For migrating birds, Merced County is paradise
Merced County is home to some of the last wetlands in the Central Valley portion of the Pacific Flyway...CAROL REITER
Across a cornflower blue sky, the birds came in. They numbered in the thousands, in the tens of thousands. They were snow geese, their wings tipped with black, and they were headed for a special place on the Westside of Merced County, a place that has been their ancestral feeding place for millions of years.
They were headed for the wetlands that are maintained by sweat, hard work and water, especially water, on the Westside of the Valley.
The people who maintain those wetlands are federal employees, state employees, water district employees and local landowners. They make sure that the wetlands cater to the birds that need water to eat, breed and live. In mid-March, there are more than a million birds in western Merced County -- from ducks to shorebirds to songbirds, making the Westside their home.
The Westside wetlands are a special place, a place that holds some of the few wetlands left in the state. The wetlands in Merced County are unique, the largest contiguous remaining wetlands in California.
More than 95 percent of California's wetlands have been lost to urbanization, farming or draining. Merced County is unique in the fact that the state, federal and local entities work together to keep those thousands of geese coming in. They want to make sure they have a place to land. And keeping all those refuges going is the Grassland Water District, the district that provides water to the wetlands.
But those wetlands are facing the same problems that California farmers and cities are facing: the drought, lack of water and the continual cutting back of water supplies. The people who take care of the wetlands work every day to make sure that the birds and mammals that need the water, especially this time of the year, get it. Those people scrimp and move water around and are on the phone constantly, trying to find the one thing that keeps these wetlands going: water.
When the American Indians lived in the Central Valley, wetlands were everywhere. They were caused by the annual flooding of the rivers, such as the San Joaquin and the Merced, and of creeks, such as Bear Creek.
The tribes around the historical flood plains of the San Joaquin and the Merced rivers had a word, different in their various languages, a word that we can't imagine anymore. The word described the time in the evening, near dusk, when the birds would take off from their feeding grounds in the wetlands and head for their sleeping places. The word described how noisy those birds were -- so noisy that the Native Americans couldn't hear themselves talk.
Those wetlands provided ample food for the American Indians -- from the salmon making their way upriver to their spawning grounds, and tule elk that dotted the Valley flatlands, to acorns, herbs and other plants that thrived around the wetlands and the vernal pools that dotted the hillsides.
But since the early 1800s, when white men came to California and built missions, haciendas and huge ranches, the wetlands, along with the American Indians, slowly disappeared. Now most of the wetlands that were in the Valley 300 years ago are gone, replaced with housing, farmland and urbanization.
Now, with less than five percent of California's wetlands left, the birds and mammals that use the Pacific Flyway, an ancestral aerial route along the coast of Canada, the United States and Central America that includes the Central Valley, find their way to Merced's Westside. There, they fill the waterways with birds and mammals that aren't seen anywhere else in the Valley.
Species that depend on Merced's wetlands
On a Wednesday morning in mid-February, snow geese flew in by the tens of thousands, and they weren't the only species found on the wetlands that day. Paddling along in the canals along the dirt roads that snake through the wetlands were white-nosed coots, tundra swans that gathered by the thousands far from the road and white pelicans soared in silently, coasting on wings that barely moved.
Sand hill cranes jumped and clacked and showed their wings, warily watching people.
In the water, ducks of all kinds dove for the grass that grows under the foot of water that extends for miles. Mallards, wood ducks and cinnamon teal were everywhere, taking off at the slightest noise.
Coyotes crossed dirt roads, racing through the upland cover, snacking on the ground squirrels that find the refuges a true refuge. Raptors, such as the rare Swainson's hawk and the more common red-tailed hawk, kestrels and harriers, flew silently over the marshes.
Mammals like skunks, raccoons, mink and opossums are everywhere. And the king of the mammals, the animal that has made a quiet comeback, were enjoying the sunny day on the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.
Tule elk are found in a 780-acre fenced area of the 7,400-acre refuge. They've been used to build up other herds of the once-common deer-like animal throughout the state. Before the 1800s, tule elk ranged the entire Central Valley in herds of thousands. They were killed by man for their meat and fur, and their natural habitat was destroyed.
Now the tule elk graze, live and breed in Merced County. Federal agents have moved animals to places throughout California to restock other herds. It's a government program that has worked.
Water, water, water
Without water, there are no wetlands. Period. The wetlands in Merced County are made up of three owners: the federal government, the state government and local landowners.
There are 160 separate landowners in the Grassland Water District, the district that supplies water to all of the refuges, more than 60,000 acres total. Most of those landowners work with the district to keep the land compatible with wildlife. Most of them are owners of duck clubs; they charge to hunt and to join the clubs.
Chris Hildebrandt, a regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited, wants people to know that duck hunters are a huge part of why there are still wetlands in California.
"Of course, the main goal of duck hunters is ducks," Hildebrandt said. "But they hunt only 7 percent of the year. The rest of the year the duck clubs maintain the land as marshland for waterfowl habitat."
Some of those duck clubs date back to the 1920s, and their buildings dot the refuges. There's no difference between the areas taken care of by duck clubs and those watched by government entities. Both have the same goal in mind: To keep the wetlands pristine enough to support wildlife.
Because of old lawsuits in the 1950s by the landowners against the state, some of the water that the Grassland Water District gets is guaranteed, no matter what else happens. But some of the water depends on rainfall, reservoir storage and the amount of water that state and water projects give to their contractors each year.
Because of that, the district is extremely careful with the water it gets. Canals snake through the refuges, home to the coots who like to hang around the roads, and also to egrets who like to spear the frogs and other amphibians that live in the water.
The pumps in those canals are turned on and off, depending on what area of the refuges needs water. It's a nonstop job, and a job that keeps employees roaming the refuges every day.
In the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, Karl Stromayer is the assistant refuge manager. He works hard to keep water flowing to the areas of the refuge that need it, and he makes sure that the water is used prudently.
