9-5-08Merced Sun-StarPublic NoticePublic Hearing: To Set Aside the CEQA Determination and Project Approval of Conditional Use Permit Application NO. CUP08-002 (Brett Tate) http://www.legalnotice.org/pl/mercedsun-star/ShowNotice.aspxNOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING A Public Hearing will be held by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Merced, State of California, on Tuesday, September 16, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in the Board Room, Third Floor, County Administration Building, 2222 "M" Street, Merced, California to consider the following action: To Set Aside the CEQA Determination and Project Approval of Conditional Use Permit Application NO. CUP08-002 (Brett Tate). On July 1, 2008, the Board of Supervisors approved CUP08-002 to establish a micro-brewery for the purpose of research and development of specialty beer using a 1,800 square foot portion of a 3,600 square foot metal building. The project is located east of Mahony Road, 12 mile south of Riverside Avenue in the Hilmar area. On August 5, 2008, the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center (SJRRC) and Protect Our Water (POW) filed a lawsuit against the County of Merced challenging the July 1, 2008 Board of Supervisors determination that the project qualified for an exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the approval of CUP08-002. Written comments are encouraged and should be sent to the Planning and Community Development Department, 2222 "M" Street, Merced, California 95340, prior to the hearing. If you have any questions on this project or the hearing, please call the Planning and Community Development Department at (209) 385-7654. All interested persons are invited to attend and will be given an opportunity to be heard. Board of Supervisors Office, By Connie Pelletier, Deputy Clerk. Legal September 5, 2008 Cardoza discusses ANWR, coastal drilling...MIKE THARPhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/437456.html"Wow! It's great to be home."A clearly relaxed Dennis Cardoza gave an insider's view of the Beltway power structure, called for "a new direction" in U.S. energy policy and termed the county's foreclosure crisis "the Katrina of California."The Atwater native and longtime Merced resident barely needed a microphone for the 132 audience members from the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce he addressed Thursday. He touched on subjects ranging from his wife's new job teaching medicine to his role as a Blue Dog Democrat on the powerful House Rules Committee."I bring a moderating influence to that," the third-term congressman said of his role on the highly partisan committee. Blue Dog Democrats are fiscally conservative and socially moderate politicians who pride themselves on trying to build nonpartisan bridges to pass bills into law. Cardoza said such Democrats now make up about 20 percent of the Democratic caucus.He's also on the House Leadership Team, which he said provides "an unbelievable window into Washington -- 12 of us that try to decide the policy directions of the House."One of those policies that the former Merced City Council member and state Assembly member focused on in his speech was energy policy. "We need to be independent of foreign oil," he said, and referred to the solar panels he had installed on his house in Atwater.He also has long supported drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which he said would amount to the "equivalent of a postage stamp on a football field."As for drilling offshore the California coast, Cardoza said he was "ambivalent."He drew applause when he maintained that "oil companies should pay royalties to the public for their drilling and should pay for research into alternative energies."Cardoza warned that unless the United States took a new direction in energy policy, "we won't remain an economic superpower."Citing estimates that the national debt would reach $680 billion this fiscal year, Cardoza insisted that Washington couldn't solve the problem "with borrowed money." He used the local foreclosure crisis to show the futility of doing that, declaring that "85 percent of the mortgages that have been made in the last 10 years are 'underwater' in Merced County." ("Underwater" means owing more than the house is worth.)He estimated that 25 percent of the homes in his congressional district would fall into foreclosure -- "In the great Depression, only 24 percent of homes in America went into foreclosure."Such figures, Cardoza noted, compel him to call the county "the Katrina of California."If the county had lost 25 percent of its homes all at once, he added, "we would've sent in the National Guard."The housing bill he and others lobbied for "was the best we could do," Cardoza said, conceding that because of the Bush administration and other senators' opposition, its $3.9 billion for communities affected by the foreclosure crisis is "not going to be enough."The congressman said his wife, Dr. Kathleen McLoughlin, had just accepted a new teaching position at the University of Maryland. Their new home with their three children is 14 miles south of Annapolis, an area he compared to McSwain:"I'll never, ever lose my hometown roots."CommentsMan, this Cardoza is one very large pile of dung. What IS needed, someone, or many someone's, go to his offices, when he is there, and pack his crud up, and PHYSICALLY remove him from it, and the government. Let him know, in no uncertain terms, he doesn't do that job any more, and won't be allowed any further government job for the rest of his life. The world will be better if he works in a restroom cleaning position at some fast food place, NOT within OUR government any longer. :: 09/05/08 7:32am - daveray So the guy that represents us doesn't live here anymore? I think we may need a new politician, our old one seems to have forgotten where he lives. :: 09/05/08 6:48am - unevolved Foreclosure crisis forces Merced to hire extra help...Scott Jason, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/foreclosure_crisis_forces_city_to_hire_extra_helpNeed a job?Merced has so many foreclosures that it's hiring a temporary accountant clerk to oversee residential bills for water, sewer and garbage services.The City Council unanimously approved the position Tuesday because the two full-time employees have been forced to log 80 hours of overtime since June to handle the extra workload.The clerks must change billing records, research title changes and remove and restore service. As of mid-August, Merced has 571 bank-owned homes, 186 set to go to auction and 244 in preforeclosure, a city staff report notes. The two clerks have about 50 requests each week to start or stop service. Each time they have to double-check who owns the home. The salary and benefits will cost the city $30,000 yearly.Jobless rate jumps to 5-year high of 6.1 percent...JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writerhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/109/story/435866.htmlWASHINGTON The nation's unemployment rate zoomed to a five-year high of 6.1 percent in August as employers slashed 84,000 jobs, dramatic proof of the mounting damage a deeply troubled economy is inflicting on workers and businesses alike.The Labor Department's report, released Friday, showed the increasing toll the housing, credit and financial crises are taking on the economy.The report rattled Wall Street again...The jobless rate jumped to 6.1 percent in August, from 5.7 percent in July. And, employers cut payrolls for the eighth month in a row. Job losses in June and July turned out to be much deeper. The economy lost a whopping 100,000 jobs in June and another 60,000 in July, according to revised figures. Previously, the government reported job losses at 51,000 in each of those months.So far this year, job losses totaled 605,000...Wachovia Corp., Ford Motor Co., Tyson Foods Inc. and Alcoa Inc. were among the companies announcing job cuts in August. GMAC Financial Services this week said it would lay off 5,000 workers...Factories cut 61,000 jobs, with housing-related manufacturers and automakers among the hardest hit. Construction firms eliminated 8,000 jobs, retailers axed 20,000 slots, professional and business services slashed 53,000 positions and leisure and hospitality got rid of 4,000. Those losses swamped employment gains in the government, education and health.Job losses at all private employers - not including government - came to 101,000 in August.All told, the number of unemployed rose to 9.4 million in August, compared with 7.1 million a year ago. Economists predict more job losses ahead, pushing the jobless rate to 7 percent by the fall, according to some projections.Workers saw wage gains in August, however.Average hourly earning rose to $18.14 in August, a 0.4 percent increase from July...Prison officers to get vestsAfter the death of a penitentiary employee, union officials call for more safety measures...CORINNE REILLYhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/437419.htmlATWATER -- Correctional officers at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater will have stab-resistant vests within six weeks -- but officers and union officials are warning the vests aren't enough. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which oversees USP Atwater, signed a contract last week to buy stab-resistant vests for all federal correctional officers who want them. The company that sells the vests, Armor Express, began measuring Atwater officers for the custom-fit gear Thursday, with the vests to be delivered within six weeks.Union officials began demanding the vests, among other safety reforms, after USP Atwater correctional officer Jose Rivera was stabbed to death by inmates at the high-security prison in June. The Bureau of Prisons eventually agreed to provide the vests, but disagreed with union officials over exactly which type to buy. The union worried that the bureau would buy cheaper vests that don't protect News that the bureau had signed a contract and begun fitting officers for vests emerged Thursday during a public meeting at Atwater City Hall, where Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, met with community members to discuss ongoing safety concerns at the prison."I'm told that officers at USP Atwater are being fitted for the vests today," said Cardoza, who introduced legislation after Rivera's death that would make stab-resistant vests mandatory for all federal correctional officers. "But it's taken a long time, and it should have happened without congressional intervention."After the meeting, union officials and USP Atwater officers said the vests on order aren't adequate because they protect against only certain types of sharp weapons."They're not the ones we were looking for," said Bryan Lowry, president of the Council of Prison Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees. "The agency made the decision to buy these vests while we were still negotiating, and they're not the quality we wanted. That said, they do provide some protection, and it's much better than what we had before, which was nothing."...Also at the community meeting Thursday, Cardoza said he has had "generalized discussions" with members of the House Judiciary Committee asking for more funding to increase staffing at USP Atwater and across the federal prison system. Cardoza also criticized the Bureau of Prisons for a policy that rewards top administrators with bonuses for cutting costs.State officials restart water transfers to help growers...E.J. SCHULTZ, The Fresno Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/437423.htmlSACRAMENTO -- With California mired in a drought, state water officials on Thursday said they would restart a water transfer program not used since the early 1990s.The Department of Water Resources will act as a broker to help growers and cities in the Valley and Southern California buy water from willing sellers upstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, such as rice farmers.For Valley farmers, the "drought water bank" will not take effect until next year's growing season begins in earnest -- and even then is likely to be used as a worst-case safety net should the state not emerge from the two-year drought...Statewide precipitation in the last two years has dropped to 70 percent of average, leaving many state reservoirs less than half full.Preliminary forecasts for the new water year, which begins Oct. 1, suggest the pattern might continue, though water officials cautioned that could change.Thursday's action only covers agencies that get water from the delta, delivered though canals using state and federal pumps. Most east Valley growers and cities get water elsewhere.One of the biggest delta water users is the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District on the Valley's west side. The dry conditions have led some growers in the district to abandon crops.The district will consider using the drought bank program, said spokeswoman Sarah Woolf. Video: Fox captured after sneaking into first-grade classroom...Brandon Bowershttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/436451.htmlStudents at St. Luke's Episcopal School had an unexpected visitor on Thursday. A gray fox was found in a first-grade classroom at the West Yosemite Avenue campus.The fox scampered into the classroom while the students were at recess and helped itself to a bag lunch and a cupcake.It was eventually captured by Mike Enos of USDA Wildlife Services, but not before