Ambitious man, unassuming grave

We were cruising around the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma last week — (it’s a long story) — when we stumbled on this tombstone:

That’s “Brown” as in Edmund “Pat” Brown, architect of the State Water Project that fuels California’s trillion-dollar economy.

The governor’s resting place is relatively modest, compared with a nearby cavernous marble mausoleum and finely carved columbariums bearing the names of some of San Francisco’s most prominent Catholics. (Joe DiMaggio’s grave is only a moment’s walk up the hill from Brown’s).

Certainly, the simple, black tombstone — adorned only with the governor’s last name, and a cross — stands in contrast with the complex and intricate water delivery system for which Brown is best known.


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Stockton ‘must step up’

Photo courtesy Dale Stocking

Just because Stockton can pump Delta water after all this summer, the city can and should do more to conserve water, says environmentalist Dale Stocking.

His words:

I believe Bob (Granberg, assistant director of the Municipal Utilities Department) and the City are giving the wrong message when they indicate that Stockton will not have a severe water problem now that the Delta Water Supply Project can again begin pumping…
I support the DWSP; however, Stockton and all of California need to begin reducing all water use.
We have stopped watering our lawn areas but are still watering the ornamentals.  I have put the last three years Cal Water usage on a spreadsheet and will be measuring how much water we save not watering just the lawn area.  Hopefully, it will be significant.
Bottom line, Stockton must step up and really work at lowering elective water usage.

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The “A” word

After hearing hours of debate about emergency rules to cut off farmers from their water supply, Tom Howard dropped the “A” word:


Obviously, the debate about curtailments was hot and heavy because this is a critically dry year.

But Howard, the executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board, pointed out that even in normal years officials would likely be able to conclude that water is not available for all of the people who feel they have water rights. Curtailment orders could be issued for junior, post-1914 water-right holders “probably in all average years,” he said.

If the board wants to get into the thorny issue of where water is really available, and who should get it, the board certainly can, Howard said.

“It’s very complicated,” he said. “My personal opinion is the Central Valley would benefit from an adjudication. Because if you really listen to what everyone’s been saying, they don’t have a good idea of how to cut people off because they haven’t got a clearly defined set of priorities for who has water and who doesn’t have water… You’re not going to ever get there minus some sort of adjudication on the system.”

Adjudication basically means that the board — or a judge — sits down and determines once and for all who gets water, and how much. It’s been done on a limited basis in groundwater basins mostly in Southern California, but never across an area as large as the Central Valley.

Any decision to adjudicate the entire Valley would be hugely controversial.

“That’s a 20-year process, but at least our successors 20 years from now will have some assurance they can manage another drought like this in an effective way,” Howard said.

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The proper poppers

Coming this weekend: A “10 Questions” profile on Whitey Rasmussen, longtime Stockton fisherman.

I love profiling fishermen. They tell great stories.

Whitey has also been tying his own flies and  making his own “poppers” (lures) for more than half a century. A guest bedroom in the back of his home is really more a fishing den, with a desk equipped with spools of thread, hooks, bags of feathers and everything else he needs to deceive the next lunker bass.

For any wannabes out there, here’s a clip of Whitey talking technique:


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Stockton’s link to Yosemite — past and present

Alice van Ommeren sent some wonderful images to help illustrate today’s story about Stockton’s connection to Yosemite National Park, which is celebrating 150 years of protection.

In case you missed them:

The Big Oak Flat Road was the route early park visitors took, from Weber Point in downtown Stockton to the floor of Yosemite Valley. As you can see, the journey was a bit harrowing. (And I thought driving over Sonora Pass in my Rav was bad.)

To think we complain today about the 21/2-hour drive to Yosemite. Back then, the trip took days. It was hot and dusty and buggy and you were lucky if you weren’t bruised by the time you gingerly stepped down from the carriage.

Wouldn’t you love to have lived in Stockton in those times? As you can see from this postcard, Stocktonians used the city’s proximity to Yosemite National Park as a marketing tool. Not so much, anymore, though a few scattered businesses and hotels still invoke the name.

Thanks again, Alice.

I also want to share an email I got today from a reader reminding us that, thankfully, our historic connection to Yosemite has not been completely severed.

Dear Alex,

I enjoyed reading your article about Yosemite National Park, which is majestic and beautiful beyond imagination  I hope people who read your article will be inspired to visit.  I noticed you interviewed a couple of people who teach at Delta College and I thought it was too bad that you didn’t interview my husband, Clarence Louie, who works as an EOPS counselor at Delta College.

