Tuesday, December 31, 2013

PG&E’s Vallejo MGP Site Investigation and Cleanup


"PG&E’s Vallejo MGP Site Investigation and Cleanup"
report from City Manager’s Bi-Weekly Report, Volume 1, Issue 18, June 21, 2013. Daniel E. Keen, City Manager [www.ci.vallejo.ca.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=47689]:
In May 2012, the City Council unanimously approved the PG&E/City access agreement for environmental investigation and remediation activities at the 26-acre upland site located at the corner of Curtola Parkway and Sonoma Boulevard. PG&E then prepared a site investigation work plan that was reviewed by the City’s environemental consultant and approved by the California Department Of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
Prior to the site investigation work, PG&E and the City conducted outreach to site users and neighbors in the immediate project area. Work began on March 18 and will be complete by December 2013. Upon completion of site investigation activities, PG&E will prepare a Remidial Investigation Report that summarizes the findings of the field effort and defines the extent of historic residues in soil, soil gas, and groundwater. Following DTSC approval of the Remedial Investigation Report, PG&E will prepare a Remedial Action Cleanup Plan. PG&E and its consultants meet on a monthly basis with City staff to coordinate efforts and conduct outreach efforts to ensure the larger Vallejo community is informed and involved in the project.
PG&E maintains a public website for the Vallejo MGP project, which can be found here [http://pge.com/about/environment/taking-responsibility/mgp/vallejo.shtml]. Additional information about PG&E’s MGP program can also be found here [http://pge.com/about/environment/taking-responsibility/mgp/index.shtml]. The website includes contact information for PG&E’s Environmental Remediation department, including a hotline and email address, as well as the latest information about the site investigation and project schedule.


"Former Vallejo Manufactured Gas Plant"
[http://pge.com/about/environment/taking-responsibility/mgp/vallejo.shtml]:
PG&E is working closely with the City of Vallejo to conduct an environmental investigation of a former manufactured gas plant (MGP) site near Curtola Parkway and Sonoma Boulevard. Based on investigation results, a cooperative approach to clean up the site will be developed. All work is being conducted voluntarily by PG&E and oversight is under the authority of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

An MGP operated at the site from 1872 to 1930. PG&E acquired the gas plant in 1905 and operated it until 1930, when it was put on standby status. The plant was largely dismantled by 1944. PG&E sold the MGP property to the City of Vallejo in 1976. Currently, the site consists of open areas and several commercial operations including a public boat launch, a boat and recreational vehicle storage area, a storage locker facility and a commercial bait shop.

PG&E does not anticipate disruption to area businesses or residents during the first phase of work. We are committed to keeping area residents and businesses informed of the project's status and to gather community input. PG&E will be issuing work notices and fact sheets at various stages of the project. More information is available by calling the PG&E toll-free community hotline.
Upcoming Investigation Work and Overall Project Schedule:
* Phase 1: Investigation - 2013/2014
A site-wide investigation, including sampling of soil and groundwater, will take place in stages throughout the year. Sample results will be sent to an independent laboratory and analyzed. This process will determine the level of residues left in soil, soil gas (air between soil particles) and groundwater.
* Phase 2: Development of cleanup plan - 2014/2015
A site-specific cleanup plan will be created based on the investigation results.
* Phase 3: Site cleanup - late 2015/beyond
The cleanup plan will be implemented at the site.

Additional Resources:
DTSC Resources & Contact Information

Site-related documents can also be found at:
John F. Kennedy Library, 505 Santa Clara Street, Vallejo, (866) 572-7587, press 3 for reference desk


"PG&E’s Manufactured Gas Plant Program"
[http://pge.com/about/environment/taking-responsibility/mgp/index.shtml] :
History of MGPs -
In the mid 1800s and early 1900s, before natural gas was available as an energy source, manufactured gas plants (MGPs) existed throughout California and the United States. These plants used coal and oil to produce gas for lighting, heating and cooking. At that time, this technology was a major step forward, revolutionizing street lighting, enhancing public safety and enabling businesses to work into the night.
In addition to gas, MGPs produced a variety of byproducts, some of which were useful and marketable, such as coal tar and lampblack. The byproducts that could not be sold were removed for disposal or remained at the MGP site. Most of the sites in PG&E’s service area were closed and dismantled more than 75 years ago.

PG&E Manufactured Gas Plant Program -
In the 1980’s, the United States Environmental Protection Agency conducted research that identified more than 1,500 former manufactured gas plants around the country. The research found that, in some cases, residues from these facilities may remain onsite.
Following the EPA study, PG&E established a program under the oversight of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to identify the location of MGP sites and began a process of testing water supplies and soil samples from sites in the service area.
According to toxicologists and health experts, exposure to MGP residues is not common because, in most cases, they are located below the ground surface.
As part of our commitment to environmental responsibility, PG&E works to ensure that any potential impacts to the environment from former MGPs are addressed in accordance with today’s regulatory standards. PG&E is in the process of investigating and remediating 41 MGP sites it formerly owned or operated. They are in various stages of remediation, from investigation to post remediation monitoring and project completion.
Where DTSC determines that remediation activities are necessary, we work closely with the agency, residents and local health and environmental departments to design the most effective remediation program for the site.
This is a voluntary effort that reflects PG&E’s environmental commitment and responsibility to address issues that may have resulted from our historic operations.

Commitment to our Customers -
Because these gas plants were historically located near the center of commerce, many of our sites are located in downtown areas, and some in residential neighborhoods. PG&E works closely with those customers whose homes or businesses may be affected by our work to ensure that any associated impacts are lessened and everyone stays informed about the project throughout its duration.
Before site work begins, PG&E and DTSC meet with nearby residents, businesses, and community leaders to discuss work plans and address any concerns they may have. We continue this dialogue throughout the life of the project, and use work notices, emails, meetings, and the web to keep customers informed of progress at the site.
Measures are put in place during remediation to reduce impacts related to noise, dust, and traffic on nearby homes and businesses. This includes air monitoring, installing noise barriers to reduce construction noise, limiting work hours to certain days of the week or hours of the day and restricting the number of trucks that can drive to and from a work site during a given day.
When remediation is complete, we have conducted restoration activities like planting new landscaping, repairing sidewalks or constructing new parking spaces to improve the local community and promote public safety.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monopolist Censorship of Ecology and Science news


"The Disappearing Science Reporter"
2013-12 by Student Researcher Howard Fooksman (Frostburg State University), and Faculty Evaluator Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University) [http://www.projectcensored.org/disappearing-science-reporter/]:
Although it has received some coverage, as all press job cuts do, the elimination of science and environmental reporters at major news organization has left most major news outlets without a dedicated science team. Scott Dodd, of OnEarth.org, reports that the number of science sections in major papers has declined over 75% since 1989, from 85 to 19. In some cases, for example the Boston Globe, those reporters were reassigned to business or other sections of the paper, remaining on a science-focused beat, but without the platform of a dedicated section.
The current downsizing has been an ongoing trend for a number of years. In 2008 CNN eliminated its dedicated environment desk, and in early 2013, The New York Times did the same. The Times’ decision to eliminate its “pod” of seven reporters and two editors dedicated to the environment provoked vocal objections from inside the industry, but went virtually uncovered elsewhere. Inside the Times, the Dot Earth blog has covered the issue for a number of years, but even Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan admitted that continuing the coverage without a dedicated team will be difficult. As of January 17, 2013, only the Los Angeles Times among the nation’s top papers had an environmental desk remaining, with four reporters assigned exclusively to environmental news.
University of Colorado Professor Maxwell Boykoff has researched the coverage of climate change at fifty major papers across the world from 2004-2013. Since a peak in late 2009 (which coincided with the UN Summit on Climate Change), environmental and climate change coverage has declined each year, with current coverage representing only a quarter of the stories that were published in 2009. While some of that shift is from the incorporation of environmental aspects into stories throughout newspapers, the people now reporting on the environment do not have the science or environmental planning background that reporters used to have. Even if the food section is covering ethical farming or sustainable fisheries, the reporter isn’t qualified to render an educated scientific explanation of the topic.

Sources:
* Zofeen Ebrahim, “U.S. Science Reporters Becoming an Endangered Species,” Inter Press Service, October 15, 2013, [http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/u-s-science-reporters-becoming-an-endangered-species/].
* “Media Coverage of Climate Change/Global Warming,” Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, December 13, 2013, [http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/media_coverage/world_normalized_graph.jpg].

Background Sources:
* Andrew Revkin, “Science Journalism Implosion, CNN and Beyond,” The New York Times, December 4, 2008. [http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/science-coverage-imploding-at-cnn-beyond/].
* Christine Russell, “Globe Kills Health/Science Section, Keeps Staff,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 4, 2009, [http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/globe_kills_healthscience_sect.php].

Monday, December 23, 2013

Acidification of habitat by Municipal and Industrial trash

Risks to the Estuary [link]

"Local factors cause dramatic spikes in coastal ocean acidity"
2013-12-23 from Duke University [http://nicholas.duke.edu/news/local-factors-cause-dramatic-spikes-coastal-ocen-acidity]:
DURHAM, N.C. – A new Duke University-led study has documented dramatic, natural short-term increases in acidity in a North Carolina estuary.
“The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole and may already be exerting added pressure on some of the estuary’s organisms, particularly shelled organisms that are especially susceptible to changes in pH,” said Zackary I. Johnson, Arthur P. Kaupe Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment
The short-term spikes in estuarine acidity were driven by changes in temperature, water flow, biological activity and other natural factors, and are occurring in addition to the long-term acidification taking place in Earth’s oceans as a result of human-caused climate change.
“For vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems, this may be adding insult to injury,” said Johnson, who was lead author of the study.
When the effects of long-term ocean acidification and short-term natural variation combine, they can create “extreme events” which may be especially harmful to coastal marine life, he said.
The study was conducted at the Pivers Island Coastal Observatory at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., as part of a long-term coastal monitoring program. Researchers collected seawater samples from Beaufort Inlet weekly for a year and on a daily and hourly basis for shorter periods to track changes in the water’s pH and dissolved inorganic carbon on multiple time scales.
Numerous studies have shown that increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human sources are finding their way into the world’s oceans. When the carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reduces the water’s pH and the ability of organisms to form calcium carbonate minerals that are the building blocks of many species’ shells and skeletons. This process is known as ocean acidification.
If current trends continue, experts predict that the mean ocean pH will decrease by about 0.2 units over the next 50 years. A drop of that magnitude could have far-reaching impacts on ocean ecosystems and organisms.
“We may see significant changes in biological processes such as primary production. Some organisms, such as phytoplankton, may benefit. Many others, including shelled organisms and corals, will not,” said Dana Hunt, assistant professor of microbial ecology, who co-authored the new study.
The Duke team’s analysis showed that a wide range of natural variables, including changes in temperature, algal production and respiration, and water movement caused by tides and storms, triggered sharp spikes in the inlet’s acidity. Some changes occurred over the course of a season; others took place on a daily or hourly basis.
“Understanding to what extent pH naturally varies in coastal ecosystems worldwide will be essential for predicting where and when the effects of increasing ocean acidity will be most profound, and what organisms and ecosystems may be most affected,” Hunt said. “Our research demonstrates we have to take into account a wide range of environmental variables, not just pH.”
The study was published online this week in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Johnson and Hunt’s co-authors were research technician Benjamin Wheeler, doctoral student Christopher Ward and former undergraduate Christina Carlson, all of Duke; and Sara Blinebry, a student intern from Carteret County Community College. Blinebry is now a research technician in Johnson’s lab. Carlson is now a policy research assistant at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The study was funded by National Science Foundation grants to Johnson and Hunt and through private support through Duke’s Nicholas School.