leaving droppings in a corner of the classroom. "He'll probably get relocated," Enos said. "In urban areas right now, there are foxes and all species of wildlife. We've moved into a lot of wildlife territory and there are quite a few populations at peaks. There are just a lot of human confrontations right now with wildlife."Fox captured at school (video)...Victor Patton, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/fox_captured_at_school_videoA few weeks ago, I blogged about a fox that I saw while jogging at Merced College.Thursday morning, a fox was found in a classroom at St. Luke's Episcopal School in Merced -- right across the street from Merced College. This fox looks like the same one I saw at Merced College -- but I guess there's no way to confirm whether it is...Letter: More houses?...DAVE CRAWFORD, Mercedhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/180/story/437452.htmlEditor: What are they thinking? What is the foreclosure rate in Merced County? And the supervisors want to build more houses, who will be buying these new homes? They can't sell the houses that they have now, and have you checked the values of the existing homes? A report says Merced County has a 35 percent decline in home values. It will be 10 years before our values get back to where they should be. The city was smart to reject a new housing development.Letter: Supports Wal-Mart...CECILIA ADAME, Planadahttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/177/story/437434.htmlEditor: With Merced facing the crisis of hovering near the top of national foreclosures, and unemployment its time to take advantage of an opportunity that can greatly help the residents of Merced.I am talking about the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center and the 900 full-time jobs that will be created. The employment alone is reason enough to give the idea consideration.Lets face it, the center will go up, maybe not in Merced. Why not let the people of Merced and surrounding areas benefit?More jobs simply means fewer foreclosures, more tax revenue and a boost for the local businesses that in return produce jobs and incomeLoose Lips: Times focuses again on Merced areahttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/437432.htmlSnelling is known as Merced County's only Gold Rush town and the former county seat, but who knew it was also Camelot?Turns out The New York Times did. Readers, the Gray Lady's obsession with Merced County continues. This time it highlighted one of the few homes not in foreclosure.Just two weeks ago, the Times sent a reporter and a photographer to Merced to sift through the ashes of the city housing market's crash-and-burn. The story took the city leaders and developers to task for not thinking the bubble would ever burst. But now for the Good News. Sunday's National Report showcased Casper Noz's turreted brick castle in a full-color spread.For the past 20 years, the Denair resident has been mixing mortar and laying about 40,000 bricks, building his own fortress in Snelling. On occasion, we learned, he'll even shoot a flaming arrow into a fire pit. Kasteel Noz, as it's called, is even surrounded by a moat! Despite starting the project in 1988, he's only half-way done. Lips applauds his approach to slow growth... Brick by Brick, a Weekend Warrior Builds a Medieval Retirement Home...Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times...8-30-08 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/us/31castle.html?scp=2&sq=snelling%20ca&st=cseSNELLING, Calif. — Most days, the talk here among the farmers and almond growers along this stretch of two-lane blacktop 18 miles from the nearest on-ramp concerns heat units — as hot summer days are known — and the hull split that signals the approach of almond harvest season.But there is also the Kasteel Noz, the turreted brick castle with two towers and a moat that Casper Noz, a 51-year-old contractor who was born in the Netherlands, has been obsessively building by himself almost completely by hand on weekends for the past 20 years.“They think it’s odd, but everyone just accepts it now,” Dan Mallory, who runs the nearby Roberts Ferry Nut Company, said of the ultimate do-it-yourself project in his midst, from which a turret-silhouetted view of Half Dome in Yosemite can sometimes be gleaned through the Central Valley haze. “Casper is very meticulous.”Mr. Noz, a father of three, has been known to throw an occasional flaming arrow from the top of the castle into a fire pit as a celebratory gesture during birthday parties. An independent contractor, he specializes in agricultural buildings, including fumigation rooms for almonds and walnuts, as well as modest home additions and remodeling — for which there is still a demand, he said, despite the foreclosure crisis set off by what he calls “the ‘have-it-today’ mentality.”It is one thing to have a castle built; it is quite another to build a castle. ...Mr. Noz has worked on his castle — designed strictly from his childhood memory — every weekend since 1988, mixing his own mortar in a wheelbarrow, forging the iron bolts, latches and other hardware, making the oak doors and fir spiral staircases and laying the bricks, about 40,000 and counting, by hand (he occasionally uses a forklift). Including slate for the roofs, imported from China, and the odd gargoyle, Mr. Noz estimates he has spent $150,000 so far, and 500 hours a year...Modesto BeeCalif. trying to prepare for another dry winter...last updated: September 04, 2008 05:08:30 PMhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/418434.htmlCalifornia is taking initial steps to prepare for another dry winter by trying to ensure that farmers and cities will have adequate water supplies in 2009.Most reservoirs in the state have less water than usual, and some are near record lows.Forecasters say it's too soon to tell whether the state will continue to have below-average precipitation.If it does, the California Department of Water Resources plans to buy water from rice farmers and water agencies in the Sacramento Valley. It then will sell the water to cities and growers in the drier southern half of the state.The department is requiring buyers to cut their normal use by 20 percent as a condition of participating in the so-called water bank.State officials held a news conference Thursday to announce the initiative. They say they have many interested buyers so far but few sellers.The state Department of Food and Agriculture says this year's drought has led to more than $260 million in agricultural losses.State officials unveil 'drought water bank'...MATT WEISER, THE SACRAMENTO BEEhttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/419358.htmlSACRAMENTO — Hedging against the risk of a third dry year in 2009, state officials Thursday unveiled a "drought water bank" to help thirsty cities and farms cope.The water bank, managed by the Department of Water Resources, will be prepared to move as much as 600,000 acre-feet of water from willing sellers in the north to thirsty buyers in the south.That's enough to serve more than 1.2 million homes for a year — if used carefully.DWR officials cautioned that the outlook for the coming winter isn't uplifting. Although still early for such predictions, long-range forecasts based on computer modeling hold no hint of a break from the drought.Even an average winter will not refill the state's depleted reservoirs to normal levels.Lake Oroville, California's second-largest reservoir, is at just 32 percent capacity. That is its lowest point since the drought in 1977, a record that may be broken as the lake level continues dropping daily."We would be negligent if we didn't prepare for the worst," said DWR Director Lester Snow.The water bank is the first established by the state since the last major drought in 1991.The bank will comply with state and federal environmental laws, said Snow. It will be governed by an environmental impact study already in place for an existing state-federal water transfer program.Typically, water will be sold by farmers who can create a surplus, whether by idling crops or using groundwater instead of surface water. Prices will be established by the open market, but the DWR will collect a charge for the cost of pumping the water to its destination.The agency will rank buyers according to need. Cities with water-related health and safety problems will get first dibs, with farm crops a lower priority. To qualify, urban buyers must have a conservation program adopted to cut normal water use by 20 percent...As Snow put it, "We don't want farmers selling water so people can hose off their sidewalks."The program, however, depends on the ability to pump water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where the DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operate diversion pumps and canals...On the Net: www.water.ca.gov/drought.Study: Rate of decline in house prices slows...last updated: September 04, 2008 01:36:17 PMhttp://www.modbee.com/reports/realestate/story/418404.htmlPrices of single-family homes fell in the second quarter, but at a slower rate than in the previous three-month period, an economic analysis company said Thursday.The median price of a U.S. home slipped at an annual rate of 5.3 percent in the second quarter, compared with a 6.6 percent decline in the first quarter of this year, according to the House Prices in America study by Global Insight Inc.The most severe declines were in California, Florida and Michigan, representing 43 of the 50 worst performing metropolitan areas. Other cities in the bottom 50 include Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington, D.C....Weak demand, rising foreclosures and fewer sales of high-priced homes have hurt prices in the sagging housing market. But the slowdown in price declines and the amount of extremely overvalued markets are signs that the housing "bubble" has burst, the company said in a news release.Still, real estate markets are not ready to recover, and there remains a glut of unsold homes on the market - a situation made worse by foreclosures, the company said..."Although the markets that were extremely overvalued two years ago are seeing expected price declines, other areas are seeing price declines due to weak economic conditions," said Jeannine Cataldi, senior economist and manager of Global Insight's Regional Real Estate Service "The market has a lot of inventory to work through before prices will change course."Buying a house may be dorm alternative...AMY HOAK, MARKETWATCHhttp://www.modbee.com/business/story/418955.htmlCHICAGO -- Rising college costs are causing some parents to consider an alternate housing plan for their students: They're bypassing the dorm and off-campus apartments in favor of purchasing a condo or single-family home. In some cases, it might be not a bad idea."More and more people are thinking about getting a kid into a property because tuition is so high," and room and board also continues to creep up, said Rose Price, a real estate agent who works in Champaign, Ill., where the University of Illinois is based.Room and board averaged $7,404 for public, four-year universities and colleges in 2007-2008, up 5.3 percent over the last school year, according to the College Board. For private schools, room and board averaged $8,595, up 5.0 percent from the previous school year.Purchasing a single-family home instead of a condo lets parents have a place where their child can live and other rooms can be rented out, Price said. In her market, they're buying homes that can range between $60,000 and $200,000, she added.Another reason parents might be interested in these college towns is that often -- unlike much of the country -- they're "recession-proof," said Brent Lipschultz, a personal wealth manager with New York-based Eisner LLP. A college town produces a certain amount of housing demand no matter what the economy is like, keeping the market healthy, he said.Parents should consider the following:Buying is not a bargain everywhere -- Consider the market conditions, and figure in all the costs before deciding whether to buy or rent. Sometimes, college markets are affordable to buy in because there is heavy competition for rentals, which drives rents up, said Marty Frame, general manager for Cyberhomes.But in other markets, renting is still more affordable.Also, consider the overall health of the real estate market before making a purchase. In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, rents continue to be low for apartments and homes. The region's depressed housing market has forced some investors to turn their properties into rentals rather than trying to sell them for a profit. Valley home prices are still falling but sales have picked up recently...EPA limits lawnmower emissions to stem pollution...ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/418435.htmlGasoline-powered lawnmowers that are a big cause of summertime air pollution will have to be dramatically cleaner under rules issued Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.The long-awaited regulation requires a 35 percent reduction in emissions from new lawn and garden equipment beginning in 2011. Big emission reductions are also required for speedboats and other recreational watercraft, beginning in 2010.The reductions will be the equivalent of removing one out of every five cars and trucks on the road, according to Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.EPA said approximately 190 million gallons of gasoline will be saved each year when the rules take effect, and more than 300 premature deaths prevented annually.Kern County must pay attorneys in sludge fight...The Bakersfield Californian, http://www.bakersfield.comhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/418610.htmlKern County must pay $1 million to Southern California attorneys who successfully sued to overturn the county's voter-approved ban on the spreading of treated human waste on farm fields.U.S. District Count Judge Gary Feess of Los Angeles says the county owes the money to the lawyers for private haulers who teamed with Los Angeles and Orange counties to sue after the measure passed in 2006.In 2007, Feess ruled against Kern County's ban, saying it conflicted with state laws aimed at reducing waste in landfills. The county is appealing that decision.Los Angeles pays haulers to truck treated sewage waste to use as fertilizer on a 4,200-acre farm it owns. Kern residents worry about groundwater pollution and harm to the farming community's economy.At one time, pigs and squirrels roamed streets of Modesto...COLLEEN STANLEY BARE, Community Columnisthttp://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/419247.htmlEarly Modestans lived amid assorted wildlife, both kinds.Not only was the town permeated with the "wild life" being pursued by the shady characters of the period, but there was an abundance of nonhuman wildlife also present.The Central Valley was teeming with huge numbers of species of birds and wild mammals. In fact, if someone ventured into a local field at the wrong time, he or she could have been trampled by a herd of elk or pronghorn antelope.Many local historians listed the fauna found in the area. One of the first was L.C. Branch, in his 1881 "History of Stanislaus County." His list began with the grizzly bear, which was present "in great numbers," and included great "bands of elk" plus gray wolves, bobcats, kangaroo rats and San Joaquin kit foxes; the entire valley was "thick with coyotes."George Tinkham, in his "Stanislaus History," wrote that "thousands of wild horses" roamed the plains, and "immense herds of deer, elk and antelope were seen upon the high land and the river-bottom lands."Sol Elias mentioned abundant owls and "squirrels on the ground in every direction" in his book, "Stories of Stanislaus."A comprehensive listing was given by Bee reporter Thorne Gray in his book "Stanislaus Indian Wars." He wrote that "before railroads and roads, canals and dams, power lines and telephone lines, before land leveling and drainage -- before plows, pumps and agriculture," the valley swarmed with wildlife. His inventory had all of the above plus hawks, egrets, eagles, herons, cranes, vultures and condors. He added minks, weasels, raccoons, fox, beaver, badgers, skunks, rabbits and mountain lions -- noting that the rivers were literally "crowded with salmon."...Fresno BeeWater transfer to be tapped...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureauhttp://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/845465.htmlSACRAMENTO -- With California mired in a drought, state water officials Thursday said they would restart a water transfer program not used since the early 1990s. The Department of Water Resources will act as a broker to help growers and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California buy water from willing sellers upstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, such as rice farmers...Water officials said prices would be set by the private market, but estimated a range of $50 to $125 per acre-foot. Westlands now pays about $100 an acre-foot for water from the federally run Central Valley Project, Woolf said. The state would handle compliance with environmental laws. Some water agencies have already negotiated private deals. Any new deals must now be negotiated through the state-administered program, officials said. Priority will be given to agencies that have strong conservation programs. Deals also will be approved based on need. Water for health and emergency uses will take precedence. For farmers, water for high-value permanent crops, such as orchids, will be favored over water for field crops.The state last used the drought bank in 1991-92, the last couple of years of the last major drought, which began in 1987. This year, growers are dealing with drought and pumping cutbacks ordered by judges to protect threatened fish in the delta. Snow, the water department chief, said the restrictions will complicate water-bank deliveries, but he is confident water can still be moved.Plan for Clovis village represents future of urban planning...Sanford Naxhttp://www.fresnobee.com/business/v-printerfriendly/story/845441.htmlLoma Vista, a long-anticipated urban village in Clovis that would feature an old-fashioned village green, a network of trails and a "downtown" main street of offices or houses on top of or adjacent to stores and restaurants, represents the next frontier of urban planning. The latest version of the innovative community -- now being distributed to agencies for review -- can be seen on the city's Web site, and could reach the Clovis City Council by year's end.It presents a blueprint for two village centers totaling 272 acres that are part of the larger Loma Vista community that would eventually stretch more than 3,000 acres from Locan Avenue on the west to McCall Avenue on the east to portions of Bullard and Shaw avenues to the north and to the Gould Canal to the south."This is a pretty big departure from what we've done in the past," said Dwight Kroll, city planner.Loma Vista will consist of four master-planned communities designed around focal points such as schools, village greens and other features. It could house 29,000 people in 20 years, and is designed to be a compact, thriving, pedestrian-friendly urban village where residents live, work and play.Parks, benches, community centers and a network of trails that stretches for 21 miles will be dominant features of the urban village. By hooking up with other trails, a family could someday pedal their bikes from Dakota Avenue to Old Town or beyond.Loma Vista isn't the only large-scale mixed-use project proposed in the Fresno-Clovis area. Developers Ed Kashian and Tom Richards are planning Fancher Creek in southeast Fresno, which contain 1,800 homes and apartments, 1.2 million square feet of shops and restaurants and 1.5 million square feet of businesses. In addition, Forest City Enterprises wants to build an ambitious housing project near Fresno's downtown baseball stadium... Kroll said the ambitious project is the city's first venture into "Landscape of Choice," a planning guide that Valley builders, farmers and planners developed in 1998. It calls for higher-density housing and other aspects of smart growth, which is designed to preserve farmland and cut sprawl and car trips...The densities would be among the highest in Clovis and are intended to reduce pressure on farmland. Up to 4,117 residential units can be accommodated on the 272 acres. If built at typical low density, the same number of houses would consume 1,250 acres, Kroll said. That saves about 978 acres of farmland from urban uses.The acreage is mostly commercial agriculture and hobby farms, and the new plan allows for continued farming for as long as the property owner wishes. The area is owned by farmers and small hobby farmers who have agreed in concept to the Loma Vista plan...Sacramento BeeHome Front: Analyst sees a leveling in Sacramento County mortgage defaults...Jim Wassermanhttp://www.sacbee.com/103/v-print/story/1211937.htmlForeclosures are still rising in the region, meaning the supply of bank-repossessed homes will grow for at least another year. But are the number of defaults finally beginning to level off?Yes, says Alexis McGee, president of Foreclosures.com, a Fair Oaks Web site for real estate investors.McGee's numbers from Sacramento County show that defaults peaked in April and flattened out in May, June and July. Defaults are formal notices sent by banks when borrowers miss two or three consecutive payments."It looks very stable on the pre-foreclosure front to me," she said. "It does not look like things are getting worse."If so, that's an indicator of some stabilization in this battered real estate market.But it's not a certainty. Even McGee hedges a bit, given the tricks that short-term numbers can play.McGee is author of books on foreclosure investing, including "The Foreclosures.com Guide to Advanced Investing Techniques You Won't Learn Anywhere Else."So where are we in this region's foreclosure cycle?Here's what's happening. Even though builders have pulled back tremendously we've offset that reduction with a flood of foreclosures. That's causing a glut that you can't slow down. We see stabilization in defaults, but it won't slow down the supply of bank-owned homes for a long time.I still see an increase in foreclosures hitting the inventory over the next six to 12 months. As long as builders continue to pull back, that really helps. Banks seem like they're getting more aggressive in their pricing. That seems to help, too. Homes priced below $250,000 are moving very fast.You said in your blog that you haven't seen such a time for investors in 22 years...People talk about a 2010 wave of defaults on loans that were a little better than subprime. Do you think banks will modify more of those loans?...It's time to changeHome builders who survive this downturn will find their old assumptions dashed when this market turns around, says John Schleimer, a Roseville consultant to the home building industry.Schleimer recently suggested that builders prepare for three permanent changes as they ponder 2010 and later.• Expensive gasoline...Out: Big dream houses 45 to 60 minutes from jobs.• Housing diversity...Out: Endless replication of the two-story five-bedroom, four-bath detached home on a suburban lot.• Green...Out: Just doing Energy Star appliances and windows, and "slapping a couple solar panels on the roof."Home loan troubles break records again...ALAN ZIBELhttp://www.sacbee.com/840/v-print/story/1212972.htmlMore than 4 million American homeowners with a mortgage, a record 9 percent, were either behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of June, as damage from the housing crisis worsened, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Friday.But the source of trouble in the mortgage market has shifted from subprime loans made to borrowers with poor credit to homeowners who had solid credit but took out exotic loans with ballooning monthly payments."The problem that policymakers and Wall Street once assured us was 'contained' to subprime mortgages has proven to be anything but," Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with Weiss Research, said in a research note.The trouble is concentrated in a handful of states, the worst being California and Florida, which had some of the riskiest lending practices and rampant speculation."We are unlikely to see a national turnaround until we see a turnaround in the two largest states," with the most outstanding home loans, said Jay Brinkmann, the association's chief economist.The latest quarterly figures broke records for late payments, homes entering the foreclosure process and for the inventory of loans in foreclosure. The trade group's records go back to 1979...New foreclosures rose dramatically in eight states: Nevada, Florida, California, Arizona, Michigan, Rhode Island, Indiana and Ohio, but actually declined in Texas, Massachusetts and Maryland...What's driving the delinquency rate up now is the number of homeowners with risky, adjustable-rate prime loans made with little or no proof of the borrowers' income or assets.More than one out of 10 borrowers with a prime adjustable-rate loan is now delinquent or in foreclosure. That portion, 11.3 percent, was up from 9.7 percent in the first quarter and is expected to continue to rise as more homeowners see their monthly payments spike.Many of these loans allowed the borrower to pay only the interest on the loan for a fixed period. Others gave the borrower the option to "pick-a-payment," adding any unpaid interest to the principal balance.Defaults on these mortgages, which earned the nickname "liar loans," are costing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac billions of dollars. The Treasury Department has even pledged to bailout the mortgage finance companies if necessary.With home prices plummeting, particularly in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, many borrowers with these exotic loans now owe more on their home than it is worth.Worse still, these loans reset to higher monthly payments when borrowers reach maximum debt limits - typically around 10 to 25 percent more than the original loan balance.Those resets can increase the borrower's monthly payment by more than $1,000 a month on average, Fitch Ratings said in a report this week.And nearly half of these pay-option loans are expected to reset to higher monthly payments by the end of 2010, Fitch said...Stockton RecordNew flood map designations delayed...Zachary K. Johnsonhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080905/A_NEWS/809050314/-1/A_NEWSSTOCKTON - Property owners waiting for the day new federal maps determine who lives in a high-risk flood zone - and therefore must purchase flood insurance - will have six more months to wait.The Federal Emergency Management Agency has delayed the effective date of preliminary flood-insurance maps from April to October 2009, according to the San Joaquin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.Since