11-26-08Merced Sun-StarPublic NoticeNOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING ON THE DRAFT AMENDMENT #3 TO THE 2009 INTERIM FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM, RTP AMENDMENT #1 AND CORRESPONDING DRAFT CONFORMITY ANALYSIS NOTICEhttp://www.legalnotice.org/pl/mercedsun-star/ShowNotice.aspxNOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING ON THE DRAFT AMENDMENT #3 TO THE 2009 INTERIM FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM, RTP AMENDMENT #1 AND CORRESPONDING DRAFT CONFORMITY ANALYSIS NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) will hold a public hearing on December 18, 2008 at 3 PM at The City of Merced, City Hall, Council Chambers, 678 W 18th Street, Merced regarding the Draft Amendment #3 to the 2009 Interim Federal Transportation Improvement Program (FTIP), RTP Amendment #2, and the corresponding Draft Conformity Analysis. The purpose of the hearing is to receive public comments. The 2009 Interim FTIP is a listing of capital improvement and operational expenditures utilizing federal and state monies for transportation projects in Merced County during the next four years that are eligible to proceed without a conformity determination. The Draft Amendment #3 to the 2009 Interim FTIP contains project phases and/or projects that were not included in the 2009 Interim TIP. The Regional Transportation Plan is a long-term strategy to meet Merced County transportation needs out to the year 2030. It is also referred to as the 2007 RTP. No environmental supplement is necessary; Amendment #2 simply provides clarifying details on project segmenting and financial information, and the amended RTP will remain fully consistent with the environmental analysis performed previously. The Draft Conformity Analysis contains the documentation to support a finding that the 2009 Interim FTIP and 2007 RTP as amended meet the air quality conformity requirements for, ozone and particulate matter. Individuals with disabilities may call Robin Lamas at Merced County Association of Governments (209) 723-3153 (with 3-working-day advance notice) to request auxiliary aids necessary to participate in the public hearing. Translation services are available (with 3-working-day advance notice) to participants speaking any language with available professional translation services. A concurrent 30-day public review and comment period will commence on November 26, 2008 and conclude December 26, 2008 at 5 PM. The draft documents are available for review at the MCAG office, located at 369 W. 18th Street, Merced, CA and on MCAGs website at www.mcagov.org . Public comments are welcomed at the hearing, or may be submitted in writing by December 26, 2008 at 5 PM to Terri Lewis at the address below. After considering the comments, the documents will be considered for adoption, by resolution, by the MCAG Governing Board at a regularly scheduled meeting to be held on January 15, 2008 in the City of Dos Palos, Council Chambers located at 1546 Golden Gate Avenue, Dos Palos, CA. The documents will then be submitted to state and federal agencies for approval. Contact Person: Terri Lewis, Associate Planner 369 W. 18th Street, Merced, CA 95340 (209) 723-3153 terri.lewis@mcagov.org Legal 2427 November 26, 2008 Public NoticeCALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD CENTRAL VALLEY REGION NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT for mandatory minimum penalties In the matter of PLANADA COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT Wastewater Treatment FACILITY MERCED Countyhttp://www.legalnotice.org/pl/mercedsun-star/ShowNotice.aspxCALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD CENTRAL VALLEY REGION NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT for mandatory minimum penalties In the matter of PLANADA COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT Wastewater Treatment FACILITY MERCED County The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region (Central Valley Water Board) proposes to enter into a settlement with the Planada Community Services District (District) for alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. The District is alleged to have exceeded permitted effluent limits for pH, total suspended solids, biochemical oxygen demand, total coliform organisms, carbon tetrachloride, bromodichloromethane, and electrical conductivity. The Central Valley Water Board proposes a penalty of $246,000 for these violations. The Districts WWTF is publicly owned and serves a small community with a financial hardship. Therefore, the settlement allows for the assessed penalty to be applied toward a compliance project. The public is invited to comment on this settlement by submitting written comments to the below address, attention Jill Walsh, by 5 pm on 30December2008. Full copies of the proposed settlement documents can be found on the Central Valley Water Boards website at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/board_decisions/tentative_orders, or can be obtained by contacting Jill Walsh at (559) 445-5130, Jo Anne Kipps at (559) 445-5035, or by mail at: California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region 1685 E Street Fresno, CA 93706 Legal 2430 November 26, 2008Public NoticeCALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD CENTRAL VALLEY REGION NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT for mandatory minimum penalties In the matter of the city of merced Wastewater Treatment FACILITY MERCED Countyhttp://www.legalnotice.org/pl/mercedsun-star/ShowNotice.aspxCALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD CENTRAL VALLEY REGION NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT for mandatory minimum penalties In the matter of the city of merced Wastewater Treatment FACILITY MERCED County The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region (Central Valley Water Board) proposes to enter into a settlement with the City of Merced (City) for alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. The City is alleged to have exceeded permitted effluent limits for acute toxicity, total coliform organisms, and chlorine residual. The Central Valley Water Board proposes a penalty of $27,000 for these violations. The public is invited to comment on this settlement by submitting written comments to the below address, attention JoAnne Kipps, by 5pm on 30December2008. Full copies of the proposed settlement documents can be found on the Central Valley Water Boards website at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/board_decisions/tentative_orders, or can be obtained by contacting Jo Anne Kipps at (559) 445-5035 or by mail at: California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region 1685 E Street Fresno, CA 93706 Legal 2431 November 26, 2008 Public NoticeCALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD CENTRAL VALLEY REGION NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT for mandatory minimum penalties In the matter of CALAVERAS TROUT FARM, INC. TROUT REARING FACILITY MERCED Countyhttp://www.legalnotice.org/pl/mercedsun-star/ShowNotice.aspxCALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD CENTRAL VALLEY REGION NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT for mandatory minimum penalties In the matter of CALAVERAS TROUT FARM, INC. TROUT REARING FACILITY MERCED County The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region (Central Valley Water Board) proposes to enter into a settlement with the Calaveras Trout Farm, Inc. for alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. Calaveras Trout Farm, Inc. is alleged to have exceeded permitted effluent limits for total suspended solids and submittal of late monitoring