Ag Today January 9, 2020

Trump wants to exempt some pipelines, highways from environmental review; climate activists alarmed [Los Angeles Times]

The White House on Thursday is expected to unveil a proposed revision of the federal environmental review process, a move that would fast-track the construction of some infrastructure projects, including pipelines, highways and airports. The change would apply to the National Environmental Policy Act, which was enacted in 1970 under the Nixon administration. A spokesman for the Council on Environmental Quality, which was established under the White House to carry out the law, said in a statement Thursday that “NEPA regulations have not been comprehensively updated in more than 40 years.”


California to house homeless people on vacant state land [Bay Area News Group]

Cities will be able to open emergency homeless shelters on vacant state land under a new executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom that escalates his attempts to handle the growing crisis. The order, which comes amid a surge in homelessness throughout the state and growing concern about the issue from residents, will require state agencies to identify by the end of this month empty lots near highways, fairgrounds, decommissioned hospitals and other spaces where cities, counties or nonprofits can provide space for people to live temporarily….In the order, Newsom said the state also would distribute 100 travel trailers and modular tents to local partners, who will receive help from state crisis response teams if they agree to provide counseling and help transition people into permanent housing.


Salinas Valley farmworker housing expansion project gets OK [Monterey County Herald] 

Another farmworker housing project backed by an agricultural employer has been approved in the Salinas Valley, this time an expansion of an existing housing complex. By a unanimous vote, the Monterey County Planning Commission Wednesday approved a 112-bed addition to the El Rancho Toro farmworker housing complex on a 39.5-acre site off Hitchcock Road just outside the Salinas city limits….It is part of a trend toward adding farming employer-sponsored housing in the Salinas Valley that has included projects backed by Tanimura and Antle in Spreckels and the Nunes Brothers in Boronda.


Valley land has sunk from too much water pumping. Can Fresno County fix it? [Fresno Bee]

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan on Tuesday meant to maintain groundwater and keep users from pumping too much from underground basins. The supervisors adopted plans for two areas connected to the Delta-Mendota subbasin….The sustainability plan is supposed to prevent undesirable results through 2040 of the lowering of groundwater levels and storage, degrading water quality, allowing seawater intrusion and other issues. Officials said the plan also lays out efforts to try to recharge groundwater — in other words, replace water sucked out from underground.


Officials express concern over how Abatti ruling could affect economic growth [Imperial Valley Press]

Both the Imperial Irrigation District and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors are concerned that if IID loses its appeal in the Michael Abatti case over who owns the Valley’s water rights, that might ward off prospective employers from setting up shop here. The issue became readily apparent with Abatti’s recent contempt of court filing against IID over its agreement to allocate up to 500 additional acre-feet of water for the Heber Geothermal plant expansion. Imperial County Supervisor Ryan Kelley said companies considering moving here have already began asking the questions regarding the availability of water.


New technology aimed at protecting bees during local almond bloom [Bakersfield Californian]

Computer technology designed to protect honeybees from chemical threats is about to get its first big test as beekeepers from across the country prepare to descend on Central Valley almond orchards for the world’s largest annual pollination event. Automating a regulatory process that used to be done manually, a smartphone app introduced statewide last fall lets beekeepers register their colonies’ location so that companies applying pesticides and fungicides know not to spray or fumigate nearby during daytime hours when bees tend to be outside their hives. The software, called BeeWhere, has been embraced by state and industry officials as a relatively easy way to help address the colony die-offs that have driven bee-rental prices sharply higher during the past decade and raised concerns about agriculture’s ability to produce crops requiring pollination.