News in Brief


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

California considering barriers to protect Delta


CLARKSBURG - For the second year in a row, the California Department of Water Resources is considering putting rock barriers in place to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from ocean tides that bring in salt water.
The rock barriers would stretch across three spots along the inner delta -- two channels near Clarksburg and one at the False River near Oakley.
"That gives us an opportunity to basically back up some of that water into our reservoirs so we can reserve it for both supply needs and fishery needs later in the fall," DWR Day-Delta Office Chief Paul Marshall said.
The plan was considered in 2014, but spring rains made it unnecessary. Marshall said there is a one percent chance the barriers will be built this year. If the barriers are needed, construction would begin in May or June.
"A couple of good storms similar to what we got back in December, we would be out of the woods," Marshall said.
The idea was tried back in the extreme drought of 1976 and 1977 -- concrete barriers succeeded in keeping salinity out of parts of the Delta and kept more water stored and available upstream.
The plan is specifically intended to keep major Delta water users from ending up with brackish, or too-salty water.
Farmers would also benefit from fresher water that won't damage crops or soil.
But some farmers on the Delta's west side worry they might lose out on their fresh water supplies, especially if they are below the barriers being installed.
"There's definitely gonna be an adverse affect," Wind Turbine Vineyards owner Dennis Wong said.
Wong's fields are above the proposed barrier locations to the north; but, he worries that salinity and less water flow below the barriers could be big trouble for others.
"They could be ruined, quite frankly, you know. No water, no crops and it could ruin the land as well," Wong said.
Marshall acknowledges water levels could be lower, but he said culverts at the barriers would provide for farmers down river.
"It would be fresh water for them, and they would still be able to stay in production," Marshall explained. "But, we would still be able to divert more water over to the eastern side of the Delta and keep it fresh."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Walnut Grove marina inferno

Dozens of boats destroyed in Walnut Grove marina fire

Fire takes several hours to contain

UPDATED 1:04 PM PST Jan 26, 2015
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WALNUT GROVE, Calif. (KCRA) —At least 14 boats were destroyed in a fast-moving fire Monday at the Walnut Grove marina.
The fire started just after midnight and took several hours to contain.
By the time crews stopped the spread of the fire, 14 boats had been destroyed in the blaze.
The boats were tied up in a series of covered slips along a stretch of water known as the Snodgrass Slough.
Some of the burned boats were over 60 feet long, according to resident Dennis Fay.
Fay and his wife were asleep on their boat when they heard the sounds of explosions.
"It didn't take long because of all the fuel in the boats, fiberglass, propane just started going one after the other and as soon as it did, it just blew up. There was propane tanks blowing up, fuel tanks were on fire," said Fay.
Fay took his boat out onto the river to escape the flames and snapped photos of the devastation.
"It was like a forest fire," Fay said. "You looked at it and it was just solid flames, just huge and it was hot. I was out 100 feet from shore and you could feel the heat."
While there are a number of residents that live on their boats full-time, it is believed all of the burned boats were not occupied at the time.
There are no reports of injuries.
No sooner had fire crews stopped the spread of the flames when a burning boat broke loose from its slip and started floating down the river.
Firefighters were able to push it away from the marina before it slammed into a dock near an 88-foot yacht.
The boat just missed Roy Graham's house.
"I thought it was here. I thought it was my boat. That fire was blowing pretty high," said Graham.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
County and state environmental and hazmat crews have been alerted to the oil spill and debris left floating in the water.

State To Dam Channels Stopping Sea Water

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —State water officials say they may dam parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in an emergency measure to protect freshwater used by millions of Californians.

The Department of Water Resources said Monday that if the drought persists they may build temporary rocky barriers blocking three channels on the Delta.

They say the dams would decrease the amount of water released from upstream reservoirs to keep saltwater from creeping inland from the San Francisco Bay, contaminating the Delta.

The Delta provides 25 million people with drinking water and irrigates millions of acres of farmland.

Officials say that despite a wet December no major storms have hit California in January to replenish the reservoirs.

