10-6-09

10-6-09   
Merced Sun-Star
Bill Lockyer on a good day: unravelling the legacy of Father Brown...Badlands Journal editorial board
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/2009-10-05/007451
10-5-09
Indybay

California Waterloo – Tide of Debt May Shift from General Fund to Water Users...Dan Bacher
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/10/05/18624477.php
Patrick Porgans discloses how the Debt Affordability Report released by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer found that water infrastructure should be paid for by users, not the General Fund and the state's taxpayers as it has been for decades. Could this mark the beginning of the end for massive rip offs of water and taxpayers' money by Westlands Water District, corporate agribusiness and other wealthy water users, who have presided over the destruction of California's fisheries?
"Profiteering water users have been getting rich at the expense of unsuspecting taxpayers, who incur insurmountable debt to keep unsustainable agricultural 'operations' in the 'green' and out-of-the red," said Porgans. "Perhaps, as the Treasurer suggests, it is time for change."

The report was released at a time when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Darrell Steinberg and corporate agribusiness are pushing for the construction of a massive peripheral canal in order to export more water from the California Delta to southern California and agribusiness.The environmentally destructive project would cost anywhere from $23 billion to $53.8 billion, according to a recent report by Steve Kasower, economist.
PRESS RELEASE: 5 October 2009
Contact Patrick Porgans, Solutionist, Porgans & Associates, Inc. (916) 833-873 or 543-0780:
California Waterloo – Tide of Debt May Shift from General Fund to Water Users
On October 1, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer released the 2009 Debt Affordability Report. The report finds that, "further increasing the General Fund’s debt burden, especially in the next three difficult budgets, would require cutting even deeper into crucial services already reeling from billions of dollars in reductions." The Treasurer therefore found that water infrastructure should be paid for by users, not the General Fund.
Have “we the people” been laboring under a misapprehension or can it be that someone in political office has finally come to his senses. For almost a decade Porgans & Associates (P&A) have voiced concerns about the rising General Fund debt being incurred by Californians to bailout State Water Project (SWP) and other water users. P&A diligently reminded Californians and the “leadership” of the fact that the SWP was sold on the premise that it would pay-for-itself; the beneficiaries, water and power users would pay.
Furthermore, the SWP was also promoted on the premise it would unify the State. The record shows it has done neither. Conversely, the SWP is at the core of the Delta Collapse and the State’s never-ending water wars...

Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s recent epiphany that water infrastructure should be paid by users is a far-flung cry from his support and position on General Fund/General Obligation Bond funding for water users when he was Senate Pro Tem, back in the 1990s. It was at that time, Proposition 204, the first of a series of General Obligation Bonds, ultimately totaling more than $18 billion were launched. Repayment of GO Bonds comes out of the General Fund.
In fact, it was in the ante-chamber of the then Senate Pro Tem Lockyer’s office, back in the 1996, P&A openly tape-recorded former State Senator Costa (D), representing agricultural water use in the San Joaquin Valley, and the who’s who in California’s water contingent, caucusing an “impromptu” so-called “conference committee” discussion, pertaining to the General Obligation Bond poster-child bailout-funding scheme -- Proposition 204.
During that discussion, Senator Costa was the only one seated in the room, in which there was standing room only. Patrick Porgans was the only uninvited participant who witnessed the ante-chamber “legislative” process first hand.
Proposition 204, started out at about $250 million; however, before the discussion in the Senate Pro Tem’s anti- chamber was over, and the ink was dry on the proposed proposition, and all of the water users gave their input as to how many millions it would take for them to come on board the financially sinking SWP flotilla, the final number for Proposition 204 totaled $995 million, plus $776 million in interest. Total cost to the taxpayer is about $1.8 billion, which was more than what the entire SWP was sold to the voters back in 1960; which was $1.75 billion.
Essentially, the GO bond-funding scheme was designed to keep the unsustainable agricultural sectors in the San Joaquin Valley from going bankrupt. Although, Treasurer Lockyer was a player in that get-the-public-to pay script, he is to be commended as the first major elected official to take up the Legislative Analyst Office and the Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations that water users/beneficiaries should pay.
One wonders if his ephinany is a dollar short and a day late, after all, Proposition 204 was only the first of series of water and water-related General Obligation bond acts, commencing in 1996 through 2006; totaling $18.5 billion, with interest it is more than $30 billion. In reality, the “waterloo” that bought this ingenious-funding scheme to its end was the astronomical amount of debt that State incurred. The State is so far in debt that the only way it can get out from under its self-induced financial crisis is to cut jobs, essential services and contemplate selling off public assets.
As P&A has stated, in its 79-page Sixty Day Notice to sue the government, about $6.5 billion in GO bonds were expended through CalFed, which, essentially turned out as a qualified failure to “fix” the Bay-Delta Estuary. Albeit, when you add in the interest for the CalFed debacle, the costs almost double.
It has always been P&A’s objective to follow and expose the source and flow of money. In the process we have been very effective in shedding light on the underlying issues fueling California’s water crisis.
Profiteering water users have been getting rich at the expense of unsuspecting taxpayers, who incur insurmountable debt to keep unsustainable agricultural “operations” in the “green” and out-of-the red. Perhaps, as the Treasurer suggests, it is time for change.
Merced Sun-Star
Merced's business climate...Off The 99...10-5-09
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/offthe99/
Download the audio file.
