Congressman Garamendi’s Transportation and Infrastructure Legacy
WALNUT GROVE, CA – Last week, Congressman John Garamendi, Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, announced his intention to run as the Ranking Member of the full Committee. Congressman Garamendi has more than four decades of experience working on transportation and infrastructure priorities. Below is a partial history of Garamendi’s work on these vital issues. It is also available on his website here.
Congressman John Garamendi:
A Lifelong Leader for Transportation and Infrastructure
Transportation and infrastructure have always been cornerstones of John Garamendi’s life’s work. Garamendi has more than 40 years of public service to his name as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, California State Assemblymember, California State Senator, California Insurance Commissioner, Deputy Undersecretary of the U.S. Interior Department, California Lieutenant Governor, and now Member of Congress.
Garamendi is an unapologetic infrastructure hawk who believes the nation must significantly increase its investments in American-made transportation and clean energy infrastructure to create good middle class jobs and keep our nation globally competitive. America’s economic growth depends on good infrastructure, good schools, good research, the ability to adapt with science and innovation as our guides, and export-oriented growth. This important work includes better upkeep of our roads, bridges, rail, and ports.
Garamendi also believes that America’s infrastructure must be built with the understanding that we have to act decisively to curtail the climate crisis, and through clean energy, public transit, smarter road construction, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly development, smart growth, and green building construction, our infrastructure can play a leading role in both growing our economy and creating a more sustainable future for the next generations.
Garamendi’s work advancing transportation and infrastructure priorities is extensive and diverse and begins decades before he entered Congress in 2009. Included below is a partial summation of John Garamendi’s work on transportation and infrastructure priorities. He is honored to be able to serve our nation in pursuit of these important policies, and he looks forward to continuing to work with his Congressional colleagues to revitalize America’s infrastructure and economy. He brings to Congress decades of experience spearheading efforts to improve the economy of the most populated state in the nation, a state that often leads the way in public policy.
A Call to Service in the Peace Corps
In the late 1960s, John and Patti Garamendi answered President John F. Kennedy’s call to service and joined the Peace Corps. They knew they wanted to live a life of purpose.
As the child of a rancher in rural California who regularly helped the family maintain ranch property, Garamendi was a natural fit for the work he was assigned in rural Ethiopia. One of their greatest legacy projects was the construction of a road between two remote villages, connecting those isolated communities to a regional market. The road exists to this day, making life better for generations of Ethiopians. It was lesson Garamendi would hold onto for life: good infrastructure can improve commerce and transform communities for the better.
Completing Interstate 5
After a stint earning an MBA at Harvard University, a 27-year-old Garamendi returned home to California and ran for the California Assembly in 1974. It was a wild ride – literally. The district Garamendi ran in was at the heart of Interstate 5, which runs from the Mexican border through the middle of California all the way to the Canadian border.
Unfortunately, there was a 19-mile gap in I-5 in the district, causing unnecessary gridlock on community roads and forcing travelers to take circuitous routes through the area. Sacramento refused to complete the gap. Something had to be done.
Since no car could traverse the gap, during the campaign, Garamendi got on his horse and galloped the 19 miles to Sacramento to raise awareness of this needed transportation investment. It worked. Garamendi joined the Assembly, and through his leadership, construction began soon thereafter.
Preventing Bad Infrastructure and the Destruction of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
In 1982, a dangerous project was put on the ballot that would have destroyed the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Garamendi, then a State Senator representing the Delta, helped lead the fight against the massive peripheral canal, which would have diverted water from the Delta irrevocably destroying habitats, farmlands, communities, and livelihoods.
Garamendi’s work bringing together stakeholders from across the state and across party lines helped lead to the peripheral canal’s resounding defeat, with more than six in ten California voters rejecting the proposition. Garamendi continues his work protecting the Delta today.
Expanding the California Conservation Corps
In 1984, State Senator Garamendi authored legislation that expanded the California Conservation Corps (CCC). Garamendi recognized that California needed to do more to help disadvantaged high school dropouts get a second chance at a rewarding career, and through the CCC, these young people developed a useful skill set and work experience while making trail and other small-scale infrastructure improvements across the state.
