The Barbed Wire - August 20, 2021

August 20, 2021
RCRC Announces Winner of 5th Annual Rural County Photo Contest
USFS Closes Nine National Forests in California Due to Wildfire Conditions
Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 332 (ESTM) – Treated Wood Waste Management Standards Nears Finish Line
Register Today for RCRC Annual Meeting, September 29 - October 1
RCRC Votes to Form Golden State Connect Authority (GSCA) - Broadband for All Rural Californians
California Public Utilities Commission Approves Southern California Edison’s General Rate Case
California Members of Congress Urge Department of Defense to Continue Supporting State and Local Efforts to Combat Wildfires
New Pay Initiatives for Wildland Firefighters
Small-Farmer Debt Relief

RCRC Announces Winner of 5th Annual Rural County Photo Contest

RCRC wishes to thank the photographers who submitted their works of art in RCRC’s 5th Annual Rural County Photo Contest. The numerous submissions received capture the splendor of California’s rural counties.

On Wednesday, the RCRC Board of Directors voted to select this year’s winning photograph. This year’s first place prize goes to Ramiro Ruiz for his spectacular photo of a sunset over a lettuce field in the town of Chualar in Monterey County.

Titled “Field of Green” Ramiro Ruiz’s photo highlights the beauty of agriculture, which is an integral part of so many rural communities in California. Mr. Ruiz is a resident of Monterey County and works as an agricultural mechanic. He has a passion for photographing the agricultural landscapes he encounters in his daily life.

“Congratulations to Mr. Ruiz upon this wonderful recognition of his ability to blend his work and passion into one,” said Monterey County Supervisor and RCRC Board Delegate Chris Lopez. “His photo highlights the beauty of our agricultural landscape, it brings into focus the contributions of rural California to our nation’s food supply, and has brought top recognition to Monterey County.”

The RCRC Rural County Photo Contest was established to promote tourism and local economic development through showcasing the beautiful landscape, scenery, activities, history, and charm of RCRC’s member counties. The image captured by Mr. Ruiz will be prominently displayed during RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting in Monterey County in September and may be featured in various RCRC marketing materials or work products throughout the next year.

See RCRC’s full press release announcing the winner here.




USFS Closes Nine National Forests in California Due to Wildfire Conditions

On Thursday, the United States Department of Agriculture,  Forest Service (USFS) Pacific Southwest Region, also known as USFS Region 5, announced the temporary closure of nine Northern California National Forests to members of the public due to extreme fire conditions throughout the north part of the state. The temporary closures went into effect immediately and include the following National Forests:

  • Klamath National Forest
  • Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
  • Lassen National Forest
  • Mendocino National Forest
  • Modoc National Forest
  • Plumas National Forest
  • Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  • Six Rivers National Forest
  • Tahoe National Forest

In addition to these closures, the Eldorado National Forest is closed through September 30, 2021 due to the Caldor Fire. There are exemptions to the closures which can be viewed on the Region 5 website here, along with full information on the closures.

Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 332 (ESTM) – Treated Wood Waste Management Standards Nears Finish Line

Assembly Bill 332, authored by the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, nears the finish line in the Legislature and will soon head to the Governor for signature.  AB 332 seeks to prevent illegal disposal and facilitate the safe and proper management of treated wood waste (TWW).  In particular, AB 332 codifies the Alternative Management Standards for TWW that sunset at the beginning of this year. Those standards significantly eased the burdens associated with proper transportation, management, and disposal of TWW.

Last year, Governor Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 68 (Galgiani), which would have permanently allowed the generators and the solid waste industry to manage and dispose of TWW through a far less onerous process than otherwise exists for hazardous waste.  SB 68’s veto left residential and commercial customers with no practical disposal options because of the significantly greater costs and complexities of managing and transporting these materials as hazardous wastes to a Class I hazardous waste disposal facility.  To address the immediate problem, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) began issuing temporary variances to generators, transporters, and disposal facilities earlier this year.  Those temporary variances were only intended to address the immediate issue while the Legislature worked out a more permanent solution. 

AB 332 has passed the policy and fiscal committees in both houses, is expected to pass the Senate on Monday, and will go back to the Assembly for concurrence in Senate amendments immediately thereafter.  This important legislation could well be signed into law within the next two weeks.

