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Agenda Alert: Recipients of Lush Shooting Gallery Contributions Push Water District Lease

Agenda Alert: Recipients of Lush Shooting Gallery Contributions Push Water District Lease

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

There are several substantial items on the Orange County Water District agenda tonight which deserve full attention but, in the usual fashion of the the board, will be on the consent calendar which is designed as a rubber-stamp mechanism to avoid full public discussion.

The first is item #6 on the consent calendar, a recommendation from OCWD staff on what the format for further discussion of the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant will be for a board meeting on Jan. 12, 2015.

This is despite that fact that at a recent joint meeting of OCWD’s producers and the OCWD board many important questions about project costs, better alternatives to be pursued first, and the legality of charging water agencies for much higher cost desalinated water that don’t want, were raised, along with a strong request for more time to study a financial analysis by a Poseidon preferred consultant that was supposed to answer those issues but did not—a request that was denied. Also, Poseidon project critics with long standing expertise or local standing are to be denied, as usual, an equal place in the discussion.

Item #15 is a recommendation by staff to approve a revised board policy manual that arbitrarily deletes the Executive Committee from the list of standing committees subject to the Brown Act, but, per a recent discussion at the committee level, allows it to exist and to operate as it always has, in likely violation of the Brown Act (California’s open meetings law), by assuming that the board’s president, Shawn Dewane, who presides over the that committee, and its other 3 to 4 members, understand the Brown Act well enough to distinguish between casual conversations amongst OCWD’s directors and its staff and holding illegal meetings, an assumption that past reporting by the Surf City Voice proves unwarranted.

But the most interesting of all, for tonight anyway, is item #18, a recommendation by the Property Management Committee to “Direct staff to enter into negotiations with Elaine Raahauge and to return to Board with information for Closed Session discussion.”

The quick take is that the Raahauge family, currently doing business as Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises, has leased almost 800 acres down to currently 135 acres of OCWD owned land in the Prado Dam Basin in Riverside County since 1971 to operate a shooting range that includes trap and skeet shooting, pheasant hunting, dog kennels, dog training, a clubhouse, and restaurant facilities, according to OCWD records. The Raahauges’ lease with OCWD is up in a year and they want to renew it, but for 20 years instead of the usual five.

The Raahauges are also facing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) renewal for the land with the County of Riverside, which will require expensive building upgrades to meet current safety codes.

There is also a request, informal at this point, from the county that the family provide a letter from the OCWD stating that it has permission to use the District’s access road to the leased land, which sits on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps granted an easement to the District but it doesn’t mention the shooting gallery, a “minor technicality”, according to Raahauge consultant Larry Buxton, who worked for OCWD and the Raahauge business when the original deal was struck 43 years ago.

Punting especially hard for the shooting gallery at a recent OCWD Property Management Committee meeting were committee chairman Stephen Sheldon and fellow committee member Denis Bilodeau, who, along with staff, put much effort and thought into directing staff to go full speed ahead negotiating the deal to the Raahauges’ specifications, with minor modifications, despite the minor technicality.

But, with the cooperation of committee members Harry Sidhu and alternate Cathy Green, Sheldon and Bilodeau also ran right over a strong request, relayed by staff, from absent member Jan Flory to open the lease up for Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

Flory also requested a complete history, to be made public, of the business relationship between OCWD and the Raahauge family, going all the way back when.

Oddly, Sheldon quickly asked to clarify if that history was to include the original owner, Linc Raahauge’s, grandson, Patrick.

The answer from staff seemed to be no.

That issue having been clarified, Bilodeau waxed on about how wonderful the Raahauge business has been for the OCWD and how and RFP would be a “disaster” and the District should continue the business relationship.

“This is a very unique operation,” Bilodeau said. “You’re dealing with firearms and obviously we want highly qualified people there that would operate this kind of an operation. The Raahauge family has, I consider, a stellar track record in terms of the safety of their patrons and indemnifying the District. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anybody else being there.”

What Bilodeau didn’t mention, and what Sheldon had earlier side stepped by the committee, was that Patrick Raahauge, Linc’s grandson and a twice convicted felon, had been arrested at the shooting range in August 2013 “on suspicion of possessing firearms and ammunition at the family range,” according to a report in the Orange County Register. He had been working at the range, in violation of the terms of his probation, according to the Department of Justice.

