A year ago, the Sierra snowpack was an anemic 20% of normal. Now it’s a whopping 146%.
At this time last year, the San Joaquin Valley was gasping through a 44-day siege of federal air violations — dangerous soot and debris. This year, the Valley only had five violations in December.
California’s capricious weather makes all the difference.
At the same time, some things I cover in the Earth Log and in the news columns have not changed much. My beat has had a kidney stone of a year. Thankfully, it has passed. But 2013 might be more of the same.
— The complex San Joaquin River restoration continues to move forward. Experiments included trapping adult salmon and hauling them upstream near Fresno to spawn. The billion-dollar restoration still lags behind the initial and ambitious timetable. Many big projects, such as replacing Sack Dam, are expected to make progress this year.
— A dozen years after setting aside more than 300,000 acres for the Giant Sequoia National Monument, people are still arguing about how to manage it. The latest plan was released during 2012. The Sierra Club and others have appealed the plan.
— Yosemite National Park has an even longer-running discussion. A dozen years ago, I wrote a story about the park’s Merced River protection plan — which was already about a decade late. I lose track of how many times it has been rewritten by court order. By July 2013, the National Park Service is supposed to have another plan out. This might be the one that finally gets through.
— Dozens of cities are now lined up to sue Dow Chemical and Shell Oil, the manufacturers of a now-defunct farm fumigant. The fumigant contained a chemical called 1,2,3-trichloropropane or TCP, a powerful cancer-linked toxin. It’s in the drinking water across a wide swath of the Valley, including Fresno, Clovis, Bakersfield and a host of other cities. It may take hundreds of millions of dollars to protect the public.
— Small towns throughout the Valley still wait for the California Department of Public Health for funding to clean up nitrates in their drinking water. Nitrates come from fertilizers, septic systems, animal waste and rotting vegetation. A University of California study says the problem threatens drinking water for 250,000 people.
— Kettleman City, the Latino town in western Kings County, has its own special water problem. It needs the financial help of Chemical Waste, the owner of the hazardous waste landfill near town. The landfill needs to expand so it can offer the financial help. But plenty of Kettleman residents would rather see that landfill close.
— The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District approved a new plan to clear up tiny specks of pollution called PM-2.5. As they often do, environmentalists did not think the plan was tough enough. That’s often a prelude to a legal challenge — a very familiar scenario.
The winning ticket, purchased by Brenda Lincoln, was pulled from among 10,000 tickets on Sunday night during a live drawing on KMPH (Channel 26.1) as reported by my colleague Angel Moreno.
Lincoln, a recovery-room nurse at Kaiser Permanente, won a 2,064-square-foot house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms in the Chestnut Grove community at Chestnut and Teague avenues. The house is valued at $345,000.
Another 22 people from across the Valley won smaller prizes in the contest, organizers said, including a private wine tasting party at Milla Vineyards, a $1,020 gift certificate to Yosemite Falls Cafe, a $1,000 shopping spree to J.C. Penny and free gas and groceries for a year.
The giveaway raised $1,004,020 for the hospital. This is the sixth St. Jude home built by De Young Properties.
In city after city across the central San Joaquin Valley, President Barack Obama has attracted more donors for his reelection campaign than his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney.
But when it comes to the local cash haul, Romney rules.
Take Fresno, for instance. Obama had 2,214 donors with Fresno mailing addresses, while Romney had just 696. But those 696 donors gave Romney $438,050, while Obama’s more than 2,200 contributed $223,716.
The average per donor? It is $629.38 for Romney, and just $101 for Obama.
Across the region, it is similar story — Exeter, Visalia, Kingsburg, Hanford, Madera, Merced mailing addresses all show more Obama donors, but more total money for Romney.
It even holds true in a Republican stronghold like Clovis, where Obama had 455 donors to Romney’s 259, but Romney raised $135,107 to Obama’s $42,700.
Given Romney’s local high-dollar fundraisers, this is hardly surprising. The biggest of them all came in May, when Romney raked in more than $1 million at a fundraiser at the Sanger-area home of prominent west-side rancher John Harris and his wife, Carole.
Obama, by comparison, has never held a Valley fundraiser. All his campaign donations came from local people who took the initiative and sent in a check. The only exception would have been if a local wealthy Democrat attended one of Obama’s Los Angeles or Bay Area fundraisers.
I was invited to a sneak preview on Thursday. The Gallery, on Ashlan and DeWolf avenues, has four different designs that range in size from 1,308 to 2,245 square feet and have up to four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. The idea in this neighborhood is to blend indoor and outdoor living.
The McCaffreys do just that with welcoming front courtyards, private side yards – some with sliding glass doors that lead into the home – and covered back patios with fireplaces. Large living room windows and sliding glass doors off the dining area allow for lots of entertaining. A neighborhood park and walking trails are planned. The homes start in the low $220,000s.
The Heights at Loma Vista, about a mile down the road on the corner of Ashlan and Locan avenues, has smaller homes, but the neighborhood has more amenities. The houses range in size from 1,141 to 1,753 square feet and up to 3 bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. The houses are “Smart Homes” designed to consume less energy, water and natural resources.
The neighborhood will have a park with tot lot and a private swimming pool with barbecue. The houses start at $199,999.