May 12, 2022

California court shorterns probation periods for state workers – Human Resources Director
In a recent decision from California’s Court of Appeals, the probation periods for state workers have effectively been shortened due to a case filed by an employee over a promotion dispute. In March, the third appellate district ruled that a former employee’s appointment started the day she accepted her position, rather than her start date. The recent ruling would mean California state managers will have a little less time to fire or demote employees in new jobs.

Amid drought, California desalination project at crossroads– Associated Press
For more than two decades, California’s Orange County has debated whether to build a seaside plant to convert the Pacific Ocean’s salt water into drinking water to buffer against droughts like the one now gripping the nation’s most populous state. Now, the $1.4 billion proposal by Poseidon Water faces a critical review Thursday by the California Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting California’s scenic shores.

Sick of Long Commutes? These Cities Have the Worst Traffic– Fox 11
San Francisco and San Jose join traffic-congestion leader Los Angeles to account for three of the five cities with the highway traffic in the nation, according to a new report.

Newsom to release his revised budget on Friday– Santa Barbara News-Press
On Friday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom will release his revised 2022-2023 state budget. His proposal will focus on “building on the state’s ongoing work to confront California’s greatest existential threats, bolster our economic growth and make historic investments in California’s future,” his office said. The revised budget proposal will be shared at approximately 10 a.m. and live streamed on the governor’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages.

May 9, 2022

Remembering 189 Caltrans workers killed on state roads: Roadshow – Mercury News (free read)
Here’s a somber reminder of the importance of safe highway work zones: When I started out as a newspaper reporter, just of college in the 1980s, I was assigned to the “cop beat,” covering crime, fires, disasters and all other mayhem in the Los Angeles area. Often, when I interviewed family and friends of victims, it was not lost on me that I was probably talking to them during the worst day of their lives. I joined Caltrans as a public information officer in 1991 and thought I had left that unpleasant duty behind. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Governor, legislators won’t budge in high-speed rail dispute – CalMatters
California Democrats are locked in one of the most consequential disputes in modern state history over the future of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project after a decade of troubled construction.

California’s water conservation has been a bust so far. Will drought restrictions work? – Los Angeles Times
Almost a year after Gov. Gavin Newsom pleaded with Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15% amid a worsening drought, water conservation figures are still nowhere near that mark.

Media Briefing Archive

May 2022

May 5, 2022

Officials worry Southern California won’t have enough water to get through summer without unprecedented cuts – CNN
As Southern Californians brace for unprecedented water restrictions, officials worry some communities won’t have enough water to get through the summer — at least not without residents and businesses significantly cutting back on their usage. The state’s top natural resources officer told CNN that California’s water emergency clearly shows the climate crisis in action. Some would consider this a wake-up call. I disagree,” Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for natural resources, told CNN. “The alarm’s already gone off.”

Caltrans spotlights top six pollutants degrading California’s water quality– Lake County News
As part of its “Let’s Change This to That” public education campaign, Caltrans is sharing the top sources of stormwater pollution and ways to prevent them from contaminating California’s waterways.

May 2, 2022

Caltrans honors 189 fallen highway workers at memorial – Lake County News
Caltrans dignitaries, employees, families, and friends gathered solemnly on the west steps of the State Capitol on Thursday for the department’s 32nd annual Workers Memorial to honor the 189 public servants who have died since 1921 while building and maintaining California’s transportation system.

Feds, State to Spend Hundreds of Millions to Plug ‘Orphan’ Oil Wells – Public News Service
Big money is on the way to supercharge California’s efforts to plug so-called ‘orphan’ oil wells, which pollute the environment but have no legal owner.

High-Speed Rail Between San Jose, Central Valley Receives Final EIR Certification – KPIX
High-speed rail between San Jose and the Central Valley took a step closer to becoming reality after the final environmental impact report was certified Thursday. In a unanimous vote, the Authority’s Board of Directors approved the 90-mile section stretching from Diridon Station in San Jose to Merced.

