this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
winter scene in the Giant Forest as viewed
Meadow Road. The road is currently snow-covered
closed to vehicles, but is easily accessible
cross-country skis or snowshoes.
in weekend forecast
It was short of an official
drought-buster, but the powerful Pacific
storm that moved through Kaweah Country
earlier in the week had California water
officials breathing a cautious sigh of
relief. That’s because many areas
in the foothills and mountains received
rainfall measured in the inches and several
feet of snow, respectively.
The biggest amounts of snow
accumulated in elevations above 7,000
feet. Reports from the Mineral King valley
are indicating that there is now nearly
six feet on the ground at 7,800 feet.
The snow sensor at Farewell
Gap (9,600 ft.) is indicating 92 inches
on the ground with water content at 25
inches. That’s great news, especially
in light of the paltry totals that had
been reported on February 1.
Those surveys were showing
the statewide statistics for Sierra snow
at approximately 66 percent of the norm.
The February 16 to 17 storm nudged those
totals upward to 80 percent with drainages
in the central Sierra leading slightly
over their northern and southern counterparts.
In Three Rivers, rain gauges
at 1,000 feet were brimming with 1.34
inches on Tuesday morning. Most of that
accumulation came from intermittent downpours
on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
The total for the season
so far in Three Rivers is 12.05 inches
of rainfall. The current season is slowing
closing the gap with last season but remains
almost three inches behind the Feb. 20,
2008, total of 14.97 inches.
But don’t wish for
an instant replay of last year. For the
rest of the 2008 season, it only rained
three-and-a-half inches, and one inch
of that total came in one storm (May 23-25).
The 2008 Mineral King snowpack
that measured 110 percent of normal on
March 1 rapidly evaporated with a spring
warming trend that was way too much too
Currently, there is a large,
moisture-laden system making its way onto
the West Coast. Low pressure is expected
to cause the system to dig southward into
Central California with the best chance
for more rain and snow in Kaweah Country
State budget finally passed
Each day that the State of
California continued without a budget,
the state government was running out of
cash and threatening to lay off thousands,
stop road and infrastructure projects,
and shut down more healthcare programs.
The stress and worry in Tulare County
alone, California’s biggest per
capita recipient, was enough to push public
officials to the brink of disaster.
But now the budget has been
passed thanks to the fourth consecutive
all-night lockdown. Nobody was permitted
to leave until lawmakers had a deal.
It will be some time until
all the details are known but Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger is touting the bipartisan
reforms as creating a real opportunity
for solving California’s budget
crisis once and for all.
“The problem is we still don’t
know where all the cuts will come from
and how to plan for them,” said
Supervisor Allen Ishida.
The word he used to describe the 11th-hour
negotiations in Sacramento was “hysteria.”
The main stumbling block
was how to close California’s unprecedented
shortfall in excess of $41 billion. Adding
even more to the hysteria was Senator
Barbara Boxer, who on Wednesday threatened
to rescind a huge chunk of federal stimulus
The most intense in-fighting
was over $14 billion in new taxes being
proposed to help shore things up.
“Anyone who runs around and says
that this can be done without raising
taxes, I think, has not really looked
at it carefully, or has a math problem
and has to go back and take Math 101,”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told members
of the media Wednesday.
Obviously frustrated, the
Republican governor made the comments
on the heels of Wednesday’s reorganization
of the 15-member Senate Republican Caucus.
The Republicans ousted Minority Leader
Dave Cogdill of Fresno. Cogdill, who formerly
opposed any new taxes but reversed his
position in the past week, agreed to the
proposal that would raise taxes by $14.4
Cogdill apparently joined
with Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield)
in supporting the new taxes. Sen. Ashburn
represents Kern and Tulare counties, including
Three Rivers. That Central Valley alliance
had left budget proponents just one vote
shy of the two-thirds majority for final
The swing vote came from
Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria). He is
a moderate who was holding out for a pledge
that there will be political reforms including
a ballot measure for creating a non-partisan
system similar to county supervisors for
According to supporters of
that measure, office holders wouldn’t
be tied to party lines and that could
put an end to the annual budget bickering.
Sen. Maldonado has also called for docking
legislators’ pay when they fail
to pass a budget on time.
Apparently, a last-minute
compromise was reached that at least included
a new, open format for California primary
Now that the state budget
has passed, a special election will be
held May 19 to decide how the state raises
and spends much of the money. At least
five measures will be on the ballot, including
revisions to three voter-approved measures
that the budget mandates voters must decide.
