Friday, June 29, 2007

Corporate Park Buildings OK'd

Corporate Park Buildings OK'd
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

Plans to construct three buildings in the Green Valley Corporate Park in Fairfield advanced Thursday, with applications approved for two professional buildings and one retail building.

The buildings are part of a project that was approved by the planning commission in 2001. The project will result in about 2 million square feet of office and research and development space, located in the North Cordelia area between Green Valley Road and Suisun Valley Road in Fairfield.

There were no objections to the approval of the three buildings at Thursday's public hearing.

The Corporate Park will eventually include between 17 and 20 buildings.

It already houses a building for Copart Inc., and two hotels - a Homewood Suites and a Staybridge Suites - are scheduled to be completed next month. The Corporate Park will also feature business-related retail stores, such as copy and shipping stores, financial services, and insurance companies.

The next step in the process for developer Harvey Shein is to apply for building permits for the three buildings. Shein said he hoped to begin construction in the fall, and finish by the spring or summer of 2008.

UC Davis Gets Energy Lab

UC Davis Gets Energy Lab
Article Launched:

UC Davis researchers will be partners in a new $125 million federal bioenergy research center, the U.S. Department of Energy announced this week.

The funds will establish and support the partnership of three national laboratories and three research universities in northern California, including UC Davis, to be known as the federal Energy Department's Joint BioEnergy Institute.

Research at the Northern California JBEI will focus on biofuels - liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant matter. UC Davis' work will be based in the Plant Genomics Program and the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, deciphering the structure of the plant cell walls being converted to fuels and of the microbes doing the converting.

The chief JBEI researcher at UC Davis will be Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology and chair of the Plant Genomics Program. Ronald is an expert on the genome of rice.

"We will be studying rice as a model grass crop, as well another plant model, Arabidopsis, to understand exactly how the cell wall is constructed," Ronald said. Other UC Davis scientists will be looking for microbes that are particularly adept at degrading those cell walls, which is a key step in the biofuels production process.

Of the $125 million, about $5 million will come to UC Davis, Ronald said.

The JBEI partners are UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Start-up leadership for the project will come from the Berkeley Lab.

"These centers will provide the transformational science needed for bioenergy breakthroughs to advance President Bush's goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012, and assist in reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years," said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

"The collaborations of academic, corporate, and national laboratory researchers represented by these centers are truly impressive and I am very encouraged by the potential they hold for advancing America's energy security."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Council Endorses Legislation To Amend Tax Code

Council Endorses Legislation To Amend Tax Code
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

After a vote Tuesday night, the Vacaville City Council stands behind a bill designed to make California economically competitive with other states.

At the Solano County Mayors Conference last week, Andrea Jackson, associate director for State Government Affairs with Genentech, explained that the state tax code causes businesses to look outside California for expansion opportunities. The way the apportionment formula is structured, she explained, causes businesses to endure a greater tax burden the more operations and jobs they have in the state relative to their sales.

As a result, Jackson said that companies are building facilities in other states. For example, Genentech is planning a $250 million plant in Oregon, and Intel has decided to locate a $3 billion plant in Arizona.

Legislation authored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, is a proposal to amend the code, and, according to supporters, make California more competitive for employment growth and business expansion. AB 1591 is under consideration by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

"By allowing companies to choose between the current formula and alternative formulas that give more weight to sales, California could reward those committed to our state's economy without penalizing companies that choose not to invest in California," according to an AB 1591 fact sheet Jackson distributed at the mayor's conference.

The bill is backed by organizations like the California Chamber of Commerce. And, by a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Vacaville City Council made its position known.

"We support it wholeheartedly," said Councilman Chuck Dimmick. "We're tired of seeing businesses leave California."

Using Genentech as an example, Dimmick said, "Their California tax bill will be reduced by building in Oregon, which doesn't make any sense." Although the state Analyst's Office has determined that the bill would cost the state money, Dimmick said, "Our position is that it is at least revenue-neutral."

"They don't look at the spin-off benefits," he said, noting that by losing jobs and business expansion, the state is losing people who would be buying homes and paying taxes in California.

Councilman Curtis Hunt said the decision was a virtual "no-brainer when we realized that there are actually incentives for a business to move out of the state."

"I think it closes a loophole," Hunt said, adding, "the state needs to do everything it can to be business-friendly and align itself with those principles."

Gary Tatum, president of the local chamber of commerce, said his organization is of the same mind as the council on the issue.

"It's something we do support, and we hope everyone would, obviously," Tatum said. "We're very pleased that council took that action."

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Lawrence Berkeley Lab Biofuel Project Boosts Bay Area Research Status

Big Lawrence Berkeley Lab Biofuel Project Boosts Bay Area Research Status
Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Bay Area's status as a world center for alternative energy research got a power boost Tuesday when federal officials announced that a group led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will build and operate a $125 million biofuels research center.

The announcement that one of three centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy will be built somewhere in the East Bay came just five months after a team led by UC Berkeley landed an unprecedented $500 million grant from petroleum giant BP for a separate research institute on biofuels.

"This has been the hub for the biotech industry and also for Silicon Valley," said Cal Professor Jay Keasling, who is involved in both projects. "We really believe we can stimulate a green industry that will help develop the next generation of biofuels."

Those familiar with both projects say they will be complementary and share a goal of producing affordable, renewable road fuels from plant fiber to help reduce global warming and air pollution, decrease the nation's dependence on foreign oil and open new international energy markets.

Some experts believe affordable alternative fuels won't be widely available for drivers for five to 10 years, assuming research is successful.

The Energy Department project in the Bay Area will receive $25 million annually over the next five years to support work seeking high-tech chemistry breakthroughs to produce clean-burning fuels from plant fiber. The center is to receive its first allocation in October.

The center, to be known as the Joint BioEnergy Institute, eventually will be staffed by 130 scientists, researchers and support personnel. Also involved in the Bay Area project are UC Davis, Stanford, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

The Energy Department awarded the two other bioenergy centers to groups based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

The three centers, combining researchers from 18 universities, seven federal labs and at least one nonprofit organization, will bring basic biofuel research to the point where it can make a smooth transition to applied research, according to the Energy Department.

The centers stem from President Bush's goal of reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent within 10 years through increased efficiency and diversification of clean energy sources. A second goal calls for making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012.

If production costs can be cut dramatically, cellulosic ethanol is a potentially cheaper and more energy-efficient fuel than ethanol made from corn grain. It is derived by breaking down the carbon stored in the woody and fibrous parts of plants.

The Bay Area center's work will initially take place at Lawrence Berkeley lab's West Berkeley Biocenter. It later will move to a permanent home in a leased building somewhere in the East Bay.

to read the rest of the article check out the San Francisco Chronicle

E-mail Rick DelVecchio at

Genentech, Abbott Team Up On 2 Drugs

Genentech, Abbott Team Up On 2 Drugs
By Reporter Staff

Genentech announced Tuesday that it will team up with the pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories in researching, developing and commercializing two of Abbott's investigational anti-cancer compounds.

"We are very pleased to be entering into this collaboration with Abbott for the development of therapies that may offer new options to treat patients with cancer," said Dr. Hal Barron, senior vice president of development and chief medical officer for Genentech.

The first compound, ABT-263, restores apoptosis, a natural process by which damaged or unwanted cells die and are cleared from the body, in a variety of cancer cells. The second compound, ABT-869, suppresses tumor growth by preventing the development of new blood vessels that supply the tumor with oxygen and nutrients.

Both compounds are in Phase I clinical trials in a number of tumor types. Phase II clinical trials for ABT-869 will begin this year as well.

The companies will work together to promote any resulting products in the United States, while Abbott will promote any resulting products outside the United States.

The companies would not release the financial terms of the collaboration.

Genentech operates a drug manufacturing facility in Vacaville.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

UC Davis lands federal grant for "knockout mouse" project

UC Davis lands federal grant for "knockout mouse" project
Sacramento Business Journal - 2:28 PM PDT Tuesday, June 26, 2007
by Celia Lamb
Staff writer

University of California Davis has received a four-year, $4.8 million federal grant to breed mutant mice for research.

The National Institutes of Health grant will fund the storage and distribution of cells capable of developing into 10,000 types of mice.

Kent Lloyd, the associate dean for research at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is the principal investigator of the "Knockout Mouse Project" repository at UC Davis. The NIH wants to create knockout mice representing the whole mouse genome within five years.

The project name comes from the genetic engineering technique used to mutate the mouse cells. Researchers "knock out" a specific gene to alter the cell's protein production. The method lets biomedical researchers study the role individual genes and proteins play in disease and to test drugs for specific medical conditions.

The Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute will store and distribute DNA used to mutate the mouse genes. UC Davis will store the mutated embryonic stem cells. The UC Davis facility is expected to become financially self-sustaining after four years by charging fees to people who use it.

The UC Davis Mouse Biology Program has a similar facility that accepts mutant mice from researchers and make them available to other laboratories. The new operation will contain only mice developed through the Knockout Mouse Project.

Energy Department picks Bay Area for new bioenergy institute

San Francisco Business Times - June 26, 2007

Energy Department picks Bay Area for new bioenergy institute
San Francisco Business Times - 11:50 AM PDT Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will lead one of three new U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers, the federal government said Tuesday, intended to accelerate basic research of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels.

The DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute - along with sibling research centers in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Madison, Wis. - includes University of California campuses at Berkeley and Davis, Stanford University, the Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Tuesday that the department will invest up to $375 million in the three centers as part of President Bush's "Twenty in Ten" initiative, which seeks to reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent within 10 years.

The centers are expected to begin work in 2008 and be fully operational in 2009.

The Energy Department will fund the centers for the first five years of operation, through fiscal 2013.

"The collaborations of academic, corporate and national laboratory researchers represented by these centers are truly impressive and I am very encouraged by the potential they hold for advancing America's energy security," Bodman said in a press release.

Jay Keasling, who will be the director of the Berkeley institute, said during a press conference Tuesday that the Joint BioEnergy Institute will work with the BP Energy Biosciences Institute, funded earlier this year with a $500 million award from oil giant BP.

"It will be complementary, but it doesn't overlap," Keasling said.

The Joint BioEnergy Institute will work on liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant biomass, specifically the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels.

Lignocellulose, the most abundant organic material on the planet, is a mix of complex sugars and lignin that gives strength and structure to plant cell walls. By extracting simple fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and producing biofuels from them, the potential of the most energy-efficient and environmentally benign fuel crops can be realized.

Other members of the Joint BioEnergy Institute leadership team are Harvey Blanch, Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley, as chief science and technology officer; Wolf Frommer of Stanford as vice president of feedstocks; Blake Simmons of Sandia as vice president of deconstruction; Paul Adams of the Berkeley Lab as vice president of technology; and Kathe Andrews-Cramer of Sandia as vice president of strategic integration.

In all, the centers will bring together diverse teams of researchers from 18 of the nation's leading universities, seven Energy Department national laboratories, at least one nonprofit organization and some private companies. All three will use different plants both for laboratory research and for improving feedstock crops.

Officials at the Tuesday press conference said the research could have potential applications beyond biofuels.

The department's Office of Science in August 2006 called for competitive applications, and government officials said the three centers were chosen following a merit-based, competitive review process that included external scientific peer review of the applications.

Government officials would not say how many applications were received.

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UC Davis Is Partner in New $125 Million Federal Bioenergy Research Center

UC Davis Is Partner in New $125 Million Federal Bioenergy Research Center

June 26, 2007

UC Davis researchers who are experts at turning plants into energy for transportation, buildings and industry will be partners in a new $125 million federal bioenergy research center, the U.S. Department of Energy announced this morning.

The funds will establish and support the partnership of three national laboratories and three research universities in Northern California, including UC Davis, to be known as the federal Energy Department's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, pronounced "jay-bay").

Research at the Northern California JBEI will focus on biofuels -- liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant matter. UC Davis' work will be based in the Plant Genomics Program and the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, deciphering the structure of the plant cell walls being converted to fuels and of the microbes doing the converting.

The chief JBEI researcher at UC Davis is Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology and chair of the Plant Genomics Program. Ronald is an expert on the genome of rice. "We will be studying rice as a model grass crop, as well another plant model, Arabidopsis, to understand exactly how the cell wall is constructed," Ronald said. Other UC Davis scientists will be looking for microbes that are particularly adept at degrading those cell walls, which is a key step in the biofuels production process.

Of the $125 million, about $5 million will come to UC Davis, Ronald said.

The JBEI partners are UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Start-up leadership for the project will come from the Berkeley Lab.

The energy department today also announced two other national bioenergy research centers: the DOE BioEnergy Research Center, led by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in close collaboration with Michigan State University.

"These centers will provide the transformational science needed for bioenergy breakthroughs to advance President Bush's goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012, and assist in reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years," said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. "The collaborations of academic, corporate, and national laboratory researchers represented by these centers are truly impressive and I am very encouraged by the potential they hold for advancing America's energy security."

"The selection of the DOE JBEI is a major vote of confidence in the Bay Area's growing leadership in the national effort to develop new and cleaner sources of renewable energy," said Jay Keasling, director of Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor of chemical engineering, who will be the chief executive officer for Northern California's new bioenergy research institute.
Potential of Biofuels

Scientific studies have consistently ranked biofuels among the top candidates for meeting large-scale energy needs, particularly in the transportation sector. However, the commercial-scale production of clean, efficient, cost-effective biofuels will require technology-transforming scientific breakthroughs.

Researchers at the JBEI intend to meet this challenge through the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels. Lignocelluose, the most abundant organic material on the planet, is a mix of complex sugars and lignin that gives strength and structure to plant cell walls. By extracting simple fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and producing biofuels from those sugars, the potential of the most energy-efficient and environmentally benign fuel crops can be realized.

"The DOE JBEI will be a center of intellectual thought and provide energy research leadership designed to meet its program objectives quickly and effectively," said Graham Fleming, deputy director of Berkeley Lab.
Bioenergy at UC Davis

UC Davis has a long history of research on the development of energy from biomass. More than 100 faculty work in the field:

* The campus is home to the California Biomass Collaborative, directed by Professor Bryan Jenkins.
* The Plant Genomics Program has expertise in diverse aspects of plant genomics and leading NSF-funded programs in genetic engineering, breeding and genomics of the grass species that are models for key bioenergy crops.
* The Biomass and Bioenvironmental Engineering Laboratories in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering study the thermochemical and biochemical biomass conversion for power, heat, fuels, chemicals and other products. Research is also conducted on plant harvesting systems and crop processing, transportation and storage.

The DOE JBEI Approach

The Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers will tackle key scientific problems that currently hinder the cost-effective conversion of lignocellulose into biofuels and other important chemicals. They will also develop the tools and infrastructure to accelerate future biofuel research and production efforts, and help transition new technologies into the commercial sector. The goal of the JBEI is to achieve measurable success within the next five years.

"The DOE JBEI will be organized like a biotech startup company, with very focused research objectives, and a structure to enable it to quickly pursue promising scientific and technological developments," said Keasling. "In addition, the DOE JBEI will seek collaborations with companies that have relevant scientific and market capabilities in energy, agribusiness, and biotechnology."

The Joint BioEnergy Institute will feature four interdependent science and technology divisions:

* Feedstocks, aimed at improving plants that serve as the raw materials for ethanol and the next generation of biofuels;
* Deconstruction, aimed at investigating the molecular mechanisms behind the breakdown of lignocellulose into fermentable sugars;
* Fuels Synthesis, in which microbes that can efficiently convert sugar into biofuels will be engineered; and
* Cross-cutting Technologies, which will be dedicated to the development and optimization of enabling technologies that support and integrate the institute's research.

Media contact(s):
• Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704,

Anheuser-Busch Tops In Diversity Practices

Anheuser-Busch Tops In Diversity Practices
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - Anheuser-Busch Cos. recently received the best diversity company award by readers of Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology magazine. The online survey focused on readers' perceptions on the various diversity practices of 100 companies.

"The survey was really focused on perception, and it showed that the brand is well recognized for its diversity efforts," said Jordan Weiss, director of advertising sales for Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology magazine.

"They are a big conglomerate that is creating opportunities for everyone."

This is the first time that the 15-year-old New Jersey-based magazine has conducted this type of survey. The national magazine has a circulation of 100,000 readers and receives 3.5 million hits on its Web site per month, said Weiss.

"Our readers based their information on what they see in our magazine and other publications," Weiss said. "The survey was something we wanted to do for a while. We wanted to leverage the amount of traffic that our site receives, as well as get feedback from our readers."

Anheuser-Busch is a St. Louis, Mo. based company, that operates the Budweiser plant in Fairfield. The company received its ranking based on career opportunities for women, minorities, people with disabilities, volunteering, as well as the company's overall diversity supplier program.

"Anheuser-Busch is proud to be recognized once again for our efforts to promote a culture of inclusion at our company," said Tim Farrell, vice president of corporate human resources for Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. "This award is especially gratifying because it recognizes the company's focused diversity efforts in typically male-dominated IT fields and it reflects the public's appreciation of those accomplishments."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

County Budget Passes In Entirety

County Budget Passes In Entirety
By Ben Antonius

FAIRFIELD - The first day of county budget talks bounced from discussing the condition of the area historical archives to economic development to the Solano County Grand Jury.

The Board of Supervisors set aside those topics and several others for discussion Monday as they perused the proposed 2007-2008 budget. The board reviewed and approved the entire budget after a nine-hour meeting.

The county archives are kept in an Enterprise Drive warehouse, which suffered a small flood on June 5 and 6, damaging some of the documents stored there. The incident happened when a small fire in a building adjacent to the county archives triggered the sprinkler system, which sent a stream of water running through the archive room.

Volunteer Leslie Batson said conditions need to improve before something more serious happens to the archives, showing the board a 19th century document that was damaged in the incident.

County staff members should report back by August with specific plans for how to protect the archives in the future, said Supervisor Barbara Kondylis.

"The volunteers are sitting out there, worried that all their work is for nothing," Kondylis.

The board also voted to increase its contribution to the Solano Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that works with public agencies on marketing to encourage businesses to relocate to Solano County and local businesses to expand.

"I think it sends a message to the business community and the community in general that we're concerned about the types of jobs here," said Supervisor John Vasquez.

