Merced Sun-Star
Tweaking of admissions at UC has Asian-Americans feeling pushed aside...TERENCE CHEA, The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO -- A new admissions policy at the University of California system is raising fears among Asian-Americans that it will reduce their numbers on campus, where they account for 40 percent of all undergraduates.
University officials say the new standards -- the biggest change in UC admissions since 1960 -- are intended to widen the pool of high school applicants and make the process more fair. The policy is set to take effect for the freshman class of fall 2012.
But Asian-American advocates, parents and lawmakers are angrily calling on the university to rescind the policy, which will apply at all nine of the system's undergraduate campuses.
They point to a UC projection that the new standards would sharply reduce Asian-American admissions while resulting in little change for blacks and Latinos, and a big gain for white students.
"I like to call it affirmative action for whites," said Ling-chi Wang, a retired professor at UC Berkeley. "I think it's extremely unfair to Asian-Americans on the one hand and underrepresented minorities on the other."
Asian-Americans are the single largest ethnic group among UC's 173,000 undergraduates. In 2008, they accounted for 40 percent at UCLA and 43 percent at UC Berkeley -- the two most selective campuses in the UC system -- as well as 50 percent at UC San Diego and 54 percent at UC Irvine.
Asian-Americans are about 12 percent of California's population and 4 percent of the U.S. population overall.
The new policy, approved unanimously by the UC Board of Regents in February, will greatly expand the applicant pool, eliminate the requirement that applicants take two SAT subject tests and reduce the number of students guaranteed admission based on grades and test scores alone.
Some opponents charge that the university is trying to reduce Asian-American enrollment. Others say that may not be the intent, but it will be the result.
UC officials adamantly deny the intent is to increase racial diversity, and reject allegations the policy is an attempt to circumvent Proposition 209, a 1996 voter-approved ban on affirmative action.
"The primary goal is fairness and eliminating barriers that seem unnecessary," UC President Mark Yudof said. "It means that if you're a parent out there, more of your sons' and daughters' files will be reviewed."
Yudof and other officials disputed the internal study that projected a drop of about 20 percent in Asian-American admissions, saying it is impossible to accurately predict the effects. "This is not Armageddon for Asian-American students," Yudof said.
At San Francisco's Lowell High School, one of the top public schools in the country, about 70 percent of the students are of Asian descent and more than 40 percent attend UC after graduation.
"If there are Asian-Americans who are qualified and don't get into UC because they're trying to increase diversity, then I think that's unfair," said 16-year-old junior Jessica Peng. "I think that UC is lowering its standards by doing that."
Doug Chan, who has a teenage son at Lowell, said: "Parents are very skeptical and suspicious that this is yet another attempt to move the goalposts or change the rules of the game for Asian college applicants."
One of the biggest changes is scrapping the requirement that applicants take two SAT subject tests. UC officials say the tests do little to predict who will succeed at UC, no other public university requires them, and many high-achieving students are disqualified because they do not take them.
The policy also widens the pool of candidates by allowing applications from all students who complete the required high school courses, take the main SAT or ACT exams and maintain a 3.0 grade-point average. Under the current policy, students have to rank in the top 12.5 percent of California high school graduates to be eligible.
Students still have to apply to individual campuses, where admissions officers are allowed to consider each applicants' grades, test scores, personal background, extracurricular activities and other factors but not race.
The policy is expected to increase competition for UC admission.
This year the university turned away the largest number of students in years after it received a record number of applications and cut freshman enrollment because of the state's budget crisis.
"We expect there will be an increase in application volume across the whole system," said Mark Rashid, a UC Davis engineering professor who chaired the faculty committee that developed the policy. "As an institution, we don't think there's anything to apologize for in terms of casting this wider net."
Medical Institute overlooks UC Merced, San Francisco...Danielle Gaines, Reporters Notebook...4-16-09
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute – a Maryland-based, non-profit research organization – invited nearly 200 top institutions to compete for individual grants of up to $2.2 million to fund innovative teaching methods in science and medicine.
The group will give out a total of $85 million. According to the math, that means up to 38.636 colleges could get the maximum grant.
Eight of ten UC campuses were extended the offer. Two, Merced and San Francisco, were not.
I found this interesting considering that UCSF is a medical school campus and UC Merced is planning for one.
For more information and to see the full list of invited institutions, go to: http://www.hhmi.org/news/undergrad20090415.html.
Comments (2)
Henry_Obvee wrote:
It's pretty obvious if you read the press release. This is a grant for undergraduates. UCSF does not have undergraduates. This is a grant to "large research universities"--UC Merced does not have that classification yet.
Henry_Obvee wrote:
A shame that this blog entry was printed in the newspaper. It's obvious that you got this one wrong. You should write a correction/apology.
Modesto Bee
West Park foe drops its lawsuit...Ken Carlson
A grass-roots organization fighting the proposed 4,800-acre West Park business and industrial park has dropped a lawsuit challenging the project.
But the legal wrangling will continue as Patterson appeals a Fresno County Superior Court judge's decision in West Park's favor.
The West Side-Patterson Alliance for the Community and the Environment, or WS-PACE, announced Friday it was dropping a similar lawsuit filed in September in Stanislaus County Superior Court and will throw its support behind Patterson's appeal to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno. The Del Puerto Health Care District is a co-plaintiff in the city's legal action.
"We are pleased that the city and the health district are moving forward," WS-PACE President Ron Swift said in a news release. "(The alliance) has not ruled out future legal action in this matter. We hope that Stanislaus County planning processes concerning the West Park Crows Landing project will be open, transparent and legally compliant."
The West Park project calls for a business and industrial complex in and around the county-owned Crows Landing Air Facility southeast of Patterson to be anchored by a rail line and inland port linked to the Port of Oakland.
The proposal has drawn widespread opposition on the West Side over concerns about train traffic, lost farmland, increased air pollution and traffic congestion.
The lawsuits charged that an environmental impact report should have been completed before the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved an April 2008 agreement with West Park developer Gerry Kamilos. The agreement gave Kamilos the green light to continue work on the project. The city's lawsuit, filed in May, was moved to Fresno County to avoid conflicts with local judges.
Judge Tyler Tharpe said in his decision in January that it was only an initial agreement, so it did not require an environmental report. Language in the agreement states that the county has not made a final commitment to West Park.
City will continue to object
Patterson City Manager Cleve Morris said the city has too many concerns about West Park to let the matter rest. "We are going to continue with our objection to it," he said. "We are going to take this one step at a time."
Mike Lynch, a consultant for West Park, said Friday the continued litigation is unnecessary because an environmental study is under way to address the issues. County officials have said the draft report should be completed in the fall, at which time the public can comment on how well it addresses the effects on the West Side communities.
Ed Maring, president of the Del Puerto Health Care District, said the business complex will increase the demand for health care services in an area with few medical facilities.
"We have never been brought into the negotiations (with the county and West Park), so we have no assurances the impacts will be mitigated," Maring said. "When a project of this kind is built, you have to have health care and medical services in place."
Experts positive about effect of cattle on land...John Holland
People meeting at a Tuolumne County ranch had a message for the cattle grazing nearby: Good work.
They said grazing enhances the foothill environment by controlling wildfire fuel and keeping imported grasses from overwhelming the native species.
Keeping beef producers in business is vital to preserving open space in the wide bands of nonirrigated rangeland flanking the Central Valley, they added.
"These are all privately owned landscapes that you are all managing for the greater good of everyone else," said Scott Oneto, director of the county office of the University of California Cooperative Extension.
The seminar drew about 50 people last week to the K-Arrow Ranch near Tulloch Reservoir. It was sponsored by the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District, which helps landowners with improvement efforts.
Speakers said extremists in the environmental movement want to get all cattle off the land on the grounds that the animals erode the soil and sully the streams.
In reality, they said, perennial native plants can thrive on grazed land because the cattle thin out the annual European grasses that have dominated the landscape since the 1800s. This in turn improves habitat for squirrels and other small creatures that sustain bobcats, golden eagles and other predators.
"There's more and more science now to support grazing as a tool," said Lesa Osterholm, manager of the Nevada County Resource Conservation District.
Just like the buffalo
The keynote speaker was Dan Dagget, who travels the West to consult on grassland restoration projects and talk about environmental issues. Dagget, who has written two books on land use, said he once was a radical preservationist but now sees a role for cattle.
