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 –

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 –

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/ (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.

August 2023 News Items

August 31, 2023

I-15 between Los Angeles, Las Vegas opens part-time fix for traffic congestion – SF Gate

A California highway prone to congestion — where 18 miles of gridlock slammed holiday travel last year — has a new lane to help mitigate traffic, but it’s a temporary adjustment that’s only available for certain drivers.

Could we soon see a federal Department of Water? – Federal News Network

Presidential advisors are calling for creating a “Department of Water” to confront what they say are rapidly evolving water crises.

California invests $83 million to help small fleets transition to zero-emissions – SCV News

The California Air Resources Board announced the opening of this year’s Innovative Small E-Fleet voucher incentive set-aside, offering $83 million in assistance for small fleets transitioning to cleaner vehicles. The funding assistance program is part of the state’s Clean Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive program and will open for voucher requests starting Aug. 30.

August 28, 2023

California’s transportation infrastructure no longer considered ‘high-risk’ – KGET

California’s transportation infrastructure is no longer considered “high-risk,” 16 years after it was added to an inauspicious list by the California State Auditor.  California’s transportation infrastructure was considered “deteriorating” when it was added to the Auditor’s list in May 2007.  Following its inclusion on the list, Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission went to work with a major boon coming from the passage of Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

Californian high-speed trains one step closer to becoming a reality –

California’s high-speed rail authority has taken a significant step towards procuring its first high-speed trainsets, bringing high-speed rail to California nearer to reality, by approving a Request for Qualifications for the nation’s first 220 miles-per-hour electrified trainsets. Also in California, Swiss manufacturer Stadler made an agreement with Caltrain for the first battery train for the American market.

August 24, 2023

California bill to codify climate goals into transport planning faces committee – The Center Square

A California bill that has passed the State Assembly and now faces the Senate Appropriations Committee would codify an executive order requiring California Department of Transportation projects to aim to reduce vehicle miles traveled, or at least not contribute significantly to VMT growth.

There’s a run on carbon credits.  That’s good news for the budget. – Politico

California carbon emissions are as valuable as they’ve ever been. Last week’s auction of greenhouse gas permits fetched $35.20 per ton, according to figures released by the state today.  The high price indicates that companies are spooked by the state’s plan to eventually tighten its emissions cap.

How Lake Mead, Lake Powell Water Levels Changed This Summer So Far – Newsweek

This summer period so far has seen intense rains across the region from Storm Hilary, which battered California in recent days.  The storm hit California on Sunday, where it caused flooding in major cities like Los Angeles and other areas.  Seeing as the West has suffered from intense drought, many questioned whether the storm would help replenish the region’s reservoirs, which have been declining in recent years.  However it does not appear to have made much difference to the reservoirs.

August 21, 2023

California officials respond to Tropical Storm Hilary, an Ojai quake, and wildfires – CalMatters

California received a one-two punch from Mother Nature as Tropical Storm Hilary unleashed torrential record rains and flooding across Southern California, and an earthquake struck near Ojai — all during what has historically been the state’s wildfire season.  The wild weekend prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to head south, declaring a storm state of emergency even before crews began struggling to respond across a wide swath of the state.  The state deployed 7,500 personnel in Southern California —including 3,900 Highway Patrol officers and 2,000 Caltrans workers — to aid local communities, and it dispatched resources for swift water rescue teams in high-risk areas.

California Is Free of Extreme Drought Conditions for the First Time in 3 Years – The New York Times (free read)

After three of the driest years in California history, much of the state is currently free of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Heavy winter rain and record amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains have filled many of the state’s reservoirs well above historical averages, according to California Water Watch, a daily tracker maintained by the California Department of Water Resources.

California can’t find its checkbook for offshore wind  – Politico

California has pinned its clean energy future to offshore wind, setting in motion a decade-long domino chain of planning, permitting, and building that needs to fall just right for the effort to succeed.  But first, the state needs to figure out how to pay for it.

August 17, 2023

Caltrans to Install Memorial Signs Honoring Fallen Road Workers at State Rest Areas – Times of San Diego

Caltrans District 11 will begin installing memorial signs in roadside rest areas along state highways in San Diego and Imperial counties to honor the 21 District 11 workers who have died in the line of duty and to encourage travelers to drive responsibly, it was announced Tuesday.

Southern California’s natural gas plants to stay open through 2026 – CalMatters

California officials agreed this week to extend operations at three natural gas plants on the Southern California coast in an effort to shore up California’s straining power grid and avoid rolling blackouts.  The controversial and unanimous vote that keeps the plants open came from the State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees the phaseout of natural gas facilities that suck in seawater and kill marine life.

Could the California High-Speed Rail be completed in the next 5 years? – KTLA

Progress on California’s High-Speed Rail has kicked up in recent years as environmental hurdles were cleared, and the High-Speed Rail Authority hopes to have the Central Valley segment, which will connect Merced to Bakersfield, completed by 2030 (give or take).  But what would it take to get the entire project — Bay Area to Los Angeles — completed even sooner?  Maybe as soon as 2028 in time for the Olympics?

August 14, 2023

Closure of 3 Southern California power plants likely to be postponed, state energy officials decide – Associated Press

Temperatures in many California cities are cooling down this week, but a debate is simmering on how to generate enough electricity to power the state through extreme weather events while transitioning away from a reliance on fossil fuels.

Thousands of bridges left behind in race to rebuild infrastructure – Scripps News Service

Billions of federal tax dollars are going toward fixing worn-out bridges coast to coast, but a Scripps News investigation using newly released federal data shows it won’t be nearly enough to touch thousands of bridges that are corroded, cracked and at a heightened risk of being shut down for safety.

August 10, 2023

California water agency under investigation for discriminating against tribes, people of color – CalMatters

The Biden administration’s environmental justice office is investigating whether California’s water agency has discriminated against Native Americans and other people of color by failing to protect the water quality of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation was triggered by a complaint filed by tribes and environmental justice organizations that says the state Water Resources Control Board, for over a decade, “has failed to uphold its statutory duty” to review and update water quality standards in the Bay-Delta.

California, facing another wet winter, races to prevent more flooding with levee repairs – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

As forecasters sound the alarm about another potentially wet California winter fueled by El Niño, Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking urgent but controversial measures to prevent a repeat of the devastating floods that befell the state this year.

Seventh high-speed rail structure completed near Wasco: California High-Speed Rail Authority – KGET

The seventh high-speed rail structure, located just south of Wasco, has been completed, the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced Wednesday.

August 7, 2023

Caltrans set to deploy first state-of-the-art electronic message signs – South Tahoe Now

Caltrans is unveiling more than two dozen state-of-the-artfull-color overhead highway message boards along the US 50 corridor in El Dorado and Sacramento counties, I5 in Sacramento County and State Highways 70 and 99 in Butte County.  Caltrans District 3 engineers this month are conducting final tests on the 28 new color-changeable message signs, the first of their kind in the state at a cost of about $2.5 million.

Tom Philp: Climate change could force California to raise its dams but the politics are brutal – The Sacramento Bee (free read)

As California faces climate change and a future with bigger storms and longer droughts, the challenges before us lead to an often-asked question: Should we make some of our existing dams bigger?

In national race to build EV chargers, a few states emerge as big winners – Route Fifty

There are more than 2.5 times as many publicly available electric vehicle chargers today as there were three years ago, slightly outpacing the growth of EVs on the roads during that time. But the rollout has been far from even.  California leads the country in the sheer number of public chargers added. With nearly 9,000 coming on line in the last three years, California nearly tripled the number of EV chargers installed in New York, which saw the second most added.

August 3, 2023

Sweeping California Clean-Energy Regulations on Truck Fleets Put on Hold – JD Supra

Controversial and sweeping clean-air regulations California was moving to implement on trucking fleets in the state have been put on hold, with a new call for public feedback and the proposed creation of an industry working group.

CalPERS vendor Pension Benefit Information sued for breach of retirees’ data – Pensions & Investments

A CalPERS service provider, Pension Benefits Information, is facing a new class-action lawsuit after it disclosed a breach of retirees’ and beneficiaries’ personal information, part of a widespread attack by a Russian ransomware gang.

Don’t call it ‘toilet to tap’ — California plans to turn sewage into drinking water – CalMatters

Californians could drink highly purified sewage water piped directly into drinking water supplies for the first time under proposed rules unveiled by state water officials.

July 2023 News Items

July 31, 2023

Which California state departments allow the most remote work?  What the latest data shows – Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

California state employees in 22 departments spend more than 90% of their days working remotely, according to Department of General Services data from its dashboard.  Many departments allow some employees to work remotely, but few state employees can still do their jobs from home 100% of the time.

