10-30-08DWR Press Release:DWR Releases Climate Change White Paperhttp://www.water.ca.gov/news/Sacramento – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released a report urging California’s water managers to develop climate adaptation strategies. The report, Managing an Uncertain Future: Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for California’s Water, details how climate change is already affecting the state’s water supplies and sets forth a number of recommendations to help avoid or reduce climate change impacts to water resources. Disturbing trends over the last half century suggest California faces a shrinking snowmelt, increased flooding, longer droughts and a rise in sea level. The report proposes ten adaptation strategies in four categories. Chief among those recommendations is that California must develop a sustained investment strategy to reliably finance the state’s water future.  The report also suggests that regional and local entities implement a diverse portfolio of water management techniques to better address uncertainties of changing water patterns.  This management approach, known as Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), is already in place throughout the state and a key part of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s vision for California’s water future.  IRWM will become the core strategy in water planning to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. The report strongly suggests that statewide water management systems also adapt as the climate changes.  Strategies include coordination of land use, watersheds, reservoirs, floodplains and aquifers to protect public safety, preserve water quality and supply and provide for the ecosystem.  California must expand research of climate change and its impact on water and the environment as well.DWR’s report is the latest in the administration's efforts to address climate change and will feed into the state’s overall climate adaptation strategy. The report follows on the heels of the Air Resources Board’s Proposed Scoping Plan,which contains water efficiency and conservation measures and is designed to mitigate climate change impacts by reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. To view the full text of Managing an Uncertain Future; Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for California’s Water, visit http://www.water.ca.gov/climatechange/articles.cfmThe public will have the opportunity to discuss the report in detail at the Climate Change Adaptation Summit hosted by DWR and the Water Education Foundation Nov. 13-14 in Long Beach. To learn more about the summit or to register, visit http://www.watereducation.org/doc.asp?id=852&parentID=849.#http://www.water.ca.gov/news/newsreleases/2008/102908climatewhitepaper.docSacramento BeeSacramento Delta levees get FEMA scrutiny...Loretta Kalb http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1355326.htmlThe Federal Emergency Management Agency is again zeroing in on Sacramento Delta levees, seeking assurances from owners of about 85 miles of barriers that they will withstand a 100-year flood.The effort, under way in counties throughout the region, stems from a 2005 policy requiring that local jurisdictions nationally verify that their levees can hold back a flood having a 1 percent chance of striking in a given year.Throughout Sacramento County, about a dozen reclamation districts, the city of Elk Grove and owners of other publicly owned levees have until late January 2009 to vouch that they can give FEMA proof that their levees will withstand such flooding. If the districts agree to go through the process, they'll have another 20 months or so to provide documentation. Districts that can't document their levees' integrity will be drawn into a FEMA flood hazard zone, requiring residents with federally backed loans to buy flood insurance and that any new construction be as much as 16 feet above ground. Business owners would face similar requirements.The potential consequences are similar to those now looming over homeowners and residential and commercial builders in Sacramento's Natomas neighborhoods."The message I'm trying to get out is, if they buy their flood insurance earlier, it will be cheaper," said George Booth, senior engineer and floodplain manager for the Sacramento County Department of Water Resources. "And if you're planning to build something, you'd better get a permit quick."Booth said about 85 miles of levee in south Sacramento County may become part of the process, covering approximately 34,000 acres.Producing documentation will be difficult for some reclamation districts that do not have the money to endure expensive engineering and structural work to meet FEMA certification by fall 2010.But several mainly agricultural reclamation districts on Sutter, Randall and Libby McNeil islands do appear headed for flood-zone designation.One district, Randall Island Reclamation District 755, is small, at just 408 acres.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asked the district to correct its levee problems over a year ago, said Judy Soutiere, flood-risk manager for the corps."Once they feel they've fixed everything, they need to let the Corps of Engineers know and the state Department of Water Resources," Soutiere said. "If they have corrected it, we can go back out there to reinspect."That has to happen quickly, however.Kathleen Schaefer, a FEMA engineer, said if a district does not meet that corps requirement, FEMA will have no choice but to place it in the flood-zone maps due in fall 2010.Schaefer said FEMA is working on updating data on tentative levee maps of the area and will make those available to local planners in about two weeks. Is worst over for Sacramento's housing market? Experts wonder...Dale Kaslerhttp://www.sacbee.com/103/v-print/story/1355330.htmlInventories of unsold homes have dwindled, buyers are prowling for deals, and the credit crunch appears to be improving. Some experts see the rash of foreclosures easing off.And, for good measure, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday slashed interest rates a half-point, a move that could help homebuyers and existing homeowners.Is Sacramento's woeful housing market bottoming out? The answer isn't immediately clear. The flood of relatively inexpensive, bank-owned properties has clearly breathed new life into the market, and easier credit would help improve the situation. But a month's worth of downright scary news about the financial markets and the economy has some analysts convinced that home values will continue to fall.Even if prices are close to a bottom, the recovery is going to take a while...The region's economy has a lot riding on this. The bursting of the housing bubble caused considerable harm to the economy in Sacramento and across the state. As home values plunged, equity "extractions" – cash generated by refinancing, home equity loans or outright sales – fell by 34 percent last year in Sacramento, according to MDA DataQuick. That took $2.1 billion out of the region's economy.Unemployment rates – 7.4 percent in Sacramento, 7.7 percent for the state – are at their highest in 12 years.Signs of life have emerged, though. September marked the sixth straight month of higher sales volumes in the eight-county area tracked by DataQuick. In Sacramento County, sales in September nearly tripled compared with a year earlier.The surge was the result of investors and others fishing for cheap bank-owned houses. Nearly two-thirds of all September sales in Sacramento County were foreclosed properties, DataQuick said.That brought down the price. Sacramento's median sales price fell to $201,000, a 48 percent drop from the 2005 peak, DataQuick said...Kathryn Boyce, who follows the Sacramento region for consultant Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, offered additional evidence of a market beginning to turn: Builders are quietly looking for land again...A big question mark is whether Sacramento should brace for another wave of foreclosures...DOE to check for contaminants in Columbia River...Annette Cary, Tri-Cityherald.comhttp://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/366999.htmlWork has begun to collect about 1,200 samples to check for possible contaminants, a process that will help drive the final decisions on cleaning up Hanford along the Columbia River.Workers are collecting samples of river water, soil on Hanford islands, sediment from the river and fish to test for evidence of contaminants that might be linked to the past production of plutonium at Hanford for the nation's nuclear weapons program."After the sampling we'll know where and what the contaminants are and who or what might be exposed to them," said Jamie Zeisloft, the Department of Energy project lead. The data collected from the new sampling along 120 miles of the river will be combined with extensive data from sampling done for decades on the Columbia to produce a more complete estimate of the potential health risks to people, animals and plants. The results could lead to changes in cleanup plans to control or reduce the risk of exposure. Results will be used to help make the final cleanup decisions for Hanford land along the river, where cleanup is expected to largely be completed by 2015."We think there are important data gaps to fill," said Laura Buelow, an Environmental Protection Agency scientist. EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology regulate Hanford.A 2006 review of data requested by Hanford regulators looked at sampling results from Grand Coulee Dam to Astoria, Ore., said John Price, environmental restoration project manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology.It did not find contaminants of concern originating from Hanford in areas accessed by the public now, but did find some areas where more information could be helpful, particularly downstream from Richland, Price said."It's fine for any uses allowed in the (Hanford Reach National) Monument now," Price said. "There is no reason for the public to be concerned."Sampling and analysis has been done by contractors for DOE and independently by the Washington Department of Health. The river divides the monument from the former production portion of Hanford, which is off limits to the public.The plan for the additional sampling focuses on areas where Hanford contaminants