News in Brief


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GOP Pass House Bill to aid Farmers

A tug boat pushes a barge down the Sacramento River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta near Rio Vista,  Sept. 23, 2013. Along with providing a source for commercial transportation and pleasure craft, the delta also provides much of the water for central and southern California cities and irrigation water for San Joaquin Valley farmers.
A tug boat pushes a barge down the Sacramento River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta near Rio Vista, Sept. 23, 2013. Along with providing a source for commercial transportation and pleasure craft, the delta also provides much of the water for central and southern California cities and irrigation water for San Joaquin Valley farmers.
The House approved on Tuesday a bill designed to give state and federal agencies authority to move more water in coming months to California's drought-stricken farm belt.
GOP lawmakers used their majority to pass the bill by a 230-182 vote. Six Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans in supporting the legislation. However, the Senate is not expected to take up the measure before adjourning for the year, meaning lawmakers will likely have to start over on the issue next year.
Opponents called the bill a water-grab designed to help farmers at the expense of others, particularly the state's salmon industry. White House advisers had recommended to President Barack Obama that he veto the bill if it reached his desk.
The state is suffering from its third year of drought, and GOP lawmakers in the House have complained that environmental protections designed to protect fish and wildlife have exacerbated the water shortage in the state's San Joaquin Valley. The bill would increase water exports to the region. The House had already passed a drought relief measure in February. This time, GOP lawmakers pursued a bill that's much closer to what Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer helped pass in their chamber, which focused on giving government agencies more authority to move water around for irrigation and other purposes. The GOP abandoned previously-passed language that had called for agencies to move more water to the region without regard to the Environmental Species Act and other protections.
"The people in the Central Valley are living through a disaster, and this measure provides the temporary relief they need," said House Speaker John Boehner after the vote. "This relief doesn't just help Californians. It helps every business and every household that counts on California agriculture."
With Boxer and Feinstein opposing the bill, it's not expected to go anywhere after Tuesday's vote. Still, the debate gives the GOP another opportunity to remind the state's San Joaquin Valley which political party has tried to take steps to help them. The water issue did not play well for Democratic lawmakers from the region during the latest election season, although the party's incumbents did manage to win midterm races that turned out to be more competitive than expected.
The debate took on familiar arguments with lawmakers from the Central Valley arguing for sending more water to the region, and opponents from other regions arguing that their constituents would be harmed.
"Everybody in this state is paying a price for this drought, but now, in the eleventh hour of this Congress, this group of farmers, these very powerful, small people ... have decided they are going to do it this way," said Democratic Rep. George Miller in Monday's hourlong debate on the bill.
"This is about San Francisco and Los Angeles getting all of their water and never giving us one drop," countered Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who is from the region.
Democratic congressman Jim Costa sided with Republicans in the vote. He narrowly won re-election with many voters upset about a lack of action in Washington on water issues.
"We have been here before, and we will be here again until Congress acts to provide authority for increased operational flexibility for California's water projects," said Costa, also from the region. "The situation this year has been devastating, and if we do nothing, next year it will become catastrophic."
More than 99 percent of California remains in moderate or worse drought despite recent rains and snow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Secrets of the California Delta

by Gene Beley, Delta Correspondent

November 30, 2014 9:01pm


Some of the Bogle barreled inventory
(Photo by Gene Beley)

Every time I think I know the Delta, I learn something new that gives it another deep dimension. Recently, I went on a Delta tour with the California Bar’s Agribusiness Committee of the Business Law Section, sponsored by the Sacramento law firm Churchwell White LLP. We stopped at the Bogle Vineyards production facility built in Clarksburg in 2011 that is just stunning in size and what it does for the Delta economy.

