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Mendocino County Today: December 28, 2013

SLOW LEARNERS. Ukiah Unified is investing $282,000 in laptop computers for its 900 third and tenth grade students. The devices will allegedly “help students transition to the Common Core State Standards,” according to district Superintendent Debra Kubin.

WHATEVER. But Ukiah is apparently unaware that the LA schools invested more than a million bucks in electronic learning devices which were immediately either altered or sold by students delighted at the sudden gift. More teachers and smaller classes might help Johnny learn to read and perform a few simple math tasks, but so long as the state is passing out tax money for school districts to buy gizmos, school districts will buy gizmos.

ONE OF THE ARGUMENTS for laptops for the kids is that it will reduce the costs of textbooks since the devices will have the software equivalent of textbooks without the actual “book.” But, as unsuccessful teacher testimony provided to the LA Unified School Board (who ignored all practical arguments against using construction bond money to pay for iPads for every student), the cost of mostly unnecessary “automatic updates” to the textbooks is more expensive than the hard-copy books which even if they were updated regularly don’t cost as much as the mandatory updates that the school district is required to buy as a condition of getting a small discount on the iPads.

FOR TWENTY YEARS NOW we’ve been told that computers in the classroom (which has now ballooned into computers for every kid) would somehow magically improve US education levels and test results.

BUT, according to a recent report from the highly regarded Programme for International Student Assessment:

“Among the 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, the United States performed below average in mathematics in  2012 and is ranked 26th (this is the best estimate, although the rank could be between 23 and  29 due to sampling and measurement error). Performance in reading and science are both close to the OECD average. The United States ranks 17 in reading, (range of ranks: 14 to 20) and 21 in science (range of ranks: 17 to 25). There has been no significant change in these performances over time.

“Mathematics scores for the top-performer, Shanghai-China, indicate a performance that is the  equivalent of over two years of formal schooling ahead of those observed in Massachusetts,  itself a strong-performing US state.

“While the US spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around $53,000 per  student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over $115,000 per  student.

“Just over one in four US students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency – a higher-than-OECD average proportion and one that hasn’t changed since 2003. At  the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the US has a below-average share of top performers.

“Students in the United States have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical  terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems.

“Socio-economic background has a significant impact on student performance in the United States, with some 15% of the variation in student performance explained by this, similar to  the OECD average. Although this impact has weakened over time, disadvantaged students show less engagement, drive, motivation and self-beliefs.

“Students in the US are largely satisfied with their school and view teacher-student relations positively. But they do not report strong motiviation towards learning mathematics: only 50% of students agreed that they are interested in learning mathematics, slightly below the OECD average of 53%.”


ACCORDING TO THE SONOMA COUNTY WATER AGENCY, the Ukiah area has received only 7.67 inches of rain since Jan. 1, 2013, which is only 22% of the average of 34.18 inches, making 2013 the “lowest rainfall year on record in 120 years.” Here in Mendo, we get much of our water info from Sonoma County because Sonoma County owns most of the water in Lake Mendocino. As a result of the “severely low rainfall,” the water supply level in Lake Mendocino was only 28,457 acre-feet on Dec. 18, which is considered “critical.”

(Lake Mendocino, Dec. 2013 (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
(Lake Mendocino, Dec. 2013 (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

WITH NO SIGNIFICANT RAIN forecast before the end of the year, the SCWA predicts that the lake will have only 26,000 acre-feet of water by Dec. 31. That amount is significantly less than the low level recorded in 2009, which was 33,137 acre-feet.

TO PRESERVE THE WATER SUPPLY, the SCWA is asking the State Water Resources Control Board to change how it measures how much water is available to the Russian River system.

CURRENTLY, the state uses “cumulative inflow into Lake Pillsbury” to determine the water supply and how much water can be released. However, the SCWA is asking that the state use the actual amount of water in Lake Mendocino as its gauge instead. According to the SCWA, the cumulative inflow into Lake Pillsbury on Dec. 18 — 4,010 acre-feet — deems conditions in the area as dry, while actual conditions in the Russian River system “remain very dry.”