Officials considered building the dams last year, but Spring rainstorms made it unnecessary.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Supreme Court upholds protections for California's delta smelt

California farmers struggling with drought say a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued Monday that keeps strict water restrictions in place to protect a tiny, threatened fish has forced them to leave thousands of acres unplanted in the nation’s most fertile agricultural region.
The justices rejected appeals from farmers in California’s Central Valley and Southern California urban water districts challenging a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to safeguard the 3-inch-long Delta smelt, a species listed as threatened in 1993 under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The smelt lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast that supplies much of California with drinking water and irrigates 4.5 million acres of farmland. Farmers contend that vast amounts of water sent into the ocean under the smelt regulations have made the three-year drought worse for them.
Farmers say their economic interests have been ignored while officials seek to protect the fish.
“I’d like to see a little more common sense put into it,” said Jim Jasper, an almond farmer whose appeal was denied. “Agriculture has been overlooked.”
Because of the drought and restrictions put in place for the smelt, Jasper said that he had to cut down one-fifth of his almond trees last year. The 70-year-old farmer who runs Stewart & Jasper Orchards in Newman says he anticipates taking out some of his citrus crops next year if the dry conditions persist.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last year had largely upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2008 biological opinion that restrictions were needed on the use of massive pumps that move water from the North through the state’s system of canals to deliver it to farms and cities in central and Southern California.

Under the government plans, more water flowing down the Sierra Nevada mountains that melted from the winter snowpack is sent through the delta and into the ocean to protect the smelt.
The decision won’t change water flows because protections for the fish were kept in place while the court case played out.
Katherine Poole, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said she welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. The Delta smelt’s decline signals the poor health of the massive estuary, she said, adding that a healthy delta benefits farmers and the millions who rely on it for drinking water.
“We need to keep this estuary healthy and functional for everybody,” Poole said. “The smelt is telling us that we’re not doing a good enough job of that right now.”
Earthjustice attorney Trent Orr said that the court upholding water restrictions is a victory for the Endangered Species Act. Attempts by the agricultural industry to erode environmental protections fell short, said Orr, who also refutes arguments that the smelt is to blame.
“Contrary to their claims, there have been no reductions in water allotment for protection of this species,” Orr said. “The drought is what’s causing a water shortage, not the smelt.”
The Supreme Court’s decision can’t be appealed further, but attorney James Burling, who represented Central Valley farmers at the Pacific Legal Foundation, said he will continue to challenge the unfair application of the federal environmental law at every opportunity.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Terrorists Massacre 12 At Paris Newspaper

