La Grange Water Shortage

(KPIX 5) – California’s drought has become so bad, a community in the Sierra Foothills may run out of water later this year.

Three hours east of San Francisco, next to Lake Don Pedro, the town of La Grange is the kind of place where it’s easy to feel a thousand miles from anywhere. But even here, it’s impossible to escape the drought.

Peter Kampa of the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District describes where the town’s water originates from. “Comes from Lake McClure, which is directly right out of Yosemite National Park,” Kampa told KPIX 5. “Snow melt and rain runoff, right down into the reservoir.”

But one look at that lake is all that is needed to understand how bad things have become.

“This is incredible, I can tell you,” said longtime fisherman Javier Renteria. “I’ve been coming here for the past 20 years, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

In fact, the water is so low, that one can look right through the old railroad tunnels that used to make for catfish habitat.

But the bigger problem is the water line will soon drop below the pumps themselves, meaning the people here will simply run out of water.

“We’re counting back from about mid to late August of this year,” Kampa said.

Plan A: would be cutting releases to nearby waterways, but that would mean getting relief from the state. “A lot of what ifs, whenever you’re dealing with the state water board,” Kampa said.

Plan B: Digging deeper for groundwater, which costs time and money this community doesn’t have.

“We’re right in between two of the biggest reservoirs in the state of California and we’re going to run out of water? That’s really ironic,” said Kampa.

From here, the problems just run downstream to the parched fields of the valley, where farmers have their demands. Caught in the middle are the fish that depend on healthy rivers and creeks.

It’s a tangled, complicated mess that’s really just the new reality – as the drought bears down even harder.

Mystery Booms Echo Through Mother Lode

They are called the “mystery booms” of the Mother Lode and they have been rattling local nerves and even the windows of a few homes for quite awhile.

The daytime only booms are heard from Mariposa County to Amador County. Residents in Copperopolis, Twain Harte and Cedar Ridge report them often on social media but they are also heard consistently in Jamestown, Valley Springs, Sierra Village and on the east side of the Sierra Nevada from Markleeville, CA to Minden, NV.

So what are they? A lot of speculators think it is granite blasting from Hawthorne, NV and the mountains carry the sound west, all the way to various locations throughout the Mother Lode.

But that is just a theory.

Most who hear the booms say it sounds like distant thunder. Those who say their windows rattle, typically ask if they are earthquakes.

We’ve linked one of the very few videos that captures the sound of the booms. You’ll have to ignore this Mariposa County resident’s heavy breathing, but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the booms, typically two at a time.

The mystery of the “mystery booms” in the Mother Lode continues….

Former Governor Of Maryland Wants To Be Next President

Martin O’Malley, the former Governor of Maryland appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulus”. He talked about his high interest in seeking the 2016 Democratic nomination for President. At times he seemed reluctant to mention the name of the Democrat’s favorite choice for President; Hillary Clinton.

The video is the complete unedited interview.

ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolous is broadcast every Sunday morning on AM 1450 KVML from 11 am – Noon.

Yosemite National Park Rescue Crews Pull Hikers Off Cliff

(Sacramento Bee) Three friends hiking the Yosemite Falls trail Friday took a shortcut that left two of them stranded – one overnight – until rescue teams pulled them off the mountain.

The California Highway Patrol said the trio started hiking about 2:30 p.m. Friday and took several hours to reach the falls. Because daylight was dwindling, the group decided to take a shortcut off the trail and down a gulch.

“This was a bad decision due to the difficult terrain, especially in low light,” the CHP said in a news release.

Two of the hikers climbed down a 10- to 12-foot ledge as their friend found his way back to the designated trail and followed it to the valley floor. The two who continued down the ledge ran into trouble when one of them broke his glasses, the CHP said, and had to remain on the ledge.

The remaining hiker, a 22-year-old man, continued down until stopped by a 320-foot cliff, the CHP said. Unable to continue or scramble back up the ledge, he built a fire and settled in for the night, awaiting rescue.

The friend who had returned to the designated trail arrived at the valley floor about 7:30 p.m. and alerted park rangers, who were able to pull the one hiker from the ledge but could not reach the man on the cliff.

