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Clean Drinking WaterThe draft environmental impact report on Cal Am’s proposed desalination plant concludes that the controversial operation would have “less than significant” impact on groundwater, salt water intrusion and Monterey Bay water quality, the subjects of serious concern among opponents of the slow-moving project.

The report was made public Thursday on the state Public Utilities Commission website, setting off a 60-day comment period.

Environmental Science Associates, which prepared the dense, 1,700-page document, also concludes that construction of a smaller plant obviously would have less of an environmental impact even if combined with a new groundwater replenishment project.

Environmental groups and the Ag Land Trust, which owns property next to the project site on the Cemex property north of Marina, have contended that the plant’s pumps would illegally suck up fresh water belonging to others, including water long claimed by Salinas Valley growers. The EIR agrees that fresh water would be drawn in, possibly more than Cal Am’s engineers expected, but it estimates that the plant would draw down the water table in the area by no more than a foot. It labels that a less than significant impact, one that would not require any mitigation.

The report mentions that the Ag Land Trust says it operates a well about a mile from the plant site but an EIR subcontractor couldn’t find it and the State Water Resources Control Board has no record of it. The trust has been sharply critical of the project.

It is possible, according to the report, that the desalination operation actually could ease seawater intrusion by drawing fresh water toward the ocean.

The report says brine discharged by the plant would violate water quality standards in the bay but indicates that the damage could be mitigated. Some scientists have opined that the brine is likely to settle on the floor of the bay and create a dead zone.

Clean Drinking WaterCal Am is under pressure to create a new water supply because of a state order that it dramatically cut back on its use of Carmel River water by the end of next year. With the desalination process slowly slogging through the engineering and regulatory processes, local officials have given up on the 2016 deadline and are pleading with state officials to push the deadline back by several years.

Copies of the report are available at the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency offices in Ryan Ranch, at the Marina and Seaside community development departments and at some area libraries.

A series of public meetings is scheduled to start May 26 at the Marina library.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown uses a newly dispatched rattlesnake to demonstrate what he will do to those who continue yammering about high-speed rail and Big Ag’s water use.

Ran into a former colleague and during the course of our catch-up conversation, he allowed how his wife admired my some of work here at the Monterey Bay Partisan.

Really, which pieces? I asked.

Probably the cries from my heart about the spreading stain of police misconduct or the ongoing freedom enjoyed by the architects of the U.S.’s torture-and-secret-prisons system.

Perhaps, the rapier wit I employ about doofuses like Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump’s crackerjack team of Hawaiian birther investigators, who evidently took a four-hour trip aboard a charter boat called the S.S. Minnow and vanished without reporting back to Generalissimo Bad Hair for Life.

No, the erstwhile colleague said, it was the one about your dogs.

Oh yes, my occasional prose odes to the grandeur of our pair of Dachshunds, Max and Minnie. While these pieces capture the pure joy of frisky pups rolling on their backs for mandatory belly rubs, I’ve never considered columns about animals — even the cutest dogs on the planet — to be the cream of my commentary.

Otherwise, I’d launch right here into 900 words about our year-old tuxedo cats, Gracie and Lucy, because they are the cutest cats, named after two of the nation’s finest female comics, on the face of the planet.

But I will spare you — for the time being.

I also refrain from a lengthy thumbsucker about this week’s two hottest animal videos, a remarkable guinea pig that runs with a dog pack, and a monkey that tried to tear the face off a smart-ass waving a bird at the monkey with his middle finger. Sorry, I can’t cock my eyebrows like KSBW’s Dan Green during his funny animal stories.

But like one of those children’s puzzles in which you try to find 10 pesky squirrels in a leafy tree, animal stories keep appearing before me like gopher mounds in a Prunedale field.

First an apparent celebrity named Dog the Bounty Hunter goes on Fox News and tells one of Fox’s blond chickadees that Hillary is the cat’s pajamas for the Dog among the growing pack of hyenas howling to be the next president.

Dog’s early endorsement raises two immediate questions: Who does McGruff the Crime Dog like, and is Dog’s magnificent mullet really a pelt taken from a rare, medium-sized rat that went extinct in 1978?

Then there is Snakegate. That’s what some California political bloggers are calling the mystery surrounding the recent photo of Gov. Jerry Brown and an apparently dead rattlesnake.

Brown’s office released the photo, but a herd of buffalo (actually the depleted herd that is the capital press corps) couldn’t get such details as: where the snake and governor butted horns, if the snake bared fangs first, and did the mongoose governor kill the serpent himself. Brown’s office clammed up.

All we know from the evidence: Brown’s sun hat appears to be made from a petrified jellyfish; his jaunty, elasto-band pants — pulled almost halfway to his chest — fit him as snugly as sealskin; and the governor’s forked walking stick makes it impossible for the dead snake to suddenly rear like a spooked stallion and strike.

Until someone burrows to the bottom of Snakegate, we are left with more questions than the number of stripes on a zebra. A few of the persistent nags:

Are the rest of us at increased risk, like sheep amid a pack of jackals in the parched landscape, from rattlesnakes?

Was it right for Brown to crow about killing one of God’s creatures?

Were several squirrels in a leafy tree purposely cropped from the photo?

Like most Californians, I have a few rattlesnake yarns, but none as mysterious as the governor’s.

I once worked in the woods with a fellow who drove a Jaguar (a Princeton Tiger, I believe) who killed and sautéed a 5-foot rattler like you would prepare a fresh-caught trout.

The pale snake meat tasted much like any mild sautéed fish, fowl or tofu because the Princeton Tiger forgot to add any seasoning or special ‘rattler sauce. What a turkey. Ivy League!

I haven’t eaten alligator, but that’s no excuse for the skunks in Sacramento to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes on Snakegate. Do they think we are dumb as oxen? Vipers!

If I wasn’t so upset I would tell you about Lucy and Gracie. I think they see a squirrel at my desk.


Monterey County supes tell enviros to pound sand

Businessman discouraged and saddened by his failures

Maybe this fellow is downhearted because he just learned that the county supervisors consider the general plan a business plan, not a land-use plan. Or, he’s simply a model in a stock photo.

