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


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


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



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.


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.

| »

Grateful Badlands refuses Regents' recognition

Submitted: Aug 28, 2007

" In his paper, Blum said the office of the president "should become a model for transformation to efficiency and service, rather than the frequent butt of jokes and cynicism." --Los Angeles Times, Aug. 23, 2007

Blum also pressed the importance of nurturing the newest campus, Merced, to ensure its success and suggested creating a task force to oversee the needs there. --San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 23, 2007

Badlands Journal editorial leader, "Nimble" McMayhem, said Thursday,

We are glad that Richard Feinstein-Blum, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, has been reading our reports of problems with UC administration. However, in light of all the work on this dismal topic that remains to be done, on behalf of the editorial board, I must refuse the recognition Feinstein-Blum has given to our work here in Merced, and pledge to work ceaselessly to amplify our efforts. It was never just the office of the president of UC that was the "butt of (our) jokes." We continue to believe, based on daily evidence, that the largest part of UC administrators are over-paid, over-numerous, fatuous, arrogant snobs not better educated to manage a university than is Chairman Feinstein-Blum. We are also acquainted with exceptions that make the rule.

We do not blame individuals in the UC administration. We believe their over-the-top characters are the result of the company they keep, beginning with the board of regents, stacked with people who bought their positions in political sweepstakes that brings to mind the colorful political term, 'rotten boroughs'.

No, Chairman Feinstein-Blum, we do not support a UC run like and on behalf of private corporations anymore than we support government run like and for private corporations, because neither universities or governments are private corporations. Local, state and national governments and public universities are public institutions. When dominated by private corporations they become disoriented because they have become estranged from the public interest and considerations of the common good. The California public must be suspicious of your criticisms and recommendations because they are couched in the language of private, corporate management, a fundamentalism that does not fit public institutions, especially universities.

Why not begin small by trying to figure out a department of public administration that would educated incorruptible public administrators committed to the public good? Again, there are fine exceptions within the UC administration, which prove the general rule.

On a larger scale, establish a board that judges the quality of research, its benefits for the common good, instead of simply the quantity of grant funds it will attract for the de facto private corporation that is UC. It is not just UC administration that is the butt of jokes and cynicism. UC research has long been known as a system for 'throwing money at a problem' without much planning, and UC star researchers are famed for the amount of funding they attract, regardless of the source and intent of the funding and the desired product of the research. From the newest generation of nuclear weapons to biowarfare research to genetic engineering to the mechanical tomato harvester, UC research within living memory has produced monsters in its quest for prestige and funding over the common good of the people of California. Yet, amid the excess of narcissistic ambition, there are exceptions that continue to prove the rule. The point is that they ought not to be exceptions.

Ms. McMayhem paused for breathe.

This regent chief controls a Boston-based construction company called Perini. This company teams up with another California-based company called Tutor-Saliba to build the LA public transit system ... and all we see is lawsuits for shoddy construction. Ron Tutor is CEO of Perini. Ron Tutor is chairman, CEO and owner of Tutor-Saliba.

Blum says Perini will do no work in California. (Meanwhile, in Nevada it is building hotels and casinos like crazy.

"Give the public a break! hooted McMayhem, quoting an attorney who is an ex officio member of the Badlands editorial board: "'In a long life in the law spent among expert liars, the biggest liar under oath I ever met was Richard Blum.'

Why should we believe Blum that he hasn't and won't benefit from UC construction projects?

The LA Times reports:

Streamlining UC's construction practices to speed up the approval process for new buildings and relying on outside contractors to build them could save the university many millions of dollars, he said.

Like UC doesn't streamline construction practices? Give the public a break! hooted Ms. McMayhem. They built the UC Merced campus without the most important federal permit they had to have, the 404(b) under the Clean Water Act, aka the Least Destructive Project Alternative. They built it in the densest zone of vernal pools in the nation with the full complicity of local, state and federal elected officials, former Gov. Gray Davis, under the oversight of former Secretary of the state Resources Agency, Mary Nichols, recently appointed by the Hun, our present governor, to head the state Air Resources Board. UC built the campus with full knowledge (and to the profit of some regents and most elected officials and assorted staffers) that it would stimulate the largest real estate boom in Merced history. The boom has now busted, leaving the City of Merced with the dubious distinction of having the second-worst foreclosure rate in the nation.

Like former President Pro Tem of the state Senate John Burton, D-SF said at the time, UC Merced was a 'boondoggle.'

Concluding on a San Francisco note," McMayhem said, Burton would have known how construction projects can sometimes get out of control. As a Democratic Party politician in San Francisco, he could not have avoided hearing at least once, the latter-day reflections of Hizzoner Jack Shelley, mayor of San Francisco when Candlestick Park was built. In later life, Shelley was the City's lobbyist in Sacramento, and nobody got away without hearing The Story--the distillation of all practical political wisdom in his life.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hizzoner would say to you, propping his walker on the wall at Posey's and sitting at table, where a thoughtful waiter had already parked his first martini, it all boils down to a cement contract.

A gifted narrator of political experience, aided by several more martinis, Hizzoner would weave the tale in exquisite detail about just how it all boiled down to a cement contract and how, if you traced the hands in that cement contract, you would know all you needed to know about the politics of the City by the Bay, home to Regents' Chairman Richard Feinstein-Blum and his charming wife.

And, speaking of his charming wife, we have to wonder if Blum's animosity toward ousted UC President Robert Dynes was not merely a fit of pique after Dynes married the blonde from UCSD.

McMayhem concluded: "The more we know about the stratospheric scene of the geriatric plutocracy that rules us but is not wise, the more we suppose that all the remains among them is the question: Who's getting any? We decline recognition by the UC Board of Regents for having made UC the butt of jokes and cynicism. Whatever Feinstein-Blum's getting will be at public expense without Teflon.

Chairman Feinstein-Blum, thanks but no thanks on the UC Merced nurturing taskforce. Let it compost, like the careers of all unable to flee it. It was built in the wrong place at the wrong time because the UC Regents and the administration, for which the Regents are responsible, were taken to the cleaners by those of your own, in finance, insurance and real estate special interests -- you arrogant, pathetic hypocrite.

Seriously, old man, if you cannot muster anything better than wretched cliches like "dynamic strategies," the Hun may be forced by bring in former Chainsaw Chancelor of the state university system, Barry Munitz, rehabilitated from the Getty disaster by public oblivion by now. Munitz is a closer.

But, of course, how could I be so stupid? You're considering the old alleged,high-living, alledged enabler of antiquities theft for the presidency.

Badlands editorial board

Los Angeles Times
UC regent calls for operations overhaul
Blum's suggestion include cutting duplicate staff positions, raising faculty salaries, funding scholarships to alleviate tuition hikes, and streamlining construction process...Richard C. Paddock
In a sharp critique of University of California operations, Board of Regents Chairman Richard C. Blum called Wednesday for a major overhaul of the "outmoded and dysfunctional" way the UC administration operates...a six-page paper sent to his fellow regents, Blum called for restructuring the UC president's office to eliminate arcane procedures that have existed for decades and often hinder decisions, costing the university millions of dollars. "Why is it so hard to make broad-scale progress toward our goals?" Blum asked. "I believe the fundamental problem is an overgrown UC administrative infrastructure that substitutes motion for progress." He also proposed creating a scholarship fund of up to $1 billion to help students cope with rising fees and called for improving UC's relations with the governor and Legislature, who have steadily reduced the university's share of the state budget. ...said in an interview that the 10-campus UC system should cut back its administrative staff and devote more resources to education, in particular raising faculty salaries to be competitive with other universities. Streamlining UC's construction practices to speed up the approval process for new buildings and relying on outside contractors to build them could save the university many millions of dollars, he said. "I am quite critical of the way the operations of the university have been run," Blum said. "There are some functions there, nobody knows why they exist. We need to make decisions quickly. We need to be nimble and we are anything but." In his paper, Blum said the office of the president "should become a model for transformation to efficiency and service, rather than the frequent butt of jokes and cynicism." Dynes' presidency was tarnished by a scandal in which he approved millions of dollars in perks and incentives for certain administrators and faculty members without getting the regents' approval or providing public notice. But Blum said that amount pales in comparison to the money wasted by unneeded bureaucracy..Among his proposals Wednesday were lifting arbitrary debt caps to speed campus building projects, reducing cash reserves that are kept unnecessarily high and eliminating millions of dollars in unnecessary or duplicative administration. Blum called on the university to develop a clear strategic vision and to pursue the same high quality in its administration that it strives for in its academic programs. "Cumbersome and enormously expensive layers of bureaucracy have been added over the years, many of which may no longer make sense -- if indeed they ever did," Blum wrote. "Unless the University seriously and accountably commits itself to a new direction, we risk losing the perpetual battle for excellence in many areas."

San Francisco Chronicle
UC's top regent bashes system...Leslie Fulbright
The chairman of the University of California's Board of Regents issued a highly critical analysis of the 10-campus system Wednesday, painting a picture of an impotent administration with a "dysfunctional set of organizational structures, processes and policies." Richard Blum, a San Francisco financier who has been on the governing board for four years, said the university no longer has a clear idea of where it is going, is hamstrung by arcane rules and too often is governed by a consensus system in which no one takes responsibility for results. ...sent to his 25 fellow regents, Blum says no one has really looked at UC's administrative structure in more than 40 years. He proposes a major overhaul of the system that ranges from streamlining expenditures and processes to raising funds for capital improvements to diversifying the student body. The report was issued nine days after university President Robert Dynes announced he would resign by June... A day after his announcement, The Chronicle reported that Dynes had been urged by Blum three week earlier to leave because regents were unhappy with his management. In Blum's report, titled "We Need to be Strategically Dynamic," the chairman says he has grown impatient with the lack of progress in reforming the university. He says that administrators and staff efforts have been less than acceptable and that he regularly hears complaints about faculty salaries, class sizes and delays in building improvements. "Despite the clear persistence of these problems, however, little measurable progress has been made," he said, adding later, "I believe the fundamental problem is an overgrown UC administrative infrastructure that substitutes motion for progress." Blum said major systemwide improvements are needed and that the administrative system should meet the same standards as the academic programs. Blum says expensive layers of bureaucracy are at play in the system and suggests that the administration clarify who is in charge of what and then assure that those people take responsibility for their tasks. The president's administrative office includes 516 full-time positions and an $81 million annual budget. Blum expressed hope that a new Regents Committee on Long Range Planning would develop an integrated plan for diversity admissions and affordability... Blum also pressed the importance of nurturing the newest campus, Merced, to ensure its success and suggested creating a task force to oversee the needs there.

| »

The Pomboza, now an Agency

Submitted: Aug 26, 2007

They're still at it! The inseparable couple of wannabe Endangered Species Act
extirpators, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy (reborn as a lobbyist) have teamed up on a scheme to defeat an evil plot by the federal government to make San Joaquin County homeowners living in flood plains pay flood insurance. The Pomboza has so far obstructed updates of FEMA flood-plain maps but time in running out. It is very hard to tell from the stingy reports on this plan what the deal really is, but it seems to be something like this: municipalities
along the river and developers will put up funding for levee work and hope the feds will generously match the money.

On August 3, the Stockton Record editorialized that, although as chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo did exactly nothing for Delta levees after the Jones Island break and after Katrina, as a lobbyist, he is proposing a win-win, public-private partnership called Central Valley Resources Agency to lobby for federal flood funds and, one imagines, gut the FEMA flood plain maps, at least in San Joaquin County. Pombo has already signed lobbying contracts with Stockton and Manteca but was rebuffed recently by his hometown city council in Tracy.

It seems like a strange way to run a government in the face of a potential problem that could endanger the drinking water supplies for 23 million people, but levees, as has been noted, are strange jurisdictional creatures, mostly private, so perhaps it is the only way the Pomboza can proceed. The state has expressed itself as tired of the idea that it must pay for flood damage along the Delta as the result of legislation brought to life by the artful state Capitol management of developer lobbyists.

The area we call Pombozastan is but a province -- including all its local governments -- of a larger win-win, public-private partnership designated in 2005 by the Hun, our governor, as the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. Stretching through interlocking watersheds from the San Joaquin Delta to the Kern River, encompassing subdivisions on flood plains in Stockton to the immense prison/megadairy complex of Kings and Kern counties, it ain't no ecotopia. It's got the worst air quality in the nation and it is the Number One target in California for urban growth. It remains the most productive farming valley in the US, probably in the world, but agriculture's days are numbered in the San Joaquin Valley. We are calling it today the dual monarchy of GrupeSpanopolis and the Fresno Catastrophe, an internal empire of developers who control all levels of its government. the Pomboza is merely its northern-most province.

The Record reports today, Congressman Cardoza is calling for a "regional group to tackle levee problems." Cardoza was sworn into his seat in the state Assembly when a levee break had put about half his district under water in early 1997.

Now let brave souls make wild surmises: this Central Valley Resources Agency will find its way into the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley plan because its co-chairman is Fritz Grupe, Stockton's largest developer. Due to the essentially private nature of this "agency," the public probably won't see much of the Pomboza Plan before it is sprung as part of the Valley partnership. We'd probably have to bribe a little bird to monitor the Hun's famous Cigar Porch to get an accurate report of the doings of the Central Valley Resources Agency.

The remorselessly consistent Pombo, has left the "Natural" out of his agency's title. But's he's happy he's chairman of a new Resource Agency. Now an employee of a powerful Western lobbying group, Portland-based Pac/West, flaks for our beloved Northwest timber interests, in alliance with the cutting edge of modern agribusiness thinking on private property rights, Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, and funded by developers, the Pomboza agency would appear to be omnipotent. The people who actually live here now would appear to have about the same chance for decent quality of life as a Chinook salmon smolt or a Delta smelt.

Pombo was defeated for reelection to his eighth term by the present Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. McNerney, the soul of political ambition and yet as timid as a "cautious twerp" of the sort manufactured en masse by the state and national environmental groups that defeated Pombo, is absent from debate on the formation of the Central Valley Resources Agency, although he represents at least as much Valley flood plain as Cardoza does. One imagines the conversation:

"But Dennis, I need some press on water issues in my own district."
To which Cardoza replies with one name: "Andal," McNerney's probable opponent in 2008, a former state Assemblyman, state Franchise Tax Board member and developer in Cardoza's district.

