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In the News - Friday, March 30, 2012




Talented and Diverse:

Three Rivers artists open private studios

A photo gallery consisting of some of the local artists

who participated in the Three Rivers Artists' Studio Tour Ten


3R solar facility blazes

new trail in Tulare County

  The Three Rivers area has had a lot of novel developments in its colorful past including the Colony Mill Road built by the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony (1886-1891), one the first hydroelectric generators in California (1899), the first civilian headquarters of Sequoia National Park (1914), the first printing press in Tulare County (1890), a Mineral King mining tram (1870) developed by Andrew Hallidie of San Franciso cable car fame, and the fuse gates at Lake Kaweah's Terminus Dam, the second project of its type to be built in the U.S., at the time of construction (2007), the largest in the world, and now the first CREST (California Renewable Energy Small Tariff) solar-generating facility. The solar photovoltaic installation is currently under construction along Pierce Drive on a five-acre parcel formerly planted in grapes as a part of Bullene’s winery.
   In a couple of months when construction is completed by Marinos Ventures, LLC, of Three Rivers, there will be 48 dual-axis trackers on the Pierce Drive property, each called an “array,” that hold 30 solar panels. The array is a deck of panels of which one is capable of generating 6,300 watts of electricity.
   With all 1,440 solar panels in optimal working order the facility will be capable of generating 331,200 watts. Michael Washam, a lead planner with the Tulare County Resource Management Agency, estimated that the production output of the new facility could potentially supply 25 percent of the electricity used by all the residents and businesses in Three Rivers.
   The contractor is ISG Electric Inc. of Three Rivers, an electrical company also owned by Manuel and Cynthia Marinos.
  “We’re not entirely certain of what the facility is capable of producing until we get it operating,” said Greg Fox, ISG foreman. “What we are doing here is so new there are no simple directions or established procedures to follow.”
   Fox said one of the first obstacles they had to overcome was to find a way to support the heavy decking of panels as they were fitted to the array. To do that, a custom wood brace was placed under each deck of panels to provide stability and support.
   Each array is also fitted with a sensor that detects the optimal angle of the sun as it moves overhead. As the angle of the sun rotates westward, each deck of solar panels pivots to capture the most energy available.
   In the past two years the technology, and the solar panels themselves, which are manufactured exclusively in China, have changed dramatically. The cost of a typical panel has plummeted 70 percent while installation costs have remained constant and are still somewhat pricey for the small consumer or homeowner.
   During last year’s public hearings on solar installations conducted by the Tulare County Planning Commission, this project was fast-tracked over larger facilities that are currently in process for several sites around the Tulare County. That’s because of less environmental impact and also the fact that there is infrastructure already available for SCE to buy back the net generation of the smaller facilities.
   In the larger megawatt solar farm projects that are dealing with hundreds of acres of panels there is no transmission system currently available in Tulare County. SCE says plans are in the works to add the larger transmission facilities but they are encountering lots of challenges wherever they are proposed.
   The CREST program is available to Southern California Edison retail customers who want to sell renewable energy back to the utility company that does not exceed 1.5 megawatts. It appears that lots of these smaller community generating facilities are in California’s future; the Marinos project is the first of its type to be constructed in Tulare County.
  “As long as there are government incentives, these solar installations are feasible,” Fox said. “If the government ends the solar incentives, these projects won’t work.”
   Manuel Marinos said there was a 15 percent tax grant that expired in 2011 so it was imperative that the project get the financing in place and break ground before the end of last year. County planners cooperated to help ensure all financial incentive deadlines were met.
   The impetus of the project was provided by the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  “We tried to pool local resources as much as possible to make this project a reality,” said Manuel. “By our estimates, more than $200,000 will have been paid to Three Rivers residents or businesses during construction of the project.”
   Ongoing economic benefits will include local, county, and state tax revenue on the power generated and the local labor for the maintenance for the solar equipment. This solar project creates jobs and local revenue and is good for the environment as it eases the demand for diminishing nonrenewable resources such as oil, coal and gas.

Town meeting to address
public safety, fire tax

  At Monday’s (April 2) regular monthly Town Hall Meeting there are important public safety and fire agency topics on the agenda that will affect all of Tulare County and especially Three Rivers where residents co-exist with the constant threat of wildland fire. There will also be presentations on two local service districts supported by Three Rivers taxpayer dollars -— the Three Rivers Community Services District and Three Rivers Memorial District.
   The State of California’s prisoner relocation program will be addressed by Captain Robin Skiles and Lieutenant Wayne White of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. There will be state funding in the program’s first year that will assist counties in relocating hundreds of inmates that are already being transferred from state prisons to county custody.
   The problem, according to Supervisor Allen Ishida, will come in the next couple of years because there is so much uncertainty as to what might happen. Potentially, many of these convicted felons could end up being released early and back on the streets of Tulare County.
   The prisoner realignment was necessary because of state budget cuts. From now on, the counties from where these inmates came will have the responsibility for incarceration and release programs.
   The criteria for which inmates go packing when is based upon type of conviction and sentences of four years or less. The biggest challenge for the counties, according to Ishida, is trying to find the funding and jail space for those who are returned.
   The fire fee is a new tax that Cal Fire is asking be placed on each parcel adjacent to wildlands in the foothills and mountain areas of California. Under the rules of the statute, which could be implemented on July 1, each parcel will be levied $115.
   Three Rivers qualifies for a discount (areas with Cal Fire stations pay less), and property owners here will receive a $35 tax credit. Of course, there is already a bill in a state legislative committee to challenge the new tax.
   Cal Fire Chief Kirk Swartzlander (Tulare Unit) will present an update on the measure and answer questions.
  “The money will not increase fire protection but be used for fuels modification and prevention,” Chief Swartzlander said.
   Robert Groeber, a newly elected CSD board member, will speak on behalf of the Three Rivers Community Services District. Frank Capalare, Three Rivers Memorial District board president, will furnish an update for that organization.
   The Town Hall forums are held at the Three Rivers Memorial Building on the first Monday of the month from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The are free; open to the public, and refreshments are available. Information: 561-0123.

