Funding not quite locked up for Merced's G Street underpass project
Despite financial crisis, city staff confident money will be released for construction...SCOTT JASON
Merced has been moving ahead to build a railroad underpass on G street, though the world's financial mess has kept the city from locking in all the money needed for construction.
Two key funding sources, totaling $14 million, are not yet cemented.
The project remains on track and ahead of schedule, city staff told the City Council on Monday night, though it's unclear when the funding will be available.
Some may be in hand by the beginning of May, acting development services director David Gonzalves said. The rest, held by the state, should be released by the fall, right about when the city will need it.
"We're being told the money will be there when we need it," Gonzalves said after the meeting. "We have no reason to believe it won't be."
In the midst of designing the underpass, the city's continued to fine-tune the project, debating how the Santa Fe Avenue intersection should be handled. It's also in negotiations to buy property needed for the underpass.
To help fund the city's half of the $18 million bill, Merced's Redevelopment Agency plans to issue $5 million in bonds. It's waiting for the bond market's high rates to fall so that there's more money for the project.
The market has begun to recover, and the city may sell the bonds by early May, he said.
The rest of the city's share will come from developer fees and BNSF Railway.
Merced is also relying on $9 million from Proposition 1B, transportation money pledged by the state in August 2008.
Because of its winter budget crisis, California froze all its grant contracts, including the one for the underpass.
With a budget in place, the state's been untangling its finances, Gonzalves said.
The city is hoping to start construction by summer 2010. It will likely last 18 months and require that the street be closed for some time.
It's spent $660,000 on the project, which has funded the environmental analysis and design work.
At its meeting, the City Council approved buying 2321 G Street for $179,000. The yellow apartment complex will be razed so that the city can build landscaped slopes -- not concrete walls -- as the road begins to dip.
Gonzalves showed the City Council a drawing of how the underpass will look. Three large pillars support the bridge for trains.
"It's a far cry from what some residents envisioned," he noted. "It's quite eye-pleasing -- just the openness."
One question is whether Santa Fe Avenue should be turned into a cul-de-sac or made into right-turn-in and right-turn-out.
The City Council asked city staff in November to draw plans to keep the avenue open so that other streets nearby wouldn't be overwhelmed with more traffic.
Capping the street costs $2 million less but hasn't gained support among the council or its G Street citizens committee.
Our View: As bad as jobless rate is, expect worse
11.2% state rate, 20.4% in Merced County lags behind other economic indicators...Editorial
It wasn't a shock, but last week's news that California's unemployment rate has reached 11.2 percent was still, well, depressing.
Worst of all is the consensus among economists that the state's jobless rate will climb further, perhaps to 12 percent or beyond.
The same report showed that Merced County's unemployment rate was almost double the state rate at 20.4 percent, the highest in 12 years. The record was 21.7 percent in 1996 after Castle Air Force Base closed.
That is probably a relatively safe prediction, even though the housing market seems to have stabilized for the moment.
Unemployment tends to be a lagging indicator.
Many businesses will continue to shed jobs even after the economy has hit what will later be recognized as its low point and has begun growing again.
The latest figures show that this continues to be a very broad, cyclical downturn.
Industries tied to housing -- construction, real estate, finance -- led the collapse.
But almost every sector has lost jobs in large numbers.
What's driving the high unemployment rate in Merced County is, of course, agricultural jobs. Even in the best of times, we are in the double digits. You throw the drought causing the cutoff of water for farms on the Westside, and unemployment in the small communities climbs above 40 percent.
The only solace is that, at this point, California's high-paying business services sector has lost the least of all.
And we are not seeing the kind of structural collapse of a single, big industry the way aerospace disappeared in the 1990s or the high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley got creamed earlier in this decade.
While some politicians want to blame California's high tax burden for the slowdown, it's not clear that state policies are the culprit.
In the past year, California has lost a smaller percentage of its jobs than Oregon, which has no sales tax, and Nevada, which has no income tax. Another Southwest neighbor, Arizona, has also underperformed in comparison with the Golden State.
This is a national recession triggered by the popping of the housing bubble and made worse by last year's financial panic.
It won't end until investors, employers and consumers believe that the markets and government economic policy have stabilized and become at least modestly predictable.
Until people feel safe buying a house or a car or investing to open or expand a business, the economy will be dead in the water.
That's no more or less true in California than anyplace else.
Nunes stands alone, no regrets...Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia and his constituents will learn the price of challenging Gov. Schwarzenegger.
By demanding Schwarzenegger's resignation Friday, Nunes secured his reputation as a vehement lawmaker willing to confront his fellow Republicans. He reopened the question of the political costs and benefits of insistently going one's own way.
