9-4-08Merced Sun-StarDry year hurts farmersMID's water shortages cut into growing seasons and reduce crops...CAROL REITERhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/435398.htmlOn 250 acres of figs in East Merced, Blair and Tonetta Gladwin make a living growing the ancient fruit. Many of the trees are 40 years old, and the Gladwins work hard to keep them both healthy and productive.But the water shortages this year are hurting the Gladwins -- and their trees. Curtailments by the Merced Irrigation District of irrigation water, because of an exceptionally dry year, have put growers like the Gladwins in a tight spot."We didn't hear from the MID that there was going to be a shortage of water until May," said Tonetta Gladwin. Because she and her husband thought they would get their normal allotment of water, the couple had deep-ripped their ground to help the water get down to the roots.But that deep ripping causes the dirt to soak up more water, and the Gladwins are reaching the end of their allotment...Hicham Eltal, the assistant general manager for water resources for MID, said growers did know much earlier than May that water deliveries would more than likely be short this year. "We were talking about shortages as early as March if the conditions continued," Eltal said.Dan Pope, general manager for the MID, suggested that some growers didn't believe that there would really be a water shortage this year. "I had growers telling me that there was plenty of snow in the mountains," Pope said.The district, which serves eastern Merced County, normally delivers about 315,000 acre-feet of water to its growers, Eltal said... Those growers who did run out, and have vines, trees, alfalfa or permanent pasture, can buy water from the MID that the district bought from the Stevinson Water District...The district has set a cutoff date of Sept. 30 for water delivery, a full month earlier than normal. Storage in the reservoirs is now at 30,000 acre-feet less than last year. Pope said that the Climate Prediction Center is predicting that October through December of this year will see below-normal rainfall again. "If we end up having a wet year, we will all breathe a sigh of relief," Pope said...Metal theft bill makes way to governor's desk...VICTOR A. PATTONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/435395.htmlA bill meant to stop criminals from making a quick buck from stolen metals has passed the Assembly -- although the budget impasse may delay a final stamp of approval from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.Sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, AB 844 would help law enforcement officials track stolen metals sold to scrap recyclers -- by forcing recyclers to keep identifying information about sellers, including their photos, thumbprints and pictures of the metal they're turning in. The bill passed the Assembly 77-0 last week and the Senate 34-1 earlier in August, paving the way for it to be reviewed by the governor.Laura Ortega, Berryhill's chief of staff, said the bill is in limbo because of the budget stalemate.... Until the budget is passed, Ortega said no one can predict what will happen. "We just have to wait," Ortega said. "At this point, it's out of our hands."Still, Ortega said indications from Schwarzenegger's office have been that he'll support the bill. The deadline for Schwarzenegger to sign it is Sept. 30. If the governor doesn't sign the bill by then, it would automatically become law -- unless he decided to veto it, Ortega said.Under its provisions, recyclers would also have to turn the seller's identifying information over to law enforcement officials each month.The bill also includes a provision that would require recyclers to withhold payments from sellers for three days.According to local law enforcement officials, metal thefts have become a daily occurrence in Merced County -- mainly because of the numerous farms targeted by thieves.Copper wiring that supplies power to irrigation pumps is especially popular among thieves, as are metal pipes, siding and sprinkler system parts. The problem is also rampant at schools, hospitals, utility companies, homes and construction sites...Merced County already has an anti-metal theft ordinance, but supporters of the bill say a statewide law could help deter thieves from selling their wares within city limits and in nearby counties. Attorney tries to spark plans for fire station...Scott Jason, Reporter's Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/attorney_tries_to_spark_plans_for_fire_stationEnvironmental attorney Richard Harriman, who's in the midst of a lawsuit with Merced, exercised -- and maybe exhausted -- his right to free speech last night at the council meeting.The attorney, known for suing cities across the Valley on a regular basis, asked to hear a presentation about the council's plan to widen the east side of Bellevue Road at G Street. Most the work is being paid for through the developer's bonds. However, that only widens the west side of Bellevue Road. With the east side being one of the main roads to UC Merced, the city figures it makes more sense to pay for the added improvements rather than waiting and having to rebuild the intersection twice. Harriman, speaking during the public comment period, criticized the council for putting a priority on transportation, but not on a fire station that was supposed to be built near Bellevue Ranch. Those complaints are the essence of the lawsuit he filed in December against the city, which maintains the station isn't needed yet.Then, turning to face the camera broadcasting the meeting on television, Harriman asked residents to call their elected leaders and complain. "Mr. Harriman, I will mute (the microphone)," Mayor Ellie Wooten snapped. City Attorney Greg Diaz appeared poised to respond to Harriman's comments. He kept talking."Don't be out of order," she boomed, as the sound system crackled."I wasn't out of order," Harriman said. "You were," Wooten said. She went on to tell him that he was there to speak to the council and isn't supposed to be "playing to the camera."Later on in the evening, Harriman came back to the microphone. "There's a fine line between stubborn and tenacious," he explained. "I'm being tenacious and not stubborn."He cited his First Amendment right to petition leaders with grievances and maintained that he has a "profound respect for the council."Still, he said, the council can make building Fire Station 56 a priority.Sculpture will grace UC Merced campus...DANIELLE GAINEShttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/435414.htmlA new sculpture will soon loom high in the air above the main quad at UC Merced."Beginnings" will consist of two curved, vertical arms that rise 40 feet into the air from a circular platform to represent growth and the university's embrace of students and community, university officials said. "No message could be more inspirational than the message of hope and giving that it conveys," Chancellor Steve Kang said. "It will remind all of us for generations to come what a major research university can and should do to help lift up a region and create a brighter future for its people."..."Beginnings" was inspired by former Chancellor Rod Park in 2006 and designed by American sculptor Aris Demetrios. Park and his wife, Cathy, are primary donors for the gift. "The UC Board of Regents envisioned this campus as a seed that would grow, addressing the educational and professional needs of the Central Valley and providing a much-needed stimulus to the local economy," Park said. "The design perfectly captures the sense of birth, outreach, nurturing and contribution."Other contributors for the gift include the Bob and Marie Gallo family; Demetrios; and John, Joseph and John T. Franzia of Bronco Winery.The sculpture is expected to be finished by spring 2009 and will serve as the backdrop for the first graduation of a full senior class at the university. County Bank lays off 20 workersStruggling Valley economy blamed on first-ever downsizing for company...