The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has provided an initial $29.4 million in emergency aid to the California Dept. of Transportation (Caltrans) and four federal agencies to assist with the cleanup and repair of highways and bridges in the wake of the rainstorms that battered California in December and January.
The “quick release” funding, which U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration announced on Jan. 24, includes $10.2 million for Caltrans and $19.2 million for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation. The funds come from FHWA's Emergency Relief (ER) program.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other members of the state’s congressional delegation provided a breakdown of the federal agencies’ shares: Park Service, $10 million; Forest Service, $8.5 million; Fish and Wildlife, $550,000; and Reclamation $125,000.
Ana Beatriz Cholo, a spokesperson in the Park Service's Pacific West region, told ENR via email on Jan. 26 that "specific funding allocations to parks have not been finalized at this time," but noted that "a number of parks in California saw storm damage."
Feinstein said in a statement that the storms caused “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage” to California roads and highways.
U.S. DOT Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said the newly released funds “will help California remove debris, rebuild roads, restore vital transportation corridors and strengthen its resilience in the face of future extreme weather events.”
FHWA has described Emergency Relief funds as down payments for highway rebuilding after natural disasters. More funds often follow.
According to FHWA, officials in California say that the storms affected as many as 40 of the state’s 58 counties, with “significant damage” in Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo.
Earlier in January, Caltrans had requested immediate assistance through FHWA’s ER program. In a Jan. 11 letter, Feinstein, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and 36 members of California' s U.S. House delegation urged Buttigieg and FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt to “expedite FHWA support, funding and other resources” to assist with the storm response.
FHWA said that Caltrans has done initial damage assessments at 87 locations in 37 counties and notes that assessments are continuing.
Story updated on 1/27/2023 with information from the National Park Service.