the preliminary maps for the county were released in January, an ongoing review and correction process has been under way, and updated maps were released in May. Also, flood-management officials have been working to improve levees to withstand a so-called 100-year flood.The postponement will extend the time available for this process.More flood informationTo learn more about the federal flood insurance program, go to floodsmart.gov.Preliminary floodplain maps are available at www.sjgov.org/pubworks. To get information about a specific address, call one of these numbers:• San Joaquin County: (209) 468-3605• Stockton: (209) 937-5089• Manteca: (209) 239-8460• Lathrop: (209) 941-7430• Lodi: (209) 333-6801New Melones area to be closed...The Recordhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080905/A_NEWS/80904019/-1/A_NEWS14VALLECITO - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is warning boaters and anglers that the Camp Nine area on the eastern end of New Melones Reservoir will be closed starting Monday for demolition of the Old Camp Nine bridge.The bridge spans the Stanislaus River where the river ends at the upper end of the reservoir. The old bridge has been closed to vehicle traffic since the mid-1980s, when a new, higher span was built.Officials originally believed when the reservoir began filling in 1979 that the old bridge would remain submerged most of the time. But water levels in the reservoir have occasionally been lower than expected, and the bridge has often been exposed. That has proved to be a hazard to boaters and to curious folk tempted to climb on its crumbling remains.The demolition work is expected to continue through OctoberSan Francisco ChronicleState gets serious about deepening drought...Kelly Zitohttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/05/BAJT12OAMA.DTL&hw=san+joaquin+delta&sn=001&sc=454Anticipating another bone-dry winter, California is preparing to act as a water go-between next year, buying from water-rich districts in the north and selling to cities and farmers hit hard by drought.The initiative, known as the 2009 Drought Water Bank, harkens back to measures taken during the long dry spell of the late 1980s and early 1990s and underscores the state's efforts to squeeze every drop out of a system strained by climate change, a booming population and environmental rulings that have slashed pumping out of the linchpin Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.On Thursday, the state Department of Water Resources announced the formation of the water bank during a "drought summit" in Sacramento attended by urban, agricultural and other groups that represent a total of about 25 million people, or a majority of California's water users. Faced with forecasts showing a period that could resemble either the short, deep drought in the late 1970s or longer drought of the late 1980s, officials said they must plan for the worst. Already, many of California's reservoirs stand at record-low levels - some as low as 13 percent of capacity - after two critically dry years."There are a number of scenarios where we don't regain snowpack and because the reservoirs are low, we're in a lot of trouble - and that's what we're down to," said Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow.Because of the uncertainty surrounding the winter rainfall, many of the details surrounding how the water bank will work - including when the transfers would take place, how much buyers may pay for water and which districts are willing to sell - remain unclear. However, most observers agree that water prices are rising quickly. At Thursday's announcement, one official said a rice farmer may be able to sell his water for as much as $200 per acre-foot - up from $50 per acre foot not long ago (1 acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons and enough to cover 1 acre of land in 1 foot of water)...Despite its name, the water bank is not a giant storage tank or reservoir. Rather, the system works more like a large-scale water reallocation program. The Department of Water Resources would purchase water from those with full reservoirs, those who can draw on wells, or farmers who may leave their grounds fallow or who switch to less thirsty crops. Generally, those supplies would come from Northern California, where water is more plentiful...Farmers on both the buying and selling sides will be watching the workings of the water bank quite closely. None more closely than rice growers, though, who have enjoyed high prices for their crops, but increased scrutiny due to their large water demandsA look at the drought-- For the Northern Sierra, this spring and summer were the driest on record since 1921. In addition, 2007 and 2008 made up the ninth driest two-year period in 88 years of record keeping for the Northern Sierra.-- Statewide precipitation for February through July 2008 was 45 percent of average, making it the fourth driest of 114 years on record.-- State reservoirs are at severe lows, with Folsom at 31%, Shasta at 34% and San Luis at 13%.-- The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports the result of the drought is a $260 million loss to the state's agricultural industry this year.Source: Department of Water Resources Cal gets go-ahead for sports training center...Carolyn Joneshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/05/BAUC12OHF4.DTLBERKELEY -- A state appeals court refused Thursday to block UC Berkeley's plans to build a sports training center next to Memorial Stadium, denying a request from oak tree advocates and a neighborhood group for a new order stopping the project.The court's action came after an Alameda County judge last week lifted her order preventing the university from beginning construction in a grove of trees occupied by protesters opposed to the campus' plans for the $124 million center."As far as we're concerned, we're clear to begin construction," said campus spokesman Dan Mogulof, who added that he did not know when the university will act. "The state Court of Appeal ruled quickly and decisively on this, and for us that's extremely significant."...Stephan Volker, an attorney who represents the tree advocates said he will ask the California Supreme Court today to issue a new order blocking the project.The city of Berkeley, the Panoramic Hill Association and a group of oak advocates filed suit in December 2006 to stop the university from building the project because of its proximity to the Hayward Fault and the planned removal of several dozen oaks, redwoods and other trees.While the three-judge appeals panel declined Thursday to issue an order blocking construction, the court said it would hear the plaintiffs' appeal of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller's ruling in favor of the university.Miller ruled that the project complied with state earthquake and safety laws, following the university's offer to limit nonfootball events at the stadium and remove a grade beam that would have supported the stadium's west wall during construction of the sports training center...Suit targets Chevron's Richmond refinery plan...Carolyn Joneshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/05/BAUC12OC8K.DTLEnvironmental groups filed suit Thursday to derail Chevron's plan to upgrade and expand its Richmond refinery to process lower-grade crude oil.Communities for a Better Environment and three other groups, in a lawsuit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, asked a judge to overturn the city of Richmond's environmental impact report on the refinery project, saying it inadequately considered the likely increases in pollution...The Richmond City Council narrowly approved Chevron's plans on July 17 after weeks of protests and testimony from community groups and labor unions. The plan allows Chevron to install new equipment to process 1,000 more barrels of gasoline a day, using crude oil that has 3 percent more sulfur than the oil it currently handles.Environmental groups say the change will increase toxic emissions by 5 to 50 times higher than current levels, posing serious health risks to workers and neighbors. Refinery officials say the new equipment is cleaner and more modern than existing refinery facilities, and will decrease overall emissions at the century-old refinery...Contra Costa TimesDrought conditions lead to creation of water bank…Mike Taugherhttp://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_10384770?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.comSACRAMENTO — Fearing next year could bring a worsening drought, state water officials on Thursday said they would create the first drought water bank in California since the early 1990s...Following two dry years, key reservoirs such as Shasta Reservoir and Lake Oroville are at only about half their normal levels for this time of year. Lake Oroville is projected to hit its lowest level since 1977 by the end of the month.The lake levels are so low that even a normal winter might not refill them. And a wet winter will not necessarily end the drought in parts of the state because new restrictions on Delta water pumping will make it more difficult to send water from Northern California to reservoirs and groundwater basins in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.One of the most hard-hit water districts in the state this year, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is unlikely to buy water from the bank next year because its north Delta water intake will not be completed.But the Contra Costa Water District probably will buy water from the bank, said assistant general manager Greg Gartrell...In addition to creating the drought water bank, state water officials plan to promote more statewide water conservation, provide financial help for drought programs and other measures...Also, water officials warned that there was only about a 50 percent chance the drought water bank purchases could be delivered through the Delta next year because of pumping limitations. Water users that buy water but cannot take delivery would be allowed to store the purchased water in Northern California reservoirs for delivery in later years but they also run the risk that water would be spilled, or essentially erased from the books if the reservoirs fill up.Feds warn climate change could harm giant sequoias...GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.contracostatimes.com/environment/ci_10388374VISALIA, Calif.—Federal researchers are warning that warming temperatures could soon cause California's giant sequoia trees to die off more quickly unless forest managers plan with an eye toward climate change and the impact of a longer, harsher wildfire season. Hot, dry weather over the last two decades already has contributed to the deaths of an unusual number of old-growth pine and fir trees growing in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, according to recent research from the U.S. Geological Survey. In the next decade, climate change also could start interfering with the giant sequoias' ability to sprout new seedlings, said Nathan Stephenson, one of several scientists speaking Thursday at a government agency symposium on how global warming could affect the Sierra Nevada. "The first effects of climate change that we're likely to see is that the giant sequoias will have trouble reproducing because their root systems don't work as well when temperatures warm," said Stephenson, a research ecologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. "After that, I wouldn't be surprised if in 30 years we see their death rates go up." Sequoiadendron giganteum, an inland cousin to the tall California coast redwood, can become 2,900 years old and bulk up to more than 36 feet in diameter, making them among the world's most massive living things. Stephenson was among a team of tree demographers who monitored the health of pines and firs growing in the two southern Sierra Nevada parks from 1982 to 2004. As both temperatures and summer droughts increased over that period, he found the trees' normal death rate more than doubled, and stands became more vulnerable to attacks from insects or fungus... Native flora and fauna throughout the 400-mile-long Sierra Nevada mountain range are already under stress from a warming climate, and federal land managers have started monitoring wildlands to understand how they're transforming... Los Angeles TimesCalifornia revives program to buy water from farmersThe state's reserves are low after two dry years. The water bank program will shift resources from the Sacramento Valley to needy Southern California agencies...Nancy Vogelhttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-water5-2008sep05,0,4460206,print.storySACRAMENTO -- — Saying California's water reserves are all but gone, state officials on Thursday announced the revival of a dormant 17-year-old program to buy water from Sacramento Valley farmers and sell it to the thirstiest Southern California agencies in case this winter brings a third year of skimpy precipitation...The bounty of the state's biggest reservoirs, which supplied the state through the last two dry years with Sierra and Cascade mountain snowmelt, is disappearing. Major reservoirs, including Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, are now at half of what is typical for this time of year...The state last used a water bank in 1991 and '92, the final critically dry years in a six-year drought. The state served as broker and deliveryman. The Department of Water Resources