Bond battle begins

Opponents to the new $7.5 billion water bond have filed their formal opposition with the state.

Read it here.

Signatories are Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, one of only two state legislators to vote against the bond last week, as well as Restore the Delta’s Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla and Food and Water Watch’s Conner Everts.

While there are many good things in the bond, they write, “the serious flaws outweigh the benefits to the people of California.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Lois Wolk penned an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee urging voters — particularly those in the Delta — to pass the measure.

Let the campaigning begin.

 

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Tit for tat

While the state and federal governments and water exporters question the legality of agricultural diversions within the Delta, Stockton environmentalist Bill Jennings is now questioning the legality of diversions by the state and federal governments and water exporters.

Jennings filed a complaint last week arguing that most of the water pumped south from the Delta is coming from the San Joaquin River system, not the Sacramento River.

The state Department of Water Resources doesn’t have any water for the State Water Project on the San Joaquin side.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation does, but that water is limited to the Stanislaus River and is supposed to serve only Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Calaveras and San Joaquin counties, Jennings writes. It’s not supposed to be exported, he says.

Jennings says Delta farmers should get the water. He asks the State Water Resources Control Board to investigate.

“The last 70 years of California’s water wars must be read in the light of junior water right claimants seeking to break in line and disenfranchise those who hold senior riparian and appropriative water rights,” he wrote. “The reckless accusations by DWR, USBR, Westlands and the State Water Contractors are but the latest example in a long line of assaults on 150 years of water law and precedent.”

It will be interesting to see how the water board handles all of these complaints. Really interesting.

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What’s on tap — weekend of Aug. 16-17 and beyond

Who says summer’s over? Still plenty to do around here.

Saturday, Aug. 16: Solar power informational meeting hosted by the Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton. The diocese has entered into a partnership with Oakland-based solar provider Sungevity to make it easier for parishioners and the general public to switch to solar power. Those who sign up are eligible for a $750 credit, and a donation will be made to local parishes or Catholic Charities. A meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Cathedral of the Annunciation, 400 W. Rose St. More details here.

Saturday, Aug. 16: “Family Day” at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities include live birds of prey, live reptiles, “Meet the Ranger,” arts and crafts, live music, Smokey Bear and more. Most events free with park entrance. More details here.

Saturday, Aug. 16-Sunday, Aug. 17: 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.

Saturday, Aug. 16: 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, Aug. 16: Summer paddle at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, west of Elk Grove. 9 a.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 mostly on Saturdays through the months of August and September. More details here.

Tuesday, Aug. 19: Stockton East Water District weekly board meeting. Noon, 6767 E. Main St., Stockton. Agenda available here.

Wednesday, Aug. 20: California Water Commission meeting. 9 a.m., Resources Building, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento. Agenda includes a briefing by the Pacific Institute on “The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply.” Agenda available here.

Wednesday, Aug. 20: 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.

Thursday, Aug. 21: San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District meeting. 9 a.m., Fresno. Agenda and webcast will be available here.

Saturday, Aug. 23: 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.

Monday, Aug. 25: Sierra Club meeting. Theme: ”Diary of a Steelhead Trout: From River to Sea and Back Again.” Stacy Luthy, a marine biologist and coordinator of Friends of the Lower Calaveras River, will talk about how rivers connect to the ocean and the fish that make the journey. 7 p.m., Central United Methodist Church, 3700 Pacific Avenue in Stockton.

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.

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: River walk bird survey, Cosumnes River Preserve. This is a leisurely four-mile walk through wetlands, riparian forest and grasslands. Meet at 5:15 a.m. in the Cosumnes River Preserve visitor center parking area. 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.

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.

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

UPDATED 8/13/14 — added Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Local Agencies of the North Delta

Because there’s never enough to read on this subject, thought I’d post some of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan comments that came in prior to last week’s deadline, particularly those relevant to San Joaquin County and the Delta (mixing in some statewide perspectives, too).

It’s just a first effort at collecting comments. Drop me a line if you’ve got something else that you think ought to be included.

