Unhappy feds

Jul 19, 2013

The feds, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are not happy with the environmental reports crafted by the state in its water-transfer effort to build huge tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Is it mere bureaucratic squabbling or a real obstacle for the Brown administration?


From the LAT's Bettina Boxall: "The federal comments suggest it's going to be tough for the state to meet its self-imposed deadline of releasing the draft this October for official public comment, an important step in moving the project forward."


"In what would be the biggest water supply project constructed in California in half a century, the state is proposing to build a large diversion point on the Sacramento River in the north delta and send the water through two 35-mile tunnels to aqueducts serving the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California."


"By adding the diversion point and restoring more than 100,000 acres of delta habitat, the south-of-the-delta urban and agricultural water contractors who have promised to pay for much of the project are hoping to get relief from environmental restrictions on their deliveries."


Speaking of the feds, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as expected, was approved by the UC Board of Regents as the university system's new president.

From the Chronicle's Nanette Asimov: "They were among dozens of demonstrators who contended that Napolitano was the wrong person to lead an institution with so many students from around the world."


"The immigration issue cost her unanimous approval when student Regent Cinthia Flores refused to support her, echoing protesters' concerns that the record number of immigrants deported under her leadership "produced insurmountable barriers to higher education."


"As Homeland Security secretary since 2009, Napolitano presided over the deportation of some 1.4 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. About 40 immigration activists and students staged a noon protest outside the regents meeting at UCSF Mission Bay, then urged the regents to reject the appointment."


And still more on the feds: The downside of an improving economy in the Golden State is the loss of federal benefits to thousands of people who remain without out a job. You can't win.


From Bloomberg's Mark Melnicoe: "California’s jobless rate declined to a four-year low of 8.5 percent last month, triggering an end to benefits for more than 100,000 people still out of work, according to the state employment agency."


"Under U.S. Labor Department rules, residents are no longer eligible for the final 10 weeks of extended federal unemployment benefits known as tier 4, because the state jobless rate has fallen below a moving three-month average of 9 percent, the California Employment Development Department said yesterday."

"California, among the hardest-hit states in the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009, has crawled its way back and seen its jobless rate fall from a record 12.4 percent in October 2010. A year ago, the state remained mired in a slump and matched Rhode Island for the nation’s second-highest jobless rate, trailing only Nevada. With the June figures, the Golden State inched closer to the U.S. 7.6 percent average."


And the feds also don't like the idea of a bullet train linking SoCal, where life is a gamble just going to work in the morning, and Las Vegas, where life is a gamble, period.


From KPCC's Kitty Felder: "You can cancel that high speed train trip to Las Vegas — at last for now. The Department of Transportation has decided to "suspend further consideration" of a $5 billion federal loan application from a private company that wants to link Southern California with the gambling and entertainment mecca."


"The Department of Transportation put the XpressWest high speed train project on pause because the company couldn't come up with enough U.S. manufacturers for rail cars and tracks. The department prioritizes projects that use American-made products."


"The XpressWest train would take passengers to Las Vegas from Victorville — a connection point with California's proposed high speed train running from Southern California to the Bay Area."


That last-minute infusion of cash that roiled California's November 2012 election has had the Capitol abuzz for months. Now, it's also a subject for a grand jury.

From Peter H. Stone in the Daily Beast: "A grand jury is now involved in a high-stakes California probe that is looking into whether a PAC and three so-called dark-money groups—including one with ties to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—broke a campaign disclosure law by funneling $11 million from secret sources to influence ballot initiatives in the state’s 2012 election, The Daily Beast has learned."


"The state grand jury, previously unreported, is part of an expanding investigation that’s been spearheaded by the state’s attorney general and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), according to two people familiar with the probe, who requested anonymity since they weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing grand jury proceedings, which are secret."


"The existence of a grand jury, something typically convened to obtain sworn testimony from witnesses, appears to signal increased prosecutorial interest in the inquiry to uncover the actual donors. Launched last fall, the probe could lead to eight-figure civil penalties and possible criminal charges, according to statements last year from the A.G.'s office and the FPPC, the state's election watchdog agency."


Finally, from our "School Days" file comes word that some British guys protested their school's rule barring the wearing of shorts during the heat wave. So they wore skirts instead. It's creativity like this that enabled the Brits to rule the world for two centuries.


"The 17-strong group of Year 10 boys raised eyebrows when they were seen in the morning striding around the school in borrowed skirts."


"Protester Tyrone Evelyn, 15, said the group, from Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, would continue campaigning for a change. He said: “It’s just appropriate for the weather - we don’t want to be hot and bothered."


“Over the last few days I’ve had a few headaches and skin irritations because I’ve been too hot. “Girls can wear skirts, so I don’t see why we can’t wear shorts. It’s a reasonable protest.”

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