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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cutting Bad Deals

Environmental Groups that Embrace Collaboration are Selling Out the Public

Opinion piece By Erica Rosenberg
L.A. Times 1/24/2008

There's nothing wrong with a group of people historically at odds sitting down to find common ground. Or is there?

For decades, our public lands have been a battleground: Timber, wildlife, recreation, wilderness -- which interests and uses should dominate? But now, "collaboration" is all the rage. In collaboration, diverse stakeholders (as they invariably tag themselves) -- environmentalists, developers, off-roaders, timber companies, county officials -- hash out an agreement on how to manage their local public lands and then submit it to Congress for approval.

A few deals already have been enacted, and another half a dozen are in the works across the U.S. Collaboration has been touted as the solution to "gridlock" on our national forests. Timber companies and their allies gripe that the normal process -- extensive analysis, citizen involvement and the right to challenge agency decisions -- has ground all "management activity" (read: logging) to a halt. Western counties surrounded by public land argue that they need room to expand. Others believe lands worthy of protection are still threatened. The new paradigm means everyone sits down with their adversaries.

But these collaborations are troublesome, particularly for environmentalists, who risk undermining their mission as well as the very laws that are the basis of their power, effectiveness and legitimacy.

For example, a bill poised for introduction in Congress would turn into law an agreement reached by one collaborative group on how to manage Montana's 3.3-million-acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The stakeholders -- Montana Wilderness Assn., National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and timber companies -- had one thing in common: They hated the management plan proposed by the Forest Service. So they came up with their own plan specifying which areas can be logged, which can be opened up to off-roaders and which should be recommended to Congress for wilderness designation.

Sounds reasonable enough. So what's wrong? To start, as owners of the public lands, all Americans have a stake in their management, and they have not designated these representatives. Even the most inclusive collaboration can go bad: Outliers who pose a threat to consensus are either not invited or made to feel unwelcome. And ultimately, decisions are being made behind closed doors. But Congress loves a done deal. With a local sponsor, Congress is inclined to rubber-stamp these initiatives, overlooking the fact that they are an end-run around the suite of laws that safeguard public lands and keep land-management decisions an open process.

The Beaverhead bill, for example, triples the acreage where logging can take place from what was in the Forest Service's plan. It requires an environmental analysis only for individual logging projects rather than the plan as a whole, thereby waiving the bedrock U.S. environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act. It also allows logging in roadless areas -- a radical departure from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that environmentalists championed during the Clinton era. Other deals have sold off vast acreage of public lands in exchange for wilderness designations.

The collaboration prototype -- the 1998 Quincy Library Group legislation -- illustrates the problem. That group, named for the California town library where it met, came up with a plan for three national forests in the Sierra affected by endangered-species listings. The proposal increased logging while protecting pristine areas. When it landed in Congress, California Rep. George Miller insisted on adding one provision: All environmental laws would apply. That meant the Quincy Library logging plan had to go through the same environmental analysis a Forest Service plan would.

The Quincy Library proposal, held up at the time as a model of local, consensus-based decision-making, has never been fully implemented. Why? Primarily because it didn't jibe with Endangered Species Act guidelines protecting the California spotted owl. In other words, it did not pass scientific or legal muster.

That environmentalist "stakeholders" signed on to the Quincy Library agreement in the first place highlights the danger of the collaboration fad. After years of being tarred as obstructionist ideologues, some environmental groups now have a seat at the negotiating table -- indeed, are seen as crucial to legitimizing any deal. Enjoying their newfound popularity, these self-appointed decision-makers become heavily invested in reaching an accord, regardless of the science, the law or the long-term effect on the land.

For decades, environmentalists fought to get a more level playing field and establish transparency and accountability in public-lands policy; they continue to fight the Bush administration's relentless efforts to dismantle these policies. How ironic it would be, then, if in their eagerness to embrace the new paradigm, they craft and push through Congress deals that undercut the very laws that got them to the table in the first place.

Erica Rosenberg directs the program on public policy at Arizona State University's law school and served as counsel to the House Resources Committee from 1999-2004.
Fresno Area Water District Buys Large Farm in North Delta Region

The south Yolo ranch owned by farmer Duncan McCormack has been purchased by the nation's largest irrigation district. Westlands Water District, the Fresno-based irrigation district will reportedly pay $12M for 3,450 acres located on the southern tip of Yolo County to ease pressure on the state's water system.

In a December 15 article published by the Davis Enterprise, the acquisiton will also enable the restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat in the environmentally sensitive Yolo Bypass. According to the Enterprise, the district irrigates more than 600,000 acres of crops in western Fresno and King counties. But its water supply is jeopardized by the decline of the threatened delta smelt.

The report also states that by flooding the ranch and restoring smelt habitat, the district hopes to boost the number of fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and free up water for farmers... and Westlands General Manager Tom Birmingham said the district wants to help the endangered species. He said the disctrict recognizes that its a sensitive issue and plans to "be a good neighbor" in Yolo County.

Endangered species aside, the focus of Westlands has to do with water supply... not saving wildlife. Although there are intrinsic benefits to wildlife within their mission of providing water, saving the smelt is a convenient side bar to the acquistion of the McCormack Ranch. If you click the title of this post, you will find the district's statement about land acquisition:

"Westlands is pursuing land acquisition as a means to address chronic water shortages and drainage issues. The program, financed entirely by farmers in the District, anticipates the purchase of approximately 100,000 acres of drainage-impacted land by 2007. By removing these acquired lands from irrigated agriculture, and reallocating water to land remaining in production, the District is able to provide farmers a more reliable and adequate water supply to ensure the long-term viability of west side communities and preserve the $3.5 billion per year of economic benefits created by District farming activity. This program is separate and distinct from an earlier and now inactive proposal by the United State to retire up to 200,000 acres of farmland in Westlands."

"In recognition that land acquisition could result in short-term economic impacts on the Valley’s west side, Westlands is working with local officials to identify alternative and productive uses for District-owned land. Recently, the District provided land for a federal prison near Mendota that will provide several hundred new jobs. Other potential beneficial uses for these farmlands include wildlife habitat, economic development and local flood control."

This also from their Web site: "It is the mission of Westlands Water District to provide a timely, reliable and affordable water supply to its landowners and water users, and to provide drainage service to those lands that need it. To this end, Westlands is committed to the preservation of its federal contract, which includes water and drainage service, and to the acquisition of additional water necessary to meet the needs of its landowners and water users."

"Formed in 1952, Westlands encompasses more than 600,000 acres of farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties. The District serves approximately 600 family-owned farms that average 900 acres in size."

"Water is delivered to Westlands through the Central Valley Project, a federal water project that stores water in large reservoirs in Northern California for use by cities and farms throughout California. After it is released from CVP reservoirs, the water is pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and delivered 70 miles through the Delta-Mendota Canal to San Luis Reservoir. During the spring and summer, the water is released from San Luis Reservoir and delivered to Westlands farmers through the San Luis Canal and the Coalinga Canal. Once it leaves the federal project canals, water is delivered to farmers through 1,034 miles of underground pipe and more than 3,300 water meters."

"Westlands farmers produce more than 60 high quality commercial food and fiber crops sold for the fresh, dry, canned and frozen food markets, both domestic and export. More than 50,000 people live and work in the communities dependent on the District's agricultural economy. The communities in and near the District's boundaries include Mendota, Huron, Tranquillity, Firebaugh, Three Rocks, Cantua Creek, Helm, San Joaquin, Kerman, Lemoore and Coalinga."

Lastly, the Westlands Water District has long-term contractual and legal entitlements with the United States for a firm supply of 1,150,000 acre-feet (AF) of Central Valley Project (CVP) water during each water year. In some years, the district may acquire additional water pursuant to its entitlements, or other water. The contracts between Westlands and the US allow the district to make CVP water available for not only agricultural, but municipal, industrial and domestic uses, as well. The district may acquire additional water supplies for all of those purposes.

Bush Signs Bill Allowing California's Tougher environmental rules to apply to Orange County tollway proposed in State Park

By David Reyes, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 30, 2008

In a blow to toll road planners in Orange County, President Bush signed an amended military bill this week that would require them to follow potentially restrictive state environmental laws.

The tollway, which would complete Orange County's network of turnpikes, would cut across San Onofre State Beach, a popular camping and surfing spot.

The amendment to the military authorization bill was pushed by Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-San Diego).

Without it, the toll road agency could have avoided following restrictive California environmental laws.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies, which proposed the 16-mile Foothill South turnpike through southern Orange County, sought a federal exemption to avoid state environmental laws and streamline the approval and regulatory process for the controversial road.

Toll road officials and supporters have said the road would result in traffic relief for the southern part of the county, but opponents say it would affect campgrounds, wild lands, Native American burial sites and famous surf spots, including Trestles.

The estimated $875-million project is scheduled to be reviewed Feb. 6 by the state Coastal Commission, which meets at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It is considered a critical vote for the project.

In a prepared statement, Davis said the road would have a "devastating impact" on the "unique environment" and recreational resources at San Mateo campground and Trestles Beach, one of California's premier surfing breaks.

"There is no reason why it should have received a special exemption," Davis said.

San Onofre, a state park, is on land leased from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The exemption had allowed federal law to apply to the controversial project when it conflicted with state law, which is often more stringent.

Lance MacLean, a Mission Viejo councilman and chairman of the board that governs the Foothill-Eastern tollway, said the agency sought the exemption because it needed to determine which authority -- state or federal -- it was to follow for the proposed route.

"We needed to know what laws would be enforced on federal property," MacLean said. "Opponents will call it special legislation. It was not special legislation but clarifying legislation."

Removal of the federal exemption no longer allows the agency to defend lawsuits against the Foothill South by contending that state courts have no jurisdiction, said James Birkelund, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a tollway foe.

"The big picture here is the toll road agency has been trying to avoid both state and federal environmental laws and has lobbied for and gotten riders to defense bills to do so," Birkelund said. "We applaud Davis because the law now ensures that this project will comply with state law as with any other project."

Toll road's damage estimate downsized

But it could trigger the extinction of one species

North County Times
January 29, 2007

SAN ONOFRE - State regulators have decreased the amount of environmental damage they think would be caused by the toll road Orange County officials want to lay down across North San Diego County.

But California Coastal Commission staffers say that the toll road would still do "irreparable harm" to a sensitive coastal wetland, home to a half-dozen imperiled animals.

In a report filed over the weekend in preparation for a key commission hearing next week, the commission's staff downgraded, from 66 acres to 50 acres, its estimate of how much of the potential habitat would be destroyed.

But the damage still would be unacceptable and the project could trigger the extinction of one species, the report says. The Orange County transportation agency looking to build the road strongly disputes that conclusion.

Meanwhile, highway opponents - environmentalists, surfers and frequent state-park visitors - have launched a grass-roots online campaign in advance of next week's meeting. More than 500 people posted videos on YouTube.

"It's not right," said Robin Everett, conservation organizer for the Sierra Club in Orange County, in one video. "State parks should not be used as warehouses for future development."

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Feb. 6 and take all day at Wyland Hall on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. in Del Mar. Commission staff said they expected more than 2,000 supporters and opponents to attend.

The report is the commission staff's response to a sharply worded Jan. 9 critique by the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency of its initial assessment. The critique prompted the staff to recalculate impacts.

But the staff's underlying conclusion remains unchanged: The $875 million project would exact a terrible toll on the environment within California's fifth-most popular state park - San Onofre State Beach - and is in direct conflict with state and federal environmental laws.

Representatives of Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, the group that wants to build the toll road, stood by its critique Monday.

"We still believe that there are major errors" in the report, said Jennifer Seaton, a spokeswoman for the Irvine-based agency.

The toll-road builder contends the project would tread lightly on the fragile coastal environment.

Foothill/Eastern is trying to get the green light to complete the last leg of Orange County's 67-mile toll road system. The missing link is a 16-mile section of an inland Orange County toll road, Highway 241, which runs south from Highway 91. The plan was to tie the toll road into Interstate 5 at the San Diego-Orange county line.

Even though it is part of an Orange County road system, the agency is proposing to build the last four miles in North San Diego County. That's because San Clemente occupies the southern tip of Orange County and the agency says any route through the quiet beach town would require bulldozing hundreds of homes.

But going around those homes means going through San Onofre state park, parallel to San Mateo Creek. It is primarily along that stream that the environmental toll would be felt, the report says.

"It is highly likely that the project would result in the complete loss of one of the three remaining limited populations of Pacific pocket mouse and thereby hasten the extinction of the entire species," the report concludes.

It also says the toll road would threaten the survival of endangered arroyo toads and southern steelhead trout, which swim upstream on the San Mateo during years of plentiful winter rain.

But the staff's latest estimate of the toll road's threat includes some sharply reduced numbers.

For instance, construction activity would affect 39 acres of the toad's habitat, not 66 acres as estimated earlier, the report says. And 32 acres of gnatcatcher bird habitat would be affected, not 50.

The revised report also says the road's concrete footprints in San Mateo Creek could alter the downstream flow of the cobbles believed to be the source of the world-class waves at Trestles Beach.

Seaton, of the Foothill/Eastern agency, disagreed. "The 241 will have no impact on the delivery of cobbles to the coast," she said.

Citing an analysis by a transportation consultant hired by an environmental group, the commission asserted that a project alternative - widening Interstate 5 in south Orange County - is feasible despite Foothill/Eastern's claims to the contrary. The transportation agency contends that more than 1,200 homes and businesses would have to be bulldozed. The analysis says only about 5 percent of those properties would have to be condemned.

"What this means is, we don't have to destroy the park," said Dan Silver, executive director for the Endangered Habitats League in Los Angeles.

Seaton said the analysis cannot be trusted.

"The reality is that there is no funding to widen I-5, and it cannot be done without taking out hundreds of homes and businesses," she said.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Backbone Trail land connector purchased

Friday, January 25, 2008

After more than 30 years of negotiations, the Backbone Trail that winds through the Santa Monica Mountains grew one step closer to completion Wednesday after one of the few remaining parcels of private land that dissect the trail was purchased.

"When you think about how long this trail has taken to be put together, it's an incredible effort," said Dash Stolarz, spokeswoman for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which purchased the land.

The 10-acre property in Encinal Canyon was purchased for $275,000 and provides an easement to the Etz Meloy Motorway, which will be part of the trail.

Three other pieces of property are needed to complete the 20-mile trail in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. One is co-owned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

More than 177 parcels have been obtained since trail building began in the 1970s.


Governor's land impedes trail completion

Schwarzenegger co-owner of parcel Park Service wants

Four little parcels of land is all that stands between the National Park Service finishing its long anticipated Backbone Trail.

And one of those belongs to the governor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger co-owns one of the pieces of land in the Santa Monica Mountains that the Park Service wants to make part of the 60-mile trail that meanders through the mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The Park Service and other agencies have worked for decades to cobble together public and private land to create a contiguous trail as a way to give citizens access to the mountains.

Records show Schwarzenegger co-owns the property off Encinal Canyon in western Los Angeles County with Betty Weider, wife of Joe Weider.

Joe Weider started an empire of fitness magazines and helped fund Schwarzenegger's rise from immigrant to superstar and then governor. Last month the governor held a special ceremony in Sacramento to declare July 9 as "Joe Weider Day."

Though Schwarzenegger seems open to negotiations to sell the property, "it's the other person" who is hesitant, said Melanie Beck, outdoor recreation planner for the park.

Documents show the governor and Weider have been in talks to sell the parcel to the government since at least 2000, but efforts were stalled in 2005 when the Park Service was denied permission to do a property assessment, according to Charles Taylor, spokesman for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear said the governor is open to the idea of selling the property.

"He's OK with them coming onto the property to assess it and talking about selling it," McLear said. He was unsure if Schwarzenegger has tried to persuade Weider to sell the property.

Weider did not return calls for comment.

Taylor said there has never been an agreed price on the 20-acres the Park Service would like to acquire. The Park Service usually pays about $2,000 for an acre of land and is bound to pay market value for it.

A "social trail" across the property that links the dissected Backbone Trail has existed for years, and the owners have never expressed a problem with people hiking through it, Taylor said.

Though the Park Service ultimately wants the land because there are no plans to develop the property and there is no money to buy it, there is no urgent hurry to acquire it, Taylor said.

"While this is at the top of the list, this is not our number one parcel," Taylor said. "The park is going to be here for a long time, so we are going to have to wait."

