EBMUD Loses Court Battle Over New Dam 

A Sacramento judge says the agency should have studied alternatives to destroying a scenic stretch of the Mokelumne River. Plus, Jean Quan posts strong approval ratings.

A Sacramento judge ruled against East Bay MUD last week, saying that its environmental impact report for future water projects, including a proposed new dam on the Mokelumne River, violates California environmental law. Judge Timothy M. Frawley ruled that the East Bay Municipal Utility District should have studied viable alternatives to building a new dam in the Sierra Foothills, including an already planned expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir in eastern Contra Costa County by a neighboring water agency.

"The ruling will force East Bay MUD to finally examine a water supply alternative that would spare an already over-appropriated Mokelumne River from further water diversions," Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance said in a statement. The alliance was one of three groups that sued East Bay MUD in November 2009 over its environmental impact report. "The irony is that if East Bay MUD had evaluated joining the Contra Costa Water District in the Los Vaqueros project, they would be on the verge of beginning construction of additional secure water supply facilities."

In the coming weeks, Judge Frawley will formally order East Bay MUD to set aside its October 2009 certification of its EIR, and require the agency to redo parts of it. "We hope this ruling will bring EBMUD to its senses," said Katherine Evatt, president of the Foothill Conservancy, which also sued, along with the environmental group Friends of the River. "It's time for them to stop wasting their ratepayers' money ... and develop an environmentally sound long-range water plan that doesn't depend on destroying more of the Mokelumne River."

East Bay MUD's proposed new dam on the Mokelumne would have enlarged the existing Pardee Reservoir and spoiled a scenic stretch of the river that is popular for its fishing, kayaking, and swimming. The area of the river also is important to the local tourism trade in the Sierra Foothills, and most agencies and political leaders in the area opposed East Bay MUD's plans. Expanding Los Vaqueros, by contrast, has been mostly uncontroversial because it does not include wrecking a beautiful river.

But back in 2009, East Bay MUD dismissed the idea of working with the Contra Costa Water District on the Los Vaqueros expansion, claiming the project contained too many uncertainties. Judge Frawley, however, noted that many of East Bay MUD's other plans for obtaining water contained even more uncertainty than the Los Vaqueros proposal. In fact, since East Bay MUD made its decision, Contra Costa has formally decided to move ahead with the Los Vaqueros expansion.

In the court case, East Bay MUD also argued that it did not have to do a more thorough environmental study of the new dam on the Mokelumne because it had conducted what is known as a "programmatic" EIR that evaluated numerous water supply plans. The agency contended that it would do a detailed EIR once it formally decided to build it. However, Judge Frawley ruled that East Bay MUD's programmatic EIR was still too superficial and should have more been more thorough under state law.

The judge also ruled that East Bay MUD didn't sufficiently analyze impacts that the dam would have on the river's cultural and recreational resources or the safety issues involving the planned removal of a bridge that serves as an emergency escape route for some residents.

East Bay MUD spokesman Charles Hardy said agency officials are studying the judge's ruling and it will be up to the board of directors to decide whether to appeal it.

Quan's Good Poll Numbers

After one hundred days in office, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is garnering some strong approval ratings in the city. According to a poll commissioned by CBS 5 TV, 57 percent of Oakland residents approve of the job Quan is doing as mayor so far, compared to just 24 percent who disapprove — an approval margin that is better than 2-1. Nineteen percent of respondents said they were "not sure." The automated telephone poll of 500 Oakland residents was conducted last week by Survey USA, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

The poll also produced some interesting results. Oakland's first woman mayor, for example, fared slightly better among men than women, 59 percent to 56 percent. The city's first Asian-American mayor also scored better among whites (60 percent), blacks (56 percent), and Latinos (62 percent), than among Asians (52 percent). Quan, a liberal, also did better among Republicans (64 percent) and conservatives (62 percent) than Democrats (60 percent) and liberals (57 percent). She was weakest among independents (50 percent) and moderates (54 percent).

Overall, moderates made up 41 percent of the poll respondents, with 35 percent describing themselves as liberal, and 14 percent conservative. Sixty-three percent of the respondents were Democrats, 22 percent were independents, and 10 percent were Republicans. The poll appeared to do a good job reflecting the demographic makeup of the city — 34 percent of respondents were black, 28 percent were white, 19 percent were Latino, and 19 percent were Asian.

Quan also fared best among older residents, with 70 percent of those who are 65 years and older giving her a thumbs up. By contrast, 52 percent of adults age 18 to 34 said they approved of the job she is doing. Quan's high marks among older, conservative residents could represent her popularity among Oakland hills voters, since she represented them for sixteen years on the city council and the school board. But it's difficult to know for sure because the poll did not identify the neighborhood affiliations of the respondents.

Three-Dot Roundup

Speaking of polls, Quan told the Oakland Tribune that she does not have a copy of a secret poll that reportedly shows her parcel tax measure proposal has a good chance of passing. Quan has refused to make the poll public, because it was commissioned by private entities. ... Barry Bonds was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice, and was nearly convicted of perjury but a lone juror refused to vote guilty. ... Embattled BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger received a $1 million golden parachute severance package because the agency's board of directors was afraid that she might sue if it fired her.

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