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California

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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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Valley grape growers and winemakers are responding to a new lawsuit that claims many lower priced California wines contain too much arsenic. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

Popular California wines like the so-called “Two-Buck Chuck” sold at Trader Joes are the subject of the suit. It alleges commercial lab tests found arsenic levels exceeding the levels allowed in drinking water in over two dozen California wines. The plaintiffs claim the wines could pose a health risk.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California is now in the fourth year of its on-going drought, and this winter’s meager snowpack has water experts worried, thanks to remarkably warm temperatures. But scientists at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment say that in just a few decades, this severe condition could be the new norm, thanks to climate change.

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Last week, an ambitious planned development that seemingly died during the recession reemerged in rural Kings County.

The developers behind the proposed community of Quay Valley say this new city of 75,000 people would be located on a barren stretch of Interstate 5 south of Kettleman City.

While things like water, infrastructure and jobs all remain big questions, the developers have announced one other detail – a planned 5 mile test track for entrepreneur Elon Musk’s proposed Hyper Loop.

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California was once a national model for good governance. But after a decade of near constant budget battles and staggering deficits, in recent years the state has been more of a model of political dysfunction.

A new book by Fresno State political science professor Jeff Cummins examines California’s budget problems. It’s called “Boom and Bust: The Politics of the California Budget.”

CA Department of Motor Vehicles

Thousands of California immigrants are taking advantage of the state’s new driver license law. According to new numbers released today, 46,200 undocumented immigrants have applied for driver licenses during the first three days since the law took effect on Friday.

The Department of Motor Vehicles revealed the following statistics:

BCDOIC

Starting in 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles expects about 1.5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver license. For many, this will be their first time legally driving in the state.

Immigration advocates applaud this change but also say there's a big concern. Some are worried they will fail the behind the wheel test since it won't be offered in the native languages many immigrants speak.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we a take a look at why some dairies are leaving California for what they say are greener pastures in the Midwest. Also on the program you'll hear the story of a once homeless female veteran who now helps homeless veterans in Fresno.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

This is the second story in a two-part series reported in partnership with Harvest Public Media. The first story explores why a Merced family is on the move to South Dakota: California Dairies Look To Midwest’s Greener Pastures.

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Parts of Central California have been hit especially hard by the drought, and specifically the dropping water table beneath the ground. But as California farms and cities lean more and more on their aquifers, many are concerned that more and more wells will go dry.

This is not a new story. Huge portions of the San Joaquin Valley have actually dropped due to massive pumping of water from the ground dating back to the 1920’s. The question is – when will the taps run dry.

Ezra David Romro / Valley Public Radio

Drought conditions in parts of Central California have become so harsh that it’s normal to turn on the tap have no coming out.  A few months ago we brought you the story of East Porterville where more than 600 homes are without water because their household wells have dried up. Now, some of the town’s residents will have access to something they haven’t had in months. 

The last time Gilberto Sandoval took a warm shower was over a month ago.

“I’ve  been without running water for the last three months,” Sandoval says. “ No water whatsoever.”

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

With the second open enrollment period of Covered California in full swing, state officials are boosting their efforts to reach out to Latinos. Yet, there are many people in the Central Valley who are living in the shadows when it comes to enrolling for health care.

Covered California officials say they're proud to have signed up 1.2 million people for health insurance during the first year. But Executive Director Peter Lee says there’s still some things they want to improve.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

In just a few weeks Proposition 48 will ask California voters to approve or reject a plan to build a new Indian casino on Highway 99 north of Madera. Members of the North Fork Rancheria say it’s a vital importance to the future of their tribe while critics, largely backed by other casinos, say it would set a dangerous precedent for what they call "reservation shopping." FM 89’s Diana Aguilera explains what this proposal means for the county and the city of Madera.

Don L. Weaver / Valley Public Radio

Cal Fire officials say they have identified suspects responsible for starting the Courtney Fire, and a series of arson fires in Oakhurst.

Investigators say a juvenile is suspected of intentionally starting 13 fires in Madera County. Officials say the fires were all sparked in the Oakhurst area over the past few months, but do not include the Courtney or the Junction fires.

Officials also say they now know who’s believed to be responsible for starting the Courtney Fire that burned more than 300 acres near Bass Lake.

Bernie Quinn is a battalion chief for Cal Fire.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Cal Fire officials appear to be gaining the upper hand on the Courtney Fire that destroyed over 30 homes near Bass Lake in the mountains of Madera County. The blaze has burned over 300 acres and is now 90 percent contained. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

Hundreds of people remain in evacuation after the Courtney Fire tore through houses and buildings.

As fire crews continue to make progress, some residents are returning to their homes. But there are others who never left.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio.

With fires raging in the region and no sign that the drought will ease up, farmers and even homeowners are on the hunt for water. The initial answer is to dig a new well. But wells are expensive. In this piece FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on a solution that many Valley homeowners rely on.

Eugene Keeney hooks his 2,500 gallon water truck to a fire hydrant on the northern edge of Clovis. 

California Economist: No Surprise Tesla Chose Nevada

Sep 4, 2014
Tesla Motors

In a big blow to California, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval says Tesla Motor Company will build a car battery plant in the Silver State.  Sandoval says it will be the world’s biggest and most advanced of its kind. 

California was one of five states vying for the plant that is estimated to build enough batteries to power a half-million vehicles by the year 2020.

Stephen Levy  with the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy says he wasn’t surprised the electric car company chose Nevada over the Golden State.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

California’s cap and trade program could help clean up pollution in the Central Valley. FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains the early stages of the effort.

A few months ago the state came out with a report ranking the most polluted places in California. Many Fresno County neighborhoods ranked among the worst.  

Now the California Environmental Protection Agency is hoping to use that data to clean up these areas through the state’s cap and trade system.

For the first time in four years, whooping cough has reached an epidemic level. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports how this peak has local health officials worried.

California health officials have recently confirmed that cases of pertussis also known as whooping cough have reached epidemic proportions in the state.

The Department of Public Health reported more than 3,400 cases so far this year. That’s a thousand more cases than all of last year.

Incident Information System

  Update: As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, the blaze is 90 percent contained and has charred 2,646 acres. All evacuations have been lifted.

A rapidly moving wildfire in the Sequoia National Forest has already engulfed 2,200 acres and is threatening 1,000 homes near the Kern County community of Lake Isabella. KVPR’s Diana Aguilera reports.

Pushed by strong winds, the Shirley Fire has already destroyed homes and is burning in steep, rugged terrain about 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

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