Environment

News about energy and the environment

Kern County Fire Department Facebook page

California’s drought has caused many lakes and rivers to drop to low levels; but officials say it hasn’t eliminated the risk of drowning. FM-89’s Jason Scott reports on why one local river is of particular concern.

The Kern River is one of many popular spots travelers will flock to to this Memorial Day weekend. But officials warn that despite the drought, the river can still be deadly, especially if people ignore safety precautions.

Al Watson is a ranger with the Sequoia National Forest.  He says the river can still pose a drowning hazard despite its low levels.  

Poll Shows Wide Support For Water Conservation

May 21, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new Field Poll shows almost two-thirds of Californians surveyed support Governor Jerry Brown's urban water reduction plan.  Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Field Poll says nearly 89-percent of people surveyed believe the current water shortage in California is serious, with 66-percent saying the drought is ‘extremely serious.’

But 44-percent of homeowners said it would be difficult for them to cut household water use.

About 70 percent said it would be a serious problem for them if their local water district raised household water bills by 15 or 25 percent.

Geoffrey Thurner / Fresno State

The historic California drought is now affecting college campuses in the region. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agriculture Sciences and Technology plans to cut its water use by at least 25 percent this year on its 1,000-acre farm. 

To reach their goal Farm Coordinator Mark Salwasser says the college plans to fallow just over 10 percent of their land.

Water Board Considers Voluntary Water Cut From Delta Area Farmers

May 21, 2015
California Department of Water Resources

Some farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta who hold the most senior water rights may agree to a 25-percent cut in their consumption. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the proposal comes as California water regulators consider mandatory curtailments.

Under the proposal, farmers who hold rights to divert water along a river or stream would either reduce irrigation use or leave fields fallow. In exchange, they want guarantees that regulators wouldn’t restrict remaining water. Jennifer Spaletta, an attorney for a group of farmers, says it’s a practical solution.

California Pool Construction Soars During Drought

May 14, 2015
Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Californians built more backyard swimming pools last year than in any year since the peak of the housing boom. And this year, the state is on pace to shatter last year’s mark. All this, during one of the worst droughts in California history. That’s prompting some very different reactions from local water agencies, as Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler reports.

 Aaron Gurley watches his crew tap a leveling tool into wet concrete around the edge of a huge backyard hole-in-the-ground.

Drought May Mean The End For Some Native Fish

May 14, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The drought in California is taking a heavy toll on native fish. Some experts fear if the drought lasts much longer, it may be a death knell for some species. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the Delta smelt is likely headed toward extinction.

Sarah Forman

In response to California’s historic drought some chefs are creating meals that use less water. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Foods Institute.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Forest managers throughout California say that thinning forests to a more natural state is a good way to reduce the severity of wildfires. Now scientists suggest that it also could offer help in saving water in the drought. 

Researchers at UC Merced think that thinning overgrown forests throughout the Sierra could result in as much as a million acre feet of extra water each year for the state. That’s enough water to fill Pine Flat Lake on the Kings River east of Fresno.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new statewide program using cap-and-trade money to fund solar panels for low-income residents launched this week  in Fresno. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

Salvador Mendoza and his family are one of the first 1,780 households in the state to receive rooftop solar panels through California’s Low-Income Weatherization Program.

Mendoza has lung disease and lives in one of the most economically impoverished parts of Fresno.

Brown Defends Delta Tunnels Project, Agriculture Industry

May 7, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown says opponents of his Delta water tunnel proposal should just “shut up.” He spoke to the Association of California Water Agencies in Sacramento Wednesday.

One day after the State Water Resources Control Board set mandatory reduction requirements for every local water agency, Brown thanked the agencies for helping California through the drought.

And then, he turned to what many in the room believe is their future water source: two tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to move water south.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Last year, several Kern County families were forced out of their homes for more than eight months because of a gas leak. Now, a bill in the California legislature would help prevent future cases like the one in Arvin. Fm89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

The bill would require state regulators to prioritize the testing of oil-related pipelines running near schools or homes.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In Kern County the oil industry and the world of farming are working hand in hand, but not everyone is happy about that. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports there are growing concerns over the use of oil field wastewater used to irrigate prime farmland.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Imagine going to your kitchen sink to wash dishes, but when you turn on the tap little or now water flows out. That's the reality in homes of many people across the Central Valley, especially as the historic drought worsens.

As part of FM89's series My Valley, My Story featuring first person accounts from people throughout the San Joaquin Valley reporter Ezra David Romero visits the Madera County community of Chowchilla, where one family has lived without water for five years. 

"My first name is Rosa Garaby. I've been here 38 years."

Brown Revises Bay Delta Water Plan, Faces Criticism

May 1, 2015

California Governor Jerry Brown has revised his plan to restore habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, much to the dismay of environmental groups. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the plan also includes design changes for the proposed twin tunnels that would carry water south.

Governor Brown sold his plan to build two tunnels in the Delta with the promise that habitat would be restored. The number most commonly mentioned was 100,000 acres. Brown says that was just an “idea” with no way to pay for it.  He now proposes 30,000 acres.

Fresno Fire Department

A massive fire at a lumberyard in Fresno has prompted officials with the Valley Air District to issue a health caution for residents from Fresno to Kern Counties.

The two to three acre fire began overnight at the McFarland Cascade utility pole yard near Golden State Boulevard. The facility provides wood utility poles to companies throughout the region, including PG&E.

As of Thursday afternoon the fire continued to burn. Pete Martinez with the Fresno Fire Department  says the firefighting efforts were hampered by the lack of a working set of fire hydrants at the site.

New Brown Drought Proposals: Larger Penalties, Faster Environmental Reviews

Apr 28, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 If you’re caught wasting water in California, the most you can be fined right now is $500. Governor Jerry Brown wants to raise the maximum penalty to 20 times that amount. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on the governor’s latest drought response proposal.

Brown wants to raise the maximum fine to $10,000 per water violation. He also wants to give cities, counties and water agencies the authority to issue fines without going through the courts.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The lack of rain has hit all of California hard, but perhaps no place more than in Tulare County home to 60 percent of the residential wells that have gone dry in the entire state. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports the county is creating a model for drought relief that the rest of the state can follow.

Denise England’s colleagues have a nickname for her.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Last July US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the rural Tulare County community of Cameron Creek to announce drought aid. Now months later, Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports the community just got their taps turned on.

After nine months without water many of the residents of Cameron Creek are finally able to turn on their taps and have water flow out of the faucet.

Not Ready To Give Up Your Lawn? Landscapers Offer Drought Tips

Apr 23, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

If you're watering your lawn at all, there's a good chance you're watering it too much. That's the take-away at a drought workshop near Sacramento for landscaping professionals. Lesley McClurg attended the class sponsored by the Department of Water Resources.

Tom Noonan is water management specialist. He says calibrating sprinklers can be a complicated science. 

But, the bottom line is...

Noonan: "Get rid of run-off and get rid of over spray." 

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The latest survey of California's endangered Delta Smelt has turned up just one fish. While the population has been in decline for years, UC Davis biologist Peter Moyle says the drought has stressed the species to the brink of extinction. 

Moyle: "I've been tracking these fish for years including in my own surveys, and we've been seeing this long term decline, but still I was quite startled."

He blames a number of factors for the almost complete collapse, but says the drought is a big factor.

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