Environment

News about energy and the environment

Poll: Californians Say Their Neighbors Need To Do More In Drought

Mar 26, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A new poll shows deep concern among Californians over the state’s drought and future water supply. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

The Public Policy Institute of California survey shows two-thirds of adults believe the water supply in their region is a big problem. The same percentage also say people where they live aren’t doing enough to respond to the drought. And Californians are just as likely to name the drought as the state’s most urgent issue as they are to cite the economy.

New State Office Could Help Poor Valley Communities Get Clean Drinking Water

Mar 25, 2015
Valley Public Radio

The emergency drought relief bill that California lawmakers will begin voting on Wednesday would create a new state office. That might sound fairly mundane. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, supporters say it could help disadvantaged communities.

Clean water advocates will tell you that it can sometimes take decades for small or poor communities to get clean drinking water. Laurel Firestone is with the Community Water Center.

http://kernrafting.com/

The Kern River isn’t especially deep or wide  to quote Merle Haggard – but it is one of the wildest rivers in the state. It’s also a mecca for whitewater enthusiasts in search of thrilling adventures down the canyon every spring and summer. 

But with California mired in a historic drought, and snowpack only around 10 percent of normal for this time of year average, this year may be different. Among those feeling the pain are the many companies that specialize in whitewater tours on the Kern River, both below and above Lake Isabella.

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

Earlier this month an op-ed ran in the LA Times with a headline eluding that California will run out of water in a year.  Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports while the record setting drought is bad, we’re not there yet.

The California drought is serious.

San Joaquin River Restoration Program

A new study says the drought in California has forced an increased use of natural gas to produce electricity, as dwindling river flows have reduced hydropower generation. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Pacific Institute says less hydroelectricity means more expensive electricity.

Peter Gleick: "We get a lot of electricity normally from hydropower, which is relatively inexpensive and relatively clean. And during a drought we don't have the water and we don't get the power."

Endangered Delta Smelt May Be Extinct

Mar 16, 2015
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A small endangered fish that plays a pivotal role in California’s water wars may well be on its way out. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, populations of the Delta smelt have plummeted to their lowest levels ever.

Prepare for the extinction of the Delta smelt in the wild. That’s what UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle told a group of scientists with the Delta Stewardship Council. He says the latest state trawl survey found very few fish in areas of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where smelt normally gather.

In Mariposa County, 3,200 People May Soon Run Out Of Water

Mar 13, 2015
Mike Jenson / Merced Irrigation District

A California community that sits between two large reservoirs is running out of water. About 3,200 people in the Sierra Nevada foothill enclave of Lake Don Pedro rely on water from nearby Lake McClure. But the lake level is dangerously low. That’s forcing the community to find another supply. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, so far it’s come up dry.

The Lake Don Pedro community is operating in emergency mode.  For the last several weeks, work crews have drilled well after well, hoping to find groundwater.

Despite Drought, Some Experts Say It's Too Soon For Drastic Measures

Mar 11, 2015
CA Dept of Water Resources

As the California drought wears on, it might seem like more creative solutions are in order. But as Capital Public Radio’s Katie Orr found out it might not yet be time for drastic measures. 

Here in California it can be frustrating to see the East Coast and Midwest buried in snow while the west remains bone dry. But the news can be hard to avoid. 

Snow piling up so high, cities are struggling to get rid of it, while the west remains stormless. Seems like a waste. Surly there’s a way some of that extra snow can be moved to where it’s needed.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Two senate committees water and the environment held a joint hearing Tuesday in Sacramento focusing on the potential contamination of federally protected aquifers by oil producers. 

The state's Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources had allowed production companies to inject oil field waste water into some aquifers that the EPA says could be used for drinking water. The revelation has resulted in the shutdown of 23 wells, slowing production in Kern County. 

California Water Conservation Rate Drops As Does Water Content in Snow

Mar 3, 2015
John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s water supply continues to diminish. The water content in the Sierra snowpack is the worst it’s been this time of year since 1991. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, water conservation rates are equally dismal, dropping dramatically in January.

Efforts To Restore Spring-Run Salmon On San Joaquin River Move Ahead

Feb 18, 2015
State Department of Water Resources

State and federal fish and wildlife agencies will take a significant step today in restoring what was once the largest salmon run in California. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, thousands of hatchery-raised spring-run Chinook salmon will be released into the San Joaquin River.

California Will Strengthen Oil Drilling Waste Rules

Feb 10, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California says it will do a better job of monitoring oil drilling that could affect the state’s groundwater supply. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on a new plan out Monday.

Drilling for oil can be messy. About 90 percent of the fluid that comes up is waste water and the oil companies have to dispose of it somewhere. California lets them inject the waste back into the ground in designated locations. But last summer the state became aware that some of these injections were happening in unauthorized locations. That prompted a review of the practice.

California Legislature Wants Oversight On Water Bond Money

Feb 9, 2015
John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

California voters have approved spending billions of dollars on water management projects. But some lawmakers are worried about where the money will go. They’ll hold two oversight hearings this week. 

In total, California has $7.5 billion in bond revenue to work with. Most will be allocated to state departments through the budget process.

Democrat Mark Levine chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee, which will hold an oversight hearing on the bond. Levine says the state should be cautious.

Central Valley Gets Millions For Drought Relief

Feb 6, 2015
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Federal government is giving California’s Central Valley millions of dollars for drought relief. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on Friday's announcement. 

The US Bureau of Reclamation is allocating about $30 million for the Central Valley Project, a water project which stretches 400 miles and provides enough water for a third of California’s farm land. The money will go toward drought monitoring, pumping projects and water efficiency efforts, among other things.

Research Project Will Help Scientists Understand Major California Storms

Feb 4, 2015
National Weather Service - Hanford

 “Atmospheric rivers” play a huge role in determining California’s water supply. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a team of scientists is launching state-of-the-art equipment by land and sea to study the storms.

John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

Yosemite National Park

Often when we hear news about threatened or endangered species, it’s bad news – populations dwindling, and species struggling to survive. But last week there was a bit of good news, when park wildlife biologists made an amazing discovery. For the first time in nearly 100 years, the rare Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted in Yosemite National Park last month. It’s a major milestone for a species that is thought to consist of only 50 individual animals.

January Snow Survey In California "Dismally Meager"

Jan 31, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Department of Water Resources says the state’s snowpack is “dismally meager.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a lack of snow in the Sierra is keeping rivers low and drying up some reservoirs. 

While December storms brought some hope that California’s drought would ease, January’s second snow survey shattered it. 

Dave Rizzardo: “Unfortunately it seems like it’s a trend in the last three or four years, that’s January’s just been a dud.”

Wildlife Agencies See Near Collapse Of 2014 Salmon Species

Jan 27, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California and federal wildlife agencies say the entire winter-run of naturally-spawning Chinook salmon may have collapsed in 2014. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the agencies will begin releasing triple the number of hatchery-raised juveniles next week.

High water temperatures in the Sacramento River last summer and fall caused 95-percent of winter-run salmon egg and fry to die.

Maria Rea: “I think this is really unprecedented really that we’ve seen this level of temperature mortality.”

Study: California Pesticde Assements Thorough, Slow

Jan 23, 2015
Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

The National Academy of Sciences released a report today on how the California Department of Pesticide Regulation assesses the safety of pesticides. It found that DPR assessments are thorough, but not very timely. It typically takes six to ten years. 

The report also says DPR needs to create a clearer process for ranking the hazard of pesticides and identifying which pesticides should take priority. Paul Tower with the Pesticide Action Network says the report confirms concerns the group has raised over the years.

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