Sunday, September 30, 2007

Governor’s Water Plan

New circumstances determine new requirements and the plan the governor is promoting, including dams and conveyance, addresses them.

Lester Snow: Water plan would boost ailing system
By Lester Snow - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources, is responding to the Sept. 25 editorial "A Pat Brown-wannabe needs broader support."

The Bee fundamentally got it wrong in comparing the historic investment in water management by Gov. Pat Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed plan to modernize our state's water system.

Over the years, water users and voters have invested more than $50 billion (in 2007 dollars) for a coordinated water system that includes the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project. Together, these projects provide Delta water to 25 million Californians and irrigate millions of acres of farmland. They also directly support more than $400 billion of our state's economy.

However, today those water supplies are much less reliable than they were just a year ago. In that context, the governor's $9 billion plan is a modest investment to modernize our state's water systems and prepare for the future.

Walters on Water


Dan Walters: Water duel symbolizes deep chasm
By Dan Walters - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, September 30, 2007

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special legislative session on water supply, it underscored that California's fundamental conflicts over water remain as rigidly unrelenting as they have been for the past three-plus decades.

Ostensibly, as framed by Schwarzenegger and other politicians, the conflicts are largely financial and technological. What's the most reliable and cost-effective way of capturing and conveying enough water to serve present and future needs while protecting, to the extent possible, fish and other wildlife dependent on flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the nexus of water in California?

Were that the only question, engineers, hydrologists, construction managers, biologists and other professionals could answer it. It wouldn't be easy, but they could do it, and politicians and voters could decide how to apportion costs. That's more or less how the peripheral canal came to be approved by the Legislature over a quarter-century ago as the best approach to transporting water while protecting the Delta.

There are, however, an infinite number of intangible aspects to water, what Schwarzenegger and others have likened to religious war. Indeed, California's decades of arcane water conflict can be just as opaque as the 1,100-year-old doctrinal feud that leads Sunnis and Shiites to kill each other in Iraq. Mistrust, supposition and myopic self-interest killed the peripheral canal in 1982 and continue to block agreement on water today.

The conflicts, moreover, are only tangentially about water per se; fundamentally they are deeply seated, perhaps intractable philosophical differences over how -- or even whether -- California should develop to serve its ever-burgeoning population. Water supply is intrinsically connected to land use, housing, energy and transportation policies. Those are intertwined, in turn, with our widely divergent conceptions of what kinds of lives we Californians should be leading in the 21st century.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Flood Ready?

One would think that celebrating reaching a 200 year flood level, considering New Orleans had a 250 year level right before it flooded, is somewhat shortsighted, but if the eventual goal was reaching the level virtually all other major river cities in the nation have, which is a 500 year level, then it could rightly be announced ( and celebrated) as a vital step on the path to optimal protection.

Editorial: Waters may rise, but so will region's readiness
Score one for trees -- and federal, state and local efforts to prepare for wet years
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 29, 2007

Situated where it is, Sacramento must take advantage of the dry periods to prepare for the wet ones. Lately, there have been several notable developments -- some out of the public eye -- to improve the cause of protecting Sacramento and the Central Valley from the next major flood.

Saving the trees

Until this month, it appeared the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might enforce a one-size-fits-all approach in requiring trees to be removed near flood control levees. Strict enforcement might have denuded parts of the American River Parkway and other riverbanks in the Valley. It also would have forced flood agencies to spend huge sums on tree removal -- money needed for other projects.

That threat has eased. The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency held a scientific conference that revealed strong evidence that healthy trees pose little or no structural risks near levees, and can be beneficial.

Mayor Heather Fargo, Department of Water Resources Deputy Director Les Harder and others urged the corps to review this evidence before acting.

This month, the corps said it would not enforce the strict policy until a new one is developed. Credit goes to Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, the corps' chief engineer, for working with local officials. Although there's more to be done on developing an updated policy on levee vegetation, flood agencies can now focus fully on more pressing priorities.

Another New City?

In what is becoming an old story for our region, another area of the County begins to look for an identity, and as so often happens when that process begins, is where it ends up.

Cosumnes anyone?

South Sacramento: Shaping identity
Residents want a logo to define a community known by what it isn't.
By Jocelyn Wiener - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 29, 2007

The community of south Sacramento is looking for a logo.

Something fresh, something creative, something that says diversity and neighborliness and "this is a good place to live-work-studyretire."

And something to help show the world, once and for all, what exactly south Sacramento is.

Members of the Visions task force, which is helping the Sacramento County Department of Neighborhood Services search for a logo, are quick to say what their community is not:

It's not Meadowview, not Valley Hi, not Oak Park -- communities in the city of Sacramento. It isn't a sprawling blob encompassing everything south of Broadway to Elk Grove.

Rather, south Sacramento is a fist of unincorporated county land punching its way up along 99 in between several city neighborhoods, including Oak Park, Valley Hi and Fruitridge Manor. It includes stretches of Fruitridge Road, Florin Road, Stockton Boulevard and Franklin Boulevard, and extends south to Calvine Road.

South Sacramento's boundaries were defined by the county several decades ago.

Cal Expo Arena

Building an arena without raising taxes, for a private enterprise that makes very good money, isn’t such an unusual idea that it needed an outside pair of eyes to discover, but sometimes that is how things work, it takes that kind of vision and persuasion to move forward.

Maybe he could take a look at K Street.

Arena talks OK'd
Cal Expo, NBA to seek a deal at fairgrounds that avoids new taxes.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga and Terri Hardy - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 29, 2007

It didn't take much time or discussion Friday for the Cal Expo board to bless the idea of opening talks with the NBA over putting a new arena at the state fairgrounds.

Before the unanimous vote, members said the decision was easy, and that an urban development anchored by an arena could be the answer to the cash-strapped Cal Expo's long quest for more money to modernize the fairgrounds.

"I don't think we can do anything but agree to go forward and look at it," said board member Gilbert Albiani, a Realtor from Elk Grove.

Now comes the hard part.

In the months ahead, representatives of Cal Expo and the National Basketball Association will try to do the seemingly impossible: come up with a plan to build a new Kings arena without imposing any new taxes on the public.

The idea is to lease some of state-owned Cal Expo's 360-acre gold mine of underused land to a developer for building stores, offices and homes. NBA and Cal Expo officials hope such a development could produce enough money to both fund an arena as well as refurbish the fairgrounds. The price tag could easily top $650 million.

Old Olives

Grown from trees planted soon after the Gold Rush, these heritage olives, while not rivaling the centuries old trees in Europe and Asia, are, by California standards, positively ancient.

Heritage harvest
Olive oil from trees planted in the 1860s has become a big hit for UC Davis
By Bill Lindelof - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 29, 2007

The fruit of Yolo County olive trees owned by UC Davis and planted nearly 150 years ago by one of Northern California's early pioneers is finding new customers.

John R. Wolfskill, who worked for $100 a year when he came to California in the 1830s, planted the trees in 1861. He could hardly have anticipated Wolfskill olive oil selling along with sweat shirts in the University of California, Davis bookstore.

But Wolfskill olive oil -- delicate, buttery with a hint of artichoke flavor -- is a hit. Wolfskill oil, $13 for about 8.5 ounces, sells out in a matter of a few weeks.

"It is our most popular olive oil, partly because of the history of the Wolfskill ranch," said UC Davis Olive Oil Manager Dan Flynn.

University and federal government researchers have used the 107-acre Wolfskill ranch for decades. In the 1940s, a research assistant grafted nearly 100 imported olive varieties to Wolfskill's Mission olive tree rootstock, creating what has been described as the most extensive olive collection in North America.

Shoots from Italy, Portugal, Egypt, South Africa, France, Morocco, Syria, Australia, Algeria, Greece and Spain were grafted onto Wolfskill trees.

The Northern Pike & the Sea Lamprey

Both are invading places they have found inviting while being resisted to the tune of millions of dollars of public funds, and those battling the lampreys are using a sterilization technique that the folks here should try—if applicable—if the current poisoning doesn’t work.

Attempts to Control Invasive Species Grow
By Christian Dobbins

September 28 - Two invasive species have become a menace in the nation's waterways --the northern pike, which is troubling California’s lakes and rivers, and the sea lamprey, which threatens to overrun the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Currently millions of dollars each year are spent in an attempt to control these species.
States and the government are employing many different tactics in order to hold back the tide of these species. In the case of the northern pike, these include nets, traps, electric shocks, explosives, and most recently poison. If left alone, the northern pike could take over Lake Davis and possibly escape to the Sacramento River system, devouring trout and salmon all the way to San Francisco Bay, biologists say.

