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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.

Kern County is now considering turning to private companies to run county services as one way to help cover a big decline in tax revenue.

While many cheer low oil prices for declining gas, it is costing Kern County in a major way. The lower cost of oil means the county is bringing in less in property taxes; As much as 60-million dollars less next year.

County Supervisor Mick Gleason says the county board voted this week to prioritize forming partnerships with private companies to run county services, potentially saving money.

Kern County Public Library

In Kern County, the state’s leader when it comes to oil production, the industry not only drives the local economy, it also helps drive the county’s general fund.

That’s because the county’s assessor puts a value on all of the oil that remains deep underground, and uses that figure when it comes time to collect property taxes. When the price of oil goes up, county revenues soar. But when the price of oil goes down, officials are left scrambling to cover the shortfall.

Zara Arboledo / Valley Children's Hospital

Valley Children’s Hospital has opened an outpatient clinic in Bakersfield in an effort to help ease the growing demand for pediatric specialists in Kern County.

The clinic on 34th street opened its doors Monday. 

“We’re able to start seeing patients that would of normally had to travel to Madera a little bit closer to home in Bakersfield,” says Kari Boscacci, the director of Ambulatory Operations.

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. 

As long as hearts still beat in America, there will be a place for the big, gooey Disney sports movie. Like its forefathers Remember The Titans, Miracle, and countless others, McFarland, USA is a based-on-truth myth in which a maverick coach leads a ragtag team of misfits to victory against posh, polished enemies, touching the essence of the American dream in the process. There is a grand tradition at work here, a lifeblood that runs through mid-century entertainment like Knute Rockne—All American and Kevin Costner's baseball movies alike.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Early in his career, in films like "Bull Durham" and "Field Of Dreams," the actor Kevin Costner specialized in playing athletes. Now in "McFarland USA" he's moved up to being a coach. Kenneth Turan has our review.

Central Valley Friendly Landscaping Website - http://ucanr.edu/sites/cvlandscape/ / University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

It might become a little easier to replace your lawn with artificial grass if a new bill in Sacramento becomes law. FM89’s Joe Moore reports.

Assemblymember Rudy Salas says he wants to take the model the state has used to subsidize solar power on homes across the state and apply it to another green project – removing lawns.

Salas introduced a bill Tuesday that would provide a tax credit to homeowners who remove their lawns and replace them either with drought-resistant landscaping or synthetic lawns.

Disney

On its opening weekend, the movie McFarland, USA grossed more than $11 million at the box office, ranking No. 4 in the nation. Without a movie theater in their town, the people of McFarland have been flocking to Maya Cinemas in Bakersfield, 25 miles away, to attend several premiere events.

Disney

It’s just 129 miles from the star-lined sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard to the dusty streets of McFarland, in rural Kern County. On the surface it might be hard to think of two parts of the state that could possibly be more different. But a major new motion picture featuring one of Hollywood's biggest stars has brought the two places together in an unlikely way. 

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.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

With the second enrollment period of Covered California coming to an end, state officials are making their last rounds encouraging more residents to sign up and avoid a tax penalty.

There’s about 275,000 Californians who have recently signed up for a health insurance plan through Covered California. But now people have less than two weeks to enroll as the February  15 open enrollment deadline approaches. Those who miss the date, could face a tax penalty.

Executive Director Peter Lee made a stop in Fresno Wednesday afternoon at an insurance exchange office.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Falling oil prices could deliver a big hit to the Kern County general fund. The Board of Supervisors will consider a staff proposal to declare a fiscal emergency at its meeting next week. County property tax dollars are heavily dependent on the price of oil. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California's air regulators are increasingly turning their attention to a greenhouse gas that has largely gone overlooked - methane. 

According to the U.S. EPA, when it comes to climate change, methane emissions have an impact 20 times greater than CO2 emissions, pound for pound.

That's why Governor Jerry Brown singled out the gas during his inaugural address this month as part of his plan to combat climate change. 

Virgin Galactic

When you think of Kern County’s economy, you probably think of two things – oil and ag. But there’s another big player in the county’s economy – aerospace. County economic development officials estimate that around 20,000 people are employed in the sector – and one of the fastest growing areas has been in the field of commercial spaceflight.

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