News in Brief


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Federal judge's decision a 'death warrant' for Delta smelt?

Is federal judge's decision a 'death warrant' for Delta smelt?
by Dan Bacher
Friday Jul 11th, 2014 6:40 PM
"The USFWS and Bureau have escorted Delta smelt to the scaffold and the judge signed the warrant," said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "We did all we could do to prevent disaster." 

Is federal judge's decision a 'death warrant' for Delta smelt?

Fresno judge denies motion to block water transfers

by Dan Bacher

In a major setback to Delta smelt recovery efforts, a federal judge on July 11 denied a motion by an environmental group and fishing organization for a preliminary injunction against water transfers from northern California to San Joaquin Valley irrigators.

Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of the U.S. District Court in Fresno rejected the motion for the preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from transferring water through the south Delta export pumps to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which includes the Westlands Water District.

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and AquAlliance filed the motion, claiming that the environmental assessment was "seriously flawed" and that the transfers posed "an eminent threat to threatened Delta smelt," according to a statement from Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director.

CSPA and AquAlliance had pointed out that extremely low Delta outflows this year had brought Delta smelt habitat (the low salinity zone) and Delta smelt into the Delta where they were threatened with lethal water temperatures.

The judge's decision was predicated on “agency deference” and the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau claimed that Delta smelt were not in danger because they’re not in the Delta in summer, noted Jennings.

“Courts should defer to the agency on matters within the agency’s expertise unless the agency has completely failed to address a factor that was essential to making an informed decision,"Judge O’Neill wrote.

Jennings said, “We’re deeply disappointed in the decision and will now decide our next steps. Contrary to the decision, Delta smelt are at severe risk. The U.S. Geological Survey’s state-of-the-art flow gages of Delta outflow, confirmed by increasing salinity levels, reveal a net inflow to the Delta from the ocean."

Jennnings said the 23-26 June Delta smelt survey by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals that there are no Delta smelt in Suisun Bay and that 92.95% are in the Delta and exposed to high temperatures. A remnant group (7%) of Delta smelt is trapped in the Sacramento Ship Channel, but won’t likely survive August temperatures.

State fishery biologists counted only 22 smelt, once the most numerous species in the entire Delta, from June 23 to June 26. The survey included 120 trawls at 40 different locations.

Delta Smelt on the Scaffold

"The USFWS and Bureau have escorted Delta smelt to the scaffold and the judge signed the warrant. We did all we could do to prevent disaster," emphasized Jennings.

Jennings said the state and federal governments have mismanaged northern California water so poorly that there was actually a minus 45 cubic feet per second (cfs) net outflow to the Bay this May while the Department of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation were reporting a plus 3805 cfs.

“Last year, excessive water exports and low outflow drew delta smelt from Suisun Bay into the central Delta where they were butchered by lethal water temperatures," Jennings revealed. "This year, with population levels hovering at historic lows: excessive transfers and exports, relaxed flow standards, high temperatures and negligible outflows may catapult the species into the abyss of extinction. On top of these threats, we were astonished to discover that the estimates of Delta outflow that state and federal agencies have reported and regulators have relied upon for years are wrong and significantly overestimate outflow in low flow conditions."

The Net Delta Outflow Index (NDOI) used to assess compliance with required flow standards is based upon a formula of both actual and estimated data. Examination of tidally filtered outflow data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s state-of-the-art UVM flow meters on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and Three-mile and Dutch Sloughs reveals that actual Net Delta Outflow (NDO) in low flow conditions are considerably lower, according to Jennings.

The CSPA has published a new report, "Delta Smelt on the Scaffold," that features an abundance index of Delta smelt showing the historically low population. The CDFW’s late June and early July 20mm Delta smelt surveys since 1996 demonstrate that Delta smelt are actually in the Delta during this period in all but the wettest years. The report also includes a comparison of USBR’s alleged Delta outflow with actual outflow monitoring from USGS’s state-of-the-art flow gages. You can read the report at:

Delta Smelt Facts:

The Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, is an endangered fish from 2.0 to 2.8 inches long that is found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events, approximately from March to May.

