environment

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Despite the rains of the past weekend, California’s drought is still a huge problem for communities up and down the state. While many towns in the Valley are bracing for the economic impact of the drought, and the resulting loss of farm jobs, the community of Orange Cove also has to contend with concerns about its water supply.

Mayor Gabriel Jimenez says that while the city has five municipal wells to draw water from the aquifer, they can't be used due to nitrate pollution.

"Now our wells are shutdown, we're 100 percent dependent of surface water," says Jimenez. 

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

When farmworker Jose Gonzalez Cardenas can’t find work, he heads to the Westside Pool Hall in Mendota. Planting has hardly begun in the Central Valley, but everyone here is talking about the state’s drought, and what it could mean for the growing season.

“If there’s no water, we’re not going to have work,” Gonzalez says in Spanish.

Total California Water Storage Near Decade Low

Feb 6, 2014
State Department of Water Resources

The Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins are experiencing the steepest drop in water storage in nearly a decade. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a new study looked at all water storage in the basins, including snow, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater.

GOP Calls To Move High Speed Rail Funds To Other Projects

Feb 6, 2014
Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The Assembly Republican caucus says billions of dollars in California high-speed rail bonds and gas tax revenues would be better spent on infrastructure projects.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

GOP lawmakers want to take money from several different sources and spend it on road, highway, bridge and port projects.  What they don’t want to spend it on is high-speed rail.

Conway: “We’re done with that.  We’re over that.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

One of the best parts of living in Central California is our proximity to the Central Sierra. Right in our backyard, we have treasures like Mt Whitney, the Kern River, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks, plus thousands of acres of wilderness lands. But when it comes to the Sequoia National Forest and others in the National Forest system, budget cuts over recent years have taken a toll.

www.usbr.gov

Last Friday, the State Water Project took the unprecedented step of cutting projected water allocations for its contractors to zero. And other water users, including those who get supplies from the federal Central Valley Project are expecting severe cuts of their own. 

The drought has prompted many farmers to fallow their fields, and growers of permanent crops like almonds, grapes and pistachios are scrambling to find backup supplies to keep their trees and vines alive this year. 

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Starting this week, Valley Public Radio will share an occasional series, called Voices of the Drought. First up, is the story of small farmer Chia Lee.

Back in Laos, Chia Lee grew rice and corn on a mountainside. He never worried about rain there.

“We’re waiting for the monsoon rain in Laos, once a year, so we don’t worry about anything,” Lee says.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Westside farmers who banked excess water last year in San Luis Reservoir anticipating a drought won't have to give it up, according to an announcement today from the US Bureau of Reclamation. 

The farmers had faced the threat of losing that water to other farmers who hold senior water rights, such as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors. 

The Bureau was facing political bipartisan political pressure against reallocating the water. But the move could leave the door open to lawsuits. 

Anil Verma Associates / Fresno FAX

The Fresno City Council is set to debate a proposal tonight to bring a hi-tech express bus line to city. But as FM89’s Joe Moore reports, the $50 million federal grant that would fund the project is generating some controversy.
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The proposal calls for new high capacity express bus service, known as Bus Rapid Transit, to be built along Blackstone and Kings Canyon Avenues in Fresno. The new bus line would replace existing FAX service on those routes and would decrease travel time for riders by as much as an hour and a half in some cases.

Drought Forces California Ranchers To Make Tough Decisions

Jan 27, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California’s ranchers depend on fall and winter rains to keep grasses growing for their livestock. But the state’s drought is forcing them to make tough decisions. With rangelands dry statewide, moving herds isn’t an option. Many are resorting to buying feed, but its rising cost is making that choice difficult. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some ranchers must decide whether to sell their livestock or go out of business. 

Commentary: Time To Save The Sierra's Vanishing Trails

Jan 23, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

One of the great things about living in California’s Central Valley is the easy access to one of the great mountain ranges of the world, the Sierra Nevada, and its beautiful forests. Unfortunately, through no fault of anyone in the valley, that access is being threatened.

