The Barbed Wire - December 23, 2020

December 23, 2020
Resumption of the 2021 Legislative Session Delayed Due to Coronavirus Surge
Bill of the Week: SB 52 (Dodd) – California Emergency Services Act Clarification for Public Safety Power Shutoff Events
Listen For the Holidays, Spread the Word, and Help Hometown California Hit a Milestone—2,020 Downloads in 2020
RCRC Provides Input on DTSC’s Announcement of a Short-Term Framework for Treated Wood Waste Management
Update on Revisions to the Board of Forestry State Fire Safe Regulations
Water Resources Development Act Reauthorization Included in Relief Package
Congress Passes COVID Relief Package – Fate Uncertain with President Trump
The Barbed Wire Will Return in January- Happy Holidays from RCRC

Resumption of the 2021 Legislative Session Delayed Due to Coronavirus Surge

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) have announced a one-week delay in the Legislature’s return to Sacramento to resume the Legislative Session.  Rather than reconvening on January 4 as originally scheduled, lawmakers will return to the Capitol on January 11, 2021 in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus after the holidays.  In a joint statement, Senator Atkins and Speaker Rendon said they made the decision to “keep members, Legislative staff, and all staff in the Capitol as safe as possible”.  The decision comes after a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in the State Capitol during recent weeks, and as the number of new cases in California continue to reach record highs.

Bill of the Week: SB 52 (Dodd) – California Emergency Services Act Clarification for Public Safety Power Shutoff Events

On the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session, Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced Senate Bill 52, which clarifies that de-energization events (also known as PSPS events) qualify for a state of emergency or local emergency under the California Emergency Services Act (CESA).

While utilities are making substantial investments to harden their infrastructure and increase energy resiliency, hundreds of thousands of Californians still had their power shut off during one or more PSPS events this year, including during times of extreme heat and horrendous local air quality.  PSPS events reduce the risk of wildfire, but also pose substantial risks, including endangering lives and property and the operation of critical infrastructure.  Moreover, PSPS events can have debilitating economic consequences in many of our communities, where local governments are often least able to shoulder the additional costs and lost revenues.  

RCRC notes that many local governments have declared PSPS emergencies and the SB 52 statutory clarification will provide greater flexibility to local agencies to respond to those events and seek financial assistance from the state to recover response costs, including overtime, setting up resource centers, checking on medically sensitive residents, and procuring backup generators to ensure that critical facilities remain operational throughout the event.

RCRC’s letter of support can be accessed here.  SB 52 will be eligible for action January 7, 2021; however, it is not anticipated this bill will be set for hearing before March.  For more information, contact John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or

Listen For the Holidays, Spread the Word, and Help Hometown California Hit a Milestone—2,020 Downloads in 2020

Heading into the holidays is a great time to catch up on your podcast listening.  And with 19 episodes (plus two available in Spanish), the 2020 season of Hometown California has a lot to offer.  Listening is easy. Just visit the RCRC website ( and click on the Hometown California icon to browse the episodes. Then press play, and start listening.  With your support, in just five short months, Hometown California has reached nearly 2,000 downloads.  We’d love to hit that milestone and beyond, reaching 2,020 downloads in 2020.  Check out the episodes now, and pass the word!

The first episode of the 2021 season will be coming soon! 

Available on your favorite listening app.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

RCRC Provides Input on DTSC’s Announcement of a Short-Term Framework for Treated Wood Waste Management

On December 16, the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) issued a response to two massive coalition letters sent by RCRC (along with over 60 other local government and solid waste partners) regarding the management and disposal of treated wood waste (TWW).

The existing standards for managing TWW, including authorizing landfill disposal, have been in place since 2004, but will expire on December 31, 2020 as a result of Governor Newsom’s recent veto of Senate Bill 68 (Galgiani). This means that all TWW, including fence posts, sill plates, landscape timbers, pilings, guardrails, and decking, will have to be managed as hazardous waste, hauled by a registered hazardous waste transporter, and disposed in hazardous waste landfills beginning January 1, 2021.  These changes will exponentially increase management and disposal costs and lead to a significant increase in illegal dumping and burning of TWW.

