Local Politics

Wednesday, Jan 15 2014 06:44 PM

Government roundup: House budget bill helps fight citrus-killing disease, valley fever

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Dr. Mike Lancaster, laboratory director at the Kern County Public Health Services Department, speaks on Modern Problems in Valley Fever Diagnosis on Sept. 24, 2013 to a crowd at Cal State Bakersfield during the final day of the Valley Fever Symposium in Bakersfield.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

A $1.1 trillion spending bill approved Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives includes money and other help for the Central Valley.

For example:

* There's $20 million for research to fight Huanglongbing, a disease that kills citrus trees.

The trade group California Citrus Mutual sent a news release acknowledging the efforts of Reps. David Valadao, R-Hanford, Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, to support inclusion of the research money.

If the bill is approved by the U.S. Senate as expected, the $20 million would be divided among researchers working in different citrus-producing regions across the country.

In California, Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, has been found only in Hacienda Heights, in Los Angeles County. But the insect that carries it turned up in the Central Valley last year.

The invasive insect, Asian citrus psyllid, has been spotted in Wasco. A total of 125 acres in Kern County is now under quarantine to prevent the insect's spread.

* It contains language requiring the National Institutes of Health to submit a report to Congress with its fiscal year 2015 budget request outlining "the recommendations, ongoing NIH and (Centers for Disease Control) efforts, and coordinated plans" to treat and prevent valley fever, according to McCarthy's office.

* It extends for three years the existing indemnification regime for launches by commercial space operators in eastern Kern County and elsewhere in the U.S., McCarthy said in a news release.

The system, designed to take financial pressure off of budding commercial space businesses, makes American taxpayers via the federal government financially responsible for catastrophic damages over and above the "maximum probable loss" calculated by the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

Losses above that level due to crashes or other accidents would be indemnified by the government for up to about $2.8 billion, according to spacepolitics.com.

Last year, Congress passed a one-year extension of the indemnification regime.

"The commercial spaceflight industry is one of our newest, fastest-growing and most innovative industries," McCarthy said. "And if we take the right steps, we won't just be launching rockets, we will be launching new careers, new industries and new economic opportunities. Today, Congress acted to ensure that America's commercial space industry remains competitive in an increasingly global market."

 

With two dry years behind it and a third looming, the city's water board voted Wednesday to ask the Bakersfield City Council to formally call on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency statewide "due to the current water shortage condition."

Water Resources Department staffers, who advise the City of Bakersfield Water Board, stopped short of asking it to declare a water emergency in Bakersfield, noting that while state water does help recharge local groundwater supplies, the city is not dependent on state water to supply local residents.

Bakersfield gets its water from aquifers and the Kern River, but Water Board member Russell Johnson said a declaration from the governor could make it easier to get water to local farmers, many of whom do rely on state water.

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