IF THE CURRENT GAUGE IS USED, “this will require (maintaining) higher minimum instream flows in the Upper Russian River than Lake Mendocino can reliably sustain. If storage in Lake Mendocino is depleted, then water will not be available to maintain ... flows during the spring, summer and fall of 2014 that are necessary to support threatened and endangered species, agriculture and domestic and municipal water supplies.”

According to the SCWA, Lake Mendocino is a key drinking water source for the cities of Ukiah, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Hopland, and water releases from Lake Mendocino support flows in the Russian River for the threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout during the fall and winter seasons.


MORE THAN 1 MILLION AMERICANS will lose extended federal unemployment benefits. The end of the federal government's “emergency unemployment compensation” means the loss of an average monthly stipend of $1,166. Some 214,000 Californians will lose their payments, a figure expected to rise to more than a half-million by June, the Labor Department said. In the last 12 months, Californians received $4.5 billion in federal jobless benefits, much of it plowed back into the local economy.


James & Nora Jean
James & Nora Jean

HOME INVASION? 10am is a peculiar time of day to try one, especially with a replica gun, but a Lake County man named Maurice Watts was found dead of at least one handgun wound outside the Upper Lake home of James Michael Jean and his wife Nora Katherine Jean for allegedly trying to rob the couple of cash in an unknown amount and 980 pounds of marijuana. Deputies also confiscated 17 guns. Mr. Jean is an ex-felon. The shooting occurred Christmas morning.



Interviewed by Mark Scaramella

AVA: You started volunteering when?

I don't even remember when I first started volunteering as a firefighter. I think it was in the early 80s with Homer Mannix. He put me on the reserve firefighter list when he was trying to get something started in Yorkville. There wasn't much activity at first. He was just trying to get people in Yorkville interested. But nothing much happened until he left the department and Dave Hutchinson took over as Chief. He found an old 2.5-ton military truck with a big water tank on the back and an open cab. There was virtually nothing on it for firefighting. It didn't have a latching top, just a manhole. When we went down a steep hill water would slosh out of it and wash over us like a tidal wave. It actually filled the floorboards on a steep downhill and you had to open the doors to let the water drain.

In those days we had Dave Martinez [who has since moved up to the Shasta area and returned to his Native American roots] and Gavin, the diesel mechanic [who later had a run-in with then-Chief Colleary, unfortunately, and quit the department]. There was Connie Diamond and her daughter Renee. Renee was an attractive 19-year-old who showed up for her first fire with short-shorts and a haltertop. I don't know exactly what she thought she was there for. Rod and Anita DeWitt joined. [Their daughter Angela is now with the department.] And Anita's sister Susan, and Bob and Lois Wallace. Bob let the department use his barn for that old military truck. Bob and Gavin and Rod worked at the fire equipment outlet in Cloverdale. Over the years and they helped outfit trucks for the fire department.

It seems like wherever there was a barn or a carport with an engine, they eventually became fire stations.

Yes. That happened in Rancho Navarro and Holmes Ranch and a couple other places.

Do you recall any major fires in those first few years?

ChiefWilsonI will never forget the fire at Guy Pronsolino's barn. He had a logging yarder in a barn on the Yorkville Ranch and a shop in another barn where he maintained his logging equipment. One night about 2am we got a call that there was a fire in one of those two big barns that fronted Highway 128. The fire had burned most of the bottom and through the roof of one of them. They had a lot of hay in them. It had spread to the second barn and it was fully involved. In about half an hour we had surrounded the buildings to prevent the spread — there wasn't much we could do about the barns. All of a sudden there was this giant explosion. Apparently, a 55-gallon drum of diesel had actually cooked off and the top was blown off and the diesel fuel was blown way up into the air like a mushroom cloud which then flash-fired about 100 feet or more in every direction and went over everybody's head maybe 30 or 40 feet high. One giant sky-full of flame!

