10-1-08Merced Sun-StarMerced irrigation season ends early again'Everyone needs to pray for rain,' says district official...CAROL REITERhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/477892.htmlAfter a season that saw growers get less irrigation water than normal, the Merced Irrigation District wrapped up regular water deliveries Tuesday.Because of the drought that has gripped the state, MID started the irrigation season on March 24, a bit later than growers were hoping for.Hicham Eltal, assistant general manager for water resources for MID, said because of the dry spring, growers were ready for water at the beginning of March.And turning the water off at the end of September is an early quit, Eltal said. Most years, growers can get water until the end of October, when the rainy season normally starts.Eltal said the water was turned off early to assure that growers will have an ample supply of water next year, even if it's another dry year. "We have to keep enough cushion in the reservoir in case we have a similar year next year," Eltal explained.MID had restricted water to growers this year. Growers were allotted 2.5 acre-feet of water instead of the normal 3 or 3.5 acre-feet. The district diverted about 310,000 acre-feet of surface water to growers from Lake McClure. One acre foot of water is enough to meet the industrial and municipal needs of four people for a year.Eltal said that if the district hadn't turned off the water early, next year growers might have only received 2 acre-feet per acre.When the water season started, Lake McClure, where MID water is stored, was at the sixth-lowest level it had been in 41 years, according to Ted Selb, MID deputy general manager.Because of the scarce reservoir water, MID pumped almost 100,000 gallons of ground water this year, Eltal said."We provide that water at a loss to us," Eltal said. Pumping the water costs the district about $27 an acre-foot to pump. The district has about 200 ground wells, which are only used in dry years like this one.The district has been putting money into a stabilization fund for 15 years, in case a dry year like this one came along.Last year, the district sold water to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The water was used for chinook salmon.There will be no selling of water this year, Eltal said. "We had no outside water sales this year at all," he said. "The only water sales were exclusively for MID growers."Hoping for a wet year next year, Eltal said the district is preparing for a worst-case scenario. And that scenario is one that growers won't like."In 1977, a bad drought year, we only provided 1.5 acre-feet to growers," Eltal said. "That was the worst in our history. Everyone needs to pray for rain."Lack of water leaves 2,000 acres fallow... CAROL REITER, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/lack_of_water_leaves_2_000_acres_fallowAccording to the Agricultural Water Management Council, the drought in California has affected the county in more ways than one.After the Merced Irrigation District cut water allocations this year, the lack of water pushed growers to leave more than 2,000 acres fallow.And more than 10,000 acres of agricultural land was damaged by the lack of water. All growers on MID water got 2.5 acre-feet of water per acre of land that they owned. The amount of water needed to keep almond trees productive and alive is 3 acre-feet.MID had no choice but to cut water allotments. The water just wasn’t there. Let’s all hope that next year is different, and adequate snow in the mountains helps growers be as productive as possible.San Joaquin River maneuvering continues as Congress nears end...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureauhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/477925.htmlWASHINGTON -- Political maneuvering over the San Joaquin River's future continues even as Congress grinds to a halt.In a last-minute bid, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has rewritten a river restoration bill so that it might avoid budgetary obstacles. Feinstein says stripping out money could ease passage of the environmentally ambitious bill."The only viable option is to make the bill (budget) neutral, then pursue legislation in the next Congress to fully restore the original funding provisions," Feinstein advised the Friant Water Users Authority late Friday.Feinstein added that "this will give us momentum going forward," as environmentalists and Friant-area farmers try to complete a lawsuit settlement. Water would be flowing and salmon swimming again below Friant Dam by 2013 under the settlement.But Feinstein's move caught even some of her Capitol Hill allies by surprise, and the odds still appear heavily stacked against success."I don't think that will fly," said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.At the least, the latest maneuvering epitomizes how hectic Capitol Hill becomes as Congress rushes to adjourn. Political opportunities can rise and fall quickly amid the hubbub, and so can lobbying efforts. On Saturday, for instance, Fresno-area political activist Tal Cloud began trying to raise $10,000 for a quick campaign opposing Feinstein's efforts.The river legislation is supposed to cap a 20-year-old lawsuit. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalists successfully sued the federal government, contending Friant Dam wiped out the San Joaquin River's salmon populationThe environmentalists won, and then negotiated a restoration plan with the farmers of the Friant Water Users Authority. For the past two years, lawmakers have tried without success to pass the legislation authorizing tens of millions of dollars in levee construction and other work the plan needs.Under congressional budget-scoring rules, the river restoration bill has an estimated federal price of roughly $250 million. Feinstein initially folded the bill into a huge public lands package, designed to attract maximum political support by including about 140 separate bills.Senators were having a hard time offsetting the cost of the public lands package. Conservatives also opposed the public lands omnibus as excessive. The package appeared dead. Then, late Friday, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and other senators determined they could streamline the bill by removing some of the spending authorization. This outflanked the congressional "pay-go" requirement that bills be paid for."I think what the senator is trying to do is keep the bill in play," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.The revised river bill offers only $88 million in guaranteed spending. The rest must be appropriated by Congress in future years.In theory, the revised public lands package might be taken up before the November election or in a potential post-election lame-duck session. In practice, this will still be very hard.Costa, for one, represents farmers now raising alarms that river-related projects promised to them will never be built if the money isn't guaranteed up front"Given the financial crisis that this country is in, the likelihood of receiving substantial additional funding is more remote than ever," the Los Banos-based San Joaquin Valley Exchange Contractors wrote Monday.In a thinly veiled warning, the West Side farmers further cautioned that if Congress pressed ahead quickly, there may be a "need to return to court." Others, including the Chowchilla Water District and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, are likewise insisting that Congress slow down.The overall Senate public lands bill itself remains subject to objections by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with 60 Senate votes needed to overcome a potential filibuster even as Feinstein urges speed."Not to begin," Feinstein warned, "presents a real risk that the parties will return to court." Satelites to watch Giant Kangaroo Rat SW of Fresno...CAROL REITER, Reporters' Notebookhttp://notebook.mercedsunstar.com/satellites_to_watch_giant_kangaroo_rat_sw_of_fresnoSatellites have been used for years to map and survey areas of the planet. And now they are going to be used to check out an endangered species.The Giant Kangaroo Rat, a nocturnal rodent that hops on its back legs, is more than just an endangered species. It is also a major food source for another endangered species, the San Joaquin Kit Fox.The rats are found on the Carrizo Plain, a 390-square mile desert grassland southwest of Fresno. The way the satellites will work is to find the denuded areas around the rats’ nests. Using satellites will replace trapping and airplane flyovers as a means of taking census.The information gathered won’t just help endangered species. It will also help the U.S Bureau of Land Management to establish grazing policies to control nonnative grasses and encourage a healthy rate population.Since the middle of the last century, farming has taken 90 percent of the rats’ habitat. Hopefully, using satellites will help the rat, the kit fox and the ranchers who use the area for grazing. Sounds like a winning formula for everyone.Modesto BeeHousing decline a drag on value in Stanislaus County...J.N. Sbrantihttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/448397.htmlWhen the value of all Stanislaus County goods and services was added up, it reached nearly $14.36 billion in 2006. While that was a record high, it was only about 0.6 percent more than the previous year after inflation. Nationwide, by comparison, the so-called "real" gross domestic product gained 3.2 percent, according to recently released statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.Stanislaus' economy was pulled down by losses in construction spending in 2006, which is when the region's housing slump started. That decline was partly offset by increases in nondurable goods manufacturing.The economic bureau calculated that, considering inflation and population growth, the per capita GDP of Stanislaus residents dropped to $25,204. That was $133 less than in 2005.Merced County also suffered because of construction losses in 2006. Its economy hit $5.38 billion, which -- considering inflation -- resulted in a 0.5 percent decline from the previous year. Of the 363 metropolitan areas tracked by the economic bureau, only 55 lost ground like Merced.When population growth is factored in, Merced's economic decline was more evident. The per capita GDP fell by $388 in 2006, down to $20,034.That's less than half of the nation's per capita GDP, which rose $883 in 2006 to $41,510. The per capita GDP in the San Francisco-Alameda County region also reached a record $61,895.San Joaquin County saw gains in 2006, too, overall and per capita. Its GDP was nearly $18.31 billion, which was a record and up 1.9 percent from the previous year. San Joaquin's per capita GDP rose $199 to $23,907. Schwarzenegger signs greenhouse gas bill...STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/448045.htmlGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Tuesday that attempts to ease greenhouse gas emissions by giving priority to transportation projects that limit commutes and curb urban sprawl."This landmark bill takes California's fight against global warming to a whole new level, and it creates a model that the rest of the country will use," the Republican governor said after signing the measure by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento."What this will mean is more environmentally friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative-transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations."Supporters said the legislation is needed to help implement a 2006 law that requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.The bill requires the state Air Resources Board to set regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks and directs regional planning agencies to develop land-use strategies to meet those