most likely might be present. That primarily includes locations where sediments have built up on the river bottoms downstream from Hanford's nine production reactors and behind the first downstream dam, islands and areas where contaminated ground water might well up into the river bottom.Areas such as shoreline parks and boat launches where the public is most likely to use the river for recreation also will be targeted.To help understand whether contaminants are linked to Hanford or not, sampling also is planned upriver from Hanford and at irrigation returns and locations where other rivers enter the Columbia River.Most sediment samples will be collected in the upper 4 inches of the river bottom. But a number of deeper core samples also will be taken."It's digging big sediment cores that will give us a timeline," Buelow said.That includes samples that might have built up at the Bonneville Dam, the only dam downstream when Hanford production began, and at McNary Dam, which was completed before Hanford's highest production years.DOE contractor Washington Closure Hanford has hired Integral Consulting Inc. of Mercer Island to collect the water, soil and sediment samples.It will hire a second subcontractor to collect fish samples from above Wanapum Dam downstream to McNary. Samples collected from above the Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dam will provide information about background conditions, and samples from downstream of Priest Rapids Dam will be used to characterize possible Hanford contaminants.Fish are being sampled primarily to estimate the potential health hazards to people eating them, but also to assess risks to the fish population. Samples will be taken from fish species that are popular for sport fishing or are part of the Indian diet. They will include whitefish, sucker, walleye, carp, bass and sturgeon.Salmon will not be sampled because they do not spend much time in the Hanford Reach during their lifetimes.The study will look at human exposure to possible contaminants based on scenarios that range from Indians who eat Columbia River fish daily to children who swim in the Columbia River and play on the beaches.The sampling began this month and will be completed by September 2009."We need the results to this study to make good cleanup decisions," Buelow said.Final decisions on cleanup along the Columbia River, called records of decision, are expected to start being made in 2011. Stockton RecordThere's nothing peripheral about state's continuing water wars...Editorialhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081030/A_OPINION01/810300314/-1/A_OPINIONA panel appointed by the governor has recommended a peripheral canal and shooting water through the Delta as possible ways to solve the state's water woes.Critics of the peripheral canal - and there are many, especially on this end of the state - dismiss the validity of the recommendation, saying it was preordained.The chairman of the group, Phil Isenberg, a former assemblyman and before that mayor of Sacramento, called the group's 20 months of work "arduous." But in the end, the work resulted in a unanimous 6-0 vote supporting the recommendations.Perhaps nowhere else in the nation is the old saw attributed to Mark Twain, "Whiskey's for drinking and water's for fighting over," truer. Californians have been fighting over water - who gets it, how much, where it goes and, most importantly, who controls it - for decades.No matter how arduous the study and how sincere the suggestions, the state's water war will not end. And it's a war that has a distinct north state/south state flavor.Suspicious of the south state's designs - think the movie "Chinatown," and remember what happened to the Owens Valley - one of the most prominent growers in the Valley, San Joaquin County's Dino Cortopassi, recently paid for a Stockton-Sacramento newspaper advertising blitz estimated to have cost at least $100,000.Cortopassi is convinced that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Southern California water districts and agricultural interests that farm in the southern Valley are conspiring to build a canal to pipe fresh water around the Delta.Canal advocates claim a canal is needed to ensure an adequate water supply to roughly two-thirds of the state, since it would route fresh river water around the fragile ecosystem.Opponents, such as Cortopassi, counter that a peripheral canal would leave the Delta too salty, further endangering the ecosystem.And, of course, the south state has a storied history of taking water from the north but complaining when asked to pay for levee upgrades to protect the system. That's just what south state lawmakers did when geologists, engineers and hydrologists began warning that the question is not if a catastrophic Delta levee collapse will occur but when. Such a collapse could put Stockton and Sacramento in the middle of a Hurricane Katrina-like flood and disrupt the drinking water supply of 22million Californians whose water flows through the Delta.Clearly this problem must be solved. Our water needs are too important, our current supply too limited and our population growing too fast to ignore what's coming.Isenberg's task force noted that too much Delta water already has been promised to too many people. Established water rights allocate 8.4 times as much water as actually flows into the Delta in an average year.Not only is what to do a monstrous problem, but so is how to pay for it. That problem comes into sharp focus in a year when state lawmakers took 85 days to produce a budget only to have the governor announce a month latter that he will call them into special session because of a new $5 billion deficit.Urgent efforts a race against timeFreezing smelt DNA, tweaking genetics explored...Alex Breitlerhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081030/A_NEWS/810300332/-1/A_NEWS14TRACY - Delta smelt may be threatened, but thousands of the little guys swim circles in dark tanks near the pumps that ship water to Southern California.Can these fish, bred mostly for research, be bolstered in number and someday released to the wild?A report issued last week says this strategy should be considered, along with possibly freezing and preserving smelt DNA or tweaking the fish's genetics to make it more adaptable to the Delta's rapidly changing environment.Some kind of solution is urgent. Not only are smelt a bellwether for the health of the Delta overall, but the well-being of the fish is directly tied to how much water farmers and cities south of the Delta receive.The fish are imperiled by many factors, including the pumps, exotic clams that eat their food and toxins in the water.Some biologists are skeptical that a refuge population or other far-reaching plans would be successful."Those are all acts of desperation," said Peter Moyle, a fisheries biologist at the University of California, Davis, "There's no substitute for fixing the environment" in which the fish live.Since 1992, a lab run by the university but funded largely by the state Department of Water Resources has bred the tiny smelt for scientific study. The fish begin their incubation in dishes big enough for a scoop or two of ice cream, then graduate into 260-gallon tanks as they grow.With a budget of about $1 million, the lab is housed mostly in portable containers near the fish screen guarding the state's water pumps.Researchers there can rear hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of fish, said Joan Lindberg, lab manager."It's better than the alternative, which is to watch the population go extinct," she said.But these hatchery fish, if released into the Delta, would be at a major disadvantage.They could struggle to find food, be chased down by larger fish and have difficulty spawning."It's not a great situation, frankly," Lindberg said. "The problem is us. Not the fish."While efforts are under way to fix the Delta, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year said that smelt could go extinct in the wild before the estuary heals.And yet, there are not enough smelt at the lab, nor at a second hatchery, to ensure genetic diversity.So the agency is considering a new $15 million to $20 million hatchery near Rio Vista."The goal of any program we start would be to eventually restore the population to self-sustaining," said Bob Clarke, assistant fisheries program manager for Fish and Wildlife. "That's going to take a long time."And the underlying problems in the Delta must still be addressed, he said. Otherwise, "You don't have a chance."The recent report by CALFED, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, says that climate change could soon make the Delta uninhabitable for smelt, and that "last-ditch measures" such as DNA freezing and refuge populations should be considered.There are success stories: The captive breeding and reintroduction of the black-footed ferret in Wyoming and other states, and the release of gray wolves into Yellowstone, the report says.As far as freezing DNA, gametes or embryos of domestic animals have been preserved in the past, but that strategy has been little used for wild species.Furthermore, while some species can adapt to changes in their environment, in most cases, they can't keep up with that rapid change. Selective breeding or genetic engineering could help species develop tolerance to change."Many difficulties remain with these alternate tools for species preservation, but they do constitute a growing toolkit for conservation," the report says.Tina Swanson, a biologist with the conservation group The Bay Institute, added her skepticism to that of others."We have no evidence that we can successfully reintroduce bred smelt back into the wild," she said. "I think the likelihood ... is extremely low."Lodi Languishing project irks neighbors, costs city...Daniel Thigpenhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081030/A_NEWS/810300324/-1/A_NEWSLODI - Residents looked forward to new houses on their block, a pocket near Lodi's East Side where industrial warehouses neighbor shaded, suburban homes.But Esther Cobarrubio sums up well what she and others are left with for the foreseeable future: a brown, empty plot of land."It's an eyesore," the 60-year-old said from her Park Street home, which sits across from the 1.3-acre spot that is now just a patch of overgrown weeds. "The children love it