Yosemite Search and Rescue contacted the CHP early Saturday and requested a helicopter to hoist the man off the mountain.

CHP officials said the man was unhurt, though shaken up and “very relieved” to be rescued.

“It is very important that visitors stay on designated trails and obey all signs for their safety,” the statement said. “Otherwise, they may find themselves in a similar predicament.”

Carly Fiorina For President?

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard President, appeared this morning on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. She said that there is a “ninety percent chance” that she will seek the Republican nomination for President in 2016.

The video is the complete unedited interview.

Fox News Sunday is broadcast every Sunday morning on AM 1450 KVML from 10 – 11 AM.

Movie Filmed In Tuolumne And Calaveras Counties

Warning: Even This Move Trailer Is PG-13 Graphic

Warning: Even This Move Trailer Is PG-13 graphic

A movie called “Outlaws and Patriots” has been filmed in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties and this is the trailer.

The movie was screened in Angels Camp on March 14th and will soon be available on DVD.

Several local residents were used in the fictitious film.

Pine Tree Die-off Worsens As Beetles Thrive In Drought

(Fresno Bee) A massive die-off of pine trees in the southern Sierra Nevada caused by beetles attacking drought-stressed trees is turning forests brown and creating a fire tinderbox.

From Mariposa County to Kern County and beyond, stands of dead trees are striking fear in the hearts of mountain residents.

“You drive around and it’s all around us,” said Lee Duncan, who lives near Pinehurst. “It’s like a gasoline can everywhere.”

About the only hope in halting the die-off is for the drought to end, an unlikely occurrence this year as winter ended with perhaps the lowest Sierra snowpack on record.

As a fourth year of drought looms, mountain residents are stuck with the cost of removing dead trees next to their homes and loggers fault the U.S. Forest Service for not allowing them to thin forests. But forest managers say the tree die-off might help Mother Nature.

El Portal resident Jerry Rupert knows all too well the dangers of forest fire. The El Portal fire that burned about 4,700 acres in and around Yosemite National Park last year started behind his home.

Now Rupert warily watches the mountainside across from his home as more pine trees turn brown in a steep river canyon leading to the nearby community of Yosemite West.

“If we get a lightning strike over there, that whole hill is going to go up,” Rupert said. “All it has to do is hit one of those dead trees in there — and there are hundreds of them. It’s not going to be pretty.”

Rupert said he wants the U.S Forest Service to cut down the dead pines to reduce the chances of one being struck by lightning.

“The woods are sick,” he said. “They need help.”

The sheer number of dead trees is making forestry and fire officials even more nervous about the upcoming fire season.

“There’s thousands of acres” of dead and dying trees on public and private lands, Sequoia National Forest Fire Chief Brent Skaggs. “It’s going to be a bigger problem than we see.”

He said fire managers should operate on the assumption that almost every fire is a severe threat and attack with everything they can: “A quick suppression response is what’s going to save us.”

Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley likened the die-off itself to a forest fire.

“This is every bit as catastrophic,” said Worthley, who owns property near Pinehurst.

He was among 100 people who attended a community meeting here last week at which forest officials fielded questions and offered advice about how residents can protect themselves.

Pinehurst resident Dan Slebiss said he cut down six large Ponderosa pines on his 5-acre property and has seven more to go.

“We’re lucky we haven’t had any fire,” Slebiss said. “If everything goes dead, it’s going to be a bad place to be.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection — Cal Fire — is advising homeowners to remove dead and dying trees near their homes.

“Clear the brush,” said Jim McDougald, Cal Fire planning and protection chief. “If it’s within 100 feet of a house, we can require removal. We are actively doing inspections now.”

Removing trees on private property often requires the services of a forester or licensed timber operator, said David Shy, Cal Fire division chief and registered professional forester.

A permit is required, but fees are being waived and no permit is needed by do-it-yourselfers who don’t sell or barter the wood, he said.

Bark beetles thrive in drought, and the conifer die-off is picking up speed in areas where the U.S. drought monitor map shows exceptional drought conditions, said Beverly Bulaon, a Forest Service entomologist.

