Growers blocked from water

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) -- The state is blocking four landowners on two Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta islands from taking water that officials say they don't have permission to use.

The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday, Dec. 15, told the growers, including Gallo Vineyards, Inc., to stop taking water immediately. The board also ordered the four to prove that they have a legal right to the water.

Water officials estimate Gallo, the largest of the four growers on Roberts and Union islands, was pumping about 644 acre feet of Delta water onto their vineyards each year.

Mark and Valla Dunkel, Mussi Investment LP, and Yong Pak and Sun Young were estimated to be pumping a total of 360 acre feet per year onto various crops growing on the islands.

Oregon forest bill introduced

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- Sen. Ron Wyden is preparing to introduce his long-awaited bill balancing protection for old growth forests in Oregon with restoring unhealthy forests and creating timber jobs.

The Oregon Democrat had a press conference scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16, in Washington, D.C.

Wyden was scheduled to be joined in the announcement by representatives of environmental groups and the timber industry, who have long been adversaries in bitter political and court battles over logging.

Details of the bill had not been released as of press time, but a statement from Wyden's office says it would protect old growth, create jobs and restore healthy forests on national forests east of the Cascade Range.

Agrium to lay off 118 workers

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho (AP) -- More than 100 workers are being laid off at the Agrium phosphate mine in southeast Idaho.

Mine manager Lin Kramer tells the Idaho State Journal that the Soda Springs mine will shut down on Jan. 1 and stay shut down until the late first quarter of 2010.

Kramer says that the mine currently has a surplus of ore, and the idle period will serve as a means to reduce the inventory.

He says 118 employees will be affected.

The mine produces about 550,000 tons of phosphate a year.

Judge dismissed key claim in poultry lawsuit

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A federal judge has dismissed one of Oklahoma's key claims in the state's pollution lawsuit against Arkansas poultry companies.

U.S. District Judge Greg Frizzell on Tuesday, Dec. 15, ruled that bird manure isn't "solid waste" under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson says the loss of the federal claim is "serious" and that he plans to appeal the ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit filed by Edmondson in 2005 claims the poultry companies are responsible for polluting the Illinois River watershed with poultry litter. The poultry companies deny any wrongdoing and claim the manure is property of their contract growers who use it is a cheap fertilizer.

Kosher plant supervisor

wants sentence corrected

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) -- A former supervisor at an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse wants a judge to correct his prison sentence for his part in hiring illegal immigrants before a raid at the Agriprocessors plant in 2008.

Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza, of Postville, is serving 36 months in prison, and two years of the sentence is the mandatory for aggravated identify theft. Guerrero-Espinoza was allowed to plead to two immigration charges, but agreed to the mandatory sentence for identity theft.

According to a motion filed Dec. 14, Guerrero-Espinoza wants a judge to vacate or correct his sentence based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that changes the requirement of proof for identify theft.

He claims without the increased sentence, he would have been sentenced to 19 months in prison.

Comments sought on moving bison to Turner ranch

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Montana officials are asking for public comment on a plan to move 74 bison from Yellowstone National Park to a private ranch owned by billionaire Ted Turner.

The proposal is part of a stalled plan to use the park's genetically pure bison to start new herds on public lands. Fourteen bison would be moved to Wyoming's Guernsey State Park.

Turner owns the Flying D Ranch south of Bozeman. He would hold the bison for five years and keep 90 percent of their offspring.

Conservation groups and a federal livestock agency object to the plan because it would commercialize state-owned wildlife.

Comments on the proposal will be accepted through Jan. 12, 2010.

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