RCRC and other stakeholders are working on a long-term solution through legislation; however, that will not provide any relief until mid- to late-2021. In the interim, RCRC and others have petitioned DTSC to act quickly to develop a short-term solution.

DTSC’s letter indicates that they will be issuing variances to generators, transporters, and facilities for management and disposal of TWW; however, they are not expected to make variance applications available until February 2021. Furthermore, each variance application is subject to CEQA and notice requirements and reviews are expected to take at least two weeks from the date of receipt. This means that there will likely be no practical solutions for managing TWW (except for temporary on-site storage) until March of 2021. RCRC and others are working to get DTSC to expedite its timeframe to minimize the possibility for illegal dumping and burning.

On December 22, RCRC provided DTSC with additional comments and feedback based upon the December 16 letter and subsequent conversations with DTSC staff.  In the letter, RCRC urged DTSC to roll out its solution as soon as possible and to take steps to minimize DTSC’s administrative burden associated with reviewing and issuing hundreds or thousands of variances (and thereby minimize the complexity and burden of the application process for applicants).

It is unknown how much the variance application fee will be, but variances are expected to be valid for six months with an optional six-month extension.  It is similarly unclear how this variance process will impact the export of TWW to Oregon, although DTSC has indicated an interest in working with impacted stakeholders on this issue.

In the interim, DTSC has issued a Fact Sheet on TWW, which can be accessed here.

For more information, please contact John Kennedy, RCRC Legislative Advocate at (916) 447-4806 or

Update on Revisions to the Board of Forestry State Fire Safe Regulations

On Tuesday, the California Board of Forestry (BOF) held a public workshop to discuss its proposal to revise the State Fire Safe regulations. The draft rulemaking is set to be heard by the BOF at its January 19th meeting, and another on January 20th for submission to the Office of Administrative Law. This latest workshop was held in response to concerns expressed during the December BOF meeting at which staff initially presented the specific regulation changes.  After more than eight hours of discussion, staff was directed to schedule another public workshop prior to the January board meeting, in order to solicit additional feedback from both the public and attending board members. 

The State Fire Safe regulations set forth basic wildfire protection standards for development in State Responsibility Area (SRA) and, beginning July 1, 2021, the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones of the Local Responsibility Area (LRA). The changes made in the draft rulemaking, will have extraordinary impacts on housing production, not only in rural areas of the state, but also in more urbanized regions of California.  For instance, the draft regulations would prohibit any future building construction on property served by a road that has not been upgraded, or that cannot be upgraded to meet current standards, such as dead-end roads.  These upgrade requirements include road widening, re-surfacing, leveling grades and curves, and bridge improvements, from the property line to the nearest fire station, and apply to the building of a single residential unit or any business increasing its "service capacity."  All required upgrades would be at the expense of the property owner. 

RCRC staff has been in discussions with the BOF since April of this year on proposed revisions to the State Fire Safe regulations and have offered both written and oral comments on the preceding emergency rulemaking that ultimately made more minor changes to the regulations.  RCRC has formed a working group of local government partners and other interested stakeholders, to provide coordinated comments on the current draft regulation.

For more information, please contact Tracy Rhine at

Water Resources Development Act Reauthorization Included in Relief Package

As part of the omnibus/relief aid package, both houses of Congress included the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. The provisions would approve 46 new flood control, harbor, ecosystem and lock and dam projects on waterways across the country and would authorize the study of 27 more.  For California, the legislation includes projects as part of the WRDA:

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein’s provision which makes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant program for non-federal dam safety projects work better for dam owners and state dam safety agencies. 
  • A provision directing the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a feasibility study on potential dam safety improvements to Oroville Dam.
  • A total of 36 specific studies and project authorizations in California including, among others, a Salton Sea perimeter remediation study.

