Huffman Secures Major North Coast Victories in National Defense Bill
WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced the inclusion of several critical North Coast-focused measures in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The package of public lands and natural resources bills added to the final NDAA compromise Rep. Huffman’s Trinity County Land Exchange Act (H.R. 3326) and the Revitalizing the Economies in the Pacific Act (H.R. 2646). The Trinity County Land Exchange Act will provide Trinity County with a much needed parcel of land for economic development, while the Revitalizing the Economies in the Pacific Act will help West Coast groundfishermen refinance an expensive, high-interest federal loan. In addition, the NDAA contained additional funding for rural counties, including those on the North Coast, under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
The bill containing these measures was approved by the House today by a vote of 300-119. Once it is approved by the Senate, it will be sent to the President’s desk for signature.
Trinity County Land Exchange Act:
Huffman was able to add the bipartisan Trinity County Land Exchange Act of 2014 (H.R. 3326) to the NDAA. Trinity County, located in Northern California, is one of the poorest counties in California. Much of the county is rugged and remote, and more than 75% of the total land base is held by the Federal Government, leaving very little land suitable for economic development.
Section 3006 of the House-passed NDAA grants Trinity County a much-needed 100-acre parcel from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest accessible by the highway, adjacent to the Weaverville Airport and uniquely suited for economic development. In exchange, the county’s Public Utilities District will convey a 47-acre parcel west of Weaverville that will improve public access to the Trinity River—a Wild and Scenic River.
“The Trinity County Land Exchange Act, which was added to the NDAA, is a critical and much-needed shot in the arm for Trinity County’s economy,” Huffman said. “It is an excellent example of bipartisan cooperation and proof-positive that economic development and environmental protection in our rural communities are not mutually exclusive priorities.”
“Trinity County’s extreme topography makes it very difficult for us to pursue economic development, I’m grateful to Congressman Huffman and the House of Representatives for providing Trinity County a much-needed opportunity for economic development,” said Paul Hauser, General Manager of the Trinity Public Utilities District. “I look forward to seeing the President sign the legislation into law so we can get businesses up and running or build new homes for local employees.
Revitalizing the Economies in the Pacific Act of 2013:
Huffman also successfully added the bipartisan Revitalizing the Economies in the Pacific Act of 2013 (REFI Act), which he coauthored with Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
The REFI Pacific Act refinances a high-interest federal buy-back loan that allowed the West Coast groundfish fishing industry to reduce pressure on depleted fish stocks. This bill will refinance the loan at today’s low interest rates and cap the corresponding fee charged to each fishing boat at landing. Refinancing this loan will help the groundfish fleet repay the loan in full, but at a manageable and sensible rate, ensuring the survival and economic vitality of this industry.
“For years, fishermen up and down the West Coast have been paying through the nose on interest and principal on a decade-old federal loan, putting their small businesses at risk,” Huffman said. “The inclusion of my REFI Act in the NDAA means that fishermen will finally be able to refinance and save money, just like any other homeowner or business owner would do—all while helping the economies of communities throughout California’s North Coast.”
Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT):
The NDAA contained an additional $70 million for PILT in the 2015 fiscal year, a federal program under which the Department of Interior compensates local governments for reductions to their property tax bases due to the presence of federally owned land that cannot be taxed. In FY 2014, PILT was fully authorized at $437 million and distributed to approximately 1,900 local governments, including $45.3 million in California.
In fiscal year 2014, PILT payments were sent to the following counties in California’s 2nd Congressional District:
- Humboldt: $723,607
- Mendocino: $591,815
- Trinity: $561,684
- Del Norte: $473,382
- Sonoma: $7,890
Although the bill contained the above victories for California’s North Coast, the final NDAA contained many provisions that Rep. Huffman disagreed with, and he voted against final House passage. For more information on the NDAA and Huffman’s vote, click HERE.