Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is a program that allows cities and counties to buy and/or generate electricity for residents and businesses within their areas.

In 2005, the city of Hanford participated in a startup Joint Powers Authority designed to establish a Community Choice Aggregation Entity consisting of 13 public agencies.

That effort failed due to the economic meltdown led by the housing crisis of 2008. Specifically, the Kings River Conservation District was unable to finance the electrical infrastructure needed.

Fast-forward to 2017. Growth in the Industrial Park located at the southern end of Hanford triggered a city study session, which was held to discuss the opportunity to re-evaluate the CCA formation under today’s new rules. The study session led to the relationship with the city of Lancaster. Lancaster is approximately four years ahead of the Hanford in this action and has agreed to assist in the evaluation and formation process when the Hanford City Council decides to move forward.

The Council agreed this week to hire a consultant to do just that. If successful, residents would be served by the new entity, not by PG&E.

Currently, at least eight CCAs operate in rural locations including Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties, with more in various stages of formation across the state.

Proponents of the CCA model describe the program as a way for local governments to leverage their demand to achieve lower electricity prices and to control the type of electricity purchased, such as a greater percentage of renewable energy than offered by the incumbent utility.

A key issue is how customers who stay with the incumbent utility are affected — an issue that continues to be debated. CCAs provide service on an opt-out basis, meaning that if a customer does not want to be served by the CCA, the customer must affirmatively make that choice.

Lemoore waives fees for local mural

Lemoore will waive a $3,400 fee for proponents of an historical mural at the Sarah Mooney Museum. The City Council is expected in the coming weeks to view a zoning text amendment to modify the process, greatly reducing application and processing fees.

A museum committee proposes to place a mural on the west side of the Pad Thai building facing the Veterans Memorial Building, and has already received approval from the property owners. The mural will be painted on several panels and will resemble a quilt.

Mario Gonzalez, head of the Lemoore High School Art Department (and Kings County Teacher of the Year), will prepare the renderings for the panels. The mural will tell a story of the primary ethnic and cultural groups who settled the area. It will depict what brought them here, and what they did once they arrived.

California Dairies closing Los Banos milk plant

Californians continue to drink less milk and now the industry is contracting. Visalia-based California Dairies Inc., says it will close its Los Banos milk plant in March resulting in the layoff of 63 workers.

 “Unfortunately, the declining volume of milk in California is affecting the entire dairy industry, and CDI is not immune,” CEO Andrei Mikhalevsky said. “These reduced milk volumes, combined with the high cost of operating our Los Banos facility, are the sole drivers behind the decision.”

The Los Banos plant produces fluid milk, milk powders, cheese and condensed products. The milk powder market is oversupplied and prices this winter are near 2009 lows.

Regarding fluid milk, California continues to drink less - with sales down 3.3 percent through 2017 mid-year according to CDFA.

The co-op will no longer make cream cheese products as a result. 

Raisin variety cuts labor costs

Harvesting raisins is likely the most labor-intensive crop in the Valley and farmers are busy looking for ways to cut costs. At a recent San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium in Easton, farmers heard a UC expert talk about a new variety called Sunpreme raisins.

“The vines can be pruned by machine and then the dried raisins can be harvested by machine,” said Matthew Fidelibus, Extension Specialist with the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis.

Traditional dried-on-vine varieties require workers to cut the stems above clusters of grapes to initiate the drying process before being mechanically harvested. Sunpreme raisins are different in that the variety “dries naturally after ripening, so the fruit just ripen and then they start drying, so there’s no cutting needed,” Fidelibus stated.

Along with examining the performance of Sunpreme raisins using different rootstocks, Fidelibus has been evaluating the most effective trellising technique at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Fidelibus and his team have been looking at “optimizing the trellises for machines to make sure that we can take the best advantage of the opportunities that this new variety offers in terms of being able to machine prune and machine harvest.

Central Valley Project water meetings set

The Bureau of Reclamation has added an additional meeting and postponed a meeting to give the public more time and more opportunities to provide comments as it prepares an environmental impact statement for Revisions to the Coordinated Long-term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, and Related Facilities.

Three public meetings have now been scheduled to gather comments that will be used to develop alternatives to the proposed action. The meeting scheduled for Wednesday in Los Banos has been postponed to Jan. 24 to give the public more time to prepare and attend the meeting.

The new meeting schedule is as follows: Jan. 23, from 2-4 p.m. at the Stanford Room, 650 Capitol Mall, Sacramento; Jan. 24, from 6-8 p.m. at Los Banos Community Center, 645 Seventh St, Los Banos. A third meeting will be in Chico.

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John Lindt is an independent business reporter. He can be reached at sierra2thesea@gmail.com

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