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An end to the drought?

 January 6, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, January 6th.

Can the recent weather end the drought? More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines ….

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Immigration activists have been expressing disappointment over the Biden Administration’s announcement of new border policies… including the immediate expulsion of asylum seekers from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti.

Pedro Rios is with the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego.

He says the new rules will make things worse along the border, but says he isn’t surprised by the announcement.

He says the Biden Administration knows it has lost ground on border rhetoric.

“And as they’re looking for 2024 and the presidential elections the Biden administration wants to look tough on border issues.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas says the fundamental problem is that the immigration system is broken.

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Gavin Newsom will be sworn into his second term as California’s governor today.

He will take the oath of office on the steps of the State Capitol.

This four year term will be his final as governor.

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The Regional Task Force on Homelessness is in need of more volunteers for the upcoming Point in Time Count.

The count is scheduled for January 26th.

It’s a federally required activity, and provides a one-day snapshot of how many San Diego County residents are living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens and on streets.

If you’d like to register to be a volunteer, visit the Task Force website.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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With all the rain and snow we’ve had so far, you might be wondering if we’re getting close to ending the drought.

KPBS reporter John Carroll says that answer depends on how you define a drought.

In Wednesday’s San Jose Mercury News, a San Diegan made an eye-opening statement.  Marty Ralph is the Director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  He’s an expert on atmospheric rivers.  Ralph said if these storms continue to come onshore for the next two or three weeks, that will end the drought.  But in my interview with him Thursday afternoon, Ralph clarified. “I think there’s something we could call landscape drought, which is like the plants and all that growing in the soils and the soils themselves, but the deeper groundwater things, that’s a long haul to recover that.” Ralph says recharging the state’s depleted groundwater and refilling giant reservoirs, like Lakes Powell and Mead will take years of above average precipitation, along with good management.  JC, KPBS News.

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Today, marks two years since supporters of former president Donald Trump stormed the U-S capitol hoping to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s election.

KPBS’s Amita Sharma spoke to a local political analyst about the impact of the January 6 insurrection on San Diegans.

Since the insurrection’s first anniversary, a house committee has investigated the attack, held public hearings and referred former president trump to the justice department for criminal charges. but mesa college political science professor carl luna says san diegans have largely been unmoved by those developments.“We've just kind of ignored it. it’s such an east coast thing. we’ll just keep going on with our san diego stuff and pretend it’s not going to affect us.” But he says the region still has its share of extremists who are members of the oath keepers and proud boys, the far right groups largely responsible for the carnage on january 6, 2021.. “And while local law enforcement tries to keep an eye on them, i’m not sure we really have a good feel of just how things could become in san diego if it became a really divided national scene by 2024.” At least three local men have been arrested for participating in the breach of the capitol. two were convicted and one pleaded guilty. and san diego resident ashli babitt was shot and killed by a police officer during the attack. amita sharma, kpbs news.

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New data from the County Health Department isn’t showing a large spike in COVID or flu cases from the Christmas holiday.

They’re actually trending down.

It’s still too early to tell if we’ll see a bump from new years celebrations.

County Public Health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, says it’s good news, especially when it comes to COVID-19.

“We’re cautiously optimistic. We can't rest on our laurels and just think because are moving down now -- we could have another small surge and the surge we’ve saw so far has been small if you compare it to last year.”

Wooten says the downward trends are likely due to the majority of San Diegans being vaccinated.

COVID hospitalizations are also lower than they were this time last year.

She says we’re likely on track to end the public health emergency late next month.

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San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez is just a few weeks into the job as the county’s top law enforcement officer.

The San Diego native began her work for the department in 19-85 as a deputy in the county jails… and as the Department’s sheriff, she is tasked with bringing change to a jail system with some of the highest numbers of in-custody deaths in the state.

KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon asked Sheriff Martinez how she plans to change this.

That was the new San Diego County Sheriff, Kelly Martinez, speaking with KPBS’s Jade Hindmon.

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Coming up.... Ring in 20-23 with some weekend arts events. We’ll bring you a few suggestions. That and more, just after the break.

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California could soon have a new repository of electricity, capable of stabilizing the state’s power grid.

KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson says a German company is building a virtual power plant brimming with potential.