French police said at least 12 people, including two police officers, are dead after an attack at the Paris headquarters of the satirical weekly paperCharlie Hebdo.
Late Wednesday morning, masked gunmen stormed the weekly's offices, bursting into an editorial staff meeting and opening fire with automatic rifles.
Ten members of the Charlie Hebdo staff died in the attack, prosecutors said. Among the dead were four cartoonists, including co-founder Jean “Cabu” Cabut and editor-in-chief Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier.
The gunmen said "Allahu akbar" and that they were avenging the Prophet Muhammed, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.
After dozens of shots rang out, two assailants were seen calmly leaving the scene. One police officer was seen being shot as he lay wounded.
Official: Three assailants
A police union official said the assailants - Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said there were three - remained at large and there were fears of further attacks.
The government declared the highest state of alert, increasing security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and department stores as the search for the assailants got under way.
Another 20 people were injured in the attack, including at least four critically. Police union official Rocco Contento described the scene inside the offices as “carnage.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Charlie Hebdo is well-known for courting controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders and has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. Jihadists online have repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its ridicule.
Hollande defends press freedom
Charlie Hebdo, ParisCharlie Hebdo, Paris
President Francois Hollande, who will address the nation on television at 8:00 p.m. (1900 UTC), rushed to the scene of what appeared to be a carefully planned attack. Sirens could be heard across the city.
“An act of indescribable barbarity has just been committed today in Paris,” Hollande said. He then defended the media: "No act of barbarity will ever extinguish freedom of the press."
France last year reinforced its anti-terrorism laws and is already on alert after calls from Islamist militants to attack its citizens and interests in reprisal for French military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.
Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Drancy mosque in Paris's Seine-Saint-Denis northern suburb, said, "I am extremely angry. These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell. This is not freedom. This is not Islam and I hope the French will come out united at the end of this."
Chalghoumi, who also went to the site of the attack, said of the gunmen: “We must be firm with them, because they want terror, they want racism, they want to pit people against each other.”
US, world reaction
The White House strongly condemned the attack.
"France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers," President Barack Obama said Wednesday, adding that America's thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the terrorist attack.
The White House said Obama has directed the administration to provide any assistance needed "to help bring these terrorists to justice."
In a joint appearance with Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Wednesday's Paris attack, saying, "Each and every American stands with you today."
Kerry said the U.S. stands with France in "solidarity and commitment" in "confronting extremism."
He also addressed the people of France in French.
Schetyna said his country is "deeply touched" by the attack, saying, "We stand together with France today."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also condemned the shooting.
“This abominable act is not only an attack on the lives of French citizens and their security. It is also an attack on freedom of speech and the press, core elements of our free democratic culture," Merkel said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists described the attack as a brazen assault on free expression.
The scale of the violence is appalling,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists must now stand together to send the message that such murderous attempts to silence us will not stand.”
The United Nations Security Council condemned the "barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack" at the Paris weekly's offices and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this intolerable terrorist act targeting journalists and a newspaper," the 15-member council said in a statement.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein joined a global chorus of condemnation against the "hideous crime," in Paris Wednesday. But while calling for the arrest and punishment of those responsible, Zeid cautioned against reacting with "discrimination and prejudice" against a wider group.
Eyewitness accounts
Upon entering the building, the gunmen headed straight for the paper's editor, Charbonnier, killing him and his police bodyguard first, Christophe Crepin, a police union spokesman, told The Associated Press.
A journalist from a press agency located just across the street described the scene to French radio, saying many shots were fired from what he described as Kalashnikov rifles. He then saw two armed and masked people leaving the building.
The eyewitness said he heard yelling and shots being fired on the street, and that police and emergency services arrived a few minutes later.
A neighbor said a man had mistakenly entered her building asking for Charlie Hebdo and speaking in bad French. She said shortly after, shots rang out.
There are also reports the attackers said their act was to avenge the Prophet Muhammed.
The barbarity of the attack has left France in shock.
A short amateur video broadcast by French television stations shows two hooded men outside the building. One of them sees a wounded policeman lying on the ground and strides over to him to shoot him dead at point-blank range.
The gunmen fled eastwards toward the Paris suburbs, dumping their car in a residential area, police said. They then hijacked another car before running over a pedestrian and disappearing.
Wednesday's attack is considered one of the worst terrorist attacks on French soil in decades.
Late last year, a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” injured 13 people by ramming a vehicle into a crowd in the eastern city of Dijon. In 2012, seven people were killed in attacks that targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians. In 1995, a series of attacks were carried out, including a commuter train bombing that killed eight and injured 150.
Charlie Hebdo supporters
Thousands of people took to Facebook and Twitter in support of the publication and the cartoon, saying freedom of expression must be defended.
Charlie Hebdo's offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published an issue poking fun at the Muslim prophet.
Muslims also denounced the weekly for later publishing a series of crude comics of the prophet.
Wednesday's shooting coincides with the launch of a controversial French book depicting France's election of its first Muslim president. Charlie Hebdohas featured the cover of the book, "Submission," on its cover.
Meanwhile, Danish media group JP/Politikens Hus, whose newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons in 2005 depicting the Prophet Muhammad, has increased its security level because of the Parish shooting, an internal email showed.

Jyllands-Posten's publishing of the cartoons sparked a wave of protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50 died.

Gunman Kills 1 At Veterans Medical Clinic

Police officers guard an entrance to the Beaumont Army Medical Center/El Paso VA campus during the search for a gunman Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2014. <span class='credit'>(Victor Calzada | The El Paso Times via The Associated Press)</span>

EL PASO, Texas
A gunman opened fire at a veterans' medical clinic in West Texas on Tuesday, killing one other person, officials said. The gunman was also killed.
Investigators did not say whether the gunman killed himself or was killed by someone else. They also did not provide any details on the victim or provide a motive for the shooting.
Fort Bliss Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty said the shooting happened at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System's clinic, which is in a complex that includes the William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The entire complex was locked down Tuesday as authorities responded to the shooting.
"The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe," said Twitty, commanding officer of nearby Fort Bliss.
"Everything is under control and there is no immediate threat to Fort Bliss or the local community," Twitty said at a news conference Tuesday night.
The VA clinic will be closed Wednesday, said its acting director, Peter Dancy.
The FBI, which is leading the investigation, has hundreds of potential witnesses, many of whom were patients or would-be patients at the clinic, said Douglas Lindquist, special agent in charge of the FBI El Paso office.
"Those people were here seeking medical assistance, so we understand the difficulties that this situation presents to them and we're trying to expeditiously get through those hundreds of witnesses to find out details about this incident," Lindquist said.
The VA clinic came under scrutiny last year after a federal audit showed it had some of the nation's longest wait times for veterans' trying to see a doctor for the first time. A survey of hundreds of West Texas veterans last year found that they waited an average of more than two months to see a Veterans Affairs mental health professional and even longer to see a physician.
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke commissioned that survey of more than 690 veterans living in El Paso County. O'Rourke also was active in a congressional probe into long waiting times in the VA health care system.
In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, the El Paso Democrat said his "thoughts and prayers are with the men and women at the El Paso VA clinic."
The VA said in a statement that it "is deeply saddened by the tragic situation that has occurred in El Paso, and we are actively working with our partners at Fort Bliss to investigate this matter."
"The safety and continued care of our veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation," the agency said.

