers. Julie Butcher, regional director of the union representing city park employees, said the department had acknowledged, at least internally, that the maintenance workers were not told to alter their cleaning routine until after a reporter showed up at the Vermont Canyon park with a video camera."They didn't know anything had changed. . . . There was clearly a miscommunication, or no communication, about the changed policy, the new law," she said.Kolb said that if workers cannot simply blow off the courts or sweep them, they will use a water broom -- a device like a push broom that attaches to a hose and sprays a high-pressure mist that uses one-sixth to one-eighth the water of a regular hosing.The tennis court wash downs had continued for more than a year after the mayor began calling on the public to curtail water usage because of persistent drought conditions. Stepping up that campaign, Villaraigosa signed an ordinance Aug. 14 that doubles penalties for residents and businesses that hose down sidewalks and other hard surfaces, or water landscaping between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Enforcement of the new law is scheduled to begin this month.The day the law was signed, The Times posted a website video showing facilities managed by Recreation and Parks and the Department of Water and Power soaking sidewalks with misaligned sprinklers during the day. Upset by the images, the mayor summoned department heads to his office and bluntly ordered all city agencies to abide by the new water use restrictions.Kolb, the parks department spokeswoman, said her agency, the city's largest water-consuming department, is doing its best to comply with the ordinance, including stepping up conservation training for workers. But she noted that the park system is a sprawling operation with 400 parks and 10,000 employees.She also said the department, at least initially, is exempt from enforcement of many watering provisions of the new law.And she suggested that other parts of the law were unclear, including an exception that permits water use when necessary to protect public health and safety."That's really open to interpretation. It's very vague," she said, noting that parks face various safety issues. "You don't leave debris that can cause people to slip and fall. We need to have that more clearly defined."The DWP, Villaraigosa's point agency for his water plan, insisted that the ordinance is clear and applies to all departments, with only very narrow exceptions for use of certain types of drip irrigation systems.The public health and safety exception is intended for very limited situations, such as washing human waste off sidewalks in skid row, DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said. "It's not for removing debris and leaves," he said.At the Vermont Canyon facility, regulars complained that hosing down courts not only has wasted water, but rendered the popular courts unusable for hours until they dried.Campbell, who once served on a water price-setting committee for Mayor Tom Bradley, said he occasionally brings a broom to help keep the courts clean of leaves and dirt. He thinks city workers could do the same."What are these people going to do when they go home," he said, looking out over the tennis complex. "They're thinking, well, heck, if the city can waste water, why can't I."#http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-water4-2008sep04,0,7695490.story ------------------------------------------------------------- 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.