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 / Valley Public Radio

In the Sierra Nevada, above Fresno, North Fork Mono Indians are working to thin the forest. The group's goal is twofold. Save water and prevent large-scale forest fires. North Fork Mono Indians have been using this approach for centuries, but now California's severe drought means these ancient techniques are being looked at as a possible long-term solution. From Valley Public Radio, Ezra David Romero reports.

City of Clovis

UPDATE: The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward with the new Clovis library project.
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The city of Clovis is known for its rodeo and its western themed downtown. Soon you might be able to add to that one of the largest public libraries in the valley. 

A new library, senior center and transit hub are all part of the plan for 5.7 acres on the fringe of downtown Clovis. Last year the city purchased the site on Third Street, which is currently home to an old lumber company barn for $2.85 million.

Fresno leaders say the homeless population in Fresno and Madera Counties has declined by 53-percent since 2013.

The newest count released Monday found almost 1,200 unsheltered homeless people compared to more than 2,500 two years ago.

Preston Price with the Fresno Housing Authority says a new focus on providing housing first is driving the rate down.

“The housing first model, which has a higher success rate, says let’s get a person into housing and bring the services they need to them. And that has a higher success rate,” Price said.

The newest reading of California’s critical mountain snow pack is showing that the state currently has zero-percent of its normal snow levels. The snow reading is the lowest ever taken at this point of the year.

A warm, dry winter means that little snow fell in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada.

The snow pack is critical to replenishing California’s surface water supply.

Maury Roos with the California Department of Water Resources says the measurement has never come in this low. 

Caltrans

A popular route into Yosemite Valley is about to get a makeover. FM89's Joe Moore reports on the effort t fix damage that happened nearly 10 years ago.

In May 2006, a rockslide in the Merced River Canyon severely damaged Highway 140 between Briceburg and El Portal. Caltrans eventually reopened the road later that year with a temporary detour around the unstable mountain of rock, but that temporary detour is now almost a decade old. 

Google Maps

A local organization is asking the City of Fresno to build a new park for residents in an older part of town.

Jose Leon-Barazza with the Southeast Fresno Community Economic Development Association will ask the city council on Thursday to spend $200,000 to do preliminary work to turn a largely vacant 48-acre parcel on South Peach Avenue into a park and soccer fields.

Undocumented Health Care Bill Moves Forward In Legislature

May 28, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A bill that would make health care available to undocumented immigrants in California advanced in the state legislature today. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, it’s been scaled back from previous versions.

The amended bill pares back a proposal that would have extended Medi-Cal to all eligible undocumented immigrants. Now the measure would cap the number of adult enrollees based on the state budget. It does extend Medi-cal to eligible undocumented children. 

Photo-Flickr

A California Transportation Task  Force is starting a statewide tour in Fresno to look at a controversial proposal for raising more infrastructure money. The task force is examining a so-called ‘road charge’.

Sometimes called a vehicle mileage tax, a road charge would tax California residents based on the number of miles they drive.

The California Transportation Commission estimates the state needs 137-billion dollars in repairs to roads, highways and bridges over the next ten years.

California Budget Proposal Raises Questions Of Vaccine Bill Retaliation

May 28, 2015
Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Assembly Republicans want to know if Legislative Democrats are using their state budget proposals to punish a medical group that opposes California's controversial vaccine bill.

In separate proposals for the fiscal year that starts in July, Senate and Assembly Budget subcommittees voted last week to restore six of the seven optional Medi-Cal benefits that are currently unfunded by the state. There's only one benefit they're not proposing to restore: chiropractic services.

Building Healthy Communities

An ad that a local non-profit group wants to run on city buses is the center of controversy, after Fresno officials say it’s too political. As FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the group wants more parkland in older parts of town.

Joe Moore

    

Fresno’s Storyland and Playland amusement parks could re-open by mid-September. The head of the new Storyland-Playland board thinks the parks can return to profitability.

