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SDG&E would like you and other power customers to pony up $379 million to help pay for the costs of the 2007 wildfires, for which it was partially responsible. And, of course, SDG&E would really like to never be linked to a wildfire again. So it wants to spend $420 million on a prevention effort — replacing wooden transmission polls in the wildfire danger zone of the Cleveland National Forest.

It’s “common sense,” SDG&E says, to replace the wooden poles with steel ones that won’t burn. But, as our reporter Ry Rivard, discovers, this isn’t a simple matter.

“Environmental groups are concerned both about the cost — the project would raise rates by about 2 percent — and the effects on the forest. More than three dozen crews could be working on the project at once and helicopters would be required to do some of the work,” he reports.

And then there’s another thing: Environmentalists say wooden poles haven’t been blamed for starting fires.

Environment Report: What’s Up With Hep A Water Testing?

Hepatitis A can lurk in ocean and river water. San Diego has a hepatitis A outbreak among the homeless, some of whom live along the San Diego River. So officials should test our waterways for the virus, right?

Well, it’s not that simple, as Rivard explains in this week’s VOSD Environment Report. As he reports, the CDC doesn’t think testing is needed, and signs of the virus could mean little to nothing. But even these facts don’t make testing completely irrelevant.

Also: More environmental news from around the state and nation. Plus: Our reporter heads to the desert and dreams about an unfriendly and hungry bear.

Carbon Credits Fail to Impress Environmentalists

Environmentalists aren’t embracing the county’s planned carbon-credit market, which the U-T reports “would invest in projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions locally and around the globe.”

The county wants to create the market as part of its Climate Action Plan, which is now under development. Advocates for the environment aren’t thrilled because they fear the credits will encourage urban sprawl, the U-T reports.

Environmental groups are also taking aim at the city’s proposed plan to allow more construction by making it easier to build. At issue: “Vernal pools” that are full of wildlife. “They contend the city’s proposed rulebook, called a habitat conservation plan, would use an incomplete inventory of local pools and also allow destruction of some important pools,” the U-T reports.

The city says it’s cracking down on lousy road repair work. “Paving contractors will soon be required to formally evaluate the quality of their work, and they won’t get paid by the city without submitting proof they completed such an analysis,” the U-T reports.

Conservative Firm Seeks Halt to Voting Switchover

With the help of a conservative legal firm, a former mayor of Poway is suing the city (yes, the one he used to run) and the state over how local elected officials are voted into office.

At issue: Should cities (and school districts and other government agencies) convert to district-by-district elections instead of at-large? Several North County cities are making the switch to by-district voting after being threatened with lawsuits over voter representation.

If a judge agrees to halt the statewide (and local) push toward this kind of voting, it could have dramatic ramifications, the U-T reports.

Another Twist in the DA/Cate Mystery

Why did interim District Attorney Summer Stephan decline to let her office handle accusations against Councilman Chris Cate and punt the issue to the state attorney general’s office? (Cate’s facing heat for passing a confidential city legal memo about Mission Valley’s SoccerCity project to its developers.)

Stephan has been mum about exactly why she can’t handle the issue herself. We don’t know if it’s because Cate is a fellow Republican who endorsed her. If so, that raises questions about whether she’s fine with prosecuting Democrats.

One other theory: It’s because she and Cate share the same campaign consultant, Jason Roe. Nope, Rue says, that’s not it. (KPBS)

In other local politics news, mayoral aide Francis Barraza sounds off about the direction of California’s Republican Party, in the wake of Steve Bannon’s speech to party leaders this weekend: “I feel like the leadership has emboldened people that are not working toward what we’ve been working toward: being a party that’s more inclusive, more forward thinking … I feel like we have reverted 10 years,” she told the L.A. Times.

Quick News Hits: Break a (Ghostly) Leg

The county’s only two Republican House members are both endangered in 2018, according to a pair of new election forecasts, although Rep. Darrell Issa is in worse shape than Rep. Duncan Hunter, whose GOP-dominated district seems unlikely to go blue. (U-T)

 What’s Chargers spokesman and object of fan rage Mark Fabiani up to these days? The “Master of Disaster” is representing TV’s Bill O’Reilly, who’s facing a crisis over news of a $32 million sexual harassment settlement. Fabiani tried to impugn claims by Megyn Kelly, once a fellow Fox News host, by sending out copies of polite notes sent from her to him.

 Dozens of marijuana farms were significantly scorched by the fires in Northern California, the Washington Post reports, and the destruction could spell big trouble for the new era of legalized pot that begins on Jan. 1.

“Because the federal government considers marijuana cultivation and sales a criminal enterprise, it remains extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most of the marijuana businesses affected by the fire to access insurance, mortgages and loans to rebuild,” the Post reports. “Even a charitable fund set up to help marijuana farmers was frozen because a payment processor will not handle cannabis transactions.”

 By some accounts, Old Town’s Whaley House is the most haunted house in America. The Whaley House may also be among the most litigious haunted houses, judging by its reaction to a straight-to-video 2012 horror film (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 3.9 out of 10) that used its name in its title without permission. No, declared a Whaley House representative back then, it isn’t “as a location of significant paranormal activity which results in the exposure of visitors to unimaginable horrors and physical violence.”

In fact, Whaley House does play up its spooky, scary character through ghost-hunting tours and appearances on paranormal TV shows. And this week, the house’s upstairs theater, the first in San Diego, is hosting three classic horror flicks, including “Nosferatu.” Spirits may be in attendance, including an actor who died backstage in 1868.

If you go, remember this: Ghosts float. If a dearly departed theater type is blocking your view, just say, “Hey, buddy! Up in front!”

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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