Note, the following can be reached for additional comment:
* Tim Lucas [919-613-8084] [tdlucas@duke.edu]
* Zackary Johnson [252-504-7543] [zij@duke.edu]
* Dana Hunt [252-504-7542] [dana.hunt@duke.edu]
CITATION: “Dramatic Variability of the Carbonate System at a Temperate Coastal Ocean Site (Beaufort, North Carolina) is Regulated by Physical and Biogeochemical Processes on Multiple Timescales,” by Zackary I. Johnson, Benjamin J. Wheeler, Sara K. Blinebry, Christina M. Carlson, Christopher S. Ward, Dana E. Hunt. Published Dec. 17, 2013, in PLOS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0085117
Contact:

White Slough nature reserve and Sonoma Blvd. redevelopment in Vallejo

Contact Bill Tuikka, City of Vallejo [btuikka@ci.vallejo.ca.us] [707-648-5391]
Map showing the Sonoma Boulevard Corridor 

"Public input sought on Sonoma Blvd design plan"
2012-01-06 from "Vallejo Times-Herald":
As part of the efforts to improve Sonoma Boulevard, the city will hold a second community workshop 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at JFK Library, 505 Santa Clara St. in downtown Vallejo.
City of Vallejo officials and consultants are seeking public opinion on the Sonoma Boulevard Corridor Design Plan meant to present a vision and specific actions to improve the street.
The two-hour workshop will include an overview of various elements of the plan and will also involve discussion on economic development, land uses, transportation alternatives and design elements.
Participants will break up into small groups to discuss alternatives and help come up with a plan and vision for the street.
Some tactics the city can do immediately to improve the street also will be discussed.
In a previous workshop, participants were asked to dream big and present ideas for what they might want along the street.
Some suggestions included a town square, a roundabout, as well as branding certain ethnic neighborhoods along the corridor.
Others said the street should be narrowed with bicycle lanes, landscaping along with benches and trees.
A consulting firm will lead Wednesday's workshop.
The Berkeley-based firm of MIG (Moore, Iacofano and Gotsman) was hired with a $300,000 California Department of Transportation grant to draft the plan.
The area under consideration includes Sonoma Boulevard between Curtola Parkway to the south, and Highway 37 to the north.
For more details on the plan go to sonomaboulevarddesignplan.com.



"Meeting produces several visions for 'spine' of Vallejo"
2012-01-13 by Sarah Rohrs from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/ci_19734701]:
Bike lanes, environmental tourism focused on White Slough, and a hub of technology-based cafes and stores downtown -- these are some ideas Vallejo residents have for improving Sonoma Boulevard.
Nearly 75 citizens attended a second community workshop Wednesday night on the city-sponsored Sonoma Boulevard Corridor Design Plan meant to present a vision and specific actions to improve the street.
For two hours residents, business owners and several city officials considered what would be best for the street that many consider the "spine" of the city.
Other suggestions included restaurants, bookstores, bed-and-breakfasts, international markets, flower shops, wine- and tea-tasting activities, and youth activities for teens.
"Sonoma needs to be improved in so many ways," Councilman Robert McConnell said, adding the street is too wide, landscaping "is terrible," cars drive too fast and there's not enough lighting.
"It's an exciting project and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get grants and other funding so we can do some of these improvements," Councilwoman Marti Brown said.
The area under consideration runs north from Curtola Parkway to Highway 37.
The Berkeley-based firm of MIG (Moore, Iacofano and Gotsman) was hired with a $300,000 California Department of Transportation grant to draft the plan.
Participants were asked to think big and to react to suggestions from Sonoma Community Advisory Committee members who have met with consultants and city staff to fine-tune the plan.
Besides presenting a vision for new businesses, the plan is also meant to address design elements, pedestrian safety problems and options for bolstering alternative transportation uses.
Moving south, four areas and the committee's suggestions for them include:
* Highway 37 to Redwood Street. A diverse district to strengthen retail while also bolstering residential, office, and open space uses. Also, more motels and better links to the Kaiser Permamente Medical Center.
This northern gateway into the city should be enhanced and made more attractive, while White Slough should be highlighted as a natural asset.
* Redwood to Couch streets. Encourage new and existing businesses and enact better zoning regulations for greater flexibility.
Due to the large number of people living and working in this area, create safer conditions through crosswalk lighting and similar tactics.
* Couch to Florida streets. Create neighborhood "commercial nodes" at key intersections as well as interim commercial uses (such as a weekly flea market) on vacant parcels.
MIG Principal consultant Chris Beynon said this stretch of Sonoma is unusually wide with enormous medians with little on them. One approach, he said, might be sidewalks, bike lanes and trees in the medians to create a narrower, safer and more attractive stretch.
* Florida to Curtola Parkway. An attractive gateway entrance into Vallejo. Highlight the city's historical heritage as well as local businesses, arts and culture facilities and street commerce.
To slow traffic and encourage more people to shop in the area, Beynon said one option would be to narrow the street from four to two lanes and use alternative parking. Others suggested enforcement of nuisance ordinances to discourage blight.
The next meeting on the Sonoma Boulevard plan will be the summer. Public comment is still being sought.
To learn more about the plan and to submit comments and suggestions visit www.sonomaboulevarddesignplan.com


"Sonoma Boulevard vision for future topic of Vallejo Planning Commission meeting"
2012-03-21 from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/ci_20297200/sonoma-boulevard-vision-future-topic-vallejo-planning-commission]:
Ideas for improving Vallejo's central corridor -- Sonoma Boulevard -- will be shared Monday during a Vallejo Planning Commission presentation.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Vallejo City Council Chamber at 555 Santa Clara St.
Officials leading the Sonoma Boulevard Corridor Design project have held several public meetings to gather input on how the city should improve this five-mile artery.
The planning process, with a price tag of $282,600, has been covered by a grant from the California Department of Transportation. Funds to implement the plan have yet to be identified.
The plan will focus on Sonoma Boulevard, from Highway 37 to Curtola Parkway. Monday's meeting will include a slideshow on current efforts, as city staff begins drafting the final plan, including fine-tuning ways to move forward with some envisioned improvements.


"Sonoma Boulevard Corridor Design Plan"
2012-04-19 from "Vallejo Chamber BusinessWire" Issue 08 [http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs005/1102220553000/archive/1109741128512.html]:
The City of Vallejo along with the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is conducting a planning process that wil result in a land use and schematic street design plan for the historical Sonoma Boulevard/Highway 29 corridor. The 5.5 mile-long highway between Curtola Parkway and Highway 37 will be the target of the upcoming redevelopment improvements. If you are interested in joining the CAC or would like further information on the design plan, please visit www.sonomaboulevarddesignplan.com.


"Public workshop on Sonoma Boulevard beautification plan held tonight"
2012-10-03 from "Vallejo Times-Herald [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/ci_21686854/public-workshop-sonoma-boulevard-beautification-plan-held-tonight]:
The third and final community-wide meeting to gather public input on a plan meant to beautiful and revitalize Sonoma Boulevard gets under way at 6:30 p.m. today.
The public session will be in the Joseph Room, John F. Kennedy Library, 505 Santa Clara St., in downtown Vallejo.
In previous public meetings, residents and business owners have suggested more bike lanes, environmental tourism, and more cafes and stores to improve the state-owned highway running through Vallejo.
In tonight's workshop, a consultant will present a draft improvement plan, receive public input and explain the next steps, city of Vallejo Acting Planning Manager Michelle Hightower said.
The next steps will include incorporating public comments into the draft plan which the Planning Commission and City Council will consider at a later time, she said.
The plan must be completed by February as required by Caltrans, which put up a $300,000 grant to pay for the plan's completion.
The area under consideration runs north from Curtola Parkway to Highway 37. Besides a vision for new business, the plan is also meant to beautify the street, improve pedestrian safety and bolster alternative transportation uses.
To learn more about the plan and to submit comments and suggestions, visit www.sonomaboulevarddesignplan.com.


"Residents dreaming big for Sonoma Boulevard; Meeting draws responses for improving street"
2013-10-20 by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/ci_19153721]:
Vallejo residents were asked Wednesday night to dream big about the "backbone" of Vallejo -- Sonoma Boulevard -- in a meeting drawing more than 30 participants.
Business owners and residents alike gathered for two hours at the John F. Kennedy Library. Participants said that the approximately five miles of State Highway 29 running through Vallejo has both assets and areas in need of big improvement.
The corridor's speedy drivers, areas that are not pedestrian-friendly and insufficient alternative transportation options were some weaknesses the attendees identified.
Countering the area's deficiencies were visions for its improvement. Ideas offered included a town square, a roundabout, efforts to connect bike paths north toward Napa and a build-up of a research-medical "village" between Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center and the street. Some also suggested embracing the city's diverse population by branding ethnic neighborhoods along the corridor.
Other speakers suggested narrowing the larger portions of the road to add guarded bicycle lanes, or landscaping wide medians with benches and trees.
Wednesday's meeting was led by Berkeley-based consulting firm MIG (Moore, Iacofano and Goltsman). The firm has been hired with a $300,000 California Department of Transportation grant to focus on the area of Sonoma Boulevard (State Highway 29) between Curtola Parkway and Highway 37.
While meeting facilitators expressed optimism about the ability of a Sonoma Boulevard plan to lead to future projects, they were clear that their work began and ended at providing the city with only a "road map to the future."
The firm's next step will be to assess the feasibility of the various suggested visions. A second community workshop is scheduled for Jan. 11, although specifics on time and location have not yet been released.
Public ideas may still be submitted in person or online. Visit Bill Tuikka in the Vallejo Planning Division, 555 Santa Clara St., or go online at sonomaboulevarddesignplan.com for information on meeting times and presentations.


