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California drought: ‘Water cops’ being hired by Bay Area agencies to root out water waste

McVey Insurance, CA, California DroughtIt’s about to get more difficult to go unnoticed if your sprinklers are watering the street more than your lawn.

California’s worsening drought and mandatory new state water rules are prompting Bay Area water agencies to beef up their conservation staffs — the employees sometimes called “water cops.”

Only a few cities, including Santa Cruz and Sacramento, have resorted to writing tickets or issuing fines. But most others are simply responding to complaints by sending employees to homes and businesses with a stern warning, and sometimes a door hanger.

“The bottom line is that we are just not getting the results we would like to see for water reduction,” said Joan Maher, deputy operating officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

On Tuesday, the district’s board will vote on whether to spend $500,000 to hire up to 10 new temporary employees to help enforce water use prohibitions across Silicon Valley.

If the proposal is approved, as expected, the workers would respond in person to complaints about property owners wasting water. They also would send the information to whichever of the 12 cities or private companies sends the property owner their bill.

Few Bay Area cities have begun to impose fines yet for wasting water, but if they eventually do, they could use the information to write tickets.

In February the Santa Clara Valley Water District asked its 1.8 million customers in the county to cut water use by 20 percent compared with last year, but so far, none of its retailer providers has met that goal. Palo Alto and Mountain View conserved the most, with a 17 percent reduction each, and the countywide total is a 12 percent reduction.

Similarly, in the East Bay, the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland hired a new outreach person this week, and another starts next week, said district spokeswoman Abby Figueroa.

They will join nine other East Bay MUD staff members who help do free water audits at homes and business, look for leaks and tell property owners when they are violating the district’s and state’s water wasting rules.

“We have a backlog with water wasting complaints,” Figueroa said. “We’re getting calls about runoff, broken sprinklers, people washing cars too much. Everyone is hearing all the media reports and talking about drought a lot. The news definitely got people’s attention.”

In February, East Bay MUD asked its 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 percent. Between Feb. 1 and May 31, they achieved that 10 percent savings. But it is still below the 20 percent savings that Gov. Jerry Brown requested statewide in January when he declared a drought emergency as the state moved into its third dry year.

Figueroa said the agency has no plans this year to issue fines to people violating its rules or new rules passed last week by the State Water Resources Control Board that ban washing cars without a nozzle on the hose, spraying down pavement, watering landscaping so much that it runs into streets and running ornamental fountains without recirculating systems.

“We’ve been conserving. Our total system storage is in good shape compared to other districts,” she said. “And we brought in additional supplies. That’s getting us through the summer.”

At an Aug. 12 board meeting, the district is expected to pass rules limiting lawn watering to two or three days a week.

Contra Costa Water District, which requested a 15 percent voluntary reduction, has no plans for fines. It has eight outreach employees and enough budget to hire two more if needed, said district spokeswoman Jennifer Allen.

The Bay Area’s largest water district, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which provides water to 2.6 million people in San Francisco, San Mateo, north Santa Clara and southern Alameda counties through the Hetch Hetchy system, is planning to either hire or reassign six employees to respond to water wasting complaints, and look for violations.

The agency is considering in the next few weeks imposing fines on San Francisco residents who waste water, with a warning for first violations, said Steve Ritchie, its assistant general manager.

“Penalties are the last resort. But we are definitely keeping that option on the table,” he said. “It’s important that we have that as a tool.”

Some Bay Area residents are surprised that there aren’t more areas issuing fines, as city officials in Sacramento, Santa Cruz and other communities have done for flagrant water wasting.

“Nobody wants to be seen as fining people, but what we are doing isn’t enough,” said Peter Gleick, executive director for the Pacific Institute, an Oakland nonprofit group that studies water usage.

“Maybe we’ll muddle through this year and we’ll be lucky and next year will be wet,” he said. “But if not, we’re in a deep, deep hole and voluntary will be off the table. We will be talking about things like mandatory removal of lawns, and per-capita rationed amounts.”

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Happy 4th of July!