It’s been less than a year since Andrea Divis moved back to San Diego County into a two-story Oceanside home. “It’s comfortable and cozy and really the backyard is kind of like my oasis where I’m homebound a lot of the time. Divis is dealing with a chronic medical condition.  She needs air conditioning and refrigeration for her medicines. “When I was in Oregon I was paying, I don’t know, 150 dollars a month for my utilities.  And now I come here and on the slowest month it was 200 and I got upwards of 450, 480.” Divis saw solar as a solution.  She added power generating panels to her roof and just inside her garage there is a sophisticated Sonnen battery. The battery stores excess power generated on her rooftop during the day and uses that environmentally friendly energy when prices go up between four and nine pm. “We’ve got sun in Southern California.  Let’s use it to our advantage.  We shouldn’t be using crude oil and all of that kind of stuff.  We’re trying to get away from that and it helps meet the energy efficiency that we’ve committed to for California and I’m always about trying to recycle and reuse and reduce and if that reduces my impact on the environment, great.” That Sonnen Battery is made by a German company owned by Shell. A modem connects the power storage device to the internet and that connection could be the bridge to build a power reservoir that could help California avoid future power shortages. “We’ve seen the flex alerts, hey we’ve got more demand than production, we need people to cut back. Mike Teresso works for Baker Electric Home Energy which installs the Sonnen batteries and solar panel systems in San Diego County. “Well, if we have these batteries with stored energy in them, that energy could be pumped out to the grid and help stabilize the grid.” The company has only sold a few dozen Sonnen batteries, but Teresso says that number could climb dramatically by the end of this year.  Sonnen has already developed software that’ll allow batteries scattered around the state to work together in a swarm, providing power to the grid when it is needed the most. “Hey, that battery can be so much more.  It’s not just there for backup. It’s not just the stored energy for you to use in an event.  And it’s not just for you to use between four and nine when the rates are high. That battery now has real value to the market and you can be part of the California grid becoming more stable and more resilient.” Sonnen battery owners get a payment for signing up to be part of the virtual power plant.  Having a certain amount of electricity on standby is important for the grid so battery owners get paid for making their stored electricity available. And if the energy is ever needed, the homeowners get premium rates for the power they release from the battery.  Blake Richeta is Sonnen’s chairman and CEO. “It’s the next step beyond just putting solar on the roof.  Is to have thousands of people to have their batteries coordinated.  It should save them more money on their electric bill.  It should actually pay them for their service. And help us get rid of fossil fuel based power plants.” Richeta says batteries can be located anywhere in the state, because Sonnen deals directly with California’s Independent System Operator, the agency that runs the electric grid.  He says Sonnen needs five to ten thousand connected batteries to have a significant impact on the grid.  And the more residential batteries there are, the more they can help. “Having a smarter grid, that is more nimble, that can balance generation and load and can handle the difficulties in the grid is, I think, essential for the future. It’s the blueprint for the future. And to answer your question in a long way.  Millions of batteries someday should exist.  And this will allow us to, amongst other solutions, allow us to decommission all of the coal burning power plants once and for all.” But whether companies like Sonnen can encourage enough people to buy batteries is unclear.  California regulators recently passed new rules slashing the value of electricity that rooftop solar owners sell back to the grid.  Officials hope homeowners buy batteries paired with solar systems to avoid high peak prices, but it is not clear whether the new rules will create the financial incentive to convince owners to spend thousands of dollars, upfront, to install the systems. Erik Anderson KPBS News

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It’s Friday - that means it's time for your weekend preview, courtesy of KPBS arts producer Julia Dixon Evans.

First up, is a musical that follows The Temptations' journey to fame.

It’s called 'Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations,' and it’s based on the memoir by the last remaining member of the group, Otis Williams. The musical is full of the groups’ hit tunes.

Like this one we’re listening to… ‘My Girl,’ performed by the Broadway musical’s cast.

The remaining performances are at 8 o-clock tonight, 2 p-m and 8 p-m tomorrow, and 1 p-m and 6-30 p-m on Sunday at the San Diego Civic Theatre in downtown.

And Project Blank’s annual group art show is returning after a nearly three-year hiatus because of the pandemic.

‘Working Title” is a community-based exhibition of new works by painters, sculptors, sound and video artists, musicians and more.

The works focused on the ideas of ritual, sacredness and religious belief.

The exhibition runs through tomorrow, from 6 to 10 at night at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Hillcrest.

For more info on these events and others, visit kpbs-dot-org-slash-arts.

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And before you go… just another reminder that we’d love to hear about those resolutions you’re trying to keep, or working on.

Whatever you hope to accomplish in the new year, there is still time to share it with us, and we’ll share it with your fellow listeners!

You can do that by calling us at 6-1-9- 4-5-2-0-2-2-8 and leaving a voicemail.

Be sure to leave your name and what area of the county you live in.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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That’s it for the podcast today. This podcast is produced by KPBS Senior Producer Brooke Ruth and Producer Emilyn Mohebbi. We’d like to thank KPBS producers Lara McCaffrey and Neiko Will for helping out our podcast team this week. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

With all the rain and snow we’ve had so far, you might be wondering if we’re getting close to ending the drought. That answer depends on how you define a drought. In other news, new data from the San Diego County Health Department isn’t showing a large spike in COVID or flu cases from the Christmas holiday. Plus, tell us your new year resolutions by leaving us a voicemail with your name and what part of San Diego County you live in, at 619-452-0228.