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Obama plans to block development in Arctic refuge; Alaska leaders irate

Federal gov & land grabs, State gov

Alaska Dispatch News.com

Richard Mauer,Alex DeMarban,Nathaniel Herz


Alaska Gov. Bill Walker addressed the media in his Anchorage office on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, and expressed his frustration with the Obama administration’s efforts to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, which would prevent the state from developing potential resources within the refuge. Bill Roth / ADN

President Barack Obama said Sunday that he planned to ask Congress to declare much of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, including its 1.5-million-acre coastal plain, an area on Alaska’s North Slope suspected to contain vast reserves of oil and gas.

The designation would forever prevent exploration and production on the coastal plain, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the idea would be dead on arrival in the Republican-led Congress.

Without an act of Congress, the Sunday announcement will have little practical effect in the way that the coastal plain is managed — there would still be no drilling, while subsistence hunting and fishing could occur as before. But the decision appears to send a signal about Obama’s views toward development in the Arctic, and other upcoming decisions may have more immediate effects on development in the far north.

Murkowski and the rest of the state’s congressional delegation, along with Gov. Bill Walker, reacted strongly to the symbolism in the administration’s announcement. In a joint statement, they said the move – and two other anticipated announcements involving offshore drilling in the Arctic and development in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska — amounted to “declaring war on Alaska’s future.”

Murkowski, in a Sunday telephone interview from her home in Washington, D.C., called the administration’s moves a “trifecta” with a cumulative impact that could harm Alaska’s economy. Even though the wilderness bid will likely fail in Congress, it will reinvigorate an environmental cause that had slipped from the national consciousness, she said.

Since 1980, when the Arctic refuge was expanded from 9 million acres to 19 million acres by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, there’s been a stalemate over the coastal plain. The 1980 law left the plain in limbo, with congressional action required to open it to development or seal it permanently.

Alaska’s congressional delegation and allies from oil-friendly states have spent decades trying to allow drilling. They’ve been opposed just as strongly by the allies of environmental groups. Democrats and Republicans could be found on either side of the issue over the years, though most of the partisans for opening the refuge have been Republican, while those seeking wilderness protection have mainly been Democrats.

Former Gov. Sean Parnell sued the Interior Department last year, seeking authority for state-run exploration of the coastal plain using three-dimensional seismic methods that avoid actual drilling but still have a physical impact. The Interior Department is fighting the lawsuit, saying the authority to explore the area for development expired in 1987.

Alaska’s late Sen. Ted Stevens once complained he had become “clinically depressed” over his inability to get the coastal plain opened for drilling, even when Congress and the White House were controlled by Republicans.




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Whiskey for Drinking / Water for Fighting: Coastal District Fights California Over Water

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, CA & OR, State gov, Water, Resources & Quality

California Political Review

In the old West the saying was, “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting”. We still live in the Old West by that standard. Guv Brown tried to steal water from the North during his first terms in office by creating a “peripheral canal”. Many counties in Northern California gave voted 90% NO vote to that measure. Now he is doing the same, but changed the name to the “Delta Tunnel”—still moving water from north to south, without creating an new water.

For decades California has been fighting over water from the Colorado River—it has been settled, part of the reason California has no water. The settlement gave other States the water we stole. Now the Central Coast has a war over water going on.

Environmentalists are in the courts stopping the permitting of desalinization plants on the Central Coast.

“The desalination plant is being built by Cal-Am, which has been on a deadline to find a new water source for the Monterey Peninsula since 1995, when the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to reduce illegal pumping of the Carmel River.
In 2009, a cease-and-desist order imposed a deadline of Jan. 1, 2017, when pumping from the river is to be cut by more than 50 percent, a terrifying prospect for a regional economy that relies on tourism and boasts some of the best golf courses in the world.”

By stopping the creation of new water, these folks are assuring that the Central Coast becomes a Third World State—poverty due to lack of water. Why do radical, Al Gore wannabees, hate people?

RB Drought

Coastal District Fights California Over Water

By JON CHOWN, courthouse News, 1/23/15

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (CN) – Marina Coast Water District sued the California State Lands Commission to try to stop drilling on a test well for a desalination plant for the Monterey Bay Peninsula.
The California American Water Co. is named as a real party in interest in the Jan. 15 lawsuit in Santa Cruz County Court. The water district’s lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission over the same issue is before the same court.

