Cowabunga! Eleven-time world surfing champ Kelly Slater’s Lemoore surf park is already a fixture in these parts attracting invited surfers to try out his wave machine here in the middle of cow country.
Slater bought the 20-acre property outside of town in 2014. It included a man-made lake, 700 yards long and 70 yards wide, originally built for water-skiing that has been been turned into a private water park to simulate the real thing. Who cares that it is 110 miles from the beach. Surf crazy social media has been buzzing ever since with plenty of amped up videos of the action online. Now the buzz is that Slater plans to tweak the waves to make them better and more varied. So far the surf park is not open to the public (it is surrounded by a fence) although he and his investors are planning one in Florida using the same technology.
A new $2.2 million building permit was issued March 14, by Kings County for installation of more wave technology (wave dampers) that suggests something is definitely cooking. That would bring the total to $6.5 million invested so far, not including the property, according to the public record.
Kings County’s jobless rate dropped to 11.5 percent in February, down from 11.8 percent in January and below the 11.8 percent rate seen in February 2016. Non-farm jobs were up 600 year-over-year.
Home sales rise
Kings County’s median home price in February 2017 was $222,500, an 8.5 percent increase year-over-year with sales up a strong 11.4 percent.
The local dairy industry suffered in 2016 as Tulare County lost 7,000 cows year-over-year - total 470,692 - and ended the year with 13 fewer dairies, down to 282. In Kings County we lost three dairies but continue to sport around the same number of cows, 179,689.
Heard the buzz?
Something like two-thirds or more for all the honeybees in the U.S. are now boxed up around the Valley's westside, busy pollinating our almond orchards. It’s happening over a two-week period from late March to early April. Millions of bees traveled here by long-haul truck, rented in bulk by local farmers.
Such a concentration of bees may leave them more susceptible to spread of diseases or other problems some experts fear. Concerns over a decline in bee colonies could be less considering a new USDA report. It says U.S. honey production from operations with five or more colonies totaled 161,882,000 pounds in 2016, up 3 percent from 156,544,000 pounds a year earlier according to the March 22 report.
Honey was harvested from 2.775 million colonies in 2016, up 4 percent from 2.66 million colonies in 2015 and the highest colony count since 1994.
Flood releases top 220,000 acre feet
Flood releases from Pine Flat Dam are 9,000 cubic feet per second - just below the volume that can cause levee problems as it travels north. Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen says some 220,000 acre feet of water released from the dam has left the district so far, heading out to sea. That number will keep climbing through the spring. He says an even larger amount of water spilled from the dam has been beneficially used within Kings River Water Association district that includes 1 million acres of prime agricultural land, most of it in Kings County, serving some 15,000 farms.
The upshot is that Kings flood releases are flowing north by Westlands Water District and south down the California Aqueduct originating from the Delta past these same farmers. Westlands farmers have complained recently about a 65 percent allocation from Bureau of Reclamation thwarted at least in part by the fact that San Luis Reservoir is full-up with no place to store more water. Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Louis Moore says "if San Luis Reservoir was larger, we could consider a larger allocation..." The pumps have been turned off for several weeks. Of course fish issues are a part as well. The Bureau promises to revisit the limited allocation after April 1.
Temperance flat study
The California Water Commission wants Temperance Flat supporters to estimate how climate change may affect the feasibility of the proposed big Sierra dam. The assessment says warmer temperatures would result in peak runoff moving from June to May by 2030 and from May to April by 2070, with more precipitation occurring as rain than snow. Assuming demands would not change, greater amounts of Friant spill are anticipated with reductions in Friant Division water supplies. Water Commission President Steve Worthley said these findings make the Temperance Flat Project even more important, especially considering the fact that additional surface water captured, stored and delivered from high- flow events is vital to making groundwater sustainable under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Local irrigation interests are organizing their groundwater agencies by June 30.
More cotton in 2017
The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association is estimating approximately 186,000 acres of pima and 70,000 acres of upland statewide for the 2017 cotton season. This survey is based on surveys from all of the gins in California prior to planting and a lot can happen between now and when things are actually planted. If it plays out, it will represent a 22 percent increase in pima acreage and a 6 percent increase in upland acreage in California as compared to 2016.
CNG station plans expansion
A permit is planned to expand the existing compressed natural gas fueling station located at 857 W. Iona Ave., Lemoore, to better serve the Lemoore Union High School District's school bus fleet. The plan is to add two compressors, an additional fuel pump and a canopy to an existing compressed natural gas station.