Getting Restraining Order Protection

In California there is help for individuals who need to protect themselves and their family from violent and abusive behavior. It’s called a Restraining Order and individuals can obtain one through the Superior Court system.

Restraining-Order1By JIM McCULLAUGH, ESQ.

In California there is help for individuals who need to protect themselves and their family from violent and abusive behavior. It’s called a Restraining Order and individuals can obtain one through the Superior Court system.

In addition to physical violence and excessive verbal abuse, domestic violence can also be stalking, sending excessive texts, making excessive phone calls, damaging property and other actions which engender fear.

It is estimated that each year some one million persons in the U.S. are granted restraining orders.

There is no fee for filing for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California. With a little research and guidance, a person can file without the necessity of an attorney.  All it takes is filling out some pre-printed forms and writing a declaration signed under penalty of perjury outlining the recent violence. Forms are also available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

The required forms are on the court’s website at slocourts.net. The main form an individual needs is a DV-100 Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order. Other forms are available which cover child custody and visitation orders. A main requirement is writing the declaration explaining the recent instances of violence. You must be specific and let the judge know the nature of the violence and how fearful it has made you. Above all it should be direct as possible and not an exaggeration. Stick to discussing what you personally experienced as to avoid hearsay problems.

What happens after you file? When you file your papers a clerk will bring them to a judge who will review them in chambers the same day you file. If the judge grants you a Temporary Restraining Order, you can  take it to the Sheriff and have it served on the other person for free. Serving the other person and giving them notice is an requirement.

The Temporary Restraining Order usually lasts for about 21 days.  The Court will set a hearing date on the Temporary Restraining Order for a Permanent Restraining Order. These days judges can issue Restraining Orders for up to five years.

It is important that you come to the hearing date and bring whatever evidence and witnesses you want to present. If you don’t come to the hearing date, the judge will dismiss the Temporary Restraining Order.

Of course, the person who you filed the Restraining Order against will also come to the hearing. If that person does not come, a judge will probably issue a permanent order.

If both persons are there, the judge will hear the arguments from both sides and review evidence from each. The judge will also ask questions and will allow the parties to cross-examine each other. After that the judge will make a ruling.

If you do get a Permanent Restraining Order, make several copies and keep one with you. If the other party violates it, they can be arrested.

Some folks may be nervous about the court hearing and may want an attorney to represent them. If the other party has obtained an attorney, the person who filed may want an attorney at the hearing.

In San Luis Obispo County there are substantial domestic violence help services available from the San Luis Obispo Women’s Shelter and RISE, among others.

Questions? Call (818) 380-3081 or e-mail  attorney Jim McCullaugh at: jim@attorneyfortheages.com.

Obamacare Wrinkle: Bill Seeks to Reduce State's Seizure of Medi-Cal Recipients' Assets

California politicians and federal bureaucrats are scrambling to iron out an unexpected wrinkle in the nation’s health care law that is forcing many Americans to choose between health coverage and depriving heirs of much of their inheritance.

By TRACY SEIPEL

California politicians and federal bureaucrats are scrambling to iron out an unexpected wrinkle in the nation’s health care law that is forcing many Americans to choose between health coverage and depriving heirs of much of their inheritance.

California is one of 10 states that recover a broad array of costs from recipients of Medicaid, the health program for the poor that is called Medi-Cal in California. The policy applies to recipients 55 and older — and only after they die.

The seizure of assets has been going on for years but has suddenly become a heated issue since millions of low-income American adults began enrolling in the expanded Medicaid program created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.”

A bill in the California Legislature is aimed at reducing the amount of assets that can be “recovered” from recipients’ estates. But the proposal faces resistance from the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown, which says the state needs the millions of dollars it collects every year to help fund Medi-Cal.

The federal government, concerned that the issue is deterring many from signing up for Medicaid, is essentially telling states to back off and stop trying to recover much of the money.

In contrast to traditional Medicaid beneficiaries — low-income parents, children, seniors and people with disabilities — the new group includes adults without minor children. Many of them are homeowners who have been laid off or are unemployed and are now getting by on dwindling savings. They are eligible for Medicaid if they earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which in 2013 was $15,856 for an individual or $21,403 for a couple.

One of the Medi-Cal recipients is Campbell resident Anne-Louise Vernon, 59. She contends that California’s aggressive cost-recovery program is unjust because people whose higher income levels allow them to get subsidized private health insurance through the new Obamacare health care exchanges don’t have to pay back anything.

Vernon said she requires constant medical care because of severe nerve damage in her arms and arthritis in her legs –conditions that have prevented her from finding a job. The divorced mother of two said her home is her only real asset.

Medi-Cal, she said, has now essentially imposed a “reverse mortgage” on her home in exchange for health insurance.

“What is fair about that?” asked Vernon.

When Medicaid was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, “asset recovery” was optional. In 1993, however, the federal government began requiring all states to recoup the expenses of long-term care for Medicaid recipients ages 55 or older. States were given the option to recover all other Medicaid costs for those recipients — and California jumped at the chance.

State finance and health officials this week declined to comment on the pending legislation. But in the past, they have insisted that the provision doesn’t affect the vast majority of Medi-Cal beneficiaries — and noted that the average recovery amount is about $15,000.

Still, Vernon and Richmond resident Chris Darling, 62, who also enrolled in the expanded Medi-Cal program, worry that their future medical costs will eat up their estates. Darling even started an online petition on MoveOn.org to fight the state’s asset grab.

“It strikes me as horrible to have to choose between having health protection and your estate,” said Darling, who called the situation “Orwellian.”

Now, Darling and Vernon are pinning their hopes on both state and federal efforts to curtail asset recovery efforts.

On Tuesday, a state Assembly health committee will take up proposed legislation that would limit Medi-Cal recovery only to what’s required under federal law: the cost of long-term care in nursing homes.

Authored by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, SB 1124 has already sailed through two Senate committees.

Should it pass Tuesday and then get the blessing of the Assembly appropriations committee in mid-August, it would be voted on by the Legislature by the end of August. Brown would have until the end of September to decide whether to sign it.

“I don’t know of any other program that demands repayment after a recipient dies,” said Hernandez, who chairs the Senate’s health committee. “We don’t do it for Medicare. We don’t do it for people getting coverage through the (Covered California health care) exchange, and most other states don’t require estate recovery. People are really frightened about this policy.”

