CA Water Hearing Has Environmentalists Questioning Governor’s Commitment to Delta Water Quality

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Environmentalists concerned about the water quality of the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta are accusing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State Water Resources Control Board as “discarding long-existing regulations protecting water quality (and fisheries) in order to protect the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from their continuing violations of the Public Trust and Bay-Delta water quality standards.”

On Thursday, June 25, the California State Water Resources Control Board will hold a public hearing to determine whether to modify Order WR 2006-0006 that, in part, adopted a Cease and Desist Order (C&D) against the DWR and the Bureau. The Order basically enforces a water quality standard in the Delta. Like most of the debate surrounding the Delta, the standards go back a long way.

In order to measure and control the salinity levels in the Delta waters, the State Board adopted standards in 1978 and reaffirmed them in 1995 and 2006.  These Board standards required the DWR and the Bureau to implement the 0.7 mmhos/cm electrical conductivity (EC) water quality objective for agricultural beneficial uses applicable from April through August of each year at the interior southern Delta compliance locations (i.e., San Joaquin River at Brandt Bridge, Old River near Middle River, and Old River at Tracy Road Bridge).  These measures became known as the interior southern Delta salinity objectives (Order WR 2006-0006) and were adopted on February 16, 2006.

After its passage, the Board ordered DWR and the Bureau “to take corrective actions under a time schedule to obviate the threat of noncompliance with thier permit and license conditions.” This plan included implementing permanent barriers to control the salinity in the Delta. To comply, the DWR and Bureau submitted a plan and schedule to create permanent operable gate structures in the southern Delta through the South Delta Improvement Program (SDIP) by July 1, 2009. According to the State Board, this gate project was contingent upon environmental documentation, regulatory requirements and compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Since completion of the plan and schedule, the DWR and Bureau have failed to meet the salinity standards and install the permanent barriers. The organizations submitted various biological opinions from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service to the State Board, which stated the barriers could not be constructed for several more years—- thus, not meeting the July 1, 2009 deadline for compliance.

Environmentalists from organizations like the California Sport Fishing Alliance and Restore the Delta contend that the salinity standards were protective of the Delta agriculture and the aquatic ecosystem and must be enforced.

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Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta Challenges Starting to Boil

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The age-old battle over “blue gold,” commonly known as water, is boiling over in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta – America’s Most Endangered River. Most analysts are calling it the fight between the people versus the fish. However, there is more to this battle than meets the eyes.

On the surface, the farmers, fishermen, urban users and environmentalists are all fighting over the dwindling water supply in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Overextended water rights, climate change, population growth, less snow pack runoff and drought conditions for the past three years has resulted in a decreased water supply. The dwindling river and continued water exports have put salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon fish populations on the endangered lists as well as the Northwest Pacific killer whales that rely on this food supply. For the past two years, salmon seasons have closed early because of the declining fish populations. As a result, federal judge Wanger had issued an executive order decreasing the amount of water exports for agricultural and urban uses to protect the fish populations.

Although the fishing industry is pleased with any decision to protect the fish, ecosystems and consequently their livelihoods, agribusiness users who rely on the exports are screaming bloody murder as their water exports are decreased, their crops threatened and their livelihoods hanging in the midst. And major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, which receives about 30 percent of its water from the Delta, stand to lose a portion of their dwindling water supply.

This past week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a biological opinion that the Delta’s fish populations face “dire environmental conditions unless irrigation from the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Project – already at historic lows – are curtailed even further.”

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Earth Day and Environmental Justice Close To Home

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Be green, buy hybrids and recycle are all a part of the Earth Day hype and overall environmental awareness. But what about environmental justice and environmental racism.

In honor of Earth Day, I spoke with Bill Gallegos, the Executive Director of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). This nonprofit is “a social justice organization with a focus on environmental health and justice that organizes in working class communities of color because those communities suffer the most from environmental pollution and toxics.  CBE works in urban communities in Northern and Southern California among low-income African Americans, Latinos and other nationalities who are bombarded by pollution from freeways, power plants, oil refineries, seaports, airports, and chemical manufacturers. “

Communities for a Better Environment

Communities for a Better Environment

During my host interview on Annenberg Radio News Tuesday, Gallegos and I discussed the environmental conditions in Southeast Los Angeles. Listen below!