No snow for final Sierra snow survey– KALW
The volatile water year of 2022 ended with a bust.

April 2022

April 28, 2022

Caltrans to honor 189 workers killed since 1921 – Fairfield Daily Republic
Governor Gavin Newsom’s effort to pause an increase to the state’s gas tax likely won’t happen, his office confirmed Tuesday. In January, the governor proposed halting an increase to the tax tied to inflation in his state budget proposal. This needed legislative approval by May 1 for the pause to go into effect in July. As of Tuesday, state lawmakers had yet to turn the governor’s proposal into a bill and showed no signs anyone in the Legislature would do so.

Southern California businesses and residents are asked to reduce outdoor watering as drought leaves ‘half the water that we need’ for summer– CNN
Facing “drought conditions unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” Southern California officials are demanding businesses and residents in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties cut outdoor watering to one day a week.

Lower cost, slower gains: California prepares controversial new climate strategy – CalMatters
California air-quality officials have endorsed an updated blueprint for battling climate change, choosing a plan that aims to minimize job losses and costs while slashing greenhouse gases and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. The strategy that the state Air Resources Board staff plans to unveil in May requires a massive shift away from California’s reliance on fossil fuels and more emphasis on renewable energy sources. The plan aims for an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2050 and would cost an estimated $18 billion in 2035 and $27 billion in 2045.

April 25, 2022

Caltrans to honor 189 workers killed since 1921 – Fairfield Daily Republic
Nearly 200 state highway workers have been killed on the job since 1921. The state Department of Transportation will honor those 189 fallen highway workers during a ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 28, on the west steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento. The live webcast can be accessed the day of the ceremony here.

CA budget surplus looking to be higher than projected – Fox 40
California’s projected budget surplus is expected to be around tens of billions of dollars for the second year in a row. In a recent cash report from the California Department of Finance, officials said they’re about $17.3 billion dollars over what Gov. Gavin Newsom projected so far this fiscal year. With tax processing underway following this week’s filing deadline, it’s looking more likely the state’s budget surplus will be significantly larger than the $45.7 billion Newsom projected in January.

Folsom Lake levels improve, drought conditions still an issue – Fox 40
The latest Spring snowstorms helped increase California’s water supply and lake levels, but the Golden State continues to face drought conditions.

April 21, 2022

Long-Awaited Wildlife Crossing To Break Ground on Earth Day – Patch
The much-anticipated Wallis Annenberg Wildlife crossing will break ground on Friday, Earth Day.  The bridge will ultimately be 210 feet long and 165 feet wide and will span all 10 lanes of the Ventura Freeway at Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills.  It is meant to promote biodiversity among Southern California mountain lions, which are isolated by the freeway, by connecting them with mountain lions in Northern California.

Lake Oroville sees a rise in water levels– Chico Enterprise-Record / MSN
The recent bit of rain is doing Lake Oroville a world of good.

Local air quality, still lagging badly, improves in some respects– Bakersfield Californian
Bakersfield and Kern continued to have some of the nation’s worst air quality between 2018 and 2020, according to a new report that nevertheless highlighted significant local improvement, particularly concerning reductions in ozone pollution. Even so, Bakersfield was one of three cities, along with Fresno and San Diego, singled out as having posted better ozone numbers than a year earlier. Researchers also pointed out Bakersfield has made big strides during the past decade.

New poll strong support for California’s high-speed rail project– KALW
UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies reported voters in California favor continuing the high-speed rail project by a five-to-three margin.

April 18, 2022

CalPERS retirees could face new limits on part-time work under proposed pension rule –The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A proposal before the CalPERS Board of Administration would put a two-year limit on “retired annuitant” appointments — which allow retirees to collect both a government paycheck and a pension — but would allow extensions in some circumstances.

California Reveals Its Plan to Phase Out New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035 – The New York Times (free read)
California last week made public an aggressive plan to mandate a steady increase in the sale of electric and zero-emissions vehicles, an initial step to enacting a first-in-the-nation goal of banning new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. Under the proposed rule, issued by the California Air Resources Board, the state will require 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 to be powered by batteries or hydrogen. Less than a decade later, the state expects 100 percent of all new car sales to be free of the fossil fuel emissions chiefly responsible for warming the planet.