"Design plan for Vallejo's main corridor up for public review Tuesday"
2013-01-20 by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/ci_22413414/design-plan-vallejos-main-corridor-up-public-review]:
Vallejo will set the stage Tuesday night for a Sonoma Boulevard corridor makeover.
The Vallejo City Council will hold a public hearing on the city's plan, developed from public input, that will provide a framework for future improvements to one of the city's major arteries. The design plan was developed with the help of a $300,000 California Department of Transportation planning grant.
Included in the plan is a 5.5-mile stretch of highway, between Curtola Parkway and Highway 37.
Suggested projects range from "quick win" ideas like adding bike lanes and utilizing empty properties along the street for temporary uses, to partnering with existing businesses to create new business incentives and updating city zoning laws to specify certain uses along the corridor.
Approval of the design plan will not in and of itself authorize any new projects on Sonoma Boulevard, nor provide funding for them. Each project realized from the plan will have to go through typical city approval processes and are reliant on funding availability.
For more information on the plan project, visit www.sonomaboulevarddesignplan.com.

If You Go -
What: Vallejo City Council meeting
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Vallejo City Council Chambers, 555 Santa Clara St.
At issue: Sonoma Boulevard Corridor Design Plan public hearing, new city website design demonstration

Monday, December 16, 2013

Audubon bird count

"Bird count in Oakland shows surprisingly low tally"
2013-12-15 by Carolyn Jones for "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/articleGallery/Surprising-low-tally-for-this-year-s-bird-count-5067009.php]:
The annual Audubon bird count in Oakland was a breeze this year: There were hardly any birds to count.
"Normally we'd see thousands of scaup and bufflehead and canvasback. This year it's staggering - we've hardly seen any," said Ruth Tobey, one of more than 200 volunteers who scoured the East Bay on Sunday with binoculars and clipboards, counting birds.
"It's like going back to summer camp to see your old friends, but suddenly your friends aren't there," she said. "It's a serious disappointment. But that's why we're here - to record the shifts and changes, for better or worse."
Whether due to drought, the recent cold snap, climate change or some mystery of nature, the bird population at Arrowhead Marsh appeared dramatically lower this year. The final numbers nationwide won't be available until after Jan. 5, when the official Audubon bird count ends.
The great flocks of ducks and shorebirds might have been missing, but birders still found plenty to gawk at. At Arrowhead Marsh near the Oakland airport, a dozen or so volunteers spotted a peregrine falcon, brown pelican, two species of dowitcher, a great egret sunning itself on an old pier and a host of endangered clapper rails. Plus a whole lot of Canada geese.
"This is really citizen science," said David Rice, a psychologist from Berkeley who ventured through the marsh on a kayak. "It's not about counting rare birds; it's about counting all birds. This way you can pick up changes in populations and try to see the big picture."
Volunteers send their tallies to the Audubon headquarters, where the numbers are compiled into a vast database for scientists and the public to study. Shifts in migrations, breeding and species populations can help scientists plan conservation efforts and get a glimpse at the overall health of the environment - everything from rising pollutants to the melting ice cap to habitat loss.
In previous years, data from the bird count have helped Audubon identify 20 common bird species that are in serious decline, losing at least half their populations in the past four decades. Suburban sprawl, increased use of pesticides and climate change are to blame.
In North America, more than 10,000 volunteers participate in the annual bird count, noting everything from the tiniest hummingbird to 7-foot golden eagles. San Francisco's bird count will be Dec. 27.
At Arrowhead Marsh, where Rice has been counting birds for 35 years, the first thing he noticed Sunday was that the number of birds may be down but the marsh is cleaner than it has been in decades. Tighter regulations on development and water quality, plus litter-removal events like Creek to Bay Day, have made the marsh a nicer place for its feathered residents, he said.
"Audubon and other groups have worked very hard to protect this marsh," he said. "It's paid off."
The most exciting bird-watching spot Sunday was not Arrowhead Marsh, however. It was the 2700 block of Woolsey Street in Berkeley. There, in a backyard oak tree, a painted redstart warbler - normally seen only in the southwestern deserts - has been holding court for the past few weeks.
Birders have been making pilgrimages to see the distinctive red-and-black songbird. Many returned Sunday in hopes of adding it to the tally.
Logan Kahle, 16, of San Francisco wasn't too interested in the warbler. For him, the day was about getting outside with his tripod and telescope, and taking it all in - the clucking clapper rails, the graceful diving grebes, the northern harrier swooping over the pickleweed.
"I like to get away from the clutter of urban life," said Logan, who picked up birding from an elementary school teacher. "Birds are probably the most conspicuous form of wildlife - I appreciate just being able to get out and enjoy them."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Restoration of Mountain Lake, in San Francisco


"Restoring life to S.F.'s long-blighted Mountain Lake"
2013-12-13 by David Perlman for "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Restoring-life-to-S-F-s-long-blighted-Mountain-5063394.php]:
Baby pond turtles growing at the San Francisco and Oakland zoos and water plants thriving in a transplant nursery are all waiting to repopulate the Presidio's long-polluted Mountain Lake, where decades' worth of toxic sludge has finally been dredged out.
The turtles and water plants, along with three-spined sticklebacks, freshwater mussels, forktail damselflies and more, once flourished at the lake, when Ohlone Indians drank from its spring-fed water and Spanish explorers camped along its banks.
But the surrounding city's rise and toxic exhaust from millions of passing cars degraded the lake over time beyond tolerance for its original plants and animals.
Pumps have now sucked up tons of polluted sediment from the lake's bottom, and while minor pumping will continue for a while, teams of scientists with expertise on the original plants and animals are preparing for their return.
"It's all a big field experiment," said Darren Fong, a National Park Service aquatic ecologist. "We're seeing if we can restore the lake's ecology, starting with the basics - the plants and then the fish and then all the other species that should make the lake as it once was."
Jonathan Young, a biology graduate student at San Francisco State University who leads the project, has worked hip-deep since before the dredging began to rid the water of many invasive animals - like carp, crayfish, large-mouthed bass and alien turtle species - that have wound up in the lake over the years, some abandoned by thoughtless pet owners.
Overgrowth along the lake's borders had also transformed the lake's ecology, but that's all about to change.
"We have a complete plan now," Young said, "but it's going to take the most careful step-by-step work, because it means introducing one organism at a time."

Restored vegetation -
The first step, once the lake's clarity has been fully restored next year, will be to plant it with the right vegetation.
At the Presidio's Native Plant Nursery, botanist Michele Laskowski has been bringing in a variety of infant water plants that will form the base of a new ecology at Mountain Lake.
"The plants that used to be there were never documented, so first you had figure out what they must have been, and then go out to find them," Laskowski said.
She and her team have collected the plants from all over the Bay Area, wading into dozens of places like the wetlands of Muir Beach and remote Abbotts Lagoon at the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Planting into Mountain Lake is expected to begin in March, and the first priority, Laskowski said, will be to introduce three of the lake's most important plants: sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), coontails (Ceratophyllum demersum) and water nymphs (Najas guadalupensis).
Those plants will play many roles, Young and Laskowski said. They will form a leafy canopy to shield microorganisms on the bottom from sunlight and provide a source of food for the lake's dabbling ducks, as well as for the rare Western pond turtles that are being raised at the two zoos until they can be moved to the lake.
Once the plants are thriving, Young's team will introduce hundreds of fish called three-spined sticklebacks, (Gasterosteus aculeates), a 2-inch species with a crucial role in the lake's ecology.
The sticklebacks are abundant in Lobos Creek, near where it flows into the Presidio's water treatment plant near Baker Beach. The creek provides the park with a large share of its water supply, so there should be no problem transplanting the sticklebacks into the lake, said Fong, the Park Service ecologist, who is also an expert on the Presidio's fish.

Introducing mussels -
The sticklebacks will play a curious part in the life of the next animals to be restored to the lake: the freshwater mussels, or Anodonta californiensis, also known as California floaters.
The mussels are ideal filter feeders, able to clear a lake's water of polluting bacteria and algae at an astonishing rate, said Niveen Ismail, a Stanford graduate student in environmental engineering and the project's mussel specialist.
"A single mussel about the size of your thumb can clear a whole liter of mucky water every hour," Ismail said. "They'd have a field day if the lake is green with algae, because they're always hungry, so the plan to raise thousands of them, and getting them to thrive along the edges of the lake, will be a big deal."
No mussels grow in Mountain Lake now, and there's no evidence that the bivalves have existed there since 1948, Ismail said. So she collected test animals from pristine water in the south fork of the Eel River in Mendocino County.
She set up an improvised laboratory inside a small garage in Mountain Lake Park and has spent more than a month testing batches of the transplanted mussels in buckets filled with lake water for their water-clearing abilities. They did a fine job, she said.
Persuading the bivalves to reproduce won't be easy, she said, because their tiny larvae have a strange do-or-die relationship with fish. That's where the sticklebacks will come in. The lake will use them as ichthyological midwives: Once the female mussels spew out their larvae into the water, the larvae must quickly find the sticklebacks' gills to cling to or they will die.
The larvae will grow inside the fishes' gills until they are old enough, and then move to shore en masse to create new mussel beds.
"It's an astonishing display of evolutionary adaptation," said biologist and mussel authority Christopher Barnhart of Missouri State University, who advised Islmail and Young on the Mountain Lake project.

Western pond turtles -
Nearly 70 infant Western pond turtles (Clemmys marmorata), are now growing at the San Francisco Zoo under the watchful eye of assistant curator Jessie Bushell. Little more than the size of a quarter when they were born, they will follow the mussels into Mountain Lake.
The California native pond turtles were once abundant up and down California, their meat and eggs providing rich food for the Indians - and much later for North Beach folk, who craved their turtle soup.
Today, they are rare and listed as a "species of special concern" by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The turtles bound for Mountain Lake are part of a Bay Area effort to stem the turtle population crisis.
Nicholas Geist, a biology professor at Sonoma State University, and his students collected the turtle's eggs from a natural population thriving in a small protected pond in Lake County. The eggs were then hatched in Geist's lab at Sonoma State, and batches of the infant turtles were sent to both zoos to be reared.
When Mountain Lake is ready for them in 2014 or 2015, the turtles will take up residence to do their ecological job as highly efficient predators, Geist said.
"They have very catholic tastes, and whatever it is, if it's dead they'll eat it; if it's alive and they can catch it, they'll eat that," he said.
In the old dogma of eat-or-be-eaten, the same turtles can be prey for other predators, although with their hard shells they're difficult to consume, Geist said.
"Bullfrogs, birds, loose dogs and - most dangerous of all - humans grabbing them are all their predators," he said.
The entire project will continue for many years as new creatures come, others grow and still others are born in what will be Mountain Lake's shallow east arm, where passersby will be able to watch the process, said Young, the San Francisco State biologist.
"Restoring an entire aquatic ecosystem in the heart of this dense urban jungle is a new concept," he said. "I like to think of it as making a living museum."

