11-30-08Fresno BeeValley casino future unsureVegas company faces financial struggles...Chris Collinshttp://www.fresnobee.com/local/v-printerfriendly/story/1042799.htmlThe Las Vegas company that wants to build a $250 million casino off Highway 99 near Madera is struggling financially and may have trouble lining up money to fund the project, gaming industry analysts say.Even worse, Station Casinos could file for bankruptcy, which would force the Mono Indians of the North Fork Rancheria to search for a new financial partner and delay the project indefinitely. "Obviously this is a bad time to be trying to build a casino anywhere," said Joseph Weinert, an analyst with the New Jersey research firm Spectrum Gaming Group. Despite the nation's faltering economy -- which has not spared even the resilient gaming industry -- tribal officials say the project could break ground as early as 2010. They say the Madera casino will generate thousands of jobs and inject tens of millions of dollars into local business and government coffers. But the project, which would be California's first off-reservation casino, still needs approval from federal officials and state legislators. Station Casinos' financial troubles are emerging as an additional hurdle. Since the beginning of the year, the company has delayed plans to build a new casino in Las Vegas and, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has lost more than $75 million. Analysts say the company is struggling to make payments on its debt, which totaled $5.4 billion as of September. The setbacks reflect a general downturn in the gaming industry. Station Casinos, the largest operator of suburban casinos in Las Vegas, has been hit especially hard because of the high rate of home foreclosures in Las Vegas, gaming consultant Ken Adams said. Credit rating agencies have increasingly warned that Station Casinos will likely be unable to make its scheduled debt payments. If that happens, analysts say, the company could file for bankruptcy. Station Casinos, however, says it expects to make its debt payments on time and complete the Madera project. "We're confident that when the time comes to finance the project, we'll be able to do so," company spokeswoman Lori Nelson said. Tribal Chairwoman Elaine Bethel-Fink said there is nothing in the tribe's contract that dictates what would happen if Station Casinos went bankrupt. She said she's not sure how that would affect the partnership or what the tribe would do if that happened. "This economy was not anticipated," she said. If the company does make it through the economic downturn, it still faces other financial challenges that could delay the Madera project. The credit crunch has made it difficult for companies to find money for large projects, analysts say. If the problem persists, it may be years before Station Casinos could borrow money to build the casino. "No one is getting financing -- not Harrah's, not MGM, not Station," said Las Vegas gaming consultant Adams, referring to some of the biggest casino companies in the country. Harrah's Entertainment announced this month that it will back out of a $560 million casino project near Wichita, Kan., because it could not find the money to build it. Similarly, Station Casinos said this month that it will delay construction on a Las Vegas casino indefinitely. "Station and Harrah's are in very similar situations," said Bill Eadington, an economics professor and the director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada in Reno. He said that creditors are reluctant to lend either company the money necessary to build projects because they are struggling to make their current debt payments. Any money borrowed would come with higher interest rates. Standard & Poor's credit-rating service downgraded Station Casinos' rating this month to CCC, which S&P analyst Ben Bubeck described as a "very low rating." He said Station Casinos is "not at all" in a position to expand. There is some hope for the Madera project. Bubeck believes that the casino industry will suffer more losses at least through early 2009, but has strong long-term prospects. Since it could be two years before the Madera casino breaks ground, there is a good chance Station Casinos will be able to fund the project by then, assuming it survives the nation's economic storm, Eadington said. "If markets go back to anywhere near normal, it could be very viable," he said. "But given Station's current situation, it certainly will be very quiet in the short term." Richard Wells, a former Harrah's Entertainment executive and the president of Wells Gaming Research, a consulting firm in Reno, said the Madera casino is an attractive project because the proposed site is next to Highway 99 and would be highly visible. That will make it easier for Station Casinos to borrow money when the time comes to build the casino. Nonetheless, Station Casinos still has to find money to keep the project afloat for now -- $5 million to $10 million a year in attorney and engineering fees, Eadington estimated. The casino would be built four miles north of Madera on a 305-acre plot of land. It would have about 2,500 slot machines, 70 table games, multiple restaurants and a hotel. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a compact with the Mono Indians in April that would give the state about $25 million a year from gaming profits if the casino is built. The compact still needs to be approved by the state Legislature. Many of the more than 1,700 members of the Mono Indians tribe believe the casino would help fund essential health-care and education programs to a community that struggles with unemployment and access to basic housing. But because the casino would be built about 35 miles from the North Fork Rancheria, the project needs approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Only three tribes have had off-reservation casinos approved in the past 20 years. Sacramento BeeSalmon-tracking network upends some sacred cows...Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapershttp://www.mcclatchydc.com/226/v-print/story/56563.htmlWASHINGTON — They were two of the 1,000 juvenile salmon implanted with almond-sized transmitters as they headed out of the Rocky Mountains, down the Snake River bound for the sea.Their remarkable three-month, 1,500-mile journey of survival to the Gulf of Alaska was tracked by an underwater acoustic listening network that has wired the West Coast from just north of San Francisco to southeastern Alaska. The tracking network could provide a model for a global system.A salmon's life in the ocean has always been one of nature's best kept mysteries.However, scientists using the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking network have made some startling discoveries that challenge long-held beliefs about salmon survival and raise new cautions about how global warming may affect salmon and other marine species."I hope it will be a revolution in the way we do marine science," said David Welch, the president of Kintama Research Corp. in Nanaimo, British Columbia, who was one of the founders of the tracking system. "I think we will make discoveries that are incredibly important and unexpected."The transmitters, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated, smaller and cheaper, have been implanted in a dozen species, including coho, sockeye and chinook salmon, along with green sturgeon, white sturgeon, sixgill shark, salmon shark, market squid, cutthroat trout, steelhead, dolly varden and black rockfish. Eventually, scientists think they'll be able to implant the transmitters in marine animals as big as whales and as small as herring.Signals from the transmitters are picked up by nearly 300 receivers on the ocean floor as the fish swim by. The information is eventually retrieved from the listening devices by scientists who routinely visit the eight lines of acoustic receivers by ship. The receivers don't transmit the data by satellite.Listening lines are off Washington state's Willapa Bay, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Vancouver Island and Washington's Olympic Peninsula, in British Columbia's Strait of Georgia, Queen Charlotte Strait, Howe Sound and off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, along with Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, and Graves Harbor in southeastern Alaska.Two major Northwest rivers, the Columbia and Fraser, are also wired with receivers that can keep track of salmon movements from the river mouth to hundreds of miles inland."This is a revolution in being able to study marine animals that travel vast distances," said Fred Goetz, a fish biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who's been studying Puget Sound chinook, steelhead and bull trout. "This is a big breakthrough."Goetz said an effort is under way to permanently establish an acoustic listening line in Puget Sound near Admiralty Inlet.Scientists are convinced the marine environment is changing because of global warming. However, no one yet understands how the changes are linked to such weather patterns as El Nino, La Nina and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a shift in the weather that occurs every 20 to 30 years in the northern oceans.Tracking marine life could help document these shifts and the effects they are having on the oceans."Now we are getting virtually real-time information," said Jim Bolger, the executive director of the tracking network. "We are answering questions we couldn't before."Among the findings:_ Previously, it was thought that the highest mortality rates for salmon were in the freshwater streams and rivers as they headed to the saltwater ocean. But using the acoustic tracking system, researchers found that within the first few weeks of entering the ocean, 40 percent of the salmon died. Meanwhile, billions of dollars have been spent to increase in-river survival rates of salmon through projects such as habitat improvements in spawning areas and the modification of hydroelectric dams._ A study by Welch, which has touched off a major scientific debate, found dams may have less of an impact on salmon survival rates than previously thought. The study found juvenile salmon from the Columbia River, with its string of massive hydroelectric dams, survived their downstream migration equally or better than those migrating downstream in the dam-free Fraser River in British Columbia. Some environmentalists have insisted the only way to restore the Columbia River runs is by breaching four dams on the lower Snake River, a major tributary of the Columbia._ It's long been thought green sturgeon from the Sacramento and Klamath rivers in California migrated into the ocean but didn't go far. Now, using the acoustic tracking system, the green sturgeon have been found congregating off the north end of Vancouver Island at certain times of the year and then heading into the North Pacific. They've also been found in Puget Sound."We are taking a black box which is the ocean and trying to shed some light on it," said Jonathan Thar, the network's research coordinator.The tracking system has also helped researchers