He said these animals, which originated in the Old World, have taken on a role similar to that of buffalo on the Great Plains. Both wild and domesticated grazers tend to work a spot of grass heavily, then move on so it can recover, he said.
Dagget showed photographs of grassland restoration projects where cattle were barred and the grass failed to grow.
"There's another way," he said. "Instead of just doing it less, you can do it right."
The audience included John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte.
After the presentations, he said he is concerned about streamside areas in the foothills and meadows grazed in summer in the Stanislaus National Forest, but that grazing overall is benign.
"It's a wonderful way to assure that there's habitat and wildlife and a whole lot of resource benefits," Buckley said.
K-Arrow Ranch, owned by the Kistler family, is a 3,000-acre spread with about 300 head of cattle and a summer camp for children. Third-generation rancher Steve Kistler is on the board of the resource conservation district.
After the seminar in the mess hall, he went outside and talked a little about how the cattle keep the non-native plants under control. He also noted the many birds drawn to the ranch ponds, among them herons, egrets and ospreys.
"It's a holistic approach," Kistler said. "It's a long-term approach."
JFK airport shares space with wetlands _ and birdsRICHARD PYLE, Associated Press Writer. Associated Press writer Samantha Young contributed to this report from Sacramento, Calif.
NEW YORK -- Sprawled along the edge of a giant coastal wetlands area, John F. Kennedy International Airport shares airspace with thousands of birds - many of which wind up as carcasses on the runways after colliding with aircraft.
For the aircraft, the results range from minor to serious.
Federal Aviation Administration data released Friday say the Queens airport has had the most bird incidents with serious damage this decade. The issue has received greater attention since a pilot successfully landed his US Airways Inc. jet in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of birds on takeoff from nearby LaGuardia Airport.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport, says it has an "aggressive wildlife management program" that includes disrupting birds' habitats, scaring them with fireworks and even shooting thousands of them each year.
The FAA did not say whether any of the 30 bird mishaps at Kennedy this decade had resulted in human deaths or injuries or to many aircraft being disabled. The Port Authority said aviation experts didn't recall any such incident in recent years.
The Kennedy wetlands area, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, is one of the largest urban bird sanctuaries in the eastern United States, a 9,000-acre stretch of small islands, salt marshes, fields and forest. It's part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Wildlife experts say it's home to more than 325 species of birds, some of them year-round residents and others migratory travelers along the Atlantic Flyway.
The difficulty of bird control around Kennedy was underscored by a 2001 report, by four college professors and two National Park Service officials, saying that during the 1980s the airport had seen "exponential growth" of one species, the laughing gull, from 15 nests to about 7,900.
A shooting program between 1991 and 1998 wiped out 50,000 of the birds, the report said.
The airport with the second-most bird strikes was Sacramento (Calif.) International Airport, which sits in the middle of the Central Valley and lies along the Pacific Flyway, one of the most important bird migration routes in North America.
Earlier this month, a United Airlines flight bound for Chicago returned to the Sacramento airport after hitting a bird during takeoff. The plane was not damaged, and no one was injured.
Sacramento's problems are similar to New York's. Sacramento airport spokeswoman Gina Swankie said wildlife biologists patrol airport property but nearby bird habitat is beyond their control.
Each winter, millions of geese, swans, ducks, cranes, raptors and other birds cross the Central Valley on migration routes between Canada and Mexico.
The airport uses canons and pyrotechnics to keep birds away. Birds that are deemed immediate threats to aircraft can be shot.
John Morrison, who has been a pilot with Delta Air Lines Inc. for 20 years, said most bird strikes go unnoticed unless they're right on the plane's nose or affect the engines. Only twice has he been piloting jets when birds were sucked into the engine, both when he was in the Air Force before joining Delta.
"I've been doing this for 35 years," he said. "You know birds are out there, and you just watch for them."
Patterson Irrigator
Council votes for appeal in West Park lawsuit...James Leonard. John Saiz of the Irrigator contributed to this report.
WS-PACE drops its suit, supports city’s appeal, goes before supervisors
The city of Patterson will appeal a Fresno Superior Court judge’s decision to dismiss its lawsuit against the proposed West Park industrial development, Mayor Becky Campo announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The decision was made by a 3-1 vote in closed session, Campo said, and came less than two weeks before the city’s deadline to appeal the January ruling.
The city’s lawsuit had been dismissed by Judge Tyler Tharpe, who ruled that the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors did not — as the city had claimed — violate state law by moving forward with a proposal by PCCP West Park LLC for a 4,800-acre industrial park and inland port in and around the county-owned Crows Landing Air Facility.
Despite having already spent $275,000 on the case in this fiscal year, the council decided it was worth moving forward, partly because of a precedent set by the state Supreme Court in a similar case last year.
“We’re too far along to just throw in the towel and give it up,” Campo said. “Even though money was an issue, defending the potential impacts to Patterson was overriding, in my opinion.”
Ideally, the city would like to derail the project altogether. The sheer size of the project is a concern, as are air quality, traffic, increased population and increased rail traffic through the city.
Councilwoman Annette Smith voted in favor of the appeal.
“When the council took the action of suing, it wasn’t to test the water,” Smith said. “It was to go the distance and to achieve the mitigation that our community needs and deserves with regards to the rail portion of this project.”
Smith also noted that while pushing forward will cost the city more money, the appeal also represents the only chance of getting back any legal fees already paid.
Councilman Sam Cuellar cast the lone dissenting vote. He suggested allowing the project’s environmental impact review — which is ongoing — to be completed rather than spending more of the city’s money to pursue the case. Cuellar was part of the unanimous vote to sue the county and developer last year.
“I didn’t see we gained much even if we won the appeal,” Cuellar said. “At this point, we ought to just wait until the (environmental review) finishes up.”
Councilman Dominic Farinha cast the third vote for the appeal. Councilwoman Dejeune Shelton abstained because her employer, the nonprofit Great Valley Center, received a donation from West Park developer Gerry Kamilos in 2006.
County Counsel John P. Doering wrote in an e-mail to the Irrigator that the county attempted to reach out to the city after the original decision but received no cooperation.
“We can only surmise that the city has ulterior motives,” Doering said. “The city’s objective appears to be either to delay or stop the project, not to seek reasonable project improvements or modifications that help the residents of Patterson — or to secure bragging rights and attorney fees.”
While the city’s lawsuit against West Park moved forward, another suit was being withdrawn.
Opposition group WS-PACE.org announced it would not pursue its lawsuit against the county and West Park, which had been in a holding pattern since the city’s suit was dismissed.
WS-PACE.org President Ron Swift said in a statement that the group fully supports the city in its suit, which was joined last year by the Del Puerto Health Care District and others.
“We are pleased that the city and health district are moving forward,” Swift said. “WS-PACE.org has not ruled out future legal action in this matter. We hope that Stanislaus County planning processes concerning the West Park Crows Landing project will be open, transparent and legally compliant.”
Swift, meanwhile, went before the board of supervisors Tuesday to request that the county seek a surety bond or other guarantee that Kamilos has secured the estimated $35 million he has committed to pay for the county’s share of the cost of the inland port and short-haul rail.
One of the project’s primary financial backers, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy last year.
“In these difficult financial times, it seems reasonable that our county government assure itself that private funding is available for these rail and all other infrastructure improvements of the project,” Swift said. “Consider that far larger developers than Kamilos are failing.”
Supervisor Jim DeMartini, one of the project’s most vocal critics but often the only opposing voice on the board, sided with Swift.
“I think he’s right,” DeMartini said Wednesday. “We need some type of guarantee (Kamilos) has got this money.”
DeMartini said he expects the issue to show up on a board meeting agenda soon.
“I will just insist on it,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done.”
Fresno Bee
PAUL RODRIGUEZ and MARIO SANTOYO: Fight isn't over with end of water march
Thousands of San Joaquin Valley residents and many more from around the state put the spotlight on a national crisis -- the man-made drought conditions that are devastating communities in the Valley and are poised to threaten all of California.
For four days last week, California residents marched for water supply improvements that would end overwhelming economic and social hardship endured by many farm workers, farmers, business owners and others.
In the face of record unemployment and enormous financial difficulties, marchers made clear the awful effects of this third year drought, coupled with water supplies made inadequate by environmental restrictions.
While the circumstances prompting the march are frustrating, the remarkable turnout and outpouring of support made this an historic and momentous achievement.
We made our voices heard starting with on-the-ground participation from KMJ radio personality Ray Appleton, constant coverage in The Bee, newscasts on local television and national media coverage, including the New York Times.
Thousands of marchers set off from Mendota and passed through Firebaugh, two towns facing enormous hardship with unemployment now at more than 40%. We covered miles of fallow fields and stumped orchards. We carried picket signs to remind the world that water means food, jobs and a future. We drove trucks and farm equipment alongside marchers from Mendota to Firebaugh along Interstate 5 and down Highway 152.
On Friday, after four days of marching in dust storms and heat, the effort culminated with a massive rally at San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos. The California Highway Patrol estimated that 10,000 Californians who care about the effects of drought on people participated in a peaceful but rousing assembly.
Congratulations to those who took part and thank you to all those who supported us with drinking water, signs, transportation, security, right of passage on private property, along with the cooperation of the CHP, Caltrans, the state Parks Department, Department of Water Resources and the Fresno and Merced Sheriff's Departments.
Already, since Friday people have begun asking, "So, what's next?" We are writing this commentary to proclaim that the California March for Water is not over.
We must continue to bring heightened attention to the need for a steady and reliable water supply for the whole state. We must step up in support of the comprehensive water supply infrastructure package proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
We also need to focus increasing attention on Washington, D.C. Last week, the Obama administration made it clear that it needs to be a stronger partner for helping all California water users. That means a trip to D.C. by our water coalition.
We must also work with those in California's congressional delegation who are serious about fixing our water problem. We need real help in the way of building consensus and advancing ideas.
We also must compel federal authorities to address the overly stringent Endangered Species Act, which has failed to protect the environment but managed to endanger people. For the short term, that means temporarily relaxing ESA rules and turning on the pumps that bring water to the rest of the state.
The fact is, drought conditions are hitting increasingly larger segments of California residents. Even as the water march was unfolding, there was mounting evidence that the man-made drought is starting to systematically shut down the entire state.
Most of the San Joaquin Valley's west side continues to face zero allocation of water from the Central Valley Project. On Thursday, the State Water Project, which supplies about a third of Southern California's water, said it would be able to increase deliveries to fulfill a meager 20% to 30% of contractor requests.
San Francisco residents also learned last week they will likely pay 10% more for water as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission considers a rate hike. San Diego is bracing for soaring rates in the coming months, and several news outlets reported that Los Angeles water utilities are about to adopt a conservation plan that would make heavy water users pay penalties.
So it is clear, we must keep up the pressure. We must expand our Coalition to even more California residents. We must speak with one voice. We must stay on our feet. We must carry on our March for Water.
Nunes' slam on governor bold, not risky...John Ellis and Michael Doyle / The Fresno Bee
Rep. Devin Nunes expected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cap last week's March for Water by boldly challenging President Barack Obama to turn on the massive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pumps.
The Visalia Republican even prepared a news release flowing with praise for the governor, an aide said.
Instead, Schwarzenegger lamented that farmworkers were losing their jobs and said he is determined to get a comprehensive solution to the state's water needs.
Nunes, outraged, dubbed the governor's speech "lip service" -- and then called on him to resign.
"When a government can't provide the people access to a reliable supply of water, it has failed," Nunes said. "This government has utterly failed, and Gov. Schwarzenegger should resign from office."6
Ordinarily, telling a fellow Republican -- and the state's chief executive -- to resign would carry a huge political risk. But times have changed, experts say.
"It's a safe move and a smart move" for Nunes, said John J. Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. "At the moment, Schwarzenegger is unpopular across the board. Even if his approval ratings climb a bit in the next year, it is unlikely Nunes will pay a price."
Now a lame duck with less than two years left to serve, Schwarzenegger is viewed unfavorably by 60% of Californians -- including 53% of Republicans -- according to a March survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.
And the flip side: Nunes may win points with his core constituency.
Locally, there is anger not only about water, but also over Schwarzenegger's push for six budget proposals on the ballot May 19. The proposals are part of a deal struck by the governor and lawmakers to close the state's projected $42 billion budget deficit through June 2010.
"The governor has absolutely no power left to punish anybody, and my interpretation of what Devin said is that most people agree with him," said local political strategist Michael Der Manouel Jr. "I don't know anybody who supports the job the governor has done the past two or three years."
Even a relatively unpopular sitting governor enjoys regulatory, patronage and funding powers that can be deployed for friends and against foes.
It would be hard, however, for Schwarzenegger to punish Nunes, experts say.
He has little political influence in Washington and few allies in the nation's capital, said Tom Holyoke, an assistant professor of political science at California State University, Fresno.
And if the governor sought to kill projects or redirect funding away from Nunes' district -- either at the state or federal levels -- he would risk hurting political allies who took "an immense political risk" to support the controversial budget deal struck earlier this year, Holyoke said.
State Sens. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield and Dave Cogdill of Modesto and Assembly Member Mike Villines of Clovis are three Republicans who broke party ranks to support the budget deal. Nunes' federal district overlaps each of their districts.
He also needs them as allies ahead of the May 19 election, Holyoke said.
Schwarzenegger's office declined to comment.
For Nunes, the attack on Schwarzenegger is not entirely out of character. Particularly on San Joaquin Valley irrigation deliveries, Nunes has a history of being blunt.
"It's not a concern of mine," Nunes said when asked about the political and legislative consequences of his attack on Schwarzenegger. "What I'm trying to do is save people's jobs."
Since first winning his House seat in 2002, the 35-year-old Nunes has repeatedly challenged his colleagues. He championed redistricting reform in 2005, when many House members opposed it. California voters rejected the redistricting ballot measure by a 3-2 margin.
The next year, Nunes bluntly and successfully challenged the then-chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee -- a Republican -- on a dairy dispute.
More recently, Nunes has maneuvered against Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, over ambitious plans to restore the San Joaquin River. Over Nunes' objections, the House overwhelmingly approved the river plan as part of a larger public lands bill, and Obama signed it into law.
So far, despite some constituent calls in support, no other public figures have followed Nunes' demand for Schwarzenegger's resignation over the failure to provide more irrigation water. Nunes, nonetheless, remains angry.
"He's either under the total control of the radical environmentalists, or he's totally incompetent," Nunes said this week, echoing last week's resignation demand.
Last Friday, the Nisei Farmers League, California Alliance for Jobs and the Western Growers Association and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California quickly produced press releases supporting Schwarzenegger.
"It's definitely going to cause some exciting times for his office," predicted Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League, adding that he was "disappointed" by the congressman's resignation demand.
Metropolitan Water District issued its statement after being encouraged to do so by the Governor's Office, a district spokesman said Monday. Other farm-group leaders were likewise contacted by the Governor's Office and urged to produce similar statements in support of Schwarzenegger.
But it is unlikely to go much beyond that, political watchers and experts said.
"If I was advising the governor, I'd tell him to do nothing," said Pitney, the Claremont McKenna College professor. "If he punishes Nunes, he makes him a martyr and a hero and vastly increases his status. There are few things better for a political career than being kicked from above and remain standing."
Calls for resignations are just political grandstanding
There's nothing wrong with a little dissent in a political party, but this is ridiculous...Editorial
Mix the bad economy in with the normal hyperbole of politics and you end up with some ridiculous suggestions for various politicians to resign.
Here are the latest examples of people speaking before thinking:
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should resign because he hasn't resolved California's farm water shortage. Nunes' remark gained little backing, although it garnered him a few headlines. In the end, it said more about Nunes than it did about the governor.
Nunes, you'll recall, has been opposing just about every water solution that has any chance of passing. Yet he wants the governor to resign over water, even though Schwarzenegger has been very vocal about getting a comprehensive water solution for California.
Shawn Steel, a former California Republican Party chairman and one of two representatives to the Republican National Committee, said Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines of Clovis should step down as the top Republican in the Assembly.
Steel told a Modesto radio program that he is angry that Villines was part of the Legislature's budget compromise that included new taxes and that Villines supports Proposition 1A, which contains a spending limit and $16 billion in additional taxes.
"We are definitely going to be going straight forward and asking that he, after the election on May 19, that he resigns, he steps down," Steel said. Fortunately, Steel does not reflect the feelings of all California Republicans.
State Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring issued this statement: "We fully support the leaders elected by our legislative team, including Assembly Leader Villines. There is a diversity of opinion within any party at times, but there is no doubt that Mike has been a great, hardworking leader for our party and every
Earlier this year, Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, was forced out as Senate minority leader because he joined Villines in supporting the budget compromise. Cogdill still supports Proposition 1A.