CB’s Green Report: California’s Water System Gets Federal Bailout
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Big news for California and its water supply — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged $260 million in federal stimulus money to help California modernize its outdated water system and ease its water problems.

Salazar and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger went on a helicopter tour of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Wednesday. The federal official saw first-hand California’s overtaxed water system of reservoirs, pumps and canals (designed to supply water to only half of the state’s 37.7 million population), which were built more than 50 years ago.
The federal funds will help California deal with the drought and institute an updated system.

“It is time to modernize, it is time to make hard choices and it’s time for the federal government to re-engage in full partnership with the 21st century water system for the state of California,” he said to the Associated Press.

Salazar plans to use money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create jobs in California and aid its water supply problems.

“From boosting water supplies and improving conservation to improving safety at our dams, these shovel-ready projects will make a real and immediate difference in the lives of farmers, businesses, Native American tribes and communities across California,” Salazar said to Reuters.

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CB’s Green Report: Restore The Delta Says Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Water Challenges Can Be Solved

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This week the American Rivers released its America’s Most Endangered Rivers reports and lists the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta in California, which nearly 25 million Californians depend on for drinking water, in the number one spot. Thousands of farmers as well as the commercial and recreational fishing industries also depend on California’s single most important natural resource, according to the report.

American Rivers claims that this Delta is in bad shape because of the “outdated water supply and flood management systems have put at risk the ecosystem and thousands of Californian families and businesses that depend upon it.” The report also cites years of mismanagement, neglect and conflict as part of the Delta’s problem.

To save the natural resource, the report said that the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water users must develop a workable, sustainable plan “to restore the ecosystem, secure water supplies and reduce the risk of floods.”

Many would call this water issue in the Central Valley of California a challenge. Others say there is an impossible fight being waged over the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the Campaign Director of Restore the Delta, sums up the entire situation by saying: “It’s the day of reckoning.”

At first glance, her statement may sound harsh. However, Barrigan-Parrilla explains that the major problem for the Delta is that the state water resources control board over the years has implemented water projects through the years, which move water in California from north to south, that granted water rights at about 8 1/2 times the total amount of water available – and that’s in a wet year.

“The way water rights have been distributed in California, and who has truthful access, is basically the equivalent of a ponzi scheme,” says Barrigan-Parrilla. “And that is the number one problem.”

With so little water available, there is no wonder people are fighting over it. And then, the situation gets even more complicated with increased pressures from population growth, water contamination due to farming practices, climate change and drought conditions (which are debatable according to Restore the Delta and Michael Fitzgerald of RecordNet.com.)

The fight for water comes from many concerned and effected parties in the Delta and beyond. And this is where Barrigan-Parrilla’s organization has gotten involved. According to Restore the Delta, their two and a half year old organization is attempting to work with all the groups – Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community group, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen and environmentalists – “to make the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable” for California. The group with more than 2,500 supporters also “seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary” and the Delta communities as well as “improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” Given the situation, their goals sound not only incompatible but also somewhat impossible.

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Southern California Muslims Battle Islamophobia in a Post 9/11 World

(Note: This piece was published on Huffington Post today! Hooray!  I’d like to say that I am not Muslim, however I honor and respect all religions. I believe that we all should.)

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Terrorism. Terrorists. Since the planes flew into the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001, these words have become almost synonymous with Islam and being a Muslim. For many Islamic believers in Southern California, the aftermath of September 11 didn’t result in physical harm or even personal attacks, although there were some incidents. Muslims in Southern California express a different pain — the hurt of having their religion constantly associated with terrorism and violence.

From the front page of the daily newspaper to the broadcast channels on television, Southland Muslims said they feel the effects of this post 9/11 characterization of the religion that they care for and believe in deeply. For many, the Islam depicted in the media rarely resembles the one they practice.

“This event had a lot of effects on everybody, especially Muslims,” said Idris Traina, the President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, California. “The media associated this event with Islam, not a group of people who were terrorists. That’s the problem. That’s the stigma that happened with 9/11, and it has had a large effect on Muslims here and everywhere.”

