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. 

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News
9:45 am
Tue April 14, 2015

Working On The Railroad: High-Speed Rail Sparks New Career Interest

Pre-apprenticeship students working on electrical skills

    

With work on California’s High-Speed rail about to take off, interest in the trades that the rail will need appears to be increasing. That’s according to groups that run pre-apprenticeship programs that teach people the skills necessary to work on building the train. Talk of the project is driving interest in programs intended to train the men and women that will be needed to build it.

One of those programs is the five week high-speed rail pre-apprenticeship run by Chuck Riojas with the union Building Trades.

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News
1:26 pm
Fri April 10, 2015

Drought Causing Increase In Bad Air In Valley

Credit Flickr-TPMartins

  California’s prolonged drought is causing a sharp rise in air pollution in the Central Valley. That’s according to an annual report on air quality in California.

While smog and Ozone continue to improve in the Valley, the four year long drought is pushing up dangerous particulate matter pollution rates.

The dry weather is causing loose soil which is kicked into the air says Heather Heinks with the Valley Air District.

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Environment
5:27 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Tensions Appear Amidst Dwindling Water Supply

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown says it’s time for California to pull together to get through the drought. It’s a message aimed at people with competing water needs. And, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, that’s created some tension.

There are more than 400 local water agencies In California. There are also agriculture, business and environmental interests. And as the drought continues they are all competing for a dwindling resource.

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Business & Economy
5:13 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Fresno Grizzlies Hope Astros Affiliation Boosts Fan Interest

Grizzlies player Jon Singleton
Credit Fresno Grizzlies

The Fresno Grizzlies will open their 2015 season tonight at Chuckchansi Park. But for the first time in 18 years, the AAA team won’t be stocked with players from Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants. FM89’s Jason Scott reports that team owners hope the new affiliation with the Houston Astros will mark a reboot for the club and its fan base.

When the Fresno Grizzlies take the field tonight for the opening day fans will witness a team with a new look.

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Government & Politics
4:40 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Fresno City Council Says 'No' To Farmland Preservation Project

Fresno City Hall - file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council has rejected a proposal to move forward with an effort to preserve area farmland from development.

The council voted down the proposed grant application today to start a farmland preservation program, which is key part of the city’s newly adopted general plan.

The program would require developers to offset the loss of farmland from urbanization by agreeing to preserve farmland elsewhere.

Council member Lee Brand says he wants more public input before committing to such a program.

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Community
12:08 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Injured Fresno Firefighter Inspires International Support

In this screen capture from a Facebook video, the Rocklin, CA fire department turns their "lights on" in honor of Pete Dern.
Credit Rocklin Fire Department - Lights On for Pete Dern Facebook

Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern who was seriously injured last month when he fell through the roof of a burning building has helped inspire an international movement on social media.

The campaign called “Lights On For Pete Dern” has dozens of departments from across the nation posting videos to Facebook and Twitter of their engines fully illuminated in his honor.

Kerri Donis is the Fresno Fire Chief:

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Drought
11:58 am
Thu April 9, 2015

Drought: Fresno County Sheep Farmers In Better Spot This Year Than 2014

Stock Photo
Credit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

The drought’s been tough on farmers across the state, but the timing of the little rain the region received this past winter proved to be a plus for the sheep industry. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

Ryan Indart moves his herd of sheep around Fresno County to graze where grass is green.

He says the weather pattern from late 2014 to today has eased the effects of the drought on his herd. Rain in December and a foggy January kept moisture in the ground.

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Government & Politics
5:39 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Fresno Fire Department Wants Reimbursement Guarantee When Fighting Forest Fires

Fresno Fire Department (file photo)
Credit Fresno Fire Department Annual Report / Fresno Fire Department

The Fresno Fire Department is concerned that requests for aid from state and federal agencies during wildfires could wind up hurting the department's finances.  FM89's Joe Moore reports.

California's drought has resulted in more forest fires in recent years. That's put a strain not only on state and federal fire crews, but also on firefighters in cities like Fresno, that often assist through mutual aid agreements. 

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News
1:35 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Victim's Family Calls On Governor Brown To Block Killer's Parole

Mike Morganti's sister Vikki Van Duyne
Credit Alisha Gallon, Office of Jim Patterson

The family of a Clovis murder victim, Fresno law enforcement and politicians are in Sacramento today calling on Governor Jerry Brown to stop the parole of a convicted murderer.

David Weidert is up for parole for the 1980 murder of 20-year old Mike Morganti who was beaten with a baseball bat and buried alive for allegedly planning to testify against Weidert in another case.

Prosecutors say Weidert forced Morganti to dig is own grave.

Opponents of his release say the crime is too extreme to allow him to be paroled.

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News
4:48 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Fresno Looking To Cut Chukchansi Park Rent In Half

Chukchansi Park sign
Credit Photo Flikr: Frank Bonilla

The Fresno City Council could be poised to cut the rent on its minor league baseball stadium in half in an effort to attract a new buyer for the team.

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Agriculture
3:18 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Almond Rush Raises Tough Questions During Dry Times

Almond Orchard near Newman, California
Credit Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Conveyer belts carry millions of kernels through sorting machines in a giant processing plant in the western San Joaquin Valley near Newman, California.      