Sea lampreys likely invaded the Great Lakes in ship ballast water, becoming the scourge of these freshwater bodies. Using conventional methods, officials managed to knock the sea lamprey population down from 3 million to about 433,000, but they realized that an entirely different weapon needed to join their arsenal for battling the species. At a U.S. Geological Survey research station in Millersburg, Mich., on the shores of Lake Huron -- where the largest sea lamprey population lives -- workers now feed roughly 1,200 male sea lampreys per day into a machine that gives each a shot to leave it sterile. The fish are then released back into the ecosystem where they compete for mates. If a female mates with a sterile male, the result is a nest of infertile eggs. The sterilization method seems to be working, since the Lake Huron population has dropped to one-fourth of what it was at its peak, and officials hope to close the gap and finally overwhelm the breeding pools of the sea lamprey in the Great Lakes.

A number of National Research Council reports have examined issues related to invasive species. NEON: Addressing the Nation's Environmental Challenges identifies invasive species as one of the main environmental and ecological challenges facing the nation and recommends moving forward with the development of the National Ecological Observatory Network as a means to help study and track the problem.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dams on Table

Now that the principle has been agreed upon, all that remains is determining who pays, and given the benefit to the state from flood protection being increased, it seems clear the state should bear the biggest burden.

Assembly Democrats talk water
Unlike the governor's plan, theirs would have localities bear most costs for dams.
By E.J. Schultz - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 28, 2007

With two competing water plans already on the table, Assembly Democrats weighed in Thursday with their own package of bills to fix the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and increase water supplies.

The legislation includes few details at this point. But the bills reaffirm the reluctance of Democrats to use state money to pay for dams -- a major part of Gov. Schwarzenegger's $9 billion plan.

The governor's proposal, carried by Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, would authorize the state to pay for as much as half the cost of three dams for a total of $5.1 billion. The targeted sites include one east of Fresno, another in Colusa County and expansion of an existing dam in Contra Costa County.

The legislation by Assembly Democrats states that local water users should carry "the strong majority" of water project costs.

Assembly Member John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, author of the bills, said the state has typically paid only a small fraction of the cost of new dams.

"If the governor's bond kept to that historic pattern, it would be almost $5 billion less than it is," he said.

Democrats have emphasized conservation, recycling and groundwater storage to boost water supplies.

But administration officials say that state payments for dams are justified because they would have statewide benefits, such as increased flood protection. Water officials also say the new dams would give them more flexibility to move water around the state.

City Helping Birthing

Continuing a long tradition of established cities helping new cities began their life, Elk Grove gives a few more bucks to the Arden Arcade cityhood effort.

A very good thing.

Arden Arcade given $15,000 by Elk Grove
Council OKs gift to help cityhood bid after protests staged.
By Loretta Kalb - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 28, 2007

Advocates of Arden Arcade cityhood got a boost Wednesday night from the Elk Grove City Council with its 4-1 approval of a $15,000 gift to the effort.

The action, with Councilwoman Sophia Scherman opposed, followed protests from the Stay Sacramento! Stop Arden Arcade Cityhood committee.

The committee, whose chairman resides in Arden Arcade, met with reporters outside Elk Grove City Hall and later urged the council not to fund the effort, a video of the meeting shows.

"We do not see how the city ... can justifiably take taxpayer dollars from your city's general fund and make a gift" to a committee hoping to establish another city, Mike Duveneck, chairman of the anti-cityhood committee, told the council.

State law prohibits government entities from making gifts of public funds without some benefit to the contributing entity.

But some suburban city leaders have said that there is a benefit, noting that new cities strengthen the clout of existing municipalities.

Smelt Banking

Good program, good plan and way to go UCD!

Safeguarding a species
A UC Davis captive-breeding program will use captured Delta smelt to create a strong strain to replenish the wild population if it dies out
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 28, 2007

After fighting for decades to protect the threatened Delta smelt, wildlife officials have begun to move in a new direction: a captive-breeding program in case the fragile fish goes extinct in the wild.

The decision to begin a species rescue program was made cooperatively by state and federal agencies and academics in recent weeks. Officials are still working to fully fund the effort, but it will be based at a UC Davis smelt research lab at the state Department of Water Resources facility near this south Delta town in Contra Costa County.

UC Davis will isolate a separate group of smelt, captured in the wild last year, and breed them to create a genetically strong strain that could be used to replenish the wild population.

No decision has been made to actually reintroduce these fish. Officials said that ruling is years away and would first require many answers about whether such fish are compatible with their wild cousins.

But the program marks a significant new dimension for management of the smelt -- and the Delta itself.

"We're trying to create a safeguard against extinction, but hopefully the fish will come back in the wild so we won't have to restock," said Joan Lindberg, an ecologist and supervisor of the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory. "The bigger issue is trying to clean up the Delta so the wild fish can continue to survive."

Lindberg's lab has been breeding smelt for 15 years for research purposes. At any given time, its tanks hold as many as 50,000 juveniles and 20,000 adult fish. They range from larval fish smaller than a grain of rice to adults the size of a pinky finger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Green Truckee

Good plan for a community that needs to do this, and though it is quite a bit more costly, the area is becoming a high-end getaway with revenue that can pay for it.

Daniel Weintraub: Truckee, once looking to coal, is about to go green
By Daniel Weintraub -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 27, 2007

When the little town of Truckee near the Sierra crest was on the verge a year ago of signing a 50-year contract to buy electricity from a coal-fired plant in Utah, the plan drew national attention -- and criticism.

California had just passed two groundbreaking laws to fight global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, including one measure intended to ban just the kind of coal-based deal the Truckee utility was about to sign. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and thousands of others weighed in against the contract, and the Truckee Donner Public Utility District backed away from it.

Last week, the district quietly moved forward with its alternative plan: a sweeping vision to convert its electricity portfolio from one dependent on coal to a much more diverse collection of sources. The new power package, officials say, will at minimum get 21 percent of its juice from renewable sources, and possibly as much as 49 percent by 2009.

Growth’s Source

New housing feeds almost half of area’s growth, as builders create communities for the many new people moving here.

Building, finance fed growth
They chipped in 40 percent of region's economic expansion in 2005
By Dale Kasler - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's no secret that the housing boom was a meal ticket for Sacramento and much of California, one of the leading drivers of economic growth. Statistics released Wednesday show just how true that was.

Construction and finance, which includes mortgage lending, accounted for 40 percent of metropolitan Sacramento's economic growth in 2005, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said. That was the final year of the housing boom and the latest year for which statistics were available.

Several other California cities came to depend on construction and finance to fuel their economic growth, according to the BEA report. While the U.S. average in 2005 was 27 percent, those two sectors of the economy generated 40 percent of the growth in Los Angeles-Orange County, 50 percent in Merced, 35 percent in San Diego, 53 percent in Vallejo-Fairfield and 41 percent in Stockton. The figure was 81 percent in Yuba City that year.

Ice Age to Global Warming

In a very interesting switch over the past thirty so years, one of global warming’s most fervent proponents once believed in a coming ice age.

The 'Old' Consensus?
Posted 9/21/2007

Climate Change: Did NASA scientist James Hansen, the global warming alarmist in chief, once believe we were headed for . . . an ice age? An old Washington Post story indicates he did.

On July 9, 1971, the Post published a story headlined "U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming." It told of a prediction by NASA and Columbia University scientist S.I. Rasool. The culprit: man's use of fossil fuels.

The Post reported that Rasool, writing in Science, argued that in "the next 50 years" fine dust that humans discharge into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel will screen out so much of the sun's rays that the Earth's average temperature could fall by six degrees.

Sustained emissions over five to 10 years, Rasool claimed, "could be sufficient to trigger an ice age."

Aiding Rasool's research, the Post reported, was a "computer program developed by Dr. James Hansen," who was, according to his resume, a Columbia University research associate at the time.

So what about those greenhouse gases that man pumps into the skies? Weren't they worried about them causing a greenhouse effect that would heat the planet, as Hansen, Al Gore and a host of others so fervently believe today?

"They found no need to worry about the carbon dioxide fuel-burning puts in the atmosphere," the Post said in the story, which was spotted last week by Washington resident John Lockwood, who was doing research at the Library of Congress and alerted the Washington Times to his finding.

Hansen has some explaining to do. The public deserves to know how he was converted from an apparent believer in a coming ice age who had no worries about greenhouse gas emissions to a global warming fear monger.

Safer Cities

This effort in Los Angeles has reduced the homeless population camping on city streets substantially and reduced the crime rate in the area by 35%, but there is still work to be done.

One of the reasons for the difficulty developing programs around reducing homelessness and street crime is that so few strategies, other than an increased police presence, seem to work, and many people who once gravitated to working in the field are now shying away from it, choosing to go into human service oriented work that is more rewarding and less frustrating.

Skid row crime drops 35%, but the program is faulted
The Safer City Initiative has added police but few social services, and jaywalking citations can lead to jail sentences, a UCLA study says.
By Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 26, 2007

A UCLA study found that the city's year-old Safer City Initiative to clean up skid row has reduced crime but that few additional social services have been initiated.