because they get to play with their bikes on it out there."A residential project for the location, approved for development of 11 homes some two years ago, has fallen through and the property is in foreclosure. Subcontractors want money for their unpaid bills.And for the first time in decades, possibly ever, Lodi is demanding it be paid the fees it charges for new development even though the project never came to fruition.It's perhaps a sign that, as large home builders falter during these hard economic times, even the smaller development projects aren't immune to the downturn."I think we've never had a project go this far without having their bills paid," said Public Works director Wally Sandelin.In 2006, the City Council approved a proposal to build 11 homes on a parcel along a residential stretch of South School Street, behind an industrial building along Sacramento Street.The developer, CMT Construction, had one year to put together the basic nuts and bolts of the project - installing water and sewer lines, driveways, cable and telephone lines, and such.By May of this year, however, CMT was asking for an extension. Most of the infrastructure work was done, but there were a few loose ends remaining before the city could sign off on the work.The City Council gave CMT until August, and the builder missed the deadline.The details of Stockton-based CMT Construction's financial hardships are unclear. The company still is an active corporation, according to a filing with the California Secretary of State's Office. The Record was unable to contact any representative of the company. Other than small claims, there are no recent local or federal court filings.Developer Larry Osborn, who originally sold the property to CMT, said Pacific State Bank foreclosed on the property in August and rejected his recent offer to buy it back. He said he hasn't been in contact with anyone with CMT for months.City officials are working with the bank to get $93,000 it says the city is owed on the project. Development impact fees comprise most of that amount, and the rest is to pay subcontractors who filed claims with the city after CMT didn't pay its bills.Manteca BulletinWolk opposes Peripheral Canal as Delta solution...Dennis Wyatthttp://www.mantecabulletin.com/main.asp?SectionID=28&SubSectionID=58&ArticleID=60008&TM=47621.77Lois Wolk isn't a fan of a reincarnation of the Peripheral Canal as the solution to California's water needs.Instead, the Democratic Assemblywoman from Davis embraces a variety of options that require all sides to compromise in the emerging holistic approach that gives farmers, urban users and environmentalists equal standing in any solution addressing the Delta."It (the Delta) is California's heart and soul," Wolk said.Wolk is seeking election Tuesday to the State Senate seat now held by Mike Machado, D-Linden. Machado is being termed out of office this year.Wolk noted that while she isn't as versed as Machado in California water matters - the state senator is consider one of the best students of water issues in the State Legislature - they are on the same page.Wolk teamed up with Machado to put in place a series of new state policies aimed at providing California with 21st century flood protection instead of just allowing local agencies to build without regard to dangers."The Natomas area in Sacramento sits in a big bowl," Wolk said. "It isn't a question of if it will flood but when."Wolk believes by making flood control an issue upfront in the development process that steps can be taken to avoid the potential for disaster. She pointed to the River Islands at Lathrop's 200-year level protection that includes river restoration as an example of the right way to address flood control concerns.Wolk believes the consensus that the environmental concerns are on the same footing as ag and urban uses without one have a leg up is the only way that solutions to water development to address growth as well as environmental, farm needs and flood protection can be addressed effectively.Wolk noted tackling issues like water and other regional needs require Central Valley legislators to embrace a "give and take" posture in dealing with other members of the legislature that are predominately from the coastal areas including the Los Angeles Basin, San Diego, and San Francisco. They have the numbers to run roughshod over the interior portions of the state. That's why Wolk says it is important to work with all members of the legislature and develop a relationship where things can be secured for Central Valley constituents.Wolk worked her way up through elective office on the local level serving on the Davis City Council from 1990 to 1998 including two terms as mayor.She then served from 1998 to 2002 on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors before moving up to the Assembly in 2002.She serves as chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. As the first woman to head the committee, she has worked to sharpen the focus on flood protection, the crisis in the Delta, water management and climate change, land use, state parks, fisheries and invasive species that threaten California's waterways.She has succeeded in getting 56 new laws put in place ranging from protecting seniors from financial abuse to protecting farmers from unwarranted nuisance suits.Wolk noted that the Manteca portion of the district has a lot in common with the northern segment where she resides in Davis including agriculture, health care concerns, growth, water, farming, and schools.San Francisco ChronicleFeds to challenge LA port's clean truck program...(10-29) 22:10 PDT Los Angeles, CA (AP) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/10/29/state/n185020D49.DTL&type=printableThe Federal Maritime Commission voted Wednesday to seek a court order to halt portions of the clean truck program at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.The panel plans to file for an injunction in federal court in Washington, claiming the new rules governing truck emissions will reduce competition and either increase transportation costs or reduce service at the port.The program, which began this month, retired more than 2,000 older diesel trucks from the fleet that serves the port and will phase out about 16,000 diesel cargo trucks over the next five years. Port officials have said replacing the port truck fleet will reduce truck-produced air pollution at the ports by 80 percent by 2012."The commission appreciates the potential environmental and public health goals" of the program, said commission press secretary Karen V. Gregory said. However, she said, removing some parts of the plan, such as the requirement for independent truckers to become employees of trucking companies, would allow the ports to reap clean air benefits without introducing anti-competitive restrictions.The Port of Los Angeles defended its program, noting that more than 750 carriers representing more than 32,000 trucks have signed on."The clean trucks program has proven to be highly competitive," the port said in a statement Wednesday night. "We believe the Federal Maritime Commission fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the clean trucks program."The American Trucking Associations, which represents 37,000 trucking companies, sought a court order to stop the plan but a federal judge denied the request and an appeals court upheld the ruling last month.Together, the two ports handle about 40 percent of the nation's imports.Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope defended the program and the employee requirement."Capitalized companies can afford to buy and maintain the clean trucks we need — individual workers cannot and that's why we need the employee requirement to sustain cleanup in the long run," Pope said.He called the commission's vote "the Bush administration's last-ditch effort to let the nation's largest trucking lobby off the hook for the pollution they create."FLYOVER TIMEAnnual migration spectacle of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds is taking place now...Tom Stienstrahttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/30/SP0513P6J4.DTL&type=printableHere come the birds: From snow geese to sandhill cranes, from bald eagles to sparrows, the annual migration of millions of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds is under way on the Pacific Flyway.An hour, a day or a weekend to take in the spectacle, either near or far, can improve the way you feel about nature.If you catch a spectacular flyover, such as 100 sandhill cranes at dusk in the Delta or 75 bald eagles at dawn near the Klamath Wildlife Refuge, it can change how you feel for years. Both of these events will occur nearly every day in the coming weeks and months.You also have the chance to see more than a million snow geese and Ross' geese in the Sacramento Valley. I've seen the en masse lift-off of snow geese twice and it's one of the most extraordinary events in all nature, where the entire sky is filled with white geese with a rolling wave of honking squawks.Bay wetlands provide habitat for roughly 1.6 million shorebirds in winter. In the Central Valley, roughly 3 million ducks and 750,000 geese - 44 percent of waterfowl population on the Pacific Flyway - spend the winter at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges. Up north, more than 500 bald eagles spend the winter at the Klamath Wildlife Refuge.To share in this, here are the three best tours in Northern California, from close to far, with a chance of unforgettable encounters, along with the Bay Area bests:Crane flyoverWoodbridge Ecological Reserve, Lodi: Be here at dusk for a chance at an astonishing experience, the sandhill crane flyover. This is where 75 to 100 cranes fly over the top of you, filling the sky with the silhouettes of their labored wing beats and the air with echoing "squawk-whoops." I've seen this twice in the past year and it's remarkable.Sandhill cranes look prehistoric, slender with long legs and necks and wingspans that average 3 to 5 feet. I've seen them fly in flocks of 50 to 100, often circling and gliding as the flock moves as if connected by telepathy.If you are new to wildlife watching, volunteers with the Department of Fish and Game provide about six tours per month on weekends during the late afternoon and evening. The tours take about two hours. They start this weekend and continue through February. To mark the opening of the season, the Lodi Crane Festival is set for Nov. 7-9. More than 50 guided tours will be available that weekend."You can see up to 100 cranes, with really good viewing early in the season," said David Moore, who directs the program for docent-led tours.Later in winter, the odds of seeing a spectacular fly-out are less than in the fall because heavy rain and wind can send the cranes farther south, often to Soda Lake in the Carrizo Plain in remote southeastern San Luis Obispo County.Woodbridge has two areas, South Site and North Site. For a do-it-yourself adventure, drive west on Woodbridge Road for 6 miles into the South Site and scan the fields and marshes along the road.Most guided tours are on the North Site, which is otherwise not open to the public. This is your best chance to see a fly-out.Info: $8 donation suggested; (209) 948-7708 or dfg.ca.gov/regions/3/cranetour/; for directions, go to Web site. Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival, (800) 581-6150 or cranefestival.comTwo million birdsSacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows: In the past week, the number of white-colored geese, both snow geese and Ross' geese, has been increasing almost daily and adding to the spectacle, reported Greg Mensik of the Fish and Wildlife Service.The latest counts were completed Monday. Biologists counted 429,000 geese and 1.68 million ducks, Mensik said, 10 percent more than last year at this time. The increase is attributed to a freeze on the night of Oct. 11 at the Klamath Refuge, as well as the opening of hunting season, which pushed an estimated 150,000 ducks and geese south to the Central Valley.This is the best driving tour in California to see birds, with a good chance of spotting other wildlife. From November through April, every time I drive Interstate 5 in the Sacramento Valley, I take the turn-off for the driving tour through this refuge. If you are heading on I-5 for the Thanksgiving weekend, it is a must-do side trip.You typically see 20,000 to 50,000 ducks and geese, with good prospects for eagles, egrets, falcons, rabbits and turtles, and a chance for coyote, deer and fox. Roughly 300 species of wildlife live here over the course of fall and winter.The driving tour is 6 miles long and you are required to stay in your car, except at two viewing stations. Biologists have cut breaks in the tules along the road so you can scan across expanses of marsh.It's a magic time to see a fly-out, when thousands birds lift off at once. I saw the lift-off of 250,000 snow geese here, and it was one of the most jaw-dropping wildlife sightings I've ever had.Info: Free for those with federal duck stamp ($15), otherwise $3 per vehicle. To get there: Take I-5 to Country Road 68 exit (north of Maxwell, south of Willows); (530) 934-2801 or fws.gov/sacramentovalleyrefuges/Bald eagle fly-outKlamath National Wildlife Refuge: A spot on Keno-Warden Road - a seemingly unlikely site in what appears to be the middle of nowhere, just over the Oregon border - gives you the opportunity to see 75 to 100 bald eagles flying right over the top of you. This usually takes place when cold weather arrives and peaks from December to February.It happens because the bald eagles roost in trees for the night on the flank of Hamaker Mountain to the west. Then about a half hour before dawn, they fly over that spot en route to feed on ducks at the Bear Valley Wildlife Refuge. At Worden on Highway 97, turn west on Keno-Worden Road and drive to where you cross the railroad tracks. Just after that, look for an unmarked dirt road on the left. Turn there, drive a half-mile, park on the shoulder and then get out and scan the sky toward the mountain to the west. If you get there after sunrise, it's usually a done deal.The Klamath Basin attracts more bald eagles than anyplace else in the Lower 48 (states) for winter, and it's often frigid here and it's a long trip. Most visitors will spend the night in Klamath Falls and drive around the refuges to see the bald eagles the next day. The entire area freezes hard by late December, and you often can see the eagles sitting on the ice, picking at a dead duck.Info: Free. (530) 667-2231 or www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/Bay birding's bestNapa-Sonoma Marsh, Sonoma: Exploring a mosaic of linked sloughs is best by kayak. Most launch from Hudeman Slough. High tide of 3.0 or higher recommended. Tons of waterfowl and raptors. Free. (707) 226-3641. Free map at DFG, P.O. Box 47, Yountville, CA 94599, (707) 944-5500; dfg.ca.govBothin Marsh, Corte Madera: Good trail with bridges through marsh, best on low tides for feeding egrets, rails and others on mud flats. Free. Richardson Bay Audubon Center, (415) 388-2524; tiburonaudubon.orgDon Edwards S.F. Bay Wildlife Refuge, Newark: Levees provide easy walks amid ponds, marshes along the edge of the South Bay, near the eastern foot of the Dumbarton Bridge. The refuge covers 30,000 acres. (510) 792-0222; www.fws.gov/desfbayBaylands Nature Preserve, Palo Alto: A pretty dirt path extends through 2,000 acres of wetlands, with lots of egrets and herons, along with a changing variety of visitors on the flyway. Jackrabbits that pop up and scamper off can surprise the heck out of you. Free. (650) 329-2506; city.palo-alto.ca.us Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, Pescadero: Like Bolinas Lagoon in Marin, this is a rare mix of freshwater and brackish water, a marshland estuary that leads to the ocean. As a result, you get a mix of waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. Excellent hiking trails provide access. Free. (650) 879-2170; parks.ca.govOther spots (north to south): Bolinas Lagoon; Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (reopens to public in March), Suisun City; Loch Lomond Harbor, San Rafael; Rodeo Lagoon, Marin Headlands; Crissy Field, San Francisco; Pillar Point Harbor (west side), Half Moon Bay; Lake Merritt, Oakland; Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland; Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda; Hayward Regional Shoreline; S.F. Bay Wildlife Refuge, Newark; Environmental Education Center, Alviso.Paying for preservesDuck stamp: The $15 duck stamp pays for the purchase and management of national wildlife refuges, the key resting spots for migratory birds on their respective flyways and habitat for roughly 400 species of birds and wildlife.Hunters pay the freight: All waterfowl hunters are required to buy the duck stamp.Birdwatchers' vision?: Fifty million Americans enjoy birding, but only 2 million buy the duck stamp, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If 10 percent of bird watchers purchased the duck stamp, it would raise $75 million that the Fish & Wildlife Service would use to purchase and manage key wetlands habitat.How to buy stamp: Ask for it at the U.S. Post Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuges, some sporting- goods stores, or at (800) 852-4897, and duckstamp.comSparrows, tooEven some of the most common-looking sparrows in your backyard could be in the midst of a 6,000-mile flight from Alaska to Central America.Though ducks and geese are the species most well known for their migrations, some songbirds also migrate long distances. Many hummingbirds and thrushes, and a variety of warblers and sparrows, are high-tailing it to mild climates with the onset of rain and snow in Alaska, Canada and northern-tier states.At Big Sur, the Ventana Wildlife Society, best known for its California condor program, also captures, bands and tracks migratory songbirds. In the process, it has discovered that safe resting areas along the flyways are a key to the health of migrating species. These habitats provide food, water and protection from predators, such as cats. The backyards of many homes in the Bay Area, for instance, can provide overnight refuges or death traps.Wyoming proposes changes in its wolf plan...BOB MOEN, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/10/30/national/a024514D76.DTL&type=printableWyoming is revising its gray wolf management plan in hopes of placating concerns about providing enough protection for the animals, but environmentalists said the changes are inadequate because wolves can still be shot on sight in most of the state.The state's revisions include new wording to clarify its commitment to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs of wolves and 150 individual wolves in the state and new wording that further restricts the state's ability to change trophy game boundaries.By revising its management plan, Wyoming is trying to avoid being left out of a new attempt by the federal government to remove the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list.But a representative of an environmental group advocating for the predator said the state's proposed changes are still not sufficient."We do not feel that this plan goes far enough," Sierra Club representative Melanie Stein said.The move by Wyoming comes after a federal judge in Montana recently restored the predator's endangered status. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had stripped wolves of federal protection and transferred control over the animals to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.All three states adopted management plans that set up trophy game areas where controlled hunting of wolves would be permitted outside of national parks.Wyoming's plan went further by establishing an additional predator area where wolves could be shot on sight across most of the state. The idea was to allow ranchers to protect their livestock from wolves.Environmental groups argue the shoot-on-sight provision cannot be part of any management plan, and U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy criticized Wyoming's plan when he initially ruled in July on a lawsuit filed by the environmental groups.