July 2024 News Items

July 11, 2024

Despite a persistent heat wave, California’s grid is ‘stable’ – The San Diego Union-Tribune via The Orange County Register

Though there are no signs that residential utility customers need to reduce their energy use, a lingering heat wave covering much of California has prompted the state’s grid operator to send an alert to power companies.

Plan to connect California’s 2 high-speed rail projects moves forward – KTLA 5 News

A plan to connect California’s two high-speed rail projects via a dedicated High Desert corridor is continuing to progress.  The passage would link California’s High-Speed Rail and Brightline West’s line from Southern California to Las Vegas.  The connection’s completion is crucial in California’s and the nation’s mission to create a high-speed rail network in the West.

Could this plan to preserve ‘The Palm and The Pine’ work? – KSEE via Yahoo News

Plans to widen Highway 99 in Madera County to create a six-lane highway will come at the expense of “The Palm and The Pine,” but Visit Yosemite has a proposal to preserve the historic tree-based landmark and make it more visible.

July 1, 2024

Cost of bringing clean drinking water to California communities estimated at $11.5 billion – Los Angeles Times via AOL

California has made significant progress helping small communities address problems of contaminated drinking water, but the costs of bringing safe tap water to hundreds of communities over the next five years will run more than $11.5 billion, according to a new state estimate.

‘A decade of climate emergency’: California looks to lead regulation of shipping carbon emissions – TradeWinds

California did not wait for the International Maritime Organization to tackle shipping’s sulfur and nitrogen emissions or the invasive species carried in vessels’ ballast water.   The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is seeking further reductions in emissions, according to spokeswoman Lynda Lambert, through regulatory and voluntary measures to reduce emissions by oceangoing vessels in transit to California ports, rather than just within them.

California budget deal: Here’s who won and who lost in $300 billion spending plan – The Sacramento Bee via AOL

The budget cobbled together by Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers has clear winners and losers. One area of spending where the impact is not yet clear: cuts to ongoing state operations

June 2024 News Items

June 27, 2024

Cost of bringing clean drinking water to California communities estimated at $11.5 billion – Los Angeles Times via AOL

California has made significant progress helping small communities address problems of contaminated drinking water, but the costs of bringing safe tap water to hundreds of communities over the next five years will run more than $11.5 billion, according to a new state estimate.

‘A decade of climate emergency’: California looks to lead regulation of shipping carbon emissions – TradeWinds

California did not wait for the International Maritime Organization to tackle shipping’s sulfur and nitrogen emissions or the invasive species carried in vessels’ ballast water.   The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is seeking further reductions in emissions, according to spokeswoman Lynda Lambert, through regulatory and voluntary measures to reduce emissions by oceangoing vessels in transit to California ports, rather than just within them.

California budget deal: Here’s who won and who lost in $300 billion spending plan – The Sacramento Bee via AOL

The budget cobbled together by Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers has clear winners and losers. One area of spending where the impact is not yet clear: cuts to ongoing state operations

June 24, 2024

Storm-damaged stretch of Hwy. 1 to reopen this weekend after a year and a half – San Francisco Chronicle

A 4.3-mile section of Highway 1 at Paul’s Slide in Monterey County will reopen on Sunday, a year and a half after the stretch was damaged in severe winter storms, Caltrans officials said.

California lawmakers reject proposal to curb well-drilling where nearby wells could run dry – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

Over the past several years, California’s water managers have seen a pattern emerge in farming areas of the Central Valley: Even as declining groundwater levels have left thousands of residents with dry wells and caused the ground to sink, counties have continued granting permits for agricultural landowners to drill new wells and pump even more water. 

California High-Speed Rail Line Gets Boost – Newsweek

A plurality of eligible U.S. voters support the construction of a high-speed rail line linking San Francisco to Los Angeles even when told the estimated cost has soared to $128 billion, up from an initial estimate of $33 billion, according to a survey conducted exclusively for Newsweek.  A bill that was sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources sought to address these problems, but the State Senate narrowly rejected it.

June 20, 2024

The Multibillion-Dollar Implications of EVs for State Budgets – Governing

States must quickly develop new transportation funding strategies to compensate for declining fuel tax revenue as drivers transition to electric vehicles, but the change will bring other significant national challenges.  For example, governments will face higher long-term costs to remediate gas stations’ abandoned underground fuel storage tanks.  Sales tax revenue and lottery ticket sales from convenience stores will drop.

California, which has the nation’s highest market penetration rates of EVs, is projected to see a 64 percent decline in the state’s gasoline tax alone, equating to a revenue hit of more than $5 billion over the next 10 years.  As a result, its local government highway maintenance and rehabilitation programs are projected to face funding declines of $1.5 billion over the next decade, dropping from $5.7 billion to $4.2 billion, according to a new Syracuse University report that documents the direct and indirect funding at risk from the EV transition and the associated increases in public expenditures.

Some California state workers return to offices with tainted water – CalMatters

The bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease have been found in a state office complex in Sacramento.  Meanwhile, an order requiring state employees to return to the office at least twice a week started Monday.

California’s Move to Ban Non-Electric Trains Sparks Backlash: ‘Unworkable’ – Newsweek

California’s plan to ban carbon-producing trains from operating in the state beginning in 2035 has come under fire from critics, with a major rail industry body claiming it would be “devastating” to “the critical efficient functioning of the national freight rail network.”  The new rules must be approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has yet to take place.

June 17, 2024

Gavin Newsom and top Democrats are deciding California’s budget behind closed doors – CalMatters

After legislative leaders failed to reach an agreement with Gov. Gavin Newsom about how to close California’s projected multibillion-dollar deficit, the Legislature passed a placeholder state budget last week, just ahead of a mandatory deadline.  With only a few weeks left until the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, both sides refuse to publicly discuss what specific issues are holding up a deal.

Caltrans Chooses Mile-Long Underground Option For Last Chance Grade Bypass – Lost Coast Outpost

In a significant step toward securing a long-term solution at Last Chance Grade, Caltrans has selected a preferred alternative that could pave the way for constructing a tunnel along U.S. 101 in Del Norte County.

Colorado River Water Use in Three States Drops to 40-Year Low – Circle of Blue

As the Colorado River declines, one fundamental question hangs over the Southwest’s most important waterway: can its people and industries slash their water use, thus aligning their water demands with a shrinking supply?  The answer so far – with important caveats – is a clear but qualified ‘yes.’  California’s largest municipal user of Colorado River water reduced its take from the river by 40 percent last year, partly because of a robust snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  That meant more water was available from the State Water Project.

June 13, 2024

These California dams need repairs.  But Newsom plans to cut grants in half – CalMatters

Several dozen dams throughout California could store up to 107 billion more gallons of water if they underwent repairs to fix safety problems.  But facing a staggering state deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed cutting funding for a dam repair grant program in half this year, while state legislators want the $50 million restored.   California has an aging network of nearly 1,540 dams — large and small, earthen and concrete — that help store vital water supplies.  For 42 of these dams, state officials have restricted the amount of water that can be stored behind them because safety deficiencies would raise the risk to people downstream from earthquakes, storms or other problems.

Caltrans: Concrete gap under freeway overpass in viral video is expansion joint – ABC 7 News (Los Angeles)

A video gaining viral traction on social media shows what looks like a separation or crack in a Southern California freeway overpass with debris falling out underneath.  Caltrans says the gap, on a ramp at the 105 transition to the 605 freeway in the Norwalk-Bellflower area, is just an expansion joint functioning as designed.

Baltimore’s busy port fully reopens after bridge collapse, and a return to normal is expected – Associated Press

Commercial shipping traffic through the Port of Baltimore is expected to return to normal next month, officials said Wednesday, after the channel fully reopened this week for the first time since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in March.

June 10, 2024

Here are California reservoir levels following steady winter storms – San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly all of California’s biggest water supply reservoirs are starting off June above average, following steady storms this winter on the heels of historically wet weather in 2023.  The state’s reservoirs contained 34.1 million-acre feet of water as of June 3, 119% of average for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

California Contemplates Cuts to Middle-Mile Broadband Build – Government Technology

A multibillion-dollar plan to develop 10,000 miles of broadband infrastructure has hit financial headwinds, forcing the state to consider what not to build.  Some construction is already underway.

Lax oversight by California agency put LA freeway at risk before 2023 blaze, audit finds – Associated Press

A state audit says lax oversight by California’s transportation agency contributed to a destructive blaze last year that consumed a vital section of a Los Angeles freeway used by hundreds of thousands of commuters.  The Office of the Inspector General for the California Department of Transportation said the agency conducted its required annual inspections of lots under Interstate 10 only five times in 15 years and failed to fully document them.  When Caltrans discovered problems, it failed to act.

June 6, 2024

California’s largest reservoir project in decades clears environmental court challenge ­­– The Sacramento Bee via AOL

California is one step closer to building its largest water storage facility in nearly 50 years after a court ruled in favor of the Sites Reservoir project following a challenge by environmental groups.  The court ruling marks the first time a CEQA process has been streamlined under Newsom’s SB 149, which allows the governor to certify certain projects for judicial fast-tracking.  Under the law, courts must decide CEQA challenges within 270 days.

Caltrans Pilots Generative AI to Probe and Resolve Traffic Woes – Government Technology

The California Department of Transportation is working with vendors on GenAI tools that can investigate near misses, reduce crashes, and eliminate bottlenecks.  Officials hope to more quickly analyze millions of data points.

June 3, 2024

Locals rejoice as Topanga Canyon Boulevard reopens months ahead of schedule – KTLA

Topanga Canyon Boulevard officially reopened on Sunday, three months ahead of schedule, giving residents something to cheer about.

California adopts program that could hinder community solar – Politico

California regulators approved a community solar program that clean energy advocates say would still leave the state a laggard at a time when the federal government is promoting the emerging sector.

California judge weighs injunction for planned water conveyance project – Courthouse News Service

Petitioners are battling over a massive and controversial California water infrastructure project drilled into the details on Friday over what actions require specific authorization before they can occur.  Local governments and water districts are asking a Sacramento County judge to stop the state water resources department from making any exploratory moves.

