The Barbed Wire - January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022
RCRC Submits Joint Letter and Formal Comments to BOF on Latest Proposed Fire Safe Regulations
Bill of the Week: AB 1001 (C. Garcia) – CEQA Mitigation and Environmental Justice Requirements
RCRC Submits Comments on Implementation of CERF Program
Public Health Equity and Readiness Opportunity (HERO) Initiative
U.S. Forest Service Announces New 10 Year Strategy to Confront the Wildfire Crisis
DOT Announces Historic Bridge Investment Under Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
DOI Announces Western Water Projects to Receive $1 Billion in Infrastructure Funding
Senator Padilla Introduces Bill to Strengthen Federal Disaster Response for Rural Communities
Appropriations/Reconciliation Update

RCRC Submits Joint Letter and Formal Comments to BOF on Latest Proposed Fire Safe Regulations

On Wednesday, RCRC, along with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), and the Urban Counties of California (UCC), submitted formal comments to the Board of Forestry (BOF) on the latest revisions of the Proposed Fire Safe Regulations. In a letter that accompanied the comments, the organizations strongly urged the Board to reconsider its approach to the regulations. The BOF has been in the process of making significant changes to the existing Fire Safe Regulations since early 2020, however, the Board has been unable to find consensus on those rules, receiving significant opposition from environmental groups, local governments and developers on the detrimental effects of the proposed changes. 

While the latest revisions included several features responsive to prior comments, RCRC and its local government partners advised the BOF that the revised regulations are “fatally unclear” in some respects and introduce a host of new concerns. The overarching concerns in these latest revisions include road standards; unclear and unaccountable administrative provisions; the “agriculture” definition; the definition of “substantial compliance”; as well as numerous concerns express in prior comments. Citing the Board’s continued failure to meaningfully engage with local governments who will be responsible for implementing the regulations, RCRC, CSAC, and UCC again urged the Board members and staff to undertake a constructive, open, real-time dialog with a working group comprised of all relevant local disciplines.  

Read the joint letter and formal comments here. For more information, contact RCRC Senior Policy Advocate, Tracy Rhine


Bill of the Week: AB 1001 (C. Garcia) – CEQA Mitigation and Environmental Justice Requirements

Assembly Bill 1001, authored by Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), proposes two new requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that inhibit local flexibility, could reduce future mitigation efforts, and will significantly increase the risk of costly and prolonged litigation.   

AB 1001 requires all public agencies to “act consistently with the principles of environmental justice” when implementing CEQA. AB 1001 also requires projects that impact a disadvantaged community’s air or water quality to mitigate those effects directly in that impacted community.    

While RCRC understands and shares the author’s intent to ensure environmental impacts are mitigated locally and improve community engagement, these two changes will further complicate CEQA compliance and significantly exacerbate the litigation trap CEQA has become over the last several decades. 

With respect to the effort to inject environmental justice principals into the CEQA process, RCRC argued that CEQA is the poor venue for these efforts, which will merely create more litigation traps because of the ambiguous and amorphous nature of the requirements.   

The local mitigation mandate is also problematic because it could either substantially raise mitigation costs or result in fewer project impacts being mitigated. Under existing law, if there are no opportunities available to mitigate a project’s impacts, statements of overriding considerations can be adopted so the project can be approved without mitigating environmental effects. 

RCRC has offered to work with the author to find better approaches to promoting local mitigation and improving engagement of those who are most acutely impacted by projects. 

AB 1001 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on January 20 and is now up for consideration on the Assembly Floor.   

RCRC’s letter of opposition can be found here. For more information, please contact RCRC Policy Advocate, John Kennedy.

RCRC Submits Comments on Implementation of CERF Program

This week, RCRC submitted comments on the implementation of the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) program; this was in response to a Request for Information posted in December of 2021.  Comments were submitted to the Interagency Leadership Team which is comprised of representatives of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, the Office and Planning and Research, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. 