They include a lottery measure
that allows the state to borrow $5 billion
against future revenue and use the money
for programs other than schools; revisions
to Proposition 98, the school funding
formula; Proposition 63 that will revise
spending on mental health; Proposition
10 to eliminate the First 5 commission;
and a spending cap constitutional amendment
that would create a rainy-day fund for
by 3R artist
Jana Botkin knows all about
Exeter’s citywide mural project.
It was, in large part, her research and
at her urging that the community decided
to use murals as a tourist attraction
beginning in the 1990s.
Jana Botkin also knows Mineral
King, which is the subject of the city’s
newest mural to date. Jana met her husband
Michael in Mineral King, they were married
there in 1986, they share a summer cabin
there, and it was Mineral King and its
natural and historic landscape that inspired
her to become a fulltime artist and owner
The new mural is located
on the west side of E Street, just north
of Pine (Exeter’s main street).
At 104 feet, it is the longest of the
city’s murals; it is 12 feet high.
The mural will feature many
familiar landmarks such as Sawtooth Peak,
Mineral Peak, and Farewell Gap. But no
artistic rendering of Mineral King would
be complete without the historic cabins,
which are the namesake of Jana’s
business as well as were her first professional
subjects. The cabins will be depicted
on the mural within framed insets beneath
the mountain range that runs the length
of the wall.
Stop by and watch Jana at
work atop the scaffolding. Or virtually
visit by logging on to her blog, where
she reports on the day-to-day experience
of taking on a project of this magnitude:
3R grad student
42nd annual World Ag Expo
The annual student competition
sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural
and Biological Engineering (ASABE), held
in conjunction with Tulare’s World
Ag Expo (February 10 to 12), is sedate
compared to the frenzy of the 100,000
attendees roaming the endless rows of
exhibits, vendor aisles, food booths,
beer gardens, and demo stages. Held as
a part of the ASABE annual meeting at
the Edison AGTAC facility on the Expo
grounds, there’s a friendly rivalry
between students from Cal Poly and Fresno
Both schools have excellent
departments in agricultural engineering
and industrial technology. Recently, Cal
Poly has dominated the competition where
the top two finishers in both the graduate
and undergraduate divisions win prestigious
That was until last year
when Nick Simonian of Three Rivers won
first place for his aerial imaging project.
In his second year in the graduate program
at Fresno State, Nick, who will complete
his Master’s of Science degree in
Industrial Technology in June, repeated
his first-place win in the graduate division.
In the past year, Nick has
perfected his invention and said he’s
ready to launch some commercial applications.
“The plane is now capable of fully
autonomous flight,” Nick explained.
“I can draw a path using Google
Earth software, set the speed and altitude,
and it will follow a set flight path and
complete any number of tasks.”
Think of the applications,
Nick said, as he explained to all the
visitors who stopped by the Edison AGTAC
to see the posters on display that highlighted
the student entries. The plane, he said,
is equipped with a high-resolution digital
camera that can take composite images
of a farmer’s field, a river and
its tributaries, a section of public lands,
a house that’s being used for criminal
activity, or from just about anywhere
on the planet — and at a fraction
of the cost of a full-size commercial
Nick designed and built his
plane as a result of his passion for flying
unmanned model airplanes. With his father
Rod in tow, the aerodynamic duo spent
many afternoons flying model airplanes
at the old Three Rivers Airport, now the
grounds adjacent to the Lions Roping Arena.
Nick’s prototype plane
weighs 3.5 pounds, has a wingspan of five
feet, and measures three feet nose to
tail. It has a runtime of 25 minutes,
but that’s only limited by the battery
“The top speed is 65 m.p.h. with
a climb rate of 800 feet per minute,”
Nick said. “My prop-driven plane
is powered by an electric motor using
a polymer lithium battery.”
But what really has Nick
excited is how much he’s been able
to improve the imaging capability. Recently,
he said, he took a series of images of
a 36-acre alfalfa field in 10 minutes.
After patching the photos
together on his computer, Nick created
a mosaic image of the entire field.
“I could see what part of the field
was most productive and where there were
problems and patches that weren’t
growing anything at all,” Nick said.
“In minutes, I had a strategy to
help the rancher get more production from
Nick said that’s just
one of the most obvious uses for his invention.
He’s already completed a mosaic
of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River
(above photo) that could be used to spot
all kinds of things from invasive plants
to illegal construction work being done
in the channel.
