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Unpublished list reveals 3,400 San Francisco buildings may be at severe earthquake risk – NBC News

Famous historic sites, low-income apartments, and Twitter’s headquarters all appear on a previously unpublished draft list of 3,407 concrete buildings in San Francisco that may be at high risk of collapse in a major earthquake, according to a copy of a city government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

December 2022 News Items

December 29, 2022

Could West Coast’s atmospheric river help undo drought conditions?  Too early to tell, experts say – ABC News

The atmospheric river impacting the West Coast, while creating dangerous weather conditions for millions of people, could temporarily reverse drought conditions in states that desperately need water.  But despite the sustained levels of rain and snow, some experts think it’s too early to determine if the latest atmospheric river will do enough to reverse drought conditions longer-term.  They say they’ll have a clearer picture in the spring.

California’s ban on big rigs and buses made before 2010 goes into effect in January.  Here’s what that will mean – KCRA News (Sacramento)

Large trucks and buses made before 2010 will be prohibited from operating on California roadways starting January 1.  It’s the final rule in a set of clean air regulations the California Air Resources Board passed nearly 15 years ago.

The ‘Silver Tsunami’ Expected to Hit the Infrastructure Sector – Route Fifty

The bipartisan infrastructure act and other recent legislation are funneling billions of dollars to state and local governments to design and build projects around the country.  But, according to a Brookings Institution report, a critical question is being ignored: Who will maintain all those roads, bridges, buildings, and water lines?

December 22, 2022

Union membership declines again among California state workers.  Leaders blame remote work – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Union membership among California state workers dipped in 2022, according to data from the State Controller’s Office.  The trend reflects the challenge of recruiting new members in the era of hybrid and remote work, union leaders say.  The pandemic’s legacy of hybrid and remote work has made recruitment and retention harder for unions like the Professional Engineers in California Government, which used to rely heavily on in-person meetings in the office and at new hire orientations for recruitment.  “It’s very difficult to make that connection, try as we might, over Zoom or WebEx,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of PECG.  “But that doesn’t mean we can stop.”

Fernbridge reopens after 6.4M quake in Humboldt County – KRCR News

Route 211 at the Fernbridge in Humboldt County is now open to one-way controlled traffic, according to Caltrans District 1, while repairs continue to the historic crossing over the Eel River.

CAISO adopts energy storage, imbalance market rules to improve grid reliability – Utility Dive

The California Independent System Operator has approved three reliability improvements for storage management that are set to take effect this summer when extreme heat could cause a spike in demand.

Sierra Nevada Snow Season Off to Best Start in a Decade, But Experts Urge Caution – NBC Bay Area

State water officials say the Sierra Nevada is experiencing its snowiest start to the winter season in a decade, thanks to a handful of storms that dropped several feet of snow.  This time last year, snow depths were reaching 150 percent of normal levels: a hopeful start to the season.  That was until California was hit with the driest January, February and March on record.

December 19, 2022

California approves far-reaching strategy for tackling climate change.  So what’s next? – CalMatters

California’s air board last week unanimously approved a sweeping state plan to battle climate change, creating a blueprint for the next five years to cut carbon emissions, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and speed up the transition to renewable energy.  Called a scoping plan, the 297-page strategy could serve as a roadmap for other states and countries to follow, including a long list of proposed measures that, once adopted, would slash California’s greenhouse gases and clean up air pollution in the smoggiest state in the nation.

Federal push for emissions tracking reveals split among state DOTs – Washington Post (free read)

From his new perch as president of the powerful group representing state transportation departments, Roger Millar pledged this fall to help protect the nation’s roads from a changing climate.  Resilience is an increasingly urgent job for transportation agencies battling the effects of flooded roads and overheated concrete.  But when it comes to addressing the role of the transportation sector — the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions — in a warming planet, many state agencies have been more muted.

State of California to install more security cameras in East Bay – KRON TV

(KRON) – After a spate of shootings this year, the calls to install cameras on freeways have gotten louder.  Two hundred closed-circuit television cameras are slated to be installed statewide – and Caltrans says eight are already up the East Bay.  The new CCTV cameras are high-definition, and they should be able to detect the type of vehicle, license plate number, and even the number of people inside.  Caltrans is funding the pilot program with a one-time expense of $10 million.