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has since announced a new initiative to end federal protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho while leaving them in place in Wyoming.In an attempt to avoid being left out of the process, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal approved emergency rule changes to the state management plan.However, the predator provision remains in the Wyoming plan because it is codified in state law and can only be changed by the Wyoming Legislature, which doesn't meet again until next January.Los Angeles TimesFloating to save the L.A. RiverAn Army Corps of Engineers biologist who took part in a kayak trip to show the waterway is navigable may face dismissal for her actions...Heather WylieHeather Wylie is a biologist with the regulatory division of the L.A. District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The opinions expressed are her own and do not reflect the official views of the corps.http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-wylie30-2008oct30,0,6288211,print.storyA kayak trip I took this summer may cost me my job.I am a civilian biologist working for the Army Corps of Engineers. On my personal time, I joined a trip down the Los Angeles River to protest actions by my own agency to undermine the Clean Water Act.My superiors scoured the Internet for proof and found two photos of me on a blog. Claiming that my "participation undermined [its] authority," the corps has proposed suspending me for 30 days, a punishment one step below termination. More than two months after advocating this penalty, it has yet to make a decision.In July, a dozen kayakers took a three-day journey down the 52-mile L.A. River; I joined them for 20 miles. The purpose of our regatta was to show that the entire river is "navigable-in-fact" -- a classification that is crucial to preventing the rollback of Clean Water Act protections throughout the watershed -- and to highlight similar threats facing waterways across the nation.More than 30 years after its enactment, the Clean Water Act is now in legal turmoil. A 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Rapanos vs. United States, first muddied the waters. The court held that to continue to regulate pollution under the Clean Water Act, the government has to prove there is a "significant nexus" between the wetlands in question and "navigable-in-fact" waters.The term "navigable-in-fact" comes from 140 years' worth of court rulings. Waterways that have or can generate interstate or foreign commerce through boating (including seasonal, hazardous or solely recreational use) are navigable-in-fact and thus subject to the provisions of the Clean Water Act. So our kayak trip was meant to underscore that the L.A. River -- and all the streams that feed into it -- deserve protection under that law.Last year, in response to the court ruling, the corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put together a document spelling out new, more restrictive methods for analyzing which waters will continue to be subject to the law. With a big assist from the Bush administration, developers and industry successfully lobbied the agencies to use the new guidebook as an opportunity to push the majority of our nation's streams and wetlands out of reach of the Clean Water Act.In the view of many, the restrictive standards cripple the Clean Water Act. In a memo released by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the top EPA enforcement official complained that the change has blocked the majority of Clean Water Act prosecutions.Fortunately, the corps' shenanigans and the attention our protest and that of others drew to the issue triggered an unusual countermove: The EPA permanently stripped the corps of any further responsibility for determining the status of the L.A. River and Arizona's Santa Cruz River.Still, scores of other watersheds across the nation remain in jeopardy. A navigability analysis of the Gila River in Arizona has just been completed, designating only 6.9 miles as navigable-in-fact. This has enormous implications; the Gila River flows hundreds of miles across the width of Arizona, and its watershed covers vast areas of the state. The analysis focuses on a small section of the Gila near the site of a proposed development where lobbyists are pushing for relaxation of environmental protections. In response, the corps has proposed removing Clean Water Act coverage from several creeks at the site. If the EPA doesn't overturn it by Tuesday, these rollbacks will become final and set a detrimental precedent.Legislation to restore the Clean Water Act and protect our rivers from being polluted, or our wetlands from being drained for development, is still pending in Congress. It needs to be a top priority.I picked up a paddle to make a point about protecting the integrity of our waters, including the much-abused L.A. River, and to protest the leadership of my own agency. The Army Corps of Engineers, all the way down to the Los Angeles District, has chosen to subvert the Clean Water Act, which the agency -- like myself -- has sworn to uphold. To me, protecting our waters, our greatest public-trust resource, is not just our job; it is our patriotic duty.As a federal employee, I did not forfeit my 1st Amendment rights to speak out or to petition my government to redress wrongs -- on my own time. To my surprise, my demonstration about the Clean Water Act has turned into a fight about the extent to which public servants will be allowed to serve the public, our true employers, while off-duty. I stand by my actions, and I have not put my paddle away.Federal Maritime Commission challenges ports' clean truck programThe agency will ask a U.S. District Court to strike down parts of the pollution-control effort at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach because it may reduce competition...Ronald D. Whitehttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-fi-ports30-2008oct30,0,2947102,print.storyThe Federal Maritime Commission said Wednesday that it would ask a U.S. District Court to strike down parts of a landmark pollution-control program at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's busiest international cargo complex.Elements of the ports' clean truck program "are likely, by a reduction in competition, to produce an unreasonable increase in transportation cost or unreasonable reduction in service," the commission said in a statement.Among the provisions to which the commission objects is the Los Angeles port's requirement that truck drivers work for approved concessionaires. Before the program began Oct. 1, port truck transportation was dominated by thousands of independent owner operators.Long Beach still allows independent truckers to work at its port.The commission's 2-1 vote Wednesday to ask a federal court in Washington to issue an injunction against parts of the ports' program puts the anti-pollution effort in jeopardy despite legal victories in a separate federal court battle in California brought by the American Trucking Assn.The normally low-profile commission is perhaps one of the most powerful regulatory entities in Washington that most Americans have never heard of.Under the federal Shipping Act of 1984, the agency has the right to intervene when it thinks unfair competitive restrictions or unduly expensive mandates have been placed on international commerce.But the commission also made it clear Wednesday that it wasn't seeking to overturn every aspect of the plan that began this month with barring of the oldest and dirtiest trucks built before 1989. In 2012, only trucks that meet 2007 emissions standards will be allowed to enter the ports."The commission believes that the surgical removal of substantially anti-competitive elements of the agreement, such as the employee mandate, will permit the ports to implement on schedule those elements of the CTP that produce clean air and improve public health," the commission majority wrote.The goal of the clean truck program is to eliminate tons of particulates and other pollution from local skies. It is a major component of the Clean Air Action Plan designed to slash overall emissions at the ports by 45% by 2012.Officials of the twin ports hope that the pollution-control efforts will persuade environmentalists to stop throwing legal roadblocks in the way of expansion projects.Supporters of the clean truck program reacted angrily to the maritime commission's decision."The commission is siding with a filthy industry and blocking the path to clean air and public health," said Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, "Two commissioners in Washington, D.C., should not make a decision behind closed doors to ruin clean air for all Southern Californians."Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said port officials were "confident that the federal court in the District of Columbia will reject the Federal Maritime Commission's attempt to block the clean truck program and allow the most ambitious air pollution cleanup initiative in the nation to continue to take dirty diesel trucks off the road and remove harmful emissions from our air."Long Beach port spokesman Art Wong said he couldn't comment on the maritime commission's move until he saw what the agency filed in court."We're just not sure how this will affect us," Wong said.At least one community activist wasn't optimistic that the cleaner trucks would reduce pollution in the long run because independent owner operators would have trouble making enough money to maintain their vehicles properly. "That might work for a few years, but then we would be right back where we started," said Kathleen Woodfield, vice president of the San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition.Major sewage spill forces closures along Laguna coastMore than 500,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed onto streets and into the ocean. Four miles of beaches from Crescent Bay to Camel Point will be closed for at least two days, police said...Tony Barbozahttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sewage30-2008oct30,0,1878847,print.storyBeach has spent more than $10 million on sewer system upgrades in recent years to prevent ruptures to its aging infrastructure, City Manager Ken Frank said."We have one of the oldest sewer systems in the county," Frank said. "We have a whole lineup of repairs, including a major renovation of this In what is being described by Orange County health officials as the worst raw sewage spill in at least nine years, more than 500,000 gallons of effluent spewed into the street and the ocean Wednesday morning in Laguna Beach, prompting the closure of four miles of coastal waters.Waters roughly two miles north and south of the spill, from Crescent Bay to Camel Point, near Aliso Beach, will