(Photo provided by the Corporation for Better Housing. The Linda Vista Apartments in Ivanhoe.)
The unincorporated town of Ivanhoe on Tuesday celebrated the grand opening of its first new affordable apartment complex in years.
The Linda Vista Apartments, on the southwest corner of Avenue 327 and Highway 216, is the first new apartment development to be built since 1992, according to the Tulare County Resource Management Agency.
The $16.6 million project answers a call from the agricultural community to provide housing for the area’s poor and farm-worker families. It was paid for with state and federal housing grants, tax credits and farmworker housing funds.
“Safe, affordable housing has long been sorely needed in Ivanhoe,” said Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley, who represents the area.
The 76-unit complex has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, a community center, basketball court and playground area.
The developer was the Corporation for Better Housing, a Sherman Oaks-based nonprofit development company has has built several other affordable housing projects in Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties.
For more information, visit corpforbetterhousing.com.
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.
A forum called “Climate preparedness in the Valley” is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 15 at Fresno State to discuss how water availability will change in the future and affect farms as well as cities.
The forum will be in the Alice Peters Auditorium of the University Business Center, 5245 N. Backer Ave. on the Fresno State campus. To register for the forum, go to: www.ucsusa.org/fresno
The forum panel will feature local academics, such as UC Merced Professor Roger Bales, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. Adrienne Alvord, California and Western States director for Union of Concerned Scientists, will moderate.
Others on the panel include Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance; Joseph W. Oldham, sustainability manager for the city of Fresno, and Fresno State Assistant Professor Peter Van de Water of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
The forum is presented by the Union of Concerned Scientists in partnership with Fresno State’s College of Science and Mathematics and the League of Women Voters of Fresno.
The tug of war over California’s groundwater continues over a 1 million-acre swath of the San Joaquin Valley, north of the Fresno area.
For the last decade, the state has studied and discussed ways to protect groundwater beneath farm fields. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board late last year issued hard-fought orders for several thousand farmers north of the San Joaquin River.
Activists in early January told the state the orders don’t do the job, and they need to be rewritten.
Activists say farm chemicals and pollution would continue to pollute the water, monitoring would be inadequate and people in small towns would have to continue living with poor drinking water quality.
They asked that authorities stop the new orders for the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition in Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties.
The petitioners are community groups, including Asociacion de Gente por El Agua (AGUA), Fairmead Community and Friends, and Planada en Accion.
These challenges take time. The state will have nine months to respond.
If the challenge is denied, the next stop is probably Superior Court in Sacramento. The lawyers who filed the petition with the state are Laurel Firestone of the Community Water Center and Phoebe Seaton of California Rural Legal Assistance.
The petition notes that it has been 13 years since legislation was passed requiring farm groundwater regulation. The disputes over the program may take a few more years to resolve.
This is the first large coalition in the Valley to come under the groundwater program.
Massive water vapor from farm irrigation in California’s Central Valley each year blows over the Sierra Nevada, pumps up rainfall over other states and adds 100 billion gallons of water to the Colorado River, new research shows.
The Colorado gets nearly a 30% bump in stream flow. That’s enough water to fill nearly two-thirds of Millerton Lake near Fresno.
The study, led by climate hydrologist Jay Famiglietti of the University of California at Irvine, will be published Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. This part of the water cycle has not been accurately described before, Famiglietti said.
If irrigation stopped in the Central Valley, there would be a decrease in the stream flow of the Colorado River basin — a supply of water that has been hotly contested for decades.
The Colorado River basin provides water to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities. Nearly 35 million people, as well as more than 3 million acres of farmland, rely on the water.
The study says more than 12 million acres of farmland are irrigated in the Central Valley, which includes the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. As water evaporates into the air, it is caught by the wind and taken over the Sierra.
As it moves into the interior of the Southwest, the vapor feeds into the annual monsoon cycle that includes moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, Famiglietti said.
“Adding the moisture from the Central Valley makes storms wetter and more violent,” he said. “It’s like throwing fuel on a fire.”
He said climate computer models make it possible to isolate the contribution from the Central Valley. The research is an effort to account for as many weather influences as possible.
Famiglietti’s study says about 40% of the irrigation in the Central Valley comes from ground-water pumping, and that worries him.
He wonders what it will mean to the Colorado River If land must be taken out of production as the ground water is depleted.
“It raises questions about the future,” he said.
A three-inch minnow again will be briefly in a spotlight this week in Fresno. A U.S. District judge is considering a three-year delay on rewriting the plan to protect the threatened delta smelt.
Here in federal court, the fish has been at the center of a years-long legal argument pitting the protection plan against water pumping for cities and farms.
Federal authorities are seeking the delay so they can focus on a broader effort that will protect the place where the smelt live.
I’ve been following the smelt issue since 1991 when federal wildlife authorities proposed it as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. I’ll give you a short explanation of why you should care about the smelt case.
The fish lives only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California. The delta is where water pumping supplies millions of Californians with drinking water and 3 million acres of farmland with irrigation water.
