Friday, August 18, 2017

Environmental groups sue to stop Delta Tunnels project

The group that Gov. Jerry Brown has arguably tried the hardest to curry favor from -- environmentalists -- may scuttle his signature project. From the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations:
On August 17, 2017, the North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA), Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR), Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association filed suit against the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in Sacramento Superior Court to overturn DWR’s approval on July 21, 2017 of the massive, $25 billion Twin Tunnels (or “California WaterFix”) Project. The Twin Tunnels would divert 9,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Sacramento River near Clarksburg and transport it 35 miles via two tunnels 40-feet in diameter for export to Central and Southern California. The Twin Tunnels would divert approximately 6.5 million acre-feet of water per year, a quantity sufficient to flood the entire state of Rhode Island under nearly 7 feet of water. Diverting this staggering quantity of water – equal to most of the Sacramento River’s flow during the summer and fall – would exacerbate the Delta’s severe ecological decline, pushing several imperiled species of salmon and steelhead closer to extinction.

According to Noah Oppenheim, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, “the Twin Tunnels is a hugely expensive boondoggle that could pound the final nail in the coffin of Northern California’s salmon and steelhead fishery. There is still time to protect these declining stocks from extinction, but taking more water from their habitat will make matters far worse.”

Frank Egger, President of the North Coast Rivers Alliance, stated that “the imperiled salmon and steelhead of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are one of Northern California’s most precious natural resources. They must not be squandered so that Southern California can avoid taking the water conservation measures that many of us adopted decades ago.”

Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe near Mt. Shasta, stated, “The Winnemem Wintu Tribe has lived on the banks of the McCloud River for thousands of years and our culture is centered on protection and careful, sustainable use of its salmon. Our salmon were stolen from us when Shasta Dam was built in 1944. Since that dark time, we have worked tirelessly to restore this vital salmon run through construction of a fishway around Shasta Dam connecting the Sacramento River to its upper tributaries including the McCloud River. The Twin Tunnels and its companion proposal to raise Shasta Dam by 18 feet would push the remaining salmon runs toward extinction and inundate our ancestral and sacred homeland along the McCloud River.”

Larry Collins, President of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, stated that “Our organization of small, family-owned fishing boats has been engaged in the sustainable harvest of salmon and other commercial fisheries for over 100 years. By diverting most of the Sacramento River’s flow away from the Delta and San Francisco Bay, the Twin Tunnels would deliver a mortal blow to our industry and way of life.”

Stephan Volker, attorney for these organizations, filed the suit. The suit alleges that DWR’s approval of the California WaterFix Project and certification of its Environmental Impact Report violates the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009, and the Public Trust Doctrine. The Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief is attached. Additional documents pertaining to the litigation can be obtained from the Volker Law Offices.

State may put stricter controls on pesticide chlorpyrifos

From a news release:
The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced today that both the California Department of Pesticide Regulations and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are pursuing health protections on one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the nation, chlorpyrifos.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released today an updated draft risk assessment for public comment. This action marks the start of a public and scientific review of the document, which could lead to increased restrictions on chlorpyrifos statewide. DPR is currently developing interim restrictions on use of the pesticide and recommendations will be made to county agricultural commissioners next month.

In addition, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is referring chlorpyrifos for potential listing as a developmental toxicant under Proposition 65. OEHHA today posted an announcement that the state’s Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee will consider the listing of chlorpyrifos at its next public meeting.

“While chlorpyrifos has been protecting crops for more than 50 years, new information in the scientific community leads us to believe the level of risk it poses is greater than previously known,” said CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. “We need to better understand the science to ensure our actions protect public health. The actions we are taking today reflect our commitment to the health and safety of all Californians, and the environment.”

Department of Pesticide Regulation
DPR scientists believe chlorpyrifos may pose a public health risk as a toxic air contaminant based on its assessment of the latest studies in the scientific community. However, this new finding, indicated in the updated draft risk assessment has not been peer reviewed and must go through a public comment period and be independently evaluated by other scientists.

On September 15, DPR will hold a public workshop on the updated draft risk assessment at the Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee meeting in Sacramento.

After the 45-day written public comment period, which begins today, DPR’s updated draft risk assessment will go before an independent panel of nine scientists known as the Scientific Review Panel (SRP). The thorough review process, which may ultimately lead to more restrictions on use, may conclude in December 2018.

Next month, DPR will provide county agricultural commissioners with specific interim recommendations, including:

● Increasing distances between sites where the chemical is applied and sensitive locations, such as homes and schools. These would be specific to each type of application method.

● New restrictions on methods used to apply chlorpyrifos.

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
OEHHA will soon open a written public comment period on scientific materials that describe the evidence for the developmental toxicity of chlorpyrifos. OEHHA will provide the materials and the written public comments to the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee. The committee is an independent panel of 10 scientific experts that determines whether chemicals are added to the Proposition 65 list as causing birth defects and other reproductive harm. The committee will also consider public comments presented at its November 29 meeting.

If the committee adds chlorpyrifos to the Proposition 65 list as a developmental toxicant, businesses that knowingly cause exposures above minimum levels must provide a Proposition 65 warning.

DPR’s updated draft risk assessment and other documents relating to chlorpyrifos are available at: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/whs/active_ingredient/chlorpyrifos.htm

OEHHA’s notice of the November 29 meeting of the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee concerning chlorpyrifos is available at: www.oehha.ca.gov.

Ag group leaders to NAFTA negotiators: 'Do no harm'

Reports Penny Starr of Breitbart News:
The leaders of agricultural trade groups from Mexico, Canada, and the United States spoke at the National Press Club on Thursday to send a message to the negotiators from the three countries as they decide the future of the 23-year-old North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Do no harm,” Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said at the press conference.

Duvall was joined at the press conference by Bosco de la Vega, president of Mexico’s national agricultural council and Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

All three agreed the trade deal could be improved, but they want negotiators to consider how it had benefited farmers and ranchers. In the United States, for example, annual agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico went from $8.9 billion in 1993 — the year before NAFTA — to $38.1 billion in 2016.
The full article is here. The AFBF's press release is here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Harvest of anticipated record almond crop underway


Today I went to Tehama Angus Ranch near Tehama, which is in its second week of harvesting almonds. In the photos, Eric Borror checks a couple of almonds that have been shaken off trees and put into hedgerows, and a sweeper picks up the piles.

Growers are in the midst of harvesting what is expected to be a record-breaking almond crop. The California Farm Bureau Federation reports:
Almond harvest has shifted into high gear in the Central Valley. Crop forecasters expect farmers to harvest more than 2 billion pounds of almonds during the next few weeks. Some farmers say their harvests have been running a week to 10 days behind schedule—likely related to weather earlier this year. Farmers use machines to shake the almonds off the trees, then sweep them up before the nuts are hulled and shelled.
For my story on the harvest, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Water commission receives 12 Proposition 1 applications

Advocates for a dozen water project proposals met Monday's deadline to apply for $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 water bond funds. From a news release:
California reached a major milestone in the effort to build new water storage this week as the California Water Commission (Commission) received 12 applications for funding under the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). Through the WSIP, the Commission will fund the public benefits of water storage projects that improve the operation of the state water system, are cost effective, and provide a net improvement in ecosystem and water quality conditions. A project must also provide measurable improvements to the Delta ecosystem or to the tributaries to the Delta in order to receive funding. The applications, which were submitted by the Aug. 14 deadline, seek a total of $5.8 billion in WSIP funding for projects with a combined construction cost of $13 billion.

The WSIP is funded by Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Act of 2014. Chapter 8 of Proposition 1 dedicated $2.7 billion for investments in the public benefits of water storage projects and designated the Commission as the agency responsible for awarding these funds.

Of the 12 applications, six are for surface storage projects, five are for conjunctive use projects, and one is for a groundwater storage project. The WSIP may invest in the public benefits portion of some or all of these projects, subject to the determination of the Commission. Each project must provide ecosystem improvement benefits. Five applicants said that in addition to ecosystem improvement benefits, their projects would provide water quality improvement; four cited additional flood control benefits; ten cited additional emergency response benefits; and seven cited recreational benefits.

“The voters of California spoke clearly when they passed Proposition 1 in 2014. They want new water storage projects that provide public benefits and provide a measurable improvement to the Delta,” stated Armando Quintero, chair of the California Water Commission. “After our multi-year process of working with stakeholders and the public to develop and approve the regulations governing the WSIP program, we have 12 projects that have applied for funding. The Commission will now turn its focus to reviewing the applications and determining which projects will provide the best investment in public dollars for California's future.”

The applications will be checked for eligibility and completeness before entering a full technical review. The Commission expects to hold multiple public meetings regarding WSIP funding for the projects, including determining the Public Benefit Ratio (March 2018), Final Project Score (May 2018), and Maximum Conditional Eligibility Determination and Early Funding for Completion of Environmental Documents and Permits (June 2018). Information about Commission meeting schedules and status of review may be found at www.cwc.ca.gov.

The nine-member California Water Commission is charged with advising the director of the California Department of Water Resources, approving rules and regulations, and furthering development of state policies that support integrated and sustainable water resources management.
The Sites project is seeking nearly $1.7 billion and Temperance Flat is asking for $1.3 billion. Watch for my complete story at CapitalPress.com.

Beltway Beef: Renegotiation of NAFTA begins

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement began today. Here is the transcript of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's opening statement.

In this week's Beltway Beef podcast, National Cattlemen's Beef Association trade expert Kent Bacus discusses what the organization wants negotiators to support -- and oppose -- in the upcoming meetings.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BREAKING: Settlement reached in Duarte case

From Pacific Legal Foundation:
“Duarte Nursery, its president John Duarte, and Pacific Legal Foundation and their co-counsel announce that Duarte Nursery has agreed to a settlement with the United States in the federal government’s nearly five-year enforcement action over Duarte’s routine action of plowing its property to plant wheat in late 2012,” said PLF Senior Attorney Tony Francois, who represents Duarte free of charge.

Under the agreement, Duarte would admit no liability, pay the government $330,000 in a civil penalty, purchase $770,000 worth of vernal pool mitigation credits, and perform additional work on the site of the plowing.

“This has been a difficult decision for me, my family, and the entire company, and we have come to it reluctantly,” said John Duarte. “But given the risks posed by further trial on the government’s request for up to $45 million in penalties, and the catastrophic impact that any significant fraction of that would have on our business, our hundreds of employees, our customers and suppliers, and all the members of my family, this was the best action I could take to protect those for whom I am responsible.”

“John would have preferred to see this case through to trial and appealed the court’s liability ruling, which holds that plowing a field requires federal permission — despite the clear text of the Clean Water Act and regulations to the contrary,” said Francois. “John and his counsel remain concerned that legal liability for farming without federal permission undermines the clear protections that the Clean Water Act affords to farming and poses a significant ongoing threat to farmers across the nation.”

“From one end of the country to the other, Pacific Legal Foundation stands up for individual liberties and the rule of law by challenging regulators who abuse their power,” said PLF President and CEO Steven D. Anderson. “Our defense of John Duarte, his co-owners at Duarte Nursery, and their hundreds of employees demonstrates once again that all Americans have a stake in the fight against overreaching government.”

The court will hold a hearing in approximately 45 days to approve the settlement. In the meantime, the trial that was to begin today has been cancelled.
For more on this, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Oroville update: DWR launches salmon spawning project

From a news release:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) launched a Feather River salmon spawning improvement project [Tuesday] in the City of Oroville. The project will be completed by the end of August, in anticipation of the salmon spawning season that commences in September.

DWR fishery biologists have identified key spawning areas in which 5,000 cubic yards of spawning gravel will be placed. Located behind the Municipal Auditorium, the area lost much of its spawning gravel as a result of last winter’s high river flows. Heavy equipment vehicles such as dump trucks, bulldozers, and excavators will be used in the river channel to complete the project.

The Department conducted a similar spawning improvement project in 2014. In anticipation of future high flow events that would require similar gravel replacement, DWR stockpiled a supply of the material near the Feather River Fish Hatchery.

The area is a popular spawning location so DWR biologists expect the newly placed gravel to get high use. Adult salmon need clean spawning gravel in order to dig their nests, called “redds,” where they will then lay their eggs. This project will improve and increase the spawning habitat available to the salmon, thereby increasing the number of salmon produced.

“Immediately after we completed the gravel project in 2014, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of spawning redds in this area. It was wildly successful,” said Jason Kindopp, DWR Feather River fishery biologist. “I can’t wait to see what happens this time.”

State and Federal fish and wildlife agencies have assisted with obtaining the environmental permits for this project and it is now ready to go.

Monday, August 14, 2017

'Tragedy made worse by media people who want to hype it'

If you're concerned about the level of political division in this country and want to do something to neutralize it, marginalizing the major corporate media outlets that are actively promoting this division would be a good place to start. This weekend's events in Charlottesville, Va., are a good example of why.

As Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center pointed out on a radio show this morning, rather than simply covering what happened and pointing out that the participants in the rallies were fringe groups that represent a minuscule segment of society, these outlets recklessly and deliberately fanned the flames of anger and fear.

As Dan Riehl of Breitbart News reports:
Gainor called Charlottesville “a tragedy made worse by media people who want to hype it,” pointing out several incidents of political violence coming from the left in America, which the media all but ignores.

“There were no highlights; there just weren’t any,” said Gainor of the media coverage.
Indeed, here's just a sampling of some of the corporate outlets' most egregious moments:

After Branding Trump a Fascist, Rick Wilson Calls for Lynching of Fascists (Wilson is a columnist for the Daily Beast)
CNN’s Navarro: ‘Shameful Nincompoop’ Trump Is ‘Unfit to Be Human’
CBS Skips 9/11 to Claim Three Times as Many ‘Right Wing’ Terror Hits
CNN's Sanders Falsely Claims Gorka Called 'Brown People' a Problem (Sebastian Gorka is a White House adviser)

These are good examples of why so many people think the news media is a detriment to society.

By contrast, people who turned to alternative New Media were informed of efforts to bring the community and the nation together.

'This is NOT the Way of the Cross': Christian Leaders Condemn White Supremacism
Navy SEAL: We Need to Come Together Against Division
'We have to pray, then we have to act' (a pastor on the church working to heal racial divisions)
NFL’s Benjamin Watson on Saturday’s Violence: ‘The Ugliness of Today Is Not Without Hope’

America's immediate future may very well hinge on the choices consumers make with regard to media. Signing petitions or protesting in front of CNN headquarters won't change a thing. Financially supporting the best actors, defunding the irresponsible ones and demanding that our leaders stop kowtowing to the voices of division are the only ways to improve the media landscape -- and the national mood.

