Jeff Jardine: Pond could work wonders to help Tuolumne County through drought

jjardine@modbee.comJuly 7, 2014 

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

IMPORTANT PUDDLE – Most years, if someone emailed you a press release extolling the completion of a 26.2 acre-foot reservoir, the response might be “LOL! Where’s the Epsom salts?”

But in a drought, every gallon counts. That is why the Tuolumne Utilities District is ballyhooing the expansion of its Matelot Reservoir near Columbia. Just six weeks ago, it had a capacity of 6 acre-feet.

The bigger, better version holds enough water to supply customers in the Columbia area for about three weeks and also supplies the Cal Fire Columbia Air Attack Base. Normally, the reservoir would get its water from Lyons Reservoir through PG&E’s ditch system. PG&E shuts the ditches down for maintenance for three weeks each fall, and the expanded reservoir is expected to keep water flowing during the shutdowns. This year, though, TUD is trying to keep as much water as possible in Lyons and is filling Matelot with water pumped from New Melones Reservoir.

The state and Tuolumne County are contributing to the $270,000 project that involved raising the small dam and mucking out 16,830 cubic yards from the original lakebed. With no real water rights of its own, Tuolumne County needs to be more resourceful even though two major rivers run through it. The county is No. 3 on the state’s drought watch list, TUD spokeswoman Lisa Westbrook said, so getting the necessary permit went relatively quickly.

The Matelot expansion is something TUD likely will try to replicate throughout the county, which makes sense. Rather than trying to build a big, expensive project that would then need a big, expensive delivery system, TUD is looking at building more small reservoirs throughout the county and closer to the areas in need, Westbrook said.

FOLLOW THE LEADER – In April, I wrote about the request by convicted killer Marty Don Spears for an early parole hearing per SB 260, which allows such hearings. Spears was the ringleader among the four convicted in the brutal June 1979 murders of Phillip and Kathy Ranzo. In 2011, parole commissioners in San Luis Obispo denied him parole and set Spears’ next eligibility hearing for 2018. Instead, Spears will get another hearing Oct. 7, at San Quentin.

One of his cohorts in the crime was Darren Lee, who was denied parole at Vacaville in January 2012 and also given seven more years. The same thing happened at a 2008 hearing, when commissioners told him what it would take to be free again.

Instead, he listened to other inmates who told him there’s no point to any of this, that he’ll never get out, and ignored opportunities to build his prison résumé. In the 2012 hearing, Lee’s own attorney conceded as much.

“He failed to take the steps necessary to fulfill his release,” the attorney told the commissioners. “There’s your self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Now Lee, also at San Quentin, also has requested an advance parole hearing. He’s still awaiting word on whether he’ll get one, as are members of the Ranzo family who once again will be there to oppose his release. Will the other two among those convicted of killing the Ranzos – Jeffrey Maria and Ronald Anderson – be far behind with their own paperwork?

HEAD ’EM UP, MOVE ’EM OUT – This email, from Oakdale’s Nancy Sadoyama, tells the story without my help:

“We weren’t expecting to herd cattle on the way home last week! We were passing by Creekside Dairy on Lone Tree Road & saw this one poor guy trying to corral a herd of cows that were escaping their pen. My husband pulled over, as did several other cars, & we all jumped out to keep the cows from running into the road. By this time the cows were pouring out of their pen. We all had our arms out, trying to block their exit & my husband was waving his jacket at them like a matador. It was very exciting but hubby was afraid I’d get trampled. The cows are certainly a lot bigger up close! Finally, the workers inside noticed the commotion & came running out. They got the cows back in the pen in short order. Whew!

“It was really kind of a magical moment, though, to see all these perfect strangers coming together to help these animals.”

DUBIOUS MENTIONS – Last summer, The New York Times wrote about George Lucas’ return to Modesto for the Graffiti celebration. Nice.

But more often than not, when The Times mentions Modesto, it generally isn’t in flattering terms. In 2002, a reporter emptied his notebook by writing about the abundance of junker vehicles in the city’s streets and driveways.

Earlier this year, the paper wrote an elaborate piece about the city’s plans to someday develop Wood Colony.

And last week, Modesto Junior College got a mention in a Times story about lawsuits filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to combat the suppression of free speech on college campuses across the country.

This, from that:

“The group previously filed two similar lawsuits, including one last year against Modesto Junior College in California, after staff members told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the college’s ‘free-speech zone.’ The college settled the lawsuit for $50,000 and dismantled the zone.”

That describes perfectly the difference between the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s and the apathy of today: In the 1960s, thousands of people protested on the college campuses to demand free speech.

Now, we sue for it.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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