When the smelt strays near the big pumps, it’s time to shut down pumping, which slows down the effort to fill San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir holds irrigation water for west San Joaquin Valley farming.
The pumps were shut down for a few weeks in December to protect the smelt. Farm water leaders here fear it will result in reduced irrigation deliveries this summer. That’s why you should care.
It’s just one corner of a story that has traveled through courts, fiery debates, scientific studies and grand political ideas to solve this clash. The process continues, and it’s a subject for another day.
The bigger point remains over the decades. California’s big rivers and fresh water are in the north. People are in the south. And a huge swath of lucrative farming is right in the middle.
It’s a statewide issue, and it affects the Valley’s biggest industry.
After years of delays and confusion over state funding to fix dirty drinking water, a lawmaker says it’s time to make this easier for rural San Joaquin Valley towns.
Assemblymember Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, introduced Assembly Bill 145 Friday, aimed at having the State Water Resources Control Board take over. It’s a streamlining move, Perea says. The state water board already is a water policing agency.
The state water board would replace the California Department of Public Health, a $3 billion bureaucracy tasked with 150 different functions handling everything from hospital licensing to regulating the movement of radioactive material.
The state public health agency was the biggest roadblock to getting funds, according to town leaders and many others involved in the process.
The Fresno Bee’s 2011 stories detailed several cities that have been trying for years to get funding from the public health department for drinking water cleanup. In such towns as Seville in Tulare County, drinking bottled water is a way of life.
Nitrates from fertilizers, animal waste and septic systems are the most common problems in the water.
“Some towns have been able to get funding, but some have been lost in the bureaucratic stream,” said Perea, who has expressed frustration about the public health department’s efforts.
Farm water analysts on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are less than optimistic about the water supply for next summer despite a good snowpack so far this year.
West siders suspect a key Valley reservoir won’t fill up this year, due to water pumping restrictions that protect dying fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
It’s a familiar refrain. For years, west siders have been making the point about fish protections reducing irrigation deliveries. This year, the farm-water analysts are projecting 40% to 55% of contractual allotments even if the Sierra gets all the snow it usually gets.
The projection comes from the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, representing west Valley farmers on the federal Central Valley Project. Among those farmers are Westlands Water District growers.
Here’s how the water delivery works: Water flows from Northern California rivers through the delta to the huge pumps near Tracy in the south delta. The water is pumped south — which is uphill, by the way — to San Luis Reservoir in western Merced County.
To fill San Luis, a steady flow of pumped water continues through the winter. When the water is interrupted, it’s tough to catch up with the loss of pumping.
Salmon and delta smelts sometimes are nearby, so pumping must be slowed or stopped to prevent them from being dragged into the pumps and killed.
Analysts say the restricted pumping in December equates to about a 10% reduction in available farm water supply. The situation may not get any better this month or next month if the fish are still exposed to the danger.
And if the winter suddenly turns dry — as it sometimes does in California — the projection of available water would drop to somewhere between 35% and 40%, according to the authority.
If you’re interested in tracking reservoir storage, river flows and the snow-water content in the Sierra, the state has a web site for you — California Data Exchange Center, known as CDEC.
I am particularly interested in the amount of water frozen in the snow. Water content gives you an idea of how much water can be expected next spring and summer when the snowpack melts.
About this time of year, I like to compare the snowpack at this point to the snowpack last year. You can do that at this page.
As of Nov. 21, the Sierra is about the same as it was last year. It is less than average, but most of the season is still ahead.
River flows become more important later in the wet season, but any time is a good time to look up reservoir levels. Reservoirs are the bank account of water from previous seasons. They’re still looking pretty good, even though last year was a little dry.
Follow CDEC, and you’ll have an idea of what farmers, hydroelectric projects and many industries are watching this winter in California.
Small, impoverished towns are sometimes left for years with tainted drinking water while they wade through a cryptic state process for public funding to fix the problem.
Two frustrated lawmakers this week will start a streamlining effort that probably will result in several new bills next year. The lawmakers are Assemlymembers Henry T. Perea, D- Fresno, and Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.
“We’re getting pretty fed up,” said Perea, who has worked for funding in such Tulare County towns as Seville, Monson, Cutler and Orosi. “We might want to consolidate this process under different agencies.”
At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Sacramento, Alejo and Perea will convene an oversight hearing of the Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee to take testimony from more than a dozen people. If you want to follow it live, go here.
Thomas Harter, a University of California at Davis researcher, will briefly discuss his landmark research released this year on nitrates, the most widely found contaminant. It comes from fertilizer, animal waste, septic systems, sewage treatment plants and decaying vegetation.
The contaminant threatens the drinking water for more than a quarter of a million people in the Valley, according to Harter’s research.
Yet in places like Seville, which was featured last year in a Fresno Bee series of stories on drinking water problems in rural towns, it has taken years just to secure funding to study a fix.
This week, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors was expected to approve a $690,000 grant to study the best ways to fix Seville’s problem. The study money has been years in the making and there have been bureaucratic snags along the way, as The Bee reported last year.
Even with the study money in hand, it probably will take more than a year to get started on a fix for the town’s crumbling water system.