Anyone who doubts that a political and cultural war is being waged in Monterey County would have been disabused of the idea at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

The issue on the table was approval of a settlement agreement that county staff had negotiated with the government watchdog group Open Government Monterey and the environmental group LandWatch Monterey County. The agreement was meant to end litigation in which those groups spelled out their concerns about the impact and legality of the county’s 2010 general plan, which is heavily weighted toward the wants of developers and agribusiness.

Everyone in the room knew there was no chance that the supervisors were going to publicly ratify language taking back any of what the business interests had won five years ago, but the session provided them with the opportunity to talk tough in front of various benefactors.

“We can’t strangulate this county,” said Supervisor Fernando Armenta, according to a report in the Monterey County Weekly. Armenta said he had recently enjoyed a drive along Napa Valley’s vaunted wine trail and wished Monterey County could be more like that, green and relatively lacking in contentiousness. He mentioned without making his context clear that he had not seen any of the endangered species that are issues in Monterey County planning matters.

Much of the discussion was about Monterey County’s wine corridor, which the wine industry envisions as a series of wineries and tasting rooms along River Road on the western edge of the Salinas Valley. Although county officials have expressed nothing but support for the idea, little has materialized there.

(In a meeting with Monterey Herald editors several years ago, vintner Kurt Gollnick was asked what benefits a wine corridor would provide to those outside the wind industry. He couldn’t come up with an answer at the time.)

Specifics of Tuesday’s discussion included what can and cannot be planted on steep slopes susceptible to erosion, what can be done to accommodate the passage of wildlife through farms and fields.

The advocacy groups and the county had reached a tentative agreement in January but it could not take effect without a majority vote of the supervisors. It didn’t come close. Supervisor Jane Parker was the only supporter. She noted that the county’s legal bills are adding up quickly as the discussions continue and court proceedings loom.

By a vote of 4-1, the supervisors agreed to continue the discussion for another couple weeks, but the chances of a negotiated settlement appear to be growing slimmer.

Supervisor John Phillips voted for the extension but was dismissive of the general plan opponents.

“We all know the plaintiffs here live by litigation and that’s how they support themselves,” said Phillips, who supported himself by working as a lawyer and then a judge before joining the board

The supervisors were being cheered on by the county Planning Commission, several farm and business groups, the mayors’ association and the cities of Gonzales, Soledad and even Sand City, which is almost entirely unaffected by anything that goes into the general plan.


????On July 6, 1977, the Monteey Herald ran an editorial, quoted verbatim, below. It was written during the height of a drought period, which any long-time Peninsula resident remembers well.

The last paragraph in the editorial is particularly interesting in that it states that Cal Am, even back almost 40 years ago, was claiming it had rights to ALL the water in the Carmel River Valley, both surface and subsurface. And, in light of what we know today, the editorial writer, almost naively, states that Cal Am should go to court to thwart others who export water from the CV basin for a profit.

That would be comical if history wasn’t proving that it is so sad. History also proves that a line of successive community leaders, both elected and otherwise, have never been able to wrap their intellects around the big picture, which has come home to bite us in the rear:
Protecting the Aquifer

Protection for the Peninsula’s dwindling water supply in the Carmel Valley aquifer is becoming a matter of growing concern as other potential water sources are tried and found wanting.

Last week it was disclosed that the California-American Water Co. had capped a test hole after drilling down 800 feet in the mid-Valley without finding the so-called Tularcitos aquifer, which at least one local geologist is convinced is down there somewhere. And another other property owner has drilled down over 500 feet without finding this hidden treasure.

Well drilling, we are aware, is a tricky science, and one man’s dry hole may be but a few yards away from another man’s gusher. Thus it is also possible that geologist Richard Thorup is right in his claims that others have found water at a deeper level and are now using it.

But so far no one has struck a deep source which will produce water at a rate of at least 1,000 gallons a minute, which the water company would need for a commercial well. Nor is there evidence that the deeper valley wells are not just isolated pockets. Nor can it be said with any certainty what effect the more shallow Carmel Valley aquifer has on this elusive Tularcitos aquifer, or, indeed, how the Tularcitos aquifer would be replenished.

Until these questions can be answered, and until a commercially useful well proves itself, it is prudent to assume that the Peninsula’s water resources are limited, and that the Carmel Valley aquifer is the key to survival until normal rains resume.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors recently passed a well ordinance which may help stem the tide of well drilling in the Carmel Valley, where almost 200 permits for drilling have been issued by the health department since the first of the year.

In the case of individual wells, bacterial tests now will be required to insure that the well is not contaminated by septic tank wastes. This should protect the larger aquifer from contamination from private wells.

The ordinance also requires geological and hydrological studies for wells with multiple connections to determine the effect of pumping on the groundwater level.

Useful though this ordinance may be, it does not stop owners of existing wells from exporting water from the Carmel Valley aquifer for use elsewhere on the Peninsula– or beyond the Peninsula, for that matter. Nor, of course, does it put any sort of moratorium on the drilling of new wells until the drought has ended.

This might be the appropriate time for Cal-Am to test in court the right it has long claimed to all the water in and beneath the Carmel River. It would be most interesting to see what would happen if Cal-Am were to seek an injunction to halt further export of water by individuals from the Carmel River aquifer until regular rainfall starts to replenish the underground basin. It just might stop some current exploitation of the community’s major water source for personal profit.


Monterey Downs backers are trying to distort reality

People on Gigling

Plenty of people want the Monterey Downs site just the way it is

At the Monterey County League of Women Voters presentation on April 8, Beth Palmer, chief operating officer of Monterey Downs, stated that nobody wanted the land that Monterey Downs wants to develop, so Monterey Downs stepped up to fill that void. That’s nonsense unless “wanted” simply means “wanted to develop” such as Monterey Downs proposes.

