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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Scientists are assessing the damage from a massive wildfire burning around Yosemite National Park, laying plans to protect habitat and waterways as the fall rainy season approaches.

Members of the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team have been hiking the rugged Sierra Nevada terrain this weekend even as thousands of firefighters continue to battle the four-week-old blaze. The 50 scientists are working to identify areas at the highest risk for erosion into waterways, including the reservoir that provides San Francisco with its famously pure water. Officials say they hope to have a report ready in two weeks so remediation can start before the first storms.

The wildfire started on Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest when a hunter's illegal fire swept out of control. It now ranks as the third-largest wildfire in modern California history, having burned 394 square miles of timber, meadows and sensitive wildlife habitat.

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NEW YORK (AP) — They weren't exposed to anywhere near the same level of ash, grit and fumes.

But some emergency workers who responded to the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside on 9/11 are signing up for the same compensation and health care benefits being offered to New Yorkers who got sick after toiling in the dust of the World Trade Center.

Federal officials say at least 91 people from the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania sites have applied for payment from a multibillion-dollar fund for people with an illness related to the attacks.

There's little medical evidence that those responders were exposed to unusual environmental hazards or are getting sick in large numbers, but officials are urging some responders to enroll as a precaution.

More than 24,000 applied for compensation for ground zero work.

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FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Throughout central California, a water war is quietly being fought underground.

Farmers, residents and urban water districts have seen their wells go dry because the water table has fallen so low. Those who can afford it have been drilling deeper wells that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Experts say groundwater supplies have been strained by growing city populations and hundreds of square miles of new orchards and vineyards.

Exacerbating the problem is a second consecutive dry year, as well as cutbacks of surface water shipped to farms and cities from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Climate change is putting additional pressure on aquifers.

Experts worry groundwater is becoming unaffordable — and that overuse could cause serious land subsidence, damaging infrastructure such as roads.

Read more...

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