reports. The Central Valley Water Board proposes a penalty of $54,000 for these violations. The public is invited to comment on this settlement by submitting written comments to the below address, attention Jo Anne Kipps, by 5 pm on 30December2008. Full copies of the proposed settlement documents can be found on the Central Valley Water Boards website at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/board_decisions/tentative_orders, or can be obtained by contacting Jo Anne Kipps at (559) 445-5130, or by mail at: California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region 1685 E Street Fresno, CA 93706 Legal 2429 November 26, 2008 Modesto BeeRoad tax falls short by mere 390 votes...Tim Moranhttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/512645.htmlThe final vote tally is in and Measure S, the half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements in Stanislaus County, is tantalizingly close to passing.The measure needs a two-thirds majority, or 66.67 percent, and got 66.42 percent of the 155,535 votes cast -- a quarter of a percent short. The measure needs about 390 votes to pass.Measure S campaign officials have until 5 p.m. today to decide whether to ask for a recount, according to County Clerk Lee Lundrigan. County Supervisor Jeff Grover, who is a strong Measure S proponent, said the campaign management will meet to "seriously consider" a recount."It would be a number of years before we can consider trying this again," Grover said after Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. "The feeling is let's not walk away and not consider (a recount). It's so desperately needed in Stanislaus County."The recount would not be cheap. Lundrigan told the supervisors that an electronic recount would cost the Measure S campaign $300 per hour, paid on a daily basis. If a hand count is requested, the price tag is $625 per four-person board, per day, she said. A countywide recount would require six to 10 boards per day, and the recount would take weeks, Lundrigan said.So if six boards were working for two weeks, the recount would cost $37,500, and if 10 boards were working three weeks, the cost would be $93,750.Grover questioned County Counsel John Doering on other paths that could lead to a recount. Doering said if there were probable cause, the county could ask the district attorney's office to petition the Superior Court for a recount. Probable cause would be evidence of misconduct, errors or failure of equipment that would cause doubt about the result, Doering said.Grover then asked Lundrigan if she knew of any complaints about the election."I do not," Lundrigan said. "I've been told it's one of the best elections we've ever held."Supervisor Jim DeMartini echoed Lundrigan's comment. "I've heard virtually no complaints. It was a job well done," he said.Measure S would add a half-cent sales tax over 20 years to raise an estimated $700 million for road maintenance and improvements. It won the support of all the cities in the county, but drew opposition from anti-tax activists.The Measure S vote wasn't the closest result on the ballot, however. That distinction goes to the Del Puerto Health Care District directors' race, where Jeannette A. Kessler beat Edward J. Maring by 0.02 percent, or two votes out of almost 9,000 cast.Because of the closeness of the race, the county election office recounted all the health district ballots by hand, Lundrigan said, and came up with the same result as the machine vote."There was no movement at all. The machines were 100 percent accurate," she said.The election set several records for the county, Lundrigan added. It had the most registered voters (230,163), the most mail ballots cast (94,074 out of 162,941) and the highest overall turnout (70.79 percent). It marks the first time the county has topped 70 percent in a presidential election, she said.The board voted 4-0 to accept the certified election results.Daniel Weintraub: Property tax revenue might be next domino...Daniel Weintraubhttp://www.modbee.com/2062/story/512236.htmlCalifornia's financial free fall is likely to get much worse before it gets better, spreading from the statehouse to every other level of government, including schools, cities, counties and the special districts that fight fires, maintain parks and levees and run libraries.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers are already grappling with an expected drop in revenue from taxes on personal income, sales and corporate profits. Since they adopted the budget in September, the state's revenue estimate for the current year has dropped by $11 billion, or about 10 percent, with no prospect for a recovery in sight.But that might be only the beginning of the bad news, according to a new forecast from a private economic consulting group that has consistently – and accurately — sounded a pessimistic note even as others predicted that the downturn would be brief and relatively benign.The new outlook from Beacon Economics is especially grim because it suggests that property taxes, the most stable revenue source for local government, are about to start declining for the first time in a quarter-century. If that happens, the reversal would have dire implications for local services that so far have not taken the full brunt of the economic slowdown.Property taxes in California are governed by Proposition 13, the still-controversial 1978 amendment to the state constitution. That measure capped real estate taxes at 1 percent of assessed value and limited assessment growth to 2 percent a year as long as a piece of property did not change hands. When property is sold, it is reassessed at the market value.Although Proposition 13 triggered a huge, one-time reduction in property tax revenues, since then, property tax collections have only gone up. The limit on assessments has acted like a reserve, slowing down growth in good times but providing a cushion against declines during economic downturns.To see how this works, consider the case of a property owner who bought a house for $200,000 and saw its market value climb over 20 years to $500,000. Despite the increase in the value of the home, the owner would still be paying tax based on an assessed value of, say, only $300,000. But even if the housing market slowed and the owner sold the house during a downturn for $450,000, the government would still see a revenue bump, because the new owners would be paying far more in property tax based on the new, higher assessment.That was before the housing bubble. The recent spike and then collapse of housing values is threatening to overwhelm the smoothing effect that Proposition 13 has always provided.According to the Beacon report, property tax revenue statewide grew from $23 billion in 2000 to an estimated $47 billion in 2008. Since the peak, however, home prices have declined by more than 30 percent, which means many houses that changed hands during the upswing are being reassessed at lower values, not higher values, when they are sold again, often as a result of foreclosures. In addition, people who bought houses during the bubble and are holding onto to them are beginning to take advantage of a provision that allows them to have their assessments – and their tax bills – lowered.Finally, commercial property values, which held up longer than they did in the housing market, are now moving down, and the state could see a whole new wave of foreclosures and property tax declines in that realm as well.Beacon projects that all this will lead to an unprecedented 10 percent decline in property tax revenues before the markets find their bottom. The firm sees three straight years of shrinking property tax revenue before collections begin to climb again in 2012. While