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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | L.A. can breathe a sigh of relief, for now; S.C. governor releases “top secret” report on failed nuclear project; and Alaska’s largest needle-exchange sees growing demand.
Our state and local news roundup is compiled by Route Fifty’s staff and is edited by Michael Grass. Help us crowdsource state and local government news from across the United States by flagging them on Twitter with these hashtags: #stategovwire and #localgovwire.
The ongoing recovery from the Texas flood disaster leads our roundup ...
HARVEY RECOVERY | In southeastern Texas, including hard-hit Houston, many federal, state and local officials spent Labor Day assessing the damage and shifting to disaster recovery mode following Hurricane Harvey, which came ashore on Aug. 25 near Corpus Christi and dumped record amounts of rain on the region. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 90,000 structures may have been flooded, 80,000 in Harris County, which includes Houston. But county officials think that number could be higher: 136,000 structures. “Worse, only about 15 percent of the county's 1.5 million properties, or about 240,000 residents, have flood insurance.” [Houston Chronicle]
There’s some good news in Beaumont, Texas, where Harvey’s floodwaters disrupted the city’s water and sewer system, which serves a city of 120,000 residents. Some water service began returning on Monday, but according to the city’s police chief, “it’s going to be a while before we are going to lift the boil water notice ...” [PBS NewsHour]
According to a joint statement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, released Sunday:
Drinking Water: To date, about 2,000 drinking water systems potentially affected by Harvey have been contacted. Of those: 1,757 systems are fully operational, 188 have boil-water notices, and 37 are shut down. Both EPA and the TCEQ are contacting remaining systems to gather updated information of their status. EPA and the TCEQ are working closely with the Texas National Guard, including the 6th Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Corpus Christi), Arkansas National Guard, 61st Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Houston), and the Texas State Guard Engineering Group, and other local and state agencies to continuously monitor water systems. Assistance teams are in the field working directly with system operators to expedite getting systems back to operational status.
Waste Water and Sewage: Currently, 794 of approximately 1,219 wastewater treatment plants are fully operational in the affected counties. The agencies are aware that releases of wastewater from sanitary sewers are occurring, due to the historic flooding and are actively working to monitor facilities that have reported spills, conduct outreach and provide technical guidance to all other wastewater facilities in flood-impacted areas. EPA and TCEQ are working closely with the Texas National Guard, including the 6th Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Corpus Christi), Arkansas National Guard, 61st Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Houston), and the Texas State Guard Engineering Group, and other local and state agencies to continuously monitor wastewater systems. Assistance teams will be deployed to work directly with system operators to expedite getting systems back to operational status.
Harvey’s floodwaters have created “a bedlam of animals, animal handlers and supply trucks” on the outskirts of Beaumont and elsewhere in the Texas flood zone. "It's quite the adventure, it's an adrenaline rush for sure—alligators were chewing on cows. There's alligators everywhere and there's snakes and stuff." [National Public Radio]
ICYMI: Quinn Libson’s look at research from the Kaiser Family Foundation on the long-term impacts of Hurricane Katrina on health and wellness. It’s a timely look at what might be ahead in the Texas flood recovery zone regarding behavioral health challenges. [Route Fifty]
WILDFIRES | Residents in parts of Los Angeles County can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now. The La Tuna Fire, which has been moving through the foothills adjacent to Burbank in recent days, was no longer actively burning as of Monday, thanks to some rainfall that moved over the fire area on Sunday. Fire officials warned that shifting winds could change those good fortunes. The blaze, which has charred 7,000 acres and destroyed three homes, forced the closure of the 210 Freeway, an important bypass of downtown Los Angeles that connects the San Fernando Valley with Pasadena and points east. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for L.A. County this weekend due to the fire. [KABC-TV; L.A. Times; L.A. Daily News; Southern California Public Radio ]
Wildfires continue to burn elsewhere in California, Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies, including blazes in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington state, sending smoke across the region and into the North Central U.S. “We are facing a very challenging and unprecedented fire season in Montana and throughout the West,” according to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. [Wildfire Today; Great Falls Tribune]
Northeast Harbor, Maine: Leaders and educators in Maine face major challenges when it comes to workforce development in the state: By 2032, the number of working-age adults, 25-64, is projected to contract from 700,00 to 600,000. And skills gaps are so deep that businesses may have difficulty remaining in the state. [Route Fifty]
Portland, Oregon: Legislators in the Beaver State are at best iffy about whether they will join their counterparts to the north in a new Washington state effort to explore possible options to replace the aging and seismically vulnerable Interstate Bridge, which carries Interstate 5 over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. The outlook in Salem? “There really hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about that,” according to a spokesperson for Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, who noted there had been an opportunity three years to replace the bridge—a reference to the the Columbia River Crossing project, a bi-state proposal that died in Olympia. [The Columbian]
Columbia, South Carolina: On Monday, Gov. Henry McMaster released a “long secret” report into a failed nuclear power project in the state that had been nine years in the making and racked up costs of $9 billion. Among the problems: “schedules for the project did not reflect actual circumstances” and construction designs often were “not constructible.” [The State]
According to new Fitch Ratings analysis, Michigan is the state with the most to lose if the North American Free Trade Agreement is renegotiated. [Route Fifty]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Around 10,000 baggies of heroin or fentanyl were recovered from a major drug bust in Northeast Philadelphia on Friday morning. The operation, which resulted in four arrests, also sent four Philadelphia police offices and an Office of the Attorney General agent to the hospital due to drug exposure. [Philly Voice]
Anchorage, Alaska: A demand for clean syringes has put pressure on Alaska’s largest needle exchange program, run by Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association. "We never saw this coming, that the syringe exchange would grow so large," according to the association’s executive director. [Alaska Dispatch News]
New Orleans, Louisiana: The Office of Performance and Accountability at New Orleans City Hall has come a long way since it started its work in 2011. According to Oliver Wise, the office’s director: “The civil servants who were still there had been through hell and back and were working under very trying circumstances. At the time, we had some consultants come in to give us the lay of the land. They had worked all around the world and they said it was the most dysfunctional government they had ever seen. Certainly, the idea of using data for accountability and transparency was completely foreign.” Now it’s not. [Centre for Public Impact, via @JoshEdwards11, @kwyatt23]
South Miami, Florida: This city in July became the first outside California to require solar panels on new residential construction, a mandate that “may be a growing trend” in municipal government. Five California cities, including Lancaster, San Francisco and Santa Monica have such requirements. [Project Earth, via @santamonicacity, @SaMoCole]
Napa County, California: A “mystery group” says the county government “regularly fails to fully follow California environmental laws when approving new wineries and winery expansions.” The interim county manager, in a response, says the county “disagrees with the premise that it does inadequate environmental reviews.” [Napa County Register]
Columbus, Ohio: City Council members are considering penalties for owners who tether pets outdoors using particular types of restraints and under certain types of weather conditions. "This ordinance will not outlaw tethering outright, but is an attempt to look for responsible regulations that will target those practices and manners that we know brings harm to animals,” said one of the ordinance’s co-sponsors, Mike Stinziano. [WCBE-FM]