The Park Service would also like to acquire three private parcels of land along the Etz Meloy Motorway. It does not want to use eminent domain to acquire the land, Beck has said.

Park Superintendent Woody Smeck has said he'd like to one day designate the trail as a National Recreation Trail, giving it national prominence and the potential to receive additional funding.

In 2004, Schwarzenegger proclaimed an April weekend as "California Trail Days," in part because, "trails encourage healthy lifestyles, providing opportunities for Californians to step away from the pace of everyday life and witness first-hand the natural splendor of our Golden State."

Last year he lobbied hard for Californians to pass Proposition 84, a bond measure that would provide environmental protection statewide, including building more hiking trails. The proposition passed.

In the coming months, the Park Service is planning to a celebration to commemorate a new 2.2-mile section of trail that is part of the last major section that needs to be built.


Backbone Trail near a milestone

Except for a few parcels, 30-year, 60-mile effort almost finished

At first, the only sound you can hear from high on a hill on the Backbone Trail is the chirping of birds flitting about the red shanks blanketing the landscape.

Then, the dull sound of a pick ax hitting the soil pierces the stillness. It's followed by a lumbering tractor groaning its way uphill and voices talking about moving rocks to help build a water crossing.

This is the sound of progress.

After more than three decades, the construction on the Backbone Trail that winds through the Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles counties is nearly complete.

The last major section of trail, a 2.2-mile stretch off Mulholland Highway in western Los Angeles County, is expected to be finished by late summer. Crews have spent years building the trail designed for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.

"This is huge for us and the people who enjoy recreating in the mountains," said Woody Smeck, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. "It has been a labor of love for 30 years. It's 60 miles of trail that has been put together one parcel at a time."

A 1.5-mile gap remains

But just because the construction is nearly complete doesn't mean the trail is whole. Four parcels of land along the trail, which make up about a 1.5-mile gap, are still private property. The Park Service doesn't expect to be able to acquire two of the parcels in the immediate future.

Three of the parcels are along the fire road, the Etz Meloy Motorway, and though hikers can access the land, the Park Service discourages that. Another piece of land to the east also is private property, and a "social trail" links two disconnected sections of trail.

Smeck said the Park Service has talked to most of the owners, and two seem willing to sell their land, but there is some indecision among two others.

The cost to buy the sections could be as much as $2 million, said Melanie Beck, outdoor recreation planner for the park. The Park Service is legally bound to pay fair market value for the property.

David Brown has seen the growth of the Backbone Trail over the years. He was around when it was first proposed in 1975 as a link between Topanga Canyon and Malibu. The idea grew to create a "backbone" of a trail, where others would branch out from it and all over the Santa Monica Mountains.

"It's been a long time coming," said Brown, who worked with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council to help develop the trail. "I was hoping we'd be at this point sooner, but I'm glad we are getting there."

Few people know the newest section of trail as intimately as Marcel Gillet. As he can tell you, building a trail isn't as easy as cutting down a few trees.

Long crawls led to route

Gillet, a road and trails engineering technician at the park, and a few others, mapped out the new trail literally on their hands and knees. The chaparral was so thick it was the only way they could get through it. He wore "snake chaps" on his legs to protect him from rattlesnakes as he crawled along. Ticks just had to be pulled off at the end of the day.

Once the lay of the land was mapped out, natural and cultural resource officials had to make the crawl as well to make sure the trail didn't damage anything precious along the way.

Then there was the tree-cutting and grading and sloping. Each detail was thought out, every turn debated on how to make it accessible to everyone and last for generations.

"This is going to be an historic trail," he said.

Some turns in the trail took months to build, excavating dirt from one side of the trail to the other. Other sections have hand-built rock bridges spanning water crossings. One stretch took longer to build because it goes around a massive rock outcropping dubbed "lichen rock." It was just too pretty to disturb, Gillet said.

The new section is about 4 feet wide, which is plenty of room for two hikers or one horseback rider.

When Gillet looks at the trail now, still raw and barren from construction, he admires how gentle the grade is and how the construction techniques will keep it in good shape for years to come.

But in the coming months, after it's open, Gillet will walk the trail again, this time wearing civilian clothes. He hopes he'll see dads teaching their daughters how to mountain bike, young couples taking a stroll and whole families riding horses up his trail.

"You see people all the time having a great time and rediscovering themselves in nature," he said.

Then he'll know he did his job well.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Plan would divide bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company forest for logging, preservation

By Mike Taugher, STAFF WRITER
A coalition of environmentalists, Bank of America and others will propose setting aside old-growth trees and allowing sustainable logging on the rest of the world's largest privately owned redwood forest in Humboldt County.

The plan is expected to be filed later this month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston. It would shift

12,000 acres of old-growth groves — including the tree in which Julia Butterfly Hill lived for two years — and other sensitive areas in the more than 200,000-acre forest to state parks or publicly-owned reserves, the Nature Conservancy said.

Details have not been formalized and it is unclear how much of the bankrupt Pacific Lumber's $750 million debt the deal's backers will be willing to pay.

Still, Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Jordan Peavey expressed confidence that a plan combining environmental protection with profit could work.

"We've managed to make this work in the past," Peavey said, noting recent deals in which the conservancy participated to buy 160,000 acres of private forestland in the Adirondacks and 280,000 acres of forests across 11 Southern states.

The investment partners "expectto make money on this," she added.

The Pacific Lumber land comprises about half of the watershed of Humboldt Bay and about 10 percent of the redwood forests remaining in the world, according to the Nature Conservancy.

Some of the property is old-growth forest in a region containing the tallest trees on Earth, 300-foot giants that were already rooted in the ground at the time of Christ.

Other forests and groves have been logged and lack the timeless quality of the virgin parcels.

The Nature Conservancy-sponsored plan, which would preserve nearly 12,000 acres and allow sustainable logging on about 197,000 acres, is one of four that will be considered in the bankruptcy proceedings, said Frank Bacik, Pacific Lumber vice president and general counsel. A decision could be made by the court as early as April.

One of the competing proposals, put forward by Mendocino Redwoods Co. and others, would pay about $500 million of the $750 million in debt, Bacik said.

"They (creditors) told the court they did not think that plan could be confirmed," he said.

Another plan will be brought by unsecured creditors and would address only a small portion of the company's debts and assets.

The remaining proposal is the one brought by Pacific Lumber itself, a plan that has so far has not been endorsed by creditors.

The company's plan would result in the sale of 6,000 acres of the most environmentally sensitive lands for preservation, possibly to state or federal land agencies.

In addition, 200 to 500 houses would be built on company land around Humboldt County towns.

"Our plan is the only one that proposes to pay everybody in full," Bacik said.

Pacific Lumber's history goes back to the 1800s and is rooted deeply in Humboldt County's history. In the 1980s, Maxxam Corp. bought it with the help of junk-bond king Michael Milken.

To pay debts incurred in the purchase, Maxxam greatly accelerated Pacific Lumber's logging, which in turn led to conflicts with regulators and environmental protesters.

In 1999, the government agreed to buy the most prized of the Pacific Lumber groves, the nearly 7,500-acre Headwaters Forest, for $480 million. The remaining land was placed under a habitat conservation plan, agreed to by Pacific Lumber, that limited logging to protect northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and other threatened species.

But the company still could not pay off its debts. The company has blamed regulations regarding endangered species and water quality.

Last January, it filed for bankruptcy protection after missing a payment on its bonds.

The court last month opened the door for competing proposals to resolve the bankruptcy, making it possible for the environmental groups to make their pitch.

In addition to The Nature Conservancy and Bank of America, the latest proposal includes the Save-the-Redwoods League, investment companies and conservation groups.

BLM Opens Donated Land Near Granite Mountain, Near Mono Lake

An 80-acre parcel in the eastern Sierras is open for public access following a donation to the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office. The parcel is located in the Granite Mountain Wilderness Study Area, east of Mono Lake. The Wilderness Land Trust recently acquired the land from a willing seller and donated it to the BLM to be managed as public lands.

Located in one of the most rugged and remote regions of California, the pinyon-juniper studded parcel is eight miles northwest of 8,800-foot Granite Mountain and accessible only on foot or horseback. These new public lands will be managed under the same guidelines as the surrounding BLM lands with an emphasis on conserving the natural values of the property.