President Warren Bogle gave the tour through the production facility that is located about 20 minutes from their tasting room lodge. “That’s where we were crushing about 3,000 tons of grapes when our total processing was around 25,000 tons,” Mr. Bogle said, referring to the smaller site. “Last year we did 34,000 tons (in the new facility),” he said, adding that they had a good year, shipping just “a little under two million cases.”
The new facility on Hamilton Road has more than 100 stainless steel wine storage and fermentation tanks and more than 100,000 square feet of room to store barrels of their Bogle wine products. In total, there are 270,427 square feet of buildings.
The cooling to all buildings and the tank farm was expanded from 600 tons to 1,500 tons and a dedicated cold stabilization chiller was added to the system. A new 10,000-gallon compressed air tank and compressor were added to the existing exterior mechanical yard to serve the new presses as well as the tank farm. New underground waste lines were installed to serve the tank farm and tie into the existing waste system and ponds. New electrical distribution and tank controls were also installed.
All of that construction allowed Bogle to go from “30-40 employees to 75 and more during crush," Mr. Bogle said.
As one of California’s top wineries in volume, Bogle’s wines are found nationwide, but Mr. Bogle said they don’t export much. This family enterprise has roots back to when his great-great grandfather, Samuel Bogle was a farmer in the late 1800s. However, the winery business really didn’t take roots until his grandfather, Warren Bogle, and his father, Chris Bogle, planted vineyards with their first 20 acres of grapes in Clarksburg in 1968.
His mother, Patty Bogle, became a California wine pioneer, along with her husband Chris, but both of them died at young ages. Chris Bogle died in 1997 at 45 of heart and kidney failure, which is when Warren came home from California State University, Chico to take over management of the business. Then his mother Patty died of leukemia at 59 in 2011.
Today, Warren, his sister, Jody Bogle, and brother Ryan Bogle are jointly managing the 14th largest winery in the nation. They are assisted by Chris Smith, director of wine growing; Eric Aafedt, who is director of winemaking and has been with them 18 years; and Dana Stemmler, a graduate of the University of California, Davis, who joined them in 2000 and is now an associate winemaker.
“We started in 2009 with the planning and building on bare farm ground,” Mr. Bogle told the tour group. “We had to put in all the infrastructure -- septic, well, and processing ponds for our processed water out back. In 2009 Yolo County was really helpful. In their General Plan they set aside about 120 acres of agricultural and industrial. We were able to get 60 acres for this facility. That means if we want to build more, we still have to get permits to build but we don’t have to go before the Planning Commission to get any sort of county supervisor approval. That was part of the reason we did it and the other was the change to the flood zone and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. This area was zoned at 200 years. We decided if we were going to do it we’re going to do it now."
One tour member asked, “What is the significance of the 200-year flood plain?”
“We would have had to build elevated above the flood plain, which in this area is 17-18 feet,” said Mr. Bogle. “We had to get the foundations done before they remapped. If it is above 200 years, there is no elevation requirement.”
Dave Mraz, principal engineer with the Delta-Suisun Marsh office of the California Department of Water Resources, who was on the tour, said, “When you start all looking at rated flood plain, all this land is below the high tide mark. When you start thinking about flooding, your rivers are elevated. The 100-year flood plain is one of those things that FEMA decides and the banks tie into. If you are in a 100-year flood plain, you can get loans. It used to be that was California’s state standard as well. In 2009 when they raised it to a 200-year level of flood protection, the levees are rated at 100, so you have to raise the levees. So until these levees are raised, if you’re going to raise an isolated facility, the facility has to be raised above that 200-year flood plain. It makes a huge difference to the guy who is building it.”
“That’s part of FEMA’s national flood insurance program,” added Melinda Terry, who is executive director of the Central Valley Flood Control Association, as well as manager of the North Delta Water Agency. “West Sacramento was a good example. We had our protection under FEMA and they said we were great. And then literally they started this remapping program. The very next year they said you no longer qualify and we had to locally approve some additional tax assessments to improve the levees even more to get to the new standard added across the United States.”
Another question from another person on the tour was “Where do you get your water?”
“Well water,” said Mr. Bogle. “We’re down to 350 feet.”
“Our first crush here was in 2011,” continued Mr. Bogle. “We did roughly 11,000 tons. We buy crops from all the way down to the Central Coast and up to Mendocino County.”
He said distributors pick up the wine in West Sacramento and deliver it across the country. When he showed the tour group the bottling lines, he said they could bottle 220 bottles a minute and put them into boxes. “10,000-11,000 cases can be done on an eight hour shift.”
“The big line and a small line annually do about 1.5 million cases on one shift. If we need more, we’ll go to two shifts.”
His brother Ryan Bogle, a graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., also holds a postgraduate degree in accounting, and is vice-president. Sister Jody handles customer affairs and their wine club. The family has certainly come a long ways since their mother and father set a goal to produce 4,000 cases annually.
The Bogles’ stand against the governor’s tunnels scheme
Like many residents and business owners in the Delta, the Bogles are opponents of the governor’s $68 billion plan to build massive water tunnels to suck fresh water out of the Sacramento River before it can flow into and through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They have been fighting the plan, known as the “Bay Delta Conservation Plan” for years.
Following is the text of a letter sent more than six years ago to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, on May 30, 2008:
To: Delores Brown, Chief of Environmental Compliance,Department of Water Resources:
My name is Warren Bogle. I am a sixth generation Delta farmer and hopefully my son will be the seventh. My family and I own and operate Bogle Vineyards, Inc. in Clarksburg. I am writing because of serious concern over your proposed project. Obviously, since our family and employees live, work and depend on the Clarksburg fertile farmland to make a living we are not for turning it into a tidal Marsh. I attended the scoping meeting in Clarksburg on April 30, 2008 and was very disturbed by the attitude of all the paid public officials. I felt their attitude was that this was no big deal but they don’t live here and were just paid to be there. On so many levels turning the Delta into a swamp or whatever you want to call it is wrong. I am sure many people have talked about the economic factors and tax consequences. I want to talk about the community. Living in Clarksburg my whole life, except for the years I left for college, it is a very special place. There are not many places left in California where everybody knows everybody else, where the crime rate is pretty much zero, and where neighbors actually care and help each with only a phone call. These are the values that are getting lost in society today and with this project you will loose a community that doesn’t really exist in very many places any more. I think one of our fellow community members, farmer Jeff Merwin, said it best at the scoping meeting when he said, “’What should be on the endangered species list is the family farmer and communities like ours.’”
Warren Bogle, President, Bogle Vineyards, Inc.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Voters approve fracking bans in San Benito and Mendocino Counties