found volunteer farmers who either skipped growing crops, switched to less thirsty crops or pumped groundwater instead of diverting river water. The state then purchased the freed-up water for prices ranging from $30 to $125 an acre-foot (roughly enough water to supply the annual needs of two households).Most sellers were farmers within districts that hold generous, century-old water rights on the Sacramento, Yuba and Feather rivers. Most buyers were urban water districts in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas and irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley. The biggest buyer in 1991 was the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which wholesales water from Ventura to San Diego counties.Metropolitan expects to tap the bank again if next year is dry, said general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger...But there may not be so many willing sellers in the coming year. Farm commodity prices are high, giving farmers more incentive to grow crops, especially rice. And several Northern California counties passed ordinances to restrict groundwater pumping after the experience of the last water bank, when excessive pumping drew down aquifers and forced the neighbors of some water sellers to dig deeper wells.No water district sold more water to the state water bank in 1991 than Western Canal Water District, which serves rice farmers in Butte and Glenn counties. But general manager Ted Trimble said things are different now.He noted that in February his district had arranged to sell water at $200 an acre-foot to Southern California water districts in a sale separate from the state water bank. But when the price of rice more than doubled in March, Trimble said, almost half of the growers who were going to forgo planting some acres changed their minds...U.S. home foreclosures hit record level, due in part to California woesA sharp drop in prices along with the resetting of ARM loans in California and Florida are cited. The two states accounted for 39% of all foreclosures started in the country, an analyst says...E. Scott Reckardhttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mortgage6-2008sep06,0,4162319,print.storyThe percentage of home loans entering foreclosure nationwide rose to a record level in the second quarter of this year, driven by the one-two punch of sharp home price declines and resetting adjustable-rate loans in California and Florida, the Mortgage Bankers Assn. said today."The worst states are continuing to get much worse," Jay Brinkmann, the MBA's chief economist, said during a conference call discussing the trade group's second-quarter report on mortgage delinquencies.With a combined 18% of the population, "California and Florida accounted for 39% of all the foreclosures started in the country," Brinkmann said.The national average for foreclosure starts -- the time a lender turns a delinquent loan over to lawyers -- was 1.09% during the quarter, up from 0.99% in the first quarter and 0.65% in the second quarter of 2007, the association said.The latest figure was 1.82% in California, which has 12% of the nation's population, and 2.21% in Florida, which has another 6% of the population.Another way to look at the problem: Only eight states were above the national average in foreclosure starts. The others were Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Rhode Island, Indiana and Ohio.Nationally, the percentage of loans at some stage in the foreclosure process rose to 2.75% from 2.47% in the first quarter -- nearly doubling from 1.4% a year earlier. In California, number was 3.86% and Florida was at an even 6%.The figures are the highest since the MBA began publishing its survey 29 years ago, Brinkmann said...Oil shale plans unveiledColorado, Wyoming officials are wary of experimental drilling methods...From the Associated Presshttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-na-oilshale5-2008sep05,0,2136556,print.storyDENVER — Federal officials are releasing a final plan for opening nearly 2 million acres of public land in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado to commercial oil shale development.The Bureau of Land Management finalized the plan on Thursday, a month later than planned to give the public more time to comment. The agency planned to post the document online Friday.The potential of the region's vast oil shale reserves is getting close attention as the debate over increasing domestic energy production heats up...The BLM said it clarified parts of the final programmatic environmental impact statement based on more than 105,000 comments from the public, but didn't make significant changes.A programmatic analysis takes a broader scope than a typical review. BLM officials have said more in-depth analyses will be done as specific projects are proposed...The BLM said in its draft plan and regulations that it doesn't know what kind of technology will be used, the potential environmental effects or the economic of oil shale development, said Chase Huntley, an energy policy adviser with The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C....CNN MoneyU.S. highway fund crushed by cutback in drivingAs drivers cut back on gas, The Department of Transportation says its Highway Trust Fund will be depleted and needs an $8 billion emergency infusion...Tami Luhbyhttp://money.cnn.com/2008/09/05/news/economy/highway_trust_fund/index.htm?postversion=2008090515NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- An unprecedented decline in driving will deplete the federal Highway Trust Fund by the end of September and prompted the Bush administration on Friday to ask Congress for an $8 billion emergency infusion.Gasoline sales are crucial to maintaining the nation's highway infrastructure. About 90% of the fund's total revenues comes from taxes on motor fuels, according to a July report from the Congressional Budget Office.Without the additional money, the Department of Transportation will not be able to fully reimburse states for their highway investments. Officials are projecting that in September the department will collect $4.4 billion in funding requests but collect only $2.7 billion in revenues.If Congress doesn't act, the department will start reimbursing states on a pro-rated basis as soon as next week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said."We can't write checks if we don't have money in the account," Peters said.Chaos for statesPartial reimbursements would throw state infrastructure projects into chaos, said John Horsley, executive director for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. States already have many programs underway and are used to submitting receipts daily to the Transportation Department to receive reimbursements for contractors."Either the states would have to borrow money to close the gap, divert money from elsewhere or stiff the contractors," Horsley said. "None of it is good. This is the first time in 50 years that we've seen the cash flow get to the point where they can't honor their commitments."...In 2007, the Highway Trust Fund took in about $38.8 billion in revenue. It started the 2008 fiscal year last October with a balance of $8.1 billion but has blown through that cushion as revenue slowed. It expects to start its 2009 fiscal year on Oct. 1 with a zero balance...Pick-a-payment loans turn poisonous Defaults on option ARM mortgages are expected to double in the next two years, driving foreclosure rates even higher...Les Christie...9-3-08http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/02/real_estate/pick_a_poison/index.htm?postversion=2008090311NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- They're known as "pick-a-payment" mortgages or option ARMs, but their detractors call them pure poison. Now their default rates, which are already high, are about to explode, according to a Fitch Ratings report issued Tuesday.Option ARMs are loans that allow borrowers to make very low minimum payments that don't even cover the interest for the loans. The difference is then added to the mortgage balance, which grows every month.There are about one million option ARMs outstanding, according to Fitch, and somewhere between 10% and 24% of these are seriously delinquent - 90 days or more past due. But payments are slated to jump for large numbers of option ARM borrowers in the next two years, which Fitch predicts will double that delinquency rate. "These things have their own private hell," said Keith Gumbinger of HSH Associates, a publisher of mortgage information. "The reset trigger is absolutely coming."Borrowers who take out option ARM loans have four payment options. They can make the minimum payment, which doesn't cover all of the interest; an interest-only payment; a payment that pays off the loans in 30 years; or one that would pay it off in 15 years.The problem is most borrowers pay just the minimum. According to First American LoanPerformance, which tracks the mortgage market, more than 65% of option ARM borrowers make only minimum payments every month. They can continue to do that for up to five years, or until their loan balance reaches 110% to 125% of the original principal. After that, borrowers have to start paying at a higher rate that will pay down their principal, which can mean skyrocketing monthly payments. Fitch estimates that the average borrower's bill will increase 63% from $1,672 to $2,735.As a result, Fitch predicts defaults on these loans will double, adding to the nation's already soaring foreclosure rates.Scale of the problemDuring the boom, option ARMs were often the only way that borrowers could buy wildly appreciating real estate...Homeowners were counting on the fact that the value of their property would continue to soar, so that they could either refinance or sell when the minimum payment option expired... And, although option ARMs make up only a little more than 2% of all mortgages outstanding, they were concentrated in some of the most over-heated housing markets, which are now suffering heavy price losses.With property values dropping 20% or 30%, many of these homeowners will be severely "upside-down" on their mortgages, owing much more than their homes are worth. Borrowers could find themselves owing $500,000 on houses worth only $300,000.Refinancing such option ARM loans into fixed rate mortgages would be very difficult. Lenders won't issue a mortgage for more than the appraised value of a property, so someone with a $500,000 loan on a $300,000 house would have to pony up more than $200,000. If they can't they could lose their homes.Even homeowners who could afford to continue to make the increased payments may decide that continuing to do so makes little financial sense, and just walk away from their mortgages."Your payment is going to go up exponentially," said Gumbinger, "and your ability to pay will not. You just might chuck your keys in an envelope and mail it to your bank." 9-5-08Department of Water ResourcesCalifornia Water NewsA daily compilation for DWR personnel of significant news articles and comment…September 5, 2008 1. Top Item -California revives program to buy water from farmers: The state's reserves are low after two dry years. The water bank program will shift resources from the Sacramento Valley to needy Southern California agencies - The Los Angeles Times- 9/5/08California 'drought water bank' in the works - The Sacramento Bee- 9/5/08State gets serious about deepening drought - The San Francisco Chronicle- 9/5/08Drought conditions lead to creation of water bank - San Jose Mercury News- 9/4/08Water transfer to be tapped - The Fresno Bee- 9/4/08California "water bank" in works amid drought - Reuters- 9/4/08 California revives program to buy water from farmers: The state's reserves are low after two dry years. The water bank program will shift resources from the Sacramento Valley to needy Southern California agencies.The Los Angeles Times- 9/5/08…By Nancy Vogel, Staff WriterSaying California's water reserves are all but gone, state officials on Thursday announced the revival of a dormant 17-year-old program to buy water from Sacramento Valley farmers and sell it to the thirstiest Southern California agencies in case this winter brings a third year of skimpy precipitation."We're hoping for the best, that we're going to have a good storm season and be able to meet the needs of California," said state Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow. "However, we would be negligent if we didn't prepare for the worst."The bounty of the state's biggest reservoirs, which supplied the state through the last two dry years with Sierra and Cascade mountain snowmelt, is disappearing. Major reservoirs, including Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, are now at half of what is typical for this time of year."There are a number of scenarios where we do not regain our snow pack," Snow said, "and because our storage is low, we're really in a lot of trouble."State officials said long-range climate predictions indicate that this winter may bring average precipitation or less."We do have time as we go through the season to make up for the last two years," said state water resources meteorologist Elissa Lynn, "but it would take a wetter-than-average year. None of the climate models that we have right now suggests a very wet start to the season."The state last used a water bank in 1991 and '92, the final critically dry years in a six-year drought. The state served as broker and deliveryman. The Department of Water Resources found volunteer farmers