McVey Insurance, CA, 4th of JulyThe 4th of July is a wonderful time to have barbecues, pool parties, and gathering with your closest friends and family to celebrate the nation’s independence.  Did you make plans?  No?  No worries, we have a couple of places you can check out!

Modesto’s Independence Day Parade

For 140 years now, Modesto has hosted a parade in downtown.  The parade starts on July 4th at 9:30 am and theme of this year’s parade is, “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.”

Are you looking for something more thrilling?

Check out KaBoom

It’s the 27th annual fireworks spectacular at Fairplex. Monster trucks and Moto X extreme get the crowd cheering and the stupendous fireworks are the grand finale. The nighttime programming has been a crowd pleaser since its inception in 2002. It puts the boom in KABOOM! Monster Truck and Big Air Freestyle Motocross 8 p.m.

From everyone here at McVey Insurance Agency, we wish you all a happy and safe 4th of July!

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Lower river flows don’t slow rafters and kayakers

McVey Insurance, CA, KayakersThis year’s drought has resulted in lower than usual river flows throughout the region, but it hasn’t deterred rafters and kayakers from hitting the water this summer.

“It was awesome,” said Oakdale resident Rudi Burtschi, who moved down the Stanislaus River in a kayak Sunday. “But it was way slower than usual. The water is down.”

He said the Stanislaus River has always been a good place for a beginner to learn how to be a rafter, but the low river flow doesn’t make it any easier. Higher water levels allow rafters to float above the rocky areas.

“The lower the water is, the bigger the rapids are, which is fun,” Burtschi said. “That’s what it’s all about, as long as you’re doing it safely.”

He and his brother, John Gumbert, grew up rafting down the Stanislaus River east of Oakdale. Gumbert said the lower levels increase the chances of “beaching” a boat along the river.

“We were able to avoid that today,” Gumbert said while he and his brother loaded up their kayaks onto their Jeep. “The big rafts, they have to get off and push themselves free.”

Tim Burwell of Antioch made that same trip down the Stanislaus River in a raft with his daughters, Shara and Alecsa. Their Father’s Day outing was just about what they expected.

“We expected it to be pretty laid back,” Burwell said about this stretch of the river that is known to be friendly to first-time rafters. “As far as speed of the water, it seemed about average.”

He said he and his daughters have been out rafting before, but this was their first time along the Stanislaus. They started out near Knights Ferry on Sunday and ended their trip about 8 miles later near Orange Blossom Road east of Oakdale.

Burwell said he could tell the water level was about 2 or 3 feet lower than usual, but “we still had a great time.”

Tyler Wendt, operations manager for OARS rafting company, said the lower-than-normal river flows haven’t affected business because their boats rely on water coming from upstream reservoirs. The Angels Camp-based company offers rafting trips along the Tuolumne River and two forks of the American River.

“Our numbers are up, and there’s plenty of water to go rafting,” Wendt said.

The company typically has one nonrafting day per week during the summer, but this year’s drought has resulted in no rafting Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Nevertheless, Wendt expects there to be enough water flow to raft through Labor Day.

He says higher water flows create more hazards for rafters, so it might be easier for a novice to take up the sport this year.

Read the entire article here.

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Happy Father’s Day!

McVey Insurance, CA, Father's DayFather’s Day is right around the corner, are you ready?  No?  Don’t worry, we have you covered.

Take dad to a car show

Head on over to the First Baptist Church for the 15th annual car show!  Enjoy live entertainment, and one free lunch per entry.  This event will benefit the youth programs at the church.  We will be raffling off awesome prizes, including a 40 inch HDTV!

Is dad not a car enthusiast?  Try this one out…

Bud’s Seafood offers a Sunday Brunch from 10:00 am-3:00 pm located in Stockton,  Favorites such as oysters on the half shell, shipwreck, to the lox scramble, are all included on the menu.  Adults are $14.95 and kids are $8.75.

From everyone here at McVey Insurance Services, we want to wish all the Fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day!

