Merced County

Anatomy of the housing bubble

Submitted: Nov 04, 2007

Readers familiar with Gray's Anatomy (the book, not the TV show), will recall it is full of detailed, numbered and labeled diagrams of every part of the physical human body, the result of a long scientific tradition begun by body snatchers and grave robbers.

We have recently come across a website, http://the housingbubbleblog.com, which approaches reports of the crash of the housing bubble with the same obsessive, scientific focus on detail. Ben Jones of Flagstaff AZ, author of the site, may be the present-day Vesalius of the crash of the speculative housing boom. Although it is possible Jones is a member of the foreclosure vulture flock, even if he is out speculating on the disaster it is well to recall how useful vultures are in the natural world.

Jones gathers a great abundance of news clips from home and abroad on the housing-bubble collapse. He is performing an extremely valuable service, making the depth and breadth of the crash visible beyond the confines of any particular community in America or elsewhere -- from local housing markets to high finance to foreign markets to the economic consequences beyond the housing bubble crash. These days, The Housing Bubble Blog is an indespensible site. We are very grateful to Jones for his fine work.

Badlands Journal editorial board
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A few random selections from the blog's latest posts:

From the report: “2. What happened in 2004? The relationship between Californian house prices and disposable income as a multiple of long rates broke down in 2004; we believe that aggressive sales of ‘affordability products’ (e.g., subprime, option ARMs, home equity loans), which spiked in 2004 (see Exhibit 2), drove Californian home prices well-above levels supported by economic conditions.”
“Now that the secondary market for these affordability products has all but evaporated, we expect home prices in California to return to normalized levels (i.e. levels implied by current and forecast disposable income in California as well as U.S. ten-year treasury yields); this implies a 35-40% fall.”
“As of last August the median house price in California was $589K, but economic conditions support prices between $350-380K (see Exhibit 1); material price declines are likely, in our view.”

“‘In general, the mortgage company wants to see a consumer default on three separate payments before considering a loan modification,’ says Elizabeth Schomburg, senior VP of the Family Credit Counseling Service in Chicago.”
“Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, says its member agencies in areas from Southern California to Texas have seen the same trend. ‘One counselor in Amarillo, Texas, just told me ‘It seems to me they almost encourage people to fall behind in order to find help,’ Ms. Cunningham says.”

“Canfor Corp. president and CEO Jim Shepard said Friday he won’t hesitate to take more sawmill shutdowns in the face of a continuing poor market and high Canadian dollar.”
“‘If this market ratchets down, we will ratchet down our production, full stop,’ Shepherd told analysts and reporters on a conference call to discuss the company’s $42.1-million third-quarter loss.”
“Prince George Trucking Association president Stan Wheeldon said there was already a reduction in work in the summer which meant more people chasing less work.”

Retail changes? “Wal-Mart is selling 26-inch high-definition TVs for $450 this weekend. Circuit City plans to give away consumer electronics prizes every day for the next 30 days, starting Sunday.”
“Retailers, eyeing the housing slump and the credit crunch that has decimated consumer confidence, are slashing prices early in the hope of snagging a bigger share of the annual Christmas spending spree. That spree is expected to be more subdued than usual, said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.”

“A man waiting to transfer money at the scene told Sai Gon Giai Phong he earlier bought a $300,000 apartment which now costs $2 million. ‘There’s no business more profitable than this,’ another sitting nearby intervened.”
“Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung promised government will impose progressive taxes on housing speculation to help deflate an impending bubble in the real estate market.”
“Ho Chi Minh City recently saw disturbing degrees of speculation-based property sales ominous of a bubbling market when thousands surrounded a housing site last week to purchase flats even before foundations had been laid.”
“Prospective buyers hired proxies to wait in long winding lines for registration applications, with at least one person paid some US$1,000 simply stand in line.”

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For shame

Submitted: Oct 24, 2007

The Valley has always been a hard place, no doubt of that. Merced County probably hasn't been better than the fifth hungriest county in the state at the best of times in the last decade (given poverty statistics on California counties), but now, in the wake of the greatest building boom in its history, it ranks as the third hungriest county in the state and its foreclosure rate is tops in the nation. One in ten go to bed hungry and one in 68 are in some stage of home foreclosure.

For shame -- if only the decision makers in Merced County had any shame. But in the county, for a period of nearly 15 years, decision makers have paid no attention to anything but the arrival of UC Merced and the residential development it induced. The finance, insurance and real estate special interests behind local landowners, developers and the campus employed legions of propagandists to confuse the Merced public to the extent that today, it cannot connect three dots a millimeter apart: UC Merced=speculative housing boom=concealment of chronic poverty. Now,that UC development didn't pan out to universal rising of all ships, the news of chronic poverty is back along with the big hand out to the state and federal government. It's just the latest version of the Great Valley Whine. But it would have been better if all the prominent Valley plutocrats who donated to UC Merced for the magnificent Blue and Gold Future had instead devoted their excess wealth to alleviating the Present Poverty. This is particularly true in the case of some of our wealthiest citizens, who make so much of their money off government subsidies, like Gallo Farming Co., which hauled down $855,000 in federal subsidies between 2003-2005 with a reported annual income of around $50 million from the largest dairy operation in the US. How much of the $996,000 subsidy over those years to the Nickel Family LLC state Senate candidate Wiley Nickel use for that dismal excuse for a campaign against the incumbent in 2006? Whatever that ridiculous excuse for a political campaign cost, it would have been better spent on school lunch programs.

At the risk of stalling the flow of invective, the editorial board thought at this point it might be interesting to take a trip down UC Bobcatflak Memory Lane to get a better look at the real leaders who jerk the chains of elected officials in Merced and other counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Although UC Merced now chooses to keep the membership of its foundation board of trustees concealed from the public, they were appointed with great fanfare and pride. It is a rare gathering of the wise Valley leaders, many of whom personally profited from inside information on the UCM campus location in the speculative real estate boom centered in the north San Joaquin Valley. In fact, UC Merced could be described as long-term blarney and short-term land boondoggle. These wise leaders of finance, insurance and real estate are responsible for the foreclosure rate in Merced County of one in 68 households and for moving the county from fifth to third place in the poverty/hunger scale statewide. Although space does not permit discussion the ironies of any particular notable, Valley people will get some dark, retrospective chuckles out of the list. UC Merced should have adopted a Rattle Snake as its mascot. The time is Spring, 2000. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor, is in full cry:
(see Herself in full cowgirl regalia at http://www.ucmerced.edu/news_articles/09302003_uc_merced_board_of.asp)

March 17, 2000

CONTACT: Ron Goble, Interim Communications Director, University of California, Merced, (209) 724-4400 or (559) 734-9046, ronald.goble@ucop.edu

UC Merced introduces foundation board of trustees
http://www.ucinthevalley.org/articles/2000/march1700.htm
MERCED -- University of California, Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey has unveiled the university's 82-member Foundation Board of Trustees composed of some of the most prominent individuals in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond.

The founding UCM Board of Trustees will meet in an advisory capacity and offer counsel and direction to Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey and her Vice Chancellors.

"Our Trustees are some of the most respected and highest profile corporate and professional leaders representing such vital valley interests as agriculture, oil, technology, medicine, law, education and science," said Tomlinson-Keasey. "We are overwhelmed that so many San Joaquin Valley and statewide leaders have chosen to join the UC Merced family. Their enlightened and insightful advice will be invaluable to me and help assure the success of the new campus."

Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey explained: "Initially, we were contemplating a much smaller board of trustees. However, when we realized the interest of Central Valley leaders and the needs of the new campus, we thought we should start with a full complement of trustees. Thus, the UC Merced founding board will be the size and status of other UC campus boards."

The blue-ribbon board consists of several Silicon Valley executives from such companies as Lucent Technologies and Sun Microsystems. Several current and former members of the UC Board of Regents included in the UC Merced Board of Trustees are current UC Regent chairman, John Davies, former chairs Leo Kolligian, Meredith Khachigian and Roy Brophy, current Regent Odessa Johnson, former Regents Carol Chandler and Ralph Ochoa. In addition, UC President Richard C. Atkinson, and Emeritus Presidents David Gardner and Jack Peltason are members of the new board.

Tomlinson-Keasey noted that several board members were valley natives, but now reside elsewhere in California, such as former Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, actor/producer Mike Connors and former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho.

The majority of the UCM Trustees, approximately 50, are CEOs of their corporations or organizations. All are prominent, but many have national and international prominence such as Robert Gallo of E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, developer Fritz Grupe of Stockton, John Harris of Harris Ranch in Coalinga, President Eugene Voiland of Aera Energy in Bakersfield, and William Lyons Sr., agriculture leader from the Modesto area.

The first meeting of the new board will be held March 22 at the County Bank in Merced. The board is representative in size and structure to other UC campus boards which have traditionally taken years to put in place, said Tomlinson-Keasey.

The roster of all members of the board, their titles, affiliations and locations are:

Chuck Ahlem, Partner, Hilmar Cheese Company, Hilmar;

Richard C. Atkinson, President, University of California, Oakland;

Joseph Barkett, MD, Chairman of the Board, Sunset Corp., Acampa;

Dr. Kelly F. Blanton, Founder and Chairman, Epylon.com Corp., San Francisco;

Robert Bliss, Senior Vice President; NEC/BCS (West), Inc., Van Nuys;

Calvin Bright, President and Chairman, Bright Development, Modesto;

Roy Brophy, Former Chairman, UC Board of Regents, Fair Oaks;

Jim Burke, chairman, Jim Burke Ford, Bakersfield;

Bob Carpenter, President, Leap, Carpenter, Kemps, Merced;

Carl Cavaiani, President, Santa Fe Nut Company, Ballico;

Carol Chandler, California Women for Agriculture, Chandler Farms, Selma

Tony Coelho, Chairman, C/O Gore 2000, Washington, D.C.;

H.A. "Gus" Collin, Chairman, Sunsweet Growers, Inc., Yuba City;

J.F. Collins, President, J.F. Collins Co., Inc., Merced;

Mike Connors, Actor/Producer, Encino;

Roger Coover, President and Publisher, The Stockton Record, Stockton;

Dean Cortopassi, President/CEO, Santomo, Inc., Stockton;

Bert Crane Sr., President, Bert Crane Ranches, Merced;

Jim Cunningham, owner, Cunningham Ranch, LeGrand;

Frank Damrell Jr., Judge, United States District Court, Sacramento;

John Davies, Attorney-at-Law, Allen Matkins, Leck, Gamble & Mallory, San Diego;

Rayburn Dezember, Bank Board of Chairman, Bakersfield;

Diana Dooley, Attorney at Law, Paden & Dooley, Visalia;

James Duarte, President, Duarte Nursery, Inc., Hughson

Ben Duran, President, Merced College, Merced;

John Evans, Chairman of the Board, Evans Communications, Turlock;

Ted Falasco, President, Central Valley Concrete, Los Banos;

Robert Foy, Chairman of the Board, California Water Service Company, Stockton;

Robert Gallo, President, E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto;

John Garamendi, Yucaipa Company, Washington, D.C.;

David Gardner, President Emeritus, University of California, San Mateo;

Lewis Geyser, President, Destination Villages, Santa Barbara;

Price Giffen, President, Giffen Company, Fresno;

Mark Grewal, Vice President and Director, Boswell Company, Corcoran;

Fritz Grupe, Chairman/CEO, Grupe Company, Stockton

Ann Gutcher, Retired 1/28/00, Kern County Board of Trade, Bakersfield;

John Harris, President, Harris Farms and Harris Inns, Coalinga;

Joe Hartley, Director, Global Technology, Sun Microsystems, Palo Alto;

Daryl Hatano, Vice President, Public Policy, Semiconductor Industry Association, San Jose;

Tom Hawker, President/CEO, County Bank, Merced;

Odessa Johnson, Modesto Junior College, Modesto;

Rafer Johnson, Chairman, Special Olympics, Culver City;

Art Kamangar, Kamangar Ranches, Merced;

Edward Kashian, Chairman, Lance Kashian & Company, Fresno;

George Kelley, founder, Stevinson Ranch, Stevinson;

Meredith Khachigian, Former Chairman, UC Board of Regents, San Clemente;

Dorothy Kolligian, Civic Leader, Fresno;

Leo Kolligian, Former Chairman, UC Board of Regents, Fresno;

Joe Levy, Chairman of the Board, Gottschalks, Inc., Fresno;

Paul Lo, Attorney at Law, Allen Polgar, Proietti & Fagalde, Merced

Robert Luster, President/CEO, Luster Group, Inc., San Francisco;

William Lyons, Sr., President, Lyons Investments and Mapes Ranch, Modesto;

George Martin, Attorney at Law and Civic Leader, Borton, Pettini & Conron, Bakersfield;

Harold Meek, President, Three Way Chevrolet, Bakersfield;

Ginger Moorhouse, Publisher and Chairman of the Board, The Bakersfield Californian, Bakersfield;

Tapan Munroe, President, Munroe Consulting, Inc., Moraga;

John Myers, Attorney at Law and Rancher, Beverly Hills;

Kate Nyegaard, Civic Leader, Board of Directors George Lucas Foundation, Modesto;

Marilyn Ohanian, Psychologist & Civic Leader, State of California, Fresno

Ralph Ochoa, President, Ochoa & Sillas, Sacramento;

Richard Otter, Senior Vice President, Salomon Smith Barney, San Francisco;

Ashit Padwal, Director, Global Public Affairs, Lucent Technologies, Fremont;

Jack Peltason, President Emeritus, University of California, The Donald L. Bren Foundation, Newport Beach;

Samuel T. Reeves, President, Pinnacle Trading Inc., Fresno;

Curtis A. Riggs, President, VIA Adventures, Merced;

Kenneth Robbins, Attorney at Law, Mason, Robbins, Gnass & Browning, Merced;

Guillermo Rodriguez Jr., Assistant to the President, PG&E, San Francisco;

Fred Ruiz, Chairman of the Board, Ruiz Foods, Dinuba

Thomas Smith, President, CALCOT, Bakersfield;

Edward Spaulding, Director of Government and Public Affairs, The Chevron Companies, Bakersfield;

Jerry Stanners, President, Stanners Consulting, Bakersfield;

Timothy Steele, Vice President, Siemens Information and Communications Networks, Inc., Santa Clara;

Cleveland Stockton, Attorney at Law, Stockton & Sadler, Modesto;

Gerald Tahajian, Attorney at Law, Gerald Lee Tahajian, Inc., Fresno;

Ann Veneman, Attorney at Law, Sacramento;

E.J. (Gene) Voiland, President/CEO, Aera Energy LLC, Bakersfield;

Daniel Whitehurst, President, Farewell, Inc. Fresno;

Carol Whiteside, President, Great Valley Center, Modesto;

Roger Wood, Vice President, J.R. Wood, Inc., Atwater;

O. James Woodward III, Attorney at Law and Civic Leader, Fresno;

Stewart Woolf, President, Los Gatos Tomato, Inc., Huron;

Michael Zagaris, President, Zagaris Companies, Modesto.

The Badlands Journal editorial board, focused on social, economic and environmental justice, is frequently challenged in sneering tones by elected officials and their staffs to provide positive solutions to the questions it raises. Numerous warnings have appeared through the years on this site. None were heeded by the decision makers and certainly none by the puppetmasters behind the elected officials. In fact, decision makers are more hostile than ever. Presumably, that is their method of sublimating shame. They are human, they must see what is happening, but shame is an inconvenient emotion in the heart of American leaders at any level of government.

The litany: five of the seven Merced City Council are realtors; three of the five county supervisors are large landowners (one representing some of the nation's top recipients of farm subsidies), a fourth (failed dairyman) represents farmer/landowners (brother-in-law of the county farm bureau executive director and future president of California Women for Agriculture), and the fifth represents Atwater realtors (whose greed belies their size). We don't have the data on the Atwater and Livingston councils. The state senator is from Salinas and the assemblywoman is from Stockton (both with Livingston addresses at the moment). On behalf of UC Merced, finance, insurance and real estate special interests, landowners and members of his family and friends, the congressman led three attacks on the federal Endangered Species Act in his short, disgraceful term of office, most of it spent in former Rep. RichPAC Pombo's back pocket. These days, he seems to be leading unsuccessful attempts to subsidize fruit and nut growers, no doubt attempting to forestall the consequences of massive overproduction of almonds and the little problem with the Honey Bee.

For shame. These leaders, backed by the culture of Fat City easy virtue provided by the UC/Great Valley Center, spent 15 years focused madly on future residents of Merced, ignoring those who lived here now. They conducted a massive propaganda campaign against the Present Tense, which fed effortlessly into a speculative housing bubble that, in its aftermath, has caused a global credit crisis. It is a record of so nearly perfect social, economic and environmental injustice that it recalls a comment:

How can one defend a system that creates wealth by making the majority poor?
– Henry C. K. Liu (quoted by Mike Whitney) in Market Oracle:
http://marketoracle.co.uk/Article2481.html

It has taken a world credit crisis to slow our leaders down. They aren't stupid. They are quite cunning, calculating and subtle in the pursuit of wealth -- so much so, so nakedly in accord with what our congressman calls in reverent tones,

"the Valley Way of Life."

In fact, local government in Merced County (as is it in most places in California) is totally controlled by wealthy special interests. It is the planet on which our leaders have chosen to live, as opposed to where we live. If it weren't for the consequences of their 15 years of purely speculative thought, we might call it pathetic because it is veering so far so fast from the Earth of pain, suffering and the real, so long ignored economy of this county, agriculture, in irreversible decline because farmers have become primarily landowners in their minds.

It's hard to measure all the government aid that comes into this county. Between 1995-2005, the Environmental Working Group estimates that $186 million came to Merced farmers in subsidies. EWG admits that its records so far are only partial, but it has made strides recently on pass-throughs to individuals from agribusiness corporations. Still, with all that federal aid (not including publicly subsidized irrigation and all the other little things government does for our "family farmers," they are selling their land for subdivisions and commercial sites. This is the growth that kills. If land stays in agricultural production, the society has an opportunity to improve the farming system. Residential and commercial real estate development kills the option, not to mention what it does to the environment.