Biden to require US-made steel, iron for infrastructure – Associated Press / The Hill
The Biden administration is taking a key step toward ensuring that federal dollars will support U.S. manufacturing — issuing requirements for how projects funded by the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package source their construction material. New guidance issued Monday requires that the material purchased — whether it’s for a bridge, a highway, a water pipe or broadband internet — be produced in the U.S. However, the rules also set up a process to waive those requirements in case there are not enough domestic producers or the material costs too much, with the goal of issuing fewer waivers over time as U.S. manufacturing capacity increases.

April 14, 2022

Caltrans Completes $11 Million Restoration Of Several LA County Bridges – CBS LA
After $11 million and a little over a year, Caltrans has finished seismic upgrades and restorations on five bridges standing on three freeways in Los Angeles County.

California could shrink water use in cities by 30% or more, study funds– Los Angeles Times / Yahoo! News
Green lawns, old appliances and leaky pipes all consume significant amounts of California’s water, and researchers have calculated in a new study that the state could reduce water use by more than 30% in cities and suburbs by investing in measures to use water more efficiently.

April 11, 2022

California Legislature Advised to Prepare for Sweeping Effects of Climate Change – CalMatters / Times of San Diego
Painting alarming scenes of fires, floods, and economic disruption, the California Legislature’s advisors released a series of reports this month that lay out the impacts of climate change across the state in stark terms. “These hazards will threaten public health, safety, and well-being — including from life-threatening events, damage to public and private property and infrastructure, and impaired natural resources,” the analysts say in their report, urging lawmakers to prepare.

What’s going to happen to the Bay Area tollbooths?– San Francisco Chronicle / Solano County Daily Republic
Next year, the Bay Area Toll Authority, which operates the seven toll bridges owned by Caltrans, plans to start ripping out tollbooths and narrowing the multi-lane plazas where cars idle, waiting to pay tolls. Instead, they’ll move to what’s known as open-road tolling, an obstacle-free way to collect tolls at highway speeds — not unlike the way freeway express lanes operate.

San Luis Obispo groundwater pumped beyond sustainable levels, new report shows – San Luis Obispo Tribune
Drought conditions and overpumping have caused the San Luis Obispo Valley groundwater basin’s water levels to plummet in the past year, according to a new report.

April 7, 2022

More California state workers might get COVID bonuses. Negotiations are underway – The Sacramento Bee
The California Department of Human Resources has begun formal discussions with some state employee unions over pandemic bonuses, according to the department. The talks come after the U.S. Treasury Department finalized rules last week on how states may spend billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief Congress approved in the American Rescue Plan Act a year ago. Those discussions have started, but it’s not clear which state employees might receive bonuses, or where the money would come from. Last year, under preliminary guidelines from the federal government, California “fully allocated” the $27 billion it had received, Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said in an email. According to Palmer, “there are no remaining/residual federal funds to allocate for premium pay.” Agreements negotiated by nearly all the state unions last year, however, said the employee organizations would hold formal talks with the state when the federal rules came out. Employees represented by unions like the Professional Engineers in California Government have largely been able to telework, but they have the clause in their contract.

By the numbers: Biden’s priorities for transportation– Construction Dive
President Joe Biden’s $5.8 trillion fiscal 2023 budget, released last Monday, includes more money for highway projects and the development of automated vehicles. The budget, which still needs approval from Congress, recommends spending beyond the bipartisan infrastructure law signed earlier this year. The president is proposing a $142 billion budget for the Department of Transportation, which includes $1.5 billion more in discretionary funding over 2021.

Here is where all the gas tax holiday and rebate proposals stand – ABC 10 (Sacramento)
It’s been a month since Governor Gavin Newsom first proposed a gas tax rebate to help Californians with the costs at the pump at his State of the State address in March. Since then, politicians have put forward a handful of other proposals, but it will be a while before anyone sees relief. Every proposal has a different reason and a different timeline.