Merced's economy has been in a free fall since the housing bubble burst and the recession began. Businesses have been laying off workers and cutting hours to stay afloat. Others have been forced to shut down. The biggest blow came earlier this year when County Bank, arguably one of Merced's most important institutions, collapsed and was handed over to Westamerica. Some businesses have entered the local market to fill the void. But that's only filling what left. There hasn't been much, if any, growth.
To understand the current business climate and what is needed for the local economy to rebound and grow, "Off the 99" brought together Merced Economic Development Director Frank Quintero, Bill Anderson who manages Merced's Alliance Small Business Development Center and Matt Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Electronic Systems.
UC Merced enrollment exceeds expectations
Campus officials report 26 percent student increase...DANIELLE E. GAINES
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/1097690.html
Enrollment at UC Merced this fall surpassed official estimates, the school announced Monday afternoon.
There are 3,414 students on campus this year, up from 2,718 last fall and slightly over the 3,200-student estimate officials used for planning.
That's a 26 percent increase in the five-year-old campus' enrollment.
"UC Merced is fortunate to experience strong growth despite cutbacks in many other parts of the University of California," said Chancellor Steve Kang in a statement. "This shows that the UC Office of the President and our sister campuses are committed to our mission and our continued success."
Of the new students on campus this year, 1,128 are freshmen, 145 transferred from another campus and 71 are new graduate students.
Most new freshmen (31.8 percent) are from the San Joaquin Valley. Nearly 28 percent come from the Bay Area and 18.4 percent are Los Angeles County natives.
There are 132 international students who hail from 30 countries also enrolled this term.
Ethnically, incoming freshmen on campus remain diverse.
Thirty-five percent of students are Latino, 33.6 percent are Asian, 18.2 percent white and 8.4 percent black. The numbers remain largely unchanged from last year's class.
About one-fifth of the class is undecided, not having chosen a major course of study before enrolling this fall. Thirty-five percent of freshmen are studying a major within the School of Natural Sciences. Twenty-eight percent are enrolled in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, and 17 percent are studying engineering.
Some 1,200 students live in on-campus housing.
University leaders said this year's growth bodes well for a campus goal of 5,000 students by fall 2013.
More than 58,000 offers of admission were sent to California applicants for the fall 2009 freshman class throughout the UC system this year; 7,570 of those offers were sent by the Merced campus, with an additional 11,213 offers sent to a referral pool, which offered admission at the Merced and Riverside campuses for students who didn't make the cut at their first-choice school.
UC Merced opened in 2005 with a student population of 875 students. The university expects to enroll 25,000 students -- 22,250 undergraduates and 2,750 graduate students -- within 30 years.
The campus will host an open house for prospective students on Oct. 17. Applications for next fall must be submitted from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. Forms are available at www.ucmerced.edu.
Modesto Bee
Dan Walters: Governor sits on bills, seeks a water deal
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/walters/v-print/story/882519.html
When the Legislature adjourned on Sept. 12 after pulling one of its tiresome – figuratively and literally – all-nighters, it had passed more than 700 bills and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supposedly had a month, as the state constitution dictates, to sign or veto them.
But the Legislature delayed sending most of the bills to Schwarzenegger until late in the month and now, with less than a week remaining before the Oct. 11 deadline, virtually nothing has emerged from the governor.
Why? The Legislature stalled on sending the bills to Schwarzenegger, fearing he'd make good on veiled threats to hold them hostage, and it's now evident he's doing exactly that, seeking political leverage to push lawmakers toward resolving some leftover issues, particularly a complex package of water bills.
Nobody will say that, of course, but neither is it a secret in the Capitol that Schwarzenegger wants the Legislature to return to Sacramento to deal not only with water but some education reform measures and perhaps an overhaul of the state's much-distorted tax system.
Water, however, is the biggie, as Schwarzenegger attempts to succeed where his predecessors dating back to Ronald Reagan have failed – settling the decades-long war over water policy among powerful stakeholder groups.
A water deal appeared to be close in the final hours of the session, but many legislators and lobbyists balked at doing something so complicated and momentous so quickly, and strong residual opposition to many provisions remained.
The aim is to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, from which most of the state's agricultural and municipal water is drawn and whose environment has been degraded, and to enhance supply reliability. The debate centers on building reservoirs and an "alternative conveyance" around or through the Delta, and on setting tougher quality and conservation goals.
Whether holding bills as hostages would positively affect a water deal is very uncertain. While such horse-trading may influence lesser matters, it's difficult to see someone voting on a high-profile issue such as water merely to get a bill signed.
That problematic nature is compounded by the fact that there's nothing of cosmic importance sitting on the governor's desk. While there are some measures of note, such as bills to expand California's commitment to solar, wind and other alternative energy forms, almost none of them needs to be enacted this year. The alternative energy measures wouldn't take effect for years, for instance.
Given the ideological tilt of the Legislature, it's no surprise that most of the measures now pending are either minor in nature or are important mostly to liberal groups. And that means Republicans and business interests would not be dismayed should Schwarzenegger veto every one of the measures now pending, such as those expanding the services that health insurers must offer.
Sacramento Bee
As California tightens purse strings, UC turns to Uncle Sam…Laurel Rosenhall
http://www.sacbee.com/topstories/v-print/story/2233520.html
With the state tightening the spigot on public funding for colleges, the University of California is putting a hand out to Uncle Sam.
The federal government already has sent the UC system $700 million in stimulus funds to help ease the pain of historic state budget cuts. And the stimulus package has directed millions of dollars more to UC for scientific research.
But UC leaders are making the case that the federal government should play an even larger role in funding California's premier university system - not just during an economic emergency but on an ongoing basis. The details of the proposals vary, but all call for a major shift in the way the country pays for higher education, with more coming from the federal government because less is coming from the states.
"There never has been an integrated national strategy in this country for higher education. There needs to be one now," UC President Mark Yudof wrote in a draft policy paper. "The mission is simply too important to leave to state governments that seem disinclined or unable to pursue it."
Yudof said he has been to Washington to pitch his idea to members of Congress and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But he is quick to add that he doesn't want money from federal coffers to replace what UC gets from California taxpayers - he wants both.
"I still think the primary responsibility lies with the state of California," Yudof said. "I have not given up on the state."
And the proposal doesn't lessen UC's immediate need to raise student fees by 32 percent over the next year, Yudof said, because even if his ideas come to pass, change won't happen anytime soon.
California has cut funding to UC by 20 percent over the past year and a half. In response, the university is furloughing professors, raising fees and cutting classes. Thousands of UC students and employees protested the changes during a statewide walkout last month.
Yudof said his call for the federal government to get more involved is "partly a reaction to the short-term political climate" in California. But he said it also comes from looking at other countries - such as South Korea, Singapore and Saudi Arabia - that are turning to UC for guidance as they develop their public university systems.
"Around the world ... they understand that to keep their nations competitive, they have to be knowledge factories," Yudof said. "The states and the federal government should be partners in doing this."
Chancellors of the UC campuses have begun echoing the call. In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau suggested that President Barack Obama create a national network of the country's top public research universities.
"Washington would provide sufficient additional funding for operations and student support to ensure broad access and continued excellence at these universities," Birgeneau wrote. "A portion of these resources would ensure that out-of-state and in-state students pay the same tuition and have access to the same financial aid packages."
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi raised a similar point in a recent meeting with The Bee. She said the so-called "land-grant" universities - those founded on land the federal government gave to the states - are essentially national institutions.
"The impact of these institutions grew beyond the border of the states," Katehi said. "So now it's the time maybe for the federal government to step in and say, 'This is a national treasure.' "
The ideas have caught attention in the blogosphere. Steve Foerster, who writes a blog about higher education for elearners.com, blasted UC recently for asking for what he described as a federal bailout.
"The rest of us are making do with less," wrote Foerster, who lives in Alexandria, Va. "Surely if we can do that, you folks can put all those researchers to work to figure out some way to use your three billion dollars to keep the lights on."
For now, federal education officials are noncommittal on the UC proposals, saying they plan to stick to Obama's agenda for higher education.
"The president's higher education agenda is focused on increasing access, quality and affordability for all Americans," said Justin Hamilton, deputy press secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. "We're developing policies that will help us meet that goal."
Stockton Record
Environmentalists unhappy over what they consider over-relaxed water permits...Dana M. Nichols
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091006/A_NEWS14/910060322/-1/A_NEWS#STS=g0gvz300.1fmj
ANGELS CAMP - Angels Creek is a tree-lined stream, about 6 yards wide, where it passes the Angels Camp municipal wastewater treatment plant. It is narrower in places downstream, cascading through rock channels before it flows into New Melones Lake.
Despite its bucolic appearance, Angels Creek is on the front line of a statewide battle over water pollution regulations. A pollution discharge permit that the City of Angels received in 2007 and amended this year is one of dozens of permits issued in California in the past two years that give legal permission to degrade the quality of waterways and to discharge into those waterways higher levels of pollutants than were allowed under earlier permits.
Representatives of environmental groups say the recently issued permits are reversing progress made since the late 1960s in cleaning up California's rivers.
"They are looking to just move permits out the door as fast as they can," said James Wheaton, president of the Oakland-based Environmental Law Foundation. "It is shameful."
State water pollution regulators reject that notion. They say they relax emission standards or allow limited degradation of waterways only when strict requirements are met, and that overall the health of the state's rivers is improving.
"I think things are getting better," said Rik Rasmussen, a section chief for the State Water Resources Control Board and program manager for fresh water standards. Rasmussen acknowledged that progress on some problems, like salt and ammonia pollution in the Delta, is slow.
Environmental advocates say state and federal law requires that permits should be keeping the state's waters cleaner. The Stockton-based California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, for example, has 65 petitions on file asking the State Water Resources Control Board to send permits back for corrections by the regional water quality control boards that issued them, said Richard McHenry, the alliance's director of compliance.
McHenry has an insider's view of the dispute. He worked 20 years as an engineer for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control board and 18 months for the State Water Resources Control Board before retiring in 2007.
"Over the last two years, I think the regional board has begun to greatly relax limitations. I don't think those permits are as stringent as they used to be," he said.
One petition filed by the sportfishing alliance is directed at the discharge permit for Angels Camp. For years, Angels Camp has disposed all of its treated wastewater to land. But growing population and the danger that wastewater storage ponds could overflow during a rainy winter prompted the city to apply for a permit to discharge treated wastewater to Angels Creek.
The permit allows the discharges only when the creek's flow is high enough so the wastewater would be no more than 5 percent of the stream flow.
The petition against that permit argues that it violates California's 1968 anti-degradation law - which requires a polluter to demonstrate that the public benefit outweighs the harm caused by degrading the stream - and the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act, which restricts backsliding, the practice of issuing a new permit that allows higher concentrations of pollution than the old permit.
