NEWS WORTH NOTING: Rainstorms bring new safety concerns after devastating fire season; U.S. EPA selects three California sites for the superfund redevelopment focus list; Weekly Water and Climate Update: Low snowpack across most of the West

Rainstorms Bring New Safety Concerns After Devastating Fire Season

From DWR and multiple state/federal agencies:

After the first heavy rains of 2018 caused flooding and debris flows in Southern California, destroying nearly 100 homes, closing major highways and killing 20 people, officials continue to be concerned about how more rains will impact communities in and near burn scars across the state.

Prolonged dry spells can offer false impressions that there is no flood risk. However, once the ground is burned, it is changed, causing the water flow to be dramatic. People should stay away from burned slopes, storm channels, and natural drainages. Those interested in flood insurance should talk to a professional to find out more.

Rates of erosion and runoff can increase to dangerous levels following wildfires in California. Wildfires dramatically change the landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to the increased risk of flooding even with light rains. Natural, unburned vegetation and soil normally act as a sponge during a rainfall event. However, wildfires create physical changes in the landscape. The heat from a fire can bake the ground, creating a surface that will not absorb water, thereby increasing the speed with which water flows off the slope. When these normal and protective functions are compromised or eliminated by a severe wildfire the potential for significant erosion, flooding, and debris flows is magnified.

While crews spend time during and after a wildfire identifying and repairing areas of concern before winter storms, it is important for the public to know that methods of flood, debris flow, and erosion prevention are no guarantee. Flash floods occur most often when rainfall reaches half an inch in an hour in a burned area. Other factors that can increase flooding and debris flows are how severe the fire was, how steep the terrain is, how much time the ground has had to heal itself, and the amount of post-fire vegetation recovery.

Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said, “Thousands of California residents have endured the horror of wildfires that destroyed their homes, and now many others are suffering from flooding over those same landscapes. We urge everyone living and working near the fire zones to carefully assess the threat of post-fire flooding.”

Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci called for vigilance in the post-fire environment: “Last year’s devastating wildfires and record-breaking storms remind us of the natural disasters California faces. I encourage all Californians to look at their risks and take steps to be prepared for the next disaster.”

“This past fire season has been very deadly and damaging and now the public must prepare for flooding and erosion,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. “CAL FIRE and many other agencies have been working in burn areas during and after a wildfire to address these issues to help protect communities, but it is imperative that residents stay aware of their surroundings and heed all warnings and orders from emergency officials.”

Roy Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, said: “FEMA urges Californians to seriously consider the purchase of flood insurance as the best financial protection against the increased threat of flooding created by the recent wildfires.”

Dianna Crilley, USGS’s Associate Director for Data, USGS California Water Science Center, advised Californians to use tools available online. “Early warnings issued by the National Weather Service based on computer models, rainfall forecasts, and USGS real-time streamflow data can help emergency managers and residents be informed and prepared for potentially dangerous post-fire conditions.”

Many federal, state, and local emergency agencies are partnering up to alert the public about steps to take to prepare yourself and your family ahead of winter storms. Listen to trusted information sources and sign up for emergency alerts to ensure that if emergency strikes, you are notified as soon as possible. Monitor incoming storms, especially if you live in burned areas or downslope of a burned area and heed all warnings and orders from emergency officials. Lastly, have an evacuation plan in place and make sure all family members are familiar with it.

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MEDIA NOTES:

U.S. EPA Selects Three California Sites for the Superfund Redevelopment Focus List

Thirty-one Superfund sites were announced nationwide

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its initial list of Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites with the greatest expected redevelopment and commercial potential. Three Superfund sites were selected in California: Aerojet General Corp., in Rancho Cordova, MGM Brakes in Cloverdale, and Operating Industries Inc. Landfill in Monterey Park.

“EPA is more than a collaborative partner to remediate the nation’s most contaminated sites, we’re also working to successfully integrate Superfund sites back into communities across the country,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Today’s redevelopment list incorporates Superfund sites ready to become catalysts for economic growth and revitalization.”