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/435411.htmlCounty Bank laid off about 20 employees Tuesday -- the first time in its 31-year history that the bank has been forced to cut back on staffing.Company spokesman Thomas Smith, noting the bank's parent company's $12 million loss last quarter, said the decision was due solely to the troubled Valley economy...County Bank is owned by Capital Corp of the West, the only company headquartered in Merced that's publicly traded, on the NASDAQ.Smith downplayed the size of the cutback by comparing it with massive layoffs at larger banks, such as Chase and Wachovia. The financial sector has seen the highest number of job cuts. More than 100,000 layoffs have been recorded in the United States this year, according to figures compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a consulting company that helps workers find new jobs.The bank's parent company announced its first-ever annual loss in fiscal year 2007 when it posted a $3.6 million loss. Weeks later, it announced a first quarter profit in 2008 of $2.3 million.The bank's financial health is closely tied to the Valley's economy, pummeled by foreclosures and sliding housing values, which have been cut in half.County Bank has remained unscathed from foreclosures because it didn't carry any home loans. However, it did lend money to developers, who've been having a hard time paying off construction loans.At the end of the second quarter, County Bank reviewed 80 percent of its commercial and real estate loan portfolio and wrote off $20.3 million...Modesto BeeGMAC slashing work force, reduces mortgage lending...ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/reports/realestate/story/416700.htmlLender GMAC Financial Services said Wednesday it will close all of its 200 retail offices and lay off about 5,000 employees as part of plan to reduce its mortgage lending and servicing because of the housing market downturn.The majority of the layoffs are slated for GMAC's mortgage lending division, Residential Capital LLC, known as ResCap, and will reduce work force at the unit by 60 percent, the company said.In the first half of the year, ResCap's U.S. mortgage loan production was valued at about $35.7 billion, down nearly 39 percent from the same period in 2007. Yet it was still the seventh-largest mortgage originator, with 3.9 percent market share, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance."While these actions are extremely difficult, they are necessary to position ResCap to withstand this challenging environment," Tom Marano, ResCap's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Conditions in the mortgage and credit markets have not abated and, therefore, we need to respond aggressively by further reducing both operating costs and business risk."Some 3,000 employees may get their pink slips this month. The rest are expected to lose their jobs by the end of the year, the company said.ResCap is also the latest in a long list of lenders that have stopped using external, wholesale brokers to originate loans. Wachovia Corp. exited the wholesale mortgage lending business in July, for example, while rival Bank of America Corp. got out of the business several months ago...In July, GMAC said ResCap's second-quarter losses widened to $1.86 billion from $254 million in the prior-year period..New York-based GMAC is controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, but automaker General Motors Corp. still holds a 49 percent stake in the business.Tulare VoiceTown Hall Meeting Set on Race Track Projecthttp://www.valleyvoicenewspaper.com/tv/stories/2008/townhallmeeting.htmTulare - With the time drawing near for the City Council to make a decision about the proposed 700-plus acre Tulare Motor Sports Complex, a newly formed citizens committee has called a town hall meeting to gather public comment about the project.The Tulare Motor Sports Complex Community Advisory Committee has scheduled the meeting for 6 p.m., Sept. 11, in the Council Chambers at the Civic Affairs Building, 125 South M St.The committee was formed at the urging of the Tulare Industrial Site Foundation, which wants a neutral body to take a look at the proposal and provide a community impact report to city leaders. The 34 members include both proponents and opponents of the project, said Bret Hillman, counsel for the Industrial Site Foundation, which is handling the property sales in connection with the project..."Lots of Questions'The committee will have “lots of questions” for the developer as well as the community, he said. “Our mission is really going to be fact-finding.”...Mayor Craig Vejvoda said he is happy to see the group formed.“I think the more information that gets out on anything — any kind of project — the better it is,” Vejvoda said.The situation now is like the proverbial blind mice, who each has a little part of the elephant but no one knows for sure what it really looks like, he said...Sacramento BeeCalifornia farmers' ads clash over Delta water...Matt Weiserhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1209154.htmlCalifornia's ageless struggle over water has seen battles between man and nature, between cities and farms, and, of course, between rich and poor.Now it's farmer vs. farmer.In an advertising slugfest in newspapers and on television in recent weeks, farming interests have waged a war of words over proposals to build a canal to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...The fracas between farmers began last month when Dino Cortopassi, a lifelong Delta farmer and produce packer, bought full-page ads in The Bee and Stockton Record newspapers attacking the canal. He also purchased ads on KCRA-TV in Sacramento.Cortopassi fears a canal will ruin the Delta environment and its farming economy.His ads specifically target Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a leading advocate for a canal...In response, a coalition of politically active farmers in the San Joaquin Valley last week purchased a full-page ad in The Bee targeting Cortopassi. These farmers depend almost entirely on Delta water, and consider a canal the best fix."Shame on you, Dino Cortopassi," shouts their ad, which goes on to criticize his "desperate attempt to confuse the issues."It was signed by Jean Sagouspe, a Los Banos farmer, and purchased by California Westside Farmers State Political Action Committee.Many members of the PAC buy their water from Westlands Water District in Fresno County, the largest agricultural consumer of Delta water. Sagouspe is Westlands' board chairman. He did not respond to a request for comment.Sarah Woolf, treasurer of the PAC, said Westlands itself is not a member of the PAC.She said the committee's ad was "not an attack on Dino." Instead, the goal was to rebut his claim that taxpayers will bear the burden of building a canal."It's not going to be paid for by taxpayers. It's going to be paid for by water users," said Woolf, also spokeswoman for Westlands Water District. "Westlands will pay their share for it and have stated so publicly many times."Schwarzenegger, however, is pushing a state water bond that includes nearly $2 billion that could be used for initial studies for a canal...The tussle highlights the fractious nature of water politics in California, said Barbara O'Connor, a communications professor at California State University, Sacramento, and director of its Institute for the Study of Politics and Media.She said the ads are not aimed at the general public, but at opinion leaders."There are huge economic interests at stake here, and the public is almost peripheral to that," she said.Where the two sides stand depends entirely on where they get their water.Both depend on Delta water. But Cortopassi diverts directly from the estuary.Westlands farmers get Delta water under contract with the federal government, which operates one of two major pump and canal systems. The state operates the other...To oversimplify the conflict, the more water Westlands farmers take from the Delta, the more it harms Cortopassi."It is farmer against farmer," Cortopassi said. "But I believe we can get together."He fears a canal will lead to more water diversions, which could make the Delta too salty to directly irrigate crops and support wildlife.Both sides want to capture more water in wet years. This water, often in the form of floods, now flows out to sea as a "surplus" that cannot be harnessed for farms or cities.Cortopassi wants more groundwater storage systems and reservoirs to capture that surplus. Westlands farmers want a canal to capture the surplus and also to separate routine flows from the Delta's environmental problems."We all believe it's possible to reach a compromise," Woolf said of her committee. "What it takes