Another incident I will never forget was an accident on the curve on Highway 128 near Bob Lawson's house. There have been several serious accidents there even though there's room in the shoulder to slow down and recover. People go too fast into that curve and run off the pavement, then they over-correct and sometimes flip down into the creekbed. One afternoon a vehicle with two couples in it did just that. They must have been going pretty fast. They somehow launched themselves off the road, turned sideways, hit a tree, spun around and then landed upside down in the creekbed. When we first got to them the two people on the passenger or impact side were both dead, crushed. The woman in the backseat on the driver side was still in the seatbelt and suspended upside down in the overturned vehicle. The driver of the car was not hurt badly. The gas tank was leaking into the creekbed. There was a strong fuel smell and we were afraid the car could explode at any minute with those people in it. The driver was able to get out on his own. I was trying to help the woman in the back seat who was still alive, hanging upside down from the seatbelt. I don't think she was fully conscious. But she was alive and seemed a little responsive. There was a leg hanging down from the upside down car floor and I assumed it was from one of the other passengers who had died. I got in there and cut the seatbelt and then I suddenly realized that the leg was hers! It had been broken off and was laying down parallel to her body. It was very gory. I will never forget that. She drifted into unconsciousness and her face started to swell. By the time we finally got her untangled and out of the car she had died — she died in front of me as we were trying to pull her out. The driver survived, but he had basically screwed up and caused the death of his wife, his best friend, and his best friend's wife. About a year later we heard that the driver had committed suicide. That was very traumatic. There have a few other fatalities at that turn over the years which were almost as gruesome but they did not result in three deaths.

There was that high speed crash in Philo in the early 2000s when that car with four young Mexican vineyard workers hit that big oak tree?

The car essentially broke in half. Only a small amount of sheet metal held the two pieces together. We cut that and took the rear half to the Philo Post Office parking lot. The victims were well known in the area and word got out and a good-sized crowd had arrived at the scene. The front half of the car was in a deep ditch and it had started to rain. We brought the tow truck around and towed the front half of the car out of there. When we started to move one of the bodies, probably the driver… Oh, that was so gross. His body almost fell apart and a large piece of his brain squirted out into the ditch and we had to recover it before it was washed downstream. I sort of put his body back together and brought it back to where the special CHP unit was set up. They were called in because it was a multiple fatality accident. So we were instructed to leave the scene alone until that team arrived from Sacramento hours after the accident. We turned the scene over to them and I went back to Boonville. Later that afternoon we got a call at the fire station saying there were still body parts down in that ditch area. I went back out there and looked around but apparently other volunteers had already picked up the pieces of bones and flesh.

It sounds like the traumatic traffic accidents stick out more in your memory than the fires do?

There are a lot more of those than there are fires. Certainly some of the fire responses I went to were exciting. Things that happened on strike team responses were even more exciting. But it's just not as intense as the accident scenes.

The Lightning Complex fires were about as exciting as it gets.

The Lightning fires in 2008 were overwhelming because there were so many of them in a short time. We had six fires started within the district. We fought the first one all night and those firefighters were on crew rest at the Boonville station when the next morning arrived and we discovered the other ones popping up. Once the sun came up the new fires were putting off smoke that could be seen. So we started getting reports. Fortunately, because we had all the apparatus and people we’ve built up over the years, we were able to spot those fires and get responses rolling to each one. We had five of the first six out in that first day, some in a few hours. We got a report of a fire that was back over behind Clow Ridge. So I sent an engine out to recon that at the end of Nash Mill Road. On the way, we saw a bigger fire burning on MRC's property across the valley from there. So we immediately spotted that fire and contacted MRC and sent an apparatus out and started working that fire. It turned out that the fire we were fighting was not the fire that was reported. So there was a brief dispute about which was which, but it didn't matter because both of them needed to be put out.

Newly recruited firefighter Bob Rowland ended up dying during the lightning complex fire and that was one of the most depressing moments of my tenure as chief. That consumed most of my time for the next five months. It was almost two weeks after the fires had started when that happened. He had been assigned to a fire I was working on to simply do look out because he was new and didn't have much training. We didn't want him to do any actual firefighting. We had that fire pretty well under control but there was one fire down in a gulch with a hot burning pocket maybe 300 feet below the road. We laid some hose down there and try to get it sealed off so that it wouldn't blow up and breach our line. It was very intense and hot. A firefighter called me from the landing and told me that Bob was having some difficulty, not feeling well, and she was worried about him. So I went back out and Bob was sitting next to the road. He said he was just tired but otherwise fine and needed to rest a little bit. I put him in my truck and drove him back up to the landing and handed him over to an EMT and told her to remove him from the fire area to one of the lookout points and do a full evaluation. The smoke was very thick. Flying conditions were impossible. No helicopter could get in there. We couldn't fight the fire with helicopters because of the near-zero visibility. The EMT drove him down in her private vehicle and he was still not feeling well so he was transferred to the ambulance and they took him to Ukiah. He arrived in the middle of the afternoon and he saw a cardiologist there who said he was not having a cardiac event. But he was in the ICU. At 1 o'clock in the morning though we got a call saying that he had died of a heart attack. It just completely floored everybody. Bob was very nice guy. I still can't talk about some of the details but there were a few things he had not disclosed to us when he applied to be a volunteer and that played a part in what happened.

