Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno State study warns of climate effects on San Joaquin River

Two Fresno State professors say climate change will make the San Joaquin River’s annual runoff show up earlier — as much as six weeks earlier in the next century.

And one other thing:There will be a “significant decrease in annual stream flow,” said geology professor C. John Suen, who co-authored a study on the upper San Joaquin. Suen’s co-author was associate hydrology professor Zhi Wang.

The study, published in Hydrology Research, is more confirmation of findings in previous climate change studies, and it is not a pretty picture.

As water engineers and researchers have been saying for years, California’s reservoirs are built built to capture a gradual runoff from melting snow. More than half the state’s summer water supply is frozen in the snowpack each year.

If the state see more rainfall and earlier snow runoff, there could be big problems protecting communities and farms from floods.

In the San Joaquin Valley, the shift could be damaging for the multibillion-dollar economic base of agriculture.

This is about the place where the discussion turns to building larger reservoirs — such as Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin — or changing the way water and land are used. I’ll leave those issues to commenters here.

But Suen and Wang give us more reason to have the conversation.

Real Estate: Fresno developers building townhomes in Morro Bay

(Photo courtesy of Morro del Mar Properties. Phase I release of the Morro del Mar Village town home development at Ironwood Avenue and Atascadero Road in Morro Bay.)

A Fresno investor and a Clovis contractor have teamed up to build townhomes in Morro Bay.

Investor Tom DeWitt, former Pelco executive, and Bud Sturgill, president of LJS Construction in Clovis are building 14 Tuscan-style hillside homes on an old avocado orchard on Ironwood Avenue near Atascadero Road.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this project since it’s not happening in Fresno. I think it’s worth mentioning that these local guys are building homes in the waterfront city – a popular weekend getaway for Fresnans in the dead heat of summer.

Morro del Mar Village has homes that range in size from 1,291 to 2,132 square feet. The development has seven floor plans with up to three bedrooms and a bonus room. All units will have an attached two-car garage and balconies. Prices start at $499,950.

For more information, visit

Real Estate: CSET to hold foreclosure prevention and mortgage scam workshop

Community Services Employment Training is holding a free foreclosure prevention and scam awareness workshop on Saturday for homeowners who want to save their homes from foreclosure.

The workshop will not be able to help anyone who has already lost their home, organizers said.

Homeowners who have started the foreclosure process or want to learn more are encouraged to attend to the workshop which starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at CSET’s main office, 312 NW 3rd Ave., in Visalia.

Those who attend will learn about the foreclosure process, how to communicate with lenders and get information on refinancing and loan modifications. Workshop leaders will also share information about mortgage scams and how to avoid them.

“The free foreclosure prevention and scam awareness workshops will provide guests with information about the foreclosure process and options that will help families stay in their homes,” said Lily Rivera-Graves, the agency’s director of energy and housing. “We hope to help families stay in their homes and avoid falling victim to foreclosure scams.”

Registration is recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. For more information or to register, call (559) 741-4646.

Homeowners who attend are asked to bring a budget showing all household income and expenses.

Wealthy GOP donor Munger gives $150k to Fresno Co. GOP

It has been rumored for months that Charles T. Munger Jr. — one of California’s most influential Republican donors — would weigh in financially on Fresno’s Measure G campaign.

On Tuesday, the money came: $150,000.

Charles T. Munger Jr.

But the cash went to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee, and not to Measure G.

The question is, will the money benefit the June 4 special election, in which Fresno voters will be asked whether the city should privatize its residential trash pickup?

Measure G certainly seems like an idea Munger would support.

Last year, he gave $35 million to support Proposition 32, which would have banned payroll-deducted money from state and local politicking, and to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax initiative.

Tim Clark, the lead consultant for the Yes on G campaign, and a person who also has a contract with the Fresno County Republican Central Committee that runs through June 15 for various party activities, said that some of the cash could possibly help the Measure G campaign, but it would not be directly. Any help would be indirect, though campaign work done by the Fresno County GOP.

But, he said, none of Munger’s money is specifically earmarked for any Measure G activities. And Clark also pointed out that Munger has given to other county Republican Party organizations.

“It’s about getting the party healthy and ready for battle,” Clark said of the contribution, which showed up Tuesday on the Secretary of State’s website as a late contribution report from Munger.

“It’s for the Fresno County Republican Party. Charles likes to invest in the party structure.”

As part of that, Clark said, Fresno County is ground zero for several competitive elections. Among them are the July 23 special election runoff in the 16th Senate District between Republican Andy Vidak and Democrat Leticia Perez, and an expected tough congressional re-election battle next year for Hanford Republican David Valadao.

But the Fresno County GOP also unanimously supported Measure G this year, and it will do get-out-the-vote work on that June 4 election. Some of Munger’s cash infusion might help that effort, Clark said.

Perea bill to move drinking water funds advances

The state Assembly Tuesday approved legislation that would move responsibility for safe drinking water away from the California Department of Public Health.

Assembly Bill 145, authored by Assemblymembers Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, and Anthony Rendon, D-Lynwood, would move the duties to the State Water Resources Control Board.  The bill now goes to the state Senate.

The move is billed as a fresh start, especially for rural communities that have waded through years of Public Health Department red tape to get public funding for healthy drinking water.

“Communities throughout California have been demanding access to clean drinking water for the past few years,” said  Perea. “We need to create a water governance structure we can hold accountable, so that all Californians have immediate access to one of life’s most basic necessities — water.”