There's nothing wrong with a little dissent in a political party, but we disagree with Nunes and Steel on their resignation calls. It's not Schwarzenegger who has been blocking a water solution and Villines has been a solid representative for Assembly Republicans.
Water agencies target fish and game...Robert Rodriguez
The Westlands Water District and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority are seeking federal court action to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from restricting their meager supply of water.
The water agencies Friday filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Fresno seeking a preliminary injunction against the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Westlands officials are concerned that its recently revised water allocation of 10% could be lost if the federal wildlife agency imposes a new set of restrictions on pumping water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect the delta smelt.
In the past, the giant water pumps at the southern end of the delta have been slowed and sometimes stopped so the fish wouldn't be sucked in and killed.
Al Donner, a spokesman for the federal wildlife agency, said that if there are any restrictions, they would take effect from May 18 to June 30.
"At this point, it depends on the condition of the delta and where the fish are," Donner said.
Sarah Woolf, spokeswoman for Westlands, said the system for determining where the fish are is flawed, and farmers can't afford to lose any more water.
"If they do shut down the pumps during those six weeks, that will be when we are typically using water," Woolf said.
U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger is expected to hear the water agencies' request on May 22.
Westlands along with other water agencies filed a lawsuit in federal court in early March seeking to have the new rules governing management of the delta smelt rewritten.
Farmers within Westlands have fallowed thousands of acres, and unemployment rates in rural communities such as Mendota have reached 40%.
Sacramento Bee
California's low-carbon fuel standard has oil companies anxious...Dale Kasler
In car-crazy California, a new fuel standard ordered by state officials to curb greenhouse gases could dramatically change how vehicles run.
It also could have a huge effect on cost.
The petroleum industry and some economists say the new standard adopted by the state Air Resources Board on Thursday will cost motorists billions, because blending gasoline will become considerably more complicated.
But state officials and environmentalists say the "low-carbon fuel standard" will actually save Californians money by reducing oil consumption and ushering in a competitive new era of biofuels and electric vehicles.
The stakes are enormous. The price of fuel can have a significant impact on the state's economic health. When gas hit $4.50 last summer, it severely hurt tourism and caused delivery companies to impose fuel surcharges.
Gasoline now sells for a relatively affordable $2.35 a gallon on average, but the state's already strict fuel formulas create a delicate balance between supply and demand. Even minor supply glitches have caused big price spikes because only a small number of refiners make gas to California's specifications.
Business advocates say significant price increases during a recession could be disastrous. They are casting a wary eye at the fuel standard.
"Reformulating the fuel supply – we shouldn't undergo that without a certain amount of trepidation," said Dorothy Rothrock, senior vice president with the California Manufacturers & Technology Association.
Every time California has instituted stricter clean-air standards for motor fuel, "they all have had a cost associated with it," said Cathy Reheis-Boyd, chief operating officer at the Western States Petroleum Association. "I know there's going to be a cost associated with this."
A big problem, she said, is that the air board's standards will limit the use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline – leaving refiners with a major hurdle.
Yet the Air Resources Board, in approving the low carbon standard Thursday, dismissed forecasts of higher costs. The board's staff contends that when the standard is fully operational, in 2020, Californians will save about $11 billion a year.
"It's the reduction in the use of petroleum," said board spokesman Dimitri Stanich.
The first-in-the-nation carbon standard is a key element in California's goal of reducing overall volume of greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020, as required by a 2006 state law. The air board's standard dictates that the "carbon intensity" of fuels be reduced starting in 2011, ramping up to a 10 percent cut by 2020.
The board believes the standard will encourage the development of hydrogen, electricity and biofuels to power vehicles. But there's a ton of controversy about how the standard treats what is currently the leading biofuel, ethanol made from corn.
Corn ethanol is now a staple of the transportation scene. It makes up 6 percent of the gas sold in California, and that's going to grow to 10 percent next year.
But the air board decided that corn ethanol is not so great for limiting greenhouse gases. The argument goes like this: Eager to cash in on ethanol demand, farmers around the world plow up grasslands and chop down trees to make way for corn, a process that releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The air board's ruling infuriated the corn ethanol industry, which is in severe financial distress already. Companies like Sacramento's Pacific Ethanol Inc. are on the verge of bankruptcy.
It also angered the petroleum refiners, who argued that they have few viable options for meeting the 10 percent carbon reduction if they don't get much credit for using corn ethanol. The alternatives, for the most part, consist of fuel technologies that are still expensive or are in the early stages of commercialization.
"We have no way to know how we're supposed to comply with this," Reheis-Boyd said.
She said the only real solution is to blend in ethanol made from sugar cane – which gets a better "carbon score" from the air board. But that means importing it from Brazil and paying costly U.S. import tariffs, she said.
All told, her association believes fuel costs in California could rise $3 billion a year.
Air board officials and environmentalists said the refiners are crying wolf. The standard will phase in slowly in the early years. Refiners and entrepreneurs will have plenty of time – and economic incentive – to make inexpensive biofuels, hydrogen-based fuels, even ethanol from such "cellulosic" materials as switchgrass.
"The program starts off on a rather gentle slope," said Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. There are even ways of making ethanol out of corn that can reduce its "total carbon score," he said.
But Severin Borenstein, director of the Energy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, said there's no certainty that these emerging technologies will be ready to meet the demand.
The air board "is betting that with the phase-in, those (alternative) fuels are going to get a lot cheaper," Borenstein said. "They might, but there certainly is not any guarantee at all."
The impact on the economy wouldn't be "devastating," but the new standard is an inefficient way of attacking greenhouse gases, he said.
FAA: Birds hit 1,054 planes at Sacramento International in past 10 years...Tony Bizjak
Jets flying in and out of Sacramento International Airport collide with birds more often than at any other major West Coast airport, newly released federal government records show.
Sacramento officials reported 1,054 collisions with birds and other wildlife in the past decade, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database.
The second-highest number of hits was reported at Oregon's Portland International, with 948. San Francisco was third with 699, and Los Angeles fourth with 670.
Nationally, some larger airports reported more. Denver International recorded 2,242 hits over the last decade. Dallas-Fort Worth counted 1,618 and Chicago O'Hare International had 1,472.
Four percent of bird strikes in Sacramento caused plane damage, according to the database, but there have been no reported passenger injuries.
Airport officials, however, say bird strikes – which typically happen on approach – are a costly concern. "It can cause major damage to an aircraft, so much so that human life could be in danger," spokeswoman Karen Doron said.
Airport officials conduct a daily wildlife management program, including use of air cannons and boom boxes emitting sounds of distressed birds.
"The idea is to make the airport less attractive to birds and other wildlife," Doron said.
Those techniques are not enough, airport officials said. They have joined with Assemblyman Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, on a bill to ensure that airport workers have a legal right to kill birds they believe may endanger planes.
"Thankfully there haven't been any fatalities, and that is the way we want to keep it, so people who fly in and out of Sacramento can feel they are safe," Cox said.
Federal regulations allow airports to kill birds, but state Fish and Game officials have warned Sacramento airport that state law does not specifically allow it.
Bird strikes are increasing nationally as flights increase and jets become quieter, aviation officials said.
Sacramento International and other West Coast airports face particular challenges because they are situated along the Pacific Flyway, a major migration route for birds.
Although most collisions do not damage jets, concerns have heightened since January, when a U.S. Airways jet made a dramatic crash landing on New York's Hudson River after both engines were knocked out by a flock of birds.
In Sacramento, birds identified in recent strikes include sparrows, doves, swallows, blackbirds, a red-tailed hawk and an owl. In most cases, remains are sent to a federal lab for DNA testing to determine the species.
Bird strike sends jetliner back to Sacramento airport...Tony Bizjak...4-10-09
A United Airlines jet headed from Sacramento to Chicago made an emergency return landing at Sacramento International Airport Thursday afternoon after striking a bird during takeoff.
Sacramento International Airport officials reported that the jet carrying 130 passengers was undamaged and there were no injuries. The incident involving Flight 332 took place just after 2 p.m. The bird struck the nose cone, United officials said.
The jet took off again for Chicago at 3:30 p.m. after an inspection found no damage. Federal Aviation Administration officials were notified.
"The pilot acted out of an abundance of caution and decided to return," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. "Preliminary reports are there was no damage to the plane."
The Sacramento airport, perched under the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds, reports more bird strikes annually than any other airport in the West.
