The Barbed Wire - July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015
RCRC’s 2015 Annual Meeting – Registration Open!!!
SGMA Stakeholder Engagement Paper
Shasta Final Feasibility Report
Senate Passes Long-Term Highway Bill – Congress Approves Short-Term Extension Federal Transportation Program
Feinstein and Boxer Introduce Drought Bill
Controversy Continues to Engulf Clean Water Act Rule
Indian Lands Bill Introduced in Senate

RCRC’s 2015 Annual Meeting – Registration Open!!!

RCRC’s 2015 Annual Meeting will be held September 23-25 at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel in El Dorado County.  This year’s program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics of interest to rural counties including:

  • Water in California - What the Future Holds;
  • The Hidden World of Human Trafficking in California's Rural Counties;
  • What on Earth? The Environmental Impacts of Marijuana Cultivation;
  • Bracing for the Upcoming Political Season;
  • The Future of Federal Land Payments; and,
  • From Vaccines to Vaping – How Public Health Impacts Our Daily Lives.

To register for RCRC’s 2015 Annual Meeting or to access the current program, click here.  The official registration form can be accessed here.

SGMA Stakeholder Engagement Paper

This week the Community Water Center, Clean Water Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists released a paper titled Collaborating for Success: Stakeholder Engagement for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation.  The intent of the paper is to convey the value of stakeholder engagement to sustainable groundwater management and to provide tools that will help maximize its benefits.  

The paper outlines the statutory requirements for stakeholder engagement in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and provides examples of collaborative management from around the state.  The paper can be accessed here.

Shasta Final Feasibility Report

This week the Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) submitted to Congress the Final Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Feasibility Report (Final Feasibility Report).  The Final Feasibility Report presents the results of planning, engineering, environmental, social, economic, and financial studies and potential benefits and effects of alternative plans.  

The Bureau also published under separate cover the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The Final Feasibility Report and the Final EIS will be used by Congress to determine the type and extent of federal interest in enlarging Shasta Dam and Reservoir. 

Key updates included the refinement of a construction funding/repayment approach where a non-federal cost-share is provided up-front and used to reduce the need for federal appropriations.  The Final Feasibility Report states that no final recommendation can be made until such a cost-share agreement and other relevant considerations are addressed.

The Final Feasibility Report and related documents can be accessed here.

Senate Passes Long-Term Highway Bill – Congress Approves Short-Term Extension Federal Transportation Program

Yesterday the U.S. Senate voted 65-34 to pass a long-term transportation funding re-authorization measure, known as the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, to fund the nation’s highway, rail, and transit programs.  

The DRIVE Act authorizes transportation funding for six years, but only identifies three years of financing.  An agreement on the remaining three years of funding for the DRIVE Act would still need to be reached.

Senate leaders had hoped that the enactment of the DRIVE Act could occur before July 31, 2015 in order to continue the authorization of federal funding for various transportation programs.  Given the House of Representatives’ declaration not to consider the Senate-passed legislation, the Senate voted for a three-month extension of the current authorization program.  This followed the House’s adoption of a three-month extension.  As such, authorization for projects funded by the Highway Trust Fund will extend to October 29, 2015.   House leadership has stated they will work on a long-term transportation bill when Congress returns from August Recess.    

Feinstein and Boxer Introduce Drought Bill

This week Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was joined by fellow Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in introducing the California Emergency Drought Relief Act which includes a number of provisions to address the ongoing drought in California including desalination, storage projects, water recycling, groundwater recharge, research and innovation among other programs and projects.  

Last year, the Senators were split while unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a bill with California House members.  Senator Boxer cosponsored the new bill because it adheres to existing environmental laws and biological opinions for endangered species at specific water delivery projects. 

However, environmental organizations have already expressed concern for provisions in the bill that mimic H.R. 2898, a bill passed by the House last month that allows for more water pumping after monitoring for endangered Delta smelt.  The House bill is opposed by environmental groups and the White House because it would override biological opinions that restrict water flows to benefit endangered species.