The Ag Land Trust is also a party in that lawsuit against California American Water (Cal-Am) and the Coastal Commission. Cal-Am spokeswoman Catherine Stedman said Cal-Am would likely move to combine this latest suit with the first.

The desalination plant is being built by Cal-Am, which has been on a deadline to find a new water source for the Monterey Peninsula since 1995, when the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to reduce illegal pumping of the Carmel River.

In 2009, a cease-and-desist order imposed a deadline of Jan. 1, 2017, when pumping from the river is to be cut by more than 50 percent, a terrifying prospect for a regional economy that relies on tourism and boasts some of the best golf courses in the world.

“The desal plant is the solution to the peninsula’s water shortage, which is extremely serious,” Stedman said. “If the order were imposed it would be absolutely devastating to our community.”
According to the lawsuit, Marina Coast Water District, which serves about 30,000 customers just a few miles north of the Monterey Peninsula, is concerned that Cal-Am’s desalination project could harm the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin, where Marina’s water comes from.
Cal-Am’s desal project is in north Marina and is projected to produce about 5.4 million gallons of water per day. It calls for slant wells to be drilled near the coastline that would take ocean water from the tip of the Salinas Valley basin. A small amount of fresh water would be drawn in as well, but would be replaced.
Cal-Am will use the test slant well to calculate how much water being drawn is groundwater and how much is seawater.
It hopes to show that the desalination plant would not draw more from the Salinas Valley aquifer, from which it has no water rights, than it would pump back in. The test slant well is to be drilled 1,000 feet into the bay and 290 feet below the ocean floor.
“The test will allow us to answer a series of questions: How much water can we really draw from one well? And that gets to the feasibility of the project. … It also tests water quality and will help with finalizing treatment protocols,” Stedman said. “But perhaps most importantly it will answer the question of how much water will be ocean water versus groundwater, which has been the issue for many groups. There is a concern that it will impact the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin.”

That concern led the City of Marina to deny Cal-Am a permit to launch the project, but Cal-Am appealed to the Coastal Commission, won approval and began building in November 2014.

Cal-Am hopes to be done by March, when the Western snowy plover nesting season will stop construction.

On Jan. 21, Marina Coast’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the drilling was denied in Santa Cruz County Court. Judge Paul Marigonda scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for April 21.

Marina Coast’s complaint against the State Lands Commission claims that the state’s approval for the test well did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because the commission relied on a “substitute” environmental document prepared by the Coastal Commission that was “piecemealed” together and failed to properly analyze the project. In particular, the document failed to recognize that the test well would remain as part of the larger permanent project.

Stedman acknowledged that the test well might remain, but only if the project were approved, and that Cal-Am is monitoring the test well to make sure there is no significant impact to the basin. The tests could take two years.

“We are drilling vertical monitoring wells to measure the level in the basin and if we see it drop by a foot, then we would stop production of the test well,” she said.

Stedman said that if everything continues as planned, the desalination plant would be operational in 2019, two years beyond the state deadline. Salinas Valley’s agricultural industry, which produces more than $1 billion of produce each year, also threatened to sue, but Stedman said companies want to see the results of the test well first.
Cal-Am serves about 630,000 people in 50 communities throughout California. Its parent company American Water, headquartered in Voorhees, N.J., is the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company in the United States, according to its website. It serves an estimated 14 million people in more than 40 states and parts of Canada, operating as regulated utilities in 16 of those states.


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Scott Valley Protect Our Water meets 1-29-15



Scott Valley Protect Our Water


Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015

Fort Jones Community Center

7 p.m.

Bring a dessert to share – we eat dessert first!


President Andrew Hurlimann – water

Ray Haupt – Dist. 5 Supervisor

Mark Baird – State of Jefferson

Rich Marshall – Siskiyou Water Users – update on KBRA

Erin Ryan – Congressman LaMalfa update

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122 immigrants, refugees from 43 countries become citizens of ‘a land of dreams’


PNP comment: These folks should be praised for becoming citizens. Wow, good for them! — Editor Liz Bowen

Published: Saturday, Jan. 24 2015 12:48 a.m. MST

Updated: 10 hours ago

122 immigrants, from 43 countries, take the oath of allegiance and become U.S. citizens at the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

More than 120 immigrants and refugees from 43 countries became U.S. citizens Friday during a pair of ceremonies at the U.S. District Courthouse.