Congress Passes COVID Relief Package – Fate Uncertain with President Trump

On Monday, the House and Senate passed the end-of-the-year “Omnibus” package to fund the federal government through Fiscal Year 2021.  Embedded into the package was a $900 billion COVID economic relief program.  On Tuesday evening, President Trump tweeted that he intended to veto the package unless Congress increased stimulus checks to $2,000 and “removed unnecessary items from the legislation.”  While the bill passed both chambers of Congress by veto-proof majorities, it remains to be seen whether President Trump’s request will be honored by Congress. 

The text of the final package is available here; a division-by-division summary of the appropriations provisions is here; a division-by-division summary of the coronavirus relief provisions is here; and a division-by-division of the authorizing matters is here.

Broadly, the COVID stimulus package includes $284 billion for first and second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans; $32 billion for vaccine procurement and distribution; $22 billion for states for virus testing and contract tracing; $45 billion for transportation industries; a second round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child (much lower than what the President has suggested); an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021; $82 billion to make schools and colleges safer for in-person learning; and $13 billion to increase food and nutrition benefits by 15%. 

Of note to RCRC and rural counties:

  • No State and Local COVID Aid

Removed from the package is $160 billion for state and local aid and liability protections; however, the package provides an additional year of eligibility for expenses under the CARES Coronavirus Relief Fund that was enacted in March. 

  • Broadband COVID Aid

The package includes $3.2 billion in emergency funds for low-income families to access broadband through an Federal Communications Commission fund as well as a $300 million grant program to fund broadband in rural areas. The grants would be issued to qualifying partnerships between state and local governments and fixed broadband providers. Priority for grants would be given to networks that would reach the most unserved consumers.

  • Agriculture Assistance

The package provides $11.18 billion for COVID-related assistance to support agricultural producers, growers, processors, specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock, poultry, and contract livestock. In particular, the bill provides $100 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants and provides $225 million in supplemental payments to producers of specialty crops if they lost their crop in 2019.


As mentioned, the package funds the federal government through October 1, 2021.  Provisions of interest for RCRC included in the spending portion of the package include:


  • $732 million for rural broadband - the highest level in history - including $635 million for the ReConnect broadband pilot for unserved and underserved areas, as well as $60 million for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants.
  • $3.9 billion for rural development programs, as well as more than $38.1 billion in loans for rural housing, rural utilities, and rural businesses, in order to assist in building sustainable rural infrastructure for the modern economy and help create an environment for economic growth and opportunity. 
  • $3.3 billion for FEMA grant programs to assist states and localities to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to disasters.
  • The allocation of the full $900 million now permanently available from the Land and Water Conservation Fund as a result of enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act. These allocations include $405 million for the federal program, $360 million for the state grants program, and $135 million for other non-federal grant programs.
  • $5.27 billion for Wildland Fire Management (WFM) which includes $2.35 billion in cap-adjusted fire suppression funding. Funding includes a shift of $387 million to Forest Service (non-fire) due to the budget restructure and the creation of the “Forest Service Operations” account. After adjusting for this shift, the bill provides a programmatic increase of $104 million for WFM.

For the most part, the FY 2021 funding package represents a continuation of past cannabis policy and statutes that have been annually renewed through the appropriations process such as a ban on Washington, D.C. legalizing recreational sales. Nonetheless, despite a push from the marijuana and financial services industries, the bill does not contain any language to shield banks that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by regulators.  Importantly, the bill does extend a 2014 pilot program for hemp until 2022—a win for stakeholders who have been concerned about its expiration.

The Barbed Wire Will Return in January- Happy Holidays from RCRC

The Barbed Wire will be on hiatus through the end of the year, resuming on Friday, January 7, 2021. Warmest wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year from all of us at RCRC!