December 15, 2022

Caltrans Reports on Achievements from Statewide Bike and Pedestrian Plan – Streetsblog California

The California Transportation Commission’s meeting last week featured a brief update on the Statewide Bike and Pedestrian Plan.  Caltrans’ Division Chief of Transportation Planning Marlon Flournoy and his team are working on a progress report on the department’s 2017 plan, “Towards an Active California,” a compendium of proposals that could lead to increased biking and walking while reducing fatalities among vulnerable road users.  More information and the draft report can be found here.

Drought emergency declared for all of Southern California by nation’s largest water supplier – CBS News

The nation’s largest water supplier has declared a drought emergency for Southern California, clearing the way for potential mandatory water restrictions early next year that could impact 19 million people.

December 12, 2022

CalPERS retirees elect longtime SEIU president to represent them on pension board – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Former California union leader Yvonne Walker won election for a seat representing retired public employees on the 13-member CalPERS Board of Administration for the next five years, according to voting results announced Thursday in Sacramento.  Walker, who led Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union 2008 through 2021, secured the seat with 56.9% of the vote in a runoff election that pitted her against Randall Cheek, the legislative director of the Retired Public Employees Association, a volunteer position.

‘Plastic Roads’ Are Paved With Good Intention – Stateline

Transportation officials in multiple states are testing whether roads made from grocery bags, juice cartons, printer ink cartridges, or other discarded plastic can make pavement last longer, save money and reduce waste in landfills.  In May, the California Department of Transportation tested an asphalt mixture that contains 10% recycled plastic from printer ink cartridges on a shoulder of Highway 99 in Elk Grove, near Sacramento, according to spokesperson Will Arnold.  The pavement looked and performed better than expected after several months, so in August, the department expanded the test by using the mix to pave all lanes in a 500-foot section of the highway, Arnold said in an email.

How do floating wind turbines work?  5 companies just won the first U.S. leases for building them off California’s coast – The Conversation

Northern California has some of the strongest offshore winds in the U.S., with immense potential to produce clean energy.  But it also has a problem.  Its continental shelf drops off quickly, making building traditional wind turbines directly on the seafloor costly, if not impossible.  Once water gets more than 200 feet deep – roughly the height of an 18-story building – these “monopile” structures are pretty much out of the question.  A solution has emerged that’s being tested in several locations worldwide: wind turbines that float.

December 8, 2022

Caltrans testing new life-saving tech along busy I-8 exit aimed to prevent wrong-way driving – Fox 5 (San Diego)

Caltrans crews are testing a new notification system focused on spotting wrong-way drivers on a busy section of Interstate 8 freeway at Mission Bay. It’s all part of an initiative to prevent head-on accidents at the Sunset Cliffs Boulevard off-ramp, a spot California Highway Patrol reports shows high instances of wrong way driving activity.

Water thieves abound in dry California. Why are they so hard to catch? ­– Grist

Over the past decade, as more states have clamped down on water usage, water managers in California and across the west have found themselves struggling to monitor all potential violations, and to implement water rights laws that they’ve never had to use before.

California’s $1.2 billion Capitol renovation violated state environmental laws, court says ­ Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

The future of the planned California Capitol annex is in limbo after an appeals court ruled that the project’s environmental impact report failed to comply with state law.

December 5, 2022

I-15 state line project wasn’t ‘immediate relief’ promised to motorists – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Thanksgiving weekend represented the first test of the recently completed initial phase of work on Interstate 15 southbound at the Nevada-California border that was intended to alleviate traffic congestion.  While there was some improvement in traffic backups last weekend, it wasn’t the “immediate relief” motorists expected when promised last year by the states’ top officials.

Highway 1 closure in Big Sur continues Monday, Caltrans reports – KSBW

A section of Highway 1 along the Big Sur coastline was still closed Monday morning due to a rockslide, the California Department of Transportation reported.  Both directions of the highway are closed from south of Big Sur to Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County.  The rockslide was reported Saturday afternoon.

High-speed rail line from LA to Las Vegas could begin construction in 2023 Construction Dive

California could see its second high-speed rail project begin construction next year, according to news reports.  Brightline West looks to build an $8 billion passenger rail corridor connecting Southern California and Las Vegas, mainly within the median of the Interstate 15 freeway.  It would operate 180-mph electric trains.

