environment

The Salt
1:10 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

California's Drought Isn't Making Food Cost More. Here's Why

Farmworkers pull weeds from a field of lettuce near Gonzales, Calif. Salinas Valley farms like this one rely on wells, which haven't been affected much by the drought.
George Rose Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 1:48 pm

The entire state of California is in a severe drought. Farmers and farmworkers are hurting.

You might expect this to cause food shortages and higher prices across the country. After all, California grows 95 percent of America's broccoli, 81 percent of its carrots and 99 percent of the country's artichokes, almonds and walnuts, among other foods.

Yet there's been no sign of a big price shock. What gives?

Here are three explanations.

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Drought
6:22 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

California Water Managers May Limit River Water Diversion For Crops

California water officials are considering new rules this week that may prohibit some California farmers from diverting river water to irrigate their crops. (file photo of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River)
Credit State Department of Water Resources

Some California farmers may not be allowed to divert river water to irrigate their crops this summer. The restriction is part of new rules being considered this week by state water managers.

Some members of the Water Resources Control board say suspending water rights is an unavoidable temporary emergency measure caused by the drought.

Felicia Marcus Chairs the Board, and says any limits on water rights should be clearly explained, and narrow in scope.

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Health
6:11 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

State Approves Expansion of Kettleman Hills Toxic Waste Facility

Kettleman City is home to one of the largest toxic waste landfills in California.
Credit California Department of Public Health

 

After 6 years, the state of California has approved the expansion of a toxic waste landfill near Kettleman City. The decision will allow the landfill to expand by 50%, or 5 million cubic yards, which owners at Waste Management Incorporated estimate will last about 8 years.

Jim Marxen is a spokesperson for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

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Fracking
6:04 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Report Casts Doubt On Potential Of Monterey Shale Oil Production

An anticipated oil boom in California may be delayed a bit, if it happens at all. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on some new estimates published today that could dampen the state’s fracking future.

Fracking is an oil extraction process that involves pumping large amounts of water, sand and chemicals into rock. It had been estimated California may be able to recover more than 13 billion barrels of Monterey Shale oil.

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Business & Economy
6:28 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Report: Drought Won't Hurt California Economy

Farm laborers work in a citrus grove near Fresno (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California’s drought may have a lot of negative consequences, but a new report out today says the state’s economy won’t be one of them. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

The report from Moody’s Investors Service finds, short term, California’s economy won’t suffer as a result of the drought. It finds the state’s reliance on income taxes and sales taxes will largely provide a buffer. H.D. Palmer with the governor’s Department of Finance, agrees the state’s economy has weathered the drought so far. 

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Environment
11:28 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Brown Proposing Additional $66 Million to Help Fight Wildfires

Governor Jerry Brown wants California to spend more money on firefighting resources. In his May budget revision, Brown is proposing an additional $66 million for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. - file photo
Credit Sierra National Forest

California’s firefighting agency, Cal Fire, has already responded to about 1,500 fires this year. That’s nearly twice what would be normal. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, Governor Jerry Brown wants Cal Fire to have more money to fight the extended wildfire season.

Under Brown’s May budget revision, Cal Fire would receive an additional $66 million. Cal Fire’s Daniel Berlant says the money would allow the department to retain the seasonal firefighters it’s hired, including 300 last month. 

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Books
9:07 am
Tue May 20, 2014

New Book Chronicles 'Hidden History' Of The Sierra Nevada

Sierra Stories - Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues by Gary Noy
Credit Heyday Books

California’s isn’t just home to internationally renowned gems like Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks – it’s also a place that’s rich in its own human history. And while many stories, like the Gold Rush and Hetch Hetchy are well known, a new book seeks to document the “hidden history” of the Sierra. It’s called “Sierra Stories: Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots and Rogues” by author Gary Noy, a history professor at Rocklin College.

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Drought
3:55 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Drought Could Cost California Agriculture Industry $1.7 Billion

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new study shows that California’s drought could result in severe economic losses for Central Valley farmers. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the analysis also shows the drought will mean thousands of job losses.

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Environment
10:36 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Governor Jerry Brown Says California Wildfires Linked To Climate Change

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown says human-caused climate change is probably the main reason wildfires are scorching large parts of San Diego County at this time of year.

Brown told CNN that climate change is the reason why the California fire season is now 70 days longer than it was in the past. He says high winds and dry conditions make fires larger and more devastating.

Brown:  “Those conditions are definitely caused by climate change, global warming induced by human activity.”

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Drought
2:33 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

California To Import Hydropower To Meet Summer Demand

Friant Dam - file photo
Credit San Joaquin River Restoration Program

California energy officials say there’s less hydropower available in the state because of the drought. But as Steve Milne reports from Sacramento, the state plans to meet peak summer demand by importing power.

California may not have had much rain but its neighbors to the north are in better shape. Cal-ISO, the agency that manages the state’s energy supply, says that’s where California will get some of its hydropower this summer.