Niveen Ismail is part of a team of scientists working on bringing back Mountain Lake's healthy ecology. Photo: Pete Kiehart, The Chronicle


Saturday, December 14, 2013

San Pablo Bay Wildlife Refuge



"Purchase of Skaggs Island farm to restore S.F. Bay marshland"  
2013-12-13 by John King for "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/place/article/Purchase-of-Skaggs-Island-farm-to-restore-S-F-5063279.php]:
By any measure, it's a good thing when 1,092 acres along San Francisco Bay become permanently protected open space.

This is even better: Friday's sale of an oat farm near Highway 37 to the Sonoma Land Trust will allow 4,400 acres of dry land to be restored to a functioning marsh, just like it was before humans put up dikes and walled out San Francisco Bay.
The complicated $8.3 million transaction was announced Friday in a media event on Skaggs Island, which in a few years is fated to begin to disappear - replaced by a managed weave of wetlands and water that will be part of San Pablo Bay's ever more extensive marshes.
The area is a favored stop on the Pacific Flyway for hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl each winter.
"It's been a couple of years of work to get to this day," said Wendy Eliot, the conservation director for the land trust.
The deal comes nearly three years after the other 3,300 acres of Skaggs Island was purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Before that, it was owned by the U.S. Navy.

Maintenance agreement -
But one piece of the island remained in private hands, an oat farm belonging to siblings James and Judy Haire. Not only that, the prior owner - early supermarket magnate M.B. Skaggs - had negotiated a "perpetual maintenance agreement" with the Navy that required all of Skaggs Island be kept intact by use of levees and storm water pumps. This meant that Fish and Wildlife could tear down military buildings and clean the site, but not actually do any wetland restoration.
"The whole island is a sponge," Eliot explained. "If you flood 3,300 acres, the rest will stay wet too."
Even as the 2011 sale took place, the trust and Fish and Wildlife were negotiating with the Haires to buy the rest of the island. The challenge was finding the money.
The solution was to add yet another federal agency to the mix.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service agreed to spend roughly $7.5 million to buy the farm's development rights from the Haires. Once that deal was signed, the longtime owners then sold the land itself to the Sonoma Land Trust for around $800,000. The Trust then transferred the property to the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is now the official owner.
"It's a unique partnership - I don't think this model has occurred in our region before," Eliot said. "Our job was to put together all the pieces and then step aside."
For at least the next year, the Haires will continue to farm oats while Fish and Wildlife Service maps out how best to return Skaggs Island to a semi-natural state. There's also a need to conduct environmental studies and line up permits.

Protecting habitat -
The conversion won't be as easy as blasting a hole in the levee and letting Mother Nature take over; in the 130 years since Skaggs Island was formed, the diked island has been adopted as habitat by such now-endangered species as the clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Because of this, the restored wetlands likely will include several forms of marshland as well as upland areas protected from tides.
The money the trust used to buy the land came from the State Coastal Conservancy and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The easement purchase drew on funds for wetland preservation that were part of the 2008 federal farm bill.
"Knowing this would facilitate restoration of the entire island clearly made it attractive," said Dean Kwasny, an easement specialist for the National Resource Conservation Service. "They had all been caught a bit between a rock and a hard place."

A photographer jumps off the levee between Haire Ranch (left) and Skaggs Island. The ranch will become open space. Photo: Sam Wolson, Special To The Chronicle


"'Holy grail' of Bay Area wetlands plan acquired"  
2013-12-14 by Sarah Rohrs and Tony Burchyns from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_24724320/holy-grail-bay-area-wetlands-plan-acquired]:
A large puzzle piece in the patchwork of North Bay marsh restoration sites fell into place Friday with acquisition of a long-time hay farm at the northern end of Skaggs Island.
Following years of negotiations, the Sonoma Land Trust announced it had bought the Haire Ranch which will lead to restoration of up to 4,400 acres of wetlands west of Vallejo.
"It's our holiday gift to the public and to the fish and birds and the clean water," said Wendy Eliot, land trust conservation director.
The ranch is a long-sought after piece of land that environmentalists have wanted so that the entire island, once home to a U.S. Navy base and spy station, can be flooded and restored to tidal marshes.
Immediately following purchase, the land trust transferred the 1,100-acre Haire Ranch to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the nearby San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
The project fits in with the big-picture effort to restore tens of thousands of wetlands acres around the bay. Eliot called the purchase the "holy grail" of conservation projects.
"For more than a decade, the government has been waiting to restore Skaggs Island to tidal marsh," she said. "But Haire Ranch stood in the way, just out of reach."
A haven along Highway 37 for raptors and deer, Skaggs Island came under the Fish and Wildlife Service umbrella in 2011. The previous year, more than 100 buildings left over from the long-closed naval base were demolished.
But plans to restore the 3,300-acre former naval property to tidal marshes and open the area up for public access hit a major snag with the ranch.
Sonoma County hay farmer and vintner Jim Haire and his sister have held a deed restriction which requires island levees to be maintained so that his acres are kept dry in perpetuity for farming.
To keep the ranch dry, the island could not be flooded -- a crucial step for restoring the wetlands, officials said.
"This has been the real bugaboo for the refuge," Eliot said. "So we've been kind of stymied in restoring the 4,400-acre island until we got Jim Haire's property."
Part of the north-south travel corridor for migratory birds, Skaggs Island was the last patch of Bay Area tidal marsh to be diked and drained in the 1880s. For decades, the property was farmed for oat hay, until its former owner, the Sonoma Land Company, sold the land to supermarket mogul M.B. Skaggs during the Depression.
In 1941, the Navy acquired most of the island for a communications and intelligence gathering base. Skaggs sold the remaining ranch property to William Haire, the grandfather of the current owners, who'd been working the land since the late 1930s.
Skaggs also negotiated an agreement requiring the owner of the larger portion of the island -- currently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- to maintain pumps and levees which keep the ranch dry enough to farm. With the latest acquisition, however, that agreement becomes moot.
Eliot said complex negotiations began several years ago. Essentially, the purchase involves the U.S. Department of Agriculture buying an easement over the property for $7.5 million which restricts the land to wildlife habitat and wetlands restoration, she said.
In the second part of the deal, the land trust bought the property for about $700,000 with funds split from the State Coastal Conservancy and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The deal also required convincing Haire to part with the land his family has farmed for 75 years -- a decision he likened to giving away the beloved family dog.
"I just hope (the restoration) is done correctly and on a timely basis so we can all see this land come back ... and people can enjoy open space," Haire, 71, said. "I hope there will be opportunities to enjoy that land."
Plans to restore the property are well underway, Eliot said.
However, through the purchase agreement the Haires can stay for at least a year and get in another hay crop, she said. Haire can also negotiate up to two additional years.
The purchase was made in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Don Brubaker of the San Pablo Bay Wildlife Refuge said his organization will be coordinating restoration efforts among various public agencies and figuring out public access in the future.
Meanwhile, bird watching and other public activities will likely be available during the upcoming San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival centered on Mare Island the second weekend of February.

Skaggs Island glance -
The 3,310-acre Skaggs Island was commissioned on May 1, 1942 and decommissioned on Sept. 30, 1993.
Skaggs Island was named after M.B. Skaggs, the founder of Safeway stores.
Skaggs Island's former 150 buildings included a bowling alley, power plant, movie theater, public works department, post office, tennis courts, houses and barracks, chapel, gymnasium, bar and exchange.
With a staff of 400, Skaggs' primary responsibility was communications and intelligence gathering for the Navy and other federal organizations.
Navy SEALs practicing forced entry methods have blown holes into the walls of many of the buildings.
Skaggs Island is part of a large marsh, but surrounded by four sloughs.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winnemem Wintu denounce Bay Delta Conservation Plan as a death sentence for salmon, violation of indigenous rights

Save the Delta and California Rivers! [link]

WINNEMEM WINTU REJECT BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN, DENOUNCE IT AS A DEATH SENTENCE FOR SALMON AND VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS
2013-12-09 from Winnemem Wintu, for more information: Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader [530-710-4817] [http://www.winnememwintu.us/2013/12/09/winnemem-wintu-reject-bay-delta-conservation-plan-denounce-it-as-a-death-sentence-for-salmon-and-violation-of-indigenous-rights/]:
Chief Caleen Sisk will speak at rallies in Sacramento today and Friday and re-affirm the Winnemem Wintu opposition’s against the construction of the peripheral water export tunnels and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), as Governor Jerry Brown’s administration releases the preliminary Environmental Impact Report and the BDCP plan to the public today.
As California’s State Water Project currently operates, far too much water is sucked from the San Francisco/Sacramento Delta, the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast, and sent to the state’s water brokers, who support unsustainable industrial agriculture, destructive hydraulic fracking for oil extraction and municipal developments in the desert.
The proposed peripheral tunnels, with a conservatively estimated price tag of $54 billion, will undoubtedly kill the sensitive Delta, a delicate mix of salt and freshwater, that is vital to the life cycle of California salmon as well as thousands of other fish and species.
“There is no precedent for the killing of an estuary of this size, so how could any study be trusted to protect the Delta for salmon and other fish? How can they even know what the effects will be?” said Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk. “The end of salmon would also mean the end of Winnemem, so the BDCP is a threat to our very existence as indigenous people.”
As one of the many traditional salmon tribes in California, the Winnemem rely on access to salmon to maintain our cultural and religious practices. The peripheral tunnels if ever constructed would therefore be in violation of our indigenous rights to maintain our cultural practices with salmon, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Recently at a public meeting in Redding, Governor Brown’s Deputy Director of the Natural Resources Agency Jerry Meral, disclosed that the peripheral tunnels are connected to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s plan to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet, a project that would destroy or submerge nearly 40 sacred sites and destroy potential salmon spawning areas. We are currently working on plans to re-introduce our salmon above the dam into the McCloud River.
The planned Delta tunnels will require more water be taken from the Trinity River and the Shasta Dam, which is fed by the Upper Sacramento, McCloud and Pit Rivers. This will add even more stress to the struggling ecology of these rivers.
This plan is not meant to benefit the public of California, native and non-native, but purely to line the coffers of the lobbyists who have been buying off Gov. Brown all along, such as Beverly Hills Big Ag billionaire Stewart Resnick and his wife Lynda who contributed $99,000 to his 2010 campaign. The Western States Petroleum Association has spent more than $4.5 million in lobbying the state government in 2013 alone.
The peripheral tunnels are a violation of the public’s trust in Gov. Brown, and not the answer to dealing with the state’s forthcoming water shortages. There are better solutions.
The Winnemem are proud to announce that we will be standing with our allies during a press conference today and a rally Friday, Dec. 13 at the West Steps of the Capitol. Chief Sisk will speak.
These events are sponsored by Californians for A Fair Water Policy and dozens of other environmental, fishing, farming, government, and water agencies.