targets.Cities and counties will not have to implement those plans, but they could lose transportation funding if they don't."This bill is designed to have new growth be much more transit-friendly and have housing be closer to employment centers," said William Craven, a Steinberg aide. "So (transportation) projects that help to reduce commutes and sprawl are the ones that float to the top and get funded."The bill also includes an additional incentive for cities and counties to comply. It relaxes environmental reviews for housing projects that comply with the so-called sustainable communities strategies that will be developed by regional planners.Craig Noble, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that supports the bill, said it is "definitely a carrot approach.""Actual land-use zoning decisions are local decisions, so the state can't say, 'You must do this,'" he said. "What the state can do is make it very desirable for communities to plan more compact, livable development by giving them incentives."The Bay Area Council, a group that represents businesses in the San Francisco Bay area, supports the bill, calling it "the holy grail of sustainable growth in California and the future."While he signed the bill, Schwarzenegger also sent lawmakers a letter urging them to enact follow-up legislation next year to correct shortcomings in the legislation. Those changes would allow business developments that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid additional environmental reviews.Schwarzenegger vetoes port bill that Palin opposed...SAMANTHA YOUNG, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/448204.htmlGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation that would have imposed a pollution fee on cargo ships at California's ports, siding with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.The fee would have paid for clean-air programs but was opposed by Palin before she became the Republican vice presidential nominee. She asked Schwarzenegger in a letter dated the day before she was named Sen. John McCain's running mate to reject the bill, saying it would lead to higher costs on goods shipped to her state.Schwarzenegger has endorsed McCain's presidential bid.The bill by Democratic Sen. Alan Lowenthal would have imposed a fee of up to $60 for each 40-foot cargo container moving through the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. The Southern California port complex is the nation's largest and handles more than 40 percent of the nation's goods; Oakland is the fourth busiest.In a veto message issued late Tuesday night, the governor said he rejected the bill in part because it lacked accountability. He also said it failed to direct money to the Central Valley, which has some of the nation's dirtiest air and gets much of the truck traffic going to and from the ports."Given the current economic downturn, it is vitally important that the state does not worsen the situation by mandating added costs on business that do not provide any public benefit," Schwarzenegger said.Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation two years ago over concerns a port fee would drive cargo ships to other states.Lowenthal, of Long Beach, had modified his bill in hopes of winning Schwarzenegger's signature. Environmentalists had urged the governor to make good on his campaign promise to clean up the state's air.It was among the last set of bills the governor acted on before a midnight constitutional deadline."I'm shocked," Lowenthal said after being told of the veto. "The governor is just wrong. He doesn't mention the thousands and thousands of people who are dying prematurely in southern California."Supporters of the bill estimated the fee would bring in at least $300 million a year to fund programs that clean up the lingering smog at port communities. State air regulators say 3,700 premature deaths each year can be attributed to pollution at California's ports.Alaska and Hawaii and a host of major retailers that import goods from Asia objected, arguing that the pollution charge would have raised consumer prices."Shipping costs have increased significantly with the rising price of fuel, and these higher costs are quickly passed onto Alaskans," Palin wrote in her Aug. 28 letter to Schwarzenegger. "This tax makes the situation worse."...Schwarzenegger said the legislation would have allowed ports to spend money with little state oversight."This bill does not provide necessary assurances that projects will achieve the greatest cost-effectiveness, emission reductions, and public health protection," Schwarzenegger said.He also pointed to bonds approved by voters in 2006 that set aside $1 billion to improve air quality, $2.1 billion for infrastructure improvements to trade routes and $100 million for port security...Company fined for pollution at wine bottle plant...last updated: September 30, 2008 02:49:48 PMhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/447871.htmlMADERA, Calif. — One of the country's largest glass container makers has agreed to pay a $140,000 fine for violating federal air regulations at its Madera wine bottle plant.The fine by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stems from a 2005 settlement in which Indiana-based Saint-Gobain Containers Inc. agreed to pay $929,000 for air pollution violations at the bottle manufacturing plant. The company agreed to spend more than $7 million to control emissions as part of the EPA settlement.The EPA said Tuesday that Saint-Gobain was fined for failing to comply with monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements of the Clean Air Act.Feds order lower water flow in Russian River...The Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemo.comhttp://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/447660.htmlFederal regulators have ordered water officials to reduce the amount of water flowing down Sonoma County rivers and streams in an effort to revive threatened steelhead and salmon populations.The National Marine Fisheries Service says water flow must be decreased in the Russian River and Dry Creek. It says the amount of water currently being released from reservoirs moves too fast for the juvenile fish.Steelhead, chinook salmon and coho salmon are all listed as threatened or endangered species.Officials with the Sonoma County Water Agency say the changes could cost up to $100 million over 15 years. Recreational river users also say lower flows could hurt business and negatively impact tourism.The agency must implement the order under federal law and will soon begin studying various methods to decrease water flow.Small, locally owned banks say customers are flowing inCustomers reportedly bailing from big banks...Eve Hightowerhttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/448441.htmlChris Courtney can see the effects of big bank failures from his office overlooking the busiest intersection in Oakdale.Residents literally have walked out of Washington Mutual with cashier's checks in hand, crossed the street and opened accounts at Oak Valley Community Bank."We've had a net inflow of deposits," said Courtney, president of Oak Valley Community Bank.Courtney and other officials at community banks in the Northern San Joaquin Valley have seen money flow into their vaults over the past few days, but, like Courtney, they prefer not to speculate why."We're just starting to track it," said Thomas Smith of Merced-based County Bank."I wouldn't be surprised if they are seeing more deposits from customers leaving big banks like Washington Mutual," said Jeff Michael, the director of the University of the Pacific's Business Forecasting Center.Community banks credit their conservative approach to lending and their close relationships with customers for largely avoiding the troubles that thrust Washington Mutual and Wachovia into the headlines."When you work for a community bank, customers see you walking down the street. When they look into your eyes and ask if their money is safe, you want to be able to say 'yes.' That's the difference between a Wall Street banker and Main Street banker," Courtney said.Community banks' nature means they don't make the big bucks in good economic times, but they survive the bad times."That's why we've been around 141 years. This bank has been through the Great Depression. We're handling this quite well," said Tom Shaffer, executive vice president of Bank of Stockton.That's not to say all community banks are sitting pretty. It depends on their management, Shaffer stressed. "You can't make a unilateral statement about community banks."Merced-based County Bank, for example, didn't play in the subprime muck, but it did offer commercial construction loans to local developers. Smith blames some of those loans for the losses posted by County Bank.For a variety of reasons, banks have had a hard time declaring construction loans delinquent. "It's not a pretty picture" for banks with bad construction loans on the books, according to a statement released Tuesday by John Burns Real Estate Consulting.Even community banks that regard themselves as strong concede that they are feeling the fallout of delinquent loans. Mother Lode Bank in Sonora saw its credit rating drop after absorbing two bad loans."We're well-capitalized. Our liquidity is good. There's an inflow of funds. But we're only 4 years old. Our portfolio isn't as established as some other banks," said Chuck Milazzo of Mother Lode Bank.So what do community banks do in hard times?"Stay close to our customers. Maintain consumer confidence," said Jeff Burda, president of Modesto Commerce Bank, which is owned by Bank of Stockton.While they welcome the influx of new customers, community bank leaders feel a little uneasy about why these people are coming to them."The biggest concern to me is that people are panicking," Shaffer said. "Now is not the time to panic," Shaffer said.Fresno BeeValley air board to expandCities get more clout at agency now dominated by counties...Editorialhttp://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/905295.htmlThe Valley air district may soon have its full complement of board members, thanks to a bill signed by the governor Tuesday. It's a welcome change in the makeup of the regional air board, which has been dominated by supervisors from the eight counties that make up the district. Legislation last year increased the size of the governing board from 11 to 15, but there was no mechanism for appointing the five city council members from the region that bill authorized. Under SB 1548, authored by state Sens. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Mike Machado, D-Linden, city councils throughout the district will appoint a member to a selection committee, which in turn will choose two council members from large cities -- those with a population greater than 100,000 -- and three council members from smaller cities in the district. They will be joined by two new members appointed by the governor -- a doctor (already in place) and a scientist with expertise in air quality issues (still to be filled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an action we urge the governor take with some urgency, now that his signings and vetoes are drawing to a close). The new lineup of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District should help redress an imbalance that has existed since the district's inception. With the board heavily weighted toward county supervisors, the cities -- large and small -- of the district have been underrepresented, despite the fact that they have the majority of the Valley's population. Most egregiously, there have been stretches in which Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton -- the major population centers of the Valley -- have not had their own voices on the board. And the county supervisors, by the nature of their jobs, have often leaned toward serving the interests of business and agriculture, which aren't always in the forefront of aggressive efforts to clean the air. The eight county supervisors on the air district board will still represent a majority, though one not quite so daunting as before. That should help make the board -- and its actions -- more representative in the future. Nehemiah's end would deal blow to homebuilders...Sanford Naxhttp://www.fresnobee.com/business/story/905341.htmlHomebuilders in the San Joaquin Valley, already facing one of their toughest years in decades, were confronting even more challenges Tuesday with the pending elimination of a popular program that provides financing for buyers. A down-payment assistance program by Nehemiah Corp. of America was to end at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, although representatives of the Sacramento-based nonprofit were in Washington, D.C. in a last-ditch effort to pass legislation that would keep it alive, said Kevin Koenig, the company's director of outreach. The program was ending because legislators are worried about lenders making unsustainable loans. An effort is under way to revive it with changes that would install more safeguards. The hope is to include it in a massive bailout bill being considered in Congress.Nehemiah has provided $8.6 million in seller-funded, down-payment assistance to 1,166 families in Fresno County since 1997. It is an important source of financing for home buyers in the Valley, said John Bonadelle, president of the Building Industry Association of the San Joaquin Valley. "It's a huge deal," he said. "A good portion of our sales and the sales of other builders were with that program." If the program ends, builders will be less able to compete with foreclosures that are dominating the marketplace, Bonadelle said. Foreclosed houses often are sold at reduced prices. At the same time, developers are having to cope with the effects of an increase in the mandatory down payment of a borrower using the popular FHA loan. The down payment climbed from 3% to 3.5%, which could knock some customers out of contention.Facing the worst market in years, builders have slashed production, have downsized their companies, are retreating to their core markets and, in some cases, are going out of businessSacramento BeeGovernor signs anti-sprawl bill...Kevin Yamamurahttp://www.sacbee.com/378/v-print/story/1278949.htmlGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a landmark bill Tuesday to discourage sprawl in future decades, completing a deal among environmentalists, homebuilders and local governments on the final day of bill signing.Senate Bill 375, by Democratic Sen. Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, will push California communities to consider climate change impacts of development in regional planning, with an emphasis on reducing car travel.Environmentalists and other proponents feared the bill was in trouble as Schwarzenegger officials raised transportation and business concerns last week. But the Republican governor ultimately embraced SB 375 as a "first in the nation" effort to link land-use planning and greenhouse-gas reductions."This legislation constitutes the most sweeping revision of land-use policies since Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)," Schwarzenegger wrote in a statement.The bill requires the California Air Resources Board to set regional targets by September 2010 for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The state will use its annual $5 billion pot of transportation money to encourage regions to embrace compact residential development.The legislation also will relax CEQA requirements for housing projects that meet goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, giving homebuilders incentive to pursue high-density projects near transit.Steinberg sees SB 375 as a necessary step to meet the state's greenhouse-gas reduction goals. Under 2006's AB 32, the state must reduce its greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020."This fundamentally changes the way we think about growth," Steinberg said. "It does not reduce growth. I think growth is inevitable and a good thing. But it will allow California to grow in ways that are sustainable for our environment."Some business groups remained critical because the bill did not allow commercial development to benefit from CEQA changes. And some local officials said it overreached by allowing the state to dictate greenhouse-gas reduction goals for each region.In his signing statement, Schwarzenegger asked lawmakers to address four areas next year, including a business-backed proposal to allow commercial projects to benefit from a streamlined CEQA process.Steinberg said he promised the governor that next year he will clarify that projects funded by the 2006 voter-approved transportation bonds will be exempt. But Steinberg said he agreed only to have "good-faith" discussions about the commercial development issue."The balance we struck was so precarious, we couldn't pile anything more on top of the bill," Steinberg said.Proponents believe the measure will push communities to pursue more infill projects and new communities that are transit-focused, discouraging car travel despite future population growth.Transportation, including commute and errand traffic and trucks carrying goods, accounted for 38 percent of California's greenhouse-gas emissions from 2002 to 2004, according to a CARB report.The bill is based on a "smart growth" plan adopted by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments."Californians will see more infill," said SACOG Director Mike McKeever. "They'll see higher-density housing, particularly in transit corridors. The new areas will look more like existing neighborhoods with a mix of uses between schools, stores and housing."Homebuilders reached agreement in August with environmentalists and local government officials after receiving a streamlined CEQA approval process for projects that meet certain environmental goals.Other business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and commercial builders, remained opposed to the bill because they felt it could create two separate greenhouse-gas reduction processes with which they would have to comply, said Matthew Hargrove of the California Business Properties Association."There's no guarantee within SB 375 that if you meet all of its goals, you won't get sued under AB 32," Hargrove said. "We were looking for clarity on that. We also had hoped our projects would be included in the same way residential projects were."While the California League of Cities and the California State Association of Counties support the bill, some individual local officials were opposed.Auburn City Councilman Kevin Hanley said he fears that foothills communities such as his could lose transportation funding and suffer worse traffic than already exists. He also said local governments, not CARB, should set regional targets for emissions.Land-use proposals on advisory council agenda...Art Camposhttp://www.sacbee.com/101/v-print/story/1279256.htmlConcerns about possible land-use changes in Granite Bay will be discussed tonight by the community's municipal advisory council.The 7 p.m. meeting will be at the Eureka Union School District office, 5455 Eureka Road.The land-use issue stems from Placer County's announcement that an update to the Granite Bay Community Plan will be considered soon.Some Granite Bay residents are concerned that could result in significant changes in the community's character."We're keeping an eye on developers," resident Bob Schulke said. "They are always searching for a way to break through."According to the agenda, the purpose of the update is to ensure that the community's goals, policies and programs are consistent with the county's general plan.County staff is developing a program that will include a six-month window for property owners to change their zoning and land-use designations, according to the council's agendaStockton RecordGovernor signs levee bill...The Recordhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081001/A_NEWS/810010329/-1/A_NEWSIf Delta levees ever collapse from a natural disaster, legislation signed Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is designed to deal with the emergency.Senate Bill 27, by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, requires the state Office of Emergency Services to convene a Multi-Hazard Coordination Task Force responsible for emergency response planning in the Delta.In a written statement, Simitian said his goal is "to make sure that at the moment of emergency, we know who's in charge and what's to be done."The lawmaker said he was motivated to introduce his bill by the Gulf Coast devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005."Just as New Orleans was the heart of Louisiana, the Delta is the heart of California's economy and environmental health," he said.Simitian's legislation calls for three steps over the next three years:» Recommendations creating a unified command system.» Coordination of a draft emergency preparedness and response strategy.» Development of an emergency response exercise that tests existing regional protocols.San Joaquin County officials provided input on the legislation.Foothills center of talks on growthLeaders to discuss how smart urban planning could benefit region...Dana M. Nicholshttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081001/A_NEWS/810010326/-1/A_NEWSTUOLUMNE - Leaders in business and government from the Mother Lode and elsewhere in the state, including Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, will meet in Tuolumne next week for a conference on how the urban principles of "smart growth" could be applied in the largely rural Sierra foothill region.Smart growth is a term government planners and private developers have come to use in recent years to mean an assortment of methods for making new development more compact, walkable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly.It is used most often to refer to infill development, or redevelopment that makes use of existing roads and utilities in urban areas. The idea is that people in such developments will be closer to work and shopping, drive less, burn less fuel and have more time to build community life with their neighbors.In the vast ranchlands of the foothills, in contrast, most homes are built in remote settings, often in places where no other roofs are in sight.Still, proponents of smart growth say the foothill region not only would benefit from following smart growth principals but actually needs to do so to preserve the region's economic viability."What used to exist in the Sierra Nevada is actually what we call smart growth today. It is a traditional neighborhood pattern," Steve Frisch, president of the Truckee-based Sierra Business Council and a speaker at the conference, said of the original towns built in the decades after the 1849 Gold Rush. Those towns - such as Angels Camp, Murphys and Tuolumne - had shops, banks, homes and industry all within walking distance. "It allowed the remaining land to be used for timber, resource management, agriculture."But talk of smart growth principles today can cause tension in the Mother Lode, where some property owners fear that such well-intentioned government efforts will have the effect of preventing them from subdividing rural lots or building homes where they want them."It's kind of a whole left-wing movement," said Al Segalla, a longtime real estate broker and president of the Calaveras County Taxpayers Association. "We need to have more of an orientation to market solutions and less solutions imposed by government."Frisch, however, said smart growth planning should work with markets as well as some regulation. For example, he said it is legitimate for local governments to steer development to