In point of fact, 23 years ago, 11 local and national groups made the case for environmentally protecting the entire area south of Inter-Garrison Road, which includes the now-proposed Monterey Downs site. To be clear, these well-educated and insightful folks wanted the land protected from the type of development such as Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer are proposing.  As evidence, please review the “Fort Ord Parklands – a Vision Statement” completed in January 1992. Note that among the many groups that prepared and endorsed this report were the Sierra Club and the Native Plant Society, along with nine other influential non-profit groups. Highlighted in yellow are many sections of the report that are relevant to the controversy at hand. Here is one particularly significant paragraph from the introductory remarks.
“Fringing the 8,000 acre Impact Zone is a Recreational Land greenbelt buffer area, where recreational activities and trails are proposed. The Impact Zone is designated Open Space Land, where wildlife habitat and natural ecological processes should be allowed to continue uninterrupted. The entire coastal zone and the remaining inland area south of Intergarrison Road is (sic) designated Parks/Wildlife Preserve Lands to protect the unique Maritime Chaparral, Oak Woodlands and Native Grassland areas and high concentrations of rare and uncommon plants and animals. Fort Ord harbors the last large habitat tracts of vegetation that were once typical of the Monterey Peninsula. These lands support many threatened endemic species that are naturally restricted to the central coast region and found nowhere else in the world.”
If one reads this scientific report, at least the sections highlighted in yellow, it becomes obvious that Keep Fort Ord Wild and other environmentally concerned groups are just attempting to preserve the same undeveloped wilderness that the 1992 Fort Ord Parklands Group said should be preserved over 23 years ago!
Here is the mission statement of Keep Fort Ord Wild:
“Keep Fort Ord Wild is a community coalition dedicated to the preservation of trails, recreation, wildlife and habitat on Fort Ord. We support sensible, economically viable, redevelopment of the extensive blight within the urban footprint of the former base. We support conservation of existing undeveloped open space for the enjoyment of current and future generations.”
So, clearly, the land in question is not unwanted land. In fact many of us have been fighting for nearly five years now to convince the leaders and populace that this land has been ‘wanted’ for its true intrinsic value as stated so well in the ‘Preservation Goals’ at the conclusion of the Parklands report, and quoted below.
“When Fort Ord closes, the primary economic base for the Monterey Peninsula will be tourism, a clean industry well established in this splendid region. Although the large number and variety of hotels and resorts available to visitors provides a great attraction, it is the outstanding natural beauty of the open space landscape that draws most people to the area. It is economically sound to provide recreational opportunities that enhance the visitor experience, fulfill the recreational needs of the local resident community, and maintain the ecological integrity of the natural landscape.”
Let’s keep Fort Ord wild!

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. His commentary first appeared in the Monterey Herald.


happy dog in a car windowI’ve been working on a couple stories for the Partisan but they’re taking some time. So I’m feeling antsy, out of touch, in need of reconnecting with the crowd. While casting about for ideas, I thought of my neighbor who said she seldom reads newspapers or other periodicals because they’re so full of negative.

“My blog has positive stuff in it,” I told her.

“Yeah, right,” was all she said in return.

So to prove her wrong, and to reconnect, I hereby declare this column to be a compendium of positive things generally within my orbit. Feel free to click on the comment button at the end and add some good things of your own.

Good Things:

The rain last night. Not enough to do much actually, but it could keep the green spots in the hills around for a few more days.

Toro Café. So old-fashioned that when I’m drinking Toro tea, I half expect my grandpa to come walking in.

The way the hills and the fields look when you’re leaving Salinas headed west on Highway 68.

Those pink flowers along the Rec Trail in Pacific Grove

The smell of the ocean.

The sound of sea lions in the fog

Girls and women playing sports

Boys and men playing sports

The noontime, half-court basketball games at the Monterey Sports Center, especially when Backboard Billy is playing

Morley Brown’s contagious spirit

Corral de Tierra Road before the Four Corners where the trees line the road

The road to Big Sur

Big Sur

Loma Livernois

The view from Upper Seaside

The pasta at the Frutti Del Mar Grill in Marina

Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria in Seaside.

Last Chance Mercantile at the dump

Water polo

Wild turkeys

Seventeen-mile Drive unless you have to pay to get through the gate


Carmel Beach

Alan Haffa

KRML radio

Phil Bowhay’s column in the Herald

Thrift stores

The record store in New Monterey and the one on Forest

The symphony, especially when it plays in Salinas

Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Pacifica



San Juan Bautista

My neighbors

Music in the schools

Moss Landing

Home-grown tomatoes

Your turn:


Proprietor’s note: This is an expanded version of a post that first appeared April 25


“The problem, Watson, is that you look but you don’t see!”
—Sherlock Holmes*

I have a habit of giving advice to TV detectives as they bumble through their investigations. My wife puts up with this and even chimes in herself when some obvious clue seems to be overlooked. Currently we are giving advice to DCS Christopher Foyle, (Foyle’s War, available on DVD from our wonderful Monterey County Library), though he seldom needs our help.

I have often longed to have long-suffering, amiable Dr. Watson remark, “The problem, Holmes, is that you talk but you don’t communicate!”

“What could you possibly mean by saying, I look but don’t see? What earthly difference is there?”

“All the difference in the world, my dear doctor,” smiles Holmes in reply. And, of course, he is correct.

One of the axioms of medical anthropology is the distinction between sickness and illness. Yes, Watson, there is a difference. Sickness is pathology, malfunction, inflammation, pus and fever. Illness is our own individual experience of these things: hope and fear, decision-making resource allocation, in the context of our personal experience and the norms and values of our culture.

The distinction between “looking” and “seeing” is quite similar. Looking is the physical act that involves reflected light striking photoreceptors, which are excited to pass along a signal to a group of neurons in what passes for a brain in whatever organism is doing the looking. The phenomena ends there.

Seeing is a higher order function that includes the interpretation of the neural signals in terms of representation and attribution. Representation is what the signals seem to form in the mind’s eye: a cow, a bicycle, a thingamajig. Representation takes the form of nouns. Attribution recruits the slew of adjectives that swarm in and turn a guy into a “hunk,” or make a sideways glance “sinister.”

Part of looking is what we are equipped with to do the looking. Take a rainbow, for instance. Human beings have three color receptors called cones in their retinas. We receive signals from these receptors that we represent mentally as a rainbow. Except, that is for the 10% of persons, overwhelmingly males, who are color blind.When they look, they end up seeing a bi-chromatic rainbow, colors that can be represented by the combinations of signals from only two of the three cones.

Your dog has only two color receptors in his eyes and when he looks at a rainbow, he sees only what his eyes are capable of detecting and his brain capable of attributing: the same bi-chromatic rainbow that the colorblind person sees. (for a nice view of what Fido sees when he looks at his toys.)

So we humans are capable of looking at objects and seeing richer colors than our pooch. Before you start to nod knowingly from the zenith of evolution about the natural superiorities of the human organism, pause for a moment to look at a dandelion blossom.

When we look with our tri-chromatic eyes we see a yellow flower, and perhaps the unwanted scourge of our perfect lawn, (representation and attribution). Honeybees also have three types of color receptors. However, instead of red, blue and green, honeybees see colors that result from the combination of green, blue and ultra violet. They have tri-chromatic vision, but they see things quite differently. (Here’s a gallery of bee’s eye views of flowers.)

Butterflies have six types of color receptors and the mantis shrimp has 12 to 16 depending on who’s doing the counting. So, we look with different equipment than our fellow sighted creatures. But we have no way of knowing how differently we may see than our neighbors. But consider for a moment the differences in seeing just among human beings: between me and you; him and her.

Why is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Why is it that when a pickpocket looks at a saint all he sees are pockets? These are questions that might baffle Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth, but neuroscientists and psychologists are beginning to tackle this knotty problem. Their preliminary discoveries form the basis of the current mindfulness craze, and the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy.

More about that some other time, Foyle is about to walk into an abandoned munitions factory and he may need my help.

Studies using super-fast, high-resolution EEGs have demonstrated that when signals come from our eyes to the visual cortex in the brain, we perceive them in their unadulterated form for about 25 milliseconds. After that finger snap of time the representing and attributing functions of the brain activate a widespread neural network. Parts of the brain associated with emotions, memory, reward, and spatial awareness are included in this network. Connections between the brain and the body are also activated so there is a somatic component to every perception.

The representing activities are really fast. How long does it take to recognize the difference between a rose and a fork? What the brain really lingers on is attributing context to what we have seen. Remember that attribution is the assigning of adjectives.

Here is a fully attributed vignette: The condescending physician regarded his patient sarcastically and asked patronizingly, “So, you think you have a heart problem?” Idly picking up a model of a heart, he contemptuously asked, “What sort of heart problem do you think you have?”

Strip away all the attribution and we change from Dr. Mengele to Marcus Welby: The physician regarded his patient and asked, “So you think you have a heart problem?” Picking up a model of a heart he asked, “What sort of heart problem do you think you have?”

Attributing qualities and characteristics to perceptions is vital and automatic. Without the ability to interpret perceptions we might end up being treated by the first doctor instead of the second. We might mistake a snake in the grass for a harmless garter snake, so to speak.

In science there is a lot of looking done with a lot of expensive and exotic toys. Good scientists keep the seeing to a minimum until the end of the experiment. The reason is that they do not want to be swayed by “observational bias.” They want to see things as they are, not as they hope/fear they might be. Observational bias can be introduced by the instruments used (human eye versus butterfly eye), or the setting of the observations (naturalistic versus artificial), or by the scientist’s own desire for a particular outcome.

In daily life we make a lot of observations but within 20-30 milliseconds we are busy introducing our own particular bias. Our bias has various sources including our past experiences, our fears/hopes, our prejudices, and our desire to see things in a certain preconceived manner.  We would not be here if our ancestors did not operate from observational bias. From escaping sudden death in the jungle to selecting a particular mate, our bias determines our behaviors.

While preconceptions and prejudices make life possible, they can also make life miserable. When our preconceived notion of the world is that it is an unsafe place, neutral experiences become fearful. When our prejudice is that people outside our group are less valuable than an in-crowd, discrimination occurs. When we think we are not worthy of happiness, all our experiences reinforce the feelings that give rise to depression.

Mindfulness, while currently tainted with the stain of faddishness, is simply trying to be aware of the adjectives we insert into the story of our life.  Since we are constantly writing and reciting this script in our head, we should learn to choose our adjectives carefully.

Have an unforgettably joyous day.


* Sherlock is such a part of our zeitgeist that I won’t bother to correct the attribution to the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Woods is a physician and therapist who has practiced in Watsonville for 25 years. He currently provides medical treatment and psychotherapy for children and adolescents.


People’s desal project still chugging along


This is an update on the People’s Desal Project, Nader Agha’s proposed desal plant at Moss Landing, as provided by the project’s lawyer, David Balch:

The Moss Landing Harbor District (MLHD) – the CEQA Lead Agency for the People’s Desal Project – voted last night, April 22, to accept the proposal from Aspen Environmental Group to serve as the MLHD’s CEQA consultant. Aspen’s hiring, which was conditioned on the final checking of references and a scoping workshop, begins the formal CEQA review process. Aspen’s proposed schedule shows a June 2016 completion date.

This was a busy week for the People’s Project. Prior to the MLHD vote, we were introducing the project to key regulatory agencies and legislators in Sacramento. We met with Senator Bill Monning’s office, with Secretary Anna Caballero, and with the Chief Consultant to the Environmental Safety Committee (which is chaired by Assemblyman Luis Alejo), as well as with the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Water Commission, and the Lieutenant Governor’s office (who sits on the State Lands Commission). While these meetings were introductory in nature, it marks an exciting new phase for the People’s Moss Landing project.

Project Overview

The People’s Moss Landing project is a proposed reverse osmosis desalination plant at the Moss Landing Green Commercial Park that will produce 13,404 acre-feet per year (AFY) of potable water. The Project proposes to provide 3,652 AFY of “new water” to North County and 9,752 AFY to the Monterey Peninsula, to offset Cal-Am’s mandated water supply diversion curtailments on the Carmel River and Seaside Basin. The Project is located at the site of the former Kaiser Refractories Plant in Moss Landing, and it will occupy approximately 16 acres of the entire 186 acre site. Once the plant is built, water production (including delivery) is estimated to cost between $1,950 and $2,000 per acre foot – the least expensive of the three major local desalination proposals. The Draft Process Design Report provides a detailed overview of the Project and is located on the Project’s website.

