OAKLAND, Calif. – The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on proposed hazardous fire risk reduction projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The DEIS has been published in the Federal Register and FEMA will host a final public meeting to hear public comments about the environmental impact statement this Saturday, May 18th.
Since 2005, the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), the City of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) have submitted a total of four grant applications to FEMA, through the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), for federal financial assistance to implement hazardous fire risk reduction projects in the East Bay Hills of Alameda and Contra Costa counties and at the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline in Contra Costa County.
FEMA initiated, and this month, released a draft environmental impact statement that analyzes how the proposed and connected projects could impact the area and is seeking public comments on the draft environmental impact statement, currently available on the web.
The funding sought in the four grant applications could be provided under FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). If awarded, up to $5.6 million of pre-disaster mitigation funding could be used by the grant subapplicants to implement hazardous risk reduction projects in the East Bay hills and in the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, bordering the San Francisco Bay, in the City of Richmond. FEMA will use the draft EIS, along with input from the public and other agencies, and in conjunction with other relevant materials, to reach a final decision on the submitted applications.
The East Bay Hills and the vicinity of Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline have a hot and dry fall season, wind-conducive topography, flammable vegetation, dense development, and limited accessibility for firefighting. The area is subject to hot, dry winds that can drive a wildfire from the regional parks and other open space areas into residential areas. These factors combine to create a substantial regional fire danger with most of the undeveloped areas in the East Bay Hills in a very severe fire hazard zone.
Hazardous fire risk reduction refers to long-term, cost-effective actions that reduce the risk of a hazardous wildfire, such as the massively destructive Oakland Hills fire of 1991. Historically, 15 major wildfires in the East Bay Hills have burned a total of almost 9,000 acres, destroyed approximately 4,000 homes, and killed 26 people. One of the fires, the 1923 Berkeley Fire, destroyed more than 550 homes in a few hours. A fire in 1970 consumed more than 200 acres and burned 37 homes. The 1991 Tunnel Fire killed 25 people, destroyed more than 3,000 homes, and did an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.
Fire risk may be lowered by creating a fire break and reducing the amount of flammable trees, shrubs, and debris that can act as fuel during a wildfire. The proposed vegetation management work would primarily focus on reducing highly flammable, non-native invasive species.
Based on the wildfire hazard characteristics of the East Bay Hills and the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, FEMA has identified that a need exists to reduce hazardous fire risk to people and structures in these areas. FEMA is proposing to address this need by providing financial assistance to the sub-applicants -- UCB, EBRPD, and Cal EMA, through the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
FEMA has to date hosted two public meetings on this issue and will host a final public meeting on Saturday, May 18th. The meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in the Claremont Middle School’s Gymnasium, 5750 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618.
The project website: http://ebheis.cdmims.com, and upcoming final public meeting will provide information on the draft EIS, which describes the proposed East Bay Hills hazardous fire risk reduction projects and potential environmental impacts on the natural, physical, and human environments in the project. The purpose of the meeting is to provide information on the draft EIS, to receive oral and written comments, and to allow the public, local businesses, associations, stakeholders, affected governmental agencies, and interested parties to speak directly with federal, state and local representatives regarding the draft EIS.
Written comments must be submitted or postmarked by midnight on June 17, 2013. Oral and written comments may be made at the public meetings. Written comments may also be submitted through the project website at http://ebheis.cdmims.com, via email at EBH-EIS-FEMA-RIX@fema.dhs.gov, or via mail to P.O. Box 72379, Oakland, CA 94612-8579.
The draft EIS is also available on the project website at http://ebheis.cdmims.com and at the following libraries: Oakland Main Library, Berkeley Main Library, San Leandro Main Library, Richmond Main Library, and Oakland Rockridge Library.
Media Contact: Mary Simms, firstname.lastname@example.org