existing town centers by using sliding impact fees, with lower fees for projects in town and higher fees the farther a project is from town.That makes sense, he said, because it is much more expensive for governments to provide services of all kinds, including police and fire protection, to widely dispersed sites.Similarly, he noted that Calaveras County officials in recent months have been discussing whether to require homes on lots smaller than 40 acres to connect to a municipal sewer. "That is a great example of using infrastructure planning to get the right style of development."Several elected Calaveras County officials will be at the conference. Supervisor Russ Thomas, who represents the Copperopolis area, is scheduled to open the conference at 9:15 a.m. Oct. 9 by singing "America the Beautiful."Supervisor Steve Wilensky, who represents Mountain Ranch, West Point and Mokelumne Hill, is scheduled to speak during lunch Oct. 10 on "moving forward to build a viable community."Lee Seaton, a city councilman in Angels Camp, is on the agenda at 11:15 a.m. Oct. 9 for a discussion of principles of smart growth.Garamendi, who grew up in Calaveras County, will give the keynote address at a dinner at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Sonora Elks Club. Garamendi has titled his speech "Steering California on a Path of Environmental and Economic Sustainability in the 21st Century."Other speakers at the conference include transportation planners, watershed scientists, conservationists and architects. Among the architects is Rudy Ortega, a Calaveras County-based professional who designed what is perhaps the region's only new, stand-alone development using smart growth principles - the Copperopolis Town Square project just west of old Copperopolis. Copperopolis Town Square features a walkable town center with residential units built above shops.TO LEARN MORESierra Foothill Regional Smart Growth ConferenceWhen: Oct. 9 and 10Where: Veterans Memorial Hall, 18375 Fir Ave., TuolumneWhat: a conference on applying "smart growth" principles to land use and community development in the Mother LodeKeynote: speech by Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at Sonora Elks Club, 100 Elk Drive, SonoraCost: $250 for the conference or $50 for admission only to the dinner Oct. 9Information and registration form: www.csrcnd.org or (209) 257-1851, ext. 100Complaint targets discount chain...The Recordhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081001/A_NEWS/80930016/-1/A_NEWS14SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against 99 Cents Only Stores, claiming the store sold and distributed unregistered and misbranded pesticides.An EPA spokeswoman said Tuesday that she did not know specifically which stores had been inspected during the four-year investigation but said the company has 195 stores in several Western states, including two in Stockton: one on Hammer Lane and one on March Lane.The EPA is seeking $969,930 in civil penalties for the two unregistered pesticides, Bref Limpieza y Desinfeccion Total and Farmer's Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner, as well as a misbranded pesticide, PIC Boric Acid Roach Killer II.A spokeswoman for 99 Cents Only Stores, billed as the oldest single-price retail chain in the country, could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.Lodi Sentinel$4 million overhaul begins to strengthen Thornton levees...Ross Farrowhttp://www.lodinews.com/articles/2008/10/01/news/3_levees_081001.txtThanks to a state grant of nearly $4 million, workers are busy adding to five miles of levees on the south side of the Mokelumne River.Independent Construction Co., a Concord firm, will add some compacted dirt to beef up the sand levee along the river from Interstate 5 west to Wimpy's Marina at the Sacramento County line, said Aleck Dambacher, a reclamation district board member.Levees east of I-5 have already been restored.Crews were busy Tuesday pulling sand away from the levee and replacing it with one-and-a-half feet of fine-crushed rock from the base of the levee to the top. Dambacher said the addition of crushed rock should function to prevent rainwater from seeping through the existing sand levee and prevent saturation of the levee. The levee is 15 to 16 feet high."We'll do whatever we can before it rains and do the rest next year," Dambacher said. "By next year at this time, we should be all the way to Wimpy's."The reclamation district, which serves the Thornton area, was awarded a grant of just under $4 million from the California Department of Water Resources. That came as a surprise to reclamation district officials, because engineers estimated the project would cost about $7.5 million. But the low bid came in at about half that amount. Dambacher suspects the low bid stems from the tough economic times the country is facing."These people are sitting around with idle (construction) equipment," Dambacher said.San Francisco ChronicleBig step for Hetch Hetchy system upgrade...Kelly Zitohttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/30/MNH413916O.DTLThe colossal plan to repair the decrepit water system that serves 2.5 million residents of San Francisco, the Peninsula and parts of the East Bay reached a key milestone Tuesday with the release of an environmental study that, if approved, will kick-start 17 regional water projects worth more than $2.5 billion.At the same time, the study advocated an aggressive schedule for water conservation and recycling - an attempt to strike a balance between an increasing demand for water and concerns about the toll on watersheds and wildlife.San Francisco Public Utilities Commission general manager Ed Harrington, who released the report, said the projects - which range from expanding recycled-water facilities to burying pipelines deep beneath the bay - are crucial to upgrade a system that carries water 167 miles from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the Sierra Nevada to customers in San Francisco and to 27 water agencies in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties. Some of the projects could break ground by the end of the year, because many jurisdictions already have been working on required local environmental impact reports."The Hetch Hetchy system is a marvel - it's gravity-driven and delivers pristine water to people in four counties," Harrington said. "But it crosses five active fault lines, and we know there's going to be a major earthquake in the Bay Area."According to a study conducted several years ago by a regional economic think tank, a major break in the Hetch Hetchy system - pieces of which date back 100 years - could cut off water supplies for up to 60 days.Before any seismic or other work can begin, however, several city commissions must sign off on the report. Voter-approved measureThe sprawling improvement plan, which encompasses roughly 80 separate projects with a total price tag of more than $4.4 billion, grew out of voter-approved bond measure passed in 2002. Work on the project was slow off the starting line; but in 2005, the commission staff set a target of 2030 for delivering 300 million gallons of water each day.Tuesday's study, however, focused on keeping deliveries to 265 million gallons per day - the current amount - until at least 2018. The aims are twofold: limit water drawn from the ecologically sensitive Tuolumne River watershed; and press the regional water agencies to conserve and recycle water.To meet that goal, however, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which represents the 27 South and East Bay contractors, would have to cut water consumption by 25 million gallons per day. Under the original plan, those agencies had to cut use by 15 million gallons per day. San Francisco would be required to conserve or recycle 10 million gallons per day, the same total in the proposal's first draft."There's some disappointment for a number of reasons," said supply and conservation agency chief executive Arthur Jensen. "First, this was a number decided upon unilaterally, by someone else. Second, the question is, is that possible? I don't know."Jensen said agencies within his group have already tackled the "low-hanging fruit" of water conservation. As in many other areas, agencies in his group offer rebates for low-flow toilets and water efficient washers and provide consumer information on planting drought-resistant landscaping.The regional agency also recycles more than 6 million gallons of water each day. Under the 2030 timetable, Jensen estimated that figure could grow to 9 million by 2018. Now, his agency faces the prospect of increasing that total substantially.Bigger savingsThe San Francisco Public Utilities Commission - as well as environmental groups who oppose additional diversions from the Tuolumne River - believe those higher savings are within reach."There's so much potential for conservation in the (regional agency's) territory, and we need to look at that before we start talking about taking more water from a wild and scenic river," said Peter Drekmeier, director of the Bay Area Program of the Tuolumne River Trust.Drekmeier said the river's ecosystem has sustained tremendous damage. He pointed to the crashing number of Chinook salmon: in 2000, researchers counted 18,000 fish; last year they counted 212.For that reason, Drekmeier had hoped the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission would limit the water supply from the Tuolumne at 265 million gallons per day until at least 2030.But Michael Carlin, the San Francisco Public Utility Commission's assistant general manager for water, said such a tight restriction would allow little wiggle room in times of drought."If we had seven or eight dry years and we were limited to 265 millions of gallons a day, the reservoirs would be empty by the end of that period," Carlin said.With experts predicting less precipitation and higher temperatures for California, Carlin and others say the improvement program's 10-year horizon will allow water planners to gain a better understanding of climate change's impact on both water supplies and the environment."It's difficult to please everybody, but I think we have an opportunity to show our environmental stewardship by limiting (water) sales and by demonstrating that we can achieve our conservation goals through conservation recycling and groundwater," Carlin said. "Then by 2018 we can start projecting out and looking at future demands."Next steps The environmental report released Tuesday incorporates responses to 1,300 public comments registered after the release of the draft report in summer.S.F. hearing: On Oct. 30, the San Francisco Planning Commission is expected to hold a special hearing on whether to formally accept the environmental report on fixing the aging Hetch Hetchy water system.The PUC:The same day, the S.F. Public Utilities Commission will consider adopting measures to offset any of the plan's environmental impacts.Financial crisis threatens green tax credits...David R. Bakerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/01/BUVR1393OV.DTL&type=printableThe Wall Street meltdown may have claimed another victim - the extension of federal tax credits vital to Silicon Valley's green tech industry.Developers of big wind farms and solar installations rely on tax credits to help finance their projects, and those credits are set to expire at the end of this year. After months of false starts, Congress finally appeared poised to extend the credits before adjourning this week.Then the financial crisis intervened. Congress tried to reach agreement on the tax credits on Monday as part of a larger package of tax measures but couldn't decide how to pay for them. Now green tech entrepreneurs fear the issue will be shoved aside as Congress fixates on the proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan. There's still a chance Congress