"It's definitely going to cause some exciting times for his office," Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League, predicted Monday, adding that he was "disappointed" in the congressman's resignation demand.
Nunes attributed the resignation demand to Schwarzenegger's ostensible unwillingness to send more irrigation water to San Joaquin Valley farms.
With less than two years left to serve, Schwarzenegger is viewed unfavorably by 60 percent of Californians, including 53 percent of Republicans, a March survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found. Weakened, he may appear less fearsome.
But even an unpopular governor enjoys regulatory, patronage and funding powers that can be deployed for friends and against foes.
"Obviously, it doesn't please the governor to have a member of his own party making trouble," Marc Sandalow, director of the University of California at Merced's Washington, D.C., program, said Monday, adding that "it is remarkable for an elected official to call for the resignation of someone of his own party."
Particularly on San Joaquin Valley irrigation deliveries, which prompted his attack on Schwarzenegger, Nunes insists on letting the chips fall where they may.
"It's not a concern of mine," Nunes said Monday when asked about the political consequences of his attack. "What I'm trying to do is save people's jobs."
Despite some constituent calls in support, no public figures have followed Nunes' demand for Schwarzenegger's resignation over the failure to provide more irrigation water. Nunes remains harsh in characterizing the governor.
"He's either under the total control of the radical environmentalists," Nunes said Monday, "or he's totally incompetent."
On Friday, the Nisei Farmers League, the California Alliance for Jobs, the Western Growers Association and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California quickly produced news releases supporting Schwarzenegger.
Don't wait until it's too late for the San Joaquin River...Eric Caine. Caine, a Modesto resident, teaches at Merced College.
At almost 350 miles long, the San Joaquin is California's second-largest river. When it's running at full capacity, the San Joaquin delivers more than 7 million acre-feet of water, most of it to farmers (an acre-foot of water is enough to cover one acre to a depth of one foot).
Despite its mighty production, few Californians ever see the San Joaquin in any form other than flooded farm fields or water coming from a tap. These days it's hard to imagine steamboats once did a thriving business up and down the San Joaquin, but they did.
Now the river runs dry for a 60-mile stretch, and in many places it's not much more than a stone's throw across.
For years the San Joaquin has been the object of a bitter lawsuit pitting farmers, developers and environmentalists against one another. The focus of the lawsuit was the historic salmon runs that the river once was famous for, but the real rub was a familiar battle for the power to divvy up the west's most precious natural resource.
This time the fish won out and over $400 million has been allocated to bringing water and salmon back to that 60-mile desert where the San Joaquin disappears into dry ground.
Some of the players in the water game are understandably bitter about the court's decision to allocate water for fish. They argue that people should come first and the dire consequences of less water for people -- lost jobs, lost farm production and perhaps even lost farms -- should outweigh what seems to them an unfair legal decision.
The courts aren't the only target for people's wrath. Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, himself a politician, blames politicians. Of course it's usually the politicians from that other party, in this case the Democrats, who are to blame.
Nunes claims "radical greenies" bent on "destroying our economy in the San Joaquin Valley" have taken over the Democratic Party and have engineered a "man-made drought." The Republican congressman isn't too clear about how the "greenies" managed to bring about three consecutive years of less than average rainfall, but perhaps the explanation is forthcoming.
It's easy to forget that water shortages have been a looming threat for decades, and easier still to forget the San Joaquin River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are near a state of collapse because we have ignored their health.
Deferred maintenance always comes with a steep price, especially in the case of rivers and waterways.
Those calling for delays in beginning the task of restoring our waterways have good reasons for their positions, but they have forgotten that these are the same reasons we've always used to postpone the inevitable.
As painful as the fix is now, the consequences of a total collapse would be even worse, and unless we act soon, we're looking at a total collapse. We should have learned by now that the longer we wait, the worse it gets. Action now is painful; action later may be too late -- not just for salmon, but for all who depend on healthy rivers and waterways.
Study: Shortages likely on Colorado River by 2050...MIKE STARK, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- If the West continues to heat up and dry out, odds increase that the mighty Colorado River won't be able to deliver all the water that's been promised to millions who rely on it for their homes, farms and businesses, according to a new study.
Less runoff - the snow and rain that fortify the 1,400-mile river - caused by human-induced climate change could mean that by 2050 the Colorado won't be able to provide all of its allocated water 60 percent to 90 percent of the time, according to two climate researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego.
The more parched the landscape, the more difficult the choices will be for those with dibs on the Colorado's water and those in charge of divvying it up, said Tim Barnett, lead author of the study.