McNerney sneaks off over the Altamont to his stronghold in Bay Area suburbia, far from those tacky Delta water wars. Perhaps he is being advised to do so by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-SF, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA (SF). Who knows what their developer husbands are invested in around here? Too bad, because the people need a voice, which they ain't going to get with either end of the win-win, public-private beast we call The Pomboza Agency and its owners and trainers.

We hope to be surprised by sudden lurches of political evolution not yet in evidence. Meanwhile,the public is in a theological pickle: to pray for rain for drinking and irrigation water, or to pray for continued drought so the levees don't break -- that is the question.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Dozens hash out levee accreditation...The Record

Dozens of local, state and federal officials met Thursday to hash out a levee
accreditation process that could end with thousands of residents forced to pay flood insurance as soon as 2009. San Joaquin County officials say they're being required by the federal government to make levee improvements that have not been defined and that they haven't been given enough direction from FEMA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, asked cities and counties if they'd like to form a regional group to tackle levee problems. Cardoza recently visited New Orleans and called Thursday's meeting to give all the parties a better understanding of the remapping

The voice of Pombo...Editorial

Finding a common voice among San Joaquin County officials and residents regarding flood protection is common sense. Even if they're a decade or more behind Sacramento County, Stockton officials have done the right thing by pledging $100,000 in startup funding for just such an endeavor. It's very ironic they would hire former Rep. Richard Pombo, the Republican from Tracy, to help. Pombo spent 14 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he had an ideal platform from which to encourage and support that kind of unity. He couldn't formally lead it, but he had every opportunity to help persuade county and city leaders to establish a public-private collaboration. Pombo - who had become chairman of the House Resources Committee - had other priorities. Now he works for Pac/West Communications, an Oregon-based business that has been commissioned to set up a mechanism for lobbying state and federal officials for flood-protection funds. Now, uniting the county's leaders is a priority in Pombo's new job. This public-private partnership, to be known as the Central Valley Resources Agency, still is in the formative stages. Pombo will know who the key decision-makers are in Washington, D.C. He probably will prove to be an effective advocate.

| »

Merced River Stakeholders public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District board meetings

Submitted: Aug 23, 2007

Gwen Huff, Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator
Karen Whipp, Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator

Members of the Merced River Stakeholders

Re: Merced River Stakeholders public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District meetings

Date: August 22, 2007

Gwen, Thank you for acknowledging and agreeing to send our protest letter to Merced River stakeholders (posted below). At this time, we are requesting that the enclosed attachments also be sent to Merced River stakeholders and EMRCD board members.

The enclosed attachments include two versions of what happened at the June 14, 2007 EMRCD special meeting, held by teleconference: the minutes taken by the EMRCD/Merced Alliance staff; and those dictated from notes from a Merced River Stakeholder on the call. The difference between the two sets of minutes is remarkable and should be noted by the public. As a result of this difference, members of the Merced River Stakeholders have begun attending EMRCD board meetings.

The third attachment is the Merced Stakeholders public minutes of the EMRCD board meeting of August 15, 2007. For the moment, Stakeholder concerns about public funds have been addressed by EMRCD funders, but a lively dispute continues between members of the Merced River Stakeholders and the EMRCD.

For more background on the dispute, we direct the attention of the public to three recent articles appearing on Badlandsjournal.com:

New Merced County Planning Commissioner: fast and loose with public processes, public funds --Friday, June 29th, 2007
Central Valley Safe Environment Network reply to a Merced County Planning Commissioner--Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
Badlands replies to Commissioner Lashbrook’s information and commentary--Tuesday, July 24th, 2007


Lydia Miller, President San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

Meeting Minutes of the

Thursday, June 14, 2007, 9:00 a.m.,

Teleconference Location – 1635 Luke Drive, Merced, CA
913 West Yale Avenue, Fresno, CA, 12230 Livingston-Cressey Rd., Livingston, CA, 1658 Scenic View Drive, San Leandro, CA, 6401 Hultberg Road, Hilmar, CA, 3279 Merced Falls Road, Snelling, CA
Call EMRCD for more information (209-723-6755)

Directors Present Per Roll Call:
Glenn Anderson
Tony Azevedo
Karen Barstow
Cathy Weber
Bernard Wade (joined call at 9:30 a.m.)

Directors Absent:
Bob Bliss

Others Present:
Karen Whipp, EMRCD personnel
Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD personnel and associate director
Gwen Huff, EMRCD personnel

Item #
Vice-President Azevedo called meeting to order at 9:10 am.



Karen Barstow moved to add item to agenda regarding preparing rebuttal letter for the opposition letter of the submission of the Merced River Management Plan grant Proposal.
Glenn Anderson seconded the motion/
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.

Cathy Weber moved to approve the EMRCD Board submit a letter of support for the 4H Education Project and authorize Board President to sign letter of support.
Tony Azevedo seconded the motion.
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.

Kathy Weber moved to table this item and discuss at the next regular EMRCD Board meeting.
Glenn Anderson seconded the motion.
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
Let it be noted that President Bernard Wade joined the conference call at 9:30 am. The board members reviewed the meeting and actions of the board with him.

5. NEXT MEETING: The next EMRCD Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, 2007, 12:00 pm at Golden By Products, Inc., 13000 Newport Road, Ballico, CA.

6. ADJOURNMENT 9:50 a.m.

For more information, contact: East Merced Resource Conservation District, 2135 W. Wardrobe Ave., Suite C, Merced, CA 95340, Phone (209) 723-6755, Fax (209) 723-0880.

Merced River Stakeholders public minutes

Subject: Minutes of June 14, 2007 East Merced Resource Conservation District Meeting by Telephone

Gwen Huff said letters were written to legislators by Pat Ferrigno. The Farm Bureau and Diedre Kelsey were OK with the grant. Huff asked that an emergency item (4a) be placed on the agenda because Ferrigno had written to the legislators, calling for a response from the EMRCD to Ferrigno’s letter.

They took a roll call vote.

On the call at this time: Gwen Huff, Cathy Weber, Karen Barstow, Glenn Anderson, Cindy Lashbrook , Karen Whipp, Tony Azevedo, and Lydia Miller. Miller was never asked if a public member was on the phone.

Attempts were made by email and fax to get Bernie Wade on the call. Wade had called the wrong number and was put on indefinite hold. He joined the meeting late.

The purpose of the special meeting was a letter of support for the 4-H Wells Project.

Lashbrook, having just checked her email, brought up the need for EMRCD to sign on to the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition letter to the Governor about the Williamson Act. Sign on deadline was the next day. Weber said the board would like to see the letter.

Wade finally got on the call, requiring a briefing of all that had already happened.

After Huff told Wade about the need for a letter to the legislators to reply to Ferrigno’s letter, Wade asked, “When is this going to end?”

Lashbrook replied: “We’re at war.”

There was a discussion about the ingratitude of the Merced River Stakeholders. Wade recommended that the stakeholders should be cut out.

The board authorized the letter on the 4-H Wells Project, but didn’t authorize either a letter to legislators in reply to Ferrigno’s letter or the letter to the governor on the Williamson Act. Wade and Weber expressed irritation with being presented with 11th-hour decisions (referring to the Williamson Act letter).

Lashbrook brought up the idea of a means to streamline the authority process.

The board decided on an agenda item to ask the stakeholders how they wished to be involved with the EMRCD in the future.

Azevedo said he would be out of town for the board meeting on June 20. It was to be held at Golden Bi-Products Tire Recycling Co.. Barstow said the company had teleconferencing capability.

Submitted July 17, 2007
By Lydia Miller, president
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

Public minutes of the East Merced Resource Conservation District (RCD) board meeting, August 15, 2007

Members of the public, in this instance also members of the Merced River Stakeholders, believing that the official minutes of RCD meetings fail to describe the political and economic issues being discussed and decided by the RCD, have begun taking their own public minutes of its meetings. We urge other members of the public, particularly river stakeholders, to begin attending RCD meetings.

The East Merced RCD is a public institution. Its board members are appointed by Merced County supervisors, its books are overseen by Merced County and its funds are derived from grants from public agencies.

Members of the Merced River Stakeholders recently challenged RCD grant proposals amounting to nearly a half-million dollars. This meeting primarily concerns the results and consequences of the grantors’ decisions regarding these proposals and the RCD response.

Public: Bill Hatch, Stakeholder

RCD Board:
Bernie Wade, Glenn Anderson, Cathy Weber, Robert Bliss
Associate Board Member, Cindy Lashbrook, Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator

RCD staff:
Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Cindy Lashbrook
Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Gwen Huff
Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Karen Whipp
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staff:
Malia Hildebrandt

Bill Hatch, Stakeholder who prepared these minutes arrived about a half an hour late to the meeting. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, an associate (non-voting) member of the RCD board and a staff member of the Merced Alliance, whose grants are administered by the RCD, was speaking. She said she had signed up the RCD to attend an economic development conference being held by the City of Merced.

Next, Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook mentioned a sign-on letter by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition that she wished the RCD board to sign. She said, as she had said in a previous RCD meeting, that the RCD board should appoint either one person or a small committee to deal with issues signing onto this letter, which occur between meetings.

The public correspondent mentioned that the two groups from Merced that are founders of the CRCC, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and the San Joaquin Valley Conservancy, are not going to sign this particular letter because it was not clear in the letter that the easements CRCC were requesting would be perpetual and the two founders have a firm policy against term easements.

“Land-use decisions can’t wait,” Lashbrook said, stressing the urgency of the coalition letter to Congress, urging it to pass provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill that would fund more land easements.

RCD Board Member Cathy Weber said the board needed more members (four of the six voting members were at the meeting) present before deciding on such a protocol, and asked that the issue be put on the agenda for the next board meeting, September 27.

Malia Hildebrandt, Merced County Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, reported to the board about the latest water discharge order for dairies, stating that the first reports were due December 31, 2007, NRCS would be providing workshops for dairymen in November and December to help them write their plans for manure disposal and discharge pollutant plans. She also said that Merced County Environmental Health Department is applying for grants to pay for a consultant to help prepare the dairy reports. Consultations would cost between $8,000 and $20,000 per dairy. Hildebrandt said there were about 330 dairies in the county. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) would require recipients to file these reports, Hidebrandt said. She added that some dairies were already opting out, but that the program covered all dairies of all sizes and that new dairies or expanded dairies must get individual permits.

In response to a question from the public about the effect of the closure of Hilmar Cheese Co. and the loss of dairies, Hildebrandt said she didn’t know. RCD Board Member Glenn Anderson said he’d heard “there would be no more cows in Hilmar” at some point in the future, either 2020 or 2050 (he wasn’t sure).

Hildebrandt announced that on August 29, Rep. Dennis Cardoza would be holding a “listening” conference on the Farm Bill from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Double Tree in Modesto.

She also mentioned that new dairy lagoons would have to be double-lined with new synthetic, leak-proof liners.

The report of Merced River Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Gwen Huff came next, beginning with a question of whether state Department of Water Resources official, Dan Wermiel, would have to sign off on the next Merced River Alliance newsletter concerning a recent meeting with board members and staff at Henderson Park in Snelling on July 20.

County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook explained that the meeting was a citizen water-quality monitoring event of a sort that will continue “as long as the grant continues.”

A version of the meeting somewhat different than the commissioner’s explanation occurs later in the minutes.

Staff reported that Nancy McConnell, another Merced River Alliance educational coordinator, had written a report on the meeting in Snelling with Wermiel.

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff announced that the RCD had lost both the large and the small vernal pool grant its had applied for. She said she was awaiting comments from CalFed, the granting agency, about why the RCD had failed to get the grants.

Board Member Weber said that Lydia Miller, president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, a Merced River Stakeholder, had sent the RCD a copy of the letter written in opposition to the RCD grants and had asked that the RCD send it out of other stakeholders. Weber and others objected to the heading on the letter, which read: “Merced River Stakeholders,” saying that Miller and a member of the public present at the meeting weren’t the only stakeholders.

There is a header on the top of each page of the protest letter because it was professionally written. The first sentence of the letter reads:

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.”

Huff said the next meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders was on September 24. Huff, both Merced Alliance/RCD watershed coordinator and facilitator of the stakeholders’ meetings, said that “we won’t spend time on how the grant was developed, but on how the stakeholders should participate” in the future. She added that staff was inviting a regional manager of the state RCDs to attend the meeting to help “RCD/stakeholders’ interface.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said, “We don’t need their (stakeholders’) input.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff outlined RCD board options on how the stakeholders’ should participate in RCD grant applications in the future, prefacing her remarks by saying that Teri Murrison, her predecessor as facilitator for the stakeholders, thought the stakeholders were the most important part of the RCD. “She came to the stakeholders before submitting concept grants,” Huff said. This, Huff said, was Murrison’s first suggestion on RCD relations with the stakeholders. Second, inform the stakeholders. Third, take their comments.

Board Member Weber said that the stakeholders were also independent and that the board should support the idea that stakeholders should be notified and notified better in the future. “But the RCD is also independent,” she added.

RCD Board President Bernie Wade summarized that the board should inform the stakeholders and accept their comments.

Board Member Anderson asked: “Who is to be informed and how? It is a fluid group. Every landowner on the river?”

Actually, in addition to landowners on the river, environmental groups and state and federal agencies have been involved with the Merced River Stakeholders since its inception, facts perhaps forgotten by Anderson.

Lashbrook said that on March 6, 10 days before the concept proposal, “it was mentioned” at a stakeholders’ meeting. “Anyone who cared could have commented.”

Actually, the Merced River Stakeholders meeting was held on March 19.

Karen Whipp, grant administrator for the Merced River Alliance/RCD, said that some Merced River stakeholders don’t open their messages. She keeps a file on those, she added.

RCD Board Member Robert Bliss said that five stakeholders had attended an RCD meeting and they were positive about the two RCD grant proposals.

The board returned to the subject of the Merced River Stakeholders, complaining again that it has no real mechanism for reaching a consensus or for voting.

Commissioner Lashbrook opined that that was because “(Merced River Stakeholders) Lydia Miller and Pat Ferrigno” had rigged the stakeholders’ bylaws so that they would have no mechanism for consensus or voting.

