los banos

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

The average commute in the Central Valley is just around 20 minutes. Now think of a long commute. Now longer. And longer. How about 6 times longer. That is what thousands of workers in the northern end of the valley are doing every day.

They are the target of high-speed rail advocates who think they can convince these mega-commuters to abandon their cars and move to Fresno or Merced to ride the train. But why are these workers making such a long commute in the first place? Reporter Jeffrey Hess shadowed one to experience the trip and ask that very question.

High-Speed Rail Authority

Supporters of California’s ambitious High-Speed rail project are making a lot of big promises about what the line can achieve, everything from less greenhouse gas emissions to fewer cars on the road. One of the most far-reaching claims is the potential to revolutionize towns where there will be stations like Fresno and Merced.

By now most people know that almonds use a lot of water, about one gallon per nut. Most growers are relying on groundwater even more this year because their surface water has been cut off because of the drought. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that brings a different problem all together, one that an “Almond Doctor” is trying to solve.

http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

In recent months, the valley's agriculture industry has been thrust into the national headlines, largely over the debate over how much water farmers use to grow crops. Critics say farmers use 80 percent of the water used by people in California. However farmers say that number is misleading, pointing out they actually use only 40 percent of the state's total water supply, where about 50 percent is set aside for environmental uses.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mid-Pacific Region

The recent storms that have hit northern and Central California have much brought needed rain and snow to the state. But they also created a new problem for the operators of the massive pumps in the Delta that supply users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California - too much water. 

Ara Azhderian is with the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority in Los Banos. 

Azhderian: "With all that water comes a whole lot of mud and trash and debris as well, so a little too much of a good thing too fast."

John D. Sutter / Twitter http://twitter.com/jdsutter

Journalist John D. Sutter is on a quest to do something that many valley residents do, kayak on the San Joaquin River. But instead of going for a short trip from Lost Lake Park to Highway 41, he has a much longer journey in mind - Friant Dam all the way to San Francisco Bay. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

President Obama visited the valley today in a whirlwind tour, delivering a speech this afternoon at the Los Banos farm of Joe Del Bosque to announce his proposal for emergency drought relief. He says that while the lack of rain and snow is a concern to the Central Valley, it’s also a national issue:

Obama: “California is our biggest economy, California is our biggest agricultural producer, so what happens here matters to every working American, right down to the cost of food that you put on your table.”

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

President Obama will visit the Central Valley this afternoon to announce an aid package to help farmers, ranchers and communities hit hard by California's record drought. After landing in Fresno, the President is expected to attend a roundtable discussion about the drought in Firebaugh and tour a farm in Los Banos.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the President's message will be clear:

The San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos could see its storage capacity grow by over 6 percent, according to a new study on the feasibility of expanding the lake released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

According to the draft report, a 20 foot increase in the height of the B.F. Sisk dam would result in 130,000 acre feet of additional water storage capacity. For comparison, that increase would be equal to about a quarter of the total capacity of Friant Dam near Fresno.

On this week's Valley Edition we talk about a new study that links dementia and air pollution, a new program that aims to help people stay in their homes, and a plan to make Highway 152 a toll road. 

Valley Edition for February 21, 2012: