The Barbed Wire - February 8, 2019

February 8, 2019
RCRC Expands Governmental Affairs Team
Utilities Submit Wildfire Prevention Plans to State Regulators, Expect More Power Shutdowns
Rural Communities Invited to Join Census 2020 Webinar
Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 72 (Assembly Budget Committee) – Budget Act of 2018
Infrastructure Update
Land Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization Advances

RCRC Expands Governmental Affairs Team

Two New Hires Round Out RCRC’s Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Practice

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) announced today the hiring of John Kennedy as Legislative Advocate, and Leigh Kammerich as Regulatory Affairs Specialist.  Kennedy and Kammerich will join RCRC’s existing Governmental Affairs team in advocating on behalf of RCRC’s 36 member counties.  Read More…

Utilities Submit Wildfire Prevention Plans to State Regulators, Expect More Power Shutdowns

On Wednesday, California’s major investor-owned utilities (IOUs) submitted mandatory wildfire mitigation reports to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) outlining how they plan to prevent wildfire risk from their operations in the future.  The reports, required as part of 2018’s Senate Bill 901 (Dodd), must now undergo thorough review by the CPUC and a public comment process before they can be finalized.  

Of particular note is the plan submitted by PG&E, which includes (1) potential shutdowns for 10 times the number of customers as in previous fire events, (2) removing 375,000 trees and clearing 2,450 miles of vegetation that could ignite power lines, (3) enhancing inspections on distribution poles in high threat areas, and (4) allowing transmission lines at 500,000 volts or lower to be deenergized, which significantly increases the number of customers impacted by a power shutdown.

The first workshop on the wildfire mitigation plans will be held on February 13, 2019 at CPUC headquarters in San Francisco.  The workshop will also be webcast. 

Detailed information on plans, workshops and webcasts can be accessed here.

Rural Communities Invited to Join Census 2020 Webinar

In an effort to boost Census 2020’s outreach, California Complete Count - Census 2020 is requesting interested partners and stakeholders to participate in a webinar about State, Federal, and local efforts to achieve a complete count in California, particularly in rural communities.  

Key components of the webinar:

  • Unique challenges facing rural communities due to the first ever “digital census,” and other factors impacting hard-to-count communities in rural regions;
  • Best practices and lessons learned for outreach and engagement;
  • Collaboration among other rural counties, community partners, and the State to make sure rural communities are counted in Census 2020; and,
  • Hear from State and Federal representatives about the importance and benefits of engaging in the 2020 Census and important timelines to educate, motivate, and engage.

Date: Thursday, February 21, 2019

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

The official webinar invitation and registration portal can be accessed here.  For questions, please contact Paul A. Smith, RCRC Vice President Governmental Affairs at (916) 447-4806 or, or Dorothy Johnson, Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs at California Complete Count Census Office at (916) 852-2020 or

Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 72 (Assembly Budget Committee) – Budget Act of 2018

RCRC has lent its support to Assembly Bill 72, authored by the Assembly Budget Committee.  AB 72 makes a number of immediate state budget increases relating to wildfire, drinking water, and other urgent statewide needs.  

One of the key provisions of AB 72 provides three years of property tax backfill relief for local agencies in Butte and Lake Counties due to the severity of recent wildfire damage.  The bill also provides current year funding for the emergency preparedness public awareness campaign to prepare for future emergency events.  Finally, of importance to RCRC, the bill provides $10 million to address urgent drinking water needs. 

While RCRC supports the bill, RCRC is requesting a number of amendments.  These include: 1) adding Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma Counties as areas to receive additional years of property tax backfill; 2) amending the language to specifically define “disadvantaged communities” as those with a median household income less than 80 percent of the statewide average; and, 3) amending the language to ensure that non-profits are assisting disadvantaged communities.

AB 72 is in the final stages of the legislative process.  It is likely to reach Governor Newsom’s desk by the end of next week.  RCRC’s support letter can be accessed here.  Staci Heaton, RCRC Regulatory Affairs Advocate, can be reached at (916) 447-4806 or

Infrastructure Update

President Donald Trump mostly omitted infrastructure language from his 2019 State of the Union address to Congress, disappointing policymakers, investors, and local governments who believe the President’s support will be critical for the passage of an infrastructure package.  

On Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing to discuss the need for drastic investment in America’s decaying infrastructure.  One of the witnesses, former Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, took notice of the President’s declining enthusiasm, and said no infrastructure proposal will make it through Congress without support from President Trump.  House Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) noted the omission of infrastructure from the speech suggests the President is abandoning a controversial infrastructure proposal he submitted to Congress last year, and does not have a secondary plan in the pipeline.

The Committee hearing, titled “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investing in Our Nation’s Infrastructure Cannot Wait,” was well attended by the California congressional delegation.  Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Doug LaMalfa (R-Butte), Grace Napolitano (D-Los Angeles), and Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) were present.  Their attendance signaled that infrastructure legislation is a priority for their districts.  Their engagement on this issue will be critical to ensure the priorities and objectives of rural California are reflected in any infrastructure legislation.

Land Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization Advances

The Senate voted 99-1 to advance the Natural Resources Management Act (S 47), a legislative package that includes a measure to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  

The LWCF uses receipts from oil and gas extractions on federal lands to support national parks and federal land management.  The Senate vote this week is a procedural step that essentially guarantees the LWCF will not face major opposition in the Senate on its route to final passage.  The Chamber is still debating whether any amendments will be attached, but Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), a co-author of the bill, said she expects a “short process” to a final vote.  