to get there, I don't know."Caples Lake rescue moved 6,300 fish to 2 other lakes...Cathy Lockehttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1209149.htmlMore than 6,300 fish were relocated from Caples Lake in Alpine County to two nearby lakes as part of a four-day fish-rescue operation last week.The El Dorado Irrigation District reported that brown, rainbow and lake, or Mackinaw, trout accounted for two-thirds of the total fish captured and were released into nearby Silver Lake.The remaining third were brook trout and were transferred to Red Lake because brook trout are not part of the mix at Silver Lake, a district news release said.Included in the relocation were fish up to 36 inches long, the district reported.About 80 volunteers from throughout the region joined state Department of Fish and Game employees in the rescue effort.The rescue was undertaken because of the emergency drawdown of Caples Lake. The El Dorado Irrigation District began lowering the water level in July after an inspection found that gates in the main dam were seriously deteriorated. Repairs are scheduled to begin later this month.The district expected to spend $150,000 for the rescue operation and an additional $235,000 to restock the lake.Stockton RecordCongressional foreclosure hearing Saturday in StocktonValley residents encouraged to let voices be heard...The Recordhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080904/A_BIZ/809040308STOCKTON - The U.S. House Committee on Financial Services will hold a field hearing beginning at noon Saturday at Stockton Arena, 248 W. Fremont St., to examine the effects of the foreclosure crisis on neighborhoods throughout the Central Valley."Being in the Central Valley, it's hard to avoid evidence of the foreclosure crisis, especially in Stockton and San Joaquin County. The number of foreclosures is startling and serves as an indication of the hardships many families are facing and the destabilizing effect in our communities," said Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who, along with Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, invited the committee to Stockton."The housing crisis in the San Joaquin Valley is nothing short of tragic," Cardoza said."We cannot stand idly by and see the erosion of one of the most important institutions we have in this country, the family home. We must pursue every possible means to resolve this hardship on our community. This is a significant step forward in doing so," Cardoza said.The hearing, titled "The Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis on Neighborhoods in California's Central Valley: Challenges and Solutions," will be chaired by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who will hear testimony from local elected officials as well as mortgage brokers, Realtors and HUD-approved housing counselors.Advocates for those in need of mortgage assistance will be among those testifying. However, Cardoza encouraged any Valley resident to provide testimony to his office, which will in turn be provided to the committee staff.Residents can submit written testimony on the effects of the foreclosure crisis prior to Saturday's field hearing by 5 p.m. Friday to any of Cardoza's three Valley offices: 137 E. Weber Ave., Stockton; 1010 10th St., Suite 5800, Modesto; or 2222 M St., Suite 305, Merced.San Francisco ChronicleEPA to fine Cal Waste over water pollution...Kelly Zitohttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/04/BALJ12NMAL.DTLFederal regulators have charged a recycling company that serves Oakland and San Jose with repeatedly allowing trash, metal and oils to flow into Bay Area gutters and waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act.On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is seeking fines totaling nearly a half million dollars from California Waste Solutions, a firm that handles curbside residential and commercial recycling in most of San Jose and the northwest portion of Oakland.The agency contends dozens of storms over the last five years have pushed debris and chemicals from the company's three recycling facilities onto Oakland's waterfront and into Coyote Creek, a tributary to San Francisco Bay that is home to a type of steelhead trout listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.The EPA said it has investigated California Waste Solutions over several years, and issued administrative orders aimed at correcting the problems in 2007...In its complaint, the EPA accused California Waste of not creating a plan to prevent pollution runoff. Specifically, the company has neglected to cover storm drains and stored recyclable materials next to storm drains, increasing the likelihood that harmful materials wash into the bay, regulators said. This week, the EPA said it will levy fines of $157,500 on each of the company's three facilities...This is not the first time California Waste Solutions has faced violations or been investigated. In 2005, Oakland fined the company $5,000 for contaminated runoff.In June, city inspectors found problems at the company's Oakland facilities and asked California Waste Solutions to install new berms, increase street sweeping, clean up fluids and cover up collected metals. Inspectors with Oakland's Stormwater and Watershed Management Program will revisit the site within the next month...Judge tosses Richmond-tribe deal on casino...Carolyn Joneshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/04/BA4T12NNHK.DTL&hw=casino&sn=005&sc=249A judge has struck down an agreement between the city of Richmond and an Indian tribe to provide services for a planned 30-acre casino complex near the waterfront.Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga ruled Monday that the city's Municipal Service Agreement with the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians is illegal because the city did not prepare an environmental impact report.The Vegas-style casino would be in unincorporated North Richmond, but the city of Richmond would provide police, fire, public works and other services."It's a big setback for the project," said Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for East Shore Parks, a consortium of environmental groups that sued to overturn the agreement.The city has not decided whether to appeal the ruling, prepare an environmental impact report or renegotiate its agreement with the tribe, said Janet Schneider, the city's administrative chief."This doesn't impact the project itself at all," she said. "But right now we're weighing our options about how we want to proceed."Contra Costa TimesValley Credit Union taken over...George Avaloshttp://www.contracostatimes.com/business/ci_10373249Federal regulators have taken control of the operations of Valley Credit Union, the latest Bay Area credit union that has been engulfed by a wobbly economy and a collapsed housing market.Although it is based in San Jose, Valley Credit Union's 28,000 members include an estimated 2,800 who live in the East Bay. About 10 percent of the credit union members reside in Alameda County or Contra Costa County, Ryan Barringer, an official with Valley Credit Union, said Wednesday. All of Valley Credit's branches are in Santa Clara County.State banking officials placed Valley Credit Union into a conservatorship and appointed the National Credit Union Administration as the operator of the struggling company. Federal officials appointed a new chief executive officer for the credit union, soon after the regulators took control of the financial company.This marks the latest Bay Area credit union to stumble during the last 12 months. Concord-based Cal State 9, Pleasanton-based Sterlent Credit Union and Oakland-based Kaiperm Federal Credit Union had to be bought through mergers after a string of money-losing quarters fueled by defaults in residential realty loans.Over the first six months of 2008, Valley Credit Union lost $5.8 million, according to regulatory filings. During all of 2008, Valley Credit lost $6.9 million."The problems are only indirectly related to the housing market," Matt Davidson, Valley Credit Union's chief executive officer, said Wednesday. "It's more a function of the overall economy."Mortgages were at least a contributor to Valley Credit Union's woes. Over the first half of 2008, the company reported $4.7 million in delinquent real estate loans. That was up from $3.2 million in delinquent realty loans at the