that is still only a fraction of the associated decline in property values, it would create havoc with local budgets and services that depend heavily on property taxes as a source of revenue.And even that estimate might be optimistic."Much depends on whether the wave of foreclosed properties begins to slow," the report says. "If the economy tips into a deeper recession, and slows or stops the recent increase in purchases in home markets, the situation could be even worse."There is some glimmer of hope out there. On Monday, reports showed that in San Diego, which has been especially hard hit by the housing crash, foreclosures declined by 37 percent in September. Notices of default, which are a precursor to foreclosure proceedings, declined for the sixth consecutive month.Some of that drop might be due to new rules requiring lenders to give more notice to delinquent borrowers before moving against them. But to the extent that the changing trend is real and lasting, it is possible that the market might be approaching the bottom.Even so, much of the damage to property tax rolls has already occurred, and it is just a matter of waiting for the lower values to ripple through the revenue system. Local governments that spent the property tax windfall and did not keep significant reserves on hand are probably going to be in distress for many months, if not years, to come.New home sales fall to slowest pace since 1991...MARTIN CRUTSINGER , AP Economics Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/business/story/512830.htmlSales of new homes fell in October to the lowest point in nearly 18 years while the median price of a new home dropped to the lowest level since 2004.The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new home sales decreased 5.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 433,000 homes, the lowest level since January 1991, another period when the country was undergoing a steep housing downturn.The median price of a new home sold in October fell to $218,000, down 7 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest median sales price since September 2004.The drop in new home sales was bigger than analysts had expected and left sales 40.1 percent below where they were a year ago.The bad news on new home sales follows other reports this week that paint a bleak picture of the housing industry.On Tuesday, a report on home prices and downbeat earnings results from homebuilder D.R. Horton showed further deterioration in the housing market. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index said home prices tumbled a record 16.6 percent during the third quarter from the same period a year ago. Prices are at levels not seen since the first quarter of 2004.Fort Worth, Tex.-based D.R. Horton Inc. reported a nearly $800 million loss in its fiscal fourth quarter on slower home sales and more than $1 billion in charges.A report Monday showed sales of existing homes fell a bigger-than-expected 3.1 percent in October to an annual rate of 4.98 million units. The median or midpoint price for existing homes plunged to $183,000, down 11.3 percent from a year ago.The disappointing performance for both new and existing homes showed that the country is still in the grips of a severe housing downturn.The problems in housing have sent shockwaves through the entire economy as mounting mortgage foreclosures have cost banks billions of dollars in loan losses, creating the worst financial crisis to hit the country in seven decades.President-elect Barack Obama has said Congress should begin working on a sizable stimulus program even before he is sworn in on Jan. 20, with the goal of creating 2.5 million jobs over the next two years to keep the economy from falling into a prolonged recession. The housing industry also is appealing for help from the new administration.The report on new home sales showed sales were down 18 percent in the West and 6 percent in the South.Sales posted a 22.6 percent increase in the Northeast and were up 6 percent in the Midwest.The drop in sales pushed the inventory of unsold homes up to 11.1 months, meaning it would take that long to exhaust the stock of unsold homes at the October sales pace.Builders, who have been slashing production in an effort to get control of inventories, are being faced with soaring mortgage defaults which are dumping more unsold homes on an already glutted market.The National Association of Home Builders reported last week that its survey of builder confidence fell to an all-time low of 9 in November, down from 14 last month. Index readings higher than 50 indicate positive sentiment about the market. But the trade group's index has drifted below 50 since May 2006 and below 20 since April.The housing slump already has cost the country 3 million jobs in construction and related industries, and the home builders are urging Congress to help with increased support for the industry.Tighter lending standards, rising defaults and fear about the housing market's future have sidelined buyers, an absence felt acutely by homebuilders such as Pulte Homes Inc. and Centex Corp.New jobless claims drop from 16-year high...CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/business/story/512867.htmlNew jobless claims fell more than expected last week from a 16-year high, the government said Wednesday, though they remain at elevated levels due to the slowing economy.The report was one of four released by the government that added up to a bleak overall picture of the economy.The Labor Department reported that initial requests for unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 529,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 543,000. That is lower than analysts' expectations of 537,000.Despite the improved number, initial claims remain at recessionary levels. The four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, rose to 518,000, its highest level since January 1983, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession.One minor bright spot was seen in the number of people continuing to claim unemployment insurance, which also dropped unexpectedly to 3.96 million, down from the previous week's 4.02 million. which was the highest level in 25 years. The labor market has grown by about half since 1983.Economists consider jobless claims a timely, if volatile, sign of how fast companies are laying off workers. Employees who quit or are fired for cause are not eligible for benefits."We see nothing to suggest claims are near their peak," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note. "The trend is still strongly upwards."The economy has been hit hard in recent months by the housing slump and the broader financial crisis, which have led consumers and businesses to cut back on spending.The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that consumer spending plunged by 1 percent in October, even worse than the 0.9 percent decline that had been expected. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity.Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods also plunged last month by the largest amount in two years. Orders for durable goods dropped by 6.2 percent, more than double the decline economists expected. The Commerce Department report showed widespread declines throughout manufacturing led by decreases in autos and airplanes.Demand for autos fell by 4.5 percent last month, reflecting the hard times facing U.S. automakers, who are appealing to Washington for a sizable bailout package. Orders for commercial aircraft fell by 4.7 percent.And new home sales fell by 5.3 percent last month to the lowest level in almost 18 years, the Commerce Department said. Sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 433,000, the lowest since January 1991. The median price of a new home sold in October fell to $218,000, down 7 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest median sales price since September 2004.Wall Street appeared ready to give back some of its recent gains as investors reacted to the downbeat economic readings. The Dow Jones industrial average was down early, but rose about 30 points in early afternoon trading. The stock market is coming off of three sessions of gains, so some giveback, especially with disappointing data, is to be expected.The government said Tuesday the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the third quarter, more than its previous estimate of a 0.3 percent decline.The nation's unemployment rate, meanwhile, is 6.5 percent, a 14-year high, and is expected to climb. Employers have cut payrolls every month so far this year. The total number of unemployed in October was just over 10 million, the most in 25 years.Higher unemployment can lead to a downward spiral, as laid-off workers are more likely to fall behind on mortgage payments and other debt. Those who remain employed also may keep their wallets shut out of concern for their jobs.Several companies announced layoffs in the past week, including Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Western Union Co. and the Dillards Inc. department store chain.In an effort to jump-start consumer spending, the government on Tuesday announced an $800 billion effort to encourage more consumer lending in the form of auto loans, credit cards and mortgages.Fresno BeeProposed rules target fumigants that make smog...Robert Rodriguezhttp://www.fresnobee.com/business/story/1037406.htmlThe California Department of Pesticide Regulation issued proposed rules Tuesday aimed at reducing fumigant emissions in regions with some of the worst air quality in the state, including the central San Joaquin Valley. State regulators are targeting the smog-making pollutants known as volatile organic compound (VOC) fumigant emissions that contribute to the creation of the potentially harmful ozone gas. "Reducing air emissions from pesticides is complex and requires a comprehensive approach," said Mary-Ann Warmerdam, Department of Pesticide Regulation director. "These revised rules will give us needed flexibility, while fulfilling our commitment to cleaner air for all Californians." In the Valley, where farmers inject fumigants into the soil to kill pests and disease, fumigant gases make up 36% of the total pesticide VOC emissions. Under the state's proposed regulations, the emission level for the Valley will be 18.1 tons per day. State data show Valley farmers currently produce less than that. "Usage is down, and we don't anticipate any reason for it to go up," said Carol Hafner, interim Fresno County agricultural commissioner. "We just don't have the type of cropping patterns that require a lot of fumigant use." Growers of strawberries are among the state's largest fumigant users. "This version of the proposed rule is a big improvement over previous attempts because it establishes a higher goal," said Jim Wells, whose Sacramento-based Environmental Solutions Group works for farmers and chemical companies. But environmentalists say the state is moving in the wrong direction and should be cutting the emissions levels in the Valley. "What the department is doing is proposing an amendment to the regulations that weakens it, allowing more smog-forming pollution from pesticides and forcing Valley residents to breathe more smog-forming pollution," said Brent Newell, a lawyer with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, a nonprofit legal group. "We will fight this tooth and nail." A public hearing on the proposed rules has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Kern County Agricultural Pavilion, 3300 East Belle Terrace, Bakersfield, and at 1 p.m. Jan. 14 in the Sierra Hearing Room, California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, 1001 I St., Sacramento. Lea Brooks, a Department of Pesticide Regulation spokeswoman, said the target for making the revised rules official is spring. Sacramento BeeArea's home prices slide faster than U.S. average...Jim Wassermanhttp://www.sacbee.com/103/story/1428413.htmlSacramento-area home prices declined at nearly triple the national average during the past year, according to a new Loan Performance Home Price Index from First American CoreLogic.The property research firm said September home prices in El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties fell 28 percent from the same month in 2007. Nationally, September prices were down 11.2 percent from the previous September.The firm tracks prices with a repeat sales index that measures hikes and declines for the same homes over time. California led the nation with a yearlong price decline of 30 percent, First American CoreLogic reported. Prices have also fallen 25 percent in Nevada, 21 percent in Arizona, 17.5 percent in Florida and 14.3 percent in Hawaii.Year-over-year prices fell 8.8 percent in Washington and 6.4 percent in Oregon, according to the tracking index.Several states, including Texas, West Virginia, South Dakota, Missouri and Montana, reported slight price increases from September 2007 to September 2008.Colusa trucking firm fined in fish kill...Chris Bowmanhttp://www.sacbee.com/378/story/1428695.htmlState water-quality enforcers have issued a $48,000 fine against the owner of a Colusa trucking firm for a 4,800- gallon ammonia spill that killed more than 3,500 fish in irrigation canals that flow into the Sacramento River.The damage could have been curtailed significantly had Frank Alvin Rogers or his employees immediately notified authorities, according to the state Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board complaint filed Monday against Rogers and his firm, Rogers Trucking Co."What happened was an accident, but they did not notify anybody, so the problem became much worse," said Wendy Wyels, environmental program manager with the board. Authorities did not learn of the April 25, 2007, incident until two days later, when workers with Reclamation District 108 noticed hundreds of dead carp and catfish lodged against the screens of an irrigation pump in the canal, according to the water board's administrative civil liability complaint.State Department of Fish and Game officials said they charged Rogers on Monday with polluting state waters "with a substance or material deleterious to fish, plant life or bird life" and engaging in unfair business practices.The spill occurred just after the driver of a Rogers delivery truck had filled a 6,800-gallon fertilizer holding tank at the edge of a farmer's field with ammonium hydroxide. As the driver departed, a rear wheel struck a 2-inch valve on the polyurethane tank, causing the release, according to a Fish and Game warden's report of the incident.Rogers told the driver to call immediately for a replacement valve, the report said, but by then, all but 2,000 gallons had flowed into the farmer's irrigation ditch and on to the canal system.The concentrations of ammonia were as much as 21,000 times higher than the limit considered safe for aquatic life, state tests of water samples showed."No effort was made by the discharger (Rogers) to clean the waterways," the water board noted in its complaint. San Francisco ChronicleEPA sued over chemicals in apple moth spraying...Jane Kayhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/26/BA7G14C3N5.DTL&type=printableTwo city mayors, an environmental group and several citizens filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a federal court to halt a pesticide spraying program aimed at getting rid of a pest moth. The pesticide was sprayed