May 2024 News Items

May 30, 2024

Caltrans says work on Highway 1 Big Sur slides progress toward fall opening – Monterey Herald via MSN

With an estimated late autumn full opening of Highway 1 from Carmel to Cambria on the horizon, Caltrans continues to make progress at three repair sites in Monterey County along the Big Sur coast.

California High-Speed Rail Makes $450 Million Plea – Newsweek

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has applied for new federal funding to speed up construction on the line.  It has asked for $450 million to help advance progress toward the city of Merced, with most of the money going towards extending the segment between Madera and Merced.

Musk’s $56 billion pay package opposed by CalPERS, CNBC reports – Reuters

California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s CEO, Marcie Frost, said the agency plans to oppose Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk’s $56 billion pay package.  “We do not believe that the compensation is commensurate with the performance of the company,” Frost said in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday.

May 23, 2024

How $3.4B in federal aid will help in effort to connect Caltrain and high-speed rail to SF (MSN)

Leaders are calling it a major transit milestone. A new $3.4 billion federal commitment will help connect Caltrain’s 77-mile system and California High-Speed Rail to Downtown San Francisco.

The Downtown Rail Extension (DTX), also known as The Portal project, will eventually connect 11 Bay Area transit systems.

In striking before-and-after photos, a parched Lake Shasta is transformed (Los Angeles Times)

For a second consecutive year, Californians can celebrate the rejuvenation of the state’s reservoirs.

Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is full again after reaching perilously low levels in the drought-stricken years from 2019 through 2022.

Delta pumps likely killed over half a million fish in two decades. This year was extra deadly. (The Sacramento Bee)

Just east of the San Francisco Bay, a steel bucket holding 90 gallons of water is strained to rescue precious cargo. The metal roars as it spins, dispelling more and more water, to reveal, finally, a wriggling pair of juvenile Chinook salmon. 

These young, two-inch long fish were drawn into danger by giant pumps that push water south to millions of Californians and farms. Saving them from likely peril has been the core purpose since 1968 of the John E. Skinner Delta Fish Protective Facility.

May 20, 2024

$35.2M in Federal Funding Will Help Plug Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells (mynews.LA.com)

About $35.2 million in federal funding will be coming to the state of California to plug 206 high-risk orphaned oil and gas wells, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced in Los Angeles Friday.

Haaland, who joined Mayor Karen Bass at a downtown event as part of national Infrastructure Week, said the funding will also aid in the decommissioning of 47 attendant production facilities with approximately 70,000 feet of associated pipelines.  Haaland also announced matching grant guidance for states to access $30 million each in additional funding for orphaned well cleanup.

Delta Tunnel Project to Generate $38 Billion in Economic Benefits As Costs Rise (Engineering News Record)

A new financial analysis of California’s ambitious but controversial Delta Conveyance Project indicates that the project would create billions of dollars in benefits even though the price tag has increased substantially.  The massive tunnel project, California’s largest water infrastructure project in decades, would net economic benefits more than double its costs, according to state officials.

May 16, 2024

California lawmakers break with Newsom, order audit of state worker return to office policy (The Sacramento Bee)

The California State Auditor’s Office is set to scrutinize Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial “Return to Office” (RTO) policy, after the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to give it the green light.

In April, Newsom issued the order demanding that state agencies and departments produce a hybrid telework policy that includes mandatory in-office days, beginning June 17.  The audit will study “the rationale, timing, legality, and costs associated with the decision to rescind telework privileges for state employees,” according to the office of Assemblyman Josh Hoover, R-Folsom, who proposed the audit.

Sacramento Republican: Gov. Newsom must reconsider his return-to-office mandate | Opinion (The Sacramento Bee)

Last month Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced a return-to-office mandate for state workers that will limit telework at every state agency beginning on June 17.  Prior to this sudden shift in policy, individual state agencies have had the flexibility to determine which jobs could be performed remotely.  The California Environmental Protection Agency said telework has been an “efficient and effective way to conduct business,” while a California Health and Human Services’ internal survey found that remote work allowed for “improved employee collaboration,” and “increased productivity,” according to The Bee.

California is offering drivers money to test its alternative to the gas tax (KTLA)

For decades, California has depended on taxes from gasoline and diesel to provide most of the money for road repairs, but as the state pivots more towards electric and hybrid vehicles, officials are trying to figure out how to replace that income.

Road improvements are mainly financed through the state’s high excise tax on fuels.  Approximately 80% of highway and road repairs are funded by a tax on gasoline charged at the pump when you buy gas.

Price tag for California’s controversial Delta tunnel project increases by $4 billion (The Sacramento Bee)

The estimated cost for California’s controversial Delta Conveyance tunnel just went up by more than $4 billion.  The state Department of Water Resources on Thursday released an analysis that estimates the price tag of the project at $20.1 billion, up from a 2020 assessment of $16 billion.

May 13, 2024

Here are the winners and losers in California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May Revise budget (Sacramento Bee)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May Revise budget proposal offered few winners, and plenty of losers, Friday, as he unveiled an austere vision for state finances. Newsom called for slashing more than $32 billion in one-time and ongoing spending, with reductions, cost shifts and delayed spending across a wide variety of state departments and programs. The governor however presented a defiant stance at his press conference Friday, telling reporters that “we’re holding the line on unprecedented investments.”

Californians can now track cost of improvements, investments in their community.  Here’s how. (Fox40 News)

new interactive map seeks to enable residents of California to track the impact that community-focused improvements and infrastructure investments have throughout the state.  

According to Caltrans, the digital map lists 319 projects across the state that Clean California funded with $643 million as a part of the organization’s initiative to “clean up, reclaim, transform, and beautify public spaces in California.”

California Leaders Celebrate Ten Years of Climate Action (Streetsblog Cal)

In 2014, California’s Cap-and-Trade Program began allocating revenues from its nascent cap-and-trade auctions. For several years there was a lot of discussion about where that money should go, while various factions kept trying to undermine it and cast doubt on its potential for success.

Fast forward ten years, and a lot of progress has been made. While the notion of cap-and-trade – in which industries basically pay to pollute – has some fundamental flaws, it is the choice California made in 2006 to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it is definitely raising money.

California reports the first increase in groundwater supplies in 4 years (Chico Enterprise-Record)

After massive downpours flooded California’s rivers and packed mountains with snow, the state reported Monday the first increase in groundwater supplies in four years.

The state saw 4.1 million acre-feet of managed groundwater recharge in the water year ending in September, and an 8.7 million acre-feet increase in groundwater storage, California’s Department of Water Resources said.

Giant new California reservoir plan would bring water to 24 million people (SFGate via MSN)

California’s reservoirs are not only vital to the state’s complex water systems, providing millions of people and the state’s agricultural economy with needed access to water; they’re also important gauges for how healthy the state is overall.  This year’s at-capacity reservoirs have been a boon for a region besieged by drought for much of the past decade, but more work is needed to help ensure a plentiful and water-wise future for the most populous state in America.  

Enter Sites Reservoir, a long-in-the-works projects that aims to be the biggest reservoir development in nearly half a century.  It’s been a massive dream for decades, an idea first worked up by landowners and water districts northwest of Sacramento.  Thanks to a new infusion of federal cash, the proposal is closer than ever to actually happening – but not without a very real cost.

May 9, 2024

$900M Caltrans Project Set to Replace Aging Stockton Channel Bridges – ENR California (tiered subscription)

A $900-million project to replace the pair of aging bridges that take Interstate 5 traffic across the Stockton Channel is scheduled to begin construction in late 2026, California Dept. of Transportation (Caltrans) officials announced this week.  “It will be the most significant and costly project in the history of [Caltrans] District 10,” says Skip Allum, a spokesman for the district, which covers much of the northern San Joaquin Valley.

California Home to Two ZEV Firsts – Clean Technica

In just the last three days, California has seen two firsts related to zero-emission vehicles: the nation’s first solar-powered electric truck charging depot and Amazon’s largest electric truck fleet in any country.

May 6, 2024

Newsom wants California state employees back in the office.  New ruling makes it harder to object – CalMatters

California state agencies can compel employees to come to the office even if their union-negotiated contracts promise them the right to work from home.  That’s the gist of a labor arbitrator’s decision in a dispute between the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the union representing state attorneys.

California roads damaged by storms could get help with Newsom’s emergency declaration – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency Friday to help fund badly needed repairs of roads battered during this year’s storms, including scenic Topanga Canyon Boulevard that was blocked by millions of pounds of debris.  The governor’s action comes two weeks after California Department of Transportation officials said the massive, 300-foot-tall landslide that covered Topanga Canyon Boulevard in March with mud and rocks would not be cleared until fall “if all things go well.”

California reports the first increase in groundwater supplies in 4 years – Associated Press

After massive downpours flooded California’s rivers and packed mountains with snow, the state reported Monday the first increase in groundwater supplies in four years.  The state saw 4.1 million acre-feet of managed groundwater recharge in the water year ending in September and an 8.7 million acre-feet increase in groundwater storage, California’s Department of Water Resources said.  Groundwater supplies are critical to growing much of the country’s fresh produce.

May 2, 2024

A.M. Alert Newsletter – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Lawmakers Rally for Offshore Wind Infrastructure; State Initiates Second One-Time Spending Freeze.

Seeing orange and white lines on the freeway?  Here’s what they mean – KSEE TV News (Fresno)

Transportation officials in Southern California are testing a new way to get drivers to slow down in construction zones, and — based on early results — they say it’s working.

Brightline picks manufacturer for high-speed trains to connect SoCal to Las Vegas – KTLA via Microsoft News

Brightline West has chosen the company to build and deliver new high-speed trainsets to be deployed on its bullet train system between Southern California and Las Vegas.  The trains will be built by Siemens Mobility, a German manufacturing company that has been building trains in Northern California since the 1980s and has a U.S. headquarters in Sacramento.

April 2024 News Items

April 29, 2024

Highway 1 closure: Public can convoy in and out of Big Sur starting Monday – Los Angeles Daily News

Starting today, Caltrans will open the twice-daily convoys on Highway 1 through the Rocky Creek slip-out to the general public, according to a press release from the organization.

