Monday, 27 May 2024


Charger locomotive leading a Siemens Mobility Venture trainset. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

Train passengers traveling in Northern California and the Central Valley will be able to enjoy a more comfortable and modern ride with the launch of new Venture Passenger Rail Car trains unveiled during a Caltrans and San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission event today at the Stockton Regional Maintenance Facility.

The single-story, fully ADA-accessible passenger cars provide wider aisles, accessible restrooms and fully-automated doors, continuing California’s expansion of comfortable and convenient options for travelers and commuters.

“Our goal is to make traveling throughout our beautiful state by train as accessible, convenient and comfortable as possible, and these new train cars have us on the right track,” said California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin. “I thank the Federal Railroad Administration, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, Siemens, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and our many other partners who have worked tirelessly over the years to help improve passenger train travel for all Californians.”

“These trains are a giant leap forward in passenger experience,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “In addition, they have been built in California, providing economic prosperity to our region. They show our commitment to combating climate change and improving the multimodal transportation network for all Californians.”

“For decades, the San Joaquins has been a backbone of our regional transportation network,” said Pat Hume, Sacramento County Supervisor (D5) and Chair of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors. “We are committed to providing our riders with the highest quality service, equipment, and amenities. These new Venture Rail Cars move us forward into the next era of rider experience, comfort, and reliability. We are also pleased to have sourced the Venture Cars from Siemens, who manufactured these cars in Sacramento, one of our corridor cities. Local manufacturing not only contributes to the character of our service, but also to the local economy.”

The trains will be used on the Amtrak San Joaquins line, which runs five daily roundtrips between Oakland and Bakersfield, and two daily roundtrips between Sacramento and Bakersfield. The first six-car set is in operation on the Oakland-Bakersfield route and helps restore service to pre-pandemic levels and sets the course for future service improvements. These new rail cars are the first upgrade to the passenger riding experience on the Amtrak San Joaquins line in nearly three decades. They allow wheelchair users to move easily between cars.

Siemens Mobility, under contract to Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, built the rail cars at their facility in Sacramento, with finish work performed at the in Stockton Regional Maintenance Facility, owned by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission. Caltrans purchased the new rail cars with a $132 million in federal and state funds.

All seven trainsets are expected to be in operation on the San Joaquins line by the end of 2025. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority manages the Amtrak San Joaquins service.

C-130J being prepared for deployment to Texas. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced he is activating the California National Guard 146th Airlift Wing based out of the Channel Islands in Oxnard and authorized the deployment of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and crew to the state of Texas in support of wildfire fighting operations.

“In times of crisis, Americans stand together. California has built a nation-leading firefighting fleet and we’re proud to lend a helping hand to Texas as the Lone Star State battles the largest wildfire in its history,” said Newsom.

“The California National Guard always stands ready for disaster, and we are proud to lend support for this mission,” said Major General Matthew P. Beevers, adjutant general of the California National Guard. “The 146th Airlift Wing is home to some of the best airmen in the country and are prepared to support state and federal efforts to respond to this natural disaster.”

The 146th Airlift Wing is providing one aircraft to conduct wildland firefighting air operations from March 4-18 in the vicinity of Abilene, Texas.

This mission is in support of the Texas Forestry Service on the Panhandle Fires. The aircraft will stage out of Dyess Air Force Base for the duration of this mission.

C-130J being prepared for deployment to Texas. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

The CalGuard’s 146th Airlift Wing known as the “Hollywood Guard” is one of the four C-130 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units in the nation that are equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, supplied by the U.S. Forest Service.

This system is mounted in the aircraft and provides effective suppression with retardant in large wildland fires from the air.

This military air tanker serves as an emergency backup resource to the civilian air tanker fleet used in fighting wildfires nationwide.

Last summer, California provided assistance to Florida and Georgia in response to Hurricane Idalia and sent firefighting resources and personnel to Hawaii and Oregon.

In 2022, California deployed emergency personnel to Florida during Hurricane Ian. California also sent firefighters, disaster recovery experts and other personnel to Oregon, New Mexico, and Montana.

In 2021, California sent firefighting equipment and personnel to assist Oregon’s response to the Bootleg Fire.

C-130J systems check conducted ahead of deployment. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — Mendocino County officials are investigating the death of a Potter Valley man whose body was found on Friday in the Russian River.

Authorities identified the man as Joshua Scott Freeman, 45, a life-long Mendocino County resident.

Sgt. Jay Vanoven of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said that just after 10 a.m. Friday, Mendocino County Sheriff's Office patrol personnel responded to the area of the Russian River near Norgard Lane to investigate a report of a body discovered in the river.

Deputies, community service officers, and a patrol sergeant arrived in the area and met with personnel from the Ukiah Police Department. Freeman’s body was found resting against a tree, still partially submerged in the swift-moving water, Vanoven said.

Vanoven said personnel from Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, Little Lake Fire District and Hopland Fire Protection District were summoned to assist with recovering Freeman's body.

A swift water response team deployed and recovered the body from the river. Vanoven said law enforcement personnel recognized the individual as Freeman.

No obvious signs of foul play were observed, Vanoven said.