will act before the end of the week, but observers aren't hopeful. And without the credits, some proposed wind farms and solar power plants may not be built."It would take us in exactly the wrong direction as a country, especially with respect to climate change," said Peter Darbee, chief executive officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The utility has signed contracts with several developers of major solar power plants and has repeatedly warned that some of the projects will fall through without the tax credits. The company is counting on those projects to meet a looming state deadline to increase its use of renewable power."It would be a severe blow to the work I've been doing and the general movement in respect to renewables," Darbee said.For many business leaders, would be a frustrating and bitter defeat. Silicon Valley made extending the tax credits one of its top legislative priorities for the year and sent a host of CEOs to Washington to lobby politicians in person. And just last week, it looked as if that lobbying would pay off. Now Congress may wait until 2009 to act."We're constantly getting caught in these political crosscurrents, and it's time to move beyond that," said Gregory Wetstone, senior director of government affairs for the American Wind Energy Association. The tax credits are a key part of how renewable-power developers finance their projects.Solar companies, for example, get a credit for 30 percent of their construction and labor costs. That's a substantial sum, considering that some proposed solar power plants will cost more than $1 billion to build. The tax package that stalled in Congress this week would have extended that credit for eight years.There are 26 large-scale solar power plants being planned throughout the United States, according to the association. Together, those plants would generate 5,390 megawatts, enough electricity to power more than 4 million homes."One of the executives I've talked with said, 'How do I do my annual budget now?' " said Monique Hanis, spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association.The potential loss of the tax credits also comes at a time when financing for all kinds of companies is drying up, part of the larger financial crisis. Many solar power developers won't need financing for another year, because they still haven't secured government permits for their proposed plants. But when they do need investment, they don't know what kind of landscape they'll face."Investors like stable market conditions where the rules don't change very much, and all of this is not helpful," said Kevin Swartz, president of Solel USA of Irvine. His company plans to build a large solar plant in the California desert and sell the power to PG&E. "This is not very helpful at all," he said. Inside Bay AreaNo new water for Bay Area residents through 2018Plan calls for 'finding' more water through conservation, groundwater pumping and recycling...Julia Scott, San Mateo County Timeshttp://www.insidebayarea.com/localnews/ci_10602997SAN FRANCISCO — Bay Area residents who get their water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierra will not be allotted any "new" water under a proposal to maximize water resources through 2018, although water rates will double in that time to pay for upgrades to the system, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission officials said Tuesday.The staff of the commission is backing a regional water supply plan that would avoid the controversial environmental pitfall of having to take water from the Tuolumne River to quench the thirst of a growing Bay Area population, principally by "finding" more water through conservation, groundwater pumping and using recycled water for golf course irrigation. The Tuolumne is a federally protected river.Most importantly, if approved by the full commission Oct. 30, the plan would allow work to start on 17 urgent seismic upgrade projects that will guarantee the Bay Area's water supply in the event of a major earthquake. The projects include the creation of a Bay Division Tunnel that would safely protect water pipes deep underground and replace the Calaveras Dam, which lies over an earthquake fault in Santa Clara County.The water plan includes a final environmental report that took more than three years to put together and encompasses responses to about 1,300 comments from local residents.It predicts that the SFPUC — which pumps water to 2.5 million residents in San Francisco, San Mateo and Alameda counties and much of Santa Clara County — will need to meet a peak water demand of 300 million gallons per day by 2030, and this was the reason given for an initial proposal to divert 25 million gallons per day from the Tuolomne. The current proposal sets a maximum water diversion rate of 265 million gallons per day through 2018, enough to fill 10,600 swimming pools. The average Bay Area resident uses 97 gallons of water a day, roughly the same as commercial and industrial customers put together."This project assumes that we would not have to cut back more than 20 percent, even in a drastic drought scenario. It's bringing the system toward more reliability so we don't have to do mandatory rationing," said Ed Harrington, general manager of the SFPUC. The water plan pushes many crucial decisions to 2018, such as deciding where the Bay Area will get all the water it needs in 2030 and beyond. Water officials changed the plan to focus on 2018 instead of 2030 to gain the support of environmental groups, without which the crucial water safety projects cannot proceed."Our first choice would have capped diversion from the river until 2030. We see this as a compromise that will allow the seismic upgrades to move forward," said Peter Drekmeier, Bay Area program director for the Tuolomne River Trust."In the meantime, we can examine projected water demands which we feel were inflated," he added. Drekmeier also criticized the report for not using climate change projections to show how the melting Sierra Nevada snowpack will affect future water flows, which is sure to influence how much water the Hetch Hetchy system receives and at what time of year.SFPUC officials say climate change science is not yet precise enough to tell them how it will affect the Tuolomne watershed, but that those numbers will be clearer in the coming years. Customers will be paying dearly for the water delivery upgrades, if they are not already. Water rates will double from 2008 to 2015 regionwide, and some local water agencies have already imposed a first round of rate increases to soften a future blow. A typical residential water bill of $55 a month will shoot up to $115, according to the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. The water plan puts most of the responsibility for lowering water use onto members of water supply and conservation agency, which includes water agencies from Half Moon Bay to Hayward who buy water from the SFPUC. They will now have to come up with a way to "find" 25 million gallons per day of non-Hetch Hetchy water by 2018. It still may not be enough. Even with a conservation and water recycling scenario that achieves a savings of 15 million gallons per day — which is the amount the agency was working toward before the SFPUC proposal imposed a reduction of another 10 million gallons per day — group General Manager Art Jensen said that he told the SFPUC that the cities in his service area would need more than the amount of 184 million gallons per day they are allocated under the current plan. "The number was selected unilaterally — it was not the number we would have chosen. We've been working with San Francisco to figure out how it can be administered fairly. If you were to ask how we are going to go about it, the disturbing thing is that no one has done their homework on it," Jensen said. Bay Area water agencies now produce nearly 7 million gallons per day of recycled water for irrigation, and the number will climb to 9 million gallons by 2018, according to Jensen. San Francisco does not recycle any water at present but is developing a special treatment plant to be located near the San Francisco Zoo that will create 4 million gallons per day of reusable water. The remainder of "off the grid" water will mostly come from buildings adopting more water-efficient fixtures. Contra Costa TimesState is vulnerable to water woes in 2009...Mike Taugherhttp://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_10603166?nclick_check=1California enters the 2009 water year today highly vulnerable to shortages and facing the possibility of widespread rationing after two dry years.A third dry year in a row would be especially difficult in the East Bay, where one district is already rationing water and another could face a steep cut to its supply.Two back-to-back dry years, although not unusual, came as the conflict between water deliveries and the Delta ecosystem reached a breaking point. And 2008 started out with some healthy storms before it dried up, taking water managers by surprise.Because key reservoirs are low, there's not much water in reserve if the coming winter is dry. And if the coming winter is wet, it will be difficult to move that water to where it is needed because of new legal restrictions on water deliveries meant to protect a crashing Delta ecosystem."We're at the brink of a water crisis with two dry years," said Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the state's largest water district. "The delivery system is not working. It's collapsing."Across California, water managers are increasingly using words such as, "scary," "crisis," and "grim" to describe the water supply outlook for 2009. "It's looking like not quite, but very close, to the conditions we had at the end of 1977, which is one of the driest years on record," said Contra Costa Water District assistant general manager Greg Gartrell. "If its dry, it's very scary." The Contra Costa Water District is especially vulnerable because it gets all of its drinking water from the Delta. It could find itself imposing mandatory 20 percent rationing if this winter is dry, Gartrell said.Even if 2009 is an average year, California would face the same threat of water shortages a year from now that it faces today, Gartrell said.Although most Californians have been shielded from the effects of the short drought so far, farmers have fallowed fields in the San Joaquin Valley and stumped avocado trees in Southern California. The East Bay's largest water district, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, is already rationing water. That district's isolated water system is especially vulnerable to droughts, but it can also recover from drought more quickly than the state's sprawling, interconnected water projects that deliver water to other parts of the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.Since the last major drought ended in the early 1990s, California has grown by about 6 million people, and Southern California lost a significant portion of its Colorado River water because of drought and an interstate water treaty."It potentially sets up a dire situation," said Lester Snow, director of the Department of Water Resources. "We're starting to get to the point where you actually have economic impacts as a result of a water shortage."The Delta supplies at least some tap water to two-thirds of Californians. About one-third of the Bay Area's water comes from the Delta, about the same proportion as Southern California.Because of the ecological collapse in the Delta, a federal judge last year imposed restrictions on how pumps that take water out of the Delta are operated. Those two sets of pumps, one owned by the federal government and one by the state government, are partly to blame for the collapse of Delta smelt and other fish species.Water managers say the ruling cut Delta water supplies by as much as