Wednesday, September 28, 2011
"The more we looked and the more we talked with community leaders, the more we realized that Stockton was the right place for us," said John Reis, DTE Commercial Operations Manager for Renewable Energy during a press conference this morning at the company's facility at the Port of Stockton.
DTE is converting the former Port of Stockton District Energy Facility (POSDEF) to a 45 megawatt green energy plant, expected to go online in 2013.
Stockton Port Director Richard Aschieris, a member of the San Joaquin Partnership Board of Directors, said today that the Port Comission has set a priorty on seeking out and finding green energy projects.
"DTE is a true cornerstone for this challenge", said Aschieris.
|Stockton Facility Receives $474,000 To Expand Production Of Biofuels|
|Sept. 27, 2011|
Washington, D.C. – This afternoon, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) announced that the USDA awarded $474,405.80 to American Biodiesel, Inc., a company that operates a biodiesel production facility in Stockton. The funds will help to ensure the production and expansion of advanced biofuels.
“I applaud the efforts of Community Fuels to educate fleet managers, farmers, elected officials and consumers about the benefits of biodiesel and renewable fuel use and production. Biodiesel reduces our dependence on foreign oil, provides jobs in our community and protects our environment,” said Congressman McNerney.
Community Fuels is using cutting edge technology to identify new feedstocks and processes that will make biodiesels more sustainable and cost effective. Currently, the facility produces 13 million gallons of biodiesel each year, with a goal of expanding to 60 million gallons or more. The funds from USDA will be put to work immediately to purchase raw materials to support higher production volumes.
Congressman McNerney has supported this initiative, advocating for producers like Community Fuels. He also supported the 2008 Farm Bill, which made the funding possible.
“We sincerely appreciate the USDA recognizing the contributions that Community Fuels is making to increase renewable fuel production that will reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy and will help clean the air. We also appreciate our longstanding relationship with Congressman McNerney and his support of clean energy development within San Joaquin County,” said Lisa Mortenson, CEO of Community Fuels.
“By supporting great innovators at home, we can create more jobs at a time when they are needed the most. And these will be good jobs that get credit in today’s economy,” said Rep. McNerney.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Herrick Steel President gives accolades to San Joaquin County Enterprise Zone during SteelDay 2011 event in Stockton, CA
During the festivities, Herrick Steel President Doug Griffin (Pictured below -right with Assemblyman Bill Berryhill and Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston) held a press conference to praise the Stockton San Joaquin Enterprise Zone.
"The Enterprise Zone provided incentives for Stockton Steel to stay here and still be competitive," said Griffen. "We are confident that we can grow here and continue to purchase new equipment while hiring local people".
International Ironworkers Union Local representative Tony Butkovich commented that a year ago the plant employment was down to 75 people and it now has153.
"They supply steel all over the state", he said, acknowledging that it would not have been possible to do this without the benefits of the Enterprise Zone.
Addtional speakers were Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston, California Association of Enterprise Zones president Craig Johnson and Stockton Chamber CEO Doug Wilhoit.
Herrick Steel has been a recognized leader in the structural steel industry since 1921 and has helped complete 500 structures including hospitals, healthcare facilities, convention and entertainment centers, hotels, highrise towers, airports and sports and theater venues.
RIPON – With the Oct. 1 deadline looming, the Ripon City Council opted last Tuesday to create a “successor agency” to the redevelopment agency.
In doing so, elected leaders can wind down the business of the Ripon Redevelopment Agency. Included is the expansion at the Mistlin Sports Complex consisting of the recently approved $3.3 million in bond revenue for the baseball/softball fields.
Under state Assembly Bill No. 26, RDAs are scheduled to be dissolved at the end of the month. However, AB No. 27 could allow for such agencies to continue operations on a yearly basis as long as voluntary payments are made to the county auditor/controller.
Meanwhile, the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities say AB No.26 and AB No. 27 are unconstitutional. They’re challenging both bills, filing a lawsuit last month in the Supreme Court of California.
A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2012.
The Ripon City Council voted 5-0 on the “successor agency,” but with an “out” clause pending the outcome of the litigation.
