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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Can the California delta smelt survive our demand for water?

VIA News10.net




2:53 PM, Feb 6, 2012   |   0  comments
Delta smelt
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By PAUL C. BARTON, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- When the federal government considers protections for threatened plants and animals, the Endangered Species Act requires that economic consequences for humans stay out of the equation.
But as the law nears its 40th anniversary, some wonder how much longer that tenet can withstand growing demand for land, water and other resources.
While the public supports protecting threatened plant and animal life, "at what point are they going to say, 'Can we afford to do this and take care of ourselves?'" says Jason F. Shogren, professor of natural resource conservation and management at the University of Wyoming.
When it was passed in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was seen as vital to protecting "charismatic" species like the bald eagle.
"It was apple pie," Shogren said.
But now, the professor said, the act is being employed to protect varieties of life that strike many as obscure.
Take for example, the five-year-old fight in California over the three-inch nondescript fish known as the "delta smelt," which is caught up in fresh water pumped from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. The water is treasured by farms in California's Central Valley, which have long carried the moniker "America's Salad Bowl" due to their prodigious fresh vegetable and fruit yields.
It's also a staple to municipal water authorities throughout the state, even Southern California desert communities like Palm Springs. In all, more than 25 million Californians have a stake in the delta water.
But pumping became restricted during certain months of the year after federal officials decided in 2008 that the practice endangered both the delta smelt and the Chinook Salmon. Taking water from the delta, federal scientists said, both altered its salinity in a way detrimental to fresh-water fish and resulted in many delta smelt being caught up in the giant pumps.
Farm groups and other water users immediately went to court, and U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger faulted the science behind the Fish and Wildlife Service's "biological opinion." In response, environmental interests are appealing Wanger's ruling to the 9th Circuit, while the Fish and Wildlife Service is busy working on a new biological opinion due next year.
Rep. Devin Nunes is one several California Republicans who sent a letter a to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar right before Christmas demanding the Fish and Wildlife -- part of the Interior Department -- use the "best available science" in arriving at a new opinion on the smelt.
Nunes, who represents San Joaquin Valley farmers, contends the department's scientists have been "doing the bidding of the radical environmentalists" in their earlier findings and are exacerbating already high unemployment rates in the fertile farming regions. Nunes likens the water restrictions to the taking of private property.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, however, contends the economic losses "are a lot less than what are being bandied about by members of Congress."
Still, if the case results in permanent restrictions on water supplies, Americans will likely find themselves paying more for vegetables -- and eating more imported ones as well, predicts Chris Scheuring, an attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Scheuring said the price impacts could provoke changes to the Endangered Species Act. "If it gets too expensive for too many Americans, I think Congress will change it," he said
He added: "You are going to see farmers going out of business. It will be a big loss for American agriculture."
And land owners nationwide increasingly chafe when the discovery of some little-known threatened species on their property thwarts development.
"When an environmental law doesn't take into account human beings, they are leaving out the most important species," said David Luker, general manager of the Desert Water Agency in Southern California.
Shogren, the Wyoming expert, said more cases like California's can be expected "The more we demand water, the more we demand land, the more we are going to run up against it," he said of the Endangered Species Act. "There are going to be some hard tradeoffs here."
But as proof that public support for protecting threatened life forms remains strong, environmentalists note several unsuccessful attempts of congressional Republicans over the past decade to alter the Endangered Species Act.
And environmentalists say it should be obvious why economic consequences can't play a role in decisions about which species to protect.
"Congress determined the loss of a species that can never be replaced is incalculable," said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Extinction can't be reversed."
Greenwald and other environmentalists add that protecting species versus having robust industry and agriculture does not have to be a zero-sum game.
"There are solutions to this," he said. "Protecting the delta does not mean the end of California agriculture."
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Speed Freak Killer Gives Up Victim's Grave Sites


Friday, February 10, 2012

"Speed Freak Killer" leads police to 2nd set of human remains

        Wesley Shermantine
Information provided by a California death row inmate who was one of the two notorious "Speed Freak Killers" led to the discovery Friday of a second set of human remains, this time believed to belong to a 16-year-old girl who went missing nearly three decades ago.
Specially trained dogs led authorities to a partial human skull and bones buried on a remote Calaveras County property, said Deputy Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, which is leading the search.
Garcia said it would take some time for the Department of Justice to make a positive identification.
However, the parents of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler said authorities notified them that the remains were discovered where death row inmate Wesley Shermantine said they would find their daughter, who disappeared while skipping school in 1985. Shermantine was convicted of her murder, which authorities say was part of a methamphetamine-fueled killing spree committed by him and his childhood  friend, Loren Herzog, from the 1980s until their arrests in 1999.
Chevelle Wheeler
"They said they found her wrapped in a blanket," Paula Wheeler, the girl's mother, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the family's home in Crossville, Tenn. "This is a happy day. We can finally have some closure."

