HANFORD — Driving down Highway 43, you may have noticed some water slowly flowing down the riverbed, but it’s not time to break out the inflatable tubes and go floating just yet.
Steve Haugen, watermaster for the Kings River Water Association, said the murky brown water comes from several small creeks that sit beneath Pine Flat Dam that sent water our way thanks to the recent storms.
Haugen said the Kings River really won’t start flowing until at least another month when the Sierra snowpack starts melting and feeding various streams and rivers. The melted Sierra snowpack provides most of Kings County’s water for the summer water supply.
As of March 20, Haugen said the snowpack was 47 percent of the historical average — up from 20 percent at the beginning of the month. This figure, however, doesn’t take into account the storms that hit in the middle of last week.
Haugen said the storms last week were productive for building up the snowpack and he expects the new snowpack levels to be around 55-60 percent of average.
“March has been good,” Haugen said.
Around April 1 is when Haugen said the snowpack hits its peak and the subsequent runoff supplies water for the peak months of April-July. He said he still anticipates about 3-4 inches of precipitation still to come in the mountains.
Haugen said the Department of Water Resources will do its monthly water/snow surveys at the beginning of April and those numbers will give a better indication of what the upcoming season will look like as far as the water supply goes and how much will be allocated.
As far as Pine Flat Reservoir storage goes, Haugen said the reservoir — which can hold 1 million acre-feet of water — is sitting at around 640,364 acre-feet of water as of Tuesday afternoon and inflow is around 2,000 cubic feet per second.
Dusty Ference, executive director of the Kings County Farm Bureau, said all rain is good for growers, and the last storm was substantial enough to possibly delay irrigation for a while, but he agrees that the biggest benefit of the storm is its addition to the snowpack.
Ference said a lot of planting gets done in the spring, but summer is when water is in high demand and growers depend on the water that runs off from the melted snowpack and radiates into the Kings River’s many channels, ditches and canals.
Nevertheless, Ference welcomes the rain.
“We’re always hoping for more rain,” Ference said. “We can always handle a little more water.”
Rainfall totals this year are about half of the 8.94 inches of average total rainfall. Ference said he would have loved to see rainfall like last year, which reached 11.24 inches, but he still considers this year good so far.
“It could be better and it could be worse,” Ference said. “But we’re sitting in a pretty decent place right now.”
AVENAL — With the help of Insight Garden Program, Avenal inmates built and planted their garden Saturday in a section of the prison yard, to further their education in horticulture and help themselves grow.
The Insight Gardening Program attempts to help inmates grow plants and grow within themselves.
The goal of this program is to help inmates rehabilitate themselves and stay out of prison.
In 2014 the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that 61 percent of inmates released from 2008 to 2009 returned to prison within three years.
The Insight Garden Program found in 2011 that of 117 gardening participants, who were released from 2003 to 2009, less than 10 percent returned to prison or jail
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, it costs taxpayers and the state approximately $70,812 in 2016 to incarcerate one person in California.
The program at the Avenal prison currently has only 20 participants, but they aren’t the only inmates currently benefiting from this program.
This program began at San Quentin Prison in 2002.
The program is a not for profit organization and receives most of its funding from private contributions. Beth Waitkus, founding director of Insight Gardening Program, said they gained their 501(c) (3) status four years ago. That was when they began their expansion efforts.
Most of the funding for this program comes from private contributions.
This program is currently at eight California facilities and a couple of facilities in Indiana and New York. So far the program is in male, female and youth facilities.
Another Central Valley location is the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.
They are planning to begin the process at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, the first juvenile facility in California to have it. They are also planning to expand further in Indiana and begin in Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee.
The inmates began planning their garden eight months ago.
Every week for two hours inmates would meet to have classes about the environment, gardening, self-improvement and reentry into society with career preparation.
The garden design was made by the inmates in a project they did in their class. Waitkus said the class structure is meant to inspire inmates to improve their lives now and in the future.
Waitkus said that it is very powerful to see the joy in the inmates’ faces and how much effort they put into this program.
The IGP accepts donation on their website at www.insightgardenprogram.com/donate/ or in the mail to 2081 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704.
The IGP website also has information to volunteer as well.
HANFORD — Youngsters are in for an eggciting time Friday at the Easter Eggstravaganza at the Civic Center Park.
The hunt for Easter eggs — 3,000 of them, to be eggsact — will be on at the grounds around the Civic Auditorium from 10 a.m. to noon.
“There aren’t many places to hide an egg in front of the auditorium, so it will be like ‘Pac-Man.’ They’ll just be out there gobbling up the little treats,” said Susie Chavez, recreation supervisor for Hanford Parks and Recreation.