Near Salt Slough, an old natural slough that came off the nearby San Joaquin River, Stromayer explained how sensors constantly check the salt content and other detrimental chemicals in the water. Salt Slough, which butts up against a federal water canal, often gets runoff from farm fields. The federal reserve can use that water, but it has to be checked first.
"Sometimes it has too much salt," Stromayer said. "We have to mix 'good' water with it to make the water OK to use for us."
The problem of water access
Some of the water that normally would come to the Grassland Water District will be cut this year. The district is being told the cutback will be at least 25 percent, maybe up to 50 percent.
Driving past a marshy, wet area covered with ducks, Scott Lower, the assistant general manager of the water district, said that by this summer, the area will be bone dry.
But sometimes that's OK. In the past, when rivers weren't dammed, those rivers would flood in the spring, and then sometimes dry up in the summer. So animals get used to not having marshy areas. But the keepers of the wetlands aren't worried about summer water; they're worried about the water they will get this spring, when there are still thousands of birds trying to get ready to make the long migration to their breeding grounds.
"Our future relies on the water supply," said Lower. "With no water, the land is basically useless. It's not good land."
The wetlands in Merced County started out as flooding from the San Joaquin and Merced Rivers. But now, some of the wetlands are just a bit beyond the footprint of the San Joaquin, maintained where wetlands were marginal before.
Many of the birds that flock to the refuge during the winter are there to eat and bulk up before migrating to breed. The snow geese breed in the Arctic, and to get that far they need a solid layer of fat.
To help those birds put on fat reserves, the refuges seed the marshy and water-covered areas with plants the birds like to eat. That helps them get ready to migrate. Some of the plants are introduced, but many of them are native. Some of the nonedible plants help the birds and other mammals hide from predators.
The main purpose of the refuges on the Westside of the county are to winter waterfowl. With a projected 25 percent loss of water, and a possible loss of up to 50 percent, those people who work hard to make sure water gets to the right places at the right times will be hard-pressed to keep the birds, mammals and invertebrates alive, much less plentiful.
Wetlands are a constantly changing ecosystem. The federal, state and water district employees work to keep it a place where wildlife want to come. Wetlands filter toxins and also provide flood control. And the people who take care of those wetlands believe that it's a place that needs to be protected and preserved.
"It's like Yosemite Valley," said Scott Lower. "Wetlands are one of the most important places on the Earth."
West-side Valley growers get bad news: water cutbacks...Mark Grossi
Despite a week of storms, there was bad news Friday about irrigation deliveries this summer: Some west-side farmers were the first in the San Joaquin Valley to get official word of drought cutbacks.
And, unless the state takes emergency action next week, there may be even worse news next Friday: a prediction of no deliveries for other, lower-priority farmers.
Farmers now are focused on a Tuesday meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board. Water officials want the board to allow dam tenders to keep more water in northern reservoirs for use in warmer months.
Dam tenders are required to release some water to keep the rivers as healthy as possible. Many believe relaxing this requirement would ease shortages, which have resulted from drought and other restrictions to protect dying fish species.
At stake is the welfare of a multibillion-dollar agriculture industry and drinking water for more than 23 million residents.
Nature is finally cooperating, sending a series of storms this week, increasing the snowpack by 5%. More storms are expected next week.
But it’s too little, too late for west-side farmers who are part of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority. They were told Friday they would get 77% of their water.
These high-priority west-siders — who traded their historical river rights for Northern California water decades ago — usually get 100%, even in dry years when lower-priority farmers get only half of their deliveries.
The picture may brighten in a month or two with more precipitation, but farmers right now can’t count on getting more water, officials said.
“We may get to 100% by May or June,” said executive director Steve Chedester. “But that will be too late. Our farmers will be setting up their planting programs now, based on the announcement today.”
Lower-priority federal contractors, such as Westlands Water District, expect to hear a zero-delivery prediction next week from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the Central Valley Project.
California is faced with its worst recorded drought, bureau regional director Donald Glaser said on Friday. He said the bureau will do everything possible to soften the blow, but this will be a difficult year.
“We expect that the initial allocations that we will announce next week will not be good news for anyone,” Glaser said.
The weather next week should remain stormy, meteorologists say. They expect an additional 5 feet of Sierra snow, but it won’t be enough to break the drought.
“They’re not super-wet storms,” said meteorologist Steve Johnson of Fresno. “They’re garden-variety. We’ve slipped into a normal winter pattern. They’re spaced 36 to 48 hours apart.”
Westlands, stretching over more than a half million acres in Fresno and Merced counties, is hoping the state water board takes action next week to ease the
If the board holds more water back now in northern reservoirs, officials will have more water to release to help salmon runs through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta later in the year.
Farmers hope the move also may provide an opportunity to send more water to west-Valley farms. But cutbacks in current water releases might also mean species such as the delta smelt and the longfin smelt might suffer in the next several weeks.
Officials say such a cutback request, which comes from both the state and federal water projects, has not come before the board since 1977 during one of the state’s most intense droughts.
“Along with everyone else, we’ll be waiting to hear what the board decides,” Westlands spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said this week. “People are very worried about the economy and jobs here.”
Activist defends himself...Local briefs
Local environmental activist Lloyd Carter, who has been under fire for controversial comments he recently made about farmworkers, used his monthly radio show Friday to defend himself and lash out at the area's congressional delegation, whom he called "handmaidens of the big growers."
Carter, who also is a deputy attorney general, made the comments Feb. 4 to a KMPH (Channel 26) reporter before a debate on water policy at California State University, Fresno. Carter said farmworkers are "not even American citizens for starters. Do you think we should employ illegal aliens?"
On Friday, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, again brought up Carter's comments and said he "moonlights as a radical environmentalist."