In a Feb. 21 memo, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid advised states to eliminate recovery of Medicaid benefits beyond long-term care services for the newest group of low-income adults Medicaid recipients, whose health care costs are being paid 100% by the federal government. That will be reduced to 90% in 2020.

Oregon and Washington have already eased off on their recovery efforts. Brown’s budget advisers, however, are urging him to oppose Hernandez’s legislation. An analysis by the state’s finance department says California would lose $15 million annually.

A Brown spokesman said the state won’t exempt the newest recipients from asset recovery because California has to prepare to cover the 10% of their Medi-Cal costs that the federal government won’t be picking up.

On average, the state in the last decade has collected about $60 million annually from Medi-Cal recipients’ estates. Half of that is returned to the U.S. Treasury because Medicaid is funded equally by the federal government and the states.

Considering that the state now spends more than $26 billion a year on Medi-Cal, Hernandez argues that $15 million is a negligible loss.

“I take my fiduciary responsibility to the state very seriously,” Hernandez said, but that’s “not a lot to spend to do away with a practice that unnecessarily scares needy people out of getting themselves covered.”

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

Limit seizure of assets of Medi-Cal recipients age 55 and older to amount spent on long-term care in nursing homes.

Eliminate asset seizure from estates of surviving spouses of deceased Medi-Cal recipients.

Require the state to provide Medi-Cal recipients, at no charge, a list of Medi-Cal expenses subject to “recovery.”

(Source: Office of State Sen. Ed Hernandez)

Article used by permission. Original article by Tracy Seipel appeared June 11 in the San Jose Mercury News.

Same-Sex Couples Need Pre-Nups Too

Instead of hostilities in family court, more experts are advising that same sex couples have a pre-nup before tying the knot.

same-sexringsBy Jim McCullaugh

The state of Virginia just banned that state’s ban on same sex marriage in yet another major legal victory for gay marriage. The court also said that the state must respect same-sex marriages that were carried out legally in other states. If this trend continues right up to the Supreme Court, gay partners will finally be on a footing equal to their straight counterparts. That means that same-sex couples need pre-nups too.

Comedians joke that same-sex couples should have to experience the same ‘agony’ as heterosexual couples such as divorce, shared custody disputes, spousal support and child support. Indeed, as the law evolves in all 50 states, same-sex couples will all be treated the same way in family court.

But the gloomy reality these days is that the national divorce rate is 50% while the divorce rate in some states like California is about 60%. Being gay is no guarantee that relationship will last.

Instead of hostilities in family court, more experts are advising that same sex couples have a pre-nup before tying the knot.

Yes, some folks characterize pre-nups as ‘romance killers’  and they can be. But if a married couple doesn’t have one, each can be exposed to a financial tsunami and perhaps other heartache. The best defense is a good offense. Hence, same-sex couples need pre-nups too.

Most states permit folks to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement. That is, couples can essentially make a contract about all their property prior to getting married. That way if there is a divorce, the separation roadmap is in place without court and off the radar legal fees. Usually, the only thing couples cannot contract for with a pre-nup is an agreement on child custody/visitation and child support. Courts customarily have the ultimate jurisdiction over minors in custody disputes. But if same-sex couples do adopt a child or have one by artificial insemination, at least they may only have to go to court over this one issue or else have it mediated by a professional. That is still a lot more palatable than an all-out divorce war.

Most states are also evolving in the direction of California in that they are ‘no fault’ community property states. That means a couples’ assets are typically divided in half in spite of situation. Couples who wish to have an unequal division of property should enter into a pre-nup to make sure than happens.

A pre-nup is also important for same-sex couples that are older and want a “late in life marriage.” Older folks typically have more assets than younger people and they also have more financial commitments. Often times they have established separate financial which can be sizable. Thus, there is a lot more at stakes.

Linked to the pre-nup concept is estate planning for same sex couples. There are such also considerations as retirement accounts and pensions. When same sex couples do get married, should they accrue assets in both their names and own property together? Further, what about heirs and what property gets left to heirs and relatives, if any?

Bottom line: It makes sense to sit down with a prospective spouse and carefully go over finances and expectations as well as exit strategies. As a result same-sex couples need pre-nups too.

Questions? Jim McCullaugh is an attorney specializing in estate planning. Call (818) 380-3081 or e-mail: jim@attorneyfortheages.com

Time to Deliver State Water to North County

The water shortage in Northern San Luis Obispo County requires both short- and long-term strategic thinking and an understanding that there are no simple solutions.

mguerreroBy MATTHEW GUERRERO, Oceano Community Services District Board President

The water shortage in Northern San Luis Obispo County requires both short- and long-term strategic thinking and an understanding that there are no simple solutions. There is no single answer that can be the sole solution for the problem. Careful consideration of this situation must include the following three-part analysis.

In 1963 the Board of Supervisors procured 25,000 acre feet of water annually from the California State Water Project for San Luis Obispo County. Since that time, many communities in San Luis Obispo County have chosen to take State Water. The largest participants include Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach and Avila Valley, Morro Bay, San Miguelito and Oceano. This was an expensive and lengthy process and was a politically charged issue at the time. Many communities declined State Water; some of those communities even voting against taking state water. Those declining delivery of State Water include the communities of Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Cambria, San Simeon, Los Osos, Atascadero and Paso Robles. The communities that purchased the water were responsible for funding the infrastructure for water delivery. This is mainly accomplished via pipeline that runs from the North County through the South County. Currently, of the 25,000 acre feet allocated annually, 9,727 acre feet is reserved by the participating communities. This means that there is a little over 15,000 acre feet that is not yet reserved and presumably available to service the North County.

By way of background, an acre foot of water is a rule of thumb to provide for three homes for a period of one year and is about 326,000 gallons. The contract with the State of California for State Water is a “take or pay” contract. This means that the county pays for the water regardless of whether or not it is used. There are difficulties in bringing State Water to any of the communities not currently participating in the State Water Project, the most notable being delivery. The good news is that the State Water Project already runs through the North County and is located near Highway 46. The bad news is that the pipelines, already engineered and in place, reportedly do not have the capacity to carry as much additional water as is needed for the North County.

