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News :: Education & Youth

Regents vote to make a bid for Los Alamos: Northrop Grumman drops out, leaving field to UC and Texas

SAN FRANCISCO
Regents vote to make a bid for Los Alamos
Northrop Grumman drops out, leaving field to UC and Texas

Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer

Friday, May 27, 2005

Richard Blum (left), Gerald Parsky, UC President Robert C...

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The University of California Regents voted 11-1 Thursday to join the competition for the next contract to run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the nation's first atomic weapons lab.

"We're off and running!" S. Robert Foley, UC's vice president of laboratory administration, told The Chronicle after the midday vote at the regents meeting at UCSF's Laurel Heights campus.

A surprise decision Thursday from would-be bidder Northrop Grumman not to pursue the contract shrank the field from a three-way fight to a two-way battle between goliaths. Northrop Grumman's exit leaves UC with just one competitor, and it's an intimidating one: a joint team from Lockheed Martin and the giant University of Texas system.

The outcome of the competition will determine whether UC -- which has run the Los Alamos complex since World War II under contract to the federal government, until now without competition -- will relinquish control of the lab after several years of security, safety and financial scandals.

Thursday's vote authorizes UC officials to work with three previously announced collaborators, including Bechtel National, the division of Bechtel Corp. that carries out the firm's U.S. government contracts, in competing for the next Los Alamos contract. The contract bid is due at the U.S. Energy Department on July 19, and the winner is scheduled for selection about Dec. 1.

Northrop Grumman gave no specific reason to explain why it dropped out of the competition, but a spokeswoman implied that company officials had reviewed the U.S. Energy Department's final specifications and concluded they weren't sufficiently attractive.

"Based upon its evaluation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory request for proposal, Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) has decided not to pursue the contract," the firm said in a statement. "The company continues to be committed to helping the U.S. Department of Energy achieve its overall objectives, but has determined that it can best provide that support through other key programs."

Northrop Grumman's unexpected departure was "a business decision," Juli Ballesteros, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based firm, said in a short phone interview.

The remaining partnership bidding for the contract is a daunting foe for UC. Lockheed Martin is a legendary aerospace titan that has been long respected for its management of another nuclear weapons lab, Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, and that has many friends and lobbyists inside the Washington Beltway.

As for Texas, its university system is well respected in some areas of the sciences and engineering -- and the state's political clout is enhanced by President Bush's presence in the White House.

But, UC's Foley stressed, "We have a strong team" for developing the proposal.

In recent months some UC backers, including Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., have insinuated that the Department of Energy was writing the bid specifications in ways that would harm UC's chances of winning. The final specifications were issued May 19.

Among the more controversial specifications is one that, some UC backers charge, would undermine pension plans for some Los Alamos staffers, possibly making lab jobs less attractive to new employees.

By contrast, one attractive specification offers a maximum annual reimbursement cap of $79 million, 10 times higher than UC's typical annual fee for managing the lab in recent years.

But at a press conference Wednesday, UC President Robert C. Dynes refused to reveal how the $79 million would be split among UC and its three partners. A Bechtel official also declined to provide details.

The current Los Alamos contract is held by UC and expires in September. UC officials expect that the U.S. Energy Department, however, will extend UC's present contract until sometime in 2006, to provide a smooth transitional period should a new contractor be named in December.

In contrast to a tumultuous meeting Wednesday, which was disrupted twice by student protests and police action, the regents raced through the vote Thursday with minimal comment and unusual speed, dispensing with the issue in only a few minutes.

Before the vote, the sole extended comments were by Regent Richard Blum and regents general counsel James Holst. Both briefly commented on the student protesters' charge Wednesday that Blum has a conflict of interest in voting on Los Alamos matters.

Blum is chair and vice chair, respectively, of the two regents committees that voted Wednesday to recommend that UC join the competition. Those are the finance committee and the "oversight of Department of Energy laboratories" committee.

That creates a conflict of interest, protesters said Wednesday, because Blum is vice chair of the board of directors of URS Corp. of San Francisco, which, they said, stands to earn $25 million a year as part of a five-year Los Alamos contract.

On Thursday, Blum said, "I didn't even know about this contract," which was a tiny part of URS' income.

