Environment

Why is scientific expertise being muzzled in America?

Submitted: Apr 25, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

We are only as good as our questions. -- Lloyd Carter

4-25-12

Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood

Cowardice at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Lloyd Carter

http://www.lloydgcarter.com/

In my nearly 30 years covering pollution issues at National Wildlife Refuges, I have come across several courageous field level employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and a few cowards in management positions, managers who are afraid of politicians, polluters, and their own shadows. A good example is the debacle at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the early 1980s, where toxic selenium-tainted agricultural waste water from the Westlands Water District polluted the food chain in evaporation ponds at the Merced County "refuge," a supposed haven for migratory ducks and birds, triggering deformities and reproductive failure. There were heroes like biologist Felix Smith - who leaked the Kesterson findings to Fresno Bee reporter Deborah Blum, and there were cowards in the Portland regional office who participated in a cover-up to delay release of the Kesterson findings.

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Imagine

Submitted: Apr 23, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Just imagine the possibilithy that the ground water for the entire San Joaquin Valley, or the entire aquifer under where you live, were contaminated by toxic chemicals mixed into minimallyh regulated pesticides (soil fumigants for nematodes) and injected into the soils of farms all around you without, by the way, agents for the chemical companies or state or federal farm "advisors" being able to tell you why it may kill nematodes. In fact, telone wasn't much of a nematicide. The preferred fumigant was methyl bromide but, oops, fumes from it are burning holes through the protective layer of ozone in the earth's atmosphere.

It is no accident that Livingston is one of the plaintiffs in the fumigant suits: Livingston boasts being the Sweet Potato Capital of California. The sweet potato industry has been fighting nematodes, which feed on roots, since its inception. The sandy nature of the soil, so good for growing root crops, also allows nematodes to move around more quickly than in denser soils.

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A ray of light through a seemingly endless blizzard of flak

Submitted: Apr 18, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Like the rest of the people in the Valley who try to stay informed, we've followed the high speed rail story from the beginning. Oujr sense of smell is probably a bit better developed than many due to our familiarity with the UC Merced project and the Great Real Estate Boom and Bust in the north San Joaquin Valley, which left its three county seats vying for top ranking in the national foreclosure sweepstakes. But there was always something stinky about the HSRR deal in our view because it was the same developers and the public officials that sold their public responsibility making all the noise, although the South African CEO of the operation until recently was a curiously fascist twist. He worked well with the former chairman of the board, an ex-state legislator, now a lobbyist busy fighting a bill to clean up water pollution in Southern California. Their staff, at least the people we met who were "handling" the Valley were primitive throwbacks to a time when the Railroad owned California and there was no such thing as public meeting and records law.

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"Build it and they will go mad"

Submitted: Apr 16, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

"Build it and they will go mad" should have been the slogan for construction of the Friant Dam/Lake Millerton/Friant-Kern Canal. The lastest chapter in the drama, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, hereafter known as the Octopus, released flood waters from Lake Millerton -- not to aid restoration of the San Joaquin River under the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement -- but for Octopos customers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, in Westlands Water District. The Friant Water Users Authority has just sued the Octopus.

Meanwhile (see the March 12 posting on Badlands, "Downstream vengeance in California ," http://www.badlandsjournal.com/2012-03-12/007762) for the action in Congress regarding the settlement, Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, authored by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. While the FWA staff and the boards of the districts that compose the authority spent 18 years in court on the side of the Octopus, fighting against the Natural Resources Defense Council and its co-plaintiffs, and ultimately came to agreement with a funding appropriation passed by Congress rather than face the decision of the federal judge, little Devin Nunes grew up and won himself a seat in Congress. And now he's the leader of all the haters south of the Kings River. That's a mean crowd.

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Peripheral canal gets some help from Jerry

Submitted: Apr 11, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

The Delta Stewardship Council, not the most democratic or representative of bodies at the best of times, will be, under a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown, absorbed into the state Resources Agency, where experts will be adequately protected against the protests of people who live on or near the Delta and depend upon it even in its present degraded condition, and therefore will be able to make the correct engineering decision -- to build the canal or tunnel above the Delta and turn the water into another bay on the Pacific coast.

