Features and Longform

In-depth and narrative features illuminating complex topics with human stories.

Resurrecting the Carmel River Floodplain

The Carmel River of the late 20th century was a tale of California water extremes writ small. In 1998 it flooded homes again, but in most years, the river was largely reduced to a trickle as it was siphoned off to water the blooming tourist mecca of the Monterey Peninsula. Endangered steelhead trout, members of the southernmost surviving population, would often find their attempts to swim upriver and spawn thwarted by...

These urchin slayers are trying to save California’s underwater 'rainforest'

Grant Downie had been out of the Pacific Ocean for about 10 minutes when he realized he could no longer see out of his right eye. The second-generation commercial diver had been deeper beneath the waves than usual searching for his catch — red sea urchins prized by restaurateurs for their uni, or sushi-grade gonads. But the red urchins, which dwell in underwater kelp forests, had gotten harder to find in recent years; each additional foot of depth forced more nitrogen into his bloodstream and upped his risk for dangerous bubbles lodging in his body or brain.

Retreat By Any Other Name – KneeDeep Times

Affluence often aligns with stronger resistance to relocation. But an even stronger factor could be how much private versus public land is imperiled. In wealthy San Francisco, a lengthy process of negotiation triumphed with a plan for managed retreat of a beloved public beach, while residents of the remote northern town of King Salmon rallied against the suggestion of relocating from their homes. Nearly three-quarters of the town qualifies as “economically disadvantaged” by federal criteria.

Gone Fishing

As the weekend dawns and California slumbers, the sportfishers descend, like clockwork, on the banks and waves of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They carry nets for herring or poles for sturgeon, heavy and light tackle, bloodworms or anchovy or any number of delectable morsels to attract the desired target. They tread industrialized East Bay shorelines and marshy Delta banks, hop aboard sporty six-pack boats for more ambitious trips or humbler craft for a leisurely solo excursion. They catch (and often release) a smorgasbord of species: halibut, kingfish (white croaker), or sturgeon around the Bay, or striped bass, salmon, and black bass in the many tendrils of the Delta.

Can Birds and Solar Float on the Same Ponds?

Floating solar panels, like the ones Napa’s Far Niente winery finished installing in 2009, could be a real windfall for a watery Bay-Delta region seeking carbon-free energy. Secured to buoyant platforms or pontoons, low over the water’s surface and at a slight angle, the panels can cover a large area without competing with agriculture or housing for primo sun-drenched land. They slow evaporation from the water sources they cover that might otherwise dwindle to nothing in the summertime. And of course, they make electricity without emitting the planet-heating gases that are deepening droughts, worsening wildfires, and drowning coastlines in California.

Coastscape: Views of Ocean Change in Santa Cruz, California

One bright morning not long after the new year, I woke up early to photograph the sea burying my favourite local beach. On warm summer afternoons, Sunny Cove fills with hundreds of people—children toddling along the waterline, boogie boarders, skimboarders, families picnicking, dogs chasing balls into the surf, teens puffing on joints—all enjoying the narrow beach nestled between two small, sandy cliff faces. I would normally clamber down the rough cliffside stairs to join their ranks. But that Saturday morning the neighborhood slumbered, and the beach was gone. The waves had swallowed it whole.

A “Climate of Fear” Accelerates Existing Labor Shortages on California’s Farms

As field hands rethink traveling to the U.S., some farmers have been forced to watch their produce rot in the fields. Many others are cutting back acreage. Gilbert Castellanos said he remembers when people “would fight each other to work in the fields.” Today, Castellanos struggles to find enough workers to complete the harvest on his 300 acres of oranges, stone fruits, and grapes in California’s Central Valley. He has abandoned plots because he couldn’t find enough workers to harvest them. “Now there is no one,” he said, “for the last three or four years. Every year it’s getting worse.”

What happens after a devastating wildfire? One California community shows an answer

When Palo Colorado resident Mike C. heard that a wildfire had ignited five miles from his home, he figured he’d have two or three days before it reached his property. He had been building his dream home since 1983, gradually constructing it over more than three decades. Because the property was under perpetual construction, he had no homeowners insurance. As he watched water bombers drop flame retardant loads, he worked through the day and night covering vents on the roof, moving flammable items...