Thursday, August 31, 2017

President Trump's tax reform proposal in a nutshell

Paul Teller, a special assistant to President Donald Trump for legislative affairs, sent to members of Congress this summary of Trump's remarks on tax reform yesterday in Springfield, Mo.
Four principles of tax reform
· We need a tax code that is simple, fair, and easy to understand. This means getting rid of the loopholes and complexity that primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans and special interests.

· We need a competitive tax code that creates more jobs and higher wages for Americans. It’s time to give American workers the pay raise that they've been looking for many, many years.

· We need tax relief for middle-class families. We will lower taxes for middle-income Americans so they can keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.

· We want to bring back trillions of dollars in wealth that's parked overseas. By making it less punitive for companies to bring back this money, and by making the process far less bureaucratic and difficult, we can return trillions and trillions of dollars to our economy and spur billions of dollars in new investments in our struggling communities and throughout our nation.

Key quotes
· “We're here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers.”

· “...The foundation of our job creation agenda is to fundamentally reform our tax code for the first time in more than 30 years. I want to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, on a plan that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker -- and pro-American.”

· “If we want to renew our prosperity, and to restore opportunity, then we must reduce the tax burden on our companies and on our workers.”

· “If we achieve sustained three percent growth, that means 12 million new jobs and $10 trillion dollars of new economic activity over the next decade.”

· “My administration is embracing a new economic model. It’s called very simply: The American Model. Under this system, we will encourage companies to hire and grow in America, to raise wages for American workers, and to help rebuild our American cities and communities. That is how we will all succeed and grow together, as one team, with one shared sense of purpose, and one glorious American destiny.”
Seems like a pretty boilerplate Republican tax proposal, if you ask me. Politicians have been promising to simplify the tax code for decades, but it keeps getting longer and more complicated.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

DWR: Green patch on Oroville Dam not caused by leak

The mysterious patch of green grass that appeared on the face of the Oroville Dam this spring and summer wasn't the result of a leak, Department of Water Resources officials have concluded.

From an email from Erin Mellon, the agency's assistant director of public affairs:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today published the Assessment of the Vegetation Area on the face of the Oroville Dam – it’s attached here.

This past Friday, DWR shared these findings and conclusions with the independent Board of Consultants convened for the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project, who provided feedback to the Department last week. The Board of Consultants agreed with DWR's findings that the vegetation is caused by rain and there is no dam safety concern. The BOC will provide official comments in their next memo which will be posted here: http://www.water.ca.gov/oroville-spillway/bocreports.cfm

Highlighted conclusions in the assessment:

· The vegetation area poses no threat to the integrity of the dam. The area is caused by temporarily trapped rainwater.

· The area was observed in 1966 and 1967 during construction, before the reservoir was filled. Construction operations during the 1966-67 rainy season resulted in ponding of water on the fill surface and the creation of stratified lenses or layers within the fill in the area where vegetation is now present. In addition, rainfall during the 1966-67 wet season also resulted in small erosion channels, or rills and gullies in the area where vegetation is now present. These rills and gullies were repaired with cobbles, not regular dam fill, which allows rain water to percolate into the area rather than drain quickly down the face of the dam. Numerous inspection reports and aerial photographs taken during construction and prior to reservoir filling document the presence of wet areas seeping rain water that had percolated into the dam.

· Ongoing seepage measurements at the base of the dam have remained consistently low and virtually unchanged since construction of the dam. Any increase in seepage through the dam would be noticed almost immediately.

· The vegetation area dries out during the hot summer months, which it would not do if it had a constant source of seepage through the dam. The vegetation growth cycle begins again during the next wet season, indicating that it is rain-fed growth.

· The vegetation area is currently brown and dry despite the Lake Oroville lake level sitting almost 100 feet higher than the vegetation area. If any water did make its way through the dam’s core, it would be intercepted by a vertical drain, preventing it from flowing to the downstream area of the dam where the vegetation is located.
I'll have additional news about the Oroville project soon. Watch for it at CapitalPress.com.

