SPELLING BEE CHAMPS: Reza Talieh, from Mary Lou Dieterich Elementary in Modesto, and Ryan Burns, from Julien Elementary in Turlock, were the top two spellers in the Elementary School Spelling Championship sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education and The Modesto Bee. Seventy-three students from fourth- through sixth-grades competed. Elena Liege, from Connecting Waters in Waterford, took third place and will be the alternate for the state event May 17 at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park.
SJ RIVER BILL CLEARS COMMITTEE: A key U.S. House committee has approved legislation to implement a controversial water settlement restoring salmon to the San Joaquin River. The 25-15 vote by the House Natural Resources Committee came over objections by minority Republicans that some farmers in the Central Valley wouldn't get enough water. The $170 million bill still must pass the full House and Senate, and disputes have arisen about how to pay for it. The legislation is required to implement a federal court settlement that would return water to a dry 60-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River by 2009. The original lawsuit was filed in 1988 by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
AIR BOARD SUES FEDS: Air quality regulators in the San Joaquin Valley are suing the federal government over whether California can impose the country's first greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks. The state sued the Environmental Protection Agency last week on similar claims. California wants a waiver from federal law so officials can implement a 2002 state anti-pollution law regulating greenhouse gases. Officials with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District say they filed a lawsuit as well because smog is a major health concern in the valley.