Jim Jasper: “So the almonds go in there.”

Jim Jasper is the president of Stewart and Jasper Orchards.

Jim Jasper: “We can speed this up… we can slow it down…”

Last year the facility hulled and shelled more than 40 million pounds of almonds -- most of which were headed overseas.

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News
6:28 am
Tue April 7, 2015

Central Valley Residents Say High-Speed Rail Is Running Them Over

Daryl and Shawna Archer

Some home and land owners in the pathway of California’s high-speed rail project are claiming the rail authority is treating them with disrespect and presenting low-ball offers in an attempt to for the project through. Those are claims the head of the rail authority strongly denies.

  A couple hundred feet behind the Kings County home of Daryl and Shawna archer are freight train.

“These are refrigerated cheese cars. They come twice a day. Once empty, once full going back,”

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Environment
12:18 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Drought-Tolerant Plans Growing In Popularity

Drought tolerant landscaping is a booming business in California (file photo)
Credit City of Fresno

As we enter a fourth year of drought, California nurseries and gardening centers say interest in drought-resistant plants is on the rise. Capital Public Radio's Steve Milne reports.

Greg Gayton is a horticulturist at the Green Acres nursery on Jackson Road in Sacramento. He's helping a customer shopping for tomato plants.

Gayton: "How you doing today? You finding everything okay?"

Gayton says the nursery has posted new signage promoting plants that require little water.  

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Drought
4:28 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

California, Is It Time To Wave Goodbye To Your Front Lawn?

Photo submitted by Hannah_75 to the Valley Public Radio series Voices of the Drought.

While agriculture is California’s largest consumer of water, Governor Jerry Brown wants to increase the focus on commercial and resident users. Jeffrey Hess with Valley Public Radio reports they are a big focus of Brown’s new mandatory water restrictions.

Golf course, cemeteries and other large plots of land will soon be required to reduce their usage under the new rules.

Governor Brown also wants to remove 50-million square feet of lawn around the state and replace it with drought resistant landscaping.

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Environment
1:06 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

Brown Issues Mandatory Water Conservation Order For California

Gov. Jerry Brown announces mandatory water conservation requirements for California near Lake Tahoe Wednesday, at a site that on April 1st in a typical year averages five feet of snow.
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

For the first time in the state's history, a governor of California is imposing mandatory water restrictions.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday that mandates a 25 percent cut in urban, potable water use in cities and towns from now through next February.

He announced the action near Lake Tahoe, after watching the state Department of Water Resources conduct a survey that showed the Sierra snowpack at a record-low five percent of normal for April 1st.

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Drought
10:51 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Drought: California's 2015 Cotton Planting May Be As Small As The One In 1910

Stock Photo
Credit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

California was once the number one cotton growing state in the nation, but the drought has changed that. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on why the total cotton acreage in the state has dropped.

California cotton farmers are in the process of planting over 170,000 acres of the crop.

That sounds like a lot, but according to Roger Isom the number of acres expected to be planted in the state this year have plummeted to the point of plantings not seen since around 1910.

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Drought
4:25 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Drought: Fresno County Lettuce Crop Cut In Half

File Photo
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The drought has become so bad in Central California that it’s now affecting the ingredients in your salad bowl. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on a major drop in the lettuce harvest in the region. 

During the first few weeks of spring the Central Valley usually harvests almost the entire supply of the nation’s head lettuce, but this year the supply is meager.

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Crime
12:38 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Two Dead In Murder-Suicide At Fresno Doctor's Office

The Sang Pediatric office in downtown Fresno was the site of the shooting.

Update:

A mother of seven children and a man are dead in an apparent murder-suicide that shut down parts of downtown Fresno for several hours today. The shooting brought out dozens of cops and even the swat team.

Fresno Police initially believed the 43-year old man was an active shooter potentially with hostages inside a small medical office when they approached this office in mid-morning.

However, when swat officers finally made it inside Sang Pediatric Deputy Chief Pat Farmer says they found body of the man and that of the woman, dead from shotgun wounds.

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Business & Economy
5:42 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Almond Milk Sales Skyrocket, But How Healthy Is It?

Almond milk is no longer a health food niche product. Last year national sales were up 40% nationally, according to Nielson data. But, some dietitians question the nutritional value of it.
Credit Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Almond milk is no longer a health food niche product. Last year national sales were up 40%, according to Nielson data. Today's market is worth more than $700 million dollars a year. That's good news for California where virtually all the nation's almonds are grown. But, as Lesley McClurg in Sacramento reports some dietitians question the nutritional value of almond milk. 

Almond milk dates back to the Middle Ages when Catholics and Muslims drank it during religious periods when animal products were banned.

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Government & Politics
5:32 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

California's State Capitol, Like You've Never Seen It Before

The Capitol rotunda is contained within the taller Capitol dome.
Andrew Nixon, Capital Public Radio

Now, a tour of California’s state Capitol – but not just any tour. This one includes a little history … some surprising details that are easy to miss … and a rare trip to the top of the Capitol dome. Here’s Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler.

As a high school marching band tunes up outside the state Capitol, Ken Cooley shows a couple dozen people the building he’s poured his soul into for the last four decades. He’s a Democratic Assemblyman, a longtime staffer and a walking Capitol encyclopedia.

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