one-third."One reason the pain has not been bad is storage is available that sort of hides the problems you've got from the public," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. "The very large amounts of storage was a veil that protected people from the train wreck that was happening in the Delta."Quinn said that a dry year, either in 2009 or in the near future, will prove a rude awakening because that storage is depleted."More and more agencies will have rationing, and by that I mean mandatory rationing with teeth," Quinn said.And although the court order limiting pumping is expected to be replaced with a new permit from federal biologists in the coming months, few expect any relief."The next two, three, four, five, six, seven years are going to be rough," said Chris Scheuring, a water attorney for the California Farm Bureau.Since the 1990s, when drought and plummeting fish populations caused water shortages in parts of California, state and local water officials have labored to prevent a repeat. Billions have been spent to increase groundwater storage and water use efficiency and enhance the environment.But the Delta's environment did not improve, and in fact, its decline accelerated."All the pieces of the puzzle were in place and we were ready for a drought, until August 2007," said Quinn, referring to the court order to restrict Delta water deliveries.Quinn said he sees no way around the possibility that California could be perpetually threatened with water shortages for at least a decade, until an engineering fix is developed.NEW LEGISLATIONA year after vetoing a nearly identical bill, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation clearing the way for $842 million in approved bond funding to be spent on problems in the Delta.The bill, SB1XX, includes about $30 million to help pay for the Contra Costa Water District's new intake that is being built to draw cleaner water from the Delta and $100 million to prepare for levee breaks and protect pipes that deliver water to the East Bay Municipal Utility District.In signing the bill, by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, Schwarzenegger called the measure, "a Band-Aid measure" that will help in the current drought but which will not solve long-term problems.In addition, the governor: · Signed AB2882, by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, which would encourage water districts to adopt tiered water rate structures to increase conservation · Signed SB27, by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, which would set up a task force to develop a Delta emergency response strategy · Vetoed SB1102, by Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, which would have eliminated the agency created to implement the largely discredited CalFed water program. In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said eliminating the California Bay-Delta Authority could jeopardize federal funding for studies in the Delta.Lawsuit seeks Species Act protection for wolverine...SUSAN GALLAGHER Associated Press Writerhttp://www.contracostatimes.com/environment/ci_10601473HELENA, Mont.—Environmental groups sued the federal government Tuesday to protect wolverines under the Endangered Species Act, saying the Interior Department disregarded scientific conclusions that the species was in jeopardy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied the species Endangered Species Act protection in March by saying that even if wolverines disappeared from the Lower 48, the species would survive because there are larger populations in Canada. "Americans want these animals protected on our own soil," said David Gaillard, Northern Rockies representative for one of the plaintiffs, Defenders of Wildlife. The nine environmental groups sued the Interior Department and one of its agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking the U.S. District Court in Missoula to order the wildlife agency to reconsider its decision to deny the wolverine protection. Not counting Alaska, the U.S. wolverine population consists of about 500 animals, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates, a figure the plaintiffs say may be high by 20 percent or more. Wolverines inhabit Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington. In Canada, the population has been pegged at 15,000 to 19,000 animals. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Gaillard said documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the upper reaches of the Interior Department rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service's conclusion that wolverines need protected status, and Fish and Wildlife Service staff then "fell into rank." One threat to wolverines is climate change, and Gaillard said the Interior Department did not want another case of climate-driven concern about wildlife to have prominence around the time of a status decision on polar bears. In May, the government declared polar bears a threatened species because Arctic sea ice is decreasing. Scientists have tied the melting of sea ice to global warming. Wolverines need alpine snow in the spring so they can rear their young successfully, Gaillard said. The Montana Furbearer Conservation Alliance, which favors wolverine trapping in Montana, supports the agency's decision against Endangered Species Act protection. Montana is the only state besides Alaska to allow wolverine trapping. The agency was correct in evaluating the U.S. population in the context of Canada's, alliance spokesman Don Bothwell said Tuesday. "The wolverine range crosses international and state boundaries," Bothwell said. "Wolverines have no concept of our political divisions. They travel where they will." Environmental groups say wolverines in the United States and Canada are genetically separate. Some scientists disagree.Mercury NewsMosquitofish defend against West Nile, but also munch protected amphibians...Lisa M. Kriegerhttp://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_10603093?nclick_check=1The scrappy little mosquitofish has been our champion in the fight against the insect-borne West Nile virus.But for local amphibians, already struggling to survive, it is something else entirely.Scientists have learned this pit bull of ichthyology has an insatiable appetite for tadpoles — including those of the threatened red-legged frog and the endangered Santa Cruz long-toed salamander. That has sent biologists draining ponds in an attempt to evict the fish; in one San Jose pond, the frog returned this spring.The voracious guppy-like fish, which consumes an estimated 500 mosquito larvae a day, is the foundation of local mosquito control programs. It is so effective that Santa Clara County Vector Control buys it by the hundreds of pounds each year, then distributes it to residents for free to use in their backyard pools and ponds.Given its effectiveness, environmentalists say it's impractical to ban the non-native fish, though the state has prohibited releasing it into wild waters where protected creatures live."Frog populations have disappeared from a lot of the places where fish were introduced,'' said University of California-Davis biologist Sharon P. Lawler, who has studied the problem.Fish are just one of many assaults against the amphibians, which have declined because of disease, habitat destruction, pesticide use, pollution and other invasive species like bullfrogs and crayfish.But the mosquitofishes' appetite is alarming. They eat almost anything that doesn't eat them first. University of California biologist Jeff Wilcox, steward of the San Jose-based Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, described picking up some tadpoles and tossing them into a stream: "The mosquitofish swarmed them like a school of piranhas and tore them into bits in a matter of a few seconds.''What they can't eat, they harass. Studies show that tadpoles in ponds with mosquitofish suffer greater injuries and weigh 34 percent less than their fish-free counterparts.The fish, introduced to California in the 1920s, is a remarkably hardy creature, able to survive places that few other fishes would tolerate. And because they are omnivores, they forage through the winter after mosquitoes are long gone, so do not have to be resupplied every year. "It's a terrific tool, in the right circumstances. It's biological control. It means we use fewer pesticides,'' said Santa Clara County Vector Control director Tim Mulligan.The fish has become established over the decades, environmentalists say, and it would be infeasible to ban it.Ridding a pond of fish is a big effort, said Jeff Alvarez of The Wildlife Project, which works with local water districts to eliminate the fish.First the pond is drained, then each fish must be caught. The fragile amphibians are captured and moved into an artificial pool. Weeks later, once the pond is refilled, they're returned, Alvarez said.Biologists have drained four ponds in San Jose's Blue Oak Ranch Reserve and 15 ponds in Contra Costa County. But at other locations, such as ponds on private property or large bodies of water like Los Gatos and Guadalupe Creeks, they can't be easily dislodged. Many frogs have moved into artificial stock ponds when their natural habitat is destroyed, making them vulnerable to mosquitofish that have been added to patrol those same ponds.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tries to control invasive species by stopping the interstate transport of the fish — but that doesn't remedy a problem caused by an already established species, said agency spokesman Joshua Winchell. The agency can also intervene when a protected species' habitat is being destroyed, but that's not the case here.To slow its spread into nature, Santa Clara and most other counties, following the lead of California Department of Fish and Game, two years ago banned release of mosquitofish into natural sources, such as ponds, creeks and marshes, because of its taste for fragile species. It is a violation of state regulations for private citizens to release mosquitofish in state waters without a permit.But authorities acknowledge there is no oversight once the mosquitofish are distributed. They find their way there through flooding or human carelessness, say environmentalists."They can disperse,'' said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group based in San Francisco. "That's the concern.''And people unwittingly help the fishes' migration. "People see a stranded fish and want to save it,'' Lawler said. "It might make sense to the individual fish — 'Please move me!' — but it could end up in sensitive frog habitat.''To kill it, Mulligan recommends super-chlorinating the water. Or letting the fish dry out. Just don't flush it down the toilet or bathtub. For the sturdy mosquitofish, this is yet another possible escape route to open waters.Los Angeles TimesGovernor kills port smog-fighting bill, signs into law sprawl and water supply measures...Patrick McGreevy and Margot Roosevelthttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bills1-2008oct01,0,5341890,print.storySACRAMENTO — California embarked Tuesday on a sweeping effort to curb suburban sprawl by rewarding communities that build homes and workplaces closer together to reduce pollution that contributes to global warming.However, a multibillion-dollar proposal to curb air pollution near the state's ports was rejected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who concluded that the related cargo fees would harm an already suffering economy.The state's water crisis also attracted his attention Tuesday as he approved $842 million to boost the water supply and bolster endangered levees.The three environment-related measures were in the spotlight as Schwarzenegger finished work on this year's legislation before a midnight deadline. In 2008, Schwarzenegger has signed 771 bills and vetoed 415.He won