Many state jobs can’t be performed remotely though, especially in prisons, hospitals, and other public safety departments. Most agencies have at least a few jobs that can only be done in person.  The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which reported the largest number of total state workers in the dashboard, only allows about 12% of its more than 37,000 employees to work remotely.  In contrast, Caltrans, the second-largest department to report data, allows about 60% of its nearly 22,000-person workforce to work remotely.  

State approves sustainability plan for Bay Area basins – CBS Bay Area

Two Bay Area underground basins have been approved by the state for their plans to maintain their water supplies, the California Department of Water Resources announced this week.

July 27, 2023

New CARB emissions lab works to keep carmakers honest – Spectrum News

At more than 400,000 square feet, the California Air Resources Board’s new emissions lab is the largest zero-net energy building in the U.S., quadruple the size of the old building in El Monte.  CARB says it’s always on the lookout for car manufacturers who try to cheat the system.  

California Paid Over $27B to State, University and Court Employees in 2022 – San Francisco Standard

California’s state agencies, superior courts and universities paid over $27 billion in wages to almost 400,000 employees in 2022, according to data released Tuesday by the State Controller’s Office.  State agencies paid just over $22 billion to 260,183 employees, while the California State University system paid $4.2 billion to 118,282 employees and superior courts paid $1.5 billion to 18,748 employees.  The top three highest-paid state agencies, according to the Controller’s office, were the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.

July 24, 2023

Highway 1 can’t reopen to Big Sur because stubborn Paul’s Slide continues to move – Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

A stretch of Highway 1 near the Paul’s Slide site in Monterey County will be closed for the foreseeable future, Caltrans said Friday. 

State releases draft plan to plug leaky oil wells, many of them in Kern County – KVPR

California officials unveiled a plan to permanently seal some of the state’s more than 5,000 orphaned oil wells, including dozens nestled among Kern County neighborhoods that have been the focus of advocate attention for decades.

CA High-Speed Rail Authority Finishes 5th Structure of 2023 – Railway Age

The McCombs Road overcrossing north of Wasco is the fifth structure to be completed this year for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), whose 119-mile Central Valley segment is under construction.

July 20, 2023

CalPERS Reports Preliminary 5.8% Return for Fiscal 2023 – Chief Investment Officer

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System reported a preliminary net return of 5.8% on its investments for the 12 months ending June 30, beating its benchmark’s return of 5.5% to raise its asset value to $462.8 billion.  According to CalPERS, its estimated funded status is currently 72%.

$441M SR 57/60 Intersection Project Starts in Los Angeles County – ENR California (tiered subscription)

Work is underway on the final and most important phase of a project in eastern Los Angeles County that aims to relieve congestion in the worst truck bottleneck in California.  Officials broke ground earlier this month on Phase III of the State Route 57/60 Confluence project in Diamond Bar and the City of Industry.

Vegas-to-SoCal high-speed rail project clears major hurdle – KTLA (Los Angeles)

The plan to build a high-speed train connecting Las Vegas with Southern California took another important step last week when the FederalRail Authority completed its environmental review for a portion of the project and found “no significant impact” along one of the critical sections of the proposed track.

July 17, 2023

Transportation electrification toolkit for cities published by DOT – Utility Dive

The federal website aims to help cities, states and EV charging stakeholders plan and finance electric mobility infrastructure.

California Shows Off New $25 Million Carbon Capture Technology Project – Bloomberg

A $25 million project at a Calpine Corp. power plant near San Francisco will test a technology that could capture 95% of a plant’s carbon emissions, a process California Air Resources Board officials say is critical to the state’s climate fight.

July 13, 2023

Stateworker health insurance premiums may see double-digit hikes.  What CalPERS is considering – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

CalPERS health insurance policyholders will likely see their premiums grow by more than 11% on average next year, according to preliminary prices that the board of the nation’s largest pension fund will consider at its meeting next week in Monterey.

Major I-5 project will ease congestion between SMF, Highway 50 interchange CBS 13 (Sacramento)

Caltrans began work Tuesday on a $39 million project to improve safety and ease congestion between Sacramento International Airport(SMF) and the Interstate 5-Highway 50 interchange.

Arup Awarded CHSRA Contract – Railway Age

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has selected Arup as the sustainability program manager for its planned 500-mile Phase 1 system from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim.  Leading a team of 12 consultants, Arup is charged with renewable energy modeling and procurement, climate change adaptation and resilience, setting sustainable design criteria, managing greenhouse gas and air quality emissions, carbon offsetting, and sustainability reporting.

July 10, 2023

Newsom signs laws to streamline California infrastructure, finalize budget – The Hill

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law a package of infrastructure bills that aim to cut the red tape associated with building new projects, while also ensuring environmental protection. 

California lakes nearing capacity as temperatures rise: Potential spill-over looms for Millerton Lake – KMPH News (Fresno)

With temperatures on the rise, lakes are filling up fast and getting close to capacity.

California, truck manufacturers reach deal to phase out diesel big rigs – KCRA TV (Sacramento)

Some of the largest truck manufacturers in the country have struck a deal with California, accepting the state’s plan to ban the sale of new diesel big rigs by 2036.  The so-called Clean Truck Partnership was reached between the California Air Resources Board and companies, including General Motors and Daimler Truck North America.

July 6, 2023

California lawmakers OK Newsom’s push to build energy, water and transportation projects faster – KCRA TV (Sacramento)

California lawmakers on Wednesday approved Gov. GavinNewsom’s infrastructure package that aims to make it easier and faster to build renewable energy, water, and transportation projects in the state

Napasenator’s TikTok ban bill progresses, aims to stop cyber threats to critical infrastructure – North Bay Business Journal

Time may be running out on the ability for state employees to use the TikTok app on their cell phones if a bill by California Sen. BillDodd, D-Napa, makes its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.  The bipartisan-supported bill, which passed the California Senate on May 30, aims to bolster cybersecurity at a time when government devices have been targeted, the measure’s proponents contend.

CalPERS retirees sue vendor PBI over breach that exposed social security numbers, other data – The Sacramento Bee (free read)

CalPERS pensioners David Berry and Bonnie Gayle Ng filed a lawsuit Friday in San Francisco federal court for damages they suffered due to a data breach that exposed their names, social security numbers, birth dates, and other personally identifiable information.  The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all California residents whose data was stolen in May from PBI Research Services+ Berwyn Group, alleging that the companies did not maintain reasonable security measures or adequately protect California residents’ privacy.

$25M awarded for Brightline West stations in Hesperia and Apple Valley – Urbanize Los Angeles

A private-sector plan for a new passenger rail line connecting Las Vegas with Southern California has attracted new funding from the Federal government.

July 3, 2023

Here’s what California’s first high-speed rail stations will look like – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

Unless you’re driving past the immense concrete columns rising along Central Valley roadways in communities like Fresno, the notion of high-speed rail coming to California can seem abstract.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But as construction of the first 119 miles lumbers forward in the Central Valley, another key aspect of the mammoth, multi-decade project is gearing up in San Francisco: design work on the valley’s four stations. Structures that will need to function with intuitive ease — and symbolize the arrival of a new form of transportation in the nation’s most populous state.

States Scramble for Solutions to Curb Rising Wrong-Way Crashes – Route 50

Before dangerous driving surged during the pandemic, the number of wrong-way deaths has been increasing.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 500 people a year died in those types of collisions on divided highways between 2015 and 2018, up from 375 annual deaths in the five previous years.  And wrong-way crashes are particularly deadly, because they involve two or more vehicles traveling at high speeds smashing into each other.  That’s prompted states all over the country to look for ways to reverse the trend, often relying on new technology to do so.

June 2023 News Items

June 29, 2023

IT Projects, Broadband to Benefit from California’s $310B Budget – Government Technology

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week signed Senate Bill 101 omnibus, formalizing the approval of the $310.8 billion state budget. The legislation outlines hundreds of millions for broadband expansion and IT efforts in the state.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Receives $20 Million to Revitalize Fresno Depot – Railway News

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has received $20 million to support the Fresno High-Speed Rail Station Historic Depot Renovation and Plaza Activation Project.  The funding has been granted under the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program.

California treasurer calls for ‘full accounting’ by CalPERS, CalSTRS boards after data breach impacts 1 million members – KCRA

California’s state treasurer this week called for the boards of CalPERS and CalSTRS to take action after the personal information of more than 1 million retired members was exposed in a data breach.