end of March, and a sharp increase from the $1.1 million in delinquent real estate loans at the end of 2007...Los Angeles TimesReport contradicts Orange County water quality studyThe findings by a consultant to the proposed 241 toll road are at odds with an analysis funded by the Surfrider Foundation, which opposes the 16-mile extension...Susannah Rosenblatthttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-tollroad4-2008sep04,0,5465106,print.storyWith a hearing to determine the fate of a proposed toll road through south Orange County a few weeks away, the agency backing the project issued a report Wednesday arguing that the new road would adequately protect water quality at San Onofre State Beach.Plans proposed by the agency to protect the San Mateo Creek watershed and famous Trestles surf break from erosion and contaminated storm water "should do as good a job as needed," said Derrick Coleman, a senior project manager with environmental consulting firm Tetra Tech. Coleman conducted the toll road agency-funded review."Is it going to stop runoffs? No," he said. "Is it going to stop erosion? No, it can't completely control that either. It's going to be effective."Coleman described a damning water quality analysis funded by the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group that opposes the 241 toll road extension, as deliberately confusing and "less than objective."The review by Tetra Tech is the latest salvo in the long-simmering controversy between toll road advocates arguing for traffic relief and conservationists concerned about the environmental effects of the $1.3-billion project.The Transportation Corridor Agencies' proposed 16-mile extension of California 241 would slice through the state park's watershed, connecting Rancho Santa Margarita with Interstate 5 near Basilone Road in north San Diego County.The four- to six-lane highway would dramatically damage the "pristine" watershed, making it more susceptible to erosion, said Mark Lindley, senior associate with the environmental hydrology firm that conducted the water quality study for Surfrider. Over time, increased sediment would collect in San Mateo Creek, potentially affecting the rocky cobbles that help create Trestles' waves."The impacts of that project are much greater than what happens on the road itself," Lindley said.The TCA and Coleman, who received $4,800 from the agency for the review, dispute Lindley's argument about sediment harming the flow of cobbles to the sea.The agency has plans in place to limit polluted water entering the watershed, including catch basins that release storm water gradually and concrete blocks to diffuse flowing water, said Paul Bopp, TCA engineering manager. In July, the agency commissioned a similar review by an oceanography expert concluding the road would not harm the surf break.The state Coastal Commission rejected plans for the road in February. After cancellation and uncertainty, a long-awaited U.S. Department of Commerce hearing to appeal that decision is scheduled Sept. 22 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.San Diego Union-TribuneSlow sales dropping a hammer on builders 40% of buyers canceled home purchases in July...Roger Showley http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080904-9999-1n4builder.htmlAt Magnolia at Bressi Ranch in Carlsbad, about half of the 25 homes have been built and sold for prices approaching $2.3 million. But a few months ago, builder Barratt American abruptly halted construction on six more, and a seventh stands completed and unsold. Work never started on five lots. The reason: The locally based builder, like many home owners, lost its financing – in this case, a $125 million line of credit from Bank of America on 10 projects in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties – and is facing foreclosure.These are desperate times for San Diego County's once-high-flying home builders, who ramped up production of ever-more-expensive homes during the 1997-2005 boom. Today, virtually no one is showing up at model-home complexes. More than 40 percent of buyers canceled their purchases in July, according to one market research firm. And builders and developers have cut their staffs by as much as 90 percent... Local builders are by nature an optimistic lot who always believe things will get better, if only because long-range population projections suggest San Diego will need 243,000 more housing units by 2030. There are plans on the drawing boards for 1,200 projects containing more than 133,000 homes and apartments. But the builders also say that when things pick up, the business will be different. The national builders with deep pockets are unlikely to return, industry experts say, because no large expanses of unbuilt territory zoned or planned for housing remain. The traditional suburban single-family home will give way to more condos, townhouses and row houses in infill sites... 9-4-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…September 4, 2008 1. Top Item - California farmers' ads clash over Delta waterSacramento Bee – 9/4/08…By Matt Weiser, staff writer California's ageless struggle over water has seen battles between man and nature, between cities and farms, and, of course, between rich and poor.Now it's farmer vs. farmer. In an advertising slugfest in newspapers and on television in recent weeks, farming interests have waged a war of words over proposals to build a canal to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta, hub of the state's water system, is threatened by environmental collapse. This has reduced deliveries to farms in the San Joaquin Valley and cities throughout California. Some view a canal as the solution. The fracas between farmers began last month when Dino Cortopassi, a lifelong Delta farmer and produce packer, bought full-page ads in The Bee and Stockton Record newspapers attacking the canal. He also purchased ads on KCRA-TV in Sacramento. Cortopassi fears a canal will ruin the Delta environment and its farming economy. His ads specifically target Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a leading advocate for a canal. Cortopassi, 71, was a major donor to Schwarzenegger's campaigns. But he recently quit the Republican Party over the matter, and is now registered as an independent. "I have served as a catalyst to get this thing where it should be in the public eye," he said. "I will fight to the death to protect the Delta, because I love it."In response, a coalition of politically active farmers in the San Joaquin Valley last week purchased a full-page ad in The Bee targeting Cortopassi. These farmers depend almost entirely on Delta water, and consider a canal the best fix. "Shame on you, Dino Cortopassi," shouts their ad, which goes on to criticize his "desperate attempt to confuse the issues." It was signed by Jean Sagouspe, a Los Banos farmer, and purchased by California Westside Farmers State Political Action Committee.Many members of the PAC buy their water from Westlands Water District in Fresno County, the largest agricultural consumer of Delta water. Sagouspe is Westlands' board chairman. He did not respond to a request for comment. Sarah Woolf, treasurer of the PAC, said Westlands itself is not a member of the PAC. She said the committee's ad was "not an attack on Dino." Instead, the goal was to rebut his claim that taxpayers will bear the burden of building a canal."It's not going to be paid for by taxpayers. It's going to be paid for by water users," said Woolf, also spokeswoman for Westlands Water District. "Westlands will pay their share for it and have stated so publicly many times." Schwarzenegger, however, is pushing a state water bond that includes nearly $2 billion that could be used for initial studies for a canal.Cortopassi has likely spent more than $200,000 on his ad campaign so far, all of it on his own. His most recent ad – in full color – is in today's Bee.He claims Schwarzenegger is holding the water bond out as a carrot to San Joaquin Valley legislators to induce them to support a tax increase to balance the overdue state budget. Schwarzenegger denied that. "We don't trade water for the budget or vice versa," the governor told the Associated Press. The tussle highlights the fractious nature of water politics in California, said Barbara O'Connor, a communications professor at California State University, Sacramento, and director of its Institute