Diana Messina, a supervising engineer at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the regional board followed all state and federal laws in preparing the permit, and that the permit protects fish and other users of the stream. In particular, she said the board allowed a "mixing zone" where the initially high ammonia concentrations would quickly be diluted, and that the plan allows passing zones on either side of the mixing area where fish can get around the pollutant.
"Fish are very smart, they can detect if they are being surrounded by a hazard, and they will swim away," Messina said.
State game officials disagree. A July 15 letter from Carol Oz, a scientist for the California Department of Fish and Game, protested that the pollutants would likely harm aquatic life.
"The mixing zone allowed is too large for the creek and would not allow safe fish passage," Oz wrote. Oz also disagrees that a fish will know to avoid pollutants that might harm it.
Instead, she said the narrow channel below the discharge point is likely to be a trouble spot, because fish will stay there to feed on matter swept downstream.
In another case, State Water Resources Control Board staff have come down on the side of the sportfishing alliance, saying that a permit issued in 2008 for the Sonora Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant violated the federal anti-backsliding rule by allowing higher discharges of chlorine into Woods Creek than did the 2001 permit.
The state board asked for more information before it decides whether to bounce that permit back to the regional board for changes.
Thomas L. Scesa, district engineer for the Tuolumne Utilities District, said the petition is misguided. He said the long period that wastewater sits in the district's pond assures that all chlorine will evaporate before wastewater is released into Woods Creek. And he said the tests from 2004 that raised alarm over the chlorine were incorrect.
Scesa disagrees with the idea that pollution permits are becoming more lenient. He said just the opposite is true.
"They are expensive to get. They are expensive to maintain. You have to have them," Scesa said. "The person that loses in the end is the ratepayers."
This just in: The Delta crash is Stockton's fault...Michael Fitzgerald's blog...10-5-09
http://blogs.recordnet.com/sr-mfitzgerald
Dick and Silvia Hinkley write:
We have seen this sing over the last six months as we travel down I-5 to visit our daughter & family in Simi Valley. We have been puzzled because we don’t recall this being publicized up here in the Stockton area. Perhaps we missed it. 
This sign is just more bogus propaganda, probably from South San Joaquin Valley water users. What’s their angle? Here’s Mark Madison, director of Stockton’s Municipal Utilities.  
“It’s part of a … media campaign I believe, to demonstrte there are other stressors on the Delta besides the Southern California/South San Joaquin Valley agriculture einterestes exporting water from the Delta. 
“I believe that has come about prusuant to the decision by Judge (Oliver) Wanger which has resulted in decreased deliveries primarily to famers to the south. Their mission is to demonstrate that they’re not the cause of the problem, i.e., harming Delta smelt.”
Stockton does discharge wastewater into the Delta, Madison said. But it’s treated to “an exceptionally high standard. 
“The clarity is excellent,” – so excellent you’d have trouble telling it apart from bottled water – “it’s safe for bodily contact, and this water is safe for the environment and Dellta habitat,” Madison said. 
So who’s behind this distortion? Let’s take a closer look at a sign atop the sign.
Its creators are Water For All,purportedly “a statewide coalition of influential Latino leaders.” The skeptic, however, may smell Astroturf. Five will get you ten the San Luis Delta Water Authority and the Westlands are behind this group.
San Francisco Chronicle
Delta 'fix' must preserve water rights...Dennis Diemer, Ed Harrington. Dennis Diemer is the general manager of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. Ed Harrington is general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/10/06/EDJO1A1FP2.DTL&type=printable
In California, there are few crises as urgent - or as complex - as reviving the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ecosystem while ensuring that the 25 million Californians who depend on it continue to receive reliable drinking water.
In September, at the end of the legislative session, Sacramento lawmakers tried - but failed - to pass a hastily assembled "fix" for the delta, where fish populations are crashing as a result of too much water being taken. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Municipal Utility District strongly support finding a comprehensive solution for the delta environmental crisis. But we cannot support a legislative "fix" that unfairly jeopardizes our water rights, ignores decades of local ratepayer investments and threatens the reliability of our local water supplies. Let us explain.
Together, the SFPUC and EBMUD serve 3.8 million Bay Area customers in five Bay Area counties - 10 percent of the population of California - yet use only 1.4 percent of the water that is diverted from the delta watershed. We are proud that our customers have reduced their water consumption amid California's continuing drought and that our residential water use is among the lowest in the state (97 gallons per day for the Bay Area as compared with 155 gallons per capita per day for the state.) We completely agree that the water needs of the Central Valley and Southern California must be met - but not by taking water from those who already use less water than anyone else in the state.
Long before the delta was used to supply water to other parts of California, the SFPUC and EBMUD secured water rights upstream of the delta to guarantee supplies of high-quality drinking water to nourish our growing communities. We do value those water rights, but we are also willing to contribute water or funding toward repairing and protecting the delta. But fairness dictates that new requirements to provide additional water for the delta should be proportional to a water agency or community's contribution to the problem, based on scientific, factual findings and public hearings.
Over the years, EBMUD and SFPUC customers have invested billions of dollars from our ratepayers to build and operate water delivery systems, treatment plants and reservoirs. We have not looked to the state or federal budgets or money from fees paid by others who do not benefit from our systems.
One of the chief objectives of legislation to address the delta crisis is to advance a peripheral canal that will bring water to Central and Southern California without further degrading the delta.
We believe that accomplishing this must meet two requirements. First, that the recipients of the benefits should pay the costs - not the ratepayers of the SFPUC and EBMUD. Second, that building or operating such a canal must not deprive the SFPUC and EBMUD and others of their critical water supplies.
All Californians deserve a reliable water supply, and the delta crisis demands an enduring solution. We look forward to working closely with the Legislature to fix the delta and ensure that our local water supply quality and reliability are protected.
Indybay
Wolk Welcomes Federal Delta Plan As Arnold Holds State Hostage...Dan Bacher
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/10/06/18624623.php
Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) last week welcomed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's federal multi-agency effort to develop a plan to take immediate actions to respond to California’s drought and crisis in the Delta.
Wolk Welcomes Federal Delta Plan As Arnold Holds State Hostage...Dan Bacher
Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) last week welcomed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's federal multi-agency effort to develop a plan to take immediate actions to respond to California’s drought and environmental crisis in the Delta.
“This is exactly the kind of active partnership from the federal government that we need for our efforts here in California to be successful in managing this crisis,” said Wolk, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability.
Wolk, allied with fishing groups, conservationists, Delta farmers and environmental justice advocates, was instrumental in September's defeat of a water bond and policy package, pushed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, that would have served as a road map to the peripheral canal.
In welcoming the announcement, she criticized the exclusion of Delta communities from participation in the water package process by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. Schwarzenegger is reportedly still threatening to veto all bills on his desk if he doesn’t get the canal/dams water bill that he wants.
“I am especially encouraged that the Obama administration recognizes the importance of taking immediate actions and has invited all stakeholders to participate," said Wolk. "Frankly, that’s been missing in our efforts here in California. I know that my fellow legislators from the Delta region, as well as the county supervisors from the five Delta counties, are eager to participate in this process and will come to the table with real practical solutions that can be implemented immediately and in the months ahead.”
The Federal-State Action Plan on California Water establishes a new Federal Bay-Delta Leadership Committee that will “coordinate with the State of California and interested stakeholders and develop by December 15 a work plan of short-term actions,” according to a press release issued by the Department of Interior.
The Leadership Committee, in addition to the short- and near-term actions, will also “begin to identify and prioritize key longer-term Federal actions and resources to achieve the purpose of this MOU,” the memorandum stated.
“December 15 is just ten weeks away. It’s time to get to work and I look forward to the soonest opportunity to work with our Federal partners on real solutions for the Delta,” concluded Wolk.
Unfortunately, at the same time that Salazar announced the federal plan, he said would ask the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an independent review of the science underpinning federal water pumping limits mandated under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect Delta smelt and Central Valley salmon. This was clearly in response to a campaign by Central Valley Representatives, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the behest of corporate agribusiness, to reverse federal biological opinions protecting Delta smelt, Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales.
As Salazar announced the request for an independent review of the biological opinions, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein and corporate agribusiness continue to relentlessly campaign to build a peripheral canal and more dams. If built, the canal would drive collapsing populations of salmon and Delta fish over the edge of the extinction.
By threatening to veto all bills if he doesn’t get the water package that he wants, Schwarzenegger is in effect holding the entire state hostage to plans by corporate agribusiness and the Metropolitan Water District to build a canal and more dams to export more water from the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.
With both federal and state legislation regarding the fate of the California Delta now being proposed, it is essential that Delta advocates oppose any legislative package that includes a peripheral canal, more dams and any language allowing increased water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
What we really need is for the state and federal governments to finally comply with the provisions of both the state and federal Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws that require less water exports out of the estuary to protect imperiled fish populations. We don't need a budget-busting peripheral canal or new dams - we desperately need compliance with existing laws protecting Central Valley and Delta fish and prosecution for those that refuse to obey them!
MOU Early Actions:
In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the heads of six key Federal agencies, the Leadership Committee would develop a Federal Work Plan to address a number of issues with early actions including:
• An interagency science program to provide a common scientific basis for management decisions in the near-term and long-term;
• Habitat restoration projects in the Suisun Marsh and other biologically critical sites;
• Water quality threats to the Delta;
• Flood risk and levee stabilization;
• Projects aimed at mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change on Delta stability;
• A coordinated process for undertaking regulatory actions by Federal agencies in the Bay-Delta;
• Recovery Act and other projects the Bay-Delta and areas affected by the Bay-Delta ecosystem and water supplies passing through the Delta; and
• Conservation, recycling, and efficiencies in water use, and land stewardship activities that benefit the Bay Delta ecosystem.
Link Dept. of Interior Bay-Delta MOU http://www.interior.gov/documents/BayDeltaMOUSigned.pdf
Inside Bay Area
Editorial: New life for an old river; settlement revives the San Joaquin...MediaNews editorial
http://www.insidebayarea.com/opinion/ci_13491966
FOR ALMOST six decades, much of the San Joaquin River has been a dry, lifeless stretch of sand and rock. That is no longer the case thanks to passage of the Ominbus Public Lands Bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law last week.
It comes after an 18-year court battle over California's second largest river and implements the San Joaquin Restoration Settlement Act.
Last Thursday, water was released from the Friant Dam into the San Joaquin in a historic first step to restore the river and eventually bring back the salmon that once were plentiful.
It will take several years to undo the ecological damage done in the 1940s, when the Friant Dam was built and 95 percent of the water was diverted for irrigation. The result was 60 miles of dry riverbed and the extinction of the state's second largest salmon population.
Once steady water flows in the San Joaquin have been established, salmon will be reintroduced in 2012. The goal is to have 30,000 spring-run Chinook coming back to the river each year to spawn.