remain closed for at least two days, authorities said."People can still use the beach and the sand; only the ocean is closed," said Deanne Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency, which monitors ocean water quality.County health authorities ordered the closure after being alerted about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday to flooding at a pump station near Calliope and Glenneyre streets, about a block from Coast Highway.City crews found effluent draining onto surrounding streets and discovered the source of the spill was a 12-inch pipe that had disconnected. They worked to drain the pump station and contain the spill, channeling the waste into a storm drain that flows into Bluebird Beach. The station was back in operation by about 10 a.m.Though several streets were closed while crews cleaned up the mess and made repairs, Coast Highway, the city's main artery, remained open. Late Wednesday afternoon, the city announced it would hire an independent firm to investigate what went wrong.Laguna particular pump station. We just didn't get there in time."The health care agency is testing water at 14 locations, and coastal waters will remained closed until bacteria counts return to acceptable levels.The unseasonably warm weather has attracted more swimmers and surfers to Laguna Beach than usual for October, so in addition to posting signs, lifeguards have had to tell dozens of people to stay out of the water, said J.J. Carvin, a lifeguard for the Laguna Beach Marine Safety Department."We've made at least 50 to 60 contacts with people who were in the water or attempting to go into the water, even with a lot of signage all over the place," he said.The last major spill in Orange County occurred near the same pump station in April, when 60,000 gallons of effluent flowed into the ocean after a clamp on a sewer main's air release valve failed.Sewage spills also shut down part of the city's beachfront in November 2006 and in June 2005 during the Bluebird Canyon landslide.The last major spill in Southern California took place in January 2006, when 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilled from a Manhattan Beach pumping plant after an apparent power failure.Officials launched a massive cleanup after an estimated hundreds of thousands of gallons flowed into the sand and the ocean.The Regional Water Quality Control Board will probably ask for an investigation into Wednesday's spill in Laguna and could fine the city if it is found to be at fault."More than anything else this is very unfortunate," said John Robertus, executive officer for the board's San Diego region. "Laguna Beach has a very old system, and they also have a lot of hills. Sewage coming down hills causes a lot of pressure."County health officials said increased government oversight and upgrades to sewer systems have in general helped reduce the number and size of sewage leaks over the last two decades.But a community water quality group said the spill is proof that beach cities still need to make many improvements to protect their coasts."This is an exceptionally large spill, and yet it's something that is far too common," said Ray Hiemstra, an associate director for Orange County Coastkeeper, a Costa Mesa nonprofit that monitors water quality. "Big spills draw a lot of attention. And that's what it takes to get the resources to make the necessary repairs."Inland Empire economic outlook is grimEconomists say they expect the downturn to continue for two years. Long-term prospects are good, they say...David Kellyhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-forecast30-2008oct30,0,4197962,print.storyA panel of economists today offered grim predictions for the Inland Empire economy, including a rise in unemployment, a slide in manufacturing and a wave of foreclosures likely to continue for another two years.Some of the numbers were staggering."There has been a 3,500% rise in foreclosures in the Inland Empire since 2005," said Brad Kemp, director of regional research for Beacon Economics, a research and consulting firm. "Most people want to think this housing drop is over, but it's going to continue."A recovery, he said, is not expected until early 2011, the same year he thinks the housing crash will bottom out after home prices fall 28% to 32% more.Kemp made his presentation during the second annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference in San Bernardino. The gathering was opened by Mayor Pat Morris, who said San Bernardino has 5,282 homes either in foreclosure or close to it."This is the worst situation we have seen in our city's history," he said.None of the panelists said much to alleviate his worries. In fact, University of Redlands business Professor Johannes Moenius said the collapse of the Inland Empire housing bubble played a major role in bringing the global economy to its knees."These housing bubbles were very local, and these localized bubbles are what essentially brought down the world economy," he said.Not that the rest of the state is faring much better."California has been in a recession for almost a year now," said Christopher Thornberg, one of the founders of Beacon Economics, which produced the forecast. "This is not only a recession but a deep recession, and it's amazing how many people were denying it even when we were in the middle of it."He said house prices must fall 40% to 50% to become affordable again. And when they do, it will be a long time before values go up."Housing markets don't bounce, they splat," he said. "We will be at the bottom for a while. The peak of foreclosures will be around for the next two to three years."Recessions, he said, are a good thing because they "work the evil out of the system."Riverside and San Bernardino counties experienced unprecedented growth followed by a spectacular crash, the report shows.Between 2000 and 2006, 315,000 jobs were created and 815,000 new residents moved in, according to the report. Home prices jumped 214% in Riverside County and 241% in San Bernardino County.Many homeowners took out adjustable-rate mortgages that were foreclosed when the rates reset at a higher level. Home prices plummeted 35% in Riverside and 37% in San Bernardino Counties over the last year."Most of the downturn . . . will be experienced by the end of 2010, when median home prices are expected to be on order of $198,000 and $165,000 in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties respectively," the report said.The housing crash has been exacerbated by an increase in unemployment. Kemp predicted that joblessness would eventually top 12%. A decrease in new housing construction has hit hard, he said.Kemp said, however, that there was a silver lining. The downturn won't last forever and increasing housing affordability will once again bring in buyers. The area's manufacturing base also remains reasonably strong."This is the region for expansion in California," he said. "When the economy does come back you are going to be strong again. But you have to fall some more first."College tuition could rise sharply, officials warnThe cost of higher education jumps nearly 6% for students in the 2008-09 academic year. Experts say the widening economic crisis might worsen those bills in 2009-10...Larry Gordonhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-tuition30-2008oct30,0,553233,print.storyA report released Wednesday by the College Board showed that the average price of attending college rose nearly 6% this fall, but education officials warned that the widening economic crisis might push tuition bills sharply higher next year.Annual tuition, fees, and room and board for in-state students at four-year public colleges and universities nationwide grew 5.7% for the current academic year to $14,333, according to the College Board's annual college pricing survey. For four-year private schools, the price of attending rose 5.6% to $34,132. Financial aid reduced schooling expenses for eligible students.The increases closely matched the 5.6% overall inflation rate for the fiscal year ending July 2008 and were relatively moderate compared with a run-up of college costs a decade ago. "This is certainly not high by historical standards," said Sandy Baum, a College Board policy analyst and economics professor at Skidmore College in New York.But trouble might be looming. State budget cuts, college endowments hit hard by the tumbling stock market and an expected slide in donations could lead to higher charges for students and parents next year, some officials warn. However, some experts speculate that schools may be loath to raise prices at a time when many American families face layoffs, home foreclosures and shrinking investments.Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said she was worried about the possibility of steep tuition hikes at both private and public colleges. "I am afraid this year's [College Board] report may prove only to be a snapshot of a time in history that we might soon be referring to as 'the good old days,' " she said in a prepared statement. Given the economic strains and endowment losses, college administrators "will be reluctant to increase tuition, but they will likely have little choice."Baum of the College Board said she could not make predictions but conceded that campuses were feeling financial strains. "Obviously, the pressure is going to be very strong on colleges and universities, as it is going to be on the rest of the economy," she told reporters Wednesday during a telephone news conference.At the National Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities, spokesman Tony Pals pointed out that one school, Benedictine University in Illinois, recently froze tuition fees through spring 2010 and guaranteed that next year's freshman class would see no increases through 2011 because of the financial problems many families are facing. Some other private schools may follow that example, Pals said, and others will work to limit hikes.Still, average tuition increases probably will be larger next year, Pals said. "But whether they will be significantly higher is too early to predict," he added.According to the College Board report, students at California's community colleges and Cal State campuses are getting a good deal compared with students in other states. This year, annual tuition and fees at public two-year colleges nationwide averaged $2,402, compared with $634 at California community colleges. Excluding room and board, tuition and fees at four-year public schools averaged $6,585 , compared with $3,800 at Cal State campuses. Annual UC fees are more than $8,000, not including living costs, but UC says its fees are similar to those of other highly ranked, research-oriented public universities.However, with the state budget billions of dollars in the red, officials of California's public universities are girding themselves for possible fee hikes next year, although they say it is too soon to speak of specifics before next month's meetings of Cal State trustees and UC regents.Many other state campuses face similar situations, according to the National Assn. of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. Since state budgets and tax revenues are down, "universities will be pressed to increase tuition," said Peter McPherson, the association's president. Full-time students at public four-year institutions received grants and tax benefits averaging $3,700, and full-timers at private four-year schools received grants and rebates averaging $10,200, the College Board report said.American undergraduates received an average of $8,896 in financial aid this year, including $4,656 in grants and $3,650 in federal loans.The debt level worries educators and families. About 60% of all students who graduated in 2007 had some school loans to pay off, and the average total debt was $18,800 at public colleges and $23,800 at private schools. That average debt was 18% higher than it was six years ago, the study found.Turmoil in the banking industry and the increased amounts of money that students can now borrow in federally guaranteed loans are discouraging students from taking out private loans, College Board officials said. Private-loan volume fell slightly between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years, while federal-loan volume rose about 6% after inflation, the officials said. The study did not include the most current figures, although experts said they expected to see that trend grow stronger.Tally of improperly accessed UCLA patient records tops 1,000As the state investigation ends, 1,041 people's records are found to have been subjected to snoops...Rong-Gong Lin IIhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ucla30-2008oct30,0,3281485,print.storyThe number of patients whose hospital records were improperly accessed by employees at the UCLA Hospital System has topped 1,000, state officials said Wednesday. Kathleen Billingsley, director of the California Department of Public Health's Center for Healthcare Quality, said the records of 1,041 patients have been breached, up from 939 in the state's last report in August. The total number of UCLA workers who have been disciplined for breaching patient records now stands at 165, up from 127 since August.Wednesday's report was the sixth issued by the California Department of Public Health after articles ran in The Times this year about UCLA employees prying into the records of celebrities and prominent patients, including California First Lady Maria Shriver, actress Farrah Fawcett and singer Britney Spears. Billingsley said Wednesday's report concludes the department's investigation into UCLA unless authorities learn of other cases. A statement issued by UCLA said the report "came as a result of a voluntary disclosure by the UCLA Health System."The statement added that breaches disclosed Wednesday were found during a retrospective review of records between January 2004 and June 2006 at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA.The hospital said it has taken measures to ensure patient confidentiality, including increasing audits of employees who can access patient files and requiring employees to identify reasons for accessing clinical records.Press EnterpriseWater supply falling short; rationing may be necessary...JANET ZIMMERMANhttp://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_water30.44f4b39.htmlInland water agencies could get only 15 percent of the supplies they requested from the State Water Project next year -- one of the lowest anticipated deliveries since 1993 -- possibly spurring mandatory rationing in some areas, officials said Wednesday. The state Department of Water Resources is scheduled to announce the estimated allocation of water from Northern California today. But a state expert confirmed it will be 15 percent, and local authorities said that was consistent with what they were told to prepare for. "We're anticipating getting a low allocation, possibly a record low," said Bob Muir, spokesman for Metropolitan Water District, a wholesaler for 18 million customers in the Inland area and other parts of Southern California. The Department of Water Resources supplies Metropolitan and 28 other agencies. The announcement follows two dry years and court-ordered reductions in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumping that cut the amount delivered to suppliers by two-thirds, said Ted Thomas, department spokesman. The 2008 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was deemed critically dry, with statewide runoff from snowpack at 57 percent of normal. Instead of the normal two-thirds full, the state's major reservoirs are at about one-third of capacity. The state commonly makes conservative estimates for allocations, then boosts them if supplies become available. This year, allocations were estimated at 25 percent early on, then increased to 35 percent based on rainfall and snowpack. In 1993, when the estimate was for 10 percent allocations at the end of a six-year drought, agencies ended up receiving 100 percent of what they'd requested. "We're hoping this is not the final allocation," Thomas said. "We're keeping our fingers crossed that it gets better. ... It all depends on the weather." State meteorologists are predicting average rainfall, although forecasts are not unanimous. If this winter is dry, suppliers might have to ratchet up conservation and fine water wasters. Metropolitan has a plan to double prices for its customers who go over a set limit and will discuss in April whether to begin rationing next summer. "Southern California is facing the very real possibility of water shortages, which could mean water rationing," Muir said. His agency made 30 percent reductions in agricultural water deliveries in Riverside and San Diego counties last year and invested in groundwater storage, recycling of waste water and water-saving technologies, he said. In anticipation of shortages, water agencies have been preaching voluntary conservation, especially outdoors. Western Municipal Water District, which serves about 24,000 retail customers in western Riverside County, relies on the state for 80 percent of its supplies. The agency will offer more aggressive grants and rebates for products such as moisture-sensing irrigation controllers. It also will pay residents to replace grass with native plants, and it could fine outdoor water wasters, General Manager John Rossi said. The district's retail agencies, including Norco, Corona, Elsinore Valley and Rancho California in Temecula, have agreed that the agencies less reliant on imported Northern California water will share with harder-hit districts, Rossi said. Water officials cautioned that until issues in the Delta are resolved, including new or better ways to move water through a crumbling canal system, the likelihood of getting full allocations again are slim. The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, which serves 10 agencies from Fontana to Yucaipa, has gotten by using water from reservoirs and wells, said Douglas Headrick, deputy general manager. The district relies on groundwater for about 70 percent of its supply. Average rainfall in Northern and Southern California this year, combined with a 15 percent allocation from the state, would allow the district to "squeak by" without rationing. But cutbacks will be needed in some places, he said. "No one likes to use the word rationing, but there it is," Headrick said. Washington PostCritics Say Roads Projects Won't Jump-Start Economy...Lori Montgomeryhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/29/AR2008102904125_pf.htmlAs congressional Democrats push for billions of dollars in new spending on roads, bridges and schools to create jobs and revive the economy, many economists are skeptical of the proposal, saying that public works spending is likely to trickle out too slowly to ease the effects of a recession."Changes in infrastructure spending are not an effective method of creating jobs or providing short-run fiscal stimulus to the economy," economist Alan D. Viard told the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday. "As many economists have noted, timing lags make it difficult to deliver the stimulus at the time that it is needed."Viard is a former Bush administration economist now at the American Enterprise Institute. But he rattled off a list of other experts, ranging from those at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to key Democratic advisers, who have reached the same conclusion. Among them: two former Clinton administration economists who wrote in January that spending on infrastructure is among the "less effective options" for forestalling recession."In the past, infrastructure projects that were initiated as the economy started to weaken did not involve substantial amounts of spending until after the economy had recovered," said a report by Douglas W. Elmendorf and Jason Furman. Elemendorf is now advising House Democrats; Furman is chief economic adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)."It's a tough call," agreed Chad Stone, chief economist for the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which initially resisted spending on construction projects when Democrats first proposed the idea earlier this year. But now that economists are predicting a deep and long-lasting recession, Stone said, "maybe it's not a terrible thing if the money takes longer to get out there."In an apparent nod to skeptics, Democrats have begun talking about the need for an economic recovery package that would create good jobs and steady paychecks, in contrast to the sugar rush of other modes of an economic stimulus, such as the tax rebates Congress approved earlier this year. Half of a $61 billion