RCRC helped facilitate DTSC’s issuance of temporary variances and coordinate a large coalition of solid waste and local government support for AB 332.  For a list of coalition partners and to read the support letter, see here. For more information, contact John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate, by email or call (916) 447-4806.

Register Today for RCRC Annual Meeting, September 29 - October 1

Register today for RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, September 29 – October 1, 2021, at the Portola Hotel and Spa at Monterey Bay in Monterey County! This year's program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics from politics to space exploration, with a keynote address by former U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta.  View additional program details here.

RCRC Votes to Form Golden State Connect Authority (GSCA) - Broadband for All Rural Californians

On August 18, the RCRC Board of Directors authorized formation of the Golden State Connect Authority (GSCA), a joint powers authority, to advance rural broadband development. The objective of GSCA is to increase access to reliable, affordable high-speed broadband for all rural Californians.

In July 2021 Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 156, establishing a landmark $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, representing a significant step in bridging the digital divide. The enactment of SB 156 has introduced new opportunities to expand RCRC’s broadband efforts significantly, including explicit authority for county entities to operate broadband systems, the creation of a state-owned, open-access middle mile network, and establishment of innovative programs to fund broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas of the state.  

RCRC has initiated the formation of GSCA in order to leverage the collective efforts of rural counties to best take advantage of the opportunities to expand broadband reliability and accessibility. GSCA will assist rural counties in identifying pathways for development of broadband infrastructure within their communities, including the construction of municipal owned and/or operated broadband systems, among other options.

All RCRC member counties are eligible to join GSCA and have been notified directly by RCRC regarding the opportunity. GSCA will be governed by an elected Supervisor from each member county, and day-to-day operations will be managed by RCRC staff.

A press release regarding the action is available here and additional information is available at

California Public Utilities Commission Approves Southern California Edison’s General Rate Case

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved rate increases for Southern California Edison (SCE) customers to provide safe and reliable service. Average residential customers’ bills will increase 8.9%, or approximately $12.41 per month. 

Notably, the CPUC approved spending $3.29 billion on SCE’s approved Wildfire Mitigation Plan. Over 90% of SCE’s wildfire mitigation expenditures center on system hardening efforts through the replacement of bare overhead wire with insulated covered conductors designed to withstand incidental contact with vegetation or other foreign objects in order to reduce the risk of wildfire ignitions. The CPUC conditioned future expansion of costly covered conductor installation on a reasonableness review, placing a burden on SCE to prove this multi-billion dollar mitigation activity has measurable, cost-effective outcomes such as reducing de-energization events. More information on SCE’s General Rate Case can be viewed here.

California Members of Congress Urge Department of Defense to Continue Supporting State and Local Efforts to Combat Wildfires

On Monday, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla as well as Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), and Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) called on Secretary of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Lloyd Austin to immediately extend the DOD FireGuard program.  The FireGuard program is set to expire on September 30th and currently allows states like California to use DOD satellites for early fire detection and surveillance by providing near-real-time information on suspected wildfires. 

New Pay Initiatives for Wildland Firefighters

On Tuesday, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Deb Haaland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the implementation of President Biden’s pay initiatives for federal wildland firefighters.  The initiatives will increase the amount paid to approximately 3,500 firefighters with DOI and more than 11,300 firefighters at the USDA Forest Service to ensure all firefighters are paid at least $15 an hour.

Small-Farmer Debt Relief

In guidance released earlier this month on the Senate Committees’ framework for the upcoming budget resolution, debt relief is listed under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  As such, sources say that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) — a member of the Committee — is expected to use this instruction as a window to advance her small-farmer debt relief bill.  The Relief for America's Small Farmers Act (S. 2023/HR. 3782) would “use income to define eligible recipients for cancellation of operating and farm ownership loans made directly by the Farm Service Agency and emergency loans made because of natural disasters or quarantines to control the spread of animal or plant disease.”  Qualifying loans must have been made before March 19, 2020, and a farmer or rancher would have to have an average adjusted gross income of $300,000 or less for the five years before applying for debt relief. 

The Senate bill differs from the House bill in specifically calling for $10 billion in emergency money to pay for the debt relief.  Senator Gillibrand's eight co-sponsors include Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), whose committee will provide offsets and funding sources for the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.  Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) — who have previously pushed for debt relief for black and minority farmers — are also cosponsors and like Senator Leahy are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee.


Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.