By Dan Bacher | November 6, 2014 | 

In election victories for the environment and public health, voters in San Benito County and Mendocino Counties on November 4 approved ballot measures that will ban fracking and other extreme oil-extraction techniques. 

Measure J in San Benito County passed with 57% of the vote, while Measure S in Mendocino County passed with 67%. 

The victory in the San Benito was achieved despite a massive ad campaign funded by the oil industry, the state's largest and most powerful corporate lobby. Anti-fracking measures also passed in Denton, Texas, and Athens, Ohio, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“The oil industry’s millions were no match for San Benito County voters determined to protect their air and water from fracking pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “But every California community deserves the same protection, so Gov. Brown needs to act now to halt fracking’s toxic threat to our health and environment.” 

However, Measure P in Santa Barbara County, an initiative very similar to the San Benito measure, lost after oil industry groups spent more than $7.6 million to beat the measure placed on the ballot by local grassroots groups, according to Sierra Club California. 

That spending ranked the local ballot measure campaign in Santa Barbara as one of the most expensive in the country. "The oil industry’s campaign relied heavily on advertising that misled voters about the measure’s content, and outspent proponents by more than 20 to 1," the Club stated. 

Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California, said in response to the Measure P loss: 

“Winning two out of three county fracking ban measures on the ballot in California is great news for every Californian who wants clean air, clean water and a safe future for the next generation. 

