Pigs, at sunset

This blog will be silent until Sept. 22, while I do a little adventuring.

In the meantime, for an adventure of your own, check out “Evening Flight With Piggies,” by Adam Farrow. It’s a side of the Delta that most people never see.

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McNerney ‘supportive’ of water bond

U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, told me Thursday that he is “supportive” of the new $7.5 billion water bond.

“It looks like it’s a good proposal. It’s got the right ingredients in it to help,” McNerney said.

McNerney’s opponent in the November election, Republican Tony Amador, told my colleague Zack Johnson that he’s against the bond.

Amador called the $2.7 billion allocated for water storage “tokenism” and said he did not believe the bond is neutral on the subject of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed twin tunnels.

“At this point I’d oppose (the bond),” Amador said.

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Save some for the grass

This was the scene in front of the Weber Institute of Technology in downtown Stockton this afternoon.

Not only is this sprinkler watering the sidewalk, but it’s drenching the parked car and the street beyond it.

Watering of hard surfaces has been illegal in California since the State Water Resources Control Board passed emergency drought regulations in July.

What’s more, this photo was taken at 2:15 p.m. The city of Stockton forbids outdoor irrigation from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, since our hot summer afternoons lead to higher rates of evaporation and more water lost.

Technically this scenario could result in a $500-a-day fine, though it remains to be seen how many water districts will actually press such large penalties upon water wasters.

Let’s check those sprinklers, folks. It’s one thing if they go off in the middle of the night at your house and you simply don’t realize they’re soaking the sidewalk. It’s another thing if they’re on in the middle of the day, at a public school on a busy street in downtown Stockton.

And that’s today’s self-righteous sermon.

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Eggman, Olsen, others explain groundwater opposition

Democrat Susan Eggman, Republican Kristin Olsen and other Central Valley legislators are explaining their opposition to the recently passed groundwater bills.

In short, their concerns boil down to increased costs that could be passed on to water users, and the haste with which the legislation was approved, in their view.

Read more.

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Lodi uses more water despite drought

Lodi is the only local water provider to report an increase in water use in July 2014, compared with July 2013, according to data released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Lodi is also the only incorporated area in San Joaquin County in which some homes still lack water meters.

Coincidence? You decide.

Across California, the water board reported a 7.5 percent decline in water use in July. Many areas in the Valley did better than that, perhaps in part because they were using more water to begin with (per capita usage, which will tell a more complete story, won’t be available until October).

Here’s how we did in July 2014 compared with July 2013:

• City of Stockton: 203 million gallons saved (14 percent decline)

• Cal Water (Stockton): 107 million gallons saved (10 percent decline)

• City of Tracy: 151 million gallons saved (21 percent decline)

• City of Manteca: 53 million gallons saved (8 percent decline)

• City of Lathrop: 20 million gallons saved (10 percent decline)

• City of Lodi: 57 million additional gallons used (8 percent increase)

• Calaveras County Water District: 52 million gallons saved (20 percent decline)

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What’s on tap — weekend of Sept. 6-7 and beyond

Leading off our calendar of events… fruits, veggies and fish!

Saturday, Sept. 6: Organic produce stand opens for the first time at Boggs Tract Community Farm. 9 a.m. to noon. Fruits, vegetables, eggs and honey available. 466 S. Ventura Avenue. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 6: Grab a pole: It’s Free Fishing Day in California. You don’t need a license to fish, though regular bag limits and other restrictions still apply.

Saturday, Sept. 6-Sunday, Sept. 7: Woodbridge Wilderness Area open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The area is typically open the first three weekends of each month. Explore a quarter-mile of Mokelumne River frontage. Free. More details here.

Tuesday, Sept. 9: Stockton East Water District weekly board meeting. Noon, 6767 E. Main St., Stockton. Agenda available here.

Tuesday, Sept. 9: Audubon Society meeting, 7:30 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church. Samantha Arthur will talk about the imperiled tricolored blackbird, whose population once numbered in the millions but is now down to about 145,000 birds.

Wednesday, Sept. 10: Green Team San Joaquin meeting at the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, 445 W. Weber Avenue. Presentations on solar power and ride-sharing. 9 a.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10: John Sherman, author of “Fly Fishing the California Delta,” will speak to the Delta Fly Fishers at 7 p.m. at John R. Williams School. Sherman has fished all over the world but lives in the Delta, the club said. Sherman will talk about tips and techniques to improve fishing success on Delta waterways.