"There have been unintended consequences that have negatively impacted the homeless and mentally disabled people, with unpaid citations for jaywalking leading to people going to jail and a focus on small-quantity drug buys ending up with ordinary addicts being sent to state prison," said author Gary Blasi, a UCLA law professor.

But top Los Angeles Police Department officials said Tuesday that the study cannot deny the more than 35% drop in serious crime in skid row as well as a similar drop in the number of homeless people on the streets since the initiative began last September.

"It is more than numbers. We are saving lives with the Safer City Initiative. That alone is a measure of its success. We used to pull dead bodies out of tents, parks and outhouses," said Cmdr. Andy Smith, head of the LAPD's Central Division, which leads the effort.

The push to clean up skid row is centered on the LAPD's addition last year of 50 more patrol officers.

The UCLA study found that since the initiative began, the sheer number of officers in skid row has led to the drop in crime.

It noted that most of the 1,000 citations issued monthly are for jaywalking and loitering.

Homeless people repeatedly ticketed for jaywalking or loitering are eventually being jailed for failing to pay fines, according to Blasi, whose team gathered 15,000 pages of public records.

"If this is meant to change behavior, it is not working," he said.

Because the arrests lead to criminal records, the homeless are becoming ineligible for housing, the study said.

The UCLA study notes that Police Chief William J. Bratton warned that policing alone would not end the problem of chronic homelessness on skid row.

But Blasi said the city has paid little more than lip service to efforts beyond law enforcement.

Other steps, he said, include producing 199 extra beds in a downtown shelter and space in a South L.A. shelter.

LAPD's Smith said there is no doubt the city needs to invest in additional housing for homeless people, but added that the UCLA study assumes incorrectly that all those cited for jaywalking are homeless.

Dams Are Good Things

Though this is written specifically about the small dams built mostly by hand, the reasoning for their (and virtually all dams) good impact on the environment remains solid; extra water for fish, wetlands created at the edge of created lakes and other benefits.

Commentary: Check dams--humble structures worth preserving
Issue Date: September 26, 2007
By Elisa Noble

As I stood by the check dam at Bear Lake on a beautiful summer afternoon, I was impressed with the forethought of Fred Leighton and others who recognized the many ecological benefits that check dams could provide. Today, we find ourselves struggling to defend the future management of these dams. I would offer that this decision should not be made from a judge's bench or a federal official's office, but from the edge of Bear Lake…

The original check dam conservation concept was based on the observation that small dams provided natural water storage and slow release into the streams. Over the years, the dams have been maintained by a patchwork of efforts by local sportsmen's clubs, outdoor enthusiasts, trail riders and the aforementioned state and federal agencies.

The check dams essentially raise the level of most lakes by one to two feet. This has created wetlands and meadows in the backwaters of the lakes, which provide habitat for many of the endangered, threatened and sensitive species in the Emigrant Wilderness, such as the Yosemite toad, willow flycatcher, and mountain yellow-legged frog. The increased water table also helps moderate stream flows leaving the mountain lakes. Finally, moderated stream flows and enhanced meadows stabilized many lakeshores that had been washing away due to erosion.

The dams maintain stream flow through the summer months when streambeds would otherwise by dry. This allows vegetation to grow and provides more habitat for species and plants, particularly for the native fisheries. Fish populations improved greatly once the continuous stream flow allowed them to swim upstream to spawn and complete their life cycle. Lakes that were once stocked annually with fish, now maintain naturally reproduced populations. These improvements provide more of a draw for sportsmen and recreationists, thus supporting the surrounding local economies as visitors buy good and services during their travels.

While wilderness legislation prioritizes environmental protection and preservation, it also specifically provides for human use and presence. Science proves that "hands-off" preservation is not necessarily the ultimate ecological scenario. Unfortunately, ideological principles are often endorsed over what is scientifically best for the environment and the community.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Great Place for Arena

If the traffic issue can be resolved, Cal Expo is an excellent location for a new arena.

Expo's arena moment
Earlier plans for a sports facility have flopped, but now NBA leads the charge.
By Terri Hardy - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, September 26, 2007

For more than 30 years, local officials have seriously considered, then ultimately rejected, building a sports arena at the state fairgrounds on Exposition Boulevard. This week, the National Basketball Association is hoping to buck that trend -- saying the time is right for Cal Expo.

Previous searches for the ideal arena location concluded that traffic issues at Cal Expo were too problematic, or that sorting through a land transfer with the state was too daunting -- or that the city would be better served having the arena downtown.

Sometimes, the timing just wasn't right.

"It's always been No. 2 -- always the bridesmaid," said City Councilman Rob Fong, who has been a chief supporter of a new arena in the city.

Enter John Moag, brought in by the NBA after Sacramento voters in November smacked down a city-county plan to raise sales taxes and build an arena in the downtown railyard. Moag, charged with taking a fresh look at arena options, ended up with an old idea: Build it at Cal Expo.

Moag is scheduled to brief City Council members Thursday. On Friday, he's scheduled to go before the Cal Expo board to ask it to approve opening negotiations with the NBA.

And Here We Go Again

The poisoning of Lake Davis begins again, and you really have to feel sympathy for the folks who live there and who are just trying to make a living and raise their families.

State begins new Lake Davis fish kill
Poisoning aims to rid waters of invasive northern pike
By Jane Braxton Little - Bee Correspondent
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Just past dawn Tuesday, Lake Davis was serene, with mist rising in faint wisps from a glassy surface.

By noon it was roiling with dead fish.

A $16.7 million poisoning project devised by the California Department of Fish and Game was already getting the results officials hoped for.

Designed to protect water bodies throughout the state from non-native northern pike, the project is planned to release 16,000 gallons of chemicals into the Plumas County reservoir by tonight. Along with the invasive pike, a voracious species native to the Midwest, the chemicals will kill all other fish in Lake Davis.

Commentary on Water

A public water leader presents a balanced and excellent commentary on California’s water situation.

Securing Southern California's water future
By: LESTER SNOW - Commentary:

Last week, Gov. Schwarzenegger introduced a $9 billion water bond package to help address California's water crisis and ensure clean, safe water for generations to come. With our rapidly growing population, drought conditions in many parts of the state, a changing climate and an aging water system, now is the time for leadership and bold action.

The governor's plan allocates more than $5 billion to build new above- and below-ground surface storage. In addition to providing reliable water supplies, these facilities also address a broad range of public benefits including habitat and restoration needs, in-stream flows and river temperature requirements, flows to manage Delta salinity, management of the timing of diversions from and releases to rivers and streams, effective conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, and flood management.

The governor's plan also addresses the problems in the Delta head on and provides a foundation for improved water conveyance through or around the Delta. His plan will pave the way by providing funds for permitting, environmental review and other non-construction related hurdles. The governor recognizes the need for Delta improvements, including conveyance, and has never shied away from the topic. He also agrees with Southern California water officials that any package must be comprehensive and balanced. This is why his proposal includes storage, conveyance, ecosystem restoration and local conservation and water management programs. It's a flexible plan that's the right fit for a state with a wide variety of water demands.

California greatness is due, in part, to the vision of previous generations who built our statewide water system. But now that system needs an extreme makeover. The governor's plan will make investments to existing and new infrastructure that can help move water to where it is needed, and do so in a way that is more efficient and that protects our environment. This focus is particularly vital in the Delta, where there is an emerging consensus that we need to find new and better ways to protect the estuary and provide reliable water deliveries.

Dams Hurt Salmon?

While it is obviously true that dams impede salmon swimming upstream in the way they might have been able prior to the dam being built, there is also anecdotal information from people who remember the salmon flows before the dam was built, that dams—particularly in areas with dry summers where rivers often virtually vanished into warm slow streams inhospitable to salmon runs, such as the American and Klamath—have improved the salmon run by providing a reliable flow of water at the right temperature throughout the year.

Of course, the salmon runs associated with the Central Valley prior to the arrival of the European settlers were huge and productive for the California Indians, but given the necessary accommodations to allow people to build and to live in cities, creating our urban civilization, the building of dams will often help the salmon, not hurt them.

Also, if global warming predictions are accurate, the need for more cold water stored behind dams which can be released for optimal conditions during salmon runs, will become even greater.

California Salmon Could Be Harmed By More Dams

Science Daily — Spring-run Chinook salmon and other fish in the rivers of California's Central Valley could be harmed by more water-storage dams, according to researchers at Duke University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The findings of a recent paper may serve as a cautionary tale to policymakers, scientists and resource managers currently embroiled in a debate about the construction of new dams in the region.

Robert S. Schick, of the University Program in Ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, used analytical techniques from network science to study the relative importance of individual populations of salmon within the valley and examined how the addition of large water-storage dams blocked access to habitat and fragmented these populations over time.

"We found that fragmented populations became increasingly vulnerable to disturbance and extinction," said Schick, who co-wrote the paper with Steven T. Lindley of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Vatican UN Delegation: Environmental Protection Talk

Delivered yesterday at the UN in New York by the Vatican's "deputy foreign minister," the undersecretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin.

Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express some considerations of the Holy See in light of what we have heard today from the preceding distinguished speakers.

Climate change is a serious concern and an inescapable responsibility for scientists and other experts, political and governmental leaders, local administrators and international organizations, as well as every sector of human society and each human person. My delegation wishes to stress the underlying moral imperative that all, without exception, have a grave responsibility to protect the environment.

Beyond the various reactions to and interpretations of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the best scientific assessments available have established a link between human activity and climate change. However, the results of these scientific assessments, and the remaining uncertainties, should neither be exaggerated nor minimized in the name of politics, ideologies or self-interest. Rather they now need to be studied closely in order to give a sound basis for raising awareness and making effective policy decisions.

In recent times, it has been unsettling to note how some commentators have said that we should actually exploit our world to the full, with little or no heed to the consequences, using a world view supposedly based on faith. We strongly believe that this is a fundamentally reckless approach. At the other extreme, there are those who hold up the earth as the only good, and would characterize humanity as an irredeemable threat to the earth, whose population and activity need to be controlled by various drastic means. We strongly believe that such assertions would place human beings and their needs at the service of an inhuman ecology. I have highlighted these two extreme positions to make my point, but similar, though less extreme attitudes, would also clearly impede any sound global attempts to promote mitigation, adaptation, resilience and the safeguarding of our common future.

Mr. Chairman,

Since no country alone can solve the problems related to our common environment, we need to overcome self-interest through collective action. On the part of the international community, this presupposes the adoption of a coordinated, effective and prompt international political strategy capable of responding to such a complex question. It would identify ways and means of mitigation and adaptation which are economically accessible to most, enhance sustainable development and foster a healthy environment. The economic aspect of such ways and means should be seriously taken into account, considering that poor nations and sectors of society are particularly vulnerable to the adverse consequences of climate change, due to lesser resources and capacity to mitigate their effects and adapt to altered surroundings.

It is foreseeable that programmes of mitigation and adaptation would meet a series of barriers and obstacles, not so much of a technological nature, but more so of a social nature, such as consumer behaviour and preferences, and of a political nature, like government policies. We must look at education, especially among the young, to change inbred, selfish attitudes towards consumption and exploitation of natural resources. Likewise, government policies giving economic incentives and financial breaks for more environmentally friendly technologies will give the private sector the positive signal they need to programme their product development in such direction. For instance, present-day research into energy mixes and improving energy efficiency would be made more attractive if accompanied by public funding and other financial incentives.

Mr. Chairman,

We often hear in the halls of the United Nations of "the responsibility to protect". The Holy See believes that applies also in the context of climate change. States have a shared "responsibility to protect" the world’s climate through mitigation/adaptation, and above all a shared "responsibility to protect" our planet and ensure that present and future generations be able to live in a healthy and safe environment.

The pace of achieving and codifying a new international consensus on climate change is not always matched by an equally expeditious and effective pace of implementation of such agreements. States are free to adopt international conventions and treaties, but unless our words are matched with effective action and accountability, we would do little to avert a bleak future and may find ourselves gathering again not too long from now to lament another collective failure. We sincerely hope that States will seize the opportunity that will be presented to them shortly at the next Conference on the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Pat Brown as Model

Given the current state of our infrastructure, we couldn’t ask for our governor to have a better model than the one who did so much for it in the past, and the public will, as it has in the past, respond to a strategy presented with clarity and straightforwardness about an issue like water supply, having such an important place in our future.

Editorial: A Pat Brown-wannabe needs broader support
Lawmakers must identify who will pay for water before asking voters for bonds
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and key state lawmakers seem far apart on how to address California's immediate and long-term water challenges. And while it's admirable that they are finally focused on repairing the long-neglected Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, they'd be wise not to ask voters to approve a costly water bond as early as February, given the gulf that divides them.

Schwarzenegger last week upped the stakes by submitting a $9 billion water proposal to the Legislature's special session -- $3 billion more than he had previously floated. Most would be spent on three reservoirs -- Temperance Flat above Fresno, Sites in the upper Sacramento Valley and Los Vaqueros in the East Bay.

The scale of the governor's proposal is astounding. When former Gov. Pat Brown launched the State Water Project, he depended on a $1.75 billion bond approved by voters in 1960 (worth $11.7 billion in today's dollars). That investment helped launch the massive Lake Oroville and construction of the California Aqueduct, with water users eventually paying back more than 80 percent of the investment, including interest.

By contrast, Schwarzenegger is poised to spend nearly as much as Pat Brown to produce far less water, and with no beneficiaries signed up to repay their share. Assuming voters approve the $9 billion, the governor promises he will obtain commitments from water users before any public monies are spent. Yet taxpayers and voters are likely to be wary of such "trust us" arguments.

Green Governor

Perhaps the most important long term result of this effort will be the stimulus it gives to California green technology, and that, by itself, is worth the pitch.

Governor's climate pitch
At U.N., he urges new pact, says California will help poor nations go green.
By Kevin Yamamura - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged international leaders to reach a new climate change agreement that moves past the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and includes developing and wealthy nations in a Monday address at the United Nations in New York.

The Republican governor, speaking at the U.N. "high-level" climate change summit, portrayed California as a breeding ground of environmental technologies for the rest of the world, suggesting the state will bring down costs enough to help poor nations switch to clean alternatives.

Environmentalists saw Schwarzenegger as possibly upstaging President Bush, who has faced international criticism for resisting mandatory greenhouse gas reductions. Bush has opposed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol agreement signed by 35 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

More than 80 heads of state were in attendance, according to the Associated Press, but not Bush. The Republican president was expected to attend a small dinner with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other international leaders Monday night to discuss climate change.

Schwarzenegger did not hide his belief that California, rather than the Bush administration, is guiding U.S. policy on climate change. The governor earlier this year threatened to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it does not decide by October whether to grant California a waiver to impose greenhouse gas emissions standards on automobiles.

"California is moving the United States beyond debate and doubt to action," Schwarzenegger declared. "So I urge this body to push its members to action also."

Downtown Growth

As the government and private sectors grow jobs in the downtown core, the availability of housing is vital and it appears to be meeting the challenge, and one hopes the housing struggles can be addressed, whether through auction or normal sales.

City core is hopping with new, urban infill homes
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Driving around Sacramento's urban core, you'd never guess there was a housing market slump.

New lofts, three-story row houses and condominiums conceived during the housing boom are nearing completion in neighborhoods ringing downtown.

Some have attracted surprising interest, given the region's depressed home sales. At 18th and L streets, for example, one buyer is spending $2 million to combine two loft penthouses into a more spacious one.

At least eight housing developments with about 500 units are either under construction or just completed in the central city. Across the Tower Bridge on the West Sacramento waterfront, another roughly 250 units either have hit the market or soon will.

Unlike previous central city projects, nearly all of the new units coming on line are for sale, not for rent. Most were built without public subsidy.

An exception is the Globe Mills project at 12th and C streets in Alkali Flat, which received $19 million in redevelopment funds. Developer Skip Rosenbloom and architect Michael Malinowski are winning accolades for their striking renovation of the old grain elevators and mill into rental units for low- and moderate-income tenants.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Green Building Bills

A good overview of the costs, political and technological, involved in getting to the point where building green makes good economic sense as well as environmental sense.

And, speaking of adopting the gold standard for green building as the state standard, it might also make sense to adopt the gold standard of flood protection—a 500 year level—as another wise public policy protecting California's natural resources.

Green light for governor?
Three pro-environment bills await his OK
By Judy Lin - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, September 24, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to be tested on how far he's willing to go to keep his reputation green.

Sitting on the governor's desk are three Democratic bills that would expand California's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring state, residential and certain commercial buildings to adopt environmentally responsible practices in design and construction.

If Schwarzenegger signs the bills, California could begin requiring more efficient use of water in new homes as well as energy-efficient lighting in large office buildings, and more state workers could find themselves treading on recycled carpet.

"If he's serious about reducing global warming, he needs to make buildings more efficient," said Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, co-author of Assembly Bills 888 and 1058, which deal, respectively, with commercial and residential buildings.

The governor has until Oct. 12 to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature. The executive branch has remained mum about whether Schwarzenegger will sign the three green building bills, but state officials say they are already working toward green building standards.

"It wouldn't change much of what we're doing," said David Walls, executive director of the Building Standards Commission, which has opposed both bills. The commission regulates building codes.

Building and business interests also are concerned about the cost of going green at a time when construction costs are rising.

AB 888 would require some commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet, including banks and auto dealerships, to meet a gold rating by 2013 from the U.S. Green Building Council, which developed the widely used Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system to measure a building's energy efficiency.

LEED ratings are based on points, and Bob Raymer of the California Building Industry Association said that spending a few hundred dollars on energy-efficient lighting could earn a project the same number of points as installing solar panels, which can run tens of thousands of dollars.