The fish is an "indicator species" that demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, it is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat. Massive water exports out of Delta to corporate agribusiness interests have played a key role in the precipitous decline of the fish in recent years.

The decision took place as Governor Jerry Brown is fast-tracking his Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. The tunnels won't create one drop of new water, but they will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species. The project will also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Note: The court decision plus an index of Delta smelt, results of the 23-26 June DFW Delta smelt survey, USGS flow data and salinity data that show Delta smelt to be at grave risk are attached.
§The Reality for Delta Smelt
by Dan Bacher Friday Jul 11th, 2014 6:40 PM

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Good ol' American baseball, old-fashioned parade, snow skiing on the 4th?
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Raley Field Fireworks and the Tower Bridge in Sacramento
Taken by Logan Sakai (used under Creative Commons license)
San Francisco's twin fireworks shows and Tahoe's pyrotechnics often overshadow other northern California July 4 celebrations, but don't let them distract you. Try some of these fun activities for a change of pace.
  • Napa County Fair: The annual county fair often ends with a fireworks show. Get this year's schedule.
  • Sacramento: The state capitol's July 4th Pyro Spectacular is held at CalExpo, the state fairgrounds. USA Today says Sacramento's Raley Field is one of the best places to watch minor league baseball in the country, and what could be more American than that? Check the Sacramento Rivercats' schedule.
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom: Up in Vallejo, you can ride yourself silly and see a fireworks show, all the same place. More details, hours, schedule.
  • Lake Oroville: A nice fireworks show over the lake in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, lasting about 30 minutes. Details here.
  • Ski Mammoth: It may not happen very often, but every once in a while, snow lingers so late in the Eastern Sierra that you can ski on July 4. 2011 is one of those years. Check this year's schedule.
  • Old-Fashioned Fourth of July in Gold Country: The Gold Rush town at Columbia State Historic Park puts on a very old-fashioned Fourth of July Celebration, with a parade anyone can march in. Just decorate your vehicle (1961 model or older), your pet (under 120 pounds) or yourself (any size) and join the fun. After that, there's a concert, street dance and lots of old-fashioned activities to enjoy.
More 4th of July Fireworks

Friday, June 27, 2014

State high court to decide Delta water project

California high court to decide Delta water project

Dispute stems from Gov. Jerry Brown's twin tunnels proposal

Published  11:48 AM PDT Jun 27, 2014


SACRAMENTO, Calif. —The California Supreme Court is set to decide if the state must buy thousands of acres of private property to perform preliminary tests for two massive water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The dispute stems from Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal, which would send river water around the delta system to farms and communities in Central and Southern California.

The state's Department of Water Resources asked the court to weigh in after an appellate ruling in March said officials were not allowed to enter private property without permission from landowners, who oppose the project.

Officials seek to do geological drilling and environmental testing without having to condemn and buy the land through the time-consuming and costly eminent domain laws before knowing which parcels they may need for the tunnels. Some 150 property owners, mostly farmers and ranchers located in five counties on the delta, seek to block construction of the two underground pipes, each 40-foot in diameter.

Among the issues, the court asked attorneys to file briefs arguing if the state's preliminary testing constitutes "taking" of property under the legal definition.

Nancy Vogel of the Department of Water Resources said her office is happy to file the briefs laying out their case.

Attorney Thomas Keeling, who represents some landowners, told the Sacramento Bee that he agreed with the earlier 3rd District Court of Appeal's ruling in his clients' favor. He also anticipates the Supreme Court reaffirming the ruling, giving landowners more protection from the state.

Farmer Dennis Gardemeyer said he is leery of California water officials and described the proposed tunnels as another "water grab" by those south of the delta.

"I was surprised by the state's indifference to private property rights," Gardemeyer said. "I hope the Supreme Court reaffirms that private property rights still mean something in California."