December 1, 2022

California DOT orders $18 million worth of Tesla Model 3 EVs –

Caltrans has ordered 399 Tesla Model 3s as part of the effort to electrify Caltrans’ entire fleet by 2030.

U.S. government pledges $250 million to help ailing Salton Sea – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

The Biden administration has announced a plan to provide $250 million to accelerate environmental projects around the shrinking Salton Sea, a major commitment intended to help revitalize the lake’s ecosystems and control hazardous dust.  The deal also clears the way for California to take less water from the drought-ravaged Colorado River.  The infusion of federal money is the central feature of an agreement among the federal government, the Imperial Irrigation District, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the Coachella Valley Water District.

More than 70 water agencies in California could face water shortages in the coming months, state report shows – CNN

Nearly 20% of California’s urban water agencies reported they could see significant water shortages in the coming months as the state braces for a potential fourth consecutive year of drought.  After surveying urban water agencies serving roughly 90% of the state’s population, the California Department of Water Resources released its first report that assesses how the state is faring with water supply amid unrelenting drought conditions.

November 2022 News Items

November 28, 2022

California looks to ban all gas and diesel truck fleets – SFGate

The California Air Resources Board has laid out an ambitious plan to eventually force all diesel truck fleets of the road, with varying deadlines.  This includes mandating that all new trucks operating around busy railways and ports be zero-emission vehicles by 2024, phasing out all diesel trucks from those areas by 2035, and eventually taking every diesel truck and bus fleet off California roads by 2045, where feasible.

California regulators OK $1 billion for EV charging project, mostly for trucks – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a $1-billion vehicle electrification charging project, with most of the money earmarked to accelerate the number of midsize and heavy-duty trucks on the state’s roads.  Some 70% of the funds will go to charging medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which combine to account for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. Costs of the five-year program will be spread out among utility ratepayers across California.

Before and after: Satellite imaging shows California’s reservoir levels years apart– KTLA

Satellite imaging from Google Earth shows the conditions of the state’s reservoirs now versus where they were about five years ago.

November 21, 2022

California Boosts Electric-Car Charging Investment by $1 Billion –  Bloomberg

California plans to spend an additional $1 billion to bolster its vehicle-charging network as it races to build the infrastructure needed to phase out gas-powered trucks and cars.  The five-year program will allocate 70% of the funding for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle charging, with the balance for light-duty equipment at or near multi-unit dwellings, according to a California Public Utilities Commission statement Thursday.

California Climate Plan Scraps New Gas Plants, Expands Carbon Capture for Fossil Fuels – Capital & Main

The California Air Resources Board has released a near-final version of a road map to reduce the state’s emissions to zero by the middle of the century.  It calls for massive cuts to planet-heating pollution that would transform how Californians commute, live, and consume energy.

November 17, 2022

California stares down $25B deficit after years of record cash – Politico

California not long ago was reveling in a record budget surplus.  Now the Legislature’s fiscal analysts are projecting a $25 billion deficit next fiscal year as tax revenues decline.  The nonpartisan agency on Wednesday put the Capitol on alert by recommending state lawmakers cut spending when they reconvene in January — and even hold back some already-budgeted funding to avoid the shortfall.

Slashing greenhouse gases: California revises climate change strategy – CalMatters

The California Air Resources Board this week unveiled a new version of its highly-anticipated strategy for battling climate change, setting more ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gases and scaling up controversial projects that capture carbon.  If adopted by the air board at its Dec. 15 meeting, the plan would radically reshape California’s economy, alter how Californians’ vehicles, buildings, and appliances are powered, and ultimately serve as a blueprint for other states and countries to follow.

AECOM to help manage California High-Speed Rail project – Construction Europe

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has announced that a joint venture that includes AECOM has been selected to provide program management support for the much-delayed California High-Speed Rail project.

These are the driest reservoirs in California – KTLA

Despite recent rainstorms across the state, California’s historic drought shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.  Across the board, nearly all major water supply reservoirs managed by the California Department of Water Resources are well below historical averages.