for the Study of Politics and Media. She said the ads are not aimed at the general public, but at opinion leaders. "There are huge economic interests at stake here, and the public is almost peripheral to that," she said.Where the two sides stand depends entirely on where they get their water. Both depend on Delta water. But Cortopassi diverts directly from the estuary. Westlands farmers get Delta water under contract with the federal government, which operates one of two major pump and canal systems. The state operates the other. Both systems have been blamed for killing millions of fish, and are under court order to limit diversions. Cortopassi has much in common with Westlands farmers. He even buys tomatoes from some Westlands growers for his processing business.But that affinity may be eroding amid the water crisis. To oversimplify the conflict, the more water Westlands farmers take from the Delta, the more it harms Cortopassi."It is farmer against farmer," Cortopassi said. "But I believe we can get together." He fears a canal will lead to more water diversions, which could make the Delta too salty to directly irrigate crops and support wildlife.Both sides want to capture more water in wet years. This water, often in the form of floods, now flows out to sea as a "surplus" that cannot be harnessed for farms or cities. Cortopassi wants more groundwater storage systems and reservoirs to capture that surplus. Westlands farmers want a canal to capture the surplus and also to separate routine flows from the Delta's environmental problems. "We all believe it's possible to reach a compromise," Woolf said of her committee. "What it takes to get there, I don't know."#http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1209154.html 2. Supply – Coso counting on water from Hay RanchThe Inyo Register – 9/4/08…By Mike Bodine, staff writer Coso Geothermal Project is closer to a possible ruling on its controversial proposal to pump water near Little Lake in Southern Inyo, about 19 months after initially seeking approval from the county.Running out of the water it needs to operate, the electrical generating plant isn’t the only entity with a vested interest in the county’s decision.Little Lake Ranch, LLC and others are worried the pumping project will have a “devastating impact” on the lake and surrounding riparian areas. A public comment period on the groundwater pumping proposal comes to an end Saturday, Sept. 6. The Coso Operating Company, LLC, is seeking a 30-year conditional use permit from the Inyo County Planning Commission to extract groundwater from two existing wells on the Coso Hay Ranch property in Rose Valley at the southern end of Inyo County. The permit is asking to withdraw 3,000 gallons per minute or 4,800 acre-feet per year and construct a nine-mile long pipe from the wells to the plant to supplement a shrinking geothermal reservoir. Coso argues the pumping plan is the only economically feasible way to keep the plant generating at capacity.The plan calls for mitigation guidelines and “trigger levels,” such as a decrease in the lake level of 10 percent, to prevent any permanent damage.Opposing the project is Little Lake Ranch, and specifically Gary Arnold, the ranch’s legal counsel, representing Arnold, Bleuel, LaRochelle, Matthews and Zirbel. Arnold is also a member of the 1,200-acre ranch and private hunting club. The property includes Little Lake, a 1.6-mile riparian corridor and five ponds.Arnold and the ranch are arguing that the proposed pumping will suck Little Lake dry, leaving it to face a very long-term recovery. Arnold noted he is using statistics from the Hydrology Model included in the Draft Environmental Impact Report to argue his claim.Arnold pointed at statements in the model that Rose Valley Basin, which includes Little Lake, is in a state of equilibrium, meaning any new pumping or water transfer will deplete water in the aquifer. In the DEIR, impacts to the lake are defined as a reduction of 10 percent in water available to the surface. Predictions in the model state that Little Lake will not recover from a 10 percent water loss for more than 120 years after all pumping stops. So, with the reduction limitations, Coso’s request to pump 4,800 acre-feet per year would have to completely stop within 15 months to avoid the 10 percent depletion, according to Arnold.“Then what are they going to do?” Arnold asked about the future of the project after the water is no longer available.“Coso’s dilemma is a self-inflicted wound,” Arnold states in a press release. He claims Coso knew of the “risks of the geothermal reservoir” and entered into contracts before it knew how much the plant could produce.“I think the county supervisors needs to educate themselves on their own geothermal ordinances and their decision to waive waterexportation laws,” said Wilfred Nabahe, District 5 property taxpayer. One of the intents in Inyo County’s geothermal resource development ordinance, Title 19, is to protect the environment and provide optimum use of the land.“This is poor planning and poor judgment by the county. What’s going to happen 30, 40 years from now?” Nabahe asked of how Coso expects to operate after the pumping permit, and the water has run out. Water is the primary ingredient for geothermal power. The way Coso Geothermal Plant works, according to statements by Coso Geothermal, is that hot geothermal fluid, or brines under pressure of natural geothermal reservoir, travels up through wells, some as deep as 11,000 feet, and flashes into steam that turns generator turbines and produces electricity.As time goes by, loss of brine due to evaporation must be replaced to maintain reservoir pressure. Coso’s original 1980 Environmental Impact Study anticipated this brine loss and contemplated the potential need for up to 6,000 acre-feet of water annually from Rose Valley. Chris Ellis, ground coordinator for Coso Geothermal, said that Coso owns the fallowed Hay Ranch and is not pumping from there currently. He said the pumping plan would add to the natural geothermal reservoir that has become depleted from Coso’s 20-year operations.Ellis added that the plant is currently producing enough electricity to power about 200,000 homes or 200MW but the goal is to generate the full potential of 250MW. Originally intended to be used to power the China Lake Naval Weapons Station, the electricity is now sold to Southern California Edison.Coso also states in the press release that, “Recent power contract extensions will supply an enhanced tax base for the next 20 years.” Coso has entered into an exclusive power purchase agreement with SCE that will last until 2030. Inyo County Planning Director Pat Cecil said the county’s motivation to allow water to be pumped from already dry lands is not just the property tax revenue, but also to comply with S.B. 1078, a 2002 rule that mandated 20 percent of California’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2017.In November, California voters will decide on Proposition 7, which would raise requirements to 20 percent from renewable sources by 2010, 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025. Coso states that the use permit to pump is “very important for meeting the state’s renewable energy requirements.” Property tax revenue from Coso Operating Company jumped from approximately $4.5 million last year to $11.9 million this year according to the Inyo County Treasury Department. Inyo County Assessor Tom Lanshaw said the geothermal plant was purchased by ArcLight Capitol to be managed by Terra-Gen in December, 2007. The plant was reappraised at $1.2 billion, up from the previous assessment of $420 million. Lanshaw explained the selling price and newly appraised value were so high because the sellers, Caithness Corporation, included the extra water from Hay Ranch in the assessment.Lanshaw said ArcLight and Inyo County are currently in negotiations over the assessment given the new uncertainty of the Hay Ranch pumping project.Pumping from Hay Ranch is not the only way to keep Coso operating at capacity, but the only one getting any attention. Alternatives to the new pumping project, as stated in the DEIR, “but rejected during development of the project included: increase power through power plant enhancements; alternative sources of injection water; and, reducing the time frame of the permit.” All of these alternatives were rejected on grounds as being more