"If you've got a relatively small building and you've got to comply with LEED goals, it's going to cost you more than 1 or 2 percent" of construction costs, Raymer said. "And I'm not sure you'd recoup it."

To be certified as a LEED green building, commercial projects must meet certain prerequisites. Depending on the number of points they accumulate, the projects are awarded either a certified, silver, gold or platinum rating.

Lieu wants the state to adopt the gold rating as the state standard. Assembly Bill 35 by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, would direct state buildings to meet the same standard after 2010.

High Density Downtown

A spiffy, and very green, project for those few hardy souls who love living in the high density downtown area, is coming online.

Bob Shallit: Town homes downtown to use geothermal system
By Bob Shallit - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, September 24, 2007

Not many housing projects have geothermal heating and cooling systems. Just a few "higher-end, wacko-hippie homes," according to Bay Area architect and developer Jeremy Drucker.

But Drucker, neither wacko nor hippie, is making geothermal one of the key selling points of a high-density, nine-unit town-home project he's building at 1419 F St. in downtown's Mansion Flats district.

The system, which uses a closed loop to circulate water underground, then bring the 65-degree water to heat exchangers within each unit, is 50 percent pricier than conventional heating-and-cooling alternatives. But, Drucker says, it's also 50 percent more efficient.

"If you amortize that out, it's a net positive from Day One," he says.

The geothermal system is just one of the "aggressively green" features of the so-called "9 on F" project, which is designed by Sacramento's Vrilakas Architects.

Drucker is using wood flooring from sustainable forests. Water is heated electrically, eliminating the need for a more wasteful gas water heater. Solar panels are included in some units.

The first of the nearly finished town homes, which range from 1,350 to 1,550 square feet and are priced at $460,000 to $560,000, go on the market in November.

"This is a big step forward," says Paul Menard, an architect who sits on the local Smart Growth Leadership Council, which endorsed the project.

Menard likes the project's energy efficiency. But he also raves about a high-density layout that still manages to offer "privacy and an open, livable feel."

Says Menard, "Design was in the front seat driving the bus."

Yuba Suburbs

Reflecting how the majority of people have chosen to live since ancient Rome—out in the countryside away from the city—developers have created a community that is now being challenged by the usual suspects, but hopefully the leadership that has been approving it for the past 15 years will remain on track.

Yuba project fight heats up
February vote to decide conversion of rural site to homes, businesses
By Todd Milbourn - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, September 24, 2007

Yuba County Supervisor Hal Stocker calls the project an example of "leapfrog sprawl." His colleague on the board, John Nicoletti, sees the housing development as "good for the local economy, good for the local community."

But it will be Yuba County voters who ultimately decide whether the controversial Yuba Highlands project -- 5,100 homes in the rolling foothills near Beale Air Force Base -- becomes reality.

The vote is five months away, but the run-up appears certain to be a spirited -- and likely well-financed -- campaign. Already, critics of the project have filed two lawsuits, saying the development has not undergone sufficient environmental review.

"This is a huge regional issue and not just for Yuba County," said Mark Augustine, a Loma Rica resident who helped collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot. "It's going to affect Nevada County and Sutter County in terms of air quality and traffic, and definitely the cities of Wheatland, Lincoln and Linda. These commuters will have to drive through those cities to get to job centers."

Yuba Highlands would transform a vast swath of pastoral, oak-sheltered grasslands into a bustling bedroom and retirement community, home to about 13,000 residents.

The 3,000-acre site is in the heart of rural Yuba County, sandwiched between Beale and a wildlife refuge, accessible today only by narrow, gravel roads.

Gary Gallelli, the Rocklin developer behind the project, said the site is as good as any in Yuba County.

"If you look at Yuba and you don't want to build on the floodplain and you don't want to build on prime ag land, you build where Yuba Highlands is," Gallelli said.

Delta Canal

Another instance where the original plan of the Peripheral Canal was the best plan, but public leadership failed to implement it then, but it is still needed and will cost so much more now, not to mention the cost of the Delta’s degradation over the past several decades since.

Once they work through the “through-Delta” plan, the best one, again, should emerge and one hopes public leadership stays on course this time around.

Canal plan is floated for Delta woes
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, September 24, 2007

Most people have heard of the peripheral canal. Now it's time to meet the canal's new stepchild.

Amid a drought year and declining fish populations, California water officials are again sketching lines across the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, hoping to move fresh water to people and farms without wiping out endangered species.

The last attempt -- the infamous peripheral canal -- was pilloried by California voters in 1982. It was a relatively simple trench that would have carried a portion of the Sacramento River around the Delta to state and federal export pumps, and then to points south.

A generation ago, critics feared the canal was a south state water grab, though scientists now seem to agree that separating exported fresh water from the Delta's environment may be a good idea.

The new canal on the scene aims for something similar, but without actually taking water out of the Delta.

Instead of a self-contained canal that skirts the Delta, the new proposal diverts a portion of Sacramento River flows into a series of armored levees that wind through the center of the Delta. Most proposals would turn the south fork of the Mokelumne River and Middle River into this proposed canal.

Called "through-Delta conveyance," it also includes gates across some side channels to keep out salt water during high tides. Bolstered levees would be built to withstand earthquakes, floods and a predicted sea-level rise caused by global warming.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eco Ranching

Though your intrepid blogger has not yet had the pleasure of tasting bison, I understand it’s pretty good, and doesn’t taste like chicken, so the efforts of these ranchers might be on to something, in addition to the enjoyment of gazing upon a big herd of large shaggy buffalo roaming the plains and our national parks.

September 2007
Volume 25 | Number 3
By Brian Yablonski

It’s mid-morning in Tallahassee, and I am sitting in a booth at Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant with Beau Turner, splitting a plate of bison sliders. At 39, Beau is the youngest son of Ted Turner. He is also the fish and wildlife manager for Turner Enterprises, Inc., which includes oversight of biodiversity projects and ranching for the nearly 2 million acres of land owned by the Turners.

There is irony here. The restaurant is decorated with dark wood, bison heads, and classic oil paintings of the West, yet Beau is here to talk about the Turners’ efforts to aid recovery of the bison—the very species on which we are deliciously feeding at the moment.

He explains that raising bison began as a hobby on their property in South Carolina nearly 30 years ago. Today it is a booming enterprise encompassing seven western states. Bison restoration, initially, had its own learning curve. “We made a lot of mistakes early on,” says Beau. When the Turners first began raising bison at the Flying D Ranch in Montana, calving rates dropped. So Beau learned about the importance of rotating the herd, grasses, rainfall, and the critical role of people in the restoration process. Today, their herd sustains an 80 to 90 percent calving rate.

The near extirpation of the American bison in the 19th century was one of the great environmental catastrophes in our nation’s history. Resilient by nature, bison have spent the last 100 years making a miraculous comeback. The credit goes to private ranchers, charities, and public agencies employing market-based approaches. Today, restoration of the bison is an environmental success story in its own right, with additional eco-benefits extending to our personal health, the Great Plains, and our publicly managed parks.

Remarkable For Its Fury

In the early 1800s, it was believed as many as 30 million bison roamed the Great Plains. Their natural predators were few, primarily wolves and Native Americans. That changed with manifest destiny. As bison came to be valued for their hides and leather, the slaughter of the great herds began.

Environmental historian Stephen Krech described the extermination as “remarkable for its fury.” In just three years, the entire southern herd was wiped out by buffalo hunters, only to be followed by the evisceration of the northern herd by 1884. Indeed, the bison were very close to extinction; it is likely there were less than a thousand left at the turn of the century.

Western orthodoxy suggests the white man’s irresistible drive for wealth led to the bison genocide. Reality, however, proved more complicated. Their near extinction was due to a host of factors ranging from adverse climate issues, introduction of the transcontinental railroad, emergence of a horse culture on the plains bringing more efficient hunting, the advent of the Sharp’s rifle known for its deadly accuracy and distance, as well as government policy that promoted the end of the bison as a means of calming hostilities with the Native Americans.

One underlying factor, however, may have contributed more than any other. The tragedy of the bison was one of the starkest examples of the tragedy of the commons. No one owned the bison. Those who were not the first to capture the economic benefits of a bison lost those benefits to someone else. This created a race to the finish—a bison derby. Recreation magazine captured the essence of the situation in 1901: “A wild buffalo is looked on as a small fortune walking around without an owner.”

Forests & Trees

Good article on not seeing the forestry for the trees.

William Wade Keye: Protocols put trees ahead of the forests
By William Wade Keye - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, September 23, 2007

Environmentalists like forests, but they don't especially like forestry. Since forestry, by actually touching the landscape, messes with the fantasy of unspoiled nature, activists promote land-use policies that preserve the fantasy but ignore the reality.

Take global warming, and the potential role that California forests -- and forestry -- can play in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in trees, forest soils and long-lived wood products. Only here in the birthplace of the Sierra Club could you have a state-sanctioned Climate Action Registry with a system of forestry protocols carefully concocted to service the fantasy and snub the reality.