November 14, 2022

California Deploys Portable Emissions Detectors Ahead of New Smog Rules – Transport Topics

California is deploying a portable emissions detector in areas with heavy truck traffic to educate drivers and operators about a new smog check program that starts Jan. 1.  The California Air Resources Board is launching the Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance Program next year, calling it “a groundbreaking smog check program” to help ensure the 1 million heavy-duty trucks operating there “run clean for the life of the vehicle.” 

Telework Maintains Strong Foothold Across California Agencies – Sacramento Bee / Government Technology

New data pulled from the Department of General Services’ data dashboard shows that the majority of state agencies are forging ahead with remote work arrangements.  Some 90 percent of staff are working remotely in 37 departments.

New report paints a grim picture of climate change accelerating in California – San Francisco Examiner

California continues to break records of the wrong kind: record-high temperatures, record-low snowpack, historic drought, and unprecedented wildfires.  These are the fingerprints of climate change — and its impacts are hitting California faster and with greater intensity than previously expected.  That’s according to a new report released by state scientists last week that painted a grim picture of climate change’s grip on the Golden State.

November 10, 2022

Last year’s losses at California pension systems were larger than initial reports showed – Sacramento Bee / Monterey Herald

California’s two giant pension systems lost a couple of billion dollars more than was previously reported in the volatile markets of the first half of this year.  The Public Employees’ Retirement System and the State Teachers’ Retirement System recently published more-complete financial figures for the fiscal year that ended June 30, incorporating updated private equity and real asset returns along with other factors.  The adjustments happen every year.

Solano board supports moving Highway 37 plan forward – Solano Daily Republic

The Solano County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to send a letter to Caltrans supporting the Highway 37 Interim Project for interim and long-term solutions to congestion and sea rise issues.  One of those solutions, Supervisor Erin Hannigan said, will eventually make the highway a toll road.  She said many of the motorists using Highway 37 have indicated they support if it means less congestion.

California settles with firm in Volkswagen emissions scandal – Associated Press / KPBS

California on Monday settled a lawsuit against a German company stemming from the emissions scandal that tarred Volkswagen in 2015 and Fiat Chrysler two years later.  German auto supplier Bosch will pay $25 million to settle allegations by the state and California Air Resources Board under a court complaint and settlement agreement, both filed Monday.  A judge will need to sign off on the settlement.

November 7, 2022

US Traffic Safety Is Getting Worse, While Other Countries Improve ­– Bloomberg

The rising rate of road deaths in the US continues to defy global trends.  Here’s what traffic planners in other nations could teach their American counterparts. 

How can California boost its water supply? – CalMatters

Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water.  Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages.  Growers fallow fields, and ranchers sell cows.  And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells.  So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next?

November 3, 2022

California High-Speed Rail Authority releases fall construction update – Railway Track & Structures

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has released its autumn construction update.  Highlights include recent milestones, such as the completion of three high-speed rail grade separations.  The video also includes new drone footage and updates across all Central Valley high-speed rail construction packages.

Investigation: Chronic water shortages increase, yet California regulators are unprepared – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

A Sacramento Bee investigation reveals that farmers and other water users frequently ignore state drought regulations. The Bee interviewed dozens of farmers, policy experts, American Indian tribal members, environmentalists, and regulators. It reviewed hundreds of pages of court rulings, regulatory filings, and other public records. The findings reveal a state regulatory system dramatically unprepared to address chronic water shortages and an ecosystem collapse.

Almost half of phishing attacks target gov employees, research say – GCN

Government employees were the target of almost half of all phishing attacks last year and are at risk of having their credentials stolen in those attacks, according to a new report. Researchers at cloud security company Lookout found that public-sector employees were the subject of 50% of all credential-stealing phishing attacks in 2021, up from 30% in 2020, as many agencies continued to embrace hybrid work in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

October 2022 News Items

October 31, 2022

This Citizen Science Project Is Taking On Roadkill — and Potentially Saving Animals – Discover

Project Roadkill Reports asks volunteers to note where they see roadkill to one day design better policies to prevent animals from getting struck by vehicles.  Organizers say they hope to see data from Roadkill Reports put to use by departments of transportation and other agencies to help design better ways to help animals avoid being killed by cars.

Aging Infrastructure May Create Higher Flood Risk in L.A., Study Finds – The New York Times (free read)

Between 197,000 and 874,000 city residents could experience a foot of flooding during an extreme storm, researchers found.  Most of them don’t live in beachfront mansions.