"The dry year scenarios in the future are going to be absolutely brutal," he said.
Barnett and fellow Scripps scientist David Pierce made waves last year with a study saying there's a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam, could run dry by 2021.
They teamed up on the latest study to predict when the river - under different climate scenarios predicting 10 percent to 30 percent reductions in runoff - will be unable to fully meet all of the demands put on it.
The results were published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Without numbers like this, it's pretty hard for resource managers to know what to do," Barnett said.
The Colorado is a lifeline of the southwest, flowing through seven states and into Mexico and quenching the thirsts of some 27 million people who use it to irrigate crops, water lawns, produce drinking water and operate businesses.
Drought has already stressed the river. The problem is being compounded by growing populations demanding more water and the expected effects of climate change, said Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado's Western Water Assessment.
"We're on a collision course between supply and demand," Udall said.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that plays a key role in how the river system is managed, has used a different set of calculations than the Scripps researchers to reach a similar - though less dire - prediction, according to Terry Fulp, the agency's Nevada-based deputy regional director for the Lower Colorado.
His agency's calculations predict the Colorado could run short of water 58 percent to 73 percent of the time by 2050.
There's room to quibble over percentages, Fulp said, but the overriding point remains.
"We've got some serious issues to grapple with," he said.
Under conservative climate change scenarios in the West, Barnett and Pierce found decreases in runoff could short the Colorado River by about 400,000 acre feet of water 40 percent of the time by 2025. That's equivalent to the amount of water needed to supply 400,000 to 800,000 households.
Those figures double later in the century, according to the Scripps researchers.
The signs point toward tough decisions about who will get less water. Agricultural operations use about 80 percent of the water taken out of the Colorado, Barnett said. He knows the arguments, though: Shorting farms could drive up food prices. Curbing development in cities and suburbs will make developers unhappy. Whatever the case, he said, some decisions need to be made soon.
"The actions that need to be taken aren't going to be fun," Barnett said. "It's not going to be life as usual."
But, Barnett and Pierce said, it isn't too late to buffet some of the harshest effects.
Measures such as conservation and water exchanges, which can require upfront investments and flexibility, could play a key role in avoiding some of the biggest shortfalls, they said.
In 2007, officials from the seven states that get water from the river - Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming - and then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne signed a far-reaching agreement aimed at conserving and sharing the scarce resource. The 19-year plan formalized rules for cooperating during the ongoing drought.
Meanwhile, researchers will continue gathering information on climate change and looking for ways to keep the Colorado functioning - albeit with a new set of climate-driven rules.
"It really depends on how innovative people get," Fulp said.
Poisoned Waters' reveals dangers just beneath the surface...AARON BARNHART, McClatchy Newspapers
In the half-dozen times or so I've interviewed journalist Hedrick Smith about his "Frontline" specials for PBS, I've never heard him this emotional.
"We can put a slow-motion crisis on the back burner for eight weeks, eight months, maybe eight years," he says, his pitch rising over the phone. "But you can't put it on the back burner for 25 years without it coming back to haunt you.
"If we don't start to care about the bodies of water we know and love, we're not going to have them."
His sense of alarm is fully borne out by the facts revealed in "Poisoned Waters," the superb "Frontline" film airing at 9 tonight on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).
Drawing on interviews with scientists, fishermen, bureaucrats, chicken farmers, whale watchers and other people who rely on and care deeply about America's waterways, Smith tells a fascinating and disturbing story about the steep decline of our nation's biggest bodies of water.
And because Smith is one of television's best storytellers on serious subjects, he knows how to make the water crisis riveting without bogging down viewers in technical mumbo-jumbo or leaving his audience with the burden of knowing there is so much wrong and so little they can do about it.
Again and again, he literally takes us beneath the surface to see the terrible trouble that lies just out of the gorgeous views of America's shorelines. Of weirdly mutated frogs with six legs and intersexed fish (males carrying eggs). Of drinking water loaded with contaminants, two-thirds of which are so new they elude modern filtration methods.
Waters bereft of life on their floors - "dead zones," as they're called, some now the size of Rhode Island. Fish going to market laden with chemicals. People in the know deeply concerned.
"We are ravaging nature and raping nature so fast that we will not have (these waterways) if we don't change our ways," Smith says.
One reason he speaks with such passion is that he focuses on two estuaries he knows well: the Chesapeake Bay, along the eastern seaboard where he spends most of the year; and Washington's Puget Sound, where he has a summer home.