Another important fact left out of the discussion is that the Raahauge family and some of its employees have given thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Bilodeau ($2,000), Sheldon ($3,500) and OCWD board president Shawn Dewane, who as president presides over all committees ($4,000).

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Posted in Headlines, OCWD, Uncategorized0 Comments

OCWD Director’s Unethical Culture is Challenged by Legal Complaint

OCWD Director’s Unethical Culture is Challenged by Legal Complaint

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

The Fair Political Practices Commission has been asked to investigate a business relationship held by Orange County Water District board member Stephen Sheldon to determine if it precludes him from deliberating on a proposed ocean desalination plant.

The complaint alleges that Sheldon appears to be using his business relationship with consultant Roger Faubel, owner of Faubel Public Affairs, to shield his financial links to Poseidon Resources, the company that wants to build a $1 billion ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

The OCWD manages the groundwater in the Santa Ana River basin used by 19 cities and water agencies, referred to as producers, in central and north Orange County.

If the plant is built, Poseidon wants to sell the OCWD 56,000 acre feet of desalinated drinking water yearly for 30 years as a replacement for imported water the District currently buys from the Municipal Water District of Orange County at about a third of the cost of Poseidon’s water.

The OCWD is currently considering various options for doing business with Poseidon, including full financing of the desalination plant.

Sheldon’s potential legal problem is that public officials are prohibited by California’s Political Reform Act from influencing legislation or policy decisions that affect their own financial interests or the financial interests of employers they worked for in the preceding year.

The complaint was submitted last week by Debbie Cook, who is a former mayor of Huntington Beach and an advocate for greater transparency by Orange County’s water agencies. She also occasionally contributes articles to the Surf City Voice. Continue Reading

Posted in Headlines, OCWD, Poseidon, Water Boarding3 Comments

Poseidon Desalination Poll Threatens Candidates and Misleads Voters

Poseidon Desalination Poll Threatens Candidates and Misleads Voters

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

It’s election time. So, in September, Poseidon Resources released another push poll that shows widespread public support for a $1 billion ocean desalination plant that it hopes to build in southeast Huntington Beach.

The poll, commissioned by Poseidon and conducted by Probolsky Research, is based on telephone interviews with 325 “likely voters, whatever that means, residing within the boundaries of the Orange County Water District (OCWD), which is leaning heavily toward buying all of Poseidon’s water or financing the project, which would transfer all of the risks to OCWD’s ratepayers.

The OCWD, which manages the Santa Ana River groundwater basin, provides about 65 percent of the drinking water for 19 municipal water agencies in central and northern Orange County.

Until recently, the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), which retails imported water to 28 water agencies throughout the county, was the front agency for pushing the Poseidon project.

But only one of MWDOC’s members has signed an intent to buy any of Poseidon’s water. In theory, MWDOC could force its other members to participate under its “core” program, but that kind of bullying resulted in a revolt by its south county members once before, so force is an unlikely option.

The OCWD, on the other hand, can simply pass the costs of Poseidon’s desalinated water onto the producers, who pump its groundwater for a fee.

The poll concludes that, driven by a heightened concern about drought, voters support elected leaders who seek long-term water supply solutions that are “drought proof, such as desalination from the proposed Huntington Beach facility.” Continue Reading

Posted in Headlines, MWDOC, OCWD, Poseidon, Water Boarding1 Comment

Expense Reports for OCWD Directors

Expense Reports for OCWD Directors

These are expense reports obtained previously by the Surf City Voice for all current Orange County Water District directors. Listings for 2014 are incomplete. Audit pages for 2013 show the number of meetings claimed by directors versus the number of meetings actually attended. Readers will also be interested in my previous story detailing total benefits received by current directors, “‘Would you like a sandwich?’ Water directors keep their early meetings and bloated stipends.”