confirm the incredible speeds at which juvenile salmon can travel, said Cedar Chittenden, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia.Juvenile coho salmon, about five inches in length, can travel almost 20 miles a day in the ocean and nearly 40 miles in rivers, or about 200,000 body lengths a day, she said. An average-sized person swimming at the same rate would cover nearly 220 miles a day in the ocean and almost 435 miles in a river, Chittenden said.Using the tracking system, Chittenden said, researchers also found that wild juvenile salmon take less time to enter the ocean than hatchery fish, perhaps because the hatchery fish tend to be heavier and slower. And wild fish adapt faster to saltwater than hatchery ones.The tracking system may also help scientists determine whether salmon runs, because of rising ocean temperatures, may be relocating further north. Chittenden said there is some evidence thermal blocks, or areas of warm water, have hindered salmon as they seek to return to their home rivers to spawn, and instead the fish may head to different rivers."We can actually track individual fish," she said. "We couldn't do these things without POST," the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking network.The network, which has cost about $7 million, is run by a nonprofit organization hosted by the Vancouver Aquarium and funded by various foundations. It is also one of 14 field projects under the Census for Marine Life, a group of scientists and researchers from more than 60 universities and colleges around the world who are spending 10 years cataloging every marine species.Eventually, the Census for Marine Life hopes to establish a global Ocean Tracking Network, or OTN, that would cover 14 areas in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic oceans, along with the Mediterranean Sea.Efforts to establish such networks are already under way in eastern Canada, South Africa and Australia. In Australia and South Africa, the networks could also be used to alert authorities when sharks are near swimming beaches.Stockton RecordWho will be Delta's keeper?...Alex Breitlerhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081130/A_NEWS/811300313It's a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen.More than 200 agencies have some say on what happens in the vast Delta, and the product of their labors doesn't seem to satisfy anyone, as fish die and the water supply shrinks.Among all other impending Delta decisions, such as whether to build a peripheral canal, a key question yet to be answered is how the Delta will be governed in the future. Who will be in charge?During a series of recent meetings with California Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman and his staff, San Joaquin County leaders have jockeyed for representation on whatever governance agency is created in the future.Chrisman chairs a five-member Cabinet committee that will submit a strategic Delta plan, already approved by a blue-ribbon task force, to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by Dec. 31. The committee may expand on the task force's recommendations; a meeting to gather public comments is scheduled for Friday in Sacramento.There are signs that at least some local representation will be part of the new governance structure, said Terry Dermody, former San Joaquin County counsel now acting as a water attorney for the county.Dermody said Chrisman's staff revealed in meetings that it may restructure the Delta Protection Commission to consist of elected officials from five Delta counties, three cities including Stockton, and representatives of three major water agencies for Delta farmers.The commission - charged with improving farming, wildlife habitat and recreation, as well as governing land use - would work with a higher-level Delta council consisting of five to seven members appointed by the governor."Together these groups would develop a plan," Dermody said. "What that all means, we can't be sure."But he recently said that the state appears to want San Joaquin County to accept some aspects of Delta governance while purposely keeping county leaders uninformed and uninvolved in the region's overarching authority.The idea of a higher, governor-appointed council, in particular, has concerned some Delta advocates. Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, head of the Stockton-based Restore the Delta advocacy group, recently said that the new structure appears to be top-heavy.Stockton environmentalist Bill Jennings said Friday that the plan sounds like another CALFED. That state-federal partnership aiming to bolster fish populations is today viewed as a failure by many observers."There's some new ornaments on the Christmas tree, but essentially it's the status quo," Jennings said.John Herrick, an attorney for South Delta Water Agency, also drew a CALFED comparison in comments submitted last month."If we learned anything from (that) debacle," he wrote, "it should be that putting the regulators in with the regulated, and encouraging them to reach consensus, is the worst possible approach."Keith Coolidge, a spokesman for Delta Vision, said it wasn't yet clear what the exact structure of the Delta Protection Commission and the governor-appointed Delta council would be.But he said any proposal would include cooperation and collaboration."I think we have an increasing appreciation for the need to work with local governments," he said.Share your voiceThe Delta Vision Committee will host a meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in Sacramento at the