“The challenge right now is to figure
out where I want to go with the marketing
of the commercial applications,”
Nick said. “I guess you could say
the sky is the limit.”
Cost of postage
stamps to increase
The U.S. Postal Service announced
this week that the price of a one-ounce,
first-class stamp will rise to 44 cents
on May 11.
Postmaster General John Potter
said the price of a stamp is going up
because operational costs for the Postal
Service are rising while the recession
is dragging down mail volume.
The new price is expected
to add about $3 to the average household’s
annual mailing expenses, according to
the Postal Service. The price for each
additional ounce of first-class mail will
remain at 17 cents.
Consumers weary of the annual
rise in the price of stamps can stock
up on Forever Stamps for 42 cents each
until May 11. They can be used on one-ounce
letters “forever,” no matter
what price stamps are currently selling
Forever Stamps will still
be available after May 11, but they will
cost 44 cents.
The price of several other
mailing services will also go up on that
It will cost one cent more
to mail a postcard: 27 cents.
The first ounce of a large
envelope will rise five cents to 88 cents,
while the first ounce of a parcel also
goes up five cents, to $1.22.
International mail prices for a one-ounce
letter or postcard will be 75 cents to
Canada, 79 cents to Mexico, and 98 cents
to other countries.
The Postal Service annually
adjusts the price of mailing services
in May. Increases generally coincide with
changes to the Consumer Price Index.
for youth programs
Grant applications are currently
being accepted to benefit local nonprofit
arts, sports and recreation, education,
and health programs. Ruiz 4 Kids, a nonprofit
foundation created by Ruiz Foods of Dinuba,
is seeking youth-oriented programs to
A grant application may be
downloaded at www.ruiz4kids-.org. The
deadline to submit the completed application
is Thursday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m.
In 2008, a total of $167,780
was awarded to four Tulare County organizations
as a part of Ruiz 4 Kids’s “Embracing
Children’s Dreams” program.
Ruiz 4 Kids was founded in
1990 specifically to assist children and
families in Tulare County. The organization
also distributes thousands of dollars
annually in college scholarships to rural
Tulare County high school seniors, including
those at Woodlake High.
The 2009 grants will be distributed
during a presentation ceremony at the
Visalia Convention Center in September.
Fiber and its benefits—
Fiber is the part of plant foods that
your body isn’t able to use or digest.
It is the broom of the digestive tract,
sweeping out the buildups of toxic waste.
Fiber is found in all edible
plants, including fruits, vegetables,
whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
It can benefit your health by easing symptoms
of some conditions, including constipation,
irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular
disease, and hemorrhoids.
Eating high-fiber foods can
also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, aid
in weight loss by making you feel full
faster, assists in the management of Type
2 diabetes by helping to keep blood glucose
levels stable, and possibly contributes
to the prevention of colon cancer by eliminating
toxic substances from the colon.
Men 50 and under
should consume 38 grams of fiber per day;
men over 50 need 30 grams daily.
Women 50 and under should
consume 25 grams of fiber per day; women
over 50 need 21 grams daily.
The amount of fiber is listed
on the “Nutrition Facts” label
on packaged foods. “Total fiber”
is under in the “Carbohydrates”
There are actually two types
Soluble fiber forms a gel
when mixed with liquid, so it helps make
loose stools more solid. It also binds
to fats in the digestive system to help
eliminate them and slows your body’s
absorption of sugar. Soluble fiber is
found in foods like oatmeal, nuts and
seeds, dried beans, peas, lentils, strawberries,
blueberries, apples, psyllium husks, flaxseeds,
Insoluble fiber adds bulk
to stools to help foods move through the
digestive system. It also holds water,
so it softens stools to prevent constipation
and promote regularity. Insoluble fiber
is found in foods like seeds, popcorn,
wheat bran, whole grains (such as whole-wheat
bread and brown rice), and most vegetables.
Add fiber to your diet gradually
(one to three extra grams daily) to avoid
bloating, cramping, or gas. It’s
also important to increase the amount
of water you drink as you increase your
Add fiber to your diet by:
—Eating high-fiber cereals like
bran flakes, shredded wheat, and oatmeal.
—Switching from white to whole wheat
and whole grain (rice, pasta, tortillas,
bread products, and flour when baking).
—Having vegetables and/or fruit
at every meal.
—Snacking on nuts, popcorn, raw
vegetables and fruits.
—Adding beans to soups, pasta, and