1-2-09Merced Sun-StarSan Joaquin Valley blueprint: Urban sprawl limits meet resistanceSome decision-makers fear too much density in rural areas...RUSSELL CLEMINGS, The Fresno Beehttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/619268.htmlA move to encourage tight limits on urban sprawl in the Valley is meeting resistance from many of the region's political leaders.As it heads toward a decision that could shape Valley growth over the next four decades, the two-year-old San Joaquin Valley Blueprint planning process is split between one proposal that calls for an average of 18 people per acre of new development and another for 31 people per acre.To the extent that local governments stick to the eventual plan, both versions would result in higher housing densities than the current average, which is 13 people (a little more than four homes) per acre.But in recent weeks, some key decision-makers have come out against the higher of the two proposals, saying that it is too much density for the Valley, especially outside metro areas like Bakersfield and Fresno."Kern County and Fresno County are basically metropolitan counties. Tulare County is a rural county. One shoe does not fit everybody," said Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida.Initial talks on the Blueprint, a state-funded effort aimed at long-term planning for the region, began in 2006. Now, discussions are about to kick into high gear.A public "summit" meeting is scheduled Jan. 26 at the Fresno Convention Center.After that, a regional panel of two political leaders from each county will pick a preferred future growth plan and send it to each county for a vote in April. The resulting plan will not have the force of law, but it is expected to influence other, local plans throughout the Valley.A law signed last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger increases the odds that compliance with the regional plan will bring more state transportation and housing money. That new law, Senate Bill 375, requires local agencies to provide for greenhouse-gas reductions in their long-range transportation and housing plans.Some Valley leaders think the Blueprint process gives them a head start on compliance with the new law."That increased density may put us in a better position for transportation funding," said Fowler City Council Member Rico Aguayo."I believe we are probably two years ahead of schedule when it comes to SB 375." But where some see opportunity, others see a threat -- one that would force Valley counties to adopt a development style they say is more suited to cities like Santa Monica.An average density of 31 people per acre would mean 10 housing units per acre. And that is something Ishida says Tulare County residents would not accept."What you'd basically have are condominium projects," Ishida said. "That's not our market."Similar concerns were raised at a recent meeting of the Council of Fresno County Governments policy board, made up of mayors and other elected officials from each of the county's 15 cities and the county Board of Supervisors.After long discussion, the board voted unanimously to endorse the lower-density version of the alternatives.For Fresno County, that means eight homes or 25 people per acre, compared to 10.1 homes or 32 people under the high-density plan and 3.8 units or 12 people under present conditions."It's market forces and Mother Nature that are going to dictate how towns grow and how fast," said Selma Mayor Dennis Lujan.Supporters of the more aggressive proposal -- including an advisory panel of public officials, business leaders and activists who voted for it Nov. 7 -- point to its environmental benefits: Less driving, lower energy consumption, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less farmland that would be consumed by new development.By 2050, the Valley would convert 533,000 acres to urban development under current trends. Increasing new development to 18 people per acre would save 135,000 acres. Making it 31 people per acre would save almost twice as much, 262,000 acres.In addition, the 18-people-per-acre version would cut energy use by 8 percent and miles driven by 10 percent. The 35-people-per-acre version would cut energy use by 25 percent and miles driven by 27 percent.Greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, would drop by similar increments, according to computer projections. Still, none of the region's eight counties supports the more aggressive version.The highest densities any now propose are by Merced County, with 28 people per acre, and Fresno County, 25 per acre. Tulare County's proposal calls for 17 people per acre, Kings County is at 24, and Madera is at 15.At the other extreme is Stanislaus County, where local leaders endorsed an alternative that basically consists of existing land-use plans.Vince Harris, executive director of the Stanislaus Council of Governments, called it "an approach that we think is viable."Given the resistance to the highest housing densities, it may be uncertain how much change will actually result from the Blueprint process. Nevertheless, Aguayo told the policy board that the exercise has value, if only to show what is possible."The intent is: 'Look, this is a vision. If we choose to grow this way we can reduce greenhouse gases, we can improve air quality, we can improve our transportation systems,' " he said. City of Merced likely ready to move on from last year's continuing turbulence...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/619265.htmlChange, just as it took center stage nationally, left its marks -- and scars -- on Merced during 2008.The city concluded its search for a new city manager, choosing John Bramble. The 62-year-old will guide the city at one of its most challenging junctures as the state deals with a multibillion-dollar budget crisis and cities deal with a recession.The economy's crash hit Merced and other Valley cities particularly hard because they were riding so high on the housing market boom just a few years ago.The woes have stretched far beyond City Hall to some of Merced's established institutions, including retailers, construction firms and even the publicly traded bank headquartered here.The following are the year's top stories.1. Foreclosure crisis falloutMerced's housing market took a beating this year as home values plunged, foreclosures soared and owners watched long-term investments go belly up.The median price of a home fell from $215,250 in January to $124,500 in November. Prices peaked at $382,750 in December 2005.Foreclosures surged because of subprime mortgages and because of people who realized it'd be better to let their home go into foreclosure than spend decades waiting for them to make up the lost value.The county hit a high of 548 foreclosures in August and recorded more than 4,000 for the year.The one upside to the sharp downturn was that more and more residents could afford to buy a home. About 60 percent of the homes on the market are within reach of families earning Merced's median income of $47,400. In 2007, that figure was at 3.8 percent.Though the market has fallen so far already, few believe the city has hit bottom, as house prices continue to slip and another spate of foreclosures may arrive with the New Year. 2. New city manager hiredThe City Council undertook one of its most important and least glamorous tasks -- hiring a new manager for City Hall.Merced City Manager Jim Marshall announced his retirement in early 2008 but stayed on until a successor was hired.The search, which cost $30,773 because the city hired a professional head-hunting firm, ended in October when a divided council tapped John Bramble, a 62-year-old who had been working in Brighton, Colo., in the same capacity.Councilman Bill Spriggs believed Bramble was too old for the job and not the best candidate. Despite the split vote on hiring Bramble, the council unanimously