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California: $400 million plan to slow largest lake shrinkage

California Gov. Jerry Brown's administration on Thursday proposed spending nearly $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state's largest lake just as it is expected to evaporate an accelerated pace.

The plan involves building ponds on the northern and southern ends of the Salton Sea, a salty, desert lake that has suffered a string of environmental setbacks since the late 1970s. During its heyday of international speed boat races, it drew more visitors than Yosemite National Park and celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and the Beach Boys.

The proposal comes at a critical time for the lake about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles because San Diego's regional water agency will soon stop sending water to help preserve the lake. San Diego agreed in 2003 to contribute water through 2017 under a landmark deal to buy Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley, which includes the lake.

The $383-million proposal ran into immediate questions over who will pay for it. The state has set aside $80 million under a voter-approved water bond measure, leaving a shortfall of $300 million.

The lake is often called "The Accidental Sea" because it was created in 1905 when the Colorado River breached a dike and two years of flooding filled a sizzling basin that today is about 35 miles long, 15 miles wide and only 50 feet deep.

The lake, which has no outlet, would have quickly evaporated if farmers hadn't settled California's southeastern corner. The Imperial Valley provides the U.S. with much of its winter vegetables on farms that feed off the Colorado River and drain into the Salton Sea.

The 2003 agreement to wean California's dependence on the drought-stricken river called for San Diego to buy large amounts of Imperial Valley water. The San Diego County Water Authority and other local agencies agreed to deliver water to the Salton Sea for 15 years while the state developed a long-term fix.

The Brown administration said the U.S. Agriculture Department recently committed $7.5 million to preserve the lake and identified federal, state and local governments and philanthropic groups as potential contributors.

Even fully funded, the plan wouldn't cover newly exposed lakebed, which may cause respiratory problems for residents who breathe the dust and erode a key habitat for hundreds of species of birds.

Projects outlined in the 26-page plan released by the California's Natural Resources Agency would cover 29,800 acres of the 48,300 acres expected to dry up by 2028 if nothing were done.

The Sierra Club said the plan addressed many of its short-term concerns such as potential funding sources and specific projects to protect air quality and wildlife habitat. It said the lack of secured funding required state leaders to work together to avoid a "human health, ecological and economic disaster."

"The 10-year plan is a real step forward for the state of California — and one that could not come soon enough with sharp declines in water to the Salton Sea coming in less than 10 months," said Sarah Friedman, senior representative of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.

The Imperial Irrigation District, which manages the Imperial Valley's water, asked the State Water Resources Control Board on Thursday to hold hearings that could lead to binding measures to preserve the lake.

Kevin Kelley, the district's general manager, wrote that the plan "constitutes substantial progress" and that he was encouraged by its specific milestones and cost estimates. But he said State Water Resources Control Board's regulatory intervention and oversight was needed to ensure the lake's future after Brown leaves office in 2018.

"We recognize that the Brown administration has limited time left during its tenure and that it cannot bind its successors' hands," he wrote.