who either skipped growing crops, switched to less thirsty crops or pumped groundwater instead of diverting river water. The state then purchased the freed-up water for prices ranging from $30 to $125 an acre-foot (roughly enough water to supply the annual needs of two households).Most sellers were farmers within districts that hold generous, century-old water rights on the Sacramento, Yuba and Feather rivers. Most buyers were urban water districts in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas and irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley. The biggest buyer in 1991 was the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which wholesales water from Ventura to San Diego counties.Metropolitan expects to tap the bank again if next year is dry, said general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger."We will definitely participate in it," he said.But there may not be so many willing sellers in the coming year. Farm commodity prices are high, giving farmers more incentive to grow crops, especially rice. And several Northern California counties passed ordinances to restrict groundwater pumping after the experience of the last water bank, when excessive pumping drew down aquifers and forced the neighbors of some water sellers to dig deeper wells.No water district sold more water to the state water bank in 1991 than Western Canal Water District, which serves rice farmers in Butte and Glenn counties. But general manager Ted Trimble said things are different now.He noted that in February his district had arranged to sell water at $200 an acre-foot to Southern California water districts in a sale separate from the state water bank. But when the price of rice more than doubled in March, Trimble said, almost half of the growers who were going to forgo planting some acres changed their minds."I just don't know how much water we're going to be able to make available to make a difference," Trimble said.As the broker, Snow said, the state will sell first to districts struggling with drought-related health or public safety problems."We as a state entity looking out for the broader good," he said, "are not going to allow somebody to have 100% supplies and be hosing off sidewalks while a community has no fire protection and poor quality water to drink."#http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-water5-2008sep05,0,481931.story California 'drought water bank' in the worksThe Sacramento Bee- 9/5/08…By Matt Weiser Hedging against the risk of a third dry year in 2009, state officials on Thursday unveiled a "drought water bank" to help thirsty cities and farms cope. The water bank, managed by the Department of Water Resources, will be prepared to move as much as 600,000 acre-feet of water from willing sellers in the north to buyers in the south. That's enough to serve more than 1.2 million homes for a year – if used carefully. DWR officials cautioned the outlook for this winter isn't uplifting. Though still early for such predictions, long-range forecasts based on computer modeling hold no hint of a break from the drought. Even an average winter will not refill the state's depleted reservoirs to normal levels. Lake Oroville, California's second-largest reservoir, is at just 32 percent capacity. That is its lowest point since the drought in 1977, a record that may be broken as the level continues dropping daily. "We would be negligent if we didn't prepare for the worst," DWR Director Lester Snow said. The water bank is the first established by the state since the last major statewide drought, in 1991. The bank will comply with state and federal environmental laws, Snow said. It will be governed by an environmental impact study already in place for an existing state-federal water transfer program. Typically, water will be sold by farmers in the Sacramento Valley who can create a surplus, whether by idling crops or using groundwater instead of surface water. Prices will be established by the open market, but DWR will collect a charge for the cost of pumping the water to its destination. The agency will also rank buyers according to need. Cities with water-related health and safety problems will get first dibs, with farm crops a lower priority. To qualify, urban buyers must have a conservation program adopted to cut normal water use by 20 percent. As Snow put it, "we don't want farmers selling water so people can hose off their sidewalks." The program, however, depends on the ability to pump water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of the state's water system, where DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operate diversion pumps and canals. Their operations are already limited by environmental concerns in the Delta, where the massive pumps alter water flows and kill millions of fish. Assuming the water bank becomes necessary next year, DWR will look for safe "windows" within the multitude of environmental factors governing the Delta in which to move the water. That will be challenging. "If we get average precipitation next year, we may not be able to move even all of our own (existing) water," said Jerry Johns, DWR deputy director. For more information, visit www.water.ca.gov/drought/.#http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/1211925.html State gets serious about deepening droughtThe San Francisco Chronicle- 9/5/08 - Kelly Zito, Staff Writer Anticipating another bone-dry winter, California is preparing to act as a water go-between next year, buying from water-rich districts in the north and selling to cities and farmers hit hard by drought. The initiative, known as the 2009 Drought Water Bank, harkens back to measures taken during the long dry spell of the late 1980s and early 1990s and underscores the state's efforts to squeeze every drop out of a system strained by climate change, a booming population and environmental rulings that have slashed pumping out of the linchpin Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. On Thursday, the state Department of Water Resources announced the formation of the water bank during a "drought summit" in Sacramento attended by urban, agricultural and other groups that represent a total of about 25 million people, or a majority of California's water users. Faced with forecasts showing a period that could resemble either the short, deep drought in the late 1970s or longer drought of the late 1980s, officials said they must plan for the worst. Already, many of California's reservoirs stand at record-low levels - some as low as 13 percent of capacity - after two critically dry years. "There are a number of scenarios where we don't regain snowpack and because the reservoirs are low, we're in a lot of trouble - and that's what we're down to," said Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the winter rainfall, many of the details surrounding how the water bank will work - including when the transfers would take place, how much buyers may pay for water and which districts are willing to sell - remain unclear. However, most observers agree that water prices are rising quickly. At Thursday's announcement, one official said a rice farmer may be able to sell his water for as much as $200 per acre-foot - up from $50 per acre foot not long ago (1 acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons and enough to cover 1 acre of land in 1 foot of water). While water officials said they would not be able to control water prices across the state, deputy director Gerald Johns hopes the bank will help keep prices rational. Despite its name, the water bank is not a giant storage tank or reservoir. Rather, the system works more like a large-scale water reallocation program. The Department of Water Resources would purchase water from those with full reservoirs, those who can draw on wells, or farmers who may leave their grounds fallow or who switch to less thirsty crops. Generally, those supplies would come from Northern California, where water is more plentiful. Without those users' demand, the state would then sell the "extra" water to those areas with the largest need. Beyond uses for health and safety, there are also rules for environmental and economic interests. For instance, the drought has already cost the agricultural industry about $260 million. As a result, the department said no more than 20 percent of a county's crop acreage could be idled. In addition, water transfers cannot be made if "unreasonably affecting fish, wildlife or other in-stream beneficial uses." On the buyers' side, users must slash their consumption by 20 percent to participate in the program. Earlier this year in making a statewide drought declaration, Gov. Schwarzenegger called on all Californians to cut water use by 20 percent. Some areas, including the East Bay Municipal Utility District, have instituted mandatory water rationing. "If we're looking at a really bad situation, we're not going to allow someone to have 100 percent water supplies and they're hosing down their sidewalks, while another area has no fire protection and poor quality water to drink," Snow said. A trade group representing nearly 450 public California water agencies praised the creation of the drought water bank and encouraged the department to act quickly and with an eye on maintaining the delicate network of water rights in the state. "Done correctly, a water bank can provide a short-term relief from water shortages while protecting water rights and the long-term interests of water suppliers," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. Farmers on both the buying and selling sides will be watching the workings of the water bank quite closely. None more closely than rice growers, though, who have enjoyed high prices for their crops, but increased scrutiny due to their large water demands. Jim Morris, spokesman for the California Rice Commission, said his 2,500 members support the idea of a water bank. "We participated in the last water bank, and we will again this time," Morris said. "A key part of this, though, is that we support it if you have willing sellers and willing buyers." A look at the drought -- For the Northern Sierra, this spring and summer were the driest on record since 1921. In addition, 2007 and 2008 made up the ninth driest two-year period in 88 years of record keeping for the Northern Sierra. -- Statewide precipitation for February through July 2008 was 45 percent of average, making it the fourth driest of 114 years on record. -- State reservoirs are at severe lows, with Folsom at 31%, Shasta at 34% and San Luis at 13%. -- The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports the result of the drought is a $260 million loss to the state's agricultural industry this year. Source: Department of Water Resources#http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/05/BAJT12OAMA.DTL Drought conditions lead to creation of water bankSan Jose Mercury News- 9/4/08…By Mike Taugher, Times Staff Writer Fearing next year could bring a worsening drought, state water officials on Thursday said they would create the first drought water bank in California since the early 1990s. The bank would allow water users, primarily in the Sacramento Valley, to sell water to drier regions of the state, from the Bay Area to San Diego. Following two dry years, key reservoirs such as Shasta Reservoir and Lake Oroville are at only about half their normal levels for this time of year. Lake Oroville is projected to hit its lowest level since 1977 by the end of the month. The lake levels are so low that even a normal winter might not refill them. And a wet winter will not necessarily end the drought in parts of the state because new restrictions on Delta water pumping will make it more difficult to send water from Northern California to reservoirs and groundwater basins in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. "We're going to be ending this year with very low carryover storage," said Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow. "We're hoping for the best. However, we would be negligent if we didn't prepare for the worst." One of the most hard-hit water districts in the state this year, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is unlikely to buy water from the bank next year because its north Delta water intake will not be completed. But the Contra Costa Water District probably will buy water from the bank, said assistant general manager Greg Gartrell. The Concord-based district, which serves about 550,000 people, would buy water to keep possible mandatory water rationing to a manageable level, which Gartrell said could be around 15 percent to 20 percent. "It's possible that even in a normal (water) year, we could be in that situation," Gartrell said. In addition to creating the drought water bank, state water officials plan to promote more statewide water conservation, provide financial help for drought programs and other measures. State meteorologist Elissa Lynn said it is too early to make accurate predictions of how much rain and snow next winter will bring, but climate models so far are not encouraging. "If anything, they look normal to drier than normal," she said. The drought water bank would likely obtain water from willing sellers, including rice farmers. Because rice prices are high, though, water officials said they expect farmers would ask a relatively high price for their water, which would be made available in part by planting less rice. "The rice farmers will help urban customers and other farmers in times of drought," California Rice Commission spokesman Jim Morris said. Also, water officials warned that there was only about a 50 percent chance the drought water bank purchases could be delivered through the Delta next year because of pumping limitations. Water users that buy water but cannot take delivery would be allowed to store the purchased water in Northern California reservoirs for delivery in later years but they also run the risk that water would be spilled, or essentially erased from the books if the reservoirs fill up.