Carbajal Brings Home The Bacon

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 13, 2023

A local Congressman is taking a victory lap for bringing home some bacon in the massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill recently signed into law by President Biden, who had the 4,155-page bill specially flown from Washington to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where he was vacationing so he could sign it right away.

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D—Santa Barbara), who represents San Luis Obispo County in Congress, announced that 14 of 15 requests for funding that he submitted were approved with the omnibus bill. Those were: 

• $7million for U.S. 101 Highway Carpool Lane Expansion;

• $2M for the Orcutt Branch Library;

• $1.5M for the Dwight Murphy Field;

• $1.5M for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County;

• $1.38M for San Marcos Road Stabilization;

• $1.26M for Pioneer Park (in Paso Robles); 

• $1M for the Marian Regional Medical Center’s Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Residency Program Clinic; 

• $500,000 for the Santa Maria Japanese Community Center;

• $500,000 for Lake Cachuma’s emergency pumping facility;

• $2.06M for Prado Bridge Replacement (in SLO);

• $500,000 for the Arroyo Grande Swinging Bridge Stabilization;

• $1.5M for Morro Bay’s North T-Pier;

• $750,000 for E.P. Foster Library; and,

• $1M for safe beach access at Mondo’s Cove.

Last March, Carbajal had submitted a list of 10 projects to be part of the March 2022 Omnibus Spending Bill. Those were:

• $5.6M for the County of San Luis Obispo Public Safety Communication System;

• $3M for the Goleta Valley Community Center;

• $2.5M for the Escalante Meadows Community Center in the City of Guadalupe;

• $2M for the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo’s Anderson Hotel;

• $1.7M for LeRoy Park in the City of Guadalupe;

• $1.3M for Seismic Upgrades to the Santa Barbara Veterans’ Memorial Building;

• $900,000 for the Lompoc Health Clinic;

• $375,000 for Cambria Community Services District Water Tanks; and,

• $112,340 for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Waste Water Treatment Plant.

So where did this eclectic list of pork come from? “Under guidelines issued by the Appropriations Committee,” Carbajal said in a statement, “each Representative was permitted to request funding for up to 10 projects in their community for fiscal year 2022. Projects were restricted to a limited number of federal funding streams, and only state and local governments and eligible non-profit entities are permitted to receive funding.”

Just one funded project, the money for the North T-pier, falls closest to home for Estero Bay News readers. 

According to Carbajal’s website, that project is intended to “get the North-T Pier to a ‘satisfactory’ rated condition for its intended uses includes the following: Replace approximately 50-60 of the pier’s 419 structural and fender pilings that were rated with ‘moderate’ structural deterioration in the 2011 assessment; replace timber cross-bracing, pile caps, wales, stringers and decking as-needed; replace the under-deck fire suppression automatic sprinkler system; and replace and upgrade the electrical service systems on the pier to current codes and materials.”

The $1.5 million seems too little money for all that work, and the City Harbor Department doesn’t yet have a project put together for the needed repairs. But there’s more to it than simply making the North T-pier safer, there’s the anticipated construction of offshore floating wind farms, which the government in early December sold three huge leases to three energy companies.

The justification for spending this taxpayer debt was, “The project provides significant benefits to the local and regional economy, which is likely to be amplified as the offshore wind energy project is developed and goes online. The project also supports the important national defense mission of the Coast Guard vessel stationed at Morro Bay.”

That national defense mission was in question after Pacific Gas & Electric decided to close down Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Coast Guard Station Morro Bay had been tasked since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to patrol a safety zone in the waters off Diablo Canyon, after it was moved under the newly created Department of Homeland Security and out of the Treasury Department. 

PG&E had announced plans to completely close the plant by 2025, when its licenses ran out.

But given the performance of the State’s energy grid in recent summers, leading to rolling blackouts to avoid over-taxing the system and having it collapse, the State Legislature approved a billion dollar forgivable loan to PG&E with a request the plant remain open for 5-10 more years, a decision that must still survive review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The City had an agreement with Castle Wind, but that company didn’t win a lease. The City has not yet met with the winning wind farm companies to see exactly what they need to make the T-pier and indeed the harbor usable for their boats.

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