June 26, 2023

Transportation agencies may be forced to take action to help protect fish – Jefferson Public Radio

An Arizona-based conservation group filed a notice to sue the Oregon and California state transportation agencies over the impact on vulnerable salmon populations of a toxic chemical used in car tires. The letter – filed last week by the Center for Biological Diversity – argues that these state agencies haven’t properly considered the effects of this 6PPD chemical on waterways.

Still waiting on a California budget deal – CalMatters

Legislators, advocates, policy nerds, and reporters waited all weekend, but the big announcement of a budget deal between Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders never came. It appears that the hold-up remains Governor Newsom’s demand that it include his proposal to overhaul the permitting process for major infrastructure projects — including the highly controversial Delta tunnel project — by changing the California Environmental Quality Act. The governor wants to streamline the permitting process among federal, state, and local governments; limit the time courts have to hear challenges on environmental reviews; and increase funding to state agencies.

This California state worker union demanded 30% raises. See what the state offered instead – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

As state lawmakers haggle over the next iteration of the budget, members of California’s largest state worker union are scrambling to finalize a new contract before their current deal expires Friday — the same day as the state’s budget deadline. Service Employees International Union Local 1000 proposed a 30% pay raise over the life of a three-year contract, with state workers earning a 12% bump in the first year and 9% in the second and third years. The union represents about 100,000 workers in jobs as diverse as prison librarians, janitorial staff, and educators at California’s schools for deaf and blind students. Facing an estimated $32 billion budget shortfall, the state offered 2% raises each year for a total of 6% overall — an offer that members of the SEIU bargaining team called “insulting.”

CalPERS announces third-party data breach affecting more than 750,000 retirees – Pensions & Investments

CalPERS experienced a third-party cybersecurity breach affecting the personal information of 769,000 retirees, said David Miller, chairman of CalPERS’ risk and audit committee, at Wednesday’s meeting.  The breach involved PBI Research Services/Berwyn Group, which assists the $456.6 billion pension fund with confirming members’ deaths to ensure proper payment and guard against overpayment.  Impacted retirees and their beneficiaries will be given two years of credit monitoring and additional steps they can take to protect their information. 

How California’s High Speed Train Could Arrive and Depart DTLA’s Upgraded Union Station – California Streets Blog

The California High Speed Rail Authority has released a new animation that shows what the train will look like entering the proposed upgraded and expanded Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.

Saving the next P-22 starts with a million ‘hyperlocal’ seeds and a bare-bones nursery – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

How do you create a convincing span of nature over one of the state’s busiest freeway corridors so wildlife like L.A.’s famous, ill-fated cougar, P-22, can cross unscathed?

June 19, 2023

California legislators approve budget bill, will continue negotiations with Newsom – The Hill

California lawmakers voted Thursday to approve an amended version of the 2023 state budget bill but will continue discussing the final terms of the legislation with Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).  The main point of contention between Newsom and his Democratic colleagues is the governor’s push to streamline major infrastructure projects and reduce regulatory red tape.

Rail Industry Sues to Block CARB’s Emission Rules – Transport Topics

The railroad industry on June 16 sued to block new environmental rules in California, arguing they would force the premature retirement of about 25,000 diesel-powered locomotives across the country long before their zero-emission counterparts are ready to take their place.

Extraordinary before-and-after photos show how full Lake Oroville is – SF Gate

California’s second-largest reservoir is unrecognizable compared to photos taken just a few years ago — a reassuring sight for Californians accustomed to exposed lake beds due to years of drought.

June 15, 2023

California water tunnel hangs over budget talks as legislators challenge Gov. Newsom’s plan – Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing the state Legislature to tackle what has long been one of the biggest gripes about government: taking far too long to build things like roads and bridges.

California awards $10 million to help small communities prepare for long-term dry conditions – Action News Now (Chico, Calif.)

The California Department of Water Resources has announced another round of funding through the Small Community Drought Relief Program.  The money helps support smaller communities through extreme climate shifts by helping with well rehabilitation, replacement of pipelines, and upgrades to infrastructure.

How ‘Buy America’ could delay high-speed trains – Politico

A debate has arisen over trade-offs the White House faces in meeting two major goals: tackling climate change while creating factory jobs in the United States.  With high-speed rail — as with electric cars and solar panels — some question whether the U.S. can accomplish both.

June 13, 2023

Mountain lion commute?  Overpass for wildlife proposed for Highway 101 – Mercury News (free read)

A sprawling cattle ranch near Santa Clara and San Benito County border could become home to a unique overpass, not for cars, but for wildlife.  The nonprofit Land Trust of Santa Cruz County spent $17 million to buy a 2,600-acre property near San Juan Bautista and is now working with Caltrans on plans for an animal overcrossing over four lanes of speeding traffic on Highway 101.

Californians were asked to cut water use 15% during the drought.  How close did they get? – Los Angeles Times (free read)

The results are in: As California endured its three driest years on record, urban water users made a significant effort to conserve water but fell far short of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request to reduce their use by 15%.

California’s Greatest Water Gain for Decades Seen in Satellite Images – Newsweek

California has seen a huge amount of water returned to its drought-hit soils because of intense storms and huge snowmelt since the beginning of 2023.  Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellite mission, a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), shows that California has just seen its greatest year-over-year water gains in two decades.

June 8, 2023

Two of California’s largest reservoirs are near 100% capacity.  Here’s where others stand – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

Shasta Lake in Shasta County and Lake Oroville in Butte County, where much of Northern California’s water is stored, are at 98% and 99% of their total capacity, respectively, for the first time in five years, according to data from the state Department of Water Resources.

19 states challenge EPA waiver for California’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule – Freight Waves / Yahoo Finance

Nineteen states have sought appellate court review in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency waiver granted to California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Rule.  Ultimately at issue in the filing by the states is a major question: With some other states having vowed to follow California’s lead on clean vehicles and emission rules, does California effectively set the standard for the entire country?

Big Sur Likely to Be Inaccessible From Highway 1 From the South Through the Summer as Cleanup Work Continues – SFist

The southern route into Big Sur on Highway 1 will be closed for several months, Caltrans says in an update on the progress to clear debris from a major landslide this past winter.

June 5, 2023

Drivers on Los Angeles Freeways May Soon Need to Pay Toll – NDT News

By summer, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to release a blueprint for a congestion-pricing scheme where motorists pay to drive through certain high-frequency highway routes.  The California Department of Transportation has hired an expert to oversee the pricing of roadways.  The Federal Highway Administration is plans to weigh in with an advisory committee to establish the parameters for the pilot program. 

‘Improvised, spotty and belated’: Will California reform its oversight of water rights? – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

Three bills gaining momentum in the Legislature seek to empower the State Water Resources Control Board to verify whether claims of senior water rights are valid, order those water users to reduce usage, and impose large enough fines to penalize those who flout the rules.

States push back against Chinese drones – The Hill

California, Hawaii, Washington, Texas and Alabama are taking steps to prohibit state and local government agencies from using Chinese-manufactured drones. In March, Arkansas became the latest state to ban the usage of Chinese drones by state and local agencies in response to cybersecurity concerns.  Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee have laws restricting government agencies’ use of Chinese-manufactured drones, following earlier actions by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. 

June 1, 2023

California becomes the first state to phase out toxic hexavalent chromium – Capital Public Radio

The California Air Resources Board last week approved a landmark ban on the use of hexavalent chromium by the chrome plating industry.  The ban requires companies, who opposed the action, to use alternative materials.

California Water Agencies Outline $3.2B Plan for Central Valley Flood Prevention Projects – ENR California

The California Dept. of Water Resources (DWR) and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB) called for the combined investment from federal, state, and local agencies to meet the recommendations of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) 2022 Update.  The plan would require an investment of $25 billion to $30 billion over the next 30 years, officials say.

Scenic California Road Closed for Extensive Repairs From Winter Storm Damage – Yahoo

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) said it is carrying out extensive repairs on State Route 2 in the Angeles National Forest, with parts of the route expected to remain closed until the end of summer due to winter storm damage.

May 2023 News Items

May 30, 2023

New APWA Report Shows Benefit of Investment in Transportation Infrastructure – Roads & Bridges

A recent American Public Works Association (APWA) report found that American communities benefit from water, surface transportation, and emergency management funding.  The report found every $1 invested in transportation returns $5 in economic benefits, with every $1 billion supporting the creation of 50,000 jobs.  That $1 billion also more than doubles business sales and creates a 20 percent increase in GDP.

California’s Electric-Truck Drive Draws Startups Building Charging Networks – The Wall Street Journal (free read)

Electric vehicle-charging startups are racing to cash in on California’s drive to electrify truck fleets in the state.  A clutch of companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to lease or buy land, install charging infrastructure, and in some cases even order dozens of heavy-duty electric trucks to jump-start the nascent industry.