Last week, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced that Feinstein's drought measure is slated for a hearing in September.  Chair Murkowski, who has been focused on her comprehensive energy legislation in recent months, intends on drafting a West-wide water package sometime this year.  The California drought bill would likely be incorporated into that legislation.

Controversy Continues to Engulf Clean Water Act Rule

Internal memos leaked to the media and key congressional committees show that military and civilian leaders at the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) fiercely disagreed with changes made in the final rule to define Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) subject to the Clean Water Act.  

One official argued that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had overtaken the rule-writing process to the extent that the Corps should withdraw its name as a cosponsor of the final rule.  Corps officials were concerned that new geographical limits set in the final rule are not based on science or experience, and would in some cases remove waters from federal jurisdiction, yet over-regulate other water features.  The Corps' top environmental lawyer argued that language was too broad in the final rule that extends automatic protection to all wetlands and ponds within 1,500 feet of an otherwise jurisdictional water if they're also in that water's floodplain.  The Corps contended that 300 feet would be more defensible. 

Congressional opponents of the Obama Administration's water rule claim that the Corps memos confirm their contention that the rule is fatally flawed.  The Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Work Committee, James Inhofe (R-OK), stated that the Corps memos, "confirm my suspicion that the determinations that purport to support expanded jurisdiction in the final WOTUS rule were not based on the experience and expertise of the Corps."  Chair Inhofe also sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, the political appointee who oversees the Corps, to explain the discrepancies between Corps officials and the final rule.

The Corps memos add to the fervor by some in Congress to block the rule, which will take effect August 28, 2015.   The House has already passed a stand-alone measure to kill the regulation, and has approved riders to two spending bills that would block its implementation.  However, the real fight is in the Senate, where WOTUS opponents will need to get 60 votes to bring to the floor a bill that passed in the Environment and Public Works Committee on a party line vote.  A separate attempt to restrict the rule as the Senate considers a long-term transportation bill has been postponed until the bill is again considered in September.

Meanwhile, 30 states have filed law suits on procedural and policy grounds against the final rule, contending that insufficient analysis was conducted and that EPA exceeded its authority in issuing a rule that was originally intended to clarify jurisdiction of one permit program under the Clean Water Act.

Indian Lands Bill Introduced in Senate

This week Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs Chair John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced legislation to reform the process for the federal government to take land into trust for Indian tribes.  The Interior Improvement Act (S.1879) responds to the 2009 Supreme Court decision (Carcieri v. Salazar) that restricted trust acquisitions to only those tribes that were in existence at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934.  

The Committee’s previous Democratic Chair withdrew his bill to simply overturn the court decision and instead indicated his intent to support Chair Barrasso’s bill. 

The legislation would restore the ability of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for any recognized tribe and reaffirms previous acquisitions for tribes that were recognized after 1934.  The bill requires early notification of affected county governments and contiguous Indian tribes and provides incentives for cooperative agreements with local governments.  County governments would have 30 days to make initial comments on trust applications.  An additional minimum 30-day notice would be allowed after a completed application is filed.

Hearings on the legislation have yet to be scheduled.  A similar bill has not been introduced in the House, but Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) has introduced a bill to simply overturn the Carcieri decision.  RCRC has strongly supported reforms to the fee-to-trust system that better establish the role of local governments as a component of any Carcieri fix measure and will be engaged in the discussions as this bill moves forward in the process.


Unlocking Renewables: A San Joaquin Valley Summit

This one-day summit will highlight the potential for renewable energy in the San Joaquin Valley and provide information about the resources available to support renewable energy development.  The agenda includes speakers from the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Senator Anthony Cannella and Assemblyman Adam Gray, Air Resources Board, CalRecycle, California Energy Commission, United States Department of Agriculture, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and utilities.  

The agenda features discussion about the clean energy economy, renewable potential, bioenergy and natural gas opportunities, and transmission planning for the San Joaquin Valley. There will also be workshops focused on clean energy sector workforce development and rebate and incentive programs.