Traina, who is also a member of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California estimates there are more than a half a million Muslims in the Southland. He admitted there isn’t an official census of the Muslim community, but used the figure given by the Islamic Shura Council that compiles this information. The Council, which started in 1995, is an umbrella organization of Southern California mosques and Muslims organizations.

The Islamic leaders and Muslims of Southern California expressed a consistent response concerning their present life after September. Essentially, they think their lives are plagued with a persistent misunderstanding of their religion due to Islam’s repeated association with terrorism. And many Southern California Muslims think America has developed an anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia, which can be seen in the mainstream media.

“Too many Americans associate Islam with terrorism and extremism,” said Malik El-Amin, a 33-year old African American Muslim. “The American public is much more aware of Islam now than before 9/11, but the awareness derives almost entirely from negative stories, stereotypes and misconceptions.”

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey in 2007 found that “public attitudes about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.” Thirty-five percent of Americans polled expressed a negative view of Muslims in 2007, up from 32 percent in 2004 and 29 percent in 2002.

In addition to negative impressions, “twice as many people use negative words as positive words to describe their impressions of the Muslim religion (30% versus 15%),” according to the 2007 Pew Report. The survey also found that “fanatic”, “radical” and “terror” were the most frequently used words to describe Islam.

The American association of the Muslim religion with words like “fanatic” and “terror” serve as examples to what many people now call Islamophobia, which has become a recognized form of intolerance alongside Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism since the 2001 “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance.”

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CB’s Green Report: Stop Crying Detroit & Build Greener Cars

gmc_yukon_denalifront_left_view2007 Toyota Prius Touring Edition

GMC Yukon Denali vs. Toyota Prius Hybrid

Waaah Waaah Waaah Detroit
. Automobile makers are crying the blues at President Obama’s interest in imposing stricter emission standards on their vehicles. The president recently “ordered the government to reconsider whether California and other states could regulate vehicle emissions to help control greenhouse gas emissions, a reversal of a position taken by the Bush administration.” (At the moment, automakers say only the Toyota Prius hybrid and similar vehicles would meet those standards.)

In true Obama form, he emphasized his willingness to work with the carmakers to meet his administration’s goals: energy independence and stopping global warming.

“Let me be clear: Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry,” Obama said at the White House according to MSNBC. “It is to help America’s automakers prepare for the future.”

American automakers claim the emission modifications could potentially put them out of business because they would have to stop producing the larger, gas-guzzlers (read: more profitable vehicles). Although GM and Chrysler just borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government, it appears they were counting on the fat price tags of their less fuel-efficient and not low greenhouse gas emission vehicles like Cadillac Escalade (MSRP mid $60,000′s), Hummer truck (MSRP $60,000-70,000′s), and even the Saab 9-5 (MSRP $40,000′s).

“I think this is the pathway to their survival,” David Doniger of the National Resources Defense Council said to the New York Times. “If carmakers are going to survive in a world of volatile oil prices and global warming, they have to be making more efficient vehicles. When the economy comes back and people start buying cars again, they’re going to expect that gas prices are going to go up, and they’re not going to want the gas hogs that they used to want. Consumers’ tastes have changed in terms of what’s cool.”

Hey Detroit, you proved that you could make a hybrid Escalade. Surely, you can get to work on updating the technology for the rest of the cars, which gives options for larger families and is better for the environment. After all, Americans are paying for it – to the tune of $17.4 billion.

In other news…


Former Vice President Al Gore is urging Congress to support legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions. In his recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gore warned the government to not get so blindsided by the economic crisis that they forget to work on international global warming initiatives. In fact, he reminds them that “the economy, terrorism and the Iraq and Afghan wars are linked by a common thread – our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.” In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions cap, there is another solution that both Obama and Gore agree on: the President’s economic stimulus plan. Obama’s proposal includes investments in clean energy and green jobs that Gore and others think will help the U.S. economy. Green thinking could add up to more green..dollars that is.

Check out Gore’s recent testimony before Congress on greenhouse gases.