over Santa Cruz and Monterey counties last year. The North Coast Rivers Alliance and the mayors of Albany and Richmond filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleging that the EPA unlawfully approved two unsafe pheromone pesticides to fight the light brown apple moth, causing widespread harm to people, pets and wildlife.The EPA acted improperly because it failed to conduct certain safety tests or issue exemptions on two Checkmate products before it approved the eradication program led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the suit said.The California Department of Food and Agriculture oversaw the spray program on 83,500 acres, saying it was necessary to knock out a pest that would devastate millions of dollars of crops, ornamentals and trees. In June, state and federal officials said they would cancel aerial spraying over urban areas, and instead release sterilized moths next year to curtail the population. Aerial spraying of pesticides to fight the moth would be considered for rural areas, officials said.In Washington, D.C., EPA spokesman Dale Kemery said, "We have not yet received this lawsuit. When we do, the EPA will consider the questions raised by the parties and address them at the appropriate time in the appropriate forum."Larry Hawkins, a spokesman for the federal Agriculture Department, said the agency hadn't seen the suit and doesn't comment on pending litigation. "I can say that we work to ensure that our programs comply with applicable law and regulations," he said.Based on 643 individuals who reported injuries in written submissions to the state, an estimated several thousand people suffered physical injury, the suit said. One of the plaintiffs is Timothy Wilcox, an Air Force major who says his infant son, Jack, suffered severe and continuing respiratory injuries from the spray. He was exposed to it when he was 11 months old.The suit, filed by attorney Stephan Volker, alleged that an incident of injured and dead birds occurring in November along the shoreline of Santa Cruz County was a result of the Nov. 8, 2007, pesticide spraying.The suit alleges the following: "Residents began finding dead and dying birds on the beaches of Santa Cruz County the morning of Friday, Nov. 9. Within two days of the spray, more than 248 dead or injured birds were submitted to local native animal rescue organizations. Within seven days, more than 650 dead or injured birds had been found."This aerial spraying was followed by rainfall that washed a large concentration of pesticide runoff into Monterey Bay, a nationally protected Marine Sanctuary. Samples of the yellow froth that appeared at the ocean outlets of Santa Cruz rivers were examined and found to contain high levels of the Checkmate LBAM-F microcapsules. Many of the birds covered in this froth drowned or died from hypothermia," the suit said, explaining that the pesticide worked to strip oils from the bird's feathers, impairing their buoyancy and ability to stay warm."Immediately following the sprayings, numerous residents in both Monterey and Santa Cruz counties reported a sudden disappearance of songbirds in their communities. Many residents also reported dead or sickened cats and dogs, dead rabbits, dead and injured fish, and a die-off in honeybees," the lawsuit said.To read the lawsuit online, go to links.sfgate.com/ZFMA.Judge: Automakers cannot block RI emission rules...RAY HENRY, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/11/25/national/a143646S76.DTL&type=printableAutomakers cannot sue to block Rhode Island from enforcing tighter standards on tailpipe emissions first adopted by California because the industry has already lost similar lawsuits elsewhere, a federal judge has ruled.U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres dismissed General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler Corp. and two automakers associations from the case, but his ruling permits several local car dealers to pursue the lawsuit for now. The automobile manufacturers have lost similar lawsuits in California and Vermont.Daimler AG divested its Chrysler unit to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007 but still retains a 20 percent stake in the newly created firm, Chrysler LLC.In his ruling, Torres said allowing another lawsuit would be a waste of court resources."It is difficult to see what interest the public has in permitting the plaintiffs another bite of the apple in challenging regulations limiting the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," Torres said in the ruling, which was signed Monday and made public Tuesday.Although Torres allowed the auto dealers to continue with the lawsuit, the judge said lawyers for the state could still make arguments to have the firms dismissed from the case.Similar lawsuits are pending in New Mexico and two federal appeals courts. W. Michael Sullivan, director of Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management, said the decision was a victory for the state. He said automakers could use existing technology to meet the clean air standards."This decision is going to allow us to reinforce the message of, 'Stop fiddling around and do it,'" Sullivan said.The ruling in Rhode Island prompted several environmental advocates to call on the auto industry to cease its lawsuits over the air pollution standards."It's time for the automakers to read the handwriting on the wall," David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, said in a written statement. "Lock up your lawyers and unleash your engineers."Charles Territo, a spokesman for one of the plaintiffs, The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said his organization was pleased the local auto dealers can continue the lawsuit in Rhode Island. His said the association intends to pursue similar cases outside the state."Automakers are committed to enhancing energy security and reducing carbon dioxide emissions and believe the best way to do so is through a single national standard set by the federal government," Territo said.California's proposed restrictions would force automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016.The federal Clean Air Act gives California the unique ability to create its own vehicle pollution standards because it started regulating air pollution before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created. But the EPA denied California's application last year to enforce its new rules.California officials are appealing that decision in court. They expect that President-elect Barack Obama will support the state's stricter standards. If California prevails, other states would be free to enforce California's standards as their own.Rhode Island and 11 other states — Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington — have adopted California's tailpipe standards. The governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah have said they plan to adopt the regulations. The rules have been under review elsewhere.Government backs off drilling near national parks...PAUL FOY, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/11/25/national/a180516S09.DTL&type=printableDrilling leases on and near the border of Utah's scenic national parks have been pulled from an auction block.The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced its decision late Tuesday after negotiations with National Park Service officials who objected to noise, lights and air pollution near Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, all in Utah.Some of those parcels were within 1.3 miles of Delicate Arch, a freestanding span of 33 feet that is the signature landmark at Arches near Moab, Utah.Hundreds of thousands of acres throughout Utah will still be auctioned