Environment: NOAA doubles size of marine sanctuaries along northern California coast

Just 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, Cordell Bank teems with life above and below the surface. This thriving 'underwater island' is the centerpiece of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which NOAA has now expanded to protect additional areas like Bodega Canyon along the continental shelf.

Just 50 miles northwest of San Francisco, Cordell Bank teems with life above and below the surface. This thriving ‘underwater island’ is the centerpiece of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which NOAA has now expanded to protect additional areas like Bodega Canyon along the continental shelf. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones home to 25 threatened and endangered species

Staff Report

FRISCO — A pair of marine sanctuaries off the coast of northern California are doubling in size, offering more protection for globally significant and productive marine ecosystems. The sanctuaries encompass estuarine wetlands, rocky intertidal habitat, open ocean, and shallow marine banks.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, will expand from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will expand from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters. Continue reading

Energy: Sometimes you have to wrestle down the 800-pound fossil fuel gorilla one finger at a time

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The San Onofre nuclear power plant, via the Creative Commons.

Can lost nuclear power capacity be replaced by renewable energy?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — This week’s decision by a PUC judge in California may help jolt the slow shift toward renewable energy into a higher gear, according to environmental advocates who have been watchdogging the process of replacing the power once produced by the now-defunct an Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

At issue was an application by San Diego Gas & Electric to contract with Carlsbad Energy Center, LLC for the purchase of energy from a proposed new gas-powered plant. When San Onofre closed, SDG&E was directed to replace the shuttered plant with at least 200 megawatts from clean energy resources and between 300-600 MW from “any resource,” which could include gas or clean energy. Continue reading

How long will California’s drought continue?

Snowpack at record low levels

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A NASA Earth Observatory photo shows dry conditions in California in Jan. 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The snowpack in some key California watersheds is at or near all-time record low, the state’s water managers reported this week after conducting their monthly surveys.

At one site, west of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the California Department of Water Resources reported less than 1 inch of water content in the snowpack, just 5 percent of the March 3 historical average for that site. Snowpack measurements are online here. Continue reading

Climate: California pikas vanishing from lower sites

‘It looks like we’re going to lose pikas from many areas where people have been used to seeing them …’

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A Quandary Peak pika enjoys sunny weather on a rocky ledge. bberwyn photo.

FRISCO — Global warming is probably shrinking habitat for California’s pikas, scientists said this week in a new study that looked at 67 locations with historical data on populations of the small alpine mammals. Pikas have already vanished completely from 10 of those sites, the researchers said, explaining that local extinctions are likely where summer temperatures are high and habitat is already marginal.

“This same pattern of extinctions at sites with high summer temperatures has also been observed in the Great Basin region,”  said Joseph Stewart, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and first author of a paper reporting the new findings, published January 29 in the Journal of Biogeography. Continue reading

Study: California’s biggest, oldest trees fading fast

Oaks, stands of dense, small trees becoming dominant

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Redwood trees in California. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Hand-written notes from old forest surveys have helped scientists track long-term changes in California forests, including a decline of large trees of up to 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central coast ranges and Northern California.

The research team  from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey compared unique forest surveys collected by UC Berkeley alumnus Albert Wieslander in the 1920s and ’30s with recent U.S. Forest Service data to show that the decline of large trees and increase in the density of smaller trees is not unique to the state’s mountains. Continue reading

Anti-fracking groups seek ban in California

Fracked nation.

Fracked nation.

Activists say report downplays threat to water

Staff Report

FRISCO — California regulators this week released the first section of a new environmental review of fracking impacts.  But the study fails to take a hard look at many of the potentially harmful impacts, according to environmental activists.

The review by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was released even though state scientists are still six months away from completing their analysis of the risks and harms of the controversial form of oil and gas extraction, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Continue reading

Biodiversity: ‘Safe harbor’ for endangered Owens pupfish?

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Owens pupfish may find safe harbor on Native American lands in California’s Owens Valley. Photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Agreement with Native Americans could bolster populations of listed fish

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal biologists are teaming up with Native Americans in eastern California to try and recover the endangered Owens pupfish under a safe harbor agreement that may include translocation of wild Owens pupfish to tribal lands, maintaining habitat, providing a source population for future reintroductions, and public education and outreach. Continue reading

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