Category Archives: General

General Politics

Governor’s Record Budget Asks Taxpayers For Even More

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By Senator Mike Morrell

At the beginning of the year, the gov­ernor released the details of his pro­posed state budget. While the next few months will be filled with negotiations and committee hearings to hammer out the details, it is already clear that this budget continues a trend of gov­ernment growth and spending at the expense of the taxpayer – this time to the tune of a record $122.6 billion.

The governor and Democratic leaders have reiterated their belief that Cali­fornia is in good financial shape and have used this assessment to justify spending increases, though many, in­cluding the governor himself, con­tinue to warn that another recession could be just around the corner.

Yet still the governor has doubled down on calls for higher taxes.

A cornerstone of this plan would enact $3 billion in new gas taxes and “road user fees.” Senate Republicans have put forward our own plan that would provide nearly the same amount for California’s roads and highways with­out raising taxes. Included in our plan is a guarantee that taxes paid by driv­ers and truckers would be used to the benefit of our roads and highways.

If you drive as much as I do, you are well aware that in California, we al­ready pay among the nation’s highest prices for gas. Between taxes and en­vironmental regulations, government costs imposed on motorists are nearly 70 cents per gallon. For families and businesses alike, paying more at the pump will mean even less money to put toward investing and saving for the future.

This budget proposal is premised on a view that the books are balanced. By several measures, however, Califor­nia’s fiscal situation is far from bal­anced.

Consider that the State Treasurer has estimated state and local government debt at $1.5 trillion. While the budget includes about $7 billion to pay down related debt costs, this amount rep­resents only the minimum necessary to pay off a small portion of state li­abilities. With windfall revenues, the budget could pay off more debt, avoid future interest costs, and prevent the cycle of issuing more debt to finance existing debt so that future generations are not stuck having to foot this bill rather than fuel more out-of-control spending in Sacramento on things like high-speed rail.

Our duty is to provide an environ­ment where businesses and families thrive. We have our work cut out for us in California, where the nation’s top CEOs for 11 years straight have named our state the worst place to do business.

Throughout history it has been dem­onstrated that the larger government becomes, the more it consumes, and the fewer freedoms all of us will have. Last year Republicans heeded this cautionary truth to stop tax increases in their tracks.

As we finalize the budget in the months ahead, our resolve remains the same as we work to protect the taxpayers of California.

Senator Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cu­camonga, represents the 23rd District in the State Senate which includes portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

General Transportation

Caltrans Achieves Major Milestones in the High Desert

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By Joy M. Schneider – Public Information Officer, Caltrans

For approximately four years, Caltrans has been actively working in the High Desert to improve and upgrade the transportation system. Rap­id growth in the region and the resulting congestion have made improvements a priority. As one of three routes in and out of Southern California, the Inter­state 15 (I-15) and Interstate 215 (I-215) interchange is a heavy goods movement corridor and recreational gateway to places like Las Vegas and the Colorado River, in addition to being a commuting route.

Two of the major projects that will ad­dress congestion and wear-and-tear on the facility are nearing the finish line, while several others continue to work to bring relief to the High Desert.

Devore Interchange Project

The $325 million I-15/I-215 Devore In­terchange Project, which began in No­vember 2012, will add a truck by-pass lane, add an additional lane in each di­rection and bring the interchange up to operational standards, as well as address the arterial highways network deficien­cies—specifically the reconnection of Route 66 (Cajon Boulevard).

Devore Interchange

The project is currently 95% complete. The major items of work left to be per­formed are completion of Cajon Boulevard and final striping of various areas of the project.

The project team joint ribbon cutting cer­emony (partnering with the I-15 Cajon Pass Pavement Rehabilitation Project) was held May 20, 2016. The ceremony included a walk, run, bike event geared toward community involvement.

I-15 Cajon Pass Pavement Rehabilitation Project

The I-15 Cajon Pass Pavement Reha­bilitation Project began in Spring 2013. As a strictly pavement rehabilitation project, it will resurface and restore the pavement between Kenwood Avenue and the Hesperia overhead, which will provide approximately a 40-year life to the pavement through the Cajon Pass.

Coffman Parsons Joint Venture, the project contractor, is currently complet­ing the last few concrete replacement areas. They expect the striping to be back to the existing configuration by the end of April 2016. Once the striping is finished, workers will install a rumble strip.

The Cajon Pass Project team working in coordination with the Devore Inter­change Project team held a joint ribbon cutting ceremony on May 20, 2016.

SR-138 Widening (West) Project

The SR-138 Widening (West) Project consists of widening State Route 138 (SR-138) to four lanes with a 14-foot medi­an buffer from Phelan Road to Interstate 15. The project will also upgrade shoulders to current standards, ex­tend drainage (as nec­essary) and construct a wildlife-crossing structure. The $52.1 million dollar project was awarded to Flatiron Construction Corp. The project began in February 2015, and is currently 45% complete. It is estimat­ed to be completed in December 2016.

SR-138 Widening (East) Project

The SR-138 Widening (East) Project is a 2.1 mile project that will realign SR-138 from 1.9 miles east of I-15 to just west of Summit Post Office Road. It will also construct two-lane paved sec­tions of highway with outside shoulders, three wildlife crossings and an off high­way vehicle crossing.

The project is needed because the ex­isting configuration has many non-standard, steep horizontal and vertical curves and grade. There are no paved shoulders and narrow or non-existent earth shoulders, as well as few turnouts and no passing opportunities. This proj­ect will improve operational efficiency, traffic safety and will also upgrade and widen the existing lanes and shoulders to current standards.

Work began in late April 2016.

SR-58 Hinkley Expressway Project

SR-58 Hinkley Expressway Project

The State Route 58 (SR-58) project will widen and realign a portion of State Route 58 (SR-58) from a two-lane conventional highway to a four-lane expressway, extending from approxi­mately 2.4 miles west of Hidden River Road to approximately 0.7 miles east of Lenwood Road, near the unincorporated community of Hinkley in San Bernardi­no County.

The project will include construction of two interchanges on the widened and realigned portion of SR-58; one at Hinkley Road and the other at Lenwood Road. All entrance ramps (westbound and eastbound) will have two lanes at the local road and will transition to a single lane prior to merging onto the expressway. All exit ramps will have three-way stops at the exit ramp inter­sections with the local road. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps will be included.

The project includes access to non-motorized transportation modes (e.g., pedestrian, bikes, and equestrian) by providing six-foot-wide sidewalks, as well as standard eight-foot shoulders across the two overcrossing bridges at Lenwood and Hinkley Roads. A short length of the existing SR-58 at the east end of the project is proposed to be realigned to tie in to the Lenwood Road westbound entrance and exit ramps. The widened and realigned expressway is planned to be on a fill section (elevated sections of a roadway). All locations with large verti­cal surfaces (i.e., retaining walls and bridge structures) will include aesthetic archi­tectural treatment to prevent graffiti.

The project was awarded to Skanska and broke ground in April 2015. To date, drainage features have beeninstalled in anticipation of a 100-year storm event. The major earthwork will be finished by mid-April 2016, at which time concrete paving will commence. The Hinkley Road/Bridge is open. The project is expected to be complete in February 2017.

The project team takes the needs and concerns of the Hinkley community members very seriously. Community meetings are held every two months so that the community can find out about the status of the construction, as well as report any concerns they may have about the project and/or construction activities.

US-395 Widening Project

With traffic expected to increase by as much as 90% by the year 2038, Phase One of the US-395 Widening Project aims to improve the operational efficien­cy of the highway by providing one ad­ditional lane in each direction, installing a 14-foot median and rumble strips, and modifying signals at various intersec­tions from SR-18 to Chamberlaine Way in the cities of Victorville and Adelanto. Caltrans District 8 is currently partner­ing with the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) to work on the right-of-way and final design for the widening of US-395. It is estimated that the project will go to construction in Summer 2018 and will be completed in Winter 2020.

Caltrans is pleased with the achieve­ments of the projects mentioned above. Each project will aid in the enhancement of the transportation infrastructure of the High Desert. Caltrans will continue to deliver quality projects that will provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and effi­cient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.

