environment

California Water Conservation Rate Drops As Does Water Content in Snow

Mar 3, 2015
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.

Valley Farmers Face Second Year With No Federal Water Allocation

Feb 27, 2015
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The US Bureau of Reclamation says most farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will face a second year with no water from the Central Valley Project.

Ron Milligan is Operations Manager for the CVP. He says low reservoir storage is only part of the reason for the “zero allocation”.

Milligan:  “We’ve accumulated probably less than average snow for the month of February so we anticipate unfortunately the March 1 snow surveys are going to be probably even less fruitful then they were in February.”

Central Valley Friendly Landscaping Website - http://ucanr.edu/sites/cvlandscape/ / University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

It might become a little easier to replace your lawn with artificial grass if a new bill in Sacramento becomes law. FM89’s Joe Moore reports.

Assemblymember Rudy Salas says he wants to take the model the state has used to subsidize solar power on homes across the state and apply it to another green project – removing lawns.

Salas introduced a bill Tuesday that would provide a tax credit to homeowners who remove their lawns and replace them either with drought-resistant landscaping or synthetic lawns.

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

Feb 18, 2015
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.

California Ranchers Are Bouncing Back, But Still Feel Effects of Drought

Feb 17, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California ranchers are bouncing back after the drought forced many of them to sell their livestock last winter. The lack of rain stopped the grass from growing, and buying enough feed became too costly.  

This year, Capital Public Radio's Amy Quinton returned to the ranches she visited in 2014 to see how they’re doing and filed this report.

Jim Gates owns Nevada County Free Range Beef and was hit hard by the drought last year. 

Central Valley Gets Millions For Drought Relief

Feb 6, 2015
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.

Research Project Will Help Scientists Understand Major California Storms

Feb 4, 2015
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.

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.

Wildlife Agencies See Near Collapse Of 2014 Salmon Species

Jan 27, 2015
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.”

Study: California Pesticde Assements Thorough, Slow

Jan 23, 2015
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.

California Farmers Turn Sugar Beets Into Energy

Jan 22, 2015
Mendota Bioenergy

Struggling sugar beet farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are turning their crop into energy instead of sweetner. A pilot plant could prove to be good for the environment and the economy. 

They're called "energy beets." They look like a red table beet but, but they're larger, white, and very high in sucrose. Sugar beets in California date back to the late 1800's.

Kaffka: "Beets have been grown here commercially longer than any other place."

New Grant Aims To Help Save Valley's Tricolored Blackbird

Jan 21, 2015
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.

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. 

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.

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.

Independent Scientific Study On Fracking In California Released

Jan 14, 2015

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.

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. 

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

2014 was a year of ups and downs for the valley's largest industry, agriculture. The year began with virtually no rain and snow and fears of another dust bowl.

And while farmers and ranchers had a tough year, most survived and some even thrived. Rising milk prices boosted the bottom line for California dairymen and women and crops like tomatoes actually set new records.

So what will 2015 bring? We asked two industry experts to join us and offer their perspectives on six issues that will help define the valley's largest industry in the new year:

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The recent drop in oil prices may be a good thing for consumers at the gas pump, but has oil producers in Kern County worried. For a look ahead at what this means for the economy of the south valley in the new year, we talked to John Cox, energy industry reporter for the Bakersfield Californian on FM89's Valley Edition. 

Winter Snow Survey Better Than Last Year But Not Good Enough

Dec 31, 2014
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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