California may ban fossil fuel investments by pension giants – Axios

California’s state senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a ban on fossil fuel investments by the pension funds representing state employees and state teachers.  The bill blocks CalPERS and CalSTRS from investing in the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

May 25, 2023

California seeks EPA approval to ban sales of new gasoline-only vehicles by 2035 – Reuters

California has asked the Biden administration to approve its plan to require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids, a landmark move that could speed the end of gasoline-powered vehicles, according to a letter seen by Reuters. 

Unpublished list reveals 3,400 San Francisco buildings may be at severe earthquake risk – NBC News

Famous historic sites, low-income apartments, and Twitter’s headquarters all appear on a previously unpublished draft list of 3,407 concrete buildings in San Francisco that may be at high risk of collapse in a major earthquake, according to a copy of a city government document obtained by NBC News through a public records request.

Flooding causes California’s ‘ghost lake’ to grow almost as big as Lake Tahoe – The Independent

Tulare Lake, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Fresno, was at one point the largest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi.  Settlers and farmers living in the region used its waters for irrigation and for consumption.  By the early 1900s, the lake was depleted, leaving behind a dusty bed.  Now, approximately 120 years later, run-off from a series of massive winter storms that hit California is breathing new life into the lake, and expanding it to more than 180 square miles — or approximately the size of Lake Tahoe.

High-speed rail gains steam as Atlanta, Dallas aim to come aboard – Smart Cities Dive

The nation’s two most prominent high-speed rail projects are the California effort to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco — the first segment is under construction — and the proposed Brightline West project between Las Vegas and Southern California.  Both want to tap the nearly $4.6 billion in federal funds available for the 2022-2023 fiscal years.  But studies and planning are underway for several other projects in Georgia and Texas, and California’s High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Agency is backing a proposed high-speed rail line to connect Palmdale and other high desert cities with the future Brightline West corridor and the California high-speed rail system.

May 22, 2023

Newsom announces new effort to speed up construction of environmental and transportation projects – KCRA

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced an effort to save money and speed up the amount of time it takes to finish transportation, environmental and other infrastructure projects across California.

A Breakthrough Deal to Keep the Colorado River From Going Dry, for Now – The New York Times (free read)

Arizona, California and Nevada have agreed to take less water from the drought-strained Colorado River, a breakthrough agreement that, for now, keeps the river from falling so low that it would jeopardize water supplies for major Western cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles as well as for some of America’s most productive farmland.

Brightline striving to be on track for ’28 L.A. Olympic Games – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Brightline West envisions opening its decade-plus-in-the-making high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California by the time the 2028 Olympics Games in Los Angeles begin.

May 18, 2023

Vincent Thomas Bridge needs months, maybe years, of construction; Caltrans weighs closure options – Long Beach Post

Construction isn’t expected to start until 2025, but Caltrans officials are asking for community input now as they prepare for a project that will close or reduce lanes on the Vincent Thomas Bridge for nine months or longer.  The historic 6,000-foot span is the only way to access Terminal Island and the Port of Long Beach from the west, and the 60-year-old suspension bridge needs a full deck replacement. 

Even after a wet winter, California is preparing for the next drought –

Mountains are capped with record snowpack, rolling hills are covered in a rainbow of wildflowers, reservoirs are filled to the brim, and rivers are rushing with snowmelt.  The storms this winter have helped restore reservoirs, but the state should continue building long-term water resilience, said Jeanine Jones, the interstate resources manager for the California Department of Water Resources.

California’s high-speed rail is running out of money, but progress has been made – CNBC

California plans to build an electric train connecting Los Angeles with the Central Valley and then San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.  But 15 years later, there is not a single mile of track laid, and executives involved say there isn’t enough money to finish the project.  Still, there has been progress.

May 15, 2023

Calif. to cover costs to raise Corcoran Levee as re-emerging Tulare Lake swells – San Joaquin Valley Sun

With the looming melt on the horizon, the ever-important Corcoran levee holding floodwaters at bay in Kings County will receive a substantial boost from the state.  California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that the state will pay $17 million to cover the costs to raise the levee on the edge of the reformed Tulare Lake.

Even after a wet winter, California is preparing for the next drought – Stateline / Yahoo!  News

Although massive storms during the winter brought desperately needed precipitation throughout the Golden State, water experts and state officials remain focused on preparing for the inevitable next drought.  Based on lessons learned in recent years, they’re refilling the state’s over-drafted groundwater aquifers and encouraging water efficiency among residents learning to live with climate change.

Column: The California wildlife crossing on Highway 101 – Santa Barbara News-Press

I feel like a proud papa.  My community, along with a bunch of civic, private and local agencies, is creating the world’s largest (and one of a very few) wild animal crossings over a busy 10-lane freeway, Highway 101.

May 11, 2023

Caltrans Pays Tribute to Fresno’s Ali Shabazz Who Lost His Life on the Job – GV Wire

Caltrans held its annual Workers Memorial Ceremony on Wednesday in Fresno to remember highway workers and other employees who have lost their lives while on the job, including Ali Shabazz. In August 2022, Shabazz – a longtime PECG member – was killed when he was involved in a fatal traffic collision while en route to a job site.

Lake Shasta Water Levels Rise Close to Capacity – Newsweek

Thanks to heavy rainfall across northern California over the past few days, Lake Shasta’s water level is now higher than it has been in years.

California Water Board releases Drinking Water Needs Assessment – WaterWorld

For the first time, the report examines causes behind chronically failing water systems and incorporates customers’ ability to pay into its risk analysis.

May 8, 2023

California braces for national impact to state budget issues – KCRA (Sacramento)

State lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom have been bracing for the first significant budget shortfall for the first time in about a decade.  The problem could be compounded further by a collision course of concerns, including the federal reserve continuing to raise interest rates to slow inflation, recent major bank failures, and the national debt ceiling dilemma that remains unresolved in Washington, D.C.

Asphalt on California Highway Made with Used Printer Cartridges – Equipment World

A 500-foot-long stretch of highway in California has become a testing ground for another innovative use of recycled plastic in asphalt pavement.  And so far, it’s withstood heavy tractor-trailer traffic and flooding.

Cracks, hacks, attacks: California’s vulnerable water system faces many threats – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

In California, where epic Sierra Nevada snowpack and “the Big Melt” have substantially increased the stakes for reservoir managers, officials say they’re taking steps to protect the state’s water systems from hackers, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, such as the flooding that temporarily severed the Los Angeles Aqueduct — the city’s water lifeline to the Owens Valley.  But experts say the challenges are numerous.  Many of the systems in California and nationwide are still operating with outdated software, poor passwords, aging infrastructure, and other weaknesses that could leave them at risk.

Design Firm Debuts New Renderings of California High-Speed Rail – SFist

A design studio contracted through the state of California released some new images of what some of the stations along the California high-speed rail could look like.

May 4, 2023

Last piece of remade Bay Bridge expands access to Yerba Buena, Treasure Island – Napa Valley Register

The last piece of the massive Bay Bridge reconstruction will open Sunday, almost 10 years after the main span bearing Interstate 80 began carrying traffic.

High-speed rail embankment used to build floodwater levees – Hanford Sentinel

Dirt for the California High-Speed Rail project near flood lands created by the refilling Tulare Lake is being diverted to help build levees and raise roadways in the area.  The rail authority also plans to reopen Angiola Canal in Tulare County, flood some reservoirs on high-speed rail property, and provide k-rail to local counties for road closures.  In addition, equipment brought into the area to build the rail line is being used to prevent more flooding.

May 1, 2023

Caltrans commemorates 191 fallen highway workers at 33rd annual Workers Memorial Ceremony – Lake County News / Associated Press

Caltrans dignitaries, employees, families, and friends gathered on Thursday on the west steps of the State Capitol for the 33rd annual Workers Memorial to honor the memory of 191 roadway workers who have died in the line of duty since 1921.

California bans the sale of new diesel trucks by 2036 – CNBC

California regulators on Friday voted to ban the sale of new diesel big rigs by 2036 and require all trucks to be zero-emissions by 2042, putting the state at the forefront of mitigating national tailpipe pollution.

Water deliveries could be affected by years of land subsidence – ABC 10 (Sacramento)

Years of land subsidence have created unique problems for California’s water infrastructure.

April 2023 News Items

April 27, 2023

California Reconsiders Its Boycotts of States Over Their L.G.B.T.Q. Laws – The New York Times (free read)

On Tuesday, San Francisco — a bastion of gay and transgender inclusion — repealed its boycott on doing business with 30 states that had passed laws targeting L.G.B.T.Q. rights or that had passed abortion restrictions or laws deemed to suppress voters.  California may follow suit by rescinding a similar prohibition on state-funded travel to identified states.  

