Updated: May 29
According to Cal Fire's 2021 Wildfire Season web page, "the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year." Knowing that, it would seem that in Sonoma County, where wildfires have destroyed so much in the last few years, that our elected officials might feel a sense of urgency. Yet after nearly $150M came to the county via the PG&E settlement, it took nearly two years for the Board of Supervisors to decide to spend less than twenty percent of that ($25M) on vegetation management, the one thing most residents say is crucial to mitigating the damage of future wildfires. And of that $25M, they plan to spend no more than $4M in 2021.
Here's the timeline:
June 2019: Sonoma County and eight other public entities settle their damage claims with PG&E for a total of $415 million. Sonoma County's share of that settlement is $149.3M .
August 2020: The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors begins discussing the allocation of $149.3M PG&E settlement funds, and as part of that process seeks public input on how the money should be spent.
October 2020: The Board of Supervisors votes to spend $25M for wildfire protection via vegetation management, despite calls for a larger amount from a large percentage of the public.
December 2020: The Board of Supervisors opts to engage consultants to help them determine the right approach to spending the $25M set aside for vegetation management.
March 2021: The Board of Supervisors, as a result of a recommendation from CLEE, a consulting group they hired, opts to spend $8M on vegetation management, with an initial amount of between $2-$4 million in 2021, and tags Ag + Open Space to develop a grant program to distribute the funds.
April 2021: A page appears on the Ag + Open Space website with information about the Vegetation Management Project Grant Program. This program, meant to focus on high-risk areas in Sonoma County, will accept applications from "local fire districts, schools, communities with Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs), Resource Conservation Districts, community groups, nonprofit organizations, licensed foresters, and technical advisors."
May 16, 2021: Deadline for applications.
May 17-24, 2021: The Vegetation Management Grant Project Working Group to review and make selections from the applicant pool.
May 25, 2021: Applicants to be notified.
Unknown: Grant money to be distributed.
June 2021: Fire Season Begins
Update May 29, 2021: Due to the overwhelming number of applications received, the selection committee has needed more time for review. Final award decisions will be made as soon as possible and all grant applicants will be notified.
Photo by Frank Schulenburg