NEWS WORTH NOTING: CAL FIRE awards $27.5 million to reduce wildfire risks; LA DWP remains dedicated to protecting the environment in Mono County; U.S. EPA settles with four Oakland companies over Clean Water Act violations

CAL FIRE Awards $27.5 Million to Reduce Wildfire Risks

Grants Fund Tahoe-Central Sierra Forest Health Projects

From the Sierra Nevada Conservancy:

[Yesterday], CAL FIRE awarded four grants totaling $27.5 million to fund high-priority forest health projects designed to combat climate change and reduce the risk of wildfires.

Awarded to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Tahoe Conservancy, National Forest Foundation, and American River Conservancy, the grants fund forest health projects in Placer, Nevada, Sierra, and El Dorado counties. The grants provide significant investment in the 2.4-million-acre Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative area where state, federal, environmental, industry and research representatives are working together to restore the resilience of forests and watersheds. The U.S. Forest Service Tahoe National Forest, Eldorado National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit serve as the critical federal counterparts in this work.

“With much of the state battling large, damaging wildfires, it’s more important than ever to make long-term investments that reduce wildfire risk and protect carbon storage,” says Jim Branham, Executive Officer of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. “These grants show a real commitment on behalf of the state of California to improving forest health and carbon sequestration in the Sierra Nevada.”

The grants, funded by CAL FIRE’s California Climate Investments Forest Health Grant Program, use proceeds from California’s cap-and-trade program to combat climate change. Through the California Climate Investments Grant Program, CAL FIRE and other state agencies are investing in projects that directly reduce greenhouse gases while providing a wide range of additional benefits – such as prevention and reduction of wildfires — for California communities.

“Healthy forests are one of our best climate regulators,” says Mary Mitsos, president and CEO of the National Forest Foundation. “However, the forests surrounding the greater Tahoe area, like much of the Sierra Nevada region, need significant restoration if they are going to withstand wildfires, insects and disease and continue to provide the myriad benefits we rely on them to provide.”

The four grants awarded fund projects that are part of an all-lands regional restoration program and will be implemented by a collaborative of national forests, state agencies, nonprofits, and private land owners. The USDA Forest Service manages a large portion of the landscape within the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative area and will complete much of the work. The lands draw visitors from around the world and restoring their resilience will ensure that they continue to be an asset for the public.

“By protecting and restoring the health of our headwaters, we are also protecting the many benefits that flow from them,” says Alan Ehrgott, Executive Director for the American River Conservancy. “This work is important both to those of us that live and work in the headwaters, and to the state as a whole.”

Today also marks the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative. The partnership was launched at the 2017 Tahoe Summit, and to date has secured nearly $32.5 million in grant funds and $3.5 million in investments from water agencies and beverage companies to restore forest and watershed resilience.

“We are thrilled that our efforts to coordinate federal, state and private projects across a 2.4-million-acre landscape are paying off,” said Patrick Wright, Executive Director of the California Tahoe Conservancy. “These large-scale efforts are essential to effectively manage our forests in the face of rising temperatures and increasing megafires.”

In additional to the grants awarded within the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative area, several grants were also awarded for similar work throughout the Sierra Nevada region.  Information about the focus of each of the grants awarded and the dollar amounts awarded is available on CAL FIRE’s website: http://www.fire.ca.gov/grants/downloads/ForestHealth/17-18_CCI_FH_Grant_Awardees_Web.pdf

About the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative

Building upon several large-scale collaborative efforts in the region, the Tahoe Central Sierra Initiative is developing a comprehensive restoration strategy for more than 2.4 million acres of federal, state, local, and private land. The primary goal of Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative is to improve the health and resiliency of the forest ecosystems and communities in the TCSI landscape, thereby ensuring that the wide variety of benefits that the region provides continue into the future. The TCSI is focused on the landscape of the Lake Tahoe Basin and the American, Bear, Carson, Truckee and Yuba watersheds, which are crucial for downstream communities, agricultural interests, recreationalists and the environment.

The TCSI is led by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the California Tahoe Conservancy, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service Region 5, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, The Nature Conservancy, National Forest Foundation, University of California, Natural Reserve System-Sagehen Creek Field Station, and the California Forestry Association, with additional partners becoming engaged as the effort gains momentum.

Additional information about the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative can be found at www.restorethesierra.org/tahoesierra.

A short video about the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative is available at https://spark.adobe.com/video/owEW1iS0nq3zr.

LA DWP Remains Dedicated to Protecting the Environment in Mono County

From the LA DWP:

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) attended today’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting to participate in ongoing discussions surrounding the department’s water management practices and ranching leases in Mono County and has released the following statement by Clarence Martin, LADWP Aqueduct Manager:

“California’s new climate reality is making it increasingly difficult to capture enough water to meet our state’s diverse needs – and when faced with a deficit, we all must cut back. LADWP is reassessing its water management practices throughout the state and adapting policies to align with the state’s diminishing resource availability and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. LADWP’s proposed lease terms were a direct reflection of this new reality.

First and foremost, this is NOT a proposal to dewater or de-ranch Mono County. LADWP has continued operating this year as we have in prior years. Shortly after this year’s runoff was calculated, the ranchers were notified that they would receive 4,200 acre-feet this irrigation year – about the same amount that they received in 2016, following similar runoff conditions.

LADWP is currently diverting water to protect the Sage Grouse and their habitat.

The department has also partnered with local environmental organizations – including Audubon California, Eastern Sierra Audubon, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others – to establish a dedicated Sage Grouse working group. Because the Sage Grouse is not a legally protected species, this group will lead the charge on ensuring the long-term protection of their habitat. We appreciate Mono County’s participation in this group thus far and look forward to a continued partnership to protect this species.

Before making any changes to water management practices in Mono County, LADWP will complete a full and thorough Environmental Impact Report. The EIR process will evaluate the long-term amount of water needed to ensure that we continue to protect the environment in Long Valley.

  • This includes the Sage Grouse and their habitat.
  • It also includes the creeks, streams, fisheries and riparian habitats that will likely benefit from additional flows as a result of reduced diversions for artificial irrigation.

We encourage those who share LADWP’s concern for the environment to participate in this public process with us. Preparation for an EIR is just beginning, and LADWP expects to issue a formal notice signifying the start of the review process this fall.

We’re here today because, decades ago, free water was offered to a handful of ranchers when LADWP had surplus water that it couldn’t transport – that’s simply not the case today. There simply is no more surplus water available.

Climate change has changed the equation and forward thinking policies – From Governor Brown’s new long-term water conservation mandate to the City of Los Angeles and LADWP’s sustainability goals – are vital to protect the environment and ensure reliable water supplies.

Los Angeles currently leaves more than half of its historic LA Aqueduct water supply in Mono and Inyo counties for environmental preservation, while Los Angeles residents continue to pay more to use less.

We’re all sharing in the responsibility and making changes to adjust to California’s new climate reality and the associated volatility in our water supply, and we are asking the ranchers to do the same by exploring their available alternatives to receiving free water paid for by Los Angeles residents.

LADWP would have to spend about $18 million to replace the amount of water requested by the commercial ranchers and the lost hydropower it generates – an unacceptable cost burden of about $30 per family per year, on average.

While new leases are discussed and negotiated, we are continuing the same practice we have used in past years.  We evaluated the runoff, calculated the amount available for commercial ranching and notified our lessees.

LADWP and the ranchers maintain open lines of communications and we have made it clear that they should be able to continue leasing the department’s land. LADWP also remains committed to providing water to meet its environmental commitments in Mono County.

Once again, I want to reiterate that LADWP is committed to conducting a full environmental review of this matter.  We are currently drafting the initial study and expect to begin the formal EIR process in the Fall. Through the EIR process there will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed.”

For more information please read our Frequently Asked Questions here.

U.S. EPA settles with four Oakland companies over Clean Water Act violations

From the US EPA:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced settlements with four Oakland companies—Sierra Pacific Ready Mix, Argent Materials, National Recycling Corporation, and Nor-Cal Rock—over Clean Water Act violations. Under the terms of the settlements, the companies will pay a combined $137,000 in civil penalties and will better manage stormwater runoff.

“San Francisco Bay, a National Estuary, provides crucial fish and wildlife habitat in an urban area of over seven million people,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “It is essential that industrial facilities protect the bay, and those who depend on its ecological health, from polluted stormwater.”

EPA partnered with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to inspect concrete, motor vehicle parts and recycling facilities in East and West Oakland. The inspections were part of an initiative by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CalEPA) statewide Environmental Justice Task Force, which focuses compliance and enforcement efforts related to air, water, toxics, solid waste, and pesticides.

“By coordinating the work of multiple agencies, CalEPA’s EJ Task Force is taking a comprehensive approach to addressing pollution in California’s poorest and most burdened communities,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Mathew Rodriquez. “These settlements, just the latest enforcement actions to result from our Oakland initiative, will help protect San Francisco Bay from stormwater pollution by industrial facilities.”

EPA conducted a total of six inspections between February and March 2017, which resulted in enforcement actions against:

  • Sierra Pacific Ready Mix (also known as Allied Redy-Mix), a ready-mix concrete manufacturing facility – $72,169 penalty
  • Argent Materials, a concrete and asphalt recycling facility – $27,000 penalty
  • National Recycling Corporation, a recycling facility – $23,106 penalty
  • Nor-Cal Rock, a concrete and asphalt recycling company – $15,000 penalty

Each of the companies failed to develop and implement an adequate stormwater pollution prevention plan and failed to use best management practices designed to prevent contaminants from entering stormwater. Sierra Pacific Ready Mix and Nor-Cal Rock also discharged stormwater containing industrial pollutants without first obtaining a permit.

For more information on stormwater permits under the Clean Water Act, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/npdes-stormwater-program

Find the CalEPA Environmental Justice Task Force’s report on the Oakland Enforcement Initiative here: https://calepa.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/62/2018/03/OAKEJ_initiative_FINALweb.pdf

Learn more about EPA’s work in the San Francisco Bay Delta Watershed: https://www.epa.gov/sfbay-delta

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. Connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter.

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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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