On Thursday, the same dogs led the same searchers to a site containing another skull and bones thought to belong to Cyndi Vanderheiden, a 25-year-old last seen in front of her Linden home in 1998.
The Wheelers say they plan to cremate their daughter and bring her home with them to Tennessee, where they moved after her disappearance.
The searchers found all the remains in an area near property once owned by the family of Shermantine.
Prompted by a Sacramento bounty hunter's promise to pay him money, Shermantine has been hand-drawing maps from his Death Row cell that authorities are using to search three sites.
Along with the two nearby sites in Calaveras County, about 60 miles south of Sacramento, that yielded the finds Thursday and Friday, authorities have also been digging up an old cattle ranch well in San Joaquin County. Shermantine claims Herzog buried as many as 10 bodies in the well.
Herzog committed suicide last month after Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla told him Shermantine was disclosing the location of the well along with the two locations near his family's former property.
Padilla has promised to pay Shermantine as much as $33,000 to disclose the locations of the bodies. Padilla said he hopes to collect on rewards being offered by the state of California for information about several missing persons suspected of being victims of Herzog and Shermantine.
Shermantine was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death. Herzog was convicted of three murders and sentenced to 77 years to life in prison. Herzog's sentences was reduced to 14 years after an appeals court tossed his first-degree murder convictions after ruling his confession was illegal. 
.
            "Speed Freak Killers"
Herzog was paroled in 2010 to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. He committed suicide last month outside that trailer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

California Water Bill Heats Up D.C. "Divide"

Work on California water bill exposes D.C. divide

 - Bee Washington Bureau
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 | 01:19 PM
WASHINGTON -- WASHINGTON -- Controlling California water can seem like a covert affair on Capitol Hill. If you're not in the club, you're left in the dark.
Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, have been quietly overseeing the rewrite of a huge California water bill since last summer. The bill could shape everything from the San Joaquin River to Sacramento Valley water deliveries.
But despite the broad-based impact, Democrats feel shut out.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said his staffers have been "blown off" by GOP offices. Garamendi confronted McClintock at a recent committee hearing.
"He said, when the bill is ready, he'll let us know," Garamendi said. "I think it's a very bad way to do legislation, especially legislation that's so sensitive."
McClintock declined repeated requests to discuss the bill over the course of a week. His communications director, Jennifer Cressy, wrote in an email Thursday that "when proponents have a draft ready to propose, the bill will be ready for public discussion."
The original bill introduced last May covers a lot of turf. It stops a San Joaquin River restorationprogram, restores longer irrigation contracts and limits environmental protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Skeptics fear the bill as originally written could also steer more water south of the Delta, away from Sacramento Valley users north of the Delta. Those fears have since been addressed with new language.
The bill's chief author, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, said Thursday the bill is now "in good shape" and needs only scheduling with the committee.
"We're trying to fix 30 years of malfeasance by the left," Nunes said, "and it takes a lot of time to get it right."
Nunes further denounced as exaggerated Democratic claims of being shut out, saying that "they've all been involved in trying to destroy the bill," and he dismissed as overly simplistic the idea that the bill pits the Sacramento Valley against the San Joaquin Valley.
Still, Sacramento Valley water users have feared both an immediate loss of water as well as a long-term precedent of federal intrusion on their state water rights.
"When the bill came out, we were concerned that there might be unintended consequences," said Einar Maisch, director of strategic affairs with the Placer County Water Agency. "We've been working with them, to make sure we weren't an unintended victim."
Maisch said the Placer district is now satisfied. Other water users, from the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority in the north to the Westlands Water District and Kern County Water Agency in the south, have been negotiating their own issues.
McClintock is not a co-sponsor of the bill, but as chairman of the 12-member House water and power subcommittee, he will manage its fate. Though first elected to public office in 1982, McClintock has never before been in the majority or held a chairman's gavel.
One centrist Democrat, Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, reached out to McClintock at the start of his subcommittee chairmanship. Costa said he recommended certain books, such as the classic "Cadillac Desert," and he urged McClintock to respect congressional Democrats.
"At the end of the day, you have to decide if you want to do something of substance, that will be enacted into law, or do you just want to do politics," Costa said.
Costa said there has since "been no follow-up" from McClintock; he described their conversations as "casual" and "yada, yada, yada."
Nunes, though, insisted Costa has been fully apprised of the legislation.
Even after the bill passes through the Republican-controlled House, it will face hurdles in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Neither Sen. Barbara Boxer nor Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a particularly powerful gatekeeper on California water, have been meaningfully consulted.
ON THE WEB

