The County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors today delegated a committee to facilitate the allocation of $2 million to $4 million in PG&E settlement funds for near-term vegetation management projects with an emphasis on activities in high-risk areas and near key ecosystems.
The committee, which will consist of representatives of the County Administrator’s Office, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, UC Cooperative Extension and CAL FIRE, was directed to disburse funding as soon as possible, ahead of the upcoming 2021 fire season.
The funding represents a portion of the initial $25 million allocated by the Board of Supervisors in October 2020 from PG&E settlement funds for vegetation management to reduce wildfire risk, promote safety and support ecosystems and agriculture.
“It is critical that we take action today, and get to work before we find ourselves in the thick of the 2021 fire season,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Fire risk reduction is critical to ensuring the future viability of our local economy, our local housing stock, our local communities. We can’t wait.”
The Board of Supervisors today also allocated $660,000 for a three-year coordinator position to provide support related to the County’s vegetation management efforts. The Board also allocated $500,000 in settlement funds to support a three- to five-year regional workforce training program at the Santa Rosa Junior College that will focus on vegetation management and wildfire mitigation.
Meanwhile, the Board postponed for further evaluation a proposal to allocate $1.5 million to hire a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) consultant to develop a county-wide program Environmental Impact Report that would streamline future environmental reviews for vegetation management activities.
The allocation of funds for shovel-ready vegetation management projects was one of the recommendations presented to the Board by the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley School of Law, which organized and facilitated two group discussions to identify top priorities for the $25 million in PG&E settlement funds allocated for vegetation management activities. One group, composed of state-level experts, was held on February 17, 2021 while the second, a convening of local experts and stakeholders, was held on February 24, 2021.
Litigation against Pacific Gas & Electric following the 2017 Sonoma Complex Fires resulted in the County receiving $149.3 million in settlement funds. Following extensive community and stakeholder outreach, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in October voted to allocate a minimum of $25 million of the settlement funds toward vegetation management activities.
In October, the Board allocated one-third of the funds, or $8.3 million, for near-term projects as well as education and outreach. The remaining two-thirds, or $16.6 million, will be leveraged over 10 years with the goal of creating a lasting funding mechanism for vegetation management. For more information, see the staff recommendations and CLEE report.