Stephen Sheldon
Director Sheldon 2014; Director Sheldon 2013

Shawn Dewane
Director Dewane Jan-Feb. 2014; Director Dewane 2013

Denis Bilodeau
Director Bilodeau Jan-Feb 2014; Director Bilodeau 2013

Roger Yoh
Director Yoh Jan-Feb 2014; Director Yoh 2013

Jan Flory
Director Flory Jan-Feb 2014;

Philip Anthony
Director Anthony Jan-Feb. 2014; Director Anthony 2013

Kathryn Barr
Director Barr Jan-March 2014; Director Barr 2013

Cathy Green
Director Green Jan-Feb 2014; Director Green 2013

Vincent Sarmiento
Director Sarmiento Jan-Feb 2014; Director Sarmiento 2013

Harry Sidhu
Director Sidhu Jan-Feb 2014; Director Sidhu 2013

 
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Posted in Headlines, OCWD, Water Boarding2 Comments

Five Reasons to Pee in Your Garden

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko
Special to the Surf City Voice

I confess, my husband and I both pee in our backyard garden, waiting until nightfall so as not to surprise neighbors.

We’ve always been comfortable relieving ourselves alongside lonely highways, even in daylight when waiting for the next bathroom seems unreasonable. But peeing in our own garden started as something of a lark, a combo of enjoying feeling a little naughty while also stealing a moment to take in the stillness of the night.

However, after a little research into the contents of urine and the ecological footprint of toilet flushing, I’m approaching my nightly garden visitations with a renewed sense of purpose, armed with sound reasons to continue the habit.

#1 Urine is a good fertilizer, organic and free
Contrary to popular belief, urine is usually germ-free unless contaminated with feces. It’s also about 95 percent water. The chief dissolved nutrient is urea, a nitrogen (N)-rich waste metabolite of the liver. Consequently, urine is high in N. Synthesized urea, identical to urea in urine, is also the number one ingredient of manufactured urea fertilizers which now dominate farming industry. Furthermore, urine contains lower amounts of the other two main macronutrients needed for healthy plant growth, phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).

Poor soil conditions and the prohibitive cost of manufactured fertilizers in third world countries have inspired rigorous study of urine fertilizer as a sustainable strategy to reduce poverty and malnutrition and promote worldwide food security. As example, in an in-depth 2010 practical guide for using urine as crop fertilizer, an international research institute (Stockholm Research Institute) writes that, “Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur as well as micronutrients are all found in urine in plant available forms. Urine is a well balanced nitrogen rich fertilizer which can replace and normally gives the same yields as chemical fertilizer in crop production.”

Depending on water intake, humans produce roughly 1-2 liters of urine a day. With proper planning the urine from one person during one year could suffice to fertilize”300-400 m2 of crop,” according to the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Urine as crop fertilizer is not just a theoretical concept, but has been put into practice successfully all over the world, including Africa, northern Europe, India, Central America, and even the United States. In fact, if you live near Brattleboro, Vermont, you can contact the Rich Earth Institute to participate as a “urine donor” in the first field studies of urine as fertilizer in the United States.

Urine jugs

Photo: Mike Earley

Obviously, there are important guidelines and safety procedures for farms and entire communities that rely on urine fertilizer for crop production – like special two-compartment toilets designed to collect urine free of fecal contamination – which are unnecessary for someone like me who pees directly in the garden and with more casual purpose in mind. Guidelines that do apply to everyone, however, include applying the urine to soil rather than foliage and mixing the urine in right away.

 


#2 Combat drought
Regions in all five continents are in the grip of sustained droughts. One-third of the contiguous United States was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought as of the end of August, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. My home state of California is suffering record-breaking drought with no end in sight. Governor Brown recently called on Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, and peeing in the garden gives me a good head-start to meeting that goal.

indoorwateruse_4webOn average, Americans each use 80-100 gallons of water per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Seventy percent of a household’s water consumption is typically for indoor uses, with toilet flushing the biggest water hog (see pie chart).

Although newer toilets generally use 1.6 gallons per flush, older ones use at least three gallons. So someone flushing urine 6 to 8 times per day could easily save 10 to 24 gallons of water daily by diverting all their urine to the yard. But, even if collecting urine in the daytime is out of the question – say, if you work outside the home or simply consider peeing into a receptacle and ferrying it to the yard a deal-breaker – the water savings by just peeing in the yard twice a night could easily amount to an annual water savings of between 1000 and 2000 gallons per person.

# 3 Slow groundwater depletion
Based on satellite data, NASA recently released an alarming report describing dramatic groundwater depletion in the Colorado River Basin in under a decade. The Colorado River Basin is considered the water lifeline of the western United States. NASA calculated the water loss at 53 million acre feet, nearly twice the volume of freshwater in Nevada’s Lake Mead. The real shocker is that groundwater loss accounted for three-fourths of the depletion, and no one knows how much groundwater is left or when it could run out.

In California, a third of the state’s water supply comes from regional groundwater. Rapidly dwindling groundwater levels, due to unregulated well drilling and extraction, is threatening the availability of water for agriculture and even human consumption, finally prompting California to enact a package of critical groundwater protections in Sept.

Individuals can do their part too, by peeing in the yard or, at least, adhering to the adage I grew up with, “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.” If each of California’s 12.5 million households flushed just four fewer times daily, the drain on the state’s groundwater would be lessened by 25-50 million gallons annually.

#4 Bypass sewage treatment plants
Though the pathogens (germs) in household wastewater come primarily from feces, many pharmaceuticals and chemicals in personal care products (PPCPs) are excreted in the urine, producing global pollution of natural bodies of water and even drinking water because sewage treatment systems are not designed to eliminate such substances.

Everything flushed down the toilet is piped to either onsite septic tanks or more often to municipal treatment plants where the liquid undergoes a two-step process, first separation from the bulk solids through settling and then incubation with bacteria to digest disease-causing pathogens and produce an effluent safer for return to the natural environment. The treated effluent from septic tanks is allowed to seep on-site into the ground, whereas treatment plants typically release directly into rivers, lakes and oceans.

Depending on regional policies, the effluent might also undergo so-called tertiary treatment involving chemical purification and/or microfiltration before release. Water shortages are increasingly driving reuse of tertiary-treated wastewater for landscaping, recharging groundwater aquifers and even for crop irrigation, prompting closer scrutiny of the water’s purity. However, even tertiary treatment is not generally designed to remove PPCPs.

Happily, soil generally does a good job of trapping and eliminating many pollutants, offering an alternative to conventional wastewater treatment of urine. When a liquid is doused onto soil, pollutants adhere to soil particles then undergo biodegradation by the abundant fungal and bacterial flora in soil. Sunlight and the rich oxygen content of soil also foster degradation. In fact, the filtration and incubation steps in conventional wastewater treatment mimic these naturally occurring processes in soil.

In the last decade, researchers have been measuring how fast common PPCPS biodegrade in soils and typically find half-lives on the order of days or weeks.

So letting soil decontaminate your urine seems a sound idea. A word of caution is in order, however, for those of us in more developed countries where our urine is more likely contaminated with PPCPs. A recent study reported solid evidence that irrigating the soil of common field vegetables with tertiary-treated water produced low levels of PPCPs in the edible portion of the vegetables. Until we know whether such residues represent any health risk, it seems wise to deposit urine outside the home vegetable garden.

#5 Reconnect with nature
The simple act of returning my urine directly to the soil, whilst attending to the sights, sounds and smells of the night, has heightened my awareness of my place in nature. It’s also confronted me with a glaring reality, that every man-made environmental ill threatening all life forms, everything from global climate change to the buildup of PPCPs and plastic waste in bodies of water and industrial chemicals in human and animal tissues, stems from an ill-conceived notion that humans are somehow exempt from the laws of nature.

Obviously, spotty progress can be made here and there applying new technologies or policies to address focused environmental issues. For example, California just became the first to institute a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. Though I’ve welcomed this legislation, I also see how limited the impact will be on the global environment: Since the dawn of the “age of plastics” in the 1950s, non-biodegradable plastics have come to pervade nearly every aspect of daily life in westernized societies, and the steep rise globally in the production of consumer plastics is projected to continue unabated into the future.