Upcoming Drought Funding Opportunities Webinars

The State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Water Resources are conducting joint webinars on August 25 and August 31 to make counties and local governments aware of available funding for emergency drought response. Webinars will be held on the following dates to discuss these funding opportunities:

Date: Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Time: 10 AM
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 942 9952 4210
Passcode: 443815
More information

Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Time: 2 PM 

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 990 1913 0764
Passcode: 724776
More information


California Redistricting Commission Seeks Input at Communities of Interest Meetings

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will be holding Communities of Interest (COI) meetings, welcoming input. You may register to secure a speaking time slot. You may also call in the same day from anywhere in California to provide input without registering. For a complete list of upcoming COI meetings, and details about how to participate, please click here.

Date: Friday, August 20
Time: 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Click here for details

Date: Saturday, August 21
Time: 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Click here for details

Date: Monday, August 23
Time: 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Click here for details

Full list of meeting dates

Wildfire Technology Partnership Forum - August 24 and 25, 2021

The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) will host a free virtual (video conference) Industry Event on August 24 and 25, 2021 from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm (Pacific Time), focusing on technologies developed by federal laboratories that can be used to address acute and growing problem of wildfires. This event will showcase wildfire abatement technologies, and will also be an opportunity for stakeholders to talk about their unaddressed needs related to wildfires. 

Join the FLC Industry Event on wildfire abatement technology solutions for an opportunity to learn, engage and collaborate on the latest technologies and technical solutions. View the full agenda here and find additional information here


Grant Opportunities Available for Innovative Resiliency Projects

The “California Resilience Challenge” provides grants up to $200,000 to help protect under-resourced communities against climate-related threats such as wildfire, drought, flood and extreme heat events. See prior project winners here. Eligible entities that many apply include local and regional jurisdictions such as counties, cities, special districts, tribes and community-based organizations. For more information, see here. Applications are due September 13, 2021.



The Municipal Resource Group, a sponsor of RCRC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, is offering a comprehensive leadership development program for interested participants that starts on August 25th. For more information about the 10-month LX EVOLVE program, please see the flyer here.


Access the State Grants Portal for a Multitude of Funding Opportunities

Billions of dollars are up for grabs to public agencies and other entities, including tribes and businesses. Grant seekers can access a centralized portal of grant and loan opportunities here, or sign up to receive new grant opportunities delivered straight to your inbox. 


Resource pages, deadline extensions, and available programs to assist communities impacted by COVID-19.


Coronavirus Relief Available from the Small Business Administration

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering several coronavirus relief options to help alleviate the financial hardships resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The programs have received an overwhelming number of applications from businesses, so be sure to check the SBA website for the latest updates on the status of these programs.

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional SBA 7(a) loan program. After initial funding was quickly depleted, the program received an infusion of an additional $310 billion, allowing the SBA to resume the program on April 27, 2020. Be sure to check the SBA website for the most recent information on the application process and availability of funds.
  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance provides up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans can be used to bridge the gap for businesses while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan; small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.
  • SBA Debt Relief provides a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are interested in programs for other disasters, the SBA Disaster Loan Assistance portal is available here.


Economic Development Resources for Communities and Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus

The California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) has assembled resources for communities and business impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The page will be continually evolving as new resources become available. To go directly to the CALED resources, click here.


Use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds for Infectious Disease Response

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds may be used for a range of eligible activities that prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Check out the Quick Guide to CDBG Eligible Activities to Support Infectious Disease Response for guidance and additional information.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) County Resource Page Available

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC), RCRC’s local government partner, continues to provide excellent up-to-date state and federal information to counties on this ever-changing pandemic event.  We encourage visiting CSAC’s COVID-19 resource page, which contains vital links to all CSAC COVID-19 advocacy letters and resources.  CSAC’s staff continues to work around the clock to update activities so that all of California’s counties can remain properly informed.


Information related to the current status of legislation and regulations impacting California’s rural counties.


