Valley Public Radio News

Hear local reports on the economy, government, education, health and the environment on Valley Public Radio during All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Valley Edition. 

Ezra David Romero

The Giant Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America’s treasures.  But for the first time in the parks history the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought:  thin and browning leaves. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero hikes into one of the largest groves of Giant Sequoias and finds a crew of scientists rushing to gather data by scaling the monstrous trees.

Anthony Ambrose is on the hunt in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, but not for deer or wild boar.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

The future of the Fresno area's urban sprawl northward could soon take another step forward. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has unveiled a draft of the long-awaited Friant Corridor Feasibility Study. It’s the first look at potential development just north of the City of Fresno.

However, environmental groups say the study is the camel’s nose under the tent toward more urbanization.

Among the high golden grasses, sparse trees and grazing deer, stands Clary Creager in the San Joaquin River bottom.

Californians Reduce Water Use By 27 Percent in June

Jul 31, 2015
Kelly M Grow / Department of Water Resources

Water regulators are praising Californians for reducing their water use by 27 percent in June. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some communities still have a long way to go to meet mandatory requirements.

US Forest Service

In the last 24 hours the Willow Fire has grown by around 1,000 acres, fueled by dense brush, hot conditions and wind. As of Friday morning the fire has consumed around 4,300 acres and is 30 percent contained.  The blaze began Saturday near Bass Lake and is now 30 percent contained. 

Officials say the southern flank of the fire is now burning in the footprint of the 2001 North Fork fire, an area filled with dense brush, tree snags and dead woody material. On the north crews are making progress battling the fire around a large granite outcropping known as the 7 Rock. 

U.S. Forest Service InciWeb

Forest service officials say a juvenile is suspected of starting the Willow Fire near Bass Lake which has now burned more than 2,000 acres and is 30% contained. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports the fire may prompt more evacuations.

Residents in the Cascadel Woods community are already under a pre evacuation advisory but fire officials announced today that if the fire spreads they will issue a mandatory evacuation within 12 to 24 hours.

Cody Norris is a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

U.S. National Forest Service

The Willow Fire near Bass Lake in Madera County has grown to 1700 acres and is just 5% contained as of Tuesday afternoon. The fire has not brought activity at the lake to a stop, but it does have businesses and vacationers concerned.

Gordon Barker and his wife drove from Fresno to see the fire.

He pointed out the dead trees on the hillside killed by prolonged drought and beetle infestation turning the area into a tinder box.

Thousands of residents in the valley are working through the process of having their previous felony convictions dropped to misdemeanors. It’s an element of Proposition 47 intended to help provide people with a clean slate and re-integrate more easily back into society. Advocates and the public defender in Merced are working hard to get the word out.

For years, Jesse Oralas lived the life of a drug addict, being homeless and piling up felony drug convictions which made him, in his words, ‘unemployable’.

Funding Targets Farmworkers Hurt By The Drought

Jul 27, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

New state and federal funding will provide relief for farmworkers hurt by California's drought. The US Department of Labor is providing 18 million dollars, and the state is providing 7.5 million dollars. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has more.

An estimated 18,000 people have lost their jobs because of the drought -- most of them in the Central Valley.

Marco Lizarrga: "What we call the ground zero of the drought. Mendotta and Firebaugh and those little farm towns that are the sources of the cantaloupes and the sources of other products have been heavily impacted."

Study Shows Wildfires Occurring At Higher Elevations

Jul 27, 2015
Sierra National Forest

A new study shows wildfires are increasingly occurring at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, researchers say climate change and some forest management practices may be driving the change.

Scientists say in the early 20th century, fires rarely burned above 8,000 feet in the Sierra. But in the past three decades, several fires have burned at or above that level every year. The study suggests warming temperatures associated with climate change may be increasing tree density and the amount of fuel.

Scientists Discover What Makes Lake Tahoe Blue

Jul 23, 2015
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency newsletter Tahoe In Depth

Scientists have long thought that the blueness of Lake Tahoe was due to the lake’s clarity. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a new study shows that algae plays an important role.

For the past three years, UC Davis researchers have been measuring the degree of blueness in Lake Tahoe using a NASA research buoy. They compared those results with the lake’s clarity and found something surprising. 