#http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_10383608?nclick_check=1 Water transfer to be tappedThe Fresno Bee- 9/4/08…By E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol BureauWith California mired in a drought, state water officials Thursday said they would restart a water transfer program not used since the early 1990s. The Department of Water Resources will act as a broker to help growers and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California buy water from willing sellers upstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, such as rice farmers. For Valley farmers, the "drought water bank" will not take effect until next year's growing season begins in earnest -- and even then it is likely to be used only as a worst-case safety net should the state not emerge from the two-year drought. "We're hoping for the best, that we're going to have a good storm season and we're going to be able to meet the needs of California," said Lester Snow, director of the water department. "However, we would be negligent if we didn't prepare for the worst." Statewide precipitation in the past two years has dropped to 70% of average, leaving many state reservoirs less than half full. Preliminary forecasts for the new water year, which begins Oct. 1, suggest the pattern might continue, though water officials cautioned that could change. "We don't have a strong indicator," said Elissa Lynn, a state meteorologist. But "right now the outlooks for this coming winter are to be average or drier than average, which would not put our water supply to where it should be." Thursday's action only covers agencies that get water from the delta, delivered though canals using state and federal pumps. The city of Fresno and most east Valley growers and cities get water elsewhere. One of the biggest delta water users is the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District on the Valley's west side. The dry conditions have led some growers in the district to abandon crops. The district will consider using the drought bank program, said spokeswoman Sarah Woolf. "If there's an opportunity to buy water, I'm sure we would take advantage of it, if it were at the right price," she said. Water officials said prices would be set by the private market, but estimated a range of $50 to $125 per acre-foot. Westlands now pays about $100 an acre-foot for water from the federally run Central Valley Project, Woolf said. The state would handle compliance with environmental laws. Some water agencies have already negotiated private deals. Any new deals must now be negotiated through the state-administered program, officials said. Priority will be given to agencies that have strong conservation programs. Deals also will be approved based on need. Water for health and emergency uses will take precedence. For farmers, water for high-value permanent crops, such as orchids, will be favored over water for field crops. The state last used the drought bank in 1991-92, the last couple of years of the last major drought, which began in 1987. This year, growers are dealing with drought and pumping cutbacks ordered by judges to protect threatened fish in the delta. Snow, the water department chief, said the restrictions will complicate water-bank deliveries, but he is confident water can still be moved.#http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/845465.html California "water bank" in works amid droughtReuters- 9/4/08…By Jim Christie California's state government is forming a "water bank" to buy water for local water agencies at risk of shortages next year should a current drought persist, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Thursday. Schwarzenegger in June declared the most populous U.S. state to officially be in drought and declared nine counties in its farm-rich Central Valley to be in a state of emergency because water supplies were so low after two years of below-average rainfall. California's water shortages have been compounded by a federal court order to limit pumping water from the state's San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta to protect a species of fish. The delta area east of San Francisco is the state's fresh water hub. Its water is conveyed across the state, including as far away as Southern California. California's 2009 Drought Water Bank will buy water primarily from local water agencies and farmers upstream of the delta and make it available for sale to public and private water systems expecting to run short of water next year. The last time California's Department of Water Resources set up a water bank was in the early 1990s and the agency plans much more strict guidelines for its new effort, said Wendy Martin, the statewide drought coordinator for the agency. "We will be paying closer attention to ... making sure water is being used for the greatest and highest public service. We're not going to let people take water and use it for frivolous reasons," Martin told Reuters by telephone. She noted that agencies buying water through the bank will have to commit to a 20 percent reduction in overall water use. Schwarzenegger said the program will help ease water shortages if California's drought presses on and he once again urged lawmakers to agree on a bond bill for financing an expansion of the state's water storage and delivery infrastructure. "California's drought is impacting our economy, our agriculture and our families, and an end to these dry conditions is nowhere in sight," he said. "While we are taking action to address the state's drought situation, there remains an urgent need for Californians to step up conservation efforts and for the legislature to pass a comprehensive water plan that will ensure California has the water it needs to keep our economy strong and our people working," Schwarzenegger added. The Republican governor has threatened the Democrat-led legislature he will not sign any of its bills until it crafts a state budget -- now more than two months overdue -- but he will make an exception for legislation approving state debt for water infrastructure, which he wants to put to voters as a ballot measure, said spokeswoman Lisa Page. Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, have teamed up to promote a $9.3 billion plan to lawmakers that would address the delta's environmental problems while expanding the state's water works. Their plan and rival plans have been sidelined in the legislature as lawmakers haggle over a state budget. "Right now the No. 1 priority is passing a responsible budget. No talks are taking place on water," said Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for Senate President pro Tem Don Perata.#http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSN0457395520080904?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true 2. Supply –Water challenge - Hollister Free Lance- 9/4/08Very wet winter needed to reverse drought trend for Tahoe, Northern Nevada - Reno Gazzette- Journal- 9/5/08 Water challengeHollister Free Lance- 9/4/08…By Jeff Gatlin Just 15 miles separate Hollister and Gilroy, but farmers in the adjacent towns have been affected by the state's current drought in entirely different ways.California is struggling with a complex situation that includes protection of the threatened Delta smelt species, water rationing, proposed bond measures, the lowest level of spring rainfall on record, fields left fallow by local farmers - while proposed state legislation would bring a bond before voters to generate almost $10 billion toward fixing the problems. In San Benito County, sharp reductions in "blue valve" water due to the 2-inch-long Delta smelt's problematic habitat have caused significant impacts. Water district representatives say the system provides water to about 400 farms here of 10 acres or more."I've used up my allotment on the blue valves," said Al Bonturi, a local walnut grower. He was referring to heavily used, state-provided, supplemental water that arrives in pipes with cobalt blue valves."They put a chain and a lock on the valves and that was that," Bonturi added.Bonturi said he now relies on his own pump and well, which he has kept in good condition despite not using it for years.But many Hollister farmers have had their wells collapse or otherwise become inoperable since the state began allocating blue valve water. Those growers now must get on lengthy waiting lists to have expensive repairs done or new wells drilled."When blue valve water came in," continued Bonturi, "it was a Godsend because some people had no water at all. Before cutbacks, they gave you between 1.5 and two acre-feet of water per acre. They cut that back 45 percent for everyone."Richard Bianchi, also a Hollister farmer and a director of the San Benito County Farm Bureau, knows this problem intimately."I have one well that cost $170,000 to bring back on," said Bianchi. "The water quality from blue valve was so much better that a lot of people let the wells go."Gilroy stands in stark contrast to the Hollister crises due to the fact that most farmers have never used blue valve water because it has not been necessary.Nearby farmers are miles apart with water"We have good wells in Gilroy, and water is available from the San Luis Dam from the canal that was built into this area," said Chuck Buckley of Buckley u-Pick Cherry Farms, "It would take several years of drought to affect the wells on my property."He also pointed out how he hadn't talked with any Gilroy farmer who expressed great concern about water.Greg Van Wassenhove, agricultural commissioner for Santa Clara County, echoed that sentiment."I don't think we are at the point of a crisis," Van Wassenhove said."There is concern up in the rangelands due to the lack of rain, but I am not aware of any farmers that are feeling like they are in trouble."Van Wassenhove noted that both San Benito and Santa Clara counties have just had their request for disaster status due to the drought approved in Sacramento, clearing the way for farmers to receive low interest loans, but he again underscored that the drought has not yet translated into a crisis for Gilroy farmers.Another reason growers in Gilroy have been less affected by the drought is that there are 10 reservoirs in Santa Clara County, said Susan Siravo, spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Water District."Our situation is better because of our 10 reservoirs," Siravo said. "Our ag people are just not as reliant on outside water as farmers in other counties."The agricultural commissioner in San Benito County, meanwhile, tells a much different story."I see many fallow fields due to the water situation," said Paul Matulich, the farming official in Hollister. "I see farmers having to pick and choose what they grow, I see the ones that used to put in three crops a year on a given field just putting in two."If we have another dry year everyone, cattlemen, row-croppers, orchards, it will be disastrous for everyone."State leaders stepping inIn the midst of California's drought, Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, (D-Salinas), has co-sponsored a $9.8 billion bond measure designed to "repair and sustain the complex ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and provide early relief to communities around the state affected by drought, contaminated drinking water, and the need for secure water supplies."Caballero this week noted how the San Luis Reservoir, which supplies water to both neighboring counties, now holds just 13 percent of its full capacity."Crops are dying in the fields, and farm workers are out of work, unemployed," said Caballero.Caballero is involved with the bill that was designed to reflect a proposal introduced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein three weeks ago. That proposal urged state lawmakers to come up with a feasible bond for November's ballot and provided a framework of suggestions for the state Assembly. Although the bond does not specify funds for new dams - which local farmers and both agricultural commissioners insist is necessary in California - it would set aside $3 billion for "public benefit" projects to enhance the sustainability and provide improvements to the Delta. So leaders contend it is likely that new dams would be built."That bill would be $10 billion well spent," said Matulich in San Benito County. "The population of California has shot up, but we haven't been building more dams to keep up."A species' broad effectThrown into the mix of complex factors of San Benito and Santa Clara counties, water issues is the protected Delta smelt fish.The preservation of the fish is a major factor in the reduction of blue valve water in the area. At one time, they were common in the Sacramento-San Joaquin rivers estuary, but they were listed as an endangered species in 1993, and in 2007 California Federal Judge Oliver Wanger imposed limits on water that can be drawn through certain pumps to protect the declining numbers of the fish."Judge Wanger ruled that the smelt was not being adequately protected," said Al Donner, spokesman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office in Monterey. "The judge directed us to issue a new biological opinion on how Delta smelt are doing and he imposed the restrictions on pumping."That report, Donner said, is likely to show that the number of fish allowed to be killed when sucked into the pumps is too high. Donner would not say whether the opinion would result in a definite continuation of the limits on pumping, but he noted that the population of the endangered fish is "way, way down."Not everyone, however, is as concerned with the fish's fate. "They released 212 billion gallons of water into the ocean to protect a little fish," said an exasperated Matulich. "I am for preserving wildlife, but I am also for common sense."Bonturi, the local walnut grower, agreed."The thing that sticks in my craw is that one judge has the power to cut 1.2 million acre-feet of water and just run it out of the Delta," he said. "We have a thousand water agencies in the state to decide what is best, and he comes along and just changes everything."The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office disagrees with that assessment."The smelt is a native Californian species that is entirely dependent on the delta," Donner said.To avoid a continuous series of crises caused by drought and government regulation in California, action must bet taken, said Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau."Without reliable and affordable sources of water, farm production starts to shrivel," he said. "That leads to lost markets, and lost markets lead to lost jobs. It's a terrible cycle that we must break by fixing California's water system and assuring reliable supplies for everyone."Included in the state proposal: -$500 million for drought relief. -$1.5 billion for water supply and reliability projects. -$1.9 billion for projects to revitalize the Delta ecosystem, and provide environmentally sustainable water supply.