Monday, June 9, 2014

VA investigation: 100,000 plus vets on wait list

This April 28, 2014 file photos shows the Phoenix VA Health Care Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Ross D. Franklin/AP/File
More than 120,000 US military veterans have been waiting for 90 days or more for their initial medical appointments, the Veterans Affairs Department said in a wide-ranging audit released Monday. An additional 64,000 who enrolled for VA health care over the past decade have never been seen by a doctor, according to the audit.

The audit is the first nationwide look at America's biggest medical network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at a VA center in Arizona. Examining 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics, the audit found long wait times across the US for patients seeking their first appointments with both primary care doctors and specialists.
At a Monday evening hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Richard Griffin, the VA's acting inspector general, said he was investigating 69 agency medical facilities nationwide for possible wrongdoing, up from 42 two weeks ago.

The audit is the first nationwide look at America's biggest medical network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at a VA center in Arizona. Examining 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics, the audit found long wait times across the US for patients seeking their first appointments with both primary care doctors and specialists.
At a Monday evening hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Richard Griffin, the VA's acting inspector general, said he was investigating 69 agency medical facilities nationwide for possible wrongdoing, up from 42 two weeks ago.
The controversy over veterans' care could provide Republicans with an issue to criticize Democrats ahead of congressional elections in November. It is also a headache for President Barack Obama, who had to accept the resignation of the Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, on May 30 and is actively seeking someone to replace him after the leading candidate pulled out, citing the prospect of a bitter confirmation hearing.
Shinseki, a former general, took the blame for what he decried as a "lack of integrity" in the sprawling system providing health care to US military veterans.
The audit said a 14-day target for waiting times was "not attainable," given growing demand for VA services and poor planning. It called the 2011 decision by senior VA officials setting it, and then basing bonuses on meeting the target, "an organizational leadership failure."
The audit said 13 percent of VA schedulers reported getting instructions from supervisors or others to falsify appointment dates in order to meet on-time performance goals.
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the audit showed "systemic problems" that demand immediate action. VA officials have contacted 50,000 veterans across the US to get them off waiting lists and into clinics, Gibson said, and are in the process of contacting an additional 40,000 veterans.
A previous inspector general's investigation into the troubled Phoenix VA Health Care System found that about 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off an official, electronic waiting list.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Video Review by steven masone 

A must see! This is one of the better videos I have come across in some time. Donnalou can really sing and the video was very original and creative, fun and uplifting! See Donnalou's kickstarter project...
Looking forward to more...great job!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I'm Leaving It Up To You - Roddie Romero & Yvette Landry@ Isleton Cajun Blues Festival


Displaying IsletonCajun & Blues Fest AdFINAL- June.jpg

Justice for our Soldiers?

Opinion: Bin Laden brought to 

Justice, now Justice for our 

Soldiers? (reprint from 2011)
Opinion: Bin Laden brought to Justice, now Justice for our Soldiers? (reprint from 2011)
By Steven E. Masone
Now it is time to bring Justice to the tens of thousands of veterans whose valid claims have been stonewalled before it is too late for them.
"Bin Laden went out as a coward, U.S. says" read one front page headline.  Opinion editorials with rhetoric from the patriotic, to fear mongering that... "Islamists will seek revenge"... and letters to editors with comments like, "the silence of Muslim Nations on Bin Laden's death is deafening"...and others saying "do not blame Bin Laden for our bad schools?"  The different angles and segue-ways into other related topics were an explosion of talking heads shouting loudly with "much ado about nothing." 

      While that successful operation is some justice for the 9-11 tragedy that took so many lives and damaged so many more, we often lose sight of the sacrifice our military gives amidst all the hyperbole and commentaries that vie for attention for their viewpoint. We hear from intelligent commentary to the bizarre and ignorant. However, we must give credit where credit is due... to the men & women who were risking their lives for our freedom. That is what this discussion should be all about... them. 