For the past 33 years, Clarence has taught classes in the EOPS Summer Readiness Program, a program that introduces low income freshman students to college and as the name says, gets them ready for college.  The students take classes in personal development, academic and career exploration, and study skills.  On Fridays, the students go on field trips to visit college campuses, such as UC Davis, Sacramento State, and San Francisco State.  They learn information about transfer requirements and course preparation for their college majors.  Students are encouraged to complete their degrees and return to their community and give back.

For the past 25 years or more, Clarence has chaperoned Summer Readiness students to visit Yosemite as the culminating event and reward for completing the program.  To date, hundreds, maybe thousands, of Delta College students have made the trek to Yosemite.  After a grueling six weeks in the program, a visit to Yosemite serves as the ideal place for these Delta College students to reflect on the opportunities they have, the future they can create, and how they can make a difference by giving meaning and purpose to their goal to attain a higher education.  Indeed, many students who went on to graduate from college have chosen to live in our community and contribute their knowledge and skills by working as doctors, police officers, teachers, counselors, and business people.


Debra Louie

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S.J. Co. water use falls, but not enough

You heard the news that Californians have so far fallen well short of the 20 percent water conservation goal established by Gov. Jerry Brown when he declared drought in January.

On Friday, the State Water Resources Control Board released the results of the survey upon which that news was based. The survey reveals, for the first time, how individual cities and water districts are doing. You can access the spreadsheet from this page.

The nuts and bolts for San Joaquin County:

• Most water providers apparently either did not respond to the survey, or did not provide water usage statistics for 2014. State officials have said that some surveys are still being counted.

• The California Water Service Co. did report its usage this year. Its Stockton customers actually used 9 percent more water in January 2014 than they did on average during the same month the previous three years. (To be fair, the drought wasn’t made official until Jan. 17, and as the state points out, it takes time for the public to respond and take measures to conserve. And of course, January was exceptionally dry, likely boosting demand somewhat.)

CalWater customers did better in February, March, April and May (partial), registering declines of 3 percent, 9 percent, 4 percent and 10 percent respectively compared to the previous three years. Better, but still nowhere near the 20 percent goal established by the governor.

• It was a similar story in the city of Manteca, where water use in January was up 15 percent over the previous three years, but then declined the following months. Manteca customers used 15 percent less water in February, 16 percent less water in March, 9 percent less water in April and 5 percent less water in May (partial) compared to the previous three years.

Again, the city fell short of 20 percent.

• Stockton’s Municipal Utilities Department and the city of Lodi apparently responded to the survey but did not answer questions about water use so far in 2014.

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Delta coalition supports Wolk water bond

With legislative action on a new water bond expected soon, the Delta Counties Coalition weighed in late Friday with a press release announcing support for a $10.5 billion proposal by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis.

The other bond measures that are under discussion are inadequate because they effectively “underwrite” the governor’s twin tunnels plan and are likely to escalate north-south disputes , the coalition says.

“SB 848 is a leading example of how diverse interests can find common ground on a comprehensive solution to address California’s water needs as opposed to the process currently being followed for the (twin tunnels),” San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller said in a prepared statement.

But will legislators — not to mention the voting public — find a $10.5 billion bond any more palatable than the $11.1 billion beast that’s already on the ballot? The L.A. Times’ George Skelton addresses this and other areas of controversy.

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Smart-growth vote coming soon

Some of those new regional “sustainable community strategies” that have been bantered about about for years and years are finally up for adoption.

The American Lung Association took preemptive action this week, issuing a press releasing urging councils of governments across the San Joaquin Valley to approve plans that will be protective of public health.

The association named a group of San Joaquin Valley “Healthy Growth Leaders,” including Stockton City Councilman Moses Zapien.

During a related vote last fall, Zapien — who sits on the San Joaquin COG’s board of directors — made a motion to pursue the most health-protective approach out of four possible scenarios, but his motion failed to earn a second. The COG board decided to go with the second-most protective scenario.

“I joined the campaign because I know the people that I represent want better health, cleaner air and safer opportunities for their kids to be active,” Zapien was quoted as saying in the American Lung Association’s press release. “Every community can grow healthier, and we are laying out a vision for how we can get there.”

The San Joaquin COG will consider the sustainability plan for our region at its monthly board meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, 555 E. Weber Avenue in Stockton. Agenda here. And here’s what you need to know about it.

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Is it getting warm in here?