The water flows that began last Thursday are the beginning of one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation. As is true of all major water policymaking in California, reaching a settlement on the San Joaquin was far from easy.
Success required cooperation and compromise among a number of interested parties, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friant water users and the federal government.
The settlement addresses the needs of farmers and other water users as well as fishing and recreational interests, most of which were willing to work toward a solution that is now starting to bring life back to the San Joaquin.
Nearly 20 percent of the water will remain in the river instead of being diverted for agriculture. However, farmers also win because they get greater reliability of minimum water supplies.
Also, the increased flows will help reduce polluted agricultural runoff from farms, which diminish water quality in the Bay-Delta region.
The river will not be restored to its original volume, which is not possible given the dependence on it for irrigation and drinking water.
But the scaled-down San Joaquin will be in far better condition than it has been for 60 years. It once again will be a living river with enough water and habitat to be self-sustaining for salmon and other native fish.
The San Joaquin revival is a good example of what balanced water policy should be. Our only complaint is that it took too long to get there. This projects demonstrates that water projects can satisfy the needs of varied users without destroying a river habitat as long as competing interests are willing to work together and compromise.
High Country News
Vegas forges ahead on pipeline plan
Great Basin pumping project is closer to reality...Matt Jenkins
http://www.hcn.org/issues/41.17/vegas-forges-ahead-on-pipeline-plan/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C=
When Mulroy announced her plan in 1989, the proposal drew a round of more than 4,000 legal protests from ranchers, as well as from the federal government. Since then, the Water Authority has adroitly moved to head off many of those challenges. Mulroy has spent $79 million in eastern Nevada buying up ranches and related water rights. (The Water Authority acquired several thousand cows and sheep as a result of those deals, and now has a sideline called Great Basin Ranch, and its own cattle brand.)
In 2006, Mulroy neutralized the most significant source of opposition when she struck a deal with the U.S. Department of the Interior, which was worried that the project could harm springs in three national wildlife refuges and Great Basin National Park. The government agreed to drop its protests in exchange for a promise from the Water Authority to fund a program that is now monitoring groundwater levels and the project's potential effects on wildlife.
In Snake Valley, another potential source of opposition came from the state of Utah, which shares the aquifer there with Nevada. But the Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and approved by Congress in 2004, required Nevada and Utah to negotiate a division of the water in Snake Valley.
That's the agreement released this August. "The purpose of the agreement is to build some kind of cooperative management of Snake Valley so we don't have a pumping war in the West Desert," says Boyd Clayton, Utah's deputy state engineer.
The deal is also an important part of a bigger bargain between Utah and Nevada. In the past, Mulroy has said that if Utah doesn't support her quest for groundwater from the Great Basin, she would respond by monkey-wrenching Utah's plans to build a pipeline from Lake Powell to St. George, the fastest-growing part of the state. Boyd Clayton, the deputy Utah state engineer, says that the recent Snake Valley water-sharing agreement reduces the risk of interference. "Clearly, if Nevada perceives that we're not trying to deal with them equitably on this issue," he says, "they're less likely to be helpful and equitable as Utah tries to develop the Lake Powell pipeline."
That has left Millard County in a delicate position. "Sen. (Bob) Bennett's (R-Utah) office has contacted us a few times, saying we need to be a little careful," says Walker, the Millard County chairman. "We're sort of stuck in the middle." 
But with its potential hurdles out of the way, the Water Authority has received approval from the Nevada state engineer, the state's top water regulator, for 114,755 acre-feet of water from Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave, Spring and Snake valleys -- enough for more than 1.5 million people in Las Vegas.
Tim Durbin is a former United States Geological Survey hydrologist who for about a decade did contract work for the Water Authority. In 2001, he began designing a model that the Authority could use to predict the effects of pumping on the Great Basin aquifers. The computer model was a crucial piece of evidence presented to the state engineer during hearings about whether to grant water rights for the project. Yet when Durbin ran the model, he says, it became clear that any amount of pumping would have an effect.
"Southern Nevada Water Authority, for years, has been claiming that somehow they can Pipeline develop this with no impacts, and that is just absolute total nonsense," he says. "There is absolutely no way of developing groundwater in these valleys without having impacts."
But when Durbin testified before the state engineer in 2006, "A lot of pressure was put on me to, in some ways, disown my own work," he says. "The report I prepared was, in effect, taken away from me and rewritten by (the Water Authority) to remove anything that suggested impacts."
Durbin no longer works with the Water Authority; he now has a contract with the National Park Service to help analyze the project's potential impacts. The only way that the project's impacts can be reduced, he says, is to pursue targeted pumping that avoids the most sensitive springs. "The extractions can be designed to focus the impacts on certain parts of the hydrologic system and away from others," he says.
For her part, Mulroy says that Durbin's model was less sophisticated than another one that the Water Authority is now developing. And, she says, her agency will finesse its pumping to minimize impacts on the desert springs. "If you follow Durbin's line of thinking, no groundwater can be touched, period," says Mulroy. But a more flexible approach can prove more sustainable. "You change your pumping strategies, year to year. You move pumping around. You let basins rest. And you artificially recharge."
Under an artificial recharge program, annual snowmelt from the mountains can be channeled into infiltration basins in the desert valleys to "recharge" the aquifer with water. "That's why we bought the ranches," says Mulroy. "If you put infiltration basins at the base of those mountains, you can get that runoff into the ground rather than have it run off and evaporate on the playa."