I was very proud of the department's response to that large series of fires and then this terrible event sort of took the air out of everything. Bob's death put a shadow over everything. I can't think about those lightning complex fires without thinking about Bob Rowland.

Any particular structure fires that stand out?

We’ve had our share of structure fires in the Valley over the years. They tend to come in two flavors: first are those where a neighbor sees smoke or fire and calls it in. In those cases by the time you get there, there’s usually not much to do other than keep the fire from spreading. The other category is those where you actually get there in time to have a chance to save the structure. Those are almost all memorable and exciting.

There was one fire in downtown Boonville that was started when some roofers leaked some hot tar down into a house which flared up. It was reported early and we got to it pretty fast and were able to save the house, holding the fire to the attic alone. There was a kitchen fire at a house near the fairgrounds that was contained to the kitchen and the house was saved. Years ago Norm Clow’s house caught fire from a candle that burned down. We save most of that house.

We saved a house on Highland Ranch by limiting it to the second story. The fire out by Geraldine Rose's house off Peachland Road was kept away from the nearby structures. We’ve had our failures of course, but there have been quite a few successes. If you get a fair shot at a structure fire when the report is filed early and it's still a room and contents fire — it takes 15 minutes typically to get anything in place to start fighting the fire. So fires will advance before we can get there. Most of the houses that have burned were in cases where the structure was pretty well gone by the time we got there.

I've noticed that people don't really appreciate how much work goes in to mop up after a fire.

That's when the work really starts. Putting the fire out doesn't really take that long. But afterward, we have volunteers doing all that dirty work after a fire. Not everybody does it the way it ought to be done. One of the worst things that can happen to a fire department is to successfully put out a structure fire and then a few hours later have it burn down from a rekindle or something you didn't catch. It's very tedious — opening walls and ceilings, checking every nook and cranny in the area of the fire to make sure you got everything. Moving stuff around, furniture, other bulky items, and whatever debris has accumulated because of the fire itself. Structure fire mop up is the worst kind of work in firefighting.

What else do you look on as accomplishments?

One satisfying aspect of the job for me was having the financing to build the department up, acquiring new apparatus and building new stations. Support from the community made both of those things possible. We have received very generous donations, volunteer labor, donated materials. Most of the work in Rancho Navarro was done by residents there who were not members of the department. We have some very skilled contractors and carpenters in the Valley. So we get a real bang for the buck because the tax dollars are supplemented by donations and volunteers. In my time as Chief we've had the new Rancho Navarro Station, the Boonville firehouse, the new Philo fire station, and Holmes Ranch. We have our eye on Signal Ridge but it's hard to get volunteers in that area to staff the station so that’s a problem that’s not solved now.

I think we also need to do something about the area around the intersection of Highway 128 and Mountain House Road. You'd be surprised how much development has occurred out there and it's pretty far from Anderson Valley or Cloverdale.

It seems like there are some new faces showing up lately.

Andres [Avila] deserves some credit for that. He is a young dynamic leader and younger people gravitate more to him than to me. I did a study of a few years ago trying to figure out what makes a successful volunteer — who sticks around for 10 years or more? I sent out questionnaires around the county to people who have been volunteers for at least 10 years. The profile that came back was people in their early 40s, married with kids, own their own property and possibly self-employed. That profile tends to stick with the department for a long time and they are well worth the investment in training and experience. If you can recruit those people without having them burn out, they will become mainstays of the department for years.

Would you say that Anderson Valley has more women volunteers than any other department?

