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environment

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.

Friant Water Authority

A section of the the Friant-Kern Canal in Tulare County is sinking so much that it's lost about 60 percent of its flow.

Doug DeFlitch with the Friant Water Authority says the canal that helps irrigate a million acres of farmland has sunk two to three feet in some places over about a 25 mile area. The original design capacity in the area is about 4,000 cubic feet per second and he says it’s dropped to 1,600 cfs. 

Kern County Public Health Dept

Fourteen farm workers in Kern County have been treated for exposure to a chemical after a presumed case of pesticide drift early this morning near Bakersfield. Kern County Public Health officials say the incident took place near Gosford Road and Taft Highway. The source of the pesticide is not known, but an adjacent field had been treated with a soil fumigant just yesterday. Kern County fire and hazardous materials teams also responded and treated workers who were exposed to the chemicals.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Drive through the pomegranate and pistachio orchards between Highways 41 and 99 and you may stumble upon Valley Teen Ranch, a cluster of residential homes where juvenile offenders come to be rehabilitated.

Today, a few men are in their living room playing a basketball video game and making small talk with Connie Clendenan, the ranch’s CEO. “I'm for the Warriors, don't we have them?” asks Clendenan. “I'm from Oakland, so yeah,” one of the men laughs.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Lost in the coverage of the extension of California's cap-and-trade system is another bill that aims to reduce local air pollution in communities like the San Joaquin Valley. AB-617 aims to increase oversight of major stationary sources of pollution that are also regulated by cap-and-trade. Under the law, the state will now make public more data on pollution sources, and local air districts will be required to develop plans to bring these facilities into compliance with the latest available emission control technology.

California WaterFix

It could be California’s biggest water infrastructure project in two generations – a plan to build two massive, 35 mile-long tunnels deep beneath the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta. Dubbed California WaterFix, it would send water from Northern California to farms and cities in the south, bypassing the fragile delta ecosystem.

National Park Service

A visit to Yosemite National Park's Tuolumne Meadows is always special. But this winter's historic snowfall made for an especially memorable season for the two people who stayed behind when Tioga Road closed, and everyone else departed - Tuolumne Winter Rangers Laura and Rob Pilewski. This year they endured massive snowfall, the loss of electricity, and went two months without seeing another person.

After Massive Bee Kill, Beekeepers Want Answers From Fresno County

May 17, 2017

The Beekeeper

When Rafael Reynaga came to check on his bee colonies in a Fresno almond orchard, he found a carpet full of dead bees on the ground.

Reynaga picked up a hive and found two inches of bees at the bottom. He says most were dead, but a few were still moving.

Dead bees reek, Reynaga says, like a dead rat.

He's been working with bees since the 1980s but he says he'd never experienced a bee kill firsthand until this February.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In late April, we launched a series called “Contaminated” where our team explores communities in the region affected by water unsafe to drink. In our first story, we visited a Fresno County community that can’t afford to maintain the arsenic treatment plant the federal government funded 10 years ago. 

We continue today with a look at a Madera County mountain community where residents have been exposed to a different hazardous material in water for decades—but they could have clean water by the end of the year.

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