Detailed information about the summit can be accessed here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

9:00 AM - 3:30 PM

California State University, Fresno

CEC Workshop on Community-Scale Renewable Energy Opportunities and Successes

The California Energy Commission (CEC) will hold a public workshop July 29 to highlight funding opportunities for community-scale renewable energy projects through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program.  The day-long event also will spotlight successes and lessons learned from the more than 20 community-scale projects funded through the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, which ended in 2013 but serves as a model for EPIC-funded opportunities.  

Community-scale energy projects use renewable energy to power relatively small areas such as college campuses, military installations, business parks or neighborhoods. They generate less than 20 megawatts, filling an energy niche between individual projects like rooftop solar and large projects like utility-scale power plants.  

Funding for the EPIC program comes from rates charged the electricity customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The public workshop will highlight funding opportunities for community-scale renewable energy projects through the EPIC program.  The panel discussions will highlight model projects from the PIER program, identify opportunities to streamline planning and discuss technical and regulatory barriers.

Wednesday, July 29th

9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Warren-Alquist State Energy Building

Art Rosenfeld Hearing Room

1516 Ninth Street, Sacramento, 95814

The workshop will feature presentations by Energy Commission Chairman Robert B. Weisenmiller, Commissioners David Hochschild and Karen Douglas, the U.S. Department of Energy, state and local governments, academia and private industry.

The agenda, additional information, and directions for participating remotely through WebEx are in the public notice and can be accessed here.  Information about the EPIC program can be accessed here.

Prop 1 “Economically Distressed Area” Mapping Tool & Workshop

The Department of Water Resources has released the draft version of the Proposition 1 Economically Distressed Area Instructions and Mapping Tool.  The draft Economically Distressed Area Instructions and Mapping Tool can be accessed here.    

A workshop will be held to demonstrate the Economically Distressed Area Mapping Tool and receive public comment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

1:00 p.m.

Bonderson Building

Hearing Room

901 P Street

Sacramento, CA 95814

This meeting can be attended in person or via web-ex broadcast online.  If accessing via online, please call-in and login to the web-ex here.  Call-in phone line: 916-574-1224.

Three 2015 CFCC Free Statewide Funding Fairs Remaining

The California Financing Coordinating Committee (CFCC) will be hosting three more Funding Fairs throughout the State. CFCC agencies fund infrastructure projects including: drinking water, energy efficiency, wastewater, flood management, water quality, streets and highways, water supply, emergency response vehicles, water conservation, water use efficiency, solid waste, community facilities.  


August 5, 2015
Truckee Town Hall—Council Chambers 
10183 Truckee Airport Road 
Truckee, CA 96161

September 2, 2015
City of Watsonville Community Room 
275 Main Street, 4th floor 
Watsonville, CA 95076

September 23, 2015
Sacramento County Sanitation 
10060 Goethe Rd 
Sacramento, CA 95827 

Department of Water Resources Announces Preseason Flood Coordination Meetings

The California Department of Water Resources recently announced the schedule of Preseason Flood Coordination Meetings for 2015.  These meetings for flood emergency responders will provide the opportunity to review flood emergency procedures, protocol, roles and responsibilities in an emergency; availability of flood fighting resources and updates from local agencies in that particular region.

Details about the meetings can be accessed here.

Meeting of the CDFA

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will meet on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. to discuss incentive programs available for farmers and local communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The agenda can be accessed here.  Additionally, the meeting will be streamed  here


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 public comment, comment period extended to August 14, 2015.  Additional workshops will be held in various cities in August.  Board consideration is expected at the September 23-24 meeting.  Draft guidelines and related documents can be downloaded here RCRC Comments: Click here  RCRC Advocate: Staci Heaton

Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds Second Investment Plan:  Establishes 3-year spending priorities for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund monies.  Agency: California Air Resources Board  Status: Draft concept paper has been released for public comment, with comments due by September 1, 2015.  Workshops have been announced for various cities in August.  Board consideration is expected at the September 23-24 meeting.  Draft concept paper and workshop schedule are available on ARB’s website here RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Staci Heaton