Burnt out from following events around the world, I’ll put focus on sharing my recent work in the Brentwood/Oakley Press on what’s happening in the East Bay. Despite a couple of brief, late season (and unusual) rainstorms that moved through northern California, the biggest story out there – along with the new vaccination bill signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown- continues to be the ongoing drought.
I interviewed county fire officials last week and outlined how they are dealing with the dangerous conditions:
Summer may just be starting on the calendar, but for firefighters in Contra Costa County and across California, it’s been here for a while.
Unrelenting drought effects and rising temperatures have left grass and vegetation significantly drier than normal for this time of year, keeping crews extra busy. This is especially true for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD), where firefighters are also facing down a budget shortfall that shuttered one of their stations in Knightsen last month and kept another closed in downtown Brentwood.
“We’re in June now, but we’re seeing conditions not usually seen until the end of the summer, in August or September,” said ECCFPD Chief Hugh Henderson. “Things are really dried out and the potential for burning is immediate. Our firefighters are handling call volumes that once would have been managed with five stations with only three stations now, so the engine companies are spending a lot of time traveling across the district.”
Further east, outside of my normal realm of coverage but nonetheless urgent, the town of Mountain House in San Joaquin County narrowly secured its access to a water supply after state authorities mandated their sole provider to stop pumping water from the California Aqueduct.
Residents and officials in a small East Bay town are breathing sighs of relief after a last-minute deal with the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) prevented a catastrophe that threatened to disconnect their only source of water.
In recent days, the community of Mountain House, near Tracy, had been warned by BBID of the impending shutoff, after the district was ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to immediately cease pumping on the California Aqueduct as part of a massive drought measure – or face hefty fines and legal action.
The deal will keep water flowing to the rural community of 15,000 on the condition that Mountain House accepts financial responsibility for any of these potential penalties, which could reach thousands of dollars per day. The crisis is part of a larger, statewide curtailment notice that was sent out to dozens of previously exempted farms and water agencies on June 12. The notice demanded they stop pulling water from rivers and creeks due to insufficient water available. Most of the recipients have had senior rights to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and other networks for well over a century.
Meanwhile, the city of Oakley is enjoying more economic development and trying to save a unique program for deaf and hard of hearing students that operates under the elementary school district. Also, a shooting incident and brawl over the weekend injured three people outside of a Latter-day Saints church on Laurel Road.