‘Urgency change’ will allow more water to be stored in Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake– CBS 12 (Chico)
Federal and state water agencies have issued an urgency change petition that allows the State Water Project and Central Valley Project to release less water through the Delta and conserve stored water at reservoirs including Shasta Lake, Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake.

April 4, 2022

Bill to Build More CA Wildlife Crossings Gets Hearing Tomorrow – National Public Radio
Between 2016 and 2020, more than 44,000 Californians reported hitting a wild animal with a vehicle. So tomorrow, state lawmakers will consider a proposal to build ten or more new wildlife crossings per year. Assembly Bill 2344 would require Caltrans and the California Fish and Wildlife Service to work together on a wildlife connectivity action plan to identify places where wildlife culverts or bridges would do the most good.

Stretch of Highway 1 Remains Closed in Monterey, San Luis Obispo Counties – NBC Bay Area
With billions in new federal funding available, advocates see a narrow window to deliver new lines, faster trains and other ambitious upgrades. This survey of projects around the country includes comments from Brian Kelly, the California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO, who advises, “…don’t start before you’re ready.”

There’s Growing Urgency for Passenger Rail Projects to Move at High Speed – Route Fifty
Months of extreme drought triggered problems in California’s Sierra Nevada over the summer, but as of Tuesday, the area has received over 202 inches of snow, nearly 17 feet, according to Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory. Still, even this record-breaking amount of snowfall isn’t quite enough to make up for this year’s drought, experts say.

California drought deepens as wet season is anything but – ABC News
California is experiencing one of the driest starts to spring in decades, data showed Friday, and absent a heavy dose of April and May showers the state’s drought will deepen and that could lead to stricter rules on water use and another devastating wildfire season. New readings showed the water in California’s mountain snowpack sat at 38% of average. That’s the lowest mark since the end of the last drought in 2015; only twice since 1988 has the level been lower.

March 2022

March 28, 2022

Meet the woman trying to fix California’s traffic – Politico
In this Q&A, California Transportation Commission Chair Lee Ann Eager discusses proposals to suspend gas taxes, high-speed rail’s financial future, the state’s plans for federal infrastructure funds, and more.

Would gas tax breaks make a big difference when prices are skyrocketing? We asked 4 experts– The Conversation
Four experts explain the downsides of gas-tax “holidays.”

California’s snowpack is ‘roasting in the dry and sunny conditions’ –
California’s winter snowpack is suffering after the state saw historically dry weather in January and February, and March is headed down the same track. An early spring heat wave this week brought record-breaking temperatures that accelerated snowmelt. On Friday, the snowpack — which historically has provided about a third of the state’s water supply — stood at 46% of its average for this time of year.

March 21, 2022

Drought-stricken California imposes new round of water cuts – ABC News
California’s urban water users and farmers who rely on supplies from state reservoirs will get less than planned this year as fears of a third consecutive dry year become a reality, state officials announced Friday. Water agencies that serve 27 million people and 750,000 acres (303,514 hectares) of farmland will get just 5% of what they’ve requested this year from state supplies, beyond what’s needed for critical activities such as drinking and bathing.

Building Up and Tearing Down: Pair of Infrastructure Projects in Works at Port of Long Beach –Los Angeles Business Journal
Two infrastructure projects are in the works at the Port of Long Beach: a new energy microgrid and the demolition of the old Gerald Desmond Bridge. The $12.2 million grid, scheduled for commissioning in November, is partially funded by a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The port awarded a $59.9 million demolition contract in July 2021 to Kiewit West Inc. to dismantle and remove the old bridge.

EPA memo steers water money to disadvantaged communities – Associated Press
The Biden administration issued guidance to states last week that it said will ensure the country’s largest-ever investment in water infrastructure doesn’t bypass disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards like pollution.