Kondylis voted against the change, which will roughly double the county's contribution to Solano EDC to $45,000. She said the county should consider spending the money on other non-profits, such as ones that focus on children's' health and development.

Vasquez also criticized the Solano County Grand Jury for a recent series of reports on the county animal shelter and the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation. He said the jury system is antiquated and suggested that the jury reports include ideas on solutions to the problems they identify.

"There's never going to be enough money to do everything," he said.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or

Monday, June 25, 2007

UCLA economists say state will avoid recession

Monday, June 25, 2007
Last modified Tuesday, June 19, 2007 9:28 AM PDT

UCLA economists say state will avoid recession

By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer

California's economic engine is going to sputter for several months as the result of job losses in construction and real estate finance, UCLA economists predicted in reports being released today.

But the state and nation will not plunge into recession because growth in international trade will continue to be robust, said economist David Shulman, who wrote a report examining the outlook for the national economy. In a companion report, economist Ryan Ratcliff peered into the crystal ball for California. The predictions were issued in the widely followed UCLA Anderson Forecast.

"The housing weakness is going to be contained," Shulman said in a phone interview Monday. "And part of the weakness in housing will be offest by an improvement in net exports."

Shulman said a surge in sales of domestic products to countries in Asia and Europe will boost the U.S. economy.

"The rest of the world is growing faster than the United States, which wasn't true three years ago," he said. "We were the locomotive of the world economy; now we're the caboose."

Despite the global economy acting as sort of a safety net for California and the nation, the housing market will remain weak for some time and send ripple effects throughout the state's economy, the report says.

In California, the pace of new-home construction has declined by about half since the 2005 peak, and sales of all types of housing have fallen off by close to half. Foreclosures are spiking at levels approaching those of the recessionary 1990s, the forecast shows.

In contrast to past recessions, when waves of foreclosures were triggered by job losses, most recent foreclosures have been the result of families having overextended themselves. Many stretched to buy houses they could barely afford and chose to take out loans with rates that adjust upward after two or three years. The biggest wave of those rising house payments is due to take place in early 2008, the report shows.

It could be the middle of 2009 before the market turns the corner, according to the report.

Surprisingly, though, the housing slump has had minimal effect on the wider economy so far, he said. Job growth has slowed slightly in construction and real estate finance, but for the most part those housing-related industries have avoided widespread layoffs.

That is about to change, Ratcliff wrote in his report. And the job losses that are coming will hold down California's overall job growth rate to less than 1 percent over the next year, he said.

"...The rest of 2007 and beginning of 2008 will be the period when real estate weakness finally spills over into the job market," Ratcliff said.

San Diego County, where construction peaked a year earlier than the state as a whole, already has felt the impact. Construction employment locally declined from 93,900 in the first quarter of 2006 to 88,500 in the first three months of this year, according to an earlier UCLA forecast issued for San Diego County. Economists predict a further slide to 82,000 by the first quarter of 2008.

As for the housing slump, if historical trends are an indication, two more years of weak sales and flat-to-slightly-falling prices could be in store, Ratcliff said.

He said building activity tends to peak once every eight years, then the market tanks for an average 3.8 years before bottoming out. Ratcliff also noted that construction peaks -- such as those in 1972, 1977 and 1986 -- tend to be followed by recessions within three years.

The last peak came in 2005.

"The two years and change that have elapsed since the recent peak of annual (building) permit activity in California are unfortunately still within the range of delays between permit peaks and recession in previous cycles," Ratcliff wrote. "We're not out of the woods yet."

Housing woes aside, Shulman said the strength of international exports will prevent the sluggish housing market from igniting a recession.

Not everyone agrees.

"That's pure guesswork," said Robert Campbell, an independent economist from San Diego who closely tracks the market and advises real estate investors. "I think that's just wishful thinking. All the momentum is on the down side."

The soaring cost of housing and energy is sharply undercutting consumers' ability to shop, and consumers' habits are the basis for 70 percent of the economy, Campbell said.

"Whatever we gain in exports, it will be overshadowed by a lack of demand on the part of the American consumer," he said. "I don't see how we can avoid a recession. It's the rising cost of living that is killing everybody."

-- Contact staff writer Dave Downey at (760) 740-5442 or

Governor attends launch of UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center

Governor attends launch of UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center

By Sylvia Wright

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came to UC Davis last week -- his second visit recognizing academic programs here -- to celebrate a $1 million grant establishing the country's first center of excellence in energy efficiency. The new center is dedicated to speeding the transfer of new energy-saving products and services into the homes and lives of Californians.

The UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center is expected to bring together leaders in academia, industry, and the investment community to advance innovation in energy efficiency—the state’s most critical energy resource.

The center also will reinforce California’s standing as a national and international leader in energy efficient practices that benefit both the environment and the California economy.

The California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) awarded the grant to UC Davis because of what CalCEF officials said is the campus’s exceptional commitment to developing and bringing energy efficient technology to the marketplace.
UC Davis to offer matching funds

UC Davis will match CalCEF's grant with $1.3 million in operating and research funds, faculty time, and office and laboratory space.

The California Clean Energy Fund is a nonprofit public benefit corporation dedicated to making equity investments in clean energy companies. Established in 2004 via the PG&E bankruptcy settlement, CalCEF supports companies developing a wide range of clean energy technologies that will bring economic and environmental benefits to California, and assist the state in meeting its aggressive clean energy goals.

At the same time, PG&E Corp. also pledged significant funding support for the new center -- $500,000 over five years for critical start-up needs such as funding for fellowships to attract and educate outstanding students, and for a major conference that will convene world-wide energy efficiency experts.

The Energy Efficiency Center’s founding director is Andrew Hargadon, an associate professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management who is an expert on innovation in business and technology transfer. Hargadon was an engineer and product designer before earning a doctorate in organizational behavior.
Michael Peevey

The new Energy Efficiency Center was founded with a $1 million grant from the California Clean Energy Fund. CalCEF is chaired by Michael Peevey, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)
Devising new ways to save

"We want this center to bring together the people who devise new ways to save energy, those who finance their development, the manufacturers who make the products, and the industries and consumers who buy and benefit from them," Hargadon said.

“The effective management of energy costs is increasingly important as companies strive to maintain a competitive edge. The center looks forward to helping California businesses measure and mitigate these costs, and manage the competitive risks associated with energy price volatility.”

Dozens of UC Davis staff members, led by Matthew Hargrove, state government relations director, worked long hours preparing for the event, which featured the governor; his chief science adviser, Terry Tamminen; Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef; and numerous other dignitaries, including the CalCEF governing board.

Hargrove also led the huge effort on April 20, 2004, when Schwarzenegger was here to proclaim the UC Davis hydrogen station the first stop on his new Hydrogen Highway.

On the rainy morning of April 12, the officials and guests gathered in not-quite-finished Gladys Valley Hall, which was selected as the site for the announcement because it is the most energy-efficient building at UC Davis (and the second most efficient in the UC system).
Building uses one-third less energy

Previously known as the Veterinary Medicine Instructional Facility, the building is expected to use one-third less energy than a standard design.

Before his public remarks, Schwarzenegger took a tour led by campus Senior Architect Bill Starr. In one of the new student lounges, the governor talked for a few minutes with students from the School of Veterinary Medicine who described the student input that influenced the building's design features.

After the tour, Schwarzenegger stood onstage beneath three imposing banners depicting the three key areas of emphasis for the Energy Efficiency Center: transportation, homes and buildings, and agriculture and food processing.

The banners, which gave the entire affair a sense of dignity and purpose, were art-directed by Laurie Lewis University Communications design manager. and produced by Jay Leek, senior designer.

They had been rush-ordered when the governor's staff -- on short notice -- confirmed that he would come. Quite a few nails were bitten in the hours when the delivery truck from Salt Lake City crossed snowy Donner Pass earlier that morning.
A riff on the chancellor's name

After a quick riff on the proper German pronunciation of the chancellor's name ("Vanderhoff, or Vanderhoof, or Vanderherf, which is the real correct pronunciation of your name exactly, Vanderherf, but anyway I know you like to say Vanderhoof, so let's stay with that for right now"), the governor complimented the campus's commitment to environmental studies and described some of his administration's continuing efforts to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

"The UC Davis Center for Energy Efficiency is going to be a laboratory for ideas of the future," Scharzenegger said, "and I know that all of us working together -- meaning government, people, the businesses and of course the brilliant minds of this center -- we will bring a clean, prosperous future to California."

UC Davis officials have designated energy research and education as top campus priorities. The campus values interdisciplinary research and teaching, and 32 faculty members from 11 departments have signed on to the new Energy Efficiency Center.

UC Davis also plans to recruit 12 new faculty members in the energy field during the next several years. The Energy Efficiency Center joins the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis), the Biomass Collaborative and the Wind Collaborative, as well as the California Lighting Technology Center as prime examples of UC Davis-led public-private partnerships geared toward solving the state’s core energy challenges.

When construction is finished in June, Gladys Valley Hall will become the instructional heart of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine campus. The building is named for the late Gladys Valley in recognition of the long-standing generosity of the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation.

Sylvia Wright covers the environmental sciences for UC Davis News Service.

