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Sierra Environmental groups, projects lose funding

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Sierra Environmental groups, projects lose funding

Postby ERIC » Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:25 am

Environmental groups, projects lose funding

Written by James Damschroder
The Union Democrat
January 14, 2009 07:36 pm
http://www.uniondemocrat.com/index.php? ... Itemid=199


Several local environmental groups and projects are feeling the pain of a state-imposed freeze on bond-funded projects.

Organizations that have been affected last month’s action include the Tuolumne County Stream Team, Tuolumne River Trust and Tuolumne Utilities District.

A Sierra Nevada Alliance survey showed that the state’s freezing of bond-funded contracts has affected about 60 percent of conservation groups in the Sierra Nevada.

Of the 68 groups who responded to the survey, about 26 percent had already been forced to lay off employees and 64 percent had to lay off contractors.

The Tuolumne County Stream Team, whose members test area waterways for sedimentation and bacterial contamination for the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District, has lost most of its funding, said Corinne Munger, the group’s watershed coordinator.

Testing in some of the county’s often bacteria-filled streams, including Woods and Sullivan creeks, is not being done because of the state’s freeze, Munger said.

The program will soon discontinue if funding doesn’t come, said Galen Weston, a conservation district director.

The Tuolumne River Trust — which recently worked to stop a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission proposal to take up to 25 million extra gallons of water a day from the river — said 25 percent of its budget is at risk.

The group’s efforts to protect the Clavey River Watershed will be affected by the budget cuts, said Rebecca Cremeen, the trust’s Sierra Nevada program director.

“We’re continuing to do our work, but they’ve told us they aren’t writing checks,” Cremeen said.

Among the nine local projects at risk of losing grant money from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy was a $200,000 study of how to bolster storage capacity and improve water quality in Phoenix Lake.

The grant — the largest of the nine — was to pay for half the Tuolumne Utilities District project.

District General Manager Pete Kampa said he still believes the agency will find project funding.

“In a sense, we’re all in the same boat,” Weston said. “We’re trying to move forward, but we can only hold out for so long.”

The Sierra Nevada Alliance survey spanned the entire Sierra Nevada, from Lassen County to Kern County. Conservation groups surveyed included land trust groups, watershed groups, resource conservation districts and grassroots community organizations.

“In the Sierra rural communities, these were great full-time jobs with benefits. This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Joan Clayburgh, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Alliance, which supports 85 conservation groups in the Sierra.

The Sierra Nevada Alliance conducted the survey after having to lay off four of its employees after the bond freeze.

“The state is not indicating when or even if they will reauthorize work to start again on these contracts,” Clayburgh said.

Contact James Damschroder at jdamschroder@uniondemocrat.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4531.
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Re: Sierra Environmental groups, projects lose funding

Postby ERIC » Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:55 pm

Funding freeze halts environmental projects across California

Commissions and nonprofits charged with conserving parks, wildlife, water and mountain areas of the state are at risk of laying off staff or closing since the state stopped funding last month.


LA Times
By Jordan Rau
January 21, 2009
http://www.latimes.com/news/printeditio ... 2421.story


Reporting from Sacramento -- If swimmers in Santa Monica Bay bump into trash or bacteria this summer, one culprit will be California's budget impasse.

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of voter-approved projects have been halted because of the state's financial problems. That includes $12 million that the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission was counting on to prevent dirty storm water and filthy runoff from draining into the bay.

"People expect to be able to enjoy the beach and not come home sick," said state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the state Senate Water and Natural Resources Committee.

The money freeze has immobilized construction of new biking trails along the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino and Orange counties. It has stopped plans to tear down the Matilija Dam in Ventura County and restore the sediment-filled Matilija reservoir. It has impeded efforts to boost the populations of salmon and steelhead trout off the coast of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The halting of such projects is one of the most concrete results of California's cash crunch.

Last month the state's top financial officials froze all state projects that rely on borrowed money. The funds for the environmental projects come mostly from four bond measures approved by voters since 2000.