March 17, 2022

Gas tax suspension proposal fails in California State Assembly – ABC 10 (Sacramento)
Republican lawmakers managed just 18 of the 54 votes they needed on Monday to suspend certain rules and move forward on legislation suspending California’s 51-cent per gallon gas tax.

First segment of California high-sped rail to be completed in next year – San Francisco Examiner
The construction of California’s high-speed rail system is at a “turning point” as a stretch of the project through the Central Valley is on track for completion in the next few years, the project’s chief executive said Tuesday.

Amid Ongoing Drought, Californians Are Using More Water. Are Mandatory Cutbacks in the Pipeline? – CalMatters/KQED
Californians used 2.6% more water this January than they did two years ago, suggesting urban residents are failing to take calls for voluntary conservation seriously. Now, a year after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in hard-hit northwest counties, some experts say a state mandate is critical to keeping enough water in storage to survive a drought that could last for years.

CalPERS’ exposure to Russia is 0.17% of total portfolio – Pensions & Investments
During its meeting Monday, CalPERS’ investment committee discussed the pension fund’s exposure to Russian investments and heard a panel discussion on investing in emerging markets.

March 14, 2022

California’s Ambitious High-Speed Rail at a Crossroads – The New York Times (free read)
Fourteen years after voters approved a nearly $10 billion bond to start building a rail system to whisk riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco at more than 200 miles per hour, many California residents have lost track of what is being built where, and when, or if it will ever be completed. But if, as President Biden said in his State of the Union address, the nation is now entering an “infrastructure decade,” there is no more dramatic testing ground — or more cautionary spectacle — than California’s high-speed rail plan.

Newsom promised to address California’s high gas costs. But the politics are tricky – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
Just how Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to make good on his promise this week to put money “back in the pockets” of Californians stung by the sharp rise in gas prices remains murky, but suspending or lowering the state’s highest-in-the-nation gas tax appears less and less likely.

CalPERS Conundrum: A $300 Million Hit to Dump Bets on Russia – Bloomberg
A debate is raging inside the California Public Employees’ Retirement System over whether it should quickly exit its Russia investments — at a hefty cost.

March 10, 2022

EPA officially reinstates California’s authority to craft its own vehicle emissions standards – CNN
The Environmental Protection Agency has restored California’s authority to implement its own greenhouse gas emission standards and zero-emission vehicle sales mandates, the agency announced Wednesday.  It is also allowing other states to adopt California’s stricter standards in lieu of the federal rules.

Lawmakers want to suspend the federal gas tax. Is that a good idea? – Marketplace
The Democratic governors of five states have written to House of Representatives and Senate leaders in support of a bill that would suspend the federal gas tax until 2023.  Alice Abreu, a law professor and the director of the Center for Tax Law and Public Policy at Temple University, said the idea is “terrific politics” and “terrible tax policy and terrible environmental policy.”

Key Trends That Will Shap Infrastructure Decisions and Projects – Route Fifty
With $1.2 trillion in federal funds flowing to states and localities for infrastructure projects, there are several key trends shaping state and local government decisions and projects, according to a report released last week from the Deloitte Center for Government Insights.  The pandemic also will have a long-lasting impact on infrastructure.

March 7, 2022

What unmaintained roads cost the average driver in every state – Fox 5 San Diego
Californians last year endured the fourth-highest cost in the nation, $799 per person, due to poorly maintained roads, according to a new analysis of government data. Washington, D.C., topped the list ($1,100 per person), followed by Rhode Island ($845) and Hawaii ($818).

SCOTUS declines to hear two public-sector union cases – Ballotpedia
The U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected petitions in two cases related to public-sector union policy. The plaintiffs in Woods v. Alaska State Employees Association, AFSCME Local 52 argued that because they had withdrawn consent for union dues deductions after the Janus ruling, the fact that the dues continued to be deducted based on an agreement signed before Janus violated their First Amendment rights. Hamidi v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, filed in 2014, alleged the SEIU 1000’s opt-out system for collecting union fees at that time violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. The court’s refusal to hear either case handed anti-union interests two significant defeats.