School of Public Health OK'd by UC Davis faculty

School of public health OK'd by UCD faculty

Daily Democrat
Article Created:06/22/2007 09:05:55 AM PDT

A proposal to establish a school of public health at UC Davis has moved one step closer to reality, having gained approval from the Davis Division of the Academic Senate, the campus's governing body of faculty members.

The proposal for the school, which would offer degrees in public health and in its core disciplines, has been sent on for review to the UC Office of the President and the UC Academic Senate, which represents faculty at all 10 UC campuses.

If endorsed, the proposal will advance for consideration to the California Postsecondary Education Commission and the Regents of the University of California, in a process expected to take at least a year.

"We're pleased to see the UC Davis faculty unite behind the proposed school of public health," UCD Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said. "With its expertise in agriculture and the environmental sciences and its proximity to the state capital, the Davis campus is uniquely positioned to meet the need for highly trained public health professionals that is so keenly felt by California's fast-growing and diverse population."

If approved, the proposed school would join the 37 currently accredited schools of public health throughout the United States, including four in California at UC Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego State University and Loma Linda University.

These schools educate and train health professionals who focus on the health and well-being of entire communities, groups and populations, rather than on individual patients, as they work to better understand and prevent diseases and injuries and to reduce the health disparities that exist among various groups and communities. Current public health challenges include issues such as obesity, infectious diseases, environmental hazards and natural disasters, and the organization and financing of health services organizations.

Today there are an estimated 450,000 public health workers nationwide, 45 percent of whom serve in government positions.

However, only 20 percent of the public health workforce has formal public health training.

"Recruiting public health professionals has been challenging, in part, because there is a limited pool of highly trained applicants," said Marc Schenker, a professor of public health sciences who is directing the school of public health planning effort. "UCD already has tremendous strengths in many public health-related disciplines. We are well situated to play a vital role in educating public health professionals, especially for rural communities, which are experiencing such an acute need."

The proposed school would be separate from, but working collaboratively with, the UCD School of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine and other campus colleges and schools. Public health, as an academic and professional field, is noted for working collaboratively with public health practitioners and faculty from a variety of academic disciplines.

In the long run, the proposed school would supply California with graduates who have earned doctoral and master's degrees in public health and its core disciplines, as well as those who have majored or minored in public health during their undergraduate studies. The core disciplines include epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health education and behavioral health, and health services management and policy.

Its programs would be designed so that working professionals could pursue advanced training without leaving their current jobs.

Rally For Biotech

Rally For Biotech
Don't Let Jealousies Sabotage Solano's Economic Growth
By Michael Ammann

The potential for biotechnology growth in Solano County is tremendous. While Solano County and its individual cities have succeeded in attracting some of the key corporations in this dynamic industry, much more can be accomplished if we can create a more effective and viable partnership of business, government and education.

The good news is that we have been successful with nominal budgets, but one has to wonder how much more we could achieve with adequate economic development funding and common goals and strategies.

The bad news is that the state of California has woefully failed to provide the dollars and incentives necessary to compete for this booming industry. It has been put on the shoulders of cities and regional entities, such as Solano Economic Development Corp., to shoulder the financial burden.

With such phenomenal financial returns for local communities, it is no wonder the competition is growing. Today, it no longer is a national competition to attract and maintain major employers in the biotech field - it is now an international competition. And the promotional dollars are flowing at enormous rates. Singapore and Scotland are two examples of how competitive the biotech field is worldwide.

In Singapore, output from drug factories has jumped more than 30 percent in the past year alone, to a record $14.8 billion. Singapore has poured resources into academic and industry education, creating a pool of skilled labor. It is graduating some 3,500 university students each year, and another 3,000 trained technicians. This has attracted four major companies in the past year: Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Lonza and Schering-Plough.

Scotland is another example of a nation's all-out effort to attract biotech. Bristol-Myers Squibb recently broke ground in Devens, Scotland, for a $660 million biomanufacturing plant. Insiders predict that Scotland is working diligently to bring more major companies to the region.

These two examples alone demonstrate the international competition for the biotech expansion - and why Solano County must strategize to meet the challenge to attract these highly favorable economic expansions.

At the recent BIO 2007 convention in Boston - the world's largest show for the industry - California competed against Singapore and a score of other "big hitters" who came with millions of dollars in exhibits, receptions and gifts.

TEAM California - a nonprofit organization comprised of local economic development organizations and a handful of large cities, counties and corporations - was also at the convention, but not with the financial clout others had.

As in Solano County, TEAM California relies on effective personal contacts and the natural resources of California to entice corporations and developers. There have been successes, and Solano County certainly is one of the stars in this area.

Solano County relies on its Economic Development Corp. and local economic professionals to attract business. The county is strategically placed to become a leader in the biotech industry. It is situated between two major metropolitan areas and near two of the finest research universities in the world, the University of California at Berkeley and Davis. These universities are both receiving financial support and are expanding their biotechnology research capabilities even more.

Solano County also has a built-in work force, with many well-paid workers just waiting for good jobs so they won't face the commutes to the Bay Area or state capital.

The Solano EDC, working in partnership with local cities, is putting up a valiant battle to attract major employers to our area. In some ways, it is an easy sale. The natural beauty of our communities goes a long way toward getting companies interested in locating here. They like the variety of lifestyle available here and the fact the county has low crime rates and good higher education opportunities.

But, compare Solano County with Boston, for example, and it is easy to understand why we are facing a battle for the economic future. Boston is also an attractive place to live and it, too, has a solid bio-industry.

At the Bio 2007 trade show last month, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council spent $1.2 million to create a pavilion. That's almost twice the annual budget of economic development expenditures in Solano County!

Solano County's future for economic development will depend on three things:

• A recognition from cities, county officials and private industry that biotech is good business for here.

• A strategic game plan to attract firms. Solano EDC, working in partnership with government and the private sector, must build on its current marketing campaign plan to create a long-term strategy to pursue biotech firms.

• Adequate funding to compete in this market. The stakes are high, the payoffs are tremendous, and our professionals need to be armed with the best marketing tools we can afford.

How simple it all sounds. Just do three things and Solano County will have even more successes in the biotech field. Yet the battles of turf and egos are something that has to be overcome.

We all must recognize that if a major employer selects a city in Solano County for expansion, the entire county has the opportunity to benefit. Genentech, for example, recently chose Dixon for its new research and development facility. This will benefit all other cities. It will open up job opportunities for our residents. It will generate more interest in Solano County, which means a greater chance for another firm to move to the area. Biotech firms tend to cluster together, to share and attract suppliers and a labor force.

It truly is one big puzzle that has to be put together, and all of the pieces must fit and none be lost. If just one city, or the county government, or a major developer, or a vital labor organization is missing, the puzzle will not be completed, nor will the goals be reached.

Solano EDC is the county's economic arm, with 200 members. Working through its Marketing Committee, comprised of local cities, nonprofits and business, the EDC is dedicated to getting more companies to "plant their business in Solano County" because, when it's all said and done "Solano's got it."

• The author is president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., a private-public partnership designed to attract and retain business and industry in Solano County.

Burgeoning Biotech

Burgeoning Biotech
Novartis Takes Notice Of Local Facility Under New Leader
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. Site Head Robert Carter hopes to attract young, bright employees to join the growing company. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

Since taking the helm at Novartis' Vacaville facility almost a year ago, Rob Carter has been working hard to expand the company's manufacturing facility, and prove to higher-ups that the Vacaville site is worth their attention.

"I think they recognized potential but needed to verify that we could expand, and how we would do it," said Carter, the local biotech facility's site head.

So far, he's been successful.

It wasn't long after joining the company that Carter's site was selected by Novartis to work on four new pharmaceutical products - two that deal with hospital infections, one to treat multiple sclerosis, and another to treat pneumonia. The company is also planning to hire about 50 additional employees for the site, and plans to invest about $70 million in manufacturing equipment and facilities.

"I think he's convinced Novartis that Vacaville is a good place to do manufacturing for Novartis," said Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

The site used to house the biotech company Chiron, which Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. bought in the spring of 2006, and no one was quite sure what the new owners had in mind for the facility.

"When they purchased Chiron, we were worried they would sell off all the assets and only do manufacturing in Emeryville," Ammann said.

Carter, who was hired by Novartis a few months after the sale, felt it was important to expand on - not slow down - what Chiron had done at the Vacaville site.

"The products introduced here (under Chiron) never really took off," he explained. "The facility was underutilized."

To get the site recognized, Carter kicked production into high gear. He talked about Novartis' decision last winter to produce hospital infection products at the Vacaville facility, and how his crew was able to crank out the first test run of the product within 90 days.

"We showed Novartis we are ready and able," he said. "We're getting taken very seriously by the Swiss," referring to the Switzerland-based Novartis.

He gives plenty of credit to officials from the city of Vacaville, who he said have been helpful partners in keeping the facility moving forward.

City officials, who are hoping to grow the biotech industry in Vacaville, are eager to keep Novartis in town. Mike Palombo, economic development manager for the city, said he and his colleagues were working with Carter to "help them remain competitive, not just within the industry as a whole but within the company itself," where different facilities compete to make products.

Carter's enthusiasm about what may be in store for the Vacaville site is evident.

"Here's a site that's been bought by a big company with a rich pipeline, who is going to invest in that pipeline," he said, referring to the company's production. "If you combine four or five products here, it will be a serious site in the next few years. We're bringing a new lease on life to this site."