October 27, 2022

Racing the Clock to Restore the Roadway ­– Engineering News-Review

When floodwaters washed away a critical portion of Interstate 10 in the Southern California desert recently, Caltrans and its contractors moved fast to restore traffic.

California carbon emissions fell 9% in pandemic’s 1st year  –Associated Press

California’s planet-warming emissions dropped nearly 9% in 2020 compared to the year before as pandemic restrictions kept people at home, out of their cars and away from the workplace for much of the year.  The data released Wednesday marks California’s largest single-year emissions drop and tracks with a similar reduction nationwide.

How California can expand solar development and support San Joaquin Valley farmers – CalMatters

There is a unique opportunity to align the implementation of two state policies, groundwater laws and California’s clean energy goals to benefit consumers and support the economy in one of the state’s most economically challenged regions.

October 24, 2022

Public Pensions Weathered “The Great Recession” and Took Action to Ensure Long-Term Sustainability – Forbes

The Great Recession, lasting from December 2007 to June 2009, was the most severe economic downturn in the U.S. since the Great Depression.  Virtually all investors lost money during the financial market crash, typically about a quarter of assets.  However, pension funds rebounded and made a number of changes since then that, while increasing costs and liabilities in the short term, have made plans fundamentally stronger and better prepared to weather future market downturns. 

Heat Waves Are Devastating Hydropower in China and the Western U.S. –

As global warming bears down on the planet, rising temperatures devastate countries worldwide.  These repercussions are striking in China and the western United States, where advancements in renewable energy intend to safeguard energy security and provide clean, reliable power to its populations and economies.

October 20, 2022

New California Law Protects Wildlife Corridors—and a Lot More – Pew

The Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Sept. 30, takes a comprehensive approach to address ecosystem connectivity from a transportation perspective, offering more substance for California lawmakers to consider as plans for the 2023 legislative sessions come into focus. 

New mega reservoir in final planning phase for California  KTVU

California is getting closer to creating a massive new reservoir within a huge natural Colusa County valley shaped like an elongated oval bowl.  When completed, the long-proposed $4 billion Sites Reservoir will hold enough water to feed the needs of five million homes a year or a half million acres of farmland.  That’s enough water to cover every square inch of San Francisco 50 feet deep.

Can electric buses serve as backup batteries on wheels? — Canary Media

A California pilot project is testing transit buses as a portable backup power source.  If it works, they could replace dirty diesel generators during blackouts.

15 seconds that changed the San Francisco Bay Area: Devastation of the 1989 quake remembered — Fox Weather

The San Francisco Bay Area was celebrating on Oct. 17, 1989, as both home teams faced off against each other in Game 3 of the World Series.  The mood lasted until 5:04 p.m. when the Loma Prieta earthquake, a 6.5 magnitude, shook for 15 seconds and changed the Bay Area forever.  Over a mile of the upper deck of the two-story Cypress Viaduct of I-880 collapsed on the lower level in Oakland.  Pictures capture bystanders trying to pull drivers and passengers, crushed and trapped, from cars.  On that stretch of highway alone, 41 people died.

October 17, 2022

US carmaker to pay California $5.6M.  Funds to help improve South Coast region air – Air Quality Matters

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) reached a $5,601,090 settlement agreement with FCA US LLC (FCA) of Auburn Hills, Mich., for violations of CARB’s air quality regulations.  This is the second enforcement action against FCA in the past four years. The FCA vehicles and model years involved in the settlement include 2012 through 2018 RAM 1500, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Durango vehicles, equipped with 5.7L gasoline engines. More than 30,000 vehicles were involved.

California invests nearly $3 billion for transportation improvements – KSBY 6

The California Transportation Commission last week allocated nearly $3 billion for projects to repair and improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state.  The allocation includes more than $452 million in funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and more than $123 million in funding from Senate Bill 1.

‘Water batteries’ could store solar and wind power for when it’s needed – National Public Radio

The San Diego County Water Authority has an unusual plan to use the city’s scenic San Vicente Reservoir to store solar power so it’s available after sunset. The project, and others like it, could help unlock America’s clean energy future.