John E. Moss Federal Building, 650 Capitol Mall, fifth floor, in the Bay-Delta Room.Public comments will be accepted on the Delta strategic plan which must be delivered to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by Dec. 31. For more information, visit www.deltavision.ca.gov. San Francisco ChronicleShip cargo volume slumping at West Coast ports...George Rainehttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/30/BUC814CTLU.DTL&type=printableCargo volume at West Coast ports, after years of being dominant in U.S. maritime trade, is slumping, clearly the result of the worsening global economic crisis but also because Gulf Coast and East Coast ports are gaining favor, shipping industry executives say.The first priority for the cargo container business, of course, is making good decisions in an economy in which consumers have zipped their wallets, orders are a fraction of what they were in good times, Asian factories are shuttered and unemployment rates are rising.Long-term infrastructure improvements, including increased rail service and improved trucking conditions - as well as helping to cleanse the air at pollution-heavy, dangerous ports - will be necessary for the West Coast to hold on to market share amid ever-increasing competition from across the country, experts say.Container cargo volumes moving through the West Coast ports fell again in October, and 2008 is now expected to be the slowest year since 2004, according to the National Retail Federation. Collectively, the decline at West Coast ports is more than 1 million containers so far this year, American Shipper magazine reported.Down from last yearThrough October, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma have handled 17 million TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent units, as the cargo containers are referred to in the industry, a decline of 6.6 percent from the 18 million TEUs processed in the first 10 months of last year.But even after a recovery, growth in Asian trade is more likely to benefit the Gulf Coast ports, served by the Panama Canal, and the East Coast ports, which handle Southeast Asian cargo routed via the Suez Canal in Egypt, according to the authoritative supply chain adviser Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd. of London.In an article getting considerable attention in the industry, Drewry wrote that while the slowdown in volume along the West Coast "looks like the natural result of the credit squeeze," several factors have combined to undermine the position of the Pacific Coast ports, not the least of which is the complacency and increased rates of U.S. railroads.Shipping to destinations in the East after goods enter West Coast ports is now more expensive than what is known as the "all-water" route to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports - eliminating rail passage across the country, from West to East, the article notes.A third set of locks is to open at the Panama Canal by 2014 and, Drewry notes, that will create more transit capacity for container ships using the all-water route linking Asia and the United States."Even if growth continues as strongly as it has in recent years, any new trade will probably pass the West Coast by," the article reads. "Volumes are unlikely to decline, but the days of strong growth on the Pacific Coast are behind us."Michael Jacob, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in San Francisco, has bought into the idea the West Coast faces daunting structural problems. His trade association represents 60 maritime terminal operators and ocean carriers."In the long term, we are seeing the threat of all kinds of issues - issues on steroids," he said. These include "the lack of freight-supporting infrastructure," meaning highway and rail improvements as well as improved port facilities; and pricing, due to fuel, environmental costs, port container fees, and the costs associated with congestion, said Jacob. "Everyone has environmental issues," he said, "but we have them in spades."In addition, Jacob says that some shippers are choosing an alternative route around California, "investing somewhere else."He added, "We are actually on the front end of a long-term structural change of business models where people are building their supply chains around California" for goods not destined for California.At the Port of Oakland, Lawrence Dunnigan, manager of business development and international marketing, agreed that more cargo is moving directly to the East Coast than was the case in past years, but he believes the West Coast remains a viable market that also serves the Midwest. For all its pluses, the Panama Canal route remains an expensive option, Dunnigan said, and far more time-consuming than a 14-day trip from China to the West Coast."People are not shutting down warehouses or abandoning the West Coast," he said. "You still have to supply the West Coast."It is true that the Port of Virginia, the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah and others made infrastructure improvements in recent years, which they accelerated when fuel prices shot up, and that explains some of the volume increase in East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, Dunnigan said.Savannah thrivingSavannah is particularly aggressive, handling 2.7 million containers each year with the capacity to move more than 6.5 million annually, said Doug Marchand, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. In August, Savannah's year-to-date growth rate was 10 percent, the highest among all the major ports, and ahead