Protecting Drinking Water in California
Through a series of bills in the mid-1980s, John Garamendi established himself as one of the State Senate’s most forward-thinking leaders on the need to preserve safe and clean drinking water. With the stick, he increased penalties for hazardous waste dumping. With the carrot, he provided incentives to California companies willing to do the right thing in reducing their water pollution.
Taking advantage of the world’s best public university system at the University of California, Garamendi also authored successful legislation to increase the state’s research budget for clean water infrastructure and water purification techniques. He also established a loan program to provide direct financing for equipment, projects, or facilities that reduced hazardous waste.
Higher Education’s Best Friend: The “Garamendi Buildings”
In the 1980s, the University of California and California State University had no stronger friend in the State Legislature than John Garamendi. His legislation brought more than $1.5 billion to needed building construction on university campuses across the state – one of the most significant direct state investments toward California universities in the history of the state. These buildings – laboratories, lecture halls, and more – became known as the “Garamendi buildings.” Garamendi would continue his advocacy for the universities decades later as a University of California Regent and California State University Trustee.
Early Levee and Water Conservation Advocacy
In 1986, Garamendi authored legislation to study the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees and state highways to determine priority projects in the region. He also encouraged the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District to implement conservation strategies to help maintain their water supply and to become less reliant on water originating from Northern California. They adopted many of the strategies suggested by Garamendi, including water recycling.
An $18.5 Billion Investment in California’s Future
In 1988, well-intended California voters passed a proposition requiring a percentage of money to be set aside for education whenever the state invested in other priorities. This created a crisis for the state and local municipalities, because as written, the proposition substantially reduced funding for infrastructure, including school construction.
Garamendi dove into the problem and began an 18-month negotiating process that resulted in the modification of the law in such a way as to garner the support of cities, counties, educators, and administrators.
Legislation Garamendi authored went on the 1990 ballot with support of Republicans and Democrats and passed, with Garamendi also authoring the ballot statement. This important proposition brought an $18.5 billion investment to California’s transportation infrastructure and continues to ensure that state money flows to California’s roads, bridges, and transit systems.
For his work on this proposition, the League of California Cities named Garamendi their Legislator of the Year.
Garamendi learned a lot during these extensive negotiations, and over the course of his tenure in the State Senate, he served as Senate Majority Leader, Chairman of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Science and Technology, and Chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
Keeping California Competitive in the 21st Century
Recognizing that an increasingly globalized economy posed new challenges for California and the nation, the mid-1980s, State Senator Garamendi commissioned a two-year study of the California economy and its competitors in Asia and Europe.
This two volume report identified five key building blocks:
1. Always have the best education in the world;
2. Maintain the best research capacity;
3. Make the things that come from research using the talents of the educated workforce:
4. Develop a quality infrastructure for transportation, water, sanitation, energy, and information; and
5. Take advantage of California’s position in the world to increase exports and be a global competitor.
The lessons found in this exhaustive report have influenced Garamendi’s legislation and priorities ever since.
A Pillar of Growth: Public-Private Partnerships
In 1988, State Senator Garamendi established the Competitive Technology Program in California to promote and fund technology transfers from the public universities and laboratories to the private sector. This legislation also encouraged collaborative research between businesses and the universities. In this way, groundbreaking research, much of which has a direct impact on infrastructure, could more seamlessly transition to commercial development while helping to create middle class jobs in California.
Laying the Groundwork for High Speed Rail
Recognizing that California’s transportation infrastructure needed to simultaneously address the dangers of climate change and air pollution and prepare for inevitable population growth, in 1988, State Senator Garamendi authored the bill that led to the study of a high speed rail system in California running from Sacramento and the Bay Area through Los Angeles and San Diego. This ultimately culminated in a voter-approved California high speed rail bond in 2008.
While Congressman Garamendi has been critical of several aspects of the high speed rail project as it is currently being implemented, most notably unacceptable cost overruns, the decision to start in a less densely populated segment instead of San Francisco to San Jose or Los Angeles to San Diego, and the existent preference to build along the Pancheco Pass instead of the more densely traveled Altamont Pass, he still believes that California must seriously invest in its public rail infrastructure. Garamendi has been supportive of recent efforts to integrate high speed rail and regional commuter rail projects where possible to make sure that the public is getting a better and more immediate return on the investment while laying the groundwork for needed long term rail aspirations.