voted to work as a team with him.It's too early for Bramble, who started Dec. 1, to have had much of an effect, though he has talked about making sure the city's priorities are clear. His abilities will be known and tested soon enough.3. County Bank's troublesTwo-and-a-half years ago, then-County Bank CEO Thomas Hawker rang the NASDAQ's closing bell, celebrating 10 years of being listed on that stock exchange.In 2007, the company celebrated its 30th anniversary and bought California Stockman's Bank for $27.4 million.Now, after being battered by declining real estate value, the corporation has been forced to list its future as one of its "going concerns."The company applied for a chunk of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, though it hasn't learned whether it'll get the cash infusion.Capital Corp of the West, the holding company that owns County Bank, posted in March its first annual loss, $3.6 million.It swung back during the first quarter of 2008 by recording a $2.3 million profit, but proceeded to post a $12 million loss for the second quarter and a $54 million loss third quarter.The latter was so high because the company took a $23.5 million write-down for goodwill and another $25.3 million hit for a tax issue.For Merced, where County Bank has a market share of nearly 40 percent, it was a case of Main Street and Wall Street colliding.4. Underpass finally fundedCurses at the BNSF Railway trains turned to cheers this year as a long-awaited G Street underpass won funding. The $18 million project, half state-funded, half city-funded, will allow traffic to go beneath the railroad tracks.Not without controversy, the plan ignited worries from Ragsdale residents who believe their neighborhood may face a deluge of cars because of more people driving on G Street when the project concludes. They formed a community group to make sure the City Council listens to their wishes.The project, funded by Proposition 1B, will continue to move forward even as the state grapples with the budget deficit. If all goes to plan, it will finish in the fall of 2011. For most residents, it's good enough to know the caboose is in sight.5. Two locals die in Iraq...Modesto BeeOnly snow-deep, Sierra survey is cause for drought concern...John Hollandhttp://www.modbee.com/local/v-print/story/550649.htmlWater managers liked what they got at Christmas -- a cold, wet storm that dropped snow in the Sierra Nevada.But that gift from the sky will have to be repeated several times over if California is to avoid a third-straight year of drought."It's going to take an above- average year to get us out of the hole," said Walt Ward, assistant general manager for water operations at the Modesto Irrigation District.The Sierra snowpack was 76 percent of average Tuesday, compared with 60 percent a year ago, the California Department of Water Resources reported.The drought concern varies around the state, depending on reservoir storage, water rights and other factors.The MID and the Turlock Irrigation District are in relatively good shape thanks to long-held rights to the Tuolumne River. These agencies are being careful with their water but likely would not force deep cuts on growers unless the drought worsened.On the West Side, several districts have had sharp reductions because of the drought and efforts to protect fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.Among them is the Del Puerto Water District, which provides federal water from the delta to about 170 farms between Vernalis and Santa Nella.In 2008, Del Puerto had to get by with 40 percent of its contracted supply. If 2009 is dry, the allotment could range from zero to 10 percent, General Manager Bill Harrison said.That would mean widespread fallowing of fields where annual crops are grown, he said, and possible damage to almonds and other permanent crops if supplemental water cannot be found."That's uncharted terri- tory," Harrison said. "I don't know how anyone survives a zero-to-10 percent year."He said the district does have some water reserved in San Luis Reservoir, to make up for delta pumping limits last summer, but the federal government could send it to wildlife refuges or other higher priority uses if needed.No water rationingThe drought also has taken a toll statewide on cattle grazing land that is not irrigated. Many ranchers have reduced their herds or bought more supplemental hay than usual, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.The drought has not yet brought water rationing in most cities. In Modesto, the supply from wells and the MID appears to be adequate for 2009, said Nick Pinhey, director of public works.Should the drought worsen, he said, the city would toughen rules that now allow residents to water outdoors three days a week, and never between noon and 7 p.m."Thus far, things are looking OK," Pinhey said. "We are monitoring the situation."The MID and TID likely will set their allocations for growers in late winter or early spring. Usually, a dry year prompts them to reduce the amount of water available at the lowest price and then charge more for higher use to encourage conservation.In 2008, the drought prompted the TID to cap total water use. Most growers had enough to get by, but some stretched the time between irrigations, used supplemental groundwater or grew two rather than three feed crops, board member Randy Fiorini said."Essentially, we're entering this winter with less water behind the dam, so if we have a repeat of last year's rainfall, we'll have less water to work with," said Fiorini, a farmer and past president of the Association of California Water Agencies.More calls to conserveThe drought has renewed calls from environmentalists for increased water conservation by farmers, but Fiorini said plenty already is being done. He noted the use of drip and microsprinkler systems, which direct water to plant roots, and monitoring of evaporation so the irrigation happens only when needed.The MID and TID also have to release some water for environmental reasons, mainly salmon in the lower Tuolumne, but the rules are much less strict than in districts that draw from the delta.The rainy season runs into early spring, so there's plenty of time to catch up, water experts said. But they also warn of nature's whims, such as the bone-dry March and April that followed the promising start to last winter."Let it rain and snow some more," Harrison said. "That's what we need."Fresno BeeWater agencies need answers before they start pointing fingersCooperation in research should come before fighting...Editorialhttp://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/1103236.htmlWhy does California's water crisis never end? Part of the answer is that, instead of devoting their ratepayers' money to projects that might increase water supply or resolve environmental conflicts, individual water agencies spend far too much on campaigns to assign blame or divert attention from their own actions.Some of the biggest exporters of water from the Delta -- the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Contra Costa Water District, the State Water Contractors and others -- are targeting Sacramento for contributing to the decline of smelt and other fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.There is cause for concern. Scientists from San Francisco State University have found that high ammonia concentrations reduce production of diatom -- a type of phytoplankton -- in the San Francisco and Suisun bays, potentially harming fish.Yet, if you were to read statements by the water contractors and some politicians, you'd think the case against Sacramento was airtight. It's not. Scientists must still determine if ammonia harms phytoplankton in the Delta in the same way it seems to do in the saltier San Francisco Bay. The impacts of ammonia must also be weighed against other factors, including exotic clams, pesticides and