Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Can California save its struggling sea lions?

Over a hundred sea lion pups washing up on California shores are color-coded, fed and treated by veterinarians and volunteers caring for them at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito on March 3, 2015.
Over a hundred sea lion pups washing up on California shores are color-coded, fed and treated by veterinarians and volunteers caring for them at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito on March 3, 2015. The Sacramento Bee file

Warming waters have thrown California’s sea lion population into chaos.

More than 3,300 malnourished pups washed up on shore last winter and spring – ten times the average for that same five-month period over the previous decade – and tens of thousands more are estimated to have starved to death in their breeding colonies on the Channel Islands.

Scientists believe that as the anchovies, sardines and other fish that sea lions eat migrated north in search of cooler temperatures, mothers were forced to travel further for longer periods of time to find food. Back home, their pups starved; fearing they’d been abandoned, many set out to forage, ill-equipped to sustain themselves.

In response, the state appropriated $1 million last year to UC Davis’ Wildlife Health Center to assist a network of local rescue efforts. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation will hold a hearing, 9 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol, to review how the money was used and what ongoing needs there may be.

The number of stranded sea lions is down so far this year – nearly 400 in January and February – but experts fear it’s because of a dwindling population, rather than an improving situation. South America is now seeing a similar phenomenon.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Incoming Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is not on board with getting rid of Daylight Saving Time.

TUNNELS OF LOVE: As Gov. Jerry Brown tries to get his massive water conveyance tunnels project back on track, Delta landowners and Northern Californians resentful of losing their water to bigger population centers in the south are doing everything they can to stop it. Their best bet is a November ballot initiative, sponsored by wealthy Stockton-area farmer and food processor Dean Cortopassi, which would require voter approval before the state issues revenue bonds for any public works project costing more than $2 billion. While Cortopassi maintains that the measure is about controlling California’s debt, he is a vocal opponent of the tunnels and has already poured millions of dollars into the campaign. The Senate Committee on Governance and Finance and the Assembly Committee on Appropriations will jointly hold a hearing on the initiative, which qualified for the ballot last November, 9:30 a.m. in the Room 126 of the Capitol. Representatives from the State Building and Construction Trades Council, the Association of California Water Agencies and the California Chamber of Commerce will be on hand to speak against it.

ADVENTURE TIME: There are nine national parks in California, the most of any state in the country. But if you can’t make it to Death Valley or Joshua Tree (or perhaps you’re steering clear of Yosemite until The Ahwahnee gets it name back), enjoying their beauty on a 70-foot-tall screen may be the next best thing. Visit California will host a screening of the new 3-D documentary National Parks Adventure, which celebrates the centennial of the national park system, 5 p.m. at the Esquire IMAX Theatre on K Street. Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills; Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae; and the filmmakers will be in attendance to discuss the benefits of the parks.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUAL: The skirmish over charter schools in California grows ever more hostile; a proposed ballot measure that began circulating last month would ban them altogether, requiring more than 1,100 in the state to either close down or convert to traditional public schools. California Parents for Public Virtual Education, which advocates for online schooling, is using its lobby day to rally opposition to the initiative, which it regards as an attack on educational choice for families. Parents and their students will begin the day at the the Crest Theater on K Street – where they will honor Brown and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, with their Golden Apple awards – then head over to the Capitol at 2 p.m. to meet with lawmakers.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who turns 51 today.

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