The airport recorded 227 collisions in 2006 and 2007 combined, and 1,300 between 1990 and 2007.
Collisions typically happen during takeoffs and landings but rarely cause jets to turn back. While some jets have been damaged, Sacramento officials report no passenger injuries.
Bird collisions with jets – called BASH, for bird aircraft strike hazard – are on the rise nationally, from fewer than 2,000 in 1990 to more than 9,000 in 2008, in part because commercial flights have increased, jets are quieter and bird populations are growing.
The issue made headlines in January in New York when a US Airways jet crash-landed on the Hudson River after a bird strike reportedly disabled both engines.
None of the 155 passengers was killed.
Sacramento airport officials said they are reassessing their safety practices, and have enlisted state Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, to author a bill clarifying that the airport has the legal right to kill some troublesome birds.
Federal officials have given Sacramento and other airports permits to kill birds when other means of protecting planes and passengers fail. However, the state Fish and Game code does not give airports that explicit right.
Cox's bill, SB 481, rewrites the Fish and Game code to allow for the taking of wildlife.
Thursday's strike is "precisely the reason we've introduced the bill," Cox said.
Sacramento airport seeks clear right to kill birds for safety...Tony Bizjak...1-31-09
Each winter, the fields of Natomas play host to a spectacular avian air show.
Starlings loop and dive. Sparrows scoot low across the fields. Hawks swoop. Egrets and herons pose.
It's a beautiful tableau. It may also be deadly.
The birds share airspace with commercial jets arriving and departing from Sacramento International Airport – and too frequently, the two groups of fliers collide.
That fact was highlighted two weeks ago in New York when a US Airways jet crash-landed on the Hudson River after a bird strike reportedly disabled both engines.
None of the 155 passengers was killed. But, fearing catastrophe here, Sacramento airport officials are reassessing their safety practices, and pushing for a state law that would assure them of one particular safety tool: full legal clearance to kill troublesome birds.
Dealing with birds is a daily, dawn to dusk job, they say. They fire air cannons and use screech boxes as deterrents. They employ "Bird Banger" firecrackers and even drive in trucks honking horns.
It's not enough, they say. They want "lethal take" rights. That may means traps or poison. Most often, it means a shotgun.
Sacramento, like other airports, has killed birds on its property for years, under federal permits. But state game officials told the airport to back off last year after receiving an anonymous complaint. Killing non-game birds is not authorized by state code, they said, and county employees can be prosecuted for doing it.
Sacramento officials have responded by drawing up a bill they want the Legislature to approve that would make it clear California airports can kill birds on their property at their discretion – as a last resort.
"For decades, we have been operating under federal authority to take wildlife that poses a hazard, and now, all of a sudden, the state comes along and says (we) don't have the authority," airport executive Hardy Acree said. "We need to know for sure."
The New York jet crash is part of a worrisome trend, according to aviation experts.
Bird collisions with jets – called BASH, for bird aircraft strike hazard – are on the rise nationally, from fewer than 2,000 in 1990 to more than 9,000 in 2008.
That's because the number of commercial flights has increased, jets are quieter, and bird populations are growing, thanks to wildlife refuges on migration routes where birds rest and feed.
San Francisco, Oakland and New York's LaGuardia airport, the departure site for the US Airways flight, all sit near refuges.
Sacramento, perched under the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds, reports more bird strikes than any other airport in the West. The airport noted 227 collisions in 2006 and 2007 combined, and 1,300 between 1990 and 2007.
Collisions typically happened during takeoffs and landings. Several have caused departing planes to turn back.
For every bird struck on airport grounds, federal officials require local workers to collect remains and send them to a laboratory for genetic testing to chronicle the species involved – part of a federal effort to understand which birds are most likely to tangle with planes.
No passenger deaths or injuries have been linked to birds in Sacramento, but federal officials say such collisions have killed 200 people internationally in the past two decades.
Until late 2007, airport workers habitually shot birds they thought could get in the way of jets. They tallied 891 kills of migratory birds that year.
San Francisco and Oakland airport representatives told The Bee their workers also shoot birds on occasion, as a "last resort." Alerted by a phone tip, state officials stepped in and found what they considered a loosely run program in Sacramento.
"The bottom line is, they were engaged in an unlawful act," said Mark Lucero of the state Department of Fish and Game. "The airport was loose in its guidelines. There were probably more birds shot than should have been."
Lucero said his office is focused only on Sacramento at the moment. But, he added, state game wardens recognize the public safety issues airports face.
So, Lucero has told Sacramento officials the state will not challenge the airport if it shoots birds only on occasion, and allows the state to review the kills as part of a monthly monitoring program.
As an example, he said, the state would not oppose shooting birds near a runway as a plane approached, as long as airport workers had first tried to scare the birds off.
Airport officials say such a deal leaves them in a tenuous situation.
"A verbal agreement is not a permanent solution," said Acree, the airport director. "Those people may be gone next year, and somebody else comes in and says, 'No you can't.' "
Acree points out that Sacramento already has a federal permit saying it can use shotguns or other lethal means to kill birds.
Federal Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees help out at some airports, including shooting birds themselves. Sacramento has a USDA representative on site, whom airport officials now turn to when they feel a bird needs to be shot.
For the most part, Sacramento airport officials say they stick to "hazing" or "harassing" birds.
Friday that included a worker patrolling the airport perimeter in a truck, shooting a pistol packed with paper cartridges that emitted a sound like screaming fireworks.
The airport has stationed 20 scare boxes around the runways, each sending out bird distress calls.
The noise sends a message to birds: "This is a bad area, don't come here," said Janae Scruggs, head of the airport's federally mandated wildlife management program.
The airport also employs 10 air cannons, each about 3 feet long and 2 feet tall, that launch periodic booms.
Workers mow the fields frequently to reduce nesting areas. Last year it cut down a 90-acre pear orchard on its land to reduce habitat for birds and other animals.
But those methods don't always work.
An observer recently saw a red-tailed hawk sitting atop a noisy airport screech box. That may not be bad, airport officials said, because mature hawks seem to know how to avoid jets, and they scare smaller birds away.
Lucero suggested the airport should also eliminate drainage ditches that attract birds, and consider using dogs to frighten the birds.
Sacramento airport officials said they are considering using border collies to roust birds and are looking at an expensive radar system to detect flocks.
Meanwhile, airport officials have turned to local state legislators for help.
State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has asked the legislative counsel's office to determine whether state law is pre-empted by federal rules, and what options the airport may have.
State Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, said he would consider sponsoring a bill to make it clear California airports can shoot birds.
"What happened in New York is a perfect illustration that we ought not to confuse our values," Cox said. "I understand the importance of the Swanson's hawk, but there is no doubt in my mind what needs to be done."
The airport's legislative efforts have attracted the attention of Audubon California and other conservation groups. Dan Taylor of Audubon California said his group will join the discussion, including meeting with airport officials next week.
While he acknowledges the need for airports to prioritize public safety, Taylor said, "if lethal control is required, we hope it is a last resort, and performed in a way that … contributes to public safety."
Sacramento airport seeks bird-kill law for air safety...Tony Bizjak...1-16-09
Calling bird collisions with commercial jets a safety threat, Sacramento International Airport officials this week are seeking a law allowing them to kill birds that can't be frightened from airport grounds by other means.
The county's initiative came, ironically, just two days before a dramatic crash landing Thursday of a U.S. Airways flight into New York's Hudson River after the pilot reported a bird strike, apparently while flying through a flock.
Birds and jets collide frequently, with 7,666 reported instances nationally in 2007, or about one known strike for every 10,000 flights. But it is rare for strikes to cause crashes, injuries or fatalities to passengers, federal officials said.
Sacramento – which lies in the Pacific Flyway bird migration path – has the most bird strikes of any airport in the West, and sixth most in the country, the Federal Aviation Administration reports.
Sacramento recorded 1,300 collisions between birds and jets between 1990 and 2007, causing an estimated $1.6 million in damage to jets. The collisions usually happen during takeoffs and landings.
No crashes or passenger injuries have been recorded as a result of those strikes, Sacramento officials said.
"Bird strikes are a problem for us," Sacramento airport spokeswoman Karen Doron said Thursday. "And we want to do everything we can to make this airport as safe as we can for passengers."
Airport officials are working to draft legislation that will suit their needs and then will seek a lawmaker to sponsor it.
