CALIFORNIA DROUGHT-GROUNDWATER SHOWDOWN
In drought, California debates unregulated pumping
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California lawmakers are looking at ending the state's status as one of the last in the West to start managing groundwater.
State law, dating from the Gold Rush era, lets individual landowners pump up as much water as they choose.
But in this year of drought, underground water is supplying up to 65 percent of California's water.
The state says water users are now using far more groundwater - enough to supply 2 million California homes for a year - than snow and rain are putting back each year.
A bill headed to the state Assembly by the end of the month would introduce California's first comprehensive groundwater management plan, putting the pump-as-you-please policy to the test.
Committee OKs Brown's choice for state librarian
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A state Senate committee has approved Gov. Jerry Brown's choice for state librarian, after concerns about the appointee's qualifications.
Brown named Greg Lucas of Sacramento to the post in March, even though Lucas had never worked in the field had no formal training as a librarian.
Lucas is the son of former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas. He is married to Donna Lucas, who heads a politically connected Sacramento public relations agency and previously worked for several Republican governors.
Greg Lucas' worked as a journalist until he was appointed to the post. He said he has begun taking classes in library science from San Jose State University.
The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved his appointment to the $143,000-a-year position Wednesday, sending it to the full Senate.
Israeli ship unloads cargo despite Oakland protest
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Officials say an Israeli-owned commercial ship has unloaded its cargo at a port in Northern California after being delayed for days by a group of pro-Palestinian protesters.
International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said about 30 workers unloaded cargo from the Piraeus at the Port of Oakland starting Tuesday night despite the presence of a small number of protesters.
According to Sargent, workers had refused to unload the ship after it arrived on Saturday because of safety concerns raised by the presence of protesters and police.
The protesters were demonstrating in response to recent Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.
Remaining evacuations in fire near Yosemite lifted
KERNVILLE, Calif. (AP) - The remaining evacuees from a wildfire near Yosemite National Park have been allowed to return home.
Madera County Sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said the evacuation order for the remaining 500 to 600 residents was lifted around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The fire near Oakhurst forced about 1,000 people from their homes after it broke out on Monday and quickly took off because of strong winds and tinder-dry conditions. The roughly 400 other evacuees were allowed to return home on Tuesday.
Fire officials say they are getting a handle on the blaze, which has burned 1 square mile and is 40 percent contained. It has destroyed nine structures, one more than initially reported.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
KINGS CANYON DEATH
Body found on Calif. mountain, hiker search stops
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) - Authorities say they have found a body high on a mountain in California's Kings Canyon National Park.
A National Park Service statement says the body found Wednesday has not been identified, but a search in the area has been suspended for 46-year-old Gregory Muck, a San Francisco Bay Area teacher who went missing while hiking.
The statement says the body was found in the afternoon at an elevation of about 12,000 feet on Mount Gardiner, and park staffers were working to recover it.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Muck, an experienced hiker and backpacker from Santa Cruz who teaches in Fremont, entered the park Aug. 10 and was supposed to exit on Sunday, a week later. His wife reported him missing after he failed to appear as planned.
HETCH HETCHY LAWSUIT
San Francisco water source subject of lawsuit
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A nonprofit group in Fresno says a massive reservoir that serves over two million people in the San Francisco Bay Area is harming endangered fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service this week arguing the park service has failed to ensure Hetch Hetchy reservoir doesn't negatively impact endangered species. The group says Hetch Hetchy takes fresh water from the Delta, increasing its salinity and hurting endangered salmon, smelt and sturgeon.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the nonprofit has ties to Fresno's Westlands Water District, which supplies farmers with irrigation water from the Delta.
The National Park Service did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Governor criticizes new-hire pension enhancements
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The state pension board has approved nearly 100 types of supplemental pay that can be used to increase retirement benefits for newer public employees, one of which drew a strong rebuke from Gov. Jerry Brown.
On Wednesday, Brown said the California Public Employees' Retirement System board "got it wrong" in counting temporary raises toward retirement calculations.
The board voted 7-5 to allow supplemental payments to be credited toward pensions for employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013. The extra pay can be given for such duties as changing a street light or undergoing additional police training.
The Democratic governor says including one type of extra pay - that given during short-term promotions - goes against the intent of his 2012 pension-reform law. He says he has asked his staff to review options for protecting the pension reforms.
Legislature wades into Martins Beach access fight
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Lawmakers have passed a bill requiring a state agency to negotiate public access to a secluded beach south of Half Moon Bay that requires going through a billionaire's private waterfront property.
The public had access to Martins Beach for decades through a private access road, but it was closed after Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla bought the secluded cove in 2008 for $32.5 million.
SB968 by Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo orders the State Lands Commission to ensure public access. It narrowly passed the Assembly Wednesday on a 41-24 vote, returning it to the Senate.
A judge is considering the issue in a lawsuit filed by the Surfrider Foundation.
Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks said lawmakers should wait until the court case is resolved.
AIRPORT LACTATION ROOMS
Senate approves lactation rooms at major airports
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The state Senate has passed legislation requiring large airports to offer a private space for mothers to breastfeed or pump milk.
Lawmakers approved AB1787 by Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal of Long Beach on a 32-1 vote Wednesday. It now returns to the Assembly.
Senator Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who presented the bill in the Senate, said new mothers should not be confined to the restrooms.
Under the bill, terminals at existing airports must offer rooms with a chair and an electrical outlet for the pump, while new terminals must include rooms with sinks.
It applies to airports serving more than 1 million passengers a year. San Francisco International is the only airport in California currently offering such accommodations.
If signed into law, AB1787 would take effect in 2016.
BOXING CHAMPION-BANK ROBBERIES
7-year sentence for boxer turned bank robber
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - A federal judge has sentenced a former world champion boxer convicted of robbing several San Francisco Bay Area banks to seven years in prison.
The Oakland Tribune reports that James Page was facing up to 20 years in prison during Tuesday's hearing, but Judge Jeffrey White handed down a lighter sentence in part because of Page's boxing-related injuries, his difficult childhood and a mistake made by a Georgia court in 2001 that resulted in his spending additional time in prison.
Page won the World Boxing Association welterweight title in 1998. He later lost his title and was sentenced to 11 years in prison following his arrest in 2001 on suspicion of robbing a bank in Atlanta. He attempted an unsuccessful comeback after his release.
Prosecutors say Page robbed numerous East Bay banks of more than $20,000 last year.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.