“There has to be a mechanism for support or opposition to a proposal,” one board member said.

Returning to the topic of Lydia Miller’s request that the letter of opposition to the grant be sent to the stakeholders by the Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator and Merced River Stakeholders’ Facilitator, Gwen Huff, Commissioner Lashbrook said: “We don’t have to rub our nose in our failure.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Whipp stated that, “Lydia doesn’t pay Gwen’s salary.”

Huff, Merced River Alliance/RCD watershed coordinator and stakeholders’ facilitator, said that she would like to send out the letter with a preface.

Lashbrook, county planning commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD educational coordinator, said that the RCD needs to write an introduction to the stakeholders’ letter sent by Miller.

Board Member Weber agreed with Huff and suggested an introductory paragraph: “Lydia requested that this be sent out before the next stakeholders’ meeting.

Commissioner Lashbrook and board member Bliss disagreed. Commissioner Lashbrook did not want the letter sent out without a negative introduction by the RCD.

Board Member Anderson suggested: “Lydia has requested …”

Board Member Bliss stated, “Lydia pays the postage.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Stakeholder Facilitator Huff informed Bliss that the letter would be sent by email.

Merced County Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook reminded the board that the action about to be taken was a board action and not a “unilateral staff action.”

“You as a group decided not to publish a rebuttal letter,” Lashbrook said (although at this point the board had decided nothing.)

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook wanted a letter of rebuttal by the RCD to points made in the letter of opposition to the grant the Merced River Stakeholder Miller had requested Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff to distribute to the Merced River Stakeholders before the next meeting. She emphasized that the stakeholders had been notified of the concept grant on March 6. She added that the RCD needed “to make a few points against this crap!”

Board President Wade said: “We send out a letter. It will never end!”

Commissioner Lashbrook said something about “different letters …RCD not defending …”

Board Member Anderson said: “All we can do is move forward. If it requires that the stakeholders organize for making comments …”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that there were stakeholders who didn’t know.

Board Member Weber focused on the header of the letter of opposition to the grant and suggested the RCD send out only the header and the first page.

Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Whipp asked why the RCD was “sending out this scathing letter?”

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook asked: “Why send out our ‘slap down’?”

Board Member Weber then withdrew her motion to send out the letter in opposition to the grant.

Grant Administrator Whipp informed the board that it would have to make some motion, for example, that Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff is not authorized (by the RCD) to do this …”

Huff said she had already promised Miller she would send out the letter.

Board Member Bliss moved that the letter not be sent out because it is “inflammatory.”

Board President Wade suggested “not authorized –the letter is not authorized to be sent by the board or staff.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Huff thanked the board for this resolution, which passed. She then described three new grant opportunities available before the end of the year. One involved Bear Creek, the urban parts of which are not in the RCD. The grants were for a watershed coordinator for the stakeholders, water monitoring, and water pollution. Huff finished her report by asking the board to find a group for her to make her final presentation on the Endangered Species Act (in order to fulfill a grant).

The remaining member of the public asked Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Huff who paid her salary? Huff replied it was paid by the state Department of Conservation at the moment and that will continue until May through the Merced Alliance. At this point, she added, the RCD is looking for new funds from the state Department of Conservation.

Grant Administrator Whipp interjected to explain that the watershed coordinator has a contract with the RCD for the task of facilitating the meetings of the Merced River Stakeholders.

According to Whipp’s logic, Miller as a California taxpayer is paying the watershed coordinator’s salary but evidently the RCD dictates the tasks of stakeholder facilitation.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook, reporting as staff of the Merced Alliance on a grant run through the RCD, said that the Riverfair had gone well however there was some question about where it would be held next year. This year it was held at the commissioner’s ranch.

She expressed surprise that state Department of Water Resources official Dan Wermiel “had said those things” at the Snelling meeting on July 20. She added that she is “not putting up with a lot of shit from people for their own self aggrandizement.” She also said she was “hoping we’ll put in some grants that won’t be misrepresented.” She concluded by saying, “These are trying times. You may just be meeting here and looking at each other …”

The member of the public interpreted these remarks to mean that Commissioner Lashbrook’s “ war” (declared at a special RCD meeting a month earlier) against the Merced River Stakeholders who had opposed her grants was still on, however, things didn’t look good for future grants to the East Merced Resource Conservation District, at least from its usual sources.

Board Member Weber suggested that the RCD go to the stakeholders with ideas for things that can be done without grants and coordinate with the stakeholders on these projects.

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff stated that in California, all RCD funding is by grant.

County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook added that California is the only state that operates its RCD funds this way.

NRCS staff Hildebrandt said that some states have base state funding for RCDs and others don’t.

Commissioner Lashbrook told the board that it needed to look to its strategy “in light of what’s going on.” Funding for RCD staff runs out in March. She quoted DWR official Wermiel as saying that the federal government didn’t contribute to CalFed.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook said that the instructions CalFed gave her and other grant writers were that they needed a broader stakeholder base and a wider watershed to qualify. She said it would have been an “open public process, not steered …” and that “we (the grant writing staff) were set to do a plan for implementation.”

However, she continued, “big negatives drowned that out.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said the granting agency told her nothing would be accepted after the submission date. She added that had she known, she could have gotten 40-60 support letters.

Board President Wade said, “Scandal! Criminal!”

The stakeholders opposed to the grant contacted the granting agency, still unable to get a copy of the grant from after the submission date from either Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff or Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook. The funders instructed them to send their opposition letter early in the week after the submission deadline.

Huff said that the review of the grants from the funders will come and will be shared.

Board members said that DWR official Wermiel had called the meeting on July 20 in Snelling (so it was not really a routine water monitoring meeting). Then a letter from Nancy McConnell, like Commissioner Lashbrook, another Merced Alliance educational coordinator, was read in which McConnell said she was “real sorry the grant didn’t make it.” The McConnell letter continued to say that after the tour, Wermiel said that chances of getting more CalFed money were unlikely. California is very backwards, said McConnell, who lives out of the area. She said, “top managers of the watershed program didn’t buy into the process themselves.” She concluded the letter with a rousing: “Keep the watershed community base faith!”

The board and staff did not discuss the request of Merced River Stakeholders Miller and Pat Ferrigno and RCD Board President Wade’s request to be sent a report on the meeting between Merced Alliance/RCD staff and DWR official Wermiel, nor has it sent her a copy as of the writing of these minutes.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook reported on a Merced County plan to review all “annexations.” RCD, which is a special district and falls under the jurisdiction of the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), will be reviewed and needed to provide a legal description of the district and a man. A new annexation would cost $2,700 and require environmental review and a Notice of Determination.

Members of the board entered into an intense discussion about where the legal description and map might be, which was brought to an end when Huff found them in a filing cabinet behind Planning Commissioner Lashbrook.

Lashbrook reported that the Sierra Club would hold a meeting on the high-speed rail proposal the next day and that Kim Forest, US Fish and Wildlife Service manager of the Grasslands would attend to express her concerns about how the rail proposal would affect west side grasslands. The planning commissioner added that there would be a public hearing on the project at the end of the month – the only hearing on it in the Valley, to be held in Merced.

Board members discussed briefly whether the high speed, electric powered railway would cut down on pollution, some saying yes, others asking how the electric power would be generated.

Board Member Anderson reported on the Valley Land Alliance, a board he also sits on, saying that the Alliance “wants an active role.” Currently, he said the Alliance is proposing a food-and-energy element in the county General Plan Update process.

Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff said that the board should consider using fee-for-service agreements to raise funds as well as grants.

The meeting adjourned.

During the meeting, another member of the public, who had to leave the meeting early, said that when he was in the hallway outside the meeting before it began, Commissioner Lashbrook demanded to know why he was there (at a public meeting discussing public funds). There have been several reliable reports by either eyewitnesses or victims, that Commissioner Lashbrook has threatened people in what has the appearance of a personal vendetta against Merced River Stakeholder Miller for protesting the substance and process in the RCD grant proposals. Commissioner Lashbrook has been reported to say to people that they must choose sides between herself and Merced River Stakeholder Miller and must not communicate with either Miller or anyone associated with her, presumably including all people for the last 30 years who have used the services of or volunteered with the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center or are now or have ever been members of the Central Valley Safe Environment Network as well as people involved with newer organizations. In a previous RCD meeting, Merced Planning Commissioner Lashbrook summed up her attitude toward Merced River Stakeholder Miller: “It’s war.”

Is this the way Merced County citizens want high officials to treat the public?

The question of whether the RCD has a right to obstruct the tasks of the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator, paid public funds to facilitate stakeholders’ meetings, will be taken up at the stakeholders’ meeting in September.

| »

Work in progress

Submitted: Aug 12, 2007

I was recently asked to produce a bibliography of "essential books" on the San Joaquin Valley.


A dozen favorites leapt to mind; a few days later a dozen more; and the pleasant task began to turn into a real project destined for certain failure and remorse. It turns out not to be so easy to remember the books of a lifetime and each dive into the Internet provides more that look very useful but I haven't had time to read yet.

When one gets to a certain age it becomes difficult to remember the heroes because they are all gone and it is harder to recall that I met some of them a time or two, here and there -- for example, Fred Ross, a slim, serious man, perpetually moving purposefully around the Delano headquarters of the UFWOC; the wise, friendly Larry Itliong; or Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel on the phone correcting the spelling of her name in an article I'd written; or the voice of Art Coelho, poet and publisher of our Valley voices, from Montana, talking about burning up cowboy boots on big cats disking the west side and years wandering the West as an itinerant poet composing the best list of country poets in the West.

I remembered a call about a great farm labor leader in farmworkers rest home in Delano leading a seminar on Lenin to fellow octogenarians from the fields. We dreamed of that moment when those workers would confront St. Peter and demand to know: "What is to be done?"

I remember the face of the great, betrayed C. Al Green, director of the multi-racial AFL-CIO Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a victim, like Chavez, of liberal perfidity that has resulted in indebted servitude in the fields today. All the political thieves of San Francisco have ever wanted from the Valley was agribusiness campaign cash, any way they could get it. "Migrants don't vote," they said. These days, it's "Illegal immigrants don't vote."

The longer I worked on it, the more holes I saw in the vista of written material on the San Joaquin Valley that stretched out before me like a vast battlefield of a war that has been going on since before the great Yojuts leader Estanislao defeated the young Lt. Mariano Vallejo. Looking at water rights issues today, sometimes it seems as if the ghosts of heroes and villains rising off the battlefield are pulling the strings of the living in a never-ending feud we call our "Valley way of life." Another way to look at it is that bioregions matter.

Every reader will find something missing in this bibliography. For example, I am frantically digging in book boxes for a good one on the Chinese in California I know I have somewhere but cannot remember the title of. Can't find it, have nothing on their enormous contribution except in various general histories like Bean's superb California: An Interpretive History.

Everyone I have talked to has added a book I've forgotten or never knew about.

So, this is a work in progress and I invite anyone to write us at billhatch@hotmail.com, gleefully to announce what a knucklehead I was to forget their favorite, indispensible books about the Valley.

Meanwhile, apologies to the people who originally requested the bibliography -- we'll let you know when it's done.

Bill Hatch, for the Badlands Journal editorial board


Garden of the Sun, Wallace Smith (the only history to date strictly about the SJV)
Handbook of the Yokuts Indians, Frank Latta
The Stanislaus Indian Wars, Thorne P. Gray
The Destruction of the California Indians, Robert F. Heizer
Saints or Oppressors: The Franciscan Missionaries of California; In The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide, Rupert and Jeannette Costa
Flooding the Courtrooms: Law and Water in the Far West, by Mary Catherine Miller (a legal biography of the Miller&Lux cattle company)
Empires in the Sun, Peter Wiley, Robert Gottlieb (development of power utilities in the West)
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (DDT)
Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner
Death in the Marsh, Tom Harris (the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge ecological disaster caused by agricultural drainage containing heavy metals)
Fruits of Natural Advantage, Steven Stoll (the self-destructive economics of agribusiness)
The New California, Dan Walters
Works of Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange: Taylor was one of the first academics (UC Berkeley economist) to study farm labor, both Mexican and Dust Bowl immigrants; Lange's photographs of migrants stand alongside Walker Evans' work with James Agee as testimony to the destruction and poverty of the Depression
Factories in the Fields, Carey McWilliams
Farm workers and agri-business in California, 1947-1960, Ernesto Galarza
Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa, Jacques E. Levy
United Farm Workers website, history section http://www.ufw.org/_page.php?menu=research&inc=research_history.html
Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, Craig Scharlin
Articles on 160-acre limitation by E. Phillip Leveen (have to do Google search for them, Leveen was the top spokesman for the 160-acre limitation for federal water during the last great war over it in the late 70s; an agricultural economist at the time, he was trained as an historian and gives the history of the whole federal water/land fraud in the Valley)
Articles by Don Villarejo, founder of the California Institute for Rural Studies, list available at http://donvillarejo.com/ (nearly 50 years of thought and research on the Valley balancing social, economic and environmental justice claims)
California Institute of Rural Studies publication catalogue http://www.cirsinc.org/pub/pubcat.htm
Isao Fujimoto, UC Davis emeritus, has published a number of studies on different aspects of the Central Valley -- from farm labor to environmental issues
The King Of California: JG Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax,Rick Wartzman
Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, by David Mas Masumoto
BORDER CORRESPONDENT, Selected Writings, 1955-1970, Ruben Salazar
Mean Justice, by Ed Hume
California: An Interpretive History, Walton Bean
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), www.ciw-online.org/ (the Florida front line of current farm-labor organizing)

Legal and administrative decisions and discussion: The San Joaquin Valley has produced major legal contests on an array of natural resource issues; these sources will lead the reader into essential topics in Valley history; others are dealt with in the non-fiction section

Public Trust Doctrine
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Mono Lake Decision
San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center
Monterery Accord decision: PCL v. DWR
Kesterson Wildlife Refuge
San Joaquin River Settlement
Rapanos Decision
CEQA decisions (law firm blogs like Abbott and Kinderman Land Use Law blog offer reviews of recent decisions: San Joaquin Raptor v. County of Merced, Woodward Park Homeowners Association, Inc. v. City of Fresno, Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth Inc. v City of Rancho Cordova, Hayward Area Planning Association v. City of Hayward, City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University, etc.
Badlandsjournal.com provides current news on lawsuits, administrative decisions, essays and articles on resource law

Fiction, Poetry, Drama

Poetry of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (the greatest Dust Bowl poet, still writing about her people until shortly before she died this April)
Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, by John Steinbeck
The Octopus, Frank Norris
The Ford, Mary Austin
Art Coehlo (Cuelho) and Seven Buffaloes Press
Gerald Haslam's works, short stories and Workin' Man's Blues (memoirs of youth in Oildale and the development of "Nashville West," Bakersfield.
Plays of Luis Valdez ("Zoot Suit," "La Bamba"). http://store.elteatrocampesino.com/books.html
Luis is the farmworkers' Bertold Brecht.
Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley, edited by Stan Yogi, Gayle Mak, and Patricia Wakida
Fat City, Leonard Gardner

Additions since posting:

New Roots for Agriculture, Wes Jackson
Topsoil and Civilization, Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale
The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

| »

Best little weekly on the Grapevine

Submitted: Aug 04, 2007

For reasons unknown to Patric Hedlund, editor of the Mountain Enterprise, and to the Badlands editorial staff, we received a press release on the Enterprise's recent success garnering three awards for excellence in journlaism from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. What is more remarkable, for an CNPA award, the Enterprise in an independent newspaper serving unincorporated towns near and along the Grapevine and in the Los Padres National Forest.

The story gets better. We contacted Hedlund because we were interested in the the paper's reporter staff of "volunteer community reporters." Hedlund informed us that much of the Enterprise copy is written by volunteers from the various communities the 4,000-subscription weekly covers. In fact, one of the paper's chief missions is training good volunteer community reporters to get both sides of the story in the sprawling rural area it covers. The stories are edited by professional journalists on the Enterprise staff.

As a recent example, she told the story of being contacted by a Pine Mountain resident, LaVonne L. Lewis, Ph.D., R.N., a psychologist and an emergency room and critical care nurse. Lewis' husband had discovered a dead bird on her porch, Lewis contacted Kern County about how to deal with the carcass and later contacted the state about how to deal with Kern County. Finally, she wrote the story that appears below. This report, it turned out, was part of a much larger breaking story that Kern County is the leading county in the state for human cases of West Nile Virus, which prompted state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, to request that the governor declare a state emergency in Kern County.

The cause of the independent weekly, fact-based journalism and the promotion civic dialogue around public process is well served by the Mountain Enterprise.

Badlands editorial staff

The Mountain Enterprise
Tiny Mountain Newspaper Wins Three Statewide Journalism Awards
California Newspaper Competition Draws More Than 4,000 Entries

FRAZIER PARK, CA – The Mountain Enterprise, which serves a cluster of mountain villages in the Los Padres National Forest (a tri-county area of Kern, Los Angeles and Ventura counties) has won three awards for excellence in journalism. A team of volunteer community reporters and the woman who founded the newspaper 41 years ago were all invited to accompany the paper’s owners to the awards ceremony at the historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on Saturday, July 14.

During the 119th Annual Convention of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, The Mountain Enterprise received:
• First Place award for its series telling how mountain residents worked together to respond to a 700-home development project that produced a six-volume Environmental Impact Report without disclosing that the water table was plunging in the area on which it wished to build;
• First Place for its newly launched website (www.MountainEnteprise.com)
• Second Place for its public service series about the deaths and endangerment of mountain residents caused by inadequate ambulance response in an area of Kern County served by a private ambulance company owned by the Mayor of Bakersfield.

Management and ownership of The Mountain Enterprise was assumed by Publisher Gary Meyer and Editor Patric Hedlund in August of 2004. The two are producers of award-winning documentary films and investigative articles, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

More than 4,000 entries were received by the statewide newspaper association from over 400 contest participants throughout the state. Newspapers compete with their peers in categories set by size and frequency of circulation.

Context in which The Mountain Enterprise works:

A deluge of industrial and residential developments are poised to explode into the Interstate 5 region known as the Grapevine. The Mountain Enterprise's coverage area has become ground zero for a convergence of deep-pocket interests ready to do battle with environmental litigators, starting this winter of 2007-08.

Tejon Ranch Company's 270,000 acres is the largest contiguous parcel of privately owned land in California. This year, TRC hopes to launch the 23,000-home Centennial project in northern LA County and the 3500-home, seven resort hotel Tejon Mountain Village in southern Kern County. Meanwhile, adjacent developments are lining up applications for about two thousand additional homes..

The area in which these developers wish to build is targeted by environmentalists as a critical habitat to many rare species of plants and wildlife, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Environmental and conservation groups have lined up on both sides of the issues, some casting their lots with TRC's plans, others against.

The Mountain Enterprise has covered the issues as they arise for public consideration, aiming always at the needs of residents and businesses to stay informed about the coming changes, while also examining possible strategies for developing a stronger local economy.

First Place Series
The paper closely reported detailed findings in a series of hearings hosted by the Mountain Communities Town Council and added original reporting about the Frazier Park Estates development proposal.

When community reporter Doug Peters analyzed the housing project’s six volume Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for data regarding water studies, Editor Patric Hedlund and Publisher Gary Meyer worked with him to explain clearly how ground water measurement data had been scattered throughout the report in a confusing manner.

When Peters assembled the data and presented it in a graph published in the paper, readers learned that the water levels in the proposed development area (near Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec) had fallen significantly over a period of 11 years.

Following a Kern County public presentation of the DEIR, the The Mountain Enterprise published the Planning Department’s subtle verbal assertion that, according to the development plan, Frazier Park’s Fire Station 57 would be closed and moved three miles away to the housing development site. After significant and well-informed public input by letter and email during the 45-day comment period, Kern County’s Planning Department withdrew the DEIR and required the developer to perform a complete rewrite.

Best Website

The Mountain Enterprise received a First Place award for “Best Website” within the new site’s first few months of operation. The site, www.MountainEnterprise.com went online in December 2006.
It is a feature-filled yet simple-to-use site, designed for high functionality and user convenience. Back issues of the paper can be searched using a full range of Google-like search tools. It also contains significant additional material in the Community FYI areas. This year, The Mountain Enterprise’s full 42 years of history are being prepared for inclusion in the archive.

Public Service

In addition to the two First Place awards, The Mountain Enterprise’s coverage of ongoing community efforts to bring full-time Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedic services to the outlying areas of the Mountain Communities received a Second Place award for Public Service reporting.

After Pine Mountain resident Harold Bailey died of a heart attack in 2005 while waiting more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive, The Mountain Enterprise reported the groundswell of community action that persisted to demand improvements by private company Hall Ambulance Service and in standards set by Kern County’s Emergency Medical Services Department.

On May 29, 2007 the Kern County Grand Jury recommended that County Fire Department establish paramedic services in Pine Mountain and that “Kern County Fire Department and private ambulance companies resolve their differences” regarding public safety in medical emergencies. Kern County Fire Chief Dennis Thompson has announced that a third firefighter will be on duty at Station 58 in Pine Mountain during all shifts by August 1 and that his goal is to have firefighters licensed as ALS paramedics on the mountain within the next two years.

Outstanding Reporting

A fourth series by The Mountain Enterprise received the CNPA Certificate of Achievement. The Mountain Enterprise provided in-depth reports about actions of the El Tejon Unified School District (ETUSD) board of trustees, then-superintendent John Wight and Frazier Mountain High School’s principal to offer a Philosophy of Intelligent Design course in early 2006.

While ETUSD’s superintendent provided soundbites to national TV news networks from the campus, The Mountain Enterprise published interviews with the teacher offering the course and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed with eleven other parents requesting that the course be stopped. During the final days of the class, ETUSD Superintendent John Wight called the Kern County Sheriff’s Department to have publisher Gary Meyer and editor Patric Hedlund of The Mountain Enterprise arrested while reporting on the high school campus—a right and responsibility of the press on behalf of the public, protected by state and federal law.

The paper dedicated a forum for the community’s ongoing dialog about Intelligent Design in its pages for more than a month.

The lawsuit was settled and the superintendent resigned five months later, thirty minutes after being shown a videotape of himself taking gasoline, allegedly for personal use, in six trips within four hours from school district gas pumps, and appearing to pump the fuel into a system of gasoline containers assembled in the rear seat area of his car. When the board president refused to discuss the existence of the videotape and the reason for the superintendent’s sudden departure, a public records request submitted by The Mountain Enterprise secured release of copies of the videotape. The newspaper also published a carefully documented history of serious problems in a previous district where the former superintendent had served. See “El Tejon Unified School District” under “Community FYI” at www.MountainEnterprise.com for those stories.
Mountain Enterprise

West Nile Virus May Be Here To Stay ... LaVonne L. Lewis, Ph.D., R.N.

West Nile Virus is a growing problem in Kern County. Last month two elders died of the disease in this county. The State of California reports that there are 56 reported human cases of the virus and 38 of those are in Kern County. This makes us the number one county in the state dealing with this disease.

So what is being done about it? From what I have seen, not nearly enough.

On Monday, July 23 a dead bird was found on our Pine Mountain porch by my husband. He followed the recommendations of the State of California. The dead bird was reported at 3:30 p.m. Monday to www.westnile.ca.gov, the website for the California Department of Health Services.

That report was sent by fax to Kern County Environmental Health Services at 3:42 p.m. by an employee identified as Clarence (the last names of state employees are not allowed to be given to the public, he said).

Another state employee then called my husband to tell him to "bag the bird" himself and leave it outside the house. The county, he was told, "would pick it up within 24 hours." He was also told "if the bird is not picked up after three days, just discard it." Much to the dismay of our family, the bird was never picked up by Kern County to be tested.

I called the California Department of Health Services on Thursday July 26 to speak with Lakeyssia (again, we were told that last names not allowed to be given by state employees) at (877) 968-2473.

She checked the computer record to confirm that the report had been logged by the state and that Kern County Environmental Health Services was informed within 12 minutes by fax. Lakeyssia stated that the protocol requires that the animal be picked up within 24 hours. She was quite surprised that the protocol was not followed and that the bird was not picked up.

I then placed a call to Kern County Environmental Health Services and spoke with Mat Constantine at (661) 862-8700. His response was appalling. He said he felt that testing animals was "wasting resources."

Constantine said, "West Nile Virus is here—we already know that—so why test?" He said he feels the money should be used in prevention and education. He stated that there are no funds in the county to have employees driving (sometimes for a couple of hours) to pick up a dead animal. He said sometimes he has to pull people from other jobs in order to pick up a dead animal.

I replied that from an epidemiological point of view it is important to know how many animals might be infected in a given area. That information can then be used to prevent human deaths by finding and treating the source (such as standing water).

I asked him, hypothetically, if they found 35 infected dead animals in an area like Pine Mountain, would he think that would be valuable information? There was a prolonged pause on the phone.

I stated that this would be very valuable information leading to possible spraying to prevent loss of human life.

Constantine agreed, but said he feels there is just not enough money to do it. So the question arises: how many dead and infected animals are not being picked up for testing in our county?

The California Department of Health Services has since called me to apologize for this entire unfortunate situation. The supervisor (Stan) said he is going to call the county to try to seek a resolution, as the State is very concerned about the disease. Kern County seems to be having difficulty acknowledging the magnitude of this situation. The numbers speak for themselves, 38 out of 56 human cases are here in Kern County. What is it our taxes are paying for?

LaVonne L. Lewis, Ph.D., R.N. is a Psychologist and an Emergency Room and Critical Care Nurse. Her family lives in Pine Mountain

BREAKING NEWS: State of Emergency Declared in Spread of West Nile Virus

At 10:00 a.m. Thursday, August 2 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Kern County due to the three-fold increased spread of West Nile Virus (WNV). Of 56 cases of WNV reported in California this year, 38 of them are in Kern County. Colusa and San Joaquin counties were included in the declaration to prevent the spread of this mosquito-borne disease. This year there have been four deaths in California due to West Nile Virus (two in Kern County, one in San Joaquin County and one in Colusa County).

In The Mountain Enterprise issue on the news stands today, Thursday, August 2, see the story about how a Mountain Communities family's efforts to get Kern County 's health officials to test a dead bird found on their deck reveals a dysfunctional system for protecting the public against West Nile Virus in Kern County.

In an August 1 letter to State Senator Dean Florez, D-Bakersfield, the governor said, "I agree that there is a need to address this issue to protect our fellow Californians against an epidemic. To that end, tomorrow I will proclaim a state of emergency within the counties of Kern, Colusa and San Joaquin, the counties hit hardest by the virus. My proclamation will make financial assistance available to the local vector control districts and direct State agencies to take proactive measures to protect Californians from further spread of West Nile Virus."

Senator Florez requested a minimum of $48 million from Gov. Schwarzenegger. The governor responded that he, "will make as much funding as immediately needed to combat this virus at the local level."

The Thursday morning press release said "since taking office, Governor Schwarzenegger has invested more than $15 million to fight the West Nile Virus. California has one of the most comprehensive West Nile Virus surveillance and control systems in the U.S. The state deploys surveillance and detection technology to track specific areas of West Nile Virus activity and alert local agencies so they can target their mosquito control activities."

The story in The Mountain Enterprise revealed that such "surveillance and control" systems were not being fully implemented in Kern County.

Watch The Mountain Enterprise for an update about the specific measures Kern County will now take to protect the public against WNV.


"Today I'm taking action to help the counties hit hardest by West Nile Virus. My proclamation makes financial assistance available to the local vector control districts and directs state agencies to take proactive measures to protect Californians from further spread of this deadly virus. I will continue to ensure our local agencies have whatever resources they need to fight the spread of this disease," said Governor Schwarzenegger.

For more information about West Nile Virus, visit http://westnile.ca.gov.