of other ports that were also growing quickly at the time, New York-New Jersey (5.7 percent) and Norfolk, Va. (6.5 percent).By contrast, the Port of Seattle said October volumes dropped 14 percent. Loaded import containers fell 17.4 percent. Tuesday, the port commission approved its 2009 budget, cutting operating expenses by $9 million. Approximately 109 staff positions will go unfilled into the first six months of the year. To the north, the Prince Rupert Port Authority in British Columbia - served by the Canadian National Railway with service to Chicago - said its container traffic increased 281 percent in the third quarter, compared with the first quarter.Also on the West Coast, the Port of Long Beach, the nation's second largest, was down 7.7 percent in October and the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, was off 3.9 percent from October 2007.Global economy's impactThe Port of Los Angeles said, "The global economy continues to play a role in our drop in cargo volume. Exports have declined due to the stronger dollar. Retail sales are down, which naturally affect the import of new goods. We anticipate seeing this trend continue for the remainder of the year."The Port of Oakland - recently bumped from fourth largest in the nation to fifth by the Georgia Ports Authority's facility at Savannah - is far more balanced between imports and exports and so is less affected by the falloff in imports than other major ports. So far this year, Oakland is down 6.4 percent in imports but up 4.4 percent in exports.That's still a red number Oakland wants to go away, but recovery is not at hand."Certainly 2009 is looking very bleak. That is the word I have heard several times," Dunnigan said.A softening of port business on the West Coast is not only in part due to the precipitous downturn and increasing attractiveness of alternate cargo routes, but to financial challenges ocean carriers face at California ports, said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and shipping policy at the National Retail Federation."People are looking at the business environment surrounding California right now," said Gold, referring to container fees being imposed by ports, and expenses related to cleaner truck programs and other fees. "They're making decisions on whether to use California ports or other ports."Gold added, "They are trying to balance the risk in the supply chain, trying to look and see how they get the best advantage," including considering Canadian and Mexican ports.Moreover, said Gold, the 2002 labor dispute at the West Coast ports - when workers were locked out and the ports shut for 10 days after the workers staged a slowdown when contract talks stalled - also influenced decisions to ship around the West Coast this year.A new contract was negotiated and agreed to July 28, but before the ink was dry, merchants "wanted to hedge their bets" and "did not want to get caught as they did back in 2002," having all their eggs in the baskets of the West Coast ports, Gold said."There is new leadership for the employers (the Pacific Maritime Association, representing ocean carriers and terminal operators) and the union (the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) and we kept hearing a deal would get done, but until we saw the deal in place, there was doubt out there," said Gold.At the ILWU in San Francisco, Craig Merrilees, the spokesman, said "some of the employer groups whipped up their members into a paranoid lather urging companies to spend all sorts of extra time and money to reroute their cargo when it was not necessary."He added, "Most observers who follow the industry saw there was little or no probability of repeat of the 2002 fiasco."But even with a new, improved contract, ILWU members are working fewer hours, feeling the effects of the slowdown like most everyone else.'Unprecedented' conditionsRon Widdows, the chief executive of Neptune Orient Lines Limited, the parent of APL, its container shipping arm, put it succinctly Nov. 19 when he announced a reduction of 1,000 positions worldwide; the closure of the APL office in Oakland, affecting 350 people, some of whom will relocate to an office in a more "cost-effective" location in another state; and other adjustments when he said, "The negative conditions we are seeing in the marketplace are unprecedented in our industry's history."Widdows added, "This reflects our considered view that what we are seeing goes beyond a normal cyclical downturn." He said he anticipated further deterioration in trading conditions and described the outlook for profitability in 2009 as "grim." As evidence, APL is taking 20 of the 130 cargo ships in its fleet out of service.Said APL spokesman Mike Zampa, "When we come out of this, we will look different. Leaner. Absolutely. Not all carriers have paid close attention to their cost structure. In the end, some of them operate services that are not profitable. That can't happen any longer."Trout plants halted - it's a load of bullfrogs!...Tom Stienstrahttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/30/SP0S14D3R8.DTL&type=printableOn a magic morning at San Pablo Reservoir, for years the best fishing lake in the Bay Area, we caught 10 rainbow trout that weighed nearly 30 pounds, one of the finest two-angler trout limits I've ever seen. That will never happen again.Then there was the summer day at Loch Lomond Reservoir near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We caught several trout, then landed our boat on an island with a picnic site and barbecued the fish on the spot. What a