water diversions.The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has started to more closely examine these questions, which is appropriate. The Sacramento sanitation district has plans to expand its discharge by 40% by 2020. Before it does so, regulators need to understand the consequences.It would be helpful if everyone involved would help to advance the basic research. Determining if ammonia from Sacramento's treatment plant is actually damaging the estuary would be money well spent, especially since ammonia removal could cost up to $1 billion.Sadly, instead of taking such a proactive approach, the Sacramento sanitation district's board hired a local public affairs firm to launch a "strategic communications plan" to counter any suggestion that ammonia might pose a threat.Such is the nature of water politics. Instead of resolving conflicts and letting science drive policy, water agencies devote enormous sums of public money to litigation, perks, wasteful spending and -- above all -- spin. New California laws may affect daily livesToday's changes include rules on texting, court fees...E.J. Schultzhttp://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/1102589.htmlSACRAMENTO -- Believe it or not, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators actually agreed on some things last year -- hundreds of new laws that start today.Bogged down in budget talks, lawmakers made few major policy changes. But some of the new laws will surely be noticed as Californians go about their daily lives.One of the laws already has been in place for a month -- new rules aimed at curbing metal theft, a major problem in the Valley. Lawmakers also made a hallucinogenic plant illegal for minors and gave school officials new powers to crack down on "cyberbullying" -- intimidation using social-networking Web sites. Californians must pay higher legal fees as of today. And Valley residents could potentially face increased car-registration costs later this year.In total, the governor signed 774 bills in 2008, with most starting today. Here's a closer look at some of them:Buses: Act up on a Fresno public bus and you might lose riding privileges. The ban will last 30 days or longer for repeat rowdy behavior. City officials must finalize the rules. The law targets Fresno and Sacramento.Court fees: Going to court just got more expensive. The state increased 52 filing fees related to civil law, family law and probate matters. Traffic fines also are going up. It's all to pay for courthouse upgrades.Car fees: San Joaquin Valley air regulators are now free to raise vehicle registration fees by up to $23 -- from $7 to as high as $30 a car -- to pay for clean-air programs. The air district might vote on the hike as soon as this spring. Smog: The Department of Motor Vehicles will now charge $50 for temporary permits allowing more time to get smog-check certified. The permits can only be given to cars that have been tested and failed. Extensions last 60 days. Metal theft: Junk dealers and recyclers must collect more information from customers. The new requirements, which took effect Dec. 1 because of an urgency clause, will aid metal-theft investigations. DUI: Anyone on probation for a DUI conviction faces tough new drinking-and-driving rules. For them, it's illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater. For everyone else, the limit remains at 0.08%. Drugs: Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogenic plant native to Mexico, is now an illegal drug for minors. It's a misdemeanor to sell or distribute it to anyone younger than 18. Supporters of the ban said the drug is dangerous and increasingly popular with teens. Infections: Hospitals will have to report rates for serious hospital-spread infections, which are often resistant to antibiotics. Fresno's Saint Agnes Medical Center has dealt with the issue in its cardiac surgery unit.HIV: Health-insurance companies must cover the cost of HIV testing, even if it's not related to the primary diagnosis.Credit cards: Companies can no longer offer gifts to university students who fill out credit card applications on state campuses. Texting: Motorists can no longer send text messages while driving. The restriction follows last year's law that prohibits hand-held cell phone use while behind the wheel.Bullies: School officials can now suspend or recommend expulsion for students who "cyberbully," meaning using entries on Web sites such as MySpace or Facebook to intimidate other students.Right-to-farm: When land is purchased, the buyer must be notified if a farm is located within one mile of the property. The disclosures aim to stop lawsuits against farmers whose operation -- including odors, noise, dust or traffic -- might be noticed by neighbors. Hay: Truckers hauling hay no longer will be cited if a small amount of hay is lost on the road. The old "no-spill" standard was too strict, farm leaders said.Farmers markets: Restaurants now can buy produce directly from farmers markets. Also, farmers can sell more products, such as some processed foods, at the markets. Solar: If a neighbor's tree was in place before a solar panel was installed, the solar owner no longer can demand that the tree be cut down if it grows to shade the panel. The law was a response to a dispute between neighbors in Sunnyvale where redwood trees blocked rooftop panels. Sacramento BeeCalifornia panel misses deadline for Delta report...Matt Weiser...1-1-09http://www.sacbee.com/capitolandcalifornia/v-print/story/1510149.htmlState officials skipped a Wednesday deadline to release a plan to improve the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.The Delta Vision Committee, chaired by Natural Resources Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman, blamed the workload required to release the governor's budget plan."We felt it was important to focus on that and then move to release the Delta Vision report as soon as possible," agency spokesman Sandy Cooney said. "It's likely that will be next week. It's all but done." He said there are no problems with the report.Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, was not happy about the delay."If we see some type of politically scrubbed document, I think there are going to be big, big problems," said Huffman, chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.A 2006 law required the report to be submitted by Dec. 31. The committee of five state Cabinet secretaries is working from proposals by the governor-appointed Delta Vision Task Force, which conducted public meetings for nearly two years. The aim is to fix environmental and water-supply problems in the Delta, the state's most important water source. Sea lions along Sacramento River blamed for salmon decline...Matt Weiserhttp://www.sacbee.com/topstories/v-print/story/1511636.htmlAsk a Sacramento angler for reasons why Central Valley salmon populations have crashed over the past two years, and this is likely to be high on the list:"Dozens of sea lions that live between Rio Vista and Verona year-round," said Sacramento fisherman Terry Horst. "That's a major problem because they eat tons of fish a day."Scientific brain power has been applied in thick doses to many aspects of the alarming fish declines in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – from weather patterns to water pollution. No one with a science degree, however, has had anything to say about sea lions. Now Mark Dendy, a professor of biology and natural resources at American River College, has produced a survey of the Delta sea lion population. And, yes, there are resident sea lions, though not nearly as many as fishermen think.According to Dendy, five individual California sea lions live most of the year in the Sacramento River. They account for most sightings between Isleton and Colusa.These five spend much of their time in the river near downtown Sacramento, at the confluence with the