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Top KCBX News stories of 2016

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As the new year gets underway, the KCBX newsroom takes pause to revisit the most-read and newsworthy stories of the past year. Here’s a sampling of 15 stories reflecting KCBX’s coverage of the Central Coast in 2016:

Competing plans afoot for offshore utility-scale wind farm

In December the federal agency that decides what kind of energy development takes place in our nation’s coastal waters issued a guidebook to understanding how renewable energy projects get approved and built. It’s a wonky topic of particular interest to the Central Coast, as firms jockey to build an offshore wind farm near Morro Bay. If Trident Winds succeeds in its quest, someday there will be a floating wind farm far out to sea from the beaches of Morro Bay and Cambria, off Point Estero.

Future of expanding Chumash reservation land uncertain

If you’re familiar at all with the Santa Ynez Valley, you know it’s famous for its rolling hills and farmland bordered by country roads and twisted-trunked oak trees. Nestled between these ranches and hills is the reservation of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the only federally-recognized tribe of the Chumash people who once called lands from as far north as Monterey down to Malibu their home. That’s around 300 miles of coastline. Now, their land is down to a crowded 100 acres--less than 1/4 square mile of total land. Over the past twenty years, the tribe has tried to expand the reservation to sustain the amount of residents. After several attempts of expanding over the years, they’ve faced opposition from local, non-tribal members.

Oil companies sue Monterey County over Measure Z

Aera Energy and Chevron have filed separate lawsuits against Monterey County, alleging the passage of Measure Z will shut down oil production in the county. In November, Monterey County became the seventh county in California to ban fracking with Measure Z. The ballot initiative passed with 56 percent of the vote. The county is home to several oil fields, including the San Ardo oil field.

PG&E agrees to pay millions to relieve economic pain of Diablo Canyon closure

Pacific Gas and Electric has agreed to pay out $85 million to San Luis Obispo County and several Central Coast cities and public schools to help ease the proposed closure of California's last nuclear power plant.

Harmon edges out Marx for SLO mayor by 47 votes

It appears Heidi Harmon is the next mayor of San Luis Obispo. The county’s election office released an updated tally just after 4 pm Wednesday in the closest local race of the recent election. While San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong has not certified the results, Harmon leads by a margin of 47 votes.

Recycling center closures hit homeless community in the pocketbook

The recent closures of several recycling centers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are putting a financial and time strain on members of the area's homeless population who regularly depend on the money earned by cashing in those California Redemption Value (CRV) cans and bottles.

SLO County Planning Commission votes to deny Phillips 66 rail spur project

The proposal by Phillips 66 to increase the number of trains bringing crude oil to its Santa Maria refinery will not move forward with a recommendation by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission.

UPDATE: Kristin Smart case 'Items of interest' found at all three Cal Poly dig sites

Items of interest found at multiple Cal Poly dig sites were being studied by investigators looking into the disappearance of missing college student Kristin Smart. The case is 20 years old, but recently revived with new information that led the FBI and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office to the hillside area surrounding the Cal Poly 'P'.

Smoke from Soberanes Fire affecting SLO County's air quality

The Soberanes Fire burning just to the north of San Luis Obispo County along the Big Sur Coast grew to nearly 15,000 acres on Monday. Air patterns over California's Central Coast are pushing smoke from the fire south into San Luis Obispo County.

Condor chick is the first raised in the wild in a century

A 5-and-a-half month old California condor chick has taken flight in Pinnacles National Park. This endangered condor chick is the first to be successfully raised solely in the wild in more than 100 years. All other California condors have been raised with assistance from a condor rehabilitation program.

Oak clear-cut for vineyard expansion sparks controversy in Paso Robles wine industry

Controversy is growing over a vineyard-expansion project in the Paso Robles Wine Growing region. The plan calls for the clear-cutting of an oak forest on land owned by Justin Vineyards. Much of the project has already been completed, but what remains currently on hold. 

Plan to close Diablo Canyon: PG&E announces phasing out nuclear power in California by 2025

Effective immediately, PG&E said Tuesday it will cease any efforts on its part to renew the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant operating licenses. The move to phase out nuclear power production in California by 2025 is a joint proposal released by PG&E, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Fear could be one reason for ongoing field worker shortage at Central Coast farms

California’s Central Coast is suffering from an ongoing farm worker shortage. Undocumented workers in the Santa Maria Valley have told KCBX that fear over a recent arson incident at a Nipomo farmworker housing project and multiple immigration (ICE) raids may be contributing to the shortage.

Strawberries top 'Dirty Dozen' list of produce with detectable pesticides

The Central Coast's number one cash crop is taking a hit from an environmental watchdog group for what it calls an excessive use of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released it's Dirty Dozen (see below) produce list this week, and strawberries had the highest levels of detectable pesticides residues.

Fog at Vandenberg AFB cited as possible cause for SpaceX rocket crash

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said this week that fog at Vandenberg Air Force Base may be partially to blame for the company's failure to bring its Falcon 9 rocket safely back to earth on Sunday.