As for the public funds flowing into UC Merced, who can tell? What is the price for a well pimped, witless virgin ? All her relatives from the village in Mindanao are surrounding her to support her career in Manila to get their handouts.

Pathetic. Cruel. But Very Pacific Rim.

Badlands Journal editorial board
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10-20-07
Modesto Bee
Jobless numbers ratchet up for Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin
Housing crisis cited for construction work loss in three counties...Christina Salerno

http://www.modbee.com/local/story/98241.html
Unemployment rates in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties swelled above last year's averages, the result of a shaky economy and deepening housing crisis. The three counties each gained at least a percentage point from the previous year, with Stanislaus County recording the biggest jump. The county went from an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent in September 2006 to 8 percent last month, according to state Employment Development figures released Friday. The construction sector, reeling from the downturn in home sales, posted the steepest decline over 12 months, 28,600 jobs statewide.
Modesto Bee
10-11-07
Valley home prices continue to plummet
Merced takes turn at top for lost homes
1 in 68 houses in county got foreclosure notices; SJ, Stanislaus not far behind...J.N. SBRANTI

http://www.modbee.com/local/story/90253.html
It's a title no one wants, but counties in the Northern San Joaquin Valley keep passing around the undesirable honor of having the nation's highest home foreclosure rate.Merced County is the latest to get that title, pushing Stanislaus County into the No. 2 spot and San Joaquin County into No. 3.September filings show Merced County had the nation's highest percentage of homes in the foreclosure process. An estimated 1 in 68 homes there received some type of foreclosure notice last month, according to RealtyTrac, which monitors such statistics. That's more than eight times the national rate of 1 in 557 homes...
Merced Sun-Star
County ranks third in country for hunger
Food summit brings together several groups to try to solve the nutritional problems facing Merced's poor residents...Scott Jason

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/60283.html
Merced County may be a thick slice of the Central Valley breadbasket, but more than a third of its poor adults scramble to eat the crumbs.
Yet 25,000 low-income adults here face that problem regularly, and an estimated 38.2 million Americans have trouble putting food on the table.
Though the statistic may drop jaws, it's not filling stomachs. That challenge has been undertaken by the Merced County Hunger Task Force. With Merced County ranked as the third-highest population in the country that has trouble feeding itself, the group of community service agencies met Friday for its second annual all-day summit about the hunger crisis.
While the idea of chronic hunger may conjure images of homeless residents, the problem afflicts seniors, children, students and, most surprisinglyMerced's working class that struggles to survive.
...one out of 10 Merced County adults faces the prospect of going to bed hungry.
$1.1 million grant awarded to UC Merced...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/60280.html
Called the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, the grant will allow eligible students to receive up to $2,800 in the summer to support research related expenses. The funds will also let the students attend national and international conferences with their professors.
The program will provide about $220,000 to UC Merced each year for the next five years and is expected to benefit at least 50 students during its funding cycle
Environmentally friendly house going up -- made of straw...Dhyana Levey
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/60272.html
Hay is for horses, straw is for houses.
That's what Jean Okuye of Livingston says.
Okuye, 67, began looking about three years ago for a way to build an energy-efficient home with sustainable products. "I wanted to work with nature as much as possible," she said. "A house with materials more cradle-to-cradle than cradle-to-grave."
That means she'd rather see her home products recycled and reused than end up at the bottom of a landfill. She has the future in mind -- five generations of family members have lived on her 78 acres of land, which was just put in a conservation easement. After researching her options online she connected with the eco-friendly Bay Area design and construction firm Skillful Means and learned all about the uses of straw bales.
Part of her inspiration may have been genetic. In her ancestors' Japan, as well as today, at least one room in many homes is made of tatami, straw mats, for flexibility and comfort. About 160 bales of rice straw now make up the walls of her new dwelling, which will be 1,370 square feet when it's done...
The straw provides effective insulation, which was a selling point on this project, said Okuye, an almond farmer and president of the Valley Land Alliance, which seeks to protect local farmland. Her goal was to conserve energy by creating a house without air conditioning or central heating.

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Public comments on public minutes of EMRCD board meeting

Submitted: Oct 09, 2007

Below, find two comment letters on the public minutes of the last East Merced Resource Conservation District board of directors meeting. The Badlands editorial board has received several comments, actually, but declined comparison with 1950s French theater of the absurd. We wish to point out to the second correspondent that Lydia Miller has never conducted a "circus" at any Merced River Stakeholder meeting and one credible witness to that is Pat Ferrigno, representing the Bettencourt family ownerships on the river. Nor have river property owners created circuses at the MRS.

The EMRCD, which represents largely self-serving, grant-funded interests of its out-of-control staff, intends to destroy the collaborative, non-voting strength of the MRS. To that end, after stakeholders successfully killed an EMRCD grant on the basis that the studies were redundant, the staff salaries were models of conflict-of-interest and the EMRCD attempted to ram the grant down the MRS throat unread, the EMRCD summoned a bogus meeting of the MRS, presided over by an illegal quorum of its own board members, while the MRS held its legitimate meeting elsewhere.

The strength of the MRS lies in its non-voting governance, which has permitted -- uniquely for a decade -- widely divergent interests of farming, ranching, mining, environmentalist, resource agencies and others, to meet and continue to share vital information about our river. MRS has no intention of surrendering to some flak attack by the "one voice" crowd, fronting for finance, insurance and real estate special interests that aim to take away riparian water rights from property owners and destroy riparian habitat.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Bill: I read the lengthy email from the Badlands Journal about the EMRCD and the inside struggles for transparency. I am not a property owner there but do read. It is refreshing to know that transparency and openness of our local government will be fought for. Thank you. Charles Ulmschneider

Bill, I thank you for the recent e-mail sent regarding the meeting of MRS.
I do represent my own 200 acres in the Snelling area. I have several
partners in the property and I was asked to attend these efforts from the
start. Several years ago, I was informed that Lydia Miller was to attend
the next meeting and at that time my group decided that she would simply
create another circus costing Merced citizens too much bounty. I do try to
stay informed but refuse to entertain frivolous discussions by those who
simply want to stop all landowners from the enjoyment of their rights. I'm
still not sure where you stand on any matters but atleast you share
information well. Repectfully, Kevin Collins

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CESHA Comments on Proposed New UC Merced Footprint

Submitted: Oct 05, 2007

Press release: For Immediate Use !! ******* Press release: For Immediate Use !!

California Endangered Species and Habitat Alliance

Butte Environmental Council * California Native Plant Society * Defenders of Wildlife * Protect Our Water * San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center * San Joaquin Valley Conservancy * VernalPools.Org

October 5, 2007 Contacts:

(916) 452-5440 Carol Witham, VernalPools.Org

(916) 201-8277 Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife

(530) 295-8210 Sue Britting, California Native Plant

(530) 891-6424 Barbara Vlamis, Butte Environmental Council

(209) 723-9283 Lydia Miller, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

CESHA COMMENTS ON PROPOSED NEW UC MERCED FOOTPRINT

MERCED, CA (Oct. 5, 2007) –

The California Endangered Species and Habitat Alliance (CESHA) is a coalition of national, statewide, and local groups working to protect endangered species and habitat in California. We are committed to effectively and strategically advocating for and educating towards changes in California’s policy, politics, and public awareness that will enable protection of California’s endangered species and threatened habitats.

Members of CESHA, including Butte Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife, California Native Plant Society, Protect Our Water, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, San Joaquin Valley Conservancy, and VernalPools.Org, have been meeting with UC Merced officials, plus federal and state resource agency officials for more than two years in a dialogue about the Merced campus impacts on the habitat for endangered species.

“VernalPool.org supports the UC’s announcement today regarding the reduced footprint” said Carol Witham of VernalPools.org, “because it is environmentally more balanced than the original proposal and reduces impacts to vernal pools and endangered species.”

“We look forward to seeing new plans and participating in the public review process on the new campus,” said Lydia Miller, president of the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center.

“CESHA’s open discussions with UC may prove beneficial for the species, habitat, and the Merced campus, which has been a collaborative opportunity too good to miss,” stated Barbara Vlamis of Butte Environmental Council.

CESHA has been in continual dialogue with federal and state resource agencies concerning the impacts to and disappearance of endangered species habitat, most notably in the eastern Central Valley. Among CESHA achievements is the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, a group of environmental organizations and cattle-ranching groups that work together for the preservation of working cattle ranches and endangered species habitat in California.

UC Merced’s announcement may be found at
http://www.ucmerced.edu/news_articles/10052007_uc_merced_modifies_plans.asp.

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Public minutes of the East Merced Resource Conservation Board of Directors meeting, September 26, 2007

Submitted: Oct 01, 2007

Abbreviations:

RCD=East Merced Resource Conservation District
MRS=Merced River Stakeholders
MRA=Merced River Alliance
NRCS=USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
DOC=state Department of Conservation
DWR=state Department of Water Resources

#1. Introductions

Gwen Huff, EMRCD/MRA staff/MRS facilitator
Cindy Lashbrook, Merced County Planning Commissioner/EMRCD/MRA staff
Susan Pettis, USDA Soil Conservation
Malia Hildebrandt, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
Bill Hatch, San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
Lydia Miller, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Pat Ferrigno, representing the Bettencourt Family, Lower Merced River property owners
Dyhanna Levy, Merced Sun-Star
Bernie Wade, president RCD
Glenn Anderson, RCD board member
Cathy Weber, RCD board member
Karen Barstow, RCD board member
Bob Bliss, RCD board member
Karen Whipp, RCD/MRA grant administrator (and her husband)

#2. Communications

Lydia Miller submitted a letter and the oral testimony of Bryant Owens and David Corser, presented at the RCD/MRS meeting held on Sept. 24 at UC Merced.

Anderson denied that meeting was an RCD meeting and asked how the board should receive Miller’s submissions. Bliss said, “We never had a board meeting,” adding that he only talked to two board members.

There were four identified RCD board members at the UC Merced RCD/MRS meeting, which made a quorum. The RCD board members present were advised by a state official that in fact this was an RCD meeting. No RCD board members attended the real MRS meeting, held at Washington School simultaneously.

Weber suggested that Miller’s submissions be accepted by the board plus board comments.

Miller said they were presented by Owens.

Lashbrook: “Read by him anyway …”

Anderson said that the MRS has no governance therefore the submissions were made by a person.

Miller said the submission weren’t written by Owens or Corser but were presented by and for several groups in MRS that signed the submitted letter.

Barstow said the proper name for the RCD/MRS meeting was “MRS at UC Merced.”

Miller requested the words “oral and written” be added.

The board found that acceptable.

Anderson asked, “But for which meeting?”

The board replied in unison, “The meeting at UC Merced.”

Whipp suggested that the submissions be labeled “by some stakeholders.”

In other words, the RCD board interjected itself into the time on its agenda reserved for oral communications from the public, interrupting the public repeatedly in the process.

Wade proceeded to Item #4, forgetting Item #3, Corrections and Additions to the Agenda.

Miller pointed out the mistake.

Busy at work trying to suppress public comments at a public meeting, Lashbrook and Bliss sneered at Miller’s suggestion, saying it wasn’t true.

Wade, recognizing his mistake, returned to Item #3, Corrections and/or Additions to the Agenda, and Miller submitted the “Public Minutes to the EMRCD Meeting, August 15.”

Whipp refused to accept them.

Miller requested that they be submitted under Item #2, Oral Communications.

Wade agreed.

Bliss: “Time’s up.”

In fact, “individual comments may be limited to 5 minutes each by the board president,” not Bliss, who isn’t the president. There was no one keeping time on whether Miller took five minutes to explain the board’s mistake, Whipp’s refusal and Miller’s subsequent request.

Weber noted that there is one error in the submitted public minutes and asked if the board could comment.

Weber’s problem was that the letter in opposition to the RCD grant was titled “Merced River Stakeholders,” a true title. Weber’s objections were well-covered in the public minutes just submitted. When she realized that a separate MRS meeting had been held at Washington School while the RCD was holding an official RCD meeting at UC Merced, erroneously called an MRS meeting, she dropped her opposition to the public minutes.

The MRS has never suppressed information or demanded that anyone support our position. At its meeting at Washington School, as usual, the MRS had an open agenda. This meeting was attended by Commissioner Lashbrook’s husband, Bill Thompson. MRS members have heard from several sources that Thompson, a Farm Bureau director, like his wife, has been bullying people into taking a position against the MRS. MRS would welcome his interpretation of its meeting. Meanwhile, the MRS wishes to make it clear that it is not out bullying anyone to support its position.

Miller said the proper place for board comment on the submitted public minutes would be at the next meeting.

It is fascinating that having first rejected minutes offered by the public for RCD meetings, now RCD board members wanted to correct them.

Whipp said the public minutes weren’t written by someone hired by the RCD to write them, therefore should be called “public comment.”

The RCD board then moved on to Item #4, the Consent Agenda, but Whipp wasn’t finished with the public minutes issue, submitted under Item #2 after the board refused to consider them under Item #3. Whipp said the official RCD minutes are written according to Robert’s Rules of Order and that p. 451 of Robert’s states that official minutes “should never reflect opinions or reasoning of the board…Minutes will show action, reports made, but no comments … that’s not what minutes are about…If more detail is required, you are asking for a transcription.”

Whipp’s interpretation would seem to founder on two questions: are RCD minutes public or private? and Are they published or not published? – at least according to Robert’s Rules of Order. In fact, the RCD is a public board, appointed by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, and its main business, well-known to Grant Administrator Whipp, is the administration of public grants from public agencies for public purposes and the minutes are published on the RCD website after they have been adopted.

The RCD treasurer, Barstow, referred the board to written reports on the RCD grants.

There was discussion of an additional $16,000 granted to the RCD or the MRA “until December 2007” and it was reported that 70 percent of the MRA personnel budget has already been spent. The work on that grant will be done by June 2008 and MRA staff Nancy McConnell and Whipp will continue working 2 months longer.

Item #6, Written and Oral Updates.

Hildebrandt of NRCS reported on the status of the General Order on Waste Discharge Requirements for Existing Milk Cow Dairies, issued in May by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. Workshops for dairymen have been scheduled for public dairy assessments on water quality due in December 2007. In October, visual and photographic assessments should be taken. Two hundred forty Merced County dairies are covered by this order. They include “those dairies in existence as of October 17, 2005, that have not expanded by more than 15 percent AND have submitted a complete Report of Waste Discharge to the Board.”

The deadline for application for EQIP grants is November 2, Hidlebrandt reported. So far, there are 80-85 applications. Per the new Farm Bill, funds not allocated will be returned to the federal government and subjected to the new regulations coming out of the new Farm Bill. At the moment, the new Farm Bill contains no provisions for orchard removal but it is “on the list” (for final Farm Bill negotiations).

There are new developments in pest management, she said.

Meanwhile, there will be high school speech contests for the RCD to consider. (Is this a cross-grant with existing FFA programs long in place?)

Hidlebrandt reported on the University of California Integrated Pest Management program, which elicited questions from the board.

Bliss and others groaned about the difficulty of this new program. Anderson wondered how difficult it would be to keep records for such a program. Hildebrandt said that most growers would let a PCA do the record keeping, noting that growers already in the program will not be eligible for this new program. Anderson asked if new adoptees were easier or harder to find, guessing they would be easier to find. Hidlebrandt said NRCS had not yet administered the new program. Yet, typically, the sort of guidance the program would offer would include: “Don’t just automatically spray after a rain; at least do the other things first.” Air quality and integrated pest management programs are funded by the states, she added.

Pat Ferrigno asked Hildebrandt if the air quality program was new. Hidlebrandt replied they have been going for seven years. Ferrigno remarked that it would have been appropriate for the RCD-funded facilitator of the MRS to have informed the MRS stakeholders of it.Hildebrandt said she had been to the MRS.Lashbrook said something about “advertising to the MRS.”Hildebrandt said that not everyone knows about the program. Ferrigno said that that was her point.

Hildebrandt explained that it was an offshoot of an older USDA program with a more environmental emphasis.

Next, under this Item came the Watershed Coordinator report.

Huff, the watershed coordinator, announced she was resigning on Friday, adding that Lashbrook and Whipp would make sure that her leftover responsibilities were taken care of. She said the Fall MRA newsletter was complete. Huff was enthusiastic about educational fliers announcing a water-quality monitoring program for junior high school students and the opportunities for outreach to junior high science teachers. Her parting theme was: “Do more outreach!” Weber raved about the extra credit junior high science instructors were offering for this program.

Huff announced that Sierra naturalist Jack Muir Laws would be offering a lecture and workshop on the Upper River soon. Lashbrook annotated that Laws was “a direct descendent” of John Muir. Weber said his book was “great.”

In other business under this Item, Huff reported that there had been no response from the state Department of Water Resources on why the RCD grant proposal had been rejected. But, she noted, the state Department of Conservation would be offering new watershed grants later this year. The RFPs were not out yet but stakeholders would be notified, she said. There will be six weeks to submittal and the stakeholders will have three weeks to respond. Lashbrook and Whipp will be working on it, Huff added.

A board member handed out regional water board non-point-source pollution RFPs for grants. This would involve landowner workshops, Huff said. Lashbrook and Whipp have time on the Department of Conservation grant to write some grants, she added. There will be a webcast from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sept. 27, Lashbrook said, at least it is “most likely.” An urban streams program will also be offering grants, Huff said. The RCD/MRS facilitator grant will end in November 2007, she said. The RCD still has money and Huff suggested two replacements for herself.

Huff said that MRS had elected to meet at the Merced County Agricultural Commissioner’s meeting hall because at UC Merced parking was hard to find (and might cost money). Or, alternatively, the MRS could continue to meet at UCM but at 6:30 p.m., when parking was easier to find.

Weber asked if the non-point-source grants apply to riparian vegetation, too, and if they could link with NRCS grants. Huff said, “It’s a perfect fit.”