Insurance Commissioner for the People
During John Garamendi’s two terms as California’s Insurance Commissioner, he transformed the agency into the best state consumer protection agency in America, delivering billions in rebates to consumers and cracking down on unscrupulous insurance agencies looking to rip off Californians. In this role, Garamendi developed an intimate understanding of insurance regulations, including home, business, and automobile insurance.
As California’s first elected Insurance Commissioner, it was Garamendi’s responsibility to implement and enforce a landmark reform of California’s insurance industry that passed in 1988. That measure mandated a 20 percent rollback of auto and homeowner insurance premiums, and Garamendi pursued a tough but fair rebate plan in 1991.
The insurance industry took the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Garamendi prevailed. As a result of Garamendi’s leadership and advocacy, California consumers saved well over $30 billion and received more prompt reimbursements. To this day, drivers in California are saving money in their insurance premiums thanks to this work.
In his second term as California Insurance Commissioner, Garamendi instituted a major overhaul of auto insurance regulations. His Good Driver Reform regulations limited the impact of zip code rating which unfairly penalized drivers simply for where they lived, often along economically, racially and ethnically imbalanced lines. This reform led to maintained or lowered insurance rates for 70 percent of California drivers and saved drivers more than a billion dollars.
As one of the only former insurance regulators in Congress, Congressman Garamendi is seen by his colleagues as an in-house expert and leader on insurance policy.
Washington, DC Part 1: Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department
In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed John Garamendi to be his Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department. Garamendi spent three years in the role, with substantial oversight over America’s water resources, public lands, and climate change policy.
“I am thrilled and challenged by the responsibilities than I have been given,” Garamendi said at the time. “The Department of the Interior manages over 442 million acres of federally owned land, offshore oil and gas resources, and 586 water delivery dams and storage structures.”
Protecting Groundwater Storage from Nuclear Waste
In one of his first major battles at the Department, Garamendi successfully stopped an unsafe nuclear waste dump in the Mojave Desert that would have jeopardized groundwater storage in Southern California. After two years of hearings, geological studies, legal proceedings, and Congressional hearings, Garamendi succeeded in getting the state and the state’s contractor to withdraw their plan, and the battle was won. To this day no nuclear dump exists in California.
A Valiant Effort to End California’s Water War: The CALFED Process
Deputy Secretary Garamendi was appointed to be the lead negotiator for the implementation of CALFED, the state-federal accord created in 1994 to: 1) bring the Delta into compliance with federal endangered species laws; 2) solve other environmental problems along the Delta; and 3) ensure a reliable water supply for all California communities.
Garamendi brought together more than 25 interested water agencies, environmental organizations, and state and federal agencies. The open and good-faith negotiations became known as the “Garamendi Process”. After nearly 18 months of meetings, an agreement was reached that would have both protected the Delta and helped ensure water availability to the entire state in dry years. Unfortunately, at the very last minute, a single water agency in California left the negotiating table and refused to sign the accord. It was the closest California has ever come to a unified water policy.
Kyoto Protocol Negotiations
In 1997, Garamendi was part of the small brain trust of leaders who drafted the American agenda during the Kyoto Climate Conference. Garamendi was intimately involved in the yearlong process, but unfortunately, Congress blocked the Administration’s work. The United States and the world lost a decade and a half of climate change leadership as a result of this failure of courage in Congress. Today, Congressman Garamendi continues to sound the alarm on the need for America to take the science seriously and develop solutions to tackle the climate crisis – solutions that include robust investments in clean energy and building weatherization infrastructure.
A Lieutenant Governor with Gumption
As California’s Lieutenant Governor, elected in 2007, Garamendi worked to make the office an incubator for economic development in California. As Chair of the California Commission for Economic Development, Garamendi held meetings across the state, bringing government stakeholders together with clean technology manufacturers and venture capital investors in an attempt to strengthen clean tech’s foothold in California. The Commission sent yearly reports to the State Legislature on this work, providing policy recommendations and in-depth survey and forecast data on the California economy. The Commission also aggressively encouraged lawmakers, educators, businesses, and labor apprenticeship programs to prioritize innovative vocational education programs in the state.
Following the passage of A.B. 32, California’s landmark legislation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, Garamendi used his position as a University of California Regent and California State University Trustee to push the universities to adopt LEED Silver or better standards in new construction. Garamendi contended that the universities can and should be leaders in sustainable and environmentally responsible development. Garamendi also spearheaded the establishment of the University of California at Merced, to bring a needed high-caliber university to the Central Valley.
21st Century Water Management: H20 2.0
Recognizing the untapped potential of the office, Lieutenant Governor Garamendi helped develop a pilot program for “adaptive” water and flood management of the America River watershed. This dynamic water management proposal – H20 2.0 – uses advanced ground and satellite technologies to determine the actual real time water conditions in the river basin so that flood and water managers can make vital decisions to lower the water reservoirs to prevent floods or keep them full to supply water later in the year. H20 2.0 is a game changer that is being adopted incrementally nationwide, as it provides a cost-effective way to bring water waste down to a minimum and to prevent costly natural disasters. In a state and nation with overly strained water resources, this kind of science-based outside the box thinking is needed now more than ever in Congress.
Protecting our Environment from Dangerous Deepwater Oil Drilling
In 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted California to approve its first new offshore deepwater oil lease since the devastating Santa Barbara oil spill more than four decades prior. In 1969, more than three million gallons of crude oil covered hundreds of miles of ocean and over 30 miles of sandy beaches, and killed thousands of birds, fish, and marine life. It was the largest oil spill in California history.
At the time, Congress was trying to reinstate the federal ban on new Coastal oil drilling that President George W. Bush allowed to lapse, and it would have sent a dangerous precedent to permit a new offshore oil lease in California.
As the Chairman of the California State Lands Commission, the state agency responsible for oversight of oil leases, Garamendi successfully battled the Governor, holding extensive hearings, sounding the alarm to the public, and taking the case to the Department of Interior and Congress. Ultimately, Garamendi was the deciding vote to stop the oil lease, and it is a project that has since been abandoned. Thanks to Garamendi’s leadership. California’s legacy of preventing new dangerous offshore oil extraction continues.
Washington, DC Part 2: U.S. House of Representatives
In 2009, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi won a special election following the opening of a U.S. House seat in Northern California. He joined the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and began the next stage of his public service career.
“At this moment of crisis in America, we need leadership that will create green jobs and take on the powerful interests delaying reform,” Garamendi said upon entering Congress. “More than three decades in public service have prepared me for this moment, and you better believe I didn't run for this seat to be a backbencher.”
In four short years, Congressman Garamendi secured a post in leadership on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, serving as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
While staying true to his Democratic values, Congressman Garamendi has been remarkably successful in building the bipartisan consensus necessary to move the needle forward on good policy in this broken and divided Congress.
West Coast Ocean Protection Act
Upon entering Congress, Congressman Garamendi immediately hit the ground running on the platform drilling issues that defined his tenure as Lieutenant Governor. Congressman Garamendi’s first bill was the West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2010, a bill that would have banned all new platform drilling in federal waters off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. While the legislation was unable to secure a vote from the House of Representatives, it did have the support of all six West Coast Senators, an impressive accomplishment for the first bill by a freshman Congress member.
Oil Spill Response
With the BP oil spill causing devastation to the Gulf’s ecology and economy, Congressman Garamendi spoke up for protecting the environment and coastal economies. He successfully added an amendment to the House-passed CLEAR Act that would make sure the Coast Guard has the resources necessary to be an effective first responder to future oil spills.
Make It In America: Beginning the Conversation
Above all other priorities, Congressman Garamendi’s Congressional career is defined by his work on Make It In America policies. He believes that when we use American taxpayer dollars to invest in infrastructure, we should whenever possible source goods and equipment made in America. Garamendi regularly cites the Make It In America requirement found in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that required 100% domestic sourcing for new Amtrak rail stock. That language directly led to Siemens, a German company, establishing a manufacturing facility in West Sacramento to construct trains. That facility is creating good middle class jobs for 100s of Californians, including many of Congressman Garamendi’s constituents.
Garamendi’s Make It In America: Create Transportation Manufacturing Jobs in America Act would create U.S. jobs by setting stronger standards for goods and equipment purchased with federal dollars for airports, highways, high-speed rail, trains and transit. The legislation increases domestic content provisions for airports and rolling stock from 60 to 85 percent over time, eliminates non-availability waivers, and makes similar waiver reporting requirements across the different modes of transportation.
