The Barbed Wire - September 15, 2023

September 15, 2023
The Barbed Wire on Hiatus for RCRC Annual Meeting
Bill of the Week: House Resolution 5359 – The Rural Development Modernization Act
CPUC Issues Competing Draft Decisions for PG&E’s General Rate Case
Upcoming Webinar: How California’s New Single-Use Packaging and Plastic Pollution Prevention Law Will Impact Local Governments
U.S. DOT Announces Next Phase of Thriving Communities Grant Program for Infrastructure Investments
U.S. House Passes Bill to Improve Recreation at the Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

The Barbed Wire on Hiatus for RCRC Annual Meeting

The Barbed Wire will be on hiatus September 22nd during RCRC’s 2023 Annual Meeting, taking place September 20-22 in Monterey County at the Portola Hotel and Spa at Monterey Bay. The Barbed Wire will return September 29th. Follow #RCRC and #RCRCAM for the latest news!

Bill of the Week: House Resolution 5359 – The Rural Development Modernization Act

On September 8, 2023, the Rural Development Modernization Act (H.R. 5359) was introduced in the 118th Congress by Representative Jim Costa (D-Fresno). The bill would seek to update the population threshold for rural communities under programs carried out by the Department of Agriculture. This would open up additional funding and programmatic opportunities for jurisdictions that are larger than the existing thresholds but still have high levels of need within their populations. This recognizes the impacts of poverty and a lack of housing and services within communities that, while they are still rural, may have slightly larger populations. The programs currently included in the bill are related to broadband, rural water projects, housing, and energy.  

The bill has been referred to the Committees on Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, and Financial Services. For more information, contact Eric Will, Policy and Local Assistance Manager, at

CPUC Issues Competing Draft Decisions for PG&E’s General Rate Case

On Wednesday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued two Proposed Decisions that would authorize ratepayer increases for PG&E customers through 2026. The first Proposed Decision (PD), authored by the Proceeding’s Administrative Law Judges, would increase ratepayer costs 13% while the Alternate Proposed Decision (APD), authored by Commissioner John Reynolds, would increase costs by 9%; PG&E requested a 26% rate increase. PG&E requested approval to underground 2,000 miles of powerlines in this General Rate Case (GRC) to meet their 10,000-mile undergrounding initiative that proposes to bury one-third of PG&E’s overhead assets in high fire threat districts.

The Proposed Decision (PD) would authorize undergrounding 200 miles of overhead distribution lines and largely favors the installation of insulated covered conductor on 1,800 miles as a reasonable wildfire safety investment. The PD estimates it would cost $3.3 million per mile to underground, versus $800,000 per mile for covered conductor and notes that “the ratepayers’ ability to pay for safety or risk reduction is not unlimited.” The PD also cites the benefits of covered conductor to reduce the need for Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS) and fast-trip outages (the EPSS program). Generally, the PD is very skeptical of PG&E’s undergrounding plans, including the pace of construction and the forecasted costs, and ultimately concludes the benefits of undergrounding do not outweigh the lower costs and faster implementation of covered conductor to reduce risk and improve reliability.

The Alternate Proposed Decision (APD), on the other hand, adopts a “hybrid” approach for wildfire risk reduction by authorizing 973 miles of electric distribution lines to be undergrounded and installing 1,027 miles of covered conductor. The APD estimates it will cost $3.3 million per mile to underground in 2023 and relies on PG&E’s assertions that costs will decrease over time to approximately $2.8 million per mile by 2026; the APD estimates it will cost $1.2 million per mile to install covered conductor. Generally, the APD provides PG&E the opportunity to prove it can perform its undergrounding ambitions while attempting to balance costs, feasibility, and affordability across the GRC. PG&E is expected to submit a 10-year undergrounding plan pursuant to Senate Bill 884 that created a pathway for expedited approval for undergrounding electric infrastructure.

In both cases, the CPUC proposes to authorize $1.3 billion for vegetation management, and $2.5 billion for capacity upgrades. Unlike PG&E’s proposed 2023-2025 Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP), PG&E’s GRC transitions to a “One Veg” program. Neither the WMP nor GRC discuss wood haul of large, felled debris, which continues to be of great concern and importance to RCRC. Wood haul is a crucial component of successful vegetation management activities; hazard trees that are felled but not timely removed impact defensible space and transfer risk and liability onto property owners and communities by adding significant fuel load in the event of a wildfire.

RCRC is not a formal party to this proceeding but continues to engage with various state agencies to ensure the safe, reliable and affordable delivery of power to rural counties. The CPUC expects to vote on this matter on November 2, 2023. Public comments can be made here. For more information, please contact RCRC Policy Advocate, Leigh Kammerich.

