Agriculture Among GEELA Recipients

Agriculture Among 2015 GEELA Recipients Honored

Twelve California organizations received the state’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), in a ceremony last evening in California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, Sacramento. Established in 1993, GEELA is awarded to individuals, companies and organizations that use sustainable business practices to conserve energy, reduce waste or prevent pollution while contributing to their local economy.

“This year’s GEELA recipients made extraordinary gains in sustainability, waste reduction and conservation,” said Secretary for Environmental Protection Matthew Rodriquez. “The winners also demonstrated their environmental achievements resulted in greater efficiency and economic benefits that spread beyond their organizations.”

The 2015 GEELA winners are:

Prather Ranch (Shasta County) for minimizing waste from animal food products and creating conservation easements to protect endangered species.

Sonoma County Winegrape Commission (Sonoma County) for advancing the goal to make Sonoma County the first fully sustainable wine region in the country by 2019.

Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund (Alameda County) for its “ReThink Disposable” source reduction program that has helped 100 businesses and institutions reduce single-use disposable food and beverage packaging products by an average of 70 percent.

Sacramento Water Forum (Sacramento County) for its unprecedented effort to manage water temperature in real-time to protect incubating .. As a result of the partnership with U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 95 percent of the brood survived.

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (San Diego County) for annual enhancements of its waste reduction programs, including expanding food composting to all concessions, and recycling of air conditioner condensation.

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation (San Diego County) for its “Organics Marketplace” waste diversion program that has kept more than 16,000 tons of organic waste out of regional landfills, resulting in $20 million a year in savings.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Los Angeles County) for water conservation education programs for pre-K through college level, used by more than 300 schools.

South San Francisco Scavenger Company and Blue Line Transfer, Inc. (San Mateo County) for the dry fermentation anaerobic digestion facility that is first in the nation to create a closed loop renewable fueling station from the processing of organics.

Stanford University for a new 70 percent more efficient energy system.

Orange County Department of Education and Orange County Waste & Recycling for “Project Zero Waste,” a K-12 education program at 200 schools. 

REV for peer-based community learning to help organizations adopt a mindset of sustainability and improve efficiency.

City of Anaheim for the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, the world’s first LEED Platinum designed transit station.

The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges that included the Governor’s Office and the secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.  

For more information on the GEELA program and this year’s award recipients, please visit www.calepa.ca.gov/Awards/GEELA/.

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Reclamation Announces It Will Dump Water While Thousands Stand in Line for Food Handouts

The following is a statement by Dan Nelson, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, regarding the release of water from Trinity Reservoir by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for speculative fishery purposes.

Today, United States Bureau of Reclamation announced it will dump precious Central Valley Project water while the people of our valley suffer from well-documented and widely reported social and economic destruction as a result of government policies compounded by the drought.

While over 2,000,000 acres of farmland throughout the Central Valley, which produces over half of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables, continues to have a 0 percent water supply from the Central Valley Project, Reclamation has determined there is somehow enough water available to let it go down the Lower Klamath River in the hope it may help conditions for unthreatened salmon. This decision is wrong – both scientifically and morally.

At issue is fear about a repeat of a fish die-off that occurred in 2002 – the one and only occurrence in recorded history. It is hypothesized that the die-off was caused by a number of co-occurring factors: over-abundance of returning fish, low flows in the river, and the presence of endemic diseases such as Ich.

However, since recordkeeping of flows and the number of returning fish began in 1978, there have been six other occasions when conditions have been similar to or worse than today and no fish die-off has ever occurred.

Since the once in history die-off, Reclamation has provided additional flows upon request on occasions when a repeat was feared. Initially, Reclamation acquired the water from willing sellers but more recently they have simply taken the water from CVP water and power customers.

Again this year, Reclamation received a request to provide additional flows. However, on July 30 they announced they would not do so because the number of returning fish is far below previous levels of concern and, in light of the severe drought conditions, it is vital to preserve as much water as possible for the future. When Reclamation declined the request they stated they would monitor conditions for the outbreak of disease and if emergency criteria were triggered, they would be prepared to respond rapidly.

Today, none of the environmental conditions upon which all previous decisions have been made support Reclamation’s reversal. The number of returning salmon is still well below the established level of concern. In fact, reports from field biologists, fishing guides and fishermen along the Lower Klamath all indicate that the prevalent fish in the river is steelhead, not Chinook salmon.

There are no reports of any disease outbreak, which was the requisite condition for change Reclamation established just weeks ago. The only condition that has changed is the increase in volume in the voices of a few special interests.

Sadly, Reclamation and the Trinity Management Council squandered the 369,000 acre-feet of water they had available from Trinity Reservoir for fishery management this year. For years, they have been encouraged to set water aside for contingency purposes. This year, like all others, they have ignored that advice and have once again created a completely avoidable crisis.

No one wants to see a repeat of the fish die-off that occurred in 2002. And, our current understanding of the environmental conditions and science strongly suggests it will not reoccur. This makes the uncertainty that is the basis of today’s decision so egregious. Public policy decisions should be based upon a real and substantiated balance of the risks and benefits.

This is what we know – the fish claimed to be of concern are not present in significant numbers. There is no evidence that the disease of concern is present. The emergency criteria developed by Reclamation and federal fish agencies have not been triggered. The potentially bad side effects to other fish and wildlife, some of which are threatened, have not been studied. And, any potential benefits of undertaking this action are purely speculative.

In contrast, the damage being brought to the families, farms, rural communities, and vital wetlands of California’s Central Valley by government policies will continue. Reclamation’s response to the request from people losing homes, businesses, and hope, for even a little bit of CVP water to lessen the crisis, has been consistently no – there simply is not any more to provide. Until today.

ANOTHER BIOLOGICAL OPINION CHALLENGE

New Biological Opinion for Yuba River Dams!

According to the Association of California Water Agencies, a federal court ordered a new biological opinion (BiOp) for Daguerre Point and Englebright Dams this week.
U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England set a May 12, 2014 due date for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to issue a new biological opinion, and told the federal government to not utilize the existing 2012 BiOp in the preparation of the new opinion or in any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing processes for the two dams.
Yuba County Water Agency, Nevada Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric and other plaintiffs challenged the 2012 BiOp, which identified dam removal and other fish passage improvements as the preferred approaches to improve conditions for spring run Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon.

 

The local water agencies argued that fish passage improvements or dam removal would negatively impact water deliveries and hydropower generation, and imperil the award-winning Lower Yuba River Accord, a regional agreement benefitting agriculture and fisheries. Furthermore, the plaintiffs said the 2012 BiOp was flawed and violated key elements of the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

 

England issued a stay of proceedings until the new biological opinion is done, and he denied a related lawsuit from a local environmental group seeking enforcement of the 2012 BiOp. He also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the two dams, to continue taking steps to improve fish habitat on the river.