The North County would have to pay for the development and infrastructure to deliver the water to where it could be distributed to the citizens and businesses. Engineering and construction of water lines are estimated to range upward of $2 million per mile. For example, currently the City of Paso Robles is working on a water treatment plant for the water they draw from Lake Nacimiento. Paso Robles also draws from Basin wells and Salinas River wells. Paso Robles’ current entitlements from Lake Nacimiento are 4,000 acre feet. This does not include the water pumped by private or commercial property owners who are using well water.

Even bringing State Water to Paso Robles does little short-term good for those who do not have the city infrastructure to deliver it to their property and are still dependent upon wells. It will take years of responsible water management to restore the Basin’s water levels and reducing the threat to private wells. Further, 15,000 acre feet is not enough water, even assuming full delivery, to meet the current needs of the North County. Estimates of the need for water are in the neighborhood of 30,000 acre feet per year. Procuring State Water for the North County only solves about half the problem.

Additionally, State Water is also subject to State Government regulation, and the amount of water actually available for delivery varies from year to year. For example, State Water contractors will often get a percentage of their entitlement, though it can sometimes be supplemented with “drought buffer”. Even with a reduced percentage being delivered, the California State Water Project is considered a reliable source of water. The State Water Project provides supplemental water to approximately 25 million Californians and approximately 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland. Approximately 70% of State Water goes to urban users, with agriculture using the difference.

Since San Luis Obispo County already has procured and paid for these entitlements, State Water should be made available for the residents and businesses in northern San Luis Obispo County.

Paso Robles Sewage Treatment Plant Should Contribute to the Water Basin

The current Paso Robles Sewage Treatment Plant is not compliant with state or federal standards and is being replaced with a new $50 million plant. This plant upgrade is incomplete without the ability to produce recycled water. Currently, the State Water Board exercises general oversight over recycled water projects, including review of Regional Water Board permitting practices, and leads the effort to meet the recycled water use goals. These goals include increasing the use of recycled water in California by 200,000 acre feet per year by 2020 and by an additional 300,000 acre feet per year by 2030. This is to be achieved through the cooperation and collaboration of the State Water Board, the Regional Water Boards, the environmental community, water purveyors, and the operators of publicly owned treatment works. In the future, recycled water will be a critical resource for the state based on a number of factors, including providing a local sustainable supply, a means to reduce energy and carbon footprints, a means of dealing with climate change, the increased pressure due to population growth and drought, and the cost of developing new potable water supplies.

Currently, the Paso Robles plant is permitted to discharge approximately three million gallons of treated effluent into the Salinas River every day. It is a short distance from the discharge plant to the ocean, where the three million gallons of effluent are lost. The new Paso Robles Sanitation Plant should research discharging their three million gallons up the Salinas River so that the discharged effluent can be absorbed into the ground and recharge the water basin. Another viable option, though more expensive, is to treat the effluent to a tertiary level. Tertiary treatment is additional treatment beyond secondary treatment, to which the effluent is already treated. Tertiary treatment can remove more than 99 percent of all the impurities from sewage, producing an effluent that is almost drinking-water quality. If treated to tertiary level, though expensive, this water could be used for crops and irrigation and lessen the demand on the Basin, thus preserving the Basin and protecting the water supply for current and future generations.

According to the California Department of Public Health, regulations are being developed that address groundwater replenishment for aquifers designated as sources of drinking water using recycled water from domestic wastewater sources. In 2011, revised draft regulations were released and workshops were held throughout the state. Once these regulations are adopted, they would replace the existing regulations, which were adopted in 1978. The state is currently developing the remainder of the regulation package. The existing Water Code requires the Department of Public Health to adopt revised groundwater replenishment regulations by December 31, 2013, and regulations for surface water augmentation by December 31, 2016. Nevertheless, proposed projects for groundwater replenishment (and surface water augmentation) continue to move forward. Paso Robles has the opportunity and obligation to protect their valuable water resources.

In fairness, the San Miguel, Shandon and Templeton should join the Paso Robles treatment plant in treating waste water to a level at which it can be reintroduced to the groundwater supply.

Whether recycling water, going to tertiary treatment, or discharging farther up the Salinas River, the possible solutions are expensive, but necessary. The water leaving the North County treatment plants is a resource and should not be literally flushed down the drain.

It Has Proven Necessary to Adjudicate the Basin

Unfortunately the business interests and the urban water users are lining up against each other for access to water. This tension should be avoided as the economic wellbeing of each is inextricably tied to water and to each other. A healthy basin is essential to the continued prosperity and growth of each group. Economic insults to one group will adversely affect the other. This should be addressed through the courts. This will be helpful to the North County to protect and monitor the Basin and the end-users.

Adjudication will mean that the amount of water that can be extracted is defined by court order or stipulation. In basins where each landowner’s right has been defined, groundwater may be managed by agencies that obtain their authority from the Water Code. Depending upon the situation, there may be significant, little or no management.

Not surprisingly, adjudication is an expensive and lengthy process. For example, in South San Luis Obispo County, the Northern Cities Management entered into a stipulated agreement in 2002, after years of litigation. This group continues to issue annual monitoring reports and local elected officials participate in its management and operation. This group provides valuable information to the public and member agencies regarding land and water uses in the basin, the sources of supply to meet those uses and the ground water conditions. Given the large number urban and agricultural users, as well as the basin’s inability to meet the current and foreseeable demand, self-regulation by the users is not proving to be a viable option. The expense to the Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, Oceano, and Santa Maria has reached $20 Million in14 years.

Without court supervision, there may be no remedy for those who wells run dry.

Conclusion

There are no easy answers. Solutions are costly. Economic vitality is at stake. Even if we sustain above-average rainfall for several years in a row, the Paso Robles Basin will not be restored to full health; the problems being experienced right now will be repeated, over and over. Rather than just viewing the condition of the water basin as a tension between commercial and urban interests, we must learn to see it as a problem of supply and demand. There is a deficit. When the Federal Government has a deficit, the Treasury can print more money. We do not have the ability to make more water fall from the sky. This means that we, as a regional community, have to use our resources more wisely and utilize resources that we already have for new purposes. It will be expensive. Funding these projects will cost money and political capital. Failure to do so will cost much more.