On Saturday, Vanoven said an active coroner's investigation was underway to determine the classification and cause of Freeman's death. At that point, a forensic autopsy was pending for the coroner's investigation.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is requested to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center at 707-463-4086, or the anonymous tip line at 707-234-2100.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed adding the Afterthought Mine near Bella Vista in Shasta County, Calif., to the Superfund National Priorities List, or NPL.

The NPL is a list of known sites throughout the United States and its territories where historic releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants pose significant threats to human health and the environment.

Afterthought Mine operated from 1862 to 1952, producing copper, zinc, lead, silver, and gold. Historic mine features and structures remain onsite, and these mining efforts contaminated the site’s soil and nearby waterways. Contaminated soil and sediment are in direct contact with Little Cow and Afterthought creeks.

Little Cow Creek is used for fishing and provides wetland habitat including critical habitat for steelhead trout. EPA will evaluate these areas to better understand the contamination, and if and how the Agency can clean it up.

“The proposal of Afterthought Mine to the National Priorities List is a vital step in EPA’s work to assess contamination in the area and how best to address it,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Cleaning up contaminated land and water and returning them for productive use to communities, especially those which have borne the brunt of legacy pollution, is a win for public health and local economies.”

EPA is accepting comments on the proposal to add the Afterthought Mine to the Superfund NPL from March 7 until May 6, 2024. The public can submit comments online or by mail:

Online (preferred): Visit and search “Afterthought Mine” or “EPA-HQ-OLEM-2024-0066”

Mail: Send comments to:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center Superfund, [EPA-HQ-OLEM-2024-0066], Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460

The National Priorities List includes sites with the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. This list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at non-federal sites included on the National Priorities List are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.

Before EPA adds a site to the National Priorities List, a site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA may add the site to the National Priorities List if it continues to meet the listing requirements after the public comment period closes and the agency has responded to any comments.

Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in both birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24 percent within three miles of sites after cleanup.

Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has followed through on commitments to update the National Priorities List twice a year, as opposed to once per year. Today’s announcement is the first time EPA is updating the National Priorities List in 2024.

Learn more about Superfund and the National Priorities List.

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the National Priorities List and proposed sites, please visit New Proposed and New Superfund National Priorities List Sites.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has identified the jail inmate who died after he and four others experienced health emergencies.

The inmate was Artemio Ortega Reyes, 40, of Ukiah, said Capt. Gregory Van Patten.

Ortega Reyes died on March 1 after being taken to the hospital for treatment, officials said.

Corrections officers administered Narcan to Ortega Reyes and four other inmates due to suspected overdoses.

Officials said Ortega Reyes was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on Feb. 16 after being arrested by the Ukiah Police Department on open charges and active arrest warrants.

Ortega Reyes was subsequently sentenced and began serving his imprisonment at the Mendocino County Jail on Feb. 29 with a scheduled release date of 01-04-2025.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Coroner's Unit is conducting a coroner's investigation into the cause and classification of Ortega Reyes' death.

Fall-run Chinook salmon juveniles at Fall Creek. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Saturday that fall-run Chinook salmon fry released for the first time from its Fall Creek Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County are presumed to have succumbed to gas bubble disease in the Klamath River.

On Monday, Feb. 26, CDFW released approximately 830,000 fall-run Chinook salmon fry into Fall Creek, a tributary of the Klamath River above Iron Gate Dam.

The fish were hatched at CDFW’s new, $35 million, state-of-the-art Fall Creek Fish Hatchery, which represents California’s long-term commitment to supporting and restoring both Chinook and coho salmon runs on an undammed Klamath River.

The salmon fry experienced a large mortality based on monitoring data downstream. Indications are the cause of mortality is gas bubble disease that likely occurred as the fry migrated through the Iron Gate Dam tunnel, old infrastructure that is targeted for removal along with the Iron Gate Dam itself later this year. Gas bubble disease results from environmental or physical trauma often associated with severe pressure change.

There is no indication the mortality is associated with other Klamath River water quality conditions such as turbidity and dissolved oxygen, which were reading at suitable levels on Feb. 26 and the days prior to release. The visual appearance of the dead fry detected by monitoring equipment points to gas bubble disease. Monitoring equipment documented other healthy yearling coho and Chinook salmon that came from downstream of the dam.

The problems associated with the Iron Gate Dam tunnel are temporary and yet another sad reminder of how the Klamath River dams have harmed salmon runs for generations. CDFW will plan all future salmon releases below Iron Gate Dam until this infrastructure is removed. Poor habitat conditions caused by the dams and other circumstances such as this are reasons why CDFW conducts releases of hatchery fish at various life stages.

CDFW’s Fall Creek Fish Hatchery continues to hold approximately 3.27 million healthy, fall-run Chinook salmon. Additional releases are planned later in the month.

The annual fall-run Chinook salmon production goal for the hatchery is to raise and release 3.25 million fish – 1.25 million released as fry, 1.75 million as smolts, and 250,000 as yearlings. The additional stock of fall-run Chinook salmon remaining in the hatchery exceeds the annual production goal and will help offset losses experienced with the initial release of fry.

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