American River. Dendy has seen them eating catfish and striped bass. But their favorite appears to be chinook salmon – as many as one every 45 minutes.Dendy identified the five individuals through unique markings on each animal in photos and video gathered during 132 hours of boat observation between September 2007 and January 2008. They are not harbor seals but California sea lions, distinguished by small external ear flaps.He published his findings as his master's thesis for a degree in life sciences from the University of Maryland, and presented results at a Delta science conference in October."I don't think it's the cause of the collapse of the salmon fishery by any means," said Dendy, 54, who lives in Elk Grove. However, he said, "This has become a problem in the Sacramento Delta."Since 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act has made killing and harassing sea lions a crime. The law followed steep population declines caused by hunting for fur and blubber, and it was a success.The population of California sea lions is not endangered and now could be as high as 300,000, with an annual growth rate near 6 percent, according to 2007 federal data.It's likely that declining fish populations and habitats have forced this growing population to travel farther for food. Sea lions are known to be smart, adaptable feeders.Dendy said sea lions have always visited the Delta but were a rare sight until about five years ago. Now they frequent areas as far inland as the Feather River and Colusa – more than 100 miles from the Golden Gate.More sea lions are likely to follow, Dendy said.Marty Gingras, supervising biologist at the California Department of Fish and Game Bay-Delta Office, said his agency knows little about the local sea lions. But employees have seen the animals seize sturgeon, striped bass and salmon out of nets during fish population surveys."We know that every fish that a sea lion takes is a fish that's not available to spawn naturally," Gingras said.There is fear that Delta sea lion numbers could grow to rival those in the Columbia River. Hundreds of Stellar and California sea lions have taken up residence there and are blamed for consuming as much as 4 percent of the spring chinook salmon run.State officials in Oregon, Washington and Idaho obtained federal approval in March to kill up to 85 sea lions. The Humane Society of the United States recently lost a federal lawsuit to prevent the killing, but it plans to appeal."All it's going to take," Dendy said, "is this continued uncontrolled growth of the population of sea lions and the destruction of habitats for fisheries, and you're going to see a huge problem like they have up on the Columbia River, and there won't be any more salmon. I believe the potential could be explosive."Sacramento's five resident sea lions are males. Four leave in spring to visit breeding areas on the Southern California coast.The fifth is a very large, senior male who stays near the American River confluence year-round. Dendy named him "Brutus," after the Popeye cartoon character. Brutus can be identified by his prominent forehead bulge.On a recent cold winter morning, Brutus was found swimming calmly at the mouth of the American River, near a sandy beach just below the Jibboom Street Bridge."He's 600 pounds if he's a pound," Dendy said as he watched Brutus through binoculars. "He's obviously lost interest in breeding. He's more interested in dining, I guess."Brutus was not seen dining that morning. But he would stay submerged as long as 15 minutes, then surface and watch activity on the beach with curiosity. The long dives, Dendy said, indicate Brutus may be eating small fish underwater. He was trolling the watery seam where the clear American meets the silty Sacramento.Dendy said he does not know the impact sea lions have on the river's salmon population. He hopes to start a new research to find out.A lingering mystery is where the sea lions sleep. They usually have preferred "haulout" areas on shore. But Dendy has been unable to find any such spots along the river. Finding these would be useful to collect scat to analyze the animals' diet.Dendy said having resident sea lions is probably not a good sign; it indicates an imbalance in nature. They are here, he said, because of overpopulation, a shortage of food or habitat – or all three."I don't really begrudge the sea lions eating the fish," said J.D. Richey, a Sacramento fishing guide who shot his own video, posted on YouTube, of a sea lion eating a salmon at the Sacramento-American confluence. "I mean, they've been doing that longer than we have. But now that every salmon is precious, I think the sea lion factor gets a little bit bigger." Manteca Bulletin2009: Third year of drought?Sierra snow survey not encouraging...Dennis Wyatthttp://mantecabulletin.com/news/article/394/A snow storm expected to blanket the higher elevations in the Sierra today is in deep contrast to snow surveys that are pointing to an unprecedented third year of drought in the post World War II era in California.The Department of Water Resources this week conducted monthly surveys and discovered water content was 83 percent of normal. It is better, though, than a survey a year ago that showed water content was 60 percent of normal and a survey two years prior that placed it at 69 percent of normal. The last non-drought year — 2006 — had water content at 92 percent of normal at the end of December.The snow pack and its water content are critical as it is actually the largest reservoir of water in California. January is also critical as it is historically the wettest month in terms of snow in the Sierra.Forecasters expect the 2008-09 weather year to be dry again based on temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean being cooler than normal. Historically, this changes weather patterns and reduces precipitation in California.Department of Water Resources has already indicated water deliveries to cities and agricultural will be just 15 percent of normal. The biggest storage component of the State Water Project is Lake Oroville. As of Tuesday, Lake Oroville was at 27 percent of capacity with 969,575 acre feet of water. It is designed to hold 3,538,000 million acre feet of water behind a dam that rises 770 feet — 43.6 feet higher than Hoover Dam making it the highest dam in the United States and one of the highest earthen dam in the world.At the end of November, Shasta Lake — the backbone of the Central Valley Project, which is the federal segment complicated water supply and transport system — was 170 feet below its high water mark. The level has bounced back slightly with recent storms and was 151 feet below the high water mark on Dec 31. That sounds good, but it isn’t. The water level should be upwards of 80 feet high for a normal water year.The lake’s record low was in 1977 when the level was 230 feet below the high water mark. The state now has 35 million residents — 14 million more than back in 1977.New Melones — the reservoir that partially dictates the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s water fortunes  — holds 2,420,000 acre feet of water. As of Wednesday, it was down to 1,143,140 acre feet and significantly below typical early January storage.SSJID is expected to be in a fairly decent position for spring given the capacity of the Tri-Dam System it operates with Oakdale Irrigation District. But that unravels if January and February snow fall fails to at least hit normal levels.SSJID is critical to 55,000 acres of farmland around Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon. The agency also supplies municipal water to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.San Francisco ChronicleMany delta islands may be lost...Kelly Zitohttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/02/MNK5151SE4.DTL&type=printableTwo decades ago, water breached a levee on Tyler Island, 