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Drought continues

 October 5, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, October 5th.

How could La Nina conditions affect the state’s water supply? More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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Emergency repairs are on the way for a stretch of train track just north of San Diego County after the cliffside showed signs of movement.

But until the repair work is done, train service has ground to a halt between Oceanside and Irvine.

Darrell Johnson, the CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority, said stopping service on this busy corridor establishes an emergency. 

 “It is the 2nd busiest passenger rail corridor in the country.”

Train service is expected to resume next month with construction continuing until next year, but that could change.

In the meantime, alternate services are being provided to travelers.

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San Diego is again requiring people living on city streets and sidewalks to take down their tents during daylight hours.

If they refuse to, they risk being given a citation.

San Diego police said their goal is to clear public rights of way and encourage people to accept shelter and services.

But, because there are not enough shelter beds, people are allowed to have the tents up at night.

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More monkeypox vaccines are now available throughout the county.

The Vaccine is recommended for anyone in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of monkeypox, and gay and bisexual men.

A list of where and when you can get the vaccine is listed on San Diego County’s monkeypox website.

Appointments can by made online at myturn.ca.gov

More than 11 thousand San Diego County residents have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine is a two dose series.

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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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California water officials are expecting and preparing for another year of drought.

Andrew Ayres is a researcher with California’s Water Policy Center.

He joined KPBS’s Jade Hindmon to talk more about the impacts of the drought on California.

The state is predicting another year of drought…following the three driest years on record. Can you put this context for us…how dry has it been in California?

The La Nina conditions are also expected to continue through this winter, what are the implications of that for the state?

What threat is the drought posing to water supplies in California?

You’ve written about more long term implications of California’s drought conditions on the state’s agricultural product, how has the drought already affected the state’s water resources?  

What about water conservation, so far the public response to calls for conservation have been modest, how much conservation is needed to make a difference? 

That was Andrew Ayres, a researcher with California’s Water Policy Center, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon.

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It’s been nearly two years since San Diegans approved the creation of a Commission on Police Practices.

Now it’s finally becoming reality.

Here’s KPBS reporter John Carroll.

Voters approved Measure B in November of 2020… it did away with the police review board and mandated the creation of a Commission on Police Practices… a commission that will have teeth, including subpoena power.  It’s taken quite a while to get the Commission up and running, partly because of opposition from the San Diego Police Officers Association.  The union opposes the exclusion of family members and co-habitants of police officers and they’re against allowing convicted felons, if they’ve done their time, to serve on the Commission.  But city councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe says the commission will be fair. “I think it is a good balance.  I really do.  I think that the commissioners will be upright, the commissioners will be thoughtful.” The city council will meet one more time to approve permanent operating procedures… then the San Diego Commission on Police Practices will finally begin its work.  JC, KPBS News.

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Tijuana gas stations are capitalizing on California’s record-high gas prices.

KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis found several stations advertising cheaper gas to commuters heading to San Diego.

The signs are everywhere. Written in big, bold letters and spelled out in English. Last Chance to Save on Gas. That’s how Tijuana gas stations near the border are advertising to northbound travelers. “Are you saving a lot of money – Yes I do. Haha” Mercedes says she’s saved around $50 dollars since buying gas in Tijuana. The price of gas at the border is $4.60 per gallon – that’s nearly two dollars cheaper than California’s current average of $6.42. Sonia Elena Lopez is an attendant at the gas station. She says roughly 70 percent of the customers are Americans. “Son muy buenos porque dejan muy buena propina.” She says Americans are very good customers because they fill up the tank and leave generous tips. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News

And if you want to save your gas, public transit throughout San Diego County will be free TODAY.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more.

AB: Public transit has already been seeing a boost in ridership, in part due to high gas prices. And if past years are precedent, Free Ride Day on Wednesday will see another surge in people taking buses, trolleys and trains. Also happening Wednesday is the Padres' final game of the regular season. The team's marketing director Chris Connolly says many fans took the trolley to Petco Park for the first time this season. CC: Obviously the themes of ease, of affordability, I heard that over and over again, avoiding those downtown parking hassles. AB: The free rides Wednesday also extend to North County's buses, and COASTER and SPRINTER trains. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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Coming up.... The San Diego Zoo welcomes 41 endangered baby turtles that were 20 years in the making. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

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Elementary students in the Stockton neighborhood of San Diego are enjoying a new soccer field and playground area.