Next, the board turned to the issue of how the MRS could possibly continue without RCD-paid facilitators. What would they do with the mailing list and the website? Where would it go? That subject dangled as Huff returned to the money: she said she would write the next draft report to the state Department of Conservation on the grant budget. Lashbrook and Whipp will continue her work on these reports after she leaves (on Friday, Sept. 28). Huff said the MRS facilitator is a half-time position and that Lashbrook and Whipp will pick up more hours after her resignation.

Will the DOC approve of this change or will it suck up those hours? Whipp asked. Lashbrook attempted to explain but the reporter was unable to make any sense of her comment. Huff said that the MRS account was billed for eight hours per month. Whenever the watershed coordinator worked for the MRA on the river, she was partnered over to the MRA newsletter but only billed eight hours to the MRA.

President Wade said that there would be a new facilitator for the MRS in November, but asked if Huff would write up the minutes for the RCD/MRS meeting at UC Merced.

Huff replied that she was using a $1,600 Toshiba laptop computer and offered to buy it from the RCD for $500. “If not,” she said, “you could sell it on eBay.” Lashbrook said that the new price for this model had dropped to $500-$600.Huff said it had had to be repaired four times. Anderson asked what records were in it.

Huff replied that Lashbrook and Whipp probably already have all the records or will have after the “turnover” on Sept. 27. Anderson suggested erasing the hard drive and starting all over. Huff said the laptop had crashed “a few times.”

This computer was purchased with state funds. It should stay with the entity for which purchased. But, was that entity the RCD, the MRA, MRS? It was not purchased by an individual, Huff or anyone else. Sounds like a subject for another state Public Records Act request.

Lashbrook presented her report. She said she’d spent “very few hours this summer” on water-quality monitoring, a long-term MRA goal. “The Upper Merced River has been doing it all along,” she said. Originally, the MRS wanted water monitoring. MRS facilitator Teri Murrison, waste water treatment plants and the Merced Irrigation District, along with other entities, wanted “learning centers” along the river, Lashbrook said, and there was agreement with the parks along the river for regular water-quality monitoring.

Huff said that there was no funding for citizen water-quality monitoring.

Lashbrook attempted to put the monitoring issue in perspective by saying something about how we pollute and how these people (perhaps she meant farmers) won’t be a problem anymore because of this monitoring.

Wade reported on a UC Merced freshman tour of Lake McClure, mentioning it was “painful” to ask how restoration would be done.

Ferrigno, representing the private ownerships along the lower Merced River, said that former MRS facilitator Teri Murrison discontinued a water-quality monitoring program half-way through due to farmers’ opposition to what amounted to a bounty program in which citizen monitors were promised half the fines levied against (farmer) polluters.

Lashbrook remarked that it sounded like Teri. Huff said she didn’t remember that program.

Ferrigno reiterated a point often made: the lower river is mostly privately owned and permission is not given to cross private property to do monitoring.

Lashbrook commented that part of the MRA program was to share the practices of the upper river group.

The Merced River Alliance is composed of staff for upper and lower river groups, from Yosemite on down to the San Joaquin River.

Ferrigno brought up an example of how even agency water-quality monitors get it wrong, saying that it took her family three years, including 15 hours in September to clarify for the monitoring agency that the water they were testing came from tail waste, not Jones Slough – in other words, the wrong source.

Hildebrandt and Lashbrook explained that records are kept of tests on the upper river and that if MRA found funds for a full program, it would send tests from all along the river to labs. Huff said the lower river is already monitored. Lashbrook said MID doesn’t monitor all the water, that a full monitoring program would or should include all irrigated lands and that MRA would make sure all the information would be correlated.

Whipp presented the report of MRA staff (from the upper river), Nancy McConnell, stressing that “deliverables” on grants included tours, watershed outreach and the annual MRA dinner. She also presented the report of Terry McLaughlin, MRA staff for Yosemite, announcing that McLaughlin had developed a new water-quality monitoring kit for middle school science curriculum (7th and 8th grades).

Barstow commented this was a “good thing for our children who are our future.” Anderson asked Barstow if she was present when the kits were used by the 7th and 8th graders. Barstow said no. Lashbrook commented that “Snelling students will be our mentors on water-quality monitoring protocols” at an upcoming event there.

Lydia Miller asked why the Monitoring Plan and Quality Assurance Program Plan received an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act. Barstow or Whipp (not sure) replied that it was because the plan was just a study. Lashbrook commented that McConnell had done all the work on that.

Item #7 Recording EMRCD Board Meetings

Weber said that the RCD needed to record its meetings so that “we can verify what we said other than what it is reported that we said.”

Barstow objected, saying she did not want the “give and take on opinions before making a decision” recorded, however “points of clarification and the Yea or Nay” were OK. The conclusion is the significant thing, she added. Anderson quizzed the group on what equipment and special technology would be necessary, agreeing with Barstow on recording deliberations, because he was “not always especially proud on the lack of information” on certain things. Barstow said that if the meetings were recorded board members would have to identify themselves.Whipp said the board would “have to do all of it.” Bliss said he liked to sit around, “freelance,” and talk to each other (freely, seemed to be his implication).

Wade mentioned that the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission record their meetings. Weber replied that those were “public hearings.”

Lashbrook said that the state association of RCDs told board members that recordings would have to be kept for five years and did not recommend the RCD record their meetings. However, Merced County Counsel said it wouldn’t hurt but that they would have to keep the tapes and that all meetings or no meetings would have to be taped.

The board voted unanimously to table the issue for this meeting and reconsider it later.

Item #8 Procedure for Requesting Public Information

Whipp requested adoption of standardized procedures for keeping and sharing RCD public information. She expressed irritation at members of the public who had received information from the RCD and then wrote to request the same information be sent again. State Department of Conservation and the state RCD association both recommended the RCD adopt a policy, she said.

Barstow: “What information?”

Whipp: “Minutes and reports sent out to those who request it. I need more structure … there is a policy under the Freedom of Information (Act) to charge for copies …”

Anderson asked if there was any guidance in the state RCD handbook.

Hildebrandt began to look through the handbook.

Lashbrook explained that the RCD state staff recommended a policy and pointed to the difficulties of finding “historical stuff,” rather than “current stuff.”

Whipp said her main interest in a policy was to be able to show that she’d already sent information if she had. Therefore, she was asking for a log of all requests and that the requests must specify documents.

Anderson asked that action be held off until the board sees if the state RCD handbook has specific guidance.

Lashbrook advised: “This is your time to set policy. This would be the day …It’s happening statewide but state RCD staff says not everywhere …You have pressure now. It wouldn’t hurt you to adopt (a policy).”

Barstow moved to develop a policy by the time of the board’s October meeting.

Bliss also wanted to make a motion.

Anderson objected.

Weber asked that if she were to second a motion, wouldn’t it open it to discussion?

Bliss offered to amend Barstow’s motion to charge $1/page for RCD documents “like other boards are doing …”

Hildebrandt read from the state RCD Guidebook that all records are open to public inspection during office hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Anderson expressed concern for additional overhead costs to the RCD.

Bliss urged the board to pass his $1/page motion immediately.

Weber and Wade brought up some qualifications.

Lashbrook commented that some of the qualifications were according to statutes.

Anderson asked what would happen if we took action now, based on what other RCDs are doing.

Bliss said that it had all been explained, it covered all kinds of information and that “there’s a leak in the dam.”

Lydia Miller raised a point of order.

Bliss refused to hear it.

Wade asked that it be heard later.

Weber asked if the board would start charging $1/page now.

Bliss: “Now.” He argued that the board has to pay Whipp for her time to fulfill these requests. “These people (meaning the public requesting the public information from the public RCD) ask for the moon. We’ll charge then $1/page.”

Barstow asked where would this decision go in the RCD’s own guidance and offered to withdraw her motion if Weber would withdraw her second.

Wade suggested that the information continue to be distributed until a decision is reached.

Lashbrook advised the board to adopt a policy immediately. She added that Miller sounded like she had some serious public information requests that she would be making of the RCD.

Barstow changed her motion, moving that the RCD policy should be that information requests be made in writing to the administrator (Whipp) and that the $1/page charge should be adopted.

Lashbrook said 50 cents/page was as high as they could go.

Bliss said the state RCD staffer had said they could go to a dollar.

Whipp said the county administration and county counsel charge 50 cents a page. The procedure is that after a written request is filed, the agency has 10 days to gather the documents, it calculates its costs, receives the funds from the requester and releases the documents, she said. It must all be done in 10 days unless there is a lot of research involved, she added.

Lashbrook commented: “That’s the law. You can’t deviate.”

Barstow said that if someone wanted backup documents, “that’s not appropriate,” because the RCD is a contractor and that the proper place to make requests would be to the state agencies that make the grants administered by the RCD.

Lashbrook advised that without making that change, “you’d be having to work three or four days straight (on these requests).”

Whipp declared that neither she, Huff nor Lashbrook were staff of the RCD. “We are contractors, not staff. We contract with the board. We don’t have to do what others direct us to do…We are being asked to distribute documents that we didn’t author … e-mails are public information and I have been distributing them in a timely manner … but it has been inferred that there is something unethical.”

Anderson asked if 50 cents or a dollar is actually enough to cover the overhead.

Whipp said “we” could not charge for her time, only for her leased copy machine.

Lashbrook intoned that now the board is exposed to state Public Record Act (PRA) requests.

Barstow modified her motion to “50 cents.”

At this point it was very clear that the board couldn’t distinguish between a request for public information and a request under the state PRA. Meanwhile, Whipp, who has to handle all the requests and distribution of information, responded to a comment by Miller about “inappropriate e-mail.”

Whipp said that every time she has to search board e-mails, she has to charge the RCD. She added that if documents on financial matters were requested, she would ask county counsel or refer the request to state agencies.

Barstow said the RCD was a private contractor.

Lashbrook again intoned that an immediate policy “wouldn’t hurt you.”

Whipp asked for a policy just to clarify what the public has a right to know and what it doesn’t have a right to know.

Lashbrook declared that the RCD had no responsibility to distribute e-mails at public request. This “has been clarified by four attorneys,” she said.

Anderson asked about the present state of the different motions.

Whipp said there were a lot of different motions at that moment.

Barstow said she would have liked to have seen this (perhaps this policy) earlier. But she withdrew her motion and Weber withdrew her second.

In fact, the agenda packet for the RCD board members contained a sample – admittedly an inaccurate document confusing a public information request log form with a PRA request—of what Barstow was complaining she had not seen.

Bliss moved for 50 cents “for every page disseminated” and for the same “time-line procedure the county follows.” Weber seconded the motion.

Ferrigno suggested that the RCD just put up the material on its website.

Whipp said that minutes are posted after they are adopted. The problem is with background information, she added.

Ferrigno asked how far back the website went.

Hildebrandt went to check.

Lashbrook declared that the RCD doesn’t want to “stop transparency.”

Right!

Someone mentioned the problem of Internet access. Someone else mentioned that the public library provides Internet access.

Bliss called for the question.

Miller told the RCD board that they hadn’t even read their own guidebook (available on the Internet), their agenda items were illegal for lack of adequate description, they had no staff reports, and that a state Public Records Act request was different form a public information request and log. “Your whole agenda doesn’t meet the Brown Act standards,” she said, “and the public has problems with your whole process.”

Bliss said Miller had exhausted her two minutes. “All those in favor – come on, let’s get ‘em,” he added.

Hildebrandt raised an issue about minute’s availability.

Miller, who had copies of the county public information act request forms, told the board to get their own county public information documents. “You have a county planning commissioner on your staff.”

County Planning Commissioner Lashbrook remarked: “Today’s staff job.” She added that the board “better cover yourself.”

Miller said the board’s agenda and motions were unclear and that they have to make coherent statements in their agenda of the actions to be taken.

Barstow replied that the board was appointed and volunteers. “Please let’s go on and not fall into this razzle-dazzle,” she added. “I’ve got a business to run.”

Barstow’s business was recently fined for non-compliance with pollution standards.

President Wade summarized: motion, second, discussion and public comment.

The vote was unanimous for 50 cents a page and a 10-day preparation period for dissemination of public documents to the public.

During the discussion, Miller had distributed to President Wade and Staff Whipp a genuine, authentic state Public Record Act request. Bliss snatched out of Wade’s hands, looked at it, rolled his eyes and passed on the Barstow.

Barstow asked for a point of clarification on Miller’s PRA, saying it was not what she thought it would be. It is formal and needs to be drafted in a formal way of receiving mail, she said.

The PRA was quite formal and was drafted according to the PRA law.

Whipp said Miller handed it to her without explanation.

Item # 9 CAL-Card Contract Addendum

Discussion on this item centered on a purchase card issued for funds from a Prop. 13 grant, which had to be approved before the card was used. Huff said it worked well for staff because they didn’t have to use their own credit cards for such purchases. Whipp said the card was used by McConnell, Lashbrook, Huff and herself, all members of the MRA-- for example, for things like a digital camera, she added.

Then Whipp read the PRA request from Miller and Steve Burke, which had nothing to do with staff credit cards. Lashbrook began to mumble and Huff tried to shut her up.

Barstow said Miller’s submission of the document showed “obvious hostile intent,” and the board needed to take it to the county counsel for advice.

Lashbrook advised that board members should accompany Whipp to the county counsel.

Anderson said the board needed to make a motion on that.

President Wade said the board could direct Whipp to go to county counsel.

Barstow said, “Some of these things were out of the board’s hands and involved agencies.”

Weber said that two board members should accompany Whipp to the county counsel’s office.

Item #10 Response letter to Department of Water Resources in Regard to Letter of Opposition of Grant Proposal

Apparently, Barstow was supposed to write the request to the DWR. She didn’t. The issue was tabled by the board. Lashbrook said there needed to be a committee on that.

Item #11 Future Relationship between EMRCD and Merced River Stakeholders

Weber set the stage by saying the grant funds were running out and that now there were two groups of stakeholders and the RCD no longer had the money to support the MRS.
Huff said that if MRS agreed, the RCD should seek more funding. Weber asked if that would be decided at the November meeting.

Which meeting was unclear: one of the two MRS meetings, the RCD meeting or the MRA annual dinner meeting.

Anderson said that if other entities believe they can do a better job, let them. He said he saw a better river, less tail water and less drainage, than before. He was very concerned about downstream issues.

Bliss said it was fine if there was someone to do it better. He said he was “big time pissed off. I have a life to live and can live it.”

Anderson said he could do anything but something that suggested confrontation. The board should wait for the next meeting but the RCD could say, “No more, let someone else run with it. I am totally delighted with the whole river alliance. I’m not that sort of person – no fights with people.”

Barstow said she was “dismayed and discouraged” by the fact that this has gotten to this point. “Heart-breaking.” It is important to have relationships with the river people. But what the board was getting in her view was “razzle-dazzle.”

Bliss declared himself a “conservationist.” He mentioned his grandchildren and even future great-grandchildren. He said he was “infuriated” watching people get hurt by “vindictive people.”

Anderson, saying he was reading a lot of books these days, announced his personal quest, a la David Korten’s The Great Turning. “Do we stay on this course and watch well-intentioned people get beat up? It makes me sick.” He said he wanted to be a part of that “new movement” to make it all better. “We have no time to fight,” he said. “Malia has a new baby.”

Barstow said that the board was good because it had balance between conservation and farming.

Lashbrook said she too came to the stakeholders before the RCD took over facilitation. The landowners met separately. Now they are doing it again, meeting the same day as the RCD/MRS meeting and calling themselves the MRS. She mentioned a grant for recreation and how, according to her, landowners shouted down recreation people at an MRS meeting. But, the MRS is supposed to be “diverse,” she said. “I am also an environmentalist,” she said. “This whole conflict has nothing to do with the river, nature or resources. I understand where Pat (Ferrigno) is coming from. I don’t understand the others.”

These would be the people she publicly declared war against at the July 20th RCD meeting and has been bullying people all over the county to take a stand against since they wrote in opposition to a grant that would have paid her something between $60,000-$75,000 and would continue to subsidize her other ventures, including her farm, her blueberries, her consulting business, her workshop schedule and expenses.

Wade said there were some “misguided things” in the relationship. Jennifer Vick, of the state Department of Fish and Game didn't let the RCD say anything in the MRS. He mentioned the Robinson riparian restoration project. He read from a document that the RCD initiated the MRS in 1998, along with the CDFG, Stillwater (consultants), Merced County, landowners, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the public, etc.

Lashbrook commented that “the RCD got narrowed down to the river.”

Wade said either the MRS or the RCD didn’t have an aggregate committee. (Wade has an aggregate project he is trying to get a permit for). Maybe the state doesn’t want an MRS, he said. Maybe CalFed doesn’t want it. He said there were other things that the RCD could look into, like, for example, water pollution in Hilmar.

Anderson said he lived in Hilmar and that, “We must be careful of what we say.”

Barstow said that this was undocumented information.

Lashbrook said there were two reporters in the room.

Miller said: the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, of which she is president, has been in the MRS since 1998 and that RCD participation began in 1999. She said she had been through RCD missteps involving the bogus UC habitat conservation plan, Vick, Mike Fuller and Teri Murrison, before Huff became facilitator. She said she was there for the UMPUG grant, the CAFF grant and the oversight issues with biologist John Vollmar. She said her group has been a consistent stakeholder and participant in RCD meetings throughout this period. She said she resented this lecturing and hostility from the RCD board. The RCD board doesn’t understand its own mandate and hasn’t read its own guidebook, available on the Internet (where Miller had read it) and CDs are available from their state association, she said. She added that she and others had told them there were problems with the RCD grant proposal this spring. She said she and others had suggested meetings with Huff and Lashbrook and other grant writers. These offers were rejected. Miller said the MRS and the RCD are not on the same page. The RCD is a stakeholder. “Until you sort that out we will continue to suppress your grant funds,” she said.

Weber asked how the RCD and the MRS could get together again and work for the river.