Assembly Bill 246 (Quirk) Contractors: disciplinary actions. Assembly Bill 246 allows the Contractors State Licensing Board to take disciplinary actions against a contractor who violates state or local laws prohibiting illegal dumping.  Status: AB 246  was signed by Governor Newsom. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 297 (Gallagher) Fire Prevention. Increases funding for forest health improvement and wildfire risk reduction projects and makes other substantive changes to help expedite project completion.  Status: AB 297 awaits consideration in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. RCRC Status: Support

 Assembly Bill 322 (Salas): Energy: Electric Program Investment Charge program: Requires the Energy Commission to consider bioenergy projects for biomass conversion when awarding funds under the Electric Program Investment Charge program. Status: AB awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status: Support    

 Assembly Bill 332 (ESTM): Hazardous waste: treated wood waste. Reestablishes a statutory pathway for the alternative management and disposal of treated wood waste in a landfill.  Status:  AB 332 awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status:  Support

Assembly Bill 819 (Levine) California Environmental Quality Act: notices and documents: electronic filing and posting.  Requires lead agencies to post California Environmental Quality Act notices and documents on their internet websites and to submit CEQA documents to the State Clearinghouse in electronic form.  Status: AB 819 was signed by the Governor. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 843 (Aguiar-Curry): California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program: renewable feed-in tariff: Allows Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) to access the CPUC BioMAT program that provides funding for renewable bioenergy electricity projects, including biomass and biogas. Status: AB 843 awaits consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 881 (Gonzalez) Plastic waste: diversion: recycling: export. Repeals the ability for local governments to claim diversion credit for mixed plastic waste that is exported for recycling. Status: AB 881 awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 1078 (Patterson) Energy: building standards: photovoltaic requirements. Exempts residential buildings damaged or destroyed in a disaster during the 2020 calendar year from having to install solar energy systems under the California Energy Commission’s recently adopted building requirements.  Status: AB 1078 is a 2-Year bill. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1154 (Patterson) California Environmental Quality Act: exemption: egress route projects: fire safety. Exempts from the California Environmental Quality Act egress route projects undertaken by a public agency and that are recommended by the Board of Forestry to improve fire safety of an existing subdivision.  Status: AB 1154 is a two-year bill. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1201 (Ting) Solid waste: plastic products: labeling: composability and biodegradability. Authorizes CalRecycle to adopt regulations for plastic product labeling to ensure that plastic products labeled as compostable or home compostable are clearly distinguishable from non-compostable products.  Prohibits the sale of a plastic product labeled as compostable, home compostable, or soil biodegradable unless the product meets specified standards.  Status: AB 1201 awaits consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Watch

Assembly Bill 1311 (Wood) Recycling: beverage containers: certified recycling centers. Makes modest changes to the Beverage Container Recycling Act to increase consumer access to redemption opportunities. Status: AB 1311 awaits consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 1344 (Arambula) State Department of Public Health: Needle and Syringe Exchange Services.  Exempts needle and syringe exchanges services from the California Environmental Quality Act.  Status: AB 1344 awaits consideration on the Senate Floor. RCRC Status: Neutral  

Assembly Bill 1346 (Berman and Gonzalez): Air pollution: small off-road engines: Assembly Bill 1346 would require the California Air Resources Board, by July 1, 2022, to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, which include portable generators as well as lawn and garden equipment. Status: awaits consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Senate Bill 37 (Cortese) California Environmental Quality Act Exemption.  Senate Bill 37 eliminates the ability to use a “common sense exemption” under the California Environmental Quality Act for any projects undertaken at over 40,000 sites throughout the state that appear on the Cortese List of currently or formerly contaminated properties.  The bill will require discretionary projects with no environmental impact at those locations (including many local corp yards, fire stations, airports, etc.) to undergo an initial assessment and prepare a negative declaration.  Status:  SB 37 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Status:  Oppose

Senate Bill 52 (Dodd): State of Emergency: Power Outages. Senate Bill 52 clarifies that deenergization events (also known as PSPS events) qualify as events for which a local emergency can be declared under the California Emergency Services Act. Status: SB 52 awaits consideration on the Assembly Floor. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 99 (Dodd): Community Energy Resilience Act of 2021. Senate Bill 99 requires the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. Status: SB 99 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 341 (McGuire) Makes several changes to increase oversight and accountability of telecommunications service outages. Status: SB 341 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support 

Senate Bill 533 (Stern) Electrical corporations: wildfire mitigation plans: deenergization events: microgrids. Requires utilities to discuss in their Wildfire Mitigation Plans efforts to improve their electrical systems, focused on those areas and assets that have been deenergized the greatest number of times.   Status: SB 533 awaits consideration in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 619 (Laird) Organic waste: reduction regulations. Will seek to provide local governments with additional flexibility to achieve the state’s organic waste recycling requirements.  Status: SB 619 awaits consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. RCRC Status: Support