Lake Oroville storage at 3.37 million acre-feet – CBS 12 (Chico)

Lake Oroville is at 889 feet elevation as of Friday, the Department of Water Resources said.  Lake Oroville’s storage is at around 3.37 million acre-feet, which is 95% of its total capacity and 125% of the historical average.

In Fresno’s Chinatown, High-Speed Rail Sparks Hope and Debate Among Residents – KQED

In the 1960s, Fresno’s Chinatown was hit hard by urban renewal.  A major highway cut through the once-vibrant neighborhood, resulting in demolished buildings and shuttered stores.  Now, the California High-Speed Rail Authority promises to bring economic prosperity back to this area by constructing a new station — one of the first to be built along the line.

April 25, 2024

Will animals cross one of the nation’s busiest freeways? – KCRW

When the 101 freeway was built through the Santa Monica Mountains nearly 100 years ago, it trapped wildlife — lizards, birds and famously, mountain lions — on either side of it.  That’s led to inbreeding and even the threat of extinction.  Now Caltrans is constructing the largest animal-crossing bridge in the world after researching and experimenting for years to create a bridge that all types of wildlife will actually use, despite the 400,000 cars that drive the 101 each day.

California increases water allocation after wet winter, but fish protections limit pumping – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

With runoff from this year’s snow and rain boosting the levels of California’s reservoirs, state water managers on Tuesday announced plans to increase deliveries of supplies from the State Water Project to 40% of full allotments, up from 30% last month.  But the Department of Water Resources also said officials have had to limit pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta this year because of environmental protections for native fish.

Industry Groups Urge EPA to Deny CARB Rule – Railway Age

Railroad industry groups are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject an authorization request from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement a regulation that was finalized last year.  The rule would ban any locomotive that is 23 years or older from operating in California starting in 2030 and require that new locomotives can only operate in the state if they are “zero-emissions locomotives,” beginning in 2030 for switch, industrial, and passenger locomotives and 2035 for line haul locomotives.

April 22, 2024

Caltrans battles with extreme rockslides along SR-70 – Fox 40 News

Clearing thousands of cubic feet of boulders and soil from State Route 70 within the Feather River Canyon has become common for Caltrans crews in charge of the roadway.  Since January 22, Caltrans District 3 and Caltrans District 2 have cleared at least one medium to large-scale rockslide or landslide every month.

California acts to halt Kings County’s groundwater overpumping – CalMatters

Kings County growers will face millions of dollars in fees and a mandate to report groundwater pumping after California officials voted unanimously last week to put local agencies on probation for failing to protect the region’s underground water supply.  The unprecedented decision is a first step that could eventually lead to the state wresting control of aground water basin in a severely depleted part of the San Joaquin Valley.

Work starts on bullet train rail line from Sin City to the City of Angels – Associated Press

A $12 billion high-speed passenger rail line between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area has started construction, officials said Monday, amid predictions that millions of ticket-buyers will be boarding trains by 2028.

April 18, 2024

How Gavin Newsom’s budget sidesteps the growing cost of CalPERS pensions, for one year – CalMatters

California is expected to spend about $8.7 billion on state worker pensions next year.  Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to offset some of that cost by repurposing a previously scheduled debt payment.

‘Learning curve’: California’s first turbo roundabout near Bay Area is showing mixed safety results SFGate

The first “turbo roundabout” in California, installed at a notoriously dangerous intersection near Gilroy, has had mixed results since it opened earlier this year.  Crash data indicates that travelers may be struggling to adapt to the road design since its completion in February.  The area has seen one crash every 2.5 days on average versus approximately one every eight days previously.  Notably, however, none of the crashes with the new turbo roundabout have led to serious injury or death, and the share of crashes that led to any injury at all has also dropped.

High-Speed Rail Between U.S. Hubs May Be Closer Than It Appears – Commercial Observer

High-speed passenger rail in the U.S. is closer to reality than ever before, so why does its arrival seem so far off?

April 15, 2024

Gov. Newsom’s mandate for state workers to return to the office gets a mixed reaction – KCRA News (Sacramento)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement this week that state workers will no longer be able to work from home full-time in many cases is getting mixed reactions from a local state legislator, state employees, and local business interests.

How safe are bridges at Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach? – NBC Los Angeles

While the exact cause of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore is under investigation, there are key differences between the destroyed bridge 3,000 miles away and the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge, according to Mario Cordero, the CEO of the Port of Long Beach: The pillars that support the bridge are land-based.  In contrast, the Baltimore bridge has pylons in the water.  The Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles is also anchored to land.

Caltrans officials said bridges in California are safe to travel because they are supposed to meet rigorous seismic and safety standards.  “Caltrans has installed fender systems on all major bridges, further protecting bridge piers from the unlikely and rare event of being struck by marine traffic,” the agency said in a statement.  “All state-owned bridges are regularly inspected to ensure strict structural safety and have been seismically retrofitted to the highest national standards.”  Caltrans also said once the investigation into the Baltimore incident is complete, the agency will use the findings to further bolster bridge safety in California.

California farmers depleted groundwater in this county.  Now a state crackdown could rein them in – CalMatters

For the first time in California history, state officials are poised to crack down on overpumping of groundwater in the agricultural heartland.  The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday will weigh whether to put Kings County groundwater agencies on probation for failing to rein in growers’ overdrafting of the underground water supply.

April 11, 2024

Newsom calls on state workers to return to office in June – ABC 10

State workers in California will return to the office at least two days a week in June, according to a memo from the governor’s office. (Note: This report includes the memo to Cabinet Secretaries.)

How full are major California reservoirs as state exits another wet winter? – The Sacramento Bee via AOL

After two wet winters, most of California’s reservoirs are above their historic average levels.  Here’s the status of California’s 17 major reservoirs as of midnight on Thursday, April 9, according to data from the California Department of Water Resources.

U.S. court upholds EPA decision to approve California electric-vehicle rules – Reuters via Yahoo Finance

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant California a waiver to set its own tailpipe emissions limits and electric-vehicle requirements.

April 8, 2024

Newsom and Democratic lawmakers detail first California budget cuts totaling $17 billion – Los Angeles Times via AOL

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly announced an agreement last week to cut $17 billion from the state budget in April, providing the first details of their plan to begin to tackle the state’s massive deficit.  The plan calls for delaying $1 billion in grant funding for transit and intercity rail projects, saving $762.5 million by pausing hiring for open state jobs and pulling back $500 million from a program to help districts pay for K-12 building projects, among other proposals to trim the shortfall now, before additional cuts are made this summer.

California will pay millions for safety violations in Sacramento County, Oakland – KCRA News (Sacramento)

Millions of taxpayer dollars will go toward settling a lawsuit accusing California of numerous safety violations involving underground storage tanks beneath state buildings, according to Sacramento County court documents.

Lawsuit challenges $1 billion in federal funding to sustain California’s last nuclear power plant – Associated Press via ABC News

An environmental group has sued the U.S. Energy Department over its decision to award over $1 billion to help keep California’s last nuclear power plant running beyond a planned closure set for 2025.  The move opens another battlefront in the fight over the future of Diablo Canyon’s twin reactors.

April 4, 2024

State workers in 8 more California departments receive two-day return-to-office mandate – The Sacramento Bee via AOL

Roughly 19,000 permanent state workers under the California Natural Resources Agency will be required to return to their offices or work in the field at least twice a week starting this spring.

Why Highway 1 is going to keep falling into the sea – Politico

Another piece of Highway 1 in Big Sur fell into the Pacific over the weekend.  Cue the stories about stranded tourists and struggling businesses — and cue Caltrans’ inevitable graders and bulldozers propping up the iconic cliff-hugging road again.  As climate conditions continue pounding what is arguably the world’s most famous highway, California’s plan to adapt is to keep rebuilding it.

CA snowpack in good shape after several storms.  What does that mean for the water supply? – ABC 7

After all the recent storms, California’s snowpack is more than abundant this year, but officials say we still need to capture and store as much water as possible.

March 2024 News Items

March 28, 2024

California employees could lose telework if they don’t comply with two-day in-office mandate ­­­– The Sacramento Bee via Microsoft News

Ever since California departments and agencies started implementing hybrid work rules, critics have suggested that sooner or later, the state will creep back toward a full-time in-office model.  That once seemingly far-fetched scenario could become a reality for some state managers within departments under the California Health and Human Services Agency, according to an unreleased draft memo obtained by The Sacramento Bee.

LAO: California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to cut vacant state worker jobs to solve budget deficit is flawed – The Sacramento Bee via AOL

In a new report, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office criticizes Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to address the state’s budget deficit by eliminating funds for vacant positions.  Eliminating telework stipends also has problems because it “likely would result in difficult labor relations and an erosion to any savings,”  according to the analysis.  Furloughs also present problems for the administration, said Nick Schroeder, the LAO’s specialist in public employment, since CalHR would likely face significant pushback from state worker unions given the circumstances of the last furlough-like program.  “It’s a difficult situation because in 2020, the bargaining units did agree to the Personal Leave Program, and then that year, we ended up not having a budget problem,” Schroeder said.  “It kind of makes it more difficult for the state to try to get concessions of that size again.”

Caltrans lowers speed limit on 44.5 miles of California’s Highway 1 – SFGate.com

California sightseers, be warned: Caltrans is reducing the speed limit along three different stretches of State Route 1 on the coast of Big Sur.  The agency recently conducted an engineering and traffic survey that found lowering speed limits would be advisable along the three segments of the highway, which are all in Monterey County and total 44.5 miles.

March 25, 2024

California state agencies won’t report telework data anymore as workers return to office – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

California’s most reputable state telework data source will disappear from the internet soon, according to a recent memo from CalHR’s top brass.  The Department of General Services monitored the state’s implementation of telework and provided support with IT security, equipment tracking, facility-use monitoring, and training.  “In the coming weeks, DGS will provide modified instructions for telework data reporting and prepare to sunset www.telework.dgs.ca.gov, including the telework dashboard,” CalHR Director Eraina Ortega said in an email to departmental leadership.  “This will result in reduced reporting requirements for departments and DGS.”

California doubles State Water Project allocation thanks to February storms – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

On the heels of a soaking start to 2024, state water managers on Friday announced a considerable increase in their forecasted water allocation for the year.

