Nevada County board OKs $1.7 million in funding to help reduce wildfires

May 24—The Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved state and federal grant funding totalling about $1.7 million to help reduce the amount of “hazardous fuels” found along evacuation routes when wildfires occur.

According to Nevada County officials, the county’s Office of Emergency Services applied for funding from both the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for fire prevention and hazard mitigation.

The county said the funding will be used to “increase safe resident egress and first responder ingress by thinning overgrown vegetation and clearing downed storm debris.”

The Cal Fire grant, worth about $950,000, is primarily for the cleanup of “hazardous vegetation” that accumulated during recent winter storms, especially in late February and early March, officials said.

Nevada County officials said the storms this year “resulted in a significant increase in the volume of broken trees and accumulated brush along both private and public roads.” The county said the funding from Cal Fire will allow it to significantly push to reduce “fuel” sources ahead of the fire season.

“We’re aiming to clear debris along as many miles of county-maintained roadways as possible through this grant, expanding our roadside vegetation work to around 100 additional miles, if possible,” Nevada County Public Works Director Heba El-Guindy said in a statement. “We appreciate that our partners at Cal Fire have been helping us restore roadway conditions and prepare our roads ahead of the fire season.”

The Cal Fire grant funding also will be used to “bolster the Fire Safe Council’s existing free green waste program,” officials said. Funding from the grant is expected to be used to “leverage and expand” the Eastern County Community Green Waste programming coordinated by the Fire Safe Council, the Office of Emergency Services, the town of Truckee, and the Truckee Fire Protection District scheduled for July and August.

“We are grateful that Cal Fire not only supported us with their crews responding to the emergency storm events, but they also continue to support our community through recovery. Their partnership with these additional resources will continue to make us more resilient to the threat of wildfire,” Nevada County Office of Emergency Services Director Craig Griesbach said in a statement.

Funding from FEMA, which is about $750,000, will help Nevada County begin its Phase I Planning for the Roadside Vegetation Management Program for which it applied for in June 2020, officials said. The county called it a “critical milestone” in the “lengthy grant process.”

Before work can begin on more than 300 publicly maintained miles of roadway, the county said right-of-way maps must be digitized, treatment prescriptions approved, tribal groups consulted, as well as biological, archeological, and environmental surveys completed. The entire Phase I Planning process is expected to take 18 months.

In April, Yuba Water Agency also received money from Cal Fire for wildfire protection, the Appeal previously reported.

Included in $142.6 million that was awarded for other statewide projects that are “intended to enhance carbon storage while restoring the health and resilience of existing and recently burned forests” in California, Yuba Water received $6,993,937 for its New Bullards Bar 2023 Forest Health Project.

“This project will improve forest health on 3,499 acres of public and private lands in the Yuba County foothills,” according to the program’s description. “Treatments will include mastication, mechanical biomass chipping, tractor/hand piling, and follow-up herbicide application, providing multiple benefits including forest health and vigor, climate change resiliency, species biodiversity, stabilized carbon and sediment, catastrophic fire risk reduction, increased water yield, and direct support for hydro and bio-energy facilities.”

Several statewide agencies and groups have been working to thin forests in areas that pose increased wildfire risks. Due to the cost of trying to alleviate these issues in overgrown areas, achieving meaningful progress has been difficult.

“We are excited that Cal Fire has awarded Yuba Water approximately $7 million to advance work in the Yuba River watershed,” JoAnna Lessard, Yuba Water Agency watershed manager, previously said in a statement. “This project was strategically developed with our partners to include treatments around New Bullards Bar, which will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire for our foothill communities and help safeguard our water supply.”

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