Schadlow: “Clarity and blueness are controlled by very different things.” 

Valley Citrus Growers Feeling More Pain As Drought Drags On

Jul 23, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Citrus growers in the Central Valley say fewer trees are producing fruit, so the price of citrus could increase at the grocery store.  But, farmers' costs have skyrocketed because of the drought.

Zack Stuller is a grower in Exeter. He says he hasn't received water from the Central Valley Water Project in two years.

He has spent $2,000 an acre foot for water from distant agencies and  $70,000 to dig a well for six-acres of lemons.

Group Works To Develop Latino Leaders In High School

Jul 23, 2015
Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project - Youtube

Latinos make up the largest segment of California’s population. Yet they have one of the smallest voter representations. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, one organization is trying to change that equation.

A group of Latino high school students stands on the steps of the state Capitol and yells out its identity.

“California’s future leaders! Who are you? California’s future leaders!”

Ride-Sharing Companies, Taxi Industry Battle In Sacramento

Jul 22, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Ride-sharing companies and the taxi industry are locked in battles throughout California – on the streets, in the state Legislature, and in regulatory agencies. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, neither side is happy with the status quo.

More Wildfires In California, But No 'Mega Fires' In 2015 So Far

Jul 22, 2015
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

There's been a significant increase in the number of wildfires this year in California. But, as Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento, the size of the fires has been relatively small.

Four years of drought and record warm temperatures have created dangerous wildfire conditions in California.

And, it's been a busy year for firefighters.

Berlant: "Already this year we've responded to well over 1200 more fires than we would in an average year for the same time period." 

Climate Scientist: Don't Count On El Nino To End California's Drought

Jul 22, 2015
DANIEL A. ANDERSON / UC Irvine

Federal climate scientists say it was a record warm June for California. Capital Public Radio's Ed Joyce reports the hot weather is forecast to continue into the fall.

In this fourth year of drought, NOAA says California had its warmest June in 121 years. The agency said last year was the warmest on record for the state. And this last winter, California had a record-low snowpack in the Sierra.

Famiglietti: "I think that this past winter is representative of what we will very likely be seeing more of in the future."

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

A new app is making it easier for people in California to receive STD testing within the comfort of their own home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains how it works.

Android and iPhone users can now download the app called Planned Parenthood Direct. For a cost of $149, users will receive a kit in the mail that tests for both chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Linda Williams with Planned Parenthood says this app makes it easier for people to get tested without feeling judged.

What’s the difference between a smiling mascot and a stern warning? More than 2. 5 million gallons of water a month in Fresno. That’s according to a social experiment the city ran to encourage greater water conservation.

Fresno used data from the city’s water meters to target people watering on non-approved days and sent each home one of two different fliers.

One is black and white and appears very serious. The other is in color and features a playful mascot.

Office of Alex Padilla

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla wants to increase the number of voters in the Golden State. That's why he is backing several new measures that would overhaul the state's election system. They include a new bill that would expand the state's "motor voter" provisions and another that would expand vote-by-mail and early voting opportunities. Padilla joined us to talk about those efforts and an overhaul of the state's voter database after he spoke at an naturalization ceremony in Fresno on Tuesday morning. 

Scott Bauer / Bioscience

Marijuana is big business in California. By some estimates pot is actually the state's top cash crop. But with the boom in marijuana cultivation, there is also a significant environmental toll. Mountain tops are being leveled, and streams are being illegally diverted threatening species already stressed by the drought. With the possibility of marijuana legalization looming in 2016, the issue of how to clean up the environmental damage caused by pot production is a big concern. 

Bill Would Allow Fire Fighters To Jam Interfering Drones

Jul 21, 2015
Twitter.com / CAL FIRE PIO Kevin Berlant / https://twitter.com/CALFIRE_PIO

First responders are growing increasingly frustrated with owners of hobbyist drones who fly them over wildfires. That’s prompting new proposals from California state lawmakers, as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

As the North Fire swept towards Interstate 15 in Southern California this past weekend, fire fighting aircraft rushed to slow its progress. But there were five drones hovering overhead – so the airplanes had to wait until the drones moved on. The fire leapt the freeway and burned dozens of cars.

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