CalPERS says Exxon should drop lawsuit against climate-conscious investors – Reuters

The largest U.S. public pension fund plans to ask Exxon Mobil to drop a lawsuit against investors that filed a shareholder resolution asking the U.S. oil major to curb greenhouse gas emissions faster.  According to its most recent disclosure, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System holds a 0.2% stake in Exxon.  At a meeting of its officials last week, it disclosed that it will raise the issue ahead of the energy company’s annual shareholder meeting in May.

March 21, 2024

California Advancing Efforts to Expand Electric Vehicle Charging Network – Ytech News

California is taking proactive measures to expedite the utilization of substantial federal funds to develop a widespread electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  In pursuit of this goal, the California Energy Commission and the California Department of Transportation are actively gathering input on the optimal approach to deploy funds from the National Electric Vehicle Funding Infrastructure Program.

Drone photos show dramatic rise in California reservoirs after record-setting rain, snow – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

Winter storms across California have significantly improved drought conditions and filled state reservoirs that had held less than a third of their capacity.  Drone photos from the California Department of Water Resources show just how big a difference a recent series of storms, brought on by 11 atmospheric rivers, has made.

California reaches clean-car deal with maker of Jeep and Chrysler – The San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

The car company that owns the Jeep and Chrysler brands has agreed to meet California’s climate goals and slash greenhouse gases in the next several years by improving designs and promoting cleaner models such as electric vehicles.  Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced the deal between Stellantis, the brand producing Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Fiat vehicles, and the California Air Resources Board.

March 18, 2024

Port of Los Angeles readies $130 million transportation project – Port Technology

The Port of Los Angeles and the California Department of Transportation will begin construction on a $130 million transportation project this month.  According to the port, the transportation project aims to redesign a key intersection at State Route 47/Vincent Thomas Bridge and Front Street/Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro.

State approves nearly $2 billion plan to improve transportation infrastructure: ‘Making sure [the] communities most in need have better access’ – TCD

California is about to get a lot more electric vehicle chargers.  A new $1.9 billion investment plan that will result in 40,000 new chargers statewide has been approved by the California Energy Commission.  Including other investment plans and funding from the federal government, California expects to reach 250,000 chargers statewide in the next few years, well over double the current amount.

California weakens plan for mandatory cutbacks in urban water use, yielding to criticism – CalMatters via Capital Public Radio

Facing criticism over their ambitious plan to curb urban water use, California’s regulators weakened the proposed rules last week, giving water providers more years and flexibility to comply.  

March 14, 2024

Did California save taxpayer dollars on leased office space during the pandemic?  See the data – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

One point that state employees love to make is that telework during the pandemic helped the state save money on rented office space.  But how true is this theory?   And if the state did save taxpayer dollars by terminating or not renewing leases, how much are we talking about?

Newsom stays silent on Cal-OSHA staffing crisis as legislators and advocates call for action – The Sacramento Bee via ArcaMax

California lawmakers and labor leaders are calling for change within the state’s workplace safety agency following a four-month Sacramento Bee investigation into the organization’s hiring practices.  The Bee’s reporting found numerous troubling examples of how a staffing shortage within the Division of Occupational Health and Safety, also known as Cal-OSHA, causes serious harm to state employees and California’s front-line workers.

Freeways split San Diego’s communities of color.  This new Caltrans project aims to reconnect them – San Diego Union-Tribune

Neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego and National City that were disconnected by Interstate 805 construction are part of a pilot program that will provide millions for parks, bike lanes and other amenities.  The goal of the state program is to re-imagine and revitalize dozens of blocks divided by freeways.  The pilot program, announced by Caltrans on Tuesday, also includes divided communities in Arcata and South San Francisco.

March 11, 2024

Multiple landslides in Malibu, surrounding areas close Pacific Coast Highway – Los Angeles Times via AOL

Several active landslides closed Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on Monday morning, and it wasn’t immediately clear when traffic would be able to pass through again as road crews scrambled to move the boulders and debris.

Coast Guard Will Not Enforce New California Rule, Citing ‘Safety Concerns’ – MarineLink

The U.S. Coast Guard says it “will not enforce” a new California Air Resources Board regulation, citing “safety concerns.”  The Coast Guard and business organizations oppose CARB’s requirement that commercial harbor craft install diesel particulate filters (DPF) linked to a number of fires.  Seventeen states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for giving an exemption to California alone to enact its own air standards that, by power of its market size, govern much of the rest of the country.

Helicopters map California groundwater basins with electromagnetic technology – CBS News

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has mapped out the state over the last few years to gain a better understanding of its groundwater basins.  The department has been using new technology combined with helicopters to create a database about what lies below.

March 7, 2024

California agrees to long-term cuts of Colorado River water – CalMatters

California, Arizona and Nevada would cut their allocations about 20% when reservoir levels drop.  But other states have their own opposing plan.  Now the federal government has to decide how to manage the drought-plagued river.

Monster blizzard shatters California ‘snow drought’ with up to 10 feet of new snow – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

A monster blizzard that blasted California’s Sierra Nevada with gusts of up to 190 mph and dumped more than 10 feet of snow over the weekend shattered the state’s “snow drought” and significantly boosted vital snowpack levels.

Caltrans Launches Equity Tool to Identify Transportation Inequities, Cites Pasadena – Pasadena Now

On Tuesday, the California Department of Transportation launched a new equity tool designed to help identify communities across the state that transportation projects, including in Pasadena, have negatively impacted.

March 4, 2024

California’s most reliable source for telework data could soon vanish as program loses funding – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

The future of California’s ability to track how many state employees telework and the policy’s many benefits is murky as state employees — to the dismay of many — begin returning to their offices this month.  Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2024-25 budget includes no funding for the state’s Telework Compliance Office, housed within the Department of General Services.  The office oversaw the rollout of telework during the COVID-19 pandemic and is best known for publishing state telework data on an online portal.

California water data shows change for typically drier months ahead – Scripps News

California and other parts of the U.S. West have suffered drought in recent years that has wreaked havoc on farming and caused concern for the future among state officials.  Now, after data released by California’s Department of Water Resources shows strong water levels across the state, reservoirs may be able to get typically drier parts of the country through what has been a difficult season historically.

Here’s a first look at California’s massive high-speed rail stations – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

California’s high-speed rail stations in the Central Valley will be massive, with wide station platforms and concourses, and surrounded by spacious outdoor plazas and parking lots, according to new project renderings.

February 2024 News Items

February 29, 2024

Automakers question feasibility of California 2035 EV sales mandate plan – Reuters

Major automakers on Wednesday said a California plan, which requires more new cars to be electric annually until they account for all new vehicles by 2035, may be unworkable in 11 other states that adopted it because of insufficient consumer demand.  The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, representing most major automakers except Tesla, raised the concerns in comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency on California’s proposal.  The California Air Resources Board has asked the EPA for a waiver under the Clean Air Act to implement its plan to end sales of gasoline-only vehicles by 2035.

Purified toilet water could soon be flowing through Californians’ taps as the state battles drought – Business Insider

Californians could soon have sewage waste coming out of their taps — purified, of course.  California’s State Water Resources Control Board recently approved regulations allowing water systems to convert wastewater, like sewage and toilet water, into purified water that Californians can drink.

California state employee retirements dropped in 2023, new CalPERS data show – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Fewer state workers retired in 2023 than in any of the previous five years, new data show.  The dip in retirements marks a shift from the surge of separations during the first pandemic years.  State employee retirements peaked in 2020 when 12,500 state workers applied for retirement status with CalPERS.

February 26, 2024

California reservoir managers could sharply limit water to farms and cities this year – San Francisco Chronicle

Even after all the rain and snow in California this month, state and federal water managers have announced that they’re planning to limit deliveries from the state’s biggest reservoirs this year because seasonal precipitation has lagged.  Their plans, however, don’t fully account for the recent storms.

Pacific Coast Highway night closures end – Ventura County Star

A 6-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County that had been shut at night since Feb. 5 due to storm damage has been repaired, the California Highway Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, said Saturday.

CalPERS to review automatically trimming discount rate when returns outperform – Pensions & Investments

CalPERS in April could change a policy that automatically reduces the $485.9 billion pension fund’s expected investment return when investment returns outperform the discount rate by at least two percentage points.  The so-called “funding risk mitigation” requires CalPERS investment staff to implement new strategic asset allocation targets based on the reduction in assumed investment return.  However, when that assumption is lowered, it triggers higher contributions from employers and members.

February 22, 2024

This California department suggests Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered in-office work for state employees – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Confused about when and whether you’re supposed to come back to the office?  You’re not the only one.   Workers at several California state agencies and departments have recently received notices of impending plans to bring them back to the office at least two days per week.  They’ll join the handful of departments that already require their employees to report to the office.

Some state employees have even received information from their department that conflicts directly with the original notice put out by their agency secretary last month, as well as statements from the governor’s office.  “This is a statewide policy impacting all agencies/departments under the Newsom Administration,” read a Feb. 12 email from Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health, to all departmental staff.

Overworked and Underprotected – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Cal-OSHA – the state agency responsible for keeping more than 18 million Californians safe on the job – suffers from severe and chronic understaffing.  The personnel shortage overburdens Cal-OSHA employees with an unreasonably heavy workload, according to several current and former staffers who spoke with The Bee.  They say it also hurts California workers, whose cases sit in backlogs for months as employers face minimal consequences for endangering employee health and safety.  Both current and retired Cal-OSHA personnel describe the division as a workplace in crisis whose leaders lack the political will to fix the problem.

What February rain and snow mean for California’s water supply – NBC 4 (Los Angeles)

December downpours sent water racing through streets in coastal Ventura County and the city of Santa Barbara.  Flash floods hit San Diego in late January, and back-to-back atmospheric river-fueled storms arrived earlier this month, causing wind damage in Northern California and hundreds of mudslides in Los Angeles.  Yet another storm blew through over Presidents Day weekend.  The frequent deluges have fended off a return to the drought that’s plagued the state over the past decade.  Some parts of California are so wet these days that even Death Valley National Park has a lake big enough for kayakers.  Still, the state overall is not on pace for a repeat of last year’s epic rain.  And the mountains haven’t seen nearly as much snow.

February 15, 2024

The CTC’s makeover moment – ­ Politico California Newsletter

We’re used to covering brawls over climate policy, but the fierce highway expansion debate at last month’s California Transportation Commission meeting made us sit up and take notice.  The Jan. 25 vote over whether to spend $200 million to widen the I-15 exposed a fundamental schism between environmentalists and labor unions over the role of road widening.

For California’s bullet train, progress is being made, but its completion date remains a mystery – KTLA

California Governor Gavin Newsom has repeatedly voiced his support for high-speed rail, stating in his 2019 State of the State address that the project “is much more than a train project.  It’s about economic transformation.  It’s about unlocking the enormous potential of the [Central] Valley.”  Recent polling by UC Berkeley found that the majority of Californians still support funding the high-speed rail project, even as costs grow and the timeline shifts.  The rail authority cites inflation and uncertainties involving the scope of the project, the design, land acquisition, utility relocation, permits, and legal challenges as reasons for the delayed timeline and growing costs.

C.C. Myers, construction giant who gained fame rebuilding California freeways, dies at 85 – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

C.C. Myers, the legendary Sacramento construction icon who gained fame rebuilding damaged California freeways at breakneck speed, died Wednesday.  He was 85.  Myers started a construction firm in 1973 and gained fame for his can-do attitude tackling huge projects, most notably the repair of the Santa Monica Freeway that had been damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  His company finished the job in 66 days — 74 days ahead of schedule — and was awarded a $15 million bonus from Caltrans.

February 13, 2024

Return to office: State workers say looming mandate would cost more than money – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

The California Environmental Protection Agency, which  oversees CARB among other boards, offices and departments, has told its employees to plan for two days a week in-office starting sometime in March. The California Health and Human Services Agency and the Employment Development Department have issued similar announcements.  The agencies must meet and confer with state employee unions before implementing changes.  State officials have touted “critical opportunities” that in-person work provides, such as mentorship and networking for early-career employees and knowledge-sharing through impromptu hallway conversations. But, by and large, state workers said they aren’t sold on the aforementioned benefits of in-office work.

Landslide Cuts Highway 1, Caltrans Offers Convoys – Bay City News

Landslide late Friday added to an existing closure of state Highway 1 in Monterey County just south of the Big Creek Bridge, Caltrans said.  The landslide — the second in the area in three days — covered the highway and spilled onto the slope below it, Caltrans said in a statement Saturday.

Recent snowstorms may bolster California hydroelectric output this summer – San Diego Union-Tribune/West Hawaii Today

All the rain that has led to swollen rivers and flooding in parts of San Diego and large portions of Southern California has coincided with multiple snowstorms that blew across the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the northern half of the state.  That may translate to a second consecutive year of robust output from the state’s hydroelectric power plants, which would help bolster the electric grid this summer.  But officials at the California Independent System Operator, which manages the power system for about 80 percent of the state, aren’t celebrating yet.

February 8, 2024

California Reservoir Impressive Dam Release Amid ‘Intense’ Storm – Newsweek

Water rushed out of the gated spillway at the Pyramid Dam on Monday after officials chose to release excess stormwater as a severe atmospheric river pummeled California with torrential rain.  The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) opened the spillway at the dam to mitigate flood risk.

California Emissions Disclosure Suit Foreshadows SEC’s Obstacles – Bloomberg Law

Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. California Air Resources Board, a federal lawsuit filed by the US and California Chambers of Commerce and four business groups, seeks to block California’s recently enacted landmark corporate climate change disclosure laws on constitutional grounds.

February 5, 2024

After mudslide halts rail traffic, Caltrans approves $10M for repairs – SFGate.com

In response to the January mudslide in San Clemente that halted commuter train service indefinitely, Caltrans issued an emergency declaration that will release up to $10 million to fund repairs, according to a Caltrans news release. The $10 million is funded by the California Transportation Commission.

Humboldt County Cannabis Grower to Pay $750,000 for State Water, Wildlife Violations – CalMatters

State Water Resources Control Board and Fish & Wildlife officials said a Humboldt County cannabis operation took water from streams and damaged wetlands for years without authorization.

February 1, 2024

He pioneered telework for state workers 40 years ago.  What does he think of return-to-office push? – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

David Fleming advocated for telework way before the pandemic made it cool.  The former state employee piloted the first-ever telecommuting program for the state of California in 1985.  The Legislature eventually codified telework in the 1990s as an official state policy.  The law embraces Fleming’s assertion that telecommuting can be “an important means to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion” and “stimulates employee productivity while giving workers more flexibility and control over their lives.”  Now, after four years of widespread telework among state workers (and plenty of others), Fleming is puzzled as to why several state agencies and departments are calling workers back to the office two days a week.

Oroville Dam sees some water releases ahead of atmospheric river headed to California – CBS Sacramento

According to the California Department of Water Resources, about 6,000 cubic feet per second of water will be released from the Oroville-Thermalito Complex.  It will be the first time since March 2023 that water releases will be done at Oroville Dam.

Brightline West conducts fieldwork in California ahead of high-speed rail groundbreaking – Victorville Daily Press

Brightline West launched field investigation work this week in Southern California in anticipation of a groundbreaking of its high-speed rail system between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga.

January 2024 News Items

January 30, 2024

California Employment Development Department calls workers back to office with few exceptions – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Civil servants for the Employment Development Department are the latest California state workers to receive return-to-office orders in recent weeks.  In a department-wide email, EDD Director Nancy Farias told staff they would all be expected to work from the office twice a week “effective early spring.”  The EDD announcement echoes similar proclamations from the state’s Health and Human Services Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency. All three employers touted increased collaboration and office culture as benefits of the return to in-person work.

California ranks high worldwide for rapidly depleted groundwater ­– CalMatters

In a sign of the ongoing threats to its precious groundwater stores, half a dozen regions in California rank among the world’s most rapidly declining aquifers, according to research published last week.

Caltrans asks Fresno judge to toss highway interchange lawsuit on legal technicality – Fresnoland

In a pivotal environmental lawsuit, the California Department of Transportation’s attempt to sideline state environmental law faced a major hurdle last week.  In a Jan. 23 preliminary ruling, Judge Geoffrey Wilson threw a wrench in Caltrans’ plans, rejecting the state agency’s argument.

January 25, 2024

Opinion: The absurdity of the return-to-office movement – CNN

I host a podcast, “In the Room with Peter Bergen,” which focuses on national security issues.  Every day, I see the merits of being part of an entirely remote workforce.

Caltrans cameras confusion: Oakland city leaders raise concerns over unanswered questions on freeway cameras – NBC Bay Area

Safety on California freeways has been a growing concern over the years.  The state transportation agency recently told NBC Bay Area that there are 63 new freeway cameras installed in Oakland and an additional 56 cameras throughout Alameda County.  Nearly two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom committed to installing hundreds of cameras on state freeways, Oakland city leaders say they are still waiting to see them in action.

California reviews high, medium priority groundwater sustainability plans – Water World

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that it has completed its review process for the groundwater sustainability plans for high and medium priority groundwater basins in the state.  The department approved 10 groundwater sustainability plans and deemed seven basins’ plans incomplete.

January 22, 2024

Environmental groups sue to block Delta tunnel project – Bay City News Service via Pleasanton Weekly

Environmental groups on Friday sued the California Department of Water Resources for approving a plan to divert water from the environmentally sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta to Central and Southern California.

Volkswagen spent $800M on California EV charging to atone for Diesel gate. Drivers aren’t happy – The Sacramento Bee via AOL

Many public electric vehicle chargers alongside California roads were built to atone for past wrongs. Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, was born in the ashes of the company’s 2015 emissions cheating scandal known as ‘Dieselgate.’  More than 1,000 chargers later, the California Air Resources Board is slated to rubber-stamp the final chunk of an $800 million settlement with VW.  But advocates say Electrify America’s attempts to make amends have only created another scandal: The chargers don’t work well.

Farewell to California’s “Star Wars” freeway signs – Axios

Have you spotted any of Caltrans’ clever freeway signs?  Enjoy them while you can.

January 18, 2024

California return-to-office rumors are true — for some.  See which state teleworkers are affected – The Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Thousands of state employees will likely have to report to work in person starting later this spring.  The California Environmental Protection Agency announced its intent to bring workers back to the office at least two days a week by “early this spring,” according to a recent email to all CalEPA staff and those who work for the agency’s boards, departments, and organizations.

Engine maker Cummins to repair 600,000 Ram trucks in $2 billion emissions cheating scandal – Associated Press

Engine maker Cummins Inc. will recall 600,000 Ram trucks as part of a settlement with federal and California authorities that also requires the company to remedy environmental damage caused by illegal software that let it skirt diesel emissions tests.

California’s water-saving plan slammed as costly, complicated and unrealistic – Los Angeles Times via Yahoo News

In a scathing review, advisors to the state Legislature have found that California’s proposed regulations for urban water conservation would be costly, overly complicated and difficult to implement.

January 12, 2024

Newsom proposes cutting California state employee telework stipends due to budget gap – The Sacramento Bee/AOL

Say hello to California’s budget shortfall.  And potentially, wave goodbye to telework stipends.

Can AI Alleviate California Traffic? Caltrans Thinks So – Government Technology

The California Department of Transportation, teaming up with other state agencies, is asking technology companies to propose generative AI tools that could help reduce traffic and make roads safer.

California’s proposed water conservation rules too stringent and costly, analysts say – CalMatters

California’s legislative advisors lambasted the state’s ambitious proposal to regulate urban water conservation, calling the measures costly and difficult to achieve, and “in many cases without compelling justifications.”

January 8, 2024

US EPA reviewing California 2035 electric vehicle sales mandate plan – Reuters

The U.S. environmental regulatory agency will hold a hearing next week on whether to approve California’s plan to require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be electric or plug-in electric hybrids.

Colorado River States Are Racing to Agree on Cuts Before Inauguration Day – The New York Times (free read)

The states – including California – that rely on the Colorado River, which is shrinking because of climate change and overuse, are rushing to agree on a long-term deal to share the dwindling resource by the end of the year. They worry that a change in administrations after the election could set back talks.

California high speed train shortlist announced – Railway Gazette

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has shortlisted two qualified bidders for a planned contract to supply high-speed trainsets for the project.