SALT LAKE CITY — When Raghad Safah’s family was resettled in Utah in 2009, they had little more than the clothes on their back.

But in a very short time, the Iraqi family starting working toward their American dream.

Safah started her education at Salt Lake Community College and required help filling out her applications. She now has a master’s degree, teaches at the University of Utah and is student teaching at West High School.

Her husband, Khalid Suteeh, owns and operates his own business, a gas station that supports the couple and their four children.

On Friday afternoon they became U.S. citizens in an emotional ceremony at the U.S. District Courthouse.

The couple said they were experiencing a mix of emotions, pride in their accomplishments and gratitude for the many opportunities the United States has to offer.

“I believe this country is truly the land of dreams,” Safah said.

More than 120 people from 43 countries were sworn in as new American citizens in two ceremonies Friday. Some were refugees who had been resettled in Utah after they were forced to leave their home countries. Others were legal immigrants, some of whom took the citizenship test as soon as they possibly could. One man from Sweden, however, said it took him 45 years to decide whether to seek American citizenship.

Many people addressed the crowd, expressing their pride and love for their parents, spouses or friends who had become citizens.

Julia Hernandez said her mother, Rosio Arias, had worked very hard to master English and to study for her citizenship test.

“We’re so proud of you. You studied so hard. You earned all of this,” she said.

Daniel Useche, a pharmacist at Primary Children’s Hospital, said he was grateful for the opportunity to attend pharmacy school in the United States, which wasn’t possible in Venezuela.

“It’s been a long journey, but I’m so grateful to be a U.S. citizen today,” Useche said.

“My dreams have already come true.”

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com


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Death of key figure in CalPERS scandal viewed as suicide

CA & OR, State gov
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Suction dredge mining sees new victory in court

Dept. Fish & Game, GOLD, Mining, State gov

Siskiyou Daily News

by David Smith

Posted Jan. 16, 2015 @ 11:18 am

Suction dredge mining has been dealt another legal victory after years of being under moratorium in the state of California.

This form of dredging utilizes a suction device to filter river or stream bottom material in order to extract valuable minerals. A permit must be acquired from the state before engaging in the activity.

Since 2009, the issuance of such permits has been under moratorium, pending the completion by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of a number of actions.

Those include completing an environmental review of the agency’s suction dredge regulations. A fee structure must also be put in place that covers all of the costs of administering the suction dredge permit program.

CDFW has completed the environmental review and adopted updated regulations but has not completed any of the other steps required for the moratorium to be lifted.

The ongoing moratorium has resulted in several lawsuits, many of which were consolidated due to their reliance on similar principles.

On Jan. 12, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa issued a ruling answering a foundational question that could have a resounding effect on the suction dredging battle in California.

Much of Ochoa’s ruling deals with the case of the People v. Rinehart, in which the defendant, Brandon Rinehart, was convicted for using suction dredging equipment on his federal mining claim in violation of state dredging laws. Rinehart argued during the trial and in a subsequent appeal that the state’s ongoing moratorium acts on a ban on suction dredging, violating his mining rights under the federal Mining Act of 1872.

Last year, the third district court of appeals remanded Rinehart’s case to the trial court, telling that court to address whether the relevant state code operated as a practical manner to prohibit the issuance of suction dredge mining permits and if so, whether that ban on permits “had rendered commercially impracticable the exercise of [Rinehart’s] mining rights granted to him by the federal government.”

Central to those questions is the issue of federal preemption of state law, and Ochoa documents in his ruling how consideration of that concept lead him to answer both in the affirmative. The judge also affirms the federal preemption question in a number of the consolidated cases, including a suit filed by local mining group the New 49ers.

Ochoa states on those cases that “the State’s extraordinary scheme of requiring permits and then refusing to issue them whether and/or being unable to issue permits for years, stands ‘as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of Congress’ under Granite Rock and a de facto ban.”

While Ochoa’s ruling is viewed as a win for suction dredge mining, it does not answer the question of how the state will end the moratorium on the practice.

Read more: http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/article/20150116/News/150119830#ixzz3PhFvfjWn

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Two Cal Fire workers fired, one resigns, 13 others disciplined in Ione academy probe

CA & OR, State gov

Sac  Bee.com

01/21/2015 3:09 PM

01/22/2015 8:08 AM

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article7889088.html#storylink=cpy

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on Wednesday fired two firefighters, accepted the resignation of a third and said it would discipline 13 others in connection with evidence of dishonesty, misuse of state equipment and other policy violations uncovered during a $2 million probe of allegations of misconduct leveled at the fire academy in Ione.

