Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the day “September 18, 2013”

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wednesday at 8 PM

Tonight’s topics include MID candidates, the Serpa rule, where are our MID payments going,  water mining, the latest from the

 

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Planning Commission, Wood Colony and Salida,  these topics and more so tune into tonight and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 8:00 PM

 

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To listen live or from the archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/09/19/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

 

Is MID at it Again?

By Emerson Drake

During the discussion of the consent calendar we requested some information on several items.  Document #11389 in the

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amount of $37,946.87 and #11408 in the amount of $8,247.96 were detailed for manual checks.  No breakdown was given.  And Document #11404   in the amount of $18,229.63 –  #11430 in the amount of $12,590.11 – #11459 in the amount of $38,436.15, detailed for prepaid procurement cards and again no detail was given.

$115,450.72 in money for which no detail has been provided is a concern.  So we made a public records request for the details regarding these expenditures.  When the topic was broached all that was asked for was an explanation.  The example we received was “for example it would repay employees for bridge tolls.”  Now we don’t know how much of this money was spent on tolls,  but using bridge tolls as an example for over $115,000.00 spent between August 6 thru August 27 seems a little ludicrous.

We also questioned a $1,300 dollar charge labeled ‘monthly’ for progress magazine which is a publication by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.  The same chamber which actively supported selling our water long term to San Francisco and which endorses political candidates including those for the Modesto Irrigation District. This presents an ethical dilemma for MID and the ratepayers. We have repeatedly requested this practice be halted to no avail.  It may be we’ll have to wait for new candidates to be elected to help support Directors Larry Byrd and Nick Blom.

Three MID candidates to avoid: Jim Mortensen, John Mensinger, and Paul Campbell

Jim Mortensen actually jumped up to be speak during the public comment period to support/endorse (he used both terms) last weeks adoption of the “Serpa” rule in the Board Governance policy specifically section BL-4 (b).  Quite honestly I was surprised but maybe I shouldn’t have been.  He was nominated by Tom Van Groningen to the Water Advisory Board.  He promised NOT to run for the MID Board and as soon as possible he pulled papers and signed up to run.  Jim Mortensen has also publicly spoken in favor of selling our water to San Francisco.  John Mensinger and Paul Campbell both failed to speak out against the proposed water sale. For Mortensen to support a policy that not only allows but insists the General Manager and Attorney NOT allow requests for information if it takes up too much staff time or is disruptive, is unconscionable. Please remember former GM Allen Short deemed 15 minutes of staff time as too much.

Trust is something you build

Already our new General Manager Roger ‘the Dodger’ VanHoy has demonstrated a desire to withhold information from the public and also a penchant for presenting misinformation unless his feet are held to the fire by the Board.  After remaining silent last week when asked if the ‘Serpa’ rule was part of the Governance policy we got a taste of things to come IF he’s allowed to go the way of his mentor Allen Short.

We are also following up with TID Board President Michael Frantz regarding Board of Control report concerns.  More on that subject after we’ve talked with Director Frantz.

If you get the chance, ask “the Dodger” why MID is spending over $6,000 a year on having bottled water delivered when MID own’s two water treatment plants. His answer would be funny until you consider the elderly and low income people barely scraping by so his people in Ripon, the Woodland generator(near MJC) and,  believe it or not, the MID legal Department, can drink bottled water.  Maybe he doesn’t like the taste of ours.

I know it gives me a sour taste in my mouth what about you?

VANCE KENNEDY AT MID ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2013

Vance C. Kennedy

Since the last MID Board meeting a lawyer friend of mine was kind enough to call my attention to a report, published in 2011,

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which is applicable to the question of what can be done about the grossly over-drafting of the water table in the foothills.  I have left a partial copy of the reference with Pat, your secretary.

I quote, “The common law doctrine of correlative rights regulates the taking and use of groundwater, unless local arrangements apply.  That doctrine limits groundwater pumping to the ‘safe yield’, being the volume of natural and artificial recharge of the aquifer, which is shared by overlying landowners on an “equitable basis” (regardless of their particular uses), and by non-overlying landowners, if there is sufficient water available.”

That last “if there is sufficient water available” is the key.  There is not sufficient water available to support the water drawn by the existing and proposed deep wells.  The rainfall in the foot hills averages in the range 12 to 14 inches of water per year, of which perhaps half contributes to groundwater.  Almond trees being planted require at least 30 inches of water per year, so there is a shortage of about 24 inches of water above the safe yield.   The shortage is being made up by mining ancient groundwater (2,000 to 13,000 years old) in direct conflict with the doctrine of safe yield.  It causes major and continuing drops in the regional water table.  The result is a short time benefit to the County of a large increase in almond production and a long term societal disaster for the foothills region.  Politically, it is a “hot potato”, but must not be ignored, as in the past.  Irreplaceable and extensive damage has already occurred and must not continue.

