environment

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.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council approved a new general plan last night that for the first time attempts to but the brakes on suburban sprawl. 

Over the next two decades, the plan calls for about half of the city's future growth to take place within the existing city limits and the rest in new growth areas like west of Highway 99 and in Southeast Fresno. 

Mayor Ashley Swearengin called the council's 5-2 vote historic, and a new direction for the city.

California Needs 11 Trillion Gallons Of Water To End Drought

Dec 16, 2014
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.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region

The recent storms that have hit northern and Central California have much brought needed rain and snow to the state. But they also created a new problem for the operators of the massive pumps in the Delta that supply users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California - too much water. 

Ara Azhderian is with the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority in Los Banos. 

Azhderian: "With all that water comes a whole lot of mud and trash and debris as well, so a little too much of a good thing too fast."

Strong Storms May Not Improve California Water Supply Much

Dec 11, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Northern California storms are causing water levels to rise in the state’s reservoirs. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the rain won’t do a lot to improve the state’s water supply.

California now has above average rainfall at the eight monitoring stations in the Northern Sierra. But the storm is not going to come close to ending the state’s drought. The Department of Water Resources says California would need five to ten more storms this season. Doug Carlson with DWR says storms have also been too warm.

Heather Heinks / City of Fresno General Plan Update

The Fresno City Council is scheduled to hear public comments on the city’s new 2035 general plan in meeting at the Convention Center this evening. The move is the last step before a vote next week on the document that will chart the city’s growth for decades to come.

City planning director Jennifer Clark says the new General Plan attempts to answer a question that has perplexed city leaders for decades:

Study Says California Drought Caused By Natural Climate Patterns

Dec 9, 2014
CA Dept of Water Resources

A new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says natural occurring climate patterns –not climate change- are the primary drivers of California’s drought. 

The NOAA study says a high-pressure atmospheric ridge off the West Coast blocked important winter storms from California for three winters. Ocean surface temperature patterns made the ridge much more likely. The decreased precipitation is almost the opposite of what climate change models project.

Californians Conserved Less Water In October

Dec 3, 2014
Valley Public Radio

For the second straight month, California’s water conservation rate has declined. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the State Water Resources Control Board says the reason behind the drop isn’t clear.

You could call it “conservation fatigue.” But the reason behind California’s diminishing conservation rate is more complicated than that. The statewide rate dropped from 10.3 percent in September to six-point-seven percent in October. Eric Oppenheimer with the State Water Resources Control Board says one reason for the difference may be the season change.

Water Levels In California's Reservoirs Continue To Drop

Nov 12, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The water in some of California’s major reservoirs is nearing historic lows. The Department of Water Resources says statewide, all reservoirs are currently holding about 57 percent of their historic norms.

But levels are dropping significantly in some of the major reservoirs. Maury Roos, is the Chief Hydrologist with DWR. He says the Lake Oroville Reservoir is near the lowest level it’s ever been.

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