Project Benefits

The “People’s Project” is located at the former National Refractories site in Moss Landing, California, which was identified by the CPUC in 2002 as the “preferred site” for a Monterey desalination plant, at the direction of the State Legislature. The MLCP site is zoned industrial and has been used extensively for industrial purposes. The site is considered ideal for a desalination plant since it is adjacent to the Moss Landing Power Plant, has access to a major roadway, and has significant infrastructure in place.

The People’s Project site has historical intake from, and discharge into, Monterey Bay, pre-existing the creation of the California Coastal Commission and the Monterey Bay Marine National Sanctuary. The site also has existing, grandfathered intake and outfall pipelines that run from the property, under Highway One and the Moss Landing harbor, and out into Monterey Bay. (The project team, of course, is aware of the proposed SWRCB regulations that require subsurface intake unless proven infeasible, and we look forward to working with the regulators during the coming months on this issue.) The site also has senior appropriative rights of approximately 2,000 acre feet of zone 2C groundwater, considered to be part of Salinas Valley groundwater basin. The People’s Project is the only project that has these critical benefits.


happy and smiling girl with a smile painted on paperA Letter to a friend:

This morning was a rotten morning for you. All your feelings of regret and remorse flooded back in.  But later, when we talked on the phone you told me something insightful.

“I think that these habits of thinking have been with me a long time.”

BINGO! Much of our unhappiness comes from self-talk that is negative and based on invalid cognitions. And most of us have been practicing these sorts of thoughts since we were kids. Some of the common invalid cognitions include: “No one likes me”; “I’ll never find someone who makes me happy”; “I’m miserable and it is never going to get better”, “I don’t deserve to be happy”.  So it is important to develop different ways of seeing things that are based on valid cognitions.

But, for people who are live in their head a lot, sometimes the best way to deal with a bad morning is not to try to be objective and “think your way our of it.”  Instead, “do your way out of it.” One thing you can do is to practice relaxation techniques: diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualizing positive images, etc.

There are several reasons why it is important to practice relaxation techniques.  The most obvious is that it feels better to be relaxed than it does to feel wound up and crazy. It is important to practice relaxation techniques when the stress is low and you are in a safe place. With some practice in a low-stress setting you will be able to relax when you are in a stressful situation. You don’t practice self-defense while you are being mugged! You practice in the gym, so that should the need arise you automatically protect yourself. You don’t practice stress reduction in the waiting room before a performance evaluation with a boss that makes Attila the Hun look like Mother Theresa.

For some of us who spend too much time overthinking things, it is not a great idea to try to think our way out of a mental jam. This is the second reason why relaxation techniques are important. If you adopt a physical pose or activity that is incompatible with an emotional state, the physical posture will take precedence and overrule the emotional state.

The most obvious example is deep breathing. When you are anxious or upset you notice your breathing is shallow and fast. You breathe from the top of your chest. That is fine if you are just about to run away from an enemy. Not so great if you are going to your in-law’s house for Christmas dinner.

Diaphragmatic breathing: slow; deep; and relaxed is incompatible with anxiety. If you start feeling anxious, do four or five slow deep “Relaxation Breaths”, and voila. You feel a bit less anxious. This isn’t just an old wife’s tale, (a tip of my hat to all old wives and their uncommon common sense); there is a neurophysiological basis for this. The deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system that opposes the sympathetic nervous system, which is causing all of the distressing physical symptoms of anxiety.

There is a free app called Breathe 2 Relax, that teaches this breathing technique. There are Android and iPhone versions.

Another way to beat the blues is to smile. When we are happy we smile. Simple enough. When we smile we are happy is a bit tougher to believe. If you can smile, even when you feel sad, it will lift your mood.  If you can position the muscles of your face in a smile for 30-90 seconds you will not feel as sad when you finish this exercise, as you were when you started.

Try it out. Rate your happiness on a 1-10 scale with one being “my dog died” and 10 being “I won the lottery”.  Try the smiling exercise, and then rate your happiness again. Your happiness score will have gone up a point or two.  Or try deep breathing using an anxiety scale.  A minute or two of relaxation breathing will lower your subjective feelings of anxiety.

We don’t have too much of a problem accepting that our mental state produces bodily sensations.  When I get anxious it hits my stomach first. I feel nauseated. Great way to lose weight, but I’d rather eat a bushel of celery, (grown locally, of course). It is much more difficult to accept that this neurological boulevard is a two-way street. Dr. Amy Cuddy has done some great work with using “power poses” to decrease stress and increase self-confidence. Here is a link to her TED talk.

Little by little using very simple techniques you can feel better.

Woods is a physician and therapist who has practiced in Watsonville for 25 years. He currently provides medical treatment and psychotherapy for children and adolescents.


Uomo d'affari in crisiMore than a year out of the daily grind of newspaper journalism, I was interested in Monday’s announcement of the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes but not as interested as I once was. Many of those who began their journalism careers when I did have hung up their green eyeshades or have sought more secure work in the used-car industry or fireworks sales.

In truth, Pulitzer announcement day is something that most working journalists would really rather not talk about. It’s the day that friends, or rivals, receive recognition for working for a newspaper that does not require the reporters to take turns writing garden club news or covering Rotary Club luncheons, none of which have ever been newsworthy. It’s the day, in other words, that most journalists don’t win Pulitzers.

The big story of this week’s announcement was not the number of prizes won by the New York Times, recognition that causes great distress among the many New York Times haters on the right, most of whom have never read the Times. Instead, it was that two prize winners had left the industry, fleeing from the uncertain fate of newspapers.

Often there are prize winners who by virtue of talent or good fortune have moved up the industry pecking order by the time the prizes have been awarded. There always seemed to be a young reporter for the Asbury Park Press who celebrated the award at the new desk at the Washington Post. This was different.