Ferrigno said the opposition to the grant was clearly expressed, but the RCD staff did not respond. She said that she represented farmers who owned 37,000 acres on or near the river and they had no representation – not in the RCD, a municipal advisory council or on the board of supervisors, or the planning commission (she was saying that planning Commissioner Lashbrook, who lives on the river, does not represent the interests of the river landowners Lashbrook did not attend the MRS meeting at Washington School, attended by most river landowners, including her husband).

Lashbrook said that the RCD asked Ferrigno’s brother to serve on the RCD board. (Later, Ferrigno having checked that out, reported it was a lie.) Lashbrook also said that the Raptor Center had so many members, it could have a representative on the board.

Later, Miller said there was no chance at all that the Merced County Board of Supervisors would appoint any member of the Raptor Center to any board. It was a hollow statement made by Lashbrook, an appointee to the Planning Commission and to the RCD board. And she knew it was a hollow statement.

Lashbrook nearly wailed that the RCD had never tried to keep anyone out.

Ferrigno said that her group had pointed out the downside of the UC Merced meeting place but the RCD had not listened, so the MRS held a separate meeting at Washington School. “To put that controversial meeting in an unknown location showed very little cooperation” between the MRS and the RCD-paid facilitator, she said. She concluded that she had no time to sit here and be lectured to by the RCD board.

Lashbrook wailed that Huff was going out of town when the decision to hold the meeting at UC Merced was made and “your complaint came in.” She added that Brad Sameulson, UC Merced environmental compliance officer, said “farmers come in to the campus all the time.”

Barstow said the funding for MRS facilitators runs out in November but “we’d like to see it continue.”

It was 4 p.m. so President Wade asked to table the last four items on the agenda, and the meeting was adjourned.

In conclusion we wish former MRS facilitator, Gwen Huff, the best of luck in her new position with the state Department of Water Resources as an event coordinator. We can’t wait to see how well her work will “fit” with local events like Lashbrook’s River Fair and McConnell’s outreach “deliverables.”

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Points of Order concerning the East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007

Submitted: Sep 25, 2007

To: East Merced Resource Conservation District Board of Directors

From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center; Protect Our Water; San Joaquin Valley Conservancy; Merced River Valley Association; Planada Association; Planada Community Development Co.; Le Grand Association; Stanislaus Natural Heritage

Re: Points of Order concerning the East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007

Date: Sept. 24, 2007

East Merced RCD Board of Directors: Via: email and Hand Delivered

POINTS OF ORDER

The East Merced RCD is not the Merced River Stakeholders, which are having its meeting at Washington School at this moment. The East Merced RCD is one Merced River stakeholder among many. In holding of this meeting at UC Merced, the East Merced RCD has greatly exceeded its statutory status as a legislative body and has illegally asserted authority over the Merced River Stakeholders. The East Merced RCD has no legal authority to hold a meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders. Gwen Huff, East Merced RCD staff/Merced Alliance Lower Merced River Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders facilitator, was not authorized by the Merced River Stakeholders to convene this meeting here at UC Merced while the stakeholders are meeting at the Washington School.

The meeting we are attending is an East Merced RCD meeting. The East Merced RCD board of directors is presently illegally constituted under CARCD Guidebook.

The East Merced RCD is a legislative body, whose board members are appointed by the county Board of Supervisors. According to the California CARCD Guidebook, the East Merced RCD is subject to the Ralph Brown Act governing public meetings.

The Merced River Stakeholders group, meeting presently at Washington School, is not a
legislative body, by agreement among stakeholders after years of discussion of governance.

This East Merced RCD meeting is violating the Brown Act in the following ways:

1. There are more than two board members of the RCD in attendance; the RCD board meeting agenda of September 26 contains action items concerning the Merced River Stakeholders; the combination of RCD board members attending this meeting under the false claim that it is a Merced River Stakeholders meeting and the action items these board members will vote on in two days, is a major violation of the Brown Act. This pattern, which has been going on for some time, constitutes a continual violation by the East Merced RCD of the Brown Act;

2. This East Merced RCD meeting we are now attending was improperly noticed: it was not posted at the RCD office; it was not posted on the Merced River Stakeholders website or the East Merced RCD website or the Merced River Alliance website;

3. This East Merced RCD meeting agenda is inadequately descriptive under the Brown Act for a public agency agenda;

4. The East Merced RCD facilitator has no authority to unilaterally decide on the
location for a Merced River Stakeholder meeting in the face of stakeholder opposition;

5. The East Merced RCD had no authority to vote in its last meeting to suppress public
documents produced by Merced River Stakeholders because that suppression violated the
state RCD Guidelines and constituted several violations of the Brown Act;

6. The East Merced RCD is making decisions about the Merced River Stakeholders at their monthly board meetings in multiple violations of the Brown Act;

7. It is our understanding from the RCD board meeting of August 15, that an item will be
introduced into this evening's RCD meeting by RCD board member, Cathy Weber, to protest the heading of a recent letter that successfully protested an RCD grant proposal. This agenda item would be illegal on its face because the RCD board, at the same meeting, voted unanimously on an item not on its agenda, to suppress distribution of this public letter to members of the Merced River Stakeholders for their next meeting. It is illegal because it violates multiple Brown Act provisions for agenda formation.

The Merced River Stakeholders now meeting at Washington School openly participated in the process surrounding the denied grant proposal, sharing our concerns and openly distributing material expressing our opposition. The East Merced RCD, the Lower Merced River Watershed coordinator and the Merced River Alliance continually suppressed public information and public documents concerning not just the grant proposal but the future of river itself.

For the record, Merced River Stakeholders will deal with violations of the California Law on Conflict-of-Interest at a later date.

Because this meeting is not legally compliant, it should adjourn now.

Agendas of East Merced RCD and Merced River Stakeholder meetings and e-mails pertaining to the unlawful topics discussed in this letter are included below:

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 12:07 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Greetings Stakeholders –

As the current facilitator of the Merced River Stakeholders (funded through current grants to the East Merced Resource Conservation District [EMRCD]), I am sending out a message from the EMRCD Board of Directors. Information for this message was compiled by me, as the MRS facilitator and staff of EMRCD, and reviewed and approved by those EMRCD directors present at the May EMRCD Board Meeting, and other EMRCD staff.

Sincerely,
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

The purpose of this letter is to clarify some logistics in the writing and submitting of our grant proposal to develop a Lower Merced River Watershed Management Plan. A summary of that proposal, in narrative form, is attached to this email.

While we have had a very strong measure of support throughout the community, the response from regular attendees at the Merced River Stakeholders group has been mixed. The members in opposition feel very strongly about certain points, which will be addressed further down, while others are very supportive. The EMRCD is at the service of all stakeholders in Eastern Merced County, and while we appreciate that not everyone is in agreement about this grant proposal, we feel that it will be valuable for our community and that there is ample support to justify proceeding with the submission of a full proposal.

At our regular Board meeting Wednesday May 23rd, at which the following Board members were present, Glenn Anderson, Cathy Weber, Karen Barstow and Bernard Wade, the Board unanimously passed the following resolution, with comments:

RESOLUTION OF THE EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT TO SUBMIT WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN GRANT APPLICATION
Cathy Weber I support this grant because there have been gaps of information to make recommendations and “full-picture” choices for the Merced River Watershed. I see a need for this plan to help decision makers and citizens make informed decisions about conservation issues in the watershed.
Karen Barstow I’m a farmer and landowner and I support the proposal because it is in line with State expectations of bringing all of us together on an issue that is vital to all of us; California’s most critical issue-water.
Glenn Anderson I’m a 72 year-old farmer, landowner, life-long appreciator of the river, and someone who has watched the abuse of the river. Our district has now begun a journey of community appreciation of this river and we need to continue this work to expand our community involvement.
Bernie Wade I’m submitting my support of this proposal. It is the imperative continuation to preserve, conserve and enhance the Merced Watershed. It is important that we continue scientific studies and analysis to preserve this natural resource.
Glenn Anderson moved to adopt resolution 2007-02 to submit the Watershed Management Plan grant application.
Cathy Weber seconded motion. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.

We would like to include here the Mission and Purpose, Goals and Objectives of the Merced River Stakeholders (MRS), as stated in the Merced River Stakeholders Group Charter, adopted January 27, 2003.

Mission and Purpose
Provide a collaborative forum for coordination and gathering and sharing of information about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action. Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

Goals and Objectives
Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance. Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

Additionally, from MRS meeting minutes of April 23, 2003;
The Governance Committee gave a report in which they stated that they are not in agreement that a formalized voting mechanism is necessary to conduct stakeholder meetings.

The EMRCD is a strong supporter of the Merced River Stakeholders, as evidenced by board member participation in MRS meetings, as well as long-term financial support to facilitate these meetings. We also recognize that the MRS has no mechanism for voting and cannot, as a group, support or oppose any item brought before them. They may, however, provide input. Indeed, MRS input can greatly improve projects that are within the watershed.

It is in this spirit that EMRCD has sought input from the MRS group on the development of the Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan. We have also sought input from other stakeholders within the watershed that do not attend the MRS meetings.

Regarding concerns from those in opposition:
MRS not notified before concept proposal submitted
We would like to acknowledge that earlier notification of the grant opportunity to the MRS would have been possible. At the January MRS meeting the grant opportunity was unknown to EMRCD and, therefore, could not have been communicated at that meeting. When this information was known February 13th, between MRS meetings, communication could have been made to stakeholders notifying them of the funder’s priorities, the deadline for grant submission and the intent of EMRCD to develop a concept proposal. No formal endorsement could have been gained - as the MRS has no mechanism for this. But input on direction could have been sought at that time. However, the MRS group was first informed of the process at the March 19th meeting. At which point a concept proposal had been developed and submitted by the deadline of March 16th, three days prior to the MRS meeting.

As there was allowance for modification from the concept proposal to the final proposal (should the EMRCD be invited to advance to a full proposal), the intention was to gain input from the stakeholders on what modifications could be made to improve the direction and content of the proposal. There was a constraint on what changes could be made. CalFed (the funder) had identified the Merced River as a high priority for developing a Watershed Management Plan for this particular round of funding. Therefore, the proposal needed to retain the basic direction of developing a management plan. But input on modifying the concept proposal, before writing and submitting a final proposal, was sought of MRS. As there are many stakeholders in the watershed beyond those who meet at the regular MRS meeting, and the EMRCD is at the service of all in Eastern Merced County, EMRCD was soliciting input from the MRS at this point, not asking for approval or endorsement, as there is no mechanism for that. We regret that not informing the MRS of the grant opportunity in February has caused some to feel excluded from the process. In the future, as long as EMRCD and MRS continue to have a working relationship, the EMRCD will inform the MRS before a concept proposal is submitted, with every effort to allow time to gather input for developing the proposal.

Staff Positions
The EMRCD acknowledges that neither job descriptions nor applicant qualifications were drafted for the concept proposal. This was not a requirement for submission of the proposal. However, these job descriptions will be in place before the final proposal is submitted. Additionally, posting of job opportunities with the EMRCD will be made if awarded the grant and as they become available.

Conflict of Interest?
An EMRCD associate director (who, in this case, is on the planning commission) has no voting rights and as such cannot vote to support or oppose any grant. There is no impropriety in an EMRCD board member, whether full or associate, being on the planning commission. Nor is there any impropriety in an EMRCD associate board member taking a staff position with the EMRCD.

Most, if not all, entities that rely on grant funding to further their mission and goals, pursue funding with their staff time, in order to bring the funds to their organization. Such is the case for EMRCD. The grant funds that are brought in are obligated to be spent on specific tasks laid out in the contract with the funding agency. The funding agency reviews, very closely, the progress of the grant and how the funds are spent. Members of the EMRCD board serve as such without any monetary compensation, and would receive none should the Watershed Management Plan be funded. There is no conflict of interest.

For more information on the authority under which the resource conservation districts operate, you may go to the following website: http://www.carcd.org/yourdistrict/div-9.htm

We thank you for your interest in resource issues of Eastern Merced County and look forward to continuing to work with you on watershed conservation issues.

Sincerely,
EMRCD Board of Directors

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Lydia Miller' ; brwade@aol.com ; 'Gail Bettencourt'
Cc: sdragovich@santafeaggregates.com
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:01 AM
Subject: RE: Proposed Meeting

Thank you very much, Pat, for the invitation to your home and for organizing the points of discussion. I believe they are well laid out. I would also like to suggest inviting Cathy Weber, as she has been an active stakeholder as well as a board member of EMRCD. Two board members may be present and not violate the Brown Act.

My availability is somewhat limited mid-September, but I am available September 9, 10, 11 and possibly the 12th. The next day I am leaving for a wedding in New York and will return on Monday the 17th.

Gwen
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'SJRRC' ; 'Raptorctr' ; 'Bernard Wade' ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Sharon Dragovich'
Cc: 'Teri Murrison'
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:55 PM
Subject: RE: MRS Agenda

Pat –

Yes – the agenda item “MRS and Grant Development” is intended to encompass any aspect of this whole issue. I hope that the amount of time will be adequate. Also, we can - and probably will –discuss expectations of a facilitator to convey the perspective of stakeholders to the EMRCD and other organizations.

Cathy Weber requested that at least some of the discussion happen in the first 45 minutes of the meeting because she has a conflict in her schedule with another important meeting. Since Cathy has been so involved with the stakeholders, I would like to honor that request. It is a bit awkward, breaking it up that way, though.

Regarding your offer to cover printing costs of the Raptor Center’s letter, thank you. However, we can cover those expenses. Since the meeting is dedicated almost completely to related MRS issues, I can bring copies to the meeting. The board has directed me not to distribute the letter with the meeting announcement, but it can certainly be available at the meeting. And you are free to circulate it before hand, if you wish. Please let me know if you plan on bringing copies so that we do not duplicate our work.

Lastly, we will be meeting in a conference room at UC Merced that holds 50 people. That should do. And thanks for refreshments.

Gwen
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Cathy Weber
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: Brwade@aol.com ; Pat Ferrigno ; Karen L Whipp ; Lydia Miller
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:01 PM
Subject: MRS meeting

Dear Gwen,

I just returned home and have found many messages on my email. I'm very sorry if I, as an individual and not the EMRCD, have added to problems within the MRS member community.

Please set the agenda in a way that is best for all the members to deal with important issues. I am sorry that I won't be at the full meeting; but as a member of the Library Advisory Commission, I have a greater obligation to attend a 7:00 meeting in downtown Merced. In my request that the agenda item dealing with the MRS and EMRCD roles be placed early, I had no idea that it would create any type of problem.

I will come to the first part of the meeting and hope I have the opportunity to make one comment before I need to leave, a comment that is separate from the agenda item discussion. I know we have allowed other members to do so. But, please, place the agenda item at whatever time on the agenda that will make it most effective.

I am sorry that I won't be there for what I think is a very important discussion. I believe I have some perspective, being a member of both the MRS and the EMRCD. I care about both organizations deeply. I was always in favor of the MRS having more autonomy and decision making power with a process for it. I wanted to develop a plan for that through the governance committee process.

I am deeply concerned and saddened by what I feel is a misunderstanding. I know the EMRCD board members care a great deal about the resources of the river within our job of caring for and educating about all the resources of eastern Merced County. I feel that we have, unwittingly, been made villains when we thought that what we were doing all along was above-board and for the benefit of the County.

Please don't let the Board take the blame for the agenda item placement, or you for honoring my request. The fault for that is all mine. Again, I made my request, because I care about the whole discussion. I do hope these building misunderstandings can be cleared so we can meet together and support river restoration.

Cathy Weber

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 6:03 PM
Subject: MRS Meeting Reminder at UC Merced

Dear Stakeholders -

You may have recently received an email from SJRRC (San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center), Lydia Miller's organization, with a meeting announcement for the Merced River Stakeholders this Monday, Sept 24th at Washington School. That meeting is not sponsored by the East Merced Resource Conservation District and the announcement was not forwarded by me, as facilitator. I am the current facilitator, hired by the EMRCD to conduct the regular Merced River Stakeholders meeting on the 24th at UC Merced. The proposed presenters at the Washington School meeting have not been contacted by Ms. Miller and neither Karen Whipp, Cindy Lashbrook, Cathy Weber, Nancy McConnell nor I will be there. We will be attending the Merced River Stakeholders meeting at UC Merced. You will find the agenda below.

We have been told we can use the parking lot up at the top of the hill, very close to the library where we are meeting. Parking will be free in that lot after 5pm. Detailed directions are at the bottom of the agenda.

It is regretful that you are subject to the confusion generated by the disagreements between a few members of the Merced River Stakeholders, myself and the EMRCD. At our Sept 24th meeting we will be discussing future facilitation of the MRS, as the EMRCD funding to do this will be finished this calendar year. I hope that you will be able to attend this important meeting. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
Merced River Stakeholders
September 24, 2007
6:00PM-8:30PM
Kolligian Library, Room 232, UC Merced
Nearby and Free Parking

DRAFT AGENDA

6:00 Introductions, Minutes Approval, Agenda Review

6:10 Updates
Merced Irrigation District

6:20 Merced River Stakeholders Facilitation
Group Discussion

7:10 BREAK

7:25 Merced River Stakeholders and Grant Development
Group Discussion

7:50 Merced County Planning Department Jeff Wilson
Jeff will provide us with an overview of balancing gravel mining with other natural resource interests in Merced County.

8:15 Announcements

8:25 Schedule Next meeting and wrap up
(Plus/Delta, next meeting speakers, refreshments)

For more information, please contact Gwen Huff at
(559) 497-5033 or gwenhuff@comcast.net

DIRECTIONS
From Highway 99, take the “G” Street exit and cross town to Yosemite Avenue and turn right onto Yosemite. Turn left on Lake Road and proceed approximately one mile to the campus. Turn right into the first campus entry (Scholars Lane) and take this up the hill to the end of the road. Make a left by the Round-A-Bout. The library and its parking lot are here. Park anywhere there are available stalls. Here is a link to a campus map https://www.ucmerced.edu/maps/campus/ Once you’ve entered the library, take the elevator to the second floor – we will be meeting in room 232.