"It would please me if they (URS) weren't there (at Los Alamos), but I'm not going to tell them what to do," Blum said.

Holst told the regents that in his legal opinion, Blum faced no conflict of interest in voting. Blum "had no role in the award of the contract to URS" and, thus, "does not have a disqualifying financial interest," Holst explained.

Moments later, Blum and all but one of the regents present voted yes.

Thursday's sole nay vote was cast by Regent Gary D. Novack, vice president of the Alumni Associations of UC.

He said he worries that "continuing our relationship with the Los Alamos National Laboratory may defocus UC from its primary mission of teaching, research and service to the people of California."

Only one of the students who protested Wednesday returned for Thursday's meeting -- Will Parrish, a sociology and journalism major who graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2004. He was upset by the regents' speed in racing through the vote as if they were trying to get unpleasant business out of the way.

"The manner in which this issue was finally decided is representative of the disappointing attitude the regents have toward the students," Parrish said afterward. "These people fundamentally don't have the educational mission of the UC in mind."

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News :: Environment & Food

West Valley power debate

West Valley power debate

Posted on Tuesday, June 28 @ 13:35:00 PDT

Lassen County News:

Distraught residents and landowners made emotional statements and fired critical questions during two intense scoping meetings held at the Likely fire hall last week, voicing their opposition to the proposed hydroelectric power project in West Valley, east of Likely on the South Fork of the Pit River.

By Anthony Larson
Staff writer

Federal Energy Resource Commission staff members conducted the meetings to gather public opinion regarding the future project. As proposed, the project would consist of two small hydroelectric turbine generators, one located near the West Valley Reservoir dam and the other near the Jess Valley highway at the bottom of the canyon where Short Creek spills into the South Fork.

Both plants, with a combined output of about 2,600 kilowatts — enough to power about 2,000 average homes — would use water diverted from the South Fork River by an existing canal owned and operated by the South Fork Irrigation District.

Nick Josten, the engineer who filed an application for the power plant with FERC in 2003, was on hand for both meetings to present a slide presentation about the project and to field questions.

"I think hydropower is a wonderful source of energy. It's not without impacts, but it's a perfectly clean source of energy," he said.
The outspoken opponents are approximately six families who live along the river or own land in the canyon and the Hammawi tribe of Native Americans, who have joined them in their opposition. These critics decry the lack of information they have been given about the project and the proposed water diversion.

"There's clearly some information that has to be supplied," Josten said.

"It's a lot of things gone over many times in many different words, but the number of actual issues isn't that big. The answer to those issues is information. And so the first step after this meeting is to try and collect that information — that's going to be my responsibility — and to give that information to the people that are asking for it and to make sure they understand it and believe it."

The opponents' primary concern is the diversion of 100 cubic feet of water per second from the river, leaving about three miles of South Fork with dramatically reduced stream flows. That water would then be returned to the river at its confluence with Short Creek.

For the full story see the June 21 Lassen County Times.

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News :: Environment & Food : Globalization & Capitalism : Government & Elections : Government Resources : Labor & Economics : Local Resources : Media Organizations in Monterey Bay Area : Technology

Waste of the West:Public Lands Ranching

The very indepth article, chapters long, focuses on the inordinate amount of federal funding absorbed by the ranching industry in the west, comments by their other counterparts who don't share the federal resource funding and the effects upon the environment.

The project was sponsored by the Vision for America project.

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News :: Environment & Food

Irrigation, Irritation and Litigation in a Remote California County

Irrigation, irritation and litigation in a remote California county
BRIAN MELLEY, Associated Press Writer

Modoc County Ranchers Sell Irrigation Water Rights Downstream

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News :: Environment & Food

Supreme Court rejects water division case: Environmentalists say decision helps protect wild salmon

Supreme Court rejects water division case
Environmentalists say decision helps protect wild salmon

Source: Copyright 2004, Associated Press
Date: May 4, 2004
Byline: NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SPOKANE -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined yesterday to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that the government can close irrigation ditches crossing U.S. Forest Service land to provide additional water to help endangered fish runs.

The Supreme Court, without comment, let stand a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was a setback for groups seeking to limit federal control over state waters.

