California Receives Initial $58 Million from DOT for High Speed Rail Transit, Cycling ‘Infrastructure’ Projects

Funding ‘was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure’

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has given its first grants from the recently passed $1 Trillion infrastructure bill to California, with $58 million going to transportation projects in Northern California and to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority was the biggest recipient of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, receiving $24 million to expand state route 46 in the Kern County city of Wasco to be a staging and storing area. Another $18 will go to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) for an earthquake retrofit of the Yerba Buena Island west side bridge, as well as greater access to the bridge for cyclists.

Oakland will receive $14.5 million to enhance their civic hub by improving walking, cycling, and public transportation projects, with a special focus on connecting Oakland with San Francisco via rail lines such as BART and Amtrak. Finally, the Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) will get $1.2 million to fill in gaps of their current transportation system, as well as to improve bike and walking networks.

Both Senators noted on Friday the importance of these early infrastructure funding blocks.

“My thanks to Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg and the Transportation Department for these grants that will help California continue to modernize our transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Feinstein. “These projects include providing safer, more connected bikeways and walkways in San Francisco; assisting the City of Wasco with creating safer railway infrastructure; and connecting biking and walking paths in Oakland and Yolo County. Promoting cleaner, safer modes of transportation is a key part of improving California’s infrastructure.”

An initial $58 million in infrastructure funds

Senator Alex Padilla (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Senator Padilla, who has served less than a year as Senator, also noted that “From day one, I have worked to ensure that we use our infrastructure investments to help reconnect our communities, and I am proud to see federal efforts to do just that. From San Francisco to Wasco, this critical funding will help make our roads and bridges safer, help decongest our highways, and allow for more Californians to access our outdoor trails. As we continue to make significant investments in our state and nation’s aging infrastructure, I will continue to advocate for funding that serves our most in-need communities.”

However, many critics and experts criticized the funding on Friday for favoring bike projects over safety and repair projects.

“Whether you wanted the bill to pass or not, the point is we have it now,” San Diego-based urban planner and transportation planner Michael McGuiness Jr. told the Globe Friday. “But that was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure, or build new pieces as needed. Instead, California gave a hint at where its money would be going today by putting most of it into mass transit and cycling. There was a needed bridge project in San Francisco, but that’s really about it. The largest chunk even went into the high-speed rail project, which is billions over budget and years behind schedule. So a lot is going into a future white elephant.”

“Plus, they largely ignored huge swats of the state, including all of California south of Bakersfield and north of the Bay. At first glance, these grants don’t look like they’re fairly going out.”

More grants and funding coming into California for infrastructure projects are expected to be announced soon.

This article originally published in the California Globe

Feinstein continues to block necessary water project


cadiz water projectThe Democrats are at it again. They’re pushing back on the Republican controlled Congress, who is attempting to limit earmarks from being added to the omnibus spending bill. This action – known as policy riders – explains specifically what funding cannot be used on.

While Democrats relied on policy riders extensively in the past, especially in the area of “environmental protection,” having a Republican-controlled Congress has left the Democrats squalling at the practice. If the Republicans are going to undermine the Democratic agenda by implementing their own policy riders, the Democrats are completely against the practice all together, even though they have fought this fight for the last 15 years by using policy riders to protect the EPA.

These policy riders have had an absolutely detrimental impact on California, especially during the severe drought. Senator Feinstein has abused her position on the Appropriates Committee to make sure an important water project in Southern California, known as the Cadiz Valley Water Project, would fail to be built.

The Cadiz Valley Water Project is a no brainer for drought-stricken California.

According to the Environmental Impact Report, a requirement under California’s Environmental Quality Act of 1970, around 400,000 people could benefit from the project, which would provide over 16 million gallons of drinking water.

The Cadiz property is located in the Mohave Desert, between the I-10 and I-40 freeways. The plan calls for the construction of a 43-mile pipeline, which would supply water to the Colorado River Aqueduct from the Cadiz property.

When Cadiz attempted to start the project in the early 2000s with their original partner, Metropolitan Water District, Feinstein used policy riders in the fiscal year 2007 spending bill that blocked Cadiz from receiving any funding.

Senator Feinstein, however, has utilized policy riders in the annual federal spending bill in order to force the federal government to interfere with railroad property rights, which directly impacts Cadiz’s partner, the Arizona & California Railroad. She did this to block the Cadiz Valley Water Project’s funding for federal review, should one be required.