January 4, 2024

CA’s 1st ‘turbo roundabout’ opens south of Bay Area.  Here’s how it works – ABC 7 (Bay Area)

Drivers in San Benito County are navigating through a new and innovative roundabout at the intersection of Highways 25 and 156 between Gilroy and Hollister.

Snowpack levels leave experts unsure of wet winter for Southern California – Los Angeles Daily News

What will California’s water picture look like in the next 12 months?  The predictions are all over the map.

What to expect as California lawmakers return to Sacramento – KCRA (Sacramento)

California lawmakers returned to Sacramento on Wednesday, Jan. 3, for another year of policy-making and state budget negotiations.  Here’s what to expect as the Legislature returns for the new year.

December 2023 News Items

December 28, 2023

‘Widen the I-15’: Las Vegas mayor makes familiar request to California – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman carried out her New Year’s Eve week tradition of calling on California officials to widen Interstate 15 south of the Nevada state line.

Registration deadline for California Clean Truck Check gets another month – Freight Waves

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said Tuesday it would extend the deadline for trucks to be registered for the state’s Clean Truck Check to Jan. 31. The deadline had been New Year’s Eve.

Purified toilet water could soon be flowing through Californians’ taps as the state battles drought Business Insider

California’s State Water Resources Control Board recently approved regulations allowing water systems to convert wastewater, like sewage and toilet water, into purified water that Californians can drink.

December 21, 2023

Union membership is plateauing among California state workers, data show. Here’s why Sacramento Bee (free read)

California’s state worker unions saw membership rates dip ever so slightly in 2023, even as the total number of rank-and-file employees increased.

State Water Project drives California’s economy, report says – Hydro Review

If the California State Water Project’s service area was its own nation, it would rank as the eighth largest economy in the world, according to a report from the California Department of Water Resources and Berkeley Research Group.

‘Things have to change’: State limits water for Klamath Basin farmers to protect salmon CalMatters

After months of controversy, the water board extended emergency measures restricting irrigation. Tribes and Siskiyou County ranchers and farmers have battled for years over the rivers’ flows.

December 18, 2023

State Leaders Warn of Risks to Southern California Rail Corridor – Planetizen

The coastal rail corridor between San Diego and Santa Barbara faces growing risks from coastal erosion and climate change, according to a California Senate Transportation Subcommittee.  The state’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) recently completed its first coastal erosion mitigation project for a roadway, moving a Highway 1 segment 400 feet to protect it from landslides.

Next year’s climate fights will be in the budget – Politico

California’s budget deficit is so bad that Gov. Gavin Newsom told state agencies last week to stop buying office supplies.  That doesn’t bode well for climate spending.  California’s investment in climate programs reached a high mark last year, as lawmakers passed a $54 billion package meant to last several years and fund a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2045 on the back of a massive budget surplus.  Now facing an estimated $68 billion shortfall, the state has already clawed $6 billion back this year as revenue has slowed, cutting conservation, infrastructure, and community resilience funding.

Officials hope new flood strategies can help the Sacramento region handle an unpredictable winter – CapRadio

About seven miles from the Sacramento International Airport, crews are finishing a project meant to provide massive flood relief to a wide swath of the Sacramento region during intense storms.  As soon as this winter, the Lower Elkhorn Basin project area will become a larger overflow area for the Sacramento River when it rises.  Crews pushed seven miles of levee back around 1,500 feet.  “We are reducing flood risk … by reducing the surface of the water during high water events,” said David Pesavento, an engineer for the California Department of Water Resources and manager of the Lower Elkhorn Basin project.

December 14, 2023

Newsom’s administration orders state spending freeze as it braces for big budget problem – KCRA News (Sacramento)

As it braces for one of the biggest state budget shortfalls in state history, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is demanding that California state agencies freeze their spending.

California gas tax revenue will drop by $6 billion in next decade, threatening roads – CalMatters

As the state battles climate change and Californians drive fewer gas-powered cars, tax revenue will drop substantially, according to a new state analysis.  EV fees will make up only part of the transportation shortfall, so lawmakers need to designate new funding options.

Who Gets the Water in California? Whoever Gets There First. – The New York Times (free read)

As the world warms, the state is re-examining claims to its water that have gone unchallenged for generations.

December 11, 2023

Caltrans announces timeline to fully reopen Highway 1 along California’s Big Sur coast – The Sacramento Bee (free read)

On Friday, Caltrans said that work on the closure at Paul’s Slide should be complete in time to reopen the highway in late spring of 2024.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom advances water tunnel project amid opposition from environmental groups – Associated Press

A long-sought and disputed project in drought-prone California aimed at capturing more water during heavy rain storms reached a key milestone on Friday when Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration finished an environmental review for an underground tunnel.

New federal and state funding awarded to Southern California passenger rail projects – Urbanize Los Angeles

Last week, manna fell from heaven for two high-speed rail lines which would one day shuttle passengers from Southern California to the Bay Area and Las Vegas.

December 7, 2023

Caltrans crews remove flammable materials weeks after inferno under 10 Freeway in downtown LA – ABC 7 (Los Angeles)

Nearly a month after a massive fire prompted the closure of the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles, Caltrans crews continued to remove flammable materials from underneath the busy interstate.

As atmospheric rivers become more frequent, California expands research to prepare – Capitol Public Radio

A new law expanding California’s atmospheric river research program goes into effect next year.  It connects flood and reservoir control operations with new technologies and strategies that can help operators accurately predict the arrival of these storms.

When will California state employees see pay raises?  Here’s why salary changes take so long – The Sacramento Bee (free read)

Many state workers are asking when they’ll see raises that their unions won earlier this summer through contract bargaining.  The short answer?  Soon, but not immediately.

December 4, 2023

California cities and farms will get 10% of requested state water supplies when 2024 begins – ABC 7 (Los Angeles)

California water agencies serving 27 million people will get10% of the water they requested from state supplies to start 2024 due to a relatively dry fall, even though the state’s reservoirs are in good shape, state officials said Friday.

$1.5 billion now available in federal transportation grants – Route Fifty

State and local governments could get a slice of up to $1.5 billion to complete critical freight and passenger transportation infrastructure projects, the Biden administration announced last week.

Brightline West teases groundbreaking as new signage for high-speed train pops up in Las Vegas – 3 News (Las Vegas)

Brightline West, the developer of a high-speed rail connecting Las Vegas with Southern California, is teasing a groundbreaking.  The company shared video on social media today of new signage and fencing bearing the Brightline West name and train design. The footage appears to have been taken on Las Vegas Boulevard where the Brightline Las Vegas station would be located.

November 2023 News Items

November 30, 2023

FHWA and Roadway Safety Foundation Honor 10 Life-Saving Projects – WKYT

Ten innovative highway safety projects representing the very best of the nation’s roadway safety practices – including one by Caltrans – were honored Wednesday with National Roadway Safety Awards at a Capitol Hill ceremony.  The awards were presented by the leadership of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Roadway Safety Foundation (RSF), which jointly sponsor the competition.  Caltrans won for instituting a pilot program that rapidly installs wrong-way driver prevention and other safety enhancements. The approach allows Caltrans districts to implement stand-alone safety projects more quickly than through traditional means, delivering new signs, high visibility crosswalks, curve warning signs and other cost-effective safety measures within a single year.

Nearly 2 dozen LA freeway underpasses pose similar dangers as 10 Freeway Fire: LAFD – Fox 11 (Los Angeles)

Nearly two dozen properties underneath Los Angeles freeways were marked as potential fire hazards, including half of those near the scene of a massive fire underneath the 10 Freeway in downtown earlier this month, according to a new survey from the Los Angeles Fire Department.  The underpass properties are leased out by the state, as part of the state’s Airspace and Telecommunications Licensing program.  The rent generates money for the state’s highway fund and mass transportation programs.

House Republicans support high-speed rail but not California’s project – Smart Cities Dive

Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee largely supported passenger and high-speed rail in a hearing but split along party lines about California’s $128 billion project.

November 27, 2023

California examines benefits, risks of using artificial intelligence in state government – Los Angeles Times (free read)

Artificial intelligence that can generate text, images, and other content could help improve state programs but also poses risks, according to a report released by the governor’s office last week.

Going to the source: Can meadow restoration beef up California’s water supplies and reduce flooding? – Bakersfield Californian

California’s 280,000 acres of mountain meadows dotting the Sierra Nevada are more than pretty rest stops along arduous alpine trails.  They also act like giant sponges, filtering water and slowing it down as runoff barrels down mountainsides.  Yet more than 50,000 acres of meadows require restoration.

Wildlife bridge: Here’s the latest on Highway 101 construction near Agoura Hills – Ventura County Star

Crews mostly completed a large concrete wall along the northside of Highway 101 near Agoura Hills this month – one of the initial steps in building a first-of-its-kind wildlife crossing.

November 20, 2023

10 Freeway reopens in downtown L.A. after weeklong closure – Los Angeles Times(free read)

A crucial tranche of the 10 Freeway south of downtown L.A. reopened Sunday night earlier than previously expected and weeks ahead of original projections.

Helicopters with hoops to collect data around the Central Coast – K.S.B.Y. News

Over the weekend, helicopters carrying large hoops started flying around the Central Coast.  “The California Department of Water Resources is flying a helicopter over the southern part of San Luis Obispo County to perform some airborne electromagnet studies,” explained Nick Teague, Water Resources Program Manager for the City of San Luis Obispo.  “This helps provide data on the groundwater and the subsurface geology.”

What an El Niño Winter Could Mean for California – The New York Times (free read)

Odds are that this winter’s going to be a wet one.  The intermittent climate phenomenon known as El Niño, which typically means more rain and snow for California, developed over the summer and is expected to intensify in the next few months.  And this year’s El Niño is predicted to be exceptionally strong — maybe even ranking in the top five on record, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at U.C.L.A.

November 17, 2023

Caltrans crews unable to get Highway 1 open through Big Sur – SFGate

Earlier this week, as storm clouds began to gather off the coast and conversations in cafes started to feature the words “atmospheric river” once more, one large section of California coastline remained not quite recovered from last year’s historic storm season.