Matthew Guerrero is an Attorney at Law and is also the Board Chair of South San Luis Obispo Sanitation District

 

An Open Letter to Karen Velie

Smearing your enemies (without substantiation) amid this personal debacle serves only your historic agenda, and tells the world that you have priority issues while these three children go dirty and disheveled to school.

childBy PAUL EMBRY, Atascadero

I ask you to remember the story of Solomon and the two women who claimed to be the mother of one baby. Solomon suggested that they cut the baby in half, so that the women could split the benefit the baby brought. Only one of the women was satisfied with this arrangement and she, of course, was plainly not the actual mother because she thought of her own well-being before that of the child.

You must look to the children here, and only to the children.

It is they who are being harmed by the separation from their family, whether the removal was justified or not. The usurpation of the situation for leverage in your County /CAPSLO mud-feud is just another slimy stone on the sickening road you and your enemies have built. You are all responsible for the condition of the children at the moment, and instead of thinking of them you and your selfish, self-absorbed group have elected to take your troubles to the streets. Those of us who are not committed to either side ache only for these kids. Those of us who are familiar with CWS are astounded with your hubris, and wonder why, when the CWS nosed into OUR lives – justly or otherwise – it wasn’t news. No amount of bully pulpit invective, whether published on a blog masquerading as a newspaper or broadcast countywide on the local Winchell’s AM Radio segment, is going to help the kids. Claims of conspiracy or collusion will keep your name on people’s lips even as depression and lactose ruin the kids. Smearing your enemies (without substantiation) amid this personal debacle serves only your historic agenda, and tells the world that you have priority issues while these three children go dirty and disheveled to school and reap derision and bullying from their classmates.

Bringing this mess before the general public creates sympathy for you and the kids, yes, but the least amount of forethought from the viewpoint of the children would’ve made you consider that you’ve just given motivation and ammunition to those schoolmates who are teasing and bullying them. Your self-serving nature has outed you and you should be ashamed.

For the sake of your grandchildren I will offer you some advice, but first I will tell you why I think I’m qualified to do so.

The existence of my daughter was announced to me by a CWS social worker, who also informed me that they had taken the child from her mother at birth. For the better part of a year I lived the action plans, classes, unwarranted drug testing, surprise inspections of my home, and all manner of inconvenience and indignity – all because I had committed, in the legalese of the machine, a “failure to protect” the child from the abuses of the mother. Never mind that Roe v. Wade says that what someone does with the baby inside them is nobody’s business; never mind that I had no documented drug or alcohol problem; never mind the lies lawyers and social workers told me. Never mind anything.

They had my child and they had all the power in the world.

I had no news outlet from which to raise the hue and cry; Dave Congalton did not postpone his gallstone surgery to lend me an hour and a half of his soapbox time. Additionally, I worked nights in a bar and lived in a rented room. My life was not adapted to the addition of a baby, and it was all common knowledge to the people at Social Services.

Eight months later, I was given a knowing nod from the judge who had just ordered my child into my custody and CWS out of my life. That nod said to me that she respected my handling of a terrible, terrible situation. I made sure that everyone in the courtroom heard me tell my one-year-old daughter that I don’t intend to buy her another “courtroom dress” until after she has passed the bar. I’m also certain that I’m a better father because of the things I learned complying with my action plan than I would’ve been without having done so.

I’m not saying this to aggrandize myself. I’m telling you why you should listen to me. Further, I have no love of CWS, CAPSLO, lawyers in general, or politicians in totality. If I have a bias in this whatsoever, it is the disdain I have for the blank spot where your blog’s ethics should be, and the fact that I think you must have been sick the day they taught journalism at journalism school.

To begin: I am personally acquainted with a grandmother who just last year was deemed unfit for placement on the grounds of a DUI conviction that had been adjudicated over a decade ago. So it is something that is done. It may or may not be a matter of policy, but it is certainly a matter which enjoys precedent, and thereby cannot be something “cooked-up” to be used solely against you. To claim otherwise is to convolute the process and harm the children.

You may truly believe that they are holding your job against you, but I suggest it is the way in which you do your job that rankles. Perhaps not the crusade itself, precisely, but possibly the fact that you’ve gone crazy, shining the light of the free press on all of the few detractors and left in darkness any who honestly praise and thank CAPSLO. It makes you look self-serving and – if not dishonest – ignorant of the tenets of your profession.

You may truly believe that the mention of the word “attorney” to your grandchild is the reason that your personal contact with them has been suspended, but I suggest it is the introduction of complex concepts and mature matters to young minds that are already distressed.

Confusion is not going to calm anyone, nor is confrontationalism. You should have been explaining to the kids that everything was going to be okay; that they should make the best of a bad situation in the knowledge that the situation won’t last forever. I’m betting that keeping your children up to speed on the hiring or firing of legal staff is not a policy invented just for you. Perhaps it promotes an adversarial feeling between the children and the temporary caregivers. Fool.

When you take to the airwaves and say “I just want to know how they can do this,” you’re not serving anyone’s needs. The switchboard will light up, and the craziness begins. Anyone at social services who might have been moved by sympathy for your kids will be too busy manning the siege engines to do anything else. A real reporter who had a similar question might check the Welfare and Institutions laws that regulate such bodies, as well as the civil, criminal and family codes which pertain to the removal of children and the processes thereafter. Such research, done in time, would’ve enabled your daughter to get her story before the judge in counterpoint to the claims against her; clued you all in to the subtleties of language used by social workers and lawyers and entitled you to any advantage such understanding may provide; removed the mystery surrounding the machinations and protocols of the CWS/Court experience; and provided insight into the rules and guidelines which apply to CWS caseworkers and foster-parents.

This way you could’ve fought wisely. Crowing willy-nilly about perfectly legal “injustices” you’ve suffered doesn’t help you reunite with the children; it merely illustrates that you neglected to fact check before speaking publicly.

You must realize that the Social Worker assigned to your case has great leeway in what she may permit or deny, and that it is his or her recommendations that carry the most weight with the judge. That is because the caseworker is employed to see beyond lie and performance in order to require (by way of the action plan) those things that are genuinely needed by the family – not only for reunification, but also for permanent resolution. It is their job to detect and ignore nonsense; they are the judge’s eyes and ears in your world. Everything they permit or deny must be justifiable and defensible, and if they have a reason to dislike you it’s because you gave them one.

