The Sacramento County Water Agency and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (MUD) broke ground on an historic water project in May. The Freeport Regional Water Project will provide water for growth in South Sacramento County, including the cities of Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, while East Bay MUD will be able to pump up to 133,000 acre-feet of water during drought years to supplement the district's reservoirs.
For three decades, East Bay MUD fought Sacramento interests over the district's attempt to take water from the lower American River. In 2000, the district reached an agreement with the Sacramento County agency, the City of Sacramento and the Bureau of Reclamation, an agreement that led to the Freeport project (see CP&DR Environment Watch, December 2001). Water agencies in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, which feared the project would threaten their supplies, sued over the project but lost.
Rather than pumping directly from the American River, East Bay MUD and the Sacramento County agency will divert water from the Sacramento River at Freeport, about 10 miles below the Sacramento River's confluence with the American. A pipeline will tie in with East Bay MUD's existing Mokelumne Aqueduct. The project will also provide water to the Cosumnes River during times of low flow in hopes of re-establishing a salmon fishery.
Among the areas that will be served by the Sacramento agency is the 20,000-unit Sunrise-Douglas community plan area in Rancho Cordova. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court rejected a water analysis for the project because it did not adequately describe long-term water sources and the impacts of using those sources (see CP&DR, March 2007). Although the ruling was a victory for environmentalists and a blow against the development, the Sacramento County Water Agency expects to start delivering water from the Freeport project to the community plan area within three years.
Flood safety improvements in Sacramento took two steps forward recently. In mail balloting, 81% of Sacramento-area landowners approved a property tax increase of about $35 for a typical house. The tax is expected to provide about $326 million over 30 years as a local match for state and federal flood control spending.
In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers in May filed a record of decision approving improvements to Folsom Dam. The $1.3 billion-project includes construction of a new spillway that is intended to improve flood safety. The project also makes a future 3-foot height increase of the dam possible.
Sacramento has the worst flood protection of any major American city, but planned projects such as the Folsom Dam improvements and levee upgrades would give Sacramento 200-year flood protection.
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a master plan for revitalizing the Los Angeles River. The plan calls for making a 32-mile stretch of the river into an environmental, recreational and aesthetic asset, rather than simply a concrete-lined flood control channel (see CP&DR Places, April 2007). However, plan implementation will cost an estimated $2 billion and the city has identified few solid funding sources.
Fresno County Supervisor Bob Waterston resigned from the Fresno County Local Agency Formation Commission two days after the Fresno Bee ran a story raising conflict of interest questions.
Waterston voted for six City of Sanger annexations to accommodate subdivisions proposed by RZR Enterprises, even though his pool-building business was doing work for the Orange County-based developer. Pools by Waterston built a pool and other amenities for model homes in one RZR subdivision on which the supervisor did not vote, according to the Bee. Waterston's company also built six pools in two other subdivisions for which he did cast votes in favor of annexation, and the company was listed as the exclusive pool builder for the subdivisions.
A county supervisor since 2001, Waterston was appointed to LAFCO in 2003 and was chairman when he quit. In a letter of resignation, he denied that his business interests influenced his vote, but he apologized "for my lapse in judgment creating the perception of a breach of trust."
A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Department of Energy failed to address radioactive and toxic waste at the closed Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the hills between Simi Valley and the San Fernando Valley, an area considered for residential development. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Samuel Conti ruled that the federal government's review of the site was inadequate under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and he barred a transfer of ownership until the government satisfies NEPA.
From the 1950s until 1996, the site was a center of nuclear research and test facilities. A 1959 partial meltdown of one of the reactors is considered the biggest nuclear accident in U.S. history, and there is believed to be widespread radioactive and chemical pollution on the 290-acre site. The site is encompassed in a 2,400-acre site now owned by Rocketdyne Propulsion, which built and tested engines there. The Department of Energy remains responsible for all environmental cleanup, however.
The case is NRDC v. Department of Energy, No. 04-04448.
Four water agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley have reached an agreement regarding the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by perchlorate, a chemical used in making rocket fuel and explosives. Whittaker-Bermite and Remediation Financial, Inc., will pay $100 million for replacement wells and pipelines and for a treatment plant to remove perchlorate from groundwater.
Perchlorate contamination has become a public health and water planning issue in the Santa Clarita Valley since the contaminant was first detected in wells seven years ago. Environmentalists have successfully sued over environmental impact reports and water plans that did not adequately account for the contamination (see CP&DR Environment Watch, June 2006; CP&DR Legal Digest, December 2005) and have a pending Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the Castaic Lake Water Agency over the agency's plans for addressing perchlorate.
The 1,000-acre Whittaker-Bermite site was used for the manufacture of munitions, flares and other explosive devices for at least 50 years until it closed in 1999.
Former Siskiyou County Planning Director Wayne Virag has been fined $2,600 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to disclose economic interests in real property and for failing to file a statement of economic interests upon leaving office.
News from around the state: A Riverside County grand jury has indicted four San Jacinto councilmen and four people in the development business; San Marcos has adopted a specific plan for a new downtown; Yolo County has completed an ambitious general plan update; and Santa Clara County property owners are letting an open space district keep the proceeds of an illegal tax.
The Coastal Commission has rejected Pebble Beach Company's Del Monte Forest plan in Monterey County, Placer County Board of Supervisors remove thier panning commissioner after published controversy, a superior court judge rejects San Francisco referendum petitions, Napa County begins processing an application for the largest project in county history, and Oregonians will vote on a takings ballot measure.
News from around the state: Sonoma County drops plans to take more water from the Russian River, angering cities; CSU Monterey Bay agrees to mitigate some of its off-campus impacts; Lake County may get a fourth Indian casino.
San Bernardino County has experienced more than its share of corruption during the past two decades, including the conviction of two county administrative officers, a county supervisor's admission that he accepted bribes, and both successful and pending prosecution of elected officials in county and city government. But none of the past episodes compares with the scandal outlined in mid-February by Attorney General Jerry Brown and District Attorney Michael Ramos.
A former San Joaquin County political operative who was convicted of corruption in 2005 has had five of 17 guilty counts thrown out by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate panel overturned counts of attempted extortion against Monte McFall but upheld conviction on 12 counts of extortion, mail fraud and witness tampering.
Relations between the City of Alameda and developer SunCal appear to have soured in the wake of voters' overwhelming defeat of SunCal's plan to redevelop Alameda Naval Air Station. Three days after 85% of voters rejected SunCal's plan during a February 2 special election, city officials sent SunCal a notice of default, the first step in ending SunCal's exclusive negotiating agreement to redevelop the base.
The nonprofit organization GreenInfo Network has released a newly revised database that attempts to identify every publicly protected parcel of open land in California, ranging from national forest to urban pocket park. The database inventories 49 million acres of protected land composed of 51,500 separate holdings owned by 860 governmental agencies or nonprofit organizations. Downloadable for free, the information should be of use to planners, academics, government agencies, nonprofit organization, businesses and others, said Larry Orman, GreenInfo Network executive director.
Opponents of the Gold Rush Ranch 1,600-unit housing development and golf resort in Sutter Creek submitted referendum petitions with 468 signatures in early February (see CP&DR Local Watch, January 15, 2010). If as few as one-third of those signatures is valid, the referendum of the Gold Rush Ranch specific plan and general plan amendment would qualify for the ballot, possibly as soon as June.
Characterized as "the last piece in the puzzle" for Chula Vista bayfront redevelopment, a land swap between the San Diego Unified Port District and developer Pacifica Holdings has been approved by the district and the City of Chula Vista.