General Water

Cadiz Inc Continues Work to Provide California Much-Needed New Water

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By Courtney Degener, Vice President, Communications & Investor Relations A part of the Cadiz team for over 12 years

The Mojave Desert’s Cadiz Valley in eastern San Bernardino County, Cali­fornia, is a hot, dry place. The sandy soil supports only sparse, low brush well adapted to the hot dry climate where summer temperatures reach up to 120 degrees. It’s just about the last place you’d go looking for water.

But in the 1980s, our Company found­ers did just that. Guided by early NASA satellite imagery, they postulated that the unique geology of the Cadiz Val­ley, which is about the size of Rhode Island, could indicate that groundwater had been collecting under the soil for millennia. We purchased land, drilled exploratory wells and, indeed, found plentiful, high-quality groundwater.

Later modeling and field work would show the Cadiz aquifer system holds as much as 34 million acre-feet of wa­ter – more than 11 trillion gallons and an amount equal in volume to Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. Our wells have been prolific, or as one drill­ing contractor said during field work in 2010, “based on 43 years of experience – I’ve been involved with hundreds, possibly thousands, of drilling projects – and without a doubt (Cadiz well) TW1 was the most productive production well I’ve ever been involved with.”

Over time we continued our land acqui­sition and began to farm, relying upon this groundwater for irrigation. Today we are the largest private landowner in San Bernardino County, with 45,000 acres and a sustainable farming operation of aquifer-watered lemon orchards and vineyards that provide a lush green spot in the sparse Mojave landscape.

Creating an Environmentally Benign Water Project

In the 1990s as California’s population grew and the State’s water supplies in­creasingly came under pressure, we also started considering the potential to make our property available for a water supply and groundwater storage project. Givenour proximity to the Colorado River Aqueduct, which carries water from the river to 19 million people from Ventura County to San Diego County, both the supply and storage concepts proved feasible. The plan has evolved with the times. Once envisioned as a groundwa­ter storage-focused project in partner­ship with the Metropolitan Water Dis­trict of Southern California, today the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Re­covery and Storage Project is smaller in scale and scope than earlier envisioned, but remained focused on a pledge to do no harm to the environment.

The project, which will be implemented in two phases, will actively manage the groundwater basin underlying our prop­erty to create a new reliable water sup­ply for Southern California, as well as a new opportunity for groundwater stor­age. The first phase will capture approx­imately 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year–enough for 400,000 people –from a wellfield on the Cadiz property and deliver that water via a pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct and then to local communities throughout South­ern California. Over the 50 year life of the project, only 3-6% of water in stor­age would be withdrawn and this water would be replenished over time. Ac­cording to Anthony Brown, M.Sc. En­gineering & Hydrology, who conducted an independent peer review of the proj­ect’s science, “given the low amount of proposed pumping relative to the significant size of the basin, the Cadiz project can be intelligently managed to provide a new beneficial use without any harm.”

“Conservation” is a critical part of the project’s name and objectives because all of the water in the Cadiz aquifer presently flows to desert dry lake pla­yas, where it turns ten times saltier than the ocean and evaporates. Without the project, over 10 trillion gallons of water are lost every year. The project aims to manage these outflows to the dry lakes and create integrity in the aquifer system so that in a second phase we can utilize its immense storage capacity to hold up to one million acre-feet of imported wet-year water from the Colorado River or State Water Project until needed in subsequent dry years.

When designing the project, protecting the environment was a top priority, and we worked with our project partners, San Bernardino County and best-in-class ex­perts, to ensure the project would do no harm. We plan to build our pipeline in a disturbed railroad right-of-way, rather than crossing undisturbed federal land to ensure no species are impacted. We have also committed to an 80-foot hard floor on groundwater withdrawals for the avoidance of doubt about water re­source impacts. The project includes an extensive, prescient groundwater man­agement plan regulated by the county to enforce our commitments.

Public Review & Approval

In July 2012 the project received ap­proval under California’s rigorous en­vironmental laws–generally regarded as the most protective in the nation. The Environmental Impact Report was prepared and certified, after extensive public review, by Santa Margarita Wa­ter District (SMWD). Nine water agen­cies from across the region, including SMWD, have signed up to purchase the water made available by the project. San Bernardino County, which oversees groundwater at the project area, served as a Responsible Agency in the project and separately approved the project and the management plan in October 2012.

As occurs so frequently with large projects in California, litigation fol­lowed. Cadiz, SMWD and San Ber­nardino jointly defended challenges to the project’s approvals. Some lawsuits were dropped early on and several went to trial. In 2014 all of the project’s ap­provals and environmental documents were upheld without any changes. As expected, opponents appealed these rul­ings and the matters are now before the California Court of Appeals. We remain confident in the thorough environmen­tal review conducted in accordance with California’s tough environmental laws and are optimistic the Appeals Court will uphold the 2014 trial court deci­sions.

A Big Boost for the Local Economy

As it has waded through the CEQA pro­cess and now CEQA litigation, the need for the project has not diminished and the state’s unpredictable hydrological cycles have only made it clearer that a groundwater supply and storage proj­ect in Southern California would be a benefit to the entire system. Southern California economic consulting firm Stratecon Inc. recently valued the water supply, storage, and water quality ben­efits attributable to the project at $6.1 billion. These benefits would not only be realized by Project subscribers, but experienced by all water users throughout the entire region, which has faced significant water rate increases over the last 10 years.

In addition to tremendous water supply benefits, the project is also expected to create needed jobs and local investment. The $250 million project, which we will privately finance, will create and sup­port over 1,500 jobs per year of con­struction and generate nearly a billion dollars in economic activity. Under a pledge we made to the county, 80% of the capital investment will be dedicated to San Bernardino County-based busi­nesses and 50% of the jobs to county-based workers, including 10% to local veterans.

Next steps…

To reach construction and implementa­tion, we must still complete three pri­mary tasks: (1) resolve the outstanding appeals of the CEQA permits; (2) re­solve a dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over ac­cess to the railroad right-of-way for our conveyance pipeline; and, (3) complete final contracts for the water. We expect the appeals will be decided this summer and the contracts are expected to follow. Thanks to the support of a broad bi-par­tisan delegation of California Congres­sional members, we are in dialogue with the BLM about how we can resolve our dispute and reach a final path forward for the pipeline.

While we continue to believe that the water project would be the highest and best use of our properties and resources, we also recognize that water in Califor­nia is a tough business and can take a long time. Therefore, we’ve also recent­ly announced plans to expand farming operations in Cadiz so we can put our most valuable asset to work while we continue to pursue the water project.

The initial expansion will expand farm­ing on 2,100 acres and ultimately could reach 9,600 acres, which would utilize an amount of water comparable to our Water Project permits. Our agricultural partners will install water and energy infrastructure that later will be used by the project once final approvals are received. The well-field infrastructure and related improvements required for agriculture are substantially similar to water project infrastructure, so they can be fully integrated into the project once it is permitted.

As a long-time desert business, whether pursuing agriculture or water supply development at the property, we also intend to maintain a variety of legacy commitments in Cadiz, including a tour­ist-based steam train, cultural center, kit fox research, and the largest desert tor­toise land mitigation bank in California. We are more than the water project, and as our CEO, Scott Slater, reminds our team regularly, we will always do proj­ects that our kids can be proud of.

General Politics

Valdez appointed San Bernardino Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector

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Oscar Valdez

Oscar Valdez was appointed to the vacated elected posi­tion of Audi­tor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on February 17, 2016. Prior to his appointment, Valdez served as the Assistant Auditor-Con­troller/Treasurer/Tax Collector from May 2011 until his current appoint­ment in 2016 and was responsible for the management and oversight of the auditor, controller, and treasurer divi­sions for the County of San Bernardino. Valdez has over 20 years of accounting, auditing, budgeting, finance, and man­agement experience, 16 of which have been with San Bernardino County.

The Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector’s Office has a budget of near­ly $40 million and employs 315 county employees. The department performs the accounting, reporting, and claims of all county financial activities to ensure sound financial management. Valdez is responsible for the investment of all county and school district funds within the county investment pool and over­sees the collection of over $2.3 billion in property taxes each year for payment of over 805,000 annual secured and un­secured tax bills.

Valdez and his staff provide courteous and professional customer service to county departments, residents, and local government agencies. Valdez’s commit­ment to providing superior customer ser­vice is evident by the many convenient ways his office offers residents to pay their property taxes, including eCheck, debit card, and credit card services available online, in person, and over the phone. On March 22, 2016, Valdez was presented with a NACo Award in recog­nition of his department’s Online Bank­ing Tax Payment Project, which resulted in increased efficiency in processing payments remitted through a taxpayer’s online banking system.

Valdez’s office averages a 98% annual collection rate, meeting the established performance measures and in doing so ­supporting the Countywide Vision and Goals. Property tax bills that are not paid become tax-defaulted and subject to the Tax Collector’s power to sell after five or more years. Annual tax sale auc­tions are held each May in an effort to return these properties to property tax-paying status. Properties not sold at the May auction are re-offered in August at a reduced minimum bid. Last year 2,296 tax-defaulted properties were offered at the May and August tax sales, and 92.5% of those properties were sold, resulting in $14.7 million in collected revenue.

The Tax Collector’s tax sale auctions are hosted online. This year’s auction was held May 14-20, 2016. Each parcel list­ed for tax sale included a current parcel number, situs city, minimum bid, parcel map and Google map, and some parcels also included a photo. To maintain single ownership on undeveloped tracts, Val­dez’s office offered grouped parcels that must be purchased on an all-or-nothing basis. Developers interested in review­ing current tract maps for grouped par­cels can request a copy from the County Recorder’s Office. A complete listing of parcels scheduled for future tax sale can request a copy of the listings from the Tax Collector’s website at www.mytax­collector.com under Tax Collector>Tax Sale Information>Current Sale Items.

Beyond his many roles for the County of San Bernardino, Valdez is an active member of the following professional organizations: Government Finance Of­ficers Association, California Associa­tion of County Treasurers and Tax Col­lectors, California State Association of County Auditors, Association of Gov­ernment Accountants, and Institute of Internal Auditors.

General Water

MWA Offers Assistance to Small Water Providers

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By Yvonne Hester, Community Liaison Officer

As California continues to experience year five of a statewide drought, hopes of a saving El Niño continue to elude the Golden State. Here in the High Des­ert, periods of drought are part of the na­tive climate, requiring the Mojave Wa­ter Agency to continually monitor and invest in plans and programs to ensure water for today and tomorrow. Among the Agency’s newest programs is the Small Systems Assistance Program (SSAP) that has been named as a finalist for an award of excellence from the As­sociation of California Water Agencies.

During the past two decades, MWA in­vested heavily in large capital projects such as pipelines and recharge facilities, but today the focus is on optimization of resources, thanks to community in­put during the 2014 Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. Increased par­ticipation in the plan’s process resulted in the committee ranking assistance for disadvantaged communities as a top pri­ority.

Unlike the larger water providers, re­sources are scarce for the small provid­ers. The new program was developed to assist disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged small water systems that lack staff, expertise, and funding to address both water quality and reliability. While the MWA region is served by 10 large water purveyors, there are also some 40 smaller systems that provide water to homes and businesses.

Residents living in disadvantaged com­munities deserve quality water, but of­ten maintaining infrastructure is costly. Many of the small systems have pipe­lines, pumps, and storage reservoirs that are 30-50 years old, resulting in a variety of water-quality issues. Many of the small water systems are challenged with naturally occurring and manmade water quality issues, including arsenic, fluoride, and Chromimum-6.

In an effort to address these concerns, a committee formed by the IRWM Plan Project team was formed, and the MWA Board of Directors approved an initial $200,000.00 program budget for a con­tract with the California Rural Water Association to provide small water sys­tems expertise. Under the MWA Small Water Systems Assistance Program, a local expert was made available to dis­cuss containment solutions including consolidation of two or more systems, blending water, or well head treatment.

As a result of the MWA program, a number of grants for small systems were submitted, and Gordon Acres Mutual Water Company in Lucerne Valley re­ceived a grant of $468,000.00 from the State Water Resources Control Board. These funds will help develop a water system plan to address insufficient de­livery, water outages, and water quality violations.

Other small water systems in the re­gion also have received assistance from the program. All requesting water systems have received on-site assistance for technical, managerial and financial challenges, as well as need assessments, leak detection audits, conservation plan assistance, and rate studies. MWA also has provided 10 free workshops and has made available wastewater expert help.

For more information on this pro­gram, contact Mojave Water Agency at 760.946.7000.

2016 High Desert Water Summit to Feature State and Local Experts

Winner of Student Essay Contest Also Featured

“Predicting Our Future by Our Own De­sign” was the theme of the 2016 High Desert Water Summit held April 13 at the Barstow Community College Per­forming Arts Center. Each speaker fo­cused on key issues and resources that serve to shape the region’s water fu­ture. Speakers included Dr. Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, based in Los Angeles. He provided an economic and population profile of the region. Ellen Hanak, Senior Fellow and Director of the Public Policy Institute Water Policy Center in San Francisco, provided a statewide overview of water management issues, as well as climate challenges. Addition­ally, Lance Eckhart, MWA Director of Basin Management and Water Resourc­es, presented water supply and demand projections included in the current up­date of the Regional Urban Water Man­agement Plan.

Also Enrique Arcilla, the 15-year-old essay contest winner, a sophomore at the Academy for Academic Excellence in Apple Valley, presented his essay titled “The Path to Sustainability” at the April 13 event. As the winner, Arcilla received a $5,000 scholarship.

The Water Summit ran from 7:15 to 11:30 a.m. on April 13 at the Barstow Community College Preforming Arts Center. The campus is located at 2700 Barstow Road.

The cost for the event was just $10 and included a full breakfast buffet.

General Water

Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority’s Apple Valley and Hesperia Subregional Reclamation Plants Scheduled for Completion in Early 2017

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Victor Valley Wastewater Reclama­tion Authority is so much more than a wastewater treatment plant. VVWRA is more like a resource recovery facil­ity that protects public health by taking the incoming waste and transforming it into something useful. With the help of nearly $200 million in capital proj­ects, funded in part by more than $71 million in grants, along with forward thinking planning and management, VVWRA creates millions of gallons per day of clean recycled water, gener­ates sustainable green energy and pro­duces high nutrient bio-solids that are used for land application. But it wasn’t always like this. In the last ten years, VVWRA has gone from a facility that was essentially dead and facing mul­tiple water quality violations, to a plant that is recognized as a leader in both the renewable energy and wastewater industries.

When Logan Olds took over as General Manager of VVWRA in 2006, he had no idea of the headaches he inherited. But it soon became apparent the plant was not operating properly and the vi­olations were piling up. And to make matters worse, VVWRA was broke. A wastewater plant is essentially a large living organism that if not operating properly can get sick and die. With that grim picture, VVWRA was in its death throes, but tough decisions made by innovative managers helped turn this once struggling utility around. To­day, VVWRA has 46 employees and stands on the verge of revolutionizing an evolving industry.