The one thing that could derail the project now is money. Four years ago, the price tag was pegged at $2 billion. Today, that number stands at $3.5 billion. And when it comes to how the Water Authority will finance the project, Mulroy is keeping her cards close to her vest. "At this point, we're spending only the money that we absolutely have to spend," Mulroy says. "The combination of a very effective conservation plan" -- with correspondingly reduced water sales -- "and a crashed economy with no connection charges" -- the hookup fees for new homes through which the Authority generates most of its revenue -- "have left revenues pretty stressed."
Even if the Water Authority is in a thrifty bent of mind right now, Mulroy says her agency is prepared to reach for the underground water when the moment is right. Much depends on the now-more-than-decade-long drought on Colorado River, and on yet another agreement. Three years ago, the seven states that draw water from the river negotiated a set of ground rules for how to share shortages if Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river's two main reservoirs, continue to shrink. 
Thanks to those rules, 1,075 is now the most important number in Vegas. The water level in Lake Mead -- one of the key indicators of the state of the system -- is now at 1,093 feet. When it drops below 1,075 feet, the first round of shared shortages will kick in on the renewed series of negotiations between the seven states -- and, Mulroy says, the Water Authority will launch construction of the groundwater project. 
"We need to start," she says, "the minute we hit 1,075."
Images from Vegas forges ahead on pipeline plan
http://www.hcn.org/issues/41.17/vegas-forges-ahead-on-pipeline-plan/image_viewer
by Sources: USGS; SNWA
Washington Post
EPA to brief Boxer on toxic school drinking water...GARANCE BURKE, The Associated Press
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/05/AR2009100503337_pf.html
FRESNO, Calif. -- A California senator called on the head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to disclose how the agency plans to address the widespread problem of toxic drinking water in the nation's schools.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer wrote the agency in response to an Associated Press investigation showing water supplies at thousands of schools have been found to contain unsafe levels of lead, pesticides and dozens of other toxics.
Contaminants have surfaced at public and private schools in all 50 states, and in small towns and inner cities alike over the last decade. But the AP found the problem has gone largely unmonitored by the federal government, even as the number of water safety violations has multiplied.
Boxer, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the EPA, said she took action out of "deep concern" that polluted water supplies could be harming school children as their young bodies are developing.
"The EPA is responsible for overseeing the safety of our nation's drinking water systems," Boxer wrote in a letter sent Monday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "I am sure that you recognize the importance of acting quickly to address any report of pollution in the water our children drink."
An EPA spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
The AP's analysis focused on schools with wells, the 8 to 11 percent of the nation's schools for which the EPA collects drinking water quality data.
In the past, EPA officials have said that schools with unsafe water represent only a small percentage of the nation's 132,500 public and private schools. They also have said the agency lacks the authority to require that all schools test their water, and can only provide guidance on environmental practices.
EPA officials also acknowledge the agency's database of schools in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act is plagued with errors and omissions. The problem goes beyond schools that use wells, since schools in Baltimore, Seattle and other large cities that draw water from public utilities have shown contamination, as well.
Citing a "lack of a national strategy for monitoring schools' water," Boxer asked EPA officials to explain how the agency oversees and enforces drinking water quality rules to her committee staff.
Boxer also requested an outline of specific actions taken to address problems in schools' drinking water, a timetable for when those efforts will be completed and a report of any new legal authorities needed to protect students from toxic drinking water.
New York Times
Interior Sends Polar Bear Habitat Designation to White House...ALLISON WINTER, Greenwire
http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/10/06/06greenwire-interior-sends-polar-bear-habitat-designation-12754.html?sq=endangered species&st=cse&scp=6&pagewanted=print
The Interior Department moved closer to establishing habitat protections for the polar bear yesterday by sending its proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.
The habitat protections will add another layer in what has become a complicated process for protecting the bear, fraught with concerns and legal complaints from environmentalists and industry groups.
The Bush administration listed the polar bear as a threatened species last year because of its melting ice habitat. The decision -- itself the result of a lawsuit -- brought on a bevy of other legal complaints from environmentalists, hunting groups, industry groups and the state of Alaska.
The habitat protections could create more controversy over how federal officials should deal with climate change that is changing the bear's current habitat and what level of protections the bears need from oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.
Melting sea ice is the greatest threat to the polar bears. But both the Bush and Obama administrations balked at setting national climate policy under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act or using the act itself to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
An exception included in the polar bear's listing rule allows oil and gas companies to operate in the bear's habitat, prompting environmentalists to sue the administration.
"The [habitat designation] would have to cover not only the habitat where the polar bear already exists, but the habitat that the polar bear lost," said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that sued over the bear. "And it is going to have to do something to take into account global warming and Arctic melting."
John Kostyack, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, suggested that the rule should include a robust analysis of the areas where the bear could be most threatened because of oil and gas development. Such development is not considered a key threat to the bear, but environmentalists say the federal government needs to reduce stressors on the species.
"It has to grapple with oil and gas development," Kostyack said. "The first rule from climate scientists is that the first thing you do is take care of other stressors and try to find a way to help the species maintain its resilience."
In the final months of the Bush administration, the Interior Department launched a controversial plan to ramp up offshore drilling in Alaska, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The Obama administration is moving forward with that plan. The department closed a public comment period last month but has not set a timetable for a final decision.
The Interior Department agreed to designate critical habitat for the polar bear as part of a partial settlement reached last year with environmental groups, which had sued for more stringent protections for the animal.