He is also excited about working for Novartis, and is quick to list off the company's humanitarian efforts in fighting malaria, and its commitment to the local community.

"Novartis is a really great company," he said. "It produces products that help people all over the world. If we can make a product that makes hospital infections go away - that's fun to be part of."

The growth of the Vacaville site has been conducted within sight of Novartis' two biotech neighbors - Alza Corp. and Genentech, which Carter described as "the big player in town."

Carter - who spent 20 years with Baxter Healthcare - is careful when talking about these companies, calling them "fabulous neighbors." When asked if he feels Novartis is overshadowed by the giant next door, Carter said he'd rather spend his time thinking about what his company is doing.

"The best thing we can do is focus on our own work," he said.

All that work in the coming years will likely be watched and admired by the Swiss from afar.

"They absolutely want this site to be successful," Carter said.

Shelly Meron can be reached at

Solano EDC to Welcome Farmland Trust Speaker

Solano EDC to Welcome Farmland Trust Speaker

Ralph Grossi, president of the American Farmland Trust (AFT) will be the featured speaker at a Solano Economic Development Corporation dinner meeting Wednesday.
The dinner will be at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Reservations can be made by contacting the Solano Economic Development Corporation at 864-1855. Cost is $60 per person.

Grossi, a third-generation farmer, has headed AFT since 1985, and directed its growth from two offices to 10 offices with 55 staff members across the nation.

He is leading American Farmland Trust's campaign to transform U.S. farm policy to strengthen American agriculture and increase the public benefits from federal farm policies.

The event is sponsored by CSW Stuber-Stroeh Engineering; Gaw VanMale; Kaiser Permanente, Solano County; Solano Land Trust; Triad Communities and the University of California, Davis.

Solano Economic Development Corporation hosts several events throughout the year to bring attention to various economic development-related issues.

This Bud's For You -- Fairfield's Anheuser-Busch Brewery Keeps Cold Ones Coming

This Bud's For You -- Fairfield's Anheuser-Busch Brewery Keeps Cold Ones Coming
By Matthew Jensen-Skinner
Daily Republic

Chung Liew, left, and his father, Siew Liew, right, both of Santa Clara, listen to tour guide Jeff McCall talk about the Budweiser aging process in the beechwood cellars during a tour of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fairfield. The room is kept at a temperature of 47 degrees Fahrenheit and each tank is capable of making a half-million 12 oz. servings of beer. (Photo by Brad Zweerink)

FAIRFIELD - The Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fairfield offers free, all-ages tours of its 700,000-square-foot facility. The tour provides guests with information on the brewery and the beer-making process, and free beer tasting for those 21 years old and over.

In the tasting room, guests are given a choice between two 10-ounce beers - chosen from four beers on tap plus a variety of bottled brews - or one 10-ounce drink and a "flight," a sampler mix of five 2-ounce beers. Pretzels and fountain sodas are offered as well.

The flight includes Budweiser, Bud Light, Budweiser Select, Michelob AmberBock and Bare Knuckle Stout.

The tour also treats guests to a video about the processes of the brewery and then are led to the bottling line where the brewery's nearly 136 million gallons of beer per year are bottled.

After the bottling line, the tour moves to the "beechwood cellars," where containers holding 56,800 gallons of beer are kept at 47 degrees Fahrenheit and the beer completes its beechwood aging.

The brewery's gift shop, where guests can purchase Anheuser-Busch merchandise, closes one hour after the last tour.

The tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday from June to August, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from September through May. The tours last between 45 minutes to one hour and are offered every hour on the hour. Tours are offered based on availability and are not given on select holidays.

The brewery is located at 3101 Busch Drive, Fairfield. For more information, to verify tours or times, call 429-7595 or visit

Unlike Other Counties, Solano Not Facing Water Reductions

Unlike Other Counties, Solano Not Facing Water Reductions
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Solano County residents can use water this summer without taking extraordinary conservation steps and feel no guilt.

That's not true everywhere in California. The Sonoma Water Agency has been ordered by the state to cut water use by 15 percent. Los Angeles and San Francisco are both strongly urging customers to conserve water.

A dry winter will do that. The Sierra Nevada snow pack - the state's major water source - was 71 percent below normal levels. Levels in many of the state's rivers, such as the Russian, have been low.

Solano County is in better shape than many areas. Local officials don't want residents to waste water but are not asking people to forgo showers or skimp on watering the lawn.

"None of the cities are in a situation where they even have to ask for voluntary reductions," Solano County Water Agency Manager David Okita said.

Residents might give thanks by filling a glass full of water and toasting the Lake Berryessa reservoir.

Lake Berryessa is Solano County's ace-in-the-hole. The reservoir, which is 87 percent full, is able to withstand several dry years in a row. Virtually all of its water goes to the county's farms and cities.

"Generally, a single year is nothing to worry about," Okita said.

The 23-mile-long reservoir depends on rainfall in the coastal mountains, not a snow pack. Because of its size, water levels are slow to drop. Although the lake got only half its normal 24 inches of rain last winter, it still can easily supply local cities and farms.

SCWA considers the area in drought conditions when Lake Berryessa reaches 50 percent capacity. That last happened in 1994.

Fairfield Assistant Public Works Director Rick Wood said the city has spent a lot of money for reliable sources of water. The payback for ratepayers is they don't face mandatory conservation, he said.

"We emphasize conservation as a way of life at all times," Wood said. "But there's no reason for exceptional efforts for conservation in Fairfield."

The reliable water source is one of the items Fairfield uses to attract businesses, he said.

Fairfield gets about 60 percent of its water from Lake Berryessa and 40 percent from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Vallejo, Suisun City and Vacaville also use Lake Berryessa water.

The reservoir formed after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built Monticello Dam 50 years ago. Solano County leaders had lobbied the federal government for almost two decades to build the dam.

Dixon and Rio Vista do not get Lake Berryessa water, relying instead on well water. Yet, these cities also do not face a water crisis.

The Solano Irrigation District helps provide water to Dixon. Water in the wells remains at decent levels, SID General Manager Suzanne Butterfield said.

"One dry winter does not a drought make," she said.

If next winter is just as dry, it would be prudent to start requiring reasonable water conservation efforts in Dixon, she said.

But for now, Solano County residents can go about their usual lives without giving water supplies a second thought.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or

Friday, June 22, 2007

Biotech's Proposal Moves Step Closer To Approval

Biotech's Proposal Moves Step Closer To Approval
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Genentech's proposal to build a research facility in Dixon inched closer to final approval Tuesday with the Planning Commission voting to vacate a light and air easement and a right-of-way on the property.

Biotech giant Genentech wants to build a 140,000-square-foot research facility at 2727 Fitzgerald Drive, between the Cardinal Health and Gymboree facilities, off Vaughn Road.

Community Development Director Dave Dowswell said Tuesday night that the street right-of-way and light and air easements are not needed.

The commission unanimously voted to pass the finding on to the City Council for final approval and decided that the easement relinquishments will not impact the city's General Plan.

In March, City Manager Warren Salmons sent a letter to Genentech expressing the city's enthusiasm in welcoming the company to Dixon.

City staff also anticipates a catalyst effect, not only with respect to potential future investment by Genentech, but potentially by other biotechnology firms and ancillary industries, a staff report said.

Genentech, which operates a large manufacturing facility in Vacaville, plans to expand to Dixon because the city offers advantages including proximity to the University of California, Davis and to Genentech's corporate headquarters in San Francisco.

In a staff report, City Manager Warren Salmons said the Genentech project is unique for Dixon because:

• It is a preeminent player in the biotechnology industry;

• It brings an estimated 160 jobs;

• It would have a catalyst effect in attracting other such industry; and

• It creates the ability to connect Dixon more closely with biotech programs at UC Davis.

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

Cancer Center Earns Accreditation

Cancer Center Earns Accreditation
By Daily Republic Staff

VALLEJO - Sutter Solano Cancer Center has earned a three-year accreditation with commendation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.

Approval is given to centers that have voluntarily committed to providing a high level of cancer care and undergo regular evaluations and reviews of their performance.

"It is unusual for such a new cancer center to receive commendation from the American College of Surgeons," said Janice Hoss, R.N., director of cancer services at Sutter Solano Cancer Center, in a press release.

"The accreditation not only validates all the hard work of our outstanding team to provide the ultimate in patient care, but also confirms for patients that the best cancer care is right here in Solano County."

The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons, is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival rates and quality of life for cancer patients through quality care.

For information about Sutter Solano Cancer Center's programs and services, call 554-5326.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Suisun Vintners, Growers Debut Co-Op Tasting Room

Suisun Vintners, Growers Debut Co-Op Tasting Room
By DAN JUDGE/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

SUISUN VALLEY - Solano County is not a place most people think of as wine country.

Local grape growers and vintners hope to change that with the opening of the new Suisun Valley Wine

Cooperative Tasting Room, which showcases wines made with fruit grown in the area.

"Basically what we're trying to do is establish a presence in a region we think is up and coming," said Doug Sparks, owner of Sunset Cellars. "We think the level of recognition has lagged significantly behind the quality and value of the product it produces."