Remember that this agency exists to deal primarily with the worst kind of people, people who will go to great lengths to conceal truths about themselves and their living situations. The caseworker who is not skeptical of everything is either new or not a very good one. If you’re going to allow your cronies to spill her name to the public and make all kinds of specious and scurrilous accusations against her, don’t be surprised when she tells the judge that you seem to be more willing to fight the process than to take the necessary steps for reunification. Don’t be surprised when the judge believes her, especially if she heard it with her own ears along with the rest of us.

You may also believe that your daughter failed her action plan because she couldn’t leave work for a doctor’s appointment, and that could indeed bear some part in it. It’s entirely more likely that some conversation surrounding the missed appointment reflected a continuing oppositional attitude toward the process. Nobody at CWS is going to tell the judge that the circumstances, which led the children into state custody, are changing (or are likely to change) when the principals are participating only grudgingly and seem still inclined to resistance.

These people have already determined that change is necessary in the home. The best thing you can do is maintain an earnest demeanor and ardently comply with their requirements. The caseworker is required to help in any number of ways once you turn the corner and embrace the reunification plan, but most people never figure that out. They, like you, would rather fight the system, inflate themselves, and leave the kids twisting in the wind.

Get a clue, lady, and help your daughter get her kids back. Foster care that is good is very good, and foster care that is bad is often incurable. I encourage you to forget all the craziness you’ve filled your life with and dedicate your time and intentions to your daughter and her re-unification plan. If you’ve a shred of humanity, you should already loathe yourself for the ways you’ve both marginalized and exacerbated the plight of your grandkids and hijacked sympathies intended for them to feed your own demons. Atone.

And the guy on the radio who offered the gift cards who you blew off? He was trying to eliminate any excuse a foster may have for forcing cow’s milk on the child. If the alternative to milk were free, what objection could be raised? He could drop those gift cards off at any social services office with the name of the child and a bit of written explanation and the issue of lactose intolerance would be solved. That this escaped you is representative of the situation as a whole.

Selfish, selfish woman.

Get off your high-horse and urge your daughter to comply. Gleefully. While she’s at it, she could try to get something out of the classes and counseling and therapy. It wouldn’t be such a crime to bring the kids back into a better home than the one they left, would it?

California Offshore Fracking More Widespread Than Anyone Realized

The oil production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.

Fracking

By ALICIA CHANG and JASON DEAREN, AP

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The oil production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.

In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach — some of the region’s most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions — oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

Just this year in Long Beach Harbor, the nation’s second-largest container port, an oil company with exclusive rights to drill there completed five fracks on palm tree-lined, man-made islands. Other companies fracked more than a dozen times from old oil platforms off Huntington Beach and Seal Beach over the past five years.

Though there is no evidence offshore hydraulic fracturing has led to any spills or chemical leaks, the practice occurs with little state or federal oversight of the operations.

The state agency that leases lands and waters to oil companies said officials found new instances of fracking after searching records as part of a review after the AP reported this summer about fracking in federal waters off California, an area from three miles to 200 miles offshore. The state oil permitting agency said it doesn’t track fracking.

As the state continues its investigation into the extent of fracking — both in federal waters and closer to shore — and develops ways to increase oversight under a law that takes effect in 2015, environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on the practice.

“How is it that nobody in state government knew anything about this? It’s a huge institutional failure,” said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Offshore fracking is far more common than anyone realized.”

Little is known about the effects on the marine environment of fracking, which shoots water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to clear old wells or crack rock formations to free oil. Yet neither state nor federal environmental regulators have had any role in overseeing the practice as it increased to revitalize old wells.

New oil leases off the state’s shores have been prohibited since a 1969 oil platform blowout off Santa Barbara, which fouled miles of coastline and gave rise to the modern environmental movement. With no room for physical expansion, oil companies instead have turned to fracking to keep the oil flowing.

The state launched an investigation into the extent of offshore fracking after the AP report in August. California officials initially said at the time there was no record of fracking in the nearshore waters it oversees. Now, as the State Lands Commission and other agencies review records and find more instances of fracking, officials are confused over who exactly is in charge of ensuring the technique is monitored and performed safely.

“We still need to sort out what authority, if any, we have over fracking operations in state waters; it’s very complicated,” said Alison Dettmer, a deputy director of the California Coastal Commission.

Nowhere is the fracking more concentrated than in Long Beach, an oil town with a half-million residents and tourist draws such as the Queen Mary.

The city’s oil arrangement stems from a deal drawn up in 1911, when California granted the tidelands and other water-covered areas to the city as it developed its harbor. When oil was discovered in the 1930s, the money started coming in.

Long Beach transferred $352 million of $581 million in profits to state coffers in fiscal year 2013 from onshore and offshore operations, according to the city’s Gas and Oil Department. Most of the oil recovery comes from traditional drilling while fracking accounts for about 10 percent of the work.

The department says fracking is safe. It has a spill contingency plan and monitors pipelines. Well construction designs are approved by state oil regulators. The designs can be used for conventional drilling and fracking. And the oil industry says offshore fracks are much smaller operations than onshore jobs, involving only a fraction of the chemicals and water used on land.

City oil officials see themselves as partners with Occidental Petroleum Corp. — not regulators — though officials participate in the company’s internal audits and technical reviews by the state.

Occidental and the city briefly took a fracking timeout after passage of the state’s new rules. Long Beach oil operations manager Kevin Tougas said there are plans to frack again later this year. Occidental spokeswoman Susie Geiger said in an email the company doesn’t discuss its operations due to “competitive and proprietary reasons.”

No one is tracking the amounts or precise composition of any fracking chemicals that enter the marine environment, though in September the state passed a law that starting in 2015 would require disclosure of agents used during the procedures.

Fracking fluids can be made up of hundreds of chemicals — some known and others not since they are protected as trade secrets. Some of these chemicals are toxic to fish larvae and crustaceans, bottom dwellers most at risk from drilling activities, according to government health disclosure documents.

Myriad state agencies that oversee drilling, water quality and the ocean said they did no monitoring of fracking chemicals during offshore jobs.

Don Drysdale, a spokesman for the California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, said the new regulations will include “extensive protections” for groundwater.