moment. Now it looks like Loch Lomond is done forever.Up in the Sierra, on a stormy, late spring day at Spicer Meadows Reservoir in the high country, we caught something like 35 to 40 trout ranging 14 to 22 inches in three hours. Now it's goodbye Spicer.Try to imagine the early-summer flyfishing out of a canoe at pretty Gumboot Lake in the Trinity Divide, casting black leeches, strip retrieve, and catching a trout on nearly every cast in the last two hours of light. Must have released 30 or so. It will never happen again.San Pablo, Loch Lomond, Spicer Meadows and Gumboot are among 175 lakes and streams in California that will no longer receive trout plants thanks to a lawsuit settlement this past week between the Department of Fish and Game and environmentalists.The Center for Biological Diversity sued the DFG mainly to protect frogs and pollywogs, charging that fish can't be stocked without the DFG completing an Environmental Impact Report. Even though the DFG has stocked many of the lakes for generations, it's over now at many of the best. The ban takes effect immediately.In the Bay Area, the DFG halted trout stocks at Bon Tempe, Lagunitas and Alpine lakes in Marin, and Stevens Creek Reservoir near Monta Vista on the south peninsula. That means from Novato in north Marin on south to San Jose, the only lake left with fishing is troubled Lake Merced in San Francisco, where trout plants and fishing under the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has deteriorated to a joke.According to the DFG, this settlement was the best it could hope for after the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Rivers Council sued the DFG in October of 2006. The Stanford Environmental Law Clinic represented the enviros and argued in Superior Court that the DFG should be required to complete an Environmental Impact Report for each lake or stream before the DFG could be permitted to plant trout at any of them.That threatened to stop all trout plants, said Jordan Traverso, DFG deputy director."We actually were pleased with the negotiations," Traverso said. "When we got into court Nov. 7, we were told to work something out or stop the plants."The DFG did not choose the list of lakes and streams where plants will be stopped, she said. Rather a list of parameters was put in place. The presence of any of 27 species, most prominently, frogs and tadpoles, the size of the lake, whether it was a reservoir or natural lake, and whether it was connected to rivers, determined if it was blacklisted, Traverso said.CEQA the hammer"The premise in the original lawsuit was that our trout planting program was not compliant to CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), that we had not undergone an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for each lake," Traverso said. "That means the department is required to create an environmental impact report for something that has been going on for more than 100 years."On the surface, the cutbacks are intended to protect frogs and pollywogs, which trout occasionally feed on. But several state and federal scientists told me that the ban on trout plants will do nothing to increase frog populations.Traverso acknowledged that. "There could be a million other factors (with frogs and pollywogs) that have nothing to do with fish stocking," she said.At a wilderness lake in the Humphrey Basin in the high Sierra, all trout in the lake were netted out and killed to protect endangered frogs. Yet all of the frogs died anyway the following year, killed by chitrid fungus, according to Roland Knapp of the Sierra Nevada Research Laboratory. "It's a mystery and we don't know who the real bad guy is," Knapp said at the time. Although Knapp is a proponent of eliminating trout, he admitted that the trout had nothing to do with all the frogs disappearing at the test lake in the Humphrey Basin.Noah Greenwald, program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, lead party of the lawsuit, issued this statement in regard to his victory to stop plants at 175 lakes and streams: "Interim measures limiting stocking are needed to help save California's native fish and frogs from extinction." He didn't return a phone call. I wanted to ask him how many of the 175 lakes and streams being blacklisted has he actually been to. Impacts widespreadThe scope of the plant shutdown is stunning in some areas.It includes: Lake Amador, one of the best trout lakes in the Sacramento Valley foothills; Taylor Lake in the Russian Wilderness, the only wheelchair-accessible wilderness lake with trout fishing in the state; Ice House Reservoir, the sensational fishing lake in the Crystal Basin; and the Yuba River along Highway 49, one of the best trout streams in the Sierra.An example of how the shutdown could devastate an area's economy is the Highway 4 corridor, where pretty Alpine Lake, Mosquito Lake and Spicer Meadows provide the only lakes with fishing. Stocking trout will be stopped at all three, leaving roughly a 100-mile range across the Sierra that runs from Angels Camp through Murphys, Arnold, Dorrington and Bear Valley, with no lake to fish.At this point, with the highest-priced fishing license in the nation, the only DFG response that would make sense would be to immediately increase stocks wherever they are permitted. By law, one-third of all fishing license money is required to go to the DFG trout program, which would roughly double stocks at the lakes on the "OK list" if finally implemented.At the same time, the success of this lawsuit by environmental factions should throw a scare into all