off Dec. 19 for oil and gas drilling.In all, the Park Service objected to 93 parcels where drilling could drown out the sounds of wind, water and wildlife for visitors, possibly contaminate nearby springs and worsen ozone levels, Mike Snyder, the Denver-based regional Park Service director, wrote Monday in a protest letter to the bureau.BLM maps showed the agency will remove 34 parcels from the December auction, including those bunched along park boundaries.That was little more than a third of what the Park Service wanted eliminated.Snyder, however, showed no disappointment. "Working with Selma Sierra, the BLM Utah state director, has resulted in the kind of resource protection that Americans want and deserve for their national parks," he said in a joint statement.Snyder couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.The BLM left some drilling parcels — including parts of three tracts near Arches park — on the auction list which critics say could still ruin park views."I don't know why we're that desperate to compromise the extraordinary values of the national parks. Any industrialization of areas adjacent to park creates irreparable damage," said Dave Nimkin, a regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.The BLM, he said, "would burn the Rembrandts to heat the castles."Other leases include parcels on high cliffs along whitewater sections of Desolation Canyon, an area explored by John Wesley Powell in 1896, and plateaus populated by big game atop Nine Mile Canyon, home to thousands of ancient rock art panels.Mercury makes bass unsafe to eat at Big Bear...Associated Presshttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/26/BA6G14CA0R.DTL&type=printable(11-26) 04:00 PST Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino County -- Some largemouth bass captured from Big Bear Lake had mercury levels that exceeded recommended levels but the water itself appears safe for drinking, authorities said.The mercury levels in tissue samples from about a dozen bass taken from 2001 to 2005 ranged from 0.2 part per million to 0.6 part per million, according to state and federal documents cited Tuesday by the Riverside Press-Enterprise.No new testing has been done but it is unlikely that the mercury levels have changed, said Robert Brodberg, senior toxicologist for the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.The agency says fish with a mercury level of 0.44 part per million or higher should not be eaten by minors and women of child-bearing age. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says people should limit the amount of fish they eat that have a mercury level of 0.3 part per million."It could be harmful to fish, birds and humans if they consume too many of the affected fish. That's why we're concerned about the levels we've seen," said Hope Smythe, senior environmental scientist at the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board.Trout and carp from the lake did not have excessive levels of mercury.Water testing earlier this year found no detectable mercury in the lake, according to state documents."The concentrations are not high enough to be of a concern on human consumption for drinking water," said Scott Heule, the Big Bear water district's general manager.San Diego Union-TribuneStop handing Delta water rules to activists...Editorialhttp://www.signonsandiego.com/news/op-ed/editorial2/20081126-9999-lz1ed26bottom.html Environmental activists continue to deny Californians more water in the name of saving fish. Last year, responding to an activist lawsuit, a federal judge ordered a 31 percent cut in water pumped from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta – a water supply for 25 million residents. The judge acted in an effort to end the decline of the three-inch-long Delta smelt. Last year, responding to activists, a judge demanded that the Department of Water Resources, which runs the State Water Project in the Delta, get a permit to “take” Delta smelt. The California Fish and Game Commission ordered the state to restrict pumping to protect larval and juvenile as well as mature smelt. Last year, responding to activists, the Fish and Game Commission ordered protection of a kindred fish, the longfin smelt. This action extends the pumping restriction period to six months of the year. In February, responding to activists, the commission declared longfin smelt a candidate for state endangered species status. This month, the commission extended for 90 days restrictions to protect the longfin smelt from State Water Project pumps. It also rejected a request by the state Department of Water Resources to mitigate the impact of pumping impacts on longfin smelt in lieu of stopping the pumps. Federal regulators, too, have a role. On Dec. 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release its revised biological opinion on the Delta smelt's federal status. The fish is likely to be declared, again, endangered. And the impact on smelt of the restrictions so far? Zero. In the last five years, eight smelt were caught in the pumps. The regulations have saved none. Others suspect other culprits in the smelt's decline, such as pollutants, invasive species and drought. Only the pumps, however, offer the huge, adverse impacts on the water supply for 25 million residents. Just how adverse is that impact? Between increasingly onerous smelt rules and continuing drought, the state Department of Water Resources projects that in 2009 wholesale water agencies may get as little as 15 percent of the water they need. Even record snowmelt in the Rockies won't help, since the State Water Project can't deliver it. What would help? A new official attitude that comes right out of a state Supreme Court ruling and recognizes, as Director Don Koch of the Department of Fish and Game put it, “the importance of various agencies' responsibilities to protect both humans and fish.” Also at work is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a move to address all possible hazards to Delta wildlife's overall health, including a system to convey water for people around instead of through the Delta. A sizable coalition led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and water and wildlife agencies will run up against the activists and their strident opposition to the dual duty for the Delta. At least 25 million Californians north and south have all the reason they need to encourage the success of the coalition's efforts.The Vacaville ReporterDelta plan completed: Time to take it seriously...Published in the Reporterhttp://www.thereporter.com/corrections/ci_11069100The Delta Vision Task Force has finished its report on what California needs to do to protect the hub of its statewide water system -- and not a moment too soon.Just as the report was being released, the Department of Water Resources said that in 2009, it expects to deliver just 15 percent of the water California farmers and urban users typically request. The main reason for the cuts is the ongoing drought conditions that have drastically reduced the amount of fresh water flowing into the Delta. But even if winter brings more rain and mountain snow, court orders designed to protect endangered fish, including smelt, salmon and steelhead, could continue to curtail the amount of water that can be taken out of the Delta. These rulings apply not only to farmers and communities located south of the pumping station at Tracy, but also to Solano and other Bay Area counties that take water from the Delta. Certainly Solano County is in better shape than many areas, thanks to its water storage at Lake Berryessa, but less water is still less water. How water should be used -- to supply human needs or to sustain nature -- is the No. 1 