Environment

News about energy and the environment

U.S. Forest Service InciWeb

Forest service officials say a juvenile is suspected of starting the Willow Fire near Bass Lake which has now burned more than 2,000 acres and is 30% contained. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports the fire may prompt more evacuations.

Residents in the Cascadel Woods community are already under a pre evacuation advisory but fire officials announced today that if the fire spreads they will issue a mandatory evacuation within 12 to 24 hours.

Cody Norris is a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

U.S. National Forest Service

The Willow Fire near Bass Lake in Madera County has grown to 1700 acres and is just 5% contained as of Tuesday afternoon. The fire has not brought activity at the lake to a stop, but it does have businesses and vacationers concerned.

Gordon Barker and his wife drove from Fresno to see the fire.

He pointed out the dead trees on the hillside killed by prolonged drought and beetle infestation turning the area into a tinder box.

Study Shows Wildfires Occurring At Higher Elevations

Jul 27, 2015
Sierra National Forest

A new study shows wildfires are increasingly occurring at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, researchers say climate change and some forest management practices may be driving the change.

Scientists say in the early 20th century, fires rarely burned above 8,000 feet in the Sierra. But in the past three decades, several fires have burned at or above that level every year. The study suggests warming temperatures associated with climate change may be increasing tree density and the amount of fuel.

Scientists Discover What Makes Lake Tahoe Blue

Jul 23, 2015
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency newsletter Tahoe In Depth

Scientists have long thought that the blueness of Lake Tahoe was due to the lake’s clarity. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a new study shows that algae plays an important role.

For the past three years, UC Davis researchers have been measuring the degree of blueness in Lake Tahoe using a NASA research buoy. They compared those results with the lake’s clarity and found something surprising. 

Schadlow: “Clarity and blueness are controlled by very different things.” 

More Wildfires In California, But No 'Mega Fires' In 2015 So Far

Jul 22, 2015
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

There's been a significant increase in the number of wildfires this year in California. But, as Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento, the size of the fires has been relatively small.

Four years of drought and record warm temperatures have created dangerous wildfire conditions in California.

And, it's been a busy year for firefighters.

Berlant: "Already this year we've responded to well over 1200 more fires than we would in an average year for the same time period." 

Climate Scientist: Don't Count On El Nino To End California's Drought

Jul 22, 2015
DANIEL A. ANDERSON / UC Irvine

Federal climate scientists say it was a record warm June for California. Capital Public Radio's Ed Joyce reports the hot weather is forecast to continue into the fall.

In this fourth year of drought, NOAA says California had its warmest June in 121 years. The agency said last year was the warmest on record for the state. And this last winter, California had a record-low snowpack in the Sierra.

Famiglietti: "I think that this past winter is representative of what we will very likely be seeing more of in the future."

New "Super Scooper" To Help Firefighters In California

Jul 22, 2015
Lisa Herron / USFS

Firefighters in California have another resource to call on to combat wildfires. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The U.S. Forest Service in Lake Tahoe says the agency’s Bombardier 415 aircraft, nicknamed the “Super Scooper,” will be based out of the South Lake Tahoe Airport this summer.

Forest Service Fire Management Officer Kit Bailey says the aircraft increases the agency’s ability to respond to wildfires.

Scott Bauer / Bioscience

Marijuana is big business in California. By some estimates pot is actually the state's top cash crop. But with the boom in marijuana cultivation, there is also a significant environmental toll. Mountain tops are being leveled, and streams are being illegally diverted threatening species already stressed by the drought. With the possibility of marijuana legalization looming in 2016, the issue of how to clean up the environmental damage caused by pot production is a big concern. 

By now most people know that almonds use a lot of water, about one gallon per nut. Most growers are relying on groundwater even more this year because their surface water has been cut off because of the drought. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that brings a different problem all together, one that an “Almond Doctor” is trying to solve.

proterra company website

By this time next year, two brand new all electric buses will be rolling down the streets of Porterville. The move away from diesel and hybrid buses is part of efforts to clean up the valley’s air.

For the cost of just under 1-million dollars, Porterville is replacing two of their existing buses with a new generation of clean, emission free all-electric vehicles.

Richard Tree, Porterville’s Transportation Manager, says the decision to go all electric was an easy one.

California Moves To Limit New Lawns

Jul 16, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

New California homes and businesses may have less grass in the future. The state Water Commission passed a model ordinance Wednesday restricting the amount of turf that can be used in new developments with at least 500 square feet of landscaping. Grass can only make up 25 percent of residential yards. It will essentially be prohibited at non-residential buildings.

There have been previous versions of the model ordinance. But Commissioner Paula Daniels says this version better reflects California’s needs in the drought.

'Wild' Draws Huge Crowds To The Pacific Crest Trail

Jul 14, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

The Pacific Crest Trail runs two-thousand-six-hundred-fifty miles from Mexico to Canada. Usually a few hundred hardy souls make the trek every year. But, this year about ten times that number are attempting the arduous journey. Lesley McClurg hiked a section of the trail to find out what’s driving its popularity.

The Tuolumne Meadows post office in Yosemite National Park is packed. Ragged hikers wait in a long twisting line outside. 

Fire Officials: Hobby Drones Hamper Firefighting In California

Jul 14, 2015
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Federal and state fire officials are urging drone hobbyists to keep their unmanned aerial vehicles out of the sky during firefighting operations. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

Hobby drones caused the suspension of aerial operations recently as crews were fighting wildfires in three national forests in California. Shawna Legarza is the Fire and Aviation Director for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.

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:

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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