Grants have played a big part in VVWRA’s many capital projects. Thanks to more than $71 million dol­lars in grants, VVWRA has launched an industry leading waste to energy program, made massive repairs to the sewer interceptor through the Upper Mojave Narrows and started construc­tion on two water recycling facilities VVWRA is the Victor Valley’s single largest piece of public infrastructure. The main plant in Victorville is more than 400 acres, with 42 miles of sewer line interceptors throughout the val­ley. VVWRA serves the businesses and residents in Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Spring Valley Lake and Oro Grande. With construction of subregional water reclamation plants in Apple Valley and Hesperia, VVWRA is switching from a regional treatment model to a distributed treatment model. Currently, all wastewater is treated at the main VVWRA plant in Victorville. The new subregionals will allow for treatment of wastewater closer to the source, while all solids will continue to the main plant to produce energy. The benefits are two fold; first, it ex­pands VVWRA’s capacity in the in­terceptors, which will help delay the need for extremely expensive upgrades at the Victorville plant; secondly, the subregionals will supply a new source of reliable recycled water within those communities. When completed in early 2017, each of these facilities will pro­vide up to one million gallons of re­cycled water per day for above-ground irrigation in Apple Valley and Hespe­ria. The recycled water in Apple Valley will be piped to the Apple Valley Golf Course where it will be used to water the grounds. Similarly, the recycled water in Hesperia will be used at the Hesperia Golf Course and to irrigate the grounds at Civic Plaza. The combined planning and construction cost for the subregionals is estimated at $80 million dollars. That is a lot of money. However, VVWRA and its member agencies have managed to obtain $21 million dollars in grants, which essentially reduces the overall cost by 26 percent. That saves local communities and residents money. And from an economic standpoint, the subregionals will also provide VVWRA with more interceptor capacity, which means the Victor Valley can accom­modate growth throughout the area.

VVWRA has become known industry-wide for its groundbreaking Waste to Energy program, a program where nat­urally occurring methane, also known as biogas, is created at the plant and used to generate electricity. The pro­gram has been made possible by a com­bination of grants, Southern California Edison incentive rebates, and a unique public/private partnership that resulted in no additional cost to rate payers. VVWRA teamed with Anaergia Inc. to build the Omnivore system. Anaergia’s proprietary recuperative thickener was connected to a retrofitted, formerly decommissioned anaerobic digester. The result has been a dramatic increase in the production of bio-gas. VVWRA is collecting the bio-gas produced by Om­nivore, as well as the other digesters on the site, and is using it to fuel a pair of 800 kwh 2G generators. This elimi­nates the need for expensive natural gas that was previously used to power equipment. The 2G generators are ca­pable of producing enough electricity to meet all VVWRA power needs, es­sentially making the plant carbon and energy neutral. In addition, VVWRA has a long term power agreement with Anaergia, locking in that power at a much lower rate than traditional electri­cal service. Plans are also in the works for installation of a microgrid and bat­tery system that would allow VVWRA to store and supply itself with a more reliable stream of green energy. This project is being paid for entirely by a state grant from the California Energy Commission. VVWRA foresees a time in the future that they could even ex­port power to the grid. While there are still a few legislative and technical ob­stacles to make that happen, VVWRA management believes this is a prom­ising source of green power that could have a huge impact on power genera­tion both here in the US and globally.

One of the biggest challenges VVWRA has faced over the last ten years came in December of 2010 when a series of heavy storms severely damaged the main sewer line in the Upper Mojave Narrows. The incident was declared a Federal emergency and a temporary emergency bypass line was installed in just 9 days. Since that time, VVWRA has been working with engineers and construction teams to build a permanent sewer line that avoids environmentally sensitive areas in the Upper Narrows. This project has proven to be costly and dangerous. After a number of unforeseen setbacks and design changes, the project is nearly completed. It’s estimated it will cost $41 million dollars by the time it is completed in mid-2016. However, the vast majority of that ex­pense is being picked up by the Fed­eral Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with just a small percentage being the responsibility of VVWRA’s member agencies and ratepayers.

VVWRA has also made a number of improvements to its regional plant in recent years, including installation of a state of the art Aqua Diamond fil­tering system and an ultraviolet (UV) disinfection building. UV disinfection is now the final step for the recycled water before it is released into the Mo­jave River. UV disinfection uses powerful lights to essentially disinfect any remaining organisms, making it impos­sible for them to reproduce. The UV system has allowed VVWRA to stop using chemicals like chlorine to disin­fect the recycled water.

The many projects that VVWRA has embarked on in recent years have been focused on two issues: to protect public health and the environment. The better VVWRA is able to do that, whether through technological improvements or repairs and upgrades, the better it is able to serve and protect our commu­nity. Secondly, VVWRA has made a conscious effort to seek the best solu­tions for problems now and anticipate issues related to growth in the future. They have done that with the goal of keeping costs down as much as possi­ble. VVWRA has aggressively sought out grants, alternative funding, rebates and public\private partnerships to pro­vide the Victor Valley with the best possible service at the most reason­able price. Wastewater is something that most people don’t think about, but VVWRA takes its job very seriously and is dedicated to keeping the public’s trust.

General Politics

Building Opportunity and Time for the High Desert

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By Tim Watkins, Chief of Legislative and Public Affairs, San Bernardino Associated Governments

In the High Desert region of San Bernar­dino County, transportation continues to be a major factor in the quality of life of the people who live and work here and beyond. According to census data, near­ly 40,000 residents of the High Desert work in areas south of the Cajon Pass. This commuter demand relies heavily on a freeway corridor that also serves as a primary artery for goods movement to and from the rest of the nation, offering significant motivation to find solutions to the transportation challenges before us. As the economy continues to slowly rebound from the downturn experienced almost a decade ago, housing starts are returning to the region. This will only result in even greater demand on our in­frastructure.

Over the past few years, the San Bernar­dino Associated Governments (SAN­BAG) has been directly involved in the development and delivery of major improvements to connect people and communities to opportunity and time through enhancements to our transpor­tation system.

For example, when SANBAG and the City of Victorville were joined by nearly 300 citizens and business owners to open the La Mesa/Nisqualli Interchange back in 2013, we welcomed in an alternative to the then heavily-congested Bear Val­ley Road. At the time, Bear Valley car­ried more vehicles per day than Inter­state 15, and as a result commuters and businesses felt the impact during peak hours…which at that time represented most of the day. Today, because of La Mesa/Nisqualli, traffic on Bear Valley Road is manageable and people can ac­cess their destinations more effectively and efficiently.

About a year later, Victorville’s neigh­bor to the south, Hesperia, was also joined by SANBAG to usher in the new Ranchero Road Interchange. Couple this project with the Ranchero Road Rail­road Underpass to the east, and residents of this growing community were able to have better access to and from Interstate 15. Prior to the interchange comple­tion, Main Street carried practically theentire traffic burden for commuters try­ing to get to the interstate. Much like Bear Valley Road, the congestion relief experienced after the completion of the interchange was a welcomed sight for commuters and businesses alike.

And, just as time matters to us as com­muters, it matters to our economy as well. San Bernardino County serves as the gateway to and from the rest of the nation for the various goods that come in and out of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Much of that is via truck, but equally important is how we keep freight moving on our rail lines as well. Last year we opened the Lenwood Road Grade Separation project which represents just that…a moving economy. Hundreds of trains pass through that community daily and now they can do so even more efficiently. Sometimes overlooked is the fact that grade separa­tion projects help the local community as well. Improved traffic circulation, enhanced response times for emergency service providers, and less noise are all positive by-products of this investment into the region.

Moving forward, finding ways to con­nect east and west continues to be a crit­ical challenge for our region. SANBAG is actively working with the County of San Bernardino, the Town of Apple Val­ley, and the City of Victorville to tackle the funding needs for a complete Yucca Loma Corridor. This three-pronged ap­proach has already seen major strides toward connecting the eastern portion of the High Desert to Interstate 15. The Yucca Loma Bridge and Yates Road widening are complete and construction to widen Yucca Loma Road, the eastern leg of the corridor to Apple Valley, is underway.

Our transportation partners at the Cali­fornia Department of Transportation (Caltrans) have kicked off the reconstruction of the “D” and “E” Street in­terchanges. This all started as part of a two-phase project to widen Interstate 15 between Victorville and Barstow almost two decades ago. The work underway will reconstruct these two interchanges and widen the Mojave River Bridge so that the freeway median and shoulders can be brought up to federal standards. This will enhance the safety and opera­tions of the freeway and also improve the overall driver experience in this area.

