TOPIC: Dept. of Commerce

Sea turtles come before sea-based energy sources

A proposed settlement between environmental groups and the federal government over protecting much of the waters off of California’s coast for endangered leatherback sea turtles could scupper plans to harness the Pacific as an energy source, writes John Upton of The Bay Citizen.

Essentially, the plan would designate over 70,000 square miles of ocean as critical habitat, including the entire coast of Washington, two thirds of Oregon’s and about two thirds of California’s. (more…)

With outsourcing to China, a bridge too far in the Bay Area

In a story that should be a wake up call to policy-makers, outsourcing has gone public. As David Barboza of The New York Times reported on Saturday, seeking out low-wage workers off shore isn’t just for iconic American brands such as Apple, General Electric and Levi-Strauss; the phenomenon is increasingly prevalent among public agencies across the nation. (more…)

Army Corps v. California trees

Six years and thousands of miles away from the poorly designed flood walls and levees whose post-Katrina failure inundated New Orleans, environmental groups in California have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent what they contend is an unproven, costly and potentially damaging flood protection strategy ordered by US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps, under scrutiny after a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe, decreed in 2007 that local levee districts would in the future lose guarantees of federal aid and loans unless all trees and shrubs were removed from levees under its nominal jurisdiction around the nation. (more…)

In the High Sierra, it never rains but it pours

Sacramento river levee

Massive federal irrigation pumps, sucking up a bounty of water after an abundant California rainy season, are wreaking  havoc on already-stressed fish species, while state and federal officials fret that sudden and sustained heat in the High Sierra could cause devastating flooding. (more…)

Patent Office says: Are you ready for some failure?

Nick Schulz, reviewing Henry Nothhaft’s book about American competitiveness, Great Again, in the Wall Street Journal, points out an important obstacle to job growth in America:  delays in granting patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. (more…)

Tuna factory off San Diego? (or destroying the ocean in order to save it)

An Icelandic aquaculture entrepreneur has staked his claim in the waters off Baja California, Mexico in the form of giant offshore fish farms, and if federal regulations now under review are significantly altered, the far-sighted project could migrate north of the border, off of San Diego.

That’s the bottom line of one heck of a fish story by Mike Lee in today’s edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune. The plan, by Oli Steindorsson, chief executive of Umami Sustainable Seafood, is to raise giant tuna in offshore pens for sale to the Japanese market and consumers in general. (more…)

Obama looks to the West for new Commerce secretary

Pres. Obama w/ Locke (l) and Bryson

A Californian may soon join the cabinet as the nation’s new Secretary of Commerce, according to reporting by Jim Puzzanghera and Neela Banerjee of the Los Angeles Times.

President Obama today announced the nomination of John Bryson, former chairman and CEO of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, as his preferred successor to former Washington Governor Gary Locke, who was nominated in March to become the next US ambassador to China. (more…)

Predatory sea lamprey like cuts in domestic discretionary spending

sea lamprey

Now that there is no federal government shutdown we can start to analyze all the cuts made in order to achieve a $38 billion reduction in federal spending for the rest of the year. One cut, reports the Associated Press’s John Flesher, is a reduction in money to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (which is run out of the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration and is not to be confused with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative). About 90 percent of the commission’s $22 million annual budget goes to working with Canada to stop the spread of invasive sea lamprey in the Great Lakes. The eel-like lamprey are “parasitic invaders” and budget cuts surely means that more of the species will proliferate in the Great Lakes. Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin has promised to fight against Fishery Commission cuts in the FY12 budget.

The Census and Detroit

Dave Bing

The ten-year census confirms what the eyes can see — Detroit is being deserted. Yet instead of using the new numbers as a moment for further civic reassessment, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing demanded a recount. Is there merit to Bing’s criticisms of the U.S. Census Bureau?

According to the census, the city lost 25 percent of its residents between 2000 and 2010. That is the single greatest ten-year exodus in American history by any city with more than 100,000 people, excepting New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (more…)

California salmon situation finally spawning good news

Chinook salmon

California’s vanishing salmon are suddenly bouncing back. After four years of declining populations that have worried scientists, bankrupted fisherman and launched desperate conservation measures, a near record year is predicted for Chinook or King salmon, prompting regulators to prepare plans for opening the Pacific for the first real commercial and recreational salmon fishing season since 2007.

The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council released three conceptual options for the coming season yesterday, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle. All three options allow for much more fishing than last year, predicated on estimates derived from the number of two-year-old salmon, known as ‘jacks,’ that returned to spawn a year ago. (more…)