Study links avocado consumption with improved cognition

From the California Farm Bureau Federation's Food and Farm News:
Older adults who ate avocados showed increased memory, attention levels and processing speed, according to a new study. Scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts say the improved cognition among study participants appears to be linked to a pigment within avocados called lutein. People in the study who ate avocados as part of a controlled diet had more lutein in their systems, and performed better in cognition tests.
My wife, who eats avocados practically whole, will be happy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hot temperatures, area wildfires make for smoky skies

Hot temperatures and a high-pressure system are trapping smoke from nearby wildfires near the valley floor, making for smoky skies for north state residents. The photo was taken this morning at the Mill Race Dryer in Red Bluff, where prunes from nearby orchards are being processed.

The same thing is happening in the San Joaquin Valley, where the regional Air Pollution Control District explains:
Triple-digit temperatures coupled with stagnant air are conducive for the formation of ozone. [...]

The wildfires burning around the Valley coupled with high heat and a strong high pressure system lingering over the Valley are causing smoke emissions to remain trapped within the air basin and spikes in particulate matter levels and ozone levels are possible, particularly during the afternoon hours. [...]

Smoke from wildfires produces particulate matter (PM) and contributes to the creation of ozone, which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to health effects from these pollutants. Air District officials urge residents to follow their doctors’ orders when exposed to wildfire emissions and stay indoors if at all possible.
Numerous wildfires are burning in the West, including several large ones near the coast on both sides of the Oregon-California state line. The blog Pie N Politics is providing regular updates on the fires in the Siskiyou County area. Jim Dowling at A News Cafe offers this photo of the view from South Fork Mountain.

AccuWeather's long-range forecast shows triple-digit afternoons in Redding lingering until the end of next week.

High heat to return on Labor Day weekend

A quick update from the National Weather Service:
Not quite as hot Tuesday and Wednesday, but more excessive heat this Labor Day Holiday Weekend.

Impacts
Moderate to high heat risk for sensitive groups
Increased heat stress on livestock and pets
Increased potential for fire starts due to hot and dry conditions

Forecast Confidence
High

Timing and Strength
After Tuesday and Wednesday, very hot temperatures return for the Labor Day Holiday Weekend, Friday through Monday.
Overnight lows upper 60s to mid 70s for valley & foothills with some of the warmer foothill locations only cooling off into the low 80s.

Monday, August 28, 2017

USDA grants to help strawberry industry nix fumigants

From the California Strawberry Commission:
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded two research grants to help California strawberry farms manage soil disease. One grant for $4.5 million supports a national team of experts led by University of California (UC) Davis to identify strawberry plants naturally resistant to certain diseases. The other grant for $2.5 million supports another national team of experts led by UC Santa Cruz to continue research on bio-fumigation (a natural process that suppresses soil disease).

“California strawberry farmers have a history of innovation and collaboration with scientists at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz. We are optimistic that these two world-class research projects will identify new solutions to help our local farms through sustainable improvements to remain competitive in a global environment,” said Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission.

Identifying Strawberry Plants with Natural Disease Resistance
The grant for $4.5 million will support a team of scientists from UC, Davis, UC, Riverside, UC, Santa Cruz, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, and University of Florida, to identify genetic markers that are naturally present in some strawberry plants. This work will help plant breeders use plants with natural disease resistance to develop new strawberry varieties that can tolerate disease in the field, while still producing delicate and great tasting fruit for the consumer.

After a briefing with UC Davis researchers, strawberry farmers took action by adding another $1.8 million to the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program. These funds will augment the $4.5 million to support a collaborative research initiative to support the long-term sustainability of U.S. strawberry production.

“The California Strawberry Commission continues to be a key partner in advancing the work of the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding program, “ said Steve Knapp, director of the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program, who will head the collaborative team of scientists. “We look forward to another century of support from California’s strawberry growers to develop the world’s best strawberry varieties and production practices.”