Lorne S. Wellington Makes Bras Beautiful Again for Breast Cancer Survivors

I was recently tipped off to the accomplishment of one exceptional lady! Lorne S. Wellington of Sculpted Silhouette in Culver City, Calif. is doing really good work. Known as “The Chief Bra Lady,” Wellington has created a product called “The Bra Pocket,” which allows women who underwent a mastectomy due to breast cancer to wear regular bras. “This multi-colored disc-shaped pocket transforms almost any bra into a prosthetic bra,” said Wellington. “No longer do you have to choose from limited styles and designs for bras.” This pocket device goes a long way in the emotional aspect of losing a breast, which may leave some women feeling unbalanced and unattractive. Breast cancer survivors can now wear any bra of their choosing. How empowering!

Sculpted Silhouette also “fits, sells and educates women of all shapes and sizes about bras and the right fit.” I encourage all the ladies out there to check her out.

To women doing great things,

The Caramel Bella




Gay Marriage Supporter: It’s Not Too Late For Civil Rights

Cabrera at San Francisco City Hall Protesting Prop. 8

Although the United States made history on Nov. 4 by electing its first African-American president, supporters of California’s No on Proposition 8 (a ban on gay marriage) suggest that American prejudice and discrimination still run deep.

After the ban on gay marriage was passed, members of the gay community have come out in cities across the country to protest. (Meanwhile, gay marriages were legally passed in Connecticut last week.) They seek respect, dignity and their civil rights, which to them means the ability to marry who they love regardless of gender. Since the election results on the measure were released, members of the gay community are troubled by the fact that blacks and Latinos voted disproportionately against the measure. And the No on 8 supporters also “estimate that members of the Mormon Church gave more than $20 million to the effort to pass the measure, though that is difficult to confirm because records of campaign donations do not include religious affiliation.”

Pop + Politics caught up with No on Proposition 8 supporter Carlos Cabrera, 26, of San Francisco, Calif. Cabrera is a single gay man who is openly concerned about the future of gay marriage in California and across the nation. Although the measure passed on Nov. 4, Cabrera and others have spent their time protesting its passage at rallies, including one this past Saturday at San Francisco’s City Hall. He has also talked to numerous family members and friends about the issue.

There are several reasons why proponents of Prop 8 don’t want gay marriage or condone homosexuality. For some people, homosexuality goes against God and other religious beliefs. While religious groups continue to question whether homosexuality is genetic or if it is a chosen lifestyle, Cabrera says that he was born this way.

“I knew I was different from the time I was a little boy around five years old. I remember having dreams (non-sexual) about men, and feeling something about them. I couldn’t place a label on it until I was a teenager, and even then, only reluctantly. Growing up in a Catholic, Latino household I was very repressed growing up. We never talked about gays.  And whenever the topic was mentioned it was either quickly dismissed or my parents would ridicule them. As a result, when I was about 14 and knew for a fact that I was “gay” it was very traumatic for me, internally. I couldn’t face this reality, nor could I accept myself as gay until I was nearly 19. That was when I started college, and I met other gay people who showed me that the stereotypes that existed on television (i.e., extremely effeminate gay men who got AIDS and were rejected by their families) weren’t reflected in their lives. In fact, they all seemed “normal” to me by most societal standards; they just happened to be gay. Later on, I gained the courage to join my school’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual people) club, where I later became president and found it much more comfortable identifying openly as gay.”

P+P continued the conversation with Cabrera about his thoughts on Prop. 8.

Why is Prop 8 so important to you?
Well, it’s important to me because I believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love. It’s an issue of civil equity, not of privilege. And the passage of Proposition 8 saddened me because it’s discriminatory against a certain group of people who are doing nothing wrong. Moreover, it troubles me that Prop 8 was such a “wedge” issue for the religious right. Their adamant support for the measure imposes their religious beliefs on others, which I think is just plain wrong and offensive.

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Residents of Diamond Bar Leave Evacuation Center & Return Home

Today, I spent my entire day covering the Diamond Bar fire’s evacuation center. The bad air really did me in. My lungs are crying right now. Check out my story on Annenberg TV News. (And don’t laugh because I look tired. Grad school and bad air will do it to you every time.)

I’m going to try and start posting more of my own video stories.

Smooches!

The Caramel Bella




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My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, It was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, We borrow it from our Children - Ancient Indian Proverb

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