Environment

Drought
6:19 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

California Water Conservation Rate Drops As Does Water Content in Snow

file photo
Credit John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s water supply continues to diminish. The water content in the Sierra snowpack is the worst it’s been this time of year since 1991. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, water conservation rates are equally dismal, dropping dramatically in January.

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Environment
11:03 am
Wed February 18, 2015

Efforts To Restore Spring-Run Salmon On San Joaquin River Move Ahead

Friant Dam (file photo)
Credit State Department of Water Resources

State and federal fish and wildlife agencies will take a significant step today in restoring what was once the largest salmon run in California. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, thousands of hatchery-raised spring-run Chinook salmon will be released into the San Joaquin River.

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Environment
11:58 am
Tue February 10, 2015

California Will Strengthen Oil Drilling Waste Rules

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California says it will do a better job of monitoring oil drilling that could affect the state’s groundwater supply. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on a new plan out Monday.

Drilling for oil can be messy. About 90 percent of the fluid that comes up is waste water and the oil companies have to dispose of it somewhere. California lets them inject the waste back into the ground in designated locations. But last summer the state became aware that some of these injections were happening in unauthorized locations. That prompted a review of the practice.

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Environment
10:11 am
Mon February 9, 2015

California Legislature Wants Oversight On Water Bond Money

file photo
Credit John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

California voters have approved spending billions of dollars on water management projects. But some lawmakers are worried about where the money will go. They’ll hold two oversight hearings this week. 

In total, California has $7.5 billion in bond revenue to work with. Most will be allocated to state departments through the budget process.

Democrat Mark Levine chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee, which will hold an oversight hearing on the bond. Levine says the state should be cautious.

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Environment
4:42 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Central Valley Gets Millions For Drought Relief

The Friant Kern Canal is part of the Central Valley Project (file photo)
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Federal government is giving California’s Central Valley millions of dollars for drought relief. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on Friday's announcement. 

The US Bureau of Reclamation is allocating about $30 million for the Central Valley Project, a water project which stretches 400 miles and provides enough water for a third of California’s farm land. The money will go toward drought monitoring, pumping projects and water efficiency efforts, among other things.

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Environment
12:07 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Research Project Will Help Scientists Understand Major California Storms

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are predicting that an "atmospheric river" will bring much needed rain to Northern California this weekend.
Credit National Weather Service - Hanford

 “Atmospheric rivers” play a huge role in determining California’s water supply. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a team of scientists is launching state-of-the-art equipment by land and sea to study the storms.

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Environment
6:12 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

California's Drought Worsens Uranium Pollution In Valley Wells

File photo
Credit John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

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Yosemite
12:12 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Rare Red Fox Spotted In Yosemite National Park

Credit Yosemite National Park

Often when we hear news about threatened or endangered species, it’s bad news – populations dwindling, and species struggling to survive. But last week there was a bit of good news, when park wildlife biologists made an amazing discovery. For the first time in nearly 100 years, the rare Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted in Yosemite National Park last month. It’s a major milestone for a species that is thought to consist of only 50 individual animals.

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Environment
11:43 am
Sat January 31, 2015

January Snow Survey In California "Dismally Meager"

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Department of Water Resources says the state’s snowpack is “dismally meager.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a lack of snow in the Sierra is keeping rivers low and drying up some reservoirs. 

While December storms brought some hope that California’s drought would ease, January’s second snow survey shattered it. 

Dave Rizzardo: “Unfortunately it seems like it’s a trend in the last three or four years, that’s January’s just been a dud.”

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Environment
5:59 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Wildlife Agencies See Near Collapse Of 2014 Salmon Species

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California and federal wildlife agencies say the entire winter-run of naturally-spawning Chinook salmon may have collapsed in 2014. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the agencies will begin releasing triple the number of hatchery-raised juveniles next week.

High water temperatures in the Sacramento River last summer and fall caused 95-percent of winter-run salmon egg and fry to die.

Maria Rea: “I think this is really unprecedented really that we’ve seen this level of temperature mortality.”

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Environment
4:43 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Study: California Pesticde Assements Thorough, Slow

A strawberry field in California (file photo)
Credit Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

The National Academy of Sciences released a report today on how the California Department of Pesticide Regulation assesses the safety of pesticides. It found that DPR assessments are thorough, but not very timely. It typically takes six to ten years. 