The CERF program was created by a budget trailer bill last year, Senate Bill 162 (Chapter 259, Statutes of 2021), to provide financial support to regions of California impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. SB 162 appropriated $600 million in Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds (federal funding) for grants specifically to invest in populations and industries that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Projects to develop sustainable industries and connect small-and-minority owned businesses are some of the eligible proposals. There will be two phases of funding, with the first phase allocating $5 million per each of the thirteen regions for the development of a localized recovery and transition plans. Phase Two will disperse $500 million through a competitive grant process for economic development projects to support revitalization of the region.

Further comments on the proposed rules for Phase One are being accepted through January 28, 2021. The proposed guidelines can be found here. For more information contact RCRC Senior Policy Advocate, Tracy Rhine.  

Public Health Equity and Readiness Opportunity (HERO) Initiative

On Tuesday, RCRC, as part of the California Can’t Wait Coalition led by local public health departments, county governments, frontline workers, and community advocates urged the Legislature to remain committed to investing $300M annually to rebuild our public health workforce and infrastructure, with $200M dedicated to local public health departments. Governor Newsom kept his agreement reached with legislative leaders last year and included the $300 million ongoing funding in his January budget proposal.

The next phase of the campaign is quickly taking shape. #CACantWait coalition leaders launched the Public Health Equity and Readiness Opportunity (HERO) Initiative - a set of budget investments needed to help build a public health system that is not just adequate but second to none by directing new investments into the following:

  • Expand local health department staffing ($300M included in the Governor’s January proposed budget)
  • Recruit and retain public health staff
  • Build a pipeline of public health professionals

RCRC member counties are encouraged to support this effort, which directs long-term funding to local county public health department to recruit, hire and retain public health workforce needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; counter infectious disease; prevent chronic illness; and respond to growing public health threats like diabetes, STDs, tuberculosis, syphilis, and disaster response. For more information, contact RCRC Policy Advocate, Sarah Dukett

U.S. Forest Service Announces New 10 Year Strategy to Confront the Wildfire Crisis

On Tuesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and U.S. Forest Service Chief, Randy Moore, announced a 10-year strategy to confront the country’s wildfire crisis. The strategy, “outlines the need to significantly increase fuels and forest health treatments to address the escalating crisis of wildfire danger that threatens millions of acres and numerous communities across the United States.” 

  • Click here for the announcement press release.
  • Click here for the full strategy memo “for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests”.
  • Click here for the “10-year Implementation Plan”.
  • Click here for a joint USDA, Forest Service, Department of the Interior Wildfire Crisis Letter.

Funding sources for the plan’s $50 billion price tag have yet to be fully identified; however, the plan calls for the utilization of nearly $3 billion provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to “reduce hazardous fuels and restore America’s forests and grasslands, along with investments in fire-adapted communities and post fire reforestation.” The 10-year plan, if fully implemented, will reduce the threat of wildfires by prioritizing treatment of up to 250,000 acres of forest and rangelands that are at high risk for fires, with fire-prone communities in California among the highest priority areas. The strategy also calls for the U.S. Forest Service to treat up to an additional 20 million acres on national forests and grasslands and support treatment of up to an additional 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, private, and family lands through collaborative efforts with state, local and tribal governments.

DOT Announces Historic Bridge Investment Under Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that California is set to receive $849.4 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to repair and improve 1,536 bridges in poor condition throughout the state in 2022. The program, to be administered by the Federal Highway Administration, is expected to help repair approximately 15,000 bridges nationwide. Click here for a full list of “Bridge Formula Program Funding and Condition by State” published by the DOT. 

During a press conference celebrating 60 days since the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, President Biden announced that the federal government would be getting rid of the requirement that counties and towns cost-share for the replacement of small bridges. 

DOI Announces Western Water Projects to Receive $1 Billion in Infrastructure Funding

Last week, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that $1 billion will be made available over the next five years to “help Western communities create or expand clean, new water sources.” The selected projects, which include desalination, and water reclamation and reuse projects, will be funded through investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and, when enacted, fiscal year 2022 appropriations.  