Carter said on his KFCF (88.1 FM) radio show "Down In The Valley" that his quotes were taken out of context as part of a longer interview.
Chronicles of the hydraulic brotherhood...lloydcarter.com
Lloyd Carter has been in the news lately as you can see at his website www.lloydgcarter.com . He broke his media silence on his show to talk about the controversy. Hear the show : Lloyd Carter StreamDownload .
Full Transcript of the KMPH Interview with Lloyd Carter by Ashley Ritchie...By lgc_admin
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW OF LLOYD CARTER BY KMPH CHANNEL 26 REPORTER ASHLEY RITCHIE
The partial quotes in yellow were broadcast on the night of Feb. 4, 2009, the night of a water issues debate at Fresno State University. Carter was interviewed prior to the debate for 10 minutes and 37 seconds. The reporter did not stay for the debate. Those quotes in yellow were only broadcast the first night. The partial quotes in red, occurring at different times in the interview, were strung together in non-chronological order, creating the impression they were one quote made all at the same time. The surrounding contextual material was omitted. The video sound bite of the quotes in red, a total of 20 seconds was repeated several nights in a row on the 10 p.m. news on KMPH and repeated numerous times during the KMPH morning news show.
Ashley Ritchie: Start off by explaining, you know, what is going to be discussed tonight the view points you want to bring to the table
Lloyd Carter: Well hopefully I am going to bring a statewide viewpoint along with my two fellow panelists. The other side represents local interests within the San Joaquin Valley and, of course, they have every right to look out for their own interests. But water is a statewide issue. There are no Delta farmers here tonight so they don’t get to speak on their interests and there is no -- within the farming community there are a lot of different views, so it’s not just one view that all agriculture shares. In fact even the east side of the valley and the west side of the valley fight frequently over water issues as you know. So, uh, my other two panelists are experts on the Delta, as we know the fishery is collapsing, there are thousands and thousands of jobs involved in the commercial salmon fishing, recreational fishing. If you travel two hundred miles north from here and got an audience of people, the general view would be why is Southern California and the Central Valley Westside stealing our water? So it depends where you located in the state as to what your views are.
AR: You know you talked about commercial fishery and that stuff and obviously there are some jobs there, but there are quite afew you know 40,000 jobs too that could be lost with certain areas of the West Side drying up. How do you -- How do you --. LC: Balance that?
AR: Balance that I guess.
LC: The water is what has the true value. The water is the new cash crop. Water as we all know is needed desperately by urban interests as well as farming interests and the water on the retail market for urban uses is $600 an acre-foot. Well, farmers are buying that water from the public for less than a $100 an acre-foot. So if we continue on this climate change path that we’re on and we get dryer and dryer in California, agriculture is inevitably going to give up water because state law requires that domestic use is the highest priority. Now some people in agriculture are positioning themselves to resell their farm water to urban interests, but in the to and fro between urban interests and ag interests, urban interests will win out because the water has more value. The example that I usually use is that it takes $750 dollars worth of retail water to grow $150 worth of wholesale cotton. And that’s not rational.
AR: We are talking live events. We’re talking on both sides of the issue.
AR: For a portion.
AR: The Delta Smelt issue, as far as the endangered species, which aren’t indigenous to this area, they are not from the San Joaquin area. What is the argument there as to why they are more important than say communities of people and their livelihood?
LC: Well to use an appropriate metaphor the Delta Smelt is a Red herring. First of all, they are an indicator species. Most species of fish in the Delta are in trouble, most -- particularly is the Salmon which have great commercial value. Secondly recreational fishing in the state is a multibillion dollar interest. Now do we really want to let the Delta die so a few hundred farmers on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley can stay in production? No matter what happens tonight or what we say here, Western San Joaquin Valley agriculture is going to contract, going to shrink in size because they can’t solve their drainage problem economically. They are importing a million and a half tons of salt a year. They are salting up that land. They will be the first to admit it. The proposed federal solution for the drainage problem is $2.7 billion. Now 600 farmers can’t pay for that. So you are going to see hundreds of thousands of acres of land on the Westside of the valley go out of production no matter what we do because you cannot farm salty soil.
AR: You are talking about fish, these are fishand smelt are not --.
LC: Smelt, that is a false issue. They are an indicator species and they are critical to the food chain.
AR: So you are talking about things like the Salmon and things like that --.
LC: I am talking about all fish.
AR: Right. Devil’s advocate here.
LC: Right. Go ahead.
AR: How do you compare that -- or how do you -- How do you justify saving fish for a commercial industry as oppose in order to while you are actually --.
LC: Well, you realize the Delta is a drinking water source for 23 million Californians. They also farm about 600,000 acres of land in the Delta. The Delta farmers want clean water in the Delta. If they by-pass them and send it to the west side of this county then all that the Delta farmers end up with is the salty drainage runoff that goes into the lower San Joaquin River. So this is not about farmers and fish, this is about upstream farmers versus downstream farmers. If you had a Delta farmer here he would say I think that I -- the Delta farmer would say that they had first shot at the water before it goes to Western Fresno County and Kern County.
AR: So what would you -- You would say let all the Westside farmers dry up and loose their livelihood.
LC: No, no not all of them, but a lot of that land is going to have to go out of production for a number of reasons. It is not economical to farm it and they can’t resolve the salt problems. So that land is going to shrink anyways. Now let us assume that we continue on this dryer and dryer every year, there is not going to be enough water for all the needs of California anyways. So who is going to loose their water first, it is going to be Western San Joaquin Valley agriculture.
AR: As far as agriculture being, you know the biggest contributor to the Fresno County and to this industry or to this area, what about this area. With all this--
LC: Let’s talk about this area. Of the 50 biggest cities in America, which one is the poorest? Do you know? Fresno. Jim Costa’s Congressional District is the poorest congressional district in America. That’s the Westlands Water District. There is wealth being generated out there but it’s flowing to very few people. That’s the poorest Irri-- Congressional District in America.