New toll proposed on Highway 37 ’a practical solution’ for North Bay commuters – S.F.G.A.T.E.

Several California government transportation agencies are proposing a new toll for Highway 37 between Sonoma and Solano counties to pay for projects to reduce congestion.  The California Transportation Commission is working in partnership with Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s express lanes authority.  The proposal is a part of the Sears Point to Mare Island Improvement Project.

California poised to ban diesel truck sales in 2036: ‘This is a first-of-its-kind requirement’ – The Sacramento Bee / Yahoo! News (free read)

California’s leading air quality regulator will soon vote on whether to ban the sale of new diesel big rigs by 2036 and switch all trucks in the state to zero-emission by 2042, unprecedented rules that would transform California’s trucking industry.

‘The Greenest Bullet Train In The World’: Wes Edens Wants To Kickstart U.S. High-Speed Rail With A Vegas-L.A. Line – Forbes (tiered subscription)

Billionaire investor and sports team owner Wes Edens wants to get you from Los Angeles to Vegas in about two hours with a $12 billion that he says will drag the U.S. into the high-speed train age.  And his approach to building U.S. bullet trains is simple and differs dramatically from that taken by the struggling California High-Speed Rail Authority: situate them along existing highway corridors and lay steel tracks on the ground rather than on costly viaducts.

April 24, 2023

Nearly $4B grant sought for Vegas-to-So Cal high-speed rail system – Las Vegas Review-Journal

The $12 billion Brightline West high-speed rail system is on track to break ground later this year, according to a company spokesman.  Over the last decade, Southern Nevadans have heard that groundbreaking is coming “soon” on various iterations of the Las Vegas-to-Southern California high-speed rail project.  Last week, Brightline and the Nevada Department of Transportation applied to acquire up to $3.75 billion in Federal-State Partnership Program grant money to go toward construction of the system, Brightline spokesman Ben Porritt said.  The money is part of the U.S. infrastructure bill.  The remaining cost would be paid by tax-exempt private activity bond allocations from Nevada ($800 million), California ($2.4 billion), and private capital.

California reservoir race: Which reservoir filled up first? – KGET

At least one of California’s reservoirs is now at capacity for the first time in years, according to data from the California Department of Water Resources.

April 20, 2023

DWR: Statewide water allocation 100% for first time since 2006 – ABC 10

The California Department of Water Resources announced Thursday the statewide water allocation was to be raised to 100% for the first since 2006.  This is, of course, an increase from last month’s initial allocation of 75%.  The DWR cited reservoirs nearing capacity thanks to the record snowfall seen this past winter as the driver for the lack of restrictions of water deliveries this upcoming summer.

Multimodal project on Highway 1 breaks ground – KSBW

Another project broke ground on Highway 1 in Santa Cruz County, meant to help the flow of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.  The $100 million multimodal corridor project has three phases, including the first bus-on-shoulder highway lane in the state.

Opinion: California’s Ambitious Push for Cleaner Trucks and Trains Needs Charging Overhaul – Scientific American / E&E News

California is accelerating its push to phase out fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, targeting heavy-duty truck fleets delivering packages and most trains operating in the state.  Next week, the California Air Resources Board will likely approve final regulations affecting both sectors.  Potential repercussions extend beyond the nation’s most populous state.

April 17, 2023

Ten San Diego Bridges Rated in ‘Poor’ Condition By Federal Inspectors – NBC 7 (San Diego)

In San Diego, 10 of 136 bridges inspected by federal officials are rated to be in “poor” condition.  Seventy-nine are in “fair” condition, and 47 are in “good” condition.  A city spokesperson said, “The City of San Diego and Caltrans continue to work closely together to ensure the safety of bridges in the city.  All of these bridges carry vehicle traffic and are inspected by Caltrans once every two years.  The City monitors and maintains these bridges at least once every two years.”  In a written response to questions, Caltrans said, “A poor rating is not an indication that the bridge is unsound.  The traveling public’s safety is our priority, and Caltrans will take immediate action if needed.”

California’s farmers reeling as flooding wreaks havoc on dairy industry – CalMatters

After weeks of rain, the long-dry Tulare Lake is rising from the San Joaquin Valley floor, endangering farms, towns, and livelihoods.  Now record snow on the Sierra Nevada is melting.  Will the Central Valley be ready?

April 13, 2023

Following California’s lead, EPA proposes national standards to ramp up electric cars – CalMatters

Closely mirroring California’s landmark mandate, the Biden administration on Tuesday proposed new greenhouse gas emission standards that will scale up sales of electric cars and trucks nationwide.  If enacted, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed standards would be among the most stringent and aggressive measures the federal agency has ever taken to slash planet-warming tailpipe pollution, clean up dirty air and tackle climate change.

LA, Las Vegas and other cities could face big water cuts in proposed plan to save Colorado River ABC 7 – (Los Angeles)

The Biden administration on Tuesday released a highly anticipated analysis of the Colorado River crisis that paints a dire picture of what that river system’s collapse would portend for the West’s major cities, farmers, and Native tribes.

California high-speed rail project’s future shaky without funding boost – Courthouse News Service

California’s high-speed rail project has reached a critical point as lawmakers must decide whether to seek more federal aid to finish the first segment, under construction in the state’s agricultural center.

April 10, 2023

Major California highway reopens almost two months after avalanches forced closure – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription with email)

Highway 395 in California’s Sierra Nevada has reopened to car traffic without restrictions nearly six weeks after a series of avalanches buried a portion of the roadway with almost 40 feet of snow.  The announcement from Caltrans, the state’s transportation department, is a major reprieve for residents in Sierra communities who were effectively cut off from one another by the highway closure.

How worried are Californias about access to water? A new study breaks that down – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

When you turn on the tap, how confident are you that clean water will flow?  Are you that certain about water access in five years?  In 10?  How about 20?  Perhaps the most consequential impact of the climate crisis is how it will affect our access to reliable, clean drinking water.  California has been through the wringer in the last decade with extreme heat, record drought, historic wildfires, and, most recently, devastating flooding — all of which can and have affected some residents’ access to water.  But to what extent do Californians perceive the risks such events pose to their water supplies?  “Whether perceived or not by water users, these climate change-driven extreme weather events have clear implications for California household water access,” climate scientists wrote in a new study.

State audit: Colorado Department of Transportation’s $4.1 billion in spending lacked sound policies – The Colorado Springs Gazette

Since 2012, the Colorado Department of Transportation has spent $4.1 billion on construction projects that bypassed strict low-bid practices and lacked sound spending policies, which resulted in statutory violations and payments above fair market value, a Colorado state auditor report concluded.  The reason for the lapses: A 10-year-old Colorado law that prompted growth in “alternative delivery methods” that approved using a “design-build process” and a “construction manager/general contractor” programs that allow state officials to shortlist competitors for a project and drastically reduce the pool of contractors seeking to win work.

April 6, 2023

15 miles of Hwy 1 on the Big Sur Coast to reopen this week – KSBY

Fifteen miles of Highway 1 along the Big Sur Coast is set to reopen this week, according to a press release sent by Caltrans on Wednesday.  Officials say crews are working seven days a week to make all necessary repairs, shore up potential landslide areas, reduce the closure limits, and eventually reopen the entire length of the Big Sur coast.

Here’s where experts say California’s historic snowpack presents the greatest flood risks – San Francisco Chronicle (free read)

While California’s historic snowpack is a boon for drought conditions, the unprecedented amount of water pouring down from the Sierra raises concerns for flooding downstream, where flows converge.

As States Plan for Next Year’s Budget, the Economy Flashes Mixed Signals – Route Fifty

With just a few months left in most states’ fiscal year and a looming deadline to pass next year’s budget, the spring months can be a bit of a juggling act for lawmakers if the current year’s revenues aren’t lining up with expectations.  The key word here is expectations.  And many states have dialed them down compared with what they experienced in fiscal 2022.  California is dealing with the largest gap.  Lawmakers there budgeted for a roughly $10 billion decrease in revenue this fiscal year—but the actual drop has been more than twice as much, according to the state’s budget forecast report last fall.  Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed spending plan assumes the state will face a $22.5 billion budget shortfall over the next three years.  However, he is not planning to dip into the state’s more than $35 billion in reserve funds to cover it.  Instead, his plan calls for finding savings such as delaying $134 million in funding for 20,000 new childcare slots and reducing first-time homebuyers’ assistance from $500 million to $300 million.