Upcoming Webinar: How California’s New Single-Use Packaging and Plastic Pollution Prevention Law Will Impact Local Governments

On October 4th, join RCRC, Cal Cities, StopWaste, and the California State Association of Counties for a free webinar addressing the seismic shift coming to California’s recycling landscape.

Under SB 54 (Allen, 2022), all single-use plastics and packaging sold in California must be recyclable or compostable by 2032. Producers must reimburse local governments for the costs of collecting and processing these materials. The new law will also raise $5 billion from the plastics industry to help mitigate the impacts of plastic pollution, particularly in disadvantaged communities. 

It's critical that local governments make their voices heard in the upcoming rulemaking process, which is already underway. Join the League of California Cities, StopWaste (a local government agency in Alameda County), and the National Stewardship Action Council for an overview of SB 54 and the next steps in the regulatory process.

This webinar is free for all SB 54 local government stakeholders. Registration is limited to 1,000 people. Learn more.

Webinar Information

Date: Thursday, October 5

Time: 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

REGISTER HERE by Wednesday, Oct. 4.

U.S. DOT Announces Next Phase of Thriving Communities Grant Program for Infrastructure Investments

On September 12th, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the next phase of the Thriving Communities Grant Program (TCP) for up to $22 million in grants for technical assistance, and a Call for Letters of Interest from communities seeking support through the TCP.

The TCP provides intensive technical assistance to under-resourced and disadvantaged communities to help them identify, develop, and deliver transportation and community revitalization opportunities. Those communities receive in-kind support from Capacity Builders funded through the TCP to prepare grant application materials and undertake pre-development and project delivery activities including deploying innovative community engagement, workforce development, and clean technology strategies. There is no cost for communities to receive support through the program.

For the FY 2023 program, DOT has added a Thriving Communities Regional Pilot Program set-aside to which states, Tribes, and regional planning organizations can apply. This set-aside will allow pilot program participants to provide TCP activities at a state or regional scale to communities within their jurisdictions. This year, DOT anticipates funding at least four pilots at approximately $1 million each.

DOT will host a series of webinars this month to provide more information both to interested communities and capacity builders. For more information on the webinar series, including upcoming dates and registration information, see here.

The call for Letters of Interest (LOI) from communities seeking support from the program is open until November 15, while the NOFO for Capacity Builders is open until November 28.  DOT anticipates announcing recipients in early 2024.

U.S. House Passes Bill to Improve Recreation at the Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

On September 13th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3324, a bipartisan bill to extend the authority of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to collect Shasta-Trinity Marina fees through fiscal year 2029. This bill was co-led by Congressmen Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) and Jared Huffman (D-Marina), whose districts include parts of the Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area.

The authority to collect and retain fees is critical for the Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, which manages 212,000 acres, including 48,480 lake surface areas and 12 highly developed commercial marinas. The marina fees retained by United States Forest Service are spent on recreation enhancement projects such as boat ramp improvements, lake cleanup efforts, maintaining recreational facilities, and educational programs. This bill would not increase or otherwise affect the price of the current marina fees.


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


CPUC to Host Informational Webinar on California Teleconnect Fund

The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) is a tool to close the digital divide by providing qualifying organizations with affordable rates on telecommunications and broadband services. The CTF provides a 50% discount to underserved communities and other eligible entities including schools, libraries, community colleges, community-based organizations, hospitals, and health clinics. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) staff will discuss the program’s history, mission, and how to qualify in an upcoming webinar.

WHEN: Monday, September 25th, 10am – 11am

WHAT: Topics include CTF background; eligibility criteria; subsidies and services, and more. For questions or to receive technical assistance, contact

WHERE: Webex, register here.

For more information, see here.


Applications Open – CA Small Ag Business Drought Relief Grant

The state has opened the application period for the California Small Ag Business Drought Relief Grant program. You can go directly to the application page by clicking on the Apply Here link on the website:  
Based on the amount of loss in gross receipts or gross profit in 2022 compared to the last normal year of planting in 2019 of at least 30 percent, qualified businesses can receive grants of $60,000 – $100,000 to offset losses related to the drought. Losses must be verified by federal tax returns. Ten percent of the funds are reserved for applicants who file 2022 crop year tax returns in 2024. The grant is open to dryers, mills, ag aircraft, ag suppliers, ag service providers, ag trucking and small or socially disadvantaged farmers with 100 or fewer employees in 2019. 