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Depletion of Central Valley’s groundwater may be causing earthquakes

McVey Insurance, CA, GroundwaterFor years, scientists have wondered about the forces that keep pushing up California’s mighty Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges, causing an increase in the number of earthquakes in one part of Central California.

On Wednesday, a group of scientists offered a new, intriguing theory: The quakes are triggered in part by the pumping of groundwater in the Central Valley, which produces crops that feed the nation.

“These results suggest that human activity may give rise to a gradual increase in the rate of earthquake occurrence,” said the study published in the journal Nature.

Using new GPS data, the scientists found that mountains closest to California’s thirsty Central Valley were growing at a faster-than-expected rate compared to nearby ranges. The growth spurt — about 1 to 3 millimeters a year — was enough to lift them by half a foot over the last 150 years.

Groundwater is very heavy, and its weight depresses the Earth’s upper crust. Remove the weight, and the crust springs upward — and that change in pressure can trigger more small earthquakes, the researchers said.

“It reduces the forces that are keeping the fault clamped together — leading to more small earthquakes during dry periods of time,” said Colin B. Amos, assistant professor of geology at Western Washington University, the study’s lead author.

Other scientists studying a seismically active area of southern Monterey County near Parkfield observed that there tend to be more earthquakes during dry months than during wet months. The number of earthquakes there every year has roughly doubled between 1984 and 2005.

“During wet periods of time when the fault is loaded down, the forces that are keeping the fault clamped down are greater. It inhibits the sliding of the fault,” Amos said.

But the question as to why earthquakes have been increasing in Parkfield over time has been a mystery. The groundwater theory introduced by Amos and his colleagues gives one possible answer.

“Over the long term, because we’re losing more groundwater, it could give rise to more seismicity by reducing these overall forces,” Amos said.

Groundwater has been slowly depleted in the Central Valley to quench the thirst of farms and cities since the mid-1800s.

Read the entire article here.

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Viansa Summer Music Series

McVey Insurance, CA, Summer Concert

Summer Music Series, featuring Total Recall. Bring a blanket, friends, and enjoy a glass of wine or sandwich from our gourmet deli as you listen to live music at our hilltop estate.

About the Band
Total Recall is a Sacramento-based 90’s Alternative cover band that is ready to entertain everyone who has a soft spot in their heart for bands like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Bush, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains, and much more.  Total Recall will provide you with the alternative rock show that will make you nostalgic and leave you fully satisfied!


SATURDAY, MAY 24TH | 12:00PM-3:00PM

Complimentary event, no reservations required
No outside food or drinks, please

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Head on over to Boomers for their Annual Easter Eggstravaganza

McVey Insurance, CA, Easter BunnyEach year, Boomer’s offers a giant Easter Eggstravaganza and this year is going to be the best one yet!

Come on over on Saturday,. April 19th from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  Your kids will get to enjoy an Easter egg hunt, games and we will have some great prize baskets.  The Easter Bunny and Boomer himself will be hiding the golden Easter egg and have special prizes!

Registration starts at 9:00 a.m.

While you’re there your kids can enjoy bumper boats, lazer tag, miniature golf, go-karts, and so much more!


Modesto church practices radical hospitality with the homeless

McVey Insurance, CA, ChurchThe homeless men and women who turn up Sunday mornings at First United Methodist Church’s coffee and conversation program get more than breakfast. They sit together at tables so they can take the time to enjoy their food and each other’s company.

“They have decent coffee,” said one homeless man, who identified himself as Roy. “We are sitting down. They treat us decent. They are not putting a tag on us, calling us bums, calling us scum.”

Roy was among the roughly 40 people who took part in program Sunday in the downtown church’s Fellowship Hall. Barbara Barker, a First United member and coffee and conversation volunteer, said the church started the program about four years ago because of the growing number of homeless people asking for the coffee and doughnuts that are served to churchgoers after the Sunday service.

Barker said the program offers a safe place to have a meal and talk, and the only expectation is that guests behave civilly.