The multi-winery tasting room debuted with a "soft" opening last weekend featuring product from five brands - Sunset Cellars, Twilight Ridge, King Andrews Vineyards, Shale Peak Vineyards and Winterhawk.

Although grapes have been grown in the Suisun Valley since the 1800s, the area has long been overshadowed by the neighboring Napa Valley.

Approximately 3,000 acres of the Suisun Valley are planted in vineyards today with a large number of its grapes going to wineries in Napa and Sonoma for use in their products.

Despite that fact, Sparks said the region has not gained the reputation it deserves.

Sparks estimated that 80 percent of the grapes used in his Lake County-based Sunset Cellars brand wines were grown within four miles of the new co-op tasting room. He is seeking property that will allow him to move his entire operation to the Suisun Valley.

The valley is roughly eight miles long and benefits from a Mediterranean climate, fertile soils and marine air during the summer months. It offers a variety of growing conditions that are similar to those found in Napa County's St. Helena at one end and the famous Carneros region on the other.

"I think the growing conditions and the grapes are of comparable quality and the value is better," Sparks said.

The Suisun Valley was classified as its own American Viticultural Area in 1982 and 20 varieties of grape are grown there including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, syrah, barbera, pinot noir and zinfandel.

The local wine producers hope the convenient location of the new co-op tasting room, just three miles north of Interstate 80 in the former West Wind

Winery building, will help raise the profile of the Suisun Valley as a wine grape growing region.

Even the few wineries that already have their own tasting rooms in the Suisun Valley, like Ledgewood Creek Winery, are pulling for the co-op's success.

"I think it's great for the valley and will bring more people in," said Rick Wehman, general manager of Ledgewood Creek and a director of the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association.

"We need more tasting rooms and more wineries to open in order for the valley to survive and become a destination place."

Plans call for the co-op tasting room to expand its offerings with room for up to seven wineries with connections to the Suisun Valley.

E-mail Dan Judge at or call 553-6831.

If you go

The Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative Tasting Room is at 4495 Suisun Valley Road. Hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Group Brainstorms For Solano's Economy

Group Brainstorms For Solano's Economy
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

About 150 business owners, local government officials and other stake-holders gathered Tuesday for the second Solano Economic Summit in Fairfield.

The event brought together those concerned about the economic future of Solano County and what it will look like decades from now.

"We are in a very tough global competition," said Dan Iacofano of MiG Inc., who helped moderate the event.

The summit broke up participants into four groups: workforce development, education and training; business retention, recruitment, marketing and promotion; collaborative planning and leadership; and quality of life and infrastructure development. Each group brainstormed its topic in terms of concerns and possible projects that could address those issues.

Those in the workforce development, education and training group discussed putting together a student summit, and how to better prepare students for the work force. Some said there needed to be more focus on science and technology, while others said students should be able to get training in skilled trades.

"Students in the trades are not being encouraged to move in that direction," said Gerry Fisher, interim president and superintendent of Solano Community College. Fisher added that more information needed to be given to parents and students about this option.

Those at the business retention, recruitment, marketing and promotion group said they wanted to find out why businesses left Solano County or folded, and wanted a way for the county to measure its successes. Others said they wanted to see more collaboration between large corporations and smaller local businesses.

"The basis of every healthy region is small business," said Steve Lessler of Lessler Group. "We could do a lot more to encourage big businesses - like Genentech or Travis Air Force Base - to do business more with local goods and services providers."

Others in the group discussed alternative energy innovations and better marketing of tourism opportunities in the county.

The collaborative planning group discussed coming up with a county-wide plan to attract new businesses to the area, streamlining regulatory processes, and working with state and federal agencies on issues like seismic safety, energy efficiency, and the health of the delta. They also discussed putting a convention center and sports complex in the county to attract out-of-town visitors.

"I was glad to see tourism discussed," said Antonette Eckert, executive director of the Vacaville Conference and Visitors Bureau. "We need to understand how many people come here, how long they stay, how much they spend. If we knew that, we could identify opportunities that we can go after."

The quality of life and infrastructure group discussed expanding youth services, including after-school and weekend activities; maintaining natural spaces; developing public transportation; and coming up with a countywide tourism marketing plan.

Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation, said some of the ideas would be easier to implement than others, but the group was "ready to take it on."

Although some disagreements did surface, many at the summit said they felt that coming together and discussing ideas was a step in the right direction.

"We're past what we want to do, and on to how we want to do it," said Mike Reagan, chairman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors. "This is going to take a long-term effort."

Shelly Meron can be reached at

Suisun Valley Ag Horizons Explored

Suisun Valley Ag Horizons Explored
By Danny Bernardini/Staff Writer

Suisun Valley residents and landowners Tuesday night got a peek at two proposals that would allow them to explore new moneymaking options.

County staff has proposed a tourist 'Suisun Loop' in the valley plus establishment of neighborhood agricultural centers.

The proposals were on display during Solano County's Suisun Valley Special Study Area meeting at Solano College. Nearly 50 people gathered for this second of four meetings to analyze what changes they want to see as part of the county's General Plan Update.

Many in the valley complain that the current plan does not include an agricultural element and places too many restrictions on farmers by limiting moneymaking options on their property.

"They are absolutely suffocating the valley. It's a recipe for disaster," local landowner Dean Frisbee said of the county. "Somebody better do something. Something needs to be done."

Information gathered at these meetings will be sent to the county's Citizens Advisory Committee and eventually to the Board of Supervisors.

The proposal entitled "Neighborhood Agricultural Center" would complement the agriculture-tourism commercial centers at Mankas and Rockville corners, as long as they enhance the agricultural character of Suisun Valley and help develop brand-name recognition.

The centers could include bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, retail stores and facilities for selling local produce.

Included among the centers would be one called the "north connector" area at Abernathy and Chadbourne roads that would act as a gateway to the valley.

The second proposal would create the "Suisun Loop" encompassing the new gateway and other areas such as Mankas and Rockville corners. Any property facing this loop would be allowed to house value-added facilities such as a communal fruit processing installation, wine-tasting rooms and fruit stands.

Meeting facilitator Jeff Henderson reminded the group that these proposals are just that and likely will change as the process continues.

Danny Bernardini can be reached at

Business Leaders, Officials Ponder Ideas For County Economy

Business Leaders, Officials Ponder Ideas For County Economy
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - More than 200 business representatives and elected officials met for a brainstorming session Tuesday to discuss concrete visions and plans to make Solano County's economy sustainable.

During the second Solano Economic Summit, held at the Courtyard by Marriott in Fairfield, attendees offered their visions and ideas for projects that will allow Solano County to be a major contributor to the Northern California economy.

"We are not in the peripheral of the economic region that expands from San Francisco to Reno," said Mike Reagan, chairman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors. "We are very much in the center. Our task has to be to transform the ideas we discussed in the February summit into projects that will take us in a positive direction."

The core of the summit centered around four key areas that may be considered the foundation for the long-term success of the county: workforce development, education and training; business retention, recruitment marketing and promotion; collaborative planning and leadership; and quality of life and infrastructure development. As they did in the last summit, participants were separated into smaller groups, to discuss the ideas for success.

"The idea that if you build it they will come no longer applies," said Robert Bloom, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board. "We need to put a focus on giving our workforce skills that many of our manufacturers demand today and that many of our job seekers don't have."

Agriculture and its economic impact also was a heated topic.

"Agriculture has the same economic impact as Travis Air Force Base," said Roger King, president of the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association. "But one of them is put on a pedestal. The county needs to do a study on what the strengths and weaknesses are in our economy and implement ideas to make them all stronger."

The next summit is tentatively scheduled for the end of the year, and projects that will bring about the economic change may be ready to be put into place.

"Obviously, there are many recurring themes that we need to address," Reagan said. "But as we continue to work together, we will be able to face the challenges."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Crop Value Falls Short Of Estimate

Crop Value Falls Short Of Estimate
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - The gross value of Solano County's crop production decreased by $5,184,600 last year after three weather-related events affected the 2006 estimate.

According to the annual Crop & Livestock report issued by the Solano County Department of Agriculture, the New Year's floods, late spring rains and record summer heat in 2006 caused production to decline by 2.2 percent.

Although the value fell below the projected estimate of $233,505,000, it has steadily increased over the past five years. Of the 80 crops and commodities grown in the county, nursery stock remained No. 1 in value at $47,856,000. It was followed by cattle, calves and alfalfa.

"We have a growing number of diversified crops throughout the county," said Jearl Howard, agricultural commissioner of weights and measures for the Solano County Department of Agriculture. "As farmers continue to diversify their crops to insure themselves and continue to stay in business, we may also in the future be able to produce crops used for alternative forms of energy."

Howard said the county currently does not have the necessary infrastructure to support alternative fuel methods, but he added that as interests and potential in that industry grow, the agricultural economy could benefit. Another area in which the agricultural economy may grow is with processing and manufacturing plants. Currently, only tomatoes and lamb are processed in the county.