Yes. Anderson Valley has a significant percentage of women actively volunteering. I'm proud of that. One area that I've never been happy with is the low level of participation from members of the Mexican community. Hopefully Andres will be able to improve that situation. Given the demographics of Andersen Valley we should have at 10 or 15 Mexican volunteers. We need to tap that resource pool because as it stands, we provide this service but we don't get the level of participation that we need. We can do better in that area. It's possible that that's improving. More and more of the Mexican people in the Valley have grown up here and went to school here. They don't have any language issue. And more of them are sticking around. We have done some recruiting at the high school but as much as that might help the kid, it doesn't help the department much because there's a good chance they'll leave the Valley even if they become interested in firefighting.

Volunteers present unique management challenges, don’t they?

It’s harder to manage a volunteer fire department because you can’t just order people do things. Sometimes people just don't work out and you have to tell them that it's best if they just separate or take a break. But it can be a long and painful process. Fortunately that hasn't happened very often; maybe once or twice. And of course they still lived in this same small valley and you see them periodically. There's one guy who won't speak to me anymore. That's too bad. Another case where I decided I had to give someone an ultimatum and expected it to go badly. Finally I suggested that maybe they take a leave of absence or back off or while. So it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be.

Do you want to single anyone out for their help and support while you were Chief?

There are a lot of people who helped and supported me. I hesitate to name names. But the officers in the various stations were a big help. Jim Minton being Captain of the Boonville Station came in and helped numerous times. When Jim says he’ll do something it gets done, and done right. Jan Wasson-Smith. Roy Laird. Terry Ferrelly who doesn't even live in the district has helped a lot too. When something serious developed he was always around to help. Some board members have done a lot for the Department too. Diane Paget who took the lead on getting the benefit assessment passed. Andrea LaCampagna during the lightning complex fires. Gene Herr has made useful contributions and is a good critic. And others.

What’s it like being retired?

It's a great relief not to be responsible for everything. The burden of dealing with mistakes, equipment breakdowns, people getting hurt, staffing problems — when you're the one in charge you have to make sure things get done. I still worry about some things of course, but I'm not responsible, thank God. It's wonderful. I also like not having to go an every call.

The main thing I miss is probably the same thing other volunteers like about this work — the sense of pride and accomplishment in a successful save, a well-handled accident or incident. The satisfaction of being a volunteer comes on the occasions when everything goes well in a serious situation when someone really needs help — a medical event, a fire, an accident. If you know that you made a real difference in somebody's life, there's nothing like it! I still have some of that as a volunteer. That's why I volunteered in the first place and that’s why I'm going to keep volunteering whenever I can. It's almost like a drug, once you get that rush of accomplishment, really helping someone or saving something. You can actually go overboard when it becomes an obsession. You have to make time for your family. You can't just walk away from your family for every call. It takes a while to develop that balance.



By David Bacon

Author’s Note: As families celebrate the holidays, farmworkers across the country who help harvest the food they will prepare continue to struggle under bitter working and living conditions. Jose Lopez comes from the Mixteco town of Jicayan de Tovar in Guerrero. He's worked in the fields for 10 years, but makes so little that he has to borrow money to pay his bills, and has almost none left over to send to his family in Mexico. He told his story to NAM associate editor David Bacon, as part of a cooperative project with Farmworker Justice (

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I've worked in the fields here for 10 years, always in Fresno. I come from Jicayan de Tovar in Guerrero, where we speak Mixteco and Spanish. There are a lot of people from my town working here in Fresno. Every year I pick eggplant, grapes, peaches and nectarines, and also grape leaves. I work pruning during part of the year as well. I get seven to eight months of work each year. Right now the pay is eight dollars an hour. Sometimes I get paid by the hour, and sometimes I work by the piece rate, but it comes out to about the same thing.

Picking grapes for raisins is the hardest job. It's a lot of work and in hot conditions. Sometimes we work up to 11 or 12 hours a day, but they never pay us overtime pay. I get extremely tired after a day's work, especially because of the heat. On this job, the pay is 25¢ per tabla [a bucket of grapes spread out over a piece of paper in the row between the vines]. I make approximately $300 a week on this job. Considering the long hours and the extreme heat, it is not a fair wage. It's not enough.

Fermin Garcia works in crew of farmworkers picks acorn squash in a field just outside of Fresno, in the San Joaquin Valley.