Past meeting minutes can be found at www.emrcd.org/stakeholders

NOTICE OF REGULAR MEETING

OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

USDA Office
Conference Room
2135 W. Wardrobe Avenue
Merced, CA 95340

Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Visit us on the web at www.emrcd.org
Call EMRCD for more information 209-723-6755
Fax EMRCD for more information 209-723-0880
To be added to the EMRCD agenda mailing list, please send a letter to the RCD at the above address by the 3rd day of the month preceding the meeting.

1. INTRODUCTION

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

ITEM PRESENTER

* 4. Consent Agenda

# a. Minutes of the July 18, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
# b. Treasury Report (July and August ‘07)
# c. DOC II and Prop 13 Grant Updates

5. Correspondence/Information Only

a. Letters
1. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
# b. Meeting Notices and Reports
1. CSDA e-NEWS July 23, 2007
2. CSDA e-NEWS July 30, 2007
3. California Watershed e-News July 30, 2007
c. Newsletters and Flyers (available to review at meeting)
1. CSDA Alliance Brochure
2. CSDA Conference Oct 1-4 2007
3. San Joaquin River Restoration Program
4. NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee Agenda
5. NACD Forestry Notes (June 2007)
6. NACD Forestry Notes (July 2007)
7. MED&R-Merced Developments (Winter 2007)
8. Shell Pipeline Company LP Safety Information
d. Office Election Resolution Ballet Information for Insurance Board

For information only.

6. Written and Oral Updates

a. NRCS Update Malia Hildebrandt
b. Watershed Coordinator Update (DOC II) Gwen Huff/
Cindy Lashbrook

c. Merced River Alliance (Prop 13) Update Karen Whipp

* 7. Planning for Annexation

For discussion and possible action.

8. Board Member Participation with Merced County Landuse
Issues and General Plan Updates

Board members come prepared to discuss current land use
issues and ways to be involved.

9. Old Business

a. Board Member Recruitment
b. Other Old Business

* 10. Priority Action Topic for Next EMRCD Agenda

For discussion and possible action.

11. Next EMRCD Board Meeting

The next EMRCD Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, Sept 19, 2007 in the USDA Office Conference Room,
2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA.

* 12. Adjournment of the Regular EMRCD Board Meeting, August 15, 2007

* Action
# Attachment
+ Enclosure
IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, IF SPECIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT STAFF AT 209-723-6755. NOTIFICATION OF 48 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING WILL ENABLE THE STAFF TO MAKE REASONABLE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE ACCESSIBILITY TO THIS MEETING.

Date Agenda Posted August 10, 2007
Please remove after August 16, 2007__

Meeting Minutes of the
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT
BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGULAR MEETING
Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Conference Room, 2135 W. Wardrobe Ave., Merced, CA 95340
Call EMRCD for more information (209-723-6755)

Directors Present: Cathy Weber, Glenn Anderson, Bernard Wade, Bob Bliss
Directors Absent: Karen Barstow, Tony Azevedo
Others Present: Karen Whipp, EMRCD contract personnel
Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD contract personnel and associate director (non-voting member)
Gwen Huff, EMRCD contract personnel
Malia Hildebrandt, NRCS staff
Ken Leap, Interested Citizen
Bill Hatch, Interested Citizen

Item #
President Bernie Wade called meeting to order at 1:20 pm.

1. INTRODUCTIONS
Done.

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS
None.

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA
None.

4 CONSENT AGENDA
Minutes of the July 18, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
Treasury Report June and July
DOC and Prop 13 Updates
Cathy Weber moved to approve the consent agenda.
Bob Bliss seconded the motion.
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

5. CORRESPONDENCE/INFORMATION ONLY
Letters
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
b. Meeting Notices and Reports
CSDA e-NEWS July 23, 2007
CSDA e-NEWS July 30, 2007
California Watershed e-News July 30, 2007
c. Newsletters (available to review at the meeting)
CSDA Alliance Brochure
CSDA Conference October 1-4, 2007
NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee Agenda
NACD Forestry Notes (June 2007)
NACD Forestry Notes (July 2007)
MED&R-Merced Developments (Winter 2007)
Shell Pipeline Company LP Safety Information
d. Office Election Resolution Ballet Information for Insurance Board
So noted.

Following the review of the information items, Cathy Weber moved to have the September EMRCD Board meeting on September 26, 2007.
Seconded by Glenn Anderson.
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

6. WRITTEN AND ORAL REPORTS
Natural Resources Conservation Service Report, Malia Hildebrandt (A written report was submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting)
Watershed Coordinator--DOC Report, Gwen Huff (A written report was submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting)

During the report Gwen Huff stated that Lydia Miller asked her to send a rebuttal letter against the DWR grant proposal to all of the Merced River Stakeholders.
Bob Bliss moved that Gwen Huff contract is with the East Merced Resource Conservation District is not authorized to send the letter.
Seconded by Glenn Anderson
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

Merced River Alliance--Prop 13 Report, Karen Whipp and Cindy Lashbrook (Written reports were submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting.)

7. PLANNING FOR ANNEXATION
An oral report was given.

8. BOARD MEMBER PARTICIPATION WITH MERCED COUNTY LANDUSE ISSUES AND GENERAL PLAN UPDATES
There was board member discussion.

9. OLD BUSINESS
a. Board recruitment: There was brief discussion
b. Other business: no discussion
10. PRIORITY ACTION TOPICS FOR THE NEXT EMRCD AGENDA
The Priority Topic for next month will be to discuss mechanism for immediate calls to action, discussions for funding sources and review the Strategic Plan.

11. NEXT MEETING
The next EMRCD is scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 1:00 pm in the USDA Office Conference Room, 2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA

12. THE MEETING OF THE EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS WAS ADJOURED AT 4:00 P. M.

/S/
KAREN L. WHIPP
EMRCD BOARD CLERK

NOTICE OF REGULAR MEETING

OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

UC Cooperative Extension
Classroom
2145 W. Wardrobe Avenue
Merced, CA 95340

Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Visit us on the web at www.emrcd.org
Call EMRCD for more information 209-723-6755
Fax EMRCD for more information 209-723-0880
To be added to the EMRCD agenda mailing list, please send a letter to the RCD at the above address by the 3rd day of the month preceding the meeting.

1. INTRODUCTION

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

ITEM # PRESENTER

* 4. Consent Agenda

# a. Minutes of the August 15, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
# b. Treasury Report
# c. DOC II and Prop 13 Grant Updates

5. Correspondence/Information Only

a. Letters
1. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
# b. Meeting Notices and Reports
1. CSDA e-NEWS September 4, 2007
2. CSDA e-NEWS September 10, 2007
3. CSDA e-NEWS September 17, 2007
4. US Department of the Interior Submittal of
Fiscal Year 2008 Program Proposals
5. California Association of Resource Conservation
Districts – San Joaquin Valley Agenda for the Fall
Area Meeting
6. Understanding the Ralph M. Brown Act
c. Newsletters and Flyers (available to review at meeting)
1. CSDA July – August 2007 Magazine
2. National Woodlands Magazine
3. Noxious Times
4. Forestry Notes
5. Great Valley News
6. Conservation Connection
7. EcoAnalysts
8. NACD News and Views
9. Forestland Steward
10. Water Conservation News

For information only.

6. Written and Oral Updates

a. NRCS Update Malia Hildebrandt
b. Watershed Coordinator Update (DOC II) Gwen Huff/
Cindy Lashbrook
c. Merced River Alliance (Prop 13) Update Karen Whipp

* 7 Recording EMRCD Board Meetings Cathy Weber
action.
For discussion and possible

*# 8. Procedures for Requesting Public Information Karen Whipp

Recommend the EMRCD Board adopt procedures
for requesting public information.

*# 9. CAL-Card Contract Addendum Merced, CA 95340 Karen Whipp

Recommend the EMRCD Board authorize the EMRCD
Board President to sign the contract addendum and resolution.

* 10. Response letter to Department of Water Resources in Karen Barstow
Regard to Letters of Opposition of Grant Proposal

For discussion and possible action.

* 11. Future Relationship Between EMRCD and Merced
River Stakeholders

For discussion and possible action.

* 12. Mechanism for Immediate Calls to Action

For discussion and possible action.

* 13. Potential Funding Sources

For discussion and possible action.

14. Old Business

a. Planning of Annexation
b. Board Member Recruitment
c. Other Old Business

* 15. Priority Action Topic for Next EMRCD Agenda

Review the EMRCD Strategic Plan.

16. Next EMRCD Board Meeting

The next EMRCD Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 in the USDA Office Conference Room,
2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA.

* 17. Adjournment of the Regular EMRCD Board Meeting, September 26, 2007

* Action
# Attachment
+ Enclosure
IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, IF SPECIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT STAFF AT 209-723-6755. NOTIFICATION OF 48 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING WILL ENABLE THE STAFF TO MAKE REASONABLE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE ACCESSIBILITY TO THIS MEETING.

Date Agenda Posted September 21, 2007
Please remove after September 26, 2007__
-----------------------

ORAL STATEMENT ON ITEM #1 OF THE AGENDA
East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007, 6 p.m.

POINTS OF ORDER

I am Bryant Owens, speaking on behalf of the Planada Community Association, and other signatories to the suppressed letter of opposition Merced River Stakeholders filed against the recent East Merced RCD grant proposal

I am summarizing a letter I am submitting to make the legal record.

The meeting we are now attending is illegal and should be adjourned and any river stakeholders present should go to the Merced River Stakeholders meeting sponsored by the Bettencourt Family and other river property owners at Washington School.

For these reasons and others, the meeting we are attending is illegal:

1. The East Merced RCD is a member of the Merced River Stakeholders group, not its leader
in any sense;

2. The East Merced RCD has no authority to decide on the agenda or location of a Merced River Stakeholders meeting, except as the stakeholders agree. The Merced River Stakeholders disagree and are at this moment holding their meeting at the Washington
School;

3. The East Merced RCD board of directors, appointed by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, is at present an illegally constituted legislative body;

4. The Merced River Stakeholders is not a legislative body, by common stakeholder decision after several years of discussion on its governance;

5. This illegally constituted legislative body has committed multiple violations of the California Association of RCD Guidebook and the Ralph Brown Act in the past, including the calling of this meeting and future actions already agendized on the next East Merced RCD board meeting;

6. Several individuals representing the East Merced RCD present at this meeting are committing violations of the California Law of Conflict of Interest.

To make the legal record, I am submitting our full letter and supporting documents to the East Merced RCD on the illegality of the meeting we are presently attending.

We urge the East Merced RCD board to adjourn this meeting.
----------------------------

PROTEST AGAINST APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF JULY MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS MEETING
East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007, 6 p.m.

David Corser, Planada Community Association, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, et al. and representing other Merced River Stakeholders

The minutes of the July Merced River Stakeholders meeting cannot be approved here tonight because:

1. The only body authorized to approve Merced River Stakeholders minutes is the Merced River Stakeholders, meeting at this moment at Washington School.
2. This is an East Merced RCD meeting, not a Merced River Stakeholders meeting.
3. East Merced RCD is a legislative body governed by the Brown Act.
4. It must include in these minutes the minutes of the last East Merced RCD meeting, which does not include any reference to this unlawful meeting here.
5. It must also include its agenda and minutes pertaining to Item #6 in its last meeting, during which it took an unlawful vote to suppress a public letter of protest from Merced River Stakeholders to an East Merced RCD grant proposal, which the state agency rejected because of that and other letters and petitions from Merced River Stakeholders against it.
6. If East Merced RCD board members and staff and staff of the Merced River Alliance assert that they constitute a subcommittee of the East Merced RCD that has unlawfully convened this present meeting, they must show in East Merced RCD minutes how their authority was generated by board action.
7. They cannot do this because the board explicitly tabled discussion of establishing a subcommittee at its last meeting. East Merced RCD August meeting notes clearly shows this.
8. Therefore, we are attending a meeting unlawfully convened by the East Merced RCD pretending to be a Merced River Stakeholders meeting (when that meeting is going on simultaneously at the Washington School) and the East Merced RCD cannot even justify this meeting in terms of its own authority because it has not authorized “subcommittees” or the like of the board to act between its regular meetings.
9. By convening this meeting at UC Merced against the express wishes of the largest group of stakeholders, the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator has abdicated her authority as the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator.
10. Why have East Merced RCD staff and board members been harassing Merced River stakeholders with a barrage of emails and phone calls to attend this unlawful meeting? Because this is a naked power play by disgruntled East Merced RCD board members and staff and the Merced River Alliance to silence the Merced River Stakeholders.
11. To defend the health of the Lower Merced River, Merccd River Stakeholders wrote publicly to oppose the East Merced RCD grant proposal. Although the best evidence of spiteful reaction is convening this unlawful meeting, there is other evidence: the Merced River Alliance newsletter no longer includes any mention of the Merced River Stakeholders; and the Stakeholders’ independent website was discontinued and its domain is up for sale.
We recommend this unlawful meeting be adjourned immediately.
----------------------

From: gwenhuff@comcast.net
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net
Subject: Moving on
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 12:18:58 -0700

Dear Stakeholders -

For those of you not at last nights meeting at UC Merced, I would like to let you know that I am moving to Sacramento and will be resigning from the East Merced RCD and as facilitator of the Merced River Stakeholders group.

The East Merced RCD has funding to facilitate one more MRS meeting, to be held November 19th. After that time, current funding from EMRCD grants to facilitate the stakeholders will cease. At the November meeting you will have the opportunity to set a course for the stakeholders and decide how you would like to move forward with this change of circumstances. I hope that you will be able to attend this important meeting. At the direction of the MRS, we are seeking a facilitator for that meeting and the meeting notification will be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, some members of the MRS have decided to form a separate organization and are using the name Merced River Stakeholders. This will, no doubt, be causing some confusion with meeting notifications. Please note that communications from the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) and it's staff (Cindy Lashbrook and Karen Whipp) will relate to the MRS meetings that are facilitated by the EMRCD.

It has been a pleasure working with you for the last year and half. The MRS is a very special and important group. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734

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Merced River Stakeholders protest letter to EMRCD grant proposal

Submitted: Sep 21, 2007

BETTENCOURT FAMILY PROPERTY
TELEPHONE 209/358-9400; FAX 209/812-1818
11570 Shaffer Road, Winton CA 95388
e-mail: pferrigno@elite.net

June 2, 2007

State of California
Department of Water Resources
Division of Planning and Local Assistance
DWR Watershed Program
P. O. Box 948236
Sacramento, CA 94236-001

Re: CalFed Grant Application: Lower Merced River Watershed Management Plan

To Whom It May Concern:

We are property owners and farmers on the Merced River; we farm 815 acres which is contiguous to the River. We have lived in this community since 1852 and we have been active in the Merced River Stakeholders group since its inception in 1998-1999. As a family we have supported many activities of the stakeholders group; in 2001 we hosted 100 VIP guests of the Wild on Watershed tour for a luncheon along our river.

The Merced River Stakeholders group was formed as a part of the initial project to design a Merced River Corridor Restoration plan. There have been lots of meetings (5-12 per year) which we have faithfully attended to help align the interests of the property owners and the agencies/other interested stakeholders; generally, at least three members of the family attend every meeting.

In 2000, we formed a group of property owners which we have kept informed of issues as they developed; when necessary we could muster a large group to attend meetings. Members of this group are our friends and neighbors; many of these friendships span several generations.

Our reason for giving you this history is to illustrate our commitment to the Merced River watershed; and, to establish our credentials and standing to comment on the above-referenced grant.
We oppose the grant for the following reasons:

1. There is little grassroots support for this project: Appropriate process was not followed in allowing the stakeholders to review or comment on the subject/scope of the project. We are in the Snelling MAC district but we were not even notified of the meeting, if one was held, at which the endorsement of this grant was awarded;
2. There is little chance that the grant applicants will be able to accomplish their stated objectives: 98% of the property in the lower Merced River watershed is privately owned; at least 85% of the property is owned by stakeholders who will allow no access to their land for purposes of executing this grant; and,
3. This grant will destroy the existing cooperation among property owners, agencies, and other stakeholders because it totally violates the trust which we have fought to build.

The methodology for accomplishing the work product of this grant is seriously flawed; the grant writers propose a series of work groups (ten) which will meet only twice in a three year period. A rational person will immediately understand that the role of each work group will be to rubberstamp the activities of staff, who will “gather and synthesize extensive existing information”. No qualifications are given as to the education or experience of those tasked with performing the work of the grant; Stillwater Sciences has a role in the project but will not be performing the day-to-day work.

The above-referenced grant was submitted by EMRCD staff (one of whom is the facilitator for the Merced River Stakeholders group); this group chose not to follow the agreed-upon protocol allowing review by the Merced River Stakeholders before presenting any proposal which affects the watershed (this particular betrayal by the MRS facilitator is very troublesome). There was no opportunity for discussion of the concept before the initial submission; there has been no input or cross-cultivation of ideas among the many stakeholders who should be represented in this effort.

The first that the Stakeholders group knew of the grant request was when the concept proposal was approved in principle by CalFed, at which time we were informed that our input was invited but the concept could not be changed substantively without compromising the potential success of the final grant product.

Despite our specific requests, we still have not received a copy of the final rendition of this grant, making it quite difficult to comment on a point-by-point basis or to know the particulars of the grant, e.g., assigned project number, etc.

It appears from the information we have received that one of the goals of CalFed in the awarding of these grants is to “ensure the long-term sustainability of watershed management”; another goal is to “develop a plan to address recreational opportunities”.

We can assure you that neither goal has any chance to be accomplished by excluding the property owners from the planning and execution of this project.

We want a voice in determining the future of the Merced River watershed; it is unfair to expect us to sit by and let our destiny be determined by professional grant writers with the goal of using this project to fund their own salaries for the next three years. They will then move on to the next project which promises acceptable remuneration leaving us to deal with the consequences of whatever planning they have done.