The FAA requires airports to take ongoing steps to reduce wildlife on and around airports, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. In Sacramento, that includes a federal permit to use guns, nets, pesticides, drugs, falcons and traps, permits show.
Sacramento airport officials say they previously used shotguns to kill a small percentage of problem birds, but only when the birds could not be rousted by other means, such as booming noises played through loudspeakers.
Sacramento officials were forced to stop in 2007 when the state Department of Fish and Game notified them they were violating state codes.
Airport reports indicate officials killed 891 birds in 2007, less than 2 percent of birds that airport workers "harassed" or hazed.
Attorney Jim Pachl of the Friends of the Swainson's Hawk group called that number "ridiculous" and unnecessary.
"Occasionally, you have to remove a bird to protect human safety," Pachl said. "But this can be handled for the most part by hazing or other non-lethal methods. If this bill passes as written, I'm afraid airports are going to take it as carte blanche" to kill birds.
Most local bird strikes occur during the December and March migration season. Eleven bird strikes were reported in Sacramento during the first week of December, and six planes were damaged, officials said.
One Sacramento bird strike in 2005, listed as significant by the FAA, caused $200,000 damage to a jet. The pilot of a plane reported seeing a large white bird fly past the cockpit, then heard a loud pop. The left engine began to vibrate. The pilot turned around and made a safe landing.
In another significant Sacramento incident in 2004, passengers reported seeing a flock of geese flying by. The subsequent strike dented and punctured a wing, causing the plane to make a precautionary landing.
The FAA reports 82,000 bird strikes since 1990, mainly in the United States, but estimates that only 20 percent of incidents get reported.
One out of seven bird strikes involves a bird being sucked into an engine, federal data show.
If a jet engine becomes inoperable because of a bird strike, most twin-engine jets can fly long distances on one engine, the FAA's Gregor said.
More frequently, birds hit the windshield or the nose of the plane, federal data show.
In one notable instance, a bird that struck a jet taking off at Los Angeles International caused so much damage that the engine housing fell off and landed on a nearby beach, Gregor said.
San Francisco Chronicle
Birds damaged planes at SFO 45 times since 1990...Michael Cabanatuan, Justin Beck
Two Northern California airports - including San Francisco International - rank near the top of a federal list released Friday that tallies collisions in which airplanes were substantially damaged by birds and other wildlife.
San Francisco International had 45 incidents from 1990 through November 2008, making it the airport with the third-highest number of incidents nationwide where wildlife damaged an airplane.
Sacramento International Airport placed second - with 56 reported instances of damage from wildlife strikes. That was well behind New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, which recorded the highest number of incidents at 83.
Oakland International and Mineta San Jose International each reported 15 wildlife strikes resulting in substantially damaged airplanes.
Officials at both SFO and the Sacramento airport pointed out that the number of wildlife strikes involved an infinitesimal percentage of flights, and that nobody - aside from the birds - was injured or killed in the accidents.
"I have no problems putting any member of my family on a flight in or out of SFO," said Mike McCarron, an SFO spokesman.
Both airports have physical and geographical factors making them more susceptible to bird strikes, including locations on the Pacific Flyway, the principal north-south migratory route for birds.
Sacramento's airport, located 12 miles northwest of downtown, is surrounded by agricultural land, including rice fields and wildlife habitat. San Francisco International borders the bay, and is about 7 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
"We're a major coastal airport under a major flyway," said McCarron. "So it's no surprise we have a higher number of bird strikes."
Both McCarron and Sacramento airport spokeswoman Karen Doron said their airports have aggressive and accurate reporting systems even though reporting of wildlife strikes to the FAA is done on a voluntary basis by pilots, airlines, airports and other observers.
Federal aviation officials released the bird strike database, which also counts incidents involving other wildlife, on Friday, after media requests. The release stems from the January incident in which pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger of Danville ditched a US Airways jet in the Hudson River after bird strikes knocked out both of its engines.
But the statistics could come with a flock of cautionary asterisks for anyone hoping to reach grand conclusions. In addition to being voluntary, the data do not take into account the volume of traffic at the airports, and much of it is incomplete. For instance, Sacramento has about 417 flights landing or taking off per day, compared to 1,000 at SFO and 740 at Oakland.
"I caution anyone against comparing one airport's numbers with another airport's numbers," said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman for the West Coast. "Airports that are diligent in reporting often have more strikes than those that are less diligent."
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has said he is considering mandatory reporting. Gregor said the FAA is also looking at other ways to make the data more reliable and comparable.
The FAA requires all commercial airports to have wildlife management plans - strategies to keep birds and other animals away from aircraft and runways. Most involve using noisemaking devices to shoo birds from around the airport and eliminating habitat by cutting grass short, removing fruit-bearing vegetation and drying up standing water.
"We do everything we can to discourage birds from congregating near the airport," said McCarron.
At Sacramento, that involved shooting birds as a last resort, until the practice ran afoul of state Fish and Game officials, Gregor said. A bill that would permit the airport to resume the use of lethal force on avian trespassers is wending its way through the state Legislature.
While aviation officials cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the bird strike data, they said the statistics make it clear that bird strikes can be dangerous but are far from common.
"Despite what happened to US Air Flight 1549, these are extremely rare events," said Gregor. "The chance of experiencing any kind of bird strike is extremely remote."
Contra Costa Times
Peripheral canal no drought lifeline, Contra Costa water district finds...Mike Taugher
A $10 billion plan to build a canal around the Delta would not deliver significantly more water to cities and farms if it were in place this year, new data shows.
Water agencies and politicians from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on down have repeatedly stressed that water shortages this year from the Bay Area to San Diego prove the need for such a canal. It would divert water around the Delta for delivery to farms and cities.
But numbers developed by a state-run planning group seeking to build the canal show it would not deliver more water in dry years, the Contra Costa Water District stated this week.
"Consequently, all the same issues would have arisen about deliveries and operations," Greg Gartrell, district assistant general manager, wrote this week to leaders in the planning effort, called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
A spokeswoman for the conservation plan said she had not seen the memo and that participants were still working through the report containing the data.
"I imagine we'll need to address these issues," said Karla Nemeth.
In addition to calling for a canal, many politicians and water officials blame the shortages on new protections for Delta smelt.
But, according to water users' estimates, new rules to protect the threatened fish cost 300,000 acre-feet of water this year and it does not appear that number will rise significantly before the rules phase out for the year on June 30.
While that is enough water for more than 2 million people, it amounts 5 percent of the 6 million acre-feet a year delivered from the Delta between 2000 and 2007.
More significant than the new Delta smelt rules and the method of getting water through the Delta — both of which could have a bigger effect in wetter periods — is the fact that reservoirs are drawn down.
"The canal doesn't make water. It can only move water that's there," Gartrell said.
A computer model that estimates the amount of water the canal could deliver showed that, on average, it could send more Delta water south and in wet years the increase is significant.
But in dry years the increase is small to nonexistent.
That is because even if a canal were built, water managers still must ensure that enough water remains in the Sacramento River to allow salmon to migrate through and that enough water flows through the Delta to prevent saltwater from fouling the water supply for Contra Costa and others.
The water plan would cost billions of dollars, with the canal portion coming in at $8.4 billion or more.
The numbers show the plan might not be cost-effective, and, if built, it could threaten further environmental degradation in the Delta, said Gary Bobker, program manager of The Bay Institute, an environmental group, and a member of the conservation plan's steering committee.
"If you build a very expensive facility and don't improve water supply much, does that create more incentive for water agencies to weaken existing environmental and water quality standards?" he asked.
Although it is possible to store more water in wet years to weather droughts, it is unclear whether reservoirs south of the Delta have enough capacity to store more water than they had in storage before this three-year dry spell began.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, if approved, would allow the canal's construction as part of an overall strategy to conserve endangered species.
It would appear to be the most complex plan of its kind ever done under endangered species laws and, with a goal of finishing it next year, would also appear to be one of the fastest ever prepared.
Los Angeles Times
Airplane 'bird strikes' have climbed dramatically, FAA records show
Wildlife strikes involve creatures -- including foxes and lizards -- hitting windshields, wings and stabilizers. New York's JFK airport tops the list. Carriers don't have to report strikes...Robert J. Lopez
Aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport struck birds or other animals in 940 instances from 1990 through 2008, according to data released Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The strikes involved gulls, hawks, pigeons and other creatures hitting windshields, wings and stabilizer areas.
Only 36 of the incidents, or 3.8%, resulted in substantial damage, records show. There were no fatalities. At least five times, planes reported hitting foxes.
