Monday, September 24, 2018

The high cost of a zero-emission California

By Dan Walters | Sept. 24, 2018 |


It’s time again, boys and girls, for more fun with numbers – this edition being about electrical power generation and consumption in California.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use round numbers reflecting official state and federal data.

Electrical power is measured and priced to consumers by the kilowatt-hour, which is 1,000 watts of energy, about what a coffee maker uses, flowing for one hour. But in larger scale, officials use terawatts, each a billion kilowatts.

Californians burn 300 terawatt-hours of juice each year, 70 percent of which is generated in-state and more than 40 percent of which comes from natural gas- or nuclear-powered plants here or elsewhere.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Open hearts greet new Camp Taylor facility at old Honor Farm near Grayson


September 23, 2018 12:17 PM

A place that once locked up law breakers will now give children with heart disease the freedom to be themselves in Stanislaus County.

On Saturday, ground was broken on the new, permanent home for Camp Taylor at the old Honor Farm facility on West Grayson Road. The ambitious project comes after the camp, founded by Kimberlie Gamino, spent its first 16 years moving from site to site for its day and over-night camps.

Once completed, the $10 million project will be first medically supervised permanent camp facility dedicated to children with heart disease, which is the No. 1 birth defect nationally. This year, the efforts were infused with $2 million after Assemblyman Adam Gray helped to secure funding in the state budget for infrastructure and new construction.

“They have a tremendous vision for this place,” Gray said at the groundbreaking event Saturday afternoon. “This is something Stanislaus County should be extremely proud of.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Camp Taylor along the San Joaquin River becomes a reality


More than 40,000 children are born with heart defects in America each year, making heart disease the nation’s leading birth defect. Children with heart disease often miss out on many of childhood’s most cherished experiences, as the regimen of medication and surgery prevents many of these children from participating in recreational activities.

Kimberlie and Michael Gamino of Modesto were determined to change that.

In 1993, Kimberlie and Michael welcomed a son, Taylor, to their family. Doctors soon discovered that he had been born with half a heart, a condition known as Hypo-Plastic Right Heart Syndrome. The Gamino family virtually lived at the hospital for months at a time, but they remained determined to ensure that Taylor experienced the fun and formative moments of childhood even while enduring four open-heart surgeries and a stroke.

Monday, September 10, 2018

As excerpted from: The Modesto Bee

Currently, the water board acts as prosecutor and judge in any dispute. Staff creates plans (like increasing flows to save salmon) then the board blesses them. If you don’t like the plan, you can appeal – to the board that just blessed it. Seems pointless.

Last year, Assemblyman Adam Gray wrote a bill to create an independent review panel for water disputes. Improbably, Gray’s bill passed but Gov. Brown vetoed it.

This year, Anna Caballero pushed through a similar bill, AB 747, which passed 69-5 and now awaits Gov. Brown’s signature. Though it was similar to his bill, Gray took a knee.

“It didn’t go far enough,” Gray said. The hearing panel would be within the water board structure, not independent.

Friday, August 24, 2018


August 24, 2018 01:27 PM

Dear Editor of The Los Angeles Times:

We know opinion journalists often draw different conclusions from the same facts. But we have some problems with both the conclusions you’ve drawn and the “facts” you cited in your editorial, “Letting California’s rivers run isn’t a ‘water grab’.

After chiding San Francisco over insufficient environmental karma, you turned your pious gaze on us Valley yokels. You chastised us for being unwilling to save the rivers that have nourished us – and you, through our vegetables, melons, wines, nuts, cheese, tree fruit, etc. You portrayed us as part of a villainous “agribusiness,” perhaps not realizing the average farm size in Stanislaus County is 175 acres, and three quarters of all farms here are under 100 acres. For that matter, why is “big ag” any greedier than big movies, big bio-tech or big banking, some of your big industries?

Relying on your great knowledge of farming economics, you advised us to grow “less thirsty” crops – a cheap shot at all the almonds we grow. Did you realize that two crops of corn (the norm) requires more water than a single crop of almonds? That it takes more water to produce your $100 jeans than it does to fill a bag of almonds of the same weight?

Then you blame diversions from the Tuolumne for crippling “the state’s once great ocean fishing fleets and seafood processors.” That’s my favorite. Usually, your writers accompany such statements by citing a study that said commercial salmon fishing was a $1.4 billion per year business. That number came from a company specializing in studies for environmental groups. In the year cited, California commercial fishers caught 1,032,000 pounds of salmon. You think a pound of salmon generates $1,400 in economic activity?

Apparently, you take everything said by the State Water Resources Control Board as gospel. Chairwoman Felicia Marcus is smart, quick-witted and was once one of your city’s bureaucrats before going to work for the oh-so-altruistic Natural Resources Defense Council (never mind allegations of sue-and-settle tactics and a $50 million payroll). She and former water board staffer Tam Doduc wouldn’t possibly color the facts, leave out pertinent data, discard valid peer-reviewed science and link one arm with professional environmentalists and the other with Beverly Hills farmers and developers to move water south.