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/02/10/2717485/work-on-california-water-bill.html#storylink=cpy

Children's Book Author at Isleton Elementary School

Children's Book Author at Isleton Elementary School

Children's Book Author at Isleton Elementary School

Noted children’s book author to appear at Feb. 22 Isleton Library program

by Don Burns, published on February 8, 2012 at 3:02 PM

The Sacramento Public Library will present award-winning children’s book author David Schwartz at a free family program on Wednesday, February 22 at 6 p.m. in the Isleton Elementary School gymnasium, 412 Union Street, Isleton.
With stories, poems and visuals, Schwartz will talk about the mathematics of the world around us and the many ways families can make math an enjoyable part of their everyday life.
Schwartz has authored nearly 50 books, including How Much is a Million?, If You Made a Million, G is for Googol, Q Is for Quark, If You Hopped Like a Frog, and the Look Once, Look Again science series. His latest book is Where In the Wild? A popular speaker for children and educators, Schwartz emphasizes the importance of mathematics in everyone’s life, and the many connections between math, science and literacy.
 
The February 22 program is sponsored by The Freedom Readers and hosted by the Isleton Library staff. For details, telephone the Sacramento Public Library at (916) 264-2920 or visit www.saclibrary.org.
 
"Speed Freak Killers"

"Speed Freak Killer" leads police to 2nd set of human remains

        Wesley Shermantine
Information provided by a California death row inmate who was one of the two notorious "Speed Freak Killers" led to the discovery Friday of a second set of human remains, this time believed to belong to a 16-year-old girl who went missing nearly three decades ago.
Specially trained dogs led authorities to a partial human skull and bones buried on a remote Calaveras County property, said Deputy Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, which is leading the search.
Garcia said it would take some time for the Department of Justice to make a positive identification.
However, the parents of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler said authorities notified them that the remains were discovered where death row inmate Wesley Shermantine said they would find their daughter, who disappeared while skipping school in 1985. Shermantine was convicted of her murder, which authorities say was part of a methamphetamine-fueled killing spree committed by him and his childhood  friend, Loren Herzog, from the 1980s until their arrests in 1999.
Chevelle Wheeler
"They said they found her wrapped in a blanket," Paula Wheeler, the girl's mother, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the family's home in Crossville, Tenn. "This is a happy day. We can finally have some closure."

On Thursday, the same dogs led the same searchers to a site containing another skull and bones thought to belong to Cyndi Vanderheiden, a 25-year-old last seen in front of her Linden home in 1998.
The Wheelers say they plan to cremate their daughter and bring her home with them to Tennessee, where they moved after her disappearance.
The searchers found all the remains in an area near property once owned by the family of Shermantine.
Prompted by a Sacramento bounty hunter's promise to pay him money, Shermantine has been hand-drawing maps from his Death Row cell that authorities are using to search three sites.
Along with the two nearby sites in Calaveras County, about 60 miles south of Sacramento, that yielded the finds Thursday and Friday, authorities have also been digging up an old cattle ranch well in San Joaquin County. Shermantine claims Herzog buried as many as 10 bodies in the well.
Herzog committed suicide last month after Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla told him Shermantine was disclosing the location of the well along with the two locations near his family's former property.
Padilla has promised to pay Shermantine as much as $33,000 to disclose the locations of the bodies. Padilla said he hopes to collect on rewards being offered by the state of California for information about several missing persons suspected of being victims of Herzog and Shermantine.
Shermantine was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death. Herzog was convicted of three murders and sentenced to 77 years to life in prison. Herzog's sentences was reduced to 14 years after an appeals court tossed his first-degree murder convictions after ruling his confession was illegal. 
.
            "Speed Freak Killers"
Herzog was paroled in 2010 to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. He committed suicide last month outside that trailer.

Environmental Water Caucus...A Better Way?

Environmental Water Caucus...A Better Way?

Environmental Water Caucus...A Better Way?

Environmental Water Caucus: A Realistic Plan for Delta
by Dan Bacher
Friday Feb 10th, 2012 11:49 AM
"The combination of these EWC recommended actions would eliminate the need to construct a Peripheral Canal or Tunnel under the Delta and the need for major new surface storage dams as contemplated by the Delta Plan and the upcoming water bond," according to the Environmental Water Caucus. "These two actions alone would save taxpayers at least $20 billion in new costs."

