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Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

If you’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket, you may have been required to attend traffic school. Likewise, cause a scene at work, you may have to take anger management classes. But what if you violate burning restrictions? The local air district runs a different kind of class intended to spark good behavior.

On damp, chilly nights Patrick Smith has a tradition: He builds a fire in his fireplace. Smith lives in northwest Fresno. A gas-powered furnace heats his home, but Smith still thinks of a fire as a gathering place for his family.

Today on Valley Edition we hear a report about changes looming in Fresno's historic Chinatown neighborhood. Many roads in the area are already closed with construction on high-speed rail, and that's causing some concern among business owners. Yet others are optimistic about a brighter future ahead, with new community improvements, millions in cap-and-trade funding, new housing, and the future rail station. We also hear a report about the role the U.S. military has played in researching valley fever, much of which has taken place at Lemoore Naval Air Station.

Westlands Water District website

Growers in the Westlands Water District hope congressional approval of a deal with the federal government could resolve a long-standing problem on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley - drainage. However final approval of the deal reached in 2015 remains both elusive and controversial.  

Kern County Department of Public Health

New data from the California Department of Public Health show that cases of valley fever are on the rise across the state. The airborne fungal disease is also the subject of a new public awareness campaign in Kern County, featuring sheriff Donny Youngblood.

Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

California’s historic drought may be over, but scientists are still hard at work assessing its impact on the ecosystem. Perhaps nowhere is that work more interesting, or important, than with the Sierra’s Giant Sequoias. These ancient trees have weathered drought, fires and floods for millennia. But how did they fare in this most recent dry spell, and what can their health tell us about other problems in the forest?

California Department of Pesticide Regulation Facebook page

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has officially adopted new regulations on the use of pesticides near schools and daycare centers. The new rules go into effect in January and prohibit application on crops that are within a quarter mile of schools and daycare centers, Monday through Friday between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

Google / Aclima

An online tool from tech giant Google is giving California residents a new look at ground level air pollution in their neighborhoods. The company announced this week new air pollution data collected by its fleet of Google Street View cars.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new proposal from the National Park Service would result in a big hike in Yosemite National Park entrance fees during the popular summer months. Under the proposal, which also applies to 16 other parks including Sequoia & Kings Canyon, the entrance fee between May first and September 30 would be $70 per vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person. The funds would be used to improve facilities, infrastructure, and visitor services, with an emphasis on deferred maintenance projects.

Laura Tsutsui / KVPR

Thirty years ago, a bird native to California was on the brink of extinction. Known for its impressive size, the California condor has been the target of recovery efforts ever since. Now, as biologists prepare to release more birds into the wild in Kern County, the recovery program is gaining new momentum.

 

Westlands Water District website

Last week was a bad one for one of California Governor Jerry Brown’s biggest priorities – the project known as California WaterFix. The board of the Westlands Water District voted 7-1 to reject a proposal to participate in, and help pay for the $16 billion twin tunnel project. That vote has left many asking whether the project has a future. 

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

A major scandal rocked the auto industry two years ago when it was discovered that the car company Volkswagen had been systematically cheating on diesel emissions tests. That scandal might soon turn into a big boon for electric cars in the Central Valley.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California farmers and environmental justice leaders are joining forces to support a bill that would help fund a clean drinking water program.

From Keith Pickett’s front yard just east of Bakersfield you can see the trees of where the official city begins. He’s on the board of a tiny water system with less than 30 homes. It’s called the East Wilson Road Water Company and the water he’s washing his dishes with is polluted with nitrates.

Wildfires have always been a part of the Central California landscape. But in recent years blazes like the Detwiler Fire (2017) and the Erskine Fire (2016) have been different. In each case, veteran firefighters who have been on wildland blazes for decades say they saw the fires demonstrating "extreme" behavior like they haven't seen before. They burned hotter, faster, and didn't die down at night as fires typically do. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Oil companies in California produce more water than oil. In the San Joaquin Valley that also has created a problem: what to do with all of that unwanted water? In most cases that wastewater is injected back into the ground, deep below the aquifer. But in some cases, injections may have contaminated federally protected aquifers that could be clean enough for drinking water.

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