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Friday News Roundup

Leatherback sea turtle conservation. Power outages. And the Monterey Peninsula’s persistent water problem.

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Kate Spencer / Fast Raft Ocean Safaris
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It’s the 9th-annual Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day!

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 10/15/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few national stories from NPR.

Just in time for Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day, the state has bestowed the intrepid water wayfarers with an additional layer of protection, by listing the species as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. Pacific leatherback turtles are already considered federally endangered. Ashley Blacow-Draeger, a spokesperson for the conservation group Oceana, called it a “nice additional insurance policy” in the event the animals' federal protections are ever challenged. The move will also allocate additional funding and resources to conserve the species.

Pacific leatherback sea turtles hatch on islands in the Southwestern Pacific ocean. Once they’re fully grown, they swim more than 6,000 miles to the West Coast of the U.S., where they feed on jellyfish in places like the Monterey Bay. While migrating and feeding, they can become entangled in fishing gear and drown. Find out more about them here.

The State of the Pandemic (data from the California Open Data portal)

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Jerimiah Oetting / KAZU News

The Carmel River is getting a much needed break starting next year. The river has served as the Monterey Peninsula’s primary source of freshwater for eons. But after generations of overuse — including years of illegal overpumping by the Peninsula’s private water utility, Cal Am — a California state agency is tightening restrictions. Starting on Jan. 1, Cal Am will have access to less than two-thirds the amount of water it pumped a decade ago.

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Suzanne Saunders / KAZU News
A horse and its rider marvel at the Carmel River’s low water levels.

That’s good news for the river, and for the federally protected species that call it home. But as KAZU’s Suzanne Saunders reports, water managers disagree about how best to compensate for the water deficit. In the meantime, the Peninsula’s residents might be stuck paying higher rates and fines and rationing their water usage. Read Saunders’ story here.

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Jerimiah Oetting / KAZU News
The strong winds that were forecasted for early this week prompted Pacific Gas & Electric to preemptively shut off power for about 25,000 customers as a precautionary measure.

The wind howled across the Monterey Bay this week, and that means the lights went out for some residents. PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) this week impacted about 740 customers in Monterey County and 85 customers in San Benito County — a small portion of the 25,000 total customers affected across the state by the shutoff. Power was out from early Monday morning until late Tuesday evening. The company said the shutoffs were meant to reduce wildfire risk caused by power lines dropped by strong winds. PG&E crews documented “at least four instances of damage or hazards to electric equipment that could have sparked fires,” according to a statement.

While no residents in Santa Cruz County lost power due to the PSPS specifically, the high winds did knock out electricity on Monday for roughly 12,000 customers in the tri-county region who weren’t included in the PSPS. Another 4,000 were affected on Tuesday. No major wildfires were reported this week in the area.

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Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System
Brendon Ramirez receives a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine at SVMHS first duel Flu/COVID-19 free community vaccination clinic. Mother Christina Fernandez brought her four children to the clinic.

The Visiting Nurse Association is reminding everyone it is time to get a flu shot. Monterey County VNA Director Andrea Zoodsma said flu cases were down last year because of COVID-19 protocols, and is concerned there may be a surge of cases this year. She said October and November are the best months to get a flu shot. Flu season on the Central Coast is normally January and February and getting a shot now ensures the vaccine will be at its peak.

Information on getting a flu vaccination is available on the VNA website. The Salinas Valley Memorial HealthCare System is offering free flu and COVID-19 vaccinations at clinics in Salinas this week. Details on receiving a vaccination from SVMH is available on its website.

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Jerimiah Oetting / KAZU News
The R/V Sally Ride as seen from Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz. The vessel, owned by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has been conducting research off the Monterey Bay coast this summer.

Santa Cruzians may have spotted a cool looking research vessel off the coast this week. The Scripps-owned R/V Sally Ride — named for America’s first female space explorer — is currently hosting a research crew from the University of Miami who are studying interactions between land, air and sea along the coast with a network of advanced buoys. The Coastal Land-Air-Sea Interaction (CLASI) project hopes to improve coastal weather forecasting. It also aims to improve radar communication and “operational systems” — likely why Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School is involved in the collaborative effort, which also includes Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The crew of 24 — nine researchers and 15 crew — has spent the summer in the south part of the Monterey Bay, and are now surveying the Santa Cruz coastline in preparation for work they’ll continue next summer.

That’s it for this week!

Until then,
The KAZU Team