Garamendi’s Make It In America: Create Clean Energy Manufacturing Jobs in America Act would create U.S. jobs by ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent on American-made renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels. Phased over a four year period, the bill requires the federal government and any state government buying renewable technologies with federal funds to purchase renewable sources of energy grown, produced, or manufactured with 85 percent American content.
Make It In America: From Garamendi Legislation to Committee-Wide Democratic Priority
After fighting for the legislation for three years, Garamendi was honored when the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Ranking Member, Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), adopted legislation similar to Garamendi’s Make It In America bill as his own. That bill, now billed the Invest in American Jobs Act of 2013, would ensure that all future highway, bridge, public transit, passenger rail, and airport projects financed by U.S. taxpayers would be stamped “Made in America” and crafted with American workmanship.
“In just a few months’ time, one of the largest publically supported infrastructure projects in the country is scheduled to be completed with the opening of the $6.3 billion East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge,” said Ranking Member Rahall said. “But instead of steel cast in the Alleghenies or roadbed segments assembled in Alameda, cars and trucks using the bridge will be driving over 43,000 tons of steel imported from China which supported 3,000 Chinese jobs and was financed by U.S. taxpayers.”
Significantly, all five Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Ranking Members are cosponsors of this legislation.
Make It In America: Finding Opportunities in a Bitterly Divided Congress
So long as Republicans control the House of Representatives, it’s difficult to see substantial Make It In America legislation moving forward, despite broad support for such policies among Americans registered as Republicans and Independents nationwide. However, Garamendi has been successful in inserting several Make It In America amendments to bigger bills.
Garamendi also serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and in 2012, during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House of Representatives unanimously passed an amendment by Garamendi to strengthen America's ability to manufacture high-tech materials essential to the national security mission of the United States military.
The NDAA amendment required an assessment of America's manufacturing capability to produce three-dimensional integrated circuits and small-lot quantities of advanced semiconductors. These items are critical to the national security community as the building blocks of intelligence, defense, power grid and telecommunications systems.
American companies lead the world in developing and manufacturing the most advanced semiconductors that are used in national defense applications. However, the semiconductor industry faces the continuous challenge of fitting more capabilities and functionality into smaller packages. Therefore, exploring new and innovative ways to manufacture the most advanced semiconductors through initiatives like three dimensional designs is critical to maintaining America's leadership in cutting-edge technology.
In 2012, Congressman Garamendi's amendment to increase funding for the effective Manufacturing Extension Partnership for small and mid-sized manufacturers also passed the House as part of the appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, and Science agencies. That amendment was written to help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money in their companies. The MEP staff is comprised of over 1,400 technical experts who offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise to help solve manufacturers' challenges and identify opportunities for growth. The MEP is a good investment for taxpayers – with studies showing that for every one dollar of federal investment, MEP generates approximately $30 in new sales growth. Their work is responsible for generating more than $3.6 billion in new sales annually – money that can then be invested back into the U.S. economy. Also, for every $1,570 of federal investment, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job.
In 2011, when Congressman Garamendi served on the House Natural Resources Committee, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment authored by Garamendi that encourages hydropower materials and equipment to be made in America. The amendment was part of the Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act, which called on the Secretary of the Interior to perform a study that looks at hydropower capabilities of one megawatt or less. Congressman Garamendi’s amendment directed the study to discuss the “availability and importance of using materials and equipment produced and manufactured in the United States.”
To be sure, these three amendments are modest changes, but in a Congress where even the most popular ideas are routinely shelved due to pointless partisan bickering, Garamendi’s ability to forge bipartisan consensus is impressive. He will continue leading the way to advance Make It In America policies through legislation, amendments, advocacy, and messaging to policymakers and the public.
A Water Plan for All California
The peripheral canal may be defeated, but that hasn’t stopped some state lawmakers from trying to divert substantial water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through other means. Congressman Garamendi is a leading advocate in Congress in opposition to the twin tunnels project, which is inappropriately pushed as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan authority. Instead of conserving the Delta, the twin tunnels could destroy it. This $25 billion boondoggle wouldn’t create a drop of new water for the state and would serve only to reignite the California water wars.
But Garamendi is doing more than opposing ideas. Congressman Garamendi is focused on a comprehensive long-term water strategy focused on generating new water through water storage, recycling, conservation, improving water quality, preserving natural habitats, and building the levees and other infrastructure that will help our communities prepare during times of plenty and times of want. He calls his comprehensive plan A Water Plan for All of California (https://bit.ly/WPFAllC), and unlike the twin tunnels, it would actually create new water for the state.
Many of the ideas found in Garamendi’s Water Plan were ultimately included in California’s 2014 water bond, which was approved by two-thirds of California voters – a clear demonstration that Californians can work together on water policy when comprehensive solutions are pursued and specific regions aren’t targeted for destruction.
A key component of Congressman Garamendi’s water plan is more water storage. That’s why Congressman Garamendi, partnering with his Republican colleague to the north, Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), introduced the bipartisan Sacramento Valley Water Storage and Restoration Act of 2014. This bill would authorize construction of Sites Reservoir in Colusa County upon completion of a feasibility study.
The bill sets a deadline for the completion of the feasibility study and if deemed feasible authorizes construction of the storage reservoir. The bill also creates a process by which a non-federal sponsor could develop the project. Once completed, Sites Reservoir would provide 1.9 million acre feet of water storage capacity for Northern California and would help residents prepare for droughts like the one currently hurting the state.
The Congressmen jointly developed the bill with local stakeholders, primarily the Sites Joint Powers Authority (JPA), a regional consortium of local water agencies and counties who joined together in 2010 to advocate for the project. Since the water bond could fund Sites Reservoir, Garamendi and LaMalfa will double down on their efforts in the next Congress to see this legislation move forward.
Water Resources Reform and Development Act Conference Committee
As the only Northern California Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, Congressman John Garamendi is defending the interests of California’s 3rd Congressional District and of our region.
His work on the Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), preserves essential projects that protect the Sacramento area – the second-most flood-prone region in the nation.
During his work on the WRRDA Conference Committee, Congressman Garamendi negotiated the final language of WRRDA to ensure that it supported the water and flood needs of Northern California. The bill authorized $760 million for the American River Watershed Project in the Natomas Basin, which prevents flooding in Sacramento and Sutter Counties, and authorized $255 million in flood control for Sutter Basin which provides essential flood protection for the lives, well-being, and property of nearly 100,000 residents.
Congressman Garamendi also worked across the aisle and with lawmakers at every level of government to successfully campaign for the Hamilton City J Levee, a critical flood-protection project, to be included in the Army Corps of Engineers 2014 Work Plan. Following meetings with Garamendi and other regional leaders, the Army Corps of Engineers allocated $8.6 million for the J Levee and an additional $3.8 million was included for the project in the President’s budget.
In 1955, a failure of the Feather River West Levee along the Shanghai Bend in the modern-day 3rd District resulted in the needless deaths of 38 people. In 2013, Congressman Garamendi and Congressman LaMalfa wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging an expedited review of the Sutter-Butte Flood Control Agency’s (SBFCA) Section 408 Permit which would allow construction on the damaged part of the dam. Following the submission of the letters, the Army Corps of engineers approved the Section 408 Permit which will address some of the higher risk areas on the Feather River levee.
Protecting River Vegetation
Following Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers adopted a reactive, one-size fits-all approach to vegetation on levees: they would clear cut all of it. This indiscriminate brush clearing would affect 3,000 miles of streams and rivers in California alone. Refusing to take into account different levee systems, this policy would damage both the environment and make flooding more likely in some circumstances. Congressman Garamendi sounded the alarm on this damage and as a Member of the Conference Committee for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, he advocated for a new policy to be signed into law. The Corps now makes decisions on levee vegetation on the Sacramento River and elsewhere based on local circumstances.
Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act Reauthorization
In the 113th Congress, Garamendi began his role as Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. He negotiated bipartisan passage of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, which passed Committee unanimously and was approved by the entire House by voice vote. The bill strengthens cooperation between the Coast Guard’s Maritime Personnel Advisory Committee and State Maritime Academies, including California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, California, to develop training standards. It reauthorizes the small shipyard competitive grant program, directs the Administration to enforce cargo preference laws and regulations, provides explicitly cooperative agreement to enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to develop beneficial partnerships with other maritime stakeholders (including nonprofits and private companies), and offers new guidance on rebuilding its offshore fleet of cutters. The bill also supports the development of a National Maritime Strategy, which Garamendi has vocally and frequently voiced his support of.
Reviving the Maritime Industry
As Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, Congressman Garamendi has made it a legislative priority to promote American jobs through the revival of the maritime industry.
During the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s markup of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, Congressman Garamendi introduced an amendment that would phase in a requirement that all exports of Liquefied Natural Gas from the U.S. be on U.S.-built and U.S.-flagged ships with American crews. It is an issue he will continue to pursue through all available legislative vehicles.
“In order for businesses to grow, they must identify new opportunities and seize them. The export market for LNG, a strategic national asset, is ready to take off. At the same time, our nation’s maritime industry has been declining for years,” Garamendi explained. “Our nation must take the bull by the horns. When it is deemed appropriate to export LNG, it should be on American-flagged vessels.”
Strengthening Shipbuilding and America’s Arctic Presence
As a maritime and Arctic nation, shipbuilding is a crucial component of our nation’s economic and national security. Congressman Garamendi has been a forceful advocate for the Title XI Loan Guarantee program. Every dollar guaranteed by the Maritime Administration generates ten dollars in private sector funding. In September of 2014, the Administration greenlighted a $324.6 million loan guarantee to TOTE Shipholdings, Inc. The company will now be able to create hundreds more jobs in California and across the nation. Also, working with Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA), Garamendi successfully advocated for repair of the POLAR STAR Icebreaker at Mare Island near Vallejo. The Icebreaker has now been put back in service and will help America meet economic, environmental, scientific, and national security objectives in the Arctic. While it’s tragic that climate change is increasingly opening up the Arctic, Congressman Garamendi believes we must be prepared for the future geostrategic challenges that will arise from new shipping channels.
Securing Funds for California Infrastructure Projects
Congressman Garamendi has fought for and secured funding for a range of needed infrastructure projects in California, including an energy efficiency project at Travis Air Force Base, expansion of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) services, and a water recycling project for Sacramento County.
Safety of Oil by Rail Transportation
With the recent U.S. oil and gas production boom, there has been a significant increase in transport by rail line, and concomitant safety risks. In 2013, a massive explosion in Quebec killed more than 40 people, and there have been a number of scares in the U.S. since then. Congressman Garamendi has urged the Secretary of the Department of Transportation in letters, in person, in Committee hearings, and in the press to adopt strong safety measures to protect communities near rail lines -- many of whom are in the 3rd District --- including requiring the industry to use newer, safer rail cars, eliminating the most volatile crude oil elements, and accountability in improving Positive Train Control. Since then, the Department has proposed and issued landmark safety rules, including minimum crew levels, testing of elements, and increased disclosure. It is also seeking penalties for improper and dangerous misclassifications of elements. Garamendi will continue to push for additional measures to protect the public.
Wildfire Prevention Funding
As a result of the historic drought in the West, wildfires raged across California and the rest of the country. The Forest Service and the Department of the Interior came dangerously close to running out of the funding needed to fight wildfires.
Congressman Garamendi joined 85 of his colleagues in signing a discharge petition that would force House consideration of the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2014. The bill would have ensured that resources were directed to needed ongoing services like general forest management and hazardous fuel reductions that would help to prevent catastrophic fires.
Unfortunately, the House Majority leadership refused to allow a vote on improving wildfire management funding despite bipartisan support for this cost-effective and preventative approach. Undeterred, Congressman Garamendi rallied together state and federal agencies to sound the alarm on a possible impending crisis. Congressman Garamendi held a press conference at the CAL FIRE station in Davis with representatives from CAL FIRE, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Forestry Association, National Parks Conservation Fund, and The Nature Conservancy urging immediate action when Congress returns to session. The Congressman was the first and only Member of Congress to respond to the wildfire crisis by assembling a coalition of state and federal agencies. He will continue pushing this issue during the “lame duck” session and for however long it takes.
For more information on Congressman Garamendi’s work in Congress, visit https://garamendi.house.gov.