some praise for signing landmark legislation to control the state's global-warming emissions by discouraging sprawl with the nation's first law using government incentives to link transportation funding with climate policy."What this will mean is more environmentally friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations," Schwarzenegger said in a statement after signing SB 375.The number of miles Californians drive has been growing at twice the rate of the state's population increase, as suburbs have spread farther into the countryside. Slashing the amount of driving is critical for California to meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in 12 years."Land use is . . . the hardest part of the climate equation," said Thomas Adams, president of the California League of Conservation Voters. "This signature sends a crucial message from Arnold to sprawl: 'Suck it up.' "Under the new law, projects built in denser communities will get priority in the distribution of $12 billion to nearly $20 billion a year in transportation funds -- a hefty incentive for communities to create more environmentally friendly development plans.But the 17,000-word law involved a delicate compromise with powerful building interests. To woo their support, its sponsor, incoming state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) exempted them in many cases from strict environmental reviews. That sweetener in the bill caused some environmentalists to oppose it.The port fee legislation the governor vetoed was the top priority of some environmental groups. It would have imposed a fee on cargo containers to pay for programs to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion."Given the current economic downturn," Schwarzenegger said, "it is vitally important that the state does not worsen the situation by mandating added costs on business that do not provide any public benefit.""The governor killing this year's most important piece of environmental legislation doesn't help anyone," said Martin Schlageter, a spokesman for the Coalition for Clean Air. "It's disgusting."The measure, SB 974 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), would have allowed the collection of $60 for each 40-foot container that moved through the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach or Oakland, which handle more than 40% of the nation's goods.The $400 million raised annually would have gone into reducing traffic congestion and putting cleaner-burning engines in trucks and trains.Backers said 3,700 die each year because of health effects of air pollution caused by moving goods. "This is a sad day for California," Lowenthal said. "There is a dark cloud over our heads, and that dark cloud is cancer. The governor could have shrunken or eliminated that cloud but chose to side with out-of-state corporate executives instead."More than 100 top businesses in California opposed the bill, including Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Coca-Cola, as did the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Grocers Assn. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential candidate, also weighed in against it, worrying that it would drive up the price of goods in her state.Mike Jacob, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Assn., said: "Now is a phenomenally bad time for the state to be imposing an additional fee on top of the fees we already pay."The governor was more receptive to the water solution proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland). Nearly $900 million will soon flow from state coffers to water projects all over California under a measure Schwarzenegger signed to distribute some of the water and flood control bonds passed by voters two years ago. In signing SB 1XX, Schwarzenegger said the $845-million appropriation will not solve long-term water supply problems.It does not include money for dam construction...L.A., Long Beach ports inaugurate new anti-smog planTrucks moving goods in and out of the complex must meet tougher anti-pollution laws; more than 2,000 dirty diesel big rigs are being banned. Despite compliance checks, cargo is moving smoothly...Louis Sahagun and Ronald D. Whitehttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-trucks2-2008oct02,0,3898999,print.storyCargo was moving smoothly out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on the first day of the nation's most ambitious pollution control program at a major seaport.Although port officials estimated a 90% compliance rate of trucks meeting beefed-up pollution standards, even those lacking the required permission stickers were being allowed to move cargo. The stickers indicate the owners of diesel-powered big rigs have won approval to operate at the ports under the tougher rules."The message at the terminal gates is we will let you in this time but don't count on being let in again," said Arley Baker, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles. "Our No. 1 concern is keeping the gates from becoming congested. We do not want to impede the flow of cargo in any way."The port gates opened at 8 a.m., and there were no reports of backups or excessive delays.Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster were expected this morning to launch the Clean Trucks Program, which aims to clean up the region's air by banning more than 2,000 dirty diesel big rigs from the nation's busiest port complex.Under the program's first phase, trucks built before 1989 will be banned from the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach beginning today. When fully implemented in 2012, only trucks that meet 2007 vehicle emissions standards will be allowed to service terminals at the gateway for 40% of the nation's imported goods.Villaraigosa and Foster were expected to mark the unprecedented environmental achievement by officiating over the crushing and scrapping of an outlawed diesel big rig at a nearby recycling yard.Elsewhere, port authorities were stationed throughout the sprawling twin port complex to enforce implementation of the $1.6-billion program by checking to see how many pre-1989 trucks attempt to cross vehicle registration checkpoints. They were also ensuring that required port-issued stickers were prominently displayed on windshields of trucks approved for entry.At the Long Beach container terminal, driver Luis Kuffo, 50, of Fontana, was upset that he would not be able to work at the Port of Los Angeles any longer because he is an independent contractor and could not secure the required permission sticker under the new rules -- even though his 1996 Kenworth truck meets the pollution goals."It's too much complicated," Kuffo said. "This should be one harbor together, not separate plans and different rules. It's ridiculous that I won't be allowed to drive to the Port of Los Angeles anymore."The new program's overall goal is ambitious: Clean Southern California's air to clear the way for more than a dozen port expansion projects that were facing legal challenges because of their potential impact on the environment.The estimated 16,700 trucks currently servicing the ports account for more smog and soot than all 6 million cars in the region, and diesel emissions spewed by big rigs cause 1,200 premature deaths annually, according to the California Air Resources Board. Asthma rates among children living in neighborhoods near the ports are double the national average. Dock workers and truck drivers face significantly higher risks of lung and throat cancer, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and local studies.The program is a key component of the Clean Air Action Plan, which is expected to slash overall emissions at the ports by 45% by 2012.In a prepared statement, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles, said, "We are not just benefiting the communities of San Pedro and Wilmington. Everywhere these trucks go, we are cleaning up the air. By taking the dirtiest trucks off the 10, the 15, the 710 and the 60 Freeways, we are improving air quality throughout the region.""We are also building a stable workforce for the trucking industry -- the backbone of the goods movement," she said. "We are creating good jobs for people all over Los Angeles so everyone can benefit from our international trade industry -- which we know will continue to grow."Moral hazard rises when banks get too big to fail...David Lazarus, Consumer Confidentialhttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus1-2008oct01,0,5249964,print.columnWhen Citigroup Inc. announced its acquisition of rival Wachovia Corp. on Monday, Citi Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said the deal would "accelerate our efforts to establish Citi as the world's leading global financial institution."Is it just me, or does that sound like a threat?The Citi-Wachovia marriage follows JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s buyout of Washington Mutual Inc. and Bank of America Corp.'s takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co. and purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp.Remember how we were told by government officials that we needed to spend hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out insurer American International Group and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because they were "too big to fail"? Well, now we've got three more private companies on that list.Among them, BofA, Chase and Citi now will account for about a third of all bank deposits in the United States.They'll also cast long shadows over the markets for credit cards, mortgages and retail brokerage services."These three entities will now be so large that it's virtually unthinkable to let them fail," said David Ruder, a professor emeritus of law at Northwestern University and former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.This means taxpayers essentially will become guarantors for each company's global operations.The economic damage from one of these megabanks going under would be seen by the powers that be as costlier than any rescue package.One reason federal regulators pushed Wachovia and WaMu into the arms of all-too-willing suitors was that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. simply didn't have enough cash on hand to cover depositors' funds should one of the banks go belly up.Ruder said BofA, Chase and Citi were well aware of their increasingly bulletproof status and thus may take financial risks with depositors' and shareholders' money that smaller institutions wouldn't dream of trying. Economists call this moral hazard."There's no question that the moral-hazard question exists with banks this large," Ruder said.For consumers, the emergence of these banking behemoths -- and the added clout that comes with the perception of greater stability over smaller institutions -- raise the possibility of bigger fees and higher interest rates for loans and lower interest for deposits.Free checking? Maybe not for much longer. Overdraft charges? Don't bounce any checks."I'm very concerned about prices for lots of services going up," said Patricia McCoy, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in the banking industry.One element that makes these mergers doubly tricky for consumers is all that fetid mortgage debt the big banks are acquiring. If Congress ever gets around to passing that $700-billion bailout package, taxpayers could be on the hook for much of the banks' liabilities.In Citi's case, the bank agreed to assume the first $42 billion in losses related to Wachovia's smelliest mortgages. The FDIC will shoulder all losses above that amount -- possibly as much as $270 billion.But McCoy said that if the bailout plan is approved, Citi could still fob off its share of Wachovia's bad debt on Uncle Sam. Chase could end up doing the same with its WaMu portfolio. If the bailout plan doesn't pass, McCoy said, banks could raise fees to cover their debt costs.But couldn't customers just take their business elsewhere?"It's not that easy," McCoy replied. "Credit cards, mortgages, online banking -- it can be very inconvenient to change banks. A lot of people won't want that inconvenience."It's hard to shake the feeling that we're being played. The titans of the banking industry are engineering one of the largest waves of consolidation in Wall Street history. And they're hedging their risk on the backs of taxpayers and customers.Once the merger-go-round stops spinning, they'll be in a stronger position than ever.Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah with a background in consumer rights cases, said it will be a real challenge for regulators to stay on top of multinational companies with this much market power."The thing that makes me so mad about this is that Congress has been so quick to spend taxpayers' money on these companies, yet they've been so slow to change the rules that got us into this situation," he said.There it is. If nothing else, the rise of the megabanks must be accompanied by a commensurate increase in regulatory resources and chutzpah. We can no longer afford to be shy about leaning on these guys.We need more thorough and timely disclosure of banks' investments and transactions, and, yes, laws that tie CEO compensation to the company's performance. I have no problem with rewarding success. It's bestowing riches for failure that gets my knickers in a twist.Gary Dymski, an economics professor at UC Riverside who concentrates on financial mergers, said it's entirely possible that the consolidation will continue, with well-established institutions like Wells Fargo & Co. and U.S. Bancorp possibly being swallowed by larger players."The conversation now is about fit -- who needs what to be fully national," he said. "Next comes being biggest among the big boys."Maybe that won't be such a bad thing. Maybe that'll result in greater competition for our business, along with lower fees and better interest rates and new branches in distressed communities.Maybe.But I'm not holding my breath.Enviros sue over uranium mining near Grand Canyon...Julie Cart...Greenspacehttp://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2008/09/enviros-sue-ove.htmlEnvironmental groups are suing Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for allowing uranium mining on about 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park, which critics contend could contaminate ground and surface water as far away as Los Angeles. Kempthorne is accused of ignoring a ban proposed June 25 by the House Natural Resources Committee on new uranium exploration around the Grand Canyon. Congress enacted emergency withdrawals of land around the park to preserve the Colorado River watershed.Rising prices for uranium have driven federal agencies to lease more land for mining, despite documented health problems associated with uranium mining dust, rocks and water. The issue was examined in depth The Times' Judy Pasternak in her November 2006 series about death on the Navajo Indian reservation. California refiner sues to block new fuel rules...Elizabeth Douglass...Greenspacehttp://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2008/10/california-refi.htmlProfessing concern about corn-based ethanol's greenhouse gas emissions and indirect effects on U.S. food prices, fuel-maker Tesoro Corp. on Tuesday sued to block California regulations that would boost the biofuel's content in gasoline to 10% by 2010.The San Antonio company, which owns refineries in Los Angeles and the Bay Area city of Martinez, said in a press release that its newly-filed lawsuit seeks a preliminary stay and eventual nullification of the new gasoline rules."More and more questions are emerging about the impact crop-based ethanol has on our environment and food supply," Tesoro Chief Executive Bruce Smith said. "We think greater review of the environmental and economic impact of this fuel supply is needed."But the text of the lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, says precious little about Tesoro's worries over food supply and prices. Rather, the company's core complaints are that California Air Resources Board's new rule: takes effect too quickly, forces companies to pay for emissions offsets if they don't meet the 2010 deadline, and requires expensive refinery modifications that might not be compatible with California's still-evolving Low Carbon Fuel Standard. A little background is in order here.Technically speaking, California's gasoline regulations -- both old and new -- don't require refiners to use ethanol at all. The rules require that gasoline sold in the state contain certain amounts of oxygen and comply with a complex set of emissions limits (and believe me, you don't want to see the formulas involved).California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, meanwhile, is supposed to place limits on the carbon 'footprint" of all fuels sold in the state. The details aren't worked out yet, but the goal is to assign a carbon 'cost' to every fuel sold in the state, taking into account greenhouse gas emissions covering the fuel's full life-cycle, and including everything from feedstock production and drilling impacts to how the fuel gets to market and what leaks into the air when it gets consumed by a car. Most of the gas sold in California today includes 5.7% ethanol. All but a tiny fraction of it is made from corn, and the majority of it is imported by train from the Midwest. The crop's production and rail ride to California is problematic, carbon wise, according to the Air Resource Board. Those drawbacks, if not eliminated, will make ethanol a tough sell once the low-carbon rules kick in.But the biofuel still gets high marks from air regulators because it produces far less pollution and smog than gasoline and also reduces the airborne particulates that have been blamed for the rise in asthma and other ailments. Under federal mandates, U.S. refiners must sell fuel with an average renewable content of 9% next year, a figure that rises to 10% in 2010. That's the same year California's new 10% ethanol formula kicks in.The problem for Tesoro and other refiners is that the whole move to biofuels is eating away demand for its products. That might have something to do with the company's sudden concern about ethanol's impact on the environment and the nation's food supply.San Diego Union-TribuneRiver protectors gain time10-year extension bolsters oversight agency, partners...Mike Lee http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20081001-9999-1m1river.htmlSupporters of the state agency in charge of protecting the San Diego River are enjoying a new lease on life and projecting big things over the next decade. The San Diego River Conservancy's charter was extended to 2020 by legislation from state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill over the weekend.The conservancy, established in 2002, was set to close Jan. 1, 2010. It has been hampered by staff turnover, and some backers have expressed frustration with the agency's slow progress in buying land and cleaning up the waterway. Yesterday, conservancy leaders said the governor's signature validated their efforts and will give partner organizations confidence to continue working with the conservancy. “The restoration of the San Diego River is going to gain momentum here, and an additional 10 years will allow us to demonstrate that we are making real progress,” said Michael Nelson, the conservancy's executive director. The agency runs on about $350,000 annually from the state, plus bond and grant money for specific projects. In fiscal 2009, it has been allocated $3 million through the state's Coastal Conservancy.In recent years, San Diego River restoration advocates have enjoyed growing support – particularly for their goal of creating a trail that extends some 52 miles from the river's headwaters near Julian to its mouth at Ocean Beach.Much of the credit for that interest goes to nonprofit groups that have invested heavily in river restoration and celebrations. However, river watchers said the conservancy plays an increasingly important role in attracting money and coordinating the work. “Projects have been picking up speed, and people are more hopeful about getting them done,” said Jim Peugh, a former conservancy board member and a veteran environmentalist in San Diego. “For a lot of years, there wasn't progress. We had ideas, but it wasn't easy to get them going.” The conservancy's to-do list includes land conservation, recreation, education and water quality. Its current efforts include connecting trail sections along the lower river; the possible purchase of riverside land in Santee; and trails to provide river access from neighborhoods such as Normal Heights. In 2006, the agency's board adopted a $164.5 million plan to develop related programs, and most of those projects remain unfinished. The new legislation deleted a specific reference to that strategy. Deanna Spehn, policy director for Kehoe, said removing that language was an attempt to avoid any implication that the state had committed to funding the entire package. She said Kehoe wrote the conservancy's extension legislation to give river advocates security about the agency's future. “Extending the deadline to 2020 gives that longevity that allows (the conservancy) to enter into long-term commitments with other agencies,” Spehn said. UCSD still an economic generatorBillions contributed locally, report says...Steve Schmidthttp://www.signonsandiego.com/news/education/20081001-9999-1b1ucsd.htmlUC San Diego remains an economic powerhouse in San Diego and beyond, even as other parts of the economy weather hard times, according to a study released by the university yesterday.According to the report, the University of California campus contributes $5.7 billion in direct and indirect spending and personal income to the local economy.And it continues to be a wellspring of wealth and ideas, the study says. More than 33,600 local jobs are tied to the university, while research on campus has helped spur the creation of dozens of companies across the state. UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said the report underscores the importance of the La Jolla institution, especially given the uncertainty over the economy. “Just think how wobbly it would be if UCSD disappeared,” Fox said. “These are real financial contributions to the area that bring an improved quality of life.”The 98-page study was conducted by CBRE Consulting Inc. of San Francisco. It was commissioned by UCSD officials at a cost of $130,000. Campus officials said that previously publicized studies on UCSD's economic impact were usually conducted internally. The CBRE study was meant to provide a more detailed and independent analysis. Drawing on fiscal year 2006-07 data, the company examined the financial impact of academic programs, UCSD Medical Center, faculty research, student and visitor spending and other direct and indirect impacts. The study says every dollar in direct spending at UCSD generates an additional 92 cents in indirect spending in the county.It says the campus contributes $7.2 billion to the statewide economy in personal income and direct and indirect spending. The report identifies 67 startup companies across the state, including medical and high-tech firms, that grew out of research done on campus. Marney Cox, an economist with the San Diego Association of Governments, said CBRE used a credible and widely accepted methodology to calculate UCSD's broad impact. He said the report, however, doesn't do full justice to UCSD's impact as an idea generator. He noted that basic research conducted on campus has fueled the region's biotech, defense and wireless communications industries. “That's a component that's difficult to capture on paper,” Cox said.