Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today applauded House passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This bill, which already passed the Senate, will help modernize the country’s infrastructure and create thousands of jobs. The bill will next go to President Biden for his signature.
“This bill is critical for the future of California. Not only will it help modernize California’s complex infrastructure to help modernize our economy and attract more jobs, it also invests heavily in the twin challenges of wildfire mitigation and drought resiliency,” Feinstein said.
“We know climate change is one of the more dire challenges we face, particularly in California where dry conditions encourage wildfires and limit our water resources.
“This bill boosts wildfire mitigation programs by increasing federal firefighter salaries, undergrounding power lines, expanding the use of microgrids, installing fire-resistant technology and more. And it helps modernize our water infrastructure by funding water recycling and desalination programs, allowing for increased water storage and restoring critical wildlife habitat.
“California’s economy drives the nation and we must keep up with the competition. This bill helps to ensure that will happen while at the same time addressing some of the biggest challenges facing our state.”
What’s in the bill for wildfire risk mitigation:
- Federal firefighter salaries: $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: $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: $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: $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 that feeds wildfires.
- Fireproofing homes: $3.5 billion for the weatherization assistance program to help homeowners make energy-efficient improvements to their homes that will help fireproof dwellings.
What’s in the bill to help prepare for future droughts:
- Water storage: $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: $1 billion for water recycling projects to help stretch water supplies without increasing diversions from rivers and the Delta or harming the environment.
- Desalination: $250 million for desalination projects to provide a drought-proof water supply and demonstrate improving desalination technologies.
- Environmental restoration: $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 $875 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: $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 will receive $25.3 billion for highways and $4.2 billion for bridge replacements and repairs. California has 1,536 bridges and more than 14,220 miles of highway in poor condition.
- Transit: $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. This will help projects such as LA Metro’s West Santa Branch and Sepulveda Transit Corridors and BART’s extension to Silicon Valley.
- Broadband: $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 with modern devices.
- Clean energy: $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: $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.