CITY OF SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
July 25, 2007
“Experience is good- it allows you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” – Anonymous
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE CITY COUNCIL RESPONDS TO ANGORA FIRE ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
At their meeting of July 17, 2007, the South Lake Tahoe City Council directed the City Manager and staff to pursue several courses of action designed to strengthen City fire prevention efforts and respond to fire-safety issues in the Tahoe Region. As the only incorporated city fully within the boundaries of the Tahoe Region, the City Council recognizes and accepts its unique position under Federal law and the State Constitution to protect the environment, lives, and property within the City limits.
The City Council acknowledged through their discussion and action that forest fire is the number one danger to the environment in the Tahoe Basin and all steps necessary must be taken to prevent future fires.
After review and discussion, the City Council did the following:
1. Directed the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance incorporating by reference in the Municipal Code Article 86 of the Uniform Fire Code that sets standards for construction in the Wild Land Urban Interface.
2. Directed City staff to examine appropriate amendments to the Uniform Building Code to correspond with Uniform Fire Code requirements and to better protect new construction from the hazards of fire.
3. Approved $100,000 in additional funding for emergency fire equipment and fuel reduction on City-owned properties and instructed staff proceed with the fuel reduction work as fast as possible.
4. Supported the use of efficient mechanized equipment (like the masticator) to remove fuels in the City limits and the Tahoe Basin and urged other fire protection and regulatory agencies to support the use of this fire-safety equipment. Letters to appropriate agencies will be prepared and sent advising them of the City Council’s request.
As the recent Angora Fire clearly illustrated, fire in the Basin will not wait the ten years called for in the proposed USFS hazard fuel reduction plan. Fuel reduction in the entire basin must be accelerated and additional Federal funding and regulatory relief must be provided to allow the USFS to proceed more rapidly with fuel reduction.
5. Directed the City Attorney to prepare an amendment to the Municipal Code empowering appropriate City departments to take action to ensure that all publicly-owned lands in the City limits are made fire safe in a timely manner.
6. Directed the City Manager to make contact with the California Public Utilities Commission to request their assistance to bring the Lukins Water Company into compliance with water capacity to meet fire suppression requirements and to seek funding for repairs to that system.
7. Supported creation of fire-safe councils within the City limits and South Shore.
8. Supported changes to the term of the current building season from May 1 through October 15th of each year to one based on weather conditions.
9. Supported efforts of the USFS to develop and implement a reforestation plan for forest properties burned in the Angora Fire.
HANDLING POLLUTED RUNOFF FROM BURNED AREAS
Immediately following the conclusion of the Angora Fire, the USFS dispatched their Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to the fire scene to undertake an assessment of how to stabilize soils in the burned area and prevent water runoff in the rainy season from polluting City and County drainage systems and spilling over into Lake Tahoe.
The USFS just approved $2,192,205 for work to stabilize the ash and post-fire debris to resist erosion and runoff. The initial work is needed and welcomed as an initial effort. City and County public works administrators fear that this funding and work plan is not enough to prevent toxic runoff from a large-storm event like occurred in early 2006. Lahontan officials expressed similar concerns. Lauri Kemper of Lahontan staff stated the following: “Given the severity of the Angora Fire and the sensitivity of the Lake Tahoe Watershed, the BAER recommendations fall short of the immediate temporary restoration needs.”
City and County public works administrators believe that drainage collection basins are needed to be built on forest service lands to capture toxic runoff in a high-storm event and prevent it from polluting the City and County drainage facilities and the Lake. According to a USFS spokesperson, long-term rehabilitation of the properties is not included in the initial BAER funding package, and this is exactly the problem. USFS plans to evaluate long-term solutions over the next three years.
In response to the lack of immediate funding for adequate drainage facilities to handle large-storm events, TRPA and CTC are working to come up with a funding package to make needed improvements now not later. These agencies’ help is welcome and appreciated. It is unfortunate that TRPA and CTC funds are being used in lieu of funding other environmental enhancement projects to accomplish what the USFS should already be doing.
It is understood that the USFS has limited funds nationwide for damage control after fire incidents. Advocacy is needed at the Federal and State level to gain support for more funding for post-fire remediation efforts to protect water quality in the near term.
MOU WITH TRPA FOR TREE REMOVAL IN THE WORKS
This week the City Manager signed a memorandum of understanding with the TRPA to allow trained fire prevention professionals in the City Fire Department to mark trees on private property within the City limits that have been determined to be hazardous and unsafe for removal. This cooperative effort between the City and TRPA helps private property owners to expedite the removal of dangerous trees.
The agreement will be presented to the City Council for ratification at their first Council meeting in August 2007.
10-YEAR BASIN FUEL REDUCTION PLAN PROPOSED BY USFS
We have a fire emergency in the Basin, and it is time to act.
The USFS has proposed a ten year Basin fuel reduction plan that will be formally presented on August 1, 2007. Workshops will be held on August 1st and August 2nd at the Kings Beach Conference Center and the LTCC Aspen Room from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. respectively.