Full text of the Governor's emergency proclamation:


WHEREAS when compared to the same time last year, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of people infected by West Nile Virus; and

WHEREAS since 2002, West Nile Virus has infected hundreds of people and caused multiple deaths in California, including four deaths this year; and

WHEREAS the recent upturn in foreclosures this year has increased the number of vacant homes this summer with unattended and untreated pools, which has exacerbated the spread of West Nile Virus; and

WHEREAS local governments have made sustained efforts to minimize the spread of the virus, and the state has supplemented these efforts by dedicating over $15 million over the last three years to mitigate the virus's effects; and

WHEREAS despite those efforts to eradicate West Nile Virus, the virus remains a threat, and further efforts to control the spread of the virus and to reduce and minimize the risk of infection are needed; and

WHEREAS the Mosquito Vector Control Association of California, which is composed of 61 local vector control districts, is seeking state assistance in addressing the potential for a West Nile Virus epidemic in California; including a request for funding for surveillance activity and abatement efforts; and

WHEREAS control of West Nile Virus may require immediate actions to limit the population of adult mosquitoes and mosquito larvae, and those actions may include the ground and aerial application of pesticides in urban, suburban and rural areas; and

WHEREAS there are also numerous and significant incidents of Valley Fever, especially in Kern County; and

WHEREAS due to the magnitude of the threat, the size of the affected areas and the need to control the spread of the virus across jurisdictional boundaries, the conditions are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county, city and county, or city, and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions; and

WHEREAS under section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist within the Counties of Kern, Colusa and San Joaquin caused by the threat of West Nile Virus.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the California Constitution and the California Emergency Services Act and, in particular, sections 8625, 8567 and 8571 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist within Kern, Colusa and San Joaquin Counties, and hereby issue the following orders:

IT IS ORDERED that the Department of Public Health shall allocate up to $1 million dollars as needed, to local vector control agencies to identify potential mosquito habitat and to treat those areas to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus in the three above-listed counties and other counties identified by the Department of Public Health.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health shall allocate up to $350,000 to local vector control agencies for surveillance purposes to provide an early warning of the incidence of West Nile Virus so that proper control measures can be taken by the local vector control agencies to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus in the three above-listed counties and other counties identified by the Department of Public Health.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health shall coordinate with the State and Consumer Services Agency, the Resources Agency and the Department of Food and Agriculture to develop a plan using best management practices for implementation by the appropriate state agencies for the early detection of West Nile Virus on state-owned properties and appropriate mitigation and abatement measures. Funds in the amount up to $150,000 shall be allocated for the purpose of developing this plan.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health and the Department of Food and Agriculture shall work with the Mosquito Research Program at the University of California, Davis, to determine what resources are needed to further advance the research on the ecology and the epidemiology of West Nile Virus.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health shall work with (1) local vector control districts to utilize their existing power pursuant to Health and Safety code section 2053 to inspect and abate vector or public nuisances, with special emphasis on the removal of standing water in untended pools and containers on vacant property; and (2) the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and local public health departments to notify lenders, realtors, mortgage brokers and others whose responsibilities include managing vacant homes to ensure that pools and other containers that can hold water are drained and maintained empty to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Heath shall implement a supplemental program of mosquito control, including health advisories and technical assistance, in the above-listed counties to assist those counties and the mosquito and vector control agencies within those regions to minimize the proliferation of mosquitoes and to reduce the transmission of West Nile Virus.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all agencies and departments of state government utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Department of Public Health in an effort to address and mitigate this emergency, and consistent with the State Emergency Plan as coordinated by the Office of Emergency Services.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health enter into such contracts as it deems appropriate, in consultation with the above-listed counties and the mosquito and vector control agencies within those regions, to provide services, material, personnel and equipment to supplement the West Nile Virus mitigation efforts in those jurisdictions.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the provisions of the Government Code, the Public Contract Code, the State Contracting Manual and Management Memo 03-10, along with all Department of Pubic Health policies, applicable to state contracts, including, but not limited to, advertising and competitive bidding requirements and approvals for non-competitively bid contracts, are hereby temporarily suspended with respect to contracts to provide services, material, personnel and equipment to supplement the West Nile Virus mitigation and abatement efforts in the above-listed counties to the extent that such laws would prevent, hinder or delay prompt mitigation of the effects of this emergency.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health shall consult with the county agricultural commissioner prior to the application of "prohibited materials," as defined in subdivision (p) of section 110815 of the Health and Safety Code, to agricultural land used for the production of certified organic foods.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of Public Health work with local public health departments to take appropriate actions to minimize the incidents of Valley Fever in the above-listed counties.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given to this proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 2nd day of August 2007.

Governor of California

For the probable origins of West Nile Virus in the US, see Lab 257 by Michael Christopher Carroll, pp. 28 et seq. -- Badlands

| »

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance lashes Valley agricultural pollution

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

Water Board Report Shows that Irrigated Agriculture Has Polluted the Delta and Most Central Valley Waterways

For immediate release:
25 July 2007

(Stockton, CA) The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) has released a landmark draft report presenting the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Data collected from some 313 sites throughout the Central Valley reveals that: 1) toxicity to aquatic life was present at 63% of the monitored sites (50% were toxic to more than one species), 2) pesticide water quality standards were exceeded at 54% of sites (many for multiple pesticides), 3) one or more metals violated criteria at 66% of the sites, 4) human health standards for bacteria were violated at 87% of monitored sites and 5) more than 80% of the locations reported exceedances of general parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, salt, TSS). While the adequacy of monitoring (i.e., frequency and comprehensiveness) of monitoring varied dramatically from site to site, the report presents a
dramatic panorama of the epidemic of pollution caused by the uncontrolled discharge of agricultural wastes.

The report is posted on the Regional Board’s website at:

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/programs/irrigated_lands/index.html#Monitoring A brief review of the report including a zone-by-zone description of many of the monitoring results is attached at the bottom of this advisory.

“The report is a searing indictment of the Schwarzenegger Administration’s failure to regulate polluted discharges from irrigated agriculture,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). “Allowing farmers to dispose of toxic wastes in our waterways without effective regulation has destroyed the biological integrity of streams, rivers and the Delta,” he said adding, “Collapsing fish populations are a direct result of failing to require agriculture to comply with routine pollution control requirements applicable to virtually every other segment society, from municipalities and industry to mom-and-pop businesses.”

California’s ambient monitoring program and scientists from the University of California at Davis collected data from 53% of the sites. The remaining sites were monitored by agricultural coalitions or individual water agencies, pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Waivers program.

Discharges of agricultural pollutants are allowable under waivers of waste discharge requirements issued by the Regional Board in 2003 and renewed in 2006. Those waivers are being contested in a lawsuit filed by CSPA and Baykeeper against the Regional Board on 18 June 2007.

The waivers require farmers to join coalitions and conduct limited water quality monitoring. However, requirements to implement pollutant control measures are voluntary. Unfortunately, the structure of the waivers precludes the Regional Board from learning the identity of specific dischargers, actual discharge locations, the constituents being discharged, the volume and concentration of discharged pollutants, whether or not BMPs have been implemented or if implemented BMPs are effective. Consequently, the Regional Board cannot document a single specific source of pollution, the implementation and effectiveness of a single control measure or a single pound of pollution that has actually been prevented from entering waterways.

Since the coalitions are legally fictitious entities shielding actual dischargers, the Regional Board is unable to employ its traditional regulatory enforcement powers against dischargers to compel compliance with the conditions of the waiver. As a result, no enforcement actions have been taken for the failure of the coalition’s to comply with the waiver’s explicit monitoring and reporting requirements. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has effectively been delegated to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. Such an approach has never worked in the past and is not likely be successful in the future.

“The report puts to rest the repeated claims by farmers that agricultural pollution is not a problem in the Central Valley,” said Jennings, “and it graphically chronicles the bankruptcy of the Regional Board’s approach to controlling agricultural wastes.” “We cannot begin to restore the Delta and Central Valley waterways until we begin to control the massive discharge of toxic pollutants from agriculture.”

CSPA reviewed the draft report and found that it was confusing and understates the consequences of the data. Principle defects were: 1) lack of a unified framework (formats, tables and discussion rationales are different for each zone), 2) comparison of toxicity and specific constituents to total sites monitored, regardless of whether they were monitored at a particular site; 3) failure to address spatial and temporal variability in comparing water quality exceedances to total collected samples, and 4) failure to discuss the ecological and statistical significance of criteria exceedance. Despite these shortcomings, the report is the first attempt to define the extent of agricultural pollution and it presents an appalling picture of the state of Central Valley waterways.

One of the more disturbing findings in the report is the pervasiveness of long-banned pesticides like DDT and it’s degradates, DDE and DDD, that are either being remobilized by present farming practices or illegally applied. DDT is still legal in Mexico and a number of individuals have questioned whether DDT is being illegally smuggled into the state. A number of other “prohibited” pesticides were also identified at various monitoring sites.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
“An Advocate for Fisheries, Habitat and Water Quality”
3536 Rainier Avenue, Stockton, CA 95204
Tel: 209-464-5067, Fax: 209-464-1028, E: deltakeep@aol.com

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA)
A Brief Overview of the Draft 2007 Review of Monitoring Data, Irrigated Lands Conditional Waiver Program, 17 June 2007
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff posted the Revised Draft of the 2007 Review of Monitoring Data for the Irrigated Lands Conditional Waiver Program (Report) on 13 July 2007. It is posted on the Regional Board’s web site at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley/programs/irrigated_lands/index.html#Monitoring

The Report divides the Central Valley into four zones:
1. Zone 1 includes the Sacramento River Watershed.
2. Zone 2 includes the Delta Region and portions of the San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras and Mokelumne watersheds.
3. Zone 3 includes the San Joaquin River Watershed.
4. Zone 4 includes the Tulare Lake Basin.

The Report presents the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Monitoring data collected from some 313 sites is identified in the Report. The irrigated lands agricultural coalitions or individual water agencies enrolled under the waiver monitored 148 sites or 47% of the total. The state’s ambient water monitoring program (SWAMP), UC Davis (under contract to the Regional Board) and others monitored the remaining 165 sites.

Monitored constituents included toxicity (fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton and sediment), pesticides (standard suites plus legacy organochlorines), metals (arsenic, boron, copper, lead, nickel and zinc), bacteria/pathogens (E. coli), field parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, total dissolved solids and/or electrical conductivity) and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen containing compounds including phosphate, nitrate and ammonia).

Notwithstanding the structural deficiencies, inaccuracies and bias of the Report (discussed below), it is welcome first step toward identifying and quantifying the impacts of discharges from irrigated lands. It presents an astonishing and depressing mosaic of the pervasive water quality problems in the Central Valley caused by irrigated agriculture. It is a searing indictment of the Regional Board’s failed policy of exempting irrigated agriculture from water quality regulations applicable to virtually every other segment of society.

The frequency and comprehensiveness of monitoring varied significantly from site to site. Where monitored:
1. Toxicity was identified at 63% of the sites and 50% of the sites experienced toxicity to two or more species.
2. Pesticide criterion was exceeded for one or more pesticides at 54% of the sites.
3. One or more metals exceeded water quality criteria in 66% of the monitored sites.
4. Human health criteria for bacteria were exceeded in 87% of the monitored sites.
5. More than 80% of the monitored sites exceeded water quality criteria for general parameters.

The pervasiveness of identified problems is disheartening. For example, 60 of 61 monitoring sites in the San Joaquin Watershed (Zone 3) exceeded at least one parameter. Many sites reported exceedances in virtually all parameters (toxicity, bacteria, metals, pesticides and general parameters). The single site that reported no exceedances in Zone 3 was only monitored a single time for two parameters.

While the Report is a welcome first step in cataloging water quality problems caused be irrigated agriculture, it is needlessly confusing and contains fundamental structural deficiencies and inaccuracies. These include:
1. Lack of a unified and consistent framework for individual zone summaries. Formats, tables and discussion rationales are unique for each zone making it difficult to compare zones.
2. Inconsistency in reported parameters. For example, Zone 2 and 3 summaries reported general parameter exceedances but general parameters were ignored in the Zone 1 and 4 sections. Again, results for metal sampling was discussed in the Zone 2 and 3 summaries but not for Zones 1 and 4. None of the zone summaries discussed nutrient monitoring results.
3. Improperly comparing toxic occurrences at sites to the total number of sites, regardless of whether toxicity was monitored. For example, the Report states that toxicity to algal species was found at 27% of the sites in Zone 1. However, algal toxicity testing in was only conducted at 59 of the 96 monitoring locations in Zone 1. Toxicity to algae was found at 26 of those sites. Consequently, 44.1% of the monitoring sites experienced toxicity to algae, not the 27% incorrectly reported. Another example is sediment toxicity in Zone 2. The Report states that 23% of the sites exhibited sediment toxicity. However, sediment toxicity was only conducted at 31 sites and toxicity was identified at 12 sites, which is actually 38.7% of the sites where sediment toxicity was measured.
4. Improperly comparing the number of exceedances to the total number of tests for a specific parameter in a zone. For example, Zone 1 includes the entire Sacramento Valley. Sampling for dormant spray insecticides would not be expected to result in detections in areas or during periods where they are not applied. Comparing monitoring results of a specific parameter to the total sampling conducted throughout the Sacramento Valley without incorporating temporal and spatial discussions is simply disingenuous. It biases the results and understates potential problems.
5. Failure to discuss the relative importance of water quality criteria exceedances. Aquatic life criteria are established as a not-to-be-exceeded more than once-in-three year standard. More frequent exceedances can result in irreparable harm to the environment. Even a single exceedance of aquatic life criteria for a synthetic or toxic constituent can be statistically significant.
6. The Report ignores sublethal and chronic effects to aquatic ecosystems and the impacts of multiple stressors simultaneously occurring.
7. Failure to place the adequacy of monitoring in context. For example, a number of sites were only monitored a single time for one or few parameters. Results from even the most rigorously monitored sites represent only a brief snapshot of actual ambient conditions. Monitoring six or twelve times a year represents 0.07 % and 0.14% of yearly conditions. Statistically speaking, given minimal monitoring, a single identified exceedance of a synthetic or toxic constituent not naturally occurring in the environment virtually guarantees that numerous undiscovered and undocumented water quality exceedances and/or toxic events actually occurred.
8. Absence of a discussion of whether the agricultural coalitions have complied with mandated requirements of the Irrigated Lands Waiver. The lack of such a discussion prevents any assessment of the adequacy of the monitoring program. For example, none of the coalitions have complied with requirements to monitor all of major drainages, 20% of intermediate drainages on a rotating basis and minor drainages when downstream impacts are identified. Nor does the Report discuss the frequent failure of the coalitions to monitor for all required parameters, comply with data collection protocols and conduct follow up monitoring where water quality exceedances are identified.