Monday, December 9, 2013
—Press Conference and Rally at the Capitol
—Location: Starting in Room 112, moving to West Steps if needed
—Starting Time: Noon with 12:30 p.m. press conference – arrive as early as 10:30 for possible walk to California Resources Agency.

Friday, December 13, 2013
—Friday the 13th Rally to begin the 120 Day BDCP Response Countdown
—Location: West Steps of the Capitol
—Starting Time: 11:30 a.m.

This rally is sponsored by Californians for A Fair Water Policy and dozens of other environmental, fishing, farming, government, and water agencies.
To stop this boondoggle please writ letters to Governor Brown expressing your opposition to the peripheral tunnels plan! Letters should be addressed to:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814

"Dark Links: the MLPA Initiative and Bay Delta Conservation Plan"

Save the Delta and California Rivers! [link]

2013-12-10 by Dan Bacher for "Daily Kos" [http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/10/1261772/-Dark-Links-the-MLPA-Initiative-and-Bay-Delta-Conservation-Plan#]:
The privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels at first may appear to be entirely different processes.
The MLPA Initiative, a process begun in 2004 under the Schwarzenegger administration, purported to create a network of "marine protected areas" along the California coast. The network was supposedly completed on December 19, 2012 with the imposition of widely-contested "marine protected areas" along the North Coast.
On the other hand, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a process begun under the Bush and Schwarzenegger administrations to achieve the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem restoration. The Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement was released to the public on Monday, December 9 and the 120 day public comment period will begin on Friday, December 13.
However, in spite of some superficial differences, the two processes are united by their leadership, funding, greenwashing goals, racism and denial of tribal rights, junk science and numerous conflicts of interest. When people educate themselves on the links between the two processes, I believe they can more effectively wage a successful campaign against the twin tunnels.
Mike Carpenter, a sea urchin diver and organizer of a fundraiser for the California Fisheries Coalition in Albion on the Mendocino coast, made the vital connection between the MLPA process and Scharzenegger's campaign to build a peripheral canal back in 2009 when the battle against the creation of fake "marine protected areas" on the North Coast was amping up.
Carpenter emphasized that the MLPA Initiative was just a "cover-up" for the Governor's plans to build a peripheral canal or tunnel around the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, through the Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process. Carpenter's words have proven very prophetic, considering what has happened since that time.
How are the peripheral tunnels plan and MLPA process linked by leadership, funding, greenwashing goals, racism and denial of tribal rights, junk science and conflicts of interest?

1. Leadership:
Phil Isenberg, a former Sacramento Mayor and Assemblyman, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast from 2004 to 2007. Isenberg then went on to Chair the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force that advocated building a peripheral canal or tunnel.
After that process was finished, he went on to chair the Delta Stewardship Council created under the water policy/water bond legislative package of 2009. Under his leadership, the Council released a Delta Plan that creates a clear path to the construction of the peripheral tunnels. The deeply-flawed plan is now being contested in court by 7 lawsuits from a diverse array of water contractors, agribusiness interests, urban water agencies, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and fishing groups.
John Laird, former State Senator and the current Natural Resources Secretary, is the key cheerleader for both the MLPA Initiative and the peripheral tunnels. He oversaw the completion of the fake "marine protected areas" for both the South Coast in January 2012 and the North Coast on December 2012, in spite of overwhelming opposition by fishermen, Tribal leaders and grassroots environmentalists.

2. Funding:
The Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and David and Lucille Packard Foundation have funded both the MLPA process, along with giving millions of dollars to the "environmental" NGOs that support both processes. (http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/big-corporate-money-behind-fake-marine-protection)
Five non-profits donated a total of $20 million for the creation of "marine protected areas" under the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. The Packard Foundation, the biggest contributor to the widely-criticized process, contributed $8.2 million to the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation to fund MLPA hearings.
The Packard Foundation also helped fund, along with the Stephen Bechtel Foundation, several PPIC reports advocating the construction of the peripheral tunnels as the "solution" to California's water problems and ecosystem restoration.

3. Greenwashing Goals:
Desperately needed actions to restore our ocean, bay and Delta waters have been substituted under the MLPA Initiative with the imposition of redundant fishing closures on the most heavily regulated ocean waters on the planet to further the Governor's "green" facade.
The alleged "marine reserves" created under the MLPA scam fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean than fishing and gathering - at a time when the ocean is under assault by the oil industry, corporate polluters and ocean industrialists.
In the case of the Delta Vision and BDCP processes, the dire need to restore the Delta by decreasing water exports and retiring drainage impaired land on the San Joaquin Valley's west side has been substituted with plans to build twin tunnels and increase water exports to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies while taking Delta family farms out of production under the guise of “habitat restoration.”

4. Racism and denial of tribal rights:
Tribal and environmental justice communities in both processes have been excluded in a classic example of environmental racism.
The racism of the MLPA process was demonstrated when the Yurok Tribe was banned from harvesting abalone, mussels and seaweed off their traditional areas off the False Klamath and Reading Rock as they have done for thousands of years under the "marine protected areas" that went into effect off the coast last December.
And in spite of direct action protests and outrage by Tribal members, fishermen and grassroots environmentalists over the flawed Initiative, the MLPA Initiative still fails to recognize tribal gathering rights in no take "State Marine Reserves," allowing tribal gathering only in "State Marine Conservation Areas" where some fishing and gathering is already allowed.
Likewise, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has been developed without any consent from California Tribes, as required under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. In fact, the first formal informational meeting for California Tribes on the BDCP was held on December 10, in Sacramento - the day after the EIR/EIS for the tunnel plan was released!
That is hardly "government-to-government" consultation, as required under state, federal and international law.
“There is no precedent for the killing of an estuary of this size, so how could any study be trusted to protect the Delta for salmon and other fish?" asked Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe at a press conference against the tunnels at the State Capitol on December 9. "How can they even know what the effects will be? The end of salmon would also mean the end of Winnemem, so the BDCP is a threat to our very existence as indigenous people.”

5. Junk Science:
Both the MLPA Initiative and BDCP fiasco have relied on false assumptions and flawed data with little or no basis in natural science to advance their goals and objectives.
In the case of the MLPA Initiative, the Yurok Tribe said it attempted on numerous occasions to address the scientific inadequacies with the MLPA science developed under the Schwarzenegger administration by adding "more robust protocols" into the equation, but was denied every time.
The Northern California Tribal Chairman's Association, including the Chairs of the Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, and Yurok Tribe, documented in a letter how the science behind the MLPA Initiative developed by Schwarzenegger's Science Advisory Team is "incomplete and terminally flawed." (http://yubanet.com/california/Dan-Bacher-MLPA-Initiative-based-on-incomplete-and-terminally-flawed-science.php)
Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok Tribal member and Coastal Justice Coalition activist, exposed the refusal to incorporate Tribal science that underlies the "science" of the MLPA process on the day of the historic direct action protest by a coalition of over 50 Tribes and their allies in Fort Bragg in July 2010.
“The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism," said Myers. "It doesn't recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists." (http://klamathjustice.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-21st-2010.html)
The BDCP “science” is also a sham. On July 18, 2013 scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service exposed the hollowness of Secretary John Laird and other state officials that the BDCP is based on "science." This was done after the federal agencies had already made "red flag" comments stating that the completion of the tunnel plan could hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species.
The federal scientists provided the California Department of Water Resources and the environmental consultants with 44 pages of comments highly critical of the Consultant Second Administrative Draft EIR/EISDraft, released on May 10. The agencies found, among other things, that the draft environmental documents were “biased,” “insufficient," "confusing," and "very subjective." (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Libraries/Dynamic_Document_Library/Federal_Agency_Comments_on_Consultant_Administrative_Draft_EIR-EIS_7-18-13.sflb.ashx)
Then on December 9, Bob Wright of Friends of the River summed up the complete lack of science that the BDCP is based upon when he said, "Government agencies calling the BDCP a conservation plan is a fraud on the public."
"The plan is to grab the water and in the process take it away from designated critical habitat for several already endangered and threatened species of fish including Sacramento River Winter-Run and Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook Salmon and drive them into extinction. That is against the law because federal agencies are prohibited from doing that by the Endangered Species Act," said Wright.

6. Conflicts of Interest:
The Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create “marine protected areas” were filled with individuals with numerous conflicts of interest, including a big oil lobbyist, a marine corporation executive and a coastal real estate developer.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association and a relentless advocate for offshore oil drilling, fracking, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, chaired the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task that developed the MPAs that went into effect in Southern California waters on January 1, 2012. She also served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast.
While Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to "protect" the ocean, the same oil industry that the "marine guardian" represents was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a "marine guardian.”
In the case of the BDCP, the proverbial fox is also in charge of the hen house. Governor Jerry Brown this September appointed Laura King Moon of Woodland, a lobbyist for the state’s water exporters, as chief deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/09/18/18743462.php)
Moon had been a project manager for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan since 2011 while “on loan” from the State Water Contractors, an association of 27 public agencies from Northern, Central and Southern California that purchase water under contract from the California State Water Project.
DWR also hired Susan Ramos, Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, "on loan" from the district to serve as "a liaison between all relevant parties" surrounding the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program (DHCCP) and provide "technical and strategic assistance" to DWR. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/12/14/18702762.php)
Documents obtained by this reporter under the California Public Records Act revealed that Ramos was hired in an "inter-jurisdictional personal exchange agreement" between the DWR and Westlands from November 15, 2009 through December 31, 2010. The contract was extended to run through December 31, 2011 and again to continue through December 31, 2012.
We can see that MLPA and BDCP processes have much in common in terms of their leadership, funding, greenwashing goals, racism and denial of tribal rights, junk science and numerous conflicts of interest. I believe that people can more effectively oppose the Governor's twin tunnel plan by understanding the dark links between the MLPA Initiative and BDCP.
The unjust implementation of fake "marine protected areas" under the MLPA Initiative also provides a cautionary tale for activists fighting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan - the fact that science, state, federal and international laws and the majority of people are on your side doesn't necessarily mean that you will prevail. The state and federal governments have a long history of implementing projects that don't make any scientific, legal or economic sense because powerful corporate interests effectively bought off and manipulated agency and elected officials to produce a pre-determined outcome.
It is vital that people fighting against the BDCP and for the restoration of salmon and other fish populations in California learn from both the successes and mistakes of MLPA Initiative opponents so they can more effectively wage a successful campaign to stop the construction of Governor Jerry Brown's twin tunnels.

"Put the Brakes on Caltrans" campaign


"You Can Help Us Put the Brakes on Caltrans!"
2013-12-10 message from the "Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH)" about their "Put the Brakes on Caltrans" campaign:
Dear Friend of the Forest,
If a brave activist climbs high in a tree’s branches and sits there for two months, and trees fall around her, but no cameras are in the forest, does anyone hear?
Tree-sits, crane-sits, hard-hitting stories on state wide TV and the LA Times, months of strategizing, scores of press releases, dozens of demonstrations and actions—it takes a community. We at Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH) are proud to be part of the community working to find a better alternative to the boondoggle highway project under way in Willits in Mendocino County, plowing roughshod through precious wetlands and old oak woodlands. It is another Caltrans project.
As in any community, we have our niche. Besides the considerable outreach BACH has done to expose Caltrans’ bad decisions, lack of accountability and destructive path, our contribution is our media work. Writing and editing press releases; building and maintaining lists of reporters and figuring out how to best pitch them—that’s our piece of the campaign pie.
BACH’s involvement in the Caltrans Willits Bypass campaign grew out of our involvement in the larger campaign looking at Caltrans’ incursion into the redwoods of Richardson Grove in Humboldt County, and the pristine redwood forest ecosystem in the wild Smith River corridor further north in Del Norte County.
Caltrans’ highway expansion in Richardson Grove State Park has been on hold, thanks to public input (that’s you!) and a court decision in favor of the environmental legal eagles, but the prospect of heavy equipment is at the Park’s doorstep again. Caltrans has announced it plans to move forward with work in spring of 2014. We think it is a step backwards. However, we can move forward with a renewed campaign to protect these venerable ancient giants, with your help and your involvement, and we must.
We must also partner as best we can to work with the people in Del Norte County and elsewhere who are opposing Caltrans highway expansion in the wilds of that county. We can, with your support and your involvement.
We’ve had great success working the media with the Willits Bypass story, sounding the alarm bells about wetlands destruction there, and bringing a needed measure of support and recognition to the courageous and unflinching activists who have daily been putting their bodies on the line and their energies to work. We intend to leverage that media attention into a bright light exposing Caltrans’ larger agenda.
When the three projects I’ve mentioned—Richardson Grove, the Bypass highway in Willits and the highway expansion in Del Norte—come into view together, Caltrans’ agenda is exposed. What comes into focus is Caltrans’ intention to transform the north coast area all the way up to the Oregon border so that a larger interstate similar to I-5 can accommodate larger trucks, and larger volumes of traffic. This agenda is neither common sense for the short term nor sustainable for the long term, nor is it even necessary! The redwoods and the species that depend on them; the wetlands and the birds that need that habitat; the salmon in the streams impacted by these projects—all are too vital and too scarce to bargain away with some pie-in-the-sky claim that Caltrans can “mitigate.” They cannot.
We have re-vamped our website (check it out—at www.HeadwatersPreserve.org!); we have gotten a lot of information out in the Bay Area about Caltrans’ ecologically calamitous construction projects on California’s sensitive north coast; and we have worked very closely with activists in the north counties to provide top notch media services. We want to ensure we can continue to do our part. To do that, we need your support.
I hope you can support BACH’s work with a donation check today.
Please make sure checks are made out to Ecology Center/BACH. Our address is below.
You can also make a secure donation on line through [www.HeadwatersPreserve.org]. Just click on the donate button at the top. Any size donation matters a great deal to our work and is hugely appreciated. Your support helps amplify many voices.

For wild forests everywhere,
[signed] Karen Pickett, for the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
P.S. To get a taste of some of the media coverage we were able to garner on the Bypass issue, see a great story that aired in October on Bay Area TV, exposing the truth at [http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/assignment_7&id=9316519]

Friday, December 6, 2013

Send input for the upcoming update for Vallejo's General Plan

Opportunity for ecological action!
The Planning Division of the City of Vallejo's Economic Development Department is seeking advice on enhancing habitat, ecological restoration ideas, placement of native plants, and more. 

“Beautification and Design Review Board Meeting”, from the report for the Economic Development Department - Planning Division, published in the “City Manager’s Bi-Weekly Report”, Volume 2, Issue 4, December 6, 2013, from Daniel E. Keen, City Manager, City of Vallejo:
The initial meeting of the Beautification and Design Review Board (BDRB) is scheduled for December 12 at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. The seven-member board of the BDRB, appointed by City Council, is a newly-formed group whose primary purpose includes, but is not limited to, conducting design review within the downtown and waterfront areas, reviewing and commenting on design of development projects if referred by the Planning Commission or City Council, reviewing and advising on an urban forest vegetation program as part of the General Plan update, and developing and administering a comprehensive tree management program.

Vallejo Demolition & Abatement Project at Mare Island Building 655

“Mare Island Building 655 Demolition & Abatement Project”, from the report for the Public Works Department - Planning Division, published in the “City Manager’s Bi-Weekly Report”, Volume 2, Issue 4, December 6, 2013, from Daniel E. Keen, City Manager, City of Vallejo:
Clean up has been progressing for the Mare Island Building 655 Demolition and Abatement Project. Approximately 70 percent of the south side of the building has been cleared, debris hauled off and materials recycled. Once visually cleared of asbestos material, the south side columns and the wall will be demolished. The north side has yet to be tackled by the contractor.

Vallejo City investigation project at the PG&E former Vallejo manufactured gas plant

“PG&E Former Vallejo Manufactured Gas Plant Project Update”, from the report for the Economic Development Department - Planning Division, published in the “City Manager’s Bi-Weekly Report”, Volume 2, Issue 4, December 6, 2013, from Daniel E. Keen, City Manager, City of Vallejo:
During the period of November 25 through December 6, the following work was completed for the PG&E former Vallejo manufactured gas plant investigation project:
* Destroyed soil gas probes within the Bay Conservation and Development Commission jurisdiction at the public boat launch area
* Drilled geotechnical and environmental borings at the historic gas plant property
* Drilled environmental borings at the historic gas plant property

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Save the Delta and California Rivers!

The Delta Tunnels: the worst threat to Northern California rivers in history
[http://www.friendsoftheriver.org/site/PageServer?pagename=DeltaCanal]

"Dark Links: the MLPA Initiative and Bay Delta Conservation Plan" [link]

2013-12-09 "Winnemem Wintu denounce Bay Delta Conservation Plan as a death sentence for salmon, violation of indigenous rights" [link]

CAPITOL RALLY - SAVE THE DELTA AND CALIFORNIA RIVERS
[http://www.friendsoftheriver.org/site/PageServer?pagename=deltarally]:
Friday, December 13 at noon
JOIN US FOR A RALLY TO SAVE THE DELTA AND NORTHERN CALIFORNIA RIVERS,
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2013 at NOON,
WEST STEPS OF THE STATE CAPITOL, SACRAMENTO (CAPITOL MALL & 10TH between L & N Streets)

Please join Friends of the River and our partners for a rally at the State Capitol to fight the proposed Delta Water Tunnels. Bring friends, family, and your neighbors to help show our united opposition to the Governor’s Water Tunnels. We expect this disastrous plan will be unveiled by state agencies on the morning of Friday, December 13. This unprecedented water and land grab, given the misleading title of “The Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” should be called the Bay Delta & Rivers Destruction Plan.
If these two huge, 25 billion dollar, 30 plus mile long tunnels are approved and built, massive quantities of freshwater will be taken out of the Sacramento River before reaching the Delta, only to be delivered to pumping plants in the southland, further subsidizing corporate agriculture and runaway development. The water to fill these twin monstrosities will have to come from somewhere.
The proponents of this tunnel vision will not tell us from where the water will come, but the facts make it all too clear – plans are underway now to:
* Expand Shasta Dam and drown even more of the Sacramento, Pit, and McCloud Rivers
* Reoperation of Oroville Dam decreasing cold water needed for fall run salmon
* Expand New Exchequer dam drowning the national protected Wild & Scenic Merced River
* Build a new dam on Maxwell Creek drowning the Antelope valley and prime ranchlands and family farms
* Build a new dam on the San Joaquin River drowning its last free flowing stretch in the foothills
* Restart the coalition to build the Auburn dam on the Middle and North Fork American River

However, these dams will not be enough to fill these twin tunnels and more will be needed:
* A new dam on the Yuba – Marysville dam could be built
* New dams on the South Fork American including a possible Salmon Falls dam, Trouble Maker dam, and more on the river’s upper reaches
* Several giant new dams on the Eel River could be taken off the shelf as soon as the protection for this river is rolled back or eliminated all together
* Dozens of new dams in addition to the above were once a part of the state’s plans – rivers all across the state would be drowned including the Trinity, Klamath, Feather, Russian, Gualala, Mokelumne, Tuolumne, Stanislaus, Kern, Kings, and more…

We can kiss goodbye flows from upstream reservoirs for fish preservation purposes. We can kiss goodbye flows for anglers, rafters, and recreation. We can kiss goodbye thousands of family farms, ranches, family homes, and recreational cabins along our rivers. We can kiss goodbye 40 plus years of hard fought and successful campaigns to preserve free flowing rivers through both the State and National Wild & Scenic River Acts. Moreover, the taxpayers (you and I) can kiss goodbye hundreds of billions of dollars needed to build the legacy our governor wishes to leave us – his tunnel vision of completing his father’s almost identical Peripheral Canal plan that was voted down by the voters in 1982.
It is not possible to overstate the threat the Tunnels pose to all our California Rivers and the river conservation battles won by you, our partners, and Friends of the River since 1973. If we win this battle and stop the Tunnels, plenty of other battles will remain for us to fight. If we lose the battle over the Tunnels, we may end up losing not only the Delta, but also our cherished Northern California free-flowing rivers.
This day will not be the end in this battle. To quote Winston Churchill, this day will be just “the end of the beginning”….however we must stand our ground now, while we have a chance to halt this project. We must mobilize an army to turn out Friday, December 13. We must make our voices heard for endangered fish, for threatened wildlife, for our precious rivers, and for those who follow us…the countless generations of Californians to come.