"We consider this a great victory for protecting wild salmon," said Michael Mayer, a lawyer for the environmental group Earthjustice in Seattle.

Irrigators argued that the Forest Service did not have the right under the Endangered Species Act to deny long-standing water rights to farmers. They claimed the state, and not the federal government, had the authority to set in-stream flow requirements for fish.

"It does remain a very hotly contested issue across the Western states," said Russ Brooks, managing attorney of the Pacific Legal Center in Bellevue, which advocates for private property rights and pursued the case on behalf of the Early Winters Ditch Co., Okanogan County and four irrigators.

Mayer said the case reaffirmed federal efforts to protect the survival of salmon runs.

"We think this is a decision of huge importance, given the resources involved and the amount of Forest Service land," Mayer said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley of Spokane sided with the Forest Service, which denied the use of irrigation ditches running through the Okanogan National Forest to take water from area rivers.

Whaley ruled that flow rates are set so the Forest Service complies with the Endangered Species Act, which is carried out by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His decision was upheld by the 9th Circuit.

The 250-subscriber Methow Valley Irrigation District draws water from the Methow and Twisp rivers in north-central Washington. The federal government contended that operations by the district were killing protected salmon and steelhead.

The dispute arose in 1990, when a state-commissioned study found that the district's ditches, dug in 1919, were inefficient.

The Yakama Indian Nation sued the state in 1991 for allowing the district to waste water. That led to a proposal to switch to a system of wells and pressurized pipes.

The district initially agreed to the plan, then backed away, saying it would be too costly to operate and would unfairly restrict its water use.

The fisheries service sued the irrigation district in May 2000.

Originally posted at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/171820_methow04.html

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News :: Environment & Food

LAND USE: East Palo Alto rejects developer

Publication Date: Wednesday Jul 27, 1994

LAND USE: East Palo Alto rejects developer
City stays with original choice for Four Corners project

The East Palo Alto City Council, on a split vote, has reaffirmed its earlier choice of developer for a grocery store complex. But legal issues could complicate the process.

The Council, meeting as the city's redevelopment agency, voted 3-2 to reject a request for reconsideration by Barry Swenson Builder as the developer of Four Corners, the site at Bay Road and University Avenue slated for a grocery store shopping mall.

Swenson contends that his firm has more extensive redevelopment experience than Washingtonia, the company chosen by the Council in May, having completed almost a dozen projects in downtown San Jose. Swenson said his firm also has two major grocery store companies bidding to be part of the project and has obtained construction financing.

His main argument, though, is that his firm is part owner of the land along with Wilma Manuel, and by state law, the property owner has the right to participate in all redevelopment projects.

Bill Somerville of Washingtonia said his group would complete the project within 18 months. The project will be unique, he said, in that it would be funded completely through philanthropic donations, with $5 million in anonymous donations already received.

Somerville said Washingtonia is planning for a shopping mall including a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, restaurant and cleaners, with some office space.

The Council last week voted not to reconsider its earlier decision, with Council members R.B. Jones and Myrtle Walker in favor of reconsideration.

The other three Council members, Mayor Sharifa Wilson, Vice Mayor Bill Vines and Rose Jacobs Gibson, voted to reaffirm the earlier decision, which was made after an unanimous recommendation by a five-member selection committee.

Part of the confusion between that earlier vote in May and last week's vote was whether the Council knew that Swenson was a part-owner of the property and, if so, what legal difference it should have made.

Swenson's attorney, Kent Mitchell, warned the City Council that its decision was "very vulnerable." He said that in a parallel case, a California court ruled against another redevelopment agency because "state law stipulates that owners be allowed to participate" in such projects. The alternative to an owner's redevelopment plan is for the city to condemn the land, pay the owner fair market value, and take over ownership.

"We definitely want to do what they want us to do (to build a grocery store)," Swenson told the Weekly after the vote. Because the property owner wants to build the project that the redevelopment agency wants built, Swenson contends that the city cannot legally condemn the land but must instead work with the property owner.

But Vines, who sits as the head of the redevelopment agency, had some pointed words for Swenson.

Vines said he was "taken aback" by the implied legal threat, and was critical of Barry Swenson Builder for not making its partnership agreement with Manuel more clearly known before the May vote.

"Frankly, Mr. Swenson, your point person blew it," Vines said.

"There was some misunderstanding," Swenson agreed later. "I'm not sure they understood (the partnership), and maybe that's our fault."

--Don Kazak

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News :: Environment & Food

Supreme Court rules against California farmers in water use case

Posted on Fri, Jun. 24, 2005

Supreme Court rules against California farmers in water use case

JULIANA BARBASSA

Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. - Individual farmers may not sue the federal government to enforce water contracts entered into by their irrigation districts, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a decision that limits landowners' ability to seek compensation for reduced flows.

Justices concluded that the 1982 Reclamation Reform Act "does not permit a plaintiff to sue the United States alone," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court Thursday.

Two dozen farmers from California's Central Valley wanted the federal government to pay them about $32 million as compensation for water they were supposed to get under a federal contract. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation diverted the water to comply with Endangered Species Act requirements to protect two threatened fish.

But the federal government argued its contract with the Westlands Water District only allowed lawsuits by the district itself - not by individual landowners who are its members.

The state of California and the water district agreed, contending that letting farmers sue the government directly could result in a rash of cases and undermine water districts' ability to do business with the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages water in the West.

At issue was a 1963 water service contract between the Bureau of Reclamation and Westlands, the nation's largest water district, which encompasses 600,000 acres of cotton, tomatoes, onions and other farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties.

In 1993 the Bureau of Reclamation cut Westlands' water allocation by half because of federal requirements to protect the threatened winter-run chinook salmon and delta smelt. Westlands and some farmers in the water district sued.

Westlands dropped its suit two years later as part of negotiations to establish the California Federal Bay-Delta water project. But about two dozen individual property owners and farming partnerships, led by an aging farmer named Francis Orff, pressed the litigation.

The farmers contended they needed a way to get compensation for their losses.

Attorney Stuart Somach, of Sacramento, who represented Westlands, could not be reached for comment.

But the Los Angeles-based lawyer representing the farmers, William Smiland, said his clients might still try to remedy what they consider a breach of contract by taking their case to the United States Court of Federal Claims.

He said there are still details to be worked out before his clients make that decision, but he emphasized this was a very serious matter for the plaintiffs, and other farmers in the region.

"When you buy water from the federal government and apply it to the land you acquire a property right - a right to be able to buy the water in the future, perpetually," Smiland said.

Taking the water hurts the farmers, who invested in their land and crops believing they could count on the amount of water written into the irrigation district's contract, he added.

In this case, the attorney said, the district's contract promised 900,000 acre feet of water every year, but got only about 450,000 - a disparity that caused them serious economic loss.

If the Supreme Court had agreed, hundreds of individual farmers could have tried to take on the Bureau of Reclamation, leading to chaotic litigation, according to government attorneys.

A win for the farmers could also have made it too expensive for the government to divert water from agriculture to meet its environmental obligations under the Endangered Species and the Clean Water acts, environmental advocates said.

"If they'd been permitted to sue, they would have held the government hostage, and required the taxpayers to shell out every time the federal agencies wanted to use that water to protect the environment," said Lloyd Carter, director of Revive the San Joaquin, an environmental organization set on restoring the river.

Enormous pumps in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta near San Francisco Bay send water to Westlands and other irrigation districts in the arid western half of the Central Valley. Delta water is also sent as far south as Los Angeles.

"This is a huge win for the environment of the western United States," Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "The court said unanimously that agribusinesses cannot use their subsidized federal water contracts to block laws that protect the public and the environment."

The case is Orff et al. v. United States of America, 03-1566.

---

Associated Press Writer Erica Werner contributed to this report

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News :: Environment & Food

Young fish die as water laws go unenforced: Ranchers' cooperation threatened

Young fish die as water laws go unenforced - Ranchers' cooperation threatened

News/Current Events News Keywords: CA POWER CRISIS
Source: SF Chronicle
Published: 6/22/01 Author: Glen Martin, Tom Stienstra
Posted on 06/22/2001 05:05:22 PDT by randita
Young fish die as water laws go unenforced

Ranchers' cooperation threatened

Glen Martin, Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Staff Writers

Friday, June 22, 2001

Irrigation by ranchers is decimating salmon and steelhead populations on California's second biggest river system, and Department of Fish and Game officials acknowledge they are not implementing a tough state law that could stop the diversions.