Wednesday, Sept. 11: San Joaquin Bike Coalition’s weekly ride. 7 p.m. behind the Empire Theater in Stockton. Anyone with basic bike riding skills welcome. More details here.

Friday, Sept. 12: Evening summer paddle at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, west of Elk Grove. 6 p.m. This guided float wanders along a historically dredged area that is not normally open to the public. You might see river otters, egrets, herons, hawks, pelicans, beavers and pond turtles. Event is free. You must bring a canoe or kayak and a life jacket. Similar events scheduled Sept. 7 and Sept. 27. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 13: Electronic waste collection event hosted by Onsite Electronics Recycling. 9 a.m., San Joaquin Delta College Shima 2 parking lot. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 13: Audubon Society birder Jim Rowoth will lead the public on a four-hour walk at the Cosumnes River Preserve. Meet at the visitor parking lot at 6 a.m. More details here.

Tuesday, Sept. 16: Presentation, “International and Adventure Travel Basics.” 7 p.m., Stockton REI. Experts will talk about how to plan, prepare for and execute an international “adventure trip.” More details here. Saturday, Sept. 20: Coastal Cleanup Day. Details coming soon.

Wednesday, Sept. 17: California Water Commission meeting. 9:30 a.m., Sacramento. Agenda to be posted here.

Thursday, Sept. 18: San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District meeting. 9 a.m., Fresno. Webcast and agenda will be available here.

Friday, Sept. 19: Stockton Astronomical Society presents “Sky Tours” at San Joaquin Delta College. Come peer through society members’ telescopes. Public is welcome. 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 20: Wildlife ecologist Dave Johnston presents “Going Batty” at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Johnston has spent 20 years investigating how bats are impacted by solar and wind energy projects. 10 a.m., Jack Knight Hall. Free with park entrance. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 20: Tall forest bird survey, Cosumnes River Preserve. This four- to five-mile hike wanders through the kind of riparian woodland that was once widespread in the Central Valley. Meet at 5:30 a.m. at the farm center gate. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 20:Guided paddle on the Cosumnes River. Bring your own kayak or canoe. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the visitor center of the Cosumnes River Preserve. More details here.

Tuesday, Sept. 23: Presentation, “In the Footsteps of Greatness,” by athlete Josh Mathe who completed the 210-mile John Muir Trail in just six days. 7 p.m., Stockton REI. More details here.

Thursday, Sept. 25: Delta Protection Commission meeting in Discovery Bay. Details to be posted here.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Guided photo walk, Cosumnes River Preserve. One-mile loop trip takes visitors through wetlands and riparian forest. 7 a.m., visitor center. More details here.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Stockton Astronomical Society presents “Astronomy in the Park.” Come to Oak Grove Regional Park and peer through the telescopes of society members. The public is welcome. Event starts after sunset, which is at 6:54 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30: Presentation, “Best Local Fall Hikes.” 7 p.m., Stockton REI. More details here.

Saturday, Oct. 4: Bee expert Julie Serences will present ”Conservation of Native Bees” at Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  Serences will talk about native bees’ role in pollinating native plants. 10 a.m. at Jack Knight Hall. Free with park entrance. More details here.

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Brown: Tunnels plan ‘isn’t cooked yet’

It took less than five minutes for Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican challenger Neel Kashkari to clash over the twin tunnels during tonight’s debate.

While Kashkari said he wants to take high-speed rail money and pump it into water projects, the tunnels apparently aren’t among the projects he would fund — at least, not now.

The exchange began after Brown was asked how the tunnels project can proceed, given the EPA’s recent warning that they may violate the Clean Water Act.

Brown’s answer: “I’ve lived in Southern California and I have a ranch in Northern California. I was born in San Francisco. It is true a lot of our water is in the north, and a lot of the people are in the south. That’s why my father passed Proposition 1 on the 1960 ballot and that’s been a marvel for California. It has created jobs and abundant agriculture, ranking California No. 1 in fruits and vegetables. But we have a problem here. We have a Delta system that protects the fresh water that goes to the farms, not just to Southern California but to Alameda County and Santa Clara County, and that salt water is only protected by dirt levees. We have to find a way to make sure the conveyance through the Delta will withstand an earthquake or rising sea levels or extreme weather events. That’s why for 50 years people have been trying for either a peripheral canal or tunnels or some other kind of conveyance. We now have a plan and the plan is going through the environmental impact process. Very extensive. 75,000 pages of analysis. It’s not cooked yet. We’re still taking comments. So over the next year we will go over that and look for if anyone else has another suggestion. But I’m telling you the way we protect the water in the middle of California and in the south while balancing what is right for the north and the water rights of the Northern California rights-holders, it’s going to take something like the Proposition 1 that will be on your ballot (in November) and, by the way, I hope people will vote for Proposition 1, the water bond.”