"The more opportunity the crop finds in the county, the better it is for the farmer and the economy," said Mike Reagan, chairman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors. "Roughly, there could be about $600,000,000 that are going out of the county when we ship out the product and don't process it here."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

Unbuilding A Bridge

Unbuilding A Bridge -- Old Carquinez Span Coming Down One Piece At A Time
By Barry Eberling

Project Engineer J. Coleman checks the stability of the Old Carquinez Bridge while workers continue dismantling the structure. (Zachary Kaufman/Daily Republic)

VALLEJO - About all that's left of the old Carquinez Bridge is a couple of metal towers and a section of span extending perhaps an eighth of a mile before coming to a dead end over the water.

It is a bridge to nowhere.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the 1927 cantilever bridge is coming down, and its metal parts are being shipped to the scrap heap. Demolition crews started work more than a year ago. They are to finish by year's end.

Call it reverse engineering. Today's crews are basically having to undo what the bridge builders took four years to accomplish.

"In a lot of ways, it's a tougher task to take something apart than it is to build it," said Bob Haus, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. "Anyone who's worked on a car knows disassembly can be even trickier than assembly."

The old cantilever bridge looked like something assembled with parts from a giant Erector set. Caltrans replaced it with the sleek, graceful Alfred Zampa suspension bridge in 2003 and began demolishing the old bridge in spring of 2006 at an announced cost of $49 million.

Blasting the bridge to pieces is no option. For one thing, the Zampa bridge carries southbound Interstate 80 traffic a stone's throw to one side. A 1958 bridge carries northbound I-80 traffic a stone's throw to the other side. Meanwhile, ships navigate the Carquinez Strait below.

So the Carquinez Bridge isn't coming down with a bang, but rather melting away a little each day.

"We're disassembling the truss member by member, which can include taking out rivets," Caltrans Engineering Technician Sean Skeen said. "But typically, we use a torch and remove the members."

Perhaps the most spectacular part of the demolition job came at the beginning. The media turned out when crews used hydraulic jacks to slowly lower the middle 700-ton bridge spans to barges waiting 150 feet in the water below.

Much of the demolition job is more mundane. Ten jacks capable of lifting up to 100 tons each are lifting the remaining bridge span a few inches off the Vallejo-side tower. Workers have already built a temporary support system underneath the span. Then they will disassemble the tower, using a crane to hoist the parts into a truck.

Finally, they will disassemble the truss until they reach land. The bridge will then be a memory, as if it never existed.

A few parts of the bridge will avoid the scrap heap and go to Vallejo and Crockett history museums, a Caltrans museum in Oakland and a vista point that Caltrans will build at the Carquinez Strait. These parts will remind people of a bridge once hailed as an engineering marvel.

"They can be as small as individual rivets," Skeen said.

And the salvaged parts can be as big as a diagonal section of the truss, some 20 to 30 feet long.

Once the bridge is down, Caltrans has one last chore to perform. It must take care of Rags.

Rags was a black-and-white mongrel that lived in Crockett, the small town on the southern side of the bridge. Rags' story is recounted in David Billeci's book "Crockett and Its People."

Workers in the mid-1950s were busy putting up the second Carquinez Bridge. Rags lived with a couple at their First Avenue house. The couple rented out their garage to a company working on the bridge.

Rags went to the bridge with the workers each day, was fed by them and returned home at night. But one day, workers closed the bridge gate on Rags without knowing the dog was still there. Rags jumped over the side of the bridge in an escape attempt and plummeted to its death.

The workers placed a stone marker in the ground beneath a pier with the words "Rags" on it as a memorial.

The Rags memorial was removed amid all the work Caltrans did on the Carquinez bridges, including the strengthening of the 1958 bridge to better survive earthquakes. The small stone marker is being kept at the Crockett Historical Society. Haus said no remains of the dog were removed.

Eventually, the Rags marker will be brought to a new landscaped area on the Crockett shore that Caltrans will put in for the bridges, Haus said. The landscaped area will be a finishing touch for the Carquinez projects.

The cantilever bridge opened with much ado on May 21, 1927. President Calvin Coolidge pressed a golden telegraph key in Washington, D.C., to start the dedication ceremony. Now, having served its purpose, the bridge is marking its 80th anniversary by disappearing.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

1927 Carquinez Bridge facts
-- Opened on May 21, 1927. Travelers previously had to use a ferry to cross the Carquinez Strait.
-- Conceived by Vallejo grocer Aven Hanford and San Francisco grocery salesman Oscar Klatt and built as a private project.
-- The bridge cost $7.8 million to construct, which is $85 million in today's dollars. California built the replacement Al Zampa Bridge for $239 million in 2003.
-- An estimated 18,000 cars drove across the bridge on opening day, when the toll was waived for the occasion.
-- The original toll was 60 cents, which is $6.62 in today's dollars.
-- California bought the bridge in 1940.

Round-Up Slated

Round-Up Slated

The Solano EDC will host its Member Breakfast and Real Estate Round-Up July 25.

Registration for the event will be at 7:30 a.m. with the program at 8 a.m. The event will be held at the HIlton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Call 864-1855 for reservations.

Dinner Event Set

Dinner Event Set

The Solano EDC will hold its annual dinner event June 27, with registration starting at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m.

The dinner will feature keynote speaker Ralph Grossi, president of America Farmland Trust.

It will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Blvd., Fairfield. Tickets are $60 per person or $350 for a table of six, and organizers said they will sell out quickly.

For more information or to make reservations, call 864-1855.

Genentech Closer To Panel's OK

Genentech Closer To Panel's OK
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

A proposal by biotech giant Genentech to build a 140,000-square-foot research facility in Dixon is expected to take another step forward when it comes before the Planning Commission Tuesday.

The commission will consider no longer requiring right-of-way and light and air (setback) easements in the progress of the Genentech project. Action by the commission would enable Genentech's plans to come before the City Council at a public hearing in July.

Planned to be fully operating in the first half of 2010, the new research support facility will be off Fitzgerald Drive in northeast Dixon.

Genentech, which operates a large manufacturing facility in Vacaville, chose to expand to Dixon because the city offers many advantages, including its proximity to the University of California, Davis and to corporate headquarters in San Francisco, said Caroline Pecquet, associate director of corporate communications for the firm, in March when the project was first proposed.

City staff has determined that because the street right-of-way and light and air easements are not needed, due to changes in the street alignments, the relinquishments by the city will have no impact, according to a staff report.

In other action, the commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday to discuss Dorset Retail Center, which includes a plan for a Home Depot, the world's largest home-improvement specialty retailer.

Scott Mommer Consulting, on behalf of Home Depot and Dixon Development Partners, LLC is proposing approximately 95,000 square feet of construction in the center.

The Dorset center would include a 142,000-square-foot Home Depot, a 4,000-square-foot drive-in restaurant, a 3,000 square-foot drive-in bank and 45,800 square feet of miscellaneous retail on a 16.4 acre site.

The property abuts Interstate 80 on the same side of North First Street as Cattleman's restaurant, which is across from the Wal-Mart shopping center.

The Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 600 East A St.

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

Solano County Listed As Job Growth Area

Solano County Listed As Job Growth Area
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - In a recent Economy Watch report by the Sacramento Regional Research Institute, the job growth in the six-county Sacramento Region continued to improve through April. During the 12 months ending in April, the region added 26,200 jobs at a growth rate of 2.8 percent. According to the report, the job growth came from the construction, professional and business services sectors. Job growth in the state over the past year was 1.8 percent. The slow growth pattern is a result of the lingering effects of housing-related slowdowns. The job growth rate nationwide was 1.4 percent over the same period.

"Although the report does not show a breakdown of Solano County, the report confirms what we have observed. Solano County is enjoying sound, long-term business expansion and new development," said Michael Ammann, president of Solano Economic Development Corporation.The Sacramento Regional Research Institute was established in 2001 to acquire, analyze and distribute economic information about regional and statewide economies.

Calbee Opens Plant In Fairfield

Calbee Opens Plant In Fairfield
By Ines Bebea

FAIRFIELD - Calbee America, Inc., a subsidiary of Calbee Foods Co., Ltd., is moving into a new manufacturing facility in Fairfield. The Japanese company will relocate its Sebastopol manufacturing operation to a 40,000-square-foot plant in Solano Business Park.

The move brings all the Calbee management level employees to Fairfield. The company also plans to move its headquarters to Fairfield from Torrance and will turn its Torrance location into a sales office. Calbee America markets and distributes healthful snack foods.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pipe Dreams -- Benicia Company Gives Life To Old Musical Craft

Pipe Dreams -- Benicia Company Gives Life To Old Musical Craft
By Amy Maginnis-Honey

BENICIA - Jack Bethards' love affair with the pipe organ began some 50-plus years ago when the instrument was repaired at the church he attended in Santa Rosa.

Thirty years ago, he purchased Schoenstein & Co., makers of that very instrument. Three years ago, he moved the operation to Benicia, where a handful of pipe organs are in various stages of construction at any given time. Most of the work is done by hand.

This month, the company held its first open house in Benicia and welcomed about 50 people, including organ players and craftsman. "It was the first time we had an organ we could play," Bethards said of the event.

That organ will be disassembled, placed into a 53-foot moving van and shipped to a church in New York.

A crew from Schoenstein will be on hand to meet the truck and spend about three weeks assembling it at the church. The job will probably take about three weeks.

It took a lot longer to put together the 42-foot high, 75-foot wide, 25-foot deep organ made for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City conference center which seats more than 20,000 people. "It was a huge, huge organ. It was the size of a reasonably good house," Bethards said.

