The Barbed Wire - January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014
Federal PILT Payments Received Much Attention in Congress
CPUC Seeking Help to Update the California Broadband Map
Panel Authorizes Subpoenas on Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Records
Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Released
Flood Insurance Increases Delayed
Senator Wyden Announces Hearing on Forestry Bill

Federal PILT Payments Received Much Attention in Congress

Late this week, key Congressional leaders unveiled the Fiscal Year 2014 federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill, and federal Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to counties were not included.  The federal PILT program compensates counties for certain federal lands that have been taken into ownership by the federal government and are no longer subject to local property tax. 

For over 30 years, Congress has compensated these counties – many of whom are RCRC-member counties due significant proceeds.  The federal PILT program expired last year, and unless reauthorized and funded, last year’s payment would be the final payment counties receive.

It was expected that the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill would contain nearly $500 million in federal PILT payments.  The federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill must be enacted into law in the coming days in order to avert another federal government shut down.  Congressional leaders spent the last several weeks constructing this bill. 

RCRC staff spent much of this week working alongside the National Association of Counties (NACo) in advocating congressional leaders to include federal PILT payments; nonetheless, these payments were not included. 

In light of this development, it appears the most viable option to fund PILT is through the Farm Bill.  Key Congressional leaders have been working to finalize a Farm Bill, and it is expected conversations will conclude in the coming weeks regarding the last remaining items - assisting dairy producers, the level of commodity supports, and the overall commitment to fund nutrition programs.

RCRC’s letter to the Senate Assembly Committee can be accessed here. RCRC Staff will update members of the RCRC Board of Directors on federal PILT activities at the Wednesday, January 22, 2014 Board Meeting in Sacramento. 

For additional information, please contact RCRC Senior Legislative Advocate Paul A. Smith at 916.447.4806 or

CPUC Seeking Help to Update the California Broadband Map

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is looking for help from rural citizens in updating the California Broadband Map.  The Map documents the availability and speed of broadband, high-speed Internet services in California.  Assuring the accuracy of the map is extremelt impotant because it is used in state and federal broadband infrastructure grant and loan decision-making processes, including those that impact rural broadband deployment. 

The CPUC is offering three mechanisms for providing feedback for broadband speeds and quality  – RCRC member county citizens can send feedback through one, or all three methods via

For additional information, please contact CPUC’s Owen Rochte at

Panel Authorizes Subpoenas on Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Records

Earlier this week, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to authorize a subpoena for records related to implementing the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  This action comes in light of controversy on whether FY13 SRS monies are subject to sequestration. 

The Obama Administration maintains that 2013 monies must be sequestered, meaning the allocation is subject to a near five percent reduction.  California complied with the Obama Administration’s request under sequestration, and a large amount of monies were no longer available.  Members of the House Natural Resources Committee contend these monies were not subject to sequestration, and have subpoenaed the Administration’s documents to determine the Administration’s reasoning.

In the same vote, the Committee authorized Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Washington) to issue subpoenas for Interior Department records on the Stream Buffer Zone rule, concerning coal mining’s impact on water, and enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which bans killing migratory or endangered birds.  The Committee also agreed to subpoena records on potential conflicts of interest by current and former employees of the Interior Department in connection with the administration of public lands.

Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Released

This week, Congress released the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes all 12 regular appropriations bills. The Omnibus Bill sets regular appropriations for discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion, meeting the cap set under the House-Senate Budget agreement reached last October during the federal government shutdown. 

An additional $98 billion not subject to the cap will be used mostly for Defense spending and disaster relief. The House passed the bill on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to pass it by the end of the week.

Flood Insurance Increases Delayed

The massive Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes a delay in flood insurance premium increases for residential properties constructed before a flood insurance map was effective. These “grandfathered” properties will see no rate increase before November. 

Since the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act passed last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been implementing rate increases for commercial properties, homes that are not a primary residence, and substantially improved or damaged property. While FEMA had no intention of raising rates this year on grandfathered properties, Congress enacted the provision to ensure that no increases would be imposed this year. The Senate is considering a separate bill that will roll back rate increases that began taking effect last year, and freeze the lower rates for as long as four years while FEMA conducts an affordability study. The Senate is expected to pass the bill in the coming days, but the prospect for similar legislation in the House is uncertain.

Senator Wyden Announces Hearing on Forestry Bill

On Thursday, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) announced that the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, of which he is chairman, will hold a hearing on S. 1784, the Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands Act of 2013 (O&C).  The hearing will be held February 6. 

As currently written, S. 1784 only pertains to the unique situation in Western Oregon regarding forests owned and managed by the federal government.  However, any discussion about Oregon’s O&C issues invites a more thorough conversation regarding federal forestry reform for a number of states, particularly those in the western part of the country.  RCRC’s federal lobbyists will be monitoring this hearing and will be following up with key Senate staff to ascertain Senator Wyden’s next options.  Late in 2013, the House of Representatives adopted comprehensive forestry reform.  That legislation, authored by Representative Doc Hastings (R-Washington), awaits consideration in the United States Senate where it is unlikely to move forward. 

For additional information on federal matters, please contact RCRC Senior Legislative Advocate Paul A. Smith at 916.447.4806 or


Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Guidelines Addendum Released for Public Comment

As part of the 2012 IRWM Program, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released a Guidelines addendum, which can be accessed here.

Public comments are now being accepted on the addendum, which outlines a plan review process that DWR will use to review IRWM plans for consistency with program guidelines. 

Detailed instructions on submitting public comments can be accessed here.

For additional information, please contact RCRC Legislative Advocate Kathy Mannion at 916.447.4806 or

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Releases Draft Economic Analysis on the Yellow-Legged Frog Critical Habitat

The USFWS recently released a draft economic analysis (Analysis) of its proposal to designate 1,831,820 acres (97 percent federal land) of critical habitat in California for the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog, the northern distinct population segment of the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog, and the Yosemite Toad. 

Public comments are being accepted now through March 11, 2014. Detailed information, including the full Analysis, proposed critical habitat maps by county, scheduled meetings and accepted methods of submitting comments may be accessed here.

For additional information, please contact RCRC Legislative Analyst Nick Konovaloff at 916.447.4806 or

State Water Resources Schedules Public Workshop on Groundwater

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) will hold a public workshop to consider public input on a discussion draft Groundwater Concept Paper on Wednesday, January 22 at 9:00 a.m. at the CalEPA Headquarters Building, Coastal Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA. 

At the workshop, invited panelists will give presentations on fundamental groundwater issues, then open the meeting for public comments and discussion on the draft concept paper.  The State Water board is interested in receiving public input on the relevance of the draft concept paper’s proposed framework, and existing and potential future groundwater management actions.  In particular, the State Water Board is interested in following up on the written comments received, including specific questions that can be found in the workshop notice which can be accessed here.

The discussion draft groundwater concept paper, and the comments received by the written comment deadline can be accessed here.

For additional information, please contact the State Water Board’s Eric Oppenheimer at 916.445.5960 or