The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District has adopted a sewer hookup fee schedule that increases rates for development on the urban fringe, but decreases the fees in existing urban areas. Previously, the Sanitation District charged all new homes the same amount for a sewer connection — $3,500 — regardless of a structure's location. Under the new plan, a home in a fringe areas such as North Natomas and portions of Elk Grove, Folsom and Orangevale would be assessed $5,850 by 2004. The fee for a home in more urbanized areas almost immediately dropped to $2,350. Backers of the plan, including environmental organizations and some Sacramento city and county leaders, said it would discourage greenfield development and encourage infill. The Building Industry Association of Superior California lobbied against the fee schedule, saying there was no basis for the decision. Monterey County supervisors approved one moratorium on new subdivisions in one part of the county, and extended an existing subdivision moratorium elsewhere. In late January, the Board of Supervisors imposed a moratorium on new subdivisions in Carmel Valley, east of Monterey, because of congestion on Carmel Valley Road. Officials said the moratorium would remain in place until the county upgrades the road and updates the general plan and Carmel Valley master plan. The moratorium does not affect building permits for already approved projects. Also in late January, supervisors extended for another six months a moratorium for an area north of Salinas that is critically short of water. The North County moratorium was already in place 18 months when supervisors extended it. Area residents and farmers rely on wells, but experts say the groundwater is being depleted. Thus far, no project to pipe water into the area has moved forward. As expected, an environmental impact report for the planned University of California, Merced, campus has been challenged in court. Three groups — Protect Our Water, the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, and the Central Valley Safe Environment Network — filed the suit in February over the EIR approved one month earlier by UC regent. The environmental groups argue that UC segmented the review process rather than examine the entire 2,500-acre campus and new community as one project. Officials at UC defended the EIR on the proposed campus and said it was significant that no major, mainstream environmental group filed the lawsuit. The Merced County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider an EIR for the university community later this year. A Southern California developer pleaded guilty in February of attempting to bribe the mayor of Huntington Park. Harry Hwang of Huntington Park is scheduled to be sentenced in April on two counts of bribery. Huntington Park Mayor Richard Loya contacted the FBI last year when Hwang offered a bribe to get Loya's vote for a proposed retail and entertainment center, and for a city subsidy for the project. Hwang offered to launder political contributions for Loya, said he would pay for a Mexican vacation for the mayor and his wife, and even offered employment after Loya completed his term of office. In August, FBI agents videotaped Hwang handing Loya $4,000 in cash outside a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Federal prosecutors cut the plea deal with Hwang, but the federal investigation into alleged corruption in Huntington Park is ongoing. California's High-Speed Rail Authority could be back on track next fiscal year. The 2002-03 budget proposed by Gov. Davis contains the full $8.46 million requested by the Rail Authority. Last year, the Rail Authority requested $14 million but received only $1 million (see CP&DR Public Development, December 2001). The agency, which is planning high-speed rail lines connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento and the Bay Area, cobbled together about $4 million from various federal sources and unused state monies to keep the effort going. If it receives the requested $8.46 million, the Rail Authority could complete an environmental impact report by mid-2003, according to officials. The governor has given mixed signals about the proposed high-speed train. Some people speculate that the September 11 terrorist attack may have caused him to reconsider the program in a more favorable light. The project has considerable support in the Legislature, especially from Central Valley representatives. Two architects who had big plans for establishing a jazz district in downtown Oakland during the 1980s have had a jury's award of damages tossed out. The architects, brothers Glenn and Richard Storek, had won a $41.8 million verdict against Citicorp Inc., which pulled funding for the project at the last minute. An Alameda County jury found that Citicorp committed fraud. But in an unpublished opinion issued in February, the First District Court of Appeal reduced the jury's award of damages to $900,001. The ambitious project called for redeveloping a stretch of Old Oakland with jazz clubs, restaurants and offices. The deal was to be financed with $30 million of municipal bonds and a $9 million loan from Citicorp. Development got started, but Citicorp refused to pay the last $1 million of the loan because of project cost overruns. The project stalled and Citicorp foreclosed. The Storeks sued and, after one jury deadlocked, they won the second trial. The appellate panel still ruled for the Storeks but found that there was no causal connection between the alleged fraud and the damages they suffered. A U.S. District Court decision issued in February could serve as a major setback to the CalFed project that seeks to restore the health of the Bay Delta. Fresno District Court Judge Oliver Wanger ruled that the Department of the Interior was measuring water incorrectly, and Central Valley farmers were entitled to water that federal officials have been devoting to environmental purposes. Under CalFed legislation, 800,000 acre-feet of water is to be dedicated for restoration of Bay Delta water quality and habitat every year. About half of that water would have been delivered to farmers. In exchange for giving up that water, farmers received a guarantee that additional water would not be diverted. However, in wet years, Interior was deducting water that refilled reservoirs from the amount dedicated to the environment. The Westlands Water District and other irrigation agencies argued that because of this approach, as much as 1.1 million acre-feet of water was going to environmental purposes, when the extra 300,000 acre-feet should have been made available to agricultural customers of the Central Valley Project. Wanger agreed. Environmentalists said the ruling was a setback for endangered species of smelt and salmon. The way federal biologists interpret Wanger's decision appears to be key. An appeal of the decision is likely. Mendocino County is in an uproar over a proposal by an entrepreneur to collect water from two rivers in giant plastic bags, and pull the bags with a tugboat to San Diego. As of February, Ric Davidge of Anchorage, Alaska-based Water World SA had an application for 20,000 acre-feet of water rights to the Gualala and Albion rivers pending before the State Water Resources Control Board. The proposal calls for burying a device like a cistern at the mouth of each river. A pipeline would carry freshwater from the collection points to plastic bags floating offshore. "There will be no loss of water table in the river, or in its associated ground water systems," Davidge told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is already on record against the proposal. Sonoma County supervisors, state Sen. Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) and Assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) also have taken a stand against the concept. They say the proposal would set back efforts to restore endangered species habitat along the North Coast.