At the request of the review committee we will make a personal appearance before the committee to discuss this situation and/or present additional written information.

We urge the committee to not fund this grant; in this time of scarce resources every dollar needs to be spent wisely and judiciously on projects which will protect and foster stewardship on the Merced River.

Sincerely,

/s/ by Gladys Barbara Bettencourt
Patricia Bettencourt Ferrigno
Michael D. Bettencourt
Nancy Bettencourt Deavours
Lorrie Bettencourt McDowell
Sharon Bettencourt Dragovich

cc: Deidre Kelsey, Supervisor District 4, Merced County
Diana Westmoreland-Pedrozo, Merced County Farm Bureau
John Garamendi, Lieutenant Governor, State of California
Dennis Cardoza, Congressional District 18
Jeff Denham, Senatorial District 17

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Merced River Stakeholders protest letter to East Merced Resource Conservation District grant proposal and a chonology of e-mails

Submitted: Sep 19, 2007

Stefan Lorenzato
Watershed Program Manager
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9617
(916) 651-9607 fax
stefanl@water.ca.gov

Kristyne Miller, Grant Manager
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9621
kmiller@water.ca.gov

Megan Fidell, Watershed Program Staff
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9619
mfidell@water.ca.gov
Dan Wermiel, Watershed Program Staff
Resources Agency - CALFED Watershed Program June 4, 2007
(916) 445-5398
dwermiel@calwater.ca.gov Via :Email & Fax
Re: Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan grant proposal submitted by East Merced Resource Conservation District

Dear Mr. Lorenzato, Ms. Miller, Ms. Fidell and Mr. Wermiel,

We are writing, as members of the Merced River Stakeholders, to protest a proposal submitted by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) called “Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan.”

This letter includes:

1) Objections to the substance of the conceptual application;
2) Objections to the process by which the EMRCD, a public agency, bypassed the Merced River Stakeholders in drafting and approving this grant against significant opposition;
3) A statement of the next steps stakeholders will take should this grant be approved;
4) Attached Merced River Stakeholders’ chronology of correspondence on this proposal.

1. Objections to the substance of the conceptual application

· Where are the traditional partners that have been involved in every Merced River project and application to date: Merced Irrigation District, Merced River Stakeholders, California Department of Fish and Game, for example?

· “…and a consultant (as yet to be selected) experienced in facilitation and the Central Valley Blueprint process – a process similar to the development of this plan.” It is highly probable a consultant has already been selected, so why the mystery?

· The proposal states that a plan will be developed to address recreational opportunities. The Merced watershed is almost completely privately owned (and those owners are well represented on the Merced River Stakeholders.) “Recreational opportunity” is a very contentious issue on the Lower Merced River.

· How can this grant fund a management plan for the Merced River Watershed and manage lands outside that watershed? The vast majority of vernal pool habitat in Eastern Merced County is NOT in the Merced River Watershed. This fact is well known to watershed owners and to Merced Irrigation District (not a partner to this grant proposal). This problem may be addressed by another grant EMRCD is proposing, to NFWF, as part of their match. But, this is not clear.

· If the Merced River Stakeholders are as the proposal presents us, an unduplicated model of consistent public/private interaction, why aren’t the stakeholders partners in the grant?

· Six thousand dollars sounds like an inflated amount to publish a plan.

· Some stakeholders, even after reading the concept proposal, were misled by EMRCD communications into thinking the proposal submitted on June 1 was not the final proposal and that it could be changed later to reflect stakeholders' concerns. EMRCD made no copies of the June 1 proposal available to stakeholders prior to submission. Merced River Stakeholders that aren't members of the EMRCD board do not know what proposal the EMRCD voted unanimously to support. If it was the concept proposal, stakeholders raised numerous objections to it and some told EMRCD they would strenuously oppose it.

· “And many involved will have the authority to implement parts of the plan, such as federal, state and local agencies or Municipal Advisory Councils.” EMRCD staff evidently does not know that MACs have no authority. They are appointed in unincorporated towns by their district supervisors to serve strictly as advisory groups. This is a strange blank spot in EMRCD staff knowledge, considering that the EMRCD board president serves on one MAC and an EMRCD associate director is a county planning commissioner.

· “The success of this project will dependant upon connections with other projects, the academic and scientific community and agencies in the watershed. The management team will devote a significant amount of time to gathering data on existing conditions within the watershed in order to provide baseline information to the work groups.” Hasn’t this been done in the literature review in the MRS Restoration Plan? It just needs updating to add the studies completed since 2002. Why will it take a significant amount of time? Existing conditions are part of the Merced River Restoration Plan. Beyond the watershed, we doubt if that work has been done (in the vernal pools area). However, a great deal of mapping of vernal
pools has also been done by agencies such as the University of California and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

· Items in the budget section:

o data collection: 650 hrs collecting and compiling background data for the Plan. @ $40 hr =$26,000. That would be EMRCD… for all the projects we have seen, Stillwater has compiled an extensive inventory of existing studies through 2002. What other data has to be collected?
o Purchase1 laptop computer ($1,500).

o Scientific Consultant will compile and synthesize data $22,547 What does this mean? If EMRCD collects and compiles it, why does Scientific Consultant then compile it again (and synthesize it)?

o Training: Attend facilitation & technical training workshops and conferences. 2 EMRCD personnel x 2 trainings ea per year = 12 trainings X 20 hrs pr workshop/conference = 240 hrs @ $40 hr = $9,600. Plus registration $1,400, meals $360, mileage $2,000 and lodging $1,200. Elsewhere in the proposal, it is mentioned a professional facilitator was going to be used.

· “The management team will gather and synthesize existing information on the watershed – including, but not limited to Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan, Merced Alliance Biological Assessment, USFWS Endangered Species Recovery Program, ongoing fish and water supply studies by Merced Irrigation District, TMDLs, Wildlife and Rare Plant Ecology of Eastern Merced County’s Vernal Pool Grasslands, DWR and UC Merced information on climate change.” The last we knew, the Merced doesn’t have a TMDL. Stillwater should have all the data noted above except Vernal Pools and maybe UC Merced data. They should have a good idea of what DWR has. Again, this grant is for the Merced watershed unless they expand it (or unless they don’t get called on it).

· UC Merced and the Upper Merced River Watershed Council/Mariposa Resource Conservation District both submitted concept proposals to CALFED in this funding cycle. Neither were accepted. In this context, the EMRCD proposal is fragmentary, is straying out of the Lower Merced River Watershed into Eastern Merced vernal pool land that is not in the river watershed, and cannot result in a comprehensive watershed planning tool because it relied on other conceptual proposals that weren't accepted.

· What is the need for watershed coordinator, grant manager, and education/outreach coordinator?

· “Many of the partners and agencies will internalize the ideas and knowledge acquired during the workgroup and planning process, making connections to their institutional strategic plans and budgets.” We would appreciate it if EMRCD staff

· will provide us with their methodology for quantifying the results on this statement.

· “An important component of this project will be the development of concept proposals that would address the needs identified in the plan. With concept proposals in place, landowners, nonprofits and agencies will have the core concepts for implementation ready to use and can more easily acquire funding, permits and/or partners for important work. The business community will become involved stakeholders, recognizing that they have more likely to fund further meetings and projects.” Huh?

· “Many of the concepts introduced during this process may become part of the Merced County General Plan Update currently in process (earliest expected completion date, Spring 2009). Several of Watershed Plan participants are involved in Focus Groups for the County General Plan Update, including EMRCD board members. If the Watershed Plan proposal is funded, the process and the Plan have great potential to influence the County General Plan Update.” Again, we would appreciate the EMRCD staff providing the methodology by which they plan to implement this political fantasy. The Merced River Stakeholders are on record as opposing the Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan being treated as a political policy document locally, regionally or for state or federal use.

· Merced River Stakeholders were denied review of the final proposal. What we see in the concept proposal doesn’t give us a clear picture of the roles or staff, outcomes, or processes by which the tasks will be accomplished. We cannot imagine the CALFED review panel will approve this proposal.

· Finally, our question to CALFED is: Why aren’t the Merced River Stakeholders the preferred vehicle of partnership and consensus at this point?

2) Objections to the process by which the EMRCD, a public agency, bypassed the Merced River Stakeholders in drafting and approving this grant against significant opposition

To: Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) and East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) Board of Directors
From: Lydia Miller, Merced River Stakeholder, and president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Refutation of RCD watershed coordinator’s version of events surrounding two grant proposals
Date: May 23, 2007

This letter will refer to a chain of emails attached below and to notes taken at the March 19 and May 21 MRS during which staff presented two grant proposals for MRS support. Staff’s recollections of events, put forth in her email of May 23, are inaccurate and misleading. Because of the timing, they appear to be last-ditch efforts to influence the RCD board vote this afternoon.

Comments made at the March 19 meeting were not included in the later version of the CalFed grant. Nor were they included in the minutes of the March 19 meeting, which staff admitted at the May 21 meeting.
These comments included:

1) Starting up a Technical Advisory Committee again, after the TAC approach has already proved unsuccessful in the stakeholder process because it separates agencies from other stakeholders and creates a top-down decision-making hierarchy;
2) San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and UC/Great Valley Center experience: there are stakeholders who don’t support either and neither organization has participated in the MRS process;
3) Partners and co-sponsors of these grants have never attended MRS meetings. Staff who created these grants did not recognize local stakeholders except to come to them at the eleventh hour, present them a grant, tell them it couldn’t be changed, and request MRS support;
4) The Merced River has not political voice on the county Board of Supervisors because Supervisor Kelsey recuses herself on all issues involving the river;
5) The California Department of Fish and Game and USFWS Endangered Species Sac. has no involvement in these grants;
6) According to staff, the document to be produced by the CalFed grant will become a part of the Merced County General Plan Update and become planning policy; the partners and co-sponsors on the proposal are not representative of real stakeholders on the river;
7) Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan is not a policy document either, despite repeated attempts of county special interests to make it one; it remains a fluid document;
8) MRS, composed of agencies, landowners, businesses and environmental representatives, has been involved in the stakeholder process since 1999; the partners listed on these grants have not been involved in MRS;
9) MRS did not support the grant concept proposal; MRS will oppose it; it was presented by staff at the March 19 meeting as a done deal in its present form that could not be altered (comments on it weren’t even included in the minutes of the meeting).

At the May 21 meeting of MRS, some new issues were brought out:

1) There at least two grant proposals being submitted and there may be more; they may duplicate tasks; there is no coordination among them – the topic of coordination is mentioned, but not explained;
2) The recipients of funding for staff work are not identified, but it is apparent there will be significant monetary advantage from the grants to RCD, Stillwater, and the Merced River Alliance.
3) The orderly way to proceed on the consultant portion of the grant would be to put the consultant’s tasks out to bid; it appears here that the consultant may have been the primary grant writer;
4) RCD has proving itself on four occasions to be unable to administer past grants; four grants have been frozen due to RCD lack of accountability;
5) Thirty-to-40 concerns were written down by a facilitator who was not invited by MRS at the May 21 meeting; none of these have been incorporated in to the grant nor has their been any attempt to incorporate them into the document the RCD board will be asked to approve today;
Only four stakeholders among the MRS participants had read the grant. None of the four RCD board members had read it. Staff picked and chose who got to see it.

Staff claims the RCD will make all information about tasks in the grants available to the public through its website. RCD staff got off to a bad start: the grant proposals were not posted on its website.
Staff attempts to railroad the MRS have the appearance of corruption.
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and its associated organizations cannot support these grant proposals.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
San Joaquin Raptor / Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

3) A statement of the next steps stakeholders will take should this grant be approved
If approval of this grant proceeds, we request a formal hearing to protest further what we consider to be a misuse of public funds. Considering that public funds are involved and there is substantial controversy about the efficacy, propriety and failure of public process by the applicant public agency contained in this proposal concerning vital natural resources in our county, we suggest that the project, if approved, would require CEQA and NEPA review.

We believe the project is legally actionable and are considering our legal options at this time.
We request notification of your decision on the grant. In the event that you approve the grant, we request that you provide us with all material supporting your reasons for that approval.

4) Attached Merced River Stakeholders’ chronology of correspondence on this proposal. (See attachment “MRS Chronology”)
Respectfully,

Lydia M. Miller Steve Burke
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center Protect Our Water (POW)
P.O. Box 778 3105 Yorkshire Lane
Merced, CA 95341 Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax (209) 523-1391, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net/sjrrc@sbcglobal.net

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
P.O Box 732
Merced, CA 95341
209-723-9283 ph & fax
sjvc@bigvalley.net

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor /Wildlife Rescue Center Protect Our Water
Merced River Valley Association The Stevinson Citizen’s Group
Planada Association Le Grand Association
Planada Community Development Co. Stanislaus Natural Heritage
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT
Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net
cvsen@bigvalley.net
--------------------------------

----- Original Message -----
From: Four Seasons Ag. Consulting, Inc.
To: 'Raptorctr' ; 'Gwen Huff'
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; 'Cathy & Don Weber' ; 'Bernard Wade' ; 'Glenn Anderson' ; 'Whipp' ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com ; 'SJRRC'
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 10:58 PM
Subject: RE: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Dear Lydia,
The grant was finished and sent off to Sacramento at 12:30 pm today, at which time, Gwen, turned her attention to Saturday’s Merced River Fair, which she is responsible for, and the Heartland Festival. Plus she was away from her home computer. I am sure she will send it to you Monday when she is back in her office. There was no slight intended, just the reality of multiple responsibilities.
Hope to see you here, at the Merced River Fair, again this year.
Thanks, Cindy

From: Raptorctr [mailto:Raptorctr@bigvalley.net]
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 1:55 PM
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow'; Cindy Lashbrook; Cathy & Don Weber; Bernard Wade; Glenn Anderson; Whipp; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us; doubletacres@aol.com; SJRRC
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal
Importance: High

To: Board of Directors, East Merced Resource Conservation District
Date: June 1, 2007
Re: Request to review final copy of grant proposal
Members of the Board,

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, EMRCD staff informed stakeholders that changes might be made in the grant proposal that you approved several days later. We have been waiting to view the final document. EMRCD staff has not made it available to stakeholders who have consistently requested to see it.
We are disappointed that the EMRCD board and staff did not give us the opportunity review the proposal before it is submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com ; SJRRC
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 1:55 PM
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal

To: Board of Directors, East Merced Resource Conservation District
Date: June 1, 2007
Re: Request to review final copy of grant proposal
Members of the Board,

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, EMRCD staff informed stakeholders that changes might be made in the grant proposal that you approved several days later. We have been waiting to view the final document. EMRCD staff has not made it available to stakeholders who have consistently requested to see it.
We are disappointed that the EMRCD board and staff did not give us the opportunity review the proposal before it is submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Karen L Whipp
To: Raptorctr ; Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 5:08 PM
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Cindy,

We have names that you can us as contact names to see about getting these letters of support If you want I will email them to you later today! ok.

Karen

Raptorctr wrote:
Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

KL Whipp & Co. Inc.
"providing a voice to those in need"
Karen L. Whipp, President
P.O. Box 1426
Merced, CA 95341-1426
Tel: 209.723.6755
Fax: 209.723.0880
email: kwhipp@klwhippandco.com
website: www.klwhippandco.com

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Jon Kelsey
To: SJRRC ; Gwen Huff ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; Marsh Pitman ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory' ; Whipp ; Glenn Anderson ; Bernard Wade ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Mary Furey ; Cindy Lashbrook ; 'Karen Barstow' ; Malia Hildebrandt ; Merced Farm Bureau ; Mike Pellicano ; Tim Johnson ; watershed@sti.net ; watershededucator@sti.net ; Robbyavilla@aol.com ; Koch ; William Loudermilk ; Madelyn T. Martinez ; Rhonda Reed ; Teri Murrison ; William Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 4:14 PM
Subject: Re: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal

Deidre Kelsey here. I have just today been made aware of the problems with the grant application not being reviewed by the Merced River Stakeholder group. As the Board of Supervisor member who represents the Merced River within Merced County, and who helped launch the Stakeholder process years ago, I am concerned about these problems. I have asked to speak with Gwen Huff and expect she will call me soon. I must correct Ms. Miller's assertion that I am "conflicted' on river issues or have no political voice". This untrue statement, which apparently has been repeated at previous MRS meeting, is misleading and again, is untrue. The future of the river as a resource for our county is what is important. I have helped on many watershed and river related or fishery related issues in the past and I am ready to help with this problem or any other that affects my district and the County of Merced.
Deidre

----- Original Message -----
From: SJRRC
To: Gwen Huff ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; Marsh Pitman ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory' ; Whipp ; Glenn Anderson ; Bernard Wade ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Mary Furey ; Cindy Lashbrook ; 'Karen Barstow' ; Malia Hildebrandt ; Merced Farm Bureau ; Mike Pellicano ; Tim Johnson ; watershed@sti.net ; watershededucator@sti.net ; Robbyavilla@aol.com ; Koch ; William Loudermilk ; Madelyn T. Martinez ; Rhonda Reed ; Teri Murrison ; William Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 1:56 PM
Subject: Re: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal
To: Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) and East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) Board of Directors
From: Lydia Miller, Merced River Stakeholder, and president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Refutation of RCD watershed coordinator’s version of events surrounding two grant proposals
Date: May 23, 2007

This letter will refer to a chain of emails attached below and to notes taken at the March 19 and May 21 MRS during which staff presented a grant proposal for MRS support. Later, we discovered there was a second grant proposal that was never submitted to MRS for review or support. Staff’s recollections of events, put forth in her email of May 23, are inaccurate and misleading. Because of the timing, they appear to be last-ditch efforts to influence the RCD board vote this afternoon. As staff stated in her May 16 email response, staff is presenting MRS as a full participant and supporter of these grant proposals.