Developing Bio-Fumigation – Natural Disease Control for Organic and Conventional Farming
USDA also announced a $2.5 million grant to UC Santa Cruz, for further collaborative research integrating knowledge in anaerobic soil disinfestation, crop rotation and strawberry varieties to manage diseases in strawberry production. The core of the research focuses on adding a soil supplement such as rice hulls, and then adding water to cut-off the oxygen supply. The microbes in the soil naturally shift to an anaerobic state, digesting the soil supplement to clean the soil of disease. In recent years, the California Strawberry Commission has funded UC Santa Cruz scientists, and introduced this natural process to strawberry farmers. The additional USDA funding supports work to make bio-fumigation a more reliable process for a variety of different soil types and conditions, and for different diseases.

“These projects are a natural extension of the commission’s farming without fumigants initiative launched in 2008. This grant is key to crucial research addressing plant diseases in the soil as fumigants are phased out,” said Dan Legard, vice president of research and grower education at the commission.

“California continues to lead the world in agricultural innovations. These grants are good news, keeping our state’s strawberry farmers at the forefront of sustainable farming practices,” said Karen Ross, Secretary for California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“As a representative of the salad bowl of the world, I believe it is of the utmost importance to equip our researchers and farmers with the most effective tools possible to foster innovation and growth. These USDA grants will help our strawberry farmers thrive,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta, representative of the central coast region of California, where the majority of the state’s strawberries are grown.

Both grants are funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative. This is a highly competitive program awarded only two grants to California projects.

For a viable future of strawberry farming in California, growers depend on world-class research to identify scientifically sound and economically sensible tools and practices to address ever-evolving challenges in the field, while protecting the community and the environment. For the past 60 years, the California Strawberry Commission has supported a robust body of research activity to advance sustainable strawberry growing practices.
For my story, check CapitalPrsss.com soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Farmers, ranchers push to retain gains for ag in NAFTA

From the California Farm Bureau Federation's Food and Farm News:
When talks resume next month about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, farmers and ranchers will continue to press for policies that retain gains in agricultural trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The California Farm Bureau says NAFTA has, on balance, been positive for California agriculture, although Mexican competition has hurt some crops. Canada is the No. 2 market for California farm exports, and Mexico ranks fifth.
We've been covering the NAFTA talks extensively, getting perspectives from Trump administration officials, the wheat, dairy and beef industries, Canada's ag minister and a former Obama administration trade negotiator. Here is our editorial on the subject.

For ongoing coverage of the talks and their fallout, keep checking CapitalPress.com.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cattle groups 'encouraged' by Zinke's monument review

From a National Cattlemen's Beef Association newsletter:
The debate over National Monuments is heating up following the completion of a review by the Department of the Interior. Back in February, President Trump directed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to conduct a comprehensive assessment of National Monument designations made under the Antiquities Act. Today Secretary Zinke sent his recommendations to the White House, where final implementation decisions will be made.

NCBA and the Public Lands Council were encouraged by the release and urged the White House to take swift action following the recommendations, with PLC Executive Director Ethan Lane noting that "Presidents have repeatedly abused their authority under the Antiquities Act, locking up over 250 million acres of land and water without local input or economic analysis." The full statement can be found here.
Here's the story on our website on Zinke's recommendations, courtesy of the AP. As I've reported, the California Cattlemen's Association has urged the administration to reconsider national monument designations in the Golden State that have greatly impacted grazing.

For continuing coverage of this issue, keep checking CapitalPress.com.

Nielsen bill to shield kids from pot passed by Legislature

State Sen. Jim Nielsen's Senate Bill 663, which is supported by California law enforcement and medical professionals, has passed both houses of the Legislature and awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature. From Nielsen's office:
On January 1, 2018, Californians over the age of 21 will legally be able to buy recreational marijuana including edibles and other products. Children will inadvertently be exposed to the marketing of this drug.

“Studies have shown the dangers that accidental marijuana ingestion poses to young children,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama). “This measure will prevent marijuana from being packaged to attract children.”

“Young children in Colorado are facing a dramatic exposure to marijuana. We do not yet know the full impact of these products on the developing brain of a child. That is why it is so important to keep these products out of the hands of minors,” said Roseville Vice Mayor Bonnie Gore.