The industry estimates that about half of the fluids used during fracking remain in the environment; environmentalists say it is much higher. Long Beach says it uses a closed system and there’s no discharge into the water. Instead, fluids are treated before being re-injected deep under the seafloor.

The Long Beach Water Department, which monitors well water quality annually, said there are no known impacts to residents’ water from fracking.

“It’s our hometown,” said Chris Garner, a fourth-generation resident who heads the gas and oil department. “We have a vested interest in making sure the oil operations have been without harm to the city.”
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(Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press. Original article published October 19, 2013.)

EDITORIAL: Morro Bay Must Show Civil Restraint

The Morro Bay mayoral recall is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial topics to hit the North Coast since the Los Osos Community Services District recall in 2005.

Andrea Lueker and Rob Schultz
Morro Bay City Manager Andrea Lueker (left) and City Attorney Rob Schultz

The Morro Bay mayoral recall is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial topics to hit the North Coast since the Los Osos Community Services District recall in 2005. Unfortunately, there are a lot of similarities between the two recall movements that we prefer not to see.

Let’s face it: recalls result in community division. After the recall was successful in Los Osos, stopping the midtown sewer project, there was sharp division between community members and leaders over three LOCSD board members being replaced with a fresh new majority. Similarly, at the June 2012 primary election in Morro Bay a new majority was brought in to, essentially, move the new wastewater project out of town. In Los Osos, the County government ultimately assumed authority over the wastewater project after legislation was passed to facilitate that transition. In Morro Bay, the new majority initiated the public process on their project that Los Osos struggled to pursue without County intervention.

In Los Osos, district meetings at the South Bay Community Center were rife with gossip, rumor and innuendo. Sides were chosen. Opinionated citizens were judged as liars, thugs and criminals by other opinionated citizens. Menacing eyes were cast around the room, waiting for someone to approach the podium for public comment. The eyes sent a clear message: Unless you’re one of us, you’re nothing. Even though residents knew each other for decades, growing hatred overwhelmed years of cordiality and courtesy. Between salacious smearing in hushed tones, citizens with diametrically opposing viewpoints smiled and waved at each other. It was fake when it wasn’t forced, superficial when it wasn’t sarcastic.

Their leaders recalled, the new minority in Los Osos shouted, screamed and cursed at the newly elected majority board members. Residents — both for and against the recall — were harassed and threatened by neighbors-turned-adversaries. It was all very troubling. There seemed to be no end to the discord, no solution to the torn fabric. The lack of respect and decorum viciously tore the town in half. Many County residents outside of Los Osos, including Morro Bay residents, shook their heads and asked: What was Los Osos thinking?

Some Morro Bay residents have said over the years, “We’re not like Los Osos. There’s no comparison. What happened in Los Osos will never happen here.”

Look again.

In Morro Bay, the recall controversy is really no different than Los Osos. There are two warring factions, clustered in a city bustling with tourists and residents who recognize that life is best spent on less-than-stressful endeavors. Residents are left to sift through speculation, accusations, personal attacks and inconsequential bursts of hubris that yield little substance. Then there’s blame. Then there are the letters to the editor, the scathing viewpoints that portray the Morro Bay politics as black and white, sore losers and tyrannical winners. It’s us versus them. No exceptions.

We find that ridiculous and harmful.

Maybe residents have a right to be angry: two top city employees were suddenly on the chopping block without much warning or discussion. Mayor Jamie Irons was the primary force behind the move, a move to change the way business is done in Morro Bay. Some residents decided that firing the long-serving city attorney was unacceptable and initiated the recall. It’s their right to pursue one. Similarly, residents have a right to oppose the recall.

So we pose the twin questions: What are the reasons for supporting the mayor? What are the reasons for not supporting the mayor? Either way, before answering, abandon the invectives disguised as reasons. The reasons to recall Mayor Irons are subject to debate. There’s the linchpin issue of confidentiality versus transparency. Acknowledge the delicate balance and the overriding legalities involved that have shaped events thus far.

More importantly, let’s learn from past mistakes. Many of the critics involved in the debate in Morro Bay have made the same mistakes that tore apart Los Osos, gleefully, hypocritically resorting to threats and taunting as ways to embarrass and ostracize their detractors. But the debate should not dwell on the overreactions of both sides. To avoid what happened in Los Osos, Morro Bay residents must be vigilant in elevating civil discourse above the negative din. They must stand up for mutual respect as common ground to move forward as one. They must reject and denounce hostility as offering any kind of unifying solution, and argue for and against the recall with objective and legal rationale, working toward solutions that the majority of the town can agree on.

It’s time for Morro Bay residents to ask, “What are we thinking?” before Morro Bay becomes another Los Osos. That’s something no one in Morro Bay, no matter how upset, should ever want to see.

'The Ocean Is Broken'

Nothing could have prepared yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen for the devastation all around him as he sailed the Pacific.

tsunamiBy GREG RAY, The Newcastle Herald (Australia).

It was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.

Not the absence of sound, exactly.

The wind still whipped the sails and whistled in the rigging. The waves still sloshed against the fiberglass hull.

And there were plenty of other noises: muffled thuds and bumps and scrapes as the boat knocked against pieces of debris.

What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.

The birds were missing because the fish were missing.

Exactly 10 years before, when Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen had sailed exactly the same course from Melbourne to Osaka, all he’d had to do to catch a fish from the ocean between Brisbane and Japan was throw out a baited line.

“There was not one of the 28 days on that portion of the trip when we didn’t catch a good-sized fish to cook up and eat with some rice,” Macfadyen recalled.

But this time, on that whole long leg of sea journey, the total catch was two.

No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.

“In years gone by I’d gotten used to all the birds and their noises,” he said.

“They’d be following the boat, sometimes resting on the mast before taking off again. You’d see flocks of them wheeling over the surface of the sea in the distance, feeding on pilchards.”

But in March and April this year, only silence and desolation surrounded his boat, Funnel Web, as it sped across the surface of a haunted ocean.

North of the equator, up above New Guinea, the ocean-racers saw a big fishing boat working a reef in the distance.

“All day it was there, trawling back and forth. It was a big ship, like a mother-ship,” he said.

And all night it worked too, under bright floodlights. And in the morning Macfadyen was awoken by his crewman calling out, urgently, that the ship had launched a speedboat.

