This morning, Governor Brown issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency regarding the issue of tree mortality, and ordered state resources be brought to bear on the catastrophe. Citing the risks to public safety due to falling trees, fire, and insufficient county or municipality resources to address the problem, the Governor’s Proclamation states that “strict compliance with various statutes and regulations would prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the drought,” and has suspended CEQA for the purposes of carrying out specific provisions of the Proclamation.
Additionally, the Governor has authored a letter calling upon United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to partner with California in deploying federal resources towards the problem on federal lands, and to assist homeowners and communities in those lands adjacent to federal lands. The Governor’s letter can be accessed here.
CAL FIRE, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Transportation, and the California Energy Commission are specifically called upon to act in various capacities including the immediate removal of dead, dying, and diseased trees and shrubs, the identification of storage locations for removed trees, and the utilization of wood chips from chipped trees. The Proclamation also calls for the distribution of equipment to small and remote communities to utilize for trees around homes, working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to increase the amount of controlled burning, working with other federal agencies on removal of trees on federal lands, and working with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to try to expand the wood products market in California to find new uses for this material.
Heavy focus is placed on the utilization of biomass and the need to ensure that existing biomass facilities remain in operation including a mandate on the Public Utilities Commission to utilize its authority to extend contracts on biomass plants receiving forest feedstock in high hazard areas, expediting action on new contracts for forest feedstock plants in high hazard areas, and prioritization of interconnection agreements for these plants. The California Energy Commission is also tasked with prioritizing biomass through the Electric Program Investment Charge, working with other Departments on feedstock availability issues, and working to find funds to offset high feedstock costs for woody biomass.
RCRC Chair Lee Adams (Sierra County), who attended meetings with the Governor’s staff regarding this issue, said “I am heartened to see how seriously the Governor and his staff are taking this issue. Many of the problems and possible solutions discussed at the meetings appear in his Proclamation. While I feel lucky that Sierra County’s trees are still green today, I can look only a few counties south to see what’s coming if we don’t address this catastrophe immediately. The scale of the problem is already so profound in some places that basic public safety is at risk. RCRC and its member counties stand ready to work alongside the Governor, CAL FIRE, and the other state and federal agencies as we nurse our forests, oak woodlands, and chaparral areas back to health.”
The Governor’s Proclamation can be accessed here.