The Barbed Wire - July 02, 2015

July 2, 2015
RCRC Chair Testifies in Support of Biomass Bill
Assembly Republicans Release Transportation Funding Proposal
Strategic Growth Council Approves $126 Million in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds
Non-Lead Ammunition Requirement on CDFW Lands in Effect
Procedural Requirements in Effect for AB 52 and Tribal Cultural Resources in CEQA
Twenty-Seven States File Suit Over WOTUS Rule
California/Western Drought Water Legislation
Lack of Consensus Threatens Renewal of Land and Water Conservation Fund
Bureau of Indian Affairs Releases Tribal Acknowledgment Final Rule

RCRC Chair Testifies in Support of Biomass Bill

Earlier this week, RCRC Chair and Sierra County Supervisor Lee Adams testified on behalf of RCRC in Support of Assembly Bill 590 by Assembly Member Brian Dahle (R-Bieber).  

AB 590 would allow for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund monies to be utilized for the support of biomass infrastructure in order to assist in bringing California’s forests back into a healthy and fire-resilient state.  RCRC’s AB 590 support letter can be accessed here.

“Not only is biomass energy a clean form of energy that helps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and other criteria pollutants, but it is also vital to the completion of forest management projects in California.  Without some way to address the biomass issue, forest management projects cannot move forward,” said Supervisor Adams.

Assembly Republicans Release Transportation Funding Proposal

California Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) was joined by her Republican colleagues on Monday to unveil their transportation funding proposal to provide an estimated $6.6 billion in funding for transportation infrastructure.  

The Assembly Republican plan relies entirely on existing transportation revenues that they believe should be reprioritized and reinvested to address state and local transportation priorities.  In addition to $2.3 billion in funding contained in the 2015-16 State Budget Package, the Assembly Republican Plan would redirect the following transportation revenues:

  • $1 billion in Cap and Trade;
  • $1 billion in Truck Weight Fees;
  • $200 million in Strategic Growth Funding;
  • $500 million in redundant California Department of Transportation positions;
  • $685 million in projected savings from long-term vacant positions that have gone unfilled; and,
  • $1 billion in General Fund contributions for approximately $6.6 billion in total funding. 

The Assembly Republican Plan includes three controversial policy changes  including major reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act, elimination of the sunset date for use of public-private partnerships for transportation projects, and placing the California Transportation Commission as a standalone entity outside the control of the Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency.  The Assembly Republican Caucus’ Press Release announcing the proposal can be accessed here.

Strategic Growth Council Approves $126 Million in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds

The Budget Act of 2014 appropriated $832 million in cap-and-trade auction proceeds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen communities, and improve quality-of-life.  On June 30, 2015, the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) approved $121.9 million of the FY 2014-15 funds in competitive grants and loans to 28 housing and transit-friendly infrastructure projects as part of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, which is being implemented by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in coordination with the SGC and the Air Resources Board (ARB).  

In addition, $4.6 million in Climate Investments was approved for 12 projects supporting the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, which is being implemented by the Natural Resources Agency and the Department of Conservation (DOC).  California Climate Investments are programs funded by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund using proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions. 

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSCP) will fund projects by supporting more compact, infill development patterns along transit corridors, and encouraging active transportation and transit usage.  By law, at least 50 percent of funding must be dedicated to affordable housing and benefit disadvantaged communities.  Fifty-two percent of the recommended projects include transit-oriented developments, which include both housing (more than 2,000 affordable housing units) and transportation capital improvements and at least one transit station or stop served by high-quality transit.  Approximately 25 percent supports bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, transit station area improvements, transit service, and other connectivity between housing and communities.  Seventy-seven percent of this year’s recommended grants benefit disadvantaged communities.  

Two RCRC member counties, Nevada and Yolo, received awards totaling $14.7 million, or 12 percent of the funds.  The SGC, in conjunction with the California Natural Resources Agency, also awarded $4.6 million to the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP), approving seven projects that placed more than 14,000 acres under permanent protection and five agricultural strategy grants.  The RCRC counties of Butte, Tehama, Lassen, Mono, and Napa received nearly $3 million, or 71 percent of the award funds, for conservation easements.  Butte, Mendocino, and Mono received nearly $300,000, or 60 percent, of the funds for SALCP Strategy Grants.  A complete list of selected projects can be accessed here.

Non-Lead Ammunition Requirement on CDFW Lands in Effect

Starting July 1, 2015, non-lead ammunition will be required when hunting on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) lands, and for all Nelson bighorn sheep hunts anywhere in the state.  

In October 2013, Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law requiring the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019.  The bill also required an implementation plan designed to impose the least burden on California's hunters while adhering to the intent of the law.  In April 2015, the Fish and Game Commission adopted DFW's proposed regulations and implementation plan.

Further phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California will continue on July 1, 2016, when non-lead ammunition will be required when hunting with shotguns for upland game birds (except for dove, quail and snipe), small game mammals, fur-bearing mammals and nongame birds except for when hunting at licensed game bird clubs.  Non-lead ammunition will also be required when taking wildlife with shotguns for depredation purposes anywhere in the state.