With this pay, I have to support three children, my wife and myself. My wife doesn't work, because she has to take care of the children. Sometimes that $300 isn't enough. I have to buy food and other things the children need and want, and it doesn't cover all of it. If there is a lot of work I can save enough money while I'm working to last through the months when I don't work. When I can't find work, we use our savings. Then, when the money runs out, I have to ask for a loan and pay it back when I'm working again.

My oldest child is seven years old, the second is six and the youngest is six months. So two are in school, and for them I have to purchase school clothing and supplies. There are times when I don't have enough money for that either. I have to ask for a loan and buy them what they need. There are times when I don't have enough money for food, and I ask for a loan then also. If it wasn't for that loan, I would not have a way to buy the family's items.

Emiliano Lopez picks acorn squash in a field just outside of Fresno, in the San Joaquin Valley.

It's not right to work so hard, and not earn enough to support my family, but what can we do? We can't get a better paying job. We can't do anything else, that's why we work in the fields. But the owners are earning enough aren't they?

Some foremen treat us well, but others yell at workers and tell us to work faster. Some let us take our 15-minute breaks and others don't. Workers suffer a lot while we're working. If we don't work hard, then we're out of a job and can't pay the rent. If we don't work fast, we're fired for that too. It's the job we have. We feel bad when we're yelled at. We feel humiliated -- it's not right to be treated in that way. I sometimes feel like saying something because there is no need to yell at workers. But if I were to say something I would be out of a job.

My friends have seen workers faint because of the heat and lack of water. Sometimes the pesticides on the vine are transferred to the workers too. We suffer the consequences of working around these chemicals, but we don't know whom we can talk to about it.

A worker gets ready to lift the box of squash he's cut to the loader in a trailer.

I've felt sick because of pesticides. Recently while I was pruning I began feeling very ill, with a headache and a lot of pain. I didn't know what chemicals I'd been exposed to, but I couldn't work. The little money I had earned working, I had to spend seeking medical care. When I went to see the doctor, he just told me that I could buy medicine. I was out of a job for a while, and I still feel sick from it. I'm also worried about the long-term effects.

Picking peaches can also cause problems. The dust from the fruit causes skin irritation. I've experienced that. It's possible to avoid it, but the grower doesn't provide gloves or long-sleeved shirts, so you buy your own or you pick peaches without protection. The peach season lasts one or two months, and for this work they pay eight dollars an hour - the same as for everything else. I don't like picking peaches but I need the money, so I have to do it even though I would rather not.

I'm sending money back to my family in Guerrero. I don't earn a lot, but I have to send at least something. That's why I came to the United States, to send money back to my family in Mexico. I wanted to come here to work and earn money in order to help support them. There is work in Mexico, but the wages are too low. My family owns land in Jicayan de Tovar, but very little, not enough to support a family.

Jose Lopez in the living room of his home in Caruthers.

I've heard of the American dream. Some think that everyone who comes here will have a better life. But there isn't much money here. I thought I'd be earning more. We have to earn enough to pay the rent in this country and it is very high. The money we earn isn't enough to support our families here and in Mexico both. I feel bad and frustrated that I can't do anything about it.

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More personal stories explaining the reality of working in the fields today are posted on the website of Farmworker Justice -- Stories from the Field:

Interviews with David Bacon about his new book, The Right to Stay Home:

Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center

KPFK - Uprisings with Sonali Kohatkar

KPFA - Upfront with Brian Edwards Tiekert

TruthOut with Mark Karlin

The Real News:  Immigration Reform Requires Dismantling NAFTA and Respecting Migrants' Rights/ Immigrant Communities Resist Deportations ______________________________________

Books by David Bacon

THE RIGHT TO STAY HOME:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration Just published by Beacon Press

Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008) Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

For more articles and images, see



By Dan Bacher

The total cost of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels could be as high as $67 billion, according to new figures revealed at a Westlands Water District board meeting last month by a Westlands staff member and a Citigroup bond consultant.

This new figure, with construction bond costs included in the total, counters the claims by Brown administration officials over the past two years that the plan would cost $24.5 billion during its 50-year implementation period.

In Paul Rogers' article in the San Jose Mercury News on December 26, Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, confirmed the estimates are accurate (

"The assumptions they've made are reasonable," he told the paper. "But financing is confusing. There isn't any doubt about it. It's hard to relay information that the public understands. We need to be clear that if you add up the total debt service, that's a different type of calculation than the capital cost estimate. I would hope those two types of estimates aren't confused."

