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AB-19 Forestry and fire protection: local assistance grant program: fire prevention activities: street and road vegetation management.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 01/15/2020 09:00 PM
AB19:v97#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  January 15, 2020
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 21, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 19


Introduced by Assembly Member Waldron

December 03, 2018


An act to add Section 4204.5 to the Public Resources Code, relating to forestry and fire protection, and making an appropriation therefor.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 19, as amended, Waldron. Forestry and fire protection: local assistance grant program: counties and local fire districts: fire prevention activities: street and road vegetation management.
Under existing law, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is required to develop, implement, and administer various forest improvement and fire prevention programs in the state. Existing law requires the Director of Forestry and Fire Protection to classify lands within state responsibility areas, as defined, into fire hazard severity zones and to identify areas in the state as very high fire hazard severity zones, as provided, and requires a local agency to designate, by ordinance, very high fire hazard severity zones in its jurisdiction within 120 days of receiving certain recommendations from the director. department to establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities in California. Existing law requires the department to prioritize, to the extent feasible, projects that are multiyear efforts and to prioritize grant applications from specified local agencies.

This bill would require the department to establish a grant program to provide grants to county road maintenance departments and local fire districts to enable those departments and districts to purchase vegetation management equipment to be used to manage vegetation along streets and roads to prevent the ignition of wildfires on those roads or streets maintained by a county road maintenance department or local fire district that are located in very high fire hazard severity zones, as described. The bill would prescribe requirements for a county road maintenance department or local fire district to be eligible to receive a grant under the program, and would require the department to consider specified information in determining the award of grants. The bill would require the department, by May 1, 2021, to provide a report to the Assembly Committee on Budget and the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, containing specified information about the grant program. The bill would appropriate the sum of $25,000,000 from the General Fund to the department to be used to provide grants under the program, as provided.

This bill would appropriate the sum of $25,000,000 from the General Fund to the department to be used to provide the local assistance grants described above. The bill would require the department, for purposes of this appropriation, to prioritize projects, in addition to the priorities specified above, that manage vegetation along streets and roads to prevent the ignition of wildfire and that need the funds for purposes of purchasing equipment necessary for the project.
Vote: 2/3   Appropriation: YES   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The deadly Carr Fire in northern California has been determined to be the eighth largest wildfire in the state’s history, and is similar to the Cloverdale Fire that burned 100 acres in San Pasqual Valley in north San Diego County in that arson investigators have determined that both of these wildfires were believed to be caused by sparks from vehicles.
(b) Vehicles are a top cause of wildfires in San Diego County, according to a recent article published by the County News Center. Citing data from the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the article indicated that approximately 97 of the wildfires that occurred in 2018 in the county were caused by vehicles.
(c) Vehicles spark fires for a variety of reasons, including, among other things, poorly maintained engines, failing catalytic converters, flat tires’ rims and dragging metal chains from vehicles scraping the pavement and generating sparks, improperly maintained brakes and oil systems, and hot vehicles coming into contact and igniting brush and other vegetation.
(d) The Carr Fire is believed to have been started accidentally by a vehicle towing a dual-axle travel trailer when the steel rim of a flat tire of the trailer scraped along the pavement and generated sparks that ignited dry vegetation along the edge of the highway.
(e) Wind caused the Carr Fire to spread quickly, while hot conditions and steep, inaccessible terrain presented challenges for fire crews as they strengthened fire containment lines.
(f) The Department of Transportation (Caltrans) implements vegetation control measures on state highway roadsides in order to maintain clear recovery zones, maintain clear areas around bridge supports, maintain visibility of traffic control devices, reduce the risk of fires starting along roadsides, protect pavement surfaces, control noxious weeds, prevent erosion, limit stormwater pollution, protect sensitive species, and improve the aesthetics of roadways.
(g) According to Caltrans, vegetation should be controlled where necessary for fire prevention, safety, reduction of noxious or invasive weeds, and bridge inspection needs. Removal of vegetation is generally restricted to a narrow band adjacent to the edges of the shoulders and median, which is necessary to provide sight distance and protection of highway appurtenances such as guardrails and signs.
(h) County maintenance crews work every day to keep county roads safe and passable, which requires constant maintenance work, including repairing damaged pavement, cleaning and repairing signs, cleaning drainage channels, mowing grass and removing vegetation, removing landslides, and responding to public complaints and requests.
(i) In order to prevent future wildfire catastrophes that may be ignited by a vehicle stopped along the shoulder of a road, it is in the state’s best interest to invest in and assist with widening defensible space along county roadways.
SEC. 2.Section 4204.5 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:
4204.5.

(a)The department shall establish a grant program to provide grants to county road maintenance departments and local fire districts to enable those departments and districts to purchase vegetation management equipment to be used to manage vegetation along streets and roads to prevent the ignition of wildfires on those streets and roads maintained by a county road maintenance department or local fire district that are located in very high fire hazard severity zones, as identified by the department pursuant to Section 51178 of the Government Code, or as designated pursuant to Section 51179 of the Government Code.

(b)To be eligible to receive a grant under this section, a county road maintenance department or local fire district shall submit an application to the department that includes all of the following:

(1)A copy of the county’s road maintenance plan and related information that includes all of the following information:

(A)The county road maintenance department’s or local fire district’s responsibilities related to managing vegetation adjacent to county streets and roads.

(B)The linear mileage that the county or local fire district is responsible for maintaining throughout each year.

(C)Current county standards for defensible space between county streets and roads and vegetation adjacent to those streets and roads.

(D)Methods currently used to manage vegetation adjacent to county streets and roads.

(2)A description of the equipment, including the age of the equipment, that is currently being utilized by the county or local fire district to manage vegetation adjacent to the county streets and roads and a prioritized list of equipment, including the cost to acquire each piece of equipment, necessary to expedite the management of vegetation adjacent to county streets and roads.

(3)Any plans the county has to widen defensible space between county streets and roads and combustible vegetation adjacent to those streets and roads.

(4)An estimate of the amount of vegetation management or additional defensible space that would be created with the use of additional equipment.

(c)The department shall consider the information provided in paragraphs (1) and (3) of subdivision (b) in determining the award of grants pursuant to this section.

(d)The department shall award grants to county road maintenance departments and local fire districts as equitably as possible to address areas in very high fire hazard severity zones, as identified pursuant to Section 51178 of the Government Code, or designated pursuant to Section 51179 of the Government Code.

(e)(1)The department shall provide a report on the grant program to the Assembly Committee on Budget and the Senate Committee Budget and Fiscal Review, on or before May 1, 2021, containing all of the following:

(A)A list of equipment and the amount of funding requested by each county road maintenance department or local fire district.

(B)The amount of funding awarded to each county road maintenance department or local fire district and the equipment purchased by each of those departments or districts receiving funding.

(C)Information provided by each county road maintenance department or local fire district regarding the amount of additional vegetation management or additional defensible space that was created during the prior year using additional equipment.

(2)The requirement for submitting a report imposed under paragraph (1) is inoperative on May 1, 2025, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.

SEC. 3.SEC. 2.

 (a) The sum of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to be used to provide grants under Section 4204.5 pursuant to Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 4124) of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code.

(b)If the amount of funds appropriated to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pursuant to subdivision (a) is insufficient to fund all requests for grants under Section 4204.5 of the Public Resources Code, the department shall give priority to grants to be used for equipment needed for fire prevention in areas identified as very high fire hazard severity zones pursuant to Section 51178 of the Government Code, or designated pursuant to Section 51179 of the Government Code.

(b) In addition to the priorities established by Sections 4124.5 and 4124.7 of the Public Resources Code, for purposes of the appropriation made by subdivision (a), the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shall prioritize projects that meet both of the following:
(1) Manage vegetation along streets and roads to prevent the ignition of wildfires.
(2) Need the funds for purposes of purchasing equipment necessary for the project.