San Diego research links Oroville Dam crists to global warming – KPBS
The Oroville Dam’s 2017 spillway failure occurred during storms that, researchers say, they have identified in the “first study that has quantified the influence of global warming on a specific, real, recent, and impactful atmospheric river event.”

March 3, 2022

New Low-Carbon Cement Approved for Use on California Roads – Equipment World
Caltrans has approved low-carbon cement on road construction and maintenance projects. The recently approved “Portland limestone cement” was developed through Caltrans-funded research at Oregon State University’s College of Engineering.

U.S. surpasses 200 gigawatts of total clean power capacity, but the pace of deployment has slowed – Clean Power
More than 1,000 clean energy projects under development across the country, totaling 120,171 MW of new capacity in the development pipeline. This includes 37,802 MW under construction and 82,369 MW in advanced development. Last year, California ranked second, behind Texas, in total new installations and percentage of clean power projects under advanced development or construction.

Forecasting Our Future: Two ways high-flying technology helps track and predict California’s water supply – KCRA News

This year, the California Department of Water Resources will begin using its Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) over the Feather, Truckee, Carson, and Yuba watersheds. The ASO is an aircraft equipped with special sensors that can capture the profile of the Sierra snowpack from a flight altitude of 23,000 feet.

CHSRA issues final environmental studies for California high-speed rail – Railway Technology

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) in the US has released the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIR/EIS) for a high-speed rail section planned for San Jose to Merced.

February 2022

February 28, 2022

Calif. launches website to track local water conditions – WaterWorld
Calif.’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) has launched a new website, California Water Watch, that helps Californians easily access information on current local and statewide water conditions — down to their region and even neighborhood.

California won’t immediately change pollution credit program – Associated Press
Caltrans on Thursday unveiled a new Director’s Policy on Road Safety which commits the department to the Safe System approach and reaffirms the vision of reaching zero fatalities or serious injuries on state highways by 2050.

Caltrans Director’s Policy commits to safe system approach to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on California roadways – Lake County News
Newsom administration officials said Wednesday they’re in no rush to make changes to one of California’s key climate change programs despite concerns it won’t be able to meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

California Cap-And-Trade Auction Fails to Sell Out – Bloomberg
The latest quarterly auction in California’s cap-and-trade carbon market failed to sell out, a sign that a growing surplus of banked credits may be hampering the system used to fight climate change.

Column: First solar canal project is a win for water, energy, air, and climate in California – The Conversation
As an engineer, I have worked with colleagues to protect water supplies and boost renewable energy to protect the climate. We call it the solar-canal solution – and it’s about to be tested in California.

February 24, 2022

California won’t immediately change pollution credit program – Associated Press
Newsom administration officials said Wednesday they’re in no rush to make changes to one of California’s key climate change programs despite concerns it won’t be able to meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Fewer California public employees retired last year after a spike in 2020, CalPERS data show – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Retirements slowed among California public employees last year, returning to pre-pandemic levels after a spike when the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020. About 34,500 public employees who receive CalPERS pensions retired in calendar year 2021, down 2% from the 2020 figure, according to data provided by the retirement system. The data show that about 10,400 state employees retired last year, down 16.4% from the prior year.

Opinion: Byzantine water laws will Californians high and dry – CalMatters
It’s been said that California is confronting a 21st-century water crisis armed with 20th-century infrastructure and 19th-century laws. That’s indisputably true.

Column: Say no to a gas tax holiday – The Hill
With inflation at a 40-year high, some policymakers have called for suspending the federal gas tax through the end of the year. While this might provide a small amount of temporary relief at the pump, it’s not a solution to rising prices. It’s not even a band-aid; unlike a band-aid, it would actually make things worse while cutting off a key source of infrastructure funding.

February 22, 2022

Calpers Names Nicole Musicco as New CIO – Bloomberg
The California Public Employees’ Pension Retirement System appointed Nicole Musicco its new chief investment officer, capping an almost 18-month search. Musicco succeeds Ben Meng, who departed over conflict-of-interest concerns.  She will arrive at the fund, which has nearly $500 billion in assets, on March 28, the fund said in a press release.