Nature Conservancy buys 1,000 acres so state can expand Anza-Borrego Desert park

Desert property is near Jacumba


January 18, 2008

The Nature Conservancy has bought more than 1,000 acres of desert in the southeastern corner of San Diego County, with plans to use the property to expand Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The national conservancy organization purchased the $2.3 million property near Jacumba with donations. David Van Cleve, the conservancy's senior project director, said the property was owned by five investors who bought the land intending to develop or sell it. The conservancy intends to sell the land to the state park.

Van Cleve said the property is a critical link between the state park, federal Bureau of Land Management property and land in Baja California. It will provide a habitat for endangered species including bighorn sheep and the Quino checkerspot butterfly, he said.

Van Cleve said the region on both sides of the border is one of five places in the world with the climate and geography to create diverse habitats of chaparral, grasslands and oak and coastal forests.

Van Cleve said the conservancy is meeting with state park officials to discuss selling the land. One person already has donated $900,000 toward the sale, he said.

Mark Jorgensen, superintendent of Anza-Borrego, said that park officials are interested in the property but that its purchase will depend on resolution of the state budget crisis. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed closing 48 state parks to save $14.3 million.

“We're going into hard budget times, so we'll have to find funds dedicated to” buying the land, he said.

Jorgensen said the purchase allows the land to be preserved until the state can buy it. Developers are already eyeing other parts of Jacumba. On 1,250 acres near the town center, a developer is proposing a project with 2,125 homes.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with more than 600,000 acres, is the largest state park in the contiguous United States. Jorgensen said the addition of the property to the park would help ensure that wildlife can move freely between the United States and Mexico.

“It would be a pretty sad day to think we were cutting off that movement with triple fences and continued development,” he said.

As if Nuclear Power Wasn't Dangerous Enough, Now Nukes Have Found A Worse Enemy: Drought

Drought Endangering Nuclear Power

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008 By MITCH WEISS/AP,8599,1706555-1,00.html

(LAKE NORMAN, N.C.) — Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn't result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.

Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the summer. "Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel," said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. "You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants." He added: "This is becoming a crisis."

An Associated Press analysis of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants' turbines.

Because of the yearlong dry spell gripping the region, the water levels on those lakes and rivers are getting close to the minimums set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Over the next several months, the water could drop below the intake pipes altogether. Or the shallow water could become too hot under the sun to use as coolant. "If water levels get to a certain point, we'll have to power it down or go off line," said Robert Yanity, a spokesman for South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., which operates the Summer nuclear plant outside Columbia, S.C.

Extending or lowering the intake pipes is not as simple at it sounds and wouldn't necessarily solve the problem. The pipes are usually made of concrete, can be up to 18 feet in diameter and can extend up to a mile. Modifications to the pipes and pump systems, and their required backups, can cost millions and take several months. If the changes are extensive, they require an NRC review that itself can take months or longer.

Even if a quick extension were possible, the pipes can only go so low. It they are put too close to the bottom of a drought-shrunken lake or river, they can suck up sediment, fish and other debris that could clog the system.

While rain and some snow fell recently, water levels across the region are still well below normal. Most of the severely affected area would need more than a foot of rain in the next three months — an unusually large amount — to ease the drought and relieve pressure on the nuclear plants. And the long-term forecast calls for more dry weather.

At Progress Energy Inc., which operates four reactors in the drought zone, officials warned in November that the drought could force it to shut down its Harris reactor near Raleigh, according to documents obtained by the AP. The water in Harris Lake stands at 218.5 feet — just 3 1/2 feet above the limit set in the plant's license.

At a nuclear plant, water is also used to cool the reactor core and to create the steam that drives the electricity-generating turbines. But those are comparatively small amounts of water, circulating in what are known as closed systems — that is, the water is constantly reused. Water for those two purposes is not threatened by the drought.

Instead, the drought could choke off the billions of gallons of water that pass through the region's reactors every day to cool used steam. Water sucked from lakes and rivers passes through pipes, which act as a condenser, turning the steam back into water. The outside water never comes into direct contact with the steam or any nuclear material.

David Lochbaum, nuclear project safety director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, warned that nuclear plants are not designed to take the wear and tear of repeatedly stopping and restarting.

"Nuclear plants are best when they flatline — when they stay up and running or shut down for long periods to refuel," Lochbaum said. "It wears out piping, valves, motors."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

L.A.'s trash goal: No waste by 2030

LANDFILLS: The city unveils a plan to have all of its garbage recycled or turned into compost or energy.
By Sue Doyle, L.A. Daily News Staff Writer

Hoping to make landfills relics of the past, the city of Los Angeles wants all 3,600 tons of trash picked up daily from its residents to be recycled or turned into compost or alternative energy by 2030.

Under the plan, the city could make up to $100million annually by sending the extra tons of garbage to newly created recycling facilities around Los Angeles instead of dumping them in landfills.

Known as the zero-waste plan, it's part of the city's vision to move away from using landfills in urban areas by 2011.

"We will not be using landfills," said Reina Pereira, project manager for the city's Bureau of Sanitation, under the Department of Public Works. "The majority of what we throw out could be a valuable resource."

On Wednesday, the department will host a news conference to discuss its ambitious energy goals, which got under way a year ago with public outreach. Community groups, churches, environmentalists and others, meanwhile, have helped create plans to enable the city to reach zero waste by 2030. Those proposals will be released April 26.

Already Los Angeles residents each day put out 1,000 tons of recyclables by the curb for pickup.

Those bins sit beside another 1,800 tons of leaves, tree branches and yard clippings discarded daily in Los Angeles.

Whatever cannot be further recycled or composted from the department's 750,000 weekly customers could be turned into alternative fuels, such as biodiesel or electricity, said Alex Helou, assistant director for the city's Bureau of Sanitation.

"Instead of just burying it in the ground and creating greenhouse gases, we could use it as a resource to recycle, reuse and convert into a resource that could create clean energy," Helou said.

It's too early to say how much money the city could make from these alternative fuels, but there is definite potential to generate revenue, Pereira said.

Already Long Beach converts garbage into electricity for its residents. And it uses about 100 tons of trash from Los Angeles a day to do it and also charges $42.50 a ton to take its garbage, Helou said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in May released a plan to cut greenhouse gases in the city by 2020. It calls for the city to wipe out carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 19 million tons - or 35percent below levels measured in 1990.

Today garbage from Los Angeles gets hauled to Calabasas Landfill, Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Sylmar and El Sobrante in Corona.

As it relies less on landfills, the city is considering building recycling facilities in each of its six garbage collection districts in Los Angeles and also adding composting sites.

Taking recycling further, future plans include making manufacturers take ownership of packaging their products, which should include recyclable items, Pereira said.

Stores selling cellular phones also need recycling bins for these gizmos.

"Everybody who lives, works and plays in the city needs to participate and do their share," Pereira said. "Not only making the choices of how they recycle but how they purchase products."

A Fascinating Historical Perspective of the Changing Geology of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Region

To bay or not to bay?

Can you imagine what San Francisco Bay looked like 15,000 years ago?

Actually at that time– during the last ice age– San Francisco Bay wasn’t a bay at all. Instead, it was a valley dotted with grazing antelope. Hills jutted up here and there (destined to become the Bay’s islands). The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers of the Central Valley joined forces in the vast marshy Delta, flowed west through a 300-foot deep gorge in the Coast Range (now the Golden Gate), and across a broad coastal plain to the ocean. California’s coastline was out past the Farallon Islands.

With the end of the ice age and the melting of the great ice sheets, the oceans began rising. By about 10,000 years ago, the rising Pacific had intruded through the Golden Gate and begun to form the Bay. (This wasn’t the first Bay, by the way. During the Pleistocene, as the ice sheets alternately retreated and advanced, San Francisco Bay was alternately flooded and drained as sea levels rose and fell.) By 6,000 years ago, tidal influence had extended to the Delta.

Around the shallow margins of the newly formed Bay, tidal marshlands began to form. Between Vallejo and Novato about 55,000 acres of cordgrass and pickleweed took hold. In the south Bay was another wetland tract totaling about 50,000 acres and due south of where the city of Fairfield now resides were another 60,000 acres. As enormous as these expanses of marsh were, they were dwarfed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta. Forming a jagged triangle with apexes at Sacramento, Antioch, and Tracy, the Delta spanned a massive 345,000 acres. For 4,000 years, the wildlife of these wetlands thrived in the rich waters of the Estuary.