SO, PLEASE JOIN US FOR A RALLY TO SAVE THE DELTA AND NORTHERN CALIFORNIA RIVERS
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2013 at NOON
WEST STEPS OF THE STATE CAPITOL, SACRAMENTO (CAPITOL MALL& 10TH between L & N Streets) Questions email us at: [info@friendsoftheriver.org]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fukushima nuclear power plant threatens to undo the global web of life

"FUKUSHIMA: USA PREPARES FOR NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST"
2013-11-12 from Dr. Helen Caldicott [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_z9Pd4dNTY] [http://www.helencaldicott.com/about.htm]:
Dept. of Nuclear Engineering, University of California Berkeley tells us that according to Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary of Energy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and one of the nation's leading experts on spent fuel pools, "There is more than 37 million curies of long lived radioactivity stored up in the spent fuel just within this single pool. If another severe earthquake were to strike causing the pool to drain, or some other event such as an explosion, it could result in a catastrophic radiological fire releasing nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 [into the Earths atmosphere] as was released by the Chernobyl accident."
According to Gregory Jaczko, former Chairman of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at a press Conference, 9/24, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan , "...the upcoming attempt to remove Fukushima Unit 4 spent fuel is unprecedented, the pool has significant structural damage and the   overall effort is very risky."      
According to Yale University Professor Emeritus Charles Perrow, a frequent author for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, during an interview with "news.com.au", "This has me scared." In the event of an explosion, "Tokyo would have to be evacuated because of cesium and other poisons that are there will   spread very rapidly. Even if the wind is blowing the other way it's going to be monumental."       
According to Mycle Schneider, an energy consultant and adviser to members of the European Parliament and the Int'l Atomic Energy Agency, in an article published at "globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com": "A massive spent fuel fire would likely dwarf the current dimensions of   the catastrophe and could exceed the radioactivity releases of Chernobyl  dozens of times."  
The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chairman Anne McIntosh described the scale of the contamination in the food chain as "breathtaking" and warned that restoring consumer confidence would take time and money. The Government has a role to secure the correct balance between affordable food prices and effective regulations that require transparency and quality. The consumer cannot be left to face a Catch 22 where they can either pay for food that complies with the highest standards of traceability,   labeling and testing or accept that they cannot trust the provenance and composition of the foods they eat.....so that's all right then!   
Japan to be Nuked?   
Unfortunately, the historical precedents are not great. It took a double atom-bombing and (by some accounts) two separate admonitions by Emperor Hirohito for Japan's "leaders" to finally accept the Potsdam Declaration and end World War II. Of course, being constitutionally "sacred and inviolable," the Emperor could not be held responsible for anything.   
We can't expect similar Deus ex Machina resolutions to Fukushima or anything else. Japan is supposedly a democracy, so in theory a responsibility-shirking government is ultimately the people's problem   --- and responsibility --- just as much as the nuclear disaster and all the nation's other problems are.
Of course, the people have a plentiful supply of other targets to blame until enough of them come to that   realization.   
Washington's Blog reports that "Mainstream Media Awakens to the fact that Fukushima Is Still a Total Mess", and "Continuous Leaking of Radioactive Water, Dangers of Spent Fuel Pools", but the truth is that   the situation is far more Apocalyptic and dire than even these doom-laden headlines let on.   
The event at Chernobyl was contained starting within a matter of days;   and yet in Japan we see a situation where radioactive particles are allowed to spew onto the land, air, and ocean, and irreparable damage to   the biosphere is taking place, yet still going uncapped.
The true villains of this event may be the same individuals allowing this continued contamination.   
In the interest of delving into the whole sordid matter of Fukushima I have updated the permalink post "Fukushima False Flag ", and encourage  readers to delve into the subject and realize that 3/11- Japans 9/11, is perhaps the worlds most heinous act of terrorism and genocide, and incalculably detrimental to future posterity. The perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice, and the entire facility must be encased in cement forever, above and below ground. The New York Academy of Medicine's Fukushima Symposium makes crystal clear that there has been a deliberate effort by Japanese government, the Tokyo Electric   Power Company (TEPCO), the Obama administration, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to downplay the long term health consequences of nuclear fallout, especially to children. Instead of backtracking on the billions of dollars he approved to subsidize TEPCO to build more US nuclear power plants, Obama is participating in an international cover-up to conceal the serious long term dangers of this technology.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Petroleum transported by rail-car can derail and contaminate an entire ecosystem

"Train in Alabama oil spill was carrying 2.7 million gallons of crude;
Derailment fuels criticism of growing railroad use to move oil;
Railroads are carrying 25 times more crude oil than they were five years ago"
2013-11-09 by SOUMYA KARLAMANGLA from "LA Times" [http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-train-crash-alabama-oil-20131109-story.html]:
A train that derailed and exploded in rural Alabama was hauling 2.7 million gallons of crude oil, according to officials.
The 90-car train was crossing a timber trestle above a wetland near Aliceville late Thursday night when approximately 25 rail cars and two locomotives derailed, spilling crude oil into the surrounding wetlands and igniting a fire that was still burning Saturday.Each of the 90 cars was carrying 30,000 gallons of oil, said Bill Jasper, president of the rail company Genesee & Wyoming at a press briefing Friday night. It’s unclear, though, how much oil was spilled because some of the cars have yet to be removed from the marsh.
“Most of the cars did not spill all of the product that was inside it,” Don Hartley, a regional coordinator for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, told the Los Angeles Times.
Emergency responders have to wait until the fire has burned out, Hartley said.
Hartley said that the marsh where the oil spilled is stagnant, so the oil hasn’t spread to other water systems. Scott Hughes, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, told The Times that responders had set up booms to absorb some of the oil.
“Typically wetlands are a sanctuary for a variety of different types of aquatic species, so once we’re able to get in and assess environmental impacts, we’ll certainly look at any impacts to aquatic organisms and other types of wildlife,” Hughes told The Times.
There are extensive wetlands near Aliceville, a town of about 2,400 in western Alabama, according to the state’s Forestry Commission website.
Hughes said Friday that a check of the water quality of the nearby drinking wells came up clean. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been at the scene since Friday monitoring air quality in the region.
There are more than 100 people from various local, state and federal agencies surveying the scene, Hartley said.
Hartley said 21 cars were still in the marsh, but that most of the other cars had been moved back onto the track. The most damaged cars in the water will be removed last. The 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high wooden trestle, which also caught on fire, will have to be rebuilt. That will take about a week, Hartley said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, and will probably take weeks to determine. The train, which was en route from Amory, Miss., to Walnut Hill, Fla., was traveling below the posted track speed of 40 mph, according to Jasper.
“No issues have been found with the performance of the train’s two-man crew,” reads a statement from the train company.
The track was last inspected Monday, and the most recent train to traverse the section of track where the crash occurred passed the site approximately 2.5 hours before the derailment, according to the statement.
The explosion of an oil train in Lac-Megantic, Canada, in July has fueled criticism regarding the use of rail to move oil. Railroads are carrying 25 times more crude oil than they were five years ago. In that incident, a train with 72 tank cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale fields ignited an inferno in the city, The Times reported in September.
Hartley said that the Alabama train probably originated from North Dakota.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friends of the Gualala River ask Artesa Vineyards & Winery: "Don’t destroy redwood forest for vineyards"

Friends of the Gualala River [gualalariver.org], Facebook [facebook.com/gualalariver], Twitter [twitter.com/gualalariver]


"Artesa Vineyards & Winery: Don’t destroy redwood forest for vineyards" 
Petition by Friends of the Gualala River [https://www.change.org/petitions/artesa-vineyards-winery-don-t-destroy-redwood-forest-for-vineyards]:
Petition by Friends of the Gualala River  
Artesa Winery’s planned vineyard development is the only project in California proposing deforestation of coastal redwoods.  Allowing this would set a precedent for other vineyard developers to destroy redwood forests in California.
The project has already been granted permits from California state agencies. Only a lawsuit from the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Gualala River has temporarily stopped the chainsaws and bulldozers from permanently removing the forest, sterilizing all its soils, and desecrating its ancient Pomo Indian heritage.
Artesa’s plan to log over a million board-feet of coastal redwood and douglas fir is more than simply clear-cutting the forest.  They will rip out redwood roots and stumps that would otherwise regenerate. They will completely scrape away ancient forest soils and organisms, and apply pesticides.  In addition, they will construct roads that are potential sources of sediment pollution to rivers and streams – home to endangered Coho salmon and Steelhead trout – and build fencing that fragments wild life habitat. It won’t be a pretty sight.
If this project is not stopped or withdrawn voluntarily, it will attract other vineyard developers to exploit this project’s approval.  It will unleash additional and sprawling piecemeal vineyard development in second-growth redwood forests in the region.  Artesa is literally paving the way for innumerable copycat vineyard deforestation projects.
With the help of tens of thousands of Change.org petitioners, we were successful last year in convincing public investment funds to purchase “Preservation Ranch,” another vineyard deforestation project.  The petition signers convinced CALPERS (California Pension and Employee Retirement System) to abandon their planned development and sell the 20,000 acres of coastal forestland to The Conservation Fund for sustainable yield forest management and conservation in perpetuity. 
But Artesa is privately owned by a large Spanish corporation, Codorniu. They want only vineyards, not forests. We need your help to convince Artesa and its parent corporation Codorniu that it is unwise to embark on an obviously unsustainable project because redwood deforestation for red wine may permanently stain their reputation in the wine market.
Please sign this petition, and tell your friends – and tell Artesa too – that:
1. Artesa should withdraw the Artesa-Sonoma Annapolis vineyard deforestation project permanently.
2. You will not drink Artesa's wine made from deforestation of redwoods.
* Educated wine drinkers are outraged by wine made from deforestation of redwoods and desecrated Pomo Indian heritage lands.
* Even the finest red wine, if produced by redwood deforestation, is undrinkable.
* Artesa Winery is jeopardizing its reputation by insisting on developing new vineyards in redwood forestland. National and international awareness and disapproval of the Artesa redwood deforestation project continue to grow.
3. Artesa should develop only sustainable vineyards on agricultural lands, not forestland.
Artesa's vineyards do not belong in redwood forests. Artesa can develop new vineyards at alternative locations without redwood deforestation.