KPBS Education reporter M.G. Perez tells us it's the result of a true community collaboration.

The 4-point-3 million dollar joint-use field was developed in a partnership between the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified School District. It includes a new synthetic turf soccer field, an asphalt track, basketball courts and a modern playground near the King Chavez Primary Academy. The play areas will be open to the community even when the school is not…after hours and on the weekend. JoAnn Cruz lives in the neighborhood. “it’s giving a lot of kids opportunity to get outside…they can play the sport….and get together and play.” The project was mostly paid for by local taxpayers who approved bond money to revitalize the King Chavez neighborhood school. MGP KPBS News

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San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance researchers are celebrating their first successful breeding of an endangered Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle.

The hatchlings are the product of an effort that began more than 20 years ago.

KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson has details.

“So this is the turtle habitat, you have a number of different turtles here.”  -- “Correct, so this is basically a replica of what you might encounter in Asia.  In the Indian sub- continent in particular. Kim Gray is a long-time herpetologist at the San Diego Zoo. And she’s standing next to the habitat that’s home to three Indian soft-shell turtles.  Two females and a male. “The mother of some of the offspring we have is in the sandy pool area.  She’s hidden underneath all of that sand.  She’s using the camouflage to help hide her.  (And she’s big) She’s very big. When you’re down there next to them, it’s quite impressive but she’s about two and a half feet by about three and a half feet.” The soft-shell turtles can top 400 pounds when fully grown. She hides in the sand waiting for prey to swim by.  When that happens she shoots out her long neck, snatching and swallowing her meal. “This habitat area was designed with this species in mind.  So we had just acquired them at the time.  We were doing some construction. And we actually designed it with the sandy beaches with the species we selected for this habitat. With them, thinking in the future, we didn’t know when, but our goal was that they would breed one day.  We didn’t know it would take so long. But we’re happy.” A long time indeed.  She’s waited more than 20 years for the turtles to breed, time enough to raise two teenage daughters. “Just waiting and hoping.  You can anticipate it and hope for the best, but you’re always pleasantly surprised.” The magic finally happened this summer.  Keepers found a clutch of eggs in a crude nest on the habitat’s beach area.  Eventually they isolated 11 eggs to incubate.  Then the surprise.  30 more hatched from a hidden nest in the habitat. 41 turtles eventually wriggled out of their shells more than two decades after Gray first hoped the soft-shell turtles would start breeding. “Oh yeah, I got a text. And we were celebrating a text at six o’clock in the morning or something and we were all texting each other.  We were all excited, yeah.” “This is a hatchling, narrow headed soft-shell turtle.” Davis Provan is a senior wildlife care specialist charged with raising the hatchlings in an off-exhibit area.  The turtles are about two inches long and eager to find high ground. “Yeah, so for the first month or so they seem pretty determined to come up on land.  And possibly bask.  I’m not entirely sure. And after that point they’ll stay in the water, and they’ll stay buried under the sand as ambush predators and wait for small invertebrates to come by for them to pick off.  So, we have these little, I think they are black worms in the water for them to learn how to eat.” Part of the challenge now is finding homes for the hatchlings.  While they are just a few inches long now, they will get much bigger.  And much hungrier. “You can see, Jokingly it does have a turtleneck.  Its a turtle with a turtleneck.  Its almost like fabric, like a sweater turtleneck. And again, it's deceiving, the head looks quite small but the skull on these animals is quite impressive.  They have a lot of muscular attachments for that powerful shoot-out of the neck.” Gray says the turtles are a marker species for the river habitats where they live in Nepal and India.  If the turtles are thriving their habitats are likely healthy.   She hopes the hatchlings will teach conservationists how to help the species in the wild. “the last time scientists really took all the wild data and determined what its status was, was 22 years ago.  And if it was endangered then, our concern is that it’s even worse now.  So all of this information we can help share with a plan that should we need to intervene more, maybe these head start or assurance colonies.  That this can help contribute to that.” San Diego researchers are recording everything. Weight, activity, diet.  They hope to learn as much as they can about the hatchlings because this is the first time these turtles have bred in captivity at an accredited facility in North America. Erik Anderson KPBS News

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That’s it for the podcast today. 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 day.

California is experiencing the driest three years ever recorded and we’re on track for a fourth year. In other news, Tijuana gas stations are capitalizing on California’s record-high gas prices. Plus, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is celebrating their first successful breeding of an endangered Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle.