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State Water Project "Entitlements" Lawsuit Settled

THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES has settled a lawsuit filed by the Planning and Conservation League over the 1995 "Monterey Agreement," which, among other things, spelled out how State Water Project (SWP) water would be allocated during droughts. The settlement calls for the agency to more fully disclose its ability to deliver water, including preparation of a biennial report to all SWP contractors, and all cities, counties and regional planning agencies within the State Water Project area. Additionally, the word "entitlement" in SWP contracts will be replaced with the term "Table A Amount" to reveal more fully the system's capacity. The settlement clarifies the scope and process for a new environmental impact report for the Monterey Agreement, and names the Department of Water Resources as the lead agency. Furthermore, the department must issue guidelines for permanent water transfers and must conduct negotiations with State Water Project contractors in public. The settlement is available on the department's website, www.montereyamendments.water.ca.gov WITH AN EYE toward providing local governments more control over Indian casino development, Gov. Davis has asked 61 California Indian tribes to renegotiate the state's three-year-old gambling compact. Although he has declined to be specific about how much authority local governments should have, Davis has suggested that Indian casinos should be subject to the same land use controls as any other project. Currently, local governments have no authority over casino developments unless the projects need public infrastructure. Tribes, which are sovereign, have been cool to the idea of letting local governments typically counties control casino development. The relationships between tribes that have casinos or plan to build them, and local governments have been very mixed. How far Davis will press the local control issue is unknown because the governor also wants the tribes' consent to tax the casinos' slot machines to help cover the state budget deficit. LOS ANGELES MAYOR JAMES HAHN has taken steps to block the expansion of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Granada Hills. Hahn directed the city's Environmental Affairs Department not to forward Browning Ferris Industries' (BFI) application for landfill expansion to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, even though the application has been deemed complete. While the city stalls on the BFI application, it is seeking proposals to haul trash to out-of-town garbage dumps, probably in the desert. Browning Ferris contends the city has no right to delay the landfill expansion and says transporting waste to the desert would more than double disposal costs. Expansion of the Sunshine Canyon facility, along Interstate 5 at the northern boundary of Los Angeles, has long been a controversial issue and was even a minor factor in the proposed San Fernando Valley secession. The garbage dump has operated for years in unincorporated Los Angeles County. In 1999, the city said it would permit BFI's expansion of the dump inside the city limits, but Hahn vowed to block the project upon being elected mayor in 2001. EXPANSION OF THE PORT OF LOS ANGELES is back on track, as residents of San Pedro and Wilmington have settled a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. Under the settlement that was announced in March, the Port will spend $60 million to address air pollution and aesthetic concerns over a new China Shipping Holding Company terminal and the port as a whole. Specifically, the Port will spend $20 million during the next four years to reduce air pollution at the port, $20 million to mitigate aesthetic impacts to nearby residents, and $10 million to clean up trucks serving the port. The Port also will replace four existing 16-story cranes with shorter models. The Port further agreed to prohibit trucks operating in the China Shipping yard from having diesel engines, and to provide electricity to docked ships so the vessels do not keep their diesel engines running while in the port. Last fall, Port area residents won a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit against the city, forcing the Port to halt work on the nearly complete project (see CP&DR Legal Digest, December 2002). A TWO-YEAR DISTICT ATTORNEY'S INVESTIGATION into development of the Belmont Learning Center in downtown Los Angeles has found no criminal wrongdoing. The report, released in March by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, identified "unsound business practices and serious problems with the LAUSD school development process" and made recommendations to prevent future problems. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has spent about $160 million on the nearly finished high school. Construction has stopped twice, first in 1999 because of the discovery of methane gas on the site and again in 2002 because of concerns about an earthquake fault. The school for 5,000 students has never opened. A 1999 internal school district investigation suggested there had been criminal malfeasance, and during the 2000 election campaign, Cooley accused then-District Attorney Gil Garcetti of mishandling a Belmont probe. Cooley's $1.6 million investigation noted a number of errors by the district and some of its contractors but did not allege any crimes. The report is available on the district attorney's website, http://da.co.la.ca.us. THREE MISDEMEANOR CORRUPTION CHARGES were filed in March against former Pittsburg City Councilman Frank Quesada. The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office alleged Quesada was in debt by $370,000 to developer Albert Seeno Jr. and his brother Tom Seeno while Quesada voted to approve a number of Seeno developments, including part of the 2,900-unit San Marco subdivision. Quesada, who lost a re-election bid last November, allegedly borrowed the money from Seeno Enterprises starting as early as 1981 for a variety of personal and business purposes. The Contra Costa Times revealed the apparent conflict of interest last fall. Arraignment is scheduled for this month, and the Times reported that Quesada will plead no contest. The district attorney's office has indicated it will seek a sentence of community service, rather than fines or jail time. MANCHESTER RESORTS has filed a claim against the City of Oceanside for $15 million, alleging the city broke its contract with Manchester for development of a beachfront hotel. The claim is the first step toward litigation. The city actually approved the controversial hotel, but the California Coastal Commission last year refused to let the city amend its Local Coastal Program to permit the project (see CP&DR In Brief, July 2002, Local Watch, November 2000). After the Coastal Commission unanimously rejected the 400-room, 12-story hotel, the City Council determined the city's contract with Manchester was void and the council refused to consider a Manchester proposal for a scaled-down project. A FEDERAL JUDGE has given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service one year to designate critical habitat for the endangered Santa Ana sucker fish. The ruling in a lawsuit filed by environmental and angling groups could threaten flood control, hydroelectric, wastewater disposal and water treatment projects proposed for the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino and Orange counties. THE SONOMA COUNTY POPULATION of the California tiger salamander was listed as endangered in March by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The listing decision follows an emergency listing the agency issued last year to settle a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. The latest decision angered Sonoma County developers and some local officials, who fear development could slow as a result. THE FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE and the state Department of Fish and Game have taken title to 16,500 acres of salt ponds in the southern San Francisco Bay. The federal and state governments, and four private foundations provided $100 million to purchase the salt ponds from Cargill Salt (see CP&DR Environment Watch, July 2002). A team of federal and state officials now expects to spend up to five years planning for restoration of the salt production ponds to marshland. STATE HOUSING and Community Development Director Julie Bornstein will resign effective May 1. Bornstein announced she will become the founding director of the new Keston California Infrastructure Institute at the University of Southern California.
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