“We’re withdrawing (from the RDA) with the option to change our minds,” Mayor Elden ‘Red’ Nutt said.
By dissolving the agency, Ken Zuidervaart, Ripon’s director of planning, provided several key points at the previous session.
Included were the following:
•The City could receive about $120,000 per year – or $3.8 million total – in property tax revenue into the general fund over the life of the plan and through the end of the tax increment collection period (2043).
•Over the life of the plan (2026) and the current loan terms for low-mod loans (2056), the City could receive, at a best-case scenario, an estimated $1.2 million based on the RDA’s current assets.
•AB 26 could provide an allowance for the administrative costs of the successor agencies – or $250,000, in this case, for the City of Ripon for the 2011-12 fiscal year – and, according to the bill, the same amount could be provided to the successor agency for each fiscal year thereafter.
On the latter, Zuidervaart indicated some debate and confusion as to whether the $250,000 will be ongoing or only for one or several years.
Locally, the RDA was established in 1983. The life of the plan for the original project area goes through 2026. The added territory area takes the plan up through 2028.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon could have a new retail electrical provider in 2012.
It all hinges on what the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission rules.
That decision could come as early as January.
The South San Joaquin Irrigation District has invested well over $1 million in additional studies and reports requested by the county agency to augment extensive studies that the district had already done. Those studies - including an economic model based on harnessing $15 million a year in SSJID’s share of Tri-Dam Project proceeds generated from the sale of wholesale electricity - concluded the SSJID can deliver retail power at rates at least 15 percent lower than PG&E currently does.
PG&E has argued the opposite would happen, that power costs would actually go up. That is why LAFCo directed SSJID to do the supplemental studies. The LAFCo staff selected an expert in the electrical business that PG&E recommended - PA Consulting. They did the report working with the LAFCo staff while SSJID covered the costs.
PA Consulting concluded that it was indeed feasible based on the value they believed the PG&E system is worth which was considerably more than SSJID’s estimate. By committing $39 million of the $70 million the district has stashed away from Tri-Dam proceeds upfront, plus borrowing, and infusing $15 million a year until those bonds are paid off, the independent consultant recommended by PG&E determined SSJID could indeed deliver power at 15 percent under PG&E’s cost.
PA Consulting also determined that SSJID would actually receive $18.3 million a year in the future from Tri-Dam which is more than enough to cover the $15 million. It is higher than the “more than conservative” estimate that SSJID made.
The SSJID board also voted unanimously at LAFCo’s request to commit that $15 million a year before the commission makes its decision.
The environmental review period is expected to start in the next few weeks after LAFCo staff has completed their internal review.
This is the second application at LAFCo. The first attempt by SSJID to enter the retail power business was rejected on a split vote by the commission despite LAFCo’s staff’s favorable recommendation. The debate the first time centered on the possible use of eminent domain to acquire PG&E if negotiations between the two entities weren’t successful. LAFCo staff noted that eminent domain wasn’t a criterion that state law required the commission to measure the worthiness of the SSJID proposal.
Each time, independent consultants concluded SSJID had the resources and the knowledge to run a retail power system. They have overseen the Tri-Dam wholesale power system for 56 years.
The California Public Utilities Commission has gone on record noting that the loss of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon would not have a noticeable impact on the rest of the PG&E system.
The SSJID move to acquire part of the PG&E system to put in place lower power rates is not a first. It has been done elsewhere in the system. One of those efforts - the Trinity Public Utilities District - was accomplished through the efforts of Jeff Shields when he was the general manager for that Weaverville-based agency. Shields is now general manager of SSJID.
Trinity County made the move as high power costs were severely impacting residents and was costing them jobs as sawmills and other manufactures were fleeing the county.
Trinity continues to have power rates significantly lower than PG&E.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
"These jobs will bring an influx of money to local businesses from the construction companies and their employees," said Dougherty.
Caltrans District 10 Director Carrie Bowen said there will be 51 projects totaling $280 million taking place the next two years.
"This is unprecedented for Caltrans District 10," said Bowen.
The state and local dignitaries particpating in today's ceremonies asked the public for patience with the changes and delays the construction will cause as well as a plea for the public to be courteous to Caltrans workers during the construction.