In all, more than 750 environmental projects in Los Angeles County and the four surrounding counties have had their funding, totaling $420 million, stopped, according to an analysis of state records. Environmental projects dominate the list, which also includes the construction and improvement of recreation and performing arts centers, museums and tennis courts.

"The will of the people has been completely ignored," said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, a nonprofit devoted to Southern California's coastal waters that has had its funding frozen. "Overwhelmingly, these bond measures got approved . . . by the people of the state of California."

In most cases, the freeze has meant postponing plans for new roads, dams and schools. But many of the environmental projects are ongoing efforts being done through nonprofits charged with conserving parks, wildlife, water and mountain areas of the state.

Mike Chrisman, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's secretary for Natural Resources, said most of these projects are not going to be done until the state's financial problems are resolved.

"What we need is a state budget to honor our commitment to our communities," he said.

The freeze has dried up funds for about 1,100 nonprofits and commissions, according to the state Natural Resources agency. Some are laying off staff and contractors as a result.

The Resource Conservation District in Ventura County, which relies on the grants for 80% of its projects, may have to lay off staff and default on consulting contracts because of the freeze in funds, according to a letter that district manager Mark Melvin sent to state officials Monday.

"We put our heart and soul into these projects to repair and restore the environment, work with agriculture on water efficiencies, storm water runoff and erosion control," he wrote. "Now that heart is being ripped out."

A survey of 68 conservation groups in the Sierra Nevada -- many of which count on state bond money -- found that 10 have already laid off staff and 26 have laid off contractors. The survey, by the Sierra Nevada Alliance, a network of 105 regional conservation groups, found that two groups have closed their doors completely, said Patricia Hickson, a program associate at the alliance, which is based in South Lake Tahoe.

"We're just seeing the beginning of what could be the closure of many organizations," Hickson said.

Shelley Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, said the freezing of the bond money exacerbates the broader problems of the recession, because contractors are not getting paid.

"That was $12 million that was directly going to pay people in construction, engineering, design fields, environmental sciences. It was also buying materials for the projects," Luce said.

Most programs that rely on borrowing are likely to remain frozen until Schwarzenegger and the Legislature agree on how to close the state's budget gap, because investors are currently unwilling to lend California money.

Even if that situation is resolved, the state could have trouble borrowing because of continuing problems in international credit markets.

Meanwhile, Luce said, her nonprofit's staffers are in jeopardy. "We have a few months," she said, "before we have to start laying people off."

jordan.rau@latimes.com
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Re: Sierra Environmental groups, projects lose funding

Postby AldeFarte » Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:19 pm

TWEEK. Isn't it ironic ,how unbridled Capitalism breeds unbridled environmental zealotry? Only by the riches and freedom that true Capitalism provides do some among us have the idleness to indulge in such crap. Hence, when the pinch is put on the the free nature of man to better himself and his family by taxing and otherwise hurting private indeavors to create wealth ,there is less of the commodity that supports the above programs. Taxation and other forms of stymieing developement hurt the good nature of man to freely support endeavors of common sense environmental reform. There is a lot of good out there that needs doing, but poor people don't do squat! Only by lifting people out of the dregs do "they" have the leisure to contemplate such things. California once led the nation in oportunity and freedom to create wealth ,but I tell you what-"It's now a tough place to to do business". I guess that means that the grants will continue to decline . Time to pop a good merlot and contemplate California's predicament. PS thanks for the info Eric. jls :)
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Re: Sierra Environmental groups, projects lose funding

Postby ERIC » Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:45 pm

A mess indeed. Not involved in the environmental programs those articles speak of, but the district I work for is itself being stung by the State's withholding of more than $10mil in awarded grant funds. Projects that have been ordered to be "put on hold".

It was only a matter of time before this ticking time bomb blew up in a big way. And I'm not confident at all that things will be quickly remedied - and certainly not without long-term, substantial repercussions.

I'll take a bottle of Pinot. :partyman:
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