The probe, conducted for the agency by the California Highway Patrol, was initiated in the wake of the May 1 slaying of 26-year-old Sarah Douglas. Authorities have charged her boyfriend, ex-battalion chief Orville “Mo” Fleming, with her slaying. Fleming’s wife leveled accusations after the killing that Fleming and other firefighters had engaged in sex with prostitutes at the academy and said she had seen a tape of such activities.

Cal Fire said the probe unearthed no evidence of a sex tape, a finding echoed by Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators. But the CHP investigation uncovered other abuses that led to disciplinary actions against a total of 16 Cal Fire employees, 15 of them instructors at the academy and the 16th an employee in the field.

“There’s a variety of policy violations, including dishonesty, misuse of state equipment, misuse of state time and compromising the hiring process,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. “None are connected to the allegations that were made.

“All, though, were discovered as part of the investigation that the CHP has been conducting for us over the last six or seven months into the initial allegations that were made. In that process, other violations were discovered.”

In addition to the three who are no longer employed at Cal Fire, all but one of the 13 employees facing discipline were notified as of Wednesday, Berlant said. The final employee is on vacation and had not yet been reached. All 16 were placed on administrative leave last month as preliminary results of the probe became available.

Discipline for those who remain employed at Cal Fire will range from reductions in pay to suspension to demotion, Berlant said.

The murder charge against Fleming, as well as the accusations leveled by his wife, brought embarrassing scrutiny to Cal Fire as it was entering the height of a challenging fire season last summer, and the agency director said Wednesday that misconduct by workers cannot be allowed.

“The CHP investigation brought to light the actions of a few individuals that violate the public trust,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We are pursuing the disciplinary process to the furthest extent allowed. This type of behavior will not be tolerated.

“I would like to extend my appreciation to the California Highway Patrol for the consummate professionalism displayed by their investigators during the course of this investigation.”

Mike Lopez, president of Cal Fire Local 2881, which represents the firefighters, said he could not discuss reasons for the discipline and said each of the employees can appeal.

“My understanding is it has to deal with the possibility of there being discipline for procedural and policy breakdowns in our academy, and each one of those is different from one to the other,” he said. “We’ll allow due process to take its place; we’ll represent our members to the best of our abilities.

“It’s something that no one wants to see at the place of employment where they work, and we’ll do the best we can to make sure the rights of employees are followed through.”

The sensational allegations began with the slaying of Douglas and the subsequent manhunt for Fleming, who hid out for 16 days, spending most of the time hunkered down under some brushy growth not far from the south Sacramento home where Douglas’ body was discovered.

Fleming, 56, has pleaded not guilty in her stabbing and strangulation death. He is being held without bail at the Sacramento County jail and faces his next hearing in Sacramento Superior Court on March 10, when a trial readiness conference is scheduled.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article7889088.html#storylink=cpy
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Report on J-H Guest Ranch expansion from Friends of French Creek

LAWS or law, Siskiyou County

Report from Friends of French Creek on the J-H Guest Ranch expansion discussion at the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on 1-20-15

FOFC spoke at the Board of Supervisors this morning to much good effect.

Jeffy Marx spoke eloquently and passionately about needing to ensure that JH, with their big money and lawyers, are held accountable to the rules like all the rest of Siskiyou County citizens and businesses. She warned of the danger of setting a bad precedent. She asked that, when their turn comes, the Board deny JH expansion and insist on enforcement of the 1993 permit levels.

Dan Deppen brought his technical expertise as a licensed surveyor to his comments saying that effective code enforcement is needed and also about JH’s long history of evasion of the law.

Michael Stapleton engaged the Supervisors with his review of the history of comments of Scott Valley residents in 1993 complaining about JH expanding and then trying to get permission afterwords: “Deja Vu”.

Betsy Stapleton spoke about Cal-Fire 4290 requirements and asked the Board to support application of those requirements to JH, as well as supporting the Planning Department’s effort to develop enforceable code provisions.

Additional FOFC members, Molly McGowan, Janeane Deppen, Marc Williams, and Bill Marx attend and showed their support.

