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Visalia Might Get Its Way On High Speed Rail – Kings County Plays Chess To Block It – Kaweah Delta Plays Checkers

News Nuggets From The Central Valley
Kings County is blocking soil sampling work by contractors for the California High Speed Rail Authority along the proposed right-of-way. Kings County Public Works Director Kevin McAlister said a letter was sent Aug 16 denying the request saying the project “did not comply with the county’s General Plan.” The application was for a encroachment permit to do soil boring along public roads. CHSRA spokesperson Lisa Marie Alley acknowledges receipt of the letter and says “we are working with Kings County to see what our next step might be.” But McAlister says since the county is not going to change their General Plan “I don’t know how we can proceed”- essentially closing the door on any next step.
These type applications are routinely approved. Not in this case in Kings County where the bullet train has strong opposition and the county itself has actually filed suit  to try to stop the project from moving forward.This week Tulare County approved a similar encroachment permit through the southwest part of the county.

If the controversial bullet train does move forward, it looks like the East of Hanford route is now favored. A published monthly report by URS Corp consultants who advise the California High Speed Rail Authority on planning and engineering services to construct the rail line suggests that the Authority has decided to plan for a route through Kings County to the East of Hanford (the original plan) rather than West of Hanford as they announced this Spring.The consultants progress report says Authority staff told URS” In July 2013, further verbal direction was given to replace the Hanford West Bypass 2 Below-Grade Alternative with the Hanford East Alternative as part of the single PA (preferred alternative), and to explore options for adjusting that alignment to avoid or reduce impacts on the Baker Commodities facility.” The change of heart may be due to two factors. The engineers only lately became  ware of the high water table on the West of Hanford route.Secondly, never-say-die lobbying by the City of Visalia aimed at CHSRA board members themselves may have finally gotten their ear.
That would be a huge victory for Tulare County who has argued for a station stop closer to Hwy 99 for more than a decade.  In 2004 the mayor of Visalia told the press that “Without a high-speed rail station in Visalia, eventually 1 million people will be underserved,” Jesus Gamboa said.Of course the stop won’t be in Visalia but at least, to the east of Hanford. The Authority won’t make it official until later this year – perhaps October. One city official who was there through a half dozen mayors – retiring City Manager Steve Salomon along with his replacement Mike Olmos – probably worked the hardest.

Whether the rail project, the biggest public works effort in state history moves forward or not  – is being played out in a game of chess with the next round set for 9/27/13 before Judge Kinney who ruled against the Authority in the related case recently. Kings County attorney Colleen Carlson says the Authority is seeking issuance of about $8.5+ billion worth of general obligations bonds pursuant to Prop. 1A while the county and fellow litigants Tos and Fukuda seek to block this issuance of bonds.

Seems like a strange match but Kaweah Delta now owns the Checkers Hamburger stand property on Acequia. But CEO Lindsay Mann says customers don’t need to worry the burger joint will go away any time soon. “We are many years off to needing this land or the old Taco Bell property but we now own all the way to West St.” Mann adds that “we will go up – not out to expand.” In fact Kaweah Delta has now told the City of Visalia they won’t need their property (city hall block) for future expansion as was once thought.

Now that Kaweah Delta is a teaching hospital the graduate docs will be doing clinical research says Chief Medical Officer Dr Mark Garfield.”It will be very practical” says Dr Garfield, with research going on in all 5 specialties that will be part of the hospital’s Graduate Medical Education program.In the Family Practice program carried out at the Exeter clinic,graduates will offer to test patients with no symptoms, to see if they have diabetes. Almost one in ten Tulare County resident has the disease which is a leading cause of death.”But people don’t know they have it.” Early detection helps both the patient and the care provider to help the patient. Research will monitor what difference this makes.

More News at Kaweah Delta
includes the opening of the new 7-bed Labor and Triage area for expectant mothers to be evaluated, a new MRI facility, and recent notice that the hospital was designated a “Center of Excellence” for their new Minimally Invasive Gynecology program. Lastly, Mann says the new helipad – christened this summer-  has already made a big difference in a half dozen lives both coming in for care and being sent out to another med center.”The community can be proud it raised $2.2 million to make this happen.”

Dollar General Plans Exeter Store / New Battle In Lindsay:
Fast growing retailer Dollar General will build a new store in Exeter on Visalia Rd adding to their string of new stores in the Tulare County orange belt area.The company is seeking a a conditional use permit from the Exeter Planning Commission at their next meeting September 19, says planner Greg Collins.“They want to build a 9000sf store west of Burger King and across the street from Savemart on Visalia Rd.” Just this month the discounter opened their new 12,500sf Woodlake store and in the past month the company got approval to build a new store in Lindsay after selecting a location that did not displace a historical building in town. But the chess game goes on. Dollar General’s second choice,approved now by the city is being opposed in court by activist Trudy Wischemann of Lindsay and attorney Richard Harriman.

Success To Fill This Winter / District Could Pay Not To Farm: After seven years of limitations on filling Success Dam above Porterville due to earthquake safety concerns, the US Army Corp Of Engineers is expected to lift the restrictions this fall according to several local informed sources.

That would be some rare good news in this – another drought year – because if it does rain this winter “we can capture more surface water instead of continued all-out ground water pumping” says local water expert Dick Schafer.

“But I am afraid even with several good years we are too far behind on the overdraft of our groundwater to make it up” says Schafer, a Visalia civil engineer. Instead, two Porterville area water districts are in discussion on a possible locally organized groundwater management plan that could potentially take several directions says Schafer.
Schafer says the two hottest ideas being floated right now would be that existing farm owners would pool money to pay other farm owners not to farm. An alternate would be to eliminate double cropping. A second plan following what is happening in southern California – would be some kind of well monitoring and allocation – meters for example.

“Right now it’s who can drill the deepest” shrugs Schafer.

He says the district will likely work to organize a local management plan under state groundwater management legislation. Locals want to try to do this themselves rather than have the state step in.

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