The Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood
Lloyd G. Carter, former UPI and Fresno Bee reporter, has been writing about California water issues for more than 35 years. He is President of the California Save Our Streams Council. He is also a board member of the Underground Gardens Conservancy and host of a monthly radio show on KFCF, 88.1 FM in Fresno. This is his personal blog site and contains archives of his news career as well as current articles, radio commentaries, and random thoughts.

Kesterson Whistleblower Felix Smith comments on my "Two-Faced Fish in a Barrel" story

Editor's Note: Nearly 30 years ago Felix Smith, an employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), leaked information to then Fresno Bee reporter Deborah Blum that selenium-tainted farm drainage water from the Westlands Water District was causing embryo deformities in migratory birds nesting or feeding at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge evaporation ponds in western Merced County.  FWS biologists were initially barred from publicly speaking about the bird deformities by Reagan Administration Interior Secretary James Watt.  Smith and another FWS biologist, Harry Ohlendorf, had discovered the deformed birds in the Spring of 1983 when they opened eggs in nests at the so-called wildlife "refuge."   The Fish and Wildlife Service purportedly was preparing a press release on the issue but after months, Smith got angry and impatient at the stall tactics and let Deborah  Blum (who later won a Pulitzer Prize) know what was going on. Within 18 months, following continuing national publicity on the issue, the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Kesterson cleaned up or closed.  READ MORE »

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson resumes his war on wildlife

    Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who is backing mining companies that are polluting Idaho streams and creeks with selenium, is on the warpath again.  (See my story below on two-faced fish in a barrel for more details about Simpson.) The House subcommittee he chairs, which oversees Department of Interior spending, has passed a proposed budget bill which slashes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service budget by 21 percent.

     I just received the following press release from Ducks Unlimited about Simpson's efforts to slash funding for North American wetlands Conservation as well as the FWS budget..  Simpson is also reportedly planning to cut funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,  Simpson is the chair of the Subcommittee on interior, Environment and Related Agencies, although his name is not mentioned in the DU press release below.

   READ MORE »

Two-faced Fish in a Barrel

By Lloyd G. Carter
      "They are putting the heat on me. I was dumpin' in the river for years and years and I got by in good shape but now I've spent millions cleanin' the water up. I did it in Washington. I had to do it in Oregon. It's the law of the land now. Mighta killed a few fish and suckers but never hurt anything. They're blowin' holes around the feedlot in Washington to see if I'm pollutin' the goddamn water. Maybe we won't be able to feed cattle anywhere any more, I don't know. The problem is there's too many goddamn regulations.  Now, if you build a manger you got to go to town and ask 'em for permission to do it."
     Idaho potato, livestock and fertilizer kingpin J.R. Simplot talking about pollution at his feedlots in a 1998 interview with Range Magazine ["The Cowboy Spirit on America's Outback"]. Simplot died in 2008 at the age of 99, with a worth estimated at $3.8 billion.  READ MORE »

Two-headed fish segment airs on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show

On Thursday night Jon Stewart's The Daily Show on the Comedy Channel aired a segment about the selenium-poisoning  of Idaho rivers by the J.R. Simplot mining and agribusiness goliath.  The EPA was blistered for endorsing a report by the Simplot company which wants to increase selenium limits in creeks and streams that receive mining wastes, even though it's already causing two-headed trout and other fish deformities.  Unmentioned in the Daily Show segment was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which released a scathing review of the flawed Simplot report, mentioned favorably in a New York Times story, but refused to let its top selenium scientist speak to the Daily Show.  You can watch the Daily Show segment here: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-14-2012/a-simple-plot  READ MORE »

Lloyd's May 2012 Radio Show - Interview with Ed Imhoff


60:09 minutes (13.77 MB)

Lloyd's May 2012 Radio Show

Resnicks found guilty of false advertising by Federal Trade Commissions

In an Initial Decision announced Monday, May 21,  Federal Trade Commission Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell upheld a Federal Trade Commission complaint, and ruled that POM Wonderful LLC, its sister corporation Roll Global LLC, and principals Stewart Resnick, Lynda Resnick, and Matthew Tupper violated federal law by making deceptive claims in some advertisements that their POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements (POM products) would treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.  READ MORE »

How the West(lands) was won, Part Two

By Lloyd G. Carter

 

        If there are unwritten charter memberships in the Hydraulic Brotherhood, the Westlands Water District and the Denver, Colorado law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck undoubtedly have honored places. It's not just that Westlands, a public agency, owns a $31 million world class trout fishing resort, which it makes available to its growers at $4,200 to $7,000 a week. It's more the fact that Westlands, the largest (in acres not farmers) and most politically connected federal irrigation district in America, and Brownstein, one of the largest and most politically connected water law/lobbying firms in the nation, are partnering in Westlands' billion dollar lawsuit against the government

       And that bodes ill for the American taxpayers and the environment.

 READ MORE »

Cowardice at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

     In my nearly 30 years covering pollution issues at National Wildlife Refuges, I have come across several courageous field level employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and a few cowards in management positions, managers who are afraid of politicians, polluters, and their own shadows.  A good example is the debacle at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the early 1980s, where toxic selenium-tainted agricultural waste water from the Westlands Water District polluted the food chain in evaporation ponds at the Merced County "refuge," a supposed haven for migratory ducks and birds, triggering deformities and reproductive failure.  There were heroes like biologist Felix Smith - who leaked the Kesterson findings to Fresno Bee reporter Deborah Blum, and there were cowards in the Portland regional office who participated in a cover-up to delay release of the Kesterson findings.  READ MORE »

Selenium contributing to honeybee die-off?

Remember how selenium ravaged the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Central California nearly 30 years ago?  Selenium is a trace element that is a micronutrient but can also be lethal at slightly higher doses than needed for nutritional necessity. It is widespread in the soils of the western San Joaquin Valley but is liberated from the soil by irrigation, which acts as a solvent. Farm drainage water containing poisonous levels of selenium was funnelled to evaporation ponds at Kesterson three decades ago and quickly bio-concentrated as it moved up the food chain, nearly wiping out the Refuge's bird population and triggering grotesque deformities in bird embryos.  Now UC Davis researchers think they found a link between declines in bee populations and selenium. You can read about it here:  http://www.smh.com.au/environment/chain-reaction-toxic-soil-kills-bees-threatens-food-production-20120416-1x2we.html.  Or read the actual report here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0034137.  READ MORE »

How the West(lands) Was Won, a two-part series - Part One

By Lloyd G. Carter

Editor’s note: Part one of this series addresses the merits of Westlands Water District’s breach of contract claim in the U.S. Claims Court in Washington, D.C. Part Two addresses the Denver law firm hired to represent Westlands and its far flung political connections.

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     In the wake of the public relations debacle over the brief hiring of former federal judge Oliver Wanger, the Westlands Water District has now hired a high-powered Denver, Colorado law firm with close ties to Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar and political tentacles reaching to the highest levels of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

     Westlands, on January 6, 2012, quietly filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C. claiming the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation breached its 1963 contract with Westlands by failing for decades to build a drainage system to carry away Westlands’ toxic waste waters to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. There was no Westlands press release on the Court of Claims suit and no mainstream media picked up the story for almost a month.  READ MORE »

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