“On behalf of parents in my community, I urge Governor Brown to sign Senator Nielsen’s measure,” Gore added.

Specifically, Senate Bill 663 prohibits packaging and labeling of marijuana products that:

--Display the marijuana product (such as cookie, candy bar, etc.), as public health researchers believe that displaying edibles makes the product more appealing to adolescents and puts children younger than seven at greater risk of marijuana poisoning;
--Mimic the name or packaging of non-marijuana candies, snacks, or drinks to prevent children from confusing a cannabis-infused edible with their favorite snacks;
--Include elements that could lead people younger than 21 to believe that the package contains a non-marijuana product; or
--Display designs features, cartoons, names or slogans that would make the package appeal primarily to people younger than 21.

Senate Bill 663 received a wide range of support from the state’s law enforcement and medical and fitness professionals.

Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell said, “We encourage the Governor to sign Senator Nielsen’s proposal into law. Marijuana is already a major problem facing Placer County. This law will reduce any ambiguity in current child safety measures in relation to marijuana.”

“The marijuana industry is new and creates many challenges. Currently, there are insufficient tools to protect children. Senator Nielsen’s measure will help keep these dangerous products out of the hands of children,” said Scott Owens, Placer County District Attorney.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

DWR passes midway point in Oroville main spillway work

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 remain focused on repairing and reconstructing the gated flood control spillway, also known as the main spillway, by November 1. DWR and its partners are on schedule.
--DWR has passed the midway point of its construction timeline on the main spillway. Demolition began 96 days ago, on May 19, and 70 days remain until November 1.
--Demolition, excavation and preparation is now complete for the 2,270 feet of the main spillway that will be reconstructed this year.
--Construction of the 1,050-foot middle section of the spillway chute, including filling in the two scour holes, is now about 20 percent complete, with approximately 60,000 cubic yards of roller-compacted concrete placed.
--Placement of reinforced, structural concrete is 25% complete. Crews have placed 25 slabs of structural concrete so far. When it is complete, there will be 1,220 feet of spillway chute with structural concrete – 870 feet on the upper portion of the spillway and 350 in the lower portion of the spillway.
--Installation of reinforcing steel wall frames has begun and the first concrete wall section will be completed this week.

Construction at the Emergency Spillway
--DWR continues to make progress at the emergency spillway, and is still on schedule to complete construction of the secant pile wall, or cut-off wall, in late December 2017 or early January 2018.

Other Updates
--DWR crews this week performed weed abatement on the vegetation area on the face of the Oroville Dam. This routine maintenance is necessary for DWR to have clear access for observation.
--The independent Board of Consultants will meet for the eleventh time with DWR tomorrow and Friday.
--The Forensic Team will visit the spillways site later this month to receive a progress update on construction.

USA Today caught misleading on Secret Service costs

The Media Research Center reports:
You know that damning news story that’s been making the rounds on social media, detailing how President Donald Trump’s little weekend getaways were causing the Secret Service to go broke and agents to go unpaid?

Yeah. Turns out that wasn’t true.

A recent misleading USA Today report, which was later gleefully picked up by CNN, accused the Trump family of spending bookoos of cash in security details for their weekend trips to Mar-a-lago and New Jersey – so much cash, USA Today claimed, that the Secret Service said they were no longer able to pay their agents.

The claims were based off an interview with Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex'' Alles, who told USA Today that more than 1,000 Secret Service agents had already hit their congressionally-mandated salary “caps” for the entire fiscal year (meaning they’ve been paid what they’re owed, but just aren’t getting paid any more).

But while it’s true that Trump’s 18-person family is significantly bigger than Barack Obama’s, and that he is racking up a pretty hefty vacation tab, the issue of Secret Service agents maxing out their yearly paychecks is a problem that didn’t start with the current president.

In fact, Alles later clarified that the problem of Secret Service agents hitting their salary caps before the end of the fiscal year is a chronic issue that’s been cropping up for a long time – well before Trump ever took the oath of office.

