Help they needed
“We applied for grant funding from the state; the money has been allocated by the legislature for water system improvements and repairs and capital projects. And we ran into a stone wall,” said Daniels. That’s when RSCP and the power of journalism worked to make a difference.
Dave Sorem, an engineer on RSCP’s board contacted a Los Angeles Times reporter whose article “caused a lot of action,” says Daniels. City officials received “great support” from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Assemblyman Thurston Smith (R-Apple Valley), State Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), and a number of other elected officials who “stepped forward and encouraged the governor and the state water authorities to break loose the money” available through the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water (SADW) Fund put in place in 2019 to minimize the disproportionate environmental burdens experienced by some communities.
“We were very thankful that Senator Feinstein’s office — even though there’s not a lot they can do at the federal level when you are asking for State funding — she did just enough to really get the ball rolling. So we were really happy about that,” said Mayor Jeff Williams. He notes the funding will now be used on a new well and a reservoir to hold enough water for 48 hours.
“We still have a lot of work in the city to get to the capacity of having seven days of capacity,” Williams added, “we also have some infrastructure needs here in the city with our piping and sewer items that we need to replace to make sure we have good drinking water that goes out to our constituents.”
A cautionary tale
The crisis Needles has faced is one that other communities are now starting to realize could happen — or is already happening — with their water supply. Daniels stresses, “There are small communities all across the inland part of California that are in dire need of help. . . if we can do anything to help any of those communities, we stand ready.
We’re so grateful for all the help that the Rebuild SoCal Partnership has been able to bring to a small, rural, isolated community that has trouble competing at a statewide level with some of the more urban, larger, well-staffed organizations.”
Listen and learn more
Click to listen now on iTunes or Spotify and hear the full conversation with Needles City Manager Rick Daniels and Mayor Jeff Williams. And click to hear past episodes of The Rebuild SoCal Zone podcast. There are now two new podcast episodes a month! Sign up now to get alerted every time a new episode drops.
Californians are also encouraged to use their voice. Contact your elected officials to express your concerns about water infrastructure in your community. And stay up-to-date on all infrastructure issues by signing up for the Rebuild SoCal Partnership newsletter. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.