Ranchers have diverted most of the flow of the Scott and Shasta Rivers in Siskiyou County to irrigate alfalfa fields and pastures, leaving thousands of young salmon and steelhead without enough water and facing imminent death.

State game wardens generally are disposed to citing the diverters under Fish and Game Code 5937, which requires dam owners to maintain water in state streambeds sufficient to keep fish healthy.

But agency officials say they are being told not to cite offenders out of concern that cooperative restoration projects between the state and ranchers on the Scott and Shasta Rivers would end instantly if the law were enforced.

The controversy points out difficulties with cooperative programs between government agencies and private parties.

Though such agreements can help resolve thorny environmental problems, they may also inhibit agencies from cracking down on private sector partners.

Warden Renie Cleland said he was told to back off from citing ranchers on the Scott and Shasta rivers.

"This has gone all the way to Sacramento," said Cleland. "It's extremely politically sensitive. I was told to take no enforcement action on it. These fish are dying. We've got five or six thousand steelhead trout dead on the Scott, and (dead juvenile steelhead) everywhere on the Shasta."

MAJOR KLAMATH TRIBUTARIES

The Scott and Shasta are major tributaries of the Klamath River, which is second only to the Sacramento River in its dimensions and the number of fish it supports.

The Klamath and its tributaries once supported hundreds of thousands of chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout. Their numbers began declining in the mid-20th century from dams, agricultural irrigation and timber harvesting. By the mid-1980s, only a few thousand fish were left -- mostly on the Scott and Shasta.

During the past decade, efforts to screen agricultural pump intakes, reduce soil erosion, restore riparian forests and transport fish trapped in "dewatered" streambeds have bolstered the fish populations somewhat.

WATER RIGHTS FROM THE 1930S

But conflict between environmentalists and ranchers over diversions has simmered for years. Ranchers exercising water rights adjudicated in the 1930s typically lower the rivers through irrigation during the summer.

This year, a severe local drought has greatly increased the degree of the problem. The Scott has been sucked dry, and the Shasta reduced to a trickle at its juncture with the Klamath.

Temperatures in the river have reached or exceeded the level considered lethal for salmon species, which favor cold water. Thousands of fish have died, and thousands of others face imminent death, making the pumping a clear violation of Code 5937.

"Everything has died," said Fish and Game Captain Chuck Konvalin of the Scott River. "The system has been dried up."

Konvalin, who heads a team of wardens who operate in the north state, says their superiors are reigning them in.

"This thing is out of whack," said Konvalin. "I get my orders."

Gary Stacey, a fisheries program director for Fish and Game who oversees projects in the Klamath area, said enforcing Code 5937 would "slam the door" on meaningful restoration programs along the Scott and Shasta, which cost $25 million a year.

"All our current programs depend on landowner cooperation," he said. "That would all stop immediately if we pulled the trigger. And the process involved in filing and prosecuting a case like this could take years -- years the fish don't have.

"By taking strong law enforcement action, we could simply be assuring that the (fish) populations would wink out."

COOPERATIVE EFFORTS

Ranchers confirm they would scrap all cooperative ventures with the state if they were cited by game wardens, and say they are guaranteed diversion rights by court rulings made decades ago.

Gary Black, who diverts Scott River water to irrigate alfalfa and wheat on his 240-acre farm, said ranchers would respond to voluntary incentives to improve fish populations but would resist government fiat.

"We're looking for win-win situations," said Black, who helps direct a local resource conservation district that promotes fish-friendly agricultural methods. "I've worked with more than half the farmers in the Scott Valley.

Everyone is willing to do their part for fishery protection -- the question becomes how far is too far."

Still, "flows remain the number one issue, and this is a good time to sit down and talk," Black said. "That will work better around here than getting out the citation book."

E-mail the writers at glenmartin (at) sfchronicle.com and tstiesntra (at) sfchronicle.com.

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 3

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