priority addressed by the Delta Vision Task Force. It recommends legally acknowledging that both water supplies and the ecosystem have equal status in any future Delta decisions. The task force laid out 73 recommendations and six other goals as well, including enhancing the Delta's unique cultural, recreational and agricultural values; restoring its ecosystem; promoting statewide water conservation; building new conveyance and water storage facilities; improving flood protection through emergency preparedness, land-use regulations and levee strengthening; and establishing a better system of Delta governance. The devil is in the details, of course, and certainly there is something in the report to displease everyone involved. And there are hundreds of agencies involved. Which is, of course, one reason every other attempt to coordinate a response to the Delta's problems has failed. Californians can't afford to keep squabbling. The courts are already imposing solutions that aren't palatable. And Mother Nature isn't waiting around either. The climate is changing. The rain and snow that used to come with some regularity are no longer arriving on a predictable schedule, if at all. And if sea levels rise, as predicted, there will be more salt water and flooding in the Delta. A cabinet-level committee is taking comments about the Delta Vision Task Force's recommendations -- the next hearing begins at 9 a.m. Dec. 5 at the CalFed headquarters, 650 Capitol Mall, in Sacramento. It will then make its own recommendations to the governor. Delta policy must change, and that means everyone will have to give a little or even a lot. The status quo simply cannot continue.Washington PostWal-Mart and California settle pricing suit for $1.4 million...Reporting by Gina Keating, editing by Leslie Gevirtz,Reuters...11-24-08http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/24/AR2008112401865_pf.htmlLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> agreed to pay $1.4 million and refund $3 per customer for future pricing mistakes to settle a lawsuit by California authorities over price scanning errors at the chain's stores statewide, the California Attorney General said on Monday.An investigation into allegations that Wal-Mart checkout counters were scanning items at higher prices than those advertised on store's shelves and signs began in 2005, followed by a fraud lawsuit filed earlier this year in San Diego.Through random price checks, state investigators found that 164 Wal-Mart stores in 30 California counties had made scanning errors, which averaged $8.40 per customer, according to California Attorney General Edmund Brown and San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.The investigators found that customers were overcharged on a variety of items, ranging from sports bras to cereal.A Wal-Mart spokesman had no immediate comment on the settlement.As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to implement a pricing accuracy program in its California stores for at least four years. The chain must designate employees to handle consumer complaints and do weekly price accuracy checks.The company also must post signs describing the refund program at each cashier's stand, and must offer immediate discounts of $3 for every item that is priced incorrectly.If the accurate price is less than $3, the overcharged customer will receive it for free, the attorney general said.Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $1.4 million in restitution, civil penalties and reimbursement for the cost of the probe, plus $50,000 to the state Consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund.New York TimesBald Eagles in Catskills Show Increasing Mercury...ANTHONY DePALMAhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/25/science/25eagl.html?_r=1&sq=conservation&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=printLess than two years after the bald eagle was removed from the federal government’s endangered species list, an environmental organization in Maine has found an alarming accumulation of mercury in the blood and feathers of bald eagle chicks in the Catskill Park region of New York. The levels are close to those associated with reproductive problems in common loons and bald eagles elsewhere in the Northeast, although the New York and national populations of bald eagles have been growing strongly in recent years.The study is being released Tuesday by the BioDiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit ecological organization in Gorham, Me. The average mercury blood level in chicks within the parks’ boundaries was 0.64 parts per million. The same study showed that about one-quarter of the feathers of adult birds also had elevated levels of mercury, suggesting that the toxin builds up in the raptors faster than they can get rid of it.David C. Evers, the institute’s director and a co-author, with Chris DeSorbo, of the study, said that not enough research had yet been done to say with certainty what effect the elevated mercury levels might have on eagles. He acknowledged that the tremendous growth in bald eagle numbers since DDT was banned in 1972 suggested that mercury was not hurting national reproduction rates. But he said that overall population figures could be masking slower growth in the regions where the mercury contamination is highest. Peter E. Nye, who has run the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s bald eagle restoration program for three decades, worked with Mr. Evers on the mercury study. He said that mercury contamination was a concern but that he was “not ready to turn on the siren and cry wolf.” In fact, he said, the state’s 145 resident pairs of bald eagles produced 188 chicks last year, a 23 percent increase from the year before. In New York, the eagle population has grown from one nesting pair in the 1970s to 145 pairs this year. But the bird is still listed as threatened in the state. Mr. Evers said that while the mercury threat was certainly not dire, there was cause for concern. “If mercury does reduce reproductive abilities of bald eagles,” he said, “it will likely reduce survivorship over time.” There may be another reason for concern. Lynda White, eagle watch coordinator at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, Fla., which monitors active eagle nest sites, said that because eagles are so sensitive to contamination — evidenced by their tragic link to DDT — they are good barometers of environmental health. “If mercury is affecting them, it eventually is going to affect us, as well,” Ms. White said. Eagle chicks elsewhere in New York also were tested for mercury. But levels were not as high as those in the Catskills, which is home to several huge reservoirs that store drinking water for New York City, 110 miles away. The city’s water is tested regularly, and so far the mercury poses no known threat to people who drink it, city officials say. But the mercury makes its way into worms and organisms eaten by fish, in streams and ponds as well as the reservoirs. The fish are then consumed by eagles (and sometimes by people, although New York has issued advisories limiting the amount of fish from the state’s lakes and rivers that can be consumed safely). The Catskills region receives some of the severest mercury contamination in the country, in large measure because of prevalent wind patterns that regularly carry harmful smokestack emissions from the Midwest. The Nature Conservancy, which has protected swaths of the Catskills, financed this study as well as previous works on mercury contamination in the region. Mercury comes from several sources, but primarily from coal-burning power plants. Mercury occurs naturally in coal and is sent up smokestacks