Local government agencies and quasi-government organizations

City of Stockton

City of Lodi

City of Tracy

Delta Coalition cover letter

San Joaquin County

San Joaquin County Mosquito & Vector Control District

San Joaquin Council of Governments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three (implementation agreement)

 

Other San Joaquin County-based interest groups

Central Delta Water Agency Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

Restore the Delta

San  Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

South Delta Water Agency

 

Regional and statewide government agencies

NEW: Friends of the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

NEW: Local Agencies of the North Delta

Contra Costa County: Letter, Appendix 1, Appendix 2, Appendix 3, Appendix 4, Appendix 5, Appendix 6, Appendix 7

Solano County

North Delta Water Agency

Delta Protection Commission: Letter, Comments Matrix

Suisun Marsh Resource Conservation District

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

State Water Resources Control Board

NEW: Tuolumne County

 

Environmental groups

Friends of the River

Environmental Water Caucus

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

North Coast Rivers Alliance

The Bay Institute, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife and Golden Gate Salmon Association

The Nature Conservancy

NEW: California Water Impact Network/CSPA/Aqualliance

 

Water Districts

Contra Costa Water District

East Bay Municipal Utility District

Kern County Water Agency: Part One (the plan), Part Two (implementation agreement)

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

North State Water Alliance

Placer County Water Agency

San Joaquin Tributaries Authority

State Water Contractors (press release)letter (NEW)

Westlands Water District

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Speed addict

Joe McConaughy at the northern end of the Pacific Crest Trail, at the U.S.-Canada border. Photo credit Michael Dillon/Run for Colin

A Seattle man hiked the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes, according to this report by Northwest Public Radio.

Yes, that’s a record.

Before I start whining, it should be noted that Joe McConaughy dedicated this journey to his cousin, Colin, who died from a rare form of cancer in 2012. McConaughy reportedly raised $28,000 in donations for cancer support services.

That’s wonderful.

But.

Why is our society so obsessed with speed? Only recently, it seems to me, has so much importance been placed on setting records on the PCT or other long-distance routes.

Maybe I’m bitter because I’m not capable of averaging 50-plus miles a day. (Five miles a day is more my speed.) But why embark on the journey of a lifetime with the primary goal of finishing it as quickly as possible? It’s like enduring the endless drive to Disneyland, pulling into the parking lot, getting out of the car for five minutes and then coming home again.

PCT speed hikers might be fast.

But they’ll never taste the secret, icy little spring at Asa Lake, less than a quarter-mile off the trail in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness east of Stockton. They’ll breeze right past it.

They’ll never lie in their tents listening to hailstones bounce off the granite boulders during a late-afternoon thunderstorm. They’ll be hiking through it.

They’ll never be able to read a book or nap in a meadow or cast a line for golden trout.

No time. Got to keep moving.

To each his own, of course, and congrats again to McConaughy.

Don’t mind me, Joe, I’m just jealous.

But if I’m going to deal with the aches and pains of backpacking, the dirt, the bugs, the sunburned nose and the freeze-dried food, I’m darn well going to take some time and smell the flowers, too.

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‘Now we just need water’

Juvenile steelhead found in pools on the Calaveras River near Wilson Way (file photo). Courtesy the Fishery Foundation of California.

In reaction to a recent story about the potential to improve Calaveras River steelhead populations, fisherman Roger Johnson writes:

“I can vouch for there still being steelhead in the Calaveras river. I’ve caught and released many fish well over 20 inches. Some as big as 26 inches…

“Fishing the river above the Bellota weir is tricky due to private land surrounding the river. But that stretch of river from the Bellota weir to Hogan dam never dries out. The flows get dangerously low but the fish survive ironically because of the weir.

“The habitat from just downstream of the Escalon Bellota Rd all the way to Hogan dam is prime spawning grounds. Now we just need water.”

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Tunnels talk (links fixed)

UPDATED 8/8/14 

Because there’s never enough to read on this subject, thought I’d post some of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan comments that came in prior to last week’s deadline, particularly those relevant to San Joaquin County and the Delta (mixing in some statewide perspectives, too).

It’s just a first effort at collecting comments. Drop me a line if you’ve got something else that you think ought to be included.

Local government agencies and quasi-government organizations

City of Stockton

City of Lodi

City of Tracy

Delta Coalition cover letter

San Joaquin County

San Joaquin County Mosquito & Vector Control District

San Joaquin Council of Governments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three (implementation agreement)

 

Other San Joaquin County-based interest groups

Central Delta Water Agency Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

Restore the Delta

San  Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

South Delta Water Agency

 

Regional and statewide government agencies

NEW: Friends of the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

NEW: Local Agencies of the North Delta

Contra Costa County: Letter, Appendix 1, Appendix 2, Appendix 3, Appendix 4, Appendix 5, Appendix 6, Appendix 7

Solano County

North Delta Water Agency

Delta Protection Commission: Letter, Comments Matrix

Suisun Marsh Resource Conservation District

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

State Water Resources Control Board

NEW: Tuolumne County

 

Environmental groups

Friends of the River

Environmental Water Caucus

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

North Coast Rivers Alliance

The Bay Institute, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife and Golden Gate Salmon Association

The Nature Conservancy

NEW: California Water Impact Network/CSPA/Aqualliance

 

Water Districts

Contra Costa Water District

East Bay Municipal Utility District

Kern County Water Agency: Part One (the plan), Part Two (implementation agreement)

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

North State Water Alliance

Placer County Water Agency

San Joaquin Tributaries Authority

State Water Contractors (press release), letter (NEW)

Westlands Water District

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Big win for little water district

The Stockton-based Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District — which flies under the radar, even compared with other water districts — may have a massive cash windfall coming its way.