In sedimentary rock deposits it is well known that the lateral permeability of rocks is much greater than the vertical permeability.  Therefore, when a deep well operates, it can draw water much more easily from the side than above.  That water comes from the neighbors before it comes from the overlying rock.  California is one of two states that have no groundwater laws, but tort law may very well apply, since a neighbor’s property may become worthless as a result of the almond grower’s actions.  After all, if water is too deep or expensive to pump, a foothill house and land is worthless.  It no longer provides taxes to the County or a livelihood to people.

Who is responsible for filing the lawsuit to recover damages due to these deep high-volume wells?  It’s a valid question.  It is my non-lawyer understanding that if the problem is a purely local one, the affected property owner is responsible for handling the suit, but if it is a regional problem, the public authorities have the responsibility.  There is little doubt that this is a regional problem and therefore the County should file suit to stop the pumping and reimburse the harmed property owners.  There is some discussion of this question in the reference mentioned.

I realize that this is outside the sphere of influence of MID, but I thought the MID members might be interested.

A copy of this talk will be provided to the Board of Supervisors, and, as a water agency, you might be interested in following up on the information I have provided.

Part four in the applicable section: UncommonInnovation

Planning Commission Forwards Recommendations to City Council, 4-3

By Emerson Drake

Monday night’s Planning Commission (PC) meeting was one of the most enlightening so far.  Traipsing through the murky

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waters of the General Plan Amendment process has been challenging.  Like all public processes at times it becomes trench warfare with groups like Modesto’s Chamber of Commerce saying one thing publicly and then maneuvering behind the scenes in a completely different direction.

The case in point

The Chamber has been talking publicly with the Commission and interested parties like those from Salida, saying Salida should be removed from Modesto’s General Plan. But when it came time to vote the three Commissioners most closely tied to Modesto’s Chamber, Ted Brandvold, Steve Carter,  and Marshall Riddle,  finally showed their cards.  They openly voted against the PC’s Staff proposal  and  earlier attempts to return Salida to the General Plan along with an additional 1,200 feet on the North side of Kiernan between Dale and McHenry.

Brent Sinclair had explained to the PC and the public that he and staff had made the recommendations because he believed, not only could he sell the plan to the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO),  but that Modesto could set the standard for all Stanislaus County communities to follow.  At previous meetings Brandvold’s comments had made it obvious he had bought into Craig Lewis’ ‘we need to stay ahead of Riverbank’ spiel.

Craig Lewis made a last desperate attempt to try and sway the Planning Commission by pointing out how many acres less the new proposal was but it was quickly responded to by acknowledging the majority of the acreage being removed was Salida.  The Commissioners didn’t buy the keeping up with the Jones’ (Riverbank) or maybe like many of those in the audience they were aware Riverbank is in the process of pulling back their General Plan boundaries to more reasonable limits.

The PC Staff recommendations  091613_PC Agenda GPA WkShp

The Brandvold, Carter, Riddle proposal which included the additional land failed to pass 3-4 and the following vote to  support the PC Staff’s proposal passed 4-3.

Another interesting note was the mention of the several hundred notices which had been sent to landowners in the now expanded Beckwith-Dakota Triangle (1,830 acres in the shape of a rectangle) and that only 6-8 came to the meeting.  Also of note was Commissioner Brandvold’s comment that the same few faces from Salida were always present and he wasn’t convinced they represented Salida’s position on annexation. You can imagine the reaction. You had the Salida Chamber of Commerce represented at the meeting along with the Salida MAC. The Salida MAC had previously voted to officially oppose the annexation of Salida by Modesto so I’m really not sure what he was thinking or if he was…thinking.

It could have just as easily been said that the same few people had been representing Modesto Developers at these meetings but since he clandestinely supported the Chamber it went unsaid by him.  It also needs to be noticed Salida has continually supported their friends to the south, Wood Colony, in their attempt to avoid annexation.  But there are those, especially those who didn’t bother to attend this meeting,  who would sow the seeds of dissent and ignore this fact.

It’s far from over

The business park planned for the Beckwith-Dakota triangle is HUGE and 1,830 acres (almost 3 square miles) is too much land to allow to be stolen from farmers and those living in Wood Colony.  It has been pointed out repeatedly NO buffer between Business Parks  is allotted for. And if this doesn’t change the harassing lawsuits against these farmers are inevitable regardless of Right to Farm Ordinances.

Chris Tyler’s comment from the prior meeting, “Prove it Works”, is important to remember because if those responsible for placing businesses in the proposed business park allow an inequitable arrangement similar to the one Blue Diamond received in Turlock we’ll have squandered, not only our legacy for Modesto’s future, but allowed the best soil on God’s green earth to be paved over.  Giving away 88 precious acres of some of best farmland in the world for 50 jobs has to be considered unacceptable. Over in Mountain House they insist on high quality jobs to be brought in or they turn the businesses away. I realize how desperate we are for jobs but we can’t afford a giveaway to “buddies” to line the pockets of a few.

The recent months with the Planning Commission have been similar to the opening skirmish of a major battle and the Modesto City Council will be the battleground.  The big guns/power brokers will be brought in to do battle in the main arena. Of notice was land use attorney/developers mouthpiece George Petrulakis sitting in the back of the room taking in the preliminary’s planning and  awaiting the spectacle yet to come.

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