Detailed information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California can be accessed here.

Procedural Requirements in Effect for AB 52 and Tribal Cultural Resources in CEQA

In 2014, Assembly Bill 52 (Gatto) added new requirements to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regarding consultation with California Native American tribes and consideration of tribal cultural resources.  The new requirements apply to projects that have a notice of preparation for a negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, or an environmental impact report filed on or after July 1, 2015. 

AB 52 also requires the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to develop proposed updates to the sample initial study checklist n Appendix G of the CEQA  Guidelines and the California Resources Agency to complete the regulatory process for adoption of the updates on or before July 1, 2016.  In the interim, lead agencies are still required to implement the procedural requirements of AB 52.  OPR has prepared a draft Technical Advisory and is in the process of finalizing the draft to provide guidance to lead agencies regarding implementation of the recent changes.

The draft Technical Advisory and additional information can be accessed here.

Twenty-Seven States File Suit Over WOTUS Rule

Four separate multi-state lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) over the recently-finalized rule changing the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act since the rule’s publication in the Federal Register on Monday.  

The first lawsuit was filed in North Dakota by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming to seek an injunction against the rule, and, ultimately, to fully overturn it on the grounds that it is an unlawful and unconstitutional expansion of federal power.  Three similar suits have followed, one involving the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, the second with Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi as plaintiffs, and the third with Ohio and Michigan joining together.  

The lawsuits are not unexpected after the controversy and bipartisan opposition surrounding the rule during its development.  While the final rule does address some of the issues raised by RCRC and other stakeholders during public comment by providing explicit exemptions for storm water control features and waste water treatment systems, the rule still allows EPA and the Corps significant leeway in determining whether other, non-exempt waters have a significant nexus to federal waters.  Even with the pending legal action, Congress still has two bills, S. 1140 and H.R. 1732, that would repeal the rule and force EPA and the Corps to redraft it with enhanced stakeholder input.  Congress has also placed riders on two budget bills that would effectively stop the rule by defunding its implementation.  If the lawsuits are unsuccessful in enjoining the rule, it will become effective on August 28, 2015.

California/Western Drought Water Legislation

Last week, a group of House Republicans from California introduced new legislation to address the drought in California and other parts of the West.  This legislation is the latest move in a multi-year effort to find a legislative fix for the region's ongoing water crisis.  

The California-specific provisions in H.R. 2898, the "Western Water and American Food Security Act," focus on boosting water transfers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Valley Delta to parched agricultural communities in the Central Valley, and municipalities further south, including Los Angeles and San Diego.  The bill also seeks to increase water storage in the New Melones reservoir roughly 90 miles southeast of Sacramento, and other sites throughout California, and includes provisions to protect senior water rights holders in the state. 

To allow for more water to flow south from the delta, the legislation would tweak the science formulas used to protect the region's endangered smelt and salmon species, a change that Democrats have long argued would roll back environmental regulations for the region's vulnerable fish population.

Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), one of the bill's sponsors, authored a similar drought bill last year that sank in the Senate after Democrats balked at the proposed changes to environmental regulations.  Rep. Jim Costa from Central California is the lone Democrat cosponsor of H.R. 2898.

With the exception of Costa, most other California House Democrats – along with the state’s Senators - slammed the proposal, claiming it contains provisions that would harm endangered fish species and weaken environmental standards.  The California Farm Bureau Federation issued support for the new CA Republican water bill.

Northern California Democrat Rep. Jared Huffman unveiled in mid-June a draft proposal that he hopes will be the alternative to the latest House GOP measure.  Huffman's bill, which has not yet been introduced as the lawmaker collects ideas and feedback from stakeholders, would offer roughly $1.2 billion in new federal funding for water efforts across the West, as well as a number of new authorities.  The Huffman draft is being supported by the WateReuse Association, the Association of California Water Agencies, the Western Recycled Water Coalition, and a number of environmental groups. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is crafting her own drought legislation, which she has said will go beyond emergency measures to also contemplate longer-term approaches like desalination and increased water storage.  Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has also said she intends to introduce a western water bill this year. 

Lack of Consensus Threatens Renewal of Land and Water Conservation Fund

Despite its widespread popularity, the 1965 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF) is under threat of expiring in September without new authorization.  Critics of the existing law want to see more funds used for long-deferred maintenance at existing parks, citing crumbling roads, run-down bathrooms, and leaking water systems.  

Others want to see the Fund amended to divert money for States to invest in urban recreation.  But others, including the Obama Administration and sportsmen groups, want to see the LCWF renewed as is.  The chairs of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the Fund have announced their intentions to reform the program but are not expected to introduce legislation before early September 2015.

The LCWF is funded mostly from offshore oil and gas royalties, and receives $900 million each year.  However, Congress has appropriated half those funds since 1965, and in recent years has appropriated only about one-third of the funds.  The law was intended to direct 60 percent of the funding to state grants, but only about 25 percent has been directed for that purpose, while 62 percent has been used for federal land acquisition.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Releases Tribal Acknowledgment Final Rule

On Monday, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) announced the public release of the final rule regarding changes made to the process and criteria for “Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes.” 