The EWC comments were issued at a critical time for the future of California fisheries and the Sacramento-San JoaquinRiver Delta. The Obama and Brown administrations are pushing for the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel to export California Delta water to southern California and corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Delta advocates believe that the construction of the canal will lead to the extinction of Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon, southern resident killer whales and other imperiled species.


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For Immediate Release: February 8, 2012

A Realistic Plan for the Delta

In late 2009, the legislature created the Delta Reform Act which established a suite of requirements and basic goals for the Sacramento-San Joaquin-San Francisco Bay Delta. These included a more reliable water supply for California, protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem, and developing a legally enforceable Delta Plan to achieve these goals. The newly created Delta Stewardship Council has now produced a Delta Plan and a 2,300 page Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that fails to achieve these basic goals.

The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) and our many affiliated organizations has responded with written comments to that proposed EIR and told the Delta Stewardship Council that they need to reissue an Environmental Impact Report that meets the mandates of the state legislature. This revised EIR should be fact based and clearly establish the specific actions that will put the Bay Delta and its declining fish and wildlife on the road to recovery. In a nutshell, here’s what the EWC said:

• “Water supply reliability” does not mean increased exports from the Delta, and is shorthand for a policy to increase Delta water exports for the benefit of San Joaquin Valley farming corporations and Southern California developers.
• The proposed Delta Plan is patently inconsistent with the increased Delta outflows recommended by the State Water Board for the health of the Delta.
• The EIR abrogates the Delta Stewardship Council’s duty to carefully evaluate and protect public trust resources.
• The proposed Delta Plan fails to enforce existing water quality laws.
• The provisions of the secretly negotiated Monterey Amendments need to be analyzed for their impact on water supply for Southern California.
• There is a complete lack of quantifiable data to evaluate the alternatives discussed.
• It is inconceivable that such a major undertaking as the Delta Plan so far contains no information on the costs of the alternatives; yet a Proposed Project has been selected with no references to costs or benefits.
• The Environmental Water Caucus’ superior alternative should be more accurately reflected in the EIR and then selected as the Proposed Project.
• The Draft EIR should be significantly revised into a legally compliant and enforceable Delta Plan.

We do not believe that the proposed Delta Plan and EIR will result in the recovery of fish and other wildlife in the Delta; it will not stabilize and recover the Delta in a way that provides an ongoing and healthy environment for fish and other species; and it will not provide a sustainable foundation for a viable Delta community.

The Delta Stewardship Council needs to produce at least two additional components for this to be considered an adequate and legal EIR: 1. A water availability analysis to determine if sufficient water is even available for each of the analyzed alternatives, and;
2. A socio/economic analysis to provide the information fundamental to allocating a scarce resource and to balancing the public trust, as required by the State of California.

The EWC alternative, based on the EWC report California Water Solutions Now (http://www.ewccalifornia.org/home/index.php), which was presented to the Council and “evaluated” in the EIR, calls for the following specific actions:
• Reduced exports from the Delta
• Increased flows for the Delta and its connected Central Valley rivers
• An aggressive statewide water conservation and efficiency program to partially compensate for the reduced exports
• Increased reliance on regional water solutions
• Elimination of irrigation water for impaired lands in the San Joaquin Valley
• Maximum use of existing facilities and improved fish screens in the Delta
• Restoration of approximately 18,000 acres of Delta ecosystems
• Reinforcement of existing core levees to higher standards in order to reduce the impacts from projected sea level rise or potential earthquake risks
• Examination of Tulare Basin water storage
• Floodplain and river integration
• Fish passage for Central Valley rim dams
• Cold water for fish in those reservoirs
• User fees to fund agencies,

The combination of these EWC recommended actions would eliminate the need to construct a Peripheral Canal or Tunnel under the Delta and the need for major new surface storage dams as contemplated by the Delta Plan and the upcoming water bond.
These two actions alone would save taxpayers at least $20 billion in new costs.

That would be a more realistic and economically viable Delta Plan.

Contacts:
Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Deltakeep [at] me.com, 209-464-5067
Jonas Minton, Planning and Conservation League, jminton [at] pcl.org, 916-719-4049
Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California, jim.metropulos [at] sierraclub.org, 916-557-1100, Ext 109
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, Barbara [at] restorethedelta.org, 209-479-2053
Dr. Mark Rockwell, Endangered Species Coalition, Federation of Fly Fishers,
mrockwell [at] stopextinction.org, 530-432-0100
Tom Stokely, California Water Impact Network, tstokely [at] att.net, 530-524-0315
Nick Di Croce, Lead Author: California Water Solutions Now, troutnk [at] aol.com, 805-688-7813
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