Despite these shortcomings, the Report clearly establishes that discharges from agricultural lands are a significant, if not the major contributor, to the shredding to the aquatic biological tapestry throughout the Central Valley. Coupled with the inadequacy of coalition management plans, the Report’s findings chronicle the bankruptcy of the Regional Board’s approach to controlling agricultural pollution. Especially, in light of the fact that the Conditional Waiver precludes the Regional Board from knowing the identity of specific dischargers, actual discharge locations, the constituents being discharged, the volume/concentration of discharged constituents, whether or not BMPs have been implemented or if implemented BMPs are effective. Regulation of the largest source of pollution to Central Valley waterways has been left to the voluntary goodwill of groups of dischargers. Such an approach has never worked in the past and is not likely be successful in the future.

Below is a brief summary of the Report’s findings.

Zone 1 (Sacramento River Watershed)
1. Ninety-six (96) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 43 sites. UC Davis (under contract with the Regional Board) or SWAMP (state’s Ambient Monitoring Program) monitored 53 or 55% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 84 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 45 sites or 53.6% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 16 sites or 35.6% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Toxicity tests for fish (Pimephales promelas - fathead minnow) were conducted at 76 sites (many of those had only one or few tests). Toxicity was identified at 6 sites or 7.9% of sites that were monitored for fish toxicity. Report incorrectly states only 6% of sites had fish toxicity.
b. Toxicity tests for zooplankton (Ceriodaphnia dubia - water flea) were conducted at 75 sites (a number of sites only monitored 1 – 3 times). Zooplankton toxicity was identified at 20 sites or 26.6% of the sites that monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 5 or 25% were toxic more than once. Mortality exceeded 50% in 77% of the toxic events. Report incorrectly states 21% of sites had zooplankton toxicity.
c. Toxicity tests for algae (Selenastrum – algal species) were conducted at 59 sites (number of sites only monitored 2 or 3 times). Algal toxicity was identified at 26 sites or 44.1% of sites that actually monitored for algal toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 17 or 65.4% were toxic more than once. Mortality was greater than 50% in 29% of the toxic events. Report incorrectly states 27% of sites had algal toxicity
d. Sediment toxicity tests (Hyalella azteca – sediment amphipod) were conducted at 52 sites (27 monitored once, 14 monitored twice). Sediment toxicity was identified at 13 sites or 25% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity and conducted more than one test, 37.5% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states 13.5% of sites had sediment toxicity
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were monitored at 33 sites (several had only 1, 2 or 4 samples). Public health limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 28 sites or 84.8% of the sites monitored for bacteria.
4. Pesticides were monitored at 57 sites (many with only 1 or 2 samples). Exceedances were identified at 23 sites or 40.4% of the sites that were monitored for pesticides (numerous sites had exceedances for multiple pesticides).
5. Metal (arsenic, boron, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, selenium and zinc) results were not reported for Zone 1 because coalitions failed to report hardness data.
6. General parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, total suspended solids and electrical conductivity) were not reported for Zone 1.
7. The Zone 1 summary contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Zone 2 (Delta Region and portions of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras and Mokelumne watersheds)
1. Fifty-eight (58) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 29 sites and UC Davis or SWAMP monitored the other 29 locations. Twenty-one percent (21%) of the sites had more than 25 cumulative exceedances of metal, toxicity and general parameter criteria.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 52 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 26 sites or 50% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 14 sites or 53.8%% of sites where toxicity was identified (6 sites or 27% were toxic to 3 or more species).
a. Toxicity tests for fish were conducted at 47 sites (many had only one or few tests). Toxicity was identified at 9 sites or 19.1% of sites that monitored for fish toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 33.3% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states that 17% of sites exhibited toxicity.
b. Toxicity tests for zooplankton were conducted at 47 sites (a number of sites were only monitored 3 – 4 times). Zooplankton toxicity was identified at 15 sites or 31.9% of the sites that monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 6 or 42.9% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states 28.8% of sites exhibited toxicity to water flea.
c. Toxicity tests for algae were conducted at 37 sites (a number of sites were only monitored 1, 2 or 4 times). Algal toxicity was identified at 12 sites or 32.4% of sites that actually monitored for algae toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 7 or 58.3% were toxic more than once. Report states that 23% of sites exhibited algae toxicity.
d. Sediment toxicity tests were conducted at 31 sites. Sediment toxicity was identified at 12 sites or 38.7% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 8 or 66.7% were toxic more than once. Report incorrectly states sediment toxicity occurred in 23% of sites.
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were monitored at 23 sites. Health-based limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 18 sites or 78.3% of the sites monitored for bacteria (of these, 39% were above 1600 MPN/100 mL). Numerous sites exceeded criteria the majority of the time. For example, Grant Line Canal and French Camp Slough both exceeded criteria in 11 of 14 samples and Lone Tree Creek exceeded criteria in 14 of 16 samples.
4. Metals were monitored at 23 sites. One or more metal exceedances were found at 12 sites or 52.2% of the sites monitored for metals. Several sites had multiple exceedances. For example, Pixley Slough exceeded criteria for copper, lead and zinc 8, 20 and 4 times, respectively. Grant Line Canal exceeded arsenic, copper, lead and nickel 2, 3, 3, and 1 time respectively (out of five tests).
5. Pesticides were monitored at least once at 46 sites. Pesticides exceedances were identified at 28 sites or 60.9% of the sites that monitored for pesticides. Several sites had 30 to 40 exceedances and a number of sites had multiple exceedances of multiple pesticides. Pesticides under Basin Plan prohibition (carbofuran, malathion, methyl parathion and thiobencarb) were detected at 9 sites. Dieldrin is illegal in California but was identified at 4 sites. DDT and it’s degradates DDE and DDD continue to be identified in Zone 2.
6. General parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, Total suspended solids, electric conductivity) were monitored at 58 sites. Water quality criteria were exceeded for one or more parameters at 49 sites or 84.5% of the sites monitored for general parameters.
7. The summary contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Zone 3 (San Joaquin River Watershed)
1. Eighty-three (83) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 46 sites and UC Davis or SWAMP monitored 37 or 46% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 62 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 47 sites or 75.8% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 34 sites or 72.3%% of sites where toxicity was identified (16 sites or 34% toxic to 3 or more species).
a. Fish toxicity tests were conducted at 58 sites. Toxicity to fish was identified at 11 sites or 19% of sites monitored for toxicity (Coalition only data shows toxicity at 24.4% of sites). Of the sites that identified toxicity, 2 or 18.1% were toxic more than once.
b. Zooplankton toxicity was analyzed at 58 sites. Toxicity to zooplankton was identified at 34 sites or 59% of the sites monitored for zooplankton toxicity. Complete mortality of 100% was frequent (36 of 61 toxic samples) and the magnitude of toxicity was as high as 22 toxic units. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 15 or 44.1% were toxic more than once.
c. Algal toxicity testing was conducted at 56 sites. Toxicity to algae was identified at 24 sites or 43% of the sites that monitored algal toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 10 or 41.7% were toxic more than once.
d. Sediment toxicity was analyzed at 51 sites. Toxicity in sediment was identified at 29 sites or 57% of sites that monitored sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 13 or 44.8% were toxic more than once.
3. Bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) were analyzed at 45 sites. Health-based limits (235 MPN/100 ml) were exceeded at 42 of 45 or 93% of the sites that monitored for bacteria. Of the sites that identified bacteria exceedances, 36 or 85.7% exceeded criteria multiple times.
4. Metal suites were analyzed at 30 sites. Exceedances of one or more criteria occurred at 23 sites or 77% of the sites that monitored for metals.
5. Pesticide suites were analyzed at 44 sites. Exceedances of one or more pesticides were identified at 32 sites or 72.7% of the sites that monitored pesticide suites. Although banned for more than 30 years, DDT was found to be above criteria in 8% of tests and it’s degradates DDE and DDD were identified 14% and 3% of the time, respectively.
6. General Parameters
a. Dissolved oxygen was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of the 7mg/L (cold water) was identified at 49 sites or 80% of the sites monitored for dissolved oxygen.
b. pH was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of criteria was identified at 26 sites or 42.6% of the sites monitored for pH.
c. Electrical conductivity (salt) was monitored at 61 sites. Exceedance of the 700 µmhos/cm criteria (agricultural goal) was identified at 30 sites or 49% of sites monitored for electrical conductivity.
7. Nutrients were monitored at 62 sites but collected data is neither reported nor discussed.
8. Note: University of California study found measurable concentrations of DDT, DDD or DDE in 90% of sediment samples.

Zone 4 (Tulare Lakes Basin)
1. Seventy-six (76) total monitoring locations (many were infrequently monitored or monitored for only one or a few constituents or type of toxicity). Agricultural coalitions monitored 30 sites. UC Davis, SWAMP or others monitored forty-six or 61% of locations.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 66 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 49 sites or 77.2% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 20 sites or 40.8%% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Fish toxicity testing conducted at 57 sites. Toxicity to fish identified at 19 sites or 33.3% of sites monitored for fish toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 15.8% were toxic more than once.
b. Zooplankton toxicity testing conducted at 57 sites. Toxicity to zooplankton identified at 8 site or 14% of sites monitored for zooplankton. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 1 or 12.5% were toxic more than once.
c. Algal toxicity testing was conducted at 57 sites. Algal toxicity was identified at 33 sites or 57.9% of sites monitored for algae toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 24 or 72.7% were toxic more than once.
d. Sediment toxicity was analyzed at 39 sites (majority of sites only tested 1 or 2 times). Sediment toxicity was identified at 16 sites or 41% of sites monitored for sediment toxicity. Of the sites that identified toxicity, 3 or 18.8% were toxic more than once.
3. Pesticides were monitored at 30 sites. Exceedances of one or more pesticide criteria were identified at 13 sites or 43% of sites monitored for pesticides. Prohibited pesticides or DDT/degradates were detected above criteria at 7 sites (23% of monitored sites).
4. There is no information in the Report on bacteria/pathogen monitoring.
5. Metals were monitored at 28 sites. However, results for metal testing were not disclosed in the Report.
6. There is no information presented on general parameters other than the observation that electrical conductivity limits were exceeded at 13 locations.
7. The Report contains no information on nutrient monitoring.

Summary: Central Valley

1. There were a total of 313 monitoring sites in the Central Valley. Coalitions monitored 148 locations. UC Davis, SWAMP or others monitored 165 sites or 53% of the total monitored sites.
2. Toxicity was monitored at 264 sites (a number of sites only monitored for one species and/or one sampling event). Toxicity was identified at 167 sites or 63.3% of sites where toxicity testing was conducted. Toxicity to two or more species was identified at 84 sites or 50.3%% of sites where toxicity was identified.
a. Fish toxicity was identified at 45 of 238 sites or 18.9% of the sites where fish toxicity was monitored.
b. Toxicity to zooplankton was identified at 54 of 237 sites or 22.8% of the sites where zooplankton toxicity was monitored.
c. Toxicity to Algae species was identified at 95 of 209 sites or 45.5% of the sites where algal toxicity was monitored.
d. Sediment toxicity was found at 70 of 173 sites or 40.5% of sites where sediment toxicity was monitored.
3. One or more pesticides exceedances were found at 96 of 177 sites or 54.2% of the sites where pesticide suites were monitored.
4. Metal results were not reported for Zones 1 and 4. Zones 2 and 3 reported metal exceedances at 35 of 53 sites or 66% of the sites where metals were monitored.
5. Exceedance of human health criteria for bacteria/pathogens (E. coli) was identified at 88 of 101 sites or 87% of the sites where bacteria was monitored. Most of the sites had numerous violations.
6. General parameters were not reported for Zones 1 and 4. Zones 2 and 3 reported exceedance of one or more general parameters at 84.5% and 88.5% of sites, respectively.
7. There was no reporting or discussion of nutrient data with the exception Table Z3-1 for Zone 3 that reveals that nutrient monitoring was conducted at 62 sites.

| »

Conservation groups' letter to the Governor in defense of CEQA

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity
bnowicki@biologicaldiversity.org, 520-449-3898

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Conservation Groups Call on Governor Schwarzenegger to Stand Up for Global Warming Law:
Senate Republicans Hold State Budget Hostage to Favors for Development and Fossil-Fuels Lobby

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Conservation groups called on Governor Schwarzenegger today to publicly oppose efforts by the Republican minority in the California State Senate to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“California’s budget bill is currently being held hostage by a small minority of senators trying to force the majority into accepting a measure to exempt new projects from CEQA’s requirement to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that you speak out publicly against this and any future attempts to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming,” read the letter.

The California Environmental Quality Act, a bedrock state environmental law, requires all state and local agencies to assess and reduce significant environmental impacts from new developments and other projects. The California Attorney General and many conservation organizations have sought to hold agencies and project applicants accountable for compliance with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

On June 21, 2007, the California Building Industry Association, Western States Petroleum Association, and other fossil-fuel interest groups sent a letter to the governor and the state legislature seeking an “administrative or legislative remedy” to exempt the greenhouse gas emissions of developments and other projects from review under the Act.

On Friday, July 20, after the state assembly passed a budget bill and sent it to the Senate, Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman halted passage of the bill and set out a number of demands, including a provision to exempt developments and other projects from review of greenhouse gases. Such a measure is completely inappropriate for the budget bill and being introduced in an insidious, back-door fashion to forestall public outcry and legislative debate.

After an all-night session through Saturday morning, Senate President Pro-Tem Don Perata adjourned the Senate until Wednesday, with instructions to Senate Republicans to provide a unified list of demands for the passage of the budget. It is uncertain whether the California Environmental Quality Act exemption for greenhouse gases will be part of this list of demands.

California is a national leader in efforts to fight global warming, and the California Environmental Quality Act is prominent among the laws and policies that are addressing greenhouse gas pollution. Other critically important laws and policies include the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires California to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and Executive Order S-3-05, which sets a goal of reaching emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The groups’ letter to the governor is attached.