Perhaps the most significant SANBAG/Caltrans partnership is the nearly com­pleted Interstate 15/Interstate 215 Dev­ore Interchange Project. This approxi­mately $300 million project was part of an innovative delivery design-build pilot program that enabled the project team to develop and build it more than a year ahead of schedule compared to the typi­cal process. When complete (a public ceremony was held May 20th), drivers will now be able enjoy the multiple en­hancements that were constructed in one of the most used corridors in our county. The relationship between Interstate 15 and Interstate 215 will be modified to make for seamless transitions that will greatly reduce the weaving of passenger vehicles and heavy trucks. Trucks will be using newly constructed truck by-pass lanes and passenger vehicles using the I-15 fast lane to get up and down the pass will stay in the fast lane as they transition through Glen Helen, Fontana, and Rancho Cucamonga.

In addition, wider lanes, improved ramps, and enhanced bridges will make for a better drive and more efficient commute for the nearly one million vehicle trips through the pass weekly. Route 66 which runs parallel to I-15, will be re­connected, providing an alternate route when needed and improve overall fire and public safety response times.

Couple the Devore Interchange Proj­ect completion with the concurrently scheduled completion of the Caltrans Cajon Pass Project that is rehabilitat­ing concrete lanes on I-15 between the summit and State Route 138, and com­muters, recreational travelers, and other users of the system will experience an improved transportation system that re­duces travel times and increases access to and from the High Desert.

General Water

Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Stormwater Program

Published by:

By Patty Z. Kouyoumdjian, Executive Officer

The Lahontan Regional Water Qual­ity Control Board, known as the La­hontan Water Board, is a state agency whose mission is to protect surface and groundwater uses for current and future benefit of all Californians. The board has seven members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Staff offices are located in South Lake Tahoe and Victorville.

Implementing a number of federal and state regulatory programs, board decisions directly or indirectly affect most all residents within the Lahon­tan Region. The Lahontan Region encompasses the Great Basin portion of California. It extends from Ore­gon south to the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains and eastward from the crest of the Sierra Nevadas to Nevada. Within San Bernardino County, numerous board actions are taken to protect and improve the state’s waters. This article’s focus is the Stormwater Program.

Stormwater Program Requirements

Statewide general orders (e.g. permits) exist for three main stormwater pro­gram categories; industrial, construc­tion, and municipal. Permit links are on the State Water Resources Control Board website at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/pro­grams/stormwater/. Coverage under all permits is obtained through the SMARTS database, which can be ac­cessed at that website.

Construction Activities

Construction permit coverage is re­quired for any land disturbance great­er than one acre. Note that disturbed area, not project size, is the governing factor. Additionally, project compo­nents forming a larger plan of devel­opment must be considered together. Minimizing sediment transport im­pacts is the primary permit objec­tive. For each project a site-specific Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, or SWPPP, must be prepared by a Qualified Stormwater Develop­er. It must identify appropriate Best Management Practices, or BMPs, that will be installed and maintained by a Qualified Stormwater Developer for both the construction and post-construction periods.

Porous concrete makes up part of a new parking lot in Victorville at Valley Hi Toyota (darker pavement)

Porous concrete makes up part of a new parking lot in Victorville at Valley Hi Toyota (darker pavement)

The water board’s key objective is en­suring that effective post-construction BMPs are in place at the time permit termination is granted. The permit requires that the post-construction runoff is equal to or less than pre-construction runoff and that runoff does not cause downstream effects, including erosion or modification of drainage patterns, swales or stream channels. A site-specific hydrology calculation must be done to verifythat the post-construction BMPs will be effective at meeting this requirement. While there are a wide range of BMPs that may be proposed, the Lahontan Water Board promotes BMPs appropriate to the arid high desert climate, using Low Impact Develop­ment, or LID, principles discussed below. Effective post-construction BMPs must be proposed in the proj­ect design. Numerous termination requests have been declined by the water board where post-construction BMPs were not in place. To speed the termination process, proponents should include photographs show­ing the periphery of the construc­tion site, especially runoff locations. Photographs of the interior drainage features, unless integral to post-construction BMPs such as prefabricated infiltration chambers, are less impor­tant.

Industrial Activities

Industrial permit coverage is required based on industry type or Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes. For manufacturing facilities cover­age is required for SIC codes 20XX through 39XX and 4221 through 4225. Permitted facilities must prepare and implement a SWPPP that identifies appropriate BMPs. The permit re­quires stormwater runoff sampling from Qualifying Storm Events. Staff has inspected many industries in the Victor Valley that have ineffective BMPs or conduct operations in or near ephemeral waterways, causing adverse effects to waters. Identifying and requesting modified practices and improved stormwater management will be the focus of future inspec­tions. The permit includes two new options for enrollees. A No Exposure Certification may be obtained if all industrial materials and activities areprotected by a storm-resistant shelter. A Notice of Non-Applicability signed by a registered professional engineer may be submitted if a facility is engi­neered to contain the maximum his­toric precipitation event or is located where there is no hydrologic connec­tion to waters of the United States.

Erosion in epheremal wash caused by concentrated urban run-off, Hesperia

Erosion in epheremal wash caused by concentrated urban run-off, Hesperia

Municipal Activities

Municipal permit coverage is re­quired for the Town of Apple Valley; Cities of Barstow, Hesperia, and Vic­torville, and portions of the County of San Bernardino. In addition to con­trolling pollutants in stormwater run­off from municipal activities (shops, yards, streets, etc.), municipalities must adopt ordinances providing le­gal authority to control pollutants (in­cluding sediment) into and from the municipal storm system. Other program areas include public outreach and education, illicit discharge identi­fication and elimination, construction site controls, and post-construction BMP requirements. The permit re­quires new projects to capture stormwater from the 85 percentile 24-hour precipitation event. Effective main­tenance is the key to ensure post-con­struction BMPs continue to protect water quality.

Low Impact Development, Stream and Wetland Impacts

In the earliest project design phase, applicants should assess and evalu­ate how site con­ditions such as soils, vegetation, and flow paths should be consid­ered in the placement of buildings and impervious surfaces to re­duce adverse im­pacts to surface flow paths, water quality and wild­life habitat. Envi­ronmental docu­ments should identify how the project incorpo­rates Low Impact Development, or LID, principles to protect water qual­ity. The High Desert has unique rain­fall and stormwater runoff patterns. LID practices should be cus­tomized for each individual site to preserve pre-develop­ment hydrology by limiting impervious surfaces (i.e, pav­ing), promoting stormwater infiltration, minimizing land disturbance, and incorporat­ing structural BMPs such as pervious pavement, infiltra­tion galleries, energy dissipa­tion, etc. Water board staff have observed many older projects have radically alteredthe ephemeral wash downstream en­vironment by increasing runoff ve­locities and volumes, causing exces­sive sediment erosion and sediment deposition in lower-lying areas, bury­ing wildlife and riparian habitat. In­corporating LID principles in future new and redevelopment projects will protect and improve our unique des­ert environment and water quality for our future.

Proposition 1 Grant Funding Resources

A new opportunity to obtain storm­water project funding is available through Proposition 1 grants. This requires applications to reference an adopted Stormwater Resources Man­agement Plan that identifies projects on a watershed basis. That plan may become a component of the Mojave Water Agency’s Integrated Regional Water Management Plan and can be used to support grant requests. The water board encourages local munici­palities to cooperate and cost share in preparing this plan.

Air Quality General

High Desert Businesses give MDAQMD High Marks for Customer Service

Published by:

By Christie Robinson, CRE Specialist, Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District

In today’s economic climate, cus­tomer service can mean the differ­ence between success and failure for some businesses and organiza­tions. In January of this year, the Mojave Desert Air Quality Manage­ment District–the local air quality agency for San Bernardino County’s High Desert and Riverside County’s Palo Verde Valley–initiated a Cus­tomer Service Satisfaction Survey in an effort to provide the MDAQMD Executive Board with insights on how well staff is meeting the needs of regulated business while issuing permits, inspecting facilities and re­sponding to questions about air qual­ity rules and regulations.

The MDAQMD’s last Customer Ser­vice survey– which was conducted in 1999–produced 26 responses. The 2016 survey produced a total of 60 responses from local industry. More than 650 postcards announcing the survey were distributed using direct mail and e-mails to permittees and other interested parties between Jan­uary 11, 2016 and March 1, 2016.