Kashkari’s response: “I’m very concerned about the tunnels. $25 billion for these tunnels and the Obama administration has serious concerns. Look, if you look at Gov. Brown’s legacy of infrastructure projects — take the Bay Bridge, many billion dollars over budget, many years late — if that’s the track record this thing is going to cost $50 or $75 billion by the time we’re done with it. I’m an aerospace engineer. When I look at a big engineering project that’s way over budget and way over-delayed I have real concerns about mismanagement. I’m not going to plow ahead with $25 to $50 billion into the tunnels. We’re going to put a brake on it, study it and make sure we get it right.”

Moderator John Myers: “So no tunnels?”

Kashkari: “No tunnels.”

Myers: “And no tunnels, then, governor?”

Brown: “This has been on the table for 50 years. If that salt water intrudes, half the water to Silicon Valley will disappear in a matter of days. That would be a catastrophe for the economy of California and I don’t think this man really understands — ”

Kashkari: “The Obama EPA is saying your tunnel program is fundamentally flawed. That’s your own president, President Obama saying that, not me.”

Brown: “That doesn’t make it right, by the way.”

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Groundwater: How they voted

More evidence that water issues transcend political affiliation.

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton joined Kristin Olsen and other Assembly Republicans in opposing last week’s groundwater legislation.

Eggman voted no on both of the bills, which, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would require local agencies to write groundwater sustainability plans and allow the state to intervene if they fail to do so.

On the Senate side, Stockton Democrat Cathleen Galgiani also joined Republicans in opposing the bill allowing the state to intervene. However, Galgiani did not cast a vote on the bill requiring groundwater plans to be written.

San Joaquin County water districts opposed the bills, arguing they would create costly new mandates and that local officials are already doing a good job with groundwater.

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Dump the bucket, raise a glass

Stockton’s Eric “Letter K” Luis found a way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge without getting wet.

Watch:

In reality the ALS challenge is having virtually no impact on the state’s water supply. Still, Luis’s concern is understandable.  

He writes: “As a grocery clerk, I’ve begun seeing people come in to buy entire carts of ice. They are heading off to film their ice bucket challenge, but few even know what the challenge is for. ‘I got nominated,’ they’ll say.

“There must be another way.”

Luis found one. And I like his alternative. Instead of dumping a bucket, how about raising a glass?

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Hummingbird hero

My father-in-law, Fred, is a man of many talents. He is a big-rig driver, an expert pancake flipper, a dog whisperer and, of course, he is still “Daddy” to his little girl.

Now we can add “hummingbird hero” to the list.

During a visit over the holiday weekend, we went out into Fred’s garage and found a hummingbird blindly buzzing about. The bird was stunned to find the sky had been replaced by a ceiling, as he repeatedly bonked his head in a pathetic effort to escape. The garage door was open, but the poor bird was so intent on going up that he couldn’t go out.

He searched in vain for a place to stop and rest his tired little wings. And so he hung precariously for a moment on the frame of the garage door.

Finally he plopped down like an overworked dog, beak ajar as if panting.

As the tallest guy in the room, I climbed a footstool and carefully cupped the bird in my hands. I expected resistance, but the spent hummingbird had nothing left. I took him out into the yard and opened my hands, but even then, he refused to fly away.

I panicked. Had I damaged his wings? Was he injured?

The ever-calm Fred took over. He took the bird and recognized that it was covered in spiderwebs from swooping all over the garage. Fred began to carefully pick off the cobwebs.

Fred cupped his hands and thrust upward, hoping the bird would take the hint. Nothing happened. I began to fear our little friend would never fly again.

But finally, without enough warning for this wannabe photog to capture the moment, the bird burst out of Fred’s hands and tore off for the nearest tree, a cobweb trailing behind him.

There was no apparent injury. Fred guessed the bird had initially been too tired and too tangled up in the spiderwebs to escape.

“It’s like if you were tied up with rope,” Fred said.

Once some of the webs had been removed, and enough time had passed for the hummingbird to recapture some energy, he was gone.

Asked if the bird would have made it without our intervention, Fred said, “I don’t think so. But he’ll be OK now.”

Like I said, a man of many talents. Now how about some pancakes?

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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