economic package that passed the House last month -- only to die in the Senate -- was devoted to such projects, with the rest of the money going to food stamps, extended unemployment benefits and aid to cash-strapped state governments.House Democrats are now working on a package that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said is likely to be much bigger. Some economists are urging as much as $300 billion in new spending, though Democrats this week discussed moving a package of about $100 billion as soon as next month. Details are still being decided, but Pelosi has said any proposal is likely to be weighted heavily with new money for public works.White House officials and Republicans in Congress oppose the effort, accusing Democrats of dressing pork-barrel projects in stimulus clothing."These projects take a long time to get approved, they take a long time for the money to get out into the system, and a lot of the claims that are made about how much transportation could actually help build the economy are overblown," White House press secretary Dana Perino said yesterday.Without the cooperation of the Bush administration, Democrats said they are unlikely to act until a new president takes office in January.Yesterday, at one of two lengthy congressional hearings on the subject, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, defended infrastructure spending."I've heard the same tired, old arguments: 'Oh, they're too slow. These infrastructure projects take too long to get going,' " Oberstar said. "You know, the trouble with those economists is that they've never had their hands on a number two shovel. They've never had a callous on their hands among them. . . . We know that we can put people to work in projects that are ready to go, designed, engineered, right-of-way acquired, and [environmentally cleared]. All they need is the money."A parade of governors, union officials and at least one prominent Republican -- former Michigan governor John Engler, now president of the National Association of Manufacturers -- lined up to echo that sentiment. Thanks in part to the collapse of the housing market, the construction industry has lost more than 600,000 jobs over the past two years, and it now claims the highest unemployment rate, at 9.9 percent, of any industrial sector. With Virginia, Maryland, the District and dozens of other jurisdictions slashing capital spending, the industry's prospects are not likely to improve anytime soon."I hear from contractors all the time they don't have any private-sector work. So they're very hungry," Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said. "To be blunt about it, it is so bad out there right now, we're talking about preserving jobs. . . . Additional work right now would be the difference between holding onto employees and letting people go."Porcari testified on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which conducted a survey this year in which state officials listed more than 3,000 highway projects that could be under construction within 90 days if funding were available, including paving projects, intersection improvements and the repair of hundreds of dilapidated bridges.There is little dispute that the nation needs to spend more money on roads and bridges, economists said. But even projects that are "on the shelf" can't funnel money into the broader economy as quickly and efficiently as other types of spending, according to a January report by the Congressional Budget Office. Extending unemployment benefits or raising food stamp allowances, the report said, would be more effective.CNN MoneyJob cuts: Who's nextEmployees from Wall Street to Main Street are feeling nervous about their jobs, but certain industries are more at risk than others...Jessica Dicklerhttp://money.cnn.com/2008/10/27/news/vulnerable_industries/index.htm?postversion=2008103012NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- As the impact of the economic crisis takes hold, employees from Wall Street to Main Street are feeling nervous about their jobs, and with good reason.As of September, 760,000 jobs have already been lost this year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.And a quarter of U.S. employers expect to make layoffs in the next 12 months, according to a recent report by consulting firm Watson Wyatt.But which industries will suffer the most? Experts say certain sectors are more vulnerable to layoffs than others.Housing:Jobs in the housing sector were the first to go when the mortgage meltdown took hold. But with the industry outlook at an all-time low, even more layoffs could follow.Beyond mortgage lenders and homebuilders, jobs in commercial real-estate and at real-estate agencies will be the next to go, according to Dean Baker, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.With the worst September for new home sales since 1981, "some of the big [real-estate] chains will do some consolidation," Baker said, "clearly you need fewer offices," Baker said.Finance:Few in the financial sector are feeling secure about their positions. The latest employment figures from the Department of Labor show financial firms have eliminated an estimated 110,000 jobs over the past year through September, and experts say there will be even more losses in the months ahead.As financial firms reorganize and consolidate, there are going to be a lot more layoffs, Baker said."Financial services firms have cut tremendously and I don't think that's over," echoed Lee Pinkowitz, associate professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.Retail:Before the credit crunch, retailers were already struggling with soft sales as high gas prices and falling home equity forced consumers to curtail non-essential purchases. Now retail sales are dismal heading into the holiday season. "This could be the weakest holiday hiring season since 2001," said John Challenger, chief executive of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, and that's not good for those employed in the retail industry."I doubt we'll see the pick up in seasonal hiring that we'd normally see," Pinkowitzsaid. But while department stores and high-end boutiques may be particularly hard hit, discount retailers, like Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) could fare well in the current climate, Challenger said. Wal-Mart is also the nation's largest private-sector employer, and could be a safe haven for those who work there.Publishing:As consumers cut back, advertisers follow, and that means tough times for print publications, including newspapers and magazines, experts say. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, employment in the publishing industry has been contracting since the beginning of last year. But the "grand decline" of jobs in the media industry, which also includes broadcast and digital media, began with the dot-com bust in 2001, noted Heidi Shierholz an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a research group based in Washington. Now a loss of jobs in traditional publishing is being exacerbated, in part, by the move away from print toward digital media. "Every time you have a recession it pushes companies that have been holding on by their fingernails out of business," Challenger said. "It clears away an old generation of companies and I think we'll see that with print."Autos:While sales at the Big Three automakers have fallen 20% this year and are likely to tumble further, trouble in the auto sector is not confined to manufacturing. All told, about 2 million Americans work in the industry.While declining sales will likely lead to more job losses, those in "the tentacles of the auto industry" could be particularly hard hit in the coming months, Pinkowitzsaid, which includes those jobs at dealerships and suppliers.Travel:Airlines have already announced layoffs across the board, but as consumers and businesses continue to scale back discretionary spending on travel, the implications go far beyond flying."All the industries under the umbrella of travel are going to be at risk" Challenger said, including rental cars, hotels and even restaurants.If people are cutting back, travel and leisure activities are the easiest things to do without, explained Baker. Big restaurant chains will close locations, he said, which means eliminating many wait staff and service jobs, while some smaller restaurants will be forced out of business entirely.But despite the mostly doom-and-gloom predictions, some say there are some bright spots ahead for American workers."Even if you're in an industry where there has been some job downturns, there still can be some opportunities," said Kimberly Bishop, vice chairman of Chicago-based executive search firm Slayton Search Partners.Bishop suggests focusing on those skills and experiences that can translate beyond the industry in which you work. There are certain roles that every organization needs, she said, and you may be able to fulfill that role in another industry that has more promise. 10-30-08  Meetings 11-3-08 Merced County Hearing Officer meeting...8:30  a.m.http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/hearing/2008/110308ka.pdfREGULAR MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED  11-3-08 Merced City Council Redevelopment Agency agenda...7:00 p.m.http://www.cityofmerced.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=6799CALENDAR OF MEETINGS AND EVENTSNov. 05 PLANNING COMMISSION, 7:00 PM        11 HOLIDAY – (CITY OFFICES CLOSED)        17 CITY COUNCIL/REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY, 7:00 PM        19 PLANNING COMMISSION, 7:00 PM        20 MERCED COUNTY ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENTS,          3:00 PM        27 HOLIDAY – (CITY OFFICES CLOSED)        28 HOLIDAY – (CITY OFFICES CLOSED) 11-5-08 Merced County Planning Commission agenda...9:00 a.m.http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/commissionarchive/2008/agendas/PC%20AGENDA%20110508.pdf 11-5-08 Merced City Planning Commission...7:00 p.m.http://www.cityofmerced.org/depts/cityclerk/boards_n_commissions/planning_commission/2008_planning_commission/2008_planning_commission_agendas.aspAgendas are posted the Monday before a Wednesday Planning Commission Meeting MCAGhttp://www.mcagov.org/Nov. 6 - Technical Planning Committee Meeting...not posted at this timehttp://www.mcagov.org/tpc.html