Music Festival will assist local families

  A marathon day of live music by musicians from near and far will headline a festival that is being organized by the recently revived Emergency Aid Alliance.
   THE MUSIC— Here is a sampling of the musicians who are scheduled to perform: Stillwater, Jeremy Weikel, Confluence, Sweet Pea and the Baby Buckeyes, The Adam and Walter Show, Thick Soup, Motel Drive, Streetlamp Junkie, and Out of Passion. Performance times will be announced when finalized.
   Performances by singer/songwriters of original compositions, many of whom are local residents, will take place from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m.
   THE MEAL— Food will be for sale during the event with Chef Ryan Rusie preparing a menu featuring barbecued tri-tip and deep-pit turkey, as well as a meatless polenta casserole. Dessert will be strawberry shortcake. Hamburgers, snacks, and soft drinks will also be available. No-host beer and wine will quench the thirst of the over-21 crowd.
   EAA— The Emergency Aid Alliance was founded during the 1990s as a way to raise funds for local residents suffering from extreme financial hardships due to medical, age-related, or other reasons. The EAA has been dormant for more than a decade, but was currently adopted by the Three Rivers chapter of the Blue Thong Society.
   The EAA is the Blue Thong’s charity of choice as part of the organization’s participation in the Clinton Global Initiative in which members nationwide — from the private sector, public sector, and civil society — work to alleviate poverty, create a cleaner environment, and increase access to health care and education..
   The EAA provides cash assistance as funds allow and on an as-needed basis. Recipients often do not qualify for private or public assistance for a variety of reasons. And sometimes the assistance they are receiving just isn’t enough.
   For instance, some Three Rivers seniors living on Social Security can’t afford to heat their homes due to the high cost of propane.
   In other cases, EAA has helped residents in the end stages of cancer who have had their insurance terminated because they are too sick to work. In these cases, EAA can offer direct cash aid for rent, utilities, medical expenses, and more.
   The proceeds from the 2012 Three Rivers Music Festival will go directly to help local residents who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
   ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES— This is a family-friendly event, and children’s games and activities are being planned by experts: two local moms. Artist Beth Hart will be painting faces. There will be vendor booths, informational booths, and a silent auction. Music Festival memorabilia and band merchandise will also be for sale.
   ADMISSION— Tickets are currently available online at 3R-aid.org for $8.50 per person. Advance tickets are $8 at Chump’s DVDs and Colors Art Gallery in Three Rivers or by calling Janene Lasswell, 561-4021.
   Tickets will be available at the event for $12. Kids 12 and under are admitted for free.

Wuksachi to observe Earth Hour

  Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund, is the world’s largest single campaign for energy conservation. Millions of people, businesses, and governments around the world unite each year to support this cause. In 2011, more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries switched off their lights for Earth Hour, including famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
   Wuksachi Lodge is once again participating in this worldwide challenge and will be powering down during Earth Hour 2012, which is from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. This will be preceded from 7 to 8 p.m. by a free, fun, family program by the Sequoia Field Institute that will discuss light, light pollution and strategies on how to reduce usage.
   The human population is depleting the earth of wild animals, water, wood, and other natural resources faster than they can be replenished; polluting and altering natural habitats and changing the planet’s climate. Across the world, biodiversity and natural habitats are disappearing at a greater rate than ever before.
   During Earth Hour, people are invited to dine by candlelight in the Wuksachi Lodge dining room. Advance reservations are recommended: 565-4070, ext. 0.
   The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. By 2009, the event had taken off as hundreds of millions of people in more than 4,000 cities and towns across 88 countries switched off the lights for one hour, creating a visual mandate for action on climate change, effectively kick-starting the world’s first global vote.

Teens needed for community service

  It’s events season in Three Rivers and there are opportunities for local students in need of community service hours that are a requirement for graduation at both Three Rivers School and Woodlake High School.
   Students working in a volunteer capacity at local nonprofit functions will gain valuable experience, akin to an internship.
   Here is what teens have to choose from: Jazzaffair on Friday-Sunday, April 13-15; food service (call Megan Thorn, 561-3208). Hidden Gardens of Three Rivers Tour on Saturday, April 21; parking docents (call Barbara Merline, 280-4951). Team Roping, Friday-Sunday, April 27-29; multiple positions (call Annie Hayes, 561-3231).

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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