Alles added that while some agents may have maxed out their salary caps for the year, the Secret Service agency does, in fact, have plenty of money to continue operating as normal – meaning that no, agents aren’t running around like Bob Cratchett trying to scrounge up a Christmas turkey.
Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who wrote a book about his time with the agency, adds some context:
Here's what’s really going on. The reason the Secret Service is forced to work its agents on unsustainable overtime and travel schedules has little to do with the size of Trump’s family. The portfolio of protectees expanded dramatically after the September 11 attacks during the G.W. Bush administration, too. It also has little to do with the travel schedule. Barack Obama kept a heavy travel schedule throughout most of his presidency. It has everything to do with the Secret Service’s unsustainable, and growing, portfolio of responsibilities outside the protection sphere.

The Secret Service currently employs approximately 6,800 special agents and uniformed division officers, a number more than enough to fully staff the Secret Service’s portfolio of protectees. The real problem is that a majority of the Secret Service’s special agent personnel, agents who could relieve the protection-detail special agents of some of the workload, are not assigned to protection details.
Funny, but I don't remember USA Today throwing a tantrum when President Obama was running up a $100 million travel tab. Funny how that works.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Councilwoman blasts paper for 'religious discrimination'

Bethel Church is one of the Redding area's biggest economic drivers. Its divinity school draws students from all over the world. It's been featured on Pat Robertson's The 700 Club. And its worship team -- Bethel Music -- is one of the biggest names in the worship music genre, having recorded and sold more than two dozen albums. (Disclaimer: My wife and I are not members.)

Yet as I've noted before, Bethel only makes the local news when 1) it has business before the city or county, or 2) one of its employees or members gets arrested, sued or does something that offends or "concerns" local reporters, editors or producers.

Anderson City Councilwoman Melissa Hunt has called out the Record Searchlight for one of those latter instances. In a Facebook post last weekend (and in some apparent haste), she wrote:
So a citizen asked me a couple of months ago if I had heard about the first complete immersion school going in Anderson and how excited she was about it that it was right here in Anderson. I had not. But I had heard of a charter school going into the old Verde Vale School in Anderson. The name was Tree Of Life International Charter School. My first question was if it was a Christian School cuz of the name. Immediate response was No, its a charter school with a cool name promoting kindness to all.

Come to find out, they are one in the same! A full immersion of our students into a bi-lingual culture (they will speak spanish in the classrooms!) and it's a charter school coming into the old Verde Vale School. Using up an old empty school campus and bringing our students to an appreciation of multi-culturals. Wow! How awesome is that in today's society!? So Good! And that they promote kindness and understanding in our community as well! Once again, so good in today's society! #NoHate

Then our local newspaper gets ahold of the story and trys to sensationalize it for who knows what reason. So their bend on the story in today's newspaper is that alot of the staff have connections to Bethel in Redding. Um, since when is a school staff member or teacher's religious connections important in their profession? It's not! I would suggest this article in today's #RecordSearchlight is blatant #ReligiousDiscrimination just for the sake of a story! SHAME ON YOU!!!!

You have taken something that is worthy of a celebration in our city and put a very inappropriate bend on it instead of the celebration of cultures along with promoting hate to a church that has done such amazing things for the greater Redding region!!! SHAME ON YOU!!! I mentioned how offending the article was to someone that I met at the celebration/Meet & Greet today at the school and her reaction was concern for what Bethel must think because it was being tied to the school when there was no such connection. THAT COMMENT in itself shows that there is no such connection.
The story in question is here. Melissa went on to say such reporting was why the paper "has the reputation it has in this community," and that she had stopped her subscription years ago but read the paper while house-sitting for a friend who still subscribes.

Her post has generated two shares and about two dozen comments since Saturday. One commenter tagged Record Searchlight editor Silas Lyons and asked for an explanation, and Silas responded:
Matt appreciate you tagging me in the conversation. I'd like to give a thoughtful response and have a Kaos soccer game to watch at the moment. I appreciate all the feedback. More soon.
That was Aug. 19. If Silas ever got back to Matt, he didn't do so publicly.