Posted toMilitary

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Steelhead Dangerously Low at American River's Nimbus Fish Hatchery

By Dan Bacher | December 29, 2014 | 

(Sacramento) The upper section of the American River that has been closed to fishing since October 31 will reopen to steelhead fishing on January 1, 2015, but the outlook for the fishing is not promising, based on a very low fish count to date at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.

Photo by Dan Bacher.
This stretch of river is from the U.S. Geological Survey gauging station cable crossing about 300 yards down-stream from the Nimbus Hatchery fish rack site to the SMUD power line crossing at the southwest boundary of Ancil Hoffman Park.

Only 10 adult steelhead were reported at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery as of today, December 29, an alarmingly low number for this time of year. By contrast, the hatchery had trapped 335 adults to date last year, according to Gary Novak, hatchery manager.

Normally there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of steelhead showing at the facility at this time of year.

Hopefully, the steelhead are late in their migration, just as the fall run Chinook salmon were. The main body of the fall Chinook salmon run arrived over a month late this fall on the American River.

Few anglers have been fishing on the American River lately. The salmon fishing closes December 31, but most anglers have already put down their rods.

"Opening day is going to be SLOW if the action at the Nimbus Basin is any indication," reported Roland Aspiras, an avid American River steelhead fisherman. "I fished both yesterday and today for barely a sniff. I floated eggs, swung spoons and tossed jigs for zilch. I saw one fish follow a spoon in to the bank. The fish seem confused with the new channels they (state and federal governments) created at the basin."

One angler, Leo Salcido of Sacramento Pro Tackle, reported landing two steelhead in the 4 pound class while tossing out Little Cleos in the basin on December 23.
Releases to the lower American below Nimbus Dam continue to be 900 cfs, very low for this time of year.

As one who has spent thousands of hours fishing on the river, going to meetings and rallies fighting for the restoration of the river and its fish, and writing about this unique fishery, the shockingly low return of steelhead to date is very disenheartening.

I was part of a dedicated group of anglers who worked to restore the steelhead on the river through a series of measures, including upgrading the hatchery facilities, protecting wild spawning steelhead from poaching, pressuring the hatchery managers to take eggs throughout the run to preserve genetic integrity and battling the Bureau of Reclamation for higher minimum flows and water temperature standards.

We were very successful in restoring and enhancing the steelhead to where numbers at the hatchery reached 3,000 to 4,000 fish in some years and where wild steelhead returned in good numbers to the river many years. In 2011 and early 2013, I experienced some of the best steelhead fishing I have experienced anywhere on my home river, the American.

All wild steelhead on the American River must be released, since naturally-spawning Central Valley steelhead are listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. However, anglers may keep two hatchery steelhead, as indicated by clipped adipose fins.

Unfortunately, I fear that the abysmal management of the American, Sacramento, Feather and other Central Valley rivers over the past few years has spurred this apparent decline in the steelhead population.  Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation officials systematically drained Trinity Reservoir on the Trinity River, Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River, Lake Oroville on the Feather River and Folsom Lake on the American River in 2013, during a record drought, to export water through the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project.

This water was shipped to fill the Kern Water Bank and Southern California reservoirs, as well as to supply water to corporate agribusiness interests in the Westlands Water District and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County. Little carryover storage in the reservoirs was left in 2014 as the drought continued.

You can read my investigative news piece on this on DailyKos

Meanwhile, the Brown administration is rushing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, a corporate water grab disguised as a "habitat restoration" and "conservation" plan. If constructed, the tunnels would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

I will update the count of steelhead at the fish hatchery and on the river as the steelhead season proceeds. But it sure doesn't look very good.