Sites Reservoir, Temperance Flat formally seek funding

Advocates for the Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs have formally submitted their applications for portions of Proposition 1 water bond funds. From the Sites folks:
The Sites Project Authority (Authority) today has submitted its application to the California Water Commission for Proposition 1 Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) funding for the Sites Reservoir Project. This important milestone marks substantial project momentum, as demonstrated by the over 170 organizations, agencies, businesses and elected officials that support the project. Representing labor, business, water and agricultural interests, and various local and statewide agencies, as well as several cities and counties, this diverse coalition views Sites as a viable, modern solution to securing statewide water supplies while benefitting critical ecosystems.

In another step forward for project planning, the Authority, the state lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act, and U.S. Bureau Reclamation (Reclamation), the federal lead agency under National Environmental Policy Act, have also posted a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIR/EIS) for public review and are accepting comments through November 13, 2017.

The Draft EIR/EIS evaluates and describes the environmental effects and proposed mitigation measures associated with construction and operation of the Sites Reservoir and associated facilities. Reclamation will publish their Notice of Availability for the Draft EIR/EIS in the Federal Register by the end of this week.

The Sites Project is the culmination of decades of planning to optimize water supplies and deliveries throughout California and provide direct and real benefits to instream flows and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) ecosystem. The 1.3 to 1.8 million acre-foot offstream surface water storage project is being advanced to greatly increase the reliability of statewide water supplies for environmental, agricultural and urban uses.

“California faces an uncertain future of new and different water challenges, and needs a project like Sites that offers essential benefits under a future of changing conditions,” said Authority board president and Colusa County Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann. “Submittal of our Prop 1 application, and release of the draft environmental documents, advances this critical project one step closer to construction, securing water sustainability and benefitting California’s economy and environment.”

“With the release of these documents as well as the extensive work already performed, the Sites Project Authority is well-positioned to request funding for the project under Proposition 1. Reclamation is pleased to provide technical assistance towards that effort, and proud of our partnership with the Sites Project Authority,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo.

Reclamation has also prepared a Draft Feasibility Report, which is a critical component of the Authority’s funding request submitted to the California Water Commission under Proposition 1. Reclamation’s planning process anticipates that, if constructed, the Sites Reservoir could be constructed with entirely non-federal funding.

The Authority is comprised of several Northern California public agencies who are motivated to build local water sustainability in a way that helps the state meet its overall water system needs.

The 90-day Draft EIR/EIS public review period provides an opportunity for regulatory agencies and the public to comment on the adequacy and completeness of the environmental analyses and proposed mitigation measures, helping inform project development.

Two public meetings will be held to provide information and an opportunity to learn more about the Sites Project and submit comments on the draft environmental documents:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Sites Project Authority Office
122 Old Highway 99 West
Maxwell, CA 95955
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Sacramento Convention Center
1400 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Room #306
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, Fresno County Farm Bureau chief executive officer Ryan Jacobsen issued the following statement:
"After decades of talk and nearly two years of a regional effort to put together a stellar application packet, Fresno County Farm Bureau celebrates the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority's official filing of the Temperance Flat Dam bid for state water bond funding.

"Temperance Flat is an absolute must for the viability of farms throughout the Central Valley. The lack of a reliable water supply over the past decade has cost this region billions of dollars in agricultural production, economic activity and jobs. This project will benefit all Californians and Americans who depend on a domestic food supply while ensuring water solutions to our local communities.

"Fresno County Farm Bureau has been a supporter of Temperance Flat since the beginning. Our organization was among the many in our communities who marched for water in 2009, and who, again, in 2014, fought for the $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 funding for storage projects including Temperance Flat. Make no mistake...our statewide coalition specifically sought funding for aboveground storage projects knowing that Temperance Flat is the best project in the state to benefit.

"The project's location is ideal for capturing, storing and moving water South-of-Delta while having minimal effect on the environment. Additionally, with the implementation of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Temperance Flat will allow local communities and agriculture the opportunity to put additional water supplies back into the ground. In 2016-2017 alone, as much as 2.5 million-acre feet will be released as flood flows that should have been used for water/irrigation supplies, as well as groundwater recharge, in both this and future years.

"This project alone is not a cure-all to our local water supply challenges, but it is a necessary step towards building a reliable water future for the Valley. Fresno County Farm Bureau now asks the California Water Commission to fund this needed project. It is our hope to see ground broken on this significant infrastructure investment in the not-too-distant future."
Watch for continuing coverage of the Proposition 1 process at CapitalPress.com.

Public invited to view the solar eclipse at Shasta Dam

From a news release:
The Bureau of Reclamation will host a solar eclipse viewing at Shasta Dam Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from coast to coast along the same path was almost 100 years ago, on June 8, 1918.

From Shasta Dam, about 9 miles northwest of Redding, 90 percent of the total eclipse should be viewable. The eclipse is expected to begin at 9:02 a.m., with the maximum eclipse at 10:16 a.m. The eclipse finish is expected at 11:38 a.m.

Reclamation guides will be available at a booth on the crest of the dam to share a variety of ways to view the eclipse and explain what is happening. Protective eclipse glasses will be provided to ensure a safe opportunity for visitors to view this rare event. Activities for all ages are planned to enhance the experience.

A solar eclipse is when the moon, positioned directly between the sun and Earth, casts a shadow on our planet. This year’s eclipse will first be visible over the Pacific Ocean before crossing over Oregon and following a diagonal path across the U.S. to South Carolina.

For more information about the Shasta Dam viewing event, please contact Sheri Harral at 530-276-2030 (TTY 800-877-8339) or sharral@usbr.gov. For more information about the eclipse, please visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/.

Siskiyou cattlemen's Fall Tour to focus on herd health

From the California Cattlemen's Association's weekly bulletin:
The Siskiyou County Cattlemen's Association is hosting its annual Fall Tour in Butte Valley on Aug. 26. During the morning, the tour will kick off at Plant Sciences Inc. in Dorris to hear from the owner who is also a cattle rancher in both Northern California and Oregon. Following the tour, there will be presentations and lunch at the Dorris Community Center where Kasey DeAtley, Ph.D. will speak about practical EPD use to get your herd where you want it and Jeff Stott, Ph.D. will provide an update on Foothill abortion and his pink eye research.

For more information, please contact Cari Koopmann Rivers via email, ckrivers@ucanr.edu .

Thursday, August 10, 2017

USA Today's direct orders: You will be microchipped

The idea of embedding an identification microchip in one's body has been the subject of Christian end-times prophecy and "Big Brother" speculation for decades. It was the basis of the bestselling "Left Behind" books and movies that have made millions. The idea raises instant red flags not only for religious folks but also for libertarians. And the USA Today is enthusiastically touting it as an inevitable wave of the future, and essentially telling critics to get over it.

Breitbart News economics writer Tom Cicotta reports:
Everyone will be implanted with a microchip in the future, according to a report from USA Today.

An associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is arguing that most humans will receive a microchip implant in the future. “It will happen to everybody,” says Noelle Chesley, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “But not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids.”

Although some say the social stigma over inserting technology into one’s body will hinder Chesley’s prediction, a Wisconsin firm has already made the futuristic leap. The company, Three Square Market, implanted a microchip into their employees to do away with company badges and corporate logons.
Since when do the opinions of an obscure associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee make national news? When she has views the Denizens of Public Discourse want injected into the national consciousness.

The USA Today article mentions that "religious activists" have given Three Square Market bad reviews on social media, although it tellingly doesn't explain why. But CBN News does:
Some Christians say microchip implants are a clear fulfillment of the "mark of the Beast" prophesied 2,000 years ago in the biblical book of Revelation.