April 3, 2023

U.S. approves California plan requiring half of heavy duty trucks be EV by 2035 – Reuters

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was approving California’s plans to require a rising number of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks as the state pushes to cut pollution.

California’s snowpack soars to record high after 17 atmospheric rivers – The Washington Post (free read)

The latest in the long onslaught of storms that began in December has pushed California’s snowpack to its highest level on record.  Last week’s storm dumped another one to two feet in the Sierra Nevada, helping this season eclipse 1982-83, the previous record-holder.

California’s beleaguered bullet train faces another hurdle: flooding from melting snow – Fresno Bee (tiered subscription)

Recent rainstorms that have created flooding in some parts of Kings and Tulare counties have also ground work to a halt at several key construction sites for California’s high-speed rail project.  But while standing water at some locations has prevented work crews from reaching their job sites, the Central Valley director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority said the prospects for a lengthy summer run of water in local irrigation canals present a greater potential disruption to construction later this year.

March 2023 News Items

March 30, 2023

California may end travel ban to states with anti-LGBT laws – CBS Sacramento

Seven years ago, California banned state-funded travel to states with laws deemed discriminatory against LGBTQ people.  The prohibition has caused travel hitches for state employees, academic researchers, and sports teams at public colleges and universities, prompting state Senate leader Toni Atkins to call Wednesday for the travel ban to end.  In its place, she wants the state to authorize a marketing campaign for “inclusive messaging” in those states “to help build a bridge of inclusion and acceptance.”

California water sources are rising after dramatic wet winter – USA Today

The colossal amount of rain and snow that have fallen on California over the past few months from a dozen atmospheric rivers is enough to fill the Rose Bowl more than 900,000 times.

California expedites funding process for high-priority drinking water projects – Water World

The State Water Resource Control Board has adopted an expedited drinking water grant program that prioritizes certain drinking water infrastructure projects in disadvantaged communities.

March 27, 2023

Newsom relaxes California water restrictions, but says drought situation is still ‘complicated’ – The Hill

After months of wintry weather relieved much of California from its driest three years on record, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued an executive order on Friday to modify — but not remove entirely — the state’s emergency drought proclamation.

Can California put an end to corporate greenwashing? – The Los Angeles Times / Yahoo! News

Nearly three years ago, American Airlines pledged to eradicate its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to help avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. But a recent report has called that commitment into question. Now the California Legislature is considering a law that seeks to end corporate greenwashing — a false or misleading type of marketing that claims a company is environmentally friendly when it actually does little to combat climate change. Senate Bill 253 would require the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations requiring companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenues doing business in California publicly reveal their greenhouse gas emissions across three “scopes” beginning in 2026. It would be the first law in the country like it.

Board OKs $2B Cost Increase for California High-Speed Rail Project –

Inflation, the added scope of work, and the need for additional contingency funds have added just over $2 billion to the price of an ongoing high-speed rail line project in California, according to the agency that oversees it, and questions remain over funding for future planned segments. Members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) board voted recently to increase the project expenditure authorization from $17.9 billion to $20 billion. 

March 23, 2023

California’s Drought Is Over.  Its Water Problems Aren’t – Washington Post

California’s recent water windfall is a bit like somebody getting a big tax refund after years of dipping into their 401(k) to pay the bills.  Any sense of wealth this sudden bounty engenders will be fleeting and perhaps dangerously misleading.

Five years after fatal FIU bridge collapse, a cautious new design is almost ready – Miami Herald (tiered subscription)

Five years after the catastrophic collapse of a pedestrian bridge with a novel design meant to punctuate Florida International University’s ascendancy as a public institution, state engineers are finally ready to give it another go.

Tanker Industry Monitoring CARB Regulations –

The tanker industry is monitoring the development of regulations produced by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that will affect the segment starting in 2025.  Tanker terminals are expected to submit plans to the CARB one year prior to the entry into effect of the regulations.

March 20, 2023

CalPERS to pay $800 million settlement over claims it misled retirees on costs of long-term care insurance – CalMatters

CalPERS is preparing to pay roughly $800 million to settle claims that it misled retirees when it began offering long-term care insurance in the late 1990s and pledged it wouldn’t substantially raise rates on certain plans.  The settlement cannot take effect until plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit vote on it in a process that’s expected to take place between April and early June, according to court records.

Storms have caused $639 million in damage to California roads.  These areas cost the most to repair – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)

From Siskiyou County in the north to San Diego County in the south, California has felt the wrath of this winter’s intense and incessant rain and snowstorms.  As of last week, the storms caused an estimated $638.7 million in damage to the state’s highways since the first downpour in late December, according to Caltrans.  The agency hopes to get some of the repair costs reimbursed by the federal government — and it expects those costs to climb.

Feds will let California lead on electric trucks, despite industry protest – Washington Post

The Biden administration will approve new California rules to cut tailpipe pollution and phase out sales of diesel-burning trucks, according to three people briefed on the plans, a move that could jump-start the nation’s transition to electric-powered trucks and help communities harmed by diesel pollution.

March 16, 2023

Pensions Lose Millions After Bank Collapse – Newsweek

Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank’s collapse has caused pension funds worldwide to lose millions of dollars.  The California Public Employees Retirement Fund (Cal PERS), which manages the largest public pension fund in the country with more than 1.5 million members, had $67 million invested into SVB and around $11 million into Signature at the time of their failures.  Still, with more than $440 billion in assets at the end of the last fiscal year, these investments make up a mere fraction of CalPERS’ portfolio. 

Westbound SR-78 closure to last into weekend for emergency sinkhole repairs – Fox 5 (San Diego)

The westbound lanes of State Route 78 in Oceanside are closed Thursday for emergency repairs to a sinkhole that formed after heavy flooding.

California and Japan forge ties to develop green shipping corridors – Offshore Energy

The governments of California and Japan have formalized a partnership aimed at working together to cut pollution at seaports and establish green shipping corridors.

Before and after: Maps show drought conditions improving in California –

The U.S. Drought Monitor released its newest map Thursday, revealing that California’s drought coverage has dropped to 36%, the lowest since April 2020, according to Brad Rippey, an analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a map author.  However, the California Department of Water Resources said in a statement responding to the map that “while winter storms have helped the snowpack and reservoirs, groundwater basins are much slower to recover.  Many rural areas are still experiencing water supply challenges, especially communities that rely on groundwater supplies that have been depleted due to prolonged drought.”

March 13, 2023

Landslides keep Caltrans geologists busy following atmospheric rivers – KTVU

Jerry Knight knew it was only a matter of time.  A rain-soaked and muddy hillside slipped in early January directly in front of the historic River Theater he runs in downtown Guerneville.  He had a front-row seat when it spilled into the street.  The slide prompted Caltrans to send geologists to assess the saturated, unenforced, steep slope and design a solution.  Engineering geologist Nick Bel was tasked with ensuring another mudslide doesn’t happen.  It’s just one of nearly a dozen similar projects in the Bay Area.  “If we did nothing, it would definitely happen again,” Bel said.  “Homes could be in danger.”

State water agency rescinds controversial Delta order that put fish at risk – CalMatters

As storms swell California’s reservoirs, state water officials have rescinded a controversial order that allowed more water storage in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while putting salmon and other endangered fish at risk.  Ten environmental groups had petitioned the board to rescind its order, calling it “arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, and…not supported by substantial evidence.”  The reason for the state’s reversal, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, is that conditions in the Delta have changed as storms boost the snowpack and runoff used to supply water to cities and farms.

Oroville Dam’s main spillway opens for first time since April 2019 – CBS News

The California Department of Water Resources opened the main spillway out at the Oroville Dam for the first time in years on Friday.

March 9, 2023

Caltrans, Brightview West Planning Bridge Over Rail –

The California Department of Transportation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Brightline West have entered into an agreement to design and construct three wildlife overcrossings across Interstate 15 and the future Brightline West high-speed rail system connecting Las Vegas and Southern California. 

In California, a Race to Capture the Water Before It Escapes – The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription)

California is nearing record precipitation this winter after the three driest years on record left reservoirs drained all over the state.  But environmental and fishing groups have criticized state officials for letting too much water flow into the ocean.  Had the long-proposed Sites Reservoir in Northern California been built, for example, it would have captured nearly a half million acre-feet of stormwater in the first six weeks of this year, according to an analysis by the Sites Project Authority.

New cost estimate for high-speed rail puts California bullet train $100 billion in the red – CalMatters

The latest report from the California High-Speed Rail Authority projects costs for the initial segment at $35 billion, which exceeds secured funding by $10 billion.  Other parts of the system are likely to have their projected costs increase, too.  The state hopes it will get more federal aid.