Throughout the two-hour event, the area will be divided up into three different hunting grounds for three separate age groups.
Chavez estimates that the event has garnered about 200 children, plus their families in recent years.
The plastic eggs will contain prizes like toys, tickets, candies and more. Children are encouraged to bring their own baskets.
There will also be bounce houses, fire truck rides, carousel rides, games, face painting and other activities.
A special appearance by the Easter Bunny himself is scheduled, as well.
“It will be like Disneyland. The Easter Bunny will be mingling and riding the train with kids. Anyone can come up and meet him and get a photo with him,” Chavez said.
The cost to go egg hunting is $5 per child, if pre-registered or $10 the day of the event. The hunts are recommended for children between the ages of 2 and 10. Parents and guardians are free.
For more information, call the Hanford Parks and Recreation Department at 585-2525 or visit www.facebook.com/HanfordRecreation.
WASHINGTON — The good news for President Donald Trump? His approval rating is up 7 points since last month, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The bad news? That only lifts Trump's approval to 42 percent, low for a president at this point in his tenure.
Still, the trajectory is a welcome shift for a White House that has been battered by chaos, controversies and internal upheaval. The poll suggests that at least some of the president's improving standing is tied to the economy and the Republican tax overhaul, which offers a glimmer of hope for GOP lawmakers who plan to make both issues the centerpiece of their efforts to maintain control of Congress in November.
Nearly half of Americans surveyed — 47 percent — say they approve of how Trump is handling the economy, his highest rating on any issue. When it comes to tax policy, 46 percent of Americans back Trump's moves.
"Our fortunes will rise and fall with the economy and specifically with the middle-class tax cut this fall," said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan. Bliss urged Republican candidates to view the law as "an offensive, not defensive weapon."
One of the GOP's challenges, however, will be keeping the economy and tax overhaul in the spotlight through the fall given the crush of other matters roiling the White House and competing for Americans' attention. On Monday at the White House, the daily press briefing was dominated by questions about the president's alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, a relationship he denies. Each week has seemed to bring a new departure among the president's closest advisers. And many days, Trump is more inclined to use his Twitter megaphone to try to discredit the investigation into possible campaign contacts with Russia than promote the tax overhaul.
Republican operatives acknowledge that even if they can break through the clutter, they still have a ways to go when it comes to explaining the $1.5 trillion tax plan to Americans. Democrats have aggressively cast the measure, which permanently slashes the tax rate for corporations and reduces taxes for the wealthiest Americans, as a boon for the rich that offers comparatively little for the middle class.
The Democratic message does appear to be breaking through with voters. Among those Americans who are familiar with the new law, 77 percent believe it helps large corporations and 73 percent say it benefits the wealthy, while 53 percent say it helps small businesses. Americans are evenly divided on whether the measure helps the middle class.
Republicans argue Democrats risk overreaching by downplaying the impact that even a small windfall from the tax bill can have for a family and individual. According to the AP-NORC poll, nearly half of those who receive a paycheck — 46 percent — say they've seen an increase in their take-home pay as a result of the tax law.
Heather Dilios, a 46-year-old social worker from Topsham, Maine, is among them. Dilios, a Republican, estimates she's now taking home between $100 to $200 more per paycheck as a result of the new tax law. That's more than she expected when Trump signed the legislation.
Dilios said it's more than the dollar amount that's driving her support for the law.
"It's more about being able to keep what is rightfully mine rather than giving it to the government," she said.
Overall, taxes and the economy are the brightest spots for Trump, who gets lower numbers from voters on a range of other issues, including his handling of North Korea (42 percent), trade (41 percent), gun control (39 percent) and the budget deficit (35 percent).
Trump has benefited from an increasingly healthy economy that has boosted consumer and business sentiment. The 4.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since 2000 without the same kinds of excesses that fueled that era's tech bubble.
While Trump attributes the gains to his tax cuts and deregulation efforts, many economists say conditions so far are largely a continuation of the momentum from the gradual expansion that began during the Obama administration.
Trump's most recent policy moves also have rattled financial markets and raised questions about the prospect of an economic slowdown. He slapped hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, although his administration has issued waivers to several countries. And last week, he moved to slap $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to promise swift retaliation.
The full scope and impact of Trump's proposed tariffs won't be known for some time, but the initial reaction from Americans is decidedly mixed. The AP-NORC poll finds that 38 percent support the steel and aluminum tariffs and 29 percent are opposed.
The poll also finds that just 32 percent of Americans think the tariffs will lead to an increase in jobs, compared with 36 percent who think it will lead to a decrease. Forty percent think it will lead to an increase in consumer prices, while 39 percent think it will lead to a decrease.