Lastly, the idea of substituting the Management Plan process for the MRS meetings was not a good one. I heard that loud and clear. I was happy to get that feedback – it reminded me that the MRS meetings are, indeed, valuable for those who come. So, when changing the concept proposal to the final proposal, we will be adding in the MRS meetings. We cannot add anymore to the budget, so we will just have to work things out to accommodate this. Most probably we will hold the MRS meetings on the same day as we hold the logistics meetings to save on costs and it will most likely change to once a quarter instead of every other month. At the MRS meetings we will be able to summarize progress on the Management Plan, but attendees will have had to do their homework on the website because we will want time for group input, not spending too much time bringing everyone up to speed. At these MRS meetings we will ask the group for feedback on the process and the direction, as well as encouraging continued participation in the workgroups.
Oh – and when the workgroups have finished meeting and a draft plan is put together based on their meetings, this draft plan will be circulated to the stakeholders, as well as all work group participants, to see that it accurately reflects their experience. Review from them will shape the final project. -- Email from Gwen Huff to Lydia Miller, May 16, 2007

This comment by RCD staff ignores the fact that consistent stakeholders, who have been in the process since its beginning in 1999, were not involved in the drafting of the proposals, have basic objections to the proposals and will oppose the funding publicly.

The EMRCD Directors have now been made aware of the lapse in soliciting MRS comments and are resolved to rectify that failing. Canceling the current proposal signals termination of the MRS and continued scientific research on the Merced River. Then we are out of the loop and CalFed can award the money to a candidate regardless of content. Best Regards, Bernie

RCD President Bernie Wade's comment in his May 22 email is irresponsible, inaccurate and typical of what the east Merced public has come to expect from the RCD.

1) RCD cannot rectify the failure to solicit MRS comments in time;
2) Cancelling the current proposal does not signal termination of the MRS or continued scientific research: MRS is a volunteer organization that can dispense with the services of a paid coordinator; and according to the primary grant writer, Maia Singer, (during May 21 MRS meeting) there is other grant money available to implement scientific research on the river.

Comments made at the March 19 meeting were not included in the later version of the CalFed grant. Nor were they included in the minutes of the March 19 meeting, which staff admitted at the May 21 meeting.

Some of these comments included:

1) Starting up a Technical Advisory Committee again, after the TAC approach has already proved unsuccessful in the stakeholder process because it separates agencies from other stakeholders and creates a top-down decision-making hierarchy;
2) San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and UC/Great Valley Center experience: there are stakeholders who don’t support either and neither organization has participated in the MRS process;
3) Partners and co-sponsors of these grants have never attended MRS meetings. Staff who created these grants did not recognize local stakeholders except to come to them at the eleventh hour, present them a grant, tell them it couldn’t be changed, and request MRS support;
4) The Merced River has no political voice on the county Board of Supervisors because Supervisor Kelsey recuses herself on all issues involving the river;
5) The California Department of Fish and Game and USFWS Endangered Species Sac. has no involvement in these grants;
6) According to staff, the document to be produced by the CalFed grant will become a part of the Merced County General Plan Update and become planning policy; the partners and co-sponsors on the proposal are not representative of real stakeholders on the river;
7) Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan is not a policy document either, despite repeated attempts of county special interests to make it one; it remains a fluid document;
8) MRS, composed of agencies, landowners, businesses and environmental representatives, has been involved in the stakeholder process since 1999; the partners listed on these grants have not been involved in MRS;
9) Some MRS members did not support the grant concept proposal; they will oppose it; it was presented by staff at the March 19 meeting as a done deal in its present form that could not be altered (comments on it weren’t even included in the minutes of the meeting).

At the May 21 meeting of MRS, some new issues were brought out:

1) There at least two grant proposals being submitted and there may be more; they may duplicate tasks; there is no coordination among them – the topic of coordination is mentioned, but not explained;
2) The recipients of funding for staff work are not identified, but it is apparent there will be significant monetary advantage from the grants to RCD, Stillwater, and the Merced River Alliance.
3) The orderly way to proceed on the consultant portion of the grant would be to put the consultant’s tasks out to bid; it appears here that the consultant may have been the primary grant writer;
4) RCD has proving itself on four occasions to be unable to administer past grants; four grants have been frozen due to RCD lack of accountability;
5) Thirty-to-40 concerns were written down by a facilitator who was not invited by MRS at the May 21 meeting; none of these have been incorporated in to the grant nor has their been any attempt to incorporate them into the document the RCD board will be asked to approve today;
6) Only four stakeholders among the MRS participants had read the grants. None of the four RCD board members had read them. Staff picked and chose who got to see it.

Staff claims the RCD will make all information about tasks in the grants available to the public through its website. RCD staff got off to a bad start: the grant proposals were not posted on its website.

Staff attempts to railroad the MRS have the appearance of corruption.

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and its associated organizations cannot support these grant proposals because staff has already shown it is ignoring significant critical input by MRS members.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
-----------------

CHRONOLOGY OF E-MAILS

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Lydia Miller' ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory'
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 8:35 AM
Subject: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal

Pat and Bernie –

I just wanted to add a little bit to this discussion on the point about gathering input from stakeholders. The effort may or may not have been adequate in everyone’s opinion, but below you will find my recollections on what was done.

At the March MRS meeting printed copies of the concept proposal were made available, for anyone who cared to have one.

During the meeting a presentation was made outlining the proposed grant and request made for input from stakeholders. Comments were made and incorporated.

Upon notification that we had been asked to submit a full proposal, the following email went out to the entire MRS:

Stakeholders –

Today we received the very good news that our concept proposal was accepted to go to the next, and final round. You may remember we talked about this at the last MRS meeting and you said you wanted to give more input to the final proposal. I will call all the stakeholders who have been frequent attendees and we will go over the project as it now stands and see where we can modify to make it better. If you are not a regular attendee, and you want to participate in this process, please let me know. I will be happy to call you, too.

Also, at the next MRS meeting, May 21, our primary order of business will be to go over the proposed project and get input from the stakeholders as a whole. I hope that you will make an effort to be there. I’ll be sending out more meeting details later.

I am pleased that we were asked to go forward – I think the project has potential to coordinate many of the diverse efforts and interests in the Merced Watershed.

Following this, contact was made with all those who regularly attend stakeholder meetings, soliciting their input. Those contacted by email only were also sent a summary of the concept proposal. The text of such emails is as follows:

As you will remember, at the last MRS meeting we talked about the upcoming grant proposal. I’m attaching a summary of the draft proposal to help jog your memory.

There were some comments that I received that we will be incorporating into the final proposal, they are:

· Keep the Merced River Stakeholders meetings going (we will – may have to go to once a quarter)
· Review the focus areas for the work groups (looking for your input on this)
· Be sure to include more stakeholders so all organizations are working together (any organizations you know of that we should contact?)
· Be careful that the management team isn’t separate from stakeholders (may rename this to the “Logistics Workgroup” rather than “Management Team” as the bulk of work will be compiling and sorting information from the workgroups, and outside sources, as well as setting up and facilitating workgroup meetings. The real work will take place in the workgroups. Additionally, the minutes of the “Logistics Workgroup” will be posted with all other work group meetings on the website that will be set up for this and the meetings will be open to all)

If you would like to talk to me or email me about this issues, or others that come up for you, regarding the grant proposal, I am very anxious to have as much input as possible from every interested (and even not so interested) party.

Remember – this is due in Sacramento by June 1st and the sooner we get any comments, the more likely we will be able to incorporate them. Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

One stakeholder requested the full concept proposal and this was sent. Two stakeholders responded to this request for input, Glenn Anderson who provided suggestions on workgroup content, and Sharon Dragovich stating;

As of now, my family’s position is the same as at the last meeting. We do not believe that this grant is consistent with the direction which the property owners (those who make their living along land contiguous to the river) have supported in the past and we cannot support it.

We believe the appropriate focus of the Merced River Stakeholders Group should be (1) oversight of projects which impact the River and (2) education. We expect to be present and to participate in the discussion on Monday night. The Grants timing is unfortunate for farmers (this is everyone’s busy season) and it is doubtful that we will be able to get them to attend this meeting; we will keep the property owners group up to date on the discussion through 1:1 contact and mailings.

Sharon’s family was contacted (Pat Ferrigno and Mike Bettencourt) by phone and personal visit in order to hear their concerns and attempt to shape the proposal to better represent their interests.

Lastly, the May MRS meeting devoted a significant portion of the time to the concept proposal.

Respectfully submitted - Gwen
------------------

From: Pat Ferrigno [mailto:pferrigno@elite.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 4:16 AM
To: 'Brwade@aol.com'
Subject: RE: May 22nd Update

Bernie: Nothing in our previous comments was meant to impugn your sincerity or good faith in dealing with EMRCD or MRS and I apologize to you if that was your interpretation. The fact that you must book-end meetings with a 125 mile commute is solid evidence of your commitment; I’m not sure how many of us would make that sacrifice.

There is an appearance of impropriety, a sense that the process has become inbred. The entire MRS meeting was agenda-ed as a discussion of the grant application—but a copy of the grant was supplied only to those who specifically requested it (Lydia Miller and Sharon Dragovich). The grant application was written, reviewed, and approved by the same committee and the members of that committee appear to be the direct financial beneficiaries of the grant.

Actually, staff for this project has never been formally identified nor have their qualifications to represent the diverse watershed interests been described. There were no job descriptions nor qualifications outlines included in the grant application we received.

The #1 Project Priority stated in this grant is to “Broaden the participation of Federal, State, or local government agencies with watershed partnerships”. How many of us have had our lives/property improved through participation of the government? With the shortage of water which is looming in the future of California and the upcoming (2012?) change in the MID relationship with the River, we are all very sensitive; several of the identified partners in this grant are already “water shopping”. These groups have never been involved in watershed activities on the Merced; what criteria was used to select partners? What is the objective of the partnership? These are valid questions which were never addressed/answered.

Comments made at the meeting espoused the thesis that MRS has no standing because it is “only” a consensus group; therefore there was no imperative for this grant to be presented to MRS. Does it not seem hypocritical for this project to be excepted from review when we have, as a group, scrutinized and withheld endorsement of other projects?

No one wants MRS to die for lack of funding; if necessary, we will keep it going through purely volunteer efforts until we can identify a funding source. MRS is the only forum for interaction and the exchange of ideas; it provides the opportunity of face-to-face meeting for those who have nothing in common except MRS.

We don’t know the answer to this grant funding cycle dilemma; the copy of the grant which we reviewed at MRS does not represent the views of many of the stakeholders. Does EMRCD have the right to proceed with attempting to obtain grant funding for a project which lacks broadbased grassroots support? Thank you for acknowledging the awareness which EMRCD now has regarding this situation. We no longer feel that it is necessary to submit a formal letter to you.

Best regards,
Pat Ferrigno, Mike Bettencourt, Sharon Dragovich
--------------------------

From: Brwade@aol.com [mailto:Brwade@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 5:08 PM
To: pferrigno@elite.net
Subject: May 22nd Update

Dear Pat, A case well explained. I appreciate your comments and pointing out the consultations we had missed. I thought the MRS had been notified and had received copies of the Grant Proposal. There has never been on my part any attempt to ignore MRS or any other concerned input. I think the Directors saw this as a continuation of River Studies already underway and we were merely complying with the CalFed request for a
Grant Proposal. I know the time limit for submittals has been extremely close. The Vernal Pools Grant proposal had to be submitted in a little over 48 hours.

The EMRCD Directors have now been made aware of the lapse in soliciting MRS comments and are resolved to rectify that failing. Canceling the current proposal signals termination of the MRS and continued scientific research on the Merced River. Then we are out of the loop and CalFed can award the money to a candidate regardless of content. Best Regards, Bernie

PS. Myself, and the Directors I know, have never received any compensation for our
participation in the EMRCD even though we are legally entitled to mileage fees.
In fact, we have contributed out of pocket to make up a short fall.
PPS. Pat, Please feel free to forward to this to the CC: of your letter.

----- Original Message -----
From: Pat Ferrigno
To: Brwade@aol.com
Cc: gwenhuff@comcast.net ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Lydia Miller' ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory'
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:26 PM
Subject: RE: EMRCD

Dear Bernie:

We were very disappointed with the discussion regarding the EMRCD grant application at the Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) meeting on Monday night. The conflict of interests present in the entire situation are disconcerting: the facilitator for MRS is applying for a grant under the auspices of EMRCD which will be reviewed by the EMRCD board which includes the MRS co-facilitator; plus the MRS facilitator did not acknowledge the importance of the MRS reviewing the concept grant before submission even though this is what we have perceived as the role of MRS since its inception. And, the RCD will receive the overhead allocation in this grant by providing oversight, which oversight will be provided by the RCD Board which includes beneficiaries of the grant, which beneficiaries include a member of the Planning Commission.

Bernie, I don’t have to be an attorney to know that this isn’t good; there has to be some Federal statute about the fox guarding the henhouse. I don’t think that is what the regulators have in mind when they talk about transparency!

Our aggregate project went under the microsope of MRS scrutiny for six months of meetings; your tailings project has been on the agenda many times. It is mind-boggling that the facilitator(!) has so little respect for the role of MRS that she chose to simply ignore that forum. The excuse that the time schedule did not allow review is a non-starter: Gwen has made multiple contacts with Lydia Miller and with members of our family by telephone and e-mail (and even an unannounced visit to my brother’s home) in her quest to garner after-the-fact support for this grant; the same avenues were available and would have had more success before the concept proposal was submitted.

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you that we will oppose this grant application with all of the resources available to us.

You will receive our formal letter of opposition prior to the meeting. We would appreciate our position being noted in the minutes.

Thank you.

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Raptorctr'
Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:07 AM
Subject: RE: Merced River Grant Proposal

Hi Lydia –

Thanks for the response and I will answer your questions in order.

What is the role of the Merced River Stakeholders' Group in this East Merced Resource Conservation District proposal?

There are several roles. First would be participation of individual members of the MRS in the work groups. That is where an understanding of topic areas will come from, as well as identifying needs and determining future direction. The fact the stakeholders are willing to come to meetings, demonstrates an active interest in the river and they will be critical to the work group process.

Secondly, all the information from the workgroups, including the logistics planning and background information gathering, will be posted to a website that is interactive. Most people won’t be willing or able to make most meetings, but they can stay current and add in their information through the website. Merced River Stakeholders members will again be really important to have participating in that.

Lastly, the idea of substituting the Management Plan process for the MRS meetings was not a good one. I heard that loud and clear. I was happy to get that feedback – it reminded me that the MRS meetings are, indeed, valuable for those who come. So, when changing the concept proposal to the final proposal, we will be adding in the MRS meetings. We cannot add anymore to the budget, so we will just have to work things out to accommodate this. Most probably we will hold the MRS meetings on the same day as we hold the logistics meetings to save on costs and it will most likely change to once a quarter instead of every other month. At the MRS meetings we will be able to summarize progress on the Management Plan, but attendees will have had to do their homework on the website because we will want time for group input, not spending too much time bringing everyone up to speed. At these MRS meetings we will ask the group for feedback on the process and the direction, as well as encouraging continued participation in the workgroups.

Oh – and when the workgroups have finished meeting and a draft plan is put together based on their meetings, this draft plan will be circulated to the stakeholders, as well as all work group participants, to see that it accurately reflects their experience. Review from them will shape the final project.

How much funding is left for Stakeholders' meetings?

Right now the MRS meetings are funded through our DOC grant, which ends next month. The May meeting will be the last one to be funded by that grant. From then until May of next year the funding will come from the Merced River Alliance Project. Though not specifically named in the grant, there are hours available for “building the Alliance” and the functioning of the MRS is very important for that. Also, there is soon to be another grant proposal out for watershed coordinator work – a continuation of the DOC grant work. We will be applying for it as soon as it is out and we will be asking for continued funding of the stakeholders.

How much money is being budgeted in the proposal for Stakeholders' meetings?

We haven’t gotten that far yet. The concept proposal didn’t have any money budgeted for stakeholder meetings, but that will change when we do the final proposal. We are still working on it, but the thinking is that we will move enough money that way to be sure that there will at LEAST be a quarterly MRS meeting. If we get more funding, we can continue to have meetings every other month.

Would you send a copy of the NFWF grant?
It is attached

Lydia Miller

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 3:04 PM
Subject: Re: Merced River Grant Proposal

Gwen,

What is the role of the Merced River Stakeholders' Group in this East Merced Resource Conservation District proposal? How much funding is left for Stakeholders' meetings?
How much money is being budgeted in the proposal for Stakeholders' meetings?
Would you send a copy of the NFWF grant?

Lydia Miller

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Lydia Miller ; Lydia Miller
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2007 4:16 PM
Subject: Merced River Grant Proposal

Hi Lydia –

I just left you a phone message, and here is the follow-up. As you will remember, at the last MRS meeting we talked about the upcoming grant proposal. I’m attaching a summary of the draft proposal and a full draft as well, to help refresh your memory.

There were some comments that I received that we will be incorporating into the final proposal, they are:

1. Keep the Merced River Stakeholders meetings going (we will – may have to go to once a quarter)
2. Review the focus areas for the work groups (looking for your input on this)
3. Be sure to include more stakeholders so all organizations are working together (any organizations you know of that we should contact?)
4. Be careful that the management team isn’t separate from stakeholders (may rename this to the “Logistics Workgroup” rather than “Management Team” as the bulk of work will be compiling and sorting information from the workgroups, and outside sources, as well as setting up and facilitating workgroup meetings. The real work will take place in the workgroups. Additionally, the minutes of the “Logistics Workgroup” will be posted with all other work group meetings on the website that will be set up for this and the meetings will be open to all)

I would like to talk, or email, about these issues, or others that come up for you, regarding the grant proposal. I am very anxious to have as much input as possible from every interested (and even not-so-interested) party.