Our Kyoto-inspired protocols resulted from legislation passed in 2002 (Senate Bill 812), in the halcyon days before global warming -- and genuine interest in so-called "cap and trade" carbon trading schemes -- really went mainstream. Now, after Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and the passage of Assembly Bill 32, the forestry part of the issue is about to get serious.

Under AB 32, the Air Resources Board is charged with leading California's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. A small but important component of this is expanding and financially crediting the role that forests -- and forestry -- can play in capturing and storing carbon dioxide.

The ARB is scheduled to adopt the existing but flawed forestry protocols at its October meeting. If it takes this action, it will please "cut no tree" environmental types but greatly diminish the true potential for California forestry to help in achieving the goals of AB 32 by playing a vigorous role in the emerging marketplace for carbon credits.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Arden Arcade Goalposts Keep Moving

You can certainly understand the concern when the rules of the game you entered keep changing as you get closer to winning; not real good sportsmanship, nor public policy in an America where fairness is so highly valued and cheating on one side usually just deepens the commitment of the other.

Let's hope so.

Cityhood bid blasts added fee for studies
LAFCO orders a look at benefits, liabilities of annexation.
By Ramon Coronado - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 20, 2007

Advocates who want Arden Arcade turned into a city are crying foul over a recent requirement that they pay an extra $40,000 for an additional study.

"We don't believe in it. We don't accept it, but we have to pay for it," said Joel Archer, leader of the incorporation effort.

The additional fees are to pay for a study of the benefits and drawbacks of annexing Arden Arcade into the city of Sacramento.

The Arden Arcade committee is already struggling to make monthly payments on consultant studies of the environmental and fiscal impacts of incorporating the 13-square-mile area that is now being serviced by the county.

As Archer sees it, the Arden Arcade committee is being impeded by unfairly having the rules changed.

The Local Agency Formation Commission, which governs the incorporation process, has changed the payment rules since other cities formed, forcing the Arden Arcade committee to come up with money faster than other cityhood efforts.

LAFCO has threatened to shut down the studies, which began last month, if the Arden Arcade committee fails to keep the money flowing.

LAFCO officials have said they can't guarantee that the studies will be completed in time for the November 2008 election.

That posture is a departure from LAFCO's handling of the cityhood efforts of Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, which were allowed to pay when the studies were done.

"It's not fair. We made our application. We were in the middle of a process, and to have your expectations change is tough to swallow," Archer said.

Natomas Unhappy?

The saga continues, but sometimes the speaking out is more representative of a very small minority of people than the majority, who are usually perfectly happy to stay away from meetings that have little to do with their busy and contented lives.

Editorial: Greenbriar prompts Natomas residents to vent
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 22, 2007

Meetings of the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission rarely produce many riveting moments. Yet several Natomas residents sent a jolt through Wednesday's session by speaking out about the future of their community.

The ostensible item on the agenda was Greenbriar, a 557-acre parcel in north Natomas that developers want the city to annex. On a 4-3 vote, the commission Wednesday agreed to add the land to Sacramento's sphere of influence, the first step toward eventual annexation.

While that outcome wasn't unexpected, several commissioners were surprised by the frustrations expressed by Natomas dwellers. One by one, these residents took the podium and vented about police patrols, flood protection, parks and quality of life. "Even the barest minimum of services we've been promised have not been delivered," said one Natomas resident, Holly Brickner.

City and county officials need to take these concerns to heart as they consider proposals to extend Natomas' urban boundary. Although city officials say projects like Greenbriar will provide funding to close a $70 million financing gap for services, many residents are suspicious of these claims. On Wednesday, they sent a clear message to elected leaders: Before new growth is approved in Natomas, they want some clear signs the city and county will

Midtown Condos

A very nice project and more, it appears, are on the way.

Rare condo conversion nears completion
By Bob Shallit - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rich Wilks is close to accomplishing the rarest of feats: He's nearly finished converting a former apartment building in downtown Sacramento to condos.

What's so unusual about that? It's been done only once in the past two decades, thanks to a restrictive 1980 city ordinance.

The ordinance is toughest on developers seeking to convert apartments that are inhabited. Owners are required to allow low-income, disabled and elderly renters to remain in their units for up to 12 years, or offer them a chance to buy at a discounted price.

Wilks, a Prudential California Realty broker, and his sister, Tammy Wilks Kornfeld, were able to get around those provisions because their building -- a 96-year-old three-story at 1706 G St. -- was vacant.

But they still had a rough road. City officials initially said they couldn't proceed because the ordinance prohibits condo conversions of apartments built before 1952.

The sibling developers appealed, got City Councilman Steve Cohn involved and struck a compromise. They could rehab the building, but it had to meet stringent current codes instead of the less-extensive renovations they'd planned.

That added about $200,000 to the project's cost.

But Wilks says he is happy with the result -- six units, each priced in the high $300,000s, with hardwood floors, Shaker-style cabinets, nine-foot ceilings, top-class finishes.

And built to the latest code requirements. "It's probably the most sound 100-year-old residential building in town," he says. The project's first units go on sale in October.

* * *

Con-do attitude: Speaking of condo conversions, a Sacramento city committee has come up with two competing proposals to reform the process.

Levee Trees

Granted the beauty of the trees along the levees, but one hopes the new policy developed is one that is more concerned about the safety of the levees, rather than the trees growing on them.

The restriction on large levee vegetation is not necessarily a recipe for ugliness, but if large tree roots do compromise the safety of earthen levees, the possible resulting destruction of a failed levee surely would.

Pact gives a reprieve to Valley's levee trees
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 22, 2007

Levee managers in the Central Valley are being told to holster their chain saws following a deal announced Friday to stay the execution of thousands of trees on area riverbanks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed not to enforce the vegetation component of its levee maintenance rules while a new policy is developed. The decision grants a reprieve to riverbank trees and their supporters throughout the Central Valley.

"What a sad place this would be without those trees," said Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, who chairs the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. "I am pleased that by really looking at the science and listening to experts we are on the way to policies much more appropriate to Sacramento. We're back on the right track now."

For decades, the Army Corps allowed trees and large shrubs on Central Valley levees -- and even encouraged planting more. They did so in cooperation with wildlife agencies because there is almost no other riverbank habitat left.

Then, after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the corps took a more rigid stance and enforced its national vegetation policy in California for the first time. That policy allows no plants larger than 2 inches in diameter on levees.

As a result, 32 Central Valley levee districts learned in January that they had failed a maintenance inspection, largely because of excessive vegetation. Many more, including urban Sacramento levees, were likely to fail another round of inspections this fall. The potential consequences of a failed inspection include losing access to federal levee rebuilding funds after a flood, and decertification by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Many local levee districts objected because of the expense required to clear vegetation. In many cases, levees would have to be rebuilt after removing tree roots. Residents feared loss of shade, scenery and habitat.

California’s Water Crisis

An excellent editorial about it.

Water crisis looming
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched:09/21/2007 03:07:04 AM PDT

FOR TOO LONG, California has been unwilling to develop a comprehensive, long-term water-resource plan, and to build the infrastructure necessary to provide a dependable source of water for the future.

Now the state is facing a huge challenge with a growing population, court-ordered reduction in water pumping, a threatened Delta environment, and the possibility of a drought. This is no time for delays and protracted political battles that lead to no results.

That is why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing a $9 billion bond measure to construct two new dams, expand the Los Vaqueros Reservoir, improve the Delta environment and pay for conservation. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, has a less ambitious plan, but is willing to work with the governor. Perata, like Schwarzenegger, understands the urgency of the situation.

He said, "Now we have a gun muzzle at out temple; unless we take swift action for immediate relief, the court will effectively cut water as much as 60 percent to millions of California consumers and thousands of businesses."

The governor wants to spend $5.1 billion to build two dams, one at Sites Reservoir in Colusa County and another at Temperance Flat, a dam on the San Joaquin River east of Fresno. His plan also seeks $1.9 billion for Delta restoration and an unspecified amount to expand Los Vaqueros.

Republicans in the Legislature are not likely to endorse any plan that does not include the two dams. Democrats are wary of building dams, but could be persuaded to support the idea if agricultural and regional interests come up with more money to help pay for the projects.

Certainly, the large agribusinesses in the Central Valley and elsewhere, which use most of the state's water, should be willing to pay more of their share. They are the ones most likely to lose if water supplies are diminished by court order and drought.

Greater water conservation, particularly by agriculture and underground storage, should be included in any long-range water plan. But there is no escaping the need for new reservoirs, which can provide water for environmental purposes as well as farms and urban users.

Global Warming Temperatures

An excellent article that really pins down the uncertainty around the data being used to try and shift public policy in a rather large way, which most sensible people realize will seriously disrupt the economies of most modern societies.