America’s first hydrogen-powered ferry is set to sail – Canary Media

America’s first hydrogen-fueled ferry is set to launch in San Francisco early next year after more than five years in development. As the milestone nears, the vessel’s owner says it’s already looking to deploy more zero-emissions ferries nationwide — particularly in places where aging, polluting diesel boats still ply rivers, sounds and coastlines.

State Water Commission Seeks Input on Drought Resilience Strategies – The Capistrano Dispatch

As California looks to prepare for ongoing periods of both drought and floods, the state’s Water Commission seeks resident input on a draft white paper titled “Potential State Strategies for Protecting Communities and Fish and Wildlife in the Event of Drought.”

November 13, 2023

Progressive design-build gains ground in U.S. – Construction Dive

More transportation and water agencies are adopting the project delivery method, according to a recent panel at the 2023 Design-Build Conference and Expo.  That bill expands authority for using progressive design-build by state and local agencies in California.  For instance, Caltrans and various water agencies across the Golden State are increasingly adopting the project delivery method.

Column: It’s about time California built the Sites Reservoir – Los Angeles Times/AOL

California’s state government began drawing up plans for Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley 70 years ago.  And it still only exists on paper.  So, kudos to Gov. Gavin Newsom for deciding that it’s finally time to put this tardy project on the fast track.

California locomotive emissions regulations can be tougher than federal standards, EPA says – Trains.com

California and other states can enact tougher locomotive emissions standards than those imposed by the federal government, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said last week.  The policy change, which goes into effect on Dec. 8, means the California Air Resources Board’s controversial locomotive emissions regulations will not run afoul of federal preemption of state and local regulations.

November 9, 2023

Checkpoints seek few trucks creating the most pollution – Spectrum 1 News

Staffed by California Air Resources Board personnel, pop-up roadside monitoring events are pulling over heavy-duty trucks based on their emissions.

Editorial: California gets permission to phase out diesel trains – The Press Democrat

California will be the first state to require that trains stop using diesel and other fossil fuels.  The state is at the forefront of fighting climate change nationally and globally, not because it simply says, “No more greenhouse gases,” but because it develops sensible policies and timelines that target individual industries and sectors.

California is drought-free for first time in years.  What it means. – Washington Post (free read)

California is drought-free for the first time in more than three years because of a remarkably wet, snowy winter and a rare tropical storm over the summer.  The last remaining traces of drought disappeared in October as autumn rainstorms grazed the state’s northwestern corner.  However, the prospect of another wet winter on top of already saturated conditions is raising flood fears.  Twenty-two people died in flooding last winter when nine atmospheric rivers struck the state in short succession between late December and mid-January.

November 6, 2023

California Trucking Group Challenges State’s Zero-Emissions Rule – Reuters / Insurance Journal

The California Trucking Association has asked a federal judge to stop a state rule requiring truckers to switch to zero-emissions vehicles by 2042, calling it “a vast overreach” that threatens the industry’s survival.

California’s pensions are getting greener – Politico

The real-world costs of climate change are forcing California’s biggest public pension system to re-evaluate parts of its massive investment portfolio.

California’s high-speed rail project advances though cost jumped to $128 Billion – KTVU (San Francisco)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board received an update on its high-speed electric rail project on Thursday as it moves forward in the first phase.

November 2, 2023

Large sections of Angeles Crest Highway that were closed by winter storm damage reopen – Los Angeles Times / West Observer (free read)

After a months-long closure due to winter storm damage, a major stretch of Angeles Crest Highway has reopened, restoring public access to various trails and mountain vistas along the scenic byway through the San Gabriel Mountains.

Why Bay Area groundwater rebounded faster than elsewhere in California after winter storms – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

A small but measurable percentage of Bay Area wells reached historic highs this year — more than in any other region measured by the California Department of Water Resources.

4th track proposed for LA-to-Anaheim segment of planned high-speed rail – The Orange County Register (free read)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is proposing a change to the configuration of the tracks planned for its 33-mile route from Los Angeles to Anaheim.

October 2023 News Items

October 30, 2023

High-speed rail station coming to Bakersfield: A progress report on the nation’s first 220 MPH electrified railway – Bakersfield Now

Bakersfield officials recently received an update on plans for a world-class high-speed rail station in the city.

A new SoCal underground water storage project aims to keep supplies flowing during drought – Los Angeles Times / AOL

A solution to help bolster Southern California’s water outlook during future droughts is taking shape in the Mojave Desert. Water transported in canals and pipelines has begun flowing into a series of basins carved into the desert, filling a large underground reservoir that will be available to draw upon in dry times.  The facility, called the High Desert Water Bank, started taking in supplies from the State Water Project last month.

As Newsom promotes California climate in China, state greenhouse gas emissions rose last year – Fresno Bee / MSN

California needs to reduce planet-warming gases — and quickly — if it is going to meet its ambitious climate targets and stave off the worst effects of global warming.  But the amount of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere by the state’s residents actually increased last year.

October 26, 2023

Caltrans crews continue I-80 repair work in the Sierra as winter weather approaches – NBC Bay Area

The Sierra saw its first snowfall Wednesday, leading to chain requirements along Interstate 80 as well as a big question: will the roadway be ready to handle more serious winter weather?

Western States’ planned water cuts are enough to avert a Colorado River crisis, for now – CalMatters

Wet weather and planned cuts by California, Arizona and Nevada averted declines that could have threatened water deliveries and power production — but long-term threats to the Colorado River remain.

High hopes for U.S. high-speed rail – Smart Cities Dive

Only 50 miles of high-speed track currently exist in the U.S., but an expansion could create thousands of jobs and slash greenhouse gas emissions, says a Mineta Transportation Institute study.

October 23, 2023

California Invests $3.7 Billion to Rebuild Highway, Bridge, Rail Infrastructure – Times of San Diego

The California Transportation Commission this week allocated more than $3.7 billion for projects to rebuild the state’s transportation infrastructure to enhance safety and create more convenient options for travelers.  More than $2.3 billion is from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

California Lets Companies Keep ‘Dangerous’ Oil Wells Unplugged Forever – LAist

A new California law just signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom aims to close loopholes that have allowed oil drillers to walk away from wells that are no longer profitable but remain harmful.  But while the Orphan Well Prevention Act will help reduce the number of abandoned and orphaned wells — currently around 5,300 — industry watchers said it does little to address the looming issue of wells that remain dormant indefinitely, some of which leak climate-warming methane and toxic fumes.

‘Back of the line again’: California’s broadband plan deprioritized underserved regions, advocates say – Capital Public Radio

In November 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the first 18 projects in the state’s plan to build a public broadband infrastructure system to help bridge the digital divide between those with access to high-speed internet and those without access.  That list included underserved communities of Southeast and South Los Angeles, Oakland, and the Coachella Valley.  Then, this summer, some community leaders and advocates noticed that portions of the initially proposed broadband network would no longer be built with available funds.  Instead, some of the neediest communities were pushed to an unfunded “phase 2” portion of the plan.

October 19, 2023

“A massive enterprise’: California’s offshore wind farms are on a fast track – CalMatters

Ocean wind farms are essential to electrify California’s grid with 100% clean energy.  But they’re a giant, costly experiment — no one knows how hundreds of towering turbines will transform the remote North Coast.

Congress members urge EPA to authorize California Clean Shipping Rule – Transportation Today

On Oct. 11, U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) led a coalition of California Congress members in urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to authorize a clean shipping regulation in that state.  In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the Congress members requested the EPA act on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) request from September to authorize a state regulation to require large ships to plug into shore power at ports rather than run their engines on toxic fuels.

Major earthquake in the Delta could be disastrous for California’s water supply – CBS Bay Area

While the earthquake that struck near Isleton Wednesday morning wasn’t strong, the location did raise questions about the possible risk to an area that is critical to the state’s water supply.

October 16, 2023

California Moves Closer to Imposing First Limits on Groundwater Use  – The New York Times (free read)

California has put a water-stressed farming region on notice for having “inadequate” plans to curb its overuse of groundwater, bringing officials closer to directly intervening in how growers manage their underground water supplies for the first time in state history.

California signs with Stadler for America’s first hydrogen trains – Railtech

The State of California and Swiss rolling stock manufacturer Stadler have signed an agreement for the supply of hydrogen trains this Thursday. Under the contract worth 80 million US dollars (approximately 75 million euros), Stadler will provide the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and Caltrans with four hydrogen fuel cell trains, with an option to acquire up to 25 additional train sets.

Highway Trust Fund Hearing to Address Solvency Issues – For Construction Pros

Electric vehicle ownership saw its biggest single-year increase in 2023, and that trend is expected to continue. With the decline of fossil fuel tax revenue, the federal government will discuss alternatives in a scheduled hearing on Oct. 18.

October 12, 2023

California may build solar panels alongside highways to power homes – CNBC

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has given the green light for the state’s transportation and energy officials to figure out how to install solar panels, battery storage, and other renewable energy sites along highways.

California Gov. Newsom signs climate disclosure bills but worries about ‘overall financial impact’ – Utility Dive

Two bills would require large companies to disclose their supply chain emissions and report on climate-related financial risks, but the governor raised concerns about their implementation. “I am instructing [the California Air Resources Board] to closely monitor the cost impact as it implements this new bill and to make recommendations to streamline the program,” the governor said in a press statement.

Rivers may not recover from drought for years, new research finds – Phys.org

Lack of rainfall is not the only measure of drought. New UC Riverside research shows that despite a series of storms, the impact of drought can persist in streams and rivers for up to 3.5 years.

October 9, 2023

The Bee analyzed 21 months of California telework data. How does your department compare? – The Sacramento Bee / Yahoo News (free read)

Before March 2020 remote work in California government was a rare luxury reserved for a small segment of the workforce.  Now, the ability to telecommute is a privilege available to about half of state employees.  The share of workers ineligible for remote work has dropped close to 10 percentage points since the state first started tracking telework in October 2021.  More than a third of state workers are still remote-centered, according to the latest available data from July of this year.

California, Land of the Car, Could Soon Have Speed Cameras – The New York Times (free read)

California likes to think of itself as a cutting-edge lab for policymaking, a place where laws get passed first and then copied around the country.  But for years, it has banned a basic measure used in many cities to slow drivers: the humble speed camera.  That could now change, as a bill to install cameras on a trial basis has landed on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk at a moment when pedestrian deaths are spiking nationwide, but especially in California.

