Environment

Drought
5:13 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

California Tomato Growers Expect Record Year Despite Drought

California tomatoes are loaded into a processing plant. (file photo)
Credit California Tomato Growers Association

The drought has California farmers leaving thousands of acres fallow this year. But growers still chose to plant processing tomatoes. And as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, they’re expected to have a record year.

About 95 percent of the nation’s processed tomatoes come from California. Last year, about 12 million tons were produced. Some farmers this year were skeptical they could grow the 14 million tons contracted for by the state’s processors.

But Mike Montna with the California Tomato Growers Association says they hit that mark.

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Environment
12:30 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Photographing Bakersfield, "A Thick Brown Film Hanging Over Town"

Yareli Gonzalez, 7, suffers from asthma and receives two nebulizer treatments per day, indefinitely. Gonzalez lives in Shafter, a rural town in Kern County, California where 20 percent of area children are diagnosed with asthma due to polluted air.
Lexey Swall

Last month, the editors of Time Magazine featured an online piece about the community which they say has the worst air in the nation - Bakersfield.

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Environment
6:23 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Proposal Could Raise The Cost Of A Yosemite Visit

Yosemite National Park (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A visit to Yosemite National Park may soon become more expensive. On Monday the park service announced a plan to raise the single vehicle entry fee from $20 dollars to $30 for a seven day pass. The cost of an annual pass would also rise from $40 to $60. 

The proposal would also raise campsite fees, and the cost for hikers and motorcyclists:

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Drought
5:19 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

California Drought To Persist, Even Worsen

Credit National Weather Service - Hanford

Predictions suggest the California drought is likely to persist, and even worsen in some areas. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says complete drought recovery is "unlikely this winter' in California.

Kevin Werner is NOAA's Western Region Climate Director.

He says the 2012-to-2014 period is the driest on record in California.

And low reservoir storage reflects that.

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Drought
4:31 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Private Well Failures Spike In Tulare County

Each red dot on this map represents one household with a dry well in Tulare County.
Credit Tulare County Office Of Emergency Services

The drought in Central California has hit many farmers and homeowners hard. Perhaps those hardest hit are in Tulare County where the number of dry wells spiked this week. 

New data released today from the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services reports the number of private well failures in the county grew by 19 percent since October 6.

Andrew Lockman with the agency says the increase is due to more homeowners reporting dry wells and new data from partnering agencies.

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Wildfire
2:10 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Cal Fire Air Tankers Cleared To Fly After Yosemite Crash

File photo
Credit Twitter.com / CAL FIRE PIO Kevin Berlant / https://twitter.com/CALFIRE_PIO

Cal Fire's fleet of 22 firefighting air tankers are back in service. The planes were on a safety stand down after a tanker crash this week in Yosemite National Park. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Tuesday crash killed pilot Geoffrey Hunt as he was about to drop retardant on the Dog Rock Fire near Yosemite's west entrance.

The safety stand-down was intended to give officials time to inspect the remaining aircraft and allow other pilots time to recover.

Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott:

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Fracking
6:41 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

California Makes Changes To Fracking Regulations

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The state of California is making some changes to its new fracking regulations based on nearly 100,000  comments from the public. This is the third version of the regulations for fracking, which injects sand, water and chemicals underground to release oil.

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Environment
6:32 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Environmentalists Sue To Stop Bakersfield Oil-By-Rail Project

A coalition of environmental groups is suing Kern County to block the expansion of a railyard at the Alon Refinery in Bakersfield.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A coalition of environmental groups is suing Kern County over its approval of a project that would expand oil-by-rail shipments at a Bakersfield refinery. 

The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the railyard expansion at the Alon Refinery on Rosedale Highway in September. The project would allow the refinery to process crude oil from the Midwest, delivered to Bakersfield by train.

Kassie Siegel is with the Center For Biological Diversity, one of the groups in the lawsuit. 

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Wildfire
6:09 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Cal Fire Air Tanker Crashes Near Yosemite While Battling Dog Rock Fire

A Grumman S2T air tanker like the one that crashed Tuesday fighting a fire near Yosemite. (file photo)
Credit Cal Fire

An air tanker that was battling a wildfire burning near the Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite National Park crashed on Tuesday afternoon. 

Emergency crews reached the wreckage in steep and rugged terrain in the evening and found the solo pilot dead. The name of the pilot is being withheld pending notification of family.

The Grumman S2T was based out of the Hollister Air Attack base. It was operated by Cal Fire and was assisting federal crews in fighting the 130 acre Dog Rock Fire. 

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Environment
1:27 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Is Building A Reservoir Within A Reservoir The Answer To California's Long-Term Water Crisis?

Ron Jacobsma is the general manager of the Friant Water Authority which represents 15,000 farmers on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Ezra David Romero Valley Public Radio

It’s been one of the worst dry spells in recorded history in California and some rain would be nice. One possible answer to the state’s water woes could come as soon as November, when a new water bond goes before voters. To answer the state’s future water woes a water bond is on the November ballot which if passed could create new reservoirs.  FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports from Fresno County where planners are already studying the site for what could be the state’s newest water storage facility.  

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Drought
3:19 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Brown Orders More Action On Drought

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California's ongoing drought is prompting Governor Jerry Brown to take new executive action.

Friday, Brown ordered that money be made available to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households without running water.

He also extended the prohibition on price-gouging during emergencies to apply to the drought.

Finally, Brown is requiring state agencies to identify acute water shortages and work with counties and local agencies to address them.

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Wildfire
4:56 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Suspects Identified In Courtney Fire, Arson Fires

The Courtney Fire burns to the shore of Bass Lake on Sunday September 14.
Credit 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.

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Wildfire
6:42 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Bass Lake Residents On Edge After Courtney Fire

A burned SUV sits on a driveway of a destroyed home on Monday afternoon near Road 426 and Cedar Drive in Oakhurst.
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.

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Environment
6:03 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Brown Signs Historic Groundwater Legislation

California now has its first laws regulating the use of groundwater. Governor Jerry Brown signed the package of legislation today.
Office of Governor Jerry Brown

It’s going to become more difficult to drill a well in California. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on a package of groundwater legislation signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

The regulations will require local agencies to create and implement groundwater management plans within five years and meet groundwater sustainability levels within 20 years. Brown says the laws, combined with the Legislature's bi-partisan approval of a water bond slated for the November ballot, represent a giant step forward toward securing the state’s water supply.

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Environment
12:49 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Valley Farmers Worried About New Groundwater Regulations

file photo
Credit California Department of Water Resources

California Governor Jerry Brown made history Tuesday morning when he signed into law three bills that for the first time will regulate groundwater in the state. California had been the only state in the nation that did not regulate groundwater at the state level.

While many environmental groups praised the move, a number of valley agriculture interests opposed the new regulations. This week on Valley Edition, we talked to Joel Nelson of the Exeter-based group California Citrus Mutual about his concerns about the new laws. 

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Environment
11:47 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Can't Afford To Dig A New Well? You'll Have To Hire This Guy

Eugene Keeney delivers water all across Central California. He says the calls came in extra early this year.
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. 

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Wildfire
7:37 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

UPDATE: Courtney Fire Near Bass Lake Destroys 33 Homes, Now 90 Percent Contained

The Courtney Fire burns to the shore of Bass Lake on Sunday September 14.
Don L. Weaver Valley Public Radio

UPDATE: 9/18/2014 - 9 A.M.

Cal Fire officials say the Courtney Fire is 90 percent contained.

UPDATE: 9/18/2014- 7:30 A.M. 

Containment of the Courtney Fire has now risen to 80 percent. As of Wednesday evening, all evacuations have been lifted.

UPDATE: 9/17/2014 - 6 P.M.

Cal Fire reports the Courtney Fire is now 70 percent contained. As of Wednesday evening all evacuations have been lifted. 

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Environment
5:44 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Interactive Website Aims to Tackle Water Issues

Credit cawaterchallenge.org

In California, water availability is becoming a serious problem—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t creative solutions.

Developers at a San Francisco non-profit have created the California Water Challenge, an interactive website that aims to teach players about the state’s water problems while prompting them to make difficult decisions about how to solve them.

Noel Perry is the founder of Next 10, the company that created the tool.

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Drought
6:00 am
Wed September 10, 2014

New Field Poll Shows Strong Support For Water Bond

Credit Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A Field Poll released today  shows strong support for the water bond on California’s November ballot.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say they’ll support the $7.5 billion bond in the fall election. 27 percent oppose it, while 21 percent remain undecided. But awareness of the measure remains low. The Field Poll found just 36 percent of likely voters had seen or heard anything about the bond. But support for the bond was even higher among voters with prior knowledge of the measure.

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Energy
6:17 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Kern County Gives Oil-By-Rail Project Go-Ahead

The Alon Refinery in Bakersfield will soon get a new railyard under a plan approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve plans by for a new oil-by-rail facility at a Bakersfield area refinery. 

The Alon Refinery on Rosedale Highway would restart operations with shipments of crude oil from the Dakotas delivered to Bakersfield by train.

A number of environmental groups raised concerns about the potential for accidents, and the project's impact on CO2 emissions. They also questioned the thoroughness of the project's environmental study.

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