AR: So what are you all suggesting? Those people that don’t have College Educations or High School Educations -
LC: Correct. Well, you know, It takes from between 250,000 to half a million farm laborers as we all know most of them enter the country illegally to bring in the harvest to work in the packing sheds. They bring a lot of social problems with them, the next generation. On any given day in Fresno there’s 3500 people in jail, 1500 of those people are gang members and a lot of those people are second generation farm workers. What parent raises their child to become a farm worker? These kids, they are the least educated people in America are in the South West corner of this valley. They turn to lives of crime. They go on Welfare. They get into drug trafficking and they join gangs. The farm economy of Fresno County does not spread the affluence. Just remember Fresno is the poorest city of the 50 biggest cities in America. Don’t take my word for it, go check it out.
AR: So, one last question, what are you—what are you—I’m not, I’m wondering what the answer is as to what these farm workers do.
LC: Well let me just tell you in terms of Federal water policy. The way that Federal water in the Central Valley Project is distributed in this valley is the oldest water rights holders go first and get all they want. There’s plenty of farmers, you know, that are still getting all the water they want. The irrigation districts immediately north of the Westlands are going to get most of their water. It’s a bucket line. The last people in line may not get any water. The Westlands knew that. This isn’t, this, this cutback this year is not about the delta smelt. Nature has not provided much water this year. Whenever you have a dry year, the last person in the bucket line loses. Now if you… if you wanna go see a great movie and you get to the line late and you get up to the ticket window and they say the theater is full, and there is no tickets left, that’s your tough luck. Well that’s exactly how it works in the water world.
AR: That didn’t answer my question.
LC: Your question is what?
AR: As far as all the thousands of farmworkers who you claim are gonna be… are going to be ending up going to jail or causing crime or committing crimes.
LC: The farm workers are out of work as soon as the harvest is over anyway.
AR: But that’s still work--.
LC: They are seasonal workers.
AR: That’s still work though. That’s what they depend on year after year after year which keeps this economy going.
LC: Just open up your newspaper every day and talk about the 75,000 jobs lost weekly in this country as our economy collapses. You will hear arguments tonight that the losses to the farm workers, that they’re going to be laid off, they’re not even American Citizens for starters. Right, Do you think we should employ illegal aliens?
AR: That is not necessarily true. There are a lot of them that are American Citizens.
LC: Well, you’re showing your biases a little bit as a news person.
AR: No I am just trying to be a, I’m trying to bring the truth out here and I wanna see… these are questions that are gonna be asked of you all. And there…_
LC: And you’re gonna hear the answers.
AR: Well can you tell us the answers as we are interviewing you?
LC: The answer is... Will some farm workers loose some jobs? Yes they will. There’s no question about it and are there going to be third party impacts from the drought. Yes there always are and so we need to find a way to help people who are impacted by drought scenarios as we always do. Yeah. Now if it rains heavy next year, will their jobs come back. Yeah. But what happens when the salmon industry. What is your solution for the Salmon people who, thousands and thousands of families have lost their livelihoods fishing for salmon because of overpumping from the Delta? Look, the State of California has issued permits for several times more water than actually exists. So the Westlands contract doesn’t guarantee there will be water for them, especially when they are at the end of the bucket line. So yeah, people are going to get hurt. They are getting hurt all over the American economy everyday. Thousands of people are being laid off everyday in California, making much more money than farm workers. So does that help answer your questions?
AR: Kind of. (laughs)
AR: Alright, anything else you want to add.
LC: No that’s fine. You’ll… I hope you stay for the debate.
URGENT UPDATE: KMPH Posts entire Lloyd Carter Interview...Submitted by lgc_admin on Fri, 02/13/2009 - 04:13.
Interview as played on TV of Lloyd Carter by KMPH edited and misleading
Actual Interview of Lloyd Carter Part 1
Lloyd Carter Entire KMPH INterview Part 1
Actual Interview of Lloyd Carter Part 2
Lloyd Carter Entire KMPH Interview Part 2
Carter strikes back at KMPH over farmworker comments...By Lloyd_Carter...Created 02/13/2009 - 03:32
The FRESNO BUSINESS JOURNAL
Carter strikes back at KMPH over farmworker comments
Written by Business Journal Staff
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Fresno’s Lloyd Carter, the environmental activist decried as a racist for remarks he made to KMPH (Channel 26), is asking the station to post his 8-10 minute on-camera interview with reporter Ashley Ritchie in its entirety.
He is also alleging that a bias of Ritchie’s might have motivated the report’s editing.
Carter said KMPH aired only 10-15 seconds of the interview — conducted before a Feb. 4 water policy debate — and used his comments about farmworkers without the proper context.
Responding to a question about the impact on farmworkers from restricted water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Carter said farmworkers are “not even American citizen for starters. Do you think we should employ illegal aliens?”
He also said the children of farmworkers turn to lives of crime, welfare, drug trafficking and gangs.
Carter said his intention was to “focus on the difficulties of farmworker life, not brand all farmworkers as criminals.”
“I have a 35-year history of sticking up for farmworkers,” he said.
He also said it has come to his attention that Ritchie, a Visalia native, and her family farming operation, C.J. Ritchie Farms, have received more than $8.3 million in U.S. farm subsidies since 1995. Ritchie herself is listed on a database as receiving $239,000 in farm subsidies from 2005-2007, Carter said.
“You need to clarify this for your viewers and indicate whether or not you think it appropriate for her to cover stories involving farm issues where her personal financial interests may be at stake,” said Carter in a letter to KMPH.
Calls seeking comment from Charlie Pfaff, KMPH general manager, were not returned.