Public Feedback Requested for Development of Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Toolkit

The Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network has partnered with the Community Wildfire Planning Center the CA Fire Safe Council on a project seeking public feedback to inform the development of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Toolkit - a collection of resources and information to support California communities in the creation and implementation of CWPPs. Take the survey here.


California Launches Online Tool to Track Wildfire Resilience Projects

The Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force (Task Force) has launched the beta version of a first-of-its-kind Interagency Treatment Dashboard that displays the size and location of state and federal forest and landscape resilience projects in California.

The dashboard offers a one-stop-shop to access data, provide transparency, and align the efforts of more than a dozen agencies to build resilient landscapes and communities in California. It reports treatment activities such as prescribed fire, targeted grazing, uneven-aged timber harvest, mechanical and hand fuels reduction, and tree planting. Users can sort treatments by region, county, land ownership and more. 

The dashboard is an important step to increase the pace and scale of statewide actions addressing California’s wildfire crisis and is a key deliverable of the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan, issued by the Task Force in January 2021. 

The beta version of the dashboard will continue to be refined to include additional data, including projects by local and tribal entities, along with revisions based on public feedback. An official launch is expected in spring 2024 with more complete data on projects implemented in 2022.


Monthly Discussions on Williamson Act Key Topics with the Department of Conservation

Join Department of Conservation staff for a monthly discussion on key topics under the Williamson Act. County staff and members of the public are invited to these hour-long, virtual sessions where staff from DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection (DLRP) discuss select topics, provide technical assistance, and invite questions on Williamson Act implementation.

Upcoming sessions in 2023 include:

  • September 21st – Solar Use & WA Contracts
  • October 19th – WA Enrollment Finder
  • November 16th – Open Question Hour

For questions, contact For more information, please visit


Career Opportunities

  • Yolo County is seeking applicants for the position of Chief Financial Officer. The recruitment brochure is available here.  Those interested in this executive recruitment MUST email a letter of interest and resume to This position is open until filled.


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


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

Tristan Lemon, of Paso Robles, has been appointed Warden of Pleasant Valley State Prison, where he has served as Acting Warden since 2022. Lemon was Chief Deputy Warden at Salinas Valley State Prison from 2020 to 2022. He held several positions at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Correctional Training Facility from 2013 to 2017, including Associate Warden and Captain. Lemon held several positions at California Men’s Colony from 2002 to 2013, including Correctional Lieutenant, Correctional Sergeant and Correctional Officer. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $175,332. Lemon is registered without party preference. 

Shannan Moon, of Grass Valley, has been appointed to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. Moon has served as Sheriff-Coroner-Public Administrator in the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office since 2019 and has held several positions there since 1990, including Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant, Deputy Sheriff and Correctional Officer. She is a member of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation and Bright Futures for Youth. Moon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Management from Union Institute and University. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Moon is registered without party preference.

Brian Richart, of El Dorado Hills, has been appointed to the Board of State and Community Corrections. Richart has served as Chief Probation Officer at the El Dorado County Probation Department since 2013. He was Administrative Chief of Staff and Adult Division Chief at the Alameda County Probation Department from 2011 to 2013. Richart was President of Allvest Information Services from 2010 to 2011. He held several positions at the Shasta County Probation Department from 1998 to 2010, including Chief Probation Officer, Assistant Chief Probation Officer and Juvenile Hall Division Director. Richart is a member of the Chief Probation Officers of California, where he previously served as President, Vice President and Secretary. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from California State University, Chico. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Richart is registered without party preference.


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.


California's disadvantaged rural high school students struggle – Los Angeles Times

Linda Plumlee's life has been marked by instability and homelessness, but she remains determined to attend college and build a better future. The story highlights the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the region and the need for support and opportunities for these students. It also sheds light on the broader issues faced by rural communities, including limited access to education and economic opportunities.


With no insurance deal in Sacramento, when will California's homeowners get relief? – Los Angeles Times

New home buyers in California struggle to find homeowners insurance as insurers stop writing policies. Lawmakers attempted to enable higher prices to attract carriers, but a deal wasn't reached before the legislative session's close. Changes in insurance regulations may still happen this year through Gov. Gavin Newsom or Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, with more hearings planned in the fall.


How generators powered an entire California county as fires raged – Los Angeles Times

Lightning strikes caused multiple wildfires in drought-stricken California. These fires threatened the transmission lines supplying power to Del Norte County. Despite concerns about electricity disruptions, officials prioritized evacuations and road closures due to the wildfires.


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

Content will be updated around noon. Please check back for updates.