8,800 acres along the northeastern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, wiping out crops, damaging buildings and nearly destroying the Mello family's farming business. Steve Mello worries the same thing may happen again - with the approval of state policymakers who are considering whether to save some islands if increasingly fragile levees fail. It's a familiar scenario for Mello, who has heard proposals in the past to flood the land in the name of restoring a sensitive ecosystem that also serves as the hub of California's water supply."I feel like a lamb surrounded by wolves, and every time you turn to deal with one, another one is nipping at you," said Mello, who farms about 2,500 acres of alfalfa, corn, pears, potatoes and wheat. Fewer structures have been more critical to California's development than the 1,100 miles of earthen levees that help funnel water through the 1,300-square-mile confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. That water, mostly runoff from mountain snowpack, flows through a web of channels to mammoth pumps in the southern delta, sending billions of gallons of water to 25 million Californians.But the levees are in trouble, experts say. Rising seas, earthquakes, subsiding land and floods pose dire threats on top of the escalating repair costs to the state. Rather than allowing nature to decide when and how the levees give way, many researchers and policymakers say, California should manage the inevitable reshaping of the delta by deciding which levees to repair after a disaster.No rules exist yet. But beginning this year, government, scientists, planners, environmentalists and water agencies will attempt to reconcile their views on the barriers that have defined the delta for so long."The delta is two or three different places," said Will Travis, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. "From the perspective of the environmentalists, the delta is a piece of geography like San Francisco Bay or Yosemite that is near and dear. For water users, the delta is really a broad, leaky ditch and the water has to get from one side of delta through south side of delta."Levee failures commonOver the last 100 years, delta levees failed 166 times and all but three were restored. In the next century, according to a recent, influential report by the Public Policy Institute of California, the average island at the core of the delta has a 99 percent chance of being inundated by levee failure.The study concluded that as many as 19 islands in the delta's central area should not be repaired, depending on whether their property value includes land, structures and equipment. Many of those islands have infrastructure that includes railroads, bridges, aqueducts and energy facilities. As many as a dozen should be repaired, according to UC Davis scientists who wrote the report, while 11 are undetermined.Tyler Island, where land and assets are worth about $126 million, may not be worth saving, they say.The 2004 flooding of one island - Jones Tract - provided a stark example of the analysis that should go into a decision on any island, the experts say. A levee along the western side of the island collapsed, resulting in six months of repairs and pumping that cost $90 million, including $60 million in tax funds. The island's land was valued at $42 million, while assets on the island were worth about $500 million.The cost of buttressing all delta levees to widely used standards runs into the billions."The delta means a lot of things, but what it doesn't mean (is) that all levees that presently exist must continue to exist and be maintained at taxpayers' expense without regard for benefit, difficulty or rationality of doing so," said Phil Isenberg, chairman of the governor's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, a panel tasked with developing a sustainable delta management plan.Sinking land biggest riskA colossal earthquake, a 100-year rainstorm and the forecast of a 4 1/2-foot rise in the sea level by 2100: Each poses threats to the delta's levees, many of which sit below the level prescribed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.But scientists say one weakness compounds all of those calamities: land subsidence.In the 150 years since some of the levees were first carved out using horse-drawn dredgers, the land protected by the levees has sunk dramatically - pushing some of it 25 feet below sea level. Scientists say such differences are putting huge stress on the levees, raising the possibility of breaks or seepage. Fears grew after the catastrophic collapse of New Orleans' levees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.A drive around Tyler Island shows that some of Mello's fields sit near the island's average elevation of 9 feet below sea level. But Mello, whose family first bought land on Tyler in 1968, believes most delta islands are not as vulnerable as some experts suggest. The lowest subsidence occurs at the center of most islands, not up against the levees, Mello said, and farmers who cultivate two-thirds of the delta's 740,000 acres are using techniques to prevent erosion. Those include less-intensive farming, less burning to level land and growing fewer crops like white asparagus, which turned the topsoil "to flour," Mello said.In addition, reclamation districts are spending millions to upgrade their levees, including about $6 million in the last eight years to raise 7 miles of levees on Tyler Island by about a foot. "I believe many of these farms, if not all of them, can be farmed indefinitely," Mello said.He said forcing or allowing the levees to dissolve poses other major dangers, including the release of mercury accumulated in the levees during the region's strip-mining days. While environmentalists say creating tidal marshes and open water could boost important fish and plant populations, Mello and others say islands act as buffers for each other."There are difficulties finding one of the major islands you could flood and leave flooded without having a domino effect," said Tom Zuckerman, a retired Stockton water lawyer who now works with the Central Delta Water Agency. "You won't just lose one island; you'll lose the adjacent ones downwind."Scenarios for the futureThe debate over the delta levees will take on new urgency in the coming years as the state grapples with how to fix a water system plagued by leaky plumbing, booming demand and concerns over ecological damage.A controversial proposal to construct a so-called peripheral canal - which would route water from the Sacramento River around the delta to pumps in the south - dovetails with the idea to let some delta islands return to marsh or open water. In such a scenario, any increase in salty water from the broader bay-delta estuary wouldn't affect the fresh Sacramento water streaming through the separate canal.But many of the 6,000 people who live in the delta's interior say that option doesn't recognize important transportation lines, historic communities, schools, Victorian hotels, sought-after recreational activities and family farms.Today's delta is a far cry from the tidal marsh that pre-dated modern development or the early operations of the Gold Rush. Many experts agree the delta's mix of islands and waterways has harmed native fish and plants that depended on the ebb and flow between river and bay.Radical change is coming, they argue, whether forced by man or nature."With the delta, the natural systems are very dynamic and changing rapidly now," Travis said. "It's hard to have a political, legal, regulatory system that embraces that kind of change. It's hard, but we need to make some decisions."After working for two years away from the ranch, Mello's son Gary, 22, came back to drive combines, work on irrigation systems and learn the intricacies of accounting. Mello, 53, hopes the island survives long enough for the next generation to take over."I'm trying to make sure it evolves and passes to them as a viable business," Mello said. "I think they're pulling the plug way too early."Which levees should be saved? Researchers at UC Davis say it may not make financial sense to save all of the at-risk Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta levees. Map, Page A6...http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2009/01/02/MNK5151SE...  Power plant has no plans to stop killing fish...Robert Selnahttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/02/BAAS151F1U.DTL&type=printableDespite legal threats from the city of San Francisco and protests from environmentalists, regulators have no plans to stop a local power plant from using a cooling system that kills fish, discharges heated water into the bay and stirs up sediment that can be harmful both to wildlife and people. Mirant Corp.'s permit to draw in bay water and discharge it from the Potrero Power Plant expired Wednesday, but the company has no immediate intention of turning off its power generators or cooling system, located east of Third Street just south of Mission Bay.One of the generators, known as Unit 3, draws in millions of gallons of water per day from the bay, killing an undetermined number of fish. After being run through the plant, the now-heated water is discharged back into the bay where, studies show, it stirs up harmful substances such as copper, dioxin, mercury and PCBs.The 40-year-old plant is the subject of a larger, long-running debate about whether it should be retrofitted or closed in favor of a new and cleaner plant that the city would own. In the meantime, however, environmentalists and city officials want Mirant to find an alternative to its cooling system or to shut down its operations.City Attorney Dennis Herrera joined Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Aaron Peskin in writing a letter to the Regional Water Quality Control Board on Dec. 12, urging it to reject Mirant's application to continue discharging water from Unit 3.If the board approves the application, "the city intends to take all appropriate legal action to protect the bay and the public," the officials wrote.City lawyers declined to specify what the legal action might be, but one option would be for the city to seek an injunction halting the use of the cooling system. Herrera's office also has asked water board members to meet with local officials and residents to come up alternatives to the cooling practice. "Our view is that Mirant has a permit, and to keep it they must show that their cooling system doesn't hurt the bay, or they have to stop - and they haven't shown that it doesn't hurt the bay," said Theresa Mueller, a deputy city attorney. Mirant spokesman Chip Little responded to questions about the water permit via e-mail, saying the company "continues to work with the water board to address the potential impacts of its once-through cooling system and welcomes input from public stakeholders in the permit renewal process."The water board is responsible for implementing federal water laws that relate to power plant pollution. When the agency last extended Mirant's permit in 2006, it said it would bar the company from using the cooling system after 2008 unless the firm could show that its methods had "no significant adverse environmental effects" on the bay.Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the water board, said Mirant had not yet done so - but that questions have been raised about the federal law on the issue since the regional agency issued its edict.According to Wolfe, a pending U.S. Supreme Court case challenging federal water laws has thrown restrictions on power plants into doubt. Until that case is resolved and the rules are clarified, regulations governing cooling systems such as Mirant's are on hold, he said. "Everything has changed since the suspension of the rules," Wolfe said. "Mirant is not currently required to do the studies." The Supreme Court is expected to rule by mid-2009, he said, and any changes in federal regulations would not be in place before fall.Wolfe said he still intended to meet with local officials and community groups in the coming months to discuss their concerns. Amy Chastain, an attorney for the environmental group San Francisco Baykeeper, said the water board has the authority to impose its own rules while the federal guidelines are hashed out in court. "This will take a very long time for the case to be resolved and for the federal government to act," Chastain said. "We believe the water board can use its best professional judgment to decide to stop once-through cooling." New York TimesSigns of Another California Drought Year...Felicity Barringer http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/us/02water.html?sq=endangered%20species&st=cse&scp=5&pagewanted=printSAN FRANCISCO — California, just finished with its second consecutive year of drought, might well be facing a third. If so, state authorities may be forced to impose water rationing on farmers, homes and businesses.With the rainy season well under way, early partial measurements indicate that the amount of water stored in the Sierra snowpack, the state’s natural reservoir, is higher than the amount at this time last year but well below average, said the state’s meteorologist, Elissa Lynn.The deficit can be made up if January, February and March are full of big Pacific storms. But this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the weather phenomenon known as La Niña, which is characterized by cooler waters in the western Pacific Ocean and drier conditions, had returned for the second consecutive year.“The worry is that La Niña does again what it did last year,” Ms. Lynn said Wednesday, noting that the rainy season, which often lasts through April, ended in February last year. “When we missed March and April, we lost 20 percent of the normal precipitation.” In 2008, runoff from the Sierras was 57 percent of normal flows; in 2007, it was 53 percent of normal.There was little or no rain early last month, but several storms swept through the state in the 10 days before Christmas, bringing a pillow of fresh powder to the Sierra ski resorts.Last June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the first statewide drought since 1991. Building projects were curtailed as a result. The demand for water is perpetually high in this fast-growing state, which is expected to add half a million people annually for the next decade. Its $30-billion-a-year agricultural industry produces more than half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.Among those clamoring for supplies of fresh water are wildlife biologists. Endangered species like the delta smelt have been disappearing from rivers whose flows are well below average. A year ago, a federal judge ordered water authorities to curtail the use of large pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water system to help preserve the smelt.A separate worry for commercial fishermen is the coming salmon season. Last year, a collapse in the population of returning fall Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River led to the closing of the salmon season off the coast of California and much of Oregon. Since this year’s returning salmon were spawned three years ago, there is little direct connection between the low numbers of 2008 and the prospects for 2009. But, said Sheila Green, an environmental scientist with the state’s Department of Water Resources, though the 2009 adults are the offspring of a robust population of 2006 fish, the water flows that took these young salmon out to sea in 2007 were low.Ms. Green said the complex interplay of factors affecting salmon’s survival — freshwater conditions, predators, ocean currents and the levels of food rising from the ocean’s bottom — made it impossible to predict how strong the 2009 salmon runs would