The Westlands presentation looked at three scenarios, with each considering bonds issued for 30 years at 5 percent interest.

“They pegged the cost to build the tunnels at $18 billion, and overall cost with financing at $42 billion to $58 billion,” said Rogers.

"When the $9 billion more in wetlands restoration, monitoring and other costs are included, the grand total is $51 billion to $67 billion," the article stated.

Governor Jerry Brown is currently fast-tracking the construction of two 35 miles long tunnels, each 40 feet in diameter, under the Delta. A 120-day public review and comment period for over 40,000 pages of documents in the plan and EIS/EIR began on December 13.

The latest estimate provided to Westlands is the highest to date. A previous estimate, compiled by Restore the Delta from the figures provided by the Bay Delta Conservation documents, revealed the total cost would be $54.1 billion.

That figure included $14.5 billion for construction, $1.5 billion for O&M (operation and maintenance), $26.3 billion for Interest on tunnel revenue bonds, $7 billion for habitat and conservation, $3.2 billion interest on general obligation bonds, and $1.6 billion for administration and research. (

RTD's economic analysis came up with an amount similar to the estimate of $53.8 billion made by economist Steven Kasower of the Strategic Economic Applications Company in August 2009. Kasower's draft economic report was released to California Legislature prior to passage of the water policy/water bond legislation that cleared the path for the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnels.

His $53.8 billion estimate was based on a combination of $33 billion for a conveyance tunnel and $9.8 billion for through Delta conveyance, in addition to $2 billion for mitigation, $4 billion for restoration, and $5 billion for off-stream storage.

"This latest estimate of the BDCP's total costs makes it clear the project is a financial loser even when you use the administration's own flawed benefit-cost analysis," said Tom Stokely, Water Policy Analyst for the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN).

The latest estimate of $67 billion only underscores the absurdity of the Governor pursuing the twin tunnels as a monument to his "legacy." The plan is absurd for a number of reasons besides the enormous cost of the project:

• The tunnels don’t provide any new water – but will only end up diverting water from senior water rights holders to junior water contractors.

• The project will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon, sandhill cranes other species, as well as imperiling the salmon and steelhead and salmon populations of Trinity River.

• The plan will take massive acres of fertile Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to continue to irrigate drainage-impaired land irrigated by corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

• Finally, the project will increase water bills and property taxes for Los Angeles residents from $2,000-$4,500 per household. This “twin-tunnel tax” would not bring any new water to Los Angeles.

An independent cost-estimate of the tunnels done by ECONorthwest for Food and Water Watch and the California Water Impact Network shows that LADWP would need to increase water bills from $7-15 per month for over 40 years or $2000-$4,500 per household to fund its cost share of the tunnels, according to Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of Food and Water Watch.

Fishermen, environmentalists, Tribal leaders, family farmers, Delta residents, Southern California water ratepayers and elected officials from across the political spectrum have united to stop Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnels, as evidenced by a large protest at the State Capitol on December 13 that drew over 400 people.

As Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said in his speech:

“We will not allow our fisheries, farms, communities and future prosperity to be sacrificed to enrich a south valley industrial agriculture, that comprises 3 tenths of 1% of our state economy, and is predicated upon embezzled water, massive public subsidizes, unrestricted pollution and subsistence wages.

We’ll fight this abominable scheme through the administrative halls, the courtrooms and the ballot box.

If necessary, we’ll fight on the channels and sloughs and on the levees and through the fields - to the very gates of hell.

We shall never surrender our Delta.” (



Ring in the New Year with style at the

BONES ROADHOUSE New Years Eve/ Fiesta para Ano Nuevo

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Regular dinner menu served from 5pm, plus a New Years Eve special menu; Drink Specials;

Party Favors and FUN!

Dance Party with DJ Sister Yasmin playing Funk, Blues, Jazz, Cumbia, Salsa, R&B, Rock & Roll, Jazz, Oldies, New Orleans Funk and more!

8:00PM - 1:00AM

All ages until 11pm; 21 and over after 11pm

$3.00 Donation at the door

Bones Roadhouse, 39080 S. Highway One, Gualala, CA 95445

Information: 707-884-1188; 884-4703

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