"I take microchipping as a form of the mark. There's many pieces of the mark, and then again, all these pieces of the mark are designed to control," Pastor Dave Doyle from Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Iowa says. "It will eventually become something that's mandatory, and for those who refuse it, you will have to deal with the authorities who don't appreciate your opinions."
The CBN article also cites critics who "are suspicious of the technology and argue that microchips can easily be hacked and personal information can be exposed." It's not an exaggeration to say that I know quite a few people who would die fighting this sort of thing, and not all of them are evangelical Christians.

Now one could argue that USA Today is simply covering a trend and not endorsing it. But this is their lead paragraph:
You will get chipped. It’s just a matter of time.
The story's headline reads, "You will get chipped -- eventually." In other words, don't bother resisting.

This isn't a story saying, 'Hey, here's some gee-whiz technology coming down the pike." These are direct, in-your-face orders from the Media On High, on behalf of their friends the Masters of the Universe. And I'm here to tell the USA Today, verbally and with my pocketbook: No. I. Am. Not.

Lake Oroville spillways construction project proceeds

From a news release:
Today the Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided an update on construction work on the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project.

Continued Construction on the Main Spillway
· Construction efforts at the Lake Oroville spillways have remained focused on repairing and reconstructing the gated flood control spillway, also known as the main spillway, by November 1.
· While this date is an aggressive timeline for construction, it’s a conservative date for reservoir operations. The main spillway has only been used before January 1 four times. In fact, the spillway has only been used in 26 of 49 years.
· Demolition, excavation and site preparation is now 99 percent complete for the 2,270 feet that will be reconstructed this year. “The (Board of Consultants) is impressed with the progress and quality of the foundation cleaning.” – BOC Memo 10
· Placement of roller-compacted concrete (RCC) is now 10 percent complete, with approximately 25,000 cubic yards poured.
· Crews reached a major milestone last week by placing the first structural concrete slabs, which include reinforced steel, on the lower portion of the spillway chute.
· Recently, DWR received approval of the final 2017 design and construction work by federal, State and independent oversight groups.

Construction at Emergency Spillway
· After gaining information from thorough geologic exploration and test drilling in June, DWR determined the exact location for the underground cutoff wall, also known as the secant pile wall.
· Now that progress is being made on excavating trenches, drilling bore holes and placing concrete, DWR has a clearer schedule for construction of the underground cutoff wall, with a target completion date of late December 2017 or early January 2018.
· Consistent with a recommendation from the independent Board of Consultants (BOC), DWR will relocate temporary transmission towers near the cutoff wall site in a timely manner to minimize their impact on construction.
· DWR’s prime contractor, Kiewit, brought in a heavy-duty percussion drilling rig – the BG Bauer 50 – to improve the current rate of drilling.

Independent Board of Consultants and Forensic Team
· This week, the Forensic Team finished conducting interviews with DWR employees in Sacramento.
· DWR also sent an email to all employees encouraging them to share any information they have that could help with the investigation. Information shared with the investigative team will not be shared with the Department.
· The Forensic Team’s final report is scheduled to be released this fall.
· The ninth and tenth memos from the independent Board of Consultants are now posted on the Lake Oroville spillways webpage.

To view photos and video of the Lake Oroville Spillways construction, visit DWR’s Oroville Spillway photo gallery and YouTube channel.
I asked state officials about Rep. Doug LaMalfa's recent comments that he felt they were planning to draw down the lake too much this winter. Watch for my story at CapitalPress.com.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

EPA administrator Pruitt discusses plan to scrap WOTUS

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt discusses the "Waters of the United States" rule in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's most recent Beltway Beef podcast.

The podcast was recorded at Frasier Ranch outside Last Chance, Colo., where Pruitt received input from local ranchers about the controversial rule.

You can listen to the podcast here.

As the California Cattlemen's Association recently reported in its legislative bulletin:
On July 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) formally released a proposed rule to rescind the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, which threatened to greatly extend the agencies' regulatory jurisdiction and impose burdensome regulatory requirements upon ranchers and other landowners.

CCA strongly supports the proposal to rescind the 2015 Rule, and will file formal comments to that effect with the EPA prior to the August 28 deadline. Ranchers are encouraged to file comments supporting the 2015 Rule's withdrawal by clicking the "Comment Now!" button here. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has provided sample comments here.

The move to rescind the 2015 WOTUS Rule comes after President Trump's February 28 Executive Order directing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to rescind the rule and replace it with a definition of "Waters of the United States" that conforms to the more limited interpretation outlined by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States. Rescinding the 2015 Rule is the first step in that process; once the 2015 Rule is repealed, the EPA will likely give notice of a proposed rulemaking establishing a more limited interpretation of WOTUS.

In the interim, the proposed rulemaking seeks to re-codify the definition of WOTUS that existed prior to the 2015 re-definition. Because the 2015 WOTUS Rule was stayed from implementation and enforcement by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2015 in response to numerous lawsuits (including one filed by CCA), the proposed rule would essentially codify the status quo.
In a related note, don't miss my centerpiece story later this week updating the case involving John Duarte, the farmer who was sued by the federal government after plowing his field south of Red Bluff to plant wheat. The case looms large in the debate over the WOTUS rule.

Watch for my story at CapitalPress.com.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Corning Water District to provide water for valley refuges

From a news release:
The Bureau of Reclamation has released for public review the Draft Environmental Assessment/Initial Study analyzing the impacts of amending Corning Water District’s Existing Contract with Reclamation for the purpose of relinquishing a portion of CWD’s Contract Total to Reclamation. This water acquisition is authorized under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, specifically Sections 3406(d)(2) and 3406(b)(3).

The Proposed Action is the execution of an Amendment to the Long-Term Renewal Contract between the United States and CWD. Through this amendment, CWD will provide 3,000 acre-feet of their contracted Project Water Supply from the Sacramento River Division to Reclamation to meet annual Level 4 water supply requirements at refuges located within the Sacramento Valley.

The Draft EA/IS was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and is available at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_projdetails.cfm?project_ID=29541. If you encounter problems accessing the document, please call 916-978-5100 or email mppublicaffairs@usbr.gov.

Comments must be received by close of business, Friday, August 18, 2017 and should be sent to Shelly Hatleberg, Bureau of Reclamation, 2800 Cottage Way (MP-410), Sacramento, CA 95825. You can also email comments to shatleberg@usbr.gov or by fax at 916-978-5059.

For additional information or to request a copy of the Draft EA/IS, please contact Hatleberg at 916-978-5050 (TTY 800-877-8339). Copies of the document may also be viewed at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Regional Office at the above address.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Would Californians support more water bonds in 2018?

State lawmakers and others are considering coming back to Californians in 2018 with a request for more water bond funds. From the California Farm Bureau Federation's Food and Farm News:
Drought remains on Californians’ minds despite this season’s wet winter, and as many as four new bond proposals address continuing efforts to improve the state’s water system. Two of the proposals have been created in the state Legislature. The other two would need to qualify via signature drives. Each aims for the 2018 statewide ballot, and could build on the Proposition 1 water bond voters passed in 2014.

Levee projects underway, but many more are needed


Yesterday I went to Yuba City, where local, state and federal dignitaries kicked off a $28.5 million project to shore up the levee along the Feather River through the center of town that weakened during last winter's storms and Oroville Dam crisis. Crews are doing a separate project south of town, where a section of levee meant to protect agricultural land needed temporary repairs last February and now is getting a more permanent fix.

Northern California's levees are a mess, and while a few projects are ongoing, there are many more that need to be done. I spoke at length with state Sen. Jim Nielsen and state flood control officials about the efforts afoot to secure more money for projects and the timetable for doing them.