September 20, 2007
One More Reason to Distrust Global Warming Predictions
By Jerome J. Schmitt

"Garbage in, garbage out" has become a cautionary maxim of the computer age, reminding us that bad data corrupts computer software and many other artifacts of modern technology. What then are we to make of global warming scientists who present us with temperature charts purporting to display changes in the global mean temparture for the last century-plus. Who was measuring global mean temperatures in the 1880s?

Political observers are familiar with "margin of error" in opinion polls. Polls seek to measure the political prospects of candidates competing for elected office. The "true value" of the candidate's political viability is established when the votes are counted.

Similarly, the mathematics of physical measurements require knowledge of potential sources of errors in measurements to place bounds on the likely true value. Estimated errors are expressed as "error bars" in plots of empirical data. The true value could be any value within the margin of the error.

With this background, I was astonished to see the assurance with which climatologists writing about global warming report Global Mean Temperature over Land & Ocean as far back as 1880 -- as shown in the US Government's "official" NOAA Chart reproduced below.

It is noteworthy that most reproductions of this chart in the popular press omit the error bars. Who could possibly have been measuring Global Mean Temperature (GMT) so accurately (±0.14°C) in 1880? For context, remember that in the 1880s, Mr. Stanley was searching for Dr. Livingston, who was totally lost while exploring Africa for the source of the Nile. Put another way, as seen from the error bars, why has science's ability to measure global mean temperature increased in accuracy only by a factor of two (±0.07°C) in the last 125 years?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Global Warming Skeptics Might be Right

It has taken awhile, but the response from the latest ‘the world is coming to an end’ scenario, in calling for a little bit more thoughtfulness and balance, appears to be gaining traction.

Global-warming skeptics: Might warming be 'normal'?
Some say that today's climate change is merely part of a natural cycle.
By Brad Knickerbocker | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

In a small college town like Corvallis, Ore., it's not unusual that George Taylor would ride a bike to his job on the Oregon State University campus. He commutes this way for the exercise, he says, but also because it's good for the planet.

Mr. Taylor manages the Oregon Climate Service, and much of his work has to do with global warming. "I'm certainly in favor of doing prudent things to reduce the human impact," he says.

But unlike most climate scientists, he does not believe that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases – mainly from coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles spewing carbon dioxide – are the main culprits. In fact, he says, "It's my belief that in the last 100 years or so natural variations have played a bigger role."

Among the forces of nature he cites are changes in solar radiation, "very significant influences" of the tropical Pacific (El Niño and La Niña events in decades-long cycles), as well as changes in Earth's tilt and orbit over cycles lasting thousands of years.

Above all, says Mr. Taylor, who is past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, "The climate system is very, very complex, and the more we learn, the more we see that we really don't understand it."

Taylor may be in the minority among climate experts, but he is not alone.

Other planets in our solar system have expanding and contracting ice caps, too, other skeptics point out, and those worlds have no people as far as we know – certainly no gas-guzzling muscle cars and trucks. Antarctica and Greenland at times have been warm and green before humankind in¬¬vented machines, indicating to these skeptics that this is just a natural cycle.

In Phoenix, where it's been very hot indeed this summer, Warren Meyer has written "A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming." He is not a professionally trained climate scientist, but he studied physics and engineering at Princeton University, then earned an MBA at Harvard University before entering the business world.

Like Taylor, Mr. Meyer cites other possible factors – ocean oscillations and currents, sunspot cycles, and recovery from the "Little Ice Age" (which ran for roughly three to four centuries, up to the mid-19th century) – to argue that "we are a long way from attributing all or much of current warming to man-made carbon dioxide."

He says he's carefully studied the official reports and assertions about global warming and come to the conclusion that "it's a funny sort of anthropomorphic hubris to say that we know what 'normal' is or even know what the cycles are.

"Look, there's a lot going on here that we've observed for a very short time," Mr. Meyer says. "We have all these complicated cycles happening, and many of them last for thousands or millions of years. And we've observed them carefully for – what? – 30 years?"

Recipe for Disaster

While there is money to be made and environments to be cleaned up by adopting green technology where appropriate, this type of plan, at this level, would be an economic disaster for the United States and any other countries that adopted it.

Paul R. Epstein: Finding the green solution to global climate crisis
By Paul R. Epstein -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 21, 2007

With weather turbulence turning heads on Wall Street, an emerging call among evangelicals for "creation care" and a barrage of energy bills on Capitol Hill, are we about to get serious about climate change? Trimming energy use 60 percent to 80 percent, while priming the economy and preserving the environment is the task we face.

California is, as usual, the pacesetter, and can invigorate the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; and other governors are grabbing hold of the mainsheets. But we need a national plan, and may have just months before the next presidential election to craft a solid one. What follows is a suggested framework for overarching principles and financial and policy instruments for implementing the plan.

Comparing life-cycle costs -- health, ecological and economic -- of proposed solutions can separate safe solutions from those warranting further study and those with prohibitive risks. Those serving multiple goals merit a high rating.

Energy conservation, smart growth; a smart grid; plug-in hybrids; heat capture from utilities (known as cogeneration); green buildings; plus walking, biking and public transport can get us halfway there -- and save money.

Distributed generation -- power produced near the point of use -- with solar, wind, wave, geothermal and fuel-cell power can be fed into existing grids -- and generate income. (And geothermal heat pumps provide air conditioning.)

Where energy is scarce, such systems can pump water, power clinics, light homes, cook food and drive development. Clean distributed generation power improves resilience in the face of weather extremes (adaptation), reduces carbon emissions (mitigation) and creates jobs.

Economics and Species Protection

Matching green with green.

September 2007
Volume 25 | Number 3
Save s Species, Save on Taxes
By Mitch Tobin

A couple of years ago, I met with some Arizona ranchers to learn how they might help an endangered frog without endangering their livelihoods. In 2002, the state’s livestock industry balked when the federal government listed the Chiricahua leopard frog as threatened. Much of the species’ natural habitat—streams, springs, and marshy wetlands—was either gone or infested with rapacious, non-native predators, leaving the leopard frog dependent on the stock ponds that dot the region’s high-desert grasslands and wooded highlands. About half of the remaining frog populations were found in cattle tanks and water holes built for livestock. Ranchers feared that environmentalists would use the heaviest hammer in their toolbox—the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—to further restrict grazing.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the frog, it acknowledged ranchers’ concerns by crafting a special rule: If a leopard frog was harmed or killed on non-federal lands while livestock were using a water hole or while ranchers were maintaining a stock pond, this “incidental take” would be exempt from prosecution. Local ranchers, seeking even more regulatory certainty, joined with the Nature Conservancy to create a “safe harbor agreement” that would afford ranchers immunity from added restrictions if they improved habitat for frogs (see page 15).

These measures increased ranchers’ comfort level, but many still had deep reservations about the frog and the ESA. As we swayed in rocking chairs and sipped ice tea on his porch that afternoon, rancher Bill McDonald told me the government needed to take the next step. “There still aren’t the incentives we ought to have. People ought to actually be paying people to raise these frogs,” McDonald said. “You’ve got an endangered species in trouble, we’ve got places out here where they do well, and there should be out-and-out incentives, not just elimination of penalties.”

Several years and many bruising ESA battles later, McDonald’s idea of using carrots—not just sticks—to conserve biological diversity is at the heart of a proposal in Congress to improve the ESA’s performance on private land. The federal government isn’t about to send a check to ranchers who nurture tadpoles, but a bipartisan bill introduced earlier this year—the Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2007—would provide $400 million in tax breaks to property owners who conserve valuable habitat, either through an agreement with the federal government or by creating an easement on their land (see page 14).

Forest Fire Policy

Good overview in light of the recent fires in the Sierras and the damage they caused.

Forest Policy Up in Smoke:
Fire Suppression in the United States
By Alison Berry

Forests evolved over millennia in the presence of fire, a vital ecological process¬fire returns nutrients to the soil and helps seedlings establish. In 1911 the United States Forest Service began to suppress all fires on American forests, resulting in dangerous accumulations of fuels. Conflagrations of increased intensity result and firefighting costs escalate, complicated by growing populations along the forest border, the “wildland-urban interface.” Dense forests are also more vulnerable to insects and diseases. A policy designed to protect forests and communities has instead endangered them. This paper examines the background and consequences of fire suppression, with recommendations for improvement.

Berry presented htis paper to the International Society for New Institutional Economics in July 2007 at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

Air Fresheners

Important research indicate they are a hazard, especially to those with asthma.

Environmental groups petition U.S. to regulate air fresheners
Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2007

A group of heavyweight environmental organizations is asking the federal government to crack down on air fresheners, products that scientific studies show can aggravate asthma and pose other health risks.

In response to the groups' petition filed Wednesday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Walgreen Co. quickly pulled three of its air fresheners off the shelves of its 5,850 stores nationwide.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes and the National Center for Healthy Housing filed the petition asking the agencies to more strictly regulate the industry, which is expected to have $1.72 billion in sales this year.

