CVIndependent

Mon08192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Environment

08 Aug 2019
It was more than a year after the seabird died and washed up on a California beach before Jessie Beck prepared to reveal its last meals. Holding its stomach over a laboratory sink, Beck snipped open the slick tissue. With a series of plinks, the stomach contents slumped out onto the metal sieve below. Inside were the remains of seabird food, like hooked squid beaks the size of fingernail clippings. Mostly, though, Beck found hard shards of plastic, soggy cardboard, styrofoam and a maroon hunk of mystery meat that looked like beef jerky—until Beck cracked it open. Its innards were pure white: more styrofoam. The gray bird, called a northern fulmar, may have died in the waters off California during its winter migration. And it’s possible that the bird’s garbage-filled meals played a part in its death. But Beck, a scientist with the nonprofit group Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, isn’t one…
23 Jul 2019
In April 2016, a number of concerned Palm Springs residents banded together to form the Save Oswit Canyon (SOC) movement. The goal: Stop a real estate developer’s plan to build several hundred homes—and a flood-control dam which would measure the length of a prone Empire State Building—in the beautiful canyon. In the three-plus years since, SOC conservationists have fought battles on multiple fronts. SOC supporters have held rallies, lobbied politicians, gathered thousands of signatures to file a public initiative, raised funds, fought in the courts and negotiated with developers in an effort to buy the environmentally sensitive acreage off of South Palm Canyon Drive. Fast-forward to July 17, when the SOC team issued a press release with the cryptic heading, “The Fate of Oswit Canyon Has Been Determined! Will It Become a New Neighborhood or Will It Be Preserved?” Media attendance was requested at a press conference to be held…
27 Jun 2019
In late March, a press release landed in inboxes announcing the launch of the Coachella Valley Waterkeeper organization. The release included some fairly inflammatory language about what the CVWK claimed were serious and ongoing aquifer-overdraft issues—and the failure to address Salton Sea degradation challenges. The CVWK, it seemed, was sailing into the Coachella Valley on a white warship to protect the environment and conserve water—two things, the release implied, had been dangerously mishandled by local and state stakeholders over the past decade or more. The CVWK, as a program being launched and supervised under the auspices of the Orange County Coastkeeper (OCCK) organization in Costa Mesa, is a member of the national Waterkeeper Alliance, based in New York and headed up by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. On the Waterkeeper Alliance website, you can find this description of the CVWK and the valley: “The rich history of Coachella Valley in the…
23 Apr 2019
On March 29, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia set out to tour multiple mobile home parks and schools in the eastern Coachella Valley—places where there is no reliable access to clean drinking water. Garcia—the current chair of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife—was not alone: He was joined by 57 others, including fellow members of the state Legislature; an eight-member complement from the State Water Resources Control Board, led by Chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel; and representatives of the Coachella Valley Water District, including board Vice President Cástulo Estrada, who helped arrange the tour. “There’s this perception that the issue of accessibility to clean water is only a problem in rural parts of California,” Garcia said later, during a phone interview. “There are clean-drinking-water issues up and down the state, whether you’re in a small or big town, a larger urban city, a rural community or an Indian reservation. “We were…
28 Mar 2019
When Carol Dahmen discovered the CVS receipt draped across the counter of her Carmichael kitchen, she couldn’t resist pulling out her tape measure to document it. Her husband had purchased one single prescription. The receipt, she discovered, stretched on to contain 11 coupons before topping out at an astonishing 4 feet, 8 inches—the height of Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles. “This receipt is ridiculous and unnecessary,” Dahmen tweeted, endorsing the idea of scrapping paper receipts for emailed versions. California lawmakers are considering just such a proposal—a bill by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco that would make emailed receipts the default for businesses grossing more than $1 million beginning in 2022. Businesses breaking the rule could be fined $25 a day, and up to $300 a year. Customers could still get a paper receipt, but they would have to request one—which some would undoubtedly do, rather than share their…
08 Mar 2019
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and sparkling coastline. Turns out the dust on his boots gave him just the perspective he needed to take on the job Gov. Gavin Newsom gave him in January. “I had a healthy reset,” Blumenfeld said recently about his four months on the trail. “What you realize is the complexity of the environmental issues. We have so many people talking about environmental issues, but we say it in a way that most people don’t understand.” People want to be part of the solution to environmental problems, he said. “What I got from a distance…
14 Feb 2019
Don’t be fooled by the precipitation, the snowpack and the wildflowers. When winter ends, it’s unlikely that California’s iconic landscape will sustain the moisture to withstand the scorching summer and fall. California has yet to recover from the 5-year drought that began in 2012. For four years, record wildfires have ravaged the state, including the Tubbs Fire in Napa and Sonoma in 2017, and the Camp Fire last year that wiped out the town of Paradise in Butte County. The 2019 wildfire season officially kicks off in mid-May, but California’s wildfire season is essentially year-round now. So what happens when the next big wildfire hits? State fire officials are already amassing new aircraft that can drop thousands of gallons of bright red flame retardant. Emergency responders are pre-positioning fire crews in high-threat areas even before a fire starts. State officials will no longer second guess the use of wireless emergency…
22 Nov 2018
The sun was beginning to set as Jim Wood stepped out of the examination room at the Sacramento morgue and walked into the lobby, white surgical booties covering his shoes. He’d keep working there late into the night, but was taking a short break from the solemn task of identifying bits of human remains gathered from the rubble of the horrific Camp Fire. Wood is a forensic odontologist—a dentist specially trained to identify dead bodies by examining teeth. He’s also a Democratic state assemblyman from Sonoma County. Those dual responsibilities have put him on the frontline in tackling two enormous, heart-wrenching puzzles: identifying the people who perished this month in California’s deadliest wildfire, and figuring out what state policies could prevent such catastrophes in the future. “I thought that last year was really, really awful,” Wood said of the wine-country fires that killed 44 people, including some whom he identified…
21 Nov 2018
In 2008, Paradise was spared. That June, a fire broke out in one of the canyons southwest of the Butte County town and quickly roared east, up and over the ridge. Thousands scrambled to evacuate, clogging the single road to safety. A sudden wind shift allowed firefighters to cordon off the flames, but the experience left residents intimately aware of the risks of living in Paradise. State lawmakers have been aware of the risk, too. In color-coded fire-hazard maps maintained by Cal Fire, Paradise is a bright red island in a churning sea of pink, orange, and yellow—all denoting various levels of danger. “It is not a great feeling … to have highlighted an area for its vulnerability, and then having this come to fruition,” said Dave Sapsis, a Cal Fire researcher who helped designate the state agency’s “Fire Hazard Severity Zones.” As California grapples with an increasing possibility that…
21 Nov 2018
Anna Dise slammed her hand into her car’s steering wheel, crying out for her father, Gordon, as he ran into their blazing home in Butte Creek Canyon. She tried desperately to get the car to start, but it was no use. Worse yet, she was running out of time, and her dad wasn’t coming back out. One of the last things Dise saw before grabbing her two dogs and running for her life from the spreading Camp Fire was her childhood home’s kitchen disintegrating. Dise called 911, but emergency personnel couldn’t get to her. To survive, she needed to find a way to outwit the blaze. She found a ditch and hunkered down, using what little water it held to douse herself and her beloved pets, Luna and Sirius, as embers rained down upon them. Hours went by, and Dise, terrified the flames would consume her, stayed on alert as…

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