expensive or not in line with Coso Operating goals, to operate at full capacity. Proposed alternatives to the pumping project included: no project; pumping Hay Ranch at the maximum allowable rate for 30 years without surpassing “trigger levels,” the 10-percent loss; or pump Hay Ranch at various levels preventing significant impact on Little Lake.The “no project” alternative would avoid groundwater impacts, but, according to the DEIR, the early decommissioning of Coso Geothermal Plant could “affect electricity supply in the region and the associated environmental effects of generating new electricity to compensate for the electricity lost from the Coso projects would be greater than those of the proposed (Hay Ranch pumping) project.” “As a member of the public, I’m concerned with the substantial loss to the lake,” Arnold said. According to Arnold, he doesn’t want to sue, if possible, but he wants “the county to seriously look at the alternatives to pumping water.”Cecil explained that after the public comment period has closed, those comments will be incorporated into the DEIR and then sent to the county Water Commission for its scrutiny and on to the Planning Commission for certification then to the county supervisors for their vote. Public notices for dates, times and locations of these meetings will be published as meetings are scheduled.A copy of the DEIR is available for review at the Inyo County Planning Department, 168 N. Edwards St., Independence, at all Inyo County public libraries or online at www.inyoplanning.org/projects.htm (click on the “Coso Geothermal” link).The public is encouraged to comment or ask questions about the DEIR by writing to the Inyo County Planning Department, P.O. Drawer “L,” Independence, CA 93526, faxing to (760) 878-0382 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. #http://www.inyoregister.com/content/view/115394/1/ Agencies learn about importance of recycled water Ventura County Star – 9/4/08…By Scott Hadly, staff writer· In drought-prone California, it turns out that one of the most reliable sources of water is the stuff that's already been used.The importance of recycled water — municipal wastewater treated and then reused for irrigation, landscaping and even to replenish groundwater — has grown as the state struggles with a drought year and limits on new sources for water. On Wednesday, local members of the Association of Water Agencies of Ventura County heard about ways to tap into this source from experts in the field of water reuse. Although some people, as well as some water agencies, are uneasy about the use of recycled water, Steve Bachman, groundwater resources manager for United Water Conservation District, said soon water reuse will be required of all water agencies. "One of the things that's being considered (by the state) is that if you're not using it, it would be considered a waste of water," Bachman said at the workshop in Oxnard. The workshop was the third in a series of four put on by the agency for its "Drought Watch 2008." It included presentations from the chairman of the California Building Industry Association, from a water agency that delivers recycled water for industrial uses, and a consulting firm on the nuts and bolts of implementing a water-recycling program. Steve LaMar, chairman of the California Building Industry Association, said his group believes that it's in the industry's interest to push for more aggressive conservation, adding that he believes water is undervalued. "In the paper yesterday, I saw that in Stockton, they're paying one-tenth of a cent for a gallon of water, and that just doesn't seem right, especially when you consider we're paying $4 for a gallon of gas," LaMar said. Ventura County is not a leader in the use of recycled water, but statewide, there has been a push to increase its use. State officials want California to use 1 million acre-feet of recycled water a year by 2010. One-acre foot equals 325,851 gallons. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is also pushing to require that water agencies reduce water use by 20 percent — through efficiency or reuse — by 2020.Unlike places such as Orange County, which recently began using treated sewage to augment drinking water supplies, or Los Angeles County, where recycled water is commonly used for irrigation, water reuse is still in its infancy in Ventura County. The Camrosa Water District, which has about 30,000 customers in Camarillo and the Santa Rosa Valley, recently began reusing water for irrigation at CSU Channel Islands, on farm fields and to water the golf course at Leisure Village. The city of Oxnard is also embarking on a water-recycling program. Estimated to cost about $100 million, the program daily will produce about 6 million gallons of recycled water that will be used to replenish groundwater, halt seawater intrusion and irrigate farm fields.#http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2008/sep/04/agencies-learn-about-importance-of-recycled/ 3. Watersheds – Journey Down the Los Angeles RiverPalisades Post – 9/3/08…Sue Pascoe , Staff Writer If you've never kayaked before, you wouldn't start by going down the Los Angeles River, a stream that travels along a mostly cemented riverbed. But Palisadian Dr. Jeffrey Tipton was a willing participant this July when he joined a 12-person group that wanted to convince the Army Corps of Engineers that the L.A. River is a navigable waterway and thus deserves protection under the Clean Water Act. The river's fate was suddenly at stake this spring when it lost its federal designation as navigable, according to Fran Diamond, chairman of the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board. She told the Palisadian-Post that a rancher wanted to fill in a dry creek bed in the Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth in order to develop property (Those mountains are part of the watershed for the L.A. River). After the rancher argued that the river itself was a dry streambed, the Army Corps reviewed the stream and determined that less than four miles was navigable and removed its classification on June 4. While the classification might seem unimportant for a cemented urban riverbed, a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stated that the Clean Water Act's protections against pollution apply to a stream or wetland only if it had a 'significant nexus' with 'traditional navigable waters.' Congressional representatives, state legislators, environmental groups and citizens such as Tipton were outraged at the Army Corps decision. 'It is a critical issue,' said Tipton, who is also the director of student health services at Cal State L.A. and owner of the Palisades Integrative Medical Clinic in the Pharmaca building. 'The Army Corps was looking at the L.A. River as an ephemeral river, one that comes and goes, as more of a storm channel,' said Tipton, who noted that taking away the designation would eliminate control of the pollutants added to the water. 'How could they turn our river into a sewer?' He asked. 'It's a living thing.' Tipton initially became interested in the waterway last year after taking a tour of the river with his family (wife Evelyn Wendel and children, Miles, 11, and Maude, 8) led by environmental writer Jenny Price, the author of 'Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in Los Angeles.' A week later, Tipton, Wendel, and a friend, George Wolf, shot a short film about a frustrated commuter who hops out of his car and kayaks to work. The humorous video, 'George's L.A. River Commute,' can be found on YouTube. Fast forward to this July when Tipton and his 12-member group began kayaking the entire 52-mile length of the L.A. River from Canoga Park to Long Beach during the dry season. Although people are not allowed to kayak, wade or play in the river, the group received permission because they had a film permit. With kayaks donated from Sports Chalet, they began their two-and a-half day journey on July 25 in the San Fernando Valley. They followed the river's course as it moves toward the Sepulveda Dam Recreational Area, then turned east toward Burbank and Glendale, taking a turn south through Vernon, Commerce, Maywood, Bell, Bell Garden, South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, Paramount, Carson, and ending in Long Beach, where the river 'flows' into the Pacific Ocean. Although he was a rookie kayaker, Tipton was one of only three who paddled the entire length of the river. As he kayaked, Tipton was amazed by the landscape surrounding the waterway. 'It was like a mini-jungle with birds and trees, in sections along Encino and Glendale,' he said. 'We saw people fishing at Atwater Village near Los Feliz. For six or seven miles there is no concrete on the bottom of the river. There are even artesian wells underground.' Further down the stream, Tipton saw a naked homeless man shaving in the river. 'Do you have a permit to be in the river?' the homeless man asked Tipton. 'Do you have a permit to be naked?' Tipton replied. When the man admitted he didn't, Tipton said, 'Then let's call it a draw.' The kayakers drove home each night and returned to the river in the morning. On the second day, police helicopters circled the group and officers told the kayakers to get out of the water. But pedestrians on the bridge overhead shouted for them to stay in. Police showed up on the edge of the river, but once they learned that the paddlers had a permit, they let them continue the journey. 'I've discovered that if you say you have a film permit, the police will let you do almost anything,' Tipton joked. He admitted that the final day was grueling. 'It was physically challenging. The river was fast flowing and I had to do a lot of paddling.' To add to his problems, his kayak had sprung a leak. 'I did tip over once and got a mouth and nose full of water. . .yuck,' he said. The group's journey was covered by the media and, on August 19, the Los Angeles Times reported that 'the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it is stepping into an obscure debate over whether the river and its tributary streams are 'traditional navigable waters.' ''It's important for us to protect urban rivers and waterways around the country,' said Benjamin H. Grumbles, an EPA assistant administrator for water (who was quoted in the article). 'We are stepping up to ensure that the Clean Water Act tools are applied consistently and fairly and we all work together to protect the L.A. River.'' Tipton believes that his group's river trip helped push the EPA in the right direction. 'Essentially, this whole thing boils down to who has the right to protect, clean and use the river,' he said. 'We decided that we, the people, have the right.' Last Thursday, Tipton, who is bilingual and has a master's degree from UCLA in public health, was on Channel 34, explaining in Spanish the importance of keeping the Los Angeles River under the Clean Water Act. 'I'm happy that the EPA is going to look at the navigability,' Fran Diamond said. 'We can reclaim the L.A. River as an important resource for the community; a place where people can recreate and a habitat is restored. 'There is a concerted effort to remove as much concrete as we can, while maintaining safety by preventing flooding,' she continued. 'One of the ways we can make this city livable is with the L.A. River, recreating it with green space and make it the resource that it once was.' A 284-page Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan was completed in 2007 and suggests ways that this can be accomplished. The plan would include establishing community parks, riparian habitats and promenades with overlooks. 'I was struck by the possibility that the river could actually become a regular river again,' Tipton said. 'I was also thinking how great it would be for Angelenos to reclaim the 52 miles of river as a greenbelt. We have more than enough concrete in LA; it's time for us to green things up a bit.' Friends of the L.A. River conducts bus tours along the river twice a year and car caravans four times a year. A car-caravan tour is scheduled for Sunday, September 14, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be led by Jenny Price. Youth under 18 are free and dogs are welcome. Spaces are limited and advance sign-up is required. Contact Ramona at email@example.com or (323)223-0585. Customized tours are also available. Visit www.folar.org. #http://www.palisadespost.com/content/index.cfm?Story_ID=4250 4. Water Quality – EPA to fine Cal Waste over water pollutionSan Francisco Chronicle – 9/4/08…Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer Federal regulators have charged a recycling company that serves Oakland and San Jose with repeatedly allowing trash, metal and oils to flow into Bay Area gutters and waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act. On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is seeking fines totaling nearly a half million dollars from California Waste Solutions, a firm that handles curbside residential and commercial recycling in most of San Jose and the northwest portion of Oakland. The agency contends dozens of storms over the last five years have pushed debris and chemicals from the company's three recycling facilities onto Oakland's waterfront and into Coyote Creek, a tributary to San Francisco Bay that is home to a type of steelhead trout listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.The EPA said it has investigated California Waste Solutions over several years, and issued administrative orders aimed at correcting the problems in 2007.In a statement, California Waste Systems said it places a "high value on compliance with environmental regulations." What's more, the 200-employee firm said it has taken significant steps since becoming aware of EPA's concerns in 2006, including hiring new managers, retaining consultants, retraining employees and implementing new procedures. The company did not respond to requests for an interview. In its complaint, the EPA accused California Waste of not creating a plan to prevent pollution runoff. Specifically, the company has neglected to cover storm drains and stored recyclable materials next to storm drains, increasing the likelihood that harmful materials wash into the bay, regulators said. This week, the EPA said it will levy fines of $157,500 on each of the company's three facilities. Alexis Strauss, the director of the EPA's water division in San Francisco, called the firm's lack of compliance "unconscionable." "Other businesses take great strides to be compliant," Strauss told a gathering of reporters at the EPA's San Francisco office. "There should be a level playing field."This is not the first time California Waste Solutions has faced violations or been investigated. In 2005, Oakland fined the company $5,000 for contaminated runoff.In June, city inspectors found problems at the company's Oakland facilities and asked California Waste Solutions to install new berms, increase street sweeping, clean up fluids and cover up collected metals. Inspectors with Oakland's Stormwater and Watershed Management Program will revisit the site within the next month.Lesley Estes, manager of the Oakland program, said the company has worked with the city in the past to bring its operations into compliance, and expects the company to do so in this instance. The Web site for California Waste Solutions describes it as a family business created by the Duong family, which operated a large Saigon paper mill seized by the government during the Vietnam War. After fleeing the country and spending two years in a relocation camp in the Philippines, the Duongs said they came to San Francisco in 1981 with virtually nothing and began collecting cardboard and other items - efforts that would grow their operation into one of the largest independent recycling companies in Northern California.