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. 

Whitehouse.gov

President Obama has named a new national monument in Northern California. The 330,000 acre Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is on federal land around Lake Berryessa north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The monument is known for its unique geology and wildlife.

The U.S. Forest Service says the area gives unique insights into plate tectonics:

For the first time since his dramatic fall through the roof of a burning garage, a Fresno firefighter is speaking publicly. Fire captain Pete Dern walked out of the hospital Friday to speak to a crowd of press and supporters.

“Hi. I’m am Pete Dern,”

That’s the voice of the Fresno Fire Department captain who in March was caught on cell phone video falling through a garage roof into a blazing inferno below. It took crews nearly two minutes to rescue him.

Dern’s head and hands are still heavily bandaged. Burn scars and skin grafts are clearly visible on his arms.

California HealthCare Foundation

Medi-Cal recipients in California continue to face big challenges when it comes to actually accessing care, especially in the Central Valley. That's the conclusion of a new report by researchers at the UCLA Center For Health Policy Research and the California HealthCare Foundation. 

The study looked at survey data from across the state for both Medi-Cal enrollees and those with private insurance provided through their employers. 

Shana Alex Charles is one of the study's authors.

Report Shows Potential Fracking Problems

Jul 10, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new report out  Thursday says regulations for the process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" need to be tightened to prevent environmental problems.  And, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, new legislation could emerge to do just that.

The peer-reviewed study from the California Council on Science and Technology was required as part of fracking legislation the state passed in 2013. 

Fresno Unified Website

The superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District says their use of a procedure known as lease-leaseback to build new schools is legal.

The district has come under fire for selecting a local construction firm, Harris Construction, to build the $37 million Gaston Middle School without going through a competitive bidding process.

Harris was chosen through a process known as Lease-leaseback where the district can hand pick a company who agrees to front the construction cost and then be paid back over time.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

With immigration reform efforts seemingly stalled in Washington D.C., the California legislature is taking its own steps to address the undocumented immigrants who call the state home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports on one new bill that would give state work permits to agricultural workers.

The bill introduced by assembly member Luis Alejo hopes to give undocumented workers the chance to work legally in California’s agricultural industry. According to Alejo, as much as 75 percent of the industry’s workforce is undocumented.

Water Regulators Look At Rate Increases To Maximize Conservation

Jul 8, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

Increasing the price of water encourages conservation. But As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, California water regulators are seeking the best way to do that without running into legal problems.

Jim Choi and Chihiro Wimbush / Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm

  In the tiny community of Del Rey sits one of the nation's most acclaimed organic farms. The Masumoto family has been farming the land there for generations, and their heirloom peaches are sought after by the country's top chefs. But the Masumoto farm is also in transition, a transition of generations, as David "Mas" Masumoto's daughter Nikiko has returned home to work with her father and keep the farm alive for another generation. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Agriculture consumes a lot of water in California, but so do homes and businesses. In the fourth year of drought water consumed by both are issues and both sectors have faced cutbacks. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports the Central California town of Reedley is on the move to build an eco-friendly community that some say could use less groundwater for development and living.

In the Valley town of Reedley there’s a plot of ground that once grew 40 acres of green leafy peach and plum trees.   

U.S. Forest Service Says Conditions Ideal For Megafires in California

Jul 6, 2015
US Forest Service - Rim Fire 2013

Drought, dead and dying trees, and a lack of snow in California have left national forests in a perfect condition for large and severe wildfires. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the new mix has the U.S. Forest Service re-examining how it manages fire.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A proposed power plant that would convert coal into hydrogen and fertilizer near the community of Tupman in Kern County has been granted a six month reprieve from the California Energy Commission. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Electricity rates will be going up for some Californians. The California Public Utilities Commission approved a new rate structure Friday.

The commission unanimously voted to move from a from a four tier system to two tier system for electricity rates by 2019. That means low-use customers may start paying more, while customers in higher tiers may see a reduction in their bills. An additional surcharge for high-use customers will be introduced in 2017. 

Mike Dunleavy - Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevedunleavy/ / Creative Commons

A popular hiking and equestrian trail that stretches through the Central Sierra has started to see an increasing number of hikers. As FM89’s Jason Scott reports, Hollywood may be to thank for it.

The Pacific Crest Trail stretches 2,600 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border to Canada, along the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. It’s always been a popular draw for outdoor enthusiasts, but lately it’s seen a surge in activity.

Flickr- Baron Valium

Officials with the Valley Air District are warning about Fourth of July fireworks worsening air quality and threatening residents' health.

Fireworks can cause damaging air pollution to spike to five times the level considered safe.

When fireworks are set off, they burn, explode and release large amounts of dangerous particulate matter into the atmosphere.

Heather Heinks with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says the tiny particles of soot, ash and metal can bury themselves deep in the body causing short and long term problems.

Californians Conserve 29 Percent More Water In May

Jul 1, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Californians stepped up their water conservation in May. The state is the midst of its worst drought in history. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The State Water Resources Control Board says Californians achieved their best conservation yet, cutting water use 29 percent in May compared to two years ago. 

The board says rain in parts of the state likely drove the May water savings. But the rain did nothing to ease drought conditions.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in 2014 and things have gotten worse.   

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 A new bill in the California Senate could make sex education mandatory for middle and high school students. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

If the bill becomes law, students will be required to learn about abstinence, sexually transmitted infections and contraception.

Right now, public schools throughout the state aren’t required to offer sex ed classes, but they are required to teach HIV and AIDS prevention. In recent years, Fresno Unified dropped its sex ed program due to budget cuts.

California Bill Would Allow Tax On Water Wasters In Drought

Jun 30, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A California Assembly committee will hear a bill Wednesday that would allow water districts to impose taxes on any business, industry or person who wastes water. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the measure would require voter approval.

The City of Fresno has officially rolled out its complaint reporting app called ‘Fresgo’. The smartphone app lets people take pictures and report issues like pot holes, downed stop lights, and other problems throughout the city.

The app, called Fresgo, is intended to replace the cumbersome and sometimes confusing process of filling out paper work or contacting the appropriate city department to report issues.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the app lets people take a picture, tag their location, and send it straight to the city to fix their complaint.

http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

In recent months, the valley's agriculture industry has been thrust into the national headlines, largely over the debate over how much water farmers use to grow crops. Critics say farmers use 80 percent of the water used by people in California. However farmers say that number is misleading, pointing out they actually use only 40 percent of the state's total water supply, where about 50 percent is set aside for environmental uses.

What do General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Greek god Zeus and Sir Lancelot all have in common? They've all lent their names to popular beers from local craft breweries. It turns out the San Joaquin Valley is in the midst of a craft beer boom, from Bakersfield to Turlock, making it one of the area’s hottest food and beverage trends. What's behind the explosive growth, and is there a definitive local style of beer?

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