This is the definition of government overreach and politics as usual. Seemingly frustrated that the project’s review doesn’t include Washington bureaucrats, Feinstein has tried to sabotage a project that could provide Southern California with a new water supply. And at what cost?

Feinstein went out of her way to target Cadiz and their ultimate goal of supplying Southern California with water. She can’t attempt to argue against her blatant sabotage.

With California in desperate need of water to sustain our way of life – and no, I’m not talking about the fish – this project should have been pushed forward years ago. If it had been, we would have the added benefit to help battle the current drought.

Long Road Ahead With Feinstein’s Drought Relief Bill

With the latest numbers showing a drop in California water consumption, attention has turned to a new drought relief bill introduced by Golden State U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

water spigotThe figures eclipsed earlier embarrassments faced by water districts where consumption actually spiked, sometimes for unknown reasons. “California’s urban water districts cut consumption by 27.3 percent in June,” the Wall Street Journal observed, “exceeding a tough new state mandate to reduce their combined use by 25 percent amid a prolonged drought. The savings compared with the same month in 2013 came despite June being the hottest month on record in the Golden State, officials from the State Water Resources Control Board reported Thursday.”

Partisan jockeying

In a statement, Feinstein tried to tempter expectations behind her renewed push for relief. Some analysts expect Republican opposition over its high cost and environmental protections. “I’ve introduced a lot of bills over the years, and this one may be the most difficult, and a warming climate will only make things worse,” she said. “I’m hopeful the bill we’re introducing today will serve as a template for the kinds of short-term and long-term solutions California needs to address this devastating drought.”

But some Democrats have become concerned that Feinstein’s effort cedes excessive ground on environmental regulations, hewing too closely to previous relief plans that wound up losing Boxer’s support. Feinstein had determined that the drought crisis was severe enough to justify negotiating with House Republicans — a maneuver that undermined her support within her own party, causing her to abandon the push.

This time around, revealing Boxer’s support for the rejiggered bill “surprised some stakeholders who saw the negotiations fall apart late last year over proposed changes to endangered species protections,” according to E&E Daily. Although Boxer said she was “pleased to be sponsoring” Feinstein’s new bill “because of the enormity of this crisis,” other Democrats, such as Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., warned they were “very concerned about some provisions included in the bill that are similar to the House Republican water legislation” that drove Boxer away to begin with.

A long road

That legislation was H.R. 2898, introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif. As the Sacramento Bee recounted, the bill would have supplied farmers south of the Delta with more water and sped up the federal approvals process, where stringent environmental rules can sometimes grind water and infrastructure plans to a virtual halt. Hurried along late last year during the lame-duck session of Congress, it sailed through the House with staunch Republican support, but provoked president Obama to threaten a veto, and drew strong criticism from California’s delegation of Democrats in both houses of Congress.

Feinstein herself finally caved. “There are several other provisions that would waive environmental protections that need to be changed before I could support them,” she explained, according to the Bee. “I have said all along that I will not support a bill that would waive these protections, and that remains true today.”

Now, her aim has been to replace “some provisions disliked by environmental groups” with “some of their priorities, such as a greater focus on recycling,” according to the Associated Press. “Feinstein said the shift changes the emphasis of the bill from a short-term effort to a long-term one. She said her bill would cost an estimated $1.3 billion over 10 years.”

But even assuming Feinstein could placate environmentalists and other Democrats, she recognized that the bill’s fate could well hinge on a single Republican colleague. In the machinations of Senate lawmaking, Feinstein’s objective has been to package her bill inside of planned legislation to be introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “That Murkowski bill is likely to serve as a vehicle for several state-specific drought relief measures, as well as overarching federal policy changes,” E&E Daily confirmed.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) may challenge Feinstein for Senate seat


From the Bakersfield Californian:

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, has never been known for diplomacy when it comes to Democrats in the California congressional delegation, especially Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to get off her butt and do something,” Nunes says regarding the economic problems besetting the San Joaquin Valley.

“I have tried to be nice, and I have tried to work with her. She is all talk and no action.”

Nunes has even started running television spots in his 21st Congressional District against her, paid for out of his own $1.4 million political war chest. It features her likeness and blames federal policies she either supports — or fails to fight — for making things worse for the valley on a wide range of issues, including air pollution.

It’s the kind of behavior you would expect of someone preparing to challenge the veteran senator in 2012. And Nunes, after being coy about the question for weeks, says he is now giving it serious thought.

(Read Full Article)