Yesterday, as anticipated, the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority) unanimously approved the first section of rail line to be developed. The $4.15 billion, 65-mile section of rail line will stretch from the tiny town of Borden to Corcoran in the Central Valley; and will not carry passengers until more of the system is built. However, there is one blatantly peculiar aspect of the Authority’s decision: its location.
Already suffering one of the worst fiscal deficits in the state’s history, many state and national lawmakers are wondering what possessed the Authority to collectively urge laying track in an area so sparse, it has been dubbedthe “train to nowhere”? United States Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), upon hearing news of the decision, immediately issued a press release demanding “ a complete investigation of the process” adding that the decision “defies logic and common sense to have the trains start and stop in remote areas that have no hope of attaining the ridership needed to justify the cost." California Assembly member Cathleen Galigiani who authored Proposition 1A, the 2008 initiative allocating nearly $10 billion of funds towards high-speed rail, has been vocal in her opposition to the location and began circulating a letter of opposition around legislator’s office since news of the Authority’s decision broke.
Being dubbed the “train to nowhere” is unfair- there is an end point. The approved segment is slated to end in Corcoran, a slightly larger town than Borden with nearly 15,000 residents and one claim to fame: Charles Manson. The Corcoran State Prison, known for being the “most troubled prison in the State,” also serves as home to some of the worst criminals.Thanks to the Authority’s vote yesterday, Corcoran will now also be known as the first final destination of California’s High Speed Train.
ON THE HEELS OF WESTSLANDS’ EXIT, MAJOR FEDERAL CONTRACTOR WITHDRAWLS FROM BDCP
Shortly after Westlands Water District (Westlands) announced its withdrawal from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process last week, the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority (Authority) also formally withdrew its funding of the BDCP process. Westlands and the Authority, together irrigate more than 1.5 million acres of Central Valley farmland and both are major importers on Delta water.
Westlands and the Authority jumped ship, and took their money with them, when it became clear BDCP would not result in more water pumped from the Delta. Both argue that federal officials intend to reduce the amount of water they can divert from the delta; due to the mounting scientific evidence that continual increased exports form the Delta have resulted in its collapse and more fresh water needs to flow through the Delta.
Moving forward, it is crucial for the vitality of the Delta and the state of California, that Delta stakeholders put aside old political differences; and use the best science available to craft a plan which yields the protection of the Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply.
METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT STICKING TO ITS TRADITIONS
In a recent blog by Metropolitan Water District's (Metropolitan) Executive Strategist, Tom Philp plugs the district’s new long-term plan to meet the needs of Southern California’s current and projected population. In the SF Gate blog, Philp candidly states Metropolitan’s intention to keep diverting "traditional amounts of water from the Bay Delta estuary.” In describing its recently updated Integrated Resources Plan, Philp states, "The plan has as its highest target the retention of a traditional Northern supply via the State Water Project." This statement flies directly in the face of the overwhelming scientific consensus that those "traditional" diversions are a major cause of the devastating crash of the Delta fisheries. PCL stands ready to work with Metropolitan to reorient its priorities to decrease reliance on the Delta and increase local self sufficiency.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION BANS OFFSHORE DRILLING
On Wednesday, the Interior Department announced that it would not pursue new offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or the East Coast for the next seven years. The announcement effectively reverses the position on offshore drilling that the Interior Department adopted in March, in which it supported investigating new wells on the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Delaware.
According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the new position is a result of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, which underscored weaknesses in federal regulation and oversight. Secretary Salazar stated, in order to address the problems highlighted by the spill, new and pending drilling projects will be subject to a more rigorous environmental review that will include stringent spill response requirements.
The announcement has been widely supported by the environmental community, which sees the reduction in potential offshore drilling sites as a positive step toward reducing the risk of future catastrophic oil spills and environmental degradation. However, some pending offshore drilling projects off the coast of Alaska are still being allowed to proceed. As Marilyn Heiman from the Pew Environment Group said, "What it means is they've learned a great deal from the Macondo blowout...they still need to learn a lot more."
PANELS OFFER CLE CREDITS FOR ATTORNEYS AND CM CREDITS FOR AICP MEMBERS
Calling all attorneys! Calling all planners!Professional Credits Available at the 2011 Symposium!
The 2011 Symposium is offering legal and planning credits for many of its sessions. There are nine sessions that qualify for course credit.
The following sessions qualify as CLE and CM | Law panels:
General Plans: Still Critical, Still Contentious
Perspectives on Energy Siting
Water Wars: Present and Future
The following sessions qualify as CM courses for planners:
What is Next for California Water?
Natural Resource Economics: Can We Afford to Save the Planet?
CEQA 201: A Look at 2009/2010 & Rollback Preventions
Groundwater: What Lies Beneath?
Getting Smart Growth Where it Needs to Be
Roads, Wildlife, and Wilderness
PCL and PCLF have certified that these sessions have been approved for 4.25 hours of MCLE credit by the State Bar of California. In addition, AICP members can receive CM credit for approved courses.
The Symposium is Saturday, January 29, 2011 at the Sheraton in downtown Sacramento.Early bird (discounted) registration is available through December 31.Please be sure to select the CLE or CM option when you register for the event.
1107 9th Street, Suite 360, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone (916) 444-8726 • Fax (916) 448-1789