“We are not evangelizing them,” said Bob Harper, another First United member and program volunteer. “We are showing them that we love them.”

Barker said 40 to 120 people show up on a Sunday, depending on the time of the month. She said the numbers are lower in the beginning of the month because the homeless have cashed their disability checks. The majority of the people are chronically homeless, but everyone is welcome.

Barker said the program is part of First United’s radical hospitality, which includes its involvement with Family Promise of Greater Modesto. Family Promise is a nationwide network of churches and others helping homeless families. About a dozen congregations make up the local network.

The homeless in Modesto often have drawn complaints in recent years about aggressive panhandling, being drunk in public, vandalism and urinating and defecating in public. A First United Methodist Church member recently raised concerns about such behavior at her church with the city.

Harper and Barker said the coffee and conversation program does not have those problems. They said on rare occasions program volunteers have had to ask someone to leave because he or she is not treating others with civility.

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Mobile devices pose data breach threats

McVey Insurance, CA, Data breachesThe widespread use of smartphones and tablets in the workplace is exposing more and more businesses to liability for sensitive data being compromised if these devices are lost, stolen, or hacked. How can your company protect itself against this threat – and how much authority do you have over an employee’s personal device if it’s also used for work-related activities?

What’s more, because these gizmos are small and portable, it’s easy to misplace them. (The federal Transportation Safety Administration recently leased a warehouse just to store those misplaced or left behind at airports.)

Another emerging risk linked to these devices is a “bring your own” policy that many companies have adopted as a way to save costs by having employees spend their own money on smartphones and tablets that are constantly evolving and updated. This approach raises questions about separating company data from personal information on the device. For example, when an employee leaves, does a business have the authority to wipe the information from his or her smartphone? According to some authorities, if an employee connects a personal device to a company network, the company has inherited responsibility for the data stored on it.

To deal with this risk, you need to provide every employee who uses these devices with training, updated annually, on how to respond in case of loss or theft. To minimize potential liability for lawsuits by customers and clients, make sure that the individual responsible for the mishap informs management immediately. The compromised information might include everything from sensitive data (financial or medical) contacts, photos, call history, personal notes – you name it.

You can also use insurance to protect yourself against losses from data breaches. A policy will provide Liability coverage that deals with legal costs and third-party expertise (such as forensics firms to analyze a breach and call centers to provide information and public relations. Coverage might also include services such as access to tools to estimate costs, a checklist for your planned response to a data breach, and access to experts who can answer questions and review your company’s policies and procedures.

For more information, feel free to give us a call.

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Anna Bretan makes history with overall win at Modesto Marathon

McVey Insurance Agency, Modesto, CA, MarathonAnna Bretan not only successfully defended her women’s title in the Modesto Marathon on Sunday, but did so in historic fashion, setting a course record while beating all the male racers to the finish line to become the first woman to win the overall race.

Bretan, 30, completed the 26.2 miles unofficially in 2 hours, 41 minutes, 52 seconds to eclipse her own course record by nearly two minutes.

Fresno’s Matthew Klundt won the men’s race in an unofficial time of 2:44:27 to claim his first marathon victory in 10 tries.

Turlock’s Miguel Nuci won the half marathon in a record 1:11:07, shaving about 13 seconds off his previous course mark despite having to run an extra minute when a course marshall tried to get Nuci to turnaround at the midway point.

Kristi Rossi, a 45-year-old mother of three from Hillsborough who finished fourth in her age group at last year’s Boston Marathon, set a record while winning the women’s half marathon.

Check back to for stories and a finish-line photo gallery. We’ll post photos, video and text as soon as information is available.

A Bee photographer was at the finish line and plans to post a gallery with dozens of photos, so be sure to log in later to see if you’re Modesto Famous.

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I’ve been working with James for about 3 years. He has always gone above and beyond to ensure I have the coverage I need at the best possible price. I don’t have to worry about anything, he handles it all. I’ve had several claims where I felt like he was representing me, not an insurance company. If you haven’t talked to him…You should. Thanks James. Bear W. Modesto, CA
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