More recently, the Bay landscape has undergone further radical change– though on a much shorter time scale and due to man-made rather than natural forces. What had existed for four millennia was destroyed in the geologic blink of an eye. In about 100 years beginning in the mid-1800s, 92% of the Estuary’s wetlands were drained. Of San Francisco Bay’s original 196,000 acres, only 35,000 acres remained by 1960. The devastation of the Delta was even more complete, with only 10,000 acres left by mid-century.

Some of those drastic man-made changes are now beginning to be changed back, with a goal to restore 100,000 acres of the Bay’s lost wetlands in the coming decades– the largest coastal wetland restoration project in the United States.

The Bay Institute’s Bay Restoration Program Manager Marc Holmes recently spoke with “Your Wetlands” about the Bay’s changing landscape and current restoration efforts. You can learn more by listening to the podcasts:

Changing landscapes

Restoring the landscape

Ann Dickinson is Communications Manager for The Bay Institute (, a nonprofit research, education, and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay and its watershed, “from the Sierra to the sea.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WCB 2/2008

2-20-2008: 4259 Acres of California Wildlife Habitat Will be Saved at February State Wildlife Board Meeting

Properties include: the Los Cerritos/Hellman Ranch Wetlands in Los Angeles, Ramona Grasslands in San Diego, Valley View in Humboldt County, Montgomery Woods in Mendocino County, wetlands in the Central Valley, Scott's Valley in Santa Cruz, Morro Bay, and Corral Canyon in Malibu.

February 20, 2008



7. Six Rivers (Valley View) $10,000.00, Humboldt County
To consider the proposed cooperative acquisition of a conservation easement for
the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection over 1,532 ± acres located just
north of Petrolia, approximately nine miles west of Humboldt Redwoods State

8. Montgomery Woods, Expansion 1, $255,000.00 Mendocino County
To consider the allocation for a grant to Save-the-Redwoods League to assist in
the cooperative acquisition of a 160± acre site (to be held in fee by the Department
of Parks and Recreation) adjacent to the Montgomery Woods State Reserve, ten
miles northwest of Ukiah.

9. South Fork American River, Lower Canyon Unit, Expansion 2 $360,000.00
El Dorado County;
To consider the allocation for a grant to the American River Conservancy to assist
in the cooperative acquisition of 40± acres near the community of Pilot Hill, three
and one half miles upstream from Folsom Lake

12. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve, Expansion 17 $3,483,377.00
Monterey County;
To consider the acquisition of fee title to 204± acres of land for the protection of
critical tidal wetlands and grasslands as an expansion of the Department of Fish
and Game's Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve, located within the Elkhorn Slough
National Estuarine Research Reserve, near the town of Moss Landing, in Monterey

14. Canebrake Ecological Reserve, Cap Canyon Unit, Expansion 2 $100,000.00
Kern County;
To consider the acquisition of 40± acres as an addition to the Department of Fish
and Game's Canebrake Ecological Reserve, Cap Canyon Unit, for the preservation
and protection of the riparian habitat, as well as habitat crucial to the existence of
many special status species, located near the community of Onyx in Kern County.
[Habitat Conservation Fund (Proposition 117), Section 2786 (b/c)]

15. Ramona Grasslands, Expansion 2 $25,000.00
San Diego County;
To consider the acceptance of a Habitat Conservation Planning Land Acquisition
Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the authorization to enter into an
Agreement to Subgrant the federal funds to the San Diego County Parks and
Recreation Department to assist in their acquisition from The Nature Conservancy of
950± acres of real property, west of the community of Ramona, for the protection of

18.Wetland Conservation Easement Program, Bird Haven Ranch $440,000.00
Glenn County;
To consider the acquisition of a conservation easement over 259± acres for the
purposes of protecting inland wetlands and waterfowl habitat, located off of County
Road 67, east of Afton, adjacent to the Department of Fish and Game's Upper Butte
Basin Wildlife Area.

21. Upper Cosumnes River Basin, Expansion 2 $1,465,000.00
El Dorado County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the American River Conservancy to assist
in the cooperative acquisition of 320± acres of oak woodlands and riparian habitat
located on both sides of the North Fork of the Cosumnes River in El Dorado

22. Santa Cruz Sandhills $1,510,000.00
Santa Cruz County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County;in a cooperative project with the Moore Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the USFWS and the Department of Fish and
Game to acquire fee title of 189± acres of critical habitat located north of the City of
Santa Cruz near the town of Scotts Valley

23. San Joaquin River Riparian Habitat, Expansion 14 $6,435,500.00
Fresno County
To consider the proposed acquisition of 323± acres of private land along the San
Joaquin River as an addition to the San Joaquin River Parkway, located northeast
of the City of Fresno

24. Morro Bay Wildlife Area $810,000.00
San Luis Obispo County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Morro Coast Audubon Society; the
acceptance of a Recovery Land Acquisition Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service; and the authorization to enter into an Agreement to Subgrant the federal
funds to the Morro Coast Audubon Society to assist in the fee acquisition of 8±
acres as an addition to the Audubon's existing Sweet Springs Preserve, located on
the Morro Bay shoreline in the community of Los Osos. WITHDRAWN FROM AGENDA

25. Santa Monica Bay, Corral Canyon $2,010,000.00
Los Angeles County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
to assist the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in a cooperative
acquisition of 116± acres of a larger proposed acquisition project totaling 825±
acres, located within the Corral Canyon Creek watershed, immediately north of the
Malibu city limits

26. Los Cerritos Wetlands $6,100,000.00
Orange County
To consider the allocation for a grant to the Los Cerritos Wetland Authority to
assist in the acquisition of 100± acres of vacant land in Orange County. WITHDRAWN FROM AGENDA

27. Fieldstone Habitat Conservation Plan $10,000.00
San Diego County
To consider the proposed acceptance of a Habitat Conservation Planning Land
Acquisition Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the authorization to
enter into an Agreement to Subgrant the federal funds to the Batiquitos Lagoon
Foundation, to be applied toward the cooperative acquisition of 18± acres
overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Letters to the L.A. Times Agree that Endless Growth is not desirable or wise with California's limited water supplies

Tide turns toward common sense
Sunday, January 20, 2007

Re "Enforcing recent water laws may throttle state's growth," Jan. 14

The Times uses an interesting choice of words. I think a more accurate description would say that these laws are encouraging some sanity in an already overpopulated California. To base an economy on endless building and continuous population growth is greed disguised as progress. Until that's acknowledged, we will continue toward a future in which people will be drinking filtered sewage and desalinated ocean water. Unfortunately, this likely will be greeted with cheers by industries that would profit most from the switch. We would do ourselves a favor by shifting our focus from what we falsely perceive as shortages. We can only hope that the wisdom of quality over quantity hasn't been completely paved over.

Tim Viselli

La Canada Flintridge

I object to the characterization of water laws as putting growth at risk. Water laws are not the problem; lack of water is. We live in a desert, but we are using water as though this were a rain forest. We need to adopt growth policies that reflect our climate. Well-thought-out but more dense housing would help, as would widespread use of drought-resistant landscapes. We need to study the natural drainage and groundwater systems of the entire watershed and allow development only in ways that do not hinder normal groundwater replenishment. Thoughtlessly paving over everything in sight with mega-malls, parking lots and million-square-foot warehouses will not allow us the future we hope for. Nor will characterizing water officials as bureaucrats making unnecessary and harmful regulations.

Frances Mathews


When and how will California's growth be throttled, as it surely must be eventually? We are not only running out of water, but the very qualities of California that have fueled growth over the years are becoming ever more scarce. Author and environmentalist Edward Abbey once said that "an economic system that can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human." Well, that is what we have, not only in California but globally. Whether it is running out of water, wilderness, energy, clean air or food, the human species, and the world with it, are on the way to disaster. Because water engineers are not so inclined (they are not appointed to the task in any case), some part of society must soon step up and begin to figure out how to end growth, if not reverse it, until the world reaches a steady state of ecological sustainability.

Fred S. Barker


Friday, January 18, 2008


Suit Challenges Southwest Energy Corridor

On January 10, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s October 2007 designation of the Southwest National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor for failing to analyze the environmental impacts of the corridor. The transmission corridor encompasses millions of acres of protected federal and state lands in California and Arizona, including 3 million acres of national parks and national wildlife refuges; the 21-million-acre California Desert Conservation Area; and 750,000 acres of national monuments. In total, nearly 7.5 million acres of federally designated wilderness areas and as many as 95 threatened or endangered species lie within the energy corridor.

“The Energy Department cannot turn southern California and western Arizona into an energy farm for Los Angeles and San Diego without taking a hard look at the environmental impacts of doing so,” said Amy Atwood, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Southwest Energy Corridor will have far-reaching environmental impacts that must be considered before moving forward.”

Western Environmental Law Center is representing the Center in the suit. And you can learn more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Suit filed over federal agency plan for southwest energy corridor


LOS ANGELES -- The idea behind an energy corridor through vast parts of Arizona and California was to keep electricity flowing in the region, a Department of Energy spokeswoman said.

An environmental group challenged the plan Thursday in a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The lawsuit names the Energy Department and Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman as defendants.

The Center for Biological Diversity claims that the plan's fast-track federal approval process for the construction of transmission lines would allow energy companies to bypass state jurisdiction, environmental laws and even private land ownership. The lawsuit accused the energy agency of violating the National Environmental Policy because it failed to analyze environmental impacts of the corridor.

Energy spokeswoman Julie Ruggiero could not comment directly on the litigation, but in an e-mailed statement Friday said the designation "itself has no environmental impact."

"These National Corridors serve as an important indication by the federal government that significant transmission constraint or congestion problems exist," she said. "The goal is simple to keep reliable supplies of electric energy flowing to all Americans."

In October, the federal government designated two corridors - the southwest path and one in the mid-Atlantic region. While the purpose was to ease rules for new power lines where they're most needed, critics said the designation would also give power companies blanket approval.

"There are some loopholes in this designation that are really problematic," said Megan Anderson, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who worked on the lawsuit.

The 70,000-square-mile southwest corridor includes seven counties in Southern California and three counties in southwestern Arizona. It crosses several national parks including Joshua Tree, as well as national monuments such as the Carrizo Plain and the Sonoran Desert. The area contains at least 95 threatened and endangered species.

"The Energy Department cannot turn Southern California and western Arizona into an energy farm for Los Angeles and San Diego without taking a hard look at the environmental impacts of doing so," said Amy Atwood, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The mid-Atlantic energy corridor has galvanized opponents for similar reasons.

Eleven regional and national environmental organizations are preparing to challenge the mid-Atlantic designation in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Jan. 14. The group is led by the National Wildlife Federation and the Piedmont Environmental Council.

The mid-Atlantic corridor includes parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. Within the area are state and national parks, refuges and recreation areas such as the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Shenandoah National Park and the Upper Delaware Scenic and National Recreation River.

"We believe the corridors are being rushed through to accommodate coal-fired power plants before a new administration takes action on global warming, which would make it considerably more difficult," said Glen Besa, Appalachian Regional Director for the Sierra Club, which is a party to the litigation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Klamath water deal reached

Tribes, farmers and others draw up a plan to remove dams (??) and revive dwindling salmon populations.

By Eric Bailey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 16, 2008

SACRAMENTO -- After more than three years of negotiations, a collection of long-quarreling Klamath Basin farmers, fishermen and tribes announced a breakthrough agreement Tuesday that they said could lead to the nation's most extensive dam-removal project.

The $1-billion plan proposes to end one of the West's fiercest water wars by reviving the Klamath River's flagging salmon population while ensuring irrigation water and cheap power for farmers in the basin, which straddles the Oregon-California state line.

The company that owns the four dams in the basin -- billionaire Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp -- was excluded from negotiations and did not sign on. But participants heralded the hard-fought agreement as a sprawling, basin-wide solution that united factions long at odds over the fate of the troubled river.

"Never has the basin been so unified around the necessity for removal of those dams," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns.

Two environmental groups and a Northern California tribe balked at the blueprint, calling it a Bush administration sellout to agribusiness allies. Clifford Lyle Marshall, chairman of the holdout Hoopa Valley Tribe, said the proposal favors farmers over the river's fish and labeled it "an Old West irrigation deal: guarantees for irrigators, empty promises for the Indians."

"The ironic thing is there's not even dam removal in this dam-removal deal," said Bob Hunter of WaterWatch of Oregon, one of the two dissenting environmental groups, both of which were excluded from the negotiations last year. "It seems they released it now because time is running out for the Bush administration to deliver to its political allies in the Klamath farm community."

PacifiCorp officials also took exception to the proposal.

Paul Vogel, a PacifiCorp spokesman, said the company initiated the talks as part of its bid for a new federal operating license for the dams. But he said PacifiCorp was "shut out of the room" for most of the last year as the final plan was cobbled together by more than two dozen state, federal and local government agencies, tribes and other groups.

"You really have to question if there's enough substance there to be worth the paper it's printed on," he said.

The federal government's chief negotiator at the talks, Steve Thompson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he participated free of political influence from the White House and continues to hold out hope that PacifiCorp will sign on to the proposal in coming weeks.

But critics, including Hunter, suggested that the deal could prompt PacifiCorp to lay its money on winning renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The commission is expected to follow the lead of U.S. wildlife agencies, which have required the company to build fish ladders over the dams. Those ladders could cost up to $300 million and might not work. Several studies suggest it would be cheaper for the company to demolish the dams and find alternative power.

The Klamath River Basin has been an epicenter of the fight over dwindling water in the West for a decade.

In the drought year of 2001, worries about endangered fish prompted the federal government to cut back water to farmers, igniting a heated summerlong protest.

The next year farmers won more water, but environmentalists blamed a cutback in river flows for the death of 70,000 salmon.

By 2006, the river's chinook salmon population had declined so much that federal officials sharply cut back the commercial fishing season, spreading dismay to coastal communities.

At the same time, those representing the Klamath region's competing interests began trying to settle their differences behind closed doors. Meeting roughly once a month, they quarreled in secret but slowly reached the consensus that yielded the final draft released Tuesday.

Farmers won the three prime concessions they had sought. The agreement establishes water deliveries they can live with: more in wet years, less in dry. It provides $40 million toward subsidized power to run irrigation pumps and develop renewable energy to replace the electricity they now get from PacifiCorp's hydropower dams. And it assuages their concerns that the reappearance of endangered salmon won't end up shutting down farms in the upper basin "if and when the fish get up here," said Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Assn.

Steve Rothert of American Rivers, one of several environmental groups that endorsed the deal, said he was confident that even with guaranteed water for farming, the agreement guarantees adequate flows in the river to help salmon rebound.

"We are on the cusp of ending decades-long disputes and charting a better future for farmers, tribes, fishermen and all the communities that depend on a healthy Klamath River," he said.

The dissenting environmental groups disagree, saying the agreement cements promises to farmers that in dry years could rob the river of water needed to sustain the salmon and other fish.

"What began as an effort to help salmon and remove dams has turned into a plan to farm American taxpayers," said Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild, the other dissenting group.

He said the plan also institutionalizes "large-scale commercial agriculture" on 22,000 acres in Klamath wildlife refuges, which his group has fought to see reserved just for birds.

The plan goes far beyond fixing the river. It calls, for instance, for the purchase of a 90,000-acre tract for the Klamath Tribes of Oregon for use as a reservation.



Klamath Settlement Group Releases
Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement for Public Review
For release: January 15, 2008, 1 pm PST
Contact: Ed Sheets, Facilitator, 503-222-1700
Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association, 541-883-6100
Troy Fletcher, Yurok Tribe, 707-498-8486
Chuck Bonham, Trout Unlimited, 510-528-4164

Representatives of diverse communities in the Klamath Basin, working with federal, state, and
county governments, have developed a Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement to
rebuild fisheries, sustain agricultural communities, and resolve other longstanding disputes
related to the allocation of water resources. The non-Federal parties released the Proposed
Agreement today to inform the public and to provide public review and comment before taking
final action. This is an important first step in a collaborative effort to seek solutions with the key
stakeholders in the Klamath Basin on an environmental restoration strategy.
The Klamath Settlement Group is presently negotiating with PacifiCorp in an effort to reach
agreement on the removal of the utility’s four lower dams in the Klamath Basin, referenced as
the "Hydropower Agreement." Dam removal is a necessary part of the overall restoration effort,
and the Hydropower Agreement along with the Proposed Agreement released today has the
potential to provide a comprehensive solution for the Basin. The group is working to finalize
both agreements in February.

Key provisions of the Proposed Agreement include:
• A comprehensive program to rebuild fish populations sufficient for sustainable tribal,
recreational, and commercial fisheries. Elements include: Actions to restore fish
populations and habitats, including a program to reintroduce anadromous species in
currently-blocked parts of the Basin; actions to improve fish survival by enhancing the
amount of water available for fish, particularly in drier years; and other efforts to support
tribes in fisheries reintroduction and restoration efforts.
• A reliable and certain allocation of water sufficient for a sustainable agricultural
community and national wildlife refuges.
• A program to stabilize power costs for the Upper Basin’s family farms, ranches, and for
the two national wildlife refuges.
• A program intended to insure mitigation for counties that may be impacted by the
removal of the hydroelectric facilities.

The Klamath Settlement Group has developed the Proposed Agreement over the course of the
last two years. It is still refining some details in the Proposed Agreement. Representatives of the
following parties have been part of the discussions:

Farmers and Ranchers
Klamath Water Users Association
Off-Project Water Users

Hoopa Valley Tribe
Karuk Tribe
Klamath Tribes
Yurok Tribe

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service
U.S. Department of the Interior, including Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land
Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Fish and Wildlife Service

California Department of Fish and Game
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Water Resources Department

Humboldt County, California
Klamath County, Oregon
Siskiyou County, California

Conservation and fishing groups
American Rivers
California Trout
Friends of the River
Klamath Forest Alliance
National Center for Conservation Science and Policy
Northcoast Environmental Center
Northern California/Nevada Council Federation of Fly Fishers
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Salmon River Restoration Council
Trout Unlimited.

All of the representatives agreed to public release of the Proposed Agreement. The three
counties and several irrigation districts will hold public meetings on the Proposed Agreement
prior to deciding whether to sign it. Negotiators for two organizations, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Klamath Off-Project Water Users (KOPWU), do not approve the current draft. The Federal agencies, while at the table during the negotiations, will not be signatories of the Proposed Agreement. Instead, subsequent Federal review of the Proposed Agreement and legislation will be needed.

Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association said: “The result of the negotiations is
a series of compromises and proposed commitments between farmers, tribes, conservationists,
counties, and state and federal agencies aimed at keeping all of the Klamath’s rural communities
economically and ecologically viable.”

Troy Fletcher of the Yurok Tribe noted: “This spirit of trust, respect, and compromise is
unprecedented in the Klamath Basin. This agreement will provide a path to restore fish
populations and strengthen our commitment to work with each other.”
Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited said “The negotiators have worked through difficult and
complex issues to get broad support for the actions in the Proposed Agreement. We hope others
will share our desire to work for a solution.”

For a summary or a copy of the Proposed Agreement please go to the following website:

Hoopa Valley Tribe Rejects Klamath River Deal
The Hoopa Valley Tribe rejected the latest draft of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KRBRA) released today because the agreement lacks adequate water assurances for fish.

"Hoopa will retain its rights to defend the Klamath," said Clifford Lyle Marshall, Tribal Chairman. "We will work with any and all parties to remove the dams and assure a restored healthy river."
Media Contacts: Clifford Lyle Marshall (530) 625-4211 ext. 161
Mike Orcutt (530) 625-4267 ext. 13
Tom Schlosser (206) 386-5200


Hoopa, Calif. – The Hoopa Valley Tribe of northern California will not endorse
the latest draft of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KRBRA) because the
agreement lacks adequate water assurances for fish. Despite being in the minority among
the negotiators, Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall said Hoopa would never waive
its fishery-based water rights, as demanded by federal and other negotiators, in a deal
providing no assurances for fisheries restoration.

“What began as dam removal negotiations got turned into a water deal.
PacifiCorp left the room two years ago and negotiations with the company have since
been separate from this negotiation. The terms of this so-called restoration agreement
make the right to divert water for irrigation the top priority, trumping salmon water needs
and the best available science on the river,” Marshall said. “Such an upside down deal
threatens the goal of restoration and the Hoopa Tribe’s fishing rights,” Hoopa
Councilman Joe LeMieux said. “We cannot waive the rights of generations to come.
Dangling a carrot like this will not work for Hoopa.”

The Hoopa objections come after three years of negotiations with farm irrigators,
environmental and fishing groups, government agencies, counties, and other tribes. The
Tribe has been a leading advocate to protect water rights and fish habitat in the Klamath
and Trinity rivers that run through their reservation. “We have worked for years with all
the parties to forge an agreement that genuinely restores Klamath River salmon habitat.
Unfortunately, this deal locks away too much water for irrigators with no recourse for
salmon when the fish need more water. Salmon need enough water, plain and simple,”
he said.

Marshall said the proposed billion dollar deal altogether ignores the National
Academy of Science’s recommendations in its November 2007 report on the U.S. -
contracted Hardy Phase II Instream Flow Assessment in the Klamath River.
Congressional members have urged the use of the Hardy Report to protect coho salmon
from jeopardy. Marshall said the deal also dismisses the only independent scientific
reviews of the agreement itself. “This latest draft is not a modern science-based river
restoration plan. It looks more like an old West irrigation deal, guarantees for irrigators,
empty promises for the Indians.”

The Tribal Chairman also said that agreement proponents talk about helping the
river’s fish, but no real fisheries restoration objectives, standards, or assurances are in the
agreement. “Some parties seem to think there’s no other way to remove the dams. The
declining fish population tells us the river is being compromised to death. Hoopa will
retain its rights to defend the Klamath. We will work with any and all parties to remove
the dams and assure a restored healthy river.”

Some Claim Environmental Benefit to Plan that Would Send More Northern California Water to the South

(Map of 1981 Proposed Peripheral Canal Project)

By Rex Frankel


A long-fought plan that would construct a canal to divert Sacramento River water away from the Delta region that is just upriver from the San Francisco Bay and into aqueducts leading to Southern California has resurfaced under the blessing of a panel appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The so-called peripheral canal project was crushed by the State’s voters in 1982, amid fears that it was a water grab to serve development interests but dressed up with token environmental benefits. Given that the State’s Sacramento and Feather Rivers are the source for a huge amount of Southern California’s water supply, this political-environmental battle has huge implications.

So far, the one person with environmentalist credentials to endorse the project is Jerry Meral, former director of the Planning and Conservation League, which has been known in the past to cut deals that angered their other environmental allies. Other large environmental groups have endorsed a study of the project, taking a wait and see approach. Those groups are the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Institute, American Rivers and Environmental Defense. Still other local groups and fishermen’s associations vehemently oppose spending any money to study such a plan given the suspicion that it is a water grab for development interests.

The impetus for the latest incarnation of the canal is because endangered fish are becoming extinct in the Delta region. Longtime backers of the canal project are reasoning that a relocated suction pipe on the north side of the Delta will stop the aqueduct’s pumps, which are on the south side of the Delta, from catching the endangered Delta Smelt fish or give water agency operators the flexibility to choose either the old intake pipes or the new one to suck water based on where fish are found at a given time. Because the fish populations in the Delta have crashed in recent years, a federal judge has ordered the aqueduct operators to cut by 30% the amount of water they ship south.

Given the development motivations behind the backers, I find it hard to believe that this is a solution to a fragile Endangered Species Act (ESA) conflict with water facilities development, but rather it’s just another scheme to cover a bad plan with a new coat of green paint.

Environmentalist groups say that the Delta is “broken”, that the ESA requires that more freshwater stay in the Delta to protect the fish, and that any plan that catches freshwater upstream of the Delta, as the peripheral canal would, will inevitably lead to more salt water from the SF Bay to flow inland, killing the fish that rely on the freshwater.