Look for my story at CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Independent media setting the conversation in Redding

On Tuesday, veteran Redding journalist Doni Chamberlain published a column at ANewsCafe titled "Redding's New Normal is Unacceptable." It detailed Doni's frustration and sadness over the city's current homeless epidemic, or some would say invasion. Her column generated 210 comments covering all sides of the debate and prompted an invitation from Carl and Linda Bott to appear on their radio show this morning. She'll be on during the 8 a.m. hour on KCNR AM 1460.

The publisher of an independent, locally owned news site appearing as a guest on a locally owned radio station to discuss a pressing local issue.

Redding's independent media is currently setting the conversation and agenda in this community, starting with the Facebook page Redding Crime 2.0 and continuing with sites such as the Shasta Lantern and Jefferson Messenger. The local lineup of non-corporate-affiliated reporters and bloggers is vibrant and expanding, and crosses the spectrum of political opinion.

This expansion can be seen in a couple of new features on this blog's sidebar. One is a feed from the Redding Voice, which offers the following description of itself.
Redding Voice is a positive, progressive voice in Redding, CA. Our editorial policy is to focus on emerging aspects of where we love to live: community building, fun and fine arts, volunteerism, spirituality, education, environmental stewardship, open-mindedness, peace and justice issues and other values that serve the common good.

We are not a traditional news outlet, so you won’t find typical articles on crime, political controversy, sports, popular entertainment, obituaries, etc.

We are non-partisan and non-sectarian, hoping to give voice to reasonable people, who are often part of the silent middle, between extremes.
The site seems similar to Doni's ANewsCafe; although I'm sure there are differences, there are undoubtedly readers who frequent both sites. I'm always looking for other RSS feeds providing news and information from around the north state, so if you know of one, let me know.

I've also added links to the State of Jefferson movement's revamped website, which offers a regular commentary called Jefferson Messenger, as well as links to the Plumas County News and Lassen County Times. The Plumas News is edited by Debra Moore, a former editor of mine who definitely has a heart for community journalism.

I've also provided a link to my own Facebook page, which you should visit if you want to see all of my posts. I typically post Capital Press-related content during the day, then items from other sources in the evenings and weekends related to media trends and news you may not have seen depending on where you get your news. Remember, your Facebook news feed doesn't give you anywhere near everything all of your friends post, so it's best to visit individual pages -- especially when the subject matter involves news the guardians of social media would rather you not see.

And remember, if you are on social media or if you contribute to the conversation beneath stories like Doni's, you are the independent media, too.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Trump's RAISE Act: What it does and doesn't do

President Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas today unveiled the "Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act." Amid the unhinged media hysteria that often occurs with proposals such as this, it's best to consider what the bill actually does and doesn't do.

As Breitbart News' Neil Munro explains:
To help the bill survive opposition from media and business groups, the bill focuses only on green card legal immigration. It does not raise or lower the number of green card workers, such as H-1Bs, or constrict the annual award of work permits, dubbed “Employment Authorization Documents.”

Each year, the federal government provides green cards to roughly 1 million people. It also provides work visas to roughly 500,000 foreign workers, such as H-2Bs and H-1Bs, and it provides work permits to roughly 2 million people, including refugees and foreign graduates of U.S. colleges.
Munro passes along a statement from Perdue detailing what the RAISE Act would do. According to the senator, it would:
• Establish a Skills-Based Points System. The RAISE Act would replace the current permanent employment-visa system with a skills-based points system, akin to the systems used by Canada and Australia. The system would prioritize those immigrants who are best positioned to succeed in the United States and expand the economy. Applicants earn points based on education, English-language ability, high-paying job offers, age, record of extraordinary achievement, and entrepreneurial initiative.

• Prioritize Immediate Family Households. The RAISE Act would retain immigration preferences for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents while eliminating preferences for certain categories of extended and adult family members.

• Eliminate the Outdated Diversity Visa Lottery. The Diversity Lottery is plagued with fraud, advances no economic or humanitarian interest, and does not even promote diversity. The RAISE Act would eliminate the 50,000 visas arbitrarily allocated to this lottery.

• Place a Responsible Limit on Permanent Residency for Refugees. The RAISE Act would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year, in line with a 13-year average.
A section-by-section summary is here, and a fact sheet on the legislation is here. Here is the raw video of the announcement.

As my editors like to caution, a proposal is just that and nothing more. I would expect farm groups to be very actively engaged as this legislation works its way through Congress. If any groups issue statements in the coming days, I will post them.

For continuing coverage of this issue, keep watch at CapitalPress.com.

AccuWeather: Warmth, wildfires to linger in California

As I reported late yesterday, one of the wettest winters in California history is being followed by one of the hottest summers, causing growers to encounter damage and complications from both weather extremes. One weather organization says the warmth will be with us for awhile.

From AccuWeather's region-by-region outlook for fall:
Warmth, wildfires to linger across California; Storms to frequent Northwest
Rampant wildfires in the West will calm quickest in regions farther north, as storms stream in from the Pacific.

"Last year, they got slammed in late fall and winter in the Northwest as far as heavy rain and heavy snow go," Pastelok said."

A similar weather pattern this fall likely means the region will once again receive abundant precipitation - though not as much as during the fall of 2016.

According to Pastelok, water temperatures off the West coast are not as high as last year and, therefore, won't foster very strong storms.

Rain and snow will at least total normal levels and have the potential to climb slightly above normal, forecasters predict.

From southwestern Montana down toward California, drier conditions and lingering warmth mean it may take most of fall for wildfires to calm down.
Their forecast largely agrees with the three-month outlook from the federal Climate Prediction Center, which envisions above-normal temperatures throughout the West with equal chances of above- or below-normal precipitation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Butcher pressured to show sign opposing killing animals

When I lived in Benicia in the 1990s, I used to have a favorite expression whenever I encountered over-the-top liberalism or general weirdness: "Only in the Bay Area." Depending on the situation, it's probably not a true statement, as anyone familiar with Portland can attest. But this might qualify.
Staff at Berkeley’s The Local Butcher Shop posted an unexpected 15x15 inch sign on their front window over the weekend, reading “Attention: Animals' lives are their right. Killing them is violent and unjust, no matter how it’s done.” The move was prompted by weekly demonstrations and negotiations with activists from the global grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).

This is the first victory for DxE’s new Facing the Truth campaign, which targets the farm-to-table movement and labels such as “humanely-raised,” “grass-fed,” and “cage-free.”

“The idea behind the Facing the Truth campaign is to dispel the mythology behind meat,” DxE organizer Matt Johnson said. “There’s no way to produce meat without cruelty, and DxE’s investigations have repeatedly shown that even ‘humane’ farms are sickeningly violent.”

Animal rights activism has been increasingly visible with the Berkeley Animal Rights Center (ARC) opening last fall. Located at 2425 Channing Way, it’s the first community center for animal rights in the US. Activists say they want to fundamentally transform Berkeley, making it the most animal-friendly city in America and setting a model for the rest of the nation to follow. Their ultimate goal is "animal liberation"- an end to all animal use for food, clothing, entertainment, or any other reason.

"When Berkeley leads, the nation follows," says Paul Darwin Picklesimer, manager at the Berkeley ARC. "This is a special place with people who are committed to elevating the voices of the vulnerable. It's an ideal launching pad for bold, progressive, and compassionate ideas, including the idea that animals are not ours to use."
For many, this might conjure images of shop owners in old Chicago paying "rent" to prevent their businesses from being busted up by Al Capone's mob -- or worse. But to the world's most rabid animal rights activists, it's Victory.

Butchers posting signs decrying the killing of animals. Only in the Bay Area. (And maybe Portland.)