Smith, who was Moscow bureau chief in the 1980s for the New York Times, has traveled the world numerous times, but for "Poisoned Waters" he only had to drive a short distance and point his cameras straight down. He scuba dives into a river that feeds into Puget Sound to show a factory drainage pipe spewing nasty-looking filth 24/7 into the water. You can't see it from the surface.
What's shocking about "Poisoned Waters" is how well known the particulars are. Scientists have been scooping up samples for years contaminated with chemicals, mostly from everyday household products. They've been pulling PCB-riddled salmon out of the water for decades.
This isn't the financial meltdown, which forced an inattentive business press to backtrack and figure out what went wrong. The problem is there is no marine equivalent of the Dow Jones crashing. Oil slicks get the public's attention, but how often do you see those? And yet, one expert estimates that storm water carries the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez-type spill into the waters surrounding Seattle every two years.
Smith says there is a huge disconnect between the people who know there is a problem and the rest of us.
"Seventy-three percent of the people (in Washington State) think Puget Sound is in great shape. Seventy-three percent of the knowledgeable people think Puget Sound is in terrible shape. It is not just this issue, it's health care, it's education ... unless it is the hottest subject, we are not doing a good job communicating in our society."
Some of these experts think we've got less than a generation to clean up our act. As Smith reminds us in "Poisoned Waters," it was only about a generation ago that this country was so gung-ho about ridding the air and water of pollution that a tenth of the population took part in the first Earth Day marches. That public pressure forced President Nixon, not the most outdoorsy guy, to set up the EPA in 1970 and sign the laws that put it in motion, including the Clean Water Act.
Where has the sense of urgency gone? Smith, who has a Pulitzer Prize and national Emmy Awards in his trophy case, does not hesitate to blame his profession.
"There is a fundamental problem in our media in which we give them bits of information that gives them no basic understanding of a problem," he says. "They hear there's something bad in the water here, something wrong in the environment there. A new danger. The crab catch is down, or something in the drinking water in the Missouri River, and the media is no longer concerned with coherence."
But Smith does devote much of the second half of this program to finding solutions. Perhaps the most hopeful case he found was in Tyson's Corner, one of the country's premier office and retail centers, in suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C.
Asphalt and concrete are America's leading contributors to storm water runoff, and few places have so much of it as Tyson's Corner, with its 40 million square feet of parking. For years, local boosters lived in denial. Business was booming and, aside from chronic gridlock, what was the problem?
So when Smith got the head of the Tyson's Corner Chamber of Commerce to talk on camera about the plan the business community overwhelmingly passed for increasing green space, reducing water runoff and promoting "smarter growth," it was a sign that things might be changing.
"What they were saying in 1995 and 2000 was the opposite of what they are saying now," Smith says. "It does suggest that there is somewhere to go and that people who were opposed to this are willing to go there. That's why I have a glimmer of hope. The film ends on a down note - but it's only if we do nothing."
How drier I am: Flow of many rivers in decline...RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON The flow of water in the world's largest rivers has declined over the past half-century, with significant changes found in about a third of the big rivers.
An analysis of 925 major rivers from 1948 to 2004 showed an overall decline in total discharge. The reduction in inflow to the Pacific Ocean alone was about equal to shutting off the Mississippi River, according to the new study appearing in the May 15 edition of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.
The only area showing a significant increase in flow was the Arctic, where warming conditions are increasing the snow and ice melt, said researchers led by Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
"Freshwater resources will likely decline in the coming decades over many densely populated areas at mid- to low latitudes, largely due to climate changes, Dai said. "Rapid disappearing mountain glaciers in the Tibetan plateau and other places will make matters worse."
Added co-author Kevin Trenberth, "As climate change inevitably continues in coming decades, we are likely to see greater impacts on many rivers and water resources that society has come to rely on."
While Dai cited climate change as a major factor in the changes, the paper noted that other factors are also involved, including dams and the diversion of water for agriculture and industry.
Nonetheless, he said, "long-term changes in streamflow should be a major concern under global warming."
Indeed, the researchers wrote that "for many of the world's large rivers the effects of human activities on yearly streamflow are likely small compared with that of climate variations during 1948-2004."
"This is an important paper with new findings that are relevant to the health of river ecosystems and the people who live near or rely upon rivers to meet water needs," said Margaret A. Palmer, director of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
"What is important from this study is these authors show that these decreases are due to a changing climate, not human activities like extractions or dam building, yet these changes will have impacts on humans and ecosystems because many of these regions have large populations and drought-stressed ecosystems," said Palmer, who was not part of the research team.
Among the rivers showing declines in flow, several serve large populations. These include the Yellow River in northern China, the Ganges in India, the Niger in West Africa and the Colorado in the southwestern United States.