The MDAQMD’s Customer Service Satisfaction Survey was designed using Survey Monkey and posted to the district’s website. The ques­tionnaire was designed to elicit re­spondents’ opinions on a variety of district services, as well gauge how well the district is performing and how it can improve.

The survey consisted of 15 rating scale questions, ranging from ease of contacting the district, technical and rule support, and ease of apply­ing for a permit. Respondents were asked to provide a rating for each topic on a scale between “poor” and “excellent,” or N/A for not applica­ble. Below are some of the survey’s findings: • More than 65% of respondents rated the ease of reaching District staff by phone or e-mail as “excel­lent.”

  • Accuracy of service/information provided by permitting staff was rat­ed “excellent” by more than 64%.
  • Courtesy and professionalism of compliance staff in conducting facil­ity inspections was rated “excellent” by almost 72%.
  • Timeliness of permitting or com­pliance staff in conducting facility inspections was rated “excellent” by more than 60%.
  • Permitting and compliance staff knowledge of technical issues and applicable regulations was rated “ex­cellent” by almost 72%.
  • Almost 60% of participants rated the level of service provided by the MDAQMD compared to other Cali­fornia air districts as “excellent.”
  • Nearly 85% of the respondents rated their overall satisfaction with ease of applying for a permit or au­thority to construct between “excel­lent” and “good.”

Several questions on the survey asked for comments; a sampling is provided below:

  • “Inspectors have been approach­able, knowledgeable, and reach­able.”
  • “Work well with the staff. The staff is always willing to meet in person to discuss issues.”
  • “The smoothest permitting for any air district in California. Well done!”
  • “MDAQMD personnel have al­ways demonstrated a high degree of professionalism, knowledge, and in­terest in helping with issues regard­ing compliance.”

According to Eldon Heaston, MDAQMD Executive Director, “The survey’s results will help the District construct a road map for implementing improvements and to continue providing optimum servic­es to the regulated community in the near future.”

The MDAQMD is responsible for regulating stationary air pollution sources and implementing state and federal air quality rules and regu­lations within its 20,000 square mile jurisdiction, which is home to more than 550,000 residents. The MDAQMD has garnered a reputa­tion as one of the most responsive and business-friendly air districts in California.

To find out how doing business within the MDAQMD could be good for your business, call 760.245.1661 or visit us online at www.mdaqmd.ca.gov today!

 

General Transportation

High Desert Corridor Final EIS/R To Be Released Late April

Published by:

By Laurie Hunter

The High Desert Corridor, in the High Desert of both San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties, an east-west highway between Palmdale and north Victorville and private sector-supported rail line connecting Anaheim to Vegas, is close to being environmentally cleared for land ac­quisition and development. The final Caltrans-produced EIS (environ­mental impact statement), followed by a month-long review period, was due to be released in late April, 2016. After the Federal Government issues a Record of Decision, usually within a few months of EIS release, land acquisition of the right of way can legally begin.

High Desert Corridor Interactive Map

You can get the latest information, see where the on and off ramps are likely to be located, and see land use and public comments relating to spe­cific points by doing a web search for the HIGH DESERT CORRI­DOR INTERACTIVE MAP. The final alignment, and cost estimates will be announced when the EIS is released, and you can follow prog­ress on the Interactive Map (devel­oped by Arellano and Associates under contract from Metro for HDC EIS Outreach).

High Desert Corridor JPA

The High Desert Corridor (HDC) is a prototype for how to intelligently plan, without “sprawl”, to join two major population centers—and like the olden days—using transporta­tion infrastructure built first—to pro­vide the backbone for planning the best land use for the region. In the High Desert there is an abundance of housing, but residents need to com­mute for hours to jobs far away. To reduce commute times and provide jobs, the HDC affords the opportu­nity for land use planning and in­vestment/development that creates jobs: the goal is increased mobility, a safer alternative that saves half the time and removes trucks from SR 138, and improves the quality of life by spurring jobs along the alignment that enable residents to spend more time at home instead of commuting.

The HDC is locally supported by a two-county coalition of local gov­ernments who govern a Joint Powers Authority to stimulate its develop­ment in order to advance economic development and investment in the Victor and Antelope Valleys. The HDCJPA is chaired by Robert Lovingood, with Vice Chair Michael D. Antonovich and local board representation by Ryan McEachron, Vic­torville; Scott Nassif, Apple Valley; Richard Kerr, Adelanto; and Jim Ledford, Palm­dale.

Financing: The HDC will be developed as a public-private partner­ship (P3), with private investment providing the majority of fund­ing. Because govern­ment funding is also needed, there will need to be a future Oversight Board or JPA (Joint Powers Authority) of some type that will be responsible for contracting out for engineering, land acquisition, and construction/development.

DESCRIPTION: The HDC has four components in one right-of-way (ROW):

  • Highway/expressway between the SR 14 in Palmdale and the I-15 at Falchion Road in Victorville
  • High speed rail tracks to connect rail stations: XpressWest’s station, on the east side of the I-15 where Dale Evans Parkway enters/exits— traveling to the west in the HDC Right of Way to Palmdale’s future California High Speed Rail (CAH­SRA)/Metrolink Station
  • Green corridor to use space not occupied by the highway and rail tracks for solar energy generation to power the trains and an underground transmission line for solar rooftop and solar farm connection to the grid, and;
  • Bikeway between Adelanto and Palmdale

The EIS will environmentally clear 63 miles of highway/expressway, but realistically, the eastern seven miles in Apple Valley will not be included in an initial P3. Private sec­tor financing, combined with public transportation funding, will require the project to be developed in mul­tiple phases, leaving the eastern sev­en miles through Apple Valley for the future. In the Victor Valley, the HDC P3 will travel from US 395 in Adelanto, approximately along Air Expressway through SCLA in Vic­torville to an I-15 interchange at Fal­chion Road, then roughly six miles into Apple Valley, ending near the North Apple Valley Industrial Park.

Financing

Construction costs can be initially reduced by working with the pri­vate sector on plans to build the HDC in phases as funding strategies are devised. For example, develop only two or four lanes of highway-expressway initially-reserving right of way for future widening for lanes needed at a later date.

Yet another possibility for phasing is separating the timelines and con­struction of the highway and rail components to build the rail tracks first if there is private sector fund­ing interest to begin before highway funding is available. Then the right of way (ROW) for the highway can be preserved. The green corridor can be planned and developed even later when the latest technology of the day can be used for operations of trains, lighting, maintenance, thus increas­ing revenue.

Strategies to phase highway or rail development will be determined in the coming year. Full buildout of an eight-lane highway and HSR tracks, and the last non-P3 seven miles is around $8 Billion. Strategies to re­duce costs and to attract private sector funding can make this sum manageable and reduce initial costs by billions. Phasing will be decided by the timing of available public and private financing.

Possible sources of funding are:

  • Tolling the middle section of the highwayn Adelanto
  • Applying a “toll” on passenger ticket sales between Palmdale and Las Vegas, regardless of whether the operator is XpressWest, CAHSRA, Metrolink, or private operators not in existence today
  • TIFIA (highway) or RRIF (rail­road) federal loans and PABS (Pri­vate Activity Bonds) are debt in­struments issued by state or local agencies to construct projects with significant private involvement.
  • EIFDs (Enhanced Infrastruc­ture Development Districts), one surrounding the Palmdale HSR/ Metrolink Station and one surround­ing the XW Station. Modeled some­what after Redevelopment Agencies, state legislation provides new author­ity for lesser tax increment financing of real estate development
  • Cap and Trade Financing: The HSR Tracks are eligible for Cap and Trade funding in their own right and for CAHSR “Connector” expendi­tures in Palmdale
  • Costs will be shared to develop the CAHSR connector ROW and tracks
  • Local 1/2 cent sales taxes. 1) The HDC is named in Measure I as eli­gible for the 1/2 cent sales tax in San Bernardino County, but more likely a new Measure would be considered. 2) In Los Angeles County, the Metro Board is close to placing a Measure R2 for the November 2016 ballot that specifies the Antelope Valley Metrolink Line will have priority for new Metrolink R2 funding, and $170 Million for ROW purchase in the first five years, with authority for ac­celeration through a P3 and funding available in 45 years without a P3. Polling in North Los Angeles County showed 71% public support for using a new 1/2 sales tax to fund the HDC
  • FAST and Freight: New Fed­eral Transportation funding legislated by Congress contains provisions for infrastructure that relieves freight congestion which might be ap­plied to improvements to Metrolink to bring passengers to Palmdale to transfer to High Speed Rail transport by XW to Las Vegas
  • Revenue to be determined from the green corridor energy generation and transmission, electric and natu­ral gas fueling stations, fibre optic and broadband lines, and more.

P3 Revenue Studies Underway

To provide preliminary information to the private sector to gauge their interest, two studies are currently underway:

Highway: Metro has just selected a contractor to perform a study to de­termine the revenue that can be ex­pected from tolling the middle sec­tion of the highway between 100th St. E in Palmdale and US 395 in Adelanto. A previous study by In­fraConsult estimated tolling would provide $4.7 Billion in 2012 dol­lars over 45 years (low forecast); $5.8 Billion (high forecast). Tolls in the mid-section will be adjustable for cars and trucks and attract new business from new trucks traveling from Chicago/Vegas, and Northern/ Central California, and the Ports of Hueneme, LA, and Long Beach to new intermodal facilities at SCLA, and logistics facilities at the Apple Valley Industrial Center, Barstow, and Hesperia.

High Desert Multipurpose Corridor Project

Rail: The High Desert Corridor JPA selected a contractor to perform an investment grade study to assess the volume of rail passengers between Anaheim and Las Vegas and their willingness to pay for HSR to Las Vegas instead of car or plane, as well as interim use (until CAHSR) of Metrolink to get to Palmdale to board an XW car to Las Vegas. The study, which will provide a revenue estimate, will show if the rail com­ponent of the HDC will need any public funding and if so, how much. The study is slated for completion June 30, 2016.

High Desert Corridor Interactive Map: don’t forget to search the web for “High Desert Corridor Inter­active Map” to get specific informa­tion about various locations along the alignment and progress of the EIS.

Economy General Politics

San Bernardino County Economic Development Agency Improving the Job Prospects of Residents

Published by:

By Mary Jane Olhasso, Assistant Executive Officer, County of San Bernardino

One of the most rewarding aspects of the San Bernardino County Economic De­velopment Agency’s work is improving the job prospects of residents. Work­ing with the business community on relocation and expansion opportunities and implementing proactive workforce development programs are just some of the ways the agency makes an impact. Moreover, the department’s efforts are augmented by valuable partners in edu­cation, investment and real estate who work in collaboration to ensure job cre­ation opportunities.

A great example now being led by edu­cation partners is the implementation of a nearly $15 millon grant awarded to Chaffey College and the Inland Empire Regional Training Consortium (IERTC) in 2014. The competitive grant was awarded by the Trade Adjustment As­sistance Community College and Ca­reer Training (TAACCCT), which is co-administered by the Department of Labor and Department of Education, to improve manufacturing training for the Inland Empire. The IERTC includes 10 community colleges, 2-four-year universities, and the Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire as well as several faith-based and community or­ganizations.

In March Chaffey and the consortium celebrated the opening of the Industri­al Technical Learning Center (InTech Center) located on the campus of Cali­fornia Steel Industries (CSI) that will train thousands of workers in advanced manufacturing, advanced transporta­tion, logistics, energy and utilities, as well as computer/ICT/digital media. These programs are conducted at no or low cost to employers and employees, thanks to the TAACCCT grant.

Through TAACCT funding, Barstow Community College now offers a low-cost, two-year plan in Industrial Main­tenance Mechanic Technology. This program offers National Center for Construction Education and Research(NCCER) stackable certificates. Bar­stow offers this program at a lower cost compared to similar programs offered at private colleges.

These programs and others are true job creation successes. California Steel ac­cepted five Barstow Community College students into their paid internship program over the last several years and a few have stayed on to become full-time California Steel employees. A number of other companies have partnered with Barstow Community College, either by recruitment, placement, advisory, or donations, including: NRG Energy, Abengoa Solar, Rio Tinto, Trinity Con­struction, National Training Center-Fort Irwin, Marine Corps Logistics Base, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Another example of how community colleges are increasing job prospects is the work being done by Victor Valley College. The Welding Department at Victor Valley College has been an ac­tive department in the community for more than 35 years as a Los Angeles Certified Testing Facility for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, an American Welding Society Certified S.E.N.S.E educational facil­ity, and a Fabricator and Manufacturers Association International Educational partner. Today, the Victor Valley Weld­ing department has evolved into a robust program that has placed students throughout the years with government agencies such as NASA, the Naval Nuclear Submarine Assembly dock in Virginia, and the Marine Corp Logistics Base in Yermo. It has served as a pre-employment testing facility for Northwest Pipe and Cas­ing, partnered with local industry to create intern­ships and pathways, and is continually working to provide students with job placement opportunities.

Thanks to additional funds, Victor Val­ley’s successful Welding department will expand its training in metal forming and fabrication with the planned addi­tion of space and resources. Construc­tion will begin on their new facility, which is slated to be completed by the end of this year.

The efforts of Barstow Community Col­lege, Victor Valley College and InTech Center are all part of a collaborative solutions-oriented effort to provide an economic boost to the county by provid­ing new skills to workers who are then able to quickly fill jobs in manufactur­ing, distribution and related technology sectors.

The Economic Development Agency has also been focused on a manufac­turing initiative that builds awareness of the county’s advantages for manu­facturing businesses: it identifies opportunities for manufacturers outside the county to consider expansion or relocation to the county; identifies obstacles to expansion of existing county busi­nesses; and informs busi­nesses about workforce incentives and programs.

The team has already reached out to nearly 1,000 unique manufac­turing companies, result­ing in more than 258 direct contacts that allowed staff to share information on the benefits of San Bernardino County. More than 90 of those contacts were sent follow-up let­ters and general cost com­parisons for manufactur­ing in San Bernardino vs. Los Angeles or Orange County. This effort will continue throughout this year.

The department also hosted educational workshops in collaboration with other partners, provided resources to educate and prepare local manufacturing busi­nesses that are interested in exporting or expanding their export base, and en­gaged in business-to-business match­making meetings, both locally and in other countries. Additionally, the county is participating in the Advanced Manu­facturing Partnership’s (AMP SoCal) efforts with USC Center for Economic Development as the lead agency to pro­mote and support the aerospace and de­fense industry in Southern California.

These multiple outreach efforts and the progress to date will continue to posi­tion this region as a premier choice, especially in Southern California, for new investment and job creation.

General

Keeping the American Drive Alive For Future Generations

Published by:

By Victorville Councilman Ryan McEachron, SANBAG President

Last year renowned economist Joel Kotkin published a study entitled “Housing the Future,” which identified the Inland Empire as having one of the largest youth populations in the nation with approximately 180,000 millenni­als–ages 18-35 years old. As the father of two children under 10 years old, these statistics leave me with a linger­ing question: are we building enough homes to keep up with this future de­mand?

According to Kotkin, San Bernardino County and the State of California suf­fer from a chronic housing shortage which creates a lack of affordability for aspiring homeowners, including millennials. With an estimated state­wide shortage of two-million homes and coinciding affordability gap, more and more young working families will likely be forced to leave California. So how do we reverse this trend? Clearly, we need to support public policies that encourage vibrant new community de­velopment and harness the economic growth that results when we address our chronic housing shortage.

For example, a study by Mark Boud of Real Estate Economics reported that if San Bernardino County were able to address two-thirds of its current hous­ing shortage, it would benefit from over $3.5 billion in new economic ac­tivity. Other housing experts estimate that 1,000 new homes create approxi­mately 3,000 full-time jobs, $160 mil­lion in wages and $110 million in tax revenues, which can be invested in quality of life necessities such as new roads, schools, parks, public safety and water infrastructure.

Likewise, UC Riverside’s Center for Economic Forecasting and Develop­ment published a report stating that more housing is needed to sustain eco­nomic growth in the Inland Empire. Kotkin, Boud and UCR all agree that housing is a cornerstone of our econ­omy; however, during the recession, our County lost over 70,000 construc­tion jobs and has only replaced 11,000 of them over the past few years.

Like many parents, I want my children to get a great education, a good pay­ing job, and own a home to enjoy with their family. A recent article in the Daily Press (3/29/16) outlined how a majority of millennials in the National Association of Realtors’ March 2016 Home Survey said they want to buy a single-family dwelling. However 78% of millennials in California are “un­certain or doubtful” about obtaining a mortgage. This is no surprise, since California is currently ranked 49th in the U.S. in homeownership, while the average homeowner spends over 25% of their income on housings costs– more than any other state. I fear if we don’t support policies that encourage more workforce housing in California, my children will join millennials and the reported 625,000 U.S. residents who left California and moved to neighboring states between 2007 and 2014.

Fortunately, there’s reason for opti­mism in the High Desert. We remain an important destination for logistics and our elected leaders remain focused on attracting businesses, jobs and commerce to spark a thriving econo­my. We’ve also seen several excellent new residential developments come through the pipeline in recent months, so we’re on the right track. I’m con­vinced that if we continue to embrace quality housing, our children, millen­nials, dual-income families and se­niors will all find a place to call home in the High Desert, Inland Empire and Golden State.

 

 

General Politics

Energy Disclosure In California Has Bumpy Road

Published by:

By Marika Erdely, Founder and CEO of Green EconoME

AB 1103, which was in effect during 2014 and 2015, was repealed on Oc­tober 8, 2015, to eliminate energy dis­closure requirements as of 12/31/2015. As you may recall, AB 1103 required all sales, refinance and single tenant leases of buildings exceeding 10,000 sq. ft. to disclose their energy usage prior to the signing of financial docu­ments.

The California Energy Commission (CEC), who administers this law, stat­ed that one of the reasons to repeal AB 1103 was that the utilities were having difficulty accessing energy usage in multi-tenant buildings due to privacy laws. All meter rate payers own their energy usage unless they give authori­zation to release it. Therefore, a build­ing owner would not have access to tenant data in order to comply with AB 1103, and in multi-meter situa­tions (retail, some commercial) it was even more difficult to attain this infor­mation. Therefore, an accurate energy disclosure was impossible to produce. The CEC also stated that compliance was limited, most likely because no enforcement of the law occurred, and many building owners took the chance and did not comply. The CEC decided to repeal the entire law and to start all over.

AB 802, California’s new Energy Dis­closure Law, ini­tially focuses on the utilities requirement to provide aggre­gated energy usage data, also known as ‘whole building data’. This would require the entire building’s energy usage, common area and tenant meters to be downloaded into the EPA’s En­ergy Star Portfolio Manager Software as one number. This eliminates any isis­sues with privacy. The new law also eliminates the building owner’s re­sponsibility to disclose the data when involved in a financial transaction. In current form, buildings over 50,000 sq. ft., including multi-family, will be required to disclose their energy us­age on an annual usage, with it being a public disclosure within a year of re­porting.

Recently, CEC held a workshop on AB 802’s progress, and showed this timeline for implementation (see be­low):

With this tentative timeline, commer­cial building energy disclosure is be­ing delayed, yet again to April 1, 2018 and multi-family disclosure would be­gin a year later on April 1, 2019. Let’s not hold our breath anticipating these dates, as the asterisk gives a clear pic­ture that this is probably not going to happen.

In regards to enforcement, AB 802 does provide for enforcement mecha­nisms to impose a civil fine, but we have yet to see what form this will be.

Los Angeles and its Energy Disclo­sure Law is Moving Forward

The City of Los Angeles is also con­sidering an Energy and Water disclosure ordinance for existing build­ings (www.laexistingbuildings.org). We learned that the new ordinance had been drafted and sent to the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee during April 2016 for ap­proval. Plans for implementation are set to begin during 2017.

California Tentative Program Timeline 1

The current Energy Benchmarking Compliance Proposal to include:

  • Starting 2016 – City-owned build­ings > 7,500 ft.
  • Starting 2017 – all buildings > 50,000 ft.
  • Starting 2018 – all buildings > 25,000 ft.
  • Starting 2019 – all buildings > 10,000 ft. This size building is a sticking point, and the new ordi­nance may not drop to this level.

The Los Angeles disclosure will also require energy and water efficiency retrofits if buildings do not meet a certain level of energy or water effi­ciency. LA’s energy disclosure infor­mation will also become public one year after compliance begins. There will be penalties and fines levied for non-compliance. It is assumed that the County of Los Angeles and its neigh­boring cities will also follow suit and implement their own version of an En­ergy Disclosure law once Los Angeles signs their law into place.

Why is Energy Disclosure Important and Why Should You Care?

If all you do each month is grumble about your electricity bill but have no idea if these charges are reason­able for your building and its use, why wouldn’t you want to know how your building stands compared to similar buildings? Benchmarking a building in the EPA’s Portfolio Manager Soft­ware provides this knowledge.

If you knew that the energy usage was extreme (low Energy Star score or high Energy Use Intensity (EUI)), wouldn’t you take steps to reduce these costs? It is like everything else in life: if you know you are over-spending, you make changes. Why should it be any different with energy costs?

Energy Disclosure provides this data, especially if you further analyze the energy usage data and costs and pro­duce financial graphic analysis to understand the financial metrics, like Green EconoME prepares. As every­one says, big data is valuable.

So once you know your building is inefficient, retrofitting your lighting with LEDs is the easiest way to cap­ture the ‘low hanging fruit’ and pos­sibly reduce your total energy kWh by 15-20% and your lighting kWh by 60%. Providing HVAC control with new wireless thermostats can provide even more cost savings by easily man­aging schedules and reducing con­sumption in unoccupied spaces with door and occupancy sensors. These retrofits will reduce your building’s kW demand and kWh usage and you can save big.

Utility incentives can help reduce the cost of the retrofits, along with ac­celerated depreciation and various fi­nancing methods, including Property Accessed Clean Energy (PACE).

How does the Building Code affect all of this?

California’s Title 24, the Building Code related to energy will be up­dated again in early 2017. It is impor­tant to note that the goal of Title 24 is to build to Zero Net Energy (ZNE) standards for residential construction by 2020 and commercial (including multi-family) by 2030. What is ZNE? Simply, a building’s energy consump­tion is offset by its energy generation during an annual period to have a zero net effect.

With the goal to build ZNE for com­mercial by 2030, the CEC hopes to have 50% of the current existing building stock to be ZNE by 2030 as well. This appears to be a good but lofty goal since most building own­ers have no idea how their building stands in regards to energy efficiency. Which brings us back to the question­able decision to eliminate AB 1103. Why eliminate a law that provided this knowledge to the building owner? Re­pealing the law that provides insight needed to drive towards ZNE seems to be counterintuitive. We find this step by the CEC a detriment to the goal of ZNE.

Market Valuations to Take Note

It is also important to note that Energy Disclosure is closely tied to market valuations. If a building’s operating costs are lower, this provides for high­er valuation in the market value of the building. Cap rates are obviously af­fected by operating costs. Energy Star and LEED Certifications can provide the labeling for this higher valuation.

Should you wish to know more about Energy Disclosure and how your building can consume less energy, feel free to contact Marika Erdely at 818. 681.5750 or Marika@greeneconome.com.

Marika is Founder and CEO of Green EconoME (www.greeneconome.com), a full service Energy Consulting firm located in Pacific Palisades. She is a Certified Energy Auditor (CEA), a LEED AP BD+C, and holds an MBA from Pepperdine University. Marika was formerly the CFO for New Mil­lennium Homes, the master developer for The Oaks of Calabasas. Marika’s background is deep in financial analy­sis and the desire to understand how new technologies can reduce energy consumption. Green EconoME holds a License B (#10001368), is a VAR for Daintree Networks (lighting and HVAC control) and is an Energy Star Partner.