Greg Plucker (Director of the Planning Dept.) attended and gave the Board an update on both the expansion application (waiting for all the agencies to weigh in) and enforcement of the 1993 permit. Plucker said that the Planning Department has sent a letter to JH saying that the 1993 permit will be enforced, unless/until the expansion is approved.

The Board meeting started with a prayer that spoke to the continued drought, and Cal-Fire representative Phil (?) was present to hear our comments. Both couldn’t have been more timely.

The code enforcement regulation that would make enforcement of code violations possible will be coming before the Board soon. It will be important to let the Supervisors know that we want an Enforceable Code Now! I’ll let you know when and where. It’ll be kinda fun to go speak in favor of something!

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Residents urge supervisors to deny JH Ranch expansion plan

Siskiyou County

By David Smith

Posted Jan. 21, 2015 @ 8:20 am

Scott Valley residents reminded the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the battle between some local landowners and JH Ranch will continue into 2015.

JH Ranch is a 350-acre rural guest ranch located in the Scott Valley. Last year, the comment period opened on its plan to expand its operational area and occupancy limits – the Planned Development Plan Amendment – and that opening brought up a number of past conflicts.

One of the more prominent issues has to do with the ranch’s occupancy limits, with opponents of the PDPA alleging that ranch administration has never complied with current occupancy limits, and the ranch arguing that its occupancy limits are dictated only by what its infrastructure can support.

On Tuesday, Scott Valley residents and members of the group Friends of French Creek, which has organized around opposition to the current PDPA, urged the board of supervisors to act on the concerns of locals.

Resident Jennifer Marx told the board it has the power to deny the PDPA, arguing that JH Ranch has skirted local laws and regulations to which everyday people are bound.

“Please deny JH an undeserved expansion,” she pleaded.

FOFC  members Dan Deppen and Michael and Betsy Stapleton also spoke, reiterating fears that the PDPA will negatively affect area water quality, road safety and fire protection.

Betsy Stapleton referenced the ranch’s current request for an exemption from Public Resources Code 4290, which in part pertains to road standards for fire equipment access.

Referencing the ongoing drought and last year’s devastating fires, she explained that she feels an exemption from fire safety standards on the rural roads will place lives at risk.

Siskiyou County Community Development Director Greg Plucker has been working at the heart of the JH Ranch issue, and he was on hand Tuesday to respond to questions from the board and the public.

He noted that JH Ranch is within its rights to ask for an exemption from PRC 4290, and it can appeal the decision when it is handed down.

Plucker also reminded the board that last year the Planning Department sent a letter to the ranch advising that the county expects this year’s summer activities to comply with occupancy levels set in a 1993 planning document or risk enforcement actions from the county.

JH  Ranch representatives have maintained that the document in question does not and never has set constraints on occupancy on ranch grounds.

According to Plucker, the PDPA process is ongoing, including revisions that have been proposed by JH Ranch.


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Siskiyou County continues fight for timber-related federal funds

Federal gov & land grabs, Forestry & USFS, Siskiyou County

By David Smith

Posted Jan. 21, 2015 @ 8:22 am

Congress may have failed to reauthorize federal funding relied upon by rural counties, but state allies and other avenues may provide different outcomes in the ongoing budgetary battle.

Siskiyou County announced last week that it has joined the push for reinstatement of funding under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.

Until September of 2013, SRS funding was utilized to offset the impacts on county coffers from the reduction of allowable timber harvesting production on federal forest lands, according to a Siskiyou County press release.

Congress failed to extend SRS in 2013, marking the end of the funding in future years.

“SRS  funding is critical to Siskiyou County’s ability to provide services for our residents, and its immediate reauthorization should be of the utmost priority for Congress,” District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff states in the release.

The county is not alone in its push, as it has joined the Rural County Representatives of California in the effort to reinstate SRS funding.

While those funds continue to be in jeopardy, RCRC noted last week that a century-old law will allow the federal government to offer payments to counties in the absence of SRS funds.

An RCRC release notes that the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced recently that counties will receive payments for 2014 under the Twenty-Five Percent Fund Act of 1908.

That act requires the federal government to distribute to states 25 percent payments from timber sales and other enterprise activities on National Forest lands, according to the release.

That would mean California could receive $8.6 million to distribute to its counties, compared to the approximately $35 million that would have been provided under SRS.

Read more: http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/article/20150121/News/150129950#ixzz3Ph9a7l4R

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