On the other hand, areas with rising streamflow near the Arctic Ocean tend to have small populations.
There was considerable year-to-year variation in the flow of many rivers, but the overall trend over the period showed annual freshwater discharge into the Pacific Ocean fell by about 6 percent, or 526 cubic kilometers of water. That's close to the 552-cubic kilometer average annual flow of the Mississippi, the researchers reported.
The annual flow into the Indian Ocean dropped by about 3 percent, or 140 cubic kilometers. In contrast, annual river discharge into the Arctic Ocean rose about 10 percent, or 460 cubic kilometers. There was little change in inflow to the Atlantic Ocean, where increases in the Mississippi and Parana rivers were balanced out by decreases in the Amazon River.
A cubic kilometer is a cube one kilometer on each side. A kilometer is about six-tenths of a mile.
Discharge of river water into the oceans deposits sediment near the river mouth and also affects worldwide ocean circulation patterns, which are driven by variations in water temperature and salinity.
In the United States, the flow of the Mississippi River increased by 22 percent over the period because of increased precipitation across the Midwest. On the other hand, the Columbia River's flow declined by about 14 percent, mainly because of reduced precipitation and higher water usage.
Major rivers showing declines in flow included the Amazon, Congo, Changjiang (Yangtze), Mekong, Ganges, Irrawaddy, Amur, Mackenzie, Xijiang, Columbia and Niger.
Declines in the Niger River in the 1970s and 1980s in particular reflected the Sahel Drought, the paper said. In addition, the periodic El Nino cooling of sea surface waters in the tropical Pacific led to lower flows in the Amazon and higher ones in the Mississippi when the phenomenon was in effect.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.
The Redding Record Searchlight
Wet March may improve Central Valley water allocations...Dylan Darling
The biggest rush of water into Lake Shasta in almost three years could lead to increased water allocations for north state agriculture.
"We are anticipating an upward bump," said Brian Person, manager of the Bureau of Reclamation's Northern California Office at Shasta Dam.
Early this week, bureau officials plan to release updated allocations for the Central Valley Project - which runs 500 miles from Lake Shasta to Bakersfield - based on weather, lake inflow and other factors in March.
Snowfall in February and rain in March gave the lake its biggest boost in years.
More than 1 million acre-feet, or enough water to flood a million acres a foot deep, flowed into Lake Shasta in March, according to state Department of Water Resources data. It's the biggest influx into the 4.5 million acre-foot capacity reservoir since April 2006.
After a dry December and January, the bureau had announced in February that the Central Valley Project could receive only half of its usual 6 million acre-foot allocation - the most drastic cutback since a drought in the early 1990s.
The projected allocations included no water for agriculture land north of Sacramento supplied through contracts made after Shasta Dam was finished in 1945.
But stormy weather in February brought revised allocations last month, providing those contracts with 5 percent of the normal supply.
Now bureau officials are analyzing weather, snowpack and storage changes in March to determine if and how to revise the allocations.
"There's a possibility (they) could change," said Pete Lucero, bureau spokesman in Sacramento.
The rush of inflow into Lake Shasta brought a big rise to the lake that had hit a 16-year low last fall. In March, the lake rose about 48 feet, bringing it to 66 percent full, said Larry Ball, operations chief for the bureau at Keswick Dam.
March brought the lake to the same level it was at this time last year, about 60 feet below its high waterline.
Ball said this year's allocations will still be lower than last because less water is available from the Trinity River.
Along with the likely increase in allocations, the wet March also has improved the outlook for the lake at the end of the summer. Ball said the lake is expected to bottom out at about the same 157 feet below crest next fall. Earlier in the year, he had said the lake could hit 200 feet below.
That's far better than the original estimates were in that dry January," Lucero said.
A workshop for growers looking to keep their crops going with reduced water supplies is set for Tuesday evening at Shasta College.
The workshop, hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension, starts at 6:30 p.m. in Room 1632, said Larry Forero, extension director in Shasta County.
Topics for discussion include maintaining pasture, preserving nut and fruit trees, and saving vines despite reduced irrigation deliveries.
There also will be a discussion on federal drought aid, Forero said, but the workshop will not be a forum to debate water policy, endangered species or water deliveries in the past year.
San Francisco Chronicle
EPA restores stricter reporting of toxic pollution...DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON, (AP) -- The federal government will once again require companies to fully disclose the toxic chemicals they release into the air, onto land and into water.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it was reversing a decision by the Bush administration in 2006 that reduced reporting of toxic pollution for more than 3,500 facilities nationwide.
The Bush rules allowed facilities storing or releasing smaller amounts of toxic chemicals to submit less-detailed information to the government.