October 13, 2022

White House: Nearly $60B from infrastructure law sent to roads and bridges – The Hill

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced it will invest nearly $60 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law towards roads, bridges, tunnels, carbon emission reduction, and safety improvements in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.  States that will receive the most include Texas, which will receive nearly $5.5 billion; New York, which will receive more than $2.7 billion; and California, which will receive more than $5.6 billion. 

California Coastal Commission Considering New Desalination Plant in Orange County – NBC Los Angeles

The California Coastal Commission is expected to vote on a new desalination plant at Doheny State Beach to help fight the drought, but some campers oppose the idea.

California’s latest laurels: the nation’s cleanest school buses – San Francisco Examiner

A California Air Resources Board report found that the state is leading the nation in replacing its school buses with a zero-emission fleet.  Approximately 1,800 clean buses are commissioned in California, with about half already on the road.  That compares to about 880 total in the rest of the United States.

California High-Speed Rail seeks funds for Bakersfield Extension – Railway Technology

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) in the U.S. has applied for $67 million in new federal funds to ramp up key safety upgrades along the rail line in the Central Valley.  The Authority wants to use the funds on six current railroad grade crossings in Shafter.

October 10, 2022

How California’s Bullet Train Went Off the Rails – New York Times (free read)

America’s first experiment with high-speed rail has become a multi-billion-dollar nightmare.  Political compromises created a project so expensive that almost no one knows how it can be built as originally envisioned.

A California city’s water supply is expected to run out in two months –The Washington Post (free read)

Amid a historic drought and record shortages, Coalinga is searching for extra water to make it through the rest of this year.  If the city doesn’t find relief, it would be forced to buy additional water on the open market at exorbitant prices that could swamp the city’s budget.

Toyota President Thinks California’s EV Targets Will Be Tough To Meet –

In August 2022, the California Air Resources Board voted to ban the sale of new internal-combustion-powered light vehicles in the state starting in 2035.  During a recent media roundtable, Toyota President Akio Toyoda commented on the rule and was uncertain about meeting the requirements.

As Electric Vehicles Shrink Gas Tax Revenue, More States May Tax Mileage – Pew

The increasing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles is shrinking revenue from gas taxes, prompting more states to consider charging fees based on miles driven to help pay for roads and bridges.  This year at least eight states considered bills that would modify existing programs or set up new pilot programs to tax drivers of electric vehicles (typically all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles) based on the miles they drive.  California and Oregon recently expanded their pilot programs as well.

October 6, 2022

Changing climate increases risk for 91,000 US dams, research warns – KCRA TV (Sacramento)

Five years after the Oroville Dam crisis, researchers say that the increasing number and severity of wildfires and extreme rainfall events will put more pressure on dams and other infrastructure in the years ahead.  Fire-decimated forests have less ability to hold back or slow stormwater, snow melt, and debris that flow into reservoirs, according to one study.  Meanwhile, a second report forecasts the number of times an extreme fire event will precede extreme rainfall within just one year could soar up to 800%, also increasing stress on dams.

California announces new water conservation actions – Water World

California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced new measures that aim to save enough water to supply 4.7 million Californians annually while making conservation more affordable through financial assistance and tax exemptions.

California Wells Run Dry as Drought Depletes Groundwater – NBC 7 (San Diego)

More than 1,200 wells have run dry this year statewide, a nearly 50% increase over the same period last year, according to state data.

October 3, 2022

Governor Signs Bill to Integrate Wildlife Corridors into Highway Plans – Public News Service

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Friday to require Caltrans to integrate wildlife corridors into its plans as roads are built around the state. 

How can Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant stay open? ‘It’s not a done deal’ – San Luis Obispo Tribune

PG&E is preparing for two futures: one in which it closes Diablo Canyon Power Plant in 2025 and another in which it continues operating the nuclear power plant through 2030.

Gov. Newsom demands California regulator take action to lower gas prices – KCRA (Sacramento)

Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for California regulators to speed up the transition to cheaper winter-blend gasoline as prices at the pump keep rising.  Newsom sent a letter to the California Air Resources Board on Friday directing it to take whatever steps are necessary to allow refineries to begin making and distributing winter-blend gasoline.  The blend, normally only allowed to be made after Oct. 31, is easier to make and cheaper for consumers.

September 2022 News Items

September 29, 2022

New York state to adopt California 2035 EV rules – Reuters

New York state plans to adopt California’s rules approved in August that would require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Thursday. 

Forest Service launches criminal probe into Mosquito Fire; seizes PG&E equipment– Reuters

Californian utility PG&E Corp said on Monday it was cooperating with the U.S. Forest Service after the federal agency started a criminal investigation into the U.S. state’s largest wildfire this year.

September 26, 2022

California plans to phase out new gas heaters by 2030 – National Public Radio

The Golden State just became the first in the nation to begin making fossil-fuel furnaces and heaters a thing of the past.  In its ongoing effort to slash ozone pollution, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted Thursday to ban the sale of new gas furnaces and water heaters beginning in 2030.  Homes will be required to install zero-emissions alternatives, like electric heaters.

Enjoyed the rain?  California eyes ‘fourth dry year’ as drought outlook remains grim – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Yes, Northern California received some rain last week, dousing much of the Mosquito Fire and bringing a light coating of snow to the Sierra Nevada.  But one of the worst droughts in recorded history remains an everyday reality, and the outlook for winter is for more of the same, a top official with the state Department of Water Resources says.

Here’s how California’s canals could advance the state’s renewable energy goals – PBS NewsHour

For now, Project Nexus – which will install solar panels over about two miles of public water-delivery canals in the Central Valley – is starting small.  But researchers view the state’s canals as a gold mine for not just energy, but information that can inform future energy projects.  And research suggests that covering all of California’s canals – spanning roughly 4,000 miles – with solar panels could save up to 63 billion gallons of water now lost to evaporation and generate 13 gigawatts of renewable power annually.  That’s roughly enough to power 9.75 million homes.

September 22, 2022

Hwy. 37 could be underwater by 2050.  Here’s how Caltrans plans to keep traffic flowing – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Caltrans intends to build an elevated road along Highway 37 to combat rising water levels, which are expected to eventually inundate the North Bay arterial.  The proposed project stretches across the existing route along San Pablo Bay and through Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

Dangerous arsenic levels may be lurking in California prison water: study – The Hill

Incarcerated Californians — and those who live in neighboring rural communities — may be exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic in their drinking water, a new study has found.  Arsenic concentrations in the water supply of the Kern Valley State Prison and three nearby Central Valley communities exceeded regulatory limits for months or even years at a time, according to the study published on Wednesday in Environmental Health Perspectives.

California could phase out gas heaters by 2030 to cut smog – Smart Cities

Gas heaters in homes and buildings are “an underappreciated driver of unhealthy air quality in California cities,” according to a report released Tuesday.  The appliances generate about four times as much nitrogen oxide pollution as California’s electric utilities and approximately two-thirds as much as its light-duty passenger cars.  Environmental groups and a public policy think tank issued the report ahead of a California Air Resources Board meeting.  Board members are set to vote on a plan that would require zero-emissions heaters in 2030, ending new sales of gas heaters.

Senate Panel Examines IIJA Highway Programs’ Rollout – Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription)

With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now on the books for more than 10 months, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is continuing its oversight of how the U.S. Dept. of Transportation is carrying out the law’s highway and bridge portions, which account for about 29% of the IIJA’s $1.2 trillion in funding.  At a Sept. 21 hearing, committee lawmakers and witnesses representing state and local governments offered mixed reviews for the law’s rollout.

September 20, 2022

California ends mandatory COVID-19 testing for most unvaccinated state workers –  The Sacramento Bee

Unvaccinated state employees are no longer required to take weekly COVID-19 tests as of Sept. 16, according to a California Human Resources Department memo.  However, unvaccinated employees in “high-risk and/or acute health care and long-term care settings” must still be tested weekly, according to the email.  Departments have reported administering more than 1.8 million tests, with about 30,000 positives, since testing began.  Roughly 22% of state workers remain unvaccinated, according to CalHR data.

Barger praises Caltrans crews for ‘ingenious’ I-5 solution – Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Following the end of the nightly full closures of the Interstate 5 in Castaic due to construction needs and repairs, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger praised the Caltrans construction crews last week for completing their work in a timely fashion. 
“I’m extremely appreciative of Caltrans’ efforts to ease the traffic nightmare on the I-5 that was impacting both motorists and my constituents from the Castaic community,” Barger said in a prepared statement on Thursday.  “Caltrans designed an ingenious solution — essentially converting the median into a third lane — and committed all the necessary resources to implement that solution as quickly as possible. I commend their team and leadership for having made it happen.”