when coal is burned. Wind currents blow the mercury eastward, where it eventually falls into lakes, rivers and streams to form methylmercury, which can cause neurological disorders in animals and humans. For much of the year, bald eagles live on brown trout, smallmouth bass and other fresh water fish that can be contaminated with methylmercury. Adult eagles feed the fish to their nestlings. Studies of common loons have shown how mercury can affect behavior. The loons become lethargic, which can affect their ability to gather food or sit on a nest long enough for eggs to hatch. Reproductive rates in loons contaminated with mercury can drop by as much as 40 percent, according to Mr. Evers.A 2007 study by the BioDiversity Research Institute of mercury levels in bald eagles in Maine showed that there was a “significantly negative” correlation between reproduction rates and blood mercury levels, although the actual percentage of lowered rates has not yet been determined. Other scientists have found mercury in bald eagle populations in South Carolina, Florida and Michigan, though not at levels considered threatening. Federal efforts to control mercury emissions have been criticized for not being stringent enough to address the problem of local hot spots. Mr. Nye, of New York’s conservation department, said the study could prove useful in the future. “While the current study doesn’t point to any immediate or critical concerns,” he said, “it does provide excellent baseline information on mercury contamination for future reference, should we see reproductive problems cropping up with any of our eagles.”A Resounding Vote for Open Space...Editorial...11-19-08http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19wed2.html?sq=A%20Resounding%20Vote%20for%20Open%20Space”&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=printAlmost unnoticed in the election results was some very good news for the environment — and for land preservation in particular. Despite the financial crisis, voters made it clear that they want to increase spending on preserving open land, even at the cost of higher taxes.Across the nation, voters approved $7.3 billion in new spending for parks and open-space preservation. Sixty-two of the 87 referendums to acquire or otherwise protect open space were approved. And the support came in rural, Republican areas, as well as in those that lean toward the Democrats. California and Florida said yes to more than $700 million in new spending on open space. In Minnesota, voters increased the sales tax by three-eights of a cent to generate $5.5 billion over the next 25 years for land preservation and environmental protection. It was the largest open-space state referendum in the nation’s history. Despite especially tough economic times, New Jersey voters showed that they feel strongly about acquiring open space before it is all eaten up by strip malls and McMansions. The state is reeling from high property taxes, unemployment and a budget deficit. But voters still approved 14 of 22 county and municipal referendums to increase or extend property taxes dedicated to acquiring or preserving open space.These votes are an explicit rebuke to President Bush, who failed miserably to honor his 2000 campaign promise to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the government’s main vehicle for buying open space. They should give Congress a strong push to approve a public lands measure that, among other things, would grant permanent wilderness protection to two million acres of public land.We had hoped that Congress would approve the legislation in the current lame-duck session. On Monday, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, withdrew it from the calendar after Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, threatened to filibuster the bill. Mr. Coburn called it a waste of money and an unnecessary expansion of federal control over public lands. Mr. Reid said the Senate needed to focus on the economic crisis, but he promised to bring the measure up for immediate action early next year. Old business tends to get lost in the early days of a new Congress, especially when there is a new administration. Come January, we will remind Mr. Reid of his promise and of the voters’ clear commitment to preserving open spaces. LettersPreserving Open Spacehttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/opinion/lweb26land.html?sq=clean%20water%20act&st=cse&scp=5&pagewanted=printTo the Editor:Re “A Resounding Vote for Open Space” (editorial, Nov. 19):That Republicans and Democrats across the country strongly supported parks and open space preservation is certainly worthy of applause. Spending public money on green space is an investment that has long-term financial returns even Wall Street would envy. For example, reducing flood damage by preserving and rebuilding wetlands and using green space and porous surfaces to absorb seasonal high water events can save large public and insurance expenditures in repairs. The new Congress and president have a number of difficult tasks ahead. But continuing the voters’ trend to be more supportive of open space and greenery might be among the easier tasks they have to tackle. One piece of legislation that is supported by the American Society of Landscape Architects is H.R. 5867, the Energy Conservation Through Trees Act of 2008, introduced by Representative Doris Matsui of California. It would improve air quality and lower the need for energy consumption through a grant program using targeted residential tree planting to reduce energy usage. We have high hopes that the new administration will take action to preserve and enhance green infrastructure.Susannah DrakePresident, New York ChapterAmerican Society of Landscape ArchitectsNew York, Nov. 21, 2008•To the Editor:You correctly conclude that there is great support among Americans for protecting open space, and urge Congress to pass a package of bills that would, in part, establish millions of acres of designated wilderness. Regrettably, however, the public lands bill includes a provision that would pave the way for a taxpayer-financed $56 million “road to nowhere” through the heart of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.The refuge is an internationally recognized wilderness that brown bears, caribou and more than half a million migratory birds call home.The public lands package should be passed, but not at the expense of a premier wildlife refuge and wilderness area. To allow this to happen cheapens any wilderness gains, and opens the door to removing wilderness protections elsewhere.Congress should strip the Izembek road and pass a bill that Americans can be proud of.Evan HirschePresidentNational Wildlife Refuge AssociationWashington, Nov. 20, 2008•To the Editor:Your editorial correctly notes that despite our nation’s economic problems, voters delivered. But that’s not surprising: for more than a decade, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the country, and we’ve found that all of them, whether conservative or progressive, Democratic or Republican, are consistently willing to vote with their wallets to preserve the environment. We agree with your viewpoint that the local results mean that with a new administration and a new Congress going to Washington, now is the time to provide $900 million to fully finance the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That program, as you note, is the premier federal program for buying open space.Yes, this is a tough economic climate. But local and state governments know that when voters are asked, they say yes. Now is the time for the federal government to rejoin that effort.Will RogersPresident, The Trust for Public LandSan Francisco, Nov. 19, 2008