Monday, July 31, 2017

PLF, farm groups sue over habitat designations

From a news release:
Federal officials illegally ignored the economic impacts on small businesses, landowners, agriculture, and local governments last year when they set aside 1.8-million acres in Central and Northern California as “critical habitat” for the Yosemite toad and two yellow-legged frog species in the Sierra Nevada.

A lawsuit filed today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenges these sweeping habitat designations because the agency did not comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). That statute requires comprehensive economic analysis before new federal rules can be imposed that could significantly affect small business and small government entities.

Pacific Legal Foundation filed the challenge on behalf of three statewide organizations with members who are affected by the habitat designations — the California Cattlemen’s Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, and California Wool Growers Association.

“Bureaucrats imposed these habitat decrees without due regard for their effect on the lives and livelihoods of rural residents,” said PLF Senior Attorney M. Reed Hopper. “This willful blindness wasn’t just callous, it was illegal, a violation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

“The RFA is meant to balance regulatory goals with the needs of a healthy economy,” Hopper explained. “But agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service have been concocting spurious excuses for not complying and refusing to undertake the required economic-impact studies.

“Our lawsuit aims to end these evasions and put teeth back in the RFA,” he said. “Victory will benefit not just the victims of the harmful habitat designations that we’re challenging, but also thousands of landowners, small business owners and employees, and municipal organizations across the country.”

Restricting land use — and livelihoods — in 16 California counties

Covering terrain in 16 counties stretching from Tulare and Inyo in the south to Lassen in the north, the designations triggered controversy and objections throughout the region, drawing 20,000 public comments before they were imposed. They will restrict the use of public and private lands for grazing and timber harvesting affecting ranchers, landowners, and county agencies, including school districts that derive income from timber production.

“When the Service proposed designating critical habitat for these three amphibians, they heard from some ranchers who would have to sell off as much as half of their herd because of forage lost to the designation, and others who would be put out of business entirely,” said Dave Daley, president of the California Cattlemen’s Association. “In addition to the severe impact to these ranchers’ families, the regulation threatened to devastate local businesses that rely on ranchers’ patronage. But the Service ignored those concerns and finalized its proposal anyway. CCA joins this suit to ensure that these permittees can continue their families’ proud traditions of ranching, not only supporting the local economy, but serving the local environment through the benefits that grazing bestows upon other endangered and threatened species like the California tiger salamander and California red-legged frog.”

“The full range of impacts should be considered when federal agencies set aside critical habitat for endangered species,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. “Critical-habitat designations can actually impair a rancher’s ability to take various actions that involve federal funding or authorization, including certain conservation efforts. The government should be encouraging efficient and effective ways to benefit species and should fully consider the effects of its actions.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly account for the impacts on California sheep producers in its designation of critical habitat for these species,” said Erica Sanko, executive director of the California Wool Growers Association. “As a result, grazing permits of many sheep ranchers have been placed under increased burdensome regulations and are in danger of being eliminated. The interests of sheep producers were not recognized nor accounted for by the Service in its decision, nor were the benefits of sheep grazing, as a land and resource management tool.”

“Once again, Pacific Legal Foundation is leading the fight for a balanced, common sense approach to environmental regulations by insisting that economic concerns must be factored into decisions,” said PLF President and CEO Steven D. Anderson. “This case also highlights PLF’s mission to bring the administrative state to heel by reminding unelected regulators that their job is to follow the law, not to invent pretexts for ignoring it.”

The case is California Cattlemen’s Association, et al v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It challenges the critical habitat designations for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the northern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Yosemite toad. The counties included in the habitat designations are Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Tulare, and Tuolumne.
As we have reported, the CCA and other groups have argued for several years that protections for the two species could affect more than 2 million acres of private and public land and could lead to restrictions on grazing.

For more on this, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cattlemen's group weighs in on NAFTA renegotiation

From a news release:
On July 26, the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) submitted official written testimony for the House Committee on Agriculture’s public hearing on Renegotiating NAFTA: Opportunities for Agriculture. The testimony outlines USCA’s priorities for a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement, and echoes the verbal testimony provided by USCA President Kenny Graner on this same topic to the ITC earlier this month. USCA’s focus for any NAFTA renegotiations remain on addressing subsidy disparities for Canadian and Mexican cattle producers, establishing a WTO-compliant country-of-origin labeling program for beef products, and adjusting the growing trade deficit.

The following statement may be attributed to USCA President Kenny Graner:

“USCA looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress to address the issues raised by U.S. cattle producers in future NAFTA renegotiations. Based on the priorities outlined by USTR earlier this month, the needs of cattle producers are still not being met. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must include a path forward on origin labeling. The current trade disparities between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, won’t change unless all factors affecting the situation are addressed. There must be a level and fair playing field when it comes to trade and USCA will continue working toward achieving that as any negotiations moved forward.”

Click HERE to read the full testimony.
In recent days, we have reported that Canada's agriculture minister urges caution on NAFTA talks and that former ag secretary Tom Vilsack, now a dairy industry representative, sees high stakes for the dairy industry in a NAFTA do-over. My colleague Carol Ryan Dumas is gathering input from the beef industry on the NAFTA issue. Look for her story soon at CapitalPress.com.

Improvements begin at Lake Oroville recreation sites

From a news release:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has begun construction to expand visitor parking lots and improve facilities at the Bidwell Saddle Dam Trailhead at Kelly Ridge Road in Oroville and the Lime Saddle Boat Launch Area in Paradise.

“Lake Oroville offers some of California’s premier opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. And DWR is committed to maintaining and improving recreation at Lake Oroville,” said DWR Acting Director Cindy Messer. “Expanding parking lots for visitors and improving site facilities at Bidwell Saddle Dam Trailhead and Lime Saddle Boat Launch are just two examples of our long-standing commitment to invest in Lake Oroville recreation sites.”

Construction on the Bidwell Saddle Dam Trailhead will be completed in two phases. On Monday, July 31, construction crews will begin widening the existing gravel lot. The site will be closed during construction of the first phase and is expected to be complete and reopened before Labor Day, September 4. The second phase of construction focuses on improving site amenities. By the time construction work is complete in Spring 2018, visitors can expect running water, additional gravel parking and picnic tables.

Construction has already begun at the Lime Saddle Boat Launch Area in Paradise, which will remain open throughout construction. The project will also be completed in two phases. Construction crews are widening the gravel parking lot to accommodate an estimated 50 vehicles and trailers. In Spring 2018 the gravel lot will be paved and lighting installed.

The projects are set to cost a combined $2.8 million: $1.6 million for Lime Saddle improvements and $1.2 million for Bidwell Saddle Dam Trailhead improvements. Funding is provided through a DWR fund dedicated to recreation at State Water Project facilities. These projects will help offset the temporary closure of the Spillway Boat Ramp and Diversion Pool Day Use Areas.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Congressman questions draw-down of Lake Oroville

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa is questioning the degree to which the state Department of Water Resources plans to drain Lake Oroville this fall to accommodate work on the dam.

As I reported today, the DWR plans to take the lake’s surface down to below 700 feet elevation this fall to ensure safety for workers fixing the dam.