who fish or hunt. With the same premise, that an EIR is required before fish are stocked or hunting is permitted, a similar lawsuit could shut down virtually any fishing or hunting program. No stocksNotable lakes and streams that will not be stocked in the future include (north to south):Bay-Delta region:Contra Costa County: Lafayette Res., San Pablo Res.; Marin County: Alpine Lake, Bon Tempe Res., Lagunitas Lake; Napa County: Lake Hennessey; Santa Clara County: Cottonwood Lake, Coyote Res., Lexington Res., Stevens Creek Res.; Santa Cruz County: Loch Lomond Res.; Solano County: Putah Creek, Lake Solano.North Central region:Alpine County: Alpine Lake, Upper Blue Lake, Carson River (both East Fork and West Fork), Mosquito Lake, Silver Creek, Spicer Meadows Res., Union Res. Amador County: Lake Amador, Bear River Res., Mokelumne River. Butte County: Paradise Res., Thermalito Forebay.Calaveras County: White Pines Lake; Colusa County: Letts Lake. El Dorado County: American River, both Silver Fork and South Fork; Echo Lakes, Ice House Res., Jenkinson Lake, Stumpy Meadows Res., Taylor Creek, Wrights Lake. Glenn County: Plaskett Meadow Pond.Lake County: Upper Blue Lake, Cache Creek, Indian Valley Res., Lake Pillsbury. Nevada County: Boca Res., Bowman Lake, Donner Lake, Lyons Lake, Martis Creek Res., Prosser Res. Rollins Lake, Scott Flat Lake, Lake Spaulding; Placer County: Sugar Pine Res., Truckee River. Plumas County: Antelope Lake, Middle Fork and North Fork Feather River, Jamison Creek, Spanish Creek. Sacramento County: Lake Natoma. Sierra County: Little Truckee River, Yuba River.Northern region:Humboldt County: Freshwater Lagoon. Siskiyou County: Castle Lake, Dobkins Lake, Gumboot Lake, Big Hancock Lake, Sky High Lakes, Taylor Lake, Toad Lake, Paradise Lake, many others in Trinity Alps, Russian and Marble Mountain Wilderness areas. Trinity County: Boulder Lake, Bull Lake, Grizzly Lake, Tamarack Lake. Lassen County: Ash Creek. Modoc County: South Fork Pit River.Central region:Kern County: Kern River. Tulare County: Kaweah River, lower Kern River. Tuolumne County: South Fork Stanislaus River.Eastern Sierra:Inyo County: Pine Creek. Mono/Madera County: Sotcher Lake.Complete list: Go to dfg.ca.gov, then click on news item in far right column.Washington PostAt the Last Minute, a Raft of RulesBush White House Approves Regulations on Environmental, Security MattersBy R. Jeffrey Smith and Juliet EilperinStaff writers Spenser S. Hsu, Ceci Connolly and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29/AR2008112901914_pf.htmlIn a burst of activity meant to leave a lasting stamp on the federal government, the Bush White House in the past month has approved 61 new regulations on environmental, security, social and commercial matters that by its own estimate will have an economic impact exceeding $1.9 billion annually.Some of the rules benefit key industries that have long had the administration's ear, such as oil and gas companies, banks and farms. Others impose counterterrorism security requirements on importers and private aircraft owners.The rules cover obscure as well as high-profile social and economic issues: spelling out what kinds of records must be kept by sexually explicit performers and publications, exempting hobbyists' rocket motors from federal explosives controls, expanding the collection of DNA samples from federal prisoners.In most cases, the new regulations are meant to spell out precisely how federal employees and private citizens must comply with laws passed by Congress. But the language in those laws often had ambiguities -- reflecting lawmakers' uncertainties or disagreements -- that gave Bush's appointees broad discretion to follow their policy preferences. Similar "midnight regulations" were approved by previous presidents.In the environmental area, the latest rules indicate that the Bush administration wants to lend a final assist to industries that feel burdened by looming pollution controls or wilderness-protection laws. A rule approved by the White House three days after the presidential election, for example, would ease constraints on environmentally damaging oil shale development throughout the West, despite objections from Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) and a majority of the state's congressional delegation.On Nov. 17, Ritter called the decision "not just premature, it's hasty and I would even argue reckless." The Interior Department published it in the Federal Register Nov. 21, and it will take legal effect in 60 days from that date, or shortly after Congress reconvenes with a larger Democratic majority.Top officials are still finishing work on other industry-friendly measures, including a regulation inhibiting the ability of Congress to halt logging, mining, and oil and gas extraction on public lands. Another rule would allow federal agencies to proceed with development projects without undergoing independent scientific review under the Endangered Species Act.The Bush administration's impetus for hurrying to approve and publish so many of these regulations in the Federal Register is that those deemed to have a major economic impact -- defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as more than $100 million a year -- take legal effect after 60 days.That means Nov. 21 was an important political deadline to ensure they become effective before President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration. Less significant regulations, including many still in final stages of preparation, can take effect in 30 days or less.Once the new rules take the