Work is already underway to repair and re-open the parks after they failed to open.

Scott Miller, the chair of the new board overseeing Storyland and Playland says necessary repairs…especially to the train…should be far enough along to allow the parks to re-open by the middle of September.

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

There is a growing movement in Fresno to leverage the power of big data to improve a wide variety of city services from water conservation, to street lights, to police and more. Powerful computers are now able to crunch billions of data points to provide a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t. The city is increasingly seeing data and information as a two-way street.

I am standing on Shaw Avenue in Fresno.

This heavily traveled street sees tens of thousands of cars a day.

California Water Regulators Agree To Cutback Program For Farmers

May 22, 2015
http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

California water regulators are praising some Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmers for coming up with a program to voluntarily cut water use.

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved a deal in which farmers with some of the oldest rights to divert water from rivers would reduce use by 25-percent or fallow 25-percent of their land. The board says those farmers who participate would no longer risk future water curtailments. Felicia Marcus is Chair of the water board.

Kern County Fire Department Facebook page

California’s drought has caused many lakes and rivers to drop to low levels; but officials say it hasn’t eliminated the risk of drowning. FM-89’s Jason Scott reports on why one local river is of particular concern.

The Kern River is one of many popular spots travelers will flock to to this Memorial Day weekend. But officials warn that despite the drought, the river can still be deadly, especially if people ignore safety precautions.

Al Watson is a ranger with the Sequoia National Forest.  He says the river can still pose a drowning hazard despite its low levels.  

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno Police Department is moving forward with a plan to purchase 300 new body cameras for officers. The city council approved the $2.5 million purchase today which also includes 400 TASER devices. The cameras are in addition to 100 purchased earlier this year after the city received an anonymous $500,000 donation. 

Poll Shows Wide Support For Water Conservation

May 21, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new Field Poll shows almost two-thirds of Californians surveyed support Governor Jerry Brown's urban water reduction plan.  Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Field Poll says nearly 89-percent of people surveyed believe the current water shortage in California is serious, with 66-percent saying the drought is ‘extremely serious.’

But 44-percent of homeowners said it would be difficult for them to cut household water use.

About 70 percent said it would be a serious problem for them if their local water district raised household water bills by 15 or 25 percent.

Water Board Considers Voluntary Water Cut From Delta Area Farmers

May 21, 2015
California Department of Water Resources

Some farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta who hold the most senior water rights may agree to a 25-percent cut in their consumption. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the proposal comes as California water regulators consider mandatory curtailments.

Under the proposal, farmers who hold rights to divert water along a river or stream would either reduce irrigation use or leave fields fallow. In exchange, they want guarantees that regulators wouldn’t restrict remaining water. Jennifer Spaletta, an attorney for a group of farmers, says it’s a practical solution.

A new national ranking of American cities shows Fresno is making progress in providing access to public parks and green space.

However, the gains are limited. The city moved from last place in 2014 to tied for last this year.

Abby Martin with the Trust for Public land, which releases a yearly ranking of 75 US cities, says several new parks set to open this year helped Fresno’s score.

“Out of 100 points, this year Fresno scored 31. As opposed to last year where Fresno scored 26 points,” Martin said.

A new cell phone app that could help Fresnans track their water consumption is headed toward development. The app is the brainchild of a group of five sixth graders.

Calling themselves the ‘fab five’, the boys came up with and pitched the idea of an app that taps into data collected by city water meters and supplies daily updates on a person’s water use.

Due in part to a 25-thousand dollar donation from AT&T, the team has now raised the nearly 60-thousand dollars needed to hire a local technology company to code the app.

Cities across the valley are working to cut their water use under new regulations as the state struggles through its fourth year of drought. However, the reductions are having different effects in different towns, in some cases having unexpected repercussions.

Towns throughout the Valley are having to take a hard look at their water use in order to meet Governor Jerry Brown’s ambitious conservation order.

In some cases reducing use by as much as a third.

One of those is Selma.

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