be, particularly the fall Chinook run, which is the most important.Among the other indicators of the state’s increasingly parched condition are water levels in reservoirs. Ms. Lynn said that water levels in the two federal reservoirs, Shasta and Folsom, were lower than they were during one of the state’s worst dry spells, in 1976-77, but that the levels in state reservoirs were a little higher than they were then.As Recession Deepens, So Does Milk Surplus...Andrew Martin http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/business/02dairy.html?ref=business&pagewanted=printFOWLER, Calif. — The long economic boom, fueled by easy credit that allowed people to spend money they did not have, led to a huge oversupply of cars, houses and shopping malls, as recent months have made clear. Now, add one more item to the list: an oversupply of cows.And it turns out that shutting down the milk supply is not as easy as closing an automobile assembly line.As a breakneck expansion in the global dairy industry turns to bust, Roger Van Groningen must deal with the consequences. In a warehouse that his company runs here, 8 to 20 trucks pull up every day to unload milk powder. Bags of the stuff — surplus that nobody will buy, at least not at a price the dairy industry regards as acceptable — are unloaded and stacked into towering rows that nearly fill the warehouse.Mr. Van Groningen’s company does not own the surplus milk powder, but merely stores it for the new owners: the taxpayers of the United States. To date, the government has agreed to buy about $91 million worth of milk powder.“The thing is, they are going to produce it because they have to milk the cows,” Mr. Van Groningen said. “It’s like a river. It keeps coming.” In addition, dairy farmers are all too aware that, unlike industrial machinery, cows cannot be turned off and stored until economic conditions improve; they must be fed and cared for, at continuing expense. The bags of milk powder represent a startling reversal of fortune for the dairy industry, which flourished in recent years in part because of a growing appetite for milk, cheese, ice cream and pizza in places like Mexico, Egypt and Indonesia. Many of those countries were benefiting from a global economic boom led by free-spending consumers in the United States.As American dairy farmers increased their shipments of powdered milk, cheese and other dairy ingredients to foreign markets, their incomes rose. And the demand surge helped drive up the price of milk for American families. The national average for whole milk peaked at $3.89 a gallon in July, up from an average of $3.20 a gallon in 2006.But now, demand for dairy products is stalling amid a global economic slowdown and credit crisis, even as supplies have increased. The result is a glut of milk — and its assorted byproducts, like milk powder, butter and whey proteins — that has led to a precipitous drop in prices.The price of powdered skim milk, used in infant formula, dairy products and processed foods, has fallen to roughly 80 cents a pound today from about $2.20 in mid-2007. Other dairy products have declined as well. Whole milk at grocers has not declined as rapidly as wholesale powdered milk, but it has dropped to $3.67 a gallon, down nearly 6 percent from the peak. While consumers are undoubtedly pleased by the lower prices, dairy farmers are struggling.“Everything was going great,” said Joaquin Contente, a farmer in Hanford, Calif. “The product was moving. Then this financial crisis came along and shoot, the whole thing came to a halt.”Logic might suggest that dairy farmers would simply sell some of their cows to a hamburger plant to cut the milk supply and raise prices. Indeed, the dairy industry has a cooperative effort under way to cull the herd.But farmers are reluctant to do that if they expect a demand recovery, since rebuilding a herd can take years. The culling program is relatively small, and at least so far, most farmers are holding onto their cows.“People don’t want to panic,” said Brian W. Gould, an agricultural economist at the University of Wisconsin, adding that farmers were receiving $20 for 100 pounds of raw milk just a few months ago. The price is expected to drop to about $14 for 100 pounds of raw milk in coming months. “It is unclear as to whether this will be a short-term or long-term market correction. It all depends on how long it takes the U.S. economy to recover,” he said.Other agricultural sectors are also struggling with a slowdown in demand from foreign buyers because of the global recession and an increase in the value of the dollar, which has made American exports more expensive abroad. The Agriculture Department is expecting steep declines in exports of corn, wheat, soybeans and pork.But while the government has price-support programs for about two dozen agricultural products, so far milk powder is the only commodity that has sunk low enough to start the flow of government dollars. Some expect that taxpayers will soon be buying blocks of cheese, too, given the plunging price.Government price supports provide a price floor for agricultural products as a way of keeping farmers afloat during hard times and ensuring an adequate food supply. The Agriculture Department has committed to buying 111.6 million pounds of milk powder at 80 cents a pound, for roughly $91 million, which includes some handling fees. Before October, the last time the government bought milk powder was in June 2006, and it was eventually used in government nutrition programs, given away as animal feed or sold on the open market, said Steve Gill, director of commodity operations for the department.He said the agency has not decided what to do with the cache of milk powder in California.Some critics of farm subsidies argue that price support programs are antiquated and allow farmers to continue producing even when the economics make no sense, as taxpayers will always buy up the excess production.“They don’t want to downsize or respond to the market signal. They want to keep producing,” said Kenneth Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington research organization that has long been critical of the government’s farm policy. “Once you get in a jam like this, it becomes our collective problem.”The government purchases come after what the department calls a “euphoric period of record prices and booming exports” for the American dairy industry. Since 2003, dairy exports have increased from $1 billion a year to about $4 billion this year, with exports of powdered milk increasing sixfold during that period. Milk powder is an attractive product to export because it does not require refrigeration, has a long shelf life and can be used to make numerous beverages and foods.Much of the increase was caused by increased demand in developing countries, where a growing middle class replaced starch in their diets with protein sources like meat and dairy products. Some Asian countries had little history of eating dairy products but were introduced to milk and mild cheeses by government nutrition programs or by restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.In China, for instance, per-person dairy consumption nearly doubled in just five years, to 63 pounds in 2007 from 33 pounds in 2002 (though it remains far below the per-capita consumption in the United States of about 580 pounds), according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The growth translates into the need for nearly 40 billion pounds more milk each year, roughly equal to California’s annual milk production.In addition to the increased demand, exports from the American dairy industry benefited from a relatively weak dollar and tight global supplies. For instance, droughts reduced milk production in New Zealand and Australia, two major dairy exporters, allowing American suppliers to fill the gaps.American dairy shipments soared to places like Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines. The biggest market, however, was Mexico, where imports from America increased to $853 million in 2007 from $258 million in 2003, according to the Agriculture Department.But now, global demand has stagnated amid high prices and economic uncertainty just as the dollar has strengthened and milk production in New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Australia, has bounced back. The continuing scandal involving melamine contamination of dairy products in China is expected to further diminish demand.