Photo: Laura Silverstein

Photo: Laura Silverstein

Peeing in my garden has instilled in me a sobering certitude that solving the planet’s looming environmental crises will require something far more fundamental and all-encompassing than regional policy changes. A global paradigm shift is needed, both away from believing we can unthinkingly manipulate and destroy natural resources and toward humbling seeking and embracing our natural and sustainable place within this unspeakably beautiful garden that is planet earth.

Though peeing in the garden is now a habit with me, it still feels a little risqué, and I like that.

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Posted in Environment, Headlines, Water2 Comments

Steve Sheldon Watch: OCWD director shills for Poseidon, again

Steve Sheldon Watch: OCWD director shills for Poseidon, again

Stephen Sheldon, the Orange County Water District’s elected representative from Irvine, continues to use his government position to benefit Poseidon Resources, Inc., the corporation that wants to build an ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

By doing this, he may be risking the consequences of violating conflict of interest laws.

The OCWD manages the county’s groundwater basin and provides drinking water for 2.4 million residents by selling it to 19 municipalities and special water districts in the county.

The OCWD staff and board of directors are currently leaning heavily toward making ocean desalination part of its “water portfolio” through a business relationship with Poseidon.

Sheldon, a candidate for reelection in November, spoke in favor of Poseidon’s proposed project at a joint planning committee meeting of OCWD and the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), held on July 23.

The Poseidon plant would cost about $1 billion and produce 50,000 acre feet of desalinated water a year.

In a plan conceived by OCWD and Poseidon, that desalinated water would replace the same amount of untreated imported water that the district currently buys from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (through its retailer MWDOC) for $593 per acre foot. That water is pumped into the groundwater basin.

Poseidon’s desalinated water would cost over three times as much, about $2,000 per acre foot, according to OCWD’s chief engineer, John Kennedy.

Until at least last December, according to Sheldon’s most recent Statement of Economic Interests (SEI), he worked as a consultant for Faubel Public Affairs, a partner of Communications Lab which lists Poseidon as a current client on its website.

Public officials who use their position to influence a government decision that affects them financially have an illegal conflict of interest under California’s Political Reform Act (CPRA) and California Govt. Code 1090.

But during the joint meeting, Sheldon tried to argue that Poseidon’s project would add to the county’s groundwater supply. In fact, as other water officials from OCWD and MWDOC pointed out repeatedly at the meeting, Poseidon’s water would not increase the county’s water supply—above or below ground—by a single drop.

“We’re just really replacing the amount of imported water we need to bring into the region,” OCWD’s Executive Engineer, John Kennedy, explained to Sheldon.

The Surf City Voice previously reported that during a May 21 OCWD board meeting Sheldon advocated for Poseidon and voted to send out Requests for Proposals to several consulting firms to analyze financing options for its desalination project, including direct OCWD funding and ownership.

Sheldon said “No comment” after that meeting when I asked him why he participated in the Poseidon vote. Then he chased after me as I left, only to demand that I tell him if I had electronically recorded his answer.

During a subsequent board meeting, however, Sheldon accused me of misrepresenting the facts about his relationship to Poseidon.

There was no conflict of interest, he said, because public officials are relieved of any potential charges related to a source of income that was discontinued a year or more in the past.

That’s true, but Sheldon’s SEI indicates that relief from potential conflict of interest charges won’t come until December, 2014, at the earliest. That’s because his SEI doesn’t indicate a termination date for his business relationship with Faubel; nor has Sheldon submitted an amendment to it since it was filed last April.

Theoretically, Sheldon could argue that Faubel Public Affairs and Communications Lab are separate businesses, despite public comments by CEO Roger Faubel and Lab founder Brian Lochrie confirming their close business partnership.

Lochrie, a former Faubel employee, started Communications Lab a year ago last April after leaving Faubel’s office with most of his staff and marketing clients, including Poseidon, according to a story at the time in the OC Register.

Lochire took his new entourage to another office in the same building, just down the hall.

Since Sheldon has not clarified his relationship to Poseidon (he did not accept an offer to meet or speak with this reporter at greater length), and any clarifying legal action against him is unlikely before election day, the voters must decide if the wall separating Faubel and Communications Lab is invisible and if Sheldon is being honest about being free of conflict.

But Sheldon’s election opponent, Newport Beach City Councilperson Leslie Daigle, may not be so shy about Sheldon’s Poseidon connection as well as his numerous other ethical and legal dilemmas.

Apparently, her campaign has been using a Facebook account called Steve Sheldon Watch to post links to documents detailing Sheldon’s numerous personal trials and tribulations, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of state and federal tax liens, contract violation lawsuits, and a divorce claim by his wife that he is stealing from his child’s $1 million “off-shore” trust account.

Two of the Facebook posts relate directly to Sheldon’s job as an OCWD director.

One of those posts questions Sheldon’s relationship to Poseidon based on in his 2012 SEI filing—in which he states he directly consulted for Poseidon, asking, “Is that legal since OCWD is studying if they want to buy Poseidon’s desalinated water?”

The other OCWD related post, “nothing but the best for Sheldon,” links to his OCWD expense reports and questions his $1,048 stay at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Los Angeles.

Daigle told the Daily Pilot that she was running against Sheldon because of the OCWD board’s involvement in frivolous lawsuits and its attempt to build a power plant.

Sheldon was one of three OCWD directors, including Denis Bilodeau and Roger Yoh, who as members of the district’s Water Issues Committee (WIC), met secretly with several members of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce in October, 2013, to smooth the way for building the power plant on 20 acres of OCWD property in the so-called Ball Road Basin in the city of Anaheim.

Many Anaheim residents are opposed to the proposed power plant and want to use the lands for parks and recreation purposes.

The WIC meeting arguably violated California’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, so the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce protested. To prevent a lawsuit, the OCWD Board of Directors voted to promise to “cease and desist from prior challenged conduct.”

But the agenda for one of many secretly held OCWD Executive Committee meetings exposed by the Voice through a public records inquiry, reveals that the directors may have broken their legally binding promise.

The Executive Committee agenda for June 10, 2014, contains a discussion item about how to gain leverage for rezoning the Ball Road Basin—if a proposed deal with Competitive Powers Ventures to develop the power plant fell through—by supporting grant requests by Anaheim for developing pocket-parks.

“I believe we could leverage cooperation on these types of soft issues in return for the City helping us kill SB 26 and helping us rezone Ball Road Basin to commercial usage if the CPV deal falls through”, OCWD General Manager Mike Marcus wrote.

The OCWD seems to have backed off its efforts to build a power plant in Anaheim for now, but this month its board of directors voted to study building one in Fountain Valley instead as part of its Long Term Facilities Plan.

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Posted in Headlines, MWDOC, OCWD, Poseidon, Water Boarding6 Comments

OCWD: Directors’ Misuse of Committees Shows Disdain for Ratepayers’ Rights

OCWD: Directors’ Misuse of Committees Shows Disdain for Ratepayers’ Rights

By Debbie Cook
Special to the Surf City Voice
Commentary

At a recent (July 3) sub committee meeting, OCWD’s Director Cathy Green dismissed an idea by Director Jan Flory to have staff prepare a report on the cost alternatives for video streaming public meetings.

Flory wants to make it easier for the district’s ratepayers to attend those meetings or at least be able to see them by watching live or archived versions online.

Few public citizens participate in OCWD meetings, a blow to democracy that is exacerbated by a calendar set for the convenience of directors but not them.

Trying to break that mold a bit, on the day of the committee meeting, myself and a few other public citizens actually did attend in order to support Flory’s proposal.

But Green and the two other voting members of the five-member communications and legislation committee, Stephen Sheldon and Shawn Dewane, tried to table discussion of the item—even though there is no tabling motion under OCWD meetings rules—for up to a year.

Green melodramatically argued that she wasn’t going to vote to have OCWD staff get a lot more information about video streaming until she had a lot more information about video streaming.

That’s right. That’s really what she argued. But don’t take my word for it, watch the video accompanying this commentary to see and hear for yourself.

Green also said that, in Huntington Beach, where she served two terms with me as a member of the city council, video streaming never worked.

