Environment

News about energy and the environment

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. 

US National Weather Service Hanford California

California’s drought is causing big concerns for residents and farmers up and down the state. But while a storm is expected to bring some precipitation to the area Thursday, FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the valley’s rainfall deficit is actually worse than the season totals indicate.  

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According to independent meteorologist Steve Johnson, more moisture has evaporated from the ground than has actually fallen from the sky this rainy season.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Here in the Central Valley – in one of the most polluted air basins in the country – we know that poor air is bad for our health. We feel it in our eyes and throat, and when we struggle to breathe.

But what if air pollution is affecting us at a deeper, cellular level?

That's exactly what Dr. Kari Nadeau discovered a few years ago. She’s a Stanford School of Medicine professor with an expertise in asthma and allergies.

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. 

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.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

With record dry conditions across the state and Governor Jerry Brown’s drought declaration today farmers and other agriculture leaders in the San Joaquin Valley are predicting a grim economic forecast for 2014.  

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.

U.S. Forest Service Sequoia National Forest

Historically dry conditions in the Sierra Nevada have resulted in a rare January wildfire burning in a remote area of the Golden Trout Wilderness, about 20 miles east of Springville.

The Soda Fire was discovered on Tuesday by officials with the Sequoia National Forest. So far the fire has consumed around 130 acres, and is burning at a moderate rate. No structures are threatened. 

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.”

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 Budget Proposal Would Move Clean Drinking Water Program

Jan 9, 2014
Valley Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal would make a significant change to the state’s Safe Drinking Water Program.  Last year, the Department of Public Health came under fire for failing to spend almost a half billion dollars to provide drinking water to communities that need it.

Under Brown’s budget proposal, the State Water Resources Control Board would run the program in the future. Jennifer Clary, with Clean Water Action, says she’s glad the program will be taken from the Department of Public Health.

San Joaquin River Restoration Program

Citing a historically dry 2013, Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) is calling for the federal government to stop water releases from Friant Dam for the San Joaquin River Restoration program.

Since 2009 the restoration program has released water into the river on an interim basis in an effort to bring back salmon populations to a stretch of the channel that has been dry for decades. The restoration agreement calls for those flows to become permanent in 2014.

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.

San Joaquin River Restoration Hits Snags

Dec 30, 2013
State Department of Water Resources

It’s been almost eight years since the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began its program to restore the San Joaquin River. In the 1940’s Friant Dam and irrigation diversion dried up 60 miles of California’s second largest river. Historic salmon runs disappeared. This January is the deadline for the program to restore enough water to the San Joaquin to eventually allow runs of Chinook salmon. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the restoration program has been plagued by delays and increased costs.

California has more trees now than at any time since the late Pleistocene. And it comes as no surprise to residents of the San Joaquin Valley that our cultivation of trees has played a defining role in shaping the California we know today.

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