Perhaps even better news came from House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) who told reporters this week that he will not propose significant alterations to S 47 after it passes the Senate.  Supporters of the bill were concerned Chairman Grijalva would push for more concessions from Republicans on the LWCF language which would compromise the bipartisan agreements that underpinned the Senate bill.  It is unclear when the House of Representatives will take up S 47 after it passes the Senate but Chairman Grijalva said he would like to move quickly.


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

USDA Extends Deadlines for New Rural “ReConnect” Broadband Program

In March 2018, USDA received $600 million from Congress to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America.  USDA established the ReConnect Program to help connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service that is available to telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities.  The program is providing $200 million in grants, $200 million for loan and grant combinations, and $200 million for low-interest loans.  In order to give potential applicants sufficient time to access technical assistance from USDA, the deadline has been pushed back to May 31, 2019 or later.  Additionally, USDA announced a public webinar with general information about the ReConnect Program on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 11:00 am Pacific Time/2:00 pm Eastern Time.

Click here to register for the webinar.  Click here for additional details on the ReConnect program.

Rural Business Development Grant Program Updates

Recently, USDA Rural Development announced a standardized application window for the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program.  Applications are being accepted now through March 29, 2019.  Late applications will not be accepted, and all applications must be received on or before March 29, 2019.

USDA Program Overview & Examples

USDA encourages those interested in the program to review USDA Rural Development’s RBDG website for complete program details including eligibility information and priorities.  Individual businesses are not eligible to apply for this grant program.

Last year, a total of 20 California entities received nearly $1.2 million in RBDG funds to help support a variety of economic development projects. Here are a few examples:

  • City of Dorris received $30,000 to help develop a strategic economic development plan for the city;
  • Indian Dispute Resolution Services received $49,671 in Native American set-aside funds to provide training and technical assistance in micro-enterprise and small business skills development to entrepreneurs living on reservations;
  • CSU, Chico Research Foundation received $50,000 for a study on the barriers to deploying broadband in rural areas including what hampers growth of wireless service providers, precision agricultural technology companies, and technical STEM training, and what is needed to support these high skill, high wage jobs;
  • Imperial Regional Alliance received $80,000 to facilitate private investment and promote local economic development growth in addition to developing a cold storage facility near Calexico to help alleviate local economic development issues;  
  • Lake County Economic Development Corporation received $92,000 to support small and emerging businesses in Lake County with direct technical assistance through workshops, one-on-one consultations and development of marketing and businesses skills;
  • California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) received $125,000 to create a partnership to finance rural infrastructure and technical assistance to support increased economic development and job creation across rural California;
  • Central Sierra Planning Council received $178,000 for a multi-prong approach that includes long-term business strategic planning, business plan development, community economic development and a feasibility study evaluating the use of local biomass products to reduce wildfire risk and support affordable housing construction.  

For questions on the program, how to apply, or a proposed project, please contact one of the following Rural Development team members:

Maretta Siatunuu, 530-792-5801 or

Karen Rich, 530-792-5825 or

Carol Pranka, 530-574-7410 or

Dan Johnson, 661-336-0967 or

John Jebian, 760-238-6525 or


RCRC members are encouraged to share letters addressed to state and federal representatives and regulatory bodies with RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of legislation impacting California’s rural counties.  

Assembly Bill 41 (Gallagher): Disaster Relief: Camp Fire.  Assembly Bill 41 provides that the State share for disaster relief is born by the State as it relates to the Camp Fire that started in November 2018 in Butte County. Status: AB 41 awaits consideration in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Assembly Bill 72 (Assembly Budget Committee): Budget Act of 2018. Assembly Bill 72 amends the Budget Act of 2018 by amending and adding items of appropriation and making other changes. Status: AB 72 awaits consideration in the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 19 (Dodd): Water Resources: Stream Gages. Senate Bill 19 requires the California Department of Water Resources to develop a plan to deploy a network of stream gages that includes a determination of new needs as well as opportunities for reactivating existing gages. Status:  SB 19 awaits consideration in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. RCRC Position: Support

Senate Bill 45 (Allen): Wildfire, Drought, and Flood Protection Bond Act 2020. Senate Bill 45 enacts the Wildfire, Drought, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020, which, if approved by voters, authorizes the issuance of bonds to finance projects to restore fire damaged areas, reduce wildfire risk, create healthy forests and watersheds, reduce climate impacts on urban areas and vulnerable populations, protect water supply and water quality, protect rivers, lakes and streams, reduce flood risk, protect fish and wildlife from climate impacts, and protect coastal lands and resources.Status: SB 45 awaits consideration in the Senate Rules Committee. RCRC Status: Pending

Senate Bill 62 (Dodd): Endangered Species: Accidental Take. Senate Bill 62 would make permanent an “accidental take” of candidate, threatened, or endangered species resulting from acts that occur on a farm or a ranch in the course of otherwise lawful routine. Status: SB 62 awaits consideration in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. RCRC Status: Support

Senate Bill 200 (Monning): Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Senate Bill 200 establishes the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the State Treasury and provides that moneys in the fund are available, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to the State Water Resources Control Board to provide a stable source of funding to secure access to safe drinking water for all Californians, while also ensuring the long-term sustainability of drinking water service and infrastructure. Status: SB 200 awaits consideration in the Senate. RCRC Status: Pending