“Obviously I was worried. We were unarmed and pirates are a real worry in those waters. I thought, if these guys had weapons then we were in deep trouble.”

But they weren’t pirates, not in the conventional sense, at least. The speedboat came alongside and the Melanesian men aboard offered gifts of fruit and jars of jam and preserves.

“And they gave us five big sugar-bags full of fish,” he said.

“They were good, big fish, of all kinds. Some were fresh, but others had obviously been in the sun for a while.

“We told them there was no way we could possibly use all those fish. There were just two of us, with no real place to store or keep them. They just shrugged and told us to tip them overboard. That’s what they would have done with them anyway, they said.

“They told us that his was just a small fraction of one day’s by-catch. That they were only interested in tuna and to them, everything else was rubbish. It was all killed, all dumped. They just trawled that reef day and night and stripped it of every living thing.”

Macfadyen felt sick to his heart. That was one fishing boat among countless more working unseen beyond the horizon, many of them doing exactly the same thing.

No wonder the sea was dead. No wonder his baited lines caught nothing. There was nothing to catch.

If that sounds depressing, it only got worse.

The next leg of the long voyage was from Osaka to San Francisco and for most of that trip the desolation was tinged with nauseous horror and a degree of fear.

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”

Ivan’s brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marveled at the “thousands on thousands” of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.

Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing their wires in the middle of the sea.

“In years gone by, when you were becalmed by lack of wind, you’d just start your engine and motor on,” Ivan said.

Not this time.

“In a lot of places we couldn’t start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That’s an unheard of situation, out in the ocean.

“If we did decide to motor we couldn’t do it at night, only in the daytime with a lookout on the bow, watching for rubbish.

“On the bow, in the waters above Hawaii, you could see right down into the depths. I could see that the debris isn’t just on the surface, it’s all the way down. And it’s all sizes, from a soft-drink bottle to pieces the size of a big car or truck.

“We saw a factory chimney sticking out of the water, with some kind of boiler thing still attached below the surface. We saw a big container-type thing, just rolling over and over on the waves.

“We were weaving around these pieces of debris. It was like sailing through a garbage tip.

“Below decks you were constantly hearing things hitting against the hull, and you were constantly afraid of hitting something really big. As it was, the hull was scratched and dented all over the place from bits and pieces we never saw.”

Plastic was ubiquitous. Bottles, bags and every kind of throwaway domestic item you can imagine, from broken chairs to dustpans, toys and utensils.

And something else. The boat’s vivid yellow paint job, never faded by sun or sea in years gone past, reacted with something in the water off Japan, losing its sheen in a strange and unprecedented way.

BACK in Newcastle, Ivan Macfadyen is still coming to terms with the shock and horror of the voyage.

“The ocean is broken,” he said, shaking his head in stunned disbelief.

Recognizing the problem is vast, and that no organizations or governments appear to have a particular interest in doing anything about it, Macfadyen is looking for ideas.

He plans to lobby government ministers, hoping they might help.

More immediately, he will approach the organizers of Australia’s major ocean races, trying to enlist yachties into an international scheme that uses volunteer yachtsmen to monitor debris and marine life.

Macfadyen signed up to this scheme while he was in the US, responding to an approach by US academics who asked yachties to fill in daily survey forms and collect samples for radiation testing – a significant concern in the wake of the tsunami and consequent nuclear power station failure in Japan.

“I asked them why don’t we push for a fleet to go and clean up the mess,” he said.

“But they said they’d calculated that the environmental damage from burning the fuel to do that job would be worse than just leaving the debris there.”

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Article used by permission of the author. The original article was published October 18, 2013 by The Newcastle Herald in Australia. Here it is: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken/

Underwater Mapping Sonar Linked to Whale Stranding for First Time

Dead stranded melon-head whale, Madagascar 2008. (Photo: Helen Garrard)
Dead stranded melon-head whale, Madagascar 2008. (Photo: Helen Garrard)

Introduction: An independent scientific review panel has concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily triggered by acoustic stimuli, more specifically, a multi-beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited. In response to the event and with assistance from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) led an international stranding team to help return live whales from the lagoon system to the open sea, and to conduct necropsies on dead whales to determine the cause of death. According to the recently issued final report by the WCS, this is the first known marine mammal mass stranding event of this nature to be closely associated with high-frequency mapping sonar systems. Based on these findings, there is cause for concern over the impact of noise on marine mammals as these high-frequency mapping sonar systems are used by various stakeholders including the hydrocarbon industry, military, and research vessels used by other industries. The report concluded: “The potential for behavioral responses and indirect injury or mortality from the use of similar MBES [multi-beam echosounder systems] should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions.” (Environmental News Network)

Editor’s Note: On September 20, 2013, the California State Lands Commission adopted recommendations by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to modify some of the mapping equipment accepted for seismic surveys in state waters. The Commission agreed to exclude the use of large-radius boomers in sensitive marine habitat, particularly in Morro Bay Harbor Porpoise habitat. However, Commission staff would not entirely rule out the use of high-frequency multi-beam echosounders, instead tying their use to a case-by-case acoustic analysis and the significant-impact threshold under the Commission’s recently updated Mitigated Negative Declaration.


Underwater Mapping Sonar Linked to Whale Stranding for First Time

By LENNY BERNSTEIN, Washington Post

The mysterious stranding of about 100 melon-headed whales in a shallow Madagascar lagoon in 2008 set off a rapid international response — a few of the eight- to 10-foot marine mammals were rescued, necropsies conducted, a review panel formed.

Did they follow prey into the lagoon? Were they sick? Was it the weather or chemical toxins?

The panel recently gave its best answer, and it is causing ripples of concern. For the first time, a rigorous scientific investigation has associated a mass whale stranding with a kind of sonar that is widely used to map the ocean floor, a finding that has set off alarms among energy companies and others who say the technology is critical to safe navigation of the planet’s waters.

The independent review panel appointed by the International Whaling Commission concluded Sept. 25 (2013), that a high-powered, “multi-beam echosounder system” (MBES) was “the most plausible and likely behavioral trigger” for the stranding. About 75 of the animals, which normally inhabit deep ocean waters, died.

