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. 

A two week man old hunt for a suspected murderer believed to be hiding in a mountainous area south east of Lake Isabella in eastern Kern County is still underway. And it is causing the shutdown of a famous hiking trail, the Pacific Crest Trail.

34-year old Benjamin Ashley is accused of murdering a retired dentist on July 30 at a Weldon-area cabin.

He is also kidnapping three men two days earlier in the Twin-Oaks area.

The search area is near the Pacific Crest Trail, which was featured in the recent movie ‘Wild’.


A new study suggests that the Central Valley’s extreme heat is linked with increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

A group of scientists say that in recent decades, heat waves in the Central Valley are more severe due to higher humidity and warmer night temperatures.

Roberto Mera with the Union of Concerned Scientists led the study.

Clovis Unified

Floyd Buchanan, the man who built the Clovis Unified School District into an educational powerhouse has died at age 91. FM89's Joe Moore reports his work not only helped shape thousands of young lives, but also both the cities of Fresno and Clovis.

Known by many as "Doc" - Floyd Buchanan was a charismatic and visionary leader. The first superintendent of Clovis Unified, he saw the district grow dramatically during his tenure from 1960 to 1991. 

Buchanan emphasized both academics and athletics, but regardless of the venue his personality set a tone for the district. 

Eric Paul Zamora / The Fresno Bee

There’s a controversy brewing in Fresno that has school districts up and down the state watching very closely. It all has to do with how districts spend taxpayer money when they build a new school. Traditionally districts would build up reserves or bond money for a new school, and then put the project out to bid for design and construction. The lowest bidder typically would get the job.

Fresno County has a huge animal overpopulation problem. Very soon, the county could have a new animal control shelter and a new company running it. That group, The Animal Compassion Team, has been one of the biggest critics of the county’s animal kill rate.

Now, they says they have a plan to euthanize fewer animals.

At the Animal Compassion Team’s south Fresno shelter dogs bark and jump in a pen.

The group, which currently runs a no kill shelter, is likely to win the contract to take over animal control for the entire county later this year.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Spurred on by a request by local oil industry leaders, Kern County is currently exploring a plan that would dramatically revamp the way the county permits oil and gas wells. Under an environmental study that's currently in the works, getting a new well permit could become as easy as getting a county building permit.

Five Years Later, Bakersfield's Roy Ashburn Reflects On His Journey

Aug 4, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A former Republican lawmaker who came out as gay months before leaving the California Legislature says he was wrong to oppose gay rights measures – including bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

Roy Ashburn termed out after representing Bakersfield for 14 years in the Assembly and Senate. He was arrested for drunken driving five years ago after leaving a gay night club in Sacramento. He came out days later.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Thousands of farmworkers travel all over the Central Valley on a daily basis to pick crops under some very hot weather. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports farmers now have to comply with new regulations to avoid heat illness and deaths among workers.

Farmer Joe Del Bosque, owner of Del Bosque Farms, knows what it’s like to work in the valley’s hot temperatures. He’s been doing it his whole life.

“I grew up with this kind of work by the time I was 10, 11-years-old I was actually picking melons,” Del Bosque says.

For Fresno natives of a certain age, Al Radka, the Fulton Mall, Lesterburger and parties in "the figs" all are cultural touchstones that bring back memories of a simpler time. They're also the subject of a new book by journalist Steven H. Provost titled "Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985." From historic photos of long lost Fresno landmarks to stories about life in the 50's and 60's, the new book seeks to capture the essence of an era when so many baby boomers grew up.

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.