Things got a bit toasty at today’s Stockton Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee meeting, as members debated whether an energy-efficiency ordinance had been met, and accused local Realtors of failing to promote the program to the public.

The most pointed comments came from Sierra Club environmentalist Dale Stocking.

“I think it’s a bunch of BS to come in and say the numbers that (Pacific Gas and Electric Co.) gave us last month justify saying that we met (the goal),” he said. “My position is that the Realtors looked at this as just another bump in the road, a stumbling block. I’m not sure the Realtors really do show purchasers information (about retrofit opportunities).”

Background: The committee originally proposed an ordinance that would require energy audits to be performed whenever a house in Stockton is sold. The goal of the audits was to encourage residents to fix up old, drafty homes that stick owners with high utility costs and increase the city’s carbon footprint.

Realtors intervened in the 11th hour and blocked the proposal when it went before the City Council, warning that the point-of-sale mandate would increase costs.

Instead of the mandate, the council set a goal of retrofitting 8,500 of Stockton’s older homes by the end of 2013. The Realtors would help promote the program. If the goal was not met, the energy audit mandate that had previously been set aside would be reconsidered.

Last month, PG&E representatives presented data claiming more than 12,000 retrofits had occurred — that the city had, in fact, met the requirements of the ordinance.

Some committee members couldn’t accept that. The conclusion, after all, was based on a liberal definition of “retrofit” that would could include relatively minor changes like new light bulbs or showerheads in satisfying the 8,500 target.

Stocking and some other committee members said they believed the goal had not been met, and they expressed frustration with Realtors for first lobbying to soften the mandate and then — in the eyes of those committee members — failing to promote the voluntary program.

“The agreement that we had with the Realtors in letting go of the mandated energy survey was that the Realtors would undertake the cost of advertising to the general public, not just to Realtors,” said Trevor Atkinson, a member of the slow-growth group Campaign for Common Ground.

“You guys (Realtors) were going to help meet the benchmarks so we didn’t have to go to the mandatory process,” added committee chair Carol Ornelas, with Visionary Home Builders.

“I had the impression it wasn’t going to stop only at educating the Realtors at these meetings, but that there would actually be something for the Realtors to give to their clients and potential clients,” said committee member Randy Hatch.

There to answer to those criticisms was Byron Bogaard, representing the Central Valley Association of Realtors.

Bogaard said the agreement was for the association to educate its members about retrofit opportunities, with the notion that Realtors would then pass that information on to home buyers.

“I would say that we exceeded the goals,” Bogaard said. “You’ll find no other group in the community that cares as much about their local community as the Realtors.”

He said he didn’t have a specific number as to the amount of money spent on the educational effort, but said it was likely more than $10,000. Bogaard later said the real total was probably $50,000 including time spent by staff.

Told by committee members that the plan was to educate not just the Realtors but also the potential home buyers themselves, Bogaard responded by saying, “We never went directly to the consumer with the exception of one event, a home buyers’ fair. All of our marketing dollars really went to help educate Realtors so when we had a client, we would have information to give directly to that client.”

He challenged committee members to go back and check the minutes of past meetings to verify what the actual arrangement had been.

Ultimately, Atkinson said the issue is “history” and said there was no real way to get the data needed to prove whether the ordinance had been a success or not. The committee agreed to revisit the issue, and its broader role, at a future meeting.

For all the argument over what defines a “retrofit” and whether the Realtors were aggressive enough in pursuing the goal, however, committee member David Nelson of A.G. Spanos Cos. brought up what he called the real “elephant in the room” — the fact that PG&E data suggests Stockton’s per capita energy usage is growing, not declining, despite past efforts to the contrary.

“People are changing out incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs because it saves energy, but because it costs less to use it, they’re leaving it on all day,” Nelson said. “We’ve got more efficient (heating and air conditioning) units, but people have not changed their behaviors and are cooling and heating their houses more,” he said.

“I think what it really underscores is that a lot of this is about education. There is a real need to improve the energy efficiency of existing building stock, but we can’t do that without also educating people about the long-term benefits of changing their lifestyles a bit.”


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Fighting for the beekeeper vote

U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, issued a statement today in recognition of National Pollinator Week, which we’re right in the middle of, in case you somehow forgot.

“After years of steady decline in our pollinator population, we must continue to do all we can to protect the long-term viability of our bees and other beneficial insects,” Denham’s statement concludes.

Denham, of course, will be challenged this November by beekeeper Michael Eggman in the 10th Congressional District.

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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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