USA – LAKE COUNTY — Cal Fire has awarded $3 million in grant funding to a local nonprofit to perform an array of wildfire risk reduction projects around Lake County over the next several years.
Leaders of the Clear Lake Environmental Research Center, the grant applicant, say that even more grant funding will be on the horizon if the current implementation goes well.
“If we deliver on this,” said CLERC Executive Director Will Evans, “then Cal Fire will be gung-ho about doing it again in a few years.”
“We have to show that we can do this (fire prevention work) and that we can do it really well,” said CLERC Director Carolyn Ruttan.
The current grant award was announced by Cal Fire as part of a total of $43.5 million across 55 fire prevention-focused Cal Fire grants awarded around California on Tuesday. The grants are funded with cap-and-trade dollars via the state’s “California Climate Investments” program, which is intended to fund greenhouse gas emissions reduction, public health and environmental work.
“We have doubled down on our efforts to clear brush, inspect homes for defensible space and reduce the risk of wildfires,” said Cal Fire Director Thomas Porter. “These 55 local projects will play a critical role in augmenting our fire prevention efforts.”
CLERC will receive $3,019,106 in grant funding for phase one of a multi-part plan the nonprofit has developed that seeks to create long-term fire risk reduction infrastructure—including large-scale firebreaks and defensible space around homes—in Lake County.
According to Evans, on-the-ground fuel reduction work that utilizes the grant funds will begin this year, with planning starting within a few months.
“We’ll be able to start spending the money by summer,” Evans said.
Of the $3 million award, $1 million will go toward a joint project with the U.S. Forest Service to conduct 500 acres of dead tree removal in the Mendocino National Forest.
Another $500,000 will go toward creating and maintaining fuel breaks around Lake County. This work will include maintaining a 270-acre Cal Fire fuel break that rounds the circumference of Mt. Konocti, clearing vegetation near a critical public communications facility on Seigler Mountain, creating and maintaining a fuel break in Scotts Valley west of Lakeport, and planning and constructing a firebreak east of Clearlake to stop blazes from moving westward into the city, Evans said.
$400,000 will be directed toward creating defensible space around at least 200 subdivision lots in residential areas. Evans said the specific locations of this work are “flexible,” but noted that the Rivieras will be one focal point.
Through a partnership with New Paradigm College—the local higher learning organization that formed last year after purchasing the Lucerne Hotel—Evans said that $280,000 will go toward a NPC training program designed to give residents the skills they need to use vegetation management tools and care for the land in a way that will allow more fire prevention work to be performed in Lake County.
About $88,000 of the grant funding will be funneled into the South Lake Fire Safe Council’s chipping program, which provides vegetation chipping services to area residents.
The remaining funds, totaling about $750,000, will be used to implement and manage the entire project, including by paying for overhead costs.
Of the grant money awarded to CLERC, Ruttan stressed that more funding is needed in Lake County for the kind of wildfire prevention work her organization has planned.
“We need every penny of it, and we need more,” she said.
CLERC has said it has been told by Cal Fire that it will also be receiving up to $5 million in more funding through the state agency’s related “Forest Health” grant program next fiscal year. The work planned for in that grant includes hundreds of acres of thinning, controlled burning and planting near locations like Witter Springs, Lucerne, Benmore Valley and Cobb Mountain.