Kings County’s building activity was down in 2017 on both the residential and commercial front. Builders permitted 260 homes in the county in 2017, down from 415 the year before according to Construction Monitor.

Residential building valuation dropped from $139 million to $87 million in 2017.

On the commercial side, construction valuation in 2017 totaled $57 million compared to $87 million in 2016. The big drop came in new solar energy projects where valuation dropped to $3.1 million, based on 30 projects, from $21 million on 27 larger projects.

Residential rooftop solar projects also declined from 1,193 in 2016 to 831 in 2017.

On the rise in 2017 was the construction of industrial buildings, seven permitted in 2017 valued at $16.6 million, up from five projects at $11 million in 2016.

The total valuation of all building, both residential and commercial, was $145 million in 2017, $226 million in 2016, $147 million in 2015, $130 million in 2014 and just $66 million in 2013 - during the depth of the recession.

Who were the county’s busiest home builders in 2017?

Valley-based San Joaquin Valley Homes is at the top of the list in 2017 with permits issued for 70 new single-family homes valued at $15.6 million. Lennar-Fresno is second with 52 homes, Wathen-Castanos with 37 homes, DR Horton with 24 and Blue Mountain Construction with three. Lennar was tops in 2016 with 110 homes.

Farmers irrigating fruit trees in January

With just 0.04 inches of rain in the bucket for December, Kings County farmers are choosing to turn on their pumps to irrigate their orchards to ensure they don't dry out despite the calendar- not exactly a portend for a happy New Year.

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Local farm adviser Kevin Day says it makes sense that if Mother Nature is not going to wet the ground, farmers will want to make it happen providing deep moisture down 5 feet to “improve the soil profile that will encourage the tree to grow when it emerges from winter” as well as to leach salts away from the root zone.

Fears of another drought are tempered by the good surface water supply in reservoirs and recharge basins from the wet 2017. But not much is being stored in the snowpack so far this water year.

A Jan. 2 snow survey, found the snowpack’s average water content statewide was just 25 percent of average for the date.

On a more promising note, the seven-day precipitation forecast shows 5.4 to 3.4 inches coming down from Shasta to Yosemite area and 3.7 inches in the Big Sur area from Jan. 3-10.

Solar plants needn’t displace farmland, study learns

Plenty of places exist to locate new solar energy facilities without putting them on prime farmland, according to a University of California study.

Researchers identified opportunities for locating solar plants on Central Valley land not suitable for farming, on rooftops of agricultural facilities and other places. A co-author of the study says it’s important to explore such alternative sites for solar development, in order to conserve farmland.

The UC Davis study mentions (1) built environments, such as rooftops (2) salt-affected land (3) contaminated land and (4) water reservoirs with floating solar arrays, or “floatovoltaics.”

- California Farm Bureau contributed to this story

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

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