Food, vendors and entertainment were some of the attractions for Saturday’s Bean Festival excitement.
The bean festival continues Sunday, Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m.
Sunday will have asome specual events including cook-offs, with the competition for the prestigious title of Best Chili in Town, begin on Sunday at 8 a.m. and last through 1 p.m., with judging starting by 1:30 p.m. and awards handed out at 4.
Also on Sunday, the festival will conclude with a Sept. 11 memorial tribute from Tracy Police Department, Tracy Fire Department, Tracy City Council, and other nonprofit organizations from the community.
Read more: Tracy Press
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Company to bring jobs to Port of Stockton
STOCKTON - ACX Pacific Northwest Inc., a leading exporter of U.S. hay and straw, will open a new hay processing facility at the Port of Stockton in October and hire 40 to 60 people for the operation.
The new facility will complement existing ACX operations that export through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to the north and Los Angeles and Long Beach to the south, company officials said.
"This allows ACX the unique ability to source a variety of hay and straw products directly from farmers all over the western U.S. and bolster our supply chain to meet global demand," company CEO John M. Gombos said.
ACX's Stockton facility will handle alfalfa and Timothy hay from Northern California, Nevada and southern Oregon; Sudan grass from the San Joaquin Valley; and rice straw from the Sacramento Valley.
"Our supply area really opens up with our ability to run hay through the ports of Stockton and Oakland," Gombos said in a news release.
The exporter also was attracted by the planned marine highway project that will feature barges carrying shipping containers among the ports in Stockton, West Sacramento and Oakland.
That will allow the containers to carry their full 25 metric ton capacity. Containers moved by highway must carry less because of California truck weight restrictions.
"They're going to enjoy substantial savings in their shipping costs, because they did locate at the Port of Stockton," said Richard Aschieris, port director.
"It's a terrific project that dovetails very nicely with the new marine highway service that the port will begin providing in February," he said Tuesday.
"The Port of Stockton is very attractive to ACX," said Greg DeWitt, spokesman for the Bakersfield-based exporter. "We're really excited about moving up there."
DeWitt said the company will shift work now done at a facility in Wasco to Stockton and will expand with additional capacity and products. Processing includes compressing bales of straw and hay to about half their usual size.
Aschieris said ACX has a five-year lease on a 90,000-square-foot warehouse on Rough and Ready Island and about 15 acres of adjoining land for its hay operation, which at full capacity is projected to handle about 125,000 metric tons of hay and straw per year.
"They are going to invest about $2 million in that facility," he said. "We've been trying to develop the export side of our business, and we're extremely pleased they're coming to the Port of Stockton."
Gombos said ACX's primary export customers are dairy, beef and animal feed industries in Japan, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and China. It buys hay from farmers from throughout the western United States.
For more information about ACX, visit its website at acxpacific.com or contact the company's Stockton operation at (209) 465-3718.
Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 email@example.com.
STOCKTON - Beets, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, plum and cherry tomatoes, cabbage, watermelon, all colors of onions, dried fruit, a riot of spiced and flavored nuts.
Sunset magazine, the bible of gracious living in the West, recently named the San Joaquin Certified Farmers Market among its top 10 of farmers markets in the region.
Arrayed across the Weberstown Mall parking lot from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays through Nov. 24 and Sundays year-round, the market may lack $5 peaches or customers driving Porsches, the magazine reports in its July issue. But it does offer an international spread of produce familiar and exotic, including Asian specialties such as bitter melon and lotus root.
Olive oil, pure virgin and flavored, potted plants, nectarines, plums, peaches, apples, pumpkins, cantaloupe, corn, Thai bird peppers in colorful bunches, fresh eggs, heirloom and yellow tomatoes.
Carlos Dutra, manager of the San Joaquin market who also runs events in Galt and in downtown Stockton on Fridays, said the magazine article was great recognition for the long-running event that usually features more than three dozen vendors (40 on Sunday).
"Just the fact of being in Sunset magazine, it's a plus," he said.