Cal-ISO’s Steven Greenlee says California will have about 1,500 megawatts less of in-state hydroelectricity than last year.

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Government & Politics
6:55 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Brown's Revised Budget Would Help State During Drought, Cal Fire

file photo
Credit Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown’s revised budget proposal contains more money to address complications from the drought in California. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, he wants more money to go to firefighting, food assistance, and wildlife preservation. 

Governor Brown wants to give an additional $142 million to help the state through the drought. The drought has already caused an early fire season. Under the new spending plan, the Division of Forestry and Fire Protection would get $67 million more to suppress wildfires. 

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Drought
6:29 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Valley Growers At Odds Over Millerton Lake Water

Millerton Lake is the site of the state's latest water fight, pitting downtstream San Joaquin River growers against those who typically get Friant water on the valley's east side.
Ezra David Romero Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced today that for the first in this history of Friant Dam, the oldest water rights holders on the San Joaquin River - the Exchange Contractors  - will begin to draw down water from Millerton Lake.

The move pits farmers in Merced County against those on the east side of the valley from Fresno to Kern, and underscores the divide between the holders of historic water rights, and those whose supplies came about in the middle of the 20th century.

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Health
7:50 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Event Asks How To Make Kern County More Walkable, Healthy

Downtown Bakersfield (file photo)
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

Across California, urban planners and health professionals are increasingly looking at the connections between the design of our communities and the health of the people who live there. Many neighborhoods that lack sidewalks and access to parks have dramatically different health outcomes than those that do. Correcting that problem is the focus of an event taking place on Thursday in Kern County called “Community Design Matters   - Building Walkable Healthy Livable Communities." Dr.

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Environment
10:20 am
Tue May 6, 2014

CAL FIRE Fears Fire Season Could Be Worst Ever

file photo
Credit Twitter.com / CAL FIRE PIO Kevin Berlant / https://twitter.com/CALFIRE_PIO

CAL FIRE says it fears this year's fire season could be the worst on record.  Bob Moffitt reports on the state's preparations.

In Southern California, fire season never really ended.  In Northern California, CAL FIRE started hiring firefighters four months ahead of schedule.

Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird says the state is in the middle of the driest three years on record.

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Environment
3:44 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

California Water Officials Report Near Record May Snow Levels

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

This year’s final measurement of the Sierra snowpack showed near-record low water levels for this time of year. The state takes five monthly measurements each year from January to May.

Doug Carlson with the Department of Water Resources says the state-wide “snow water equivalent” is only at about 18 percent of what would be typical for the first of May.

Carlson: “That means that we are looking at very little relief coming from the mountains in the way of snow melt to provide us with drinking water over the summer and into the fall.”

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Environment
9:22 am
Tue April 29, 2014

New Pollution Mapping Tool Aims To Aid Environmental Justice Fight In Central Valley

Credit The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Last week, the state of California released a new interactive online map that lets you look at how environmentally burdened your neighborhood is compared to the rest of the state. The tool, called CalEnviroScreen 2.0 combines both data on pollution sources and the demographics of a community, including poverty, unemployment and linguistic isolation to compute a score that reflects a community’s overall environmental burden.

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Drought
4:59 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Governor Brown Issues New Executive Order In Reponse To Drought

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown’s latest executive order to combat the drought has some aid for farmers, fish and firefighters – and some requests for all Californians.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

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Environment
5:24 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

New Analysis Of Pollution Burdens Ranks Fresno, Valley Counties Worst In State

Central Valley counties ranked among the worst in the CalEnviroScreen 2.0 analysis
Credit The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

A new ranking of environmental health in California shows that many Fresno County neighborhoods rank among the worst in the state when it comes to pollution.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's CalEnviroScreen 2.0 database examines how the state's approximately 8,000 census tracts rank on a variety of indicators in two major areas: pollution exposure and socioeconomic factors that increase vulnerability to pollution. The database combines the two to give each tract a score.

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The Salt
12:26 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Fields And Farm Jobs Dry Up With California's Worsening Drought

Recent rains kept Suzanne and Mike Collins' orange grove alive, but the rainy season is ending. If they don't get federal irrigation water by this summer, their trees will start dying.
Kirk Siegler/NPR

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 3:47 pm

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Cove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gather on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.

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Around the Nation
2:00 pm
Sun April 20, 2014

California's Drought Ripples Through Businesses, Then To Schools

Cannon Michael's farm grows tomatoes, melons and onions, among other crops. This year, however, Michael will have to fallow one-fifth of the land due to the drought
Thomas Dreisbach NPR

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 8:16 am

Cannon Michael runs an 11,000-acre farm in California's Central Valley. His family has been farming in the state for six generations.

Michael's multimillion-dollar operation usually provides a wealth of crops including tomatoes, onions and melons. But recently, he's pretty pessimistic about work.

"It is going to be a year that's probably, at best, maybe break even. Or maybe lose some money," Michael tells NPR's Arun Rath.

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