form of law, Democrats can undo them only by three complicated means: through a new regulatory rulemaking that would probably take years; through congressional amendments to underlying laws; or through special, fast-track resolutions of disapproval approved by the House and Senate within a few months after the start of the new congressional session on Jan. 6.Such a quick congressional rebuke has occurred only once before, in 2001, when a Republican-controlled Congress with President Bush's backing blocked a workplace safety regulation completed in the Clinton administration's final months. But recently, spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said Democrats were prepared to use that regulatory reversal power in consultation with Obama.The leadership "will review what oversight tools are at our disposal regarding last-minute attempts to inflict severe damage to the law in the waning moments of the Bush administration," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly."We will do whatever it takes," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the Environment and Public Works Committee chairman. "We're all over this. We've been waiting to pass on the information" to Obama's transition team.A spokeswoman for the OMB, who declined to be named, said "the activity of the last three weeks is expected" because the White House had ordered that draft regulations be sent to the OMB for final review by Nov. 1. She said those regulations still being completed reflect "long-standing administration priorities."Not every draft regulation got approved. On Nov. 19, the OMB ordered the Energy Department to kill new regulations that would have forced the federal government to buy more-energy-efficient lights, appliances, and heating and cooling systems. Daniel J. Weiss, climate strategy director at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, called that retreat from a 2005 requirement "unbelievable."The White House also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a new regulation mandating that truck manufacturers install equipment to monitor vehicle pollution. It blocked the Department of Veterans Affairs from issuing new promised "user-friendly" guidance on burial and survivors benefits.Those regulations that did get the nod came from 16 agencies and departments and will have a broad impact.A controversial new Health and Human Services rule approved in late October, for example, cuts an estimated $2 billion in state Medicaid reimbursements for outpatient services. State officials had complained that it would jeopardize dental care for children, certain lab tests and speech and occupational therapy."The withdrawal of this rule should be one of the first orders of business for the Obama administration," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).A controversial Justice Department rule approved Nov. 19 orders accelerated judicial review for death sentences. Legal groups had argued that speeding up executions makes errors more likely.Another Justice rule approved Nov. 19 spells out the personal documentation that sexually explicit performers and related publishers must make available for government inspection. The underlying 2005 law, intended to keep minors out of such performances, has been challenged in the courts as a privacy violation by sexual swingers and the magazines in which they use explicit photos to solicit partners.Nine days after the election, the White House approved a rule allowing trucking companies to force drivers to stay on the road for 11 hours without a rest. The American Trucking Association supported the rule, but lawmakers, unions and advocacy groups have called the extended hours dangerous.Three days after the election, the White House also approved a regulation requiring that lenders provide home buyers with a simplified summary of their financial and legal obligations. The changes, under development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development since 2002, gained impetus after lending fraud contributed to the U.S. economic meltdown.Industry opposed the reforms, however, and as a result, HUD dropped a proposal that settlement agents read a "closing script" as they complete a transaction.Also, loan officers won the flexibility to change some fees based on new circumstances, which critics said would bring higher costs to borrowers. Compliance was postponed until 2010.Business groups also successfully pushed back against provisions in counterterrorism regulations proposed by the Department of Homeland Security that could have required importers and sea carriers to detail shipment information to U.S. authorities before loading.The "10-plus-2" rule -- so named for the extra pieces of information required -- was the most significant import industry security measure since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, trade officials said. But the National Association of Manufacturers and others said the rule would delay shipments by two to five days and cost as much as $20 billion a year.As a result, the OMB agreed to give importers flexibility in complying and delay some of its implementation. It was published Nov. 24 as an interim rule, rather than a final one as originally proposed.A second counterterrorism regulation, requiring that pilots of private planes transmit crew and passenger lists before departing or entering the United States, was approved by the OMB over that industry's opposition. But a separate regulation requiring rigorous security screening for larger private planes was delayed at industry's request.