Remember – this is due in Sacramento by June 1st and the sooner we get any comments, the more likely we will be able to incorporate them. Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net ; Hicham Eltal ; Jean Kiel ; Jean Okuye ; Jeannie Habbin ; Jeff McLain ; Jeff Wilson ; Jim Genes ; JoAnne Armstrong ; Joanne Karlton ; Joe Mitchell ; John Shelton ; Jon Kelsey ; Kazi Rasheedi ; Ken Jensen ; Kevin Faulkenberry ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; Lydia Miller ; Maia Singer ; Marc Epstein ; Marna Cooper ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; Mary Ward ; Michael Rood ; Michelle Cuningham ; Mike Bettencourt ; Mike Gallo ; Molly Flemate ; Nancy McConnell ; Pam Buford ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; Pat Brantley ; Pat Ferrigno ; Peggy Vejar ; Rob Root ; Ronnie Grisom ; Rudy & Hope Platzek ; Scott Stoddard ; Scott Turner ; Sharon Boyce ; Steve Simmons ; Tami Cosio ; Tom Grave ; Urla Garland ; Virginia Mahacek ; Zooey Diggory
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 10:29 AM
Subject: FW: Merced River Mgt Plan Grant Proposal

Stakeholders –

Today we received the very good news that our concept proposal was accepted to go to the next, and final round. You may remember we talked about this at the last MRS meeting and you said you wanted to give more input to the final proposal. I will call all the stakeholders who have been frequent attendees and we will go over the project as it now stands and see where we can modify to make it better. If you are not a regular attendee, and you want to participate in this process, please let me know. I will be happy to call you, too.

Also, at the next MRS meeting, May 21, our primary order of business will be to go over the proposed project and get input from the stakeholders as a whole. I hope that you will make an effort to be there. I’ll be sending out more meeting details later.

I am pleased that we were asked to go forward – I think the project has potential to coordinate many of the diverse efforts and interests in the Merced Watershed.

See you soon!

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

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The real Merced River Stakeholders agenda, time and place

Submitted: Sep 18, 2007

Merced River Stakeholders Meeting

September 24, 2007

6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Washington School

4402 W. Oakdale Road, Winton

AGENDA

6:00 Introductions, Minutes Approval, Agenda Review

6:15 Updates

Merced Irrigation District Ted Selb

Merced County Planning Department Jeff Wilson

Grant Reporting

DOC II: Watershed coordinator update:

Reports from Gwen Huff, Cindy Lashbrook

Prop. 13: Merced River Alliance:

Reports from Cathy Weber, Cindy Lashbrook, Karen Whipp, Nancy McConnell

Props. 50 and 84 if applicable

6:30 Grant Discussion

Protest letters to EMRCD grant proposal (please refer to attachments)
California Public Records Act requests regarding existing grants in which MRS is "partnered"
Letter to suspend public grant-fund releases until relationship with MRS and EMRCD/Merced River Alliance/Watershed Coordinator is clarified
Support/non-support of EMRCD
Continued Facilitation of the Merced River Stakeholders
MRS grant development
EMRCD/MRS website
Merced River Alliance newsletter

Announcements

Next meeting date

Refreshments will be provided by the Bettencourt family and can be accessed at any time during the meeting. There will be no break.

Past meeting minutes can be found at www.emrcd.org/stakeholders

Produced by Stakeholders for Stakeholders

MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS

MISSION STATEMENT

Provide a collaborative forum for coordination, and gathering and sharing of information

about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River Watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems, and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action.

Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

GOALS

Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance.

Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes, and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

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East Merced Resource Conservation District not lookin' too good

Submitted: Sep 17, 2007

The Badlands Journal editorial board believes it is necessary to clarify some matters. We are aware, from reports of people who fear reprisal and whose anonymity is safe with us, that there is quite a propaganda campaign going on against the Merced River Stakeholders, claiming they are “obstructionists.”

The Merced River Stakeholders (MRS), for those who have not attended its meetings in its near decade of existence, is a collaborative forum of people representing the full array of divergent interests concerning the Merced County reach of the Merced River. After some years of committee work on a system of governance for the MRS, stakeholders decided that it should remain a collaborate forum. This was decided with respect for the divergence of the interests included in the MRS. Stakeholders believe they need to meet, share information, discuss river issues, yet maintain their autonomy of action. MRS members strongly defend the processes they have created for their group and believe these are the only processes that will maintain the MRS and continue the valuable work it does.

The propaganda campaign against members of the MRS comes from particular individuals, visible in the community, for specific reasons. Because important matters are at stake, there are also less visible players and interests behind the attack against MRS. To understand the hostility, it is necessary to follow the money.

The public funds for scientific work and watershed coordination on our reach of the Merced River are administered by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD), which has non-profit status and is therefore eligible to receive grant funds. A group of staff people, who facilitate publicly funded grants, have collected into yet another agency, called the Merced River Alliance. Public funds are disbursed by the EMRCD to a scientific consultant and to the Merced River Alliance.

Grants of state and federal funds require local stakeholders’ support. In past successful grants, the Alliance staffers wrote grant proposal for the EMRCD to public agencies, the MRS was presented in the grants as supporting their aims, purposes, and the salary requests of the Alliance staff. In a recent, unsuccessful grant proposal, the EMRCD and Alliance staff did not claim the support of the MRS.

Alliance staff wrote a grant this spring for the EMRCD to the state Department of Water Resources for about $500,000, claiming the support of a number of occasional stakeholders, most of whom have never participated in MRS meetings. From the start Alliance staff was required to show the proposal to MRS members. Two MRS member groups in particular were concerned about this grant: the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and representatives of the river property owners.

The Raptor Center has a well-known reputation for upholding correct public processes, proven in court on many occasions. Its president, Lydia Miller, sensed that Merced River Alliance staff, through the EMRCD, was trying to railroad a grant through because they weren’t following proper protocol with the Merced River Stakeholders. The river property owners correctly guessed that this grant could adversely affect property owners’ water rights.

One of the grants administered by the EMRCD for Alliance staff is a watershed coordinator grant. Part of the responsibilities of the watershed coordinator is to facilitate MRS meetings. The Raptor Center and river property owners, in two spring meetings before the due date for the final EMRCD grant proposal, continually voiced objections to the grant. The Alliance facilitator and several stakeholders who are also EMRCD and/or Alliance staffers continued to ignore those objections. MRS members told them that they would file protest letters with DWR, the grantor agency.

The opposition to the concerns of the property owners and the Raptor Center was led by a newly appointed county planning commissioner, who is also a paid staffer on the Merced River Alliance and an associate member of the board of directors of the EMRCD. The Badlands Journal editorial board believes that Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook is in deep conflict-of-interest.

When the deadline for submission of the grant to the state DWR arrived, stakeholders were denied access to the final document. The excuse offered by Alliance staffers was that the MRS facilitator had to turn her attention immediately to work on the River Fair and so just couldn’t get a copy of the final grant out to the MRS. The River Fair, partially funded by public agencies, was held on the riverside farm of Commissioner Lashbrook.

The following week, the Raptor Center, numerous groups and river property owners filed letters of opposition with the granting agency, DWR.

At a recent public meeting of the board of the EMRCD, Lashbrook emotionally expressed her sense of betrayal that the DWR accepted the letters in opposition, saying that if she had known material could be submitted after the deadline she could have gathered many signatures on a petition supporting the grant. One question MRS members have is: Who did she think was betraying her?

The Alliance staff did not give MRS copies of the final grant for review and comment before the grant was submitted. This was done in the face of well-known opposition. The staffers believed that MRS opposition letters filed after the deadline would be rejected by the DWR. This was not the case. The case was that the grant was rejected, based in part on the strong opposition of members of the MRS. This is not the first time that MRS members have successfully stopped inappropriate grants with letters of opposition to state and federal funders.

Since the state agency rejected the EMRCD grant, there has been a concerted campaign mounted by disgruntled members of the board of EMRCD and the Merced River Alliance to discredit the MRS, particularly the Raptor Center and river property owners. This “obstructionist” campaign deepens suspicions in the MRS that it is the object of a power play to eliminate stakeholder influence on Merced River policies.

The latest attempt concerns the next MRS meeting, the subject of several e-mails presented below. At the last EMRCD board meeting, a request by the Raptor Center to include its letter of opposition to the grant in the next MRS information package was unanimously refused by the board.

The Merced County Board of Supervisors appoints the EMRCD board. It acknowledges it is a public agency, known as a “special district,” and is subject to the state Brown Act governing its conduct. The opposition letter is a public document submitted to a state agency in opposition to a grant seeking public funds. There is no question here: the EMRCD has a duty to release that letter to the MRS. Yet, the board bought the argument that because EMRCD administers the grant that covers the MRS facilitator, it can prohibit public information from being distributed by the MRS facilitator to the MRS members.

Meanwhile, MRS members discovered that MRS meetings are no longer listed in the Merced River Alliance newsletter. Curiously, the MRS facilitator is the editor of this newsletter.

The MRS facilitator, having rejected a meeting agenda offered by MRS members for their own meeting, has now changed the meeting venue to UC Merced, where the MRS has never met. The next meeting of the MRS should be held at a familiar location, where farmers in the middle of harvest can come without campus police questioning their appearance.

Badlands Journal editorial board
-------------------------------

To: Gwen Huff, EMRCD/Merced Alliance Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator
From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Your Sept. 10 telephone calls and draft Agenda
Date: Sept. 12, 2007

Gwen,
We received your telephone call on Sept. 10 concerning your proposed agenda for the next Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) meeting. The agenda appears to have been proposed by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) rather than the stakeholders, whose facilitator you are paid by public funds to be. Due to your inability to maintain a value-free, professional facilitation position with stakeholders during this period of conflict between MRS and EMRCD, and in light of the RCD board's recent decision to suppress public documents from MRS view, as members of MRS, we will be forced to make inquiries to your funders about your facilitation grant.

As members of the MRS, we reject an agenda, originating with the RCD board, a majority of whose members regard the MRS is unnecessary, that MRS should spend half its next meeting discussing its charter, with respect to how often it will meet and how it participates in grant development. Our mission statement and goals, painstakingly worked out over a period of years of meetings, are clearly stated on the EMRCD website.

MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS
MISSION STATEMENT
Provide a collaborative forum for coordination, and gathering and sharing of information
about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River Watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems, and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action.
Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.
GOALS
Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance.
Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes, and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

We members of MRS are content to be a collaborative forum. If MRS members who are also EMRCD board members and/or staff of the Merced Alliance are unhappy with them, as far as we are concerned their discontent does nothing but raise issues of conflict-of-interest and perception of corruption, already well articulated in our protest letters and petitions sent to the state Department of Water Resources in opposition to your grant application. Your refusal, as MRS facilitator, to circulate these documents, along with
the chronology of emails in the weeks and days prior to your final grant application, does nothing to relieve suspicion of conflict-of-interest and perception of corruption.
We find it less pardonable that a member of the RCD board and staff for the RCD and Merced River Alliance, Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook is, as presented in the public minutes of the last EMRCD public meeting, the most vociferous proponent of suppressing distribution of public information to the MRS. EMRCD, a public agency, whose board is appointed by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, is subject to the Brown Act. This, too, will need looking into.

In fact, the MRS stakeholders' process worked exactly as it was designed to in the case of the grant application, which would have feathered a few staff nests in the course of performing studies that some stakeholders perceived as detrimental to their particular business or environmental interests. Those few members of the MRS who received and read copies of the draft grant application opposed it, believing it was against our interests.
We expressed our opposition in a completely lawful process, by sending letters and petitions to the funders, and the grant was rejected by those funders. Now the EMRCD, represented in the next MRS meeting by your biased facilitation and a few stakeholders conflicted by their membership on the EMRCD board and/or drawing staff salaries from EMRCD and the Merced River Alliance, want to change the MRS charter? You want to cut back our meetings because the EMRCD "administers" your watershed coordinator grant? On whose authority?

The EMRCD complaint for failure to receive grant funds in this cycle -- because of the political incompetence of yourself, an out-of-town facilitator who would not reveal who was paying for her, Planning Commissioner Lashbrook, Supervisor Kelsey and, most of all, the EMRCD board of directors -- is with your prospective funders, not with the MRS. The MRS, a collaborative forum, did exactly what it was intended by its Mission Statement and Goals to do. Members of the MRS who opposed the grant and opposed the deplorable attempt by EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff, including MRS stakeholders, for personal profit, to railroad the process with the MRS. We offered to meet and discuss. You and other EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff and board members rebuffed our offer.

"EMRCD is supported by public funds; there is a forgotten concept that the public has a
right to equal access to information under the law. This attempt at suppression raises the question of just what ERMCD is attempting to hide. The property owners and the raptor group rarely see eye-to-eye but neither of us has ever advocated suppression of the other's information/opinion." -- Pat Ferrigno to Gwen Huff, email, Sept. 10, 2007

We reject the EMRCD agenda for the MRS meeting. We once again request that you, the MRS facilitator paid with public funds, distribute to MRS members:

The EMRCD rejected grant application;
the two MRS letters and accompanying petitions;
all correspondence from the state DWR concerning why your application was rejected;
the letter of Nancy McConnell (also publicly paid staff of Merced River Alliance) on the
meeting with DWR official Dan Wermiel in Snelling concerning the grant;
any other documents concerning the grant;
EMRCD legal justification for its board's decision not to distribute public information
concerning the MRS to the members of the MRS.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----------------
From: gwenhuff@comcast.net
To: SJRRC@sbcglobal.net; Raptorctr@bigvalley.net; brwade@aol.com; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us; pferrigno@elite.net
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 13:30:05 -0700

The agenda item “MRS and Grant Development” was agreed upon by the stakeholders at their last meeting. The item “MRS Charter” was added by me to frame this discussion –a starting point of agreed upon goals and mission. I don’t know where you got the idea that the charter would be changed, though it can be if the stakeholders see fit. Cut back on the MRS meetings? I have no authority (nor intent) to do that. I can only offer facilitation services as the grant allows. I asked for your input, as well as other stakeholders, on the agenda. You have not provided any suggestions for agenda items. The meeting notification must go out TODAY – the meeting is only a week and a half away and many receive notification by regular mail only. If you have suggestions on modifying the agenda, please get back to me right away.
-----------------------

From: SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net; brwade@aol.com; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us
Subject: Yet another request- Items for Sept 24th MRS- Protest letter, MRS chronology & public minutes.
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 14:26:22 -0700

Gwen,
This is not true. We and other MRS stakeholders have asked you numerous times for distribution of the material attached to this email, sent to you and EMRCD President Bernie Wade on August 8, September 6, and September 12. The material is attached as we have provided all along. We asked for additional information in our September 12 letter to be made available. All of this material pertains to talking about grant applications.
We requested that the EMRCD send this material to the MRS before its next meeting as a matter of courtesy to the EMRCD board. We were stunned that the EMRCD board displayed at its August 15 meeting such a hyper-inflated view of its authority that it voted unanimously to prohibit the MRS facilitator, yourself, to distribute a public letter in opposition to the EMRCD grant application. We were further appalled to witness a county official, Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, leading the argument for this prohibition. Your manifest gratitude to the EMRCD for making this decision destroyed our trust in you as a professional facilitator.
We got the idea that you and members of the EMRCD board who also sit on the MRS group were planning to try to change the MRS Mission Statement and Goals, which you misname the "Charter," from your telephone call to Lydia Miller on September 10 in which you talk of "reviewing the charter" with an eye to limiting the number of meetings and how the MRS can or cannot participate in grant proposals and how to limit the effect of its recommendations.
You have repeatedly ignored our requests for distribution of information, behaving as if
"they are off the table," behaving as if you were the president of the MRS instead of its facilitator, paid by public funds. The EMRCD board is behaving as if it believes that the MRS is an unnecessary institution for discussion of Lower Merced River issues. Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD board member, Merced River Alliance staff and Merced County Planning Commissioner is on record in two public meetings as saying she is "at war" with some MRS stakeholders and the EMRCD "doesn't need" the MRS. EMRCD/Merced River Alliance Grant Administrator Karen Whipp is on record as saying that because EMRCD administers your grant, it can direct you to suppress distribution of public information to MRS stakeholders.
You and the EMRCD and the Merced River Alliance have taken an unwise course since the grant application first surfaced in March. By attempting to railroad that grant over the MRS, you have seen the authority the MRS has and have demonstrated the kind of ambitions EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff have. This has now caused suspicion of EMRCD intents, purposes, and legality. Unwise.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
------------

To: Bernard Wade, President East Merced Resource Conservation District
From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, MRS stakeholder
Re: Protest against actions taken by EMRCD/Merced River Alliance watershed
coordinator and MRS facilitator
Date: Sept. 13, 2007

Bernie,

We are writing to protest actions taken by the EMRCD, recently and specifically by MRS
facilitator, Gwen Huff. EMRCD administers grant funding from the state Department of
Conservation II and Prop. 13 for EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff, including Huff. At your last board meeting, the board unanimously passed a motion to prohibit Huff, the MRS facilitator, from distributing a public documents written by a group of MRS stakeholders to DWR concerning a EMRCD grant application for public funds.
We are making a formal request that you direct the MRS facilitator to:

1) Distribute to MRS stakeholders prior to their next meeting on Sept. 24 the public documents in opposition to the EMRCD grant proposal from SJRRC and the Bettencourt family to the state Department of Water Resources;
2) Send all MRS stakeholders a copy of the latest list of email and regular mail addresses of all MRS stakeholders -- since Huff has been the facilitator this list has been suppressed and not available to stakeholders;
3) Provide us with copies of any documents that support the EMRCD board claim that because the MRS facilitator's grant funding is administered by EMRCD, the EMRCD has authority over the MRS and is authorized to direct the MRS facilitator to commit or omit actions MRS stakeholders regard as prejudicial to their interests and their rights to information essential to their understanding of issues before their collaborative forum.
4) Change the proposed venue for the Sept. 24 MRS meeting to a location familiar to MRS stakeholders.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
----------------

From: Brwade@aol.com
To: SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2007 5:24 PM
Subject: Re: Request for July MRS minutes and email list

Dear Lydia, Gwen has been out of town and I don't know if she is back yet for the minutes. I am waiting for a policy decision from CARCD regarding distribution of material through EMRCD. Best Regards, Bernie

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