Our behavior here in the valley feels untenable and self-destructive
EVERY Saturday in late December and January, as reports of brutal temperatures and historic snowfalls streamed in from family in Vermont, New York and even southern Louisiana, we made weekly pilgrimages to our local beer garden to enjoy craft brews and unseasonably warm afternoons.
Normal winters here in Fresno, in the heart of California’s Central Valley, bring average highs in the 50s, steady periods of rain and drizzle, and the dense, bone-chilling Tule fog that can blanket the valley for days and even weeks on end.
But not this year. Instead, early 2014 gave us cloudless skies and midday temperatures in the 70s. By the end of January, it seemed like April, with spring trees in full bloom.
We fretted over the anomalous weather, to be sure. A high-pressure system parked off the Alaskan coast had produced not just our high temperatures but also soaring levels of fine particulate matter in the air and more than 50 rainless days, worsening a three-year drought, the most severe in half a millennium. If it’s this bad in January, we wondered, what’s it going to be like in July? But then we’d return to the beer taps, or meander over to peruse food truck menus.
Life in the Central Valley revolves around two intricately related concerns: the quality of the air and the quantity of the water. Although Fresno is the state’s fifth-largest city, it is really just a sprawling farm town in the middle of the nation’s most productive agricultural region, often called “America’s fruit basket.” Surrounded by mountains, which trap the pollution created by a surging population, interstate transportation and tens of thousands of farms, the valley has noxious air, even on good days.
The political atmosphere surrounding crop irrigation is equally toxic. Some farms in the western Valley — crippled by cuts in water allocations, salt buildup in the soil and depleted aquifers — now resemble the dust bowl that drove so many Tom Joads here in the 1930s. Farmers line highways with signs insisting that “food grows where water flows,” while environmentalists counter that the agriculture industry consumes 75 percent of the water transported by California’s byzantine water system.
The Latest on: California Central Valley
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The Latest on: California Central Valley
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COVID-19 spike is moving beyond densely populated urban areas like Los Angeles into the far northern rural reaches of the state.
- CDFW: Cast into California waters without a license, as long as there's no hook, flyon November 27, 2020 at 5:15 am
Staff at the CDFW office of communications education and outreach answer readers’ questions about California outdoor recreation and wildlife.
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Because of the pandemic, more than a quarter of a million loved ones are not with their families this Thanksgiving in the United States. Some families ...
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Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents have visited close to 100,000 businesses statewide and have written nearly 150 citations.
- Which Central California malls, shopping centers are open during Thanksgiving weekend?on November 26, 2020 at 2:20 pm
With COVID-19 restrictions in place in much of Central California and many residents changing their plans and taking to online shopping instead of hitting the stores, this year's Thanksgiving weekend ...
- Central Valley leaders implore Gov. Newsom to prioritize the region with COVID-19 vaccine distributionon November 25, 2020 at 5:13 pm
A Fresno city councilman is waiting to hear back from Gov. Gavin Newsom, after writing him a letter to prioritize the Central Valley when it is time to distribute a ...
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California has recorded more new cases of COVID-19 in the 48 hours than any other two-day period of the pandemic and its sharpest daily increase in hospitalizations yet.
- Coachella Valley tackles affordable housing with regional cooperationon November 24, 2020 at 1:16 pm
It’s no secret that California is facing a housing affordability crisis. And, we clearly have a lot of work to do. It’s in all of the headlines.
- The Wonderful Company Announces Recipients Of Over $500,000 In Relief Funding To California Wine Regionon November 23, 2020 at 6:25 am
Stewart and Lynda Resnick established a $1 million COVID-19 relief fund in August 2020 to support local programs, services, and resources in California’s Central Valley. In October, the relief fund ...
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