The fallout from Carter’s incident was swift. About 250 people gathered for a rally Monday outside Fresno City Hall to condemn Carter’s comments and show support for unrestricting water deliveries from the Delta. Politicans in attendance included various Fresno County mayors, Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson, Assemblyman Juan Arambula and Congressman Devin Nunes,
Carter said political and agricultural leaders are using his gaffe to drive a wedge between environmental activists and farmworkers.
“Guys like Nunes come in and demagogue this issue,” he said. “When was the last time he put in a bill in Congress for decent farmworker housing?”
In a statement delivered at the rally and posted on his website, www.nunes.house.gov , Nunes said “We are here today to call attention to the racist and uninformed view of radical environmentalists — who along with their friends in political organizations and elected offices make decisions that favor fish over our families and communities.”
Carter is also a deputy attorney general for the California Attorney General’s office. He has apologized for the remarks on his website, www.lloydgcarter.com . He also apologized on a KMPH newscast.
He also resigned his position as a board member of the California Water Impact Network and has offered to resign the board of another group, Revive the San Joaquin. Others have called for him to lose his position with the state Attorney General’s Office.
KMPH Reporter received $355,000 in farm subsidies over five year period...By lgc_admin...Created 02/13/2009 - 01:14
KMPH channel 26 reporter Ashley Ritchie who ambushed me on Feb. 4 and set off the fire storm in the media received $355 grand in commodity subsidies for farming cotton in Kern, Kings and Tulare County over a five-year period.
See the attached PDF file from the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database detailing the money received from 2002-2006. 
Ritchie, Ashley subs.pdf  100.32 KB
Farm Subsidy Database
Ashley Ritchie received payments totaling $355,449 from 1995 through 2006
Year Conservation Disaster Commodity Total USDA
Subsidies Subsidies Subsidies Subsidies
1995 $0 $0 $0 $0
1996 $0 $0 $0 $0
1997 $0 $0 $0 $0
1998 $0 $0 $0 $0
1999 $0 $0 $0 $0
2000 $0 $0 $0 $0
2001 $0 $0 $0 $0
2002 $0 $0 $76,841 $76,841
2003 $0 $0 $74,410 $74,410
2004 $0 $0 $24,571 $24,571
2005 $0 $0 $75,331 $75,331
2006 $0 $0 $104,297 $104,297
Total $0 $0 $355,449 $355,449
Crop Summary for Ashley Ritchie
Crop Payments 1995-2006
Cotton Subsidies $355,449
County Subsidy Payments
Kern County, California $98,930
Kings County, California $152,588
Tulare County, California $65,849
Unknown County or Cooperative in California $35,632
Fambro Cotton Cooperative $2,451
Letter to KMPH...By Lloyd_Carter...Created 02/12/2009 - 20:04
February 12, 2009
Senior vice President/General Manager
KMPH FOX 26
5111 E. McKinley Ave.
Fresno, CA 93727
Phone: 559-252-5900 Fax: 559-456-1542
Dear Sir or Madam,
On February 4, 2009 your reporter Ashley Ritchie aired a small portion of an interview with me regarding farmworkers that generated significant local news coverage and resulted in me being branded as a racist, harming my professional and public reputation.
I have received numerous inquiries by phone and email asking that KMPH post on its website the complete unedited raw footage of that 8-10 minute interview in which reporter Ritchie used 10-15 seconds and whether it accurately portrays my comments, which were intended to focus on difficulties of farmworker life, not brand ALL farmworkers as criminals.
I also ask that you provide me a copy of the unedited raw footage. I will be glad to pay all reproduction costs.
Should you choose not to either post the complete interview on your website or provide me a copy, I ask that you not destroy that evidence in the event that legal action becomes necessary.
I have also received emails indicating that Miss Ritchie's family has received $8.3 million in farm subsidies since 1995 and that Miss Ritchie herself received $239,000 in farm subsidies between 2005 and 2007 and may, in fact, still be receiving farm subsidies. You need to clarify this for your viewers and indicate whether or not you think it appropriate for her to cover stories involving farm issues where her personal financial interests may be at stake.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.
TVA chief says coal ash spill was 'catastrophe'...Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Trying to rebuild credibility as well as the site of a huge coal ash spill, the president of the Tennessee Valley Authority acknowledged the massive sludge flood was worse than the agency's public relations staff initially said.
"It was a 'catastrophe,'" Tom Kilgore said, contradicting an internal TVA memo obtained by The Associated Press in which the description of the disaster was changed from "catastrophic" to a "sudden, accidental" release.
"As I have told people, look at the second definition of the word 'catastrophe,'" Kilgore said. "It says, 'A sudden movement of large earth.' That is certainly what this was."
The TVA memo was also edited to remove "risk to public health and risk to the environment" as a reason for measuring water quality and the potential of an "acute threat" to fish.
Kilgore's comments came Thursday after he told the TVA board of directors that cleaning up the 5.4 million cubic yards of ash that surged into a river and neighborhood near the Kingston Fossil Plant in December will take many months and cost up to $825 million, excluding fines and litigation.
Kilgore said he wished some aspects of the agency's response were handled differently.
One was underestimating the size of the spill, corrected five days later. The other was downplaying the significance of the event in initial public comments made by TVA, the nation's largest public utility.
The issue was about more than semantics. Environmental critics say TVA has downplayed the seriousness of the spill and potential health risks to residents and aquatic life.
"We all edit things," Kilgore said, without specifically mentioning the memo obtained by the AP. "I don't apologize for us editing our material. It is just that the first writer was the best writer, in that case."
TVA has hired an outside consultant to lead an investigation into the cause of the breach in an earthen containment wall that led to the spill at Kingston. The agency also is inspecting ash storage areas at its 10 other coal-fired power plants, particularly at the five plants with wet-ash storage systems like Kingston's.
TVA documents have revealed previous leaks at the Kingston ash facility, where the ash pile grew over nearly five decades to cover about 40 acres up to 60 feet high.