“In some of these countries where dairy hasn’t been a big part of their diet, this is where we are seeing people pull back,” said Deborah Perkins, managing director of the food and agribusiness research group at Rabobank International.Several dairy exporters say they remain bullish on their long-term prospects, given the barely tapped markets in the developing world. Until then, dairy farmers say, they are braced for a period of low milk prices even as feed and other costs remain relatively high.Arthur Machado, who milks cows on the outskirts of Fresno, said he sold more than half his herd in 2006, the last time prices collapsed. Now, with prices plummeting again, he said he is trying to sell the remainder of his herd to another dairy farmer.“The business isn’t what it was in the ’70s, when I started,” he said. “There are not enough peaks to offset the valleys anymore.”Once the herd is sold, Mr. Machado said, he plans to focus on less volatile commodities, like almonds and grapes. But it is not so easy to get out of the dairy business. Just as with automobiles and homes, there is simply too much inventory on the dairy cow market.“Right now, there are no buyers,” he said. “When it’s on the upswing, we’ll sell. Until then, we’ll struggle through.”Is Ken Salazar Too Nice?...Editorialhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/opinion/02fri1.html?_r=1&sq=endangered20species&st=cse&scp=4&pagewanted=print The word on Ken Salazar, tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to run the Interior Department, is that he is friendly, approachable, a good listener, a genial compromiser and a skillful broker of deals. That is also the rap on Ken Salazar. What the Interior Department needs right now is someone willing to bust heads when necessary and draw the line against the powerful commercial groups — developers, ranchers, oil and gas companies, the off-road vehicle industry — that have long treated the department as a public extension of their private interests. Conservationists and pretty much everyone else exhausted by the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity and deference to commercial interests have welcomed Mr. Salazar’s appointment. The Colorado Democrat has a solid voting record on issues involving wilderness and wildlife protection and can be expected to bring a strong conservation ethic to the top of the department. Yet that will not be nearly enough to reform and reinvigorate the department. The Interior Department is an unusually balkanized agency, with eight separate divisions charged with managing 500 million acres of public land in a way that balances private and public claims. It is essential that Mr. Salazar find the right people to run each of these fiefs, and find ways to make them work intelligently and harmoniously in the nation’s interest. We cannot tell Mr. Salazar where to find those people, although there are probably excellent civil servants who might be worth elevating. What we do know is that he should stay far away from the lobbying groups and businesses that his department is sworn to regulate and avoid think tanks with extreme ideologies. Those are the places where Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush’s first interior secretary, Gale Norton, found many of their top political appointees. The results were disastrous. Exhibit A was J. Steven Griles, a lobbyist for the oil and coal industries who, as deputy secretary, basically ran the department until he was snared in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal in 2004. Three years later, Julie MacDonald resigned from her job as deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife after a report accused her of manipulating the work of agency scientists to undermine the Endangered Species Act and slipping internal documents to industry lobbyists. Paul Hoffman, another deputy assistant secretary whose main qualifications were that he had run a chamber of commerce in Wyoming and served on Mr. Cheney’s Congressional staff, wrote new rules for managing the national parks that would have weakened environmental protections. Kathleen Clarke, director of the Bureau of Land Management and a favorite of the oil and gas industry, became an ardent cheerleader for Mr. Cheney’s drill-now-drill-everywhere policies that put some of the country’s most fragile landscapes at risk. There were many more appointments like these, and collectively they have clouded the department’s mission and demoralized its employees. Mr. Salazar has a huge reconstruction job ahead. He should surround himself with a core group of dedicated, quality people, and remember that being nice to everyone won’t cut it. 1-2-09Meetings1-5-09 Merced City Council Redevelopment Agency agenda...7:00 p.m.http://www.cityofmerced.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=6938Jan     07 PLANNING COMMISSION, 7:00 PM         15 MERCED COUNTY ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENTS             3:00 PM         19 HOLIDAY – (CITY OFFICES CLOSED)         20 CITY COUNCIL/REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY, 7:00 PM         21 PLANNING COMMISSION, 7:00 PM         22 LOCAL AGENCY FORMATION COMMISSION, 10:00 AM 1-7-09 Merced City Planning Commission meeting...7:00 p.m.http://www.cityofmerced.org/depts/cityclerk/boards_n_commissions/planning_commission/2009_planning_commission/2009_planning_commission_agendas.aspAgendas are posted the Monday before a Wednesday Planning Commission Meeting. January 2009 Merced County Board of Supervisors meetings...Not posted at this timehttp://www.co.merced.ca.us/bos/index.htmlJan      6         272009 Meeting Calendar...Merced County Board of Supervisorshttp://www.co.merced.ca.us/bos/pdfs/bos_calendar.pdf SUPERVISOR PEDROZO ANNOUNCES TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULEhttp://www.co.merced.ca.us/newsletter/pdf/NewsRelease123008-TownHall.pdfMERCED – Supervisor John Pedrozo today announced a series of new town hall meetings to be held throughout District One in upcoming weeks. The meetings are designed to provide local residents with important information on the issues facing the County, State and our community"Since becoming a County Supervisor, I have committed to hold town hall meetings to provide my constituents with the opportunity to hear from community elected officials and provide feedback on the issues that we face," said Supervisor Pedrozo. "As we begin this new year, I want to encourage the residents of District One to participate in these town hall meetings and come out and voice any concerns they might have."The meeting schedule includes:The meeting schedule includes: Location Date Time South Merced Town Hall Tenaya Middle School Multi-Purpose Room 760 West 8th Street, Merced January 8, 2009 7:00 p.m. Livingston Town Hall Livingston City Council Chambers 1416 "C" Street, Livingston January 15, 2009 7:00 p.m. Le Grand Town Hall Le Grand Legion Hall 12560 Le Grand Road, Le Grand January 29, 2009 7:00 p.m. Planada Town Hall Planada Community Hall 9167 East Stanford Ave, Planada February 5, 2009 7:00 p.m.  January 2009 MCAG meetingshttp://www.mcagov.org/govbrd.htmlJan    08 -Technical Planning Committee Meeting        09 - Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting        14 - Technical Review Board Meeting         15 - Governing Board Meeting