The report also says DPR needs to create a clearer process for ranking the hazard of pesticides and identifying which pesticides should take priority. Paul Tower with the Pesticide Action Network says the report confirms concerns the group has raised over the years.

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Environment
5:26 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

New Grant Aims To Help Save Valley's Tricolored Blackbird

A Tricolored Blackbird (file photo)
Credit Linda Pittman / Audubon California

A federal grant announced today could give California dairy farmers incentive to help save the Tricolored Blackbird. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the population of the bird has plummeted in the last four years.

California’s Tricolored Blackbirds are found mainly in the southern San Joaquin Valley and often nest in fields where dairy farmers grow feed. Come harvest time, nestlings are often plowed under. That, combined with wetland loss and drought, has led to a population decline of 44 percent since 2011.

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Environment
7:30 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

California Air Regulators Eye Methane Emissions From Oil, Ag

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California's air regulators are increasingly turning their attention to a greenhouse gas that has largely gone overlooked - methane. 

According to the U.S. EPA, when it comes to climate change, methane emissions have an impact 20 times greater than CO2 emissions, pound for pound.

That's why Governor Jerry Brown singled out the gas during his inaugural address this month as part of his plan to combat climate change. 

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Environment
1:16 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Mary Nichols, California's Environmental "Rock Star" on Valley Edition

Mary Nichols is chair of the California Air Resources Board
Credit California Air Resources Board

The LA Times recently called Mary Nichols a “rock star.” In 2013 Time Magazine called her one of the 100 most influential people in the world and the Thomas Edison on environmentalism. She’s the chair of the California Air Resources Board, and if it has something to do with air quality or climate change in the state, she probably has something to say about it.

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Environment
6:05 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

California Tightens Rules On Popular Pesticide For Strawberries, Almonds

file photo
Credit Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

California has announced stringent new rules on a common pesticide used in the production of strawberries, almonds, tomatoes, and peppers.

Chloropicrin is a fumigant that is used to treat the soil before crops are planted. The new rules are more stringent than those adopted by the U.S. EPA in 2012.

Under the new regulations from the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, farmers will be required to provide larger buffer zones when applying the chemical, and will be required to reduce the size of fields where it is applied.

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Fracking
5:32 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Independent Scientific Study On Fracking In California Released

The oil extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing is much different in California than in other states. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, that’s the finding of the first independent scientific assessment required under the state’s new fracking regulations.

California has shallow, vertical fracking wells that require about 140,000 gallons of water per well to extract oil. That’s millions of gallons less than other states. But the fluids contain more concentrated chemicals.

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Agriculture
6:00 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Drainage Key To Reported Deal Between Farmers And Feds

File Photo - Pistachio field near Bakersfield, Calif
Credit Amy Quinton / CPR

A deal between a valley water district and the federal government could help resolve a decade’s long dispute over land on the Valley’s Westside. 

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Westlands Water District would take on the task of providing irrigation drainage, which had been a federal responsibility. In exchange, the government would forgive debt that the agency owed for construction of the Central Valley Project.

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Environment
4:16 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Supreme Court Gives Environmental Groups A Win By Passing On Smelt Case

Delta smelt (file photo)
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could have big consequences for both valley farmers and the environment. The court decided today not to hear a case brought by local ag groups and southern California water agencies that sought to overturn protections for the Delta smelt under the Endangered Species Act.

The move lets stand a lower court decision that upheld restrictions on the amount of water that can be pumped out of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. 

Trent Orr, an attorney with Earthjustice says the decision is an important one. 

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Environment
10:06 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Winter Snow Survey Better Than Last Year But Not Good Enough

California’s first winter snow survey paints another fairly bleak picture of the potential for runoff restoring water levels in the state’s reservoirs. (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California has had greater than normal precipitation this year, but not greater than normal snowfall. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the first winter snow survey shows the amount of water in the snow statewide is 50 percent of average.

One third of the state relies on water that comes from melting Sierra snowpack. Frank Gehrke with the Department of Water Resources says manual readings show water in the snow on Echo Summit is four inches, just 33 percent of average. He says it’s not enough to fill the state’s reservoirs.

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Drought
5:27 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

California Needs 11 Trillion Gallons Of Water To End Drought

Water scientist Jay Famiglietti
Credit UC Irvine

California needs one and a half times the maximum volume of water in Lake Mead, the largest US reservoir, to end its drought. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, NASA scientists released the finding today.

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