Superfund redevelopment has helped countless communities reclaim and reuse thousands of acres of formerly contaminated land. Superfund sites on the list have significant redevelopment potential based on previous outside interest, access to transportation corridors, land values, and other critical development drivers. The sites selected in California are:

Aerojet General Corp., Rancho Cordova, CA
The Aerojet General Corporation Superfund site is a former rocket propulsion development and testing facility located about a half-mile from the American River near Sacramento. EPA listed the site on the National Priorities List in 1983.

Today, the site is home to a 40-acre solar facility that generates 6 megawatts of power. The solar facility is the largest single-site industrial system in California and one of the largest single-site industrial installations in the United States. The solar farm helps power the site’s extensive groundwater remediation program, reducing the company’s carbon footprint and improving energy usage. The facility also restores the land to beneficial use as an energy-producing environmental asset.

Currently, the solar facility is part of a mix of site uses, including industrial operations, livestock grazing, and commercial activities. Future reuse plans for other parts of the site include mixed-use development with residential, commercial and industrial areas.

MGM Brakes, Cloverdale, CA
The 5-acre MGM Brakes site is a former aluminum brake manufacturing and casting facility located in Cloverdale, less than one mile west of the Russian River. EPA listed the site on the National Priorities List in 1983.

EPA demolished the casting plant in 1992 and excavated contaminated soils in 1994. Cleanup levels for groundwater have been met and all groundwater monitoring wells have been closed. The site is currently vacant, zoned for service/commercial use, and can support light industrial reuse. Site surroundings include multi-unit residential buildings, office buildings, a hotel, gas stations and convenience stores.

Operating Industries Inc. Landfill, Monterey Park, CA
The 190-acre Operating Industries Inc. Landfill site is located in Monterey Park, about ten miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Landfilling operations at the site took place from 1948 to 1984. EPA listed the site on the National Priorities List in 1986.

Previously, an innovative landfill gas treatment system converted landfill gas into electricity, meeting more than half the remedial system’s energy requirements. Today, there is a 500,000-square-foot retail center being constructed on site that will host stores, restaurants, a bank, a fitness center and parking. Additional redevelopment opportunities exist at the site, including solar development potential. The area surrounding the site is heavily developed, with mixed general commercial/industrial and residential land use and small pockets of open space.

The Superfund Redevelopment List can be found here. The list easily directs interested developers and potential owners to Superfund sites with redevelopment potential, but does not necessarily include all possible sites with similar potential. The sites on this list are in alphabetical order and not ranked in any particular way.

In July 2017, the Superfund Task Force released its recommendations to streamline and improve the Superfund program including a focus on redevelopment training, tools and resources towards sites on the NPL. EPA will work diligently with developers interested in reusing these and other Superfund sites; will identify potentially interested businesses and industries to keep them apprised of redevelopment opportunities; and will continue to engage with community groups in cleanup and redevelopment activities to ensure the successful redevelopment and revitalization of their communities.

Administrator Pruitt has set the expectation that there will be a renewed focus on accelerating work and progress at all Superfund sites across the country. The Superfund program remains dedicated to addressing risk and accelerating progress at all of its sites, not just those on the list. The list is intended to be dynamic. Sites will move on and off the list as appropriate.

For more information please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund-redevelopment-initiative/superfund-redevelopment-focus-list

Weekly Water and Climate Update: Low snowpack across most of the West

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

From Oregon to New Mexico, the snowpack is minimal. The SNOTEL percentile map compares the current snow water equivalent to the period of record (POR). Precipitation since October 1 is at record lows for many sites in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. In the past two months, temperatures in the same areas have been 2 to 10°F above average. The combination of low precipitation with warm temperatures is not a good mix for building or maintaining a snowpack .

Currently, the only region in the West with an above average snowpack is in the north central Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, Montana, and eastern Idaho .

Click here to read report.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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