Our meeting on July 2nd 2019 at Turtle Rock Park was well attended with 35 members of the public and agencies. The meeting featured a presentation by the High Sierra Community Energy Development Corporation (High Sierra) and The Beck Group (Beck) on their plan for the scoping study to determine how best to utilize the excess biomass in our forest to improve forest health, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and strengthen the local economy. The study is funded by $100,000 from the Economic Development Administration and Community Vision (formerly the Northern California Community Loan Fund). There was also a discussion on governance with consensus to work on a Memorandum of Agreement, an update by the Poor Boy Ridge/Hot Spring Corridor Working Group, and a review of potential fuels reduction needs in the Woodfords area.
Scoping Study Update: The day after the meeting High Sierra and Beck met with various potential suppliers and consumers of biomass. There is considerable interest on both sides although it appears that biothermal heating is not currently feasible for the County buildings in Woodfords or the Diamond Valley School.
Participant Updates: Dykes (Sierra Pines) has gathered a large amount of biomass piles and pine needles from the clearing he has done behind the mobile homes. He wishes to clear more but needs a location to take the debris. Loden (AWG) reported that next Tues. July 9th, she will give a site tour of the Hope Valley Restoration Project including the design plan and proposed monitoring. Hames (District 2 Supervisor) reported that the Board of Supervisors approved allocating Title 3 funds to create a fire break on the County property next to Alpine Village. He is also working on a red flag rule that would lead to warnings to encourage people not to park cars on streets where fire equipment access is paramount. The Sheriff has expressed reservations about enforcing the proposal. Hames confirmed that tree removal for the purposes of fuel reduction along the edges of a roadway does not require a CEQA environmental review. It can be done with a CalFire form and permit approval. Scott Kizziar, (Forest Service) is available and encourages ABC participants to contact him to take part in tours that will identify where fire hazardous areas fall across property lines, where there is excess fuel loading. Monti (Forest Service) reported that Caltrans finished the Alpine County highway hazard tree removal project last week. In addition she is on the steering committee for the Alpine County Management Plan that has had its first meeting and will meet for again this Monday. A request for proposals is progressing. Johnson (NRCS) has funding to help private landowners do fuels reduction. Riddle reported that the successful fire prevention town hall last week be used to keep building community information and planning. Griffith reported that the County made the following Secure Rural Schools Title III grants: $6,500 in Title 3 funds were awarded to construct the fire break as reported by Hames, $20,000 funds were allocated to the Sheriff’s Department for Search and Rescue on Federal Lands, and $20,000 was awarded to the Alpine Fire Safe Council. The County recently attended a meeting in Sacramento with the Acting Deputy Director of the Fish and Games Commission and the Chief of California Fish and Wildlife with respect to the County’s petition to exclude the Hope Valley Wildlife Area from the Lands Pass Program. Progress is being made but more meetings will take place before this is concluded. The Statewide Forest Management Task Force is moving decision making down from the state to the regional groups. California Board of Forestry’s programmatic Environmental Impact Report on forest management for the state of California is now in the public comment period. This will be the environmental review for actions common to projects where fuels reduction, community hardening, and forest health are proposed. Projects will still have to do local environmental review for some elements such as endangered species, but it will expedite fuels reduction projects. The BLM has a similar program. The California Natural Resources Agency has revealed an ambitious goal to increase the volume of fuels reduction and removing excess biomass on up to a million acres per year. The new Secretary of Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, will be contacting Region Four of the Forest Service. The ABC has had presentations of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on economic development. The Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreational Partnership is a new organization that is coordinating National Forest agencies, counties and local agencies in a public partnership. Alpine County is invited to join. A presentation to the Board of Supervisors will outline the potential benefits to the regional and local economy if Alpine County were to take part. Driscoll (SNC, from email read by Griffith). The SNC will be accepting pre-applications for grants from Proposition 1 and Proposition 68. $10.5 million funds are available with pre-applications due by August 5. Contact Driscoll for information and guidance before submitting an application.
The next meeting is set for Tuesday August 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park. It will feature a Living With Fire presentation on how embers ignite structures, and a review of a proposed Memorandum of Agreement for the ABC.
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