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


Upcoming Workshop For 2021 Off-Highway Vehicle Grants and Cooperative Agreements

Mark your calendars for upcoming grant opportunities for local governments and other entities to manage off-highway vehicle recreation.  On January 6-7, 2021, a virtual workshop will be held to offer technical assistance on applying for and/or learning about projects.  These grant dollars support planning, acquisition, development, maintenance, administration, operation, enforcement, restoration, and conservation of trails, trailheads, areas, and other facilities associated with the use of off-highway motor vehicles, and programs involving off-highway motor vehicle safety or education.  Applications are due March 1, 2021 and will be awarded mid-summer 2021. For more information and how to register, see here


DWR Competitive Grants for COD Basins- Submission Deadline: January 8, 2021

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the final Proposition 68 Implementation Proposal Solicitation Package for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. The program will award $26 million to critically overdrafted groundwater basins for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation projects that address drought and groundwater challenges, groundwater recharge projects, or projects that prevent or clean up contaminated groundwater used for drinking water. Round 1 grant applications must be submitted using DWR’s online submittal tool and will be accepted through January 8, 2021. A Round 2 solicitation is expected to open in Spring 2022, and will offer at least $77 million in additional grants for medium priority, high priority, and critically overdrafted basins. For more information visit the Grants and Loans webpage, or email


California Water Commission Water Conveyance Public Workshops

The California Water Commission is conducting a series of public workshops as part of its efforts to assess a potential state role in financing conveyance projects that could help meet needs in a changing climate. The Commission encourages broad participation, with the goal of learning from diverse voices across the state. Workshops have already occurred for Southeastern California and Southern California have already.  For more information, visit the Programs and Topics page.

Workshop Schedule

All workshops are from 2:45-5 p.m. (entry to meeting site opens at 2:30 p.m.) 

Northern California – Tuesday, January 12, 2021 (register now)

Central California – Tuesday, January 26, 2021 (register now)


Online Tool Connects Residents in High Risk Areas with a Pathway to Home Insurance

As a result of the work of the California Tree Mortality Task Force, in 2018, the California Insurance Commissioner issued a report containing recommendations to address homeowners’ insurance cancellations and non-renewals in tree mortality and other high fire risk areas. The report identified Yapacopia, a public benefit corporation, as the provider of a free online service connecting homeowners in high risk areas—even those who have been denied previously— with insurers, insurance agents, and brokers. The MatchUP Insurance Finder connects county residents with insurance providers quickly. A unique webpage has been created for each county, providing information, links, and useful tools. In addition, Yapacopia will provide a webinar for any county to discuss wildfire preparation and recovery, and insurance issues. More information about Yapacopia and the MatchUP Insurance Finder is available here.


GO-Biz Announces Cannabis Equity Grants Available for Local Jurisdictions

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has announced $15 million is available in Fiscal Year 2020-21 for cities and counties to promote equity and eliminate barriers to populations and communities that were disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition.  Local Jurisdictions may be awarded up to $75,000 for assistance on cannabis equity program development, or up to $5 million in assistance for cannabis equity program applicants and licensees to gain entry to the state’s regulated cannabis marketplace.  Grant applications must be submitted by February 1, 2021. Grants will be awarded no later than May 14, 2021. For more information on this grant and how to apply, see here.


Announcements regarding key staffing changes of importance to California's rural counties.


Alex Padilla Selected as California's Next United States Senator. On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the selection of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to be California’s next United States Senator, filling the term being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Padilla, who previously served as a Los Angeles City Councilman and State Senator, and is a national leader in the fight to expand voting rights, will become the first Latino to represent California in the United States Senate and the first Southern Californian in nearly three decades. Read the full announcement here.

Dr. Shirley N. Weber Selected as California's Next Secretary of State. One Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will submit to the State Legislature the nomination of San Diego Assemblymember and Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, Dr. Shirley N. Weber, as the next California Secretary of State, filling the seat that will be vacated by Secretary of State Alex Padilla once he assumes office in the United States Senate. Read the full announcement here.


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


DWR Provides Tips for Holding Online Meetings to Address Groundwater Sustainability Plans

As Groundwater Sustainability Plans are being developed to meet the January 2022 deadline, several counties (and water agencies) have asked for advice for engaging stakeholders and interested parties through online resources.  In response to community interest, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Management Office has put together examples, tips, and tactics to consider. The DWR tips are available here.


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.