[text of petition]
Don’t destroy redwood forest for vineyards -
To:
- Keith LaVine, President, Artesa Vineyards & Winery
- Artesa Vineyards & Winery
- Artesa Wine Club
- Aveniu Brands, Artesa’s wholesaler
- Codorniu, Parent corporation, headquartered in Spain
I urge you to withdraw the project at this forested site, and develop your vineyard on an alternative agricultural site to restore the respect of Artesa as a producer of fine and sustainable wines.
I would not drink or recommend any wine produced by a company that logs and bulldozes redwood forests to develop its vineyards. I am appalled at the socially and environmentally irresponsible Artesa Sonoma vineyard development project in Annapolis, California, where you plan to clear-cut over a million board-feet of timber and bulldoze ancient soils in a culturally sensitive Pomo heritage district.
I am committed to spreading my opinion about Artesa Vineyards and Codorniu regarding this vineyard deforestation project. Please invest in honorable, socially and environmentally respectable vineyard development projects.
 Sincerely,
 [Your name]


2013-11-03 from "Care2 Action Alerts!":
Chopping Down Ancient Redwoods to Make A Bottle of Wine? A Spanish winemaker wants to level 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make space for new grapevines in the California’s Sonoma County. Tell him to get his priorities straight!   
Save California's Forests from Expanding Wineries!
You know what California has plenty of? Wineries. You know what it's rapidly losing, and what it can never replace? Its ancient redwood forests, some of which have trees that are more than 2,000 years old.
A Spanish winemaker wants to chop down 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make space for new grapevines in California’s Sonoma County. But redwoods only grow in Northern California and parts of southern Oregon. If all of that land is cleared to make space for wineries, soon there will be no redwoods left at all.
To make matters even worse, the thousands of trees in danger of being mown down like an overgrown lawn are between 50 and 80 feet tall. Some are probably hundreds of years old. And to put that majestic habitat on the line so someone can turn a profit? No way!
California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection seems ready to let these ancient wonders be leveled for the sake of a few fancy bottles of wine. Sign the petition to tell them to protect the forests!

"Protect California Redwood Forests From Winery Development"
Petition author: Michael Taylor
target: Artesa CEO Keith LaVine
Sign it here! [http://www.thepetitionsite.com/541/276/481/take-a-stand-to-protect-californian-forests-against-ever-expanding-wineries/].
Update #1 November 7, 2013 -
Thank you for your contribution to this cause. The momentum is still going and we have reached over 30 000 signatures! Make sure that this continues and we can make a real impact to our environment. Forward this petition to your friends and family, we are going to make a difference!
---
About the Petition:
A Spanish winemaker wants to level 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make space for new grapevines in the California’s Sonoma County.
The majestic Redwood only grow in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon, and parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers. The wine farms are growing, and the forests are shrinking. Forests that provide wildlife habitats and protect streams from erosion. And all this with permission from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (CalFire). Protection at the end of the name seems to be rather misleading. What or who, are the trying to protect? Not the forests it seems.
Redwoods are considered among the most spectacular of all trees. The biggest trees on Earth by height, redwoods can stand more than 350 feet tall. Some are more than 2,000 years old.
The thousands of trees slated for removal are between 50 and 80 feet tall. Trees as previously mentioned, provide wildlife habitat and stabilize the soil against erosion, which has been a major problem for streams in the area that once harbored runs of salmon and steelhead trout to boot.
It is not just Redwood and Fir trees; oak trees are also in the way of these wine farms. Oak trees tend to be overlooked by the general public, which is more easily impressed by redwoods. Yet oak forests provide habitat for vastly more species than do redwood forests.
And it's not just redwoods that are at stake as vineyards expand their terrain. California's oaks aren't subject to the same environmental protections as more commercially valuable species like redwoods and Douglas fir. And Northern California's oak forest, near the coast as well as inland, is being lost at fast rates to vineyard expansions.
 Oak trees tend to be overlooked by the general public, which is more easily impressed by redwoods. Yet oak forests, she says, provide habitat for vastly more species than do redwood forests.
Whilst we all complain about pollution, global warming, deforestation, and mans other pursuits to grow his wallet at the cost of the planet, we sit back and do nothing. How long before the entire region is only wine farms, and there is not one tree left.
Lets send a message to Artesa that we will not sit back this time. This natural habitat must remain protected. Live up to your name and protect these forests.


"A Fight Over Vineyards Pits Redwoods Against Red Wine"
2013-10-18 by Alastair Bland from "NPR" [http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/10/18/237136077/a-fight-over-vineyards-pits-redwoods-against-red-wine]:
Environmental groups are fighting to stop the leveling of 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines (Photo Courtesy Friends of the Gualala River).

In the California wine mecca of Sonoma County, climate change is pitting redwood lovers against red wine lovers.
This Friday morning, a coalition of environmental groups are in a Santa Rosa, Calif., courtroom fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from leveling 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines.
Redwoods only grow in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon. Parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers.
Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called Friends of the Gualala River, says the wine industry is creeping toward the coast as California's interior valleys heat up and consumers show preferences for cooler-weather grapes like pinot noir.
"Inexorably, the wine industry is looking for new places to plant vineyards," says Poehlmann, whose group is among the plaintiffs.
California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, approved the redwood-clearing project in May 2012.
"So we sued them," says Dave Jordan, the legal liaison for the Sierra Club's Redwood Chapter, another of the plaintiffs. The Center for Biological Diversity is the third plaintiff.
The groups filed suit in June 2012 on the grounds that state officials violated California's environmental protection laws by approving the plan.
Redwoods are considered among the most spectacular of all trees. The biggest trees on Earth by height, redwoods can stand more than 350 feet tall. Some are more than 2,000 years old.
However, the redwoods at the center of this conflict are not old-growth trees. The area was clear-cut more than 50 years ago, and most of the redwoods on the site are less than 100 feet tall. Which is why Sam Singer argues: "There are no forests [on this site]."
Singer is a spokesman for Artesa Vineyards and Winery, which is owned by the Spanish Codorniu Group and which first proposed the development project in 2001. Singer says that the two old-growth redwood trees on the property will be spared.
But the thousands of trees slated for removal are between 50 and 80 feet tall, according to Poehlmann. He says the trees provide wildlife habitat and stabilize the soil against erosion, which has been a major problem for streams in the area that once harbored runs of salmon and steelhead trout.
The project planners have even estimated this timber to represent 1.25 million board feet of "merchantable" lumber.
Dennis Hall, a higher official with CalFire, says his department's approval of Artesa's project in 2012 came only after a lengthy review process found that it would not significantly damage the environment.
"We did an [environmental impact report] for the project," Hall says. "It was an extreme and exhaustive analysis of potential impacts to the environment." The report deemed most of these potential impacts to be "less-than-significant."
Still, Poehlmann feels CalFire has been too lenient on proposals by developers to level trees. "They are acting as if they are actually the 'department of deforestation,' " he says.
The tensions go beyond this case: Friends of the Gualala River and the Sierra Club's Redwood Chapter have gone to court several times in the past decade to successfully stop timberland conversion projects proposed by winery groups and which had been approved by the state. Among these fights was the battle to save the so-called Preservation Ranch, a 19,000-acre parcel that developers planned to partially deforest and replant with vines. Earlier this year, the developer sold the property to The Conservation Fund.
But from 1979 to 2006, 25 conversions of forest to agriculture occurred in Sonoma County at an average rate of 21 acres per year, according to county officials.
At least a few tree-clearing projects have occurred without permission. High-profile winemaker Paul Hobbs didn't bother getting a permit before he leveled 8 acres of redwoods in 2011 with plans to plant wine grapes. He remains a superstar winemaker and was tagged earlier this year by Forbes as "The Steve Jobs of Wine."
And it's not just redwoods that are at stake as vineyards expand their terrain. California's oaks aren't subject to the same environmental protections as more commercially valuable species like redwoods and Douglas fir, according to CalFire's Hall. And Northern California's oak forest, near the coast as well as inland, is being lost at fast rates to vineyard expansions, says Adina Merenlender, an environmental biologist with the University of California, Berkeley.
Merenlender says oak trees tend to be overlooked by the general public, which is more easily impressed by redwoods. Yet oak forests, she says, provide habitat for vastly more species than do redwood forests.
Sara Cummings with the Sonoma Vintners, a wine industry trade group, says new vineyards are usually planted within what she calls the region's "agricultural footprint" — land that is already designated by county planners as "agricultural." Moreover, she says, more than half the county's wine growers are members of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program.
But Merenlender is concerned about future expansion into land not previously farmed.
"We're already seeing a lot of acquisition of coastal lands," she says. "Investments are moving north and west, toward the coast."
The issue, it seems, is a global one. A 2013 study predicted that global warming will cause a dramatic shift in the world's wine regions. The report warns that wilderness areas in British Columbia and remote regions of China — one of the world's fastest-growing winemaking regions — may become increasingly coveted by the industry.
"But at least we'll have plenty of wine to drink, "Poehlmann quips, "while we bemoan the fact that our forests are all used up."


"Winery plans to chop down California redwoods to make room for vineyards"
by John Upton [http://grist.org/news/winery-plans-to-chop-down-california-redwoods-to-make-room-for-vineyards/]:
Global warming and the growing global appetite for wine have vineyards on the march.
As the climate in southern England warms to resemble that of France’s Champagne region, British growers are cultivating grapes that make bubbly. Viniculturists are also setting up operations in remote parts of British Columbia and China. And in California, the booming wine industry is crawling out of warming valleys and edging toward the coast — which is bad news for coastal ecosystems.
Areas suitable for vineyards in the world’s major wine-producing regions could shrink between 19 and 73 percent by 2050, according to a study published in April in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers say growers will look for new lands on which to plant their vines, razing wild areas in their wine-making quests.
“Climate change may cause establishment of vineyards at higher elevations,” the scientists wrote. That “may lead to conversion of natural vegetation.”
And so it is in California’s Sonoma County, where environmentalists are fighting in court to prevent a Spanish winemaker from leveling 154 acres with coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make space for new grapevines. NPR reports [http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/10/18/237136077/a-fight-over-vineyards-pits-redwoods-against-red-wine]: [begin excerpt]
Redwoods only grow in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon. Parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers.
Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called Friends of the Gualala River, says the wine industry is creeping toward the coast as California’s interior valleys heat up and consumers show preferences for cooler-weather grapes like pinot noir.
“Inexorably, the wine industry is looking for new places to plant vineyards,” says Poehlmann, whose group is among the plaintiffs.
[end excerpt]
Artesa Vineyards and Winery has permission from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to level thousands of trees. The environmentalists are suing the agency, arguing that its approval of the plan violated the state’s environmental laws.
Poehlmann says the trees that would be cleared are up to 80 feet tall, providing wildlife habitat and protecting streams from erosion. But the winery’s spin doctor would like you to know that these are not old-growth trees (most are 50 years old), so “there are no forests” on the site. Just an awful lot of majestic trees.