March 6, 2023

Judge lifts block on road construction along California’s last undammed river – Courthouse News

In a second go-around in a case affecting California’s last major undammed river, a federal judge on Friday lifted an injunction that prevented Caltrans from completing road improvements on two highways which, at many points, run directly alongside the wild Smith River.

California was hit with 12 feet of snow.  Is it enough to ease the drought? –Washington Post

The amount of snow that has fallen on California is rivaling some of the most bountiful years on record.  Just in the past two weeks, more than a dozen feet of snow fell in this area, pushing the snowpack in the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to roughly twice the amount of a normal year.  While the state’s reservoirs are filling up, groundwater supplies, drawn down during the past dry decade, also will not recover quickly, water authorities said.

Can California’s power grid handle a 15-fold increase in electric cars? – CalMatters / Pleasanton Weekly

As California rapidly boosts sales of electric cars and trucks over the next decade, the answer to a critical question remains uncertain: Will there be enough electricity to power them?

March 2, 2023

California declares emergency in 13 counties as record snowfall shuts Yosemite – Axios

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in 13 counties late Wednesday due to this week’s severe winter storms, as major snowfall forced parks in the state to close.  Officials in those counties are working to repair highways and other infrastructure damaged in the storms, while snow has stranded people in and around Lake Arrowhead. 

Undoing the past: Lawmakers seek to mend California neighborhoods sliced by highways – CalMatters

A new select committee  in the California Legislature will explore ways the state can reconnect neighborhoods that decades ago were torn apart by interstates and highways.

This reservoir on the Sacramento River has been planned for decades. What’s taking so long? – Capital Public Radio

Last century, California built dozens of large dams, creating the elaborate reservoir system that supplies the bulk of the state’s drinking and irrigation water. Now state officials and supporters are ready to build the next one. Still, Sites Reservoir remains almost a decade away.

February 2023 News Items


February 27, 2023

I-15 widening project has an unclear completion date, Caltrans says ­– KLAS (Las Vegas)

From Formula 1 racing to the Super Bowl, millions of drivers are expected to hit the I-15 towards Las Vegas over the next year.  But, some Clark County officials are concerned those driving from California cannot do it safely and efficiently.  They blame it on the prolonged widening of I-15 from Barstow to the Nevada state line, a project that was anticipated to be completed nearly one year ago.

Why It’s Hard for California to Store More Water Underground ­– The New York Times

Despite the storms that have deluged California this winter, the state remains dogged by drought.  And one of the simplest solutions — collecting and storing rainfall — is far more complicated than it seems.

State focuses on possible methane leaks at local oil wells – Bakersfield Californian

California’s recent focus on plugging methane leaks from orphan oil wells is about to move from a statewide perspective to the local level with a meeting this week on where Kern County and Bakersfield officials think remediation work should begin.  A meeting set for Monday with California Geologic Energy Management Division representatives is expected to review a recent assessment based on criteria like past problems and proximity to homes.  The evaluation found Kern has by far the state’s greatest concentration of potentially leaky wells deemed most urgent to address.

February 23, 2023

Consultants Gone Wild – Slate

According to a new mammoth report from New York University’s Transit Costs Project, a lot is going wrong with American transit projects.  But many of the problems can be traced to a larger philosophy that it’s good to outsource government expertise to consultants.  … Perhaps the most notorious case in this business is the debacle of the California High-Speed Rail project, which in its early years had a tiny full-time staff managing hundreds of millions of dollars in consulting contracts.  California Gov. Gavin Newsom has tried to right the balance more recently: “I’m getting rid of a lot of consultants,” he said in 2018.  “How did we get away with this?”

California water officials raise State Water Project allocation after storms – CNBC

As California prepared for a powerful winter storm system on Wednesday, state water officials announced that they are increasing supplies for water agencies serving about 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland.  The Department of Water Resources (DWR) said in a news release that the modest increase in forecast State Water Project deliveries this year comes from early gains in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which translated to an additional 210,000 acre-feet of water.  DWR now expects to deliver 35% of requested water supplies, up from 30% forecast in January.

California pension fund asks to meet Norfolk Southern after Ohio derailment – Reuters

Major U.S. pension fund CalPERS is seeking a meeting with rail operator Norfolk Southern at which it plans to ask about the derailment of a train loaded with toxic chemicals earlier this month, a spokeswoman for the fund said on Tuesday.

February 16, 2023

Wildlife bridges planned for Vegas-California rail line – Associated Press / Bakersfield Californian

On Wednesday, California’s Transportation and Fish and Wildlife departments and Brightline West announced an agreement to build three wildlife overcrossings over a planned high-speed rail line that would connect Las Vegas and Southern California. 

California debates what to do with water from recent storms – Associated Press / KPBS

Weeks after powerful storms dumped 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow on California, state officials and environmental groups in the drought-ravaged state are grappling with what to do with all of that water.

Waiting For a Train – In the Public Interest

The Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail line project designed to connect a set of Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., originally billed as a P3 success story, has now become more of a P3 cautionary tale, with epic delays and out-of-control cost overruns.

February 13, 2023

Uneven Code Enforcement Seen in Earthquake-Damaged Buildings in Turkey – Engineering News-Record

The aftermath of the Feb. 6 earthquakes and aftershocks in central Turkey has begun to shift from immediate search-and-rescue efforts to a grim cataloguing of the extent of the destruction, with emergency response teams in Turkey and Syria beginning the work of evaluating the condition of thousands of buildings and infrastructure impacted by the temblors.

Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria are a wake-up for California.  We’re not prepared for the Big One – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)

The staggering death tolls in Turkey and Syria are hard to wrap the mind around and may seem like an impossibility here in California.  Yet, the reality is that a similar magnitude earthquake near Los Angeles or San Francisco could lead to thousands of residents injured or killed and many more displaced, temporarily or permanently, from their damaged or destroyed homes.

California Reservoir Levels Before and After Rain Seen From Space – Newsweek

The increase in water levels between last fall and now at two key California reservoirs — Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta — can be seen clearly in photographs taken from space by NASA satellites.

Opinion: Abandoning high-speed rail will be more costly for California than the project itself – CalMatters

Despite the high-speed rail project’s history of tepid political support, the morass of land regulations, and lawsuits from project opponents that have delayed construction and helped drive up costs, it would be a mistake to abandon this crucial project now.

February 9, 2023

State pact seeks to advance fixes to Highway 37 flooding and traffic woes – The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa) (tiered subscription)

A coalition of state traffic and environmental agencies announced Wednesday they will work together to redesign Highway 37, the North Bay’s key east-west route, adding new lanes in each direction to help unclog traffic and advancing other near-term fixes to address chronic flooding problems. 

CalPERS, stakeholders press for added SEC climate disclosures at Capitol Hill forum – Pensions & Investments

Stakeholders from Congress, the nation’s largest pension plan, organized labor, and others on Thursday voiced their support for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s public company climate disclosure proposal.

EV batteries getting second life on California power grid – Reuters

Hundreds of used electric vehicle battery packs are enjoying a second life at a California facility connected to the state’s power grid, according to a company pioneering the technology it says will dramatically lower the cost of storing carbon-free energy.

California storms left behind a ‘generational snowpack.’ What that means. – The Washington Post (free read)

The record snow is a boon for the state’s water supply but could pose a flood risk as the season progresses.

February 6, 2023

California forking out $34 million to clean up New and Tijuana rivers – Courthouse News Service

The State Water Resources Control Board will spend $34 million on six projects to improve the water quality of the New River and the Tijuana River along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Both rivers are heavily polluted by sewage, trash, industrial and agricultural waste, and other sediment and pollutants.

Energy experts share how the U.S. can reach federal renewable energy goals – National Public Radio

The Biden administration plans to eliminate fossil fuels as a form of energy generation in the U.S. by 2035.  The White House set a target of 80% renewable energy generation by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity five years later.  With 79% of total U.S. energy production still coming from fossil fuel sources as of 2021, achieving this goal will require billions of dollars in investments.  Last year, investments in America’s energy transition hit a new record of $141 billion, according to BloombergNEF.

Hanford Council to hear presentation on Central Valley Corridor project – Hanford Sentinel

The Hanford City Council on Tuesday will listen to a presentation on the availability of $84 million in California Department of Transportation money for the development of regional transportation planning.  Part of the regional planning would include the Central Valley Corridor portion of the High Speed Rail project.

February 2, 2023

Parts of Highway 1 to reopen near Big Sur after slides.  Here’s when – San Luis Obispo Tribune

Sections of Highway 1 are slated to reopen as Caltrans completes road repairs following a series of landslides near Big Sur.  The scenic highway has been closed just south of Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County to Lime Creek in Monterey County for weeks.

