Feinstein Will Vote to Advance Infrastructure Legislation, Notes Critical Investments for California
Aug 08 2021
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced she will support the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bill that will modernize the country’s infrastructure and create thousands of jobs.
“California is the fifth-largest economy in the world and propels the innovation of our entire nation. But our roads, our bridges, our water systems and our high-tech infrastructure are showing their age,” Feinstein said.
“This bill signals our commitment to modernizing how our state and our country conduct our business. And for California specifically, the investments in water infrastructure and wildfire risk mitigation are significant.
“This legislation marks a critical infusion of funds to fix roads and bridges, upgrade the electricity grid, expand and improve public transit, modernize how the state moves water around, reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfires, begin to make the changes needed to seriously address climate change and much more.
“This bill signals that the United States will continue to lead the world and not take a backseat to nations like China that have been investing trillions in their own infrastructure.”
Wildfire risk mitigation
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes billions of dollars to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and fund vital wildfire mitigation programs.
“California is on fire, and this legislation shows that the Senate understands the significance of this,” Feinstein said.
“This bill includes money to reduce the pay gap between federal and state wildland firefighters, it funds large-scale hazardous fuel reduction and forest management programs, it boosts programs to make businesses and homes more fire resistant and it helps modernize our electricity system by undergrounding wires and improving how power shutoffs are used to reduce fire risk. In short, the bill dedicates billions to address the existential threat of wildfires to California.”
What’s in the bill related to wildfire:
- Federal firefighter salaries: The bill includes $600 million to increase salaries for firefighters within the Interior Department and Agriculture Department by up to $20,000 per year. This will eliminate much of the salary gap facing firefighters in California today, where federal firefighter salaries start at $28,078, compared to $66,336 for state firefighters. The bill also converts at least 1,000 seasonal firefighters to permanent, year-round positions.
- Wildfire mitigation programs: The bill includes $3.3 billion for wildfire risk reduction efforts including hazardous fuels reduction, controlled burns, community wildfire defense grants, collaborative landscape forest restoration projects and funding for firefighting resources. This total includes the $600 million to boost federal firefighter salaries, as detailed above.
- Undergrounding power lines: The bill includes $5 billion for utilities and grid operators to bury power lines and install fire-resistant technologies to reduce wildfires and expand the use of electricity microgrids to reduce disturbances caused by voluntary power shutoffs.
- Forest management: The bill includes $2 billion for the Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service to carry out ecological restoration projects on public and private lands in order to remove the fuel the feeds wildfires.
- Fireproofing homes: The bill includes $3.5 billion for the weatherization assistance program to help homeowners make energy-efficient improvements to their homes that will help fireproof dwellings.
Preparing for future droughts
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $8.3 billion for water infrastructure modernization programs including storage, water recycling, desalination and environmental restoration.
Senator Feinstein for years has worked to secure funding to modernize California’s water infrastructure. She worked with Senate leadership this year to include funding for water in the infrastructure bill, and since the bipartisan infrastructure framework was announced in June she has worked closely with Western senators to further increase funding for water storage, recycling and ecosystem restoration programs and ensure California gets what it needs.
“There’s no question that California has to do more to store and otherwise stretch the use of water in wet years in order to have enough to sustain through the dry years,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein continued: “The funds in this bill for water infrastructure modernization programs are critical to help plan for future droughts and recharge aquifers after storms. Water recycling and desalination programs in particular will help California stretch supplies without diverting water from rivers and the Delta or harming the environment. And ecosystem restoration, water conservation and water-use-efficiency funds will help us more wisely use what water we do have.”
What’s in the bill related to drought:
- Water storage: The bill includes $1.15 billion for water storage projects to hold more water in wet years and after major storms for use by communities and for environmental benefit.
- Water recycling: The bill includes $1 billion for water recycling projects to help stretch water supplies without increasing diversions from rivers and the Delta or harming the environment.
- Desalination: The bill includes $250 million for desalination projects to provide a drought-proof water supply and demonstrate improving desalination technologies.
- Environmental restoration: The bill includes $980 million for environmental programs for Western water, including $580 million for ecosystem restoration programs and $400 million for water conservation and water-use-efficiency programs, including through the use of natural infrastructure.
- Reclamation: $3.2 billion to help reduce the backlog in Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure repairs.
- Dam safety: $500 billion for dam safety that would allow seismic repairs to BF Sisk Dam, a key hub for California’s water delivery system. The bill also includes $2.5 billion for the Twenty-First Century Dams Act, including $800 million for dam safety, $800 million for hydropower dam retrofits and upgrades and $890 million for removing unneeded dams and restoring fish runs on rivers. Many of the dams that would qualify for this funding are in California.
Other major provisions in the bill
- Roads and bridges: The bill includes $110 billion for highways, roads and bridges, including $40 billion of new funding for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation, $16 billion for major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs, and $7.5 billion in the RAISE (formerly BUILD) grant program. The funds are critical for California, which has 1,536 bridges and more than 14,220 miles of highway in poor condition.
- Transit: The bill includes $39 billion in new spending for public transit. These funds would help complete key transit projects in high-traffic areas such as the Bay Area and Los Angeles, including $8 billion for the Capital Investment Grant Program.
- Broadband: The bill includes $65 billion to expand and improve on the access, stability and speed of internet throughout the country. High-speed internet access is a necessity for workers, students, access to health care and more. More than 30 million Americans reside in regions with no useful broadband infrastructure. This funding will help ensure all Americans can access reliable high-speed internet.
- Clean energy: The bill includes $73 billion for clean energy programs including $65 billion for electric grid infrastructure and $19 billion to deal with orphaned oil wells. The bill also includes $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations and $5 billion for zero-emission and clean buses and $2.5 billion for ferries.
- Airports, ports and waterways: The bill includes $17 billion for port infrastructure improvements and $25 billion for airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs; reduce congestion and emissions near ports and airports; and use cleaner, electric, and other low-carbon technologies.