Environment

Environment
8:33 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Drought Speeds Up Race To Tap Valley's Groundwater

Victor Bruno’s 300-foot well is running dry in Madera County.
Marnette Federis Capital Public Radio

Vic Bruno’s home isn’t connected to a public water system. Like most rural homeowners in Madera County, his water comes from a deep hole in the ground.  

Bruno: “It’s a three-quarter inch pipe that goes all the way down three-hundred feet.”

Bruno has lived here for 25 years. His ranch is also home to a whole gang of farm animals. So when his well started pumping up sand, he thought of them.

Bruno: "I’ve got horses, sheep, pigs. These guys need water."

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Water
7:48 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Senate Rejects Alternate Water Bond; Brown To Weigh In?

Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) asks her colleagues to support her water bond proposal in Monday's Senate floor debate.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California water bond negotiations are entering a critical stretch. Time is growing short to replace the current $11 billion measure on the November ballot. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, one proposal failed a key test vote Monday.

Typically, water politics break down along regional lines. But this vote fell on party lines. Democratic Senator Lois Wolk argued that her proposal stands the best chance of passing the legislature this summer – and winning voter approval this fall.

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Environment
5:33 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Shirley Fire Threatens Homes, Prompts Evacuation

The Shirley Fire sparked Friday in the Sequoia National Forest, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate.
Credit Incident Information System

  Update: As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, the blaze is 90 percent contained and has charred 2,646 acres. All evacuations have been lifted.

A rapidly moving wildfire in the Sequoia National Forest has already engulfed 2,200 acres and is threatening 1,000 homes near the Kern County community of Lake Isabella. KVPR’s Diana Aguilera reports.

Pushed by strong winds, the Shirley Fire has already destroyed homes and is burning in steep, rugged terrain about 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

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Environment
6:35 am
Mon June 16, 2014

The 'Deepest Straw Wins' In Central Valley Scramble For Groundwater

Ruth Griffin says she spent her life savings building her dream home in Kingsburg, California. But she can't move in because her private well is dry.
Marnette Federis Capital Public Radio

  The California drought is becoming a source of tension between homeowners and farmers in the Southern Central Valley. Farmers are seeing unprecedented reductions in their allotments to surface water. Homeowners are watching their private wells run dry. Pauline Bartolone has more about how people in the Fresno area are tapping into underground water.  

The home where Ruth Griffin planned to retire looks like it’s an island in a sea of almond orchards.

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Environment
5:06 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Lawsuit Filed Over Proposal For Delta Water Transfers

Delta smelt, one of the endangered species at home in the Delta.
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

 

A coalition of environmental groups announced Wednesday that it is suing the Bureau of Reclamation over its proposal to send water from northern California to farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

The water transfers would involve pumping over 175,000 acre-feet of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, home to the endangered delta smelt and other fragile aquatic species.

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Drought
10:47 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Lawmakers Get Pressured To Act On Water Bond

Pine Flat dam near Fresno on the Kings River (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California lawmakers are debating whether to put a scaled-down water bond on the November ballot. And as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, a rally at the Capitol Monday demonstrated the increasing pressure on the legislature as it wades through a number of bond proposals.

Business, agriculture and environmental leaders gathered under the blazing sun, in front the brown Capitol lawn to express the dire need for a water bond. Bryce Lundberg is a rice farmer and a member of the North State Water Alliance. His group has some criteria they’d like to see included in a bond.

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Drought
10:39 am
Tue June 10, 2014

California Officials Developing Groundwater Management Plans

Credit California Department of Water Resources

California state officials are working on a five-year plan they hope will lead to better local management of underground water supplies. Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The state says groundwater levels are in alarming decline – and that must be reversed. In times of drought, more water is pulled from the ground. A number of government agencies are generating a five-year plan to make sure that over years of use and replenishment, there’s adequate supply of groundwater

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Environment
1:10 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Dry Conditions Spur Rapid Spread of Hunters Fire

Credit Cal Fire

In the late afternoon on Memorial Day, a wildfire touched off in rural Mariposa County.  Just two days later, the so-called Hunters Fire has engulfed 1300 acres and destroyed two homes.

Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says fires this time of year aren't unusual--but ones that travel so fast are.

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Author Interviews
12:20 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

New Book Documents Hetch Hetchy's Demise, Possible Rebirth

This past weekend thousands of people made the trek to Yosemite Valley from around the world to marvel at the majesty of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome.

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Environment
4:11 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Fresno Area Homeowners Dig Deep When Wells Go Dry

Credit Valley Public Radio

Many people who live in the Fresno area say water isn’t flowing from their taps like it used to. Some households using private groundwater wells are finding the water table is falling below their pumps during the drought.  Pauline Bartolone visited the people in Fresno they call when the water runs out. 

Arthur and Orum drills new water wells for farmers and homeowners in the Fresno area. The company’s Kim Hammond says phones have been ringing off the hook.

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Environment
6:00 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

U.S. Senate Passes Emergency Drought Relief Act

Water levels in the Friant-Kern Canal in early May 2014.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The U.S. senate unanimously passed the Emergency Drought Relief Act Thursday evening. The bill provides federal and state water agencies with additional flexibility to deliver water to the most needy communities affected by California’s historic drought.  

Senator Feinstein released this statement saying:

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Environment
5:55 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Innovation Needed To Crack Central California's Monterey Shale

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The much talked about oil boom to come out of Central California is on hold, unless new technology finds a way to safely crack the Monterey Shale that could hold over 13 billion barrels of oil.

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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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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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Water Conservation
12:24 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Campus-Wide Collaboration Ups Fresno State's Water Conservation

A new demonstration garden promotes water conservation on the Fresno State campus.
Credit Kerry Klein

One of Fresno State’s newest additions is a broad, brown, mulchy patch of land in front of the Science II building.  Gardening specialist Fortunato Garcia leads volunteers with shovels to a lumpy mound.

Garcia: All right, so we'll put one fertilizer tab here, one here, one here, one there...

Before long, this patch will be more than mulch—it’s the start of a waterwise demonstration garden.  Grounds supervisor Michael Frick points out the low-water bulbs and saplings that are being planted. 

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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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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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Environment
4:51 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

San Joaquin Valley Groundwater Depletion Linked to Earthquakes

Pumping of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley could be influencing seismic activity in California. (file photo)
Credit California Department of Water Resources

Researchers have long known that the mountain ranges surrounding the Central Valley have been rising faster than expected--a few millimeters every year for over a century.  And over the same time, seismic activity in the area has also increased.  According to a new study, both may be linked to the depletion of groundwater in the Central Valley.  Colin Amos of Western Washington University is lead author on the study.

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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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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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