Sierra snowpack is largest it has been in 28 years – SF Gate

California state water officials tramped through the snow in the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday to take official measurements of the snowpack.  They stuck their instruments into the snow at Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Lake Tahoe and took a series of measurements, determining that the snowpack at this location was 193% of normal for the date.

January 2023 News Items

January 30, 2023

California Supreme Court rejects lawsuit against 2018 transit funding measure. These Bay Area projects will benefit – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)

The state’s highest court dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a 2018 ballot measure aiming to raise billions of dollars for transit and highway projects through toll hikes at seven state-owned Bay Area bridges. 

California Officials Celebrate Groundbreaking for $80M Barstow Bridge Replacement Project – Railway Track & Structures

Officials from San Bernardino County, the City of Barstow, and the California Department of Transportation held a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 26 for an $80 million bridge replacement project: a new First Avenue Bridge.

California Wants More Accountability From Public Charging Networks – US News & World Report

The California Energy Commission, noting that public EV fast chargers are down when their operators say they’re not, is developing a tougher set of rules for reporting “uptime” and “downtime.” And the public will have a say.

January 26, 2023

USDOT orders $29.4 million emergency funding for flood-damage repairs in California – Traffic Technology Today

The USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration has announced the immediate availability of $29.4 million in “quick release” Emergency Relief funds for use by the California Department of Transportation and four US and four US Federal land management agencies as a down payment on the repair work needed because of multiple storms and flooding events that damaged roads, bridges and highways in late December and January.

CARB Proposes Exemptions for Transitions to Electric Trucks – Transport Topics

The California Air Resources Board is making plans to modify its proposed Advanced Clean Fleets regulation to address possible electric charging infrastructure delays and unavailability of models of zero-emission trucks.

California unveils drought resiliency task force – CBS Bay Area

Last week, the California Department of Water Resources kickstarted a partnership between state agencies, local governments, scientists, and community members in a new task force, called the Drought Resilience Interagency and Partners Collaborative.  The water agency hopes the task force will draft emergency response plans and water management based on anticipated drought impacts.

January 23, 2023

‘New slides are occurring every day’: Caltrans updates conditions on Highway 1 in the Big Sur area – KSBW

The California Department of Transportation has released an update on the conditions of Highway 1 in the Big Sur area.  They say rains after Jan. 13 made sections of the highway unpassable due to damage to the roadway, and new slides are occurring every day, even in areas where they have not previously occurred.

Race to zero: Can California’s power grid handle a 15-fold increase in electric cars? – CalMatters

Despite expecting 12.5 million electric cars by 2035, California officials insist that the grid can provide enough electricity.  But that’s based on multiple assumptions — including building solar and wind at almost five times the pace of the past decade — that may not be realistic.

Environmental rules stoke anger as California lets precious stormwater wash out to sea –

Environmental rules designed to protect imperiled fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have ignited anger among a bipartisan group of lawmakers.  They say too much of California’s stormwater is being washed out to sea instead of being pumped to reservoirs and aqueducts.  But experts say it’s not that simple.

January 19, 2023

California’s budget shortfall could triple if recession hits, state experts say – KCRA (Sacramento)

California’s projected $22.5 billion budget deficit could triple in size if a recession hits, state financial officials warned state lawmakers on Wednesday.  Erika Li, the chief deputy of budgets for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of Finance, told a Senate committee that if the state enters into a mild recession, the projected $22.5 billion budget deficit the governor is bracing for could grow an additional $20 billion to $40 billion.  If a moderate to severe recession hits, that number could swell to over $60 billion, Li said.

Lawmakers urge FHWA to expedite support to Caltrans – Transportation Today

A delegation of California lawmakers recently sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt urging the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to expedite emergency funding to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

No Planet B: CARB Chair Liane Randolph guides CA climate plans – Capitol Weekly

As chair of the California Air Resources Board, Liane Randolph helms the state’s lead agency for climate change programs, putting her center stage on one of the hottest issues of the day.

Despite Rain Storms, California Is Still in Drought – The New York Times (free read)

A rapid string of punishing storm systems, known as atmospheric rivers, has brought extreme amounts of rain and snow to California during the past weeks.  Still, the sudden deluge has not made up for years of an ongoing drought.

January 12, 2023

Gavin Newsom keeps money for state worker pay raises in budget as California deficit looms – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Inflation-weary state workers likely will still receive raises this year despite a projected $22.5 billion budget shortfall.  Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget, released Tuesday morning, sets aside more than $487 million for increases in public employee compensation and health care costs for active employees and retirees.  The budget also includes funding to cover 2024 calendar year increases in health and dental premiums.  “Included in these costs are collectively bargained salary and benefit increases resulting from contract and side letter negotiations,” the budget summary read.

Will California join TikTok ban? – CalMatters

California lawmakers introduced bills on Wednesday to ban TikTok and other “high-risk” apps on state-issued cell phones and devices.

Experts explain how CA is simultaneously in a drought and flood emergency – ABC 7 News

California is both in a drought and a flood emergency at the same time.  How is that possible?  Officials from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) say this “extraordinary” occurrence is yet another climate signal in California.

Still a transportation marvel, Golden Gate Bridge has eventful past – Freight Waves

Deemed one of the “Seven Civil Engineering Wonders of the United States” by the American Society of Civil Engineers, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge symbolizes architectural greatness and is an integral part of transportation.  Construction on the bridge started 90 years ago last week, kicking off almost four and a half years of arduous and hazardous labor.  And this month, federal officials announced a $400 million project for improvements to ensure the bridge’s longevity due to its importance in California transit.  Here’s a brief history of the structure.

January 9, 2023

State water officials say they are prepared for record flooding – San Francisco Chronicle/Fairfield Daily Republic

California water officials emphasized the likelihood of record flooding in some areas as rain is expected to continue to pound the state this week but expressed no concerns that dams will spill over.  Flood control requirements keep reservoirs well below their total capacity to leave space for precipitation during California’s wet season, November to March, when the state typically receives about half of its yearly precipitation.

Highway 1 South of Monterey County Fully Closed From Mudslides – NBC Bay Area

Highway 1 from Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County to south of Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn in Monterey County will remain closed as crews clear small slides throughout the area, said Caltrans on Sunday afternoon.

Las Vegas Mayor Calls On California To Widen I-15 – KABC (Las Vegas)

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has had it with Interstate 15, but not on her side of the Nevada-California state line.  Goodman tweeted a message to Caltrans and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, calling on California to widen its side of the highway from two lanes in either direction to match Nevada’s three lanes each way.

January 5, 2023

Report says California plan to reach ambitious emissions reduction goals lacks ‘clear strategy’ – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

The Legislative Analyst’s Office on Wednesday criticized a recently adopted state plan outlining how California will meet ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saying it lacked “a clear strategy” and “specificity.”  The report from the agency, which advises the state Legislature on policy and fiscal matters, recommended that lawmakers direct the California Air Resources Board to clarify the document it approved in December.  If they don’t, the analyst’s office warned, the plan could delay action and increase the risk that the state doesn’t meet its 2030 emissions reductions goal.  It could also hurt California’s standing as a leader in reducing emissions and limiting the consequences of climate change.

Golden Gate structural project among 1st to get federal Large Bridge grant – The Daily Republic

One of the first Large Bridge grants from the federal infrastructure package is a $400 million award to “replace, retrofit, and install critical structural elements on the Golden Gate Bridge.”  The White House, through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, announced the grant on Wednesday.

Floods Show California’s Climate Dilemma: Fight the Water, or Pull Back? – The New York Times (free read)

As California battles a second week of lashing rain and snow that have flooded communities, broken levees, and toppled power lines, the state is facing questions about whether its approach to handling crippling storms is suited to 21st-century climate threats.  For decades, federal and state planners built dams and levees in California to store water and keep it at bay.  But as climate change increases the risk of stronger and more destructive storms — like the one battering Northern California on Wednesday — experts and some policymakers are urging another approach: giving rivers room to overflow.

January 3, 2023

‘Our snowpack is actually off to one of its best starts in the past 40 years,’ DWR says – KRCR

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the first snow survey of the season today at Phillips Station in Tahoe California with the manual survey revealing 55.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 17.5 inches, which is 177 percent of average for this location marking a good start for combating the statewide drought.

Northbound Highway 1 closure extended to Tuesday in Santa Cruz – KSBW

The California Department of Transportation announced the full closure of Highway 1 in Santa Cruz will remain in effect through at least Tuesday morning.  Caltrans says crews are making progress in removing trees and other materials which have accumulated against the bridge on Highway 1, where it crosses the San Lorenzo River.