State can’t be sued for Oroville spill that forced evacuations in 2017 – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

The state can’t be sued for water pollution from the breach and spill at the Oroville Dam in 2017, which led to evacuation orders for 188,000 people, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

October 5, 2023

Caltrans official says she was demoted for objecting to highway expansion – Politico

A top California transportation official who was reassigned last month told POLITICO she was demoted for objecting to highway expansions that will increase driving.

California water agency prepares for another wet year – Spectrum News

As California plans to respond to strengthening El Niño conditions that could bring another wet winter to the state, the Department of Water Resources is preparing for storms that could pour as much as 22 inches of rain in the Los Angeles area. That’s about 7 inches more than an average year and 10 inches more than in times of drought, the DWR said Tuesday in a briefing about its plans for storing water and staving off floods during this year’s wet season.

Environmentalists suffer another setback in fight to shutter California’s last nuclear powerplant – Associated Press

Federal regulators Wednesday rejected a request from two environmental groups to immediately shut down one of two reactors at California’s last nuclear power plant.

October 2, 2023

California wants to restore its rivers and San Francisco Bay to health. Here is its controversial plan – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

California water regulators have teed up what promises to be one of the state’s biggest debates on water in years, releasing a long-anticipated proposal to revive dozens of rivers, creeks and wetlands by reining in the draws of cities and farms.

Newsom Orders Early Release of ‘Winter Blend’ Gas – LAist

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a directive last week telling oil refiners to switch to the cheaper “winter blend” a month early in an effort to lower prices at the pump, and bring back competitive pricing.  The state Air Resources Board approved Newsom’s directive.  California refineries typically start production around Oct. 31.

Unique barrier on the Sacramento River will keep endangered fish on the right path – Fox 40

Construction and diving crews are installing a new underwater – engineered by the Department of Water Resources – along a section of the Sacramento River designed to prevent endangered fish from taking a wrong turn. But it is not a physical barricade.  

September 2023 News Items

September 28, 2023

California scientist union moves closer to strike after state board approves impasse request – Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

The union representing state scientists has officially hit a bargaining road block with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and could now potentially organize a strike. California’s Public Employment Relations Board released its ruling Tuesday morning, five days after the California Association of Professional Scientists filed its impasse request.

Zone 7 opens PFAS water treatment facility – Pleasanton Weekly

The Zone 7 Water Agency recently unveiled its new state-of-the-art water treatment facility, which will use an ion exchange treatment process to remove PFAS chemicals from the Stoneridge groundwater well in Pleasanton.

According to Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor, staff had been working on getting the facility up and running for about 13 months ever since the State Water Resources Control Board announced a new draft response level for a PFAS compound that put the Stoneridge well out of service.

Nine years in, California’s groundwater sustainability overhaul is becoming a reality– KVPR Radio

For years, conversations about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – known commonly as SGMA – have largely taken a tone of speculation and even apprehension.

The 2014 law, which aims to slow California’s unlimited tapping of underground aquifers, gives locally organized groundwater sustainability agencies until 2042 to overhaul pumping practices for the spectrum of groundwater users — from cities and rural communities to dairies, small farms and agricultural conglomerates.

September 25, 2023

High-Speed Rail receives a grant for nearly $202M – KGPE/KSEE TV (Fresno)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority received a grant that could change the future of this project, according to an announcement made Monday.  Authorities say they received a nearly $202 million grant fromthe U.S. Department of Transportation to expand the construction of the high-speed rail by completing a six-grade separation.

EDITORIAL:California learns little as much-delayed third lane eases I-15 traffic backup – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Sometimes the obvious solution is the obvious solution, even if it takes California a couple decades to realize it.

California State Water Board Requires BlueTriton (Formerly Nestle Waters North America) to Immediately Cease Unlawful Diversions in San Bernardino Mountains – Sierra Sun Times

Following numerous complaints from the public, a multi-year investigation and an adjudicative proceeding conducted by its Administrative Hearings Office, the State Water Resources Control Board has adopted an order requiring BlueTriton Brands Inc. to immediately cease its unauthorized diversions from springs in the San Bernardino National Forest for waterbottling purposes.

September 21, 2023

Thousands of California wells are at risk of drying up despite landmark water law – Los Angeles Times/AOL (free read)

Even though California enacted sweeping legislation nearly a decade ago to curb excessive agricultural pumping of groundwater, new research predicts that thousands of drinking water wells could run dry in the Central Valley by the time the law’s restrictions take full effect in 2040.

One step to go for California’s tidal and wave bill to become law – Offshore Energy

The California Legislature has passed a first-of-its-kind wave and tidal energy bill that directs the California Energy Commission to evaluate the feasibility, costs, and benefits of using wave and tidal energy across the Golden State’s 840-mile coastline. 

September 18, 2023

The complex way California pays 300,000 state workers each month, and how new raises are added – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

If California’s state payroll system were a person, it would be nearing its 70th birthday this year. Like some septuagenarians, the payroll system periodically finds itself struggling to keep pace in the modern age.  Unions, workers and lawmakers alike have taken turns over the years bashing the system for delays in payroll changes and occasional pay mistakes.  In the last six years, two different state worker unions have either taken or threatened legal action against the state due to delayed raises.

New I-15 part-time lane pushes traffic bottleneck south of NV-CA border – Las Vegas Review-Journal

The recently added part-time lane on Interstate 15 southbound just past the Nevada-California border seems to be doing its job. The lane has helped relieve some traffic congestion during its first weekend of operation.

New “Climate Reporting” Laws in California – Emissions and Climate-Related Financial Risk Disclosure Required – Lexology

Two new bills have been passed in California as part of a “Climate Accountability Package” that require U.S.-based companies “doing business” in California to make disclosures about their emissions and climate-related financial risks. These are  the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (California Senate Bill 253 (SB-253) and the Climate-Related Financial Risk Act (California Senate Bill 261 (SB-261). The laws remain subject to approval by the California Governor (who has until October 14, 2023, to sign or veto them).

September 14, 2023

California bill would lift travel ban for state workers – Courthouse News Service

A travel ban on government workers that was once meant to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community could soon be repealed if Governor Gavin Newsom signs a bill headed to his desk.  Senate Bill 447 by state Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, puts a new program in the place of the lifted travel ban: the BRIDGE (Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, and Gender-supportive Equality) Project. That program will encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and create a fund that can go toward nonpartisan messaging to discourage discrimination.

Death Valley sets partial reopening date after flood damage – Pahrump Valley Times

Death Valley National Park is expected to partially reopen by Oct. 15, the National Park Service said Wednesday.  The Californiapark’s reopening coincides with the reopening of a portion of its main highway, state Route 190, which closed last month after severe flooding from Tropical Storm Hilary.

California lawmakers approve the nation’s most sweeping emissions disclosure rules for big business – Associated Press

Major corporations from oil and gas companies to retail giants would have to disclose their direct greenhouse gas emissions as well as those that come from activities like employee business travel under legislation passed Monday by California lawmakers, the most sweeping mandate of its kind in the nation.

September 11, 2023

Lawmakers approve plan to strengthen oversight of California water rights – Los AngelesTimes/phys.org (free read)

California legislators have passed a bill that aims to close a long-standing loophole in the state’s water laws: Until now, regulators haven’t had clear authority to investigate the water rights of some of the biggest water users.

California Charging Infrastructure Lags Behind Targets – Transport Topics

The California Air Resources Board’s controversial Advanced Clean Fleets rule requires a phased-in transition toward zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, but concerns are growing that the state is falling behind in its ability to provide enough charging options to meet its own aggressive targets.

‘Building the Future’ Display Featuring California High-Speed Rail Unveiled at Landmark LA Restaurant – Sierra Sun Times

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) – in partnership with Caltrans and the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation –has installed a new display telling the story of rail travel’s past, present and future in California. The installation is located at Philippe The Original, the landmark Los Angeles restaurant founded in 1908.

September 7, 2023

Sweeping California water conservation rules could force big cuts in some areas – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

With California facing a hotter and drier future —punctuated by bouts of extreme weather — state officials are moving forward with a new framework for urban water use that could require some suppliers to make cuts of 20% or more as soon as 2025.

Caltrans awards $41M to respond to climate change – The Daily Californian

The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, has chosen 90 transportation projects throughout the state to award $41.6 million in its annual planning grants for fiscal year 2023-24.

Methane Emissions in LA are Decreasing More Slowly than Previously Estimated – Caltech

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, 80 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.  In 2014, a California law required statewide methane emissions to be cut by 40 percent by 2030 from 2013 levels.  Currently, the local natural gas utility estimates that methane emissions in the Los Angeles area are decreasing at a rate of about 5.8 percent per year.  However, a new Caltech study shows that methane emissions in the region are dropping at a much slower pace: 1.6 percent per year over the past decade.  The findings indicate that more significant methane reduction efforts are needed to meet target levels

September 5, 2023

Opinion: High-speed rail is a huge opportunity for American workers – The Hill

High-speed rail is coming to America, and working people should take notice.  The Biden Administration plans to use funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to construct multiple high-speed rail lines. This is a very big deal for American workers.  The high-speed rail projects now underway in California, Nevada and Texas are becoming the largest infrastructure projects in the country.

Newsom appoints utilities regulator to become new state oil and gas supervisor – Bakersfield Californian

Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed a consumer protection regulator to become California’s new state oil and gas supervisor, filling a politically sensitive position with an existing state employee with no apparent oil-field experience.  Douglas “Doug” Ito served most recently as director of the California Public Utilities Commission’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division.  He worked earlier at the California Air ResourcesBoard after earning a master’s degree in transportation technology and policy at the University of California, Davis.

Chart Shows Dramatic Change in California’s ‘Zombie Lakes’ Water Levels – Newsweek

Water level charts shared online show an impressive redemption story for Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville in northern California. California’s drought situation has reversed from this time last year, when 97 percent of the state was battling severe drought.  Now, nearly 94 percent of the Golden State is completely free from drought, according to a map by the U.S. Drought Monitor.