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  • A Gwinnett County family is trying to make sense of the murder of their husband and father outside their home in a Buford subdivision overnight Thursday. The victim, identified as 43-year-old George Young, was shot dead right outside his own front door. He had just come home from working a security job and his keys were still in the front door when he was shot twice. “I heard two loud gunshots,” says his wife Tia. “At first, I thought it was gunshots, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I wasn’t sure if it was firecrackers.” Her brother, who was asleep on the couch, heard it too. He opened the door to find Young lying on the front porch. “I never heard a car speed off. My brother didn’t either,” says Tia. Gwinnett Police detectives told the woman it does not appear to have been a robbery. “We don’t know where the gunshots came from--whether they came from the porch or came from the street. But our ultimate motive, right now, is to figure out what other people heard,” says Cpl. Michele Pihera. She is asking anyone with information to come forward to police. Tia and her husband had been married close to 23 years and she wonders how she will continue alone raising their three sons. “I lost my dad a few years back to suicide, and I didn’t think it could any worse. But losing a spouse like this, I think it tops that,” she says.
  • His book called gay people 'vile.' Now, a federal judge says she may rule within the next month whether the city of Atlanta fired its fire chief over his religious views.  Kelvin Cochran lost his job in January of 2015, after self-publishing the book 'Who Told You That You Were Naked?' It includes passages that referred to homosexuality as 'vile, vulgar and inappropriate' and akin to 'bestiality.' When concern was raised about the book in late November 2014, Cochran was suspended for 30 days. His lawyer, Kevin Theriot, contends the chief was punished for his religious faith, but attorneys for the city argued that it was Cochran's actions during his suspension while an investigation was underway that got him ousted. City lawyer David Gevertz pointed out that Cochran had been directed to not make public comments about his suspension, but instead helped launch a PR campaign with the Georgia Baptist Convention that resulted in thousands of angry e-mails being sent to City Hall. 'We did not fire Chief Cochran because of his religious beliefs,' said Atlanta Chief Counsel Robert Godfrey. 'It was about trust. It was about his campaign to have people contact the mayor and things like that afterwards.' Theriot contends that Mayor Kasim Reed's public statements and social media posts contradict that, including one in which Reed made clear that he did not share the anti-gay views expressed in Cochran's book. The lawsuit points out that there were 'zero instances of discrimination' by Cochran against any employees, and so Theriot says the rest of what the city says is a pretext. 'There are a few isolated passages that they take out of context to try to depict Chief as being hateful, when in fact, Chief Cochran's beliefs require him to treat everybody equally--and the only evidence before the court is that what he always did,' says Theriot. Theriot acknowledged that some copies of Cochran's book were given to men on the job, but he insists they were from people who asked for it and/or shared similar beliefs as the chief. Gevertz pointed out in court that the book created a hostile work environment and could leave the city open to lawsuits from disgruntled employees or unsuccessful candidates once the views of Cochran, a member of the mayor's cabinet, were known publicly. Cochran's lawsuit seeks back pay after his suspension and termination, as well as reinstatement. He has also filed a separate complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Cochran says his childhood dream was to become a fire chief, and he says the discrimination and racial slurs experienced in his early years working in Louisiana combined to make him vow that if he were ever in a position of authority, no one would face discrimination because they were a minority under his leadership. Yet, he says, that is why the city terminated him. 'I was shocked that writing a book encouraging Christian men to be the husbands and fathers and men that God had called us to be would jeopardize my 34-year career,' said Cochran on Friday. 'It's still unthinkable to me that the very faith and patriotism that inspired my professional achievements and drove me to treat all people with love, equity, and justice, are actually what the government used to end my childhood dream-come-true career. 'In the United States of America, true tolerance should be a two-way street for all Americans,' Cochran continued. 'No one deserves to be marginalized or driven out of their profession because of their faith.' U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May grilled lawyers on both sides with questions about the cases they cited in support of their arguments, and says she will write a detailed analysis and likely issue a ruling in about three weeks. The attorneys are seeking summary judgment, meaning they are asking the judge to decide the case. If she cannot rule on every issue raised, says Judge May, the Cochran case will go to trial on the ones she cannot resolve, putting the questions in the hands of a jury. A trial would likely be held next spring. Any jury pool will likely include some people like Tonya Ditty, who tells WSB that she has been a longtime supporter of Cochran since the case began in 2014. She attended Friday's hearing and says she was also at a rally at the state Capitol for him. Ditty says she is concerned about 'the trampling of religious rights,' no matter what religion. 'When our Founders wrote the Bill of Rights, they did not pick a religion,' says Ditty. 'This is fitting for everyone. I think that often is said that, 'Oh, the Christians just want protection.' This is for any religion. I don't think it's ever been stated that we are trying just to protect Christians.' Ditty, who says she is a Christian, says people of faith are being stifled. 'I either have to live out my faith in church or in my home, but dare me come out into the marketplace of ideas, and then I'm under attack,' she says.
  • A guitar owned by rock ’n’ roll legend Eddie Van Halen worth more than $100,000 was recovered Friday, hours after it was stolen from a Hard Rock Cafe in San Antonio, Texas, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news The guitar, nicknamed “Frankenstrat,” had been reported stolen around 1 a.m. Friday. It was returned later in the day, but it is unclear how the restaurant was able to retrieve the instrument. According to San Antonio police, someone walked in a side door of the Hard Rock Cafe and took the red, white and black guitar off the wall, and then exited the building. An employee noticed the guitar was missing after the Hard Rock Cafe closed, police said. The Frankenstrat guitar was one of several that Van Halen had custom built for him during his career, the San Antonio Express reported.  Van Halen is considered one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock music. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Van Halen eighth on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
