Environment

News about energy and the environment

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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:

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.” 

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:

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: 

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

Jul 24, 2014
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.

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. 

State and Federal Agencies Announce Salmon Restoration Plans

Jul 22, 2014
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.

Enforcement of Watering Rules Varies Around State

Jul 21, 2014
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.

California homeowners who have seen their wells fail during the drought are getting some assistance from the federal government. FM89's Joe Moore reports on today's  announcement from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

-----------

The well at Carlen Overby's rural Tulare County home went dry on July 4th, when she was taking a shower.

New Survey Says Californians Overwhelmingly Support Statewide Groundwater Plan

Jul 17, 2014
California Department of Water Resources

An overwhelming majority of likely California voters say they favor a statewide groundwater management plan over the status quo. The results are part of a new survey released today. Capital Public Radio’s Max Pringle reports. 

The survey was commissioned by the non-profit California Water Foundation. It finds the prolonged drought has focused public opinion on the need to regulate groundwater. Pollster David Metz says few Californians think the state is doing an adequate job of managing.the resource.

Fines Now Possible for California Water Wasters

Jul 15, 2014
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A state agency took a major step to encourage water conservation Tuesday. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, it voted to allow large fines for wasting water.

The State Water Resources Control Board has adopted emergency regulations that allow local water agencies to levy fines up to $500 a day for people who waste water outdoors. Board Chair Felicia Marcus says collecting money isn’t the goal. Convincing urban water users to conserve is.

Groundwater Helping Farmers Endure California Drought, UC Davis Says

Jul 15, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Research from UC Davis suggests California farmers are mostly able to maintain production during the drought because of their use of underground water– but environmentalists, scientists and farmers agree the practice is not a long term solution. Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

California farming will take a financial hit because of the drought. But for the most part, the UC Davis drought study says groundwater will supply what’s lacking in surface water. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute says pumping groundwater can’t continue to go unregulated.   

Report: Groundwater Management Plans Need Significant Improvement

Jul 10, 2014
California Department of Water Resources

A new report finds local water agencies need to do a better job managing groundwater in California. Amy Quinton has the details from Sacramento.

The California Water Foundation looked at 120 groundwater management plans adopted by local water agencies. In a nutshell, the results aren’t good. Almost 30 percent were written in 2002 or earlier. Many lacked objectives and an implementation strategy.

Pages