The measure by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, whose district suffered heavy flood damage in February, would require state agencies to speed up permit processing and approval for certain types of flood-control projects. Current law already allows authorities to exempt or delay permit requirements during emergencies. Yet other high-priority projects still have to go through the normal permitting process. That leads to delays.
FOUND IN: Infrastructure
Slowly – but surely – we are learning that the near-catastrophic failure of Oroville Dam’s main spillway wasn’t truly caused by weather, even though the state claims that in seeking federal aid for repairs. Rather, it resulted from poor engineering and construction when the nation’s highest dam was rising more than a half-century ago as the centerpiece of the State Water Project, and poor maintenance since its completion. The latest evidence is a huge report by a team of engineering experts, headed by Robert Bea and Tony Johnson of the University of California’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management. It concluded that the dam’s fundamental flaws were compounded by decades of neglect by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD). . . .But there’s an even more pertinent question raised by the Bea-Johnson study – whether the state is even capable of competently building and maintaining huge public works projects. One recalls the more recent example of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, one third of which was replaced after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake revealed the section’s flaws. It not only took a quarter-century to design and build the futuristic replacement, but costs wound up four times their original estimate and after it was completed, it was revealed that there were major construction flaws that the Department of Transportation didn’t disclose but investigative journalism by The Sacramento Bee exposed. When asked about it, Brown infamously replied, “Shit happens.”
Transit ridership in the first quarter of 2017 was 3.1 percent less than the same quarter in 2016, according the American Public Transportation Association’s latest ridership report. The association released the report without a press release, instead issuing a release complaining about the House Appropriations bill reducing funding for transit. . . . In most cases where light-rail ridership grew, it did so at the expense of bus ridership. Los Angeles Metro gained 1.66 million light-rail riders but lost 8.73 million bus riders, or more than five for every new light-rail rider. Between the two modes, Phoenix’s Valley Metro lost 23,100 riders; Charlotte 20,200 lost riders; and Dallas Area Rapid Transit lost 193,100 riders. Similarly, Orlando’s commuter trains gained 22,700 riders but buses lost 98,500.
The proposal to build a major tunnel system under the hub of California’s waterworks won another approval Friday when the state finalized its environmental review of the project. “Today we are approving California WaterFix,” said Cindy Messer, acting director of the Department of Water Resources. DWR’s blessing was expected. But the long-planned project still needs a number of other permits, as well as the financial support of major water districts, before construction can begin.
California is poised for a swift transformation of its electricity landscape — and that could bring tumult if preparations aren’t made soon to maintain quality and avoid reliability problems like rolling blackouts, the state’s leading energy regulator is warning. After decades of dominance by investor-owned utilities, electricity markets in the state are becoming more competitive. Ratepayers today have a growing number of choices for powering their lights, laptops and electric cars — from installing rooftop solar panels and consumer-scale batteries to joining increasingly popular government-run electricity programs known as community choice aggregation, or CCA. Currently, investor-owned utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric together buy and sell more than 75 percent of the state’s electricity. Their collective share could plunge to 10 percent within the next five years, with CCA programs causing most of the change, according to the state’s most aggressive forecast. More conservative estimates still show major shifts away from the utilities.