The Endangered Species Act states that wildlife officials should determine critical habitat at the time of listing, but in practice, the agency rarely does so. The Interior Department did not include those protections in the polar bear listing.
Critical habitat designations prohibit federal agencies from taking actions that harm protected species within those areas.
The settlement, filed in federal court in California last year, sets a deadline of June 30, 2010, for Interior to designate critical habitat for the bear.
Where the Dust Blows and Settles...Editorial
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/opinion/06tue3.html?pagewanted=print
It is tempting to think the dust storm that enveloped eastern Australia last month — choking Sydney with an estimated 5,000 tons of orange dust — is an anomalous event, the result of a decade-long drought. There is solid evidence that the number of dust storms is on the rise and a strong possibility that they may become more common as climate change advances.
On the global scale of dust storms, the one in Australia was modest — the big ones, in the Sahara and northern China, can throw hundreds of thousands of tons into the atmosphere. Seen from space, they look like — and are — entire weather systems, cyclones of particulates following the prevailing winds.
For the most part, these storms are the result of human activity: capturing dust liberated by poor agricultural practices, loss of native ground cover and deforestation. Scientists are only beginning to understand their many, complex effects. Saharan dust may help nourish the upper canopies of South American rainforest. And dust blown from China out over the Pacific Ocean tends to provide the micronutrients — especially iron — needed to cause phytoplankton blooms, which ultimately remove some carbon from the atmosphere.
In the freight a dust storm carries, there are also microscopic particles including spores, viruses and bacteria. Some scientists are beginning to believe they may be contributing to the spread of meningitis in Africa, asthma in the Caribbean and valley fever in California.
There is nothing to be done about the wind that stirs up dust storms and carries them around the globe. Nor is there anything immediate to be done about pervasive drought. But there is everything to be done about reducing the supply of dust by improving agricultural practices, including water management and restoring native cover in degraded, semi-arid regions of the world.
Reducing desertification — keeping the dust on the ground as soil, part of a stable, living ecosystem — will be a critical task faced by every country capable of raising the dust and every country where the dust eventually settles. That list includes most of the world.
Google
Abramoff-related trial goes to the jury...PETE YOST (AP) – 10-5-09
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/
ALeqM5jO5ggoCXgCPZFV6CVvUz67K2PnrgD9B560P82
WASHINGTON — The second trial in the long-running influence peddling scandal surrounding imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff went to the jury Monday with the defense arguing that a former member of Abramoff's team is being prosecuted for guilt by association.
Unlike other people implicated in the probe, former lobbyist Kevin Ring is fighting the criminal charges the Justice Department brought against him rather than pleading guilty in an effort to be granted leniency by a judge. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle is presiding over the case.
During a trial that began 3 1/2 weeks ago, Ring's lawyers maintained Ring was an excellent lobbyist who stayed completely within the bounds of the law.
"It was his job to influence public officials," one of Ring's attorneys, Andrew Wise, told the jury. "There is no question he used what were traditional tools including
entertainment, meals, tickets to games."
"When persuasion was done it was based on politics, sometimes on being a relentless pest" and in other instances "begging," said Wise.
Prosecutors said Ring's actions rewarded government employees for official favors done and provided inducements for future acts on behalf of Abramoff clients.
"Kevin Ring learned to lobby from Jack Abramoff; a lot of what he was doing was another form of bribery," assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Leotta told the jury. "This was a long-term scheme, executed over a period of years. ... bribe after bribe."
Ring is charged with conspiracy, obstruction and with engaging in a corrupt pay-to-play scheme in which he provided a stream of things of value to public officials in return for official action.
A former aide to two powerful Republican lawmakers, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., and Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, Ring in 1999 joined more than a dozen former Capitol Hill aides whom Abramoff lured to work with him.
At Ring's trial, prosecutors have focused on the fact that he worked with colleagues who have admitted committing serious crimes.
In turn, Ring's lawyers tried to persuade the jury that the government was unfairly trying to equate Ring's behavior with that of Abramoff.
"It took the prosecution six words before they mentioned Jack Abramoff," Wise told the jurors. This is "a case that is long on guilt by association."
One focal point of the government's case was Ring's role in passing along requests from Doolittle's office that eventually resulted in a $5,000-a-month consulting job for the congressman's wife. In closing arguments, Leotta said Julie Doolittle was paid $96,000 in all.
"They put the congressman's wife on retainer as a way of putting the congressman on retainer," Leotta told the jury.
One Abramoff e-mail regarding Doolittle's wife introduced at the trial stated that the lobbyist wanted Mrs. Doolittle to help out but didn't want her to be "overburdened with work."
One unusual aspect of the trial was that when Ring's lawyers called a top aide to Ashcroft and the aide's wife to testify on Ring's behalf, the witnesses claimed their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.
Prosecutors say David Ayers helped Ring get Justice Department money for one of his clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, to build a $16.3 million jail on their reservation. Prosecutors say Ring, with Abramoff signing off, then gave Ayers highly sought-after tickets to the 2002 NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament in Washington. Laura Ayers also refused to testify. Prosecutors say Laura Ayers asked Ring for Washington Wizards basketball tickets in January 2003, saying she wanted to give them to her husband for his birthday. At the time they refused to testify, Wise said in court that he believes the Ayers could help prove Ring's innocence.
The only other defendant in the Abramoff scandal to go on trial was David Safavian, once the Bush White House's chief procurement officer, who was found guilty of lying to investigators by two separate juries after winning a second trial on appeal.
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