Scented sprays, gels and plug-in fresheners offer no public health benefits yet contain harmful chemicals linked to breathing difficulties, developmental problems in babies and cancer in laboratory animals, according to the petition sent to the two federal agencies.

The environmental groups commissioned independent lab tests of some popular brands and also cited health studies that call into question the safety of some chemicals found in the air fresheners.

In spite of Walgreens' move, representatives of some companies that make air fresheners said their products pose no health risk and help contribute to a better quality of life in many households.

Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Bethesda, Md., said his agency had received the petition. "We take it seriously at this time," he said.

The environmental groups argue that in houses, offices and restrooms, Americans suffer significant exposure "to a veritable cocktail of dangerous and potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds. In cases of mold and damp indoor environments, air fresheners may hide an indicator of potentially serious health threats to the respiratory system."

Consumers assume that products on the market have been evaluated and are safe, the petition said. "Unfortunately, with regard to air fresheners, these consumers are mistaken."

The groups want the federal government to require manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble Co., S.C. Johnson, Dial Corp., Sara Lee Corp. and Reckitt Benckiser Inc. to conduct health and safety tests, including the respiratory effect of breathing the fresheners. Those test results should be handed over to regulators, who should also be alerted if there are reports of adverse reactions to the air fresheners, the groups said.

The environmental groups also want truth-in-advertising labeling that would require listing all ingredients in air fresheners. And the government should ban ingredients that would cause allergies or appear on California's Proposition 65 list of chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm, according to the petition.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Global Warming

Another excellent look at it from the pages of the Wall Street Journal, penned by Pete DuPont.

Chill Pill
Combat global warming? There are better things we can do for the Earth.
Thursday, September 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

There is both global warming and global cooling on the planet Earth. There always has been and there always will be, because temperature change is cyclical: The Earth's temperature oscillates up and down, ebbs and flows, over decades and centuries. Sometimes the earth warms, as it did in the Roman Warming period (200 B.C. to A.D. 600), the Medieval Warming period (900 to 1300) and in modern times from 1910 to 1940. And sometimes it cools, as it did in the Dark Ages (600 to 900); the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850) and from 1940 to the late 1970s.

The National Center for Policy Analysis's new Global Warming Primer ( shows that over the past 400,000 years, "the Earth's temperature has consistently risen and fallen hundreds of years prior to increases and declines in CO2 levels" (emphasis added). For example, about half of the global warming increases since the mid-1800s occurred before greenhouse gas emissions began their significant increases after the 1950s, and then temperatures declined well into the 1970s when CO2 levels were increasing.

During the 20th Century the earth warmed by one degree Fahrenheit, and today the world is about 0.05 degree warmer than it was in 2001. These small increases have led the global-warming establishment to demand that we adopt the international Kyoto policy of stopping the growth of CO2 emissions so that global warming does not destroy us all. Or in Al Gore's words, "At stake is nothing less than the survival of human civilization and the habitability of the earth for our species."

Six years ago Danish scholar Bjorn Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist" took a look at the global-warming data and found it to be far less threatening than the Gore globalists were claiming. Mr. Lomborg's new book "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide To Global Warming," makes the case that while "global warming is real and man-made," the Kyoto approach is the wrong way to improve the lives of the world's people.

First, "Cool It" shows that global warming saves lives rather than killing people.

Second, it shows that the Kyoto approach of spending some $180 billion each year to end global warming would reduce CO2 by such a small amount that few lives would be saved or improved, even if the United States had signed on and even if every signatory nation met its CO2 targets (which few have). If instead the resources were used for combating malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and dirty drinking water, the world would be a far better place for humans.

Finally, he gives a perfect example of why the Kyoto approach is foolish and an adaptation approach would be far better.

Global warming is supposedly killing people. The 35,000 deaths from the August 2003 European heat wave were, in Al Gore's view, an example of what "will become much more common if global warming is not addressed." But the actual data put things in perspective. Whereas 2,000 people died in the United Kingdom in that heat wave, last year the BBC reported that deaths caused by cold weather in England and Wales were about 25,000 each winter, and 47,000 a year, in the winters of 1998 to 2000. Similarly, in Helsinki, Finland, 55 people die each year from heat and 1,655 from cold. In Athens, Greece, a much warmer place, the deaths from excess heat are 1,376 each year and the deaths from cold 7,852. All told, Mr. Lomborg calculates that about 200,000 people die in Europe each year from excessive heat, and 1.5 million from excessive cold.

So global warming will save human lives. "While cutting CO2 will save some people from dying from heat," Mr. Lomborg concludes, "it will simultaneously cause more people to die from cold."

Green as in Cash

An important perspective long overlooked by the environmental community continues to get communicated, that green is mostly the color of the cash earned by productive people, from all of the neighborhoods, and that is a very good thing for everyone.

Mick Dumke: Let's add some color to green
By Mick Dumke -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 20, 2007

For some people, "going green" is more than just a trendy cause, a way to score points on the campaign trail or a means to achieve the abstract goal of preserving nature for future generations.

For neighborhoods such as Chicago's Little Village, it's a matter of survival.

Standing on an abandoned railroad bridge over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, Lilian Molina points to a mechanical claw scooping coal from a barge. A conveyor belt drops the coal into a nearby energy plant that will provide power to homes across the city. But it also spews nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, which eventually turn to toxic smog and soot and taint waterways.

Those who live in this mostly Latino neighborhood also have to worry about the steel-drum reprocessing facility around the corner. It emits glycol ether, which causes eye and skin irritation, anemia and birth defects. Another empty lot is a federal Superfund site, and another has an old oil-storage tank buried in contaminated soil.

Molina works for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, a nonprofit that raises awareness of and lobbies to eradicate environmental health hazards. "What we do isn't the same as environmental conservation -- we don't chain ourselves to trees," she says. "What we're really doing here is telling people, 'Our health is not disposable.' " These days, the country seems to be experiencing a rebirth of environmental awareness, prompting discussion about climate change and corporate responsibility and passionate debate about the pros and cons of bottled water. But if a new and different "green revolution" is underway in America, it's not liberating everyone.

If you drive a Prius and buy tofu at Whole Foods, going green may be a lifestyle choice. If you live in a poor neighborhood near a toxic factory, going green is a human rights issue. The movement has been slowed by a divide that is visible in everything from local recycling policies to the complexions of environmentalists. On one side are mostly white middle- and upper-class populations with plenty of money and political clout. On the other side are minority and low-income communities with little of either.

The tragedy is that the communities that are left behind often have the most at stake -- and the most to contribute. Because not only is environmentalism a human rights issue, it is also an economic opportunity.

Many of the best-intentioned environmental activists assume that poor and nonwhite communities aren't interested in environmental issues. Poor folk, they seem to reason, don't have the time or energy to worry about pollution and global warming because they're struggling to make ends meet or just aren't educated enough to "get it." Take recycling, one of the simplest ways that households can conserve natural resources and reduce pollution. It has now caught on in thousands of middle-class communities nationwide; nearly every suburb and midsize city offers curbside recycling. There is an initial outlay for the effort, but in the long run, recycling saves tax money that would have been spent on shipping and landfills.

Green Education

An excellent local response to an international trend that is building momentum.

As region gets greener, colleges train work force
By Bill Lindelof - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 20, 2007

The six-county Sacramento region is home to an estimated 73 "green" companies, according to the city of Sacramento, and the Los Rios Community College District wants to ready an environmentally aware work force.

The Los Rios district is expected today to announce the creation of three new programs at its Sacramento-area campuses to train students in clean and green technology.

"With more than 70 clean and green companies in this region, we need to be preparing a work force," Chancellor Brice Harris said in an interview.

The new programs include a solar technology technician certificate program at American River College, a green building design and construction certificate at Cosumnes River College and a certificate at Sacramento City College in the field of energy management systems in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Water Leadership

It is good to see executive leadership from the state, though legislative leadership is still stuck in neutral, but one hopes wisdom prevails and the most effective method of supplementing conservation and groundwater banking—increasing surface water storage behind the construction of new dams—becomes state water policy again.

Governor unveils water plan
His $9 billion proposal runs counter to his blue ribbon panel's first draft.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday renewed his plan to build new dams and a Delta canal to solve California's water woes, even as his own blue ribbon water panel suggests a decidedly different approach.

The governor called a special session of the Legislature, now under way, to deal with California's water crisis. He hopes to reach a deal on a bond measure in time for the Feb. 5 ballot.

The crisis was prompted by declining fish species and the threat of a disaster in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. An Aug. 31 federal court ruling also may require water diversions from the Delta to be slashed up to 37 percent starting in December. This could mean rationing for 23 million Californians who get water from the Delta.

Schwarzenegger's $9 billion plan, presented Tuesday, includes many features in a proposal he offered earlier this year. It includes $600 million in immediate spending to address environmental problems in the Delta.

But the plan's primary focus is new hardware: $5.1 billion for new dams, and up to $1.9 billion for a canal to move Sacramento River water safely around or through the Delta.