As a lifelong Californian, I’ve grown to love the mountains so much that I’ve done volunteer work in the forests of the Sierra for the past 15 years. And over that time, I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the condition of the forests. The problems are twofold: a lack of funding, and a lack of personnel.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Valley congressional leaders and House Speaker John Boehner met in a dusty cotton field outside Bakersfield today to announce a plan for emergency legislation in response to California’s drought.

Boehner, who was joined by valley Republicans Devin Nunes, David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy told the crowd that the water shortage requires action, and blamed environmental laws for part of the problem.

Madhusudan Katti

Despite enduring a lifetime of oppression, Nelson Mandela transformed his nation by seeking reconciliation with his oppressors rather than retribution. In this week’s edition of The Moral Is, Fresno State Biology Professor Madhusudan Katti wonders whether the power of reconciliation as a moral principle might save us all from the damage humanity is inflicting on our planet and ourselves.

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With the passing of Nelson Mandela last month, we lost one of the strongest needles in humanity’s moral compass.

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urge Water Bond and Drought Declaration

Jan 16, 2014
Twitter account of Senator Anthony Canella / http://twitter.com/AnthonyCannella

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, farmers and farm workers gathered on the Capitol steps today to call on California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a drought.

The Latino Water Coalition also wants to see legislation that would put a water bond on the 2014 ballot. Supporters say the state is experiencing some of the driest conditions on record, and farmers livelihoods are at stake.

Republican State Senator Anthony Canella from the Central Valley says increased water storage should be part of the water bond package.

Matt Billingsley, the general manager of Dog House Grill, says the eatery cooks up 1,200 pounds of tri-tip daily.
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

People in Central California love barbecue. From backyard grills to popular new restaurants featuring tri tip, ribs and brisket, it’s one of the biggest food trends in the valley. One Fresno destination is so popular, a line wraps around its building daily.

Fresno’s Dog House Grill is Valley famous for tri-tip, pulled pork and their family recipe barbecue sauce.

Connie Nicholson and her husband visit Dog House weekly.

“I like the Barbecue sauce, it’s really good and the tri-tip’s always just right,” Nicholson says. “I get the tri-tip sandwich every time.”

Office of Darrell Steinberg

The leader of California’s  Senate is issuing words of caution on Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to use money from the state’s cap-and-trade program to help pay for construction of high speed rail.  

Speaking with Valley Public Radio, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he’s concerned about the rail authority’s plan to finance construction of the next stage of the bullet train, which would go from Bakersfield over the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale in Southern California.

Brown's Budget Proposal Spends Cap and Trade Money

Jan 9, 2014
California High Speed Rail Authority

California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal includes some major investments in the environment. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it lays out how he wants to spend $850 million in revenue from the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program known as cap-and-trade.

As expected, Governor Brown wants to invest a large portion of money raised from carbon auctions on High Speed Rail. The proposal includes $300 million for construction and integration of the rail system that he’s pitched as an environmentally-friendly alternative to cars.

California Water Officials Say Drought Proclamation Likely

Jan 7, 2014
Paul Hames / Department of Water Resources

The Director of the California Department of Water Resources says he believes Governor Jerry Brown will likely declare a drought. Mark Cowin  made the comments to the state Board of Food and Agriculture today.

Water managers painted a bleak picture for the board of the dry conditions and low reservoir levels around the state. Cowin says all signs point to a drought.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California's first snow survey of the winter is showing grim results for a state that's already reeling from a two-year dry spell. 

The State's Department of Water Resources says both manual and electronic readings today were about 20 percent of average for this time of year. In some cases surveyors found more bare ground than snow. 

In the Southern Sierra, the snowpack was a little better at 30 percent of average for the start of January, but just 10 percent of the April 1 season average.

New Fracking Regulations Start January 1

Dec 30, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new law to regulate the controversial oil extraction process known as “fracking” goes into effect in California on January 1st. Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento.

The oil industry says the new regulations will be some of the strictest in the nation. But some environmental groups that called for a moratorium on the process say the regulations don’t go far enough to protect water and air quality.

Under the law, oil companies will have to disclose chemicals used in the fracking process, although there are some limitations for trade secrets.

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