-$1 billion for enhanced management and protection of watersheds in regions throughout the state.-$360 million for groundwater protection and cleanup.-$500 million for water recycling and reuse, and for desalination projects-More than $300 million specifically for projects to aid economically disadvantaged communities. Source: Assemblywoman Anna Caballero's office#http://www.hollisterfreelance.com/news/248189-water-challenge Very wet winter needed to reverse drought trend for Tahoe, Northern NevadaReno Gazzette- Journal- 9/5/08…By Jeff Delong Nevada continues to suffer through drought conditions, with experts saying nothing is likely to change until the arrival of winter storm season.The federal government's Climate Prediction Center forecasts persisting drought conditions through November. Western Nevada and the Sierra are experiencing moderate drought, while northeast Nevada is "abnormally dry" and east-central Nevada is in severe drought, the center reports. Long-term weather forecasts offer little in the way of expected change with above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation expected for at least the next month."As we are right now, things are pretty bleak," said Gary Barbato, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. "We don't expect any real improvement until at least Thanksgiving or after."That means flows of rivers and streams will continue to drop, Barbato said in a recent drought statement. Some springs and wells in the hardest-hit areas have dried up, while the region continues to face extreme wildfire danger.Nevada officials have not declared a drought, but California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in early June.On Aug. 27, 53 of California's 58 counties were given disaster declarations as the result of continued drought conditions, including those nearest to Reno: Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Alpine and Mono counties.Lake Tahoe was at 1.2 feet above its natural rim Thursday and unless some unusual storm activity arrives this fall, and none is expected, it will drop to its rim by early December.Last weekend, cool and strong winds accelerated the evaporation rate at the lake.Over four days, .18 feet evaporated, said Chad Blanchard, chief deputy water master."We had a huge loss over the weekend. The evaporation rates were unbelievable," Blanchard said. "It was definitely one of the worst four-day periods I remember."Outflow from the spill gates at the Lake Tahoe Dam at Tahoe City is about 300 cubic feet per second, requiring the federal water master to supplement that flow with water from Boca Reservoir, Blanchard said.Once Tahoe dips below its rim, maintaining the river flow will depend solely on Boca."We could be running very low on Boca water by that time also," Blanchard said.September typically is dry, but there have been three times -- in 1918, 1982 and 1998 -- when more than 2 inches of rain was recorded in Reno, Barbato said.The wettest October on record was in 1945, when2.14 inches of rain fell in Reno."We can get significant winter storms in October, but it's not the norm," Barbato said. After two below-average winters, that means the region likely will count on the biggest precipitation-producing months, December through February, to pull out of the situation, Barbato said.#http://news.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080905/NEWS04/809050487/1047/TT 3. Watersheds –Nothing Significant 4. Water Quality –Nothing Significant 5. Agencies, Programs, PeopleEnd of water wars - North Lake Tahoe Bonanza- 9/5/08Climate change impacts on Sierra Nevada 'scary' - The Bakersfield Californian- 9/4/08New flood map designations delayed - The Stockton Record- 9/5/08 End of water warsNorth Lake Tahoe Bonanza- 9/5/08 Tomorrow is a historic day in the annuals of Western states water rights.The Truckee River Operating Agreement — in progress for more than 20 years and the result of 100 years of water rights controversy — will be officially signed in a ceremony Saturday morning at Reno’s Wingfield Park.The Truckee River flows out of Lake Tahoe in California, crosses the Nevada border near Farad, and ends in Pyramid Lake. The river, claimed by California and Nevada, has been used for recreation, water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, fish habitat and wetlands,among other uses.Its water was literally fought over in the 1920s when a drought caused Lake Tahoe to fall below its natural rim. Downstream water users cut a canal into the rim to drain more water, causing angry threats and beginning the legal battles over its water. Through the years, the fight has resulted in several legal decrees establishing usage of the river’s water. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe became involved when the cui-ui fish, its historical food source, became an endangered species.The 1990 Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water Rights Settlement Act began the process to come up with a new agreement. Years and years of negotiations, research and meetings resulted in the TROA. Lake Tahoe stakeholders spent endless hours making sure the lake’s particular interests are covered, even to such items as how much water is recovered from snowmaking.Once enacted, the TROA will replace the 1935 Truckee River Agreement, which has managed the bistate river and established rates of flow, water storage and the conditions under which Lake Tahoe could be pumped.Now, the decades of controversy and work are culminating in this historic signing. Signing for the mandatory parties are Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Secretary of the Interior; Ronald Tempas, of the U.S. Justice Department; Mike Chrisman, California Secretary of Resources; for Nevada, Alan Biaggi, Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Mervin Wright Jr. of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; and Mike Carrigan, chair of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.Saturday won’t be the actual end of the process — federal courts in California and Nevada must now approve it. But there is an end in sight for the embattled Truckee River. The TROA will 1) allocate the waters of the Truckee River, Carson River, and Lake Tahoe basins between California and Nevada; 2) enhance conditions for threatened and endangered fish species; 3) increase drought protection for the Reno-Sparks area; 4) improve river water quality downstream from Sparks; 5) enhance instream flows and recreational opportunities; 6) settle long standing litigation over water rights to the Truckee River; and 7) lift a 1972 moratorium on water rights applications in the affected region.#http://www.tahoebonanza.com/article/20080905/NEWS/809049950/1020 Climate change impacts on Sierra Nevada 'scary'The Bakersfield Californian- 9/4/08…BY STACEY SHEPARD, staff writer Climate change is already impacting the southern Sierra Nevada and will have profound effects on everything from water supplies and forest fires to the survival of giant sequoias, researchers said Thursday. They spoke at the Southern Sierra Science Symposium in Visalia, which featured scientists and federal park and forest managers discussing ways to address the impending ecological changes the mountain range faces from rising global temperatures. “The take-home message is that climate change is here and having an effect on the Sierra Nevada and it’s going to get worse,” said Nathan Stephenson, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist based in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The impact of warming on water resources is one of the biggest concerns. Early snowmelt, and more rain instead of snow, could affect the amount of water in the Kern and other rivers throughout the Central Valley in coming decades. “The Sierra Nevada is the water tower for the Central Valley,” Stephenson said. “It supplies water for agriculture, cities and ecosystems in the valley.” Stephenson said the Sierra Nevada has warmed roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1979, with perhaps greater warming at higher elevations. As a result, he said: - Glaciers are melting.- More precipitation is falling as rain, not snow. - Snowpack is melting earlier due to a longer summer. - Animals are migrating up-slope. - Normal tree deaths have doubled. Climate change is also blamed in part for a disturbing trend in wildfires in the Sierra Nevada, according to USGS forest researcher Jan van Wagtendonk. Based on new data collected in the past 12 years, scientists have observed that fires are starting earlier, burning longer and over larger areas than in the past. Van Wagtendonk said a longer fire season is due to early snowmelt. Bigger, more frequent fires could eventually lead to loss of forest, van Wagtendonk said. “It’s scary,” he said. “It truly is getting worse.” Researchers and forest and park managers are beginning to explore ways to tackle theses issues and manage the southern Sierra Nevada as it undergoes climate-related change. That will require forest managers to move away from prescribed management practices of the past and toward more “flexible” approaches based on conditions of the local landscape, said Constance Millar, a senior U.S. Forest Service research scientist. Through more strategic management, it is possible to manipulate the forest to produce more water, Millar said. For example, creating more shade in certain areas can help retain snowpack. Planting trees with low water needs is also an option. Work on that front has not been possible until now, Millar said, largely due to conflicts within the Forest Service over whether climate change was really happening. “A year ago, our management partners, to put it bluntly, didn’t believe in climate change,” she said.#http://www.bakersfield.com/102/story/543260.html New flood map designations delayedThe Stockton Record- 9/5/08…By Zachary K. Johnson, Staff Writer Property owners waiting for the day new federal maps determine who lives in a high-risk flood zone - and therefore must purchase flood insurance - will have six more months to wait. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has delayed the effective date of preliminary flood-insurance maps from April to October 2009, according to the San Joaquin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. Since the preliminary maps for the county were released in January, an ongoing review and correction process has been under way, and updated maps were released in May. Also, flood-management officials have been working to improve levees to withstand a so-called 100-year flood. The postponement will extend the time available for this process. "Generally, I view this as good news," Public Works Deputy Director Steve Winkler said. "It gives us more time to clear up these issues before (the maps) go final." Public outreach meetings originally planned for this fall will be pushed back to the spring of 2009, he said. The preliminary maps issued in January put thousands of homes in flood plains, meaning homeowners with federally backed mortgages would have to buy flood insurance. Flood-protection officials encourage property owners in the county to buy flood insurance. But homeowners whose properties in newly designated flood plains stand to lose money if they don't buy insurance before October 2009, when the maps become final and insurance premiums jump higher.#http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080905/A_NEWS/809050314 ------------------------------------------------------------- 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.