Kilgore, a longtime utility executive and engineer who was hired by TVA in 2005 from North Carolina-based Progress Energy Inc., was asked if TVA's fossil group managers failed the agency in not spotting potential problems at Kingston.
"Honestly, we let ourselves down in some ways," Kilgore said. "This is regrettable. I don't like it. I want to see what the failure investigation shows. And I am dismayed that we didn't catch this."
Single-species approach throttles water supply...Editorial...2-12-09
The two giants of California water management, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the state Department of Water Resources, dumped a hot potato on California's Water Resources Control Board last week.
The issue California faces isn't a one-state question. All of us involved in managing natural resources run the risk of coming face-to-face with forced single-species management. That's when the law requires you look after just one part of a complex natural system supporting many living things.
In a joint letter driven by the mounting probability of a historic water shortage in 2009, the water agencies asked the water board to invoke a little-used section of California law and temporarily waive long-standing water-quality standards for outflows from the massive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
California has a state government that's broke. Its farmers and urban dwellers face a worsening drought that didn't break with last week's storm. Now the Golden State could become the poster child for why single-species wildlife management is a broken concept. That's what the federal Endangered Species Act demands. Board staff members began reviewing the six-page letter this week. The question of altering delta outflows wasn't anywhere on the water board's already busy spring agenda. But it could get there before you read this editorial, if staff buys the urgency plea made by Reclamation and DWR.
They want to alter flows, effective this month. If low precipitation continues, they promise to be back for more waivers.
In short, what's proposed is holding back some reservoir water in the Sacramento Basin, in hopes that it will help summer migration of the already troubled fall Sacramento River chinook salmon run.
But cutting down the amount of fresh water discharged into the delta will make survival of the small delta smelt even more iffy than it is now. Smelt are listed for ESA protection. (A federal judge is calling the shots on State Water Plan and Central Valley Project pumping of export waters bound for San Joaquin Valley and points south, until Reclamation and DWR revise their smelt protection plan.)
Altering flows will also change water used by a host of delta-traversing fish under ESA protection along with a resident whale. Odds are that in the six weeks left in California's winter-spring precipitation season, neither the Sierra snowpack nor lower-elevation sites will catch enough moisture to offset impacts of this dry winter plus reservoir drawdowns made in the two previous irrigation seasons.
National weather forecasters recently made it sound even chancier. They said La Niña conditions in the equatorial Pacific are apt to continue through April. Typical La Niñas, including the current one, make for wetter times in the Pacific Northwest and droughty conditions in much of California.
Few state water control agencies have the broad responsibility and authority given the California Water Resources Control Board. It doesn't just issue water right certificates. If the board finds that flows it authorized under changed conditions jeopardize the environment, it can make temporary revisions under Section 1453 of the Water Code.
The Endangered Species Act track record for Central Valley salmon and steelhead isn't a pretty one. They all go to sea through the delta. ESA protection covers the Sacramento winter run of salmon, two Central Valley spring chinook runs, four steelhead runs, the green sturgeon and a resident killer whale population.
About the only delta salmon somewhat healthy are the fall chinook. But as commercial fishermen will tell you, they became so scarce that last year fishing was all but banned.
So is it time for getting beyond single-species management in the delta - and across the country? We think so. And instead of focusing on keeping one critter alive, it's time to bring consideration of all an ecosystem's critters into the mix, weighted against economic impacts and publicly debated water-use priorities.
That's going to take national action, beyond the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't decision placed before California's water board.
San Francisco Chronicle
Wal-Mart wins chance to block class-action suit...Bob Egelko
A federal appeals court gave Wal-Mart another chance Friday to derail the nation's largest-ever civil rights suit, a class action by 2 million past and present female employees who accuse the retail giant of discriminating in pay and promotions.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a majority of its judges had voted to grant Wal-Mart a new hearing in its appeal of rulings that have allowed the case to proceed as a nationwide class action, rather than as separate lawsuits by each woman who chooses to file one. The case will be heard by an 11-judge panel on a date yet to be scheduled.
The suit was filed in San Francisco by six employees in 2001. It has been on hold since 2004, when a federal judge approved class-action status on behalf of virtually all women who have worked at Wal-Mart's 3,400 stores since Dec. 26, 1998. That ruling would force Wal-Mart to defend its practices in a single jury trial, with billions of dollars at stake.
In his 2004 ruling, U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins said there was evidence that Wal-Mart paid women less than men in every region and in most job categories, and took longer to promote women to management.
Records submitted to Jenkins showed that women made up 65 percent of Wal-Mart's nonmanagement staff of about 1.2 million employees in 2001 but only 33 percent of the managers and 14 percent of the store managers.
Although pay and promotions are decided at local stores, the plaintiffs say women from around the nation have encountered a corporate culture that fosters discrimination.
In opposing class-action status, the company said claims of bias should be judged individually because personnel decisions are up to individual store managers. Wal-Mart also said its records showed no disparity between men and women at more than 90 percent of its stores.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld Jenkins' decision in a 2-1 ruling in February 2007. The court issued a modified ruling in December 2007, and both sides have been waiting since then for the full court to decide on a rehearing. Jenkins, meanwhile, has left the federal bench for a state appeals court, and the case has been reassigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
Theodore Boutrous, Wal-Mart's lawyer, called Friday's order a positive step. "Wal-Mart is a good place for women to work and fosters female leadership among its associates and in the larger business world," he said, using the company's term for its employees.
Jocelyn Larkin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said they remain confident that the court will approve class-action status.
The myth of the 'San Francisco mouse'...Jackie Speier. Jackie Speier represents San Francisco and San Mateo County in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Record unemployment. Neighborhoods in foreclosure. Charities going bankrupt while those needing help multiply. So what occupied my colleagues while Congress debated the recovery package? A fairytale about a mouse.
On Thursday, Rep. Mike Pence from Indiana insisted on the House floor that the bill contained "$30 million for San Francisco mice." My fellow Northern Californian, Rep. Dan Lungren, supported the claim, calling it "Nancy Pelosi's mouse."