July 24, 2007
Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
State of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

We ask that you issue a public statement of opposition to the current minority attempt in the California state Senate to eliminate the California Environmental Quality Act process to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The State of California has long been a champion of environmental protection and is the undisputed leader in climate change policy nationally. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state’s flagship environmental law, is a key component of the suite of laws and policies already on the books to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state. CEQA provides an established system with a proven track record of assessing and reducing the significant adverse environmental impacts of new projects. Greenhouse gas emissions are among the most important of such impacts that CEQA addresses.

California’s budget bill is currently being held hostage by a small minority of Senators trying to force the majority into accepting a measure to exempt new projects from CEQA’s requirement to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that you speak out publicly against this outrageous demand and any other attempt to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming.

CEQA requires all state and local agencies to assess and reduce, to the extent feasible, all significant environmental impacts from new project approvals. The CEQAenvironmental review process is fully established throughout the state, with a proventrack record of ameliorating impacts relating to air pollution, water quality andavailability, land use, endangered species, and many other aspects of California’s
environment. This process represents a wonderful opportunity, and also a legal mandate, for cities, counties, and other agencies to consider the greenhouse gas emissions from new projects they approve and then to adopt the many measures readily available to reduce those emissions. While the passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act certainly heightens the urgency of ensuring CEQA compliance, state and local
agencies’ legal obligations under CEQA with regard to greenhouse gas emissions predate and are separate from and complementary to the new mandates.

The California Attorney General, many of our organizations, and others have sought to hold agencies and project proponents accountable for compliance with this bedrock environmental law with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Faced with the irrefutable argument that agencies must assess and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent feasible in the CEQA process, a number of special interests are now seeking to eliminate CEQA’s requirements with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.

The June 21, 2007 letter you received from the California Building Industry Association, Western States Petroleum Association, and other industry groups completely misrepresented efforts to enforce CEQA as efforts “to implement AB 32 (The Global Warming Solutions Act) and Gubernatorial Executive Order S-3-05,” and sought an “administrative or legislative remedy” to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from CEQA.

To suggest that efforts to implement and enforce an existing law such as CEQA, constitute premature enforcement of the Global Warming Solutions Act is disingenuous. While the Global Warming Solutions Act is a critical component of the state’s efforts to address greenhouse gas pollution, the statute states repeatedly that it does not excuse compliance with any existing law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect the
environment. See, e.g., Cal. Health and Safety Code §§ 38592(b), 38598.

Scientists tell us that greenhouse gas pollution must be slashed eighty percent or more by mid-century to avoid disastrous climate change. Your Executive Order to reduce California emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 is consistent with this mandate. But actually reaching the targets identified by scientists, your Executive Order and the California Global Warming Solutions Act will be challenging. To succeed we
must get started immediately and pursue all possible avenues. To this end, California is fortunate to have CEQA, which provides one of the most promising and important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new development and other projects. With California’s population projected to approximately double by mid century, we must improve the way we grow in order to actually achieve the pollution reductions we need to preserve the environment and our quality of life.

During the budget bill crisis of the past few days, special interests opposed to regulation of greenhouse gases attempted to insert a provision into the budget bill to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from new development and other projects from CEQA review. It is possible that this item will be presented once again when the Senate reconvenes this Wednesday.

We ask that you publicly oppose this bald attempt to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming. As governor, you have demonstrated leadership in fighting global warming, including the issuance of Executive Order S-3-05. We ask that you continue that commitment now by releasing a public statement of opposition to this and any legislative efforts to undermine efforts like Executive Order S-03-05, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, and CEQA, to induce real actions and changes in the fight against global warming. A statement from you would help clarify that attacks against these efforts are working against the interests of the state of California, and against the commitment the state has made to fighting global warming.

Considering the growing impacts and risks of global warming to the environment, the economy, and public health, the benefits existing law can provide to California and the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new projects are tremendous. Full CEQA enforcement with respect to greenhouse gas emissions deserves your full support and enthusiastic endorsement.

We thank you for your leadership in addressing the climate crisis, and look forward to working with you and your staff on this critically important issue.


Adrienne Bloch
Senior Attorney
Communities for a Better Environment

Michael E. Boyd
Californians for Renewable Energy, Inc. (CARE)

Ingrid Brostrom
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

Stuart Cohen
Executive Director
Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC)

Kim Delfino
California Program Director
Defenders of Wildlife

Drew Feldman
San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society

Susan Frank
President & CEO
Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation

Garry George
Executive Director
Los Angeles Audubon

David Gordon
Executive Director
Pacific Environment

Ralph Salisbury, Chair
Sierra Club, San Gorgonio Chapter

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

Tam Hunt
Energy Program Director / Attorney
Community Environmental Council

Dan Jacobson
Legislative Director
Environment California

Linda Krop
Chief Counsel
Environmental Defense Center

Paul Mason
Sierra Club California

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity

Gary A. Patton
Executive Director
Planning and Conservation League

Michelle Passero
Director of Policy Initiatives
The Pacific Forest Trust

Nancy Rader
Executive Director
California Wind Energy Association

Robert Ryland
Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Scott Smithline
Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs
Californians Against Waste

Ms. Gabriel Solmer, Esq.
Legal Director
San Diego Coastkeeper

V. John White
Clean Power Campaign

| »

Another piece of good news!

Submitted: Jul 13, 2007

California Native Plant Society
Defenders of Wildlife
Butte Environmental Council


Contact: Carol Witham, California Native Plant Society, (916) 452-5440

Brian Segee, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 682-9400 x 121

Barbara Vlamis, Butte Environmental Council, (530) 891-6426

Court Issues a Preliminary Injunction
against destruction of vernal pool habitat
in the Sunrise Douglas area of Rancho Cordova

On Tuesday, Federal District Court Judge Martin J. Jenkins issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits related to the Sunrise Douglas Development in the City of Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County, California. The court ordered the wetland permits suspended and enjoined any further construction, groundbreaking, earthmoving, or other on-the-ground activity that may affect vernal pool habitat or endangered or threatened species. On Thursday, cease-and-desist orders were issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to seven separate, but interrelated projects: North Douglas, Montelena, Douglas Road 98, Sunridge Park, Anatolia IV, Sunridge Village J and Grantline 208. Two additional projects, Douglas Road 103 and Arista del Sol, will also be subject to the force of the court order. The injunction will remain in effect until the case before the court has ruled on its merits. The lawsuit also names as defendants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Jenkins found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental assessments of these projects failed to take a “hard look” at, and independently analyze, the environmental consequences of the proposed projects in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The judge issued the preliminary injunction based upon the irreparable harm that could be caused to the vernal pools while the case is being heard by the court.

“This is a victory for the environmental community that has spent more than a decade trying to protect vernal pool grasslands and their associated endangered species in the Rancho Cordova area” says Carol Witham of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). “CNPS has long considered the Sunrise Douglas area being as the Yellowstone of vernal pool landscapes.”*

“We’re elated that the court found that the Army Corps’ reliance on documents submitted by the developers was insufficient, and that they independently analyze environmental impacts of the proposed projects,” stated Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director, Butte Environmental Council. “While this may not stop development, it will force the regulatory agencies to look holistically at vernal pool wetlands and endangered species in the Sunrise Douglas area and the impact of new development projects in this area.”

“California’s vernal pools are an integral part of the state's natural landscape and heritage, and are a vital resource for numerous native plants and animals,” said Brian Segee, Defenders of Wildlife. “Today’s decision moves us one step closer to ensuring that these crucial habitat areas remain intact.”

Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys and students in the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and by Neil Levine. For more details about the legal aspects of the case, contact Stanford Clinic Director Deborah Sivas at (650) 723-0325.

*Last week, in a separate case filed by CNPS, the California Superior Court found that the City of Rancho Cordova violated several state laws in their approval of an adjacent Angelo K. Tsakopoulos development called “The Preserve at Sunridge”. And, earlier this year in a lawsuit by the Vineyard Area Citizens against the City of Rancho Cordova, the California Supreme Court ruled that the original Sunrise Douglas environmental analysis document failed to consider the environmental impacts of long-term water supply and ground-water pumping activities on endangered fish in the Cosumnes River.


| »

Three pieces of good news

Submitted: Jul 12, 2007
This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan tstand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation ofthese exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs, July 11, 2007

Three pieces of good news:

1) No biowarfare lab for Livermore Lab Site 300 near Tracy. One San Joaquin County reporter said today that he'd heard the decision was actually made in June, as scheduled, but only announced now. Possibly, the consolation warpork prize for Livermore Valley was a head-trauma clinic for Iraq veterans.

2) The House Natural Resources Committee is looking into the revolving door policy at the Department of Interior, by which Jason Peltier, a top water official, is leaving to become assistant general manager of Westlands Water District. Committee questions to Interior Secretary focus on projects Peltier has been involved in that would have benefitted Westlands.

3) Hank Shaw, capital reporter for the Stockton Record, reported yesterday on his blog that Section 123 has been removed from the Farm Bill. The section would have prohibited states or local jurisdictions from banning cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their borders. Four counties in California have such laws and others are working on them at the moment. Shaw said he confirmed the news with several reliable sources among Agriculture Committee members and committee staff. It would appear he's scooped the nation on his blog, but he hasn't written the article for his newspaper yet, nor have either the news services or GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org (the indespensible anti-GMO clipping service) yet picked up the story.
We'll see ...

Bill Hatch

For more information:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner and opposition leader in Tracy, (209) 835-7162

Activists and Business Owners Rejoice as Dept. of Homeland Security Rejects
Livermore Lab Application for National Bio and Agro Defense Facility
(NBAF); Claim Public Opposition Tipped the Scales

TRACY - Following a year of community outreach, meetings with elected officials, neighborhood "house parties", door to door petitioning, Tracy City Council action, and other escalating opposition, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently got the message. There is no "community acceptance" for a bio-warfare agent research facility in Northern California.

Today, elected officials leaked the names of the 5 finalist locations for the Dept. of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF. Livermore Lab's Site 300 is NOT on the list, despite heavy lobbying by the Lab and the University of California, which manages Livermore Lab
and submitted its NBAF application.

The NBAF will be one of the largest and most dangerous biodefense facilities in the world. Reportedly, the "finalist" contenders to house NBAF are located in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Local grassroots organizing carried the day in eliminating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range from consideration. Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, and its allies
generated more than 7,000 calls and letters to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300.

The group collected more than 2,000 paper petitions against the bio-facility, many of them distributed from neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. In addition, the group's members
wrote numerous letters to the editor and spoke out at Tracy City Council and other key meetings.

On Tri-Valley CAREs' behalf, Working Assets Long Distance asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab from locating at Site 300 -- and more than 3,000 did so. Hundreds more made phone calls.

A colleague organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsored an Internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS.

And, following advocacy from community members, the Tracy City Council, Site 300's closest neighbor, voted in January 2007 to oppose the bio-lab. The City of Tracy then sent a letter to DHS announcing its opposition.

According to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, "The community opposition was impressive. So many bright lights came out to oppose this dangerous bio-warfare agent research proposal. I believe it was public outcry that caused Homeland Security to eliminate Site 300 from consideration."

Kelley continued, "I am ecstatic that we were able to achieve this victory and I salute all the community members who spoke out."

The proposed NBAF will cover 520,000 square feet, roughly the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity.

Biosafety Level-3 facilities experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for
which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research at NBAF will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to test on large animals, according to the DHS request for
proposals in the federal register.

Local businessman and resident Bob Sarvey said today, "I am glad that we in Tracy will not be subjected to both increased bomb testing at Site 300 and live anthrax, plague, bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing opposition to further bomb testing with depleted
uranium at the site. The end goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination and safe research at Site 300."

Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 would have meant collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300
would have weakened the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)," stated Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare
research in classified nuclear weapons facilities. I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 by DHS preserves this clear and important distinction."

Miles elaborated, "If the line is ever breached, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This will have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the BWC." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.

Additionally, the NBAF is part of what many community groups are calling an unnecessary and dangerous "biodefense building boom."

Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies have asked Congress and the Bush Administration for a national "needs assessment" to be undertaken. This logical first step would provide the government and the public with an
accurate picture of what biodefense capabilities presently exist in the United States, and what if any additional capability is needed.

Stated Kelley, "It is shocking that no such overarching assessment exists and that each federal agency is moving forward willy-nilly with its own proposals for more labs."

This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan to stand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation of these exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles.

Homeland Security will make the final site selection for NBAF by October 2008. The Environmental Impact Statement process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, is now slated to begin immediately.

Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner

Tracy didn’t make the cut to host a $450 million national lab where killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday...the federal government has selected finalists from five other states for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The decision eliminates the potential to bring hundreds of highly skilled jobs to the city but is considered a victory by many residents who were troubled by the secrecy and possible threat posed by the project. When federal officials whittled down the list, it eliminated Tracy, the only bidder west of the Rocky Mountains. The five that are left are Flora Industrial Park in Madison County, Miss.; Texas Research Park in San Antonio, Texas; Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.; Umstead Research Farm in Granville County, N.C.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. It’s likely Tracy didn’t make the cut because of its lack of community acceptance. Earlier this year, the City Council voted to oppose the project. In a Feb. 9 letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Lawrence Livermore officials and other federal officials, City Manager Dan Hobbs cited both the proximity of Site 300 to the city and residents’ public health and environmental concerns. Perhaps equally important was the lack of answers from federal officials about specific testing at the proposed facility, Sarvey said...more than 4,000 signatures and about 2,000 letters were sent to Homeland Security in opposition to the proposed project. Chris Harrington, spokesman for the University of California, which is associated with Lawrence Livermore on the project, said, "The University of California is disappointed that its proposal for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility was not selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for further review and consideration." He also said that while UC’s proposal is no longer under consideration, university officials hope Homeland Security will not rule out options to place a bio- and agro-defense facility in California in the future.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC out of the running for controversial biodefense lab...David Perlman

The University of California lost its bid Wednesday to build a huge new biodefense lab where scientists would study highly dangerous microbes at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's property near Tracy, federal officials announced Wednesday. UC officials had lobbied strongly for selection of the Livermore lab as home for the new facility. Livermore scientists had planned to locate the lab at the Site 300 property near Tracy -- well away from the main Livermore campus. But local opposition may have helped derail the plan. Tri-Valley Cares, the activist organization that has long been a thorn in the side of the Livermore lab's nuclear weapons work, vigorously lobbied against locating the new biodefense facility anywhere near Tracy or Livermore. More than 3,000 petitions and 2,000 e-mails from Tracy residents, plus 2,000 paid telephone messages carried by the Working Assets Long Distance phone service, opposed the new lab, according to Marylia Kelley, a leader of the organization formally known as Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment. The Tracy City Council also voted to oppose the lab... The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is planned as a huge, heavily shielded structure covering more than 500,000 square feet -- larger than five average Wal-Mart stores. Within the building, under a variety of high-tech containment labs, scientists and technicians would study the effects of the world's most dangerous microbes on animals and seek new ways to protect both humans and domestic animals against the germs, according to homeland security planners. A statement from UC's Washington office said the university "is disappointed" that it was not selected and added that it is "a leader in the field of biotechnology and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the area of biosecurity research. We will continue to apply our premier scientific and technological expertise to the homeland security work of our nation."

Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Tracy was cut from its list of proposed locations for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility.
The list was narrowed from 18 sites to five. The sites under consideration are in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Kansas gears up effort to win bio lab
The Kansas City Star

“…We can make a very strong case that we are the best possible location.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas officials aim to blend scientific strengths with political savvy after the state emerged Wednesday as a finalist for a $450 million federal biodefense laboratory.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security leaders included a proposed location on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan among spots in five states that now will undergo an intensive review. Officials plan to name a winner by the fall of 2008 for a substantial lab complex that will employ hundreds of scientists and bring a boost to the bioscience prestige and economy of the successful region.
Kansas is vying with Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi for the 500,000-square-foot facility that is to develop new measures for detecting and countering foot and mouth disease, various strains of swine fever and other pathogens with the potential to devastate the nation’s food supply.
Another Kansas site in Leavenworth County and one in Missouri near Columbia were trimmed from 17 locations across the country under consideration for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Federal officials intend to move the scientific work from an animal disease lab at Plum Island, N.Y., that is viewed as inadequate because of its aging facilities.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, viewed Wednesday’s much-anticipated announcement as a big win for his state and said he was optimistic about its prospects.
“There is still much work to be done, but our state can be proud that we are considered one of the premier centers of biological and agricultural research, businesses and education,” Roberts said. “The merits are on our side" ...

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
UGA on short list for national bio-defense facility

The University of Georgia is a finalist for a major new bio-defense facility dedicated to combating contagious human and animal diseases.
The state's top university was among five sites chosen Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security as potential homes for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The research facility, part of the national strategy to combat terrorism, is intended to counter threats to the nation's food supply and limit the chances of animal diseases spreading to humans.
The state of Georgia has proposed investing up to $154 million to land the project, including $10 million to attract researchers to the university system and $120 million in new UGA facilities.
"Just being on the short list is a very big win for Georgia," said Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance, which supported UGA's bid. "We're thrilled" ...

M-U no longer finalist for National Bio and Agro-Defense facility
by Julie Harker http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=BAC0E949-CF20-D683-59E70F731A958A2E

The University of Missouri-Columbia has been dropped as a potential site for a new national bio and agro-defense research facility. The Homeland Security Department narrowed its list on Wednesday to five potential sites: in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina.
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association recently came out in opposition to the Columbia location, saying it was too risky to animal and human health to have the level-four facility in such a populated area.
Other ag groups, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Pork Producers Association, supported the location.

Rep. Miller News--New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Depart ment
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
Lee, Danielle
Miller, George


To: Interested Parties
From: The office of Congressman George Miller
Date: 6/28/07
Re: New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Department

-- California water
-- Lobbyists / "Revolving Door"
-- Interior Department

Senior members of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the Interior Department today to request information on Administration officials' use of the "revolving door" and its possible impact on federal policymaking. The letter follows below.

For more information, please contact Daniel Weiss at (202)225-2095.


Jason Peltier once ran the Central Valley Project Water Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of federal water contractors in California. He then became one of the Bush Administration's lead officials on Western water policy, apparently overseeing projects and policy decisions that directly affected his former clients. He most recently served as the Interior Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

This week, he accepted a job with the largest irrigation provider in the country and one of the largest water customers of the Interior Department, the Westlands Water District, despite having been directly involved in a number of federal decisions that may impact Westlands.

Mr. Peltier was profiled last year in an article in the New York Times ("For Thirsty Farmers, Old Friends at Interior Dept."), questioning his role in influencing water policy decisions. The Westlands Water District recently revived a lawsuit against the United States charging that the government should be using less water to restore the environment under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

The congressional letter comes at a time when the Bush administration's Interior Department faces increased scrutiny. Yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's political interference led to a decision to withhold water from salmon, leading to a massive fish kill with devastating consequences for the Pacific Northwest ("Leaving No Tracks"). Earlier this week, the former second-ranking official at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Today's letter

The congressional letter sent today calls for an accounting of the decisions Mr. Peltier made as an Interior official that would affect his new employer, and requests an explanation for, and documentation of, the steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in the case, as well as in a similar earlier case.

The request was sent by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Committee.

The full text of the letter to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, is below. The letter was copied to Earl Devany, the Department's Inspector General.

< <20070628MillerRahallDOILetter.pdf>>

The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

We write today expressing great concern over the imminent departure of the Department of Interior's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science-Mr. Jason Peltier-who is leaving the Department to become the Chief Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the country and one of the largest customers of the Bureau of Reclamation. While serving at the Department for the past six years, Mr. Peltier has played a major role in a number of California-related water issues that impact his prospective employer.

As members of Congress and Committees with oversight of the Department of Interior and its stewardship of the nation's natural resources, we are deeply troubled by the potential impact Mr. Peltier's use of
the "revolving door" will have on the Department's policymaking.

Although we have been advised that Mr. Peltier may have removed himself from decisions on some California-related water issues, former Secretary Gale Norton once described Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peltier as dealing "frequently with California water issues" on behalf of the Department. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing Mr. Peltier's involvement with California water, the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, and the Westlands Water District, including Mr. Peltier's:
* role in implementing the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the CALFED program;
* participation in the development of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan;
* policymaking role regarding the Central Valley Project, including the renewal and awarding of contracts for Westlands and other CVP water users; and
* involvement in Trinity River matters.

In addition, it is our understanding that Mr. Peltier is actually the second official from the Department of the Interior to have joined the Westlands Water District within the last year. We have learned that Ms. Susan Ramos, the former Assistant Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, presently represents the interests of Westlands in negotiations with her former office, the Bureau of Reclamation.

In light of these facts, we request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in these two cases, especially regarding litigation between Westlands Water District and the United States. Specifically, we request:
1 a full-accounting of Mr. Peltier's and Ms. Ramos' efforts to negotiate their new employment, and an explanation of the actions taken to ensure that their exit plans did not and will not impact federal policymaking;
1 information demonstrating that these former government employees' new positions with Westlands Water District will not violate federal statutes prohibiting conflict of interest or "switching sides," including 18 USC §207; and
* any advice, counsel, or opinions the Department prepared on this matter.

We appreciate your prompt attention to our request, and would appreciate your response by July 27 of this year. Please coordinate the production of the requested information with Jeff Petrich, Chief Counsel, Committee on Natural Resources at (202) 225-XXXX.



Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

CC: The Honorable Earl Devany, Inspector General, Department of the Interior

Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 27, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration is dropping its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that environmental groups say could harm a widely supported California water plan.
At stake is the state-federal CalFed plan, which is designed to restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta and improve water supply reliability for California. Congress is now considering legislation to authorize funding for the CalFed plan.

But in February, a federal judge in Fresno ruled that federal regulators improperly allocated water to fish and wildlife. If upheld, the decision will reduce the amount of water available for protecting the environment.

In May, the Department of Interior appealed the judge's ruling, which came in a suit filed by Central Valley agribusiness interests in an attempt to weaken the CalFed plan. Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton withdrew the government's appeal, a decision that environmentalists say undermines the cornerstone of the CalFed plan.

"Secretary Norton is walking away from CalFed, even though she had pledged to support it," said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This is another environmental rollback by the Bush administration, and it has serious consequences for California."

Norton's key staffer on CalFed issues is Jason Peltier, who previously served as a longtime lobbyist for Central Valley agricultural interests. For more than a decade, as the head of the Central Valley Project Water Association, Peltier led efforts to oppose federal water reform.

Despite Peltier's efforts, President George Bush Sr. signed into law the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) in 1992. The CVPIA was a major overhaul of the federal project that delivers water to farmers and other California water users. It guaranteed that water would be made available for environmental protection.

The Department of Interior wrote rules to implement the CVPIA, which serve as the foundation of the CalFed plan.

On October 31, 1992, the day after CVPIA became law, Peltier pledged in the San Francisco Chronicle, "We'll do anything and everything to keep from being harmed. If that means obstructing implementation [of the bill] so be it."

"We call on Secretary Norton to explain the role of former water lobbyist Jason Peltier in this decision to capitulate to his former clients," said Nelson. "If Peltier is behind this, then it means he is finally delivering on his decade old promise to block implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Industry special interests should not be charged with protecting the environment."

NRDC and other environmental groups are appealing the ruling to the Ninth Circuit court of appeals.

Water facilities transfer isn't easy
Cleaning up drainage raises complex tangle of legal, finance issues.
By Michael Doyle and Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee

Serious political and pragmatic obstacles block a new proposal to shift vast San Joaquin Valley irrigation facilities into farmers' hands.

Capitol Hill skeptics hold key leadership positions. Congress is already booked up with another big Valley water plan to restore the San Joaquin River. Technical solutions are complicated.

And history, if it's any guide, suggests it's extremely hard to transfer federal water projects -- especially ones serving California.

"A proposal like this will always face challenges," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, conceded Friday. "This is not a unanimous consent item."

Costa, nonetheless, said he finds promise in the new notion to deliver into local control the San Luis Reservoir and more than 100 miles of canals and associated pumping plants. He represents much of the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District.

Under the proposal, Westlands would join with the San Luis Water District and other districts in taking over the federal facilities.

The state of California also would play a role.

The water districts would become responsible for resolving the irrigation drainage problems now afflicting almost 400,000 acres of the Valley's west side.

In exchange, the federal government would forgive the districts' $489.6 million construction debt.

"This is an attempt, I think, to think out of the box," Costa said.

Supporters consider the proposal aired this week better than other drainage options estimated to cost as much as $2.6 billion. The government'spreferred drainage option was supposed to be announced Friday, but officials delayed it to discuss the new proposal.

Environmental critics question whether the new idea will really save taxpayer money. If the government remains liable for drainage, irrigation districts would eventually have to repay the federal Bureau of Reclamation for a drainage fix.

Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken responded that taxpayers still would be providing the upfront funds. The government would allow interest-free payback over 50 years. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy.

"The reimbursement wouldn't begin until after the facilities for drainage are complete," McCracken added.

But even the 20-page conceptual paper now circulating on Capitol Hill acknowledges numerous difficulties.

Area lawmakers like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, still must get their potential concerns addressed.

The feds and the farmers, for instance, concede they don't yet agree on the "full scope" of how the government might be shielded from future lawsuits. The farmers originally sued over the government's failure to provide
promised drainage.

Without drainage, selenium-tainted farm runoff has accumulated -- most infamously during the 1980s in the poisoned Kesterson Reservoir in western Merced County.

The written proposal acknowledges other uncertainties, including:

Efforts to understand the financial implications of the transfer are "ongoing," while identifying the dollar value of the water and facilities is "a difficult question to answer."

Farmers and federal officials disagree over the "outstanding" issue of who is responsible for dam safety.

The potential effect on California bond and credit ratings "has not yet been addressed."

Impacts on pumping plant operations are "highly dependent" upon final negotiations.

And then there's the salt.

Many millions of tons of salt have come to the western San Joaquin Valley in irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is where the ocean meets the state's two longest rivers.

"Where will all this salt go?" asked Clovis resident Lloyd Carter, an attorney and environmentalist.

The salt will eventually damage the land unless there is some way to remove it, experts say.

Simply changing the owner won't remove the salt.

"Is this new plan really in the best interest of the taxpayers?" asked Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Miller's skepticism is telling. He is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chief lieutenants. Her chief of staff, John Lawrence, formerly handled Western water issues for Miller. Her chief administrative officer, Dan Beard, likewise worked for Miller and then ran the Bureau of Reclamation during the Clinton administration.

All were around the last time California farmers and their congressional allies tried to seize the Central Valley Project.

In 1995, lawmakers led by Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay, sought to sell the CVP as part of a larger budget bill. That proposal to sell off the entire Redding-to-Bakersfield water network was far more ambitious than the
new idea. Still, its fate is instructive.

One of the big proponents of the 1995 sell-the-CVP idea was Jason Peltier, then representing Central Valley Project customers.

Peltier now is a senior official in the Interior Department, which helped craft this week's proposal.

The 1995 idea eventually died, with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein cautioning then that "there are a lot of points that I think need a major hearing." This week, Feinstein said she needs time to analyze the new

Congress this year is already being asked to approve an ambitious plan to restore the San Joaquin River, raising questions of how much California water out-of-state lawmakers are prepared to deal with.

Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record

Lawmakers in Congress will not be debating whether to pre-empt local rules governing genetically modified foods, the consumption of foie gras or other controversial food items in this year's Farm Bill. The original draft included a provision known as Section 123, which barred any locality (i.e., Sonoma or Mendocino) from banning anything already given the vaguely papal gesture of the USDA. This provision had organic farmers in an uproar because they fear that the Monsantos and Syngentas of the world will contaminate their crops with GM crops (this happened in Oregon). Some local governments, mostly in California and New England, have banned farmers from growing these "frankenfoods" as a way to stop their spread.
Adding the GM debate to an already contentious Farm Bill battle was just too much for lawmakers, my sources say. House Agriculture Committee spokeswoman April Slayton said she doesn't know what committee chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, thinks about Section 123. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said last month he was concerned about it, especially since he is the chair of the committee's panel on organic agriculture. Is this Dennis at work? We'll see...

| »

To manage site Login