Speaking generally, we are living in an age when certain major corporate-owned news outlets are working very hard to create a permanent underclass of people who are not allowed in the public square because of their religious or political beliefs. Any contributions from these folks, anything they do to help children or heal divisions within their communities, is negated because they're an X. Unfortunately, this effort has been joined by these corporations' local appendages.

It's a classic example of why so many people think the news media as it exists today is a detriment to society and to local communities. But it's also an example of the quiet divide that exists in the news business (and is not new). When you share a budget with over 100 other properties nationwide and have long since outsourced your circulation department to a call center halfway around the world, you don't have to care if a couple dozen people stop their subscriptions over an article. But small, locally owned outlets, and niche outlets that cater to a specific audience, don't have the luxury of being that smug with regard to readership.

This is why it's never been more important for the consuming public to spend their money wisely when it comes to media sources. Does the news outlet you're using approach its work from the standpoint that we are one America and seek to heal and unify, or does it sow division and distrust among neighbors and try to create an underclass? The health of communities, and the immediate future of America itself, will depend on consumers exercising this level of discernment.

Monday, August 21, 2017

USDA's Perdue details wildfire response in NorCal, West

From a news release:
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today outlined the U.S. Forest Service’s assets and responses to a recent outbreak of extreme wildfires over large parts of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies. The fires, affecting forests and grasslands, are burning across Western Montana, Idaho, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

“Our courageous USFS firefighters do an outstanding job and are able to catch 98 percent of all fires before they become large fires,” Perdue said. “To help them, we will make sure firefighters have all the necessary tools at their disposal in order to save lives, property, and our forests. We will also work hand-in-hand with our federal partners, particularly the Department of Interior, during this aggressive fire season.”

Many different types of equipment and firefighting resources are available to fire managers. As of August 21, 2017, the resources available for wildland fire suppression included:

--18,300 total personnel, across all jurisdictions, assigned to fires.
--412 crews, 833 engines, and 146 helicopters across all jurisdictions assigned to fires nationally.
--27 air tankers assigned to fires nationally.
--Five military aircraft (three MAFFS and two RC-26s) supporting wildland fire operations.
--Ten Type 1 Incident Management Teams assigned.
--22 Type 2 Incident Management Teams assigned.
--The National Preparedness Level raised to 5, the highest level, on August 10.

Wildland firefighting is a partnership among federal agencies, state agencies, and local fire departments, with the U.S. Forest Service taking on an important leadership and coordination role. Federal resources are provided for fires across the country, whether fires are on federal, state, tribal, or private lands. So far this season, firefighting agencies have responded to about 42,809 fires across about 6.4 million acres. The Forest Service, in partnership with state and local agencies, will continue to vigorously respond to wildfires with an array of assets. The National Interagency Fire Center is constantly reviewing fire conditions in order to position available resources to ensure the fastest response possible.
Here is the overview of Western wildfires that tops our California page, courtesy of the AP. Look for continuing coverage of the fires and their impact on agriculture at CapitalPress.com.

The photo was taken by my nephew, who's a seasonal firefighter and is working on one of the blazes.

Great American Eclipse makes crescent sun over Redding


I was up on Hilltop Drive to watch the Great American Eclipse pass over Redding. The photos are of the eclipse as seen through safety glasses placed on my camera lens; the image of the sun on a white paper courtesy of a kit handed out by Turtle Bay; and a view of the total eclipse as seen from Madras, Ore., courtesy of NASA Television, which actually has two broadcasts going and is providing the best TV coverage that I've found.

As we've reported, the eclipse was expected to draw about 1 million people to Oregon, some of whom passed through Redding over the weekend. Some farmers and ranchers in Oregon, Idaho and points east are hosting gatherings on their land or renting it out for eclipse viewing.

The NASA channel will have eclipse-related coverage all day. We're all looking out for ag-related eclipse stories and impacts, so keep watch at CapitalPress.com.

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.