In a legal fight dating back two decades, Central and the neighboring Stockton East Water District had claimed they were owed between $37 million and $42 million for water promised but not always delivered by the federal government from New Melones Lake.  Stockton residents helped pay for a tunnel and other infrastructure to take the water, only to have the feds inconsistently deliver it for a variety of reasons.

The districts prevailed on the merits of the case, but the damages awarded last year by a trial court amounted to a disappointing $2.5 million combined.

Stockton East settled the case and moved on, but Central pressed the matter, filing an appeal.

And the district won. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found on Friday that the lower court should have awarded “expectancy damages.”

Central’s failure to request a full amount of water every year wasn’t necessarily because of reduced demand from its growers, the court found. Rather, it is “eminently plausible” that the government’s failure to provide the water in 1993 is what prompted Central to ask for less in subsequent years.

“At some point most people stop asking for what they have been told they are not going to get, and they make other plans to meet their needs,” the court found.

“… Why would Central request water it was told would not be available? It seems clear that having sufficient water available is paramount to the success of the agricultural enterprise, and failure to obtain the water needed from Central quite plausibly would have caused the farmers to look elsewhere, on their own, for water, or to resort to using groundwater.”

Could the decision have implications for other water districts that have been denied full allocations under their federal contracts?

Read the ruling here.

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Am I a fearmonger?

In reaction to Sunday’s story about crude oil transport by rail, James Rod Gonzalez writes to The Record:

“Your choosing to run an ‘opinion piece’ from the Environmental Zealot, and blogger, Alex Breitler on the front page, is again showing your… disdain for reality and the welfare of the community you espouse to serve. The sky is falling mentality of Breitler and his minions is astonishing and their attempt to gin up fear of something that as he even states, ‘Stockton is off the beaten path for at least some of these shipments… traveling through Sacramento on the way to Bay Area refineries.’ This fear mongering being represented as front page news when Stockton already has more than enough issues to really fear is totally unconscionable, and on the part of the Record and your editorial staff, immoral. You and your staff manage to make the lives of Stocktonians bad enough just reporting things that are happening not ‘what if’ fairy tales of an Environmental Justice blogger. While I doubt that this letter will be published, someone, and I sincerely hope more than I, must call you on it!”

Didn’t know I had minions.

Seriously though, I appreciate the note and I understand the concern about making a big deal out of something that might never happen here — in this case, some kind of dangerous crude oil spill.

There’s a lot of “coulds” in environment journalism. That blue-green algae in the San Joaquin River could make you sick. The proposed twin tunnels could harm Stockton’s new $220 million drinking-water plant. Pesticide drift from farmers’ fields could sicken nearby residents.

I can’t look into my crystal ball and tell you which of all those “coulds” will become a “did.”

But I think it’s important to at least talk about this stuff.

If I was an “Environmental Zealot” as Mr. Gonzalez says, I wouldn’t point out in that story that many of these crude oil trains are likely bypassing Stockton. I wouldn’t include a statement from a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokeswoman that only two crude oil trains enter the state of California on that railroad in an entire month. And I wouldn’t include statements from the Port of Stockton’s director about taxes and jobs benefits from a proposed petroleum terminal here.

Context. The other side. More often, multiple other sides.

That’s the difference between journalism and “fairy tales.”

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Yikes

All of San Joaquin County, and 58 percent of the state, is now considered to be in a state of “exceptional” drought, federal officials said today.

That’s the most severe of five categories.

Until today, only the southern and western portions of the county were classified as “exceptional” by the U.S. Drought Monitor. New maps have greatly expanded that area.

Officials said it is increasingly clear that conditions are not any better in Northern California than they are in Southern California.

Total water storage in the state’s reservoirs is about 17.3 million acre-feet, they said, about 60 percent of average. The state is short more than one year’s worth of reservoir water after drawing down reservoirs more than usual in 2012 and 2013, according to the Drought Monitor’s analysis (click on California tab on right).

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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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