Environment

Environment
5:35 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Clovis PD Launches Nation's Largest Electric Motorcycle Fleet

John Weaver is a traffic corporal for the Clovis Police Department. He and his fleet will begin to use the electric motorcycles as soon as Friday.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Tweet Me:
- One charge will last up to 125 miles for Clovis PD's 5 new electric motorcycles. Oh & they go up to 95 mph.
- Clovis has 5 electric motorcycles & they have the most of any PD in the nation. 

It’s the dead of summer and the air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is red or unhealthy for sensitive groups. But one Valley police department is doing their part to change that. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports. 

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Drought
9:48 am
Thu August 28, 2014

California Senate Passes Groundwater Management Plan

The California Senate has approved a bill that would establish a groundwater management plan for the state.
Credit California Department of Water Resources

With days to go before the end of the legislative session, the California Senate passed a groundwater management plan Wednesday. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

Forty percent of California’s water comes from groundwater, yet the state has never had a plan to manage it. That could soon change if a measure approved in the Senate makes it through the rest of the legislative process.

The bill would require local governments to set up groundwater management agencies. The agencies would have five years to implement a management plan.

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Environment
4:55 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

The Smoke is Clearing for Junction, Way Fires

View of the Way Fire from Old State Road, Wofford Heights
Credit InciWeb

Firefighters are making progress containing two wildfires that sparked in the San Joaquin Valley on Monday.

The Junction Fire, which led to evacuations of thousands of homes in and around Oakhurst, is now estimated to be 612 acres in size and is currently 40% contained. Nine structures have been destroyed and 2 injuries reported.

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Environment
6:14 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Fast-Moving Way Fire Threatens Homes in Kern County

Credit Kern County Fire Department

  The Junction Fire isn’t the only wildfire burning through the San Joaquin Valley today.

On Monday afternoon the so-called Way Fire ignited in a drainage near the Kern County towns of Wofford Heights and Kernville. As of Tuesday morning, the fire had rapidly spread to nearly 3200 acres and was threatening hundreds of homes. In a press statement, Kern County Fire stated that multiple structures have been destroyed. Areas in and around the two towns are being evacuated to a high school in Lake Isabella.

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Environment
4:59 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Junction Fire: Residents Recall Flight From Blaze

Oakhurst resident Rhonda Schmitz and her dog Penny wait for the night to pass so they can head home.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

UPDATE: Wednesday August 20th 9:00 AM - Fire crews made good progress on the Junction Fire Tuesday and the blaze is now 40 percent contained. The mandatory evacuation orders for areas west of Highway 41 have been lifted except for Road 620. Areas east of Highway 41 remain closed. Highway 41 to Yosemite is now open.

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Environment
3:20 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Jumping In, River Camp Unites Firebaugh Kids With The Outdoors

On a 105 degree day, kids play in the San Joaquin River as part of River Camp.
Ezra David Romero Valley Public Radio

This story is part of a Valley Public Radio original series on how the health of rivers impact the health of communities produced as a project for The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.

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Wildfire
6:48 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Wildfire Prompts Evacuations Near Oakhurst

A webcam operated by CalTrans captures the smoke from the Junction Fire burning close to the city of Oakhurst on Monday afternoon.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A brush fire burning near Oakhurst in the Central Sierra Nevada, named the Junction Fire, has grown to 1,200 acres and prompted authorities to evacuate over 1,500 homes. 

The Madera County Sheriff’s Department declared a local emergency and has issued the mandatory evacuation for all businesses, and residents along the 41 corridor between CA-49 and Road 632, which is also known as Sky Ranch Road.

Erica Stuart, the spokeswoman for the department, says the Red Cross evacuation center is now being moved to Coarsegold.

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Environment
9:56 am
Fri August 15, 2014

One Year Later, Questions Still Burn About The Rim Fire

The Rim Fire burn area was over 400 square miles.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

 We now know who ignited the Rim Fire that scarred part of the beauty of the Sierra Nevada. But many other questions about the response to the fire still remain. In the second piece for our series on the fire, FM89 reporters Ezra David Romero and Diana Aguilera revisit the fire’s burn area and discover that people in the region are still wondering why the fire got so big.

Three weeks ago Wesley Wills had a flashback. 

“We were driving down Big Oak Flat Road and just saw it blowing up again like flame lengths of over 100 feet,” Wills says.

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Environment
5:25 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Bow Hunter Accused Of Starting Rim Fire Pleads Not Guilty

The blaze engulfed more than 250 thousand acres, costing around $127 million to fight the Rim Fire.
Credit Mike McMillan / US Forest Service

The hunter accused of starting the massive Rim Fire last year in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park surrendered to federal authorities today.

Wearing a white t-shirt and jeans with his wrists and ankles cuffed, Keith Matthew Emerald pleaded not guilty on a four count indictment today in federal court in Fresno.

He turned himself over to U.S. Marshals Service this morning prior to his afternoon arraignment on charges that his illegal campfire grew beyond his control and sparked the largest wildfire recorded in the Sierra Nevada.

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Breaking
1:25 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Columbia Man Indicted For Starting Rim Fire

file photo
Credit US Forest Service

The hunter who is alleged to have started the massive Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park has been indicted by a federal grand jury. 

The four count indictment alleges that Keith Matthew Emerald, 32 of Columbia started a fire and let it grow out of control on August 17, 2013 in the Clavey River Canyon.

According to authorities, Emerald was on a solo bow-hunting trip in the area and was rescued by a helicopter approximately an hour after the fire was first reported. 

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Environment
11:23 am
Tue August 5, 2014

One Year After The Rim Fire, Locals Share Frustration Over Prosecutor's Silence

Firefighters battle the blaze on September 5 during a hotshot burning operation.
Mike McMillan US Forest Service

Nearly one year ago, a small fire near the Tuolumne River just west of Yosemite National Park grew into the largest blaze ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. By the time the Rim Fire was contained in late October 2013, it had burned over 400 square miles, forever changing lives and the landscape. Today many residents and county officials are still frustrated by the investigation and are searching for answers.

Randy Hanvelt remembers the moment last year when a small wildfire in Tuolumne County a year ago became a raging inferno.

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Wildfire
7:40 am
Tue August 5, 2014

The Rim Fire, Revisited: A Timeline

It's been nearly one year since the Rim Fire destroyed a vast swath of the Central Sierra, including a portion of Yosemite National Park. Within days of the fire, authorities told the public they knew the cause of the fire, and who did it. But after months of waiting,  no charges have been filed, no suspects have been named, and residents are demanding answers.  In this Rim Fire timeline we look back at the fire that became the largest ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. 

Wildfire
7:37 pm
Sat August 2, 2014

Illegal Campfire To Blame For French Fire, Now Over 13,000 Acres

Authorities say this illegal campfire near the San Joaquin River is the cause of the French Fire.
Credit US Forest Service

UPDATE: Monday August 4, 2014:

The French Fire has now burned over 13,000 acres and is 30 percent contained. 134 structures are currently threatened by the fire.Officials released the following statement about firefighting progress Monday morning:

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Environment
6:30 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

In California, 'Drought Shaming' Sparks Resentment, Snark

file photo
Credit Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

Despite constant warnings about California's drought, people across the state are actually using more water this year than last. Angst over water is nothing new, but the pressure to conserve is pitting neighbor against neighbor in something the New York Times has called “drought shaming.” 

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Wildfires
7:28 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

UPDATE: Madera County's 'French Fire' Grows To Over 8,000 Acres

The French Fire as seen on Monday July 28, 2014.
Credit US Forest Service

UPDATE: 6:41 PM 8/1/14
The French Fire has continued to grow and now is over 8,000 acres, and just 15 percent contained. On Friday afternoon authorities issued an expanded evacuation order for residents in the community of Arnold Meadow.

Twelve campground have been closed due to the fire, which continues to send smoke into mountain communities and the valley. 

From InciWeb:

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Environment
4:48 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

UPDATE: El Portal Fire Near Yosemite Now Over 3,900 Acres; 34 Percent Contained

El Portal fire is burning south of the area scorched by last year's Rim Fire.
Credit Yosemite National Park

Update: 11 a.m. 7/31/14 - The El Portal fire has grown to 3,900 acres and is still 34 percent contained. According to authorities the evacuation order for Foresta will be lifted at 3:00 p.m. on Friday.   The Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) leading into Yosemite Valley has now reopened. 

Update: 11 a.m. 7/30/14 - El Portal fire has grown to over 3,500 acres and is 34 percent contained. From fire authorities: 

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Environment
12:54 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

New Poll: Support For Global Warming Laws Drop If Energy Prices Rise

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A new Public Policy Institute of California poll finds a strong majority of Californians support the state’s laws to combat global warming. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, that support drops amid concerns about rising gas and electricity prices.

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Drought
11:02 am
Thu July 24, 2014

NASA Photos Document Drought's Toll On California Landscape

June 2014: Fallowed farms in the San Joaquin Valley can be seen in this image from NASA's MODIS instrument, taken June 24, 2014
NASA Earth Observatory

If you drive through Central California, it might be easy to forget the state is in the midst of a drought of historic proportions. Almond orchards and vineyards are green and full with crops awaiting harvest, and in cities green lawns still outnumber brown ones. 

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Environment
6:32 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

State and Federal Agencies Announce Salmon Restoration Plans

Federal and state agencies have announced their plans for restoring endangered salmon and steelhead populations in California’s Central Valley. (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Federal and state agencies Tuesday announced their plans for restoring endangered salmon and steelhead populations in California’s Central Valley.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plan will include re-introducing winter-run Chinook at cold water pools in Northern California and monitoring the water temperature to make sure it’s safe.  

Chuck Bonham with the  California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the ecosystem restoration plans could take 50 years or more to achieve the desired result.

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Drought
1:10 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Enforcement of Watering Rules Varies Around State

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California is enacting tough water restrictions after voluntary conservation efforts failed to work. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the restrictions won’t be uniformly enforced.

Some communities already have strict local penalties in place. Others are just beginning to implement water shortage plans. In some cities a police officer may fine you for wasting water, in others water department employees might cite you.

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