Being from San Francisco, a tightwad with taxpayers' money and no fan of mice, I had to look into it.
Turns out, there isn't a penny in the bill for mice. A Republican staffer claims someone at an unnamed agency said $30 million might go to federal wetlands restoration. Since San Francisco Bay has wetlands and some are home to an endangered species called the salt marsh harvest mouse, he naturally concluded, "The bottom line is, if this bill becomes law, taxpayers will spend 30 million on the mouse."
Politicians of all stripes - myself included - are prone to hyperbole. But does anyone want his or her representative wasting time and money debating something they know isn't true?
Texas Rep. John Carter said the bill contained "a $30 million earmark for a mouse in California." Iowa Rep. Steve King provided a poster of the furry little fellow for the benefit of his television audience. California's Tom McClintock piled on with, "(this) is about to be a very wealthy mouse."
Here's the thing: The mouse in question is found in Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Everywhere around the bay except San Francisco.
What is it about my hometown that frightens members of Congress? Is it simply shorthand for attacking Speaker Pelosi when they have nothing constructive to offer to fix our economy? Or is San Francisco somehow less American than Fort Worth or Memphis or Council Bluffs, Iowa.?
Maybe my colleagues should come visit. They likely won't meet a salt marsh harvest mouse, but I bet they meet people from each of their districts - patriotic Americans, raised on solid moral values, who chose San Francisco because of its diversity, good jobs, respect for the environment and - perhaps most important - generous, tolerant and accepting San Franciscans.
Contra Costa Times
Delta research projects on hold or casualties of budget..Mike Taugher
Research to simultaneously address global climate change and focus on the failure of Delta levees will likely be pushed back at least a year because of the state budget crisis, researchers said.
A $3.5 million science project near Rio Vista is one of dozens in the Delta that have been suspended and could remain so after a budget deal is reached, according to researchers.
By growing cattails and tules on one of the Delta's sinking islands, scientists want to reverse island subsidence and reduce the water pressure on levees. The vegetation used in the project captures enough carbon that researchers think carbon farming in the Delta could be as profitable as vegetable farming when new markets are set up to combat greenhouse gases.
"The idea was to do something on a large enough scale where people, and farmers in particular, could look at it and say they could do that, too," said Roger Fujii, Bay-Delta program chief for the U.S. Geological Survey's California Water Science Center.
"We're almost certain to lose a year," he added.
Another suspended project involves tagging juvenile salmon with sound-emitting devices and monitoring their movements with listening stations placed throughout the Delta.
That could provide important information to planners racing to design a peripheral canal around the Delta because the study will show how water flow patterns affect salmon migrations. Flow patterns are altered by changes in the way water is pumped or diverted as it moves through the Delta and would be affected by a canal.
Even with the possibility of a budget agreement, the projects face an uncertain future because of questions about the state's ability to sell bonds.
"We keep asking, 'If we get a budget deal, are we back in business?' The answer is they don't know. 'This is uncharted territory' is the answer I've been getting," said Jon Bureau, a U.S. Geological Service scientist working on the salmon-tagging experiment.
State finance officials in December ordered a freeze on a long list of bond-backed projects in an effort to preserve cash.
In all, more than $22 million for Delta science projects at the state-run CalFed science program and another $16 million from the U.S. Geological Survey's state water center was suspended.
That's a small part of the 144-page list of suspended conservation, schools, highways and other projects.
But some scientists are concerned their projects may have trouble getting funded even after a budget is passed, coffers refill and the state begins to sell bonds to investors.
"I have no idea about how everyone in this line will be prioritized, but I'm, of course, worried that science might get a pretty low priority, as it often does," said Anke Mueller-Solger, lead scientist for the Interagency Ecological Program, a team that monitors and does scientific research in the Delta.
Also suspended was more than half the funding for 30 flow-monitoring stations around the Delta, a move that threatened to turn off stations that are used to ensure enough water flows down channels important to the survival of fish.
The monitoring stations continue to run because alternative funding sources were found. But that money will likely last about a month, Fujii said.
Mueller-Solger and other researchers said there was a risk that delaying research could erode scientific infrastructure at a time when new information about the Delta is increasingly important because of its ongoing ecological decline and the effect that is having on the state's water supplies — particularly during a drought.
Some researchers might have to find new jobs or, in the case of younger scientists, switch career paths away from Delta research.
With increasing pressure on the Delta ecosystem and its ability to meet the state's water needs, policymakers say they have a greater need than ever for good scientific information about how the Delta works.
"In some cases," said Lauren Hastings, CalFed's deputy director for science, "these projects will not be picked back up and will be lost."
Newest Delta victims: Killer whales...Mike Taugher
California's thirst is helping drive an endangered population of West Coast killer whales toward extinction, federal biologists have concluded.
The southern resident killer whale population, which numbers 83, spends much of its time in Puget Sound but since 2000 many of them have been spotted off the California coast as far south as Monterey Bay.
In a draft scientific report, biologists conclude the damage that water operations are doing to California's salmon populations is enough to threaten the orcas' existence because the water mammals depend on salmon for food. Federal officials confirmed the conclusions of the report to MediaNews on Friday; the data have not been released.
"It does point to the interconnected nature (of problems in the Delta)," said Maria Rea, the Sacramento area office supervisor for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The findings, contained in a draft report by the agency's scientists, could elevate public support for environmental protection in the Delta, where the conflict between environmental advocates and water users has centered on Delta smelt, a nondescript fish that grows a couple of inches long and smells like cucumbers.
"People have a hard time looking at the Delta smelt for its own sake," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "If it's Shamu, that's a different thing."
Biologists last month reported tentatively that pumping water out of the Delta threatens to drive spring-run chinook salmon and winter-run chinook salmon extinct.