State Launches Website for Public to Track Water Conditions Amid Continuing Drought – KPIX
The California Department of Water Resources has launched a new website for the public to track local, regional, and statewide water conditions.

Caltrans District 5 releases Active Transportation Plan for the Central Coast – BenitoLink
Caltrans District 5 recently published its Active Transportation Plan for the Central Coast, the first of a series of district-level active transportation plans developed for each of the 12 Caltrans districts in California.

Opinion: New regulations considered for diesel-fueled Transportation Refrigeration Units – CalMatters
I scream, you scream, we all scream for – particulate matter, arsenic, benzene, and nitrogen oxides?  That’s probably not what you had in mind when you ordered that two-scoop cone topped with sprinkles, but right now that’s what you get.  Fortunately, change may be coming thanks to new regulations being considered by the California Air Resources Board.

February 17, 2022

Here’s how five large California state departments are responding to the end of the mask mandates – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The largest departments in California state government aren’t rushing to return employees to offices after an indoor mask mandate expired Tuesday, representatives of the departments said.  The Department of Motor Vehicles, the Employment Development Department, Caltrans, the Franchise Tax Board, and California Highway Patrol will follow state and local mandates and continue monitoring the situation, said spokespeople for the departments.  Caltrans employees eligible for telework may continue to telework, spokesman Matt Rocco said in an email.  The department hasn’t yet finished a permanent telework plan.  Caltrans tests about 1,900 unvaccinated employees each week, and vaccinated employees may request tests, Rocco said.

California Returns as Climate Leader, With Help From the White House – The New York Times (free read)
The Biden administration is preparing strict new limits on pollution from buses, delivery vans, tractor-trailers, and other heavy trucks, the first time tailpipe standards have been tightened for the biggest polluters on the road since 2001. The new federal regulations are drawn from truck pollution rules recently enacted by California as the Biden administration moves to restore that state’s legal authority to set auto emissions limits that are tighter than federal standards.

La Niña forecast: NOAA gives update amid dry California winter – KTLA
La Niña is expected to stick around for at least a bit longer, with the transition back to neutral conditions most likely not taking place until at least later in spring. That’s according to the latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecast, which was released late last week. NOAA says there’s an approximately 77% chance that La Niña conditions will linger between March and May.

High-speed rail agency looking at different approaches to extend work to Merced, Bakersfield – The Modesto Bee
The state agency engaged in constructing a high-speed rail route segment between Madera and Shafter is getting ready to figure out how to extend the 119-mile route north to Merced and south to Bakersfield. The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board, at its meeting Thursday, will vote on asking companies to submit their qualifications for the initial design work for two separate extensions of the line: a 34-mile stretch northward from the northern edge of Madera into downtown Merced, and a portion of about 19 miles from Shafter into east-central Bakersfield.

February 14, 2022

Climate crisis and systemic inequities drive push to reform California water laws – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
A group of prominent legal experts has presented a blueprint for updating California’s system of water laws to fix long-standing weaknesses and adapt to the worsening effects of climate change. They say their proposals, if adopted by the Legislature, would help the state better manage surface water and groundwater, protect vulnerable communities and ecosystems, and improve state oversight of the water rights system.

Traffic Bottlenecks: Inland Empire Has 2 Of Nation’s Worst – Patch
Southern California is the traffic capital of the world, so it should come as no surprise that it dominates the 2022 Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks List released this week.

Truck companies struggle to meet CA emissions demand to have engine models of 2010 or newer by 2023 – ABC 7 Bay Area
The California Air Resources Board is requiring semi-trucks and other diesel commercial vehicles to have engine models of 2010 or newer by the start of next year. However, trucking companies worry they won’t be able to comply.