#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/04/BALJ12NMAL.DTL 5. Agencies, Programs, People New center will help visitors explore Delta, advocate says - Contra Costa TimesRancho Mirage saves green with new greenRancho Mirage joining others in changing landscape to conserve - The Desert Sun New center will help visitors explore Delta, advocate saysContra Costa Times – 9/3/08…By Mike Taugher, staff writer For most Californians, the Delta is a place out of sight and out of mind — and hard to navigate even if you know where it is. Ken Scheidegger is trying to change that. Three years ago, he started up a plan for a massive visitor center in Rio Vista — a place where commuters, tourists and those just passing through could stop and get some directions, some ideas about where to go and some information about what he calls California's "heartland." That dream is close to reality, with construction permits nearly in and an aggressive plan to build the 7,728-square foot center in the coming months."This is going to take the Delta from being one of the most ignored, hard-to-find places in the world to one of the easiest," said Scheidegger, a former university oceanographer. Through the nonprofit Discover the Delta Foundation he started, Scheidegger hopes the center becomes a hub for Delta visitors, where they can get information and directions to the historic town of Locke, or on the best bird-viewing locations, or good places to kayak or taste wine. The parking lot will have plenty of spaces for school buses because organizers are hoping teachers from the Bay Area, Sacramento and other nearby areas bring their classes for educational tours. The way Scheidegger sees it, the Delta has been fought over and even written off to some extent because of a wave of bad publicity about concerns from mercury in the fish to the ability of Delta levees to hold up in an earthquake. And because of the importance of the Delta to the state's water supply — two in three Californians get at least some drinking water from the Delta, and San Joaquin Valley agriculture is heavily dependent on it — state water officials are exploring the possibility of building a canal to deliver water around the Delta. The result is a lot of arguing over the Delta with a relatively small voice coming from the people who actually live there. For all its well-publicized problems, Scheidegger said, there is also a lot right about the region. "We're trying to tell the story as only Delta people can tell it," said Scheidegger, whose family first came to the Delta in the 1890s."We have plenty of water, yes, but it's more than just the water." Scheidegger said the threat of earthquakes to Delta levees — one of the main arguments in favor of delivering water through a canal, which would deprive the Delta of fresh water — is exaggerated. "This boy was standing on that parking lot during Loma Prieta," Scheidegger said, pointing outside his office. "You could see the water sloshing out in the slough," he added, pointing a channel out his window. "Did the Delta levees fall apart? No." The information center will be built near the intersection of state highways 12 and 160, the busiest intersection in the Delta. There will be educational displays on the geography, history and ecosystems of the Delta, a conference room and a place to schedule tours of the region.The idea, though, is not to keep people in the center, but to help make the Delta more accessible to them by helping people find whatever it is in the region that might interest them. "I think it's very, very important for people today to find this place that's so close to them," he said. The plan fits in well with one of the main goals of an independent plan called Delta Vision, which called the Delta, "one of the state's most distinct regions, combining a unique physical geography of islands and river channels with a cultural heritage as enduring as any in California. ... But despite this fact, it is little known or recognized by most Californians, including many of the millions living in the cities just outside the Delta's boundaries." "It's wholly consistent with what we're talking about — to create a sense of value in the Delta," said Delta Vision executive director John Kirlin. "We've got to do a better job of making it understood and valued." Scheidegger said he thinks the center could be built by the end of the year, though the nonprofit foundation is still raising funds. It has received grants from Delta counties and is trying to attract members to raise additional money. For more information, see the Discover the Delta Foundation's Web site at www.discoverthedelta.org.#http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_10365150?nclick_check=1 Rancho Mirage saves green with new greenRancho Mirage joining others in changing landscape to conserveThe Desert Sun – 9/4/08…By Colin Atagi, staff writer RANCHO MIRAGE — City Hall is undergoing a $480,000 landscaping renovation that city officials hope will conserve resources and set an example for other landscape projects. Trees may have been spared, but 90 percent of the 66,000 square feet of land surrounding the building is being replaced by desert landscaping.Once the project is complete, the remaining 6,300 square feet will have synthetic turf. Water usage should decrease by 60 percent, bringing the monthly water bill from $2,000 to $800, Public Works Director Bruce Harry said.“We felt we were a bad example — we had all this grass around City Hall,” he said. Electricity consumption should drop, bringing the $500 monthly bill to $150, Harry said. He said the city's annual $25,000 maintenance cost should go down by 50 percent. Several Coachella Valley cities and agencies are taking action to conserve resources by converting to desert landscaping. Officials at the Palm Springs International Airport are moving forward with plans to install desert landscaping inside its terminal, and Palm Desert has done the same throughout the city. Rancho Mirage's landscaping project was set into motion about a year ago. The project was further focused about two months ago, when the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design announced it was launching a program that will give to appropriately landscaped yards. Certification verifies a project is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live or work, according to the USGBC's Web site.The American Society of Landscape Architects requested members apply to submit their projects as prototypes for the new program. “And now we're trying to get Rancho Mirage City Hall LEED certified under the new program,” said Costa Mesa-based landscape architect David Volz, who is working on the local landscaping project. He submitted an application to the Green Building Council to review the site and is awaiting an answer from the organization.In the meantime, work will continue through mid-November on the Rancho Mirage project. The final landscape design will be a “celebration of the desert,” Volz said, featuring desert plants such as ocotillo, red yucca and trailing rosemary. Rocks and boulders and lighted entry columns also will be a part of the new scheme. “It's a city hall; it should be a good example of sustainability,” he said. “Because it's a public landscape it seemed it should be an example.” MediansCity Hall isn't the only place in the city getting a “green” facelift. Drivers might have noticed empty medians and lane closures outside City Hall as the city updates the Highway 111 median landscapes on the west and east end of the city. The medians previously were under the California Department of Transportation's jurisdiction and contained oleander trees.“(The medians were) overgrown, very difficult to maintain and had high water usage,” Harry said. After the city took over jurisdiction several years ago, a decision was made to rid the area of the poisonous trees. Total work on the medians will cost about $900,000. The cost covers other medians in the immediate area. Sporadic traffic delays might occur through mid-November, city officials said. Palm Desert resident Nancy Rose had grown frustrated over getting stuck in traffic on her way to work in Palm Springs, she said last week.She didn't think delays were worth “digging up the yard,” but she understood why it was happening after learning about the project, she said.“It'll be better for the environment,” she said as she parked across the street from City Hall. “The only downside is (City Hall) is directly on Highway 111, so the construction work is more noticeable and causes problems.”#http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080904/NEWS01/809040313/1026/news12 ------------------------------------------------------------- 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. 9-4-08Meetings9-8-08 Merced County Hearing Officer agenda...8:30 a.m.http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/hearing/2008/Agenda/9_8_2008.pdf 9-10-08 Merced County Planning Commission agenda...9:00 a.m.http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/commissionarchive/2008/agendas/9_10_2008.pdf 9-10-08 MCAG TRB meeting...12:00http://www.mcagov.org/trb.htmlThe TRB meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. Location varies month to month so check the agenda for the meeting location for that month. The meetings are held at 12:00 p.m.