September 15, 2022

Gavin Newsom rewards law enforcement, fire, health care workers with COVID pay.  Not others – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, California state department leaders decided which of their employees were essential and which weren’t under guidelines issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.  Those deemed essential had to keep reporting in-person to prisons, state hospitals, fire stations and office buildings while others could work from home.  Now the Newsom Administration is issuing $1,500 pandemic bonuses to state law enforcement officers, health care facility employees and firefighters, but not other employees.

America’s Transportation Awards finalists announced – Equipment World

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has announced 12 finalists in the 2022 America’s Transportation Awards competition.  Caltrans is in the running for developing 360 Tours, an interactive web-based interface that allows the public to explore construction projects using virtual reality.

Electric Vehicle Charger Plans in 35 States Approved by White House – Route Fifty

The federal government this week approved plans submitted by a majority of states, including California, to begin building out electric vehicle charging networks along key highways.

September 12, 2022

California approves microplastics testing of drinking water sources – CalMatters

The State Water Resources Control Board unanimously approved the world’s first requirements for testing microplastics in drinking water sources — a key step towards regulating the ubiquitous tiny fragments in the environment.  Under the plan, up to 30 of the state’s largest water providers will be ordered to start quarterly testing for two years, beginning in the fall of 2023.

California Air Resources Board May Speed Fleet Electrification – Government Technology

The California Air Resources Board is set to consider new regulations to hasten the electrification of delivery vans and other medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles starting in 2024.

Caltrans Update: Progress on Complete Streets Policy – Streetsblog CA

Caltrans just issued its first quarterly update on implementing the department’s Complete Streets policy, and more than three-quarters of its action-plan tasks are completed or underway.  The update also offers a few highlights of specific successes.

September 8, 2022

Preferred alternative for 30-mile high-speed rail segment in Calif. calls for tunnel construction – Railway Track and Structures

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has released the draft environmental document for the more than 30-mile segment between Palmdale and Burbank in southern California. 

The draft environmental document is available for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public review through Nov. 1. 

The project section is between 31 and 38 miles long and will connect two key population centers in Los Angeles County, the Antelope Valley and the San Fernando Valley, by linking future multimodal transportation hubs in Palmdale and Burbank.

September 6, 2022

Thermostats in California state buildings will go to 78 degrees — and then 85 — to save power – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)

State workers in Sacramento will return from the Labor Day holiday to offices considerably warmer than usual.  With California struggling to avoid blackouts and energy consumption expected to hit a record, the state will set its thermostats at 78 degrees starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday.  For those working late, the thermostats will jump to 85 degrees at 5 p.m., said Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gavin Newsom.  The 85-degree setting will be in effect until 10 p.m.  The buildings will get cooled off starting at 3 a.m. in preparation for staffers who come to work at 7 a.m.

Generators in Roseville and Yuba City Providing up to 120 Megawatts to Grid During Extreme Heat Emergency – Appeal-Democrat/Yubanet

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) on Monday requested the activation of two temporary emergency power generators deployed in Roseville and Yuba City.  It was the first time the four generators were brought online.  In total, they can provide up to 120 megawatts of electricity to the statewide power grid during extreme heat events.

September 1, 2022

How quickly will electric vehicles take over, now that California has mostly banned gas-powered cars in 2035? – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)

Is California’s effort to mostly ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 actually workable?

California can’t waver on water regulation – CalMatters

Over the past decade, California has gone from being the state with the least groundwater regulation to adopting a law that serves as an international model.  How the state implements its landmark groundwater law during California’s worst drought on record could inform global climate change adaptation practices for generations.  The Golden State has one shot over the next 20 years to bring its depleted aquifers into balance and achieve sustainability.  Californians are counting on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to get the state there.

Animal crossings to protect wildlife could be coming to these Northern California highways – Siskiyou Daily News / Redding Record Searchlight

The California Department of Transportation wants to build animal crossings over and under North State highways to help wildlife navigate across them.

Support for labor unions in the U.S. is at a 57-year high – National Public Radio

Seventy-one percent of Americans now approve of labor unions, according to Gallup, the highest approval of organized labor that the polling firm has recorded since 1965.