The orca study found the loss of those fish could leave whales at times with patches of ocean that lack food, Rea said.
In addition, the reliance on hatchery-raised salmon in other salmon runs makes that food source vulnerable to disruption, she said. Hatchery fish lose the natural genetic diversity that is helpful in recovering from attacks of disease or changes in environmental conditions.
As a result, the regulatory hammer of the Endangered Species Act could be used much more aggressively to fix problems plaguing the state's most valuable salmon run, according to Grader.
The Sacramento River fall-run chinook salmon, the backbone of the commercial salmon fishery, collapsed last year. Although the run is not endangered, its collapse led to the unprecedented closure of the fishing season. Grader said regulators could use the tough law to protect fall-run salmon, not because it merits the law's protection by itself but because it provides food for the endangered orcas.
"We are still evaluating fall-run and how they fit into the picture," Rea said.
Orcas are the most widely distributed whale in the world and live in all kinds of ocean habitat. Some populations roam the oceans but resident populations, like the southern resident whales in Puget Sound, tend to stay closer to home.
The southern resident orcas' diet is almost entirely salmon and about 80 percent is chinook salmon, said Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Wash.
The 83 Puget Sound orcas eat about 500,000 salmon a year, he said.
"In these U.S. waters, those Sacramento River salmon would be critical," Balcomb said.
In winter, the whales move out into the ocean and swim up and down the coast in search of food, a search that in the last seven years has brought two of the three pods as far south as Monterey. Balcomb said that in recent years California's salmon have been an important food source for the whales for six to eight weeks a year.
This year, however, the orcas swam about halfway down the coast of Oregon before giving up the hunt, Balcomb said.
"They got down there and said California is not worth it this year and turned around," Balcomb said.
Chinook salmon populations up and down the West Coast have been down in recent years. At least some of that is due to natural fluctuations in ocean conditions, scientists say, but some scientists are concluding that Delta water operations are contributing to declines. The Puget Sound orcas were listed as endangered in 2005 after the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity sued.
"This is going to help people put the pieces together to see how threats in one ecosystem threaten the health of the economy and environment in another ecosystem," said the center's executive director, Kieran Suckling. "Water pumping in the Delta is threatening the whale-watching industry in Puget Sound."
How the report will affect water supplies from the Delta remains unclear but it is potentially major.
The Delta is a source of water for two-thirds of Californians and about 2 million acres of farmland.
Those water supplies are under tremendous strain from drought and increasingly tough restrictions that have been ordered as fish species slide toward extinction.
The final report on how water operations are affecting salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon and orcas is due by court order on March 2, but officials have requested a three-month extension to complete their analyses and fine-tune the water supply restrictions.
Bank failures: 13 in 2009
Closures in Nebraska, Florida, Illinois and Oregon bring the number of bank failures to 13 this year as the financial crisis continues to roll...Kenneth Musante
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Four banks folded Friday, bringing the total number of banks to fail this year to 13.
Deposits at Sherman County Bank, based in Loup City, Neb., the first bank in the state to fail since 1990, will be taken over by Heritage Bank, based in Wood River, Neb., according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Meanwhile, accounts held by Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast based in Cape Coral, Fla., will be assumed by TIB Bank based in Naples, Fla., the FDIC said. It is the second bank to fail in Florida this year and the fourth to go under in that state since the economic crisis unfurled.
Corn Belt Bank and Trust Company, based in Pittsfield, Ill., the third bank to fail in the state since January 2008, was also shuttered by state regulators, and its deposits were turned over to The Carlinville National Bank out of Carlinville, Ill.
Pinnacle Bank, Beaverton, Oregon, was closed by the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. The FDIC entered into an agreement with Washington
Trust Bank, Spokane, Washington, to assume all of the deposits of Pinnacle Bank.
Customers who banked with Sherman County Bank, Riverside, Corn Belt Bank, or Pinnacle Bank will automatically become customers of the new owners, and will retain their account protection under the FDIC, which insures single accounts up to $250,000, and joint accounts up to $500,000, the government agency said.
Due to the Presidents Day holiday on Monday, Sherman County Bank's four branches, Riverside's nine branches, and Corn Belt Bank's two, will reopen on Tuesday as branches of the new deposit holders, the agency said.
Over the three-day weekend, those customers will be able to use checks, ATMs and debit cards as normal. Customers who have taken out loans from a failed bank should continue to make regular payments, the FDIC said.
Sherman County Bank held assets worth about $129.8 million, and held deposits worth about $85.1 million, as of Feb. 12, the FDIC said. Heritage Bank has agreed to purchase about $21.8 million of Sherman County Bank's assets.
Riverside Bank held assets worth about $539 million, and held deposits worth about $424 million, as of December last year, the FDIC said. TIB Bank will not assume $142.6 million worth of brokered deposits held by Riverside Bank, but agreed to buy $125 million of Riverside's assets.
Corn Belt Bank carried assets worth about $271.8 million, with deposits of $234.4 million, according to the agency. Carlinville National will not take on $92 million of Corn Belt's brokered deposits, but would buy $60.7 million of Corn Belt's assets, the FDIC said.
Pinnacle Bank had total assets of approximately $73 million and total deposits of $64 million. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, including those from brokers, Washington Trust Bank agreed to purchase approximately $72 million in assets at a discount of $7.6 million, the FDIC announced late Friday.
Altogether, the bank failures announced Friday will cost the FDIC about $341.6 million.
The unfolding financial crisis continues to take a toll on banks. If banks continue to fail at a rate of at least one per week, on average, then 2009 could see twice as many failures as in 2008. Last year, 25 banks were closed nationwide, which was the highest annual total since 1993, when 42 banks went under.
Economists expect the number of failed banks to continue rising this year, as the financial crisis plays out and the economic outlook remains dark.
Where the banks are failing
Bank failures and foreclosures keep mounting since January 2008...Interactive Map