Schoenstein employees spent a few years installing and fine tuning the Salt Lake City organ.

The company was started in 1877 by a German immigrant family of organ builders. It's the oldest and largest pipe organ company west of the Rockies.

For Bethards and his employees, no detail is too small. That's why it can take up to a year or more to build an instrument.

The Salt Lake City pipe organ took seven years from conception to completion.

No two organs are the same, as each is designed to fit the architecture and acoustics of its new home, albeit a church, symphony hall or even a home.

A few days before the open house, Schoenstein employee Bill Vaughan sat at the completed organ, testing the weight and evenness of the keys. "When you have direct contact with it (the keys), you want them in smooth working order," he said.

He was using a weight to make sure the keys all went down about the same depth. If one wasn't feeling or sounding right, Vaughan, who plays pipe organ, adjusted it.

He just recently returned from nine weeks in Dallas helping to install an organ.

For the time being, his play is limited to testing the pipe organ at work or playing one at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Pleasant Hill. "I want one so much," he said. "It's such fine quality."

Prices range from about $100,000 up to $3.5 million. "Church committees often have a businessman on them. They want to know why they (pipe organs) are so expensive. Then, when they come to our shop they wonder how we can build them so cheap," Bethards said.

"All of this is handmade," Vaughan said. "People think it's just the console and pipes." But a look inside reveals a system that works together to bring just the right notes to life.

Fairfield resident Chris Hansford, who is the console shop foreman, spent a recent morning wiring the bottom boards of a pipe organ in for repair.

"It's like trying to reinvent the wheel," he said standing before a wooden board with several wires attached. "Each of these represents a note," he said, connecting the wires to circuits. "Then you connect it to the other end and it connects to a sophisticated relay system."

While he played drums and clarinet at Armijo High School, Hansford prefers to build things more than play with them. He spent almost three years in Salt Lake City helping install that organ.

Attending the open house was organist and harpist Dotty Schenk, who's hoping Fairfield's Grace Episcopal Church will have a Schoenstein of their own in the future. She plays the organ on Mare Island and is a substitute for Grace Episcopal.

"They are 3,000 times better than an electronic organ. You take them (the electronic organ) out of the shop and they lose their value.

"The technology (of making pipe organs) hasn't really changed in 200 years," she said.

She was able to sit down at the completed organ and play some Bach. "It's great, it has a nice touch," she said. "And the sound is very good."

Listening to her was Grace Episcopal member Rick Lucke. He and Schenk were both fascinated by what they saw and heard. "Basically this is a medieval shop brought into the 21st century," he said (The company doesn't offer public tours).

Schenk complimented Bethards on the instrument. "Who's that playing on the piano?" he asked during their conversation.

Bethards answered the question himself. It was Jim Welch, a prominent pipe organist from the Bay Area, who has played around the world.

Bethards' passion for what he does still burns strong. "It was the complex of the machinery. It was mysteries I'd never seen before. It was intriguing to see how it worked," he recalled of his first pipe organ encounter.

That enthusiasm has made Schoenstein so popular, the company has commitments through 2009. Since its inception, Schoenstein has made about 160 pipe organs.

In addition to being Schoenstein's chief financial officer, Bethards is also its tonal director, playing each and every note. Defects are corrected by reshaping individual pipes. "The whole point is to custom match it to the church acoustically," he said.

Bethards has nothing but praise for the company's new location. "We love being here," he said. "In San Francisco, the crowded conditions were difficult. Now were are close to where people live and parking is available. This is a wonderful work atmosphere. In San Francisco, it was push, push, push. Here's it's more pleasant and easier to enjoy work."

The company has about 25 employees, some of them part-time. All, in one way or another, touches each pipe organ built there.

"Unlike other businesses, we're not dealing with hundreds of people a day. We have a large handful of clients at any given time," said Cindy Smith, the company's controller. "Our customer service department will never be in India."

The Benicia building, she noted, had to raise its roof to 42 feet to accommodate the size of the Salt Lake City instrument.

Approximately 90 percent of Schoenstein's business comes from churches. The remaining 10 percent from conference halls, residences and symphony halls.

"The parts last for 40 to 50 years," Smith said. "So, a pipe organ going into a church is there for generations, theoretically."

While the pipe organ may be considered a classical musical instrument, Bethards feels it has a place in today's music world.

He cited increased interest from concert halls and universities. "I think the church organ is just as popular as ever. I just wish they (pipe organs) got a little more exposure.

"From our perspective we see a lot of interest. There's a tremendous amount of great music for pipe organs," he said.

But don't look for much Beethoven for the instrument. "He hated the way it was played in church," Vaughan said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey 427-6957 or

Sewer Plant Grows With The Flow

Sewer Plant Grows With The Flow
By Barry Eberling

Laborers Tim Gomez, left, and Dale Hurd install sprinklers inside aeration basins at the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District plant. The basins were originally constructed in 1976 to treat sludge, but are now being reconfigured to handle waste water. (Zachary Kaufman/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - As Fairfield and Suisun City grow, so does the unceasing flow of sewage from every house, business and factory day after day.

The Fairfield-Suisun sewer district plant along Chadbourne Road on the edge of Suisun Marsh is growing, too. It's got to keep turning the increasing amounts of raw sewage into water clean enough to be poured into the environmentally sensitive marsh and used to irrigate a nearby turf farm.

"In the end, our job is to meet the cities' needs," said Larry Bahr of the district as he watched workers use a hose attached to a crane to pump cement into a wooden form as wind whipped across the marsh flatlands.

Workers have started a $35 million expansion project that will continue into 2009. They are driving piles 65 feet deep into soft marsh soils and pouring cement to create huge settling basins.

The existing sewage plant, opened in 1976 and expanded at various points during the 1980s, is handling about 85 percent of its capacity. The latest expansion is designed to keep pace with the growth plans of the two cities through 2020.

The Fairfield-Suisun plant is located on 160 acres behind fences. It is a world of concrete basins and concrete buildings scattered amid open spaces decorated with ice plant, small evergreens and other landscaping.

Some 70 miles of district sewer pipes bring almost 15.5 million gallons of sewage to the plant each day. The plant takes this soiled, smelly water and makes it clean enough under state laws to be piped to Boynton Slough in the heart of the marsh.

The plant does this by pumping the water through a series of structures. Filters, aeration basins and settling basins make it progressively cleaner. The removed solids are treated and trucked off to Potrero Hills Landfill.

Workers are readying more of these structures. They are repairing concrete on an old aeration basin, which was built in 1976 but seldom is used. In the basin, air will bubble through the water, promoting the growth of microorganisms that will eat some of the waste in the water.

They have also started work on the foundations for two clarifiers - circular, concrete structures that will be about 15 feet high and 120 feet in diameter. Water will simply sit in the clarifiers, allowing the heavier solids to sink to the bottom and removing the microorganisms left over from the aeration basin.

But building in the Suisun Marsh area isn't easy, given that the 115,000-acre marsh contains 10 percent of the state's wetlands and a number of rare creatures. Environmental laws have tightened since the original plant was built three decades ago.

Orange, plastic fences surround a quarter-acre that is a stone's throw from where workers dug up the ground for the new clarifiers. These fences put off-limits a low-lying spot that could contain vernal pools, a rare type of wetlands that are home to threatened flowers and shrimp.

Bahr isn't convinced the wetlands at the sewer plant are vernal pools. But doing the necessary testing for indicator species during multiple dry and wet seasons could take at least 18 months, which would add another $3 million to the project because of swiftly rising construction costs, he said.

Instead, the district agreed to treat the wetlands as vernal pools. It's cheaper to preserve the wetlands on site and preserve almost two acres of vernal pool land in eastern Solano County at a cost of about $300,000.

"It's just part of building projects these days," Bahr said. "You have to do it."

After sewage water is cleaned up and treated with chlorine, much of it takes a mile-long journey in a concrete pipe to Boynton Slough. But this pipe sits amid soft, unstable marsh soils that shake like jelly during earthquakes.

"If we were to get a large earthquake, we're not certain that pipe would be in pristine condition anymore," district Assistant General Manager Talyon Sortor said.

So, the district is building a new pipe to the marsh, this one made of a plastic and leading to Ledgewood Creek about 1.5 miles away. That will give the district another option should earthquakes, repairs or other problems ever close down the Boynton Slough pipe. Also, it will allow the district to drain more treated water from the plant.

After all, the demands put on the plant from the two cities are relentless. The sewage plant can't take a day off.

The area in pioneer days had no sewage treatment plant. For example, Suisun City in 1906, with a population of about 625, had a pipe spilling raw waste at the edge of town near several homes. Some citizens saw it as a health threat.

"The sewer should be extended further into the tules so that the refuse would be carried away by the water," the Solano Republican newspaper said.

By 1951, Fairfield and Suisun City had a combined population of 4,000. The state approved forming the sewer district so the two cities could build a treatment plant and stop raw sewage spilling into Suisun Slough.

The district built its first treatment plant in 1957 in Suisun City, near today's City Hall along Suisun Slough, at a cost of about $500,000. That's about $3.5 million in today's dollars, only a tenth the cost of the expansion project. The cities used the plant until 1976, with Suisun City tearing it down about a decade ago.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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