The records are part of a newly available database that lists 112,387 reports of aircraft striking wildlife, including reptiles and mammals, at 2,008 airports in the United States and Canada from January 1990 through November 2008.
The records show that the number of wildlife strikes has increased dramatically nationwide in the last decade. Since 2000, the list of airports with the greatest number of serious incidents is led by New York's John F. Kennedy International, with 30 strikes, and Sacramento International, with 28. LAX, with 16, is tied for ninth place.
Public focus on bird strikes heightened after a US Airways jet made a harrowing landing in the Hudson River in January. The pilot of the Airbus A320 reported a "double bird strike" during takeoff and lost power in both engines, making an emergency water landing.
The database represents the most complete public view yet of the problem, but drawing comparisons or attempting to analyze trends is difficult because the FAA doesn't require airports or airline carriers to report bird strikes. Moreover, key fields in the database, such as damage incurred and where the strike happened, are incomplete.
For example, out of 1,258 reports of substantial damage since 2000, there was no airport listed for 202 of the incidents, or 16%.
"I would caution against comparing one airport's numbers to another airport's numbers, because reporting is voluntary," said Los Angeles FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. "An airport that is very diligent in reporting these bird strikes could appear to have more incidents simply because they do a better job of reporting."
Long Beach Airport logged 148 incidents during the 18-year period, and John Wayne Airport in Orange Country reported 214, according to the data. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank listed 218 incidents.
Despite the data's limitations, experts said the information would help researchers understand the dimensions of the problem and develop ways to improve safety at a time when areas around many airports have seen a resurgence in bird populations.
"It will create a safer environment in the long run," said Richard Dolbeer, a biologist and former chairman of the Bird Strike Committee, a group of airline industry and wildlife management experts.
The group said that more than 219 people have been killed worldwide because of wildlife strikes since 1988, and that damage has exceeded $6 million a year in the U.S. alone.
One function of the FAA database, Dolbeer said, would be to examine airports with strikes that involved substantial damage.
Experts said airports with the biggest bird problems are generally near waterways or agricultural areas.
"The birds are definitely on the rise," said Jon Russell, Western Pacific safety coordinator for the Airline Pilots Assn. "Birds come to eat, nest and loaf near airports."
Gregor noted that strikes are very rare, given that there are 60 million aircraft operations a year at airports with FAA control towers.
In a letter sent Tuesday to federal transportation officials, National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker noted that his agency has recommended since 1999 that the FAA make it mandatory for airplane operators to report bird strikes.
The FAA said it plans to work with the airline community to strengthen reporting.
Initially, the FAA proposed to keep portions of the database confidential. Allowing public access, the agency said, might discourage some carriers and airports from reporting incidents.
But some members of Congress and the National Transportation Safety Board criticized the proposal, saying that releasing the information is in the public interest.
Washington Post
JFK airport shares space with wetlands _ and birds...RICHARD PYLE, The Associated Press. Associated Press writer Samantha Young contributed to this report from Sacramento, Calif.
NEW YORK -- Sprawled along the edge of a giant coastal wetlands area, John F. Kennedy International Airport shares airspace with thousands of birds _ many of which wind up as carcasses on the runways after colliding with aircraft.
For the aircraft, the results range from minor to serious.
Federal Aviation Administration data released Friday say the Queens airport has had the most bird incidents with serious damage this decade. The issue has received greater attention since a pilot successfully landed his US Airways Inc. jet in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of birds on takeoff from nearby LaGuardia Airport.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport, says it has an "aggressive wildlife management program" that includes disrupting birds' habitats, scaring them with fireworks and even shooting thousands of them each year.
The FAA did not say whether any of the 30 bird mishaps at Kennedy this decade had resulted in human deaths or injuries or to many aircraft being disabled. The Port Authority said aviation experts didn't recall any such incident in recent years.
The Kennedy wetlands area, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, is one of the largest urban bird sanctuaries in the eastern United States, a 9,000-acre stretch of small islands, salt marshes, fields and forest. It's part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Wildlife experts say it's home to more than 325 species of birds, some of them year-round residents and others migratory travelers along the Atlantic Flyway.
The difficulty of bird control around Kennedy was underscored by a 2001 report, by four college professors and two National Park Service officials, saying that during the 1980s the airport had seen "exponential growth" of one species, the laughing gull, from 15 nests to about 7,900.
A shooting program between 1991 and 1998 wiped out 50,000 of the birds, the report said.
The airport with the second-most bird strikes was Sacramento (Calif.) International Airport, which sits in the middle of the Central Valley and lies along the Pacific Flyway, one of the most important bird migration routes in North America.
Earlier this month, a United Airlines flight bound for Chicago returned to the Sacramento airport after hitting a bird during takeoff. The plane was not damaged, and no one was injured.
Sacramento's problems are similar to New York's. Sacramento airport spokeswoman Gina Swankie said wildlife biologists patrol airport property but nearby bird habitat is beyond their control.
Each winter, millions of geese, swans, ducks, cranes, raptors and other birds cross the Central Valley on migration routes between Canada and Mexico.
The airport uses canons and pyrotechnics to keep birds away. Birds that are deemed immediate threats to aircraft can be shot.
John Morrison, who has been a pilot with Delta Air Lines Inc. for 20 years, said most bird strikes go unnoticed unless they're right on the plane's nose or affect the engines. Only twice has he been piloting jets when birds were sucked into the engine, both when he was in the Air Force before joining Delta.
"I've been doing this for 35 years," he said. "You know birds are out there, and you just watch for them."
New York, Sacramento airports lead in bird strikes...MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, The Associated Press. Associated Press writers Ted Bridis, Frank Bass and Joan Lowy in Washington and Samantha Young in Sacramento contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON -- Airplane collisions with birds or other animals have destroyed 28 aircraft since 2000, with New York's Kennedy airport and Sacramento International reporting the most incidents with serious damage, according to Federal Aviation Administration data posted for the first time Friday. And the problem appears to be growing.
The FAA list of wildlife strikes, published on the Internet, details more than 89,000 incidents since 1990, costing 11 people their lives. Most incidents were bird strikes, but deer and other animals have been hit on runways, too.
The situation seems to be getting worse: Airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major U.S. airports since 2000, including New Orleans, Houston's Hobby, Kansas City, Orlando and Salt Lake City. Wildlife experts say increasingly birds, particularly large ones like Canada geese, are finding food and living near cities and airports year round rather than migrating.
The figures are known to be far from complete. Even the FAA estimates its voluntary reporting system captures only 20 percent of wildlife strikes. The agency, however, has refused for a decade to adopt a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to make the reports mandatory.
Friday's first disclosure of the entire FAA database, including the locations of strikes, occurred largely because of pressure following the ditching of a US Airways jet in the Hudson River after bird strikes knocked out both of its engines on Jan. 15. Within days, The Associated Press asked for the database under the Freedom of Information Act.
All 155 people aboard survived that incident as pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger ditched the powerless jet safely. That plane had at least seven earlier collisions with birds since February 2000, including one in March 2002 at Orlando International Airport when it sucked a red-tailed hawk into an engine during a night takeoff. The plane returned to the airport immediately with a damaged engine.
The data revealed one positive trend: strikes that caused major damage dropped noticeably in 2007 and 2008. In 2000, pilots reported 178 such strikes; in 2007 there were 125, and in the first 11 months of 2008 only 85. December 2008 numbers are not yet listed. There was no immediate explanation from the FAA for the decline in major damage, but the agency tightened engine design standards in 2004 to better withstand bird strikes, and more and more airports engage in wildlife management.
Topping the list of airports where planes were either substantially damaged or destroyed by birds since 2000 were John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York with at least 30 such accidents and Sacramento International Airport in California with at least 28.
Kennedy, the nation's sixth-busiest airport, is located amid wetlands that attract birds. Ron Marsico, spokesman for the port authority that owns JFK, said it has been protected for years by aggressive wildlife management that includes habitat disruption, fireworks and the "killing of thousands of birds each year." He said the agency recently added a wildlife expert to increase vigilance.
Sacramento International, the nation's 40th busiest, lies beneath the Pacific Flyway used by millions of geese, swans, ducks, cranes, raptors and other birds that migrate with the seasons and stop to feed on crops in the farms that abut the airport. Airport spokeswoman Karen Doron said that in 2007 alone the five airports managed by Sacramento County "used loud noises, distress calls and other techniques to disperse more than 53,000 birds from our runway areas."
At Sacramento International on Friday, Dawn Holliman, a 51-year-old real estate agent from Placerville who was flying to Phoenix, said she felt the odds of being in an airplane struck by birds were relatively low. She was more concerned that the government previously withheld the information.
"It's irritating they don't let the public know about the risks," said Holliman.
The FAA had long argued the public couldn't handle the full truth about bird strikes, so it withheld the names of specific airports and airlines involved while releasing only aggregate data. The agency said the public might use the data to "cast unfounded aspersions" on those who reported strikes, and airports and airlines in turn might make fewer reports.
On Friday, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor cautioned "against comparing one airport's bird strike numbers to another airport. If a certain airport is very diligent in reporting these kinds of events, its diligence could make it appear as if it has more bird strikes than an airport that isn't as diligent."
The most recent fatal bird-strike came in October 2007: A student and instructor pilot died when their twin-engine business plane crashed in Browerville, Minn., after it struck a Canada goose during a night training flight. The plane's left engine had been damaged by a bird strike the day before and was repaired the day of the fatal crash.
All told, pilots reported striking at least 59,776 birds since 2000. The most common strikes involved mourning doves; pilots reported hitting 2,291 between 2000 and 2008. Other airborne victims included gulls (2,186), European starlings (1,427) and American kestrels (1,422).
A single United Airlines 737 passenger jet suffered at least 29 minor collisions with birds and one with a small deer _ more than any other plane since 2000. Only one case produced significant damage _ when the jet climbed out of Philadelphia International Airport into a flock of gulls at 1,000 feet the night of Jan. 30, 2006. The pilot declared an emergency after one engine sucked in a large gull and began vibrating badly. No one was hurt, but repairs cost the airline $37,000.
That same plane experienced incidents in San Francisco; Salt Lake City; San Jose, Calif.; Houston; Denver; Toronto; New Orleans; Chicago, Spokane, Wash, and most recently in Denver.
Since 2000, reported bird strikes have resulted in five fatalities and 93 injuries. The cost of repairs during that period was estimated at more than $267 million in inflation-adjusted dollars, but many of the incident reports contained no estimate of the repair cost.
The largest trade association of U.S. airlines hastened to note that bird strikes "are, of course, rare events,"
"The vast majority of cases result in little or no aircraft damage," the Air Transport Association of America added.
An overwhelming majority of reported strikes _ nearly 16,000 _ occurred on approach for landing, the data showed. An additional 20,000 were split nearly evenly among takeoff, landing and climbing.
This week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rejected a proposal quietly advanced by the FAA on March 19 to formally make the data exempt from public disclosure _ even as other FAA officials were saying the AP would soon get the records in response to its Freedom of Information Act request.
With President Barack Obama promising a more open government and releasing secret Bush administration legal memos about harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects, LaHood said he found it hard to justify the FAA's plan to withhold records about birds at airports.
CNN Money
Bad year for banks: Failures surpass '08
Four regional banks fail Friday, setting the FDIC back nearly $700 million and bringing the annual total up to 29...Catherine Clifford
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- First Bank of Idaho became the fourth U.S. bank to fail Friday, raising the 2009 total to 29 -- four more than the 25 that failed all of last year, the government said.
The failure of the Ketchum, Idaho-based bank, along with banks based in Georgia, Michigan and California, will cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s deposit insurance fund $698.4 million.
Idaho: First Bank of Idaho became the first bank based in the state to fail in more than 20 years Friday, when the FDIC was appointed receiver by the Office of Thrift Supervision. The bank had $374 million in deposits and $488.9 million in assets.
Most of the bank's deposits were acquired by U.S. Bank of Minneapolis, which will reopen First Bank's seven branches in Idaho and Wyoming under its name on Monday. Two branches operating under the First Bank of the Tetons name in Jackson, Wyo., and Driggs, Idaho, will have their usual Saturday drive-up window hours.
U.S. Bank paid a 0.55% premium for the deposits, the FDIC said.
The FDIC said U.S. Bank will not assume $112.8 million in brokered deposits; instead, the agency will pay brokers directly for the amount of their funds, with customers needing to contract the brokers to determine the status of their deposits.
U.S. Bank acquired about $17.8 million in First Bank's assets. The FDIC said the remaining assets will be retained for later disposition.
The FDIC said the deal will cost its deposit insurance fund $191.2 million.
Customers with questions can call the bank at 1-800-591-2845 or visit the FDIC's Web site at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/firstbankidaho.html.
Georgia: American Southern Bank shut its doors for the last time on Friday. The Kennesaw, Ga.-based bank was shuttered by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and the FDIC was named the receiver.
With 10 bank failures, Georgia has the most bank closures of any state since the crisis intensified at the start of last year.
As of March 30, American Southern had total assets of $112.3 million and total deposits of $104.3 million.
Alpharetta, Ga.-based Bank of North Georgia has agreed to take over all of the deposits, except brokered accounts, at a premium of 0.003%.
The bank failure will cost the Deposit Insurance Fund approximately $41.9 million, according to the FDIC.
The single office of the failed bank will reopen on Monday as a branch of Bank of North Georgia.
Through the weekend, customers of the failed banks can access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards. Checks drawn on the banks will continue to be processed and loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.
The FDIC will continue to fully insure individual accounts up to $250,000 through the end of 2009.
For the $48.7 million in brokered deposits held by the failed bank that Bank of North Georgia did not agree to take over, the FDIC will pay the brokers directly for the amount of their funds. Customers are advised to contact them directly for more information about the status of their deposits.
Michigan: Michigan Heritage Bank, based in Farmington Hills, Mich., was shuttered Friday by state regulators and the FDIC was named the receiver.
As of Dec. 31, the failed bank had total assets of approximately $184.6 million and total deposits of $151.7 million.
Level One Bank, also based in Farmington Hills, Mich., agreed to assume all of the deposits of Michigan Heritage Bank, except those from brokers. For the deposits that it would take, Level One Bank paid a premium of 1.16%.
The Michigan bank failure will cost the Deposit Insurance Fund approximately $71.3 million, according to the FDIC.
The three offices of the failed bank will reopen on Monday as branches of Level One and depositors of will automatically be transferred over.
As with the failed bank in Georgia, customers can continue to access their funds. And the $50 million in brokered accounts at the failed Michigan bank will also be handled in a parallel manner as well.
In addition to the $101.7 million in deposits that Level One agreed to take, it agreed to purchase $46.1 million in assets, leaving the rest for the FDIC to negotiate.
California: First Bank of Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Calif., shut its doors for the last time Friday. State regulators shuttered the bank and named the FDIC the receiver.
But the FDIC was not able to find a buyer for the local bank. "We marketed the institution but there were no bids as it had little franchise value, most of the deposits were brokered and only 3% were CA depositors," said Andrew Gray, spokesperson for the FDIC, in an email. "It had a very small local presence. It isn't unusual for a payout to occur in these circumstances."
The cost of the failure to the Deposit Insurance Fund was estimated to be approximately $394 million, according to the release from the FDIC.
At the end of the year, the failed bank had total assets of $1.5 billion and total deposits of $1 billion.
For insured deposits placed directly with the bank and not through a broker, the government will mail customers checks for their insured funds on Monday. The FDIC estimates that the bank has $179,000 of uninsured deposits.
Customers of the failed bank who have questions can call the FDIC toll free at 1-800-523-8089 or go to a Web site the FDIC has set up at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/beverlyhills.html.
Banks in a bind: The recession has left regional banks reeling, with cash-crunched consumers struggling to pay off their loans.
As banks remained skittish about lending, the federal government stepped in with a series of financial rescue efforts aimed at restoring confidence and jumpstart lending.
This week, Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) surprised Wall Street by reporting a much better-than-expected first-quarter profit of $4.2 billion, but Chief Executive Ken Lewis warned of "deteriorating credit quality."
Investors remain concerned over just how prepared the banks are to absorb any further losses. The Obama administration has been conducting "stress-tests" on 19 of the nation's banks with more than $100 billion in assets at the end of 2008 to determine how well prepared they are to survive further economic turmoil.
On Friday, banking regulators offered up a 21-page report about the stress tests but it was sparse on details. It acknowledged that most U.S. lenders were currently well capitalized, but that losses associated with the recession and turmoil in the financial markets had eroded the capital levels of some financial institutions. The full assessment will be released May 4.