  • A priest who wasn't allowed to preach instead turned his ears and heart to the needy. Now, decades after his death, Solanus Casey is on a path to sainthood, celebrated as an incredibly humble man who brought people to God.Father Solanus, as he was known, will be beatified Saturday at a Mass attended by 65,000 people at a stadium in Detroit where he spent much of his ministry. Pope Francis said he met the requirements to earn the title of 'blessed,' especially after a woman from Panama was instantly cured of a chronic skin disease while she prayed at his tomb in 2012.Father Solanus can be made a saint in the years ahead if a second miracle is attributed to him. He'll be only the second U.S.-born man to be beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, joining the Rev. Stanley Rother, a priest killed in Guatemala's civil war, who was beatified in Oklahoma in September.One U.S.-born woman has been beatified and two others have been declared saints.'It's a great event,' Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who leads the southeastern Michigan church, said of the honor for Father Solanus. 'It's hard to communicate how vivid and real the presence of Father is to our community.'Even 60 years after his death, 'people don't say, 'I'm going to Father's tomb,'' Vigneron told The Associated Press. 'They say, 'I'm going to talk to Father.''Father Solanus, a native of Oak Grove, Wisconsin, joined the Capuchin religious order in Detroit in 1897 and was ordained a priest seven years later. But there were conditions: Because of academic struggles, he was prohibited from giving homilies at Mass and couldn't hear confessions.'He accepted it,' said the Rev. Martin Pable, 86, a fellow Capuchin. 'He believed whatever God wants, that's what he would do.'He served for 20 years in New York City and nearby Yonkers before the Capuchins transferred him back to the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit in 1924. Wearing a traditional brown hooded robe and sandals, Father Solanus worked as a porter or doorkeeper for the next two decades, but his reputation for holiness far exceeded his modest title.The unemployed shared their anxieties with Father Solanus, the parents of wayward kids sought his advice, and the ill and addicted asked him to urge God to heal them. As he listened, he took notes that were later turned into typewritten volumes of his work.Later in life, when Father Solanus was stationed at a seminary in Huntington, Indiana, Detroiters boarded buses for a four-hour ride just to see the man with a wispy white beard. Mail piled up from across the country.'He had a gentle presence. He left people with a wonderful feeling of peace inside their hearts,' Pable said. 'He would say, 'Let's just pray about this and see what God wants to do.' Some people were not healed. He told them to bear their problems with God's help.'Father Solanus, who died in 1957, also co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which serves up to 2,000 meals a day to Detroit's poor.The Capuchins built a center that bears his name and explains his life story. The public is invited to pray and leave handwritten pleas atop his tomb. Father Solanus' name is invoked by many people who attend a weekly service for the sick.Shirley Wilson, 78, said she regularly prayed to Father Solanus to help her nephew get a kidney. He got one a few weeks ago.'It was a perfect match,' she said. 'I believe in miracles.'Vigneron hopes Father Solanus will inspire people to show mercy toward others.'We need to care for the poor and give them a high priority,' the archbishop said. 'Father was very loving and understanding to people who came to him with their troubles.'___Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteapA priest who dedicated himself to helping others is on a path to sainthood decades after his death.Solanus Casey, known as Father Solanus, will be beatified Saturday at a Mass attended by 65,000 people at a stadium in Detroit, the city where he spent much of his ministry.Pope Francis said Father Solanus met the requirements to earn the title of 'blessed,' especially after a woman from Panama was cured of a skin disease while she prayed at his tomb in 2012.Father Solanus can be made a saint in the years ahead if a second miracle is attributed to him.Barred from giving homilies because of academic struggles, he dedicated himself to helping the poor and counseling people with emotional and health problems. He died in 1957.
  • Members of a Florida church congregation will not turn the other cheek to those who might wish them harm. >> Read more trending news They are armed and ready to retaliate. That is according to a sign outside the River of Tampa Bay Church in Tampa, which warns in all capital letters that the sanctuary “is not a gun-free zone.” The sign continues with a deadly warning: “We are heavily armed -- any attempt will be dealt with deadly force. Yes we are a church and we will protect our people.” It is signed by “The Pastors.” The sign at the 21-year-old church was erected about a year ago, Associated Pastor Allen Hawes told The Tampa Bay Times. However, the warning drew more attention when Senior Pastor Rodney Howard Browne posted a photo of it on his Instagram account. The minister was responding to the deadly church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which 26 people were killed and 20 more were injured. “It is a deterrent,' Hawes told the Times. “Look at what is going on. In the past two months, look at what happened in Texas. Look at what happened in Las Vegas. Because we are a church that is on television, we are very involved in the community. We want people to know that this is a safe zone.” Hawes has a concealed weapons permit and said his congregation of nearly 1,200 people has “many armed members” ready to use force if necessary. “If you walk through the door with the intention to harm, that sign serves as a deterrent to you,' Hawes told the Times. 'We are not a soft target. People here will defend their families.” Hawes said his congregation is also paying close attention to the string of four unsolved murders recently in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. 'I think just collectively, we pay very close attention,' he said. 'Look at Seminole Heights. Someone is murdering people. This stuff is happening all the time. Do you wait for another shooting to take precautions?
  • New York SoundCloud rapper Lil Peep — whose real name was Gustav Åhr — passed away on Wednesday at the age of 21. He was reportedly found in an unresponsive state by his manager on his tour bus, according to The Guardian. >> Read more trending news In a video posted on Instagram just a few hours before his death, he said he had consumed some prescription drugs as well as some other substances, saying: “I’m good, I’m not sick.” In the wake of the young artist’s untimely death, tributes poured in from fans and peers alike. “I am shocked and heartbroken,” said Sarah Sennett — the CEO of First Access Entertainment, a management company that represented Lil Peep last — in a statement released on Twitter. “I do not believe Peep wanted to die, this is so tragic. He had big goals and dreams for the future which he had shared with me, his team, his family and his friends. He was highly intelligent, hugely creative, massively charismatic, gentle and charming. He had huge ambition and his career was flourishing.” Fellow rapper Post Malone said Åhr was “a great friend to me and a great person. your music changed the world and it’ll never be the same.” EDM composer Diplo wrote on Twitter that Åhr “had so much more to do man he was constantly inspiring me,” and fellow producer Marshmello said, “We were just talking last week about working on a song together and now you’re gone. You will be missed, R.I.P.” British pop stars Charlie XCX and Sam Smith also shared their sympathies: