Board of supervisors approves over $3.7 million in grant funding for fire fuel reduction

, , June 4, 2021

dry hillside

Funding for fire fuel work — The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved over $3 million in grant funding for various fire fuel reduction projects across Sonoma County. (Photo Healdsburg Fire Department)

On May 28, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved $3,722,160 in grant funding for 20 vegetation management projects across Sonoma County that will help reduce wildfire risk in the 2021 and 2022 fire seasons.

In addition, another seven projects in the Russian River area have been conditionally approved for future funding pending the completion of outstanding project design and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) work, according to a press release from county officials.

The project funds are coming from a recent Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) settlement awarded to the county of Sonoma as a result of the 2017 Sonoma Complex Fires lawsuit.

Last year, the board of supervisors voted to allocate $25 million of the $149 million settlement toward vegetation management work.

“We are pleased to be able to support our local fire districts, homeowners’ associations, nonprofit partners and community groups in making our county safer and more resilient in the face of what is anticipated to be a severe wildfire season,” Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. “Through this grant program we are able to help landowners and communities clear critical access roads, create defensible space around structures, form much-needed shaded fuel breaks and educate the community on wildfire safety and risk reduction. In addition, we are looking forward to working closely with river communities on resolving project design and CEQA issues so that these projects can also be approved for funding this summer.”

According to the press release, the board of supervisors originally set aside $2-4 million from the PG&E settlement funds to complete “shovel-ready” projects that would result in the greatest fire-risk reduction work for the 2021 and 2022 fire seasons.

County staff received 89 grant applications for fuels reduction work. The applications totaled more than $16 million in requested funds.

The applications were reviewed by a selection committee made up of representatives from the Sonoma County Administrator’s Office and the county’s natural resource agencies: CalFire; Sonoma County Ag + Open Space; Sonoma County Regional Parks; Permit Sonoma; Sonoma Water and UC Cooperative Extension.

After review of the applications by the board, 20 projects totaling over $3.7 million were accepted.

The grant funds do not require match funding from the applicants and grants will be disbursed once the grant agreement with the county is executed.

“Given that this is the first grant program of this nature administered by the county, we were not sure how many applications we would receive,” said Caryl Hart, former interim general manager of Ag + Open Space and county lead for the vegetation management program. “The sheer amount and quality of the applications we received is a clear indicator of the need and desire of the community to reduce fire risk across the county; and we look forward to working with those applicants that were not awarded funds during this cycle to address vegetation management concerns through other funding and technical assistance channels, and to encourage them to apply for the next round of County funding.”