Then you bow your head and admit Los Angeles once sinned against nature, draining Owens Valley and the Mono basin. You don’t mention that you’ve only recently been forced to stop taking more than your share of the Colorado River.

Is that why you want more from the Delta? You said as much in April when you insisted Gov. Jerry Brown’s tunnels be built. By portraying some of California’s poorest and hardest-laboring people as greedy fish-killers, do you figure you’ll use the water more wisely?

If you really, truly want to help the Delta and save salmon, you can. All you have to do is turn off those Delta pumps once in awhile.

Instead, you complain that our rivers are sometimes reduced “to a mere trickle.” Did you bother to check? At the height of summer, the “mere trickle” coming out of Tulloch Reservoir on the Stanislaus was 1,642 cubic feet (12,282 gallons) per second on Thursday; it was 1,891 cfs (14,441 gallons) on the Tuolumne, and 1,696 cfs on the Merced. Some of that is going for irrigation, but most is staying in the rivers.

If we increased the instream flows by 60 percent tomorrow, only around 2,100 cubic feet per second of additional water would enter the Delta. Sounds like a lot, until you compare it to the amount leaving the Delta.

Since 1991, your giant pumps have been sending up to 15,000 cubic feet per second down two man-made rivers toward Los Angeles. That’s when the Delta started getting saltier. By 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Services was blaming water exports for killing the fish.

By the way, how’s the fishing in that cement ditch you call the Los Angeles River?

We are restoring our riversusing wastewater for farming and vastly improving irrigation techniques. We don’t mind reasonably increasing flows, but that alone won’t work.

Just ask renowned scientist Peter Moyle, who blogged in the midst of the water board hearings, “increased flows are not likely to increase (salmon) survival.”

Or ask equally renowned scientist Jay Lund, who said relying on flows to fix any river’s problems is “scientifically lazy.”

Read the peer-reviewed study that found salmon prefer mid-range, not massive, river flows.

Check the irrigation districts who built restoration projects on the Stanislaus that already have resulted in a three-fold increase in salmon without additional flows.

Or ask the state regulators who want to control our rivers how they managed to kill thousands of salmon on the Sacramento River in 2014 and trout on the Stanislaus in 2016.

Next time you set about burnishing your green cred by attacking us, check the facts. They’re fascinating.

Mike Dunbar is editorial page editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

As published in: The Modesto Bee

$1 million from state will help Stanislaus County train people for well-paying jobs


Updated July 03, 2018 06:00 PM

The VOLT Institute in Modesto has received a jolt from the state budget in the form of $1 million in funding.

It should create opportunity for training younger adults to work in industrial electronics, automation and equipment maintenance for large employers in Stanislaus County. On average, those higher-skilled jobs pay $27.80 an hour.

The state funds will expand a job-training partnership involving Modesto Junior College, Opportunity Stanislaus and the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE). The VOLT Institute, a private-sector-driven program launched in October, recently graduated a 30-member class of maintenance mechanics to work in local industries.

MJC will receive the state funding and purchase equipment for a broader array of training programs at SCOE’s trade school in the former Modesto Bee building. The money will be used to leverage federal dollars for training up to 200 students a year.

The community college has its own vocational training in industrial electronics, automation, manufacturing, welding and agricultural mechanics. While investing in training equipment and new programs at VOLT, the college also will continue with vocational training at its west campus.

What's driving the workforce training initiative is the need among employers in Stanislaus County for skilled workers to maintain equipment and troubleshoot problems in manufacturing systems.

“Regional programs that offer specific, technical training are in high demand,” said Scott Kuykendall, assistant superintendent for SCOE. “By delivering skilled training, VOLT is simultaneously meeting the needs of job seekers and industry.”

Chancellor Henry Yong of the Yosemite Community College District said the workforce training promises a brighter future for families, contributes to the local economy and will expand the tax base for supporting public services.

Partners in the VOLT Institute plan to tailor training programs for skills in demand in the labor market. The center could branch into "mechatronics" or training workers to maintain automated machinery. MJC is looking to offer training in the building trades at the VOLT center, including a program to construct tiny houses for the homeless.

Dave White, chief executive officer of Opportunity Stanislaus, said the state money will be used as matching dollars for a $2 million federal grant for expansion of MJC vocational training and the VOLT Institute.

White ran point to help Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, to get the funding into the state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Three years ago, I secured $1 million in funding from the state budget for the University of California to study a medical school at its Merced campus. My goal was to highlight the dramatic disparities in access to care for residents of Merced County and reinvigorate the conversations around developing a medical school.

The UC’s report, “Improving Health Care Access in the San Joaquin Valley,” is now completed and details numerous health challenges faced by residents of the San Joaquin Valley along with a number of recommendations to improve access to care. A companion report, “Current and Future Health Professions Workforce Needs in the San Joaquin Valley,” includes statistics on healthcare workforce shortages.