In a Facebook post, LaMalfa wrote:
There is no need to go all the way down to 640 feet of elevation on December 31. That would leave only 850,000 ace feet left in the lake, with only 90-100 days to fill the lake. The lowest the lake was last year was 725, in December. Thats 600,000 wasted acre feet if dropped to 640. Construction wont be affected by lake water if it's a dry winter and if it's wet, they wont be doing much anyway. The spillway gates arent even touched by water until 813 feet, which is 2.35 million acre feet. The lake holds 3.5 million. The spillway is supposed to be usable at the end of this construction season for this years winter and the rest of it rebuilt after this rainy season in late spring.
LaMalfa's 1st Congressional District includes the Lake Oroville area.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

NWS outlook: Triple-digit heat to return to north state


From the National Weather Service:
Hot weather returns for the end of this week through early next week. Widespread triple digit heat likely in the Valley, hottest across the northern Sacramento Valley. Those that are sensitive to heat should take extra precautions.

Impacts
Heat-related illnesses for sensitive groups
Increased stress on livestock

Forecast Confidence
High

Timing and Strength
Warming up today
Triple digit highs in the Valley Thursday - at least Tuesday
Hottest across northern Sacramento Valley
Overnight lows mid 60s-low 70s

Agencies approve final Oroville reconstruction plan

From a state news release:
Today, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided an update on construction work on the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project.

DWR received authorization to proceed with its final 2017 construction plan from the California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 13 and 15 respectively.

The work to be completed this year now has all required approvals from federal, state, and independent oversight groups. The independent Board of Consultants (BOC) also approved DWR’s construction plans last month pending final approval from FERC.

The first phase of construction will be completed by November 1, 2017, with the objective of ensuring that the main spillway can safely pass Feather River watershed flows this year. The first phase of construction includes:

· Removal and reconstruction of 2,270 feet of the main spillway.
· Repairs to the uppermost 730-foot portion of the main spillway that connects to the radial gates. This portion will be demolished and reconstructed in 2018.
· Construction of an underground cutoff wall below the emergency spillway. The purpose of the cutoff wall is to prevent uphill erosion if the emergency spillway is used again.
The remaining construction will be completed in 2018, which will also need federal and state approval, includes:
· Addition of structural concrete to the entire main spillway.
· Resurfacing and hydro-blasting of the energy dissipaters at the base of the spillway.
· Construction of a roller-compacted concrete buttress (sloped wall) and splashpad on the emergency spillway to dissipate the energy of any waterflows.

DWR’s final design and construction plans, which will continue to be monitored by DSOD, FERC, and the independent BOC, include modern technologies and methods to meet and exceed today’s safety and construction standards.

Other Project-related Updates:

· The independent BOC met in Oroville on Monday, July 24, and Tuesday, July 25. The BOC received an overview of DWR’s construction schedule and milestones moving forward. The BOC was also briefed on the design concepts for the 1,050-foot section of the main spillway that will be constructed with roller-compacted concrete in 2017, and an update on foundation preparation and clean-up.

· The current lake level at Lake Oroville is 800 feet, and reservoir releases into the Feather River are now at 6,500 cfs. With guidance from FERC, DWR has established a projection schedule to draw down the reservoir’s elevation to 700 feet by November 1. This is a more conservative reservoir level than normal for that date as a public safety precaution. This schedule is tentative and subject to change because of a multitude of contributing factors.

· DWR this week finished hosting its second round of community meetings to update residents about the Lake Oroville Spillways project. The first meeting was held on Monday, July 17, in Oroville, followed by Wednesday, July 19, in Marysville, and finally Monday, July 24, in Yuba City. These meetings are part of DWR’s continued effort to provide updates from DWR leadership and experts on construction efforts, collect feedback from the community and answer questions. The next round of public meetings is planned for late summer or early fall of 2017.
Earlier today I participated in a media conference call with project officials, during which I asked about the project's impact on water availability for farmers this summer and next year. Look for my story soon at CapitalPress.com.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nielsen: Cap-and-trade 'another gas tax in disguise'

Northern California's state Sen. Jim Nielsen responds to Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of a bill to extend the cap-and-trade program. From his office:
The Governor today signed Assembly Bill 398 (Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella), an onerous measure that will raise an additional $0.63 per gallon in taxes on California drivers.

In total, drivers will be forced to pay an additional $0.82 per gallon once the gas taxes passed earlier this year – which include the largest car and gas tax in the state’s history – take effect.

“Economists, and even the Governor’s own financial experts, are predicting an impending economic downturn,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), Vice Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. “How can the Governor and other Sacramento politicians take money away from everyday Californians when they know of a looming recession?”

“Families’ weekly budgets will take a heavy hit once drivers find themselves paying an additional $10 – at least – each time they fill up.

“Will these taxes be repealed if, and when, our economy slumps and Californians begin to lose their jobs?”

In April, the Governor signed Senate Bill 1, the largest car and gas tax in the state’s history. SB 1 levied a $0.19 per gallon increase, in addition to other taxes, to generate $52 billion based on promises by Sacramento politicians that they would invest tax monies in the state’s roads and highways. In reality, the measure included loopholes to allow for money to be diverted to the beleaguered high speed rail, park bathroom maintenance and land purchases for animal travel, among many other pet projects.
Nielsen offers an estimation of how much more consumers will pay at the pump each time they fill up their car tank, based on top selling cars driven by Californians.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Farm groups applaud action to rescind WOTUS

Farm groups are applauding the Trump administration's move to scrap the "Waters of the U.S." rule. From the National Corn Growers Association:
The following is a statement from Texas farmer Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers Association, in response to today’s announcement of the proposal to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule:

“The goal of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s waters. The 2015 rule moved us further away from that goal. Repealing it is an important first step toward providing farmers the certainty and clarity we have long desired.

“We are thankful this Administration is working to draw clear lines in terms of what is and what is not jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act. In doing so, they will enable farmers to implement best management practices such as grass waterways and buffer strips without the burden of bureaucratic red tape or fear of legal action. These types of land improvements have enormous water quality benefits, such as reducing sediment and nutrient runoff—a win for farmers and the environment. Government should be making these actions easier, not more difficult.

“We salute the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers for their efforts. We stand committed to working with these agencies as they develop a new rule that defines jurisdictional boundaries in clear terms that are inclusive of the realities of farming.”

Earlier this year, President Trump issued Executive Order 13778, directing EPA and USACE to review the final 2015 WOTUS rule, and publish for notice and comment a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule, as appropriate and consistent with law. Today’s announcement is the next step in that process.
From the National Potato Council:
The National Potato Council (NPC) supports today’s proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would rescind the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) proposed by the Obama Administration in 2015.

“NPC applauds the proposed rule, which seeks to remedy an unnecessary federal overreach,” said John Keeling, CEO and EVP of NPC. “NPC has gone on record as a strong supporter of reducing regulatory burdens that inhibit growers’ ability to farm. Revoking this flawed WOTUS proposal is a positive step toward that goal.”

The 2015 rule massively expanded the scope of the CWA to areas of the U.S., including farms, that are unrelated to its original goals and thereby subjected growers to potential regulatory jeopardy. In response, federal courts had stepped in to prevent immediate implementation of the WOTUS Rule and NPC is pleased that the Administration followed through on rescinding the rule.

“We urge the Administration and Congress to implement the CWA and other environmental regulations in a manner that protects America’s resources while limiting unintended consequences on activities that are unrelated to those goals,” said Mr. Keeling.
The Capital Press' Carol Ryan Dumas is preparing a detailed story on the move and reactions. Watch for it at CapitalPress.com.

Monday, June 26, 2017

California WaterFix plan gets key federal permit

From the state Department of Water Resources:
Federal agencies responsible for the protection of species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) today provided biological opinions on the proposed construction and operation of California WaterFix. These biological opinions allow WaterFix to continue moving toward construction as early as 2018. This important project is designed to ensure a reliable water source for 25 million Californians while affording environmental protections for multiple species that depend upon the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“We are poised to take action to better protect our state water supplies and native fisheries,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “After 10 years of study, analysis, dialogue and scientific inquiry, we have come to a shared vision—and feasible approach—for how best to meet the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.”