We knew the oil industry would spend a lot this election. It has given every indication that it is determined to continue business as usual, and is unwilling to change its polluting practices, even as the rest of the world faces the extremes of climate disruption caused by continued oil dependence. And as we have seen by recent shutdown orders of injection wells used to dispose of fracking fluid in California, the oil industry is unable to conduct fracking without polluting. 

History is on our side. Sierra Club members are inspired by the voters of San Benito County and Mendocino County, and the good citizens in Santa Barbara County who have shown such strong commitment to social and environmental progress. Fracking will end in California. This election shows that, in the absence of a statewide moratorium, Californians are prepared to force that end in their own communities.” 

In contrast to Phillips' statement, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, the lead trade association for the oil companies and the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, lauded the "volunteers" of the No on Measure P campaign for their successful efforts in a tweet to her supporters: 

“Congrats to the @NoOnMeasureP team & all the volunteers who helped make today reality! Glad Santa Barbara got it right on science & facts!” 

The election cycle was marked by extraordinary spending to influence elections in California by the oil industry. The Sierra Club said oil interests ran independent expenditure campaigns against at least two Southern California assembly members and one Bay Area candidate for the state senate. 

Oil companies also gained national attention for their efforts to influence city council elections in Richmond, California, spending more than $3 million on that local election. Oil companies also spent nearly $2 million to unsuccessfully challenge the fracking ban measure in San Benito County. 

Just days before the election, seventh quarter lobbying filings for the two-year legislative session were released. They showed that the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spent $4,009,177.87 in three months to influence legislators during the period including July, August and September this year, the last three active months of the legislative session. That compares to $1.7 million the group spent during the 6th quarter. 

Besides serving as the voice for the oil industry, it is crucial to understand that WSPA President Reheis-Boyd also wears another hat – “marine guardian" - that has allowed her and other corporate interests to help eviscerate "marine protection" in California. 

In one of the biggest conflicts of interest in recent California history, Reheis-Boyd served as the Chair of the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative that created fake “marine protected areas” in Southern California.  

While she was pushing for increased fracking and offshore oil drilling in California, the oil industry lobbyist also served on the task forces to create questionable “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. 

These alleged “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering. The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, lauded by corporate “environmentalists” and state officials as the “most open and transparent” process in California history, was in fact one of the most corrupt and conflict of interest-infested environmental fiascos ever seen in the state. 

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a "marine guardian.” 

As if serving on a state marine protection panel wasn't bad enough, Reheis-Boyd also serves on a federal government marine protected areas panel. The National Marine Protected Areas Center website lists Reheis-Boyd as a member of a 20 member MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Advisory Committee. 

Fortunately, despite the enormous influence of Big Oil on California politics through lobbying, public relations campaigns, campaign contributions and the industry’s hijacking of state and federal marine regulatory panels, Californians have voiced growing concerns about fracking. 

A recent Public Policy Institute poll found that 54 percent of Californians oppose expanded fracking. Another recent poll commissioned by environmental organizations found that two-thirds of state residents want a moratorium on fracking, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

The public’s concern about fracking is fed by recent revelations linking the oil industry to air and water pollution. Nearly 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into California aquifers that were clean enough to supply drinking and irrigation water, according to recently released state Water Board documents. 

The Center also noted that data collected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District shows that oil companies have used millions of pounds of air toxic chemicals in the Los Angeles area over the past year. A new multistate study published in Environmental Health found dangerously high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the air around fracked wells. 

"The public tide is turning against fracking, not just in California but around the country,” Kretzmann said. “As voters from San Benito to Denton, Texas, showed, if regulators won’t protect them from fracking pollution, local communities can and will use the ballot box to protect themselves.” 

2 injured in Rio Vista head-on crash

Solano County crash

Two drivers were injured in a head-on crash in Solano County early Friday morning.The crash took place in Rio Vista near Highways 12 and 160 when one of the cars crossed the center divider and smashed head-on into the other vehicle, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Both drivers were taken to a nearby hospital with major injuries.
An investigation into the crash is ongoing.