More than a dozen states had sued the agency over the change saying it reduced the information available to the public about chemical hazards in communities.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday that the annual database — known as the Toxics Release Inventory — was a crucial tool for safeguarding public health and the environment.
For more than two decades, the inventory has collected information on the release of hundreds of hazardous chemicals from thousands of facilities nationwide.
"People have a right to the information that might affect their health and the health of their children — and EPA has a responsibility to provide it," Jackson said in a statement.
In December 2006, to reduce the burden on industry, the Bush administration allowed companies using less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, or releasing less than 2,000 pounds, to submit shorter, less-detailed reports.
Previously, more detailed information had to be provided in longer forms if there was as little as 500 pounds, a threshold that the Bush rule maintained only for some of the most dangerous chemicals.
Congressional auditors said the change would have cut by a quarter the number of emissions reports the government receives each year.
The EPA was required to reverse the rule by a spending bill signed into law in March. It will apply to reports due July 1 covering emissions during 2008.
On the Net: EPA Toxics Release Inventory: www.epa.gov/tri
US biologists say 3 pesticides harm salmon...Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Seattle, WA (AP) -- Federal biologists say three pesticides commonly used in agricultural crops threaten the survival of many Pacific salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered in the West.
The National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday it is recommending labeling restrictions, buffer zones near salmon waters for ground and aerial spraying, and a ban on the pesticides' use in windy conditions.
The service say the pesticides can kill fish, impair fish growth and reduce its prey.
The agency sent its findings to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a year to draw up new guidelines. The restrictions would apply to pesticide use in Oregon, Idaho, California and Washington.
The findings are the result of lawsuits that anti-pesticide groups and salmon fishermen brought against the EPA and the fisheries service.
Wal-Mart's former CEO received $7.93M in 2008...ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer
Lee Scott, who retired as the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. effective Jan. 31, 2009, received compensation valued at $7.93 million in 2008, down 73 percent from the previous year, according to an Associated Press calculation of figures disclosed in a regulatory filing late Monday.
Scott received a base salary of $1.45 million last year leading the world's largest retailer, up 4 percent from $1.4 million the year before.
He received a performance-based cash bonus of $5.82 million, down about 30 percent from the $8.4 million he received in 2007. And he received perks that totaled $652,485 in 2008, up more than 50 percent from $431,446 in 2007.
According to the filing, as part of his retirement pact, Scott, who will continue leading the board's executive committee until January 2011, forfeited 25 percent of the 208,508 performance-based shares he received on Jan. 22, 2007, 25 percent of the 55,608 performance-based shares he received on March 26, 2007, and 50 percent of the 299,496 performance-based shares he received on Jan. 21, 2008, when he retired.
Scott and Wal-Mart also agreed that 407,792 shares of restricted stock that were scheduled to vest upon Scott's retirement on or after age 65 would instead vest Feb. 1, 2011, after his retirement from all positions with the company.
Scott's successor, Mike Duke, who had been vice chairman of the company's international division, received compensation valued at $6.49 million in 2008. The executive changes were announced in late November.
Duke received a base salary last year of $1.05 million and a performance-based cash bonus of $3.06 million. He also received perks that totaled $380,343, which included about $107,000 for the use of the corporate jet.
A chunk of Duke's compensation came in the form of restricted stock worth about $2 million on the day it was granted. Not included in AP's overall compensation figure was a performance-based restricted award of 39,216 shares that is scheduled to vest on Jan. 31, 2012, if Wal-Mart meets certain revenue growth during 2010 and Duke remains employed through the vesting date.
The Associated Press formula is designed to isolate the value the company's board placed on the executive's total compensation package in the last fiscal year. It includes salary, bonus, performance-related bonuses, perks, above-market returns on deferred compensation and the estimate value of stock options and awards granted during the year.
The calculations don't include changes in the present value of pension benefits, and they sometimes differ from the totals companies list in the summary compensation table of proxy statements filed with the SEC, which reflect the size of the accounting charge taken for the executive's compensation in the previous fiscal year.
Wal-Mart has been among few standout performers in retailing the past year. Its re-emphasis on low prices and its overhaul in merchandising came together as the economy began to sour. Wal-Mart has been pulling business from competitors as consumers focus on necessities and switch to cheaper stores.
Wal-Mart's fourth-quarter profit fell 7.4 percent to $3.79 billion, or 96 cents per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 31, dragged down by the strong dollar and a charge from settling labor lawsuits. The company made $4.096 billion, or $1.02 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding the impact of the labor lawsuits, however, Wal-Mart earned $1.03 per share, which beat Wall Street estimates. And its total sales rose to $109.12 billion from $107.34 billion.