The Draft Plan is a comprehensive document. It provides, “…a 10 year strategy to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin.” The report notes that “…even with highly effective suppression resources, the crown fires and sizes of these fires provide additional evidence that fuel hazards in the Basin have increased substantially and will continue to increase in the future…” The report notes that “… the Lake Tahoe Basin has one of highest fire ignition rates in the Sierra Nevada…”
The report also illustrates that catastrophic fire threatens human health and safety, damages watersheds and riparian zones, diminishes water quality, destroys or reduces wildlife habitat, affects “…large scale landscape characteristic and scenic integrity… high tree mortality…” and damage to recreation opportunities, reduce air quality (by emitting “…large amounts of particulate matter [PM 10 and PM 2.5] and carbon monoxide, as well as nitrogen oxides[NOX] and volatile organic compounds [VOCs], which have precursors to ozone…”) and destroys the local economy.
The draft report articulates the importance of reducing fire in the Basin and the impacts of catastrophic fire on the Basin as a whole. USFS officials have stated constraints in implementing the plan. They note that these constraints include “current staffing levels and the availability of qualified mechanical operators…regulatory constraints and administrative constraints…”
Since fire is the number one threat to the environment in the Lake Tahoe Basin as referenced in the USFS draft ten-year plan, City officials are encouraging USFS and Basin regulatory agency executives and policy makers to become advocates for a more aggressive fuel reduction plan (less than ten years), more funds to remove fuel from the Basin and USFS staffing needed to ensure success, and the removal of regulatory barriers to the use of mechanical equipment for fuel reduction on an accelerated basis. I am advised by fire safety advocates that there are qualified mechanical operators and knowledgeable forestry people to remove fuel if the regulations governing fuel removal in the Basin are changed. If the barrier to making the Basin fire safe are the rules and regulations, then change the rules.!
The City Council recognizes that the reduction of fuel cannot wait ten years, and it urges all responsible and affected agencies to support additional Federal funding for fuels reduction and a change in regulations governing fuel reduction to allow it to occur on an accelerated basis. The next fire will not wait or act in accordance with our ten year plan.
REGAN BEACH PROJECT
Director of Parks and Recreation Gary Moore reports the following:
“I met with Peter Eichar (C.T.C.) and did a walk through at Regan Beach. The C.T.C. agreed to allocate $25,000 directly to “Design Workshop” for conceptual planning design of the Regan Beach facility. Peter is starting the process at C.T.C. and in the near future we should be starting meetings and observations of the property with the design contractor.”
This CTC funding opportunity provides the City Council with a chance to examine options for Regan Beach facilities and amenities for the public. The existing facilities are tired and need attention to maximize the value of this recreation amenity to the community.
Doug Houston provides below the following update on two bills that potentially benefit and influence the direction of planning in our community and grant opportunities for mixed-use development.
AB 1091 , Bass, 07/17/2007
Topic: Transit-Oriented Development Implementation Program.
Current Location: 07/17/2007-S APPR.
Status: 07/17/2007-Read second time, amended, and re-referred to Com. on APPR.
The Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006, authorizes the issuance of bonds in the amount of $2,850,000,000 pursuant to the State General Obligation Bond Law. Proceeds from the sale of these bonds are required to be used to finance various existing housing programs, capital outlay related to infill development, Brownfield cleanup that promotes infill development, and housing-related parks. The act establishes the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund of 2006 in the State Treasury, requires the sum of $300,000,000 to be deposited in the Transit-Oriented Development Account, which the act establishes in the fund, and makes the money in the account available, upon appropriation, for expenditure under the Transit-Oriented Development Implementation Program, which is established under existing law under the administration of the Department of Housing and Community Development. This bill would authorize the department to supply certain financial assistance, subject to specified standards, to local governments, redevelopment agencies, and transit agencies for providing the infrastructure necessary for the development of higher density uses, including residential uses, within 1/2 mile of the entrance to a transit station, via a readily walkable route . This bill contains other existing laws.
AB 1358 , Leno, 07/18/2007
Topic: Planning: circulation element: transportation.
Current Location: 07/18/2007-S APPR.
Status: 07/18/2007-Read second time, amended, and re-referred to Com. on APPR.
Existing law requires the legislative body of each county and city to adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for the physical development of the county or city with specified elements, including a circulation element consisting of the general location and extent of existing and proposed major thoroughfares, transportation routes, terminals, any military airports and ports, and other local public utilities and facilities, all correlated with the land use element of the plan. This bill would require, commencing January 1, 2010, that the legislative body of a city or county, upon any revision of the circulation element of the general plan, modify the circulation element to accommodate the safe and convenient travel of users of streets, roads, and highways, defined to include motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, seniors, movers of commercial goods, and users of public transportation , in a manner that is suitable to the rural, suburban, or urban context of the general plan . By requiring new duties of local officials, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.
DAVID M. JINKENS