A 39-year-old reporter, Rob Kuznia of the Torrance Daily Breeze, was part of a three-person team that won the Pulitzer for a series of articles on a corrupt school district. He had to leave his PR job to join in the festivities. He had departed the Breeze months earlier because he couldn’t pay the rent on his newspaper salary. (By the way, former Monterey Herald Editor Carolina Garcia is part of the editing team at the Daily Breeze.)

It was a similar story in Charleston, S.C. A team of reporters there won a Pulitzer for a series on domestic violence. Writer Natalie Hauff had left some months earlier, however. Not for the Boston Globe or the NY Times but for a PR job in county government.

During the hastily scheduled celebration in Torrance, the executive editor didn’t try to gloss over the reality that most newspapers ain’t what they used to be, pointing out all the empty desks in the newsroom. These are trying times for newspapers, but you already knew that.

So you’re all probably wondering if I ever won a Pulitzer, right? The truth is that I did come kinda, sorta close once upon a time, but it wouldn’t have been deserved.

The journalism in question was the Fresno Bee’s coverage of the Coalinga earthquake of 1983. It was a pretty big earthquake. Forty miles away in the Fresno Bee newsroom, the city editor got so scared he ran down the stairs and into the parking lot before the shaking ended. It would have turned out better for our coverage if he had kept running.

Lots of houses were ruined in Coalinga. A few downtown buildings collapsed. The best part of our first day’s report was the photography of Paul Kuroda, who was only 15 miles away when the shaking started. There no fatalities but quite a few injuries. That led to the huge headline on our first story, but it wasn’t a zinger: QUAKE HURTS 25.

But that clunker isn’t what cost us the Pulitzer. The main problem was that the city editor’s parents were in town that week, so each day as we finished our package of stories on the quake, he needed to leave to see the folks rather than stay behind to plan the next day’s coverage as he should have. That meant that we started fresh each day, with none of the reporters knowing what the assignment would be until 10 or 11 or so. We didn’t have any reporters staying overnight in Coalinga, so we lost all sorts of time traveling back and forth and getting reorganized each morning.

Our coverage was OK overall. I was the lead writer most days and I know how to milk a tragedy. But, beyond the Day 1 photography, there really was nothing special.

Even so, Editor George Gruner was tipped off a couple days before announcement day that we were going to win the Pulitzer for best local news coverage. He kept it under his hat until the big day. Then, just as the prize machine was cranking up in NYC, George got up on a chair in the middle of the newsroom and started to sniffle.

“We almost won a Pulitzer,” he told us. Turned out that the Pulitzer board had overruled the Pulitzer committee at the last minute and had decided that coverage of natural disasters wasn’t a good choice for the big prize. Too easy. Too predictable. So the prize in our category went to Newsday for its coverage of the Baby M case. I don’t remember what that was about but it wasn’t a natural disaster.

We celebrated our near win with near beer.

Oh yeah, the local reporting prize the next year went to coverage of a flood.

I was pleased Monday to see that a long-time acquaintance, L.A. Times reporter Diana Marcum, formerly of the Bee, won the prize for feature writing. She told the stories of people affected by the great California drought. I guess you could say she won for coverage of a natural disaster, but then there are all those New York Times haters who argue that there’s nothing natural about the drought and that, like everything else, it’s the fault of those liberals, especially the ones at the Times. Regardless, here’s a link to her stories, which are very much worth reading.

Here’s how Marcum opened a story, datelined Madera, last December:

 When a man of 91 is downright cantankerous and has been on his land longer than most everyone else has been alive, he wastes no time speaking his mind. So after his new neighbor started sinking a well to plant a water-sucking almond orchard in the middle of the worst drought he’d ever seen, James Turner hurried over.  

“How deep you going to dig your well?” 

 Five hundred feet, Davinder Singh told him. 

“My well is 300 feet. Why, you’re going to take my water!” 

Singh, a man of gentle humor, gave no answer.


This picture has little to do with the article it accompanies, but it’s kind of cool.

I planned to take an extended sabbatical from columnizing for two reasons.

First, I am a fanatic for the NBA, and the just-started pro basketball playoffs will last until mid-June. It is difficult to think about much else than game-to-game adjustments and complete hooey from the mouth of TNT analyst Charles Barkley, whose disdain for the wonderful team from Oakland betrays an antipathy for the East Bay city rivaled only by Gertrude Stein, who famously said “there is no there” about Golden State’s motion offense. Or something like that.

Second, at last count there are 19 announced, almost-announced and awaiting-a-callback-from-God candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016. That is simply too many to take seriously, and I won’t address the GOP field until it has been reduced in size to the number of dwarves who worshipped Snow White. This could take months, and several more caucuses of the all-powerful Koch Brothers.

But then I saw pictures Monday of newsroom celebrations with champagne and other goodies after the winners of the Pulitzer Prizes were announced. This brought back many fine memories. Not of all the times I didn’t win a piece of a Pulitzer, let alone a thread of a nomination. In fact, it is a sad comment on Central Coast journalism that the last time a Pulitzer was snagged in these parts for journalistic endeavor came in 1956 when the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian exposed corruption in Santa Cruz County that led to the resignation of a district attorney and trial for one of his cronies.

John Steinbeck, of course, won the 1939 Pulitzer for fiction for “The Grapes of Wrath,” but by then he was already, or about to be, ridden out of the county for being a radical com-symp.

No, the newsroom celebrations reminded me of daily rituals that took place at noon, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays in the Monterey and Salinas newsrooms where I labored for years, fighting the good fight and unsuccessfully explaining to colleagues the difference between rebut and refute.

I gave up, and there’s no refuting that.

Back to those daily newsroom gatherings. The occasions were the local television newscasts. Most of the reporters and a couple editors invariably would gather near the TV screen, and one would be charged with surfing back and forth between channels.

The ostensible reason was to see what the electronic competition had that we may have missed. Not very much, usually. Occasionally there was a “scoop” of sorts, forcing an editor to make a command decision about whether to immediately give chase or, better yet, to ignore it.

I do recall one TV reporter who always — and I mean always — got the beat on any story involving surreptitious, illegal video recording going on in female restrooms. An odd specialty, but he was very good on this subject. 

The real purpose of these daily gatherings was a kind of impromptu pep rally for self-important print journalists who work in relative obscurity compared to TV anchors and reporters with their nice clothes, nice hair and nice looks.

Hoots of laughter greeted every story lifted from that morning’s paper. The dismissive snorts grew louder when the verbiage of a TV story matched the sentences one of us had written hours earlier.

“Hey, they stole that,” one of us would say. And we would shake our heads and smugly tut-tut. For we knew who the real journalists were.

I’m sad to say this commentary often strayed, once it was ascertained that no more news was breaking, to areas that would prove embarrassing had videos of our catty commentary leaked. There were plenty of comments about botched video production, anchors looking at the wrong camera, and, of course, the physical comeliness of the TV folks.

Chauvinistic, you bet. Juvenile, guilty. Of any lasting importance, no way.

My most frequent gripe during my last year were necklaces worn by every female anchor and reporter. They were composed of extremely large beads that reminded me of fishing buoys and made me long for something understated on a simple gold chain. I’m the last guy to give fashion advice, but those giganto-beads looked painful to wear. I hope styles have changed.

These extemporaneous forays into acerbic media criticism, for a generation of print journalists now passing, seemed perfectly acceptable. Our mean words did not go beyond the newsroom. They caused no pain. Perhaps, they helped keep thinning staffs of print journalists determined to keep being the best news gatherers around. Even as the media world wobbles into 24/7 Digital Land, where every reporter, behind and in front of a tiny camera, can be almost on the air.

Proprietor’s note: An earlier version of this column carried the wrong byline. It is indeed the work of Larry Parsons.


Drowning PiggyIn a ruling that could dramatically alter the way Californians are billed for their water, while also making it more difficult to impose higher rates for conservation purposes, an Orange County appellate court ruled Monday that water agencies cannot charge tiered rates unless they are directly tied to the actual cost of providing water.

Many California water purveyors, including California American Water on the Monterey Peninsula, have imposed steeply graduated rates intended to encourage heavy water users to cut back. Whether private companies such as Cal Am would be affected by Monday’s opinion is not clear. It could be significant, though, that the 3-0 ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal does not seem to make a distinction between government bodies and private companies. (Previous Partisan article on the lawsuit)

The ruling adds a wrinkle to California’s current water crisis, which has led Gov. Jerry Brown to order sweeping conservation measures and to order all local water agencies to implement tiered water pricing. About two thirds of the water districts in the state use tiered pricing and many of them have banded together in hopes of preventing a ruling such as the one handed down Monday. They argue that tying the tiered rates to actual costs can be done but the calculations would be exceptionally complex, time consuming and, ultimately, expensive. Most water agencies, Cal Am included, created the higher tiers arbitrarily, essentially calling them a penalty rather than an actual fee for service.

A UC Riverside study last year ago found that tiered rates led to an overall reduction in water usage of about 15 percent.

The underlying court case was brought by a taxpayers group in San Juan Capistrano, where the water agency is charging the biggest users about four times more per gallon than the most frugal users are charged.

San Juan Capistrano’s 2010 rate schedule charged customers $2.47 per unit — 748 gallons, or 100 cubic feet — of water in the first tier and up to $9.05 per unit in the fourth. In comparison, Cal Am’s top rate for residential customers is about $45 per 100 cubic feet.

The appeals court also ruled that agencies cannot set different rate structures for different classes of customers, such as residential and commercial. Cal Am’s rate structure provides most commercial users with a discount of about 20 percent, which is among the reasons the Peninsula business community has become a strong political supporter of the water purveyor.


Are Cal Am and its critics talking past each other?


Several good issues are raised in this interesting Monterey Herald commentary by Bill Hood regarding a Cal Am presentation to a Water Plus group. I’d love to hear more details, though, about what was said by Cal Am reps and the audience. If you were there, fill us in, por favor.

blah blah blah


Longtime United Way chief Mary Adams announced her retirement late Sunday, which is widely interpreted as a giant step toward her candidacy for the District 5 seat  on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, a position now held by Dave Potter.

United Way United Way
Monterey County

Mary Adams Retires and Leaves United Way in Good Hands
Katy Castagna (r) will take over after
Mary Adams’ retirement June 30.

Monterey – After 14 years as President and CEO of United Way Monterey County Mary Adams will retire on June 30.  Under her leadership UWMC has stretched beyond its role as a leading community funder to bringing key services to our community. Through her stewardship, one in three county residents has benefited from a UWMC-funded service. She has been heralded for her innovative leadership, personal commitment and style.

“Mary and the board have been discussing her retirement since late 2014 and she felt this was the best time to make the change,” said UWMC Board Chair Tim Nylen, Vice President, CHOMP. “We’re grateful to have had Mary lead us through the significant shift we’ve made toward Community Impact over the past few years and   wish her well as she leaves to pursue personal goals she deferred for our benefit.”

Adams’ accomplishments leave a legacy that will benefit United Way and Monterey County for years to come. Her achievements are remarkable in and of themselves but when you consider she assumed leadership at a time when the agency was struggling to merge two very different organizations and two very different cultures — those of United Way of the Salinas Valley and United Way of the Monterey Peninsula — they demonstrate her capacity to forge partnerships across diverse sectors. Today, everyone can agree United Way is one of the most effective and highly respected organizations in the county.

Ensuring a seamless transition, the Board of Directors are proud to announce the promotion of Katy Castagna to President and CEO effective July 1.  Castagna currently serves as Chief Operating Officer and oversees operations and fundraising.

“Katy is the perfect choice for our community.  She has the capacity to provide seamless leadership and build on the success achieved under Mary’s tenure,” said Nylen. “Katy has the experience, the educational background and, most importantly, she shares our vision for United Way and our community.”

Castagna has more than 30 years of experience working and volunteering in public and nonprofit organizations focused on health and human services.  She has been with United Way for 10 years and she and Adams were instrumental in bringing services such as 2-1-1, EarnIt! KeepIt! SaveIt!, the  Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) and Stuff the Bus to great heights in Monterey County.  A graduate of Brown University, she holds an MBA from The Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She lives in Monterey with her husband and their two children.  Among her other interests, she volunteers with the American Cetacean Society, a whale and dolphin conservation organization.