Sales at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes stores that opened or closed during the year, rose 2.8 percent in the quarter.
FBI's newest 'Most Wanted' terrorist is Berkeley computer specialist...Devlin Barrett, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — For the first time, an accused domestic terrorist is being added to the FBI's list of "Most Wanted" terror suspects.
Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 31-year-old computer specialist from Berkeley, is wanted for the 2003 bombings of two corporate offices in California.
Authorities describe San Diego as an animal rights activist who turned to bomb attacks and say he has tattoo that proclaims, "It only takes a spark."
A law enforcement official said the FBI was to announce today that San Diego was being added to the "Most Wanted" terrorist list. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the announcement ahead of time.
San Diego would be the 24th person on the list, and the only domestic terror suspect.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko declined to comment on the pending announcement.
The move to add a domestic, left-wing terrorist to the list comes only days after the Obama administration was criticized for internal reports suggesting some military veterans could be susceptible to right-wing extremist recruiters or commit lone acts of violence. That prompted angry reactions from some lawmakers and veterans groups.
An arrest warrant was issued for San Diego after the 2003 bombings in Northern California of the corporate offices of Chiron Corp., a biotechnology firm, and at Shaklee Corp., a nutrition and cosmetics company. The explosions caused minor damages and no injuries.
A group calling itself "Revolutionary Cells" took responsibility for the blasts, telling followers in a series of e-mails that Chiron and Shaklee had been targeted for their ties to a research company that conducted drug and chemical experiments on animals.
Officials have offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to his capture, five times the reward amounts offered for other so-called eco-terrorists wanted in the U.S.
In February, the FBI announced San Diego may be living in Costa Rica, possibly working with Americans or people who speak English in the Central American country.
Law enforcement officials describe San Diego as a strict vegan who possesses a 9mm handgun. On his abdomen, he has images of burning and collapsing buildings.
The FBI's "Most Wanted" terrorist list is distinct from the much longer-running "Ten Most Wanted" list. Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is on both.
There is another American already on the list, but he is wanted for his work overseas for al-Qaida. Adam Yahiye Gadahn grew up in California but moved to Pakistan and works as a translator and consultant to al-Qaida.
Los Angeles Times
2 charged in threats against UCLA research scientists
Linda Faith Greene, 61, and Kevin Richard Olliff, 22, have been charged with 10 felonies involving incidents against scientists who use animals in their research...Andrew Blankstein and Larry Gordon
Two animal rights activists have been charged with threatening and harassing UCLA scientists who use animals in their research, according to a Los Angeles County grand jury indictment unsealed Monday.
Linda Faith Greene, 61, and Kevin Richard Olliff, 22, were charged March 27 with 10 felonies, including stalking and conspiracy to threaten a school employee. Along with targeting UCLA faculty members, they were accused of holding threatening protests against research near the homes of executives of the POM Wonderful Juice company.
Greene, who is being held on $450,000 bail, and Olliff, in custody on $460,000 bail, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Neither could be reached for comment.
UCLA officials have reported at least 10 arsons, attempted arsons, vandalism and threats against researchers and their families in the last three years. Greene and Olliff were not charged, however, with any of the arsons.
The indictment alleged that Greene and others with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office posted claims from unidentified activists about an explosive reportedly left on the doorstep of UCLA psychiatry professor Lynn Fairbanks in June 2006. The device, which had been lighted but did not ignite, was actually planted at a neighbor's home.
The next month, prosecutors allege, Greene, Olliff and others demonstrated outside Fairbanks' house and chanted obscene slogans about burning it down.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block expressed gratitude Monday to UCLA's police, other law enforcement agencies and the L.A. County district attorney's office "for recognizing the seriousness of the crimes against our researchers."
The indictment comes at a sensitive time in the debate at UCLA over research that uses animals. The campus is bracing for dueling rallies Wednesday, one from a newly formed group that supports the research and the other by protesters who contend that UCLA scientists are torturing animals.
UCLA neuroscientist J. David Jentsch, whose car was set on fire last month, is organizing the pro-research rally. He said Monday he was pleased by the indictments and eager to see more arrests in the cases.
The EPA is choking democracy
The agency's sweeping new power to battle global warming is another example of the weakening of democratic controls...Jonah Goldberg
One of the most important events of our lifetimes may have just transpired. A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe.
Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency's announcement last Friday only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything.
According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide -- the gas you exhale -- as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases. Don't think just of the gas and electricity bills. Cow flatulence is a serious concern of the EPA's already. What next? Perhaps an EPA mandarin will pick up a copy of "The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally Friendly Sex" and go after the root causes of global warming.