In the Pinehurst area, “it seems like it turned this way overnight,” she said.

Tree mortality is occurring all over California, but the southern Sierra is particularly hard hit, according to a U.S. Forest Service tree mortality aerial survey.

“In four years of drought, these are ideal condition for western pine beetle,” Bulaon said. “There’s not much we can do to control it.”

Western pine beetles, a native insect, are killing the Ponderosa pines, she said. The insects release pheromones that attract more beetles whose larvae chew into the wood, killing trees in large groups.

Normally, trees produce enough sap to thwart the insects, but years of below-average rainfall have weakened their natural defenses.

Tree mortality from beetle attacks has happened in previous droughts, and only a return to wet years will reduce their populations, she said.

The dead tree problem is especially bad in Sequoia National Forest, and the logging industry faults the Forest Service for not allowing them to thin stands of pine trees, a technique that helps forests fight off bark beetles, said Larry Duysen, logging superintendent at Sierra Forest Products sawmill in Terra Bella.

“There were 20 to 30 trees per acre until the 1850s,” he said. “Now it’s 300 trees per acre. They should have gone back to aggressive thinning.”

But the Forest Service counters that extreme drought is the problem.

“Current bark beetle populations are so high that even healthy trees may have difficulty fending off attacks,” the Forest Service said in a statement.

For many residents, it’s too late to save trees on their properties.

Retired schoolteacher B. J. O’Brien has lived in Pinehurst for 30 years.

“I have only one acre and I lost 18 huge Ponderosas. It killed me,” she said. “Not only did I lose my trees that I bought my house for, it almost ruined me financially.”

She had several trees cut down to keep them from falling onto her home, at a cost of about $200 a tree.

The logs are piled up on her property because no one seems to want them, she said.

Some dead trees have lumber value but many are good only for firewood, said forester Jeff Gletne at Sierra Forest Products. A dead tree is useful as lumber stock for about a year before deteriorating, he said.

It’s not just Ponderosa pines that are dying.

Firs and other conifers are suffering from attack by other species of bark beetles, while incense cedars are dying from lack of water.

At Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, rangers counted 1,100 dead Ponderosa pines and white firs in and around campgrounds, buildings and roads, and more elsewhere.

Trees will be removed, limbs cut and picnic tables and camp sites moved as needed for safety, said Sequoia and Kings National Park fire management officer John Ziegler.

Even 1,000-year-old giant sequoia trees are suffering in the drought, with more foliage die-back than usual observed last fall and attributed to lack of moisture, but the trees aren’t dying, said Dana Dierkes, spokeswoman for Sequoia and Kings National Parks.

Yosemite National Park is also experiencing tree die-off, but no large stands of dead trees are on the Yosemite Valley floor, physical scientist Joe Meyer said.

The silver lining to the tree die-off is that it thins the forest, said natural resources economist John T. Austin, a retired program manager at Sequoia and Kings National Parks and author of “Floods and Droughts In The Tulare Lake Basin.”

Fewer trees and greater diversity as the forest grows back could result in a healthier, more resilient forest better suited to withstand global climate change, he said.

Governor Brown: Ted Cruz Is Absolutely Unfit For Office

Ted Cruz is officially announcing his presidential campaign today, but when asked about Cruz’s climate change views on Sunday’s Meet the Press, California Governor Jerry Brown called the Texas senator “absolutely unfit” for office.

Last week, Cruz appeared on Late Night, and Seth Meyers challenged him on his climate change views. Cruz disputed stats about 2014 being the hottest year on record by talking about “snow and ice everywhere” in New Hampshire, and said the data does not back up the “alarmists.”

Brown responded, “What he said is absolutely false.” He brought up the overwhelming scientific consensus about man-made climate change to refute what Cruz said.

And as for Cruz himself, Brown said, “That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data. It’s shocking, and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.”

Murphys Irish Day 2015

With ideal weather and temperatures in the seventies, the crowds were huge in the town of Murphys on Saturday March 21st.

It was the annual Murphys Irish Day Celebration, which included a parade, craft booths, food, drinks and plenty of music.