In their announcement, the BIA discussed the substantive changes made to the final rule based upon the public comments they received on the proposed rule.  The BIA received over 300 individual substantive comments, including comments prepared and submitted by RCRC.

The final rule makes several changes to the proposed rule.  The proposed rule was widely criticized for lowering the burden of proof on potential tribes.  For instance, the proposed rule would have allowed tribes seeking recognition to prove existence to the year 1934.  Current regulation forces tribes to identify back to 1789 or the year of first sustained European contact, a regulation RCRC supported in comments to the agency regarding the proposal.  The final rule, however, will utilize the year 1900 instead as the date for which tribes must begin to prove continual existence.  The final rule will also utilize the year 1900 as the end date for the term “historical times.”  Tribes seeking recognition will need to prove they descend from a tribe that existed in “historical times,” meaning 1899 or prior.  The final rule will also not allow for limited re-petitioning for federal recognition from previously denied tribes as was originally proposed.  This is considered a major change to the rule; a change supported by RCRC, state and local governments, and currently recognized tribes alike.

BIA also made specific changes from current and proposed regulation that would benefit local government entities.  The final rule includes regulations mandating the following: publication of petitions online for public viewing, notification of County-level officials of receipt of new petition from tribal entity located within the County, and protection of County governments’ status as interested third-parties to petition decisions.  RCRC supported these changes in it comment letter to the BIA.

The final rule has not been published in the Federal Register. The final regulation will take effect 30 days after publication.       


GO-Biz Launches California Business Portal

Click here

State Lands Commission Strategic Plan Comment Period Open

The State Lands Commission (SLC) has released for public comment a draft Strategic Plan which identifies the SLCs priorities within available resources to protect, promote and enhance the state’s valuable pubic trust and school land resources.  The draft Strategic Plan can be accessed here.

Comments can be submitted in writing via, or at the SLCs regularly scheduled meetings.  The SLC intends to adopt the Final Strategic Plan on December 18, 2015.

California Fire Safe Council Grants Announced

The California Fire Safe Council Federal Clearinghouse Grants were announced this week, funding 25 projects in 21 counties, treating 7187 acres for more than $3.3 million in grants, with nearly $4.1 million in match funds and in-kind services contributed to the projects.  A complete list can be accessed here.

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Releases Proposition 1 Grant Guidelines

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) has released the Proposition 1 Grant Program for Fiscal Years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.  The first deadline for application submission is Tuesday, September 1, 2015.  Detailed information can be accessed here.

Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture Hearing

The Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture held a hearing on July 1, 2015 titled “Fish, Flows and Marijuana Grows: Drought and Illegal Impacts to Fisheries.”  Video of the hearing can be accessed here.


RCRC members are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of legislation impacting California’s rural counties.  

AB 288 (Holden): Public Schools: College and Career Access Pathways.  Assembly Bill 288 would establish the Career Access Pathways Act and expand access to concurrent enrollment programs for students by allowing college courses to be offered on high school campuses.  Status: Gained passage in the Senate Education Committee.  RCRC Position: Support 

AB 590 (Dahle): Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.  Assembly Bill 590 would establish the Biomass State Cost Share Account within the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF).  Status: Gained passage in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.  RCRC Position: Support 

AB 707 (Wood): Agricultural Lands: Williamson Act Contracts: Cancellation.  Assembly Bill 707 would remove the ability of a land owner and the California Department of Conservation to negotiate Williamson Act cancellation fees, if the land in an Act contract is within a county that has a local cancellation assessment for Act contract lands.  Status: Gained passage in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Position: Support

SB 208 (Lara): Integrated Regional Water Management Plan: Advanced Payment.  Senate Bill 208 would establish a process that would require the Department of Water Resources administration of the Integrated Regional Water Management grant funding to provide 50 percent of the funding in advance if the project proponent is a non-profit organization or a disadvantaged community, or the project would benefit a disadvantaged community and the grant for the project is less than one million dollars.  Status: Gained passage in the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee.  RCRC Position: Support


RCRC members are encouraged to submit comments on regulatory matters to state and federal regulatory bodies, and to provide a copy to RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of regulations impacting California’s rural counties.  

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding Guidelines for Administering Agencies.  Establishes fund distribution guidance for state agencies that receive appropriations from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.  Agency: California Air Resources Board Status: Draft published for a 14-day comment period, comments due on June 29, 2015.  Final draft expected on July 13, 2015 with Board consideration on July 23, 2015.  Draft guidelines and related documents can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Click here RCRC Advocate: Staci Heaton

State Wildlife Action Plan.  Establishes fund distribution guidance for state agencies that receive appropriations from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.  Agency: California Department of Fish and Wildlife Status: Draft published for a 45-day comment period, comments due on July 2, 2015.  Draft plan and related documents can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Click here RCRC Advocate: Staci Heaton