A contractor for Exxon Mobil was using the sonar system — which sends “ping” sounds from a vessel toward the ocean floor — in a channel between Mozambique and Madagascar to determine where an oil and gas exploration rig might be safely constructed. Computers use the returning echo from the pulses of sound to map the ocean floor.

The panel of five scientists “systematically excluded or deemed highly unlikely” nearly every other possibility before settling on the use of the MBES, which previously was considered relatively benign, according to the group’s report.

“The evidence seems clear to us that [the MBES] was pretty likely” the cause, said Brandon L. Southall, the panel’s chairman and a marine biologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He said he hopes the report will cause governments, regulatory agencies and private companies to “realize that some of the types of mapping sonars have the potential to cause reactions in marine mammals that can be detrimental.”

Exxon Mobil, which helped select the panel and partly funded the rescue of some of the whales in 2008, rejects the conclusion, contending that the evidence is too flimsy for a determination that could have a far-reaching impact.

“While Exxon Mobil is not accepting responsibility for the stranding in light of the uncertainties in the report, we did cooperate and provide funding for the response effort in 2008 and the review panel because we are working in Madagascar,” spokesman Patrick McGinn said.

Another skeptic is Larry Mayer, a professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. “From my reading of that report, it’s not clear how they could have come to that conclusion,” Mayer said. “Any of the other possible conclusions are just as likely.”

The report could have significant consequences for U.S. government agencies and others around the world that use the MBES to map ocean floors. “If it endangers the ability to use these sort of systems .?.?. it could lead to all kinds of dangerous downstream consequences,” Mayer said.

And Joseph Geraci, an adjunct professor of comparative medicine at the University of Maryland who has studied cetacean strandings for 40 years, said he was troubled by the strength of the language in the panel report.

“I’m not sure on the basis of a single event where there are two activities that the words ‘most plausible cause’ are the right ones,” he said. “It’s only those three words that made me pay attention.”

But Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Ocean Giants program of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, hailed the panel for pushing the envelope on possible factors in the strandings and deaths of marine mammals.

“I think what we would like to see is the most effective regulations that will minimize the risk [of mass strandings] to sensitive whales and dolphins,” Rosenbaum said.

U.S. Navy sonar has been implicated in harm to whales and dolphins, environmental groups contend. A federal judge last month ordered federal biologists to reconsider permits that could allow the Navy to kill or disrupt marine mammals during antisubmarine warfare exercises off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

But in 2008, the Supreme Court allowed similar drills off Southern California to be held without protections for marine mammals.

Other environmental groups are skirmishing with energy companies over the use of “seismic air guns,” devices that send much louder blasts of compressed air toward the ocean floor to help find oil and gas trapped below.

The noise from an MBES is better compared with an industrial-­size version of the fish-finders widely used by recreational anglers, Southall said. That is part of the reason his panel’s finding is so controversial: the pinging sound is used so widely around the globe, in so many forms, that most involved have considered it relatively harmless.

But it may be time to adjust that thinking, Southall said. He acknowledged that no study of whale strandings will achieve the kind of certainty that Exxon Mobil and others would like but said that this one provided a rare opportunity to consider a wide range of possibilities and disprove them.

Because the Wildlife Conservation Society has a presence in Madagascar, it was able to quickly respond to the stranding, rescuing some of the whales and conducting necropsies on the dead, Rosenbaum said. And because regulators, conservation groups and energy companies were together at a conference in Chile at the time, they were able to put together a coordinated rescue response and later work together to form the review panel.

“It seemed to be a very uncommon event,” Southall said, “and we were able to go through almost all the factors that we looked at and rule almost everything else out.”

A 2009 coup and later unrest in Madagascar, an island nation in the Indian Ocean that is off the southeastern coast of Africa, delayed the study, which was resumed in 2012 and released late last month.

Exxon Mobil contends, among its other objections, that the stranding began before its contract vessel arrived off the shores of northwest Madagascar. The company has provided satellite photographs of objects on other nearby beaches before the melon-headed whales fled into Loza Lagoon, but the panel concluded that they most probably were small fishing boats.

Nevertheless, Exxon Mobil has changed its practices to prohibit the use of an MBES near an underwater cliff face, because the panel raised the possibility that the sound pulses echoed off one in this case and had an unusual effect on the whales, McGinn said. Southall said the whales already were in unusually shallow water for unknown reasons.

The bottom line for the company, McGinn said, is that “our contract vessel happened to be there in that time frame, but there are so many uncertainties in the area that we’re not sure it’s us.”

(Originally published October 6, 2013 in the Washington Post. Used with permission.)

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The full report can be found at: http://iwc.int/index.php?cID=454&cType=html

VIEWPOINT: Paso Robles Water Depletion Needs a 'Time Out'

Jan Seals
Jan Seals

By JAN SEALS, PRO Water Equity, Inc.

PRO Water Equity is extremely disappointed that the Interim Urgency Ordinance was not extended on October 1st. This ordinance is a needed “time out” to stop further depletion of the groundwater basin. It has been a rallying point for stakeholders of varying perspectives to come together and find we agree on many areas concerning our water crisis. But 45 days is just a beginning. Extending the ordinance for the full two years will allow time for parties with wide ranging perspectives to reach a consensus and establish a governance structure that can manage and stabilize the basin.

We are happy that Governor Brown has made an appointment for the 4th District Supervisor. The whole county will benefit from having the full Board of Supervisors seated. We are hopeful that the Urgency Ordinance will not be allowed to expire on October 11th.

Supervisor Mecham has facilitated meetings with PRO Water Equity and PRAAGS. While we don’t agree on all elements of the exact governance, we do agree on the basic powers and authorities of a district. Progress is being made in bringing our perspectives together. We will continue to meet with the goal of reaching a consensus on a type of governance structure. Everyone realizes that PRO Water Equity and PRAAGS do not represent all overliers. However, members of these two organizations have participated on many County organized water committees and been the most outspoken, so this seems a good place to start discussions. At some point all overliers will need to weigh in on what kind of management structure should be adopted. We are hopeful that a structure can be devised that will satisfy the various points of view. We are committed to finding a solution that is fair to all overliers, benefits the community, and most importantly stabilizes the basin.

The water belongs to all of us. For the common good, we must seek to get along and learn to live within our means.

Jan Seals
Treasurer, PRO Water Equity, Inc.