      Without men and women like these Seal team members, we would have been under tyranny and dictatorships long ago. The battle is not over for freedom and democracy in the world, and more of ours will die fighting for those universal rights, and most of those who don't die will live wounded lives for the freedom we take for granted much of the time. Yesterday, I went to the Veterans Hospital in my area and began to think about some of the past attitudes and insults towards my ex-military profession, both in regards to the Vietnam War and the military of those times. Things have changed now where our military, police, fire and rescue, are respected and not reviled by the general public. But what is done behind the doors of the (VA) Veterans Administration, does not reflect what is deserved for our troops.

      I am always humbled when I go to the VA and see soldiers with limbs missing, the myriad of illnesses, minds impaired, vacant stares, vitality gone, addictions rampant. I see the POW/MIA flag flying high reminding me of those who never were brought home to rest and so many of them that did come home  who just want to heal and to forget. But what they did, what they gave... must never be forgotten. My issues seems insignificant when I see the wasted minds and war torn bodies there. Many of these heroes are still at war, but the enemy is bureaucratic indifference and a systematic strategy to withhold financial remuneration earned with their blood, sweat, and tears. 

       While the Navy Seals who courageously accomplished the historic mission bringing down Bin Laden, did so without any casualties from the 45 minute firefight, there will be later psychological damage for this and other traumatic operations these heroes were involved in. It is a stain of dishonor that our Government (Veterans Administration) will fight them tooth and nail to keep from paying out their deserved medical benefits and compensatory pay. It is their policy to deny in every case because a certain percentage of veterans will give up or die before they appeal. The Government will deny use of Agent Orange testing in places like Panama, because if they admit it's use and pay our claims from our service there, the Panamanian claims in the courts will have to be paid.

      So once again we can see the soldier sacrificing all and getting the short end of the stick. They have covered up so many other battlefield conditions they are too numerable to list. The prestige and political hay for this mission will bring tens of millions of dollars into the campaign war chests of this administration. All the glowing words of praise given to the Navy Seal team is right and good, now show them the money! While the twenty five million dollar bounty for Bin Laden is probably going to be paid to the human intelligence sources that located him, (who also have American blood on their hands) will stay anonymous for security reasons. When P.T.S.D. ( post traumatic syndrome disorder ) or some other military related disability manifests, they will have to fight bureaucracy for years and still get cheated for their service. They were at the ready to give their lives twenty-four-seven. 

      The U.S. will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to perpetuate the ineffective bureaucratic hiring of non-veterans to supposedly serve veterans with their post-service benefits, and treat them like they are just a number who are there for them to have a soft and cushy government job with 38 private top health plans available through The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, these vets deserve more than they. While all the signs and platitudes at the local VA sings the praises of thankfulness to "Our Veterans"...the answer the Vets always hear is NO! When it comes to their valid claims, the veteran has the burden of proof to prove their claim even if the military lost their records with the proof! The claims process wears them out through stress and frustration. Many already ill veterans, become worse from  the stress of fighting their own government. 

      Most of the service organizations who handle the claims, receive federal funding and bow down to the VA in becoming another bureaucratic system where they protect their own jobs first. So when the latest VA motto "Veterans First" sounds good, it's just more "SPIN." So strike up the band, have a parade with red white and blue fireworks, give em another atta-boy and we can all feel good about the death of Osama Bin Laden, and all our enemies to come, when our sons and now daughters, will continue to pay for our freedom long after their military commitment ends. One enemy was brought to justice for the 911 attack. 

      Now it is time to bring Justice to the tens of thousands of veterans whose valid claims have been stonewalled and delayed until the odds are on the side of the VA that the veterans will die off before they can win their cases. That is the current strategy for purposeful red tape and it is shameful. Of all our dark and shady history that political powers have perpetuated ugly stains on the honor and good name of our democracy, none shall compare to the debacle that one day will be exposed as to how we treated our veterans.