Judge reverses direction, farmers will see water rules sooner

A Sacramento Superior Court judge reversed direction on an agriculture lawsuit challenging new farm groundwater rules, meaning thousands of farmers probably will see the rules and expenses this year.

In case you haven’t been following it, this is the end of the historic waiver for agriculture from these kinds of water rules.

Sacramento Judge Timothy Frawley hinted in a tentative decision earlier this year that he might delay the rules and require a rewrite of the environmental studies.

Late last week, he said the studies are acceptable.

That affects growers in Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties where farm production amounts to $15 billion annually. The rules will cost farmers about $1.90 per acre, the state estimates, but farm-water leaders figure it’s a range from $3 to $10 per acre.

We’re talking about 850,000 acres of land, so the total costs could range from $1.6 million (the state’s estimate) to more than $8 million (farm-water leaders’ estimate).

“We are gearing up in anticipation that the (rules) will be adopted and implementation will begin in the fall, but that too is very fluid,” said Dave Orth, general manager of the Kings River Conservation District and coordinator of a coalition representing farmers in the region.

The judge also upheld a challenge by the fishing and environmental water advocacy groups. But the rules will not be set aside while the state addresses the technical issue concerning the transition to the new rules.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has been working on these rules for years. Farmers have been dreading them. Environmentalists have been getting impatient waiting for them.

Underground water contamination is widespread in this region with nitrates from fertilizers, septic systems, sewage treatment and decomposing vegetation. Drinking water is threatened for 250,000 people, mostly in small towns.

Environmental and fishing groups wanted more from the new rules, but most of their claims were rejected. The court agreed with one contention: State law was not followed in granting an extension of a temporary ag waiver several years ago.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, a group involved in the legal action, said the regional board needs to penalize offenders and reward those who follow the rules.

Bill Jennings, executive director of Stockton-based Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said: “We work with farmers, understand their concerns and likely could amicably resolve our issues except for the water board’s costly, unwieldy and ineffective bureaucratic octopus.”

Fresno Co. GOP Facebook page used to attack Amaral

This may be the last word on the ugly, profanity-laced email exchange between Mark Borba, a west-side grower, and Johnny Amaral, chief of staff for Rep. Devin Nunes, a Tulare Republican.

The email chain is best known for one sent from Borba to Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham that included a racially insensitive comment about President Barack Obama. That resulted in Borba stepping down as Community Medical Centers’ board chair.

But it seems a Republican who had access to the Fresno County GOP’s Facebook page was unhappy with Amaral’s comments.

Not long after the April exchange, someone wrote on the Fresno County GOP Facebook page that Amaral’s emails were unacceptable and he should resign from Nunes’ staff.

The comment — which wasn’t authorized or the official position of Fresno County’s Republican Party — might have been quickly erased and largely gone unnoticed. But there was a problem: local party leaders couldn’t take it down because they lacked administrator privileges on the Facebook page.

So it stayed up — for a long time — while Fresno County Republican Central Committee Chair Sandra Lakeman tried to get the administrator privileges changed.

Lakeman is the newly elected chair, and the leadership team of the Fresno County GOP changed as well. Things such as Facebook were never updated. Someone, or likely several people, from a past regime held those administrator privileges.

Two weeks later — after Lakeman had to prove to Facebook officials that she was the duly elected head of the Fresno County GOP — she was given administrator privileges and was able to take the post down.

She replaced it with an apology:

“The statement posted April 10th regarding the Chief of Staff, Johnny Amaral and Congressman Devin Nunes, was not an authorized message by the Fresno Country Republican Party. The Fresno County Republican Party values our working relationship with our Republican Party election officials. This was a malicious attack against these individuals.”

Amaral said he believes the current Fresno Republican leadership had no role in the comment, and actually finds the whole thing funny.

“I talked to Sandra and others at the Fresno County GOP, and I take them at their word,” he said. “No harm, no foul, in my opinion. We all got a good laugh out of it.”

FCEA’s Dee Barnes sends e-mail on blog, Measure G

This blog has two parts. The first part is an e-mail I received Wednesday from Dee Barnes, president of the Fresno City Employees Association — the city’s white-collar union.

Dee’s e-mail is a response to a blog I posted Tuesday evening. My blog was an analysis of how power works at City Hall in general, and how power works in the Measure G campaign in particular.

I give you Dee’s e-mail as she wrote it to me.

The second part of this blog is my Tuesday evening blog with a Wednesday morning correction and several additions.

The original blog had received 19 reader comments as of Thursday night. The reader comments are at the bottom of the original blog posted elsewhere on this site.

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Home Profile: Southeast Fresno’s Mundorff Home

Steve Lewis fell in love with a nearly century old, U-shaped house in southeast Fresno when he learned it was designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene — the brothers who designed the Gamble House in Pasadena.

The 3,300-square-foot colonial revival-style home on the corner of East Balch Avenue and Eighth Street in Fresno is known as the Mundorff Home. It was named after Mrs. Howard F. Mundorff, the wife of a retired San Francisco baseball player, who commissioned Henry Greene in 1917 to design the house.

Lewis, a Fresno State professor, and his wife, Nancy Ellis, have lived in the house for eight years. They are moving to Santa Rosa this summer and are putting the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with guest house up for sale. The price: $349,000.

“This is definitely the coolest house I’ve ever lived in,” Lewis said.

The house, the only Greene & Greene design in Fresno, sits on half an acre and is shaded by three large Sycamore trees. Fruit trees on the property also produce pomegranates, grapefruits and almonds.

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