In fact, the slow conversion of the freshwater Delta into a saltwater marsh due to water agency diversions has lead to a crisis that the federal and state governments have worked at since the early 1990’s to solve. This solution, a so-called compromise called CalFed, has produced many feet of reports, but has largely been defunded by the U.S. Congress. The inevitable conflict has been that development interests continue to want to pump away more of the freshwater, while environmentalists say that existing laws mandate that more freshwater be returned to the Delta which is already severely out of balance. Environmental interests who feel that the deck has historically been stacked against them say they are not willing to compromise with the playing field so unlevel. This conflict led to an appeals court ruling in 2005, which is now before the State Supreme Court, that held that CalFed was in violation of the State Environmental Quality Act because its two goals, ecosystem restoration as mandated by the Endangered Species Act, and water reallocation to urban development interests, as desired but not mandated by any law, were diametrically opposed to each other.

The appeals court concluded that “CALFED concluded an alternative with reduced Delta exports would not meet all of the Program's goals, in particular this reallocation goal…
But CALFED's rejection of a reduced exports alternative is premised on the false assumption that, for an alternative to be feasible, it must meet all of the Program's goals…Because an EIR must identify ways to mitigate or avoid the significant effects that a project may have on the environment, the discussion of alternatives shall focus on alternatives to the project or its location which are capable of avoiding or substantially lessening any significant effects of the project, even if these alternatives would impede to some degree the attainment of the project objectives, or would be more costly.

(For those that want to research this case more, the name of this case is “In re BAY-DELTA PROGRAMMATIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT COORDINATED PROCEEDINGS” C044267, C044577, October 7, 2005.)

The Court also concluded that there is no legal mandate for California to continue to grow at the expense of its protected natural resources:

“CALFED conducted its environmental analysis by assuming certain population growth in the State over the next 15 years and then finding ways to provide water to that population. But CALFED appears not to have considered, as an alternative, smaller water exports from the Bay-Delta region which might, in turn, lead to smaller population growth due to the unavailability of water to support such growth. Taking an assumed population as a given and then finding ways to provide water to that population overlooked an alternative that would provide less water for population growth leaving more for other beneficial uses. CALFED apparently assumed that the California population would grow as projected regardless of the availability of water and did not consider whether, if less water was supplied, population growth would be affected accordingly, leading to less demand. …. However, if there is no water to support the growth, will it occur as projected? Population growth is not an immutable fact of life. Stable populations have been established in such states as New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.”


Debate revived: 25 years after voters defeated the 'peripheral canal,' proposal resurfaces as an option to save the Delta

By Jerry Meral - Special to The Bee

Sunday, August 5, 2007

More than 50 years ago, the California Department of Fish and Game recommended that the giant state and federal water projects divert the water they export from the Sacramento River near the town of Hood, south of Sacramento. Fish and Game opposed allowing Sacramento River water to enter the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and be diverted near Tracy. The reason: Diverting the water from dead-end channels in the south Delta would make it impossible to successfully screen out fish sucked in by the massive pumps.

Half a century later, Fish and Game is being proven right. Delta smelt and other native fish species are threatened with extinction, because the Sacramento River diversion -- the "peripheral canal" -- was never built. Today, biologists continue to call for the diversion facility to be built, so that fish can safely bypass the intake pumps on their way to the sea or as they renew their lives in the Delta.

Now there are other, more urgent reasons to divert water from the Sacramento River rather than the southern part of the Delta. More than 20 million Californians in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California drink and farm with water from the Delta supplied by the state and federal water projects. Seawater entering the Delta from the San Francisco Bay and chemicals leached from the organic Delta soils contaminate the water before it reaches the state and federal pumps. Diverting the water from the Sacramento River north of the Delta would eliminate most pollutants, and improve the quality of the water by more than 50 percent.

It has long been known that a major earthquake could crumble many old, fragile Delta levees. The likelihood of massive levee collapse, which would lead to water supplies being cut off to cities and farms, has increased because of predictions of a major earthquake. A huge flood from upstream rivers could have the same effect. Rising sea level due to global warming makes all these problems worse. The Department of Water Resources estimates that massive levee failure could eliminate the Delta water supply for a year or more. It might never recover if there were multiple levee failures.

The islands in the Delta are eroding from farming that oxidizes the peat soil; some islands are more than 25 feet below sea level. Based on field experiments by the U.S. Geological Survey if wetlands replaced Delta farmlands, soils could recover and huge amounts of carbon could be captured, which would help reduce global warming. But farming continues to be allowed, even on state-owned islands. With so many islands below sea level, if a levee were to break and an island flooded, it would be very costly to restore.

Scientists at the University of California, Davis, estimate that the likelihood of a major Delta catastrophe due to multiple failed levees and flooded islands is greater than 60 percent over the next 45 years. No rational society should take this kind of chance. New Orleans rolled the dice and came up Katrina.

Only an ostrich could deny the problems of the Delta and argue for business as usual. But some say that building a peripheral canal to move water around the Delta must wait. And wait. And wait.

A variety of reasons are given. Some argue that we don't know how much water must flow past the intake of a peripheral canal to preserve the water quality in the Delta, meet Delta farmer water rights and preserve the fisheries. Although tens of millions of dollars have already been spent to answer these questions, undoubtedly we will learn more after the facility is built. Strong requirements must be put into place to take advantage of that new knowledge to adapt the operation of the facility to changing conditions.

Others fear the power of urban and agricultural water users from the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Surely, they will take water needed for environmental protection in the Delta and for farming Delta islands, the critics say. This legitimate concern must be answered by amending the California Constitution to better protect Northern California, and by establishing a new governing body for the facility that adequately represents the interests of the north.

Finally, biologists note that huge amounts of money are needed to restore habitat for fish and wildlife in the Delta and the Central Valley watershed. To generate these funds, anyone who wants to export water through the new facility should be charged a fee, which will go into a fish and wildlife restoration fund. This would be in addition to a fee to repay the cost of the facility.

In the past, Northern California fears of a new method to export water outweighed the obvious benefits of an isolated water transport facility. But the biological crisis in the Delta, coupled with the huge water quality and reliability problems of the existing method of moving water across the Delta require that the Legislature and governor find a way to solve the political problems. Sens. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto; Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; Mike Machado, D-Linden; and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, have passed legislation through a unanimous Senate to resolve this problem. Now it needs to move through the Assembly to the governor's desk.

It will take a decade or more to build the canal after it is authorized and approved by the voters. During that time, the risks to the environment and water supply will gradually increase. We must start immediately to authorize and construct the facility, and hope that nature will be kind enough to wait until it is finished before unleashing a storm or earthquake. We must also immediately stop farming on Delta islands that are below sea level and begin to rebuild them. Perhaps at least some islands can be restored to sea level before the big one hits. Spending $5 billion now can prevent more than $40 billion in economic damages if the levees fail.

About the writer:

Jerry Meral is a director of the National Wildlife Federation. He served as executive director of the Planning and Conservation League and deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources.


or see

Delta Flows: Water Bonds and Bay Delta Conservation Plan

by Dan Bacher
Friday Dec 7th, 2007 8:30 AM

In the latest Delta Flows newsletter, director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla updates us the latest developments in the battle of the water bonds and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process.

Parrilla is very concerned that some environmental NGOs have signed on to the peripheral canal concept in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process. "While Restore the Delta has had a productive working relationship with these environmental groups in other arenas and a good deal of respect for their past work, we are extremely disappointed that they have made a theoretical statement supporting a peripheral canal without including language that would guarantee flows, water quality, and water quantity in order to protect the needs of Delta fisheries and Delta communities. Habitat restoration without freshwater restoration for the Delta is simply not achievable," she stated.

The environmental groups participating in the BDPC process (ed. Note: Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense, American Rivers, Natural Heritage Institute), have, unfortunately, agreed in a document entitled “Points of Agreement for Continuing into the Planning Process – November 16, 2007” that:

The most promising approach for achieving the BDCP conservation and water supply goals involves a new conveyance system with points of diversion, the ultimate acceptability of which will turn on important design, operational, and institutional arrangements that the Steering Committee will develop and evaluation throughout the planning process. The main new physical feature of this conveyance system includes the construction and operation of a new point (or points) of diversion in the North Delta on the Sacramento River and an isolated conveyance facility around the Delta…”



More Government Propaganda for Peripheral Canal

Plan suggests canal is crucial to Delta revival

By Mike Taugher, Contra Costa Times, 11/18/07

Government biologists have concluded the most promising way to save the Delta is to divert water around it through a canal — an idea often derided as a Southern California water grab that would ensure the destruction of the region.

final vision doc

calls for study of dual conveyance plan


environmental defense website



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