While he declined to defend Sunset's lofty placement, Dutra said Sunday that one only has to talk to those who work in or patronize the market.
"As far as customers go and vendors, this is one of the best farmers markets," he said.
Part of the proof is in being able to operate year-round in an open parking lot at Claremont and Yokuts avenues.
"Even when it's raining and miserable, the farmers are doing good, because the people are still coming," Dutra said.
Red grapes, Thompson seedless, jalapeño peppers, cut flowers, dried herbs and spices, cheese, flat bread, honey, white potatoes, yams, summer squash, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries.
"It's a great market," said customer Karen Olsen of Stockton. She had just visited the farmers market in Berkeley on Saturday, the day before, and found prices there sky-high.
"It's like night and day," she said.
Pat Bristow of Ripon, an employee of Four K Farms, which sells dried fruit and seasoned nuts at the market, said it's one of the best.
"We do other markets, and I send all the people here," she said.
Why? "It's big. There's a lot of variety here," Bristow said.
One of her customers, Kim Bedilla, said she's patronized the Weberstown market for 15 years.
Of other farmers markets, she said, "They don't have half the stuff they have here."
Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cattle still tops in Calaveras County
SAN ANDREAS - Cattle remains king in Calaveras County, but you should also count your chickens, according to the 2010 Calaveras County crop report.
Cattle and calves were the No. 1 farm commodity for the year, with a value of just over $7 million, according to the report from Calaveras County Agriculture Commissioner Mary Mutz.
Poultry rose to take the No. 2 spot with a value of just over $4 million. Mutz said that due to poor weather in 2010, the value of winegrapes slipped to just over $3 million, putting the crop that fuels much of the county's tourism in fourth place.
The total value of agricultural production for the year was almost $22 million. That's up 6.7 percent from 2009 but only about half of what the county's ag production was two decades ago.
The long-term decline in dollar value is mostly due to the dramatic reduction in logging. Timber alone once contributed about $20 million a year to the value of county-produced crops.
The retooling and reopening this year of a Sierra Pacific Industries mill near Sonora offers some hope for increased timber production. The mill can handle the small-diameter trees that remain in area forests.
But long-term changes in forestry practices on Stanislaus National Forest lands mean the boom days of timber are unlikely to return.
Meanwhile, even in bad years, winegrape production in Calaveras County is now more than twice what it was in the early 1990s.
Shawn Zmak Kuntz, the Agriculture Department staffer who compiled the report, said agriculture officials expect the size of the grape crop to bounce back once growers get a year with decent weather.
And even though the 2010 grape crop was only 2,400 tons - about 800 tons less than in 2009 - the higher prices meant the harvest yielded almost as many dollars.
Meanwhile, the long-term trend in the number of cattle sold has been flat or declining, but prices have almost doubled in the past dozen years.
Experts expect that trend to continue. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that nationwide, meat prices have been rising over the past decade even as the inventory of cattle has been declining.
Locally, Calaveras County ranchers and government regulators are working to help locals keep more dollars from each animal sold by doing at least some meat processing locally. One proposal would create a USDA-approved mobile slaughter facility well-suited to harvesting specialty meats, such as grass-fed beef.
Contact reporter Dana M. Nichols at (209) 607-1361 email@example.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/calaverasblog.
Family farm off limits to developers
Edward Brandstad emigrated from Norway at the age of 17 and invested what little money he had in Stockton's old Union Safe Deposit Bank.
The bank survived the Great Depression, and so did Brandstad. He bought some land a few miles east of town for $35 an acre, and by World War II he was growing tomatoes and kidney beans to feed U.S. troops.
Brandstad, who died in the late 1960s, might not recognize his land today. It's been converted to walnut and cherry orchards.
But one thing that will never grow there is houses.
Edward Brandstad would be glad to know that, his grandson said.
"I'm sure my grandfather and father are smiling right now knowing this will be farmland forever," said 63-year-old Jon Brandstad, who owns the land today.
That 175-acre farm - rich in soil and history - is one of five properties that will be preserved in perpetuity after owners sold easements to the nonprofit Central Valley Farmland Trust this summer. The trust paid for those easements - valued at $5.5 million - using state and federal dollars, donations and mitigation fees paid by cities, including Stockton, Manteca and Tracy.
This isn't new. The farmland trust has been in business since 2003, preserving more than 12,500 acres.
The five new easements, however, represent a "historic" flurry of activity in the Valley, where the pressure to develop farmland is always a concern, officials said.
In a ceremony at Brandstad's farm Thursday, the state Department of Conservation and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service also announced preservation of the Brazil & Van Ryn Dairy near Lathrop, along Mariposa Road, as well as one property in Stanislaus County and two in Merced County.
"This land is as good as it gets from an agricultural standpoint," said Bill Martin, executive director of the farmland trust, as he stood in the shade of Brandstad's orchard.
The easement doesn't restrict how the Brandstads farm their land, nor what crops they grow there, Martin said. The land will be inspected once a year just to make sure it hasn't been developed.
The Williamson Act already gives farmers tax breaks in exchange for keeping their land undeveloped. But those are temporary, 10-year rolling contracts. This is forever - the restrictions on Brandstad's land will remain with future generations of the family, or whoever buys the land.
Jon Brandstad's father, Dan, died three years ago but was aware of the family's hope to sell an easement.
"He was excited about it," Brandstad said. "There would be a ton of money if you sold this land for houses. But I'd like to see it stay in farmland."
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/breitlerblog.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Lodi growers set up sting on pestsAsh Sial, a post-doctorate researcher from University of California, Berkeley, deposits Spanish wasps onto a Zinfandel vine in Lodi on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. The wasps are a natural predator of the Vine Mealy Bug, an invasive pest that attacks area vineyards.
Lodi growers set up sting on pestsDamage to grape clusters can be seen on this Zinfandel vine in Lodi on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.
Lodi growers set up sting on pestsA vial filled with Spanish wasps is seen before they are released in a Lodi vineyard to attack Vine Mealy Bugs in Lodi on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.
"Can you feel the mealy bugs leaving the vineyard in fear?" Daane said after releasing 2,000 of the predators native to Spain into a Zinfandel vineyard on Peltier Road.
While he was joking about the instantaneous mass-migration of pests away from the vineyard, his sentiments are accurate. The wasp seeks out the mealy bugs and eradicates them in a fashion akin to a science fiction movie.
"The female adult lays eggs in the mealy bug and then they eat it from the inside out when they hatch," said Daane. "It's like the movie 'Alien.'"
The wasp, Anagyrus pseudococci, is about the size of a gnat and harmless to humans. They were contained in glass vials before researchers emptied in area vineyards Thursday. One hundred females and dozens of males were in each individual vial. Five thousand female wasps were deposited in local vineyards during the day.
The vine mealy bug originated in Mexico, where it targeted table grapes, Daane said. It came to California in the early 1990s at a juicing facility in Bakersfield before working its way up the Central Valley. It first appeared in Lodi in 1998, he said.
"It attaches to everything," he said. "It attaches to harvest equipment, birds, rats, and even your arm hair if you're picking grapes."
Since the pest is so prevalent, a quarantine is not issued in vineyards where it's discovered, Chavoor said.
Once a pest latches onto a plant, it goes to work attacking the grapes. Like aphids, the bugs secrete a substance that other insects find delicious, he said.
"The ants end up eating the grapes and will protect the mealy bugs," Chavoor said.
The natural approach to pest management falls in line with the commission's "Lodi Rules" sustainable approach to winegrowing. "Lodi Rules" is a program that outlines standards and practices for growers in the region.
Biological control — using a pest's natural enemies to protect crops — is part of the "Lodi Rules" approach to Integrated Pest Management, said Walt Chavoor, the sustainable viticultural director for the commission.
The commission is sponsoring the program with hopes it can help decrease the vine mealy bug population in coming years, he said.
Daane will check the vineyards in two weeks to see how the process is going. He will be able to gauge success by looking for "mummified" carcasses of mealy bugs that have been eaten from the inside out, he said.
While the process is effective in similar climates around the globe, Daane said it takes time.
"This is inoculation, not augmentation," he said. "This today is for next year's harvest and the years after."
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at email@example.com.