“I’m not going to say ‘Oh let’s do it’ and then we end up with all the trouble that so many other entities have ended up with—they don’t work,” she opined. Continue Reading

Posted in Headlines, OCWD, Water Boarding2 Comments

Disappearing Ocean Plastics: Nothing to Celebrate

Disappearing Ocean Plastics: Nothing to Celebrate

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko
Special to the Surf City Voice

You’d think that finding far less plastic pollution on the ocean’s surface than scientists expected would be something to cheer about. The reality, however, is that this is likely bad news, for both the ocean food web and humans eating at the top. Ingestion of tiny plastic debris by sea creatures likely explains the plastics’ disappearance and exposes a worrisome entry point for risky chemicals into the food web.

Except for a transient slowdown during the recent economic recession, global plastics consumption has risen steadily since plastic materials were introduced in the 1950s and subsequently incorporated into nearly every facet of modern life. Annual global consumption is already about 300 million tons with no foreseeable leveling off as markets expand in the Asia-Pacific region and new applications are conceived every day.

Land-based sources are responsible for the lion’s share of plastic waste entering the oceans: littering, wind-blown trash escaping from trash cans and landfills, and storm drain runoff when the capacity of water treatment plants is exceeded.

Furthermore, recent studies reveal an alarming worldwide marine buildup of microplastics (defined a millimeter or less) from two other previously unrecognized sources. Spherical plastic microbeads, no more than a half millimeter, are manufactured into skin care products and designed to be washed down the drain but escape water treatment plants not equipped to capture them. Plastic microfibers from laundering polyester fabrics find their way to the ocean via the same route. Continue Reading

Posted in Environment, Headlines, Water1 Comment

Why Do Some OCWD Board Members Loathe Being Watched?

By Debbie Cook
Special to the Surf City Voice
Commentary

About a dozen members of the public attended the July 16 meeting of the Orange County Water District to support Director Jan Flory’s request that staff gather information on the cost of streaming board meetings on the Internet, something many other Orange County government bodies have done for years.

Flory sees streaming as an important way to improve transparency and increase the public’s participation in managing its water resources.

But the stars above must have been aligned against Flory that night because, even though her proposal won five out of eight possible votes, it lost.

In earthly terms, what happened?

The answer is in the shrewd, some might say cynical, use of the OCWD’s administrative code, which specifically requires an affirmative vote of the majority of the entire ten-member board (six votes) to pass a motion, regardless of whether those members abstain or show up at the meeting or not.

Board president Shawn Dewane, who had voted to recommend tabling Flory’s proposal at a previous (July 3) meeting of the Communications Committee (he wanted it tabled for a year), and Director Denis Bilodeau, who has remained silent on the topic, were both absent.

Directors Kathryn Barr, Cathy Green, and Roger Yoh, all openly hostile to streaming meetings for public viewing, abstained–not because they had a conflict of interest, the only ethically valid reason for abstaining (apparently, they don’t want to take responsibility, on record, for killing the proposal), but out of spite. Continue Reading

Posted in Headlines, OCWD, Water Boarding6 Comments

‘Absolutely Infuriating’ OCWD Director Says About Secret Meetings

‘Absolutely Infuriating’ OCWD Director Says About Secret Meetings

By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Note: The characterization of the Executive Committee meetings as “secret” is the writer’s term and his term only. The wording of the opening paragraph was not meant to imply otherwise

An Orange County Water District director, infuriated over being misled by OCWD staff and other directors about secretly held and possibly illegal executive committee meetings, plans to speak out at the District’s next board meeting, July 16, the Surf City Voice has learned.

“Since I have been copied with agendas for recent executive committee meetings,” Director Jan Flory told the Voice in a phone interview, “I am very disturbed that they are not copied to the rest of the board before its meeting. The scope of issues it talks about far exceeds what I have been told the Executive Committee deals with.”

The previously secret agendas and other documents were shown to Flory by the Voice, which obtained them through multiple requests under the California Public Records Act.

Flory is one of three appointed OCWD directors on the ten-member governing board. She represents the city of Fullerton and started her term last January. The other seven board members were elected by districts.

Flory said she will ask Fullerton’s city attorney to look into the legality of the Executive Committee’s meetings. Continue Reading

Posted in Headlines, OCWD, Poseidon, Water Boarding6 Comments

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