February 10, 2022

Caltrans Researching Redesign Ideas for SR37, Ahead of Projected Climate Change Road Flooding – SFist
If you’ve driven on State Route 37, you likely know how regularly the Bay Area commuter throughway experiences major traffic backup.  Now, the State of California plans to revamp the Highway 37 corridor through projects expected to cost over a quarter-billion dollars.

Restoration and recreation project coming to Salton Sea’s Northern Shore – The Desert Review
The North Lake Pilot Demonstration Project envisions an approximately 156-acre marina, offset from the Salton Sea by berms. The $19.25 million state-funded proposal will create a deep-water reservoir that will provide habitat for species and a recreational lake for the public near the community of North Shore. Riverside County, the Salton Sea Authority and the California Department of Water Resources plan to begin work on the project by the end of 2022.

Restoration and recreation project coming to Salton Sea’s Northern Shore – The Desert Review
The Turlock Irrigation District (TID) has announced Project Nexus, a pilot project to build solar panel canopies over a portion of TID’s existing canals that would be the first of its kind in the United States.

Solar panels over canals? California’s Turlock Irrigation District is giving it a shot – Solar Builder
California’s environmental justice law is supposed to clean the air for 15 hot spot communities, home to almost 4 million people. But after more than four years and $1 billion, it’s still impossible to say whether it’s worked.

Costs climb again for California’s high-speed rail project – Associated Press
Another $5 billion has been added to the cost of California’s ambitious but long-delayed high-speed rail line, according to estimates released Tuesday that show it could take $105 billion to finish the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The increases are partly due to commitments aimed at minimizing community disruption, such as distancing the train from the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in the Central Valley and tunneling tracks near the Burbank airport, project officials said.

February 7, 2022

CalPERS returns 13.3% in 2021, above its benchmark – Pensions & Investments
CalPERS earned a net return of 13.3% for the calendar year 2021, exceeding its benchmark by 120 basis points, according to reports to the board released Friday.

‘Big problem’: Spending snarl delays infrastructure money – Environment & Energy News
Congress faces increasing pressure to strike a deal on a fiscal 2022 omnibus spending package for federal agencies that would free up billions of dollars for new infrastructure projects currently on hold.

As Earth warms, air conditioning use could exceed power supply in next decade – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
As climate change pushes temperatures ever higher, Californians could lose air conditioning for roughly one week each summer because the demand for cooling will have exceeded the capacity of the electrical grid, a new study has found.

February 3, 2022

State DOTs want minimal interference from feds on IIJA funds – Construction Dive
An influential group of state transportation officials told the Biden administration last month not to add red tape or overly prescribe how to spend funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. They also highlighted states’ varying transportation dynamics and needs, and said state agencies are best equipped to know how to address them.

The Abandoned Oil And Gas Oozing Methane Into U.S. Air – Forbes
The methane that is quietly oozing from abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States is invisible and odorless — yet it can wreak havoc on the climate in a major way. Compared to CO2, methane is a much more potent and faster-acting climate gas with 25-80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. According to the California Air Resources Board, plugging all wells would have the same impact as getting 1.4 million cars off the road or adding 17 million trees to the country.

California’s embattled utility leave criminal probation, but more charges loom – Associated Press / NPR
Pacific Gas & Electric is poised to emerge from five years of criminal probation, despite worries that nation’s largest utility remains too dangerous to trust after years of devastation from wildfires ignited by its outdated equipment and neglectful management.

Has California’s Landmark Law Cleaned Communities’ Dirty Air? – CalMatters
California’s environmental justice law is supposed to clean the air for 15 hot spot communities, home to almost 4 million people. But after more than four years and $1 billion, it’s still impossible to say whether it’s worked.

California water officials warn state could face third consecutive dry year as early snowpack dissipates – CNBC
California water officials warned on Tuesday that the state is set to face another dry year after experiencing a significant lack of snow in January, potentially marking its third consecutive year of dry conditions. According to the Department of Water Resources, the state’s overall snowpack measures 92% of average for this time of year, an extraordinary drop from the 160% of average that was recorded a month ago.