Representing Madera County and the county’s transportation commission, Supervisor David Rogers and Supervisor-elect Robert Poythress joined other elected officials in a trip to Washington, D.C., last week to lobby Congress for better road infrastructure.
The trip, called Valley Voice from Sept. 6 - 9, was organized through Madera County Transportation Commission (MCTC).
While in Washington, Rogers and Poythress spoke with representatives from both houses of Congress as well as the Department of Transportation, the Treasury and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Issues they discussed included widening Highway 99 to six lanes, noting, Rogers said, the 110 miles of bottleneck traffic in the Central Valley. He expressed the need to improve local arteries for farm to market goods movement, as well.
“These arteries should be built to an industrial standard to accommodate 80,000 pound, fully loaded milk trucks that occupy our roads multiple times each year,” Rogers said, touting the county’s $2 billion agricultural industry, the ninth top producing county in the country.
Poythress, a veteran leader of Valley Voice, focused on the administration’s attempt to regionalize transportation planning.
“Local voice, local control makes better government,” he said.
Rogers said the group also discussed concerns regarding the “unachievable” air quality standards, which have a negative impact on Central Valley businesses.
“If you remove all cars, all industry and all people from the Valley, we still couldn’t achieve the EPA required goal,” Rogers said.
Tom Jordan, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s senior policy advisor, pointed out the region’s achievement despite outside influences that generate 85% of the Valley’s air pollution.
“The air standards have been raised three times in the past 10 years,” Jordan said, “and has reached the point that we would need to reduce air pollution by 90% to comply by 2023.”
Supervisor Allen Ishida of Tulare County also voiced his concerns, asking if the EPA took into account the catastrophic forest fires and the nearly 70 million dead trees in the Sierra.
The gross air pollution of the Rim Fire equaled 304 million cars driving for one year, Rogers said.
“These catastrophic fires are a result of overgrown, unhealthy forests,” Rogers noted. “They contribute to unhealthy air, lack of watershed, poor water quality due to post fire silt runoff, and the pine beetle affecting tree mortality. This must be addressed by the EPA and forest service.”
Rogers also pointed out the current laws, H.R. 1904 also known as the Clean Forest Act of 2003, and G.T.R. 220, the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Station plan for healthy forests, which he claimed were not being followed.
“Solutions include grazing, logging, prescribed burns, natural fire and biomass energy plants,” he said. “Invest in forest restoration instead of the billions thrown at fires.”
“We will be filing an exception with the EPA more frequently in the future,” Jordan said, “because of these events.”
Beverly Banister, EPA senior policy advisor, and Josh Lewis, chief of staff, expressed a willingness to consider “exceptional events as exemption,” and interagency communication on forest overgrowth.