Badlands Journal editorial board

4-11-12.
Stockton Record
Agency to absorb Delta council
Consolidation could favor plans for peripheral canal
By Alex Breitler

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120411/A_NEWS/204110316/-1/A_NEWS03

An independent council with at least some veto power over a peripheral canal or tunnel would be consumed by the same agency that wants to build one under a little-noticed element of a reorganization plan by canal supporter Gov. Jerry Brown.

Critics say the change would strip the council of its role as impartial evaluator of the estimated $13 billion aqueduct, which would cross the Delta west of Stockton.

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Foreclosures keep on going on

Submitted: Apr 09, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

4-6/8-12

Counterpunch.com
The Housing Doldrums
The Bottomless Pit
by MIKE WHITNEY
http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/06/the-bottomless-pit/


“There are many good reasons to believe that the 5.5 million foreclosures we have seen are barely halfway through their full course. The United States may end up with a total of 8-10 million foreclosures before we are finished.”

– Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture

It all gets down to supply and demand. The banks have been keeping millions of homes off the market until a settlement was reached in the $25 billion robosigning scandal. Now that the 49-state deal has been finalized, the banks are preparing to put more of their of distressed homes up for sale. That will lead to lower prices and the next leg down in the 6-year long housing crisis.

According to Reuters, new foreclosures “begun by Deutsche Bank were up 47 percent from 2011. Those of Wells Fargo’s rose 68 percent and Bank of America’s, including BAC Home Loans Servicing, jumped nearly seven-fold — 251 starts versus 37 in the same period in 2011.”

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UCD ghouls of science

Submitted: Apr 08, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

The Bureau of Reclamation, which wishes the extinction of the Delta Smelt because it will make the the final destruction of the 
Delta less messy, pays off some UC Davis scientists to do yet another study on the poor species in the very process of its "extirpation."

This isn't science. It is bureaucratic and academic pathology.

Badlands Journal editorial board

4-5-12
Sacramento Bee
Needs of threatened Delta fish to be studied at UC Davis
By Matt Weiser
http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/05/4392483/needs-of-threatened-delta-fish.html

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Toll road on Highway 152

Submitted: Apr 07, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Merced County Association of Governments, the regional transportation joint powers authority, is proposing a toll road for Highway 152 on the Pacheco Pass, incidently the same route that is proposed for the high speed rail system. The proposal is a clear example of how the transportation bureaucracy would like the public to adjust to the incredible expense of the high speed rail system -- create toll roads. It's marvelous bureaucratic thinking: in the vain attempt to bring the proposed high speed rail ticket costs in line with auto transportation costs, instead of trying to lower the train costs, they try to raise the auto-transportation costs.

It's still hard to beat the arrogance and elitism of engineers, those prototypical unelected officials whose function is to remake the world according to the wishes of whoever pays them.

Badlands Journal editorial board

4-7-12

Merced Sun-Star

Toll booths for Highway 152 get cool reception locally

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MID conflicts of interest

Submitted: Apr 06, 2012
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Merced Irrigation District! This group, which can't even handle its normal irrigation business without the odor of scandal, is supposed to be able to negotiate its relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission? The state Department of Water Resources trusts MID to lead, plan and administer the Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP "Ear-wimp")?

MID is a very shaky organization.

Following her dishonorable role in attempting to bankrupt the environmental groups that publicly sued the Riverside Motorsports Park project near her dairy while she and other farmers hid behind them and schemed against them, Suzy Hultgren was miraculously appointed to the county farm bureau board of directors and soon after won election to the board of the Merced Irrigation District. Evidently, her extensive family, with roots here and there all over the county, has decided to make Suzy its public face. Included in that family is her cousin, John Sweigard, who left his position on the west side as general manager of the Patterson Irrigation District and board member on the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority board.

So, in a year with a 55-percent snowpack in the Sierras and cuts in delivery amounts to irrigators in the district, MID sells 15,000 acre-feet to the San Luis Water District. The two public proponents of the sale are Sweigard, former board member of the SLDMWA, and Hultgren, his cousin, with Hicham Eltal, assistant general manager, trotting on behind.

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