County vegetation management projects underway

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, October 29, 2021

Reducing fire fuel — Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District Chief Marshall Turbeville helps a Mill Creek Road resident with a vegetation burn on Jan. 14, 2020. (Photo Katherine Minkiewicz)

Nineteen Sonoma County vegetation management projects are underway or completed as part of the county’s effort to minimize wildfire risk.

These 19 vegetation management projects, which cost $3.6 million and are being supported by PG&E settlement funds, were selected in May by a multi-agency selection committee for their potential to address immediate fire risk and environmental compliance.

On July 13, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, which serves as the board of directors for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space), approved a second phase of grant funding totaling $3 million to include seven conditionally approved highly ranked project applicants and to solicit another round of grant applications by January 2022.

Since the launch of the first round of grant funding, Ag + Open Space has hired a full time vegetation management coordinator to oversee the efforts of the initial grant projects.

Some vegetation management grant work has also already been completed, such as the Cavedale Road-Trinity Road corridor project, which involved cutting back about 10 miles of roadside vegetation that had previously burned in the Nuns Fire in 2017.

“It’s so gratifying to see these projects already making such headway in creating more resilient landscapes in Sonoma County,” Chair of the Board of Supervisors Lynda Hopkins said in a statement. “As a board, we are committed to adapting to climate change, supporting forest health and community hardening efforts, and the vegetation management grant program is a primary way we can immediately begin to achieve those goals.”

Other projects — such as a shaded fuel break above Jenner and Cazadero, vegetation management along Fort Ross Road, and the Sonoma Valley Fire Department’s chipper program — are still waiting for chippers, masticators and other vegetation management equipment that is in high demand and hard to obtain.

“Ag + Open Space staff are looking for grant opportunities from state and federal sources, including $1.514 billion from the state to support forest health and fire prevention and resiliency, which could be used as matching funds for the PG&E funds to stretch the program further,” according to a county press release.

Future collaboration between the county vegetation management program and transportation and public works are also being pursued and county staff are identifying key areas where vegetation removal along critical roads could reduce wildfire risk, according to the same press release.

 

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