“The board’s selection of Katy as President and CEO is very gratifying. She and I have been working on a succession plan for several years.  Her experience and love of community engagement positions her remarkably well to take United Way and our focus on transition to the next level. The timing is perfect.  She will be able to take the issues identified through Impact Monterey County and work with community leaders to address them.” said Adams. “Katy will have a strong, capable team backing her up. United Way could not be left in better hands.”

Adams raised the profile of UWMC and leaves a much stronger organization than she found.  Not only did she increase United Way’s ability to raise money, she actively and successfully pursued collaborations to bring key services to the community.  Under her leadership, public and private sources of funding were garnered to ensure long-term sustainability of programs such as 2-1-1, VITA and The Volunteer Center.  Community leaders recognize the value UWMC brings to the community and the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce named UWMC the Business of the Year in 2008.

Adams is visionary.  She recognized early that United Way needed to evolve beyond its traditional role as a fund distributor and pursued alternate business models to enable UWMC to more effectively serve the community. Thanks to her leadership, she leaves an organization well-positioned to tackle issues that keep us from ensuring everyone has the opportunity for a good quality of life.

Adams’ career spans nearly 40 years in the not-for-profit sector. She has been instrumental in the California State Capital, serving as a lobbyist for both the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, spearheading anti-tobacco legislation. She has been recognized nationally and internationally for her endeavors.

Locally, Adams was recognized in 2007 as Outstanding Woman of the Year by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors Commission on the Status of Women. In 2008, she received the Rusty Stratton Award for Volunteerism and in 2011, she was presented the Community Leadership Award from CSU Monterey Bay School of Business and named Outstanding Woman of the Year by the Girl Scouts Council of Monterey Bay.

Adams has served in leadership roles for many organizations including the following, among others:

*    CAIRS (California Alliance of Information and Referral Services)
*    United Ways of California
*    2-1-1 California
*    Salute to Small Business Awards Judge
*    Monterey County Children’s Council
*    10-Year Plan to End Homelessness
*    York School Board of Trustees
*    KUSP-FM Founding Board of Directors
*    KUSP-FM Community Advisory Board
*    Leadership Monterey Peninsula Advisory Board
*    Salinas Rotary (member)
*    Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
*    L.E.A.D – Advisory Committee
*    KSBW Jefferson Awards Judge
*    The Literacy Campaign for Monterey County Steering Committee
*    Ethics Panel at CSUMB
*    Bright Futures, Co-convener

She has been quoted in publications as diverse as Nature Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times and The Economist. Adams served as President of the prestigious California Biomedical Research Association, Senior Vice President of the American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate and served in a variety of senior management positions with the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco and Sacramento. Adams has worked with boards of directors at the national, state and local levels.

She looks forward to the opportunity to pursue a long-held dream of serving her community in a new way.


A tip for candidates: Carry your lunch


Tip JarAnother damning video is rocking America. This one is not of a police-involved shooting, a drunken  naked rant by “a celebrity,” or a cute kitten playing with basket full of cobras. It’s just another one of those darn presidential-candidate videos, a la Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent bootleg.

It seems mighty important to some journalists that neither Hillary Clinton nor her top burrito-buying aide left a tip at the Chipotle restaurant where they stopped during the early hours of the mighty van expedition from Washington, D.C., to Iowa. At least that’s what the video of the Next Clinton Who Wants To Be President standing near the salsa bar would indicate. While the video could be doctored, I assume there wasn’t a tip proffered. But what does it mean for Clinton and her candidacy?

Tipping always is a tricky question when you order take-out, because there really isn’t any table service involved. Some tipping guides recommend 0 percent, while I follow the more traditional method of emptying my pockets of all loose change and putting it in the tip jar, if a tip jar is visible. I add a dollar bill if anyone on the other side of the checkout counter is watching this sad cataract of pennies and nickels, and I haven’t yet received my food.

I consider myself a decent tipper — always between 15 to 20 percent at the restaurant, and I would follow the same rule of thumb for hairdressers if I were not bald. I always leave a few bills for bartenders and cabbies.

Years ago, I lived with a young woman who returned home nightly from work when the clubs closed, either crestfallen or jubilant over the amount of tips she’d received for juggling drink trays between tables of inebriates for a bone-wearying eight hours. To this day, I always tip these troupers handsomely because it is very hard work, and you deal with a lot of louts.

But a few weeks ago, I read an essay by a social justice firebrand who argued that it is time to stop tipping in businesses exempt from minimum wage laws for workers who receive large amounts of their income through tips. The author figured no tipping would quickly fix that inequity because suddenly tip-starved servers would find other jobs with hedge funds or high-tech start-ups or as oil industry executives. This exodus would force up real wages for formerly tip-subsidized jobs.

I’ll give this author a few tips.

It wouldn’t work. And if you tried it, you would have to eat your own cooking every night, or go to a new joint every time you went out. Otherwise you’d face possible retribution in the form of drinks spilled down your shirt, glacial service and strange additions to your plate that could cause unwelcome side effects.

As for fallout from the Great Chipotle Stiff, it remains to be seen how it will impact Clinton’s chances. If the media were on their toes, other candidates would be grilled about their own tipping rules. That could be instructive or ridiculous, but I believe most would either A. take umbrage at the “gotcha” question; B say their tax-cut plans would help everyone far more than a $10 tip; C. argue the Founders never said anything about tips, or D. lie and say they are exceptional tippers because they live in an exceptional country with exceptional service.

From here, the worst that could happen is if any of the candidates are caught on video showing they are great tippers in the traditional fashion at a strip club. It’s difficult to stuff a huge tax cut under such a threadbare amount of material. Especially when you’re sweating more than Richard Nixon during the first televised 1960 debate.

I think what really happened is Hillary thought her aide left the tip, and the aide thought Hillary left the tip. It could happen to any of us traveling by van to Iowa to run for president.