Westlands Solar Park owners are working with Westlands Water District on a revised environmental impact report for its mega-solar project. Filed Aug. 31, the new plan would modestly reduce the size of the project from 24,000 acres to 21,000 acres. Power production would be reduced from 2400 MW to 2000. Most of the huge solar farm would be located in Kings County, roughly around the Avenal Cutoff and Laurel Avenue.

Proponents say the project will be incremental, over 12 years, averaging about 167 MW each year. The revision of the EIR supersedes a 2013 plan.

Also new are plans to deliver some of the power to the federal Western Area Power Administration, which confirms that Westlands Solar Park submitted an interconnection request recently. A new power line would parallel I-5 up the Valley to the Dos Amigos Pumping Station south of San Luis Reservoir. The plan says two other transmission corridors (privately funded) would help distribute electricity into the Gates Substation.

The big project benefits Westlands Water District by helping to continue to retire salt-impacted and impaired land in the district.

New grocery store planned at former Hanford R&N

A multi-ethnic grocery store is in the works for Hanford at the vacant R&N Market location at Armona Road near 11th. A $600,000 permit has been issued by the city to remodel the 44,520 square foot building. R&N closed here last year after serving the community for over 35 years.

Operators Saif Hussein and son Fathi say they are working to buy the property but in the meantime are doing construction work at the leased store - hoping to open early next year.

“Our family members own about half a dozen stores in the Central Valley, mostly small,” Fathi said. The stores typically serving Hispanic customers.

The new supermarket will be called El Rey SuperMercado, a full-service market with multi-ethnic offerings, he said. “This will be our largest market,” he said. They operate FreshCo in Fresno, a former Save Mart store. Other stores are found in Five Points, Dinuba, Kettleman City, Firebaugh and Coalinga.

Fathi adds the family has members in Hanford with one relative operating Express Pharmacy.

A microbrewery in works for Lemoore

Rosalinda Wong is proposing a microbrewery in an existing building located at 242 Heinlen St. in Lemoore. Called Bird Brewing, the business would-be in the former Décor A Lemoore space. The 2,500 square foot microbrewery would include brewing of beer at the site, a tasting room as well as off-site retail sales. The major emphasis will be placed on retail sales of prepackaged bottles and growlers with a maximum occupancy of 49 according to the applicant.

Bird Street Brewing also has a permit for a microbrewery at 238 C Street, Suites J and K. But no sales are allowed at that site. Instead, Bird Street Brewing sells mainly through Ocean City Chinese Restaurant, which is located across the alley from the site. Both permits should be allowed to continue now that the Planning Commission has approved the project.

Pine Flat to generate more power this fall

Pine Flat has more water than usual and will use it to generate power this fall. Typically a contract with the state Department of Water Resources ends Sept. 1. But this year the Kings River Conservation District expects an extra 400,000 acre-feet of water through the end of the year to make more megawatts. “This has been a great year for hydropower generation,” said a district spokesperson, adding that California could use all the kilowatts it can muster. The conservation district has been awarded a supplemental water use contract.

“This definitely will not affect irrigation supply,” said Kings River watermaster Steve Haugen. He said that downstream users will take all the water they can this fall to make room in Pine Flat for the coming water year. “It’s still coming down” the mountain into the reservoir, some from upstream PGE facilities. ”We want to avoid being forced to face a flood release this winter” after the third wettest year on record. Haugen notes that the water used to generate power is used a second time for irrigation needs.

Showers impact raisin crop

Late-summer thunderstorms that passed through California have farmers checking their crops for potential impact. In Fresno County, farmers say raisins laid in vineyards to dry got caught in the rain. Farmers hope for breezes and warmer temperatures to help the raisins avoid damage and finish drying. It will take farmers a couple of weeks to assess the full effects of the storm. California Farm Bureau contributed to this item.

Folic acid may mitigate pesticide effect

Research at the University of California, Davis, and other institutions indicates that mothers who take recommended amounts of folic acid around conception might reduce their children’s pesticide-related autism risk.

In the study, children whose mothers took 800 or more micrograms of folic acid (the amount in most prenatal vitamins) had a significantly lower risk of developing autism spectrum disorder – even when their mothers were exposed to household or agricultural pesticides associated with increased risk, UC Davis says.

“We found that if the mom was taking folic acid during the window around conception, the risk associated with pesticides seemed to be attenuated,” says Rebecca Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and first author on the paper. “Mothers should try to avoid pesticides. But if they live near agriculture, where pesticides can blow in, this might be a way to counter those effects.”

Few farmers pay estate tax

Despite the popular notion that the estate tax is a huge burden and drag on the economy, a new study says less than 1 percent of U.S. farms, or fewer than 200, will have to pay the estate tax, according to USDA estimates. Congress over the years has enacted provisions targeted to reduce the tax's burden on agricultural operations and small businesses. That includes allowing farm real estate to be valued at its use value rather than fair-market price, making it less likely that owners have assets exceeding the exemption threshold of $5.45 million (double that for couples).

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

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