Environment

Drought
6:00 am
Wed September 10, 2014

New Field Poll Shows Strong Support For Water Bond

Credit Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A Field Poll released today  shows strong support for the water bond on California’s November ballot.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say they’ll support the $7.5 billion bond in the fall election. 27 percent oppose it, while 21 percent remain undecided. But awareness of the measure remains low. The Field Poll found just 36 percent of likely voters had seen or heard anything about the bond. But support for the bond was even higher among voters with prior knowledge of the measure.

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Energy
6:17 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Kern County Gives Oil-By-Rail Project Go-Ahead

The Alon Refinery in Bakersfield will soon get a new railyard under a plan approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve plans by for a new oil-by-rail facility at a Bakersfield area refinery. 

The Alon Refinery on Rosedale Highway would restart operations with shipments of crude oil from the Dakotas delivered to Bakersfield by train.

A number of environmental groups raised concerns about the potential for accidents, and the project's impact on CO2 emissions. They also questioned the thoroughness of the project's environmental study.

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Environment
11:27 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Oil-By-Rail Project For Bakersfield Refinery Sparks Debate

If approved, the new project at Bakerfield's Alon Refinery, would result in two additional mile-long trains running through the city every day.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Kern County is on the verge of an oil boom. Not in local production, but in oil from North Dakota, transported to California by rail. The Golden State is already a major destination for trains filled with crude oil from the Midwest. But a new project that goes before the Kern County Board of Supervisors later today would expand that significantly for one local refinery.

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Wildfire
11:17 am
Mon September 8, 2014

UPDATE: Yosemite Fire Now Over 4,900 Acres, 23 Percent Contained

A photo taken Sunday afternoon from Glacier Point shows the plume of smoke from the Meadow Fire behind Half Dome
National Parks Service

UPDATE: 9/11/14 - 12:10 PM
The Meadow Fire has now consumed 4,906 acres and is 23 percent contained. Officials say that they expect spot fires to flare outside the existing perimeter today due to warmer temperatures and low humidity. The fire is burning on both side of the Merced River in Little Yosemite Valley between Mount Starr King and Half Dome.  Park officials also say that fire conditions have improved enough to reopen the Half Dome cables and the associated trail on Saturday for day-use only.

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Wildfire
5:24 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Bridge Fire Burns In Mariposa County Near Highway 49

An early photo of the Bridge Fire burning in Mariposa County as seen from the Madera/Mariposa County line.
Credit Madera County Sheriff Dept Facebook

Firefighters are battling a wildfire in Mariposa County on Highway 49 today. The Bridge Fire began on Friday afternoon near the William Sell Bridge between Oakhurst and Mariposa and has burned around 100 acres. Mandatory evacuations are in place for residents in the Ponderosa Basin area near the east fork of the Chowchilla River. A number of structures are threatened by the fire. Highway 49 is closed between Worman Road and Chowchilla Mountain Road.

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Drought
5:15 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Forecasters Say Chances Are El Niño Won't End California's Drought

Forecasters say the chances are diminishing that El Niño will bring rain to California.
Credit National Weather Service - Hanford

Forecasters say the chances are diminishing that El Niño will bring rain to California. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center analysis shows a 60-to-65 percent chance of the warm ocean condition known as El Niño developing this fall and winter. The report also indicates a strong El Niño is not expected and a weak event is likely.

Michelle Mead is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

She says a weak El Niño won't end the California drought. 

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Environment
5:27 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

After Years Of Effort, Plastic Bag Ban Heads To Governor

Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A bill banning single-use plastic grocery bags passed in the California legislature. It's up to Governor Brown to decide if it will become law. 

The effort to pass legislation banning single-use plastic bags lasted for years. Environmental groups have pushed bills to ban the bags in previous sessions.

But this year, after some tweaks to the bill during the session, lawmakers approved it. Dan Jacobson with Environment California says the key this year was cooperation.

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Drought
6:15 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Climate Change Means Less Sierra Nevada Runoff

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new study from UC Irvine shows climate change could reduce California’s water supply by changing mountain vegetation. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, even researchers were surprised how much could be lost.

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Environment
5:49 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

California's Cap and Trade System Could Help Ease Central Valley Pollution

The Central Valley could benefit from these funds since many counties ranked among the worst in the CalEnviroScreen 2.0 report.
Credit The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

California’s cap and trade program could help clean up pollution in the Central Valley. FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains the early stages of the effort.

A few months ago the state came out with a report ranking the most polluted places in California. Many Fresno County neighborhoods ranked among the worst.  

Now the California Environmental Protection Agency is hoping to use that data to clean up these areas through the state’s cap and trade system.

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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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