The proposed project includes new water intakes on the Sacramento River near Hood and dual 35-mile-long tunnels to carry water to the existing south Delta pumping plants for the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP). Both biological opinions found the construction and operations of WaterFix as proposed would not jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat for those species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) implement the ESA, with NOAA Fisheries primarily responsible for marine species and the Service for land and freshwater species. Under the ESA, other federal agencies must consult with the Service and NOAA when their activities have the potential to impact federally endangered or threatened species.

The biological opinions analyze the effects to ESA-listed species, including the threatened Delta smelt, endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened spring-run Chinook salmon, threatened North American green sturgeon, threatened California Central Valley steelhead and endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, which depend heavily on Chinook salmon for food.

The Service biological opinion is available here, and the biological opinion from NOAA Fisheries is here.

The biological opinions recognize the uncertainty inherent in the dynamic ecology of the Delta and include a strong adaptive management component, where research, monitoring, and real-time tracking of fish populations and other factors will guide future operation of the new intakes.

“The wisest thing to do in the face of uncertainty is to monitor constantly, test hypotheses regularly, adjust operations accordingly, and reassess,” said California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Acting Director Bill Croyle. “In the Delta, we always will be adjusting to improve resiliency and protect the environment. What won’t change is our compliance with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.”

DWR owns and operates the SWP. The 29 public agencies contracting to receive SWP water serve more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated agricultural land.

The biological opinions are important components of the analysis of the environmental effects of WaterFix. The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released in December 2016 include measures to avoid or minimize impacts that could arise from the proposed project.

Once the EIR has been certified through completion of the California Environmental Quality Act process, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to consider whether to issue an “incidental take” permit for the construction and operation of WaterFix under the California Endangered Species Act.

These biological opinions will also be considered by permitting agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board in its hearing now underway on a petition by DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to allow for the change in points of diversion to add three new intakes on the Sacramento River as part of WaterFix. WaterFix would not change the volume of water to which the SWP and CVP are entitled to divert, but would add additional diversion points in a more environmentally protective place that also is easier to safeguard against natural disaster such as earthquake and sea-level rise due to climate change.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lawmakers urge Brown to intervene to fund levee repairs

From a news release:
Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) and Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba) today asked Governor Brown once again to directly intervene to fund urgent levee repair needs. Below is an excerpt from the letter to Governor Brown:

“In the aftermath of the recent spring storms, levees throughout the region saw significant damage. Having toured the Feather River and personally witnessed the long stretches of crumbled river banks and levees as a result of the drastically fluctuating water releases from the Oroville Dam, we can attest to the critical need for $100 million in additional funding for serious infrastructure repairs for flood control.

“A break in any of these critical repair sites along the levee system have the potential to devastate the region and require hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of emergency repairs. In addition, the state bears liability for avoidable catastrophic damage as a result of levee repairs (see Paterno v. State of California).

“The current funding, touted by your staff, is woefully inadequate. Moreover, the $50 million re-purposed from last year has largely already been accounted for.

“California’s levees protect millions of lives, farmland and wildlife habitat. With the fall rainy reason only a few months away, Northern California desperately needs an additional $100 million in funding to avert further damage to the state’s levees.

“We respectfully ask you to directly intervene and fund the bi-partisan request of $100 million in this year’s budget to shore up our levees.”

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LaMalfa calls for unity, announces 2018 re-election bid

A statement from Rep. Doug LaMalfa:
We have seen some rocky times in DC and around the country since my January swearing in and the Inauguration of President Trump. We have much to be optimistic about, but I also notice a very deep division in our country that seemed to play out today in the horrendous shooting that occurred at this mornings practice for a bi-partisan charity baseball game. I give thanks and prayerful hopes of healing for the victims of the shooting and our brave Capitol Police who were there this morning.

Hopefully we can learn from this in time to curb the division and come back to the unity that helps America to be its best. We can accomplish so much more when we are united in purpose.

I've always been results oriented. This year my focus is on water storage, highways, putting in place a health insurance system where people have choices and can afford them, improving America’s necessary military strength around the world and bringing jobs back here to Northern California.

In making my decision to run for re-election in 2018, I see so much potential in what can be achieved for the American people and the North State in parallel with the Trump White House. We are pushing a roll back of crushing regulations that are stealing our water and property rights. As well we must achieve needed tax reform so American businesses can be competitive and families can keep more of what they have worked hard to earn.

So many of you have expressed your prayers and support for me and for what my colleagues are working to achieve back in Washington DC. The optimism of January may have been tempered in some peoples minds by the headlines of the day and deep division. Yet I still hold that optimism, knowing that even if we have tough times, that we together are tougher and can push through.

For today, please know I am doing okay and will remain undaunted in pushing forward for the goals I’ve been proud to champion. Soon I’ll be calling on you for your endorsement and support I will need to move forward and seek re-election in 2018.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement. I ask also for your prayers for Congress for safety, wisdom and discernment. Please keep our law enforcement in your prayers, who protect us here at home and our Military, who protect us abroad.

God Bless America[.]

We're having a heat wave: What to expect as 100s arrive

As it appears now, the summer of 2017 will be ushered in by the first protracted heat wave of the season. Here is the outlook from the National Weather Service:
High pressure builds across northern California this week, continuing into the weekend. High temperatures Friday and into the weekend will increase heat related illnesses for those exposed to prolonged outdoor heat, especially the elderly, children, and other sensitive groups.

Impacts
Long outdoor exposures will increase chances for heat related illness, especially for sensitive groups
Heat stress to livestock with limited relief from heat overnight
Area waterways running very cold & fast, increasing risk for hypothermia, water rescues

Forecast Confidence
Medium

Timing and Strength
Near to above normal across interior northern California Today-Thursday.
High temperatures going much above normal with increasing risk for heat related illnesses late this week and into the weekend.
Valley highs reaching the 100 degree mark Friday, hotter Saturday-Monday
Very warm overnight temperatures, 70 or above for many locations
Farmers are being advised to prepare. Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation and chief operating officer of Farm Employers Labor Service, advises that CalOSHA will be enforcing the Heat Illness Prevention standard for outdoor employment. According to Little, the standard includes the following requirements:
--Water must be "fresh, pure, suitably cool" and located as close as practicable to where employees are working, with exceptions when employers can demonstrate infeasibility.
--Shade must be present at 80 degrees, and must accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods, plus those on site who are taking meal breaks.
--Employees taking a "preventive cool-down rest" must be monitored for symptoms of heat illness, encouraged to remain in the shade and not ordered back to work until symptoms are gone. Employees with symptoms must be provided appropriate first aid or emergency response.
--High-heat procedures, triggered at 95 degrees, have been tightened. Employers must ensure "effective" observation and monitoring, including a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with employees working by themselves. In a provision exclusive to agriculture, employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours during high-heat periods.
--Emergency response procedures must include effective communication, response to signs and symptoms of heat illness, and procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers.
--Acclimation procedures must include close observation of all employees during a heat wave—defined as temperatures of at least 80 degrees. New employees must be closely observed for their first two weeks on the job.
As I reported yesterday, the heat wave may hasten snowmelt into reservoirs that are in many cases already more than 90 percent full. Shasta Lake, for instance, is at 95 percent of its capacity and 113 percent of its historical average.

Keep watch at CapitalPress.com for updates on weather impacts as the summer gets going.