Whether or not global warming is a crisis that warrants immediate, drastic action (I don't think it does), and whether or not such wholesale measures would be an economic calamity (they would be), the EPA's decision should be disturbing to people who believe in democratic, constitutional government.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court -- the least democratic branch of our formal government -- decided in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the agency could regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. With this judicial green light, the EPA has launched its power grab over all that burns, breathes, burps, flies, drives and passes gas.
Yes, the head of the EPA reports to the president, which gives some patina of democratic accountability. Except the EPA is supposed to be politically autonomous, doing what it thinks best according to what President Obama calls "sound science." So the government bureaucracy is on its way to strong-arming the economy in ways Congress never imagined when it passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. Or the president has suddenly gained sweeping new powers over American life, in ways never imagined by Congress or the founders, and despite the fact that these new powers were never put before the voters.
This is not a sudden development. Vast swaths of the state have been on autopilot for years, effectively immune to democratic influence. The Federal Reserve, particularly of late, has been acting like the fourth branch of government. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, without congressional, presidential or court approval, has been committing trillions of dollars to fix the financial crisis. That may be warranted; only time will tell. But there's still something troubling about an institution so immune to democratic control.
In 2002, Congress created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. It covers its expenses by taxing all publicly traded corporations. It alone determines the amount to tax, without approval of the White House or, more important, Congress, which, according to the Constitution, has the sole authority to levy taxes: "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives" (Article 1, Section 7). In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission raised the so-called Gore tax on long-distance phone calls by 73% without seeking congressional approval. Lord knows what the EPA could collect by extorting "climate criminals."
In fairness, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats reportedly don't want to cede authority to the EPA. Rather, they want to use the threat of an EPA takeover -- and its presumably draconian impositions on business -- to force reluctant moderate Democratic and Republican members of Congress to sign on to the president's cap-and-trade scheme (itself an enormous energy tax).
California's Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has said as much: "EPA, through its scientists, has given us a warning that global warming pollution is a clear, present and future danger to America's families. If Congress does not act to pass legislation, then I will call on the EPA to take all steps authorized by law to protect our families."
Translation: Either you vote our way or we'll render voting meaningless.
Other Democrats are delighted by the EPA decision because it allows them to have their preferred policy -- carbon regulation -- without actually having to vote for it.
Either way, it doesn't sound like these folks take their oaths of office very seriously.
Frank Girardot: Delta smelt stinking up our water supply
I spent much of the past four days driving around California.
It felt like I was living that old Hank Snow song:
I've been everywhere man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Crossed the deserts bare
Travel ... I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere
I've been to:
San Jose, Saratoga, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Los Gatos, Davenport, Buttonwillow, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Stockton, Lodi, Fresno.
Well, maybe not Fresno ...
If there was anything to take away from the trip, it was the feeling that we live in a beautiful state, which is a reason to be a proud. The thought has occurred to me often, but most of those instances were during good economic times.
Even though it's beautiful, California is also broken.
I think I saw some proof of that in the Central Valley Thursday. On the 5 Freeway just south of Los Banos what looked like thousands of campesinos marched alongside the California Aqueduct. Many held signs that said "Agua = Vida."
After stopping to watch from a vista point and then reading more about it in the Fresno Bee, I learned the marchers are angry that water deliveries from the Sacramento Delta will be cut off to tons of farms in the western San Joaquin Valley.
All because of a tiny fish known as the delta smelt. This little beast, that's apparently endangered, has already wrecked its share of havoc here in the Southland. Because of environmental protections, we will have to reduce our usage by 10percent and pay more for it this summer.
A federal judge ordered the protection. Californians are powerless to stop it.
In the Central Valley, protection of the smelt will result in thousands of acres going fallow and hundreds of layoffs. That means farms which provide food to much of the nation will be producing less fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Which in turn means we'll be paying higher prices at the grocery store or simply importing more from Mexico and South American countries, which probably don't care too much about endangered, tiny fish.
When is that same federal judge going to step in and order the state to protect endangered jobs and family farms?
If this judge was around 10,000 years ago he probably would have ordered the La Brea tar pits boarded up. Then, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and wooly mammoths too stupid to take care of themselves would be saved from extinction.
Imagine living in that California!
Here's what the state Department of Fish and Game says about the smelt:
"Delta smelt are found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary (the area where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers flow into San Francisco Bay. ... The threats to the population are multiple and synergistic."
Whatever that means.
Here's what the state Department of Food and Agriculture says about protecting farms and jobs in California:
Can you hear the nonendangered crickets?