The money will be available for the up to 25% of the cost of project planning, design, and construction. Desalination projects will be eligible for a maximum of $30 million each. 

Senator Padilla Introduces Bill to Strengthen Federal Disaster Response for Rural Communities

On Thursday, January 13th, Senator Alex Padilla introduced a bill to strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster response efforts for flooding and wildfires. The Achieving Equity in Disaster Response, Recovery, and Resilience Act  (S. 3502) would establish the Office of Civil Rights, Equity, and Inclusion at FEMA to “increase access to and improve the quality of disaster assistance for, among others, minority, rural, and disabled communities.” Crucially, the bill would also classify rural communities as underserved communities and task this office at FEMA with reducing the disparities in the delivery of disaster assistance to those communities.

Appropriations/Reconciliation Update

On Thursday, January 13th, the leadership of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees met to discuss setting parameters for reaching an agreement on how to proceed on completing fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations. While Senator Leahy (D-Vermont) described the meeting as “constructive”, agreements have not yet been reached and a date was not set for a follow up meeting. The federal government is currently running on an extension of funding at FY 2021 levels. The extension expires on February 18th, leaving less than 5 weeks to agree on 2022 funding levels, settle outstanding questions about policy provisions, and pass the resulting legislation.  

Regarding reconciliation and the Build Back Better Act, some Democrats are quietly discussing whether to break out and modify parts of the bill they believe might have a chance of passing if presented for consideration as separate, smaller bills. This approach may result in the passage of some of the less controversial provisions, while leaving behind those portions that have proved to be a hindrance to passing the legislation.  


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


2nd Annual Virtual Statewide Conference on Illegal Dumping Coming this Spring - Register Now!

The 2nd Annual Virtual Statewide Conference on Illegal Dumping is happening April 19-21, 2022 The Conference will begin at 9:00 AM daily. This virtual conference is free to attend and designed for elected officials, city and county staff, public works agency employees, community based organizations, faith groups, community members and anyone interested in illegal dumping, community beautification or blight removal. Registration is now open! See here to register or for more information.


PG&E Safety Net Program – How to File a Claim 

If you are a residential customer who has gone without power for at least 48 hours because of severe storm conditions, you may qualify for an automatic payment under our Safety Net program. This program provides a payment of $25 - $100, which we pay automatically about 60 days following the storm outage.  However, you may submit a claim if you believe that PG&E caused a loss for which you should be compensated. You can make this type of claim using various methods, but online is the fastest way for it to be processed.  

View this message from PG&E for details


A Message from the CA Citizens Redistricting Commission: What New Districts Mean 

After receiving reports about confusion over when the new district maps go into effect, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission offers clarification in a special message. View the message here


Career Opportunities

UC Cooperative Extension Broadband Seeks Broadband Deployment/Utilization Advisor (2 positions) - UC Cooperative Extension is hiring for two Broadband Deployment/Utilization Advisor positions. The Broadband Deployment/Utilization Advisor will implement an innovative extension education and applied research program around the intersection of rural broadband access and utilization and associated economic and community development opportunities.

To assure full consideration, application packets must be received by February 18, 2022 – (open until filled)


CDFA Accepting Concept Proposals for 2022 Fertilizer Research and Education Program Grant Cycle

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) is now accepting concept proposals for the 2022 grant cycle. FREP’s competitive grant program funds research that advances fertilization practices and minimizes environmental impacts of fertilizing materials.

Applicants are invited to submit two-page concept proposals to FREP by Friday, January 28, 2022. Concepts submitted should be aligned with at least one of the identified priority research areas. For details, see the CDFA Grant Program webpage here. For more information, please send email inquiries to


California Air Resources Board Webinars on Regulatory Compliance Training

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is offering a variety of training webinars for regulatory compliance on issues affecting public fleets such as Off-Road Regulations, Truck and Bus Rules, and Diesel Truck Rules. 

The New Programs and Regulations course covers the requirements of existing regulations and then CARB's new regulatory programs that will eventually be in effect. The goals for this class are to cover the proposed program elements and elicit participation in the regulatory process.

Date:               February 3, 2022
Time:               1:00 p.m.
Webinar:         Register

Date:               March 31, 2022
Time:               1:00 p.m.
Webinar:         Register

The Compliance Overview: Truck & Bus Rule, Off-Road Regulation, and Portable Equipment course include the following topics:

Truck and Bus Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Engine Model Year Schedule
  • Exemptions & Extensions
  • How to Report for Regulation Flexibilities
  • Broker and Dispatcher Requirements
  • DMV Registration

Periodic Smoke Inspection Program (PSIP):

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Program Updates

Advanced Clean Truck (ACT)

  • Manufacturers ZEV Sales Requirements
  • One-Time Reporting
  • Future ZEV Rules

In-Use Off-Road Diesel Vehicle Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Requirements Currently in Effect
  • Future Compliance Deadlines

Portable Equipment Registration Program (PERP) & Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM):

  • PERP Eligibility
  • Program Requirements
  • ATCM Program & Updates
  • Enforcement & Inspections

Date:        January 27, 2022
Time:        1:00 p.m.
Webinar:   Register

Date:        March 17, 2022
Time:        1:00 p.m.
Webinar:   Register


The In-Use Off-Road Diesel-Fueled Fleets Regulation (Off-Road Regulation) requires fleet owners to report to CARB, label their off-road vehicles, and reduce emissions from older equipment.  This course provides detailed information to help fleet owners understand and comply with the Off-Road Regulation: 

Date:        February 17, 2022
Time:        1:00 p.m.
Webinar:   Register


CAL FIRE Accepting Applications for Fire Prevention Grant Programs

CAL FIRE is currently accepting applications for the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Fire Prevention Grant Program. The program provides funding for fuel reduction, wildfire planning, and public education. For more information, visit the Fire Prevention Grants Program webpage or view the procedural guide, available hereApplications are due by 3:00 p.m. on February 9, 2022. 


Caltrans Clean California Grant Program Now Open

The Newsom Administration has announced nearly $300 million in Clean California grants are now available. California cities, counties, transit agencies, tribal governments, and other governmental entities are encouraged to submit proposals of up to $5 million to beautify their communities and address trash and debris. Caltrans will award approximately 200 grants to create hundreds of sustainable, green beautification and litter abatement projects statewide. The department will match local investments and address the needs of more severely underserved communities.The grant application period closes February 1, 2022, and Caltrans will announce the grant recipients on March 1, 2022. Award recipients must complete their project by June 30, 2024. Program guidelines and application documents are available 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. 


RCRC press releases and related news clips about RCRC and our member counties. Please note that a subscription may be required to read some external publications.


'Rural counties in California push for activation of idle microgrids as power outages mount' - Microgrid Knowledge

If a microgrid is built in California to address public safety power shutoffs (PSPS), shouldn’t it also be activated when power outages occur for other reasons? That’s the question a group representing 38 rural counties in California is asking state regulators after being precluded from using their microgrids during multiple power outages that were unrelated to PSPS — the planned shutdown of power by utilities to avoid wildfires.


‘Proposed 600-mile Lost Sierra Route would connect Truckee to Lassen’-The San Francisco Chronicle

Getting to such hard-to-reach, yet spectacular, places in California’s northern Sierra will be a whole lot easier if a newly proposed 600-mile trail network comes to fruition. The concept for a proposed 600-mile trail system in the Northern Sierra that would run roughly from Truckee north to Susanville.


‘Commentary: CIO Outlines 4 Ways Counties Can Move Now on Broadband’

Steve Monaghan, the veteran chief information officer for Nevada County, has published the second in a series of six essays for Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), a 38-member service organization that advocates for policies on behalf of rural counties. Recent legislation at the state and federal level has allocated billions in funding for rural broadband deployment. To take advantage of upcoming funding opportunities, it is critical that county leaders have a clear understanding of broadband concepts and prepare their counties accordingly.



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