Five injured in boat accident near Clarksburg.

Clarksburg boat crash

 — Authorities say five people were injured after two boats collided near a Northern California marina.
The Yolo County Sheriff's department said three of the victims were thrown into the water after the boats collided near the Clarksburg Marina on the Sacramento River.
KCRA-TV reports ( ) the boats were traveling in opposite direction when the drivers accidentally turned the same way and collided.
The extent of the victims' injuries ranged from minor to serious.
The crash is under investigation.

Read more here:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Out of control weed turning California Delta into a disaster

Out of control hyacinth turning California Delta into a 
October 22, 2014 9:01pm

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•  Who is supposed to get rid of it?
•  “The hyacinth situation in parts of the California Delta has become”

Water hyacinth plants invade Village West Marina
(CVBT photos)

Unwelcome plant life

Houseboat with "landscaping"

"And one there sang who soft and smooth as snow
Bloomed like a tinted hyacinth at a show...."
 (From "A Triad" by English poet Christina Rossetti, who probably wasn't writing about the Delta's hyacinths)

The photos that are on the right side of the screen as you read this show a bit of the problem: Water hyacinth plants are growing out of control. The problem is throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

They are pushed out of the way by the ocean-going freighters that serve the Port of Stockton, but pleasure boats might as well be sailing on a field of weeds.
“The hyacinth situation in parts of the California Delta has become a disaster. The navigable part of the Calaveras River is completely filled in with the pest as are Buckley Cove, Downtown Stockton harbor, Whiskey Slough, much of the San Joaquin River and many other areas,” says Bill Wells, executive director of the California Delta Chambers & Visitor's Bureau in a letter to John Laird, secretary of the, California Natural Resources Agency.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen and I’ve worked here more than 20 years,” said a worker at Stockton’s Village West Marina, one of the state’s largest.
Mr. Wells says the plant is security and safety hazard, is killing fish and wildlife and is serving as a breeding ground for disease-transmitting mosquitoes.
“I urge you at this time to take decisive action to control the infestation,” Mr. Wells implores Mr. Laird.
He says time is running out since the permitted pesticide spraying period ends on Nov. 1.
“You need to free up every available resource to spray as much as possible between now and the first. I recommend hiring outside contractors to help with the task. Once the spraying period is over you need to move forward with an aggressive campaign of mechanical removal of the plant,” Mr. Wells says.
He says the weeds are so thick that boats cannot operate, causing operations at many marinas to come to a standstill as well as preventing people from visiting waterside restaurants and businesses.
“Law enforcement boats cannot travel through the hyacinth and this opens up a possible national security threat as terrorists could attack ships traveling up our rivers,” Mr. Wells adds.
He also says that many private businesses in the Delta have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to try to control the hyacinth.
He says the true responsibility for controlling the pest lies with the Natural Resources Agency.
“It has been disappointing to me and many of my associates trying to report the problem over the last few years that the Department (now Division) of Boating and Waterways will never answer the phone or return a message. It makes it appear that they do not want to address or solve the problem,” Mr. Wells says in the letter. Mr. Laird has responsibility over the department.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Garamendi At Odds With Obama

Incumbent Rep. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove is a Democrat, but he’s highly critical of the way President Barack Obama is waging war against the Islamic State.
“What is of concern to me is the Constitution of the United States, which says Article 1 Section 8, only Congress can declare war. And the president is conducting a war without the authorization of Congress,” Garamendi said.
When asked if the president has exceeded his authority with regard to the war on ISIS, Garamendi said, “That's a debate point. But the bottom line is he had to come to Congress to get authority to continue on.”
Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue of Marysville is also critical of the president.
“The bottom line is ISIS should have been stopped a year ago. And now we have possibly a full-scale war on our hands. I believe we have to step up the strikes, build up a stronger coalition. The coalition that we have doesn't trust our president because they don't believe he's dedicated to finishing the job,” Logue said.
Both candidates are reluctant to put American troops in harm’s way.
When asked if he was prepared to authorize funding for American boots on the ground, Logue said, “Oh, no, I'm not prepared to do that. I don't think that's going to be required.”
Garamendi responded, “If it's open-ended and it's boots on the ground, I'm not going there.”
When it comes to the American economy, the two candidates are far apart.
KCRA 3 asked Logue if he supported the cause of raising the nation’s minimum wage.
“I really don't support raising the minimum wage because it would cost us 500,000 jobs,” he said.
California has already raised the minimum wage to $9 an hour. That’s about 24 percent higher than the national standard of $7.25 an hour -- something Garamendi wants to change.
“When you raise the minimum wage, you're putting purchasing power in the pockets of people who don't presently have it. They'll have $1,700 more a year to spend, and that's how you grow the economy,” Garamendi said.
The two candidates are also far apart on the issue of immigration reform.
“I'm basically very concerned about the borders as they are right now. The problem with immigration reform is the public doesn't trust Congress,” Logue said.
A comprehensive immigration reform package did pass the U.S. Senate but died in the House of Representatives.
”We really need it,” Garamendi said. “We really need to have comprehensive reform. You can't deal with the border without comprehensive reform,” he told KCRA 3.
Logue countered, “I think it's imperative that we do a couple of things. One is secure the border and prove to the people that we will do that before we move any further on immigration reform.”
KCRA 3 asked Garamendi to define comprehensive immigration reform.
“Well, it means you've got the secure the border. You've got to set up a system so employers know they are hiring legal people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Logue said, "It’s important to make sure that we have a workfare program where immigrants can come across the border, work in America and actually go home without being afraid of not being able to come back.”
“If they have any criminal record, they have to be deported,” Garamendi added. "There needs to be a path to citizenship, not an easy one but a path to citizenship. But there has to be a fine. They broke the law there has to be a fine.”
The Ebola crisis has also become an issue in the race.
”Until we find out exactly what we're dealing with, I would have a moratorium on people from (certain) countries coming to America,” Logue said.
Garamendi responded, “It's very interesting to note that there are people out there who say that regulations are the problem. Yet those are the people that are calling for tighter regulations on travel and the like.”
KCRA 3 asked Logue how he would enforce a moratorium for people coming from West Africa to the United States.
He said he would have Homeland Security involved.
"You're going to have to draft a plan. If we don't act soon it's going to be a disaster in California,” Logue said.
“Clearly we need to do more,” Garamendi said. “The protocols at hospitals across the nation are inadequate, and the nurses are quite correct. They're the ones who are most at risk; they want good protocols, good methods and good equipment in place. We're going to have to deal with this.”
The issue of high-speed rail is also a factor in the District 3 race.
Logue wants to derail what he calls the "train to nowhere."
"I absolutely oppose it," he said. "You're talking about a total of $90 billion for a train that goes absolutely nowhere. I'd rather see those resources go to our educational system; our universities.”
Garamendi agreed that the starting point of the high-speed rail project needs to be in a different location.
"The high-speed rail system should have started in the urban areas, San Diego to Los Angeles and then up to the Antelope Valley," he said.
When asked if he supports the use of federal dollars for high-speed rail’s plan, Garamendi said, “Well it's underway. What are we going to do, back away from it?”
The candidates are united on one point: Both actively oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build twin tunnels through the Delta to help water flow from Northern California to Southern California.
“The tunnels I think will be a disaster. We don't even have water to put in the tunnels. What